"My handsome doctor son!" his father exclaimed yet again. "Such a lovely bride!"
"I know you're worried," Khalid suddenly said, determined to broach the subject they had tiptoed around all week.
"We're not worried! She's a lovely girl!"
"I think I can get her to stop wearing the veil after the wedding. She just...." He fell silent, unable to articulate the vague notions of hope he was clinging to. He was a modern man, educated in the West, but he was actually hoping to "fix" Yasmin by marrying her.
Khalid's father pulled him down, and they both sat. He had a deep-rooted aversion to Turks, as many Arabs did, but he had tried to raise his sons free of the weight of centuries of ethnic war. "Her father worked for the CIA, and then he felt guilty about it, so he bounced back in the other direction. His daughter was dutiful, and so she bounced, too. But you will be the head of her family now."
"That's what I keep thinking, and it's medieval. Is this really the best way to help her? Her father almost bashed her brains in, and that wasn't enough for her to reject everything he stood for."
"He stood for nothing," said Khalid's father. "That is why she is so lost. If you don't know how to be a good girl in your father's eyes, you never know how to be good. You will replace that."
"Will I? I don't want to be her father." Khalid's affection for Yasmin had grown into a complex love that made him more nervous than happy.
"Your mother was only sixteen when I married her. That was common then, but she seemed very young. When she got older, I actually liked things much better. Give it time."
"You should come live with us," Khalid said. "Things are not getting better there." They never spoke aloud about how Khalid's cousin had been burned to death by ISIS.
Khalid's father had been glad to have his son home for awhile, even if it was to work in the clinic for Syrian refugees. "Your mother is content to live out her days there. But maybe a grandchild will make her feel differently!" His eyes twinkled, and he reached over to fidget with the bow tie again while the best man (another doctor from George Washington University Hospital) sat in another room, duty-free.
A few miles away, psychiatrist Ermann Esse had been on duty for four days with little sleep when they brought in another Egyptian detainee to his suite in the secret CIA facility under the Washington Times headquarters. The after-effects of the cursed Rolex were well out of his system, but Dr. Esse had no idea how to extricate himself from his clandestine services to the CIA. Though his memories were a little hazy, he feared that he may have murdered one of his private practice patients, and if the CIA was holding that over his head, what future could he have? But he fretted about his neglected private patients, especially the ones who could not rely on pharmaceutical fixes because of their security clearances. How were they faring? (Since he had been so abusive towards the end, most of them were actually doing better without his care, but Dr. Esse did not know this.)
He also fretted about this work. He nodded as the Egyptian was strapped into a chair, and he directed the interpreter to tell the detainee the doctor was injecting a truth serum. Although Dr. Esse considered himself a top-notch hypnotist, it really did not work well with an interpreter; "the truth serum" often helped. The Egyptian grimaced in anxiety, afraid his secret lust for the blond cashier at CVS would be flushed out, or his addiction to "Game of Thrones".
"My brother married a girl from Yemen," he blurted out, "but I've done nothing!"
"That's not what we heard," said Dr. Esse, and he waited a moment for the interpreter to repeat it. "Your brother already told us about the bomber on the airplane."
"What? Yusef? Oh, my God! I promised my mother I would keep him out of trouble! I let him marry the Yemeni girl, but she liked to watch 'Project Runway' and spend hours in the shopping mall!"
Dr. Esse listened as the interpreter relayed this information. "He's innocent," the shrink said.
The interpreter nodded and began preparing coffee cups for the three to share for the next hour of pretend interrogation. (The CIA never videotaped interrogations anymore.) "Might have been another suicidal pilot," offered the interpreter, in English.
"Maybe," said Dr. Esse.
Back in Foggy Bottom, Khalid's mother was helping Yasmin with her wedding gown. She had persuaded her to wear an American-style wedding veil, but Yasmin was fretting at her reflection in the mirror. "I don't look like a Muslim bride."
"You are also an American bride," said the future mother-in-law. "You are living in America!"
Yasmin sighed, not comforted by those words. She could see the pink lipstick through the veil, and reached for a tissue to wipe it off. Khalid's mother stayed her arm.
"Yasmin, I am your mother now! You must listen to me!" (Yasmin paused, surprised.) "Do you not wish to please your husband?"
"Good! Then leave the lipstick on. It will look very nice in the pictures." (Red would have looked better with Yasmin's skin tone, but that would have been out of the question.)
Angela de la Paz walked in, feeling silly in her maid-of-honor gown. It was very old-fashioned, with long sleeves covered in pink lace.
"Oh, how beautiful!" cried Khalid's mother. She knew that Yasmin's personal turmoil had left her with few friends. (Nurse Consuela Arroyo had helped choose the wedding dress and maid-of-honor gown.)
"I'm very happy for you," said Angela. "Khalid is such a good man." She took Yasmin's hands in her own and dove into the Dreamtime to find her spirit. There is nothing to fear, she telepathically whispered to Yasmin's spirit, drawing her away from the hissing Chimera. (Angela was still unable to destroy such a chimera outright, but she had definitely grown stronger against them.) "Love and friendship and peace, all with God's blessing, await you," she said out loud, kissing each of Yasmin's hands.
Khalid's mother saw Yasmin's tense shoulders relax and drop. "Yes," she echoed, "love and friendship and peace, all with God's blessing."
Yasmin smiled. She was ready to marry, and they headed out to the limousine which would take them to the mosque in Virginia.
A mile away, former Senator Evermore Breadman was staring out his Prince and Prowling office window at the spot where an armed man had been shot outside the White House twenty-four hours earlier. Extra heavy security still blanketed the area, even though it was a lone crazy and the response had gone just as it should have.
"It's done." Breadman jumped and turned around. "Sorry to startle you," said Bridezilla, who had dry-cleaned an Anne Klein suit for this meeting. "Marco took care of it." She sat down in the guest chair, expectantly.
Breadman poured a couple of shots of whiskey from his sidebar and sat down to toast the announcement. They clinked glasses silently, and then Breadman asked, "when?"
"I thought you didn't want to know anything," smiled Bridezilla, who had been perfectly contented herself not to know how Marco had made sure the New Jersey thug never threatened the hallowed halls of Prince and Prowling again.
"You're right!" laughed Breadman, nervously. "As long as he's out of my hair."
"Out of our hair," said Bridezilla.
Breadman nodded. "It won't be immediate, of course. I'll tell the managing partner that the political stakes are simply too high this year and I need somebody with your connections back on my team."
With Boehner gone from Washington politics and most of her former friends avoiding her, she didn't really have any connections that would impress the managing partner. "Did he know about the Jersey issue?"
"He will now." Breadman finished his whiskey, feeling the familiar warmth, flush of relaxation, and shredding of gastric cells. "I can't promise that everybody around here will treat you right, but when they see you're my right arm, you'll be on your way. And I'll pay your partnership stake back in."
Bridezilla smiled, amazed she did not have to bargain for that. "Then I'll wait to hear from you," she said, arising. (She was eager to go home and thank Marco again.)
Out in Virginia, Liv and Felix Cigemeier were sitting in a mosque for the first time in their lives, watching the wedding ceremony of Yasmin and Dr. Khalid Mohammad. Liv had thought about writing a story about it to update the Girl Hurl readers on Yasmin's recovery from her father's savage beating, but Felix had talked her out of it. "She's not comfortable yet with her new role," he had said, and she had thought about that term "role" often in the past week. Had Liv taken on a role when she married Felix? Had she taken on a role when they adopted Angela's son, Lucas? Had Angela taken on a role when she gave up the baby for adoption?
There were only about twenty people in attendance, but one of them was Buffy Cordelia, whose father had received an invitation solely for the purpose of securing little Delia's services as a flower girl. She giggled repeatedly as she turned to her occasional babysitter, Angela, who was walking behind her and nodding in encouragement as the youngster tossed pink rose petals on the marble floor.
"It's quite beautiful," said Liv, leaning against her husband and thinking that sometimes it was good to take on roles.
Back in Washington, Golden Fawn was still reading online reactions to the Washington Post poll showing that "9 out of 10" American Indians did not care about the name "Redskins".
"Enough, already!" said her husband, Marcos Vazquez, calling her to lunch.
"It's driving me up the wall! Most of them are living in abject poverty on reservations--of course they have bigger things to worry about! If it were Washington 'Blackskins', nobody would be doing a poll about it!"
"Honey, why don't you call back the Redskins? Say you want to get onto the board of that stupid foundation. Sometimes you have to compromise your principles to--"
"Alright, I'll come to lunch," she said, walking away from the computer.
COMING UP: Real estate demon convention to
celebrate high cost of "living" in Washington!