I was in a happy daze when Sara and Nura lowered the dress over my head and shoulders and fastened the delicate buttons around my waist.
A moment of sadness came as Nura draped Kareem's gift of rubies and diamonds around my neck. I could not escape the image of my mother on the sad day of Sara's wedding when I had sat as a child on the floor and watched her fasten the unwanted jewels around the neck of Sara. It had been only two short years ago, yet it seemed another life, another Sultana. I shed my gloom and smiled when I realized Mother must be watching me from a great distance with a satisfied glow in her eyes. I could barely breathe in the tight bodice as I leaned down to pick up a bouquet of spring flowers made entirely of precious stones, especially designed for the occasion by Sara.
Looking into my sisters' smiling faces, I announced, "I am ready."
It was time for my new beginning, another life.
The beating of the drums drowned out the orchestra imported from Egypt. With Nura on one side and Sara on the other, I made my proud appearance to the expectant guests, waiting impatiently in the garden.
As with all Saudi weddings, the official ceremony had been conducted earlier. With Kareem and his family in one part of the palace and I and my family in another, the religious sheikh had gone from room to room, asking us if we accepted the other. Kareem and I had not been allowed to say our words of promise in the other's presence.
For four days and nights our family had been celebrating. The celebration would continue another three days and nights after our appearance before our female guests. Tonight's ceremony was merely a stage created for the lovers to bask in the beauty of observance of youth and hope. Our night of glory.