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Floating on my back, staring at the bluest sky there must have ever been in the history of blue skies. My burkini, almost all four yards of it, swells up around me and serves as a otation device. I’m buoyed, but—secret smile—it’s not only because of the burkini. Nuah’s coming tomorrow—for the entire weekend. And I have a plan.
Misfit in Love PDF Book by S.K. Ali
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Now that I’m nished with school and will be starting college in the fall, I’m ready to actually tell Nuah that… that… well, I guess, that we can be a thing? I don’t know what else to call it when you say yes, I like you back to someone like Nuah, who’s interested in me, but also interested in following Islam. Which means there are rules—but the rules will still lead to us being together.
I spread my arms out in the lake and let my secret smile take over my face, remembering the words of the scholar and spiritual poet Rumi. “Rumi said, ‘Only from the heart can you touch the sky,’” I tell the sky, my eyes probing the blue expanse, my left hand pulling up my burkini pants, which are beginning to ride low again, their waistline weathered from overuse.
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“And I believe him.” “Janna, are you talking to yourself again?” I don’t need to lift my head to know that it’s my brother Muhammad. And that he’s on the dock, throwing our two little half brothers into the lake, one by one, each time they scramble back onto the dock in turn saying, “Again!” He’s giddy, my big brother. In exactly two days he’s getting married to the love of his life, Sarah.
And it’s all happening on the grounds of this lakeside estate house right here that Dad bought and renovated last summer in grand fashion. I mean, there’s even a perfect white gazebo by the water. Dad had wanted it to be his wife Linda’s “sanctuary” space—with white couches and some kind of tulle hanging o the entire structure, doing double duty asa practical mosquito net and an ethereal fantasy thing.
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But Linda is more of a chasing-after-the-kids-in-her-leggings person, so the gazebo is a neglected thing of beauty, lying in wait for its moment to shine. That moment began a week ago when white-overalled workers descended on the gazebo to perk it up. Remove the couches, dismantle the net, give it a fresh coat of paint, x the trellis roof.
This weekend everyone Muhammad knows, and I mean everyone, is driving up either three hours from East spring, our hometown, or an hour down from Chicago to see Muhammad and Sarah’s relationship get solemnized in that gleaming white gazebo. Haytham’s car is a Honda Civic, which I’ve never driven in my short six months of driving, so I’m kind of nervous.
As I prepare to ease it out of the long driveway, he saunters over from the porch and approaches the rear passenger’s-side window, which Dawud has rolled down all the way. “Would you guys be able to pick up some Gatorade? Need it for after bench-pressing. Cool gym your dad has by the way, Janna.” He holds out a fty. “The blue kind or, if they don’t have it, white. And only Gatorade, please. Misfit in Love PDF Book
I’m a purist.” Dawud snatches the bill. “Perfect. This leaves enough for ice cream after.” “You guys are getting ice cream, too?” Haytham raises those compelling eyebrows at me, and I ddle with the keys in the ignition. “I love ice cream.” “We are?” I say, shrugging, turning to Dawud. “Yeah, that’s why Muhammad thinks we’re going to town, so we have to,” Dawud says, folding up the fty smaller and smaller.
“But the ice-cream truck comes by here almost every day. Because of the laddoos.” I close my mouth. Oops, I didn’t want Haytham knowing my endearing name for my little brothers. It feels kind of private. “Oh man, I love ice-cream trucks more than ice cream itself!” Haytham laughs. “Did you ever notice the people who drive them fall into two categories: jolly happy souls or mean uncles?
But mean uncles holding out ice-cream cones, which is the best.” I can’t help laughing. Because it’s true, our ice-cream guy is a mean uncle. But… “Actually, our ice-cream guy is a mean uncle, but he gets excited and ho-hohos when he hands you your ice cream. Like serious Santa-level excited.” “I need to see this. When does he come around?” Misfit in Love PDF Book
Haytham leans his elbows on the door next to Dawud and peers across at me. “I can get your brothers their ice cream and also get further data for my ice-cream-truck hypothesis.” “Usually around seven. But he came by yesterday, so it may not happen today.” I kind of want to stay home now. To wait for the ice-cream truck. With Haytham.
I know one thing: I’m pretty sure God loves Nuah. He’s kind and humble and always smiling, always friendly. That’s the type of person my mom’s brother, Amu, the imam at the Eastspring mosque, always says is gold to God. Whenever he says this, though, he always peersat me and not Muhammad, who already goes around with a goofy grin plastered on his face.
Whereas I’ve been told my resting face is a perpetual pout, which is the opposite of my middle name, Ibtissam, meaning “smile” in Arabic—Mom’s choice for my rst name until Dad overrode her for the more anglicized Janna. Maybe that’s why Mom didn’t get the smiley daughter she’d always wanted. Misfit in Love PDF Book
Because I’m Janna. Whenever my uncle sees Nuah, his face lights up and he slaps him on the back, and while talking to him, he does that nonstop smiling nod that I’m pretty sure Amu isn’t even aware that he does. Whenever I see Amu like that, I get all glowy, because I know Nuah’s already mine. So it’s like someone is admiring something that belongs to me.
The way I’m laying it out, it’s like he’s perfect. Nuah. But he does have his faults. Like sometimes he can laugh at something you said so much and so long that you wonder if he’s laughing at you, too. Like his smile is ever present, so it’s hard to know where the default ends and the appreciation begins.
