17. Flawless Facade.

I looked up at the familiar orange Punjabi woman as she passed me the platter of salad. I pressed my lips together, trying not to think about it and I shook my head.

“No Jazakillah,” I barely managed to say, glancing up at Maleeha.

Even from all the way down here I could see that her smile was fake and plastered on. My eyes moved from her to Aziza, who was basking in her bride’s glory. It was uncanny how two sisters could be so close yet so totally different.

I bit my lip as I watched Aziza pose for a photo with Hamza, they really did make a stunning couple, Aziza in her white gown, the perfect bride and Hamza in his black suit with a white tie.

I bit back a laugh as I heard an aunty commenting on how tasty the salad was ‘even though it was a bit mixed up,’ and that she could just see her son across the room devouring it as well.

I suddenly felt a bit guilty as I glanced across the big hall. The venue wasn’t even separated though The men and woman sat on separate sides. It didn’t exactly work for purda and here I was sitting so calmly. I wished I had kept my purda on, being so accustomed to wearing it all the time I felt weird without it. And I didn’t even have to worry about being the only one in niqaab, since the famous aunty Shenaaz had walked in a bit later than me with her signature orange punjabi and niqaab. Pushing back my feelings of guilt I told myself, ‘What’s done is done, just forget about it and enjoy. What will one day do? ‘

She looked at me now and winked, her eyes shifting between me and the salad. Leaning closer she whispered, “The extra garnish was delicious dear.” She chuckled at my stunned expression and she stood up to make her way to the bathroom, leaving me in amazement. How on earth did she know? My mind shifted back to the box, what on earth had been in there?

I was saved from wondering by the commotion building up in front where everyone seemed to be crowded around the bride.  I spotted Maleeha wringing her hands in a distance. I got up to ask her about the commotion when I suddenly realised that she was close to the mens’ side. I picked up my abaya which was hanging around my chair slipping it on as I hurried across to find Maleeha.

And then before I knew what was happening I banged into someone. “Are you okay.” He asked smoothly lifting me to my feet in a single motion, I nodded shyly suddenly feeling self conscious of my missing niqaab and the guilt hit me full force. I felt my palms get sweaty and my face heated up but I was spared the awkwardness by a sudden uproar followed by a shrill scream…

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