Today's Reading

"Sorry again." The creature folds his arms across a chest that has seen many dedicated workouts. "Janna."

I don't say anything. Wrinkles of concern crease the wide and tall and majestic forehead belonging to the interloper. "Do you forgive me? Janna?"

(I have a thing for big foreheads. Everyone has things. Mine happens to be a frontal-lobe matter. Don't judge, and instead reflect on your own fixations.)

I nod at the forehead and pull at my burkini, clinging to my body now that most of the excess water has dripped out. I tug the fabric to stop it from sticking so ferociously to me.

Which is not a thing you should do in front of a tall, handsome stranger begging your forgiveness.

The burkini, my formerly trusted flotation friend, immediately makes a squelchy farting noise.

The noise that always makes both my half brothers, those pudglings I (used to) affectionately call laddoos after those Indian dessert balls, immediately scream, Janna is farting!

"Janna is farting!" they both shout on cue now.

"I'm not farting!" I yell, tugging at my swimwear again in my nervousness. Another fart sounds in the summer air, weaker and not quite as dedicated to ruining my life.

As squeals of laughter greet the lesser fart, I'm in disbelief that "I'm not farting!" are the first words that came out of my mouth in front of Haytham.

I whip my head around at the squealing scoundrels, my half brothers, products of my father's hasty remarriage, splashing nearby. "That wasn't a fart, Luke and Logan!"

"Janna farted again!" Logan shouts.

"Atain!" Luke echoes. He advances his rotund self toward me, paddling furiously in the floatation device he's permanently wedged into whenever he's in the water, and pulls at my burkini pants. Lately he's into disrobing unsuspecting humans of clothing covering their nether regions.


My old, unreliable burkini pants.

Before I have a moment to clutch at them, they fall off completely.

Haytham turns around quickly but not before letting out a laugh that he tries to cover with the back of his hand.

I am so thankful my burkini top is so long, so very, very long, that nothing showed. Thank you, Allah, for saving my butt, literally.

I slide down into the water. As low as I can in the shallowest part of the super-long shallow-entry lake.

And then, while trying to walk away in a dignified but quick fashion on the shifting sands of the lake bed, I trip on the pants swiftly gathering themselves under my feet and tip face-forward into the water.

Underwater, I pray that Haytham didn't turn around again when he heard the new laughs Logan and Luke let out, Luke even clapping his hands with glee.

I close my eyes and stay in place, even though it's so shallow. I have to sit cross-legged, and still my head rises in humiliation above the water, like a wounded giraffe.

One of the ways Muhammad is all right is that he gets my utter mortification pretty thoroughly. Even though he has no qualms about doing things to bother me when we're on our own, he understands, sometimes, the preservation of my dignity in public.

"Okay, we're going in! Logan, Luke, now! It's almost dinnertime!" thunders my only dependable brother.

I hear screams of "NO!" accompanied by splashes and threats and grabbings of half brothers, and then silence.

When I open my eyes, they're gone.

All of them, even him.

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