Aaqif rolled onto his side and reached out. The impression left by her body was filled with cool warmth and the lingering sweetness of her scent. He feigned sleep. Through the slits in his eyelids he watched her at the bedroom window.
She glanced at him. Then, she turned back.
Etched on the window pane was the mirror image of her face as she peered upon a landscape she did not see.
Seating his head upon the palm of his hand, he called out her name softly: “Zahra.” Had she heard him, he wondered. “Penny for your thoughts.”
“Only a penny?” She sighed, continuing to gaze out the window. The usual lilt in her voice was broken and joyless. “Our pasts, Aaqif, swallow us up. Nothing will be forgotten or forgiven. Too many years, too many years say it is so.”
Scrambling out of bed, Aaqif embraced her. “Shush…shush my love.” She trembled in his grasp. “What is wrong? I’ve never seen you this way before.” He drew her tighter to his breast.
“I’m afraid… for us,” she sputtered between gushing sobs.
Aaqif led her to the edge of the bed and they sat down. Several minutes passed without a word being spoken. Only her soft whimpering resonated through the silence.
“Do you remember the days I wept love poems for you?”
She swept her cheeks dry with her hands. “I pretended that I had not read them.”
“I knew you did. Your eyes couldn’t hide the truth.” He cupped her face in his hands and stared into her eyes. “You told me you burned them. Did you?”
“They are safely tucked away in here and here,” she replied, touching her head and chest. Her demeanor suddenly changed, almost panic driven, as she wrapped her arms around him. “Sheikh Nimir al Nimr…his execution… has changed everything for us.”
He sighed. “Only, if we allow it.” Gently, he kissed her forehead. “Breathe deeply. Now, again. And, again. Better?” She nodded and smiled. “You’re right, we are our pasts. But, Zahra, that’s our advantage. Don’t you see? We both share a deep understanding of those pasts. It means today and all of our tomorrows will be whatever we want them to be. Nothing will smash our love, Zahra, nothing. Not even the execution of the Sheikh.”
She stood and walked to the window and scanned the streets and tenement buildings below before sitting on the sill facing him.
“Are you okay?” he asked. “You look…distracted.”
“Okay?” She shrugged. “I’m not sure.”
“Zahra? We must give it a try. We can’t give up now. I know our histories do not smile kindly on us, yet here we are, you a Shiite and me a Sunni. Now, I call that hope.”
The cityscape and its activity below the window captured her attention again and she lingered for awhile before replying. “Are we being naive?”
He bit hard on his lower lip while he gathered his thoughts. How to answer her? He too shared her diet of fear. “Our love crosses our history’s divide. In that lies the wisdom no matter how soon death may be. Tomorrow we will leave Spain and travel a thousand light years away to begin a new life.”
She slipped off the sill and took his hands in hers. “It won’t be far enough.” She crossed her arms and returned to the window. “Our families’ reach is long. Their dogma fuels their journey.”
“What is it that garners your interest there?”
“Death and hope burnt into a desert filled with loneliness.” She looked through her reflection to the two men on the street below. When he arrived at her side, she pointed out the answer to his query. “That is my husband and my brother.”