I had not seen Kareem since the day of our first meeting. Our courtship had continued, nonetheless, by long hours of playful telephone conversation. Now I watched Kareem, escorted by his father, walk slowly toward the pavilion. He was so handsome, and he was going to be my husband.
For some odd reason, I was fascinated with the beating of his heart. I watched the tremor of movement in his throat and counted the beats. My imagination swept me into his chest, to that powerful spot of romance, and I thought: This heart is mine. I, alone, have the power to make it beat with happiness or with misery. It was a sobering moment for a young girl.
Finally, he stood tall and straight before me; I was suddenly overcome with emotion. I felt my lips tremble and my eyes water as I fought against the urge to weep. When Kareem removed my face cover, we both burst out laughing, our emotion and joy were so intense. The audience of women began to applaud loudly and stamp their feet. In Saudi Arabia, it is rare that a bride and groom find such obvious pleasure in each other.
I was drowning in Kareem's eyes and he in mine. I was overcome with the emotion of disbelief. I had been a child of darkness, and my new husband, instead of being the expected object of dread, was sweet freedom from the misery of my youth.
Anxious to be alone, we lingered only a short while after the ceremony to receive the congratulations of our female friends and relatives. Kareem threw gold coins from small velvet bags toward various groups of merry guests while I slipped away to change into traveling clothes.
I wanted to speak with my father, but he had hurried from the garden the moment his role was complete. His mind was relieved; his youngest and most troublesome daughter of his first wife was now safely wed and no longer his responsibility. I ached with the desire for a bond between us that had been in my dreams but never broke into reality.