Like I’ve taken a while, a couple-of-years while, to get back to him about his feelings for me because, truthfully, sometimes my gut will whisper, How for real is his thing for you, Janna? And sometimes it will also say things like, He’s on and off in talking to you, Janna. And, girl, doesn’t he always keep it light and fluffy when he does talk to you? Misfit in Love PDF Book
How for real is his thing for you again, Janna Ibtissam Yusuf? I push delete on the comments from my mean gut and ll the space with evidence. Such as his I-stand-by-you texts exactly when I needed them. And the truth that he’s never treated any other girl at the mosque the way he’s treated me.
The road ahead of us is winding and dark with no streetlights, and suddenly I’m glad Sarah intervened on me driving back alone. I’d have turned back to town if I’d had to come home solo. Khadija is beside me, her seat pulled all the way back, her legs spread wide, her seat belt pulled slack with the positioning of one of Sarah’s pillows just so.
She’s looking out the window, trying to tap her ngers to Haytham’s voice that came on when I turned the ignition. When I was young, on the Fourth of July, I’d go outside and watch the show in the sky. “Mournful. This is mournful,” Khadija announces, after her ngers give up trying to nd a quick beat. “This is Haytham’s entry for the Muslim Voice,” Sarah says from the back. Misfit in Love PDF Book Download
“They announce the winner on Sunday.” “Why such a sad song?” Khadija pulls the seat belt even more and twists herself to look at Sarah. “About a girl dying?” “It allows for his range, according to him.” “Well, let’s change it. Permission to?” Khadija directs this at me, and I nod, even though I want to listen to Haytham singing about feeling depressed while watching reworks.
But Khadija looks like she’s not having it as her hands are already on the dial. “I want something more fun. This is wedding weekend, woo!” She turns the dial but is stopped by Sarah reaching a hand out. “Forget the music for a sec?” I look in the rearview so I can see her, gauge what she’s up to. She winks at me when she catches my eye.
My ngers immediately grip the steering wheel tighter, and I have to tell myself to breathe. Sarah, who’s pulled her seat belt loose, moves to stick her head between our seats up front. “Dish on this girl Nuah likes. Janna and I have been observing him for a couple of years now, and he’s never shown his hand in thatarea. We’re intrigued.” Misfit in Love PDF Book Download
There’s an arm around me when I wake up the next morning. I’m disoriented until I see the wrist with its familiar silver bracelet. And hear the familiar light snore. Mom kept her word. I glance at the bedside alarm clock. It’s seven forty-ve. I shift, and she dislodges her hand tucked under my shoulder and opens her eyes.
She still has her scarf on, but it’s fallen back, and tendrils of brown hair, with graying roots here and there, peep out. “Morning, sweetums. Did I bother you when I got into bed?” “No, but Mom, I didn’t know you meant this early when you said early.” I groan and then laugh. “Seven a.m.?” “Six thirty, actually. I left the hotel right after Fajr.”
She smooths my hair and then runs her ngers through it, combing it, and after letting her for a bit, I shake it o. Mom can get very babying if I don’t stop her. I once heard her tell a friend that she’d wanted ve kids because she always wanted some that were young enough to baby when the others got older. She ended up with two kids in real life and, no, I’m not willing to be perpetually babied. Misfit in Love PDF Book Download
“When I met Dad, he was just getting into Islam. Uncle Bilal got him into it, actually. And Dad was all excited about it—super excited. And I got excited, because you know I come from a very religious family.” Mom strokes my head again. I’m going to let her pet me all she wants if it keeps her talking.
“He kept it going for a while, his interest in faith, but then a year after we got married, he started to lose his commitment to the deen. By then we’d already had Muhammad and we tried for a bit; then you came along, and we had this truce where we wanted to provide a stable family for you guys… but then our dierent beliefs caught up with us.
Like he didn’t want me to wear hijab, be visibly Muslim, or even take Muhammad to Jumah or make sure you guys learned deen. That wasn’t the way Dad grew up, those weren’t important things to his own family, and, ultimately, he didn’t believe they were important for ours.” I wonder if I should ask. Misfit in Love PDF Book Free
About what Muhammad told me previously, about Dad and Linda starting their relationship before our parents divorced. When Mom thought they were still trying to save the marriage. “And then Linda happened?” “And then Linda happened,” she says, and at this, her eyes close briey and her mouth presses together a bit more tightly, and I feel horrible.
“I’m sorry, Mom.” I ing myself into her, throwing my arms around her waist to wrap her like I’ve never done before. So she knows I’m sorry. For saying Linda happened? and for her going through all that with Dad, and me not even knowing that she’d felt such pain. My shoulders heave, and then I’m crying. “It’s okay. Janna.
Stop.” She removes me from her and looks at me still sobbing. “I’m not sad about it. It’s been seven years since the divorce, and if you want the truth, four years since I stopped feeling sad about it all. Don’t cry. Because I’m not.” I wipe my eyes, still streaming tears, and lean my head on her shoulder. Misfit in Love PDF Book Free
She wraps her arms around me and we stay quiet and it’s really warm and comfortable and my heaving slowly subsides until I can breathe without a catch. “I’m so sorry I brought it up.” “I’m glad you did. Because now you know more,” she says. “And I’m happy that Dad and Linda are happy. Truly. Look at this house, their adorable kids, Dad’s ability to host the nikah with such generosity. And Linda being so hospitable.”