Ben clapped my shoulder. “Dude! You have a date with a pair of eyes. How trippy is that? Bet she doesn’t eat or drink anything.”
She didn’t, of course. She couldn’t lower the veil in public, but she did order me a coffee that could double as a wood stain. She also introduced herself and her friends.
“I am Dina. Fathima, my mother. Leila, my aunt.” She gestured to each.
“I’m Dustin,” I reminded her. I fiddled with my ball cap, making my light brown hair even messier. I pulled the brim lower and focused on Dina again.
“Your English is very good.”
“I had a tutor,” she explained. “Mother wanted me educated, and Father loves Mother.” She grinned at Fathima. The only part of the grin I could see was the crinkling of her eyes and a lifting of her veil with her cheeks, but I knew what it was.
“Dina,” I said, stretching my hand across the small table. I nearly jumped out of my skin when she put her hand in mine.
Fascinated, I ran my fingers over the back of her hand, the darker creases in the light brown skin. Then I turned it over and traced the lines of her palm.
Her aunt said something in Farsi that made Fathima laugh but Dina only twitched her fingers.
“What do I do next?” I asked. “How do we...?” I closed my hand around hers and pulled it toward me. I kissed the back of her hand before letting it go.
“You approach my father, ask for my hand.”
“I watch,” she said. “You are a good man, fair.” Leila said something else and Dina nodded. “I won’t know my husband so well. Father will choose.”
My stomach twisted at that thought.
“Meet me again? Once or twice more? We don’t marry so quickly in America.”
Dina nodded. She toyed with a napkin while we chatted in somewhat broken English. She told me about her brother, her younger sister, both were home with her grandmother. I told her about my sister and niece back in Idaho. I hoped she would start instructing me on how to approach her father.
“When to meet next?” she asked. “Father is difficult. It will take time.”
I nodded. “I’m off again in three days.”
Dina moved my cup, sliding the napkin beneath it. Then she excused herself and left with her aunt and mother. I was pulling out money to pay when I noticed a black mark on the paper napkin. Lifting the cup, I saw writing. Trying not to draw attention, I balled it in my fist, dropped the money on the table and pushed the note into my pocket.
“You do this right,” the man said as he cleaned away the cash. “That right way.” He shook his finger in the direction of Dina.
I smiled and nodded. With luck, I wouldn’t make any major mistakes. I’d seen what the men here did to their women. Made me want to kill most of them. Dina’s father didn’t seem to fit that mold, based on what I’d seen. She was free to come and go and never showed any sign of abuse.
I didn’t pull the napkin out again until I was safely in the compound. Dina had been so careful to conceal it, that I didn’t want anyone knowing about it.
I meet you at hopsital tomorrow after dark.The words blurred as my hand shook. She wanted to meet me, secretly.
Worth pursuing? I really need someone to help me with the research. If you are muslim, or close to a muslim that might be able to help, please let me know!
Here are the other authors participating this week.