Shahrazad reached Izdihar and squeezed her in a massive hug.
“I’m so happy for you!” she squealed. Izdihar herself seemed to be glowing with happiness in her sparkling dress. “You look gorgeous by the way.”
“Thanks,” said Izdihar, grinning. She indeed could never remember being happier. It was her wedding day and after a very public wedding by the lake, they were having a more private celebration in the royal tower, while festivities continued in the streets.
Shahrazad shook hands with Faruq, who was standing next to his wife. She had met Faruq only once before, but had liked him straight away.
“Congratulations,” she said.
“Thank you.” Faruq put his arm around his wife’s waist and pulled her closer to him. The two of them looked just as happy as each other, and just seemed right together, Shahrazad thought.
“Hello Tommy,” said Izdihar, smiling down at the little boy next to Shahrazad.
“Hello.” He grinned back.
“I’ve heard you’re going to school now, is that right?”
“It was his first day yesterday,” said Shahrazad. “He did really well.”
“I don’t know how you do it...” said Izdihar. “You’ve learnt our language so quickly... You really are a little genius!”
“Listen Tommy, thank you for bringing my father back here.” She gestured at the gathering around them. “All this is because of you.”
“I knew he would come back, and make things right again. Someone had to do it. And I'm not scared of the desert. I crossed it before.” Izdihar marvelled again at his fluency.
“Ah, Tommy, my boy!” said Basir, appearing at Izdihar’s shoulder with a glass of wine in hand. “How are you, everything ok?”
Tommy nodded. “He’s just started school,” said Shahrazad proudly.
Basir shook his head, grinning. “I’m not surprised. I see great things for this one.”
Shahrazad had never seen the king looking so light-hearted. But then he’d had Sayyid to worry about for a long time. Today, he was just a father celebrating the marriage of his daughter.
“So, Tommy, you want some food?” Tommy nodded and followed Basir over to the buffet. Watching them go, they caught the eye of Sakina, who came over to her friends, eager to meet Faruq.
The evening went in a blur for Izdihar after that. She danced her first dance with her husband, and many more after that. She was congratulated by everyone in the room. She chatted with Sakina and Shahrazad. Her father came up to her, said “I’m so proud of you,” for the fiftieth time and kissed her on the forehead.
At the end of the night, when most people had left, she went to the palace entrance to say goodbye to Shahrazad and Tommy. “Come and visit soon,” she said.
“I will do.”
“And thank you.”
“Just for being my best friend. I couldn’t have got through any of it without you... Being on my own when Father wasn’t here, getting engaged to Sayyid...”
“You did the same for me.” Shahrazad found herself blinking back tears. “Go on, your husband will be waiting!”
Izdihar smiled and hugged her friend.
“You deserve this!” said Shahrazad.
Izdihar wiped her eyes. “Thanks,” she whispered. “See you soon, Tommy!” She gave the little boy a hug too and watched the two of them go.
No matter how impossible things might seem, the game could always be turned around, she remembered Faruq telling her. Things had never seemed more impossible than when she set off for her wedding to Sayyid. But it had happened. The game had been turned around all right...