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Rules of Engagement & Marriage

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Late Saturday afternoon, a mix of tunes drifted quietly out of the small Bluetooth speaker shaped like a vintage radio Kat had given Adena as a present. The women had just finished taking a long shower together which concluded on Adena’s bed. It had been exactly one week since Kat proposed and both girls were floating on cloud nine since that moment.

“Mmmm!” Adena moaned, as Kat laid on top of her, ghosting her nose over her stomach. “Will you still love me the same when I’m old and gray....and have a big belly?”

“You mean a potbelly? Yes...of course! There will just be more of you to love. Plus, I’ll be old, gray, and probably also have a potbelly. So we’ll counterbalance each other.” Kat giggled with her nose pressed into Adena’s bellybutton, laying small kisses on the smooth skin just below. She began to bat and feather her eyelashes over sensitive skin to get a reaction out of the Persian.

“Stop, that tickles!” Adena screeched and pushed Kat’s head up, off her belly.

“Don’t blame me, it was the butterflies.” Kat grinned and laid her head back down on Adena’s stomach, sighing, “Ahhh, life is good babe,” delighting in the now familiar softness and warmth of Adena’s body.

“Yes, it is.” Adena stroked Kat’s soft loose curls, taking in a deep breath and also sighing, sending Kat’s head bobbing up, then down on her inflating and deflating middle.

“Thank you for the beautiful ring,” Kat held up her left hand, rubbing her fingers together to twirl the antique gold band around. “I love it.” At dinner, on Thursday night, Adena had surprised Kat with her ancestor’s special ring she kept stored in her ornate tanned leather box, also asking Kat to marry her. She had waited until she served dessert, hiding it under a chocolate wafer on Kat’s plate. Adena watched with great amusement as her fiancée lifted the cookie up to eat and found the item, catching her off-guard.

“You’re welcome, ātashé del-am. I’m glad it fits and is not too big on you. I was always afraid to wear it because it swam on my fingers. And I didn’t want to get it altered.”

Kat agreed and nodded, “Yes, for sure. I don’t think I’ll ever take it off.” She scooted up and kissed Adena’s chin and lips, gazing closely into beautiful dark eyes, adding, “Well, maybe just for our wedding ceremony so you can put it back on me.”

“Mmmmm!” Adena stopped their kiss and spoke into Kat’s lips, “Hey...want some tea? I’m going to go fix us both a cup of warm chamomile tea with honey, if you like to join me.” Kat moved off of her lover and felt a quick peck on her temple, watching as Adena got off the bed and walked around the brightly decorated partition, over to the kitchen sink. She heard her fill the electric tea kettle with fresh water and plug it in. Kat padded around the kitchen island and wrapped her hands around the artist’s middle from behind, as adena lifted her arms up and took two mugs from the kitchen wall hooks.

Gently nipping at Adena’s earlobe, Kat questioned, “Hmmm, how many children should we have?”

“Oh...um, I think is best to start with one,” Adena teased, placing a tea bag in each mug.

“Ha, ha, very funny. But I do have distant Edison cousins that are identical twins.”

“So do I, on Maman’s side of the family.”

“Oh, wow.” Kat froze and stared down at the mugs, with narrowed eyes, contemplating what it would be like to suddenly have two babies at once.

Adena turned in Kat’s arms and asked, “How many do you want us to have?”

Kat pressed her nose against Adena’s, “At least two. I don’t want to have an only child like me. It’s very quiet and lonely growing up. Plus then as an adult, you don’t have anyone to commiserate with.” She pulled up her head, “Like, I look at you and Zareen. I love and envy what you guys have. I wish growing up I would have had a brother to wrestle with, or kick a soccer ball with, or climb the neighbor’s fence with and pick crab apples.” Kat let out a small suppressed chuckle.

Adena chuckled too, “Boy, did we get in trouble for that after the grumpy old neighbor told Baba on us.” Adena’s head drooped, “We got the belt, and I was blamed because I was the oldest and should have known better.”

Kat winced and softly caressed her fiancée’s cheek with her thumb, saying matter-of-factly, “Hey, we are not hitting our children.”

Adena looked back up at her with a sad expression and head shake, “No, we’re not.”

Kat nodded and continued, “But now as an adult, I wish I had a sister to phone and hang out with, reminiscing about our childhood and teenage years.” Adena’s eyes softened as Kat spoke and she listened. “Plus I think that when my parents are elderly, I won’t have a sibling to help me with them. The stress of aging parents will be all on my shoulders...” Kat hung her head down, “...not looking forward to that one.”

“No, no Kat,” Adena shook her head, lifting Kat’s head up by her chin, “I will be there for you. We will be there together to deal with our three elderly parents, I promise.”

“I know you will, babe. That’s not what I mean.” Kat shrugged her shoulders and looked out the small window over the kitchen sink. “I just think we should avoid having an only child because that’s a lot of burden placed on one person in life, that’s all.”

Adena placed her open palms above Kat’s chest and gave her a sympathetic smile. “Okay, I never realized you felt that way. I see your point and understand, we definitely should have two children. I will pray that we’ll be able to have them both. And if not, we can adopt, right?”

“Yes, we will try and have our own babies, but adopt if we have to. As long as I have that experience with you, I’m happy.”

Adena caressed Kat’s ear and the soft curls on the nape of her neck. “I can’t wait to see you holding our newborn. It’ll be such an amazing moment for me to experience.”

Kat leaned in and pressed their foreheads together. “I’m hoping for a girl, but also just want a healthy baby, regardless of the sex...a happy infant and for you to have a healthy, safe pregnancy and delivery.”

“It’ll be okay, baby.” Adena kissed Kat softly as she locked her arms around her neck and pulled her forward. “Allah will watch over me and the little one.”

Kat pulled back and released Adena’s lips. “Hey, but I want to wait a couple of years after we’re married....before we try to have a child.”

“Okay...is fine,” Adena nodded in agreement.

“Yeh, I’m selfish and want you all to myself at first. I want to be able to walk around our place naked at all hours of the day, like we’re doing right now. I want to be able to make love to you anywhere and everywhere....like on the kitchen floor....on the living room couch....up against the front door....tee-hee!” Kat pushed Adena back up against the kitchen counter and pressed their hips together. “Uninterrupted and unadulterated hot, kinky sex everywhere in our house.”

Adena chuckled, “Ooh, sounds like we’ll be busy newlyweds.”

“You betcha! I also want to make love in a car.”

“The car we don’t have?” The shorter woman shook her head teasingly.

Kat smirked down and Adena quickly kissed her nose. “Let’s rent a van and drive down to Florida so I can make love to you in seven different states...and the District of Columbia.” She nuzzled her nose into Adena’s neck, causing her to break out with laughter.

“Oh silly, you really have it bad. Maybe we need another visit to our....bed, before we go out tonight?” Kat took a step back and off of Adena, pulling her slowly forward by the waist until she locked their lips together and began walking backwards towards the bedroom, never breaking their kiss. Adena mumbled in her mouth, “Mmmph...send Sutton a message that we’ll be a bit late for the comedy show....to save us two seats at their table....and, Mmmm....that maybe we’ll meet them afterwards at the restaurant....okay?”

“Mmhmm.” Kat felt the bed hit the back of her knees, immediately sitting down and pulling Adena on top of her.

- - - - -
The Lyft dropped off the couple in front of ‘Lauff’s Comedy Club’ in Dumbo. They rushed out of the car to pick up their two tickets from the will-call window near the venue's main entrance, turning towards the doors where the bouncer let them inside.

“Sutton’s going to kill us,” Adena whispered in Kat’s ear. The room was dimly lit as the show was already in progress. A comedy duo was on stage and the crowd was whistling and cheering them on as they did some foolish dance with feather boas.

Kat held Adena securely by the hand and snaked their way to a table in the middle of the venue. “There they are, come on babe....excuse us...sorry!” The couple moved between tight spaces to their seats, bumping against elbows and chairs.

“Well, well...the lovebirds finally made it,” Sutton whispered an inch from Kat’s face as she sat down and pulled out Adena’s chair for her to also sit.

“Sorry, sorry. I know we’re a bit late, but it’s my fault.....Hi Richard, welcome back to NYC,” Kat whispered back, leaning away from Sutton to see her boyfriend.

“Adena...Kat...it’s good to see you both again,” Richard nodded and smiled, patting Sutton’s shoulder.

“Why were you late? You knew we had reservations for seven.” A man shushed them from a table behind, causing the blonde to turn and glare at him.

“Sorry Sutton, I made Kat late with....my conversations,” Adena leaned in and whispered.

“We’re only 15 minutes late....chill woman,” Kat scolded, looking at her wrist watch.

“That must have been some interesting....conversations,” Sutton huffed raising her brow at them.

“Okay, okay. We’re truly sorry.” Kat reconfirmed. “I can’t help it that my fiancée is so hot and I have no willpower, geez.” Adena blushed and bowed her head.

“Oh well...you guys missed the first comedian. She was hilarious. Did the best impressions.”

The waitress stopped by with popcorn and Kat placed drink orders. “You couldn’t convince Jane to join us?”

“She didn’t want to be a third wheel at the show or dinner tonight, but said she may join us when we’re done at the restaurant. Think you guys are still down for dancing at Club Rumpus afterwards?”

Kat looked towards Adena and they nodded and answered in unison, “Absolutely!”

Richard found their behavior amusing and chuckled. Sutton couldn’t resist and snickered too, “Oh, you guys are my favorite couple.”

- - - - -
The restaurant was just a few blocks from the comedy club and the two couples each walked holding hands, down the four semi-busy blocks to get to it. “Not a bad September night, but the chill is in the air. This winter is supposed to be a cold one in the northeast,” Richard commented.

“That’s global warming for ya, babe.” Sutton grinned, suddenly looking down towards Kat’s shoes and seeing the gold band on her left hand. “Hey, when did you get that ring!” She reached down to grab it as they walked. “Is that from you, Adena?”

“No, one of the hot models from the last Scarlet photo shoot gave it to me....ha!” Kat joked and Adena rolled her eyes, stretching her neck up to kiss her on the cheek sweetly.

“Yes, I gave it to Kat two night’s ago. It’s an antique from my grandmother. It was her mother’s, my great-grandmother’s, one year anniversary ring. Her husband got it for her when he traveled to India. He was a trader for Iran’s gemstone industry back then and purchased a lot of gold during his travels. I’ve had it stored all these years to give to someone special.” The fiancées looked tenderly into each other’s eyes and quickly kissed on the lips.

Sutton halted in front of Kat and pulled Richard’s arm to stop, too. “Let me see it up close, Kat.” Kat lifted up her arm and gave the blonde her hand. “Since you were on assignment out of the office yesterday, Jane and I missed this on your hand. It’s very rare and ornate, with a small sapphire and some diamonds in the middle. Lovely, Adena!”

“Thank you,” Adena smiled. “Lovely like Kat.”

“It’s special and I love it.” Kat looked towards Adena, and they shared a smile. “It also has Farsi writing around the sides, see?” Kat turned her hand over and wiggled her ring finger. “It translates to, ‘For a long and happy union to come.’

“Aww!” Sutton released her friend’s hand. “It’s so unique and beautiful. Adena must truly love you Kat, to give you such a special gift. Especially since the ring is probably one of a kind and irreplaceable.” Sutton looked straight into Adena’s eyes, “You had it stored away all these years and no one else was worthy of the ring? I hope Kat said yes when you proposed,” she jested.

“Well....maybe. She might have had to bribe me with her body first,” Kat replied, winking and looking up from her hand into Adena’s soft eyes, kissing her on the lips once more.

“The ring is very special, but so is Kat. I’m sure mâdarbozorg is smiling down at us right now, happy my nâmzad is wearing her mother’s prized ring.”

Sutton opened her arms wide and hugged both girls at once. “For sure she is.”

“Uhmmm, we are so happy for you both, but we better keep moving or they’ll give away our table at the restaurant,” Richard advised.

- - - - -
The restaurant was crowded and noisy, as expected for a Saturday night. As soon as they were seated, Kat saw Sutton reach into her skirt pocket to answer a call. “Hello?! Jane?!” Sutton yelled, as she plugged her other ear with her free hand and ducked down behind the table.

Richard tapped his girlfriend on the upper back and signaled for her to walk to the bathroom hallway. “It’s quieter over there, babe,” he said.

As Sutton stood and walked away quickly, Kat followed her, kissing Adena’s cheek. “I’ll be right back...need to use the potty.”

Sutton followed Kat into the ladies’ room. “I don’t know, probably like 10:30-ish,” the blonde responded into the phone. “Okay, we’ll see you guys then. Be there or be square!” Sutton ended the call and put the phone back in her skirt pocket, twirling 360 degrees. “Have I mentioned how much I LOVE skirts with pockets, Katherine?”

Kat giggled, exiting the stall. “What did Jane say, is she bringing someone to Rumpus? She needs to start dating other guys to get over Pinstripe.”

“Just Justin. He’s in town and staying at her place for a couple of days.” Sutton entered the empty stall and closed the door.

“Is that her youngest brother?”

“Yep, too bad he’s so short like Jane, cuz he’s very cute.”

“Uh...Excuse me, you are also TAKEN.”

“Hey, a girl can still look. I’m in a relationship, not dead. I’m sure you will still check out other women once you come off that cloud nine of yours, right?”

“Nope. And, why would you even say that to me?” Kat answered incrediously.

Sutton flushed the toilet and Kat couldn’t hear her reply from all the gushing water noise. They washed their hands and re-joined their significant others at the table for dinner.

- - - - -
The two couples entered the crowded club after paying the hefty cover charge at the basement door. “This better be worth the 20 clams per person just to get in,” Sutton complained. Adena and Kat both replied with a head shake, as it was hard to communicate with all the clamorous mob. The club was on the edge of the NYU campus and was frequented by a lot of college students.

Kat held Adena’s hand as she shimmied and side-stepped to get around sweaty bodies and tight places, leading the way. She used her forearm and elbow to gently push people back and away from Adena, and was glad to see a familiar face waving and smiling at them from a back table. “There’s Jane and Justin, Sutton!” Kat shouted and pointed in front of her to signal where they should go.

There were brief introductions of Jane’s sibling and the three couples got settled into the large booth, ordering shots and drinks. “Hubba, hubba...look at you Tiny Jane, with your sheer black blouse and lacy bralette underneath. You came to fight and conquer tonight,” Sutton exclaimed.

Jane’s friends soon found out Justin was the comedian of the Sloan family, having everyone at the booth laughing and entertained with his outlandish capers. “Yeah, I’m a cameraman for ABC and can tell you the best gossip on those prima donnas we all know on television. They’re all just a bunch of needy, neurotic humans with fame and money.”

At midnight there was a change in DJs and the music was suddenly lit, as Kat put it. So the group got up and started dancing. There had been a round of shots of tequila taken at the table and Kat, Jane, and Sutton were feeling giddy and loose on the dance floor. Justin was a good dancer and kept up with his little sister’s moves. “Go Beyoncé, go Beyoncé!” Sutton and Kat chanted at Jane. Kat would sometimes twerk and then grind behind Adena, causing her fiancée to giggle and cover her face shyly. Sutton mimicked and took turns twerking and grinding behind Richard, Kat, and Jane, making Justin and Adena hold their bellies in laughter.

When the DJ put on a twangy tune, Kat announced she was going to use the ladies’ room. Adena joined her this time following her fiancée to the alternate upstairs facilities, as they saw a big line of women at the downstairs bathroom. “Hey babe, let’s try upstairs,” Kat pointed to the neon sign reading ‘Restrooms’ with the upwards red arrow hanging on the wall.

On the way back down to their table, Kat got briefly separated from Adena’s side, as the hallways were narrow and piled up tight with bodies huddled in line. The artist reached the bottom of the stairs first and came upon a group of men standing by the landing area. “Who the hell are you supposed to be!” A surfer-looking dude referred to Adena, stepping forward to block her path and forcing the petite woman to stop and look up at him.

“Excuse me sir, I’m just trying to get by to join my friends over there,” Adena gestured to his left side. She could smell strong alcohol on his breath and his buddies were beginning to encircle her, taunting her in an intimidation tactic. She wasn’t a stranger to this kind of treatment, and didn’t want any trouble, so she remained calm and polite.

“Get the fuck out of her way!” Kat came from behind Adena pushing through the circle and pointing a finger at the bully.

“Fuck you, bitch! This doesn’t pertain to you,” the stocky man bit back, as Kat noticed the man and his friends were all wearing ‘Zeta Beta Tau’ hoodies or sweatshirts. Kat was familiar with this fraternity from her partying days in college. She remembered recently reading an article in the ‘NYU Alum Greek Life Post’, that they were currently on probation for several campus altercations. Specifically, the campus police report stated they were brawling with a rival group during several college games and campus parties, as well as acting up at neighboring bars.

“Oh like hell it does!” Kat stood all protective in front of Adena, who gripped the back of Kat’s jean jacket and pulled her back, closer to her and away from the man.

“Is okay, Aziz-am. I’m okay. Don’t encourage them further. Let’s just go, please...walk away!” Adena pleaded in Kat’s ear, but the blonde brute was drunk and needed to flex his macho ego in front of his guy friends, so he swung his hands around, inadvertently slapping Kat’s Dixie cup full of booze out of her hand, sending the liquid flying onto Kat’s clothes and the cup to the floor.

“Hey, you asshole prick!” Kat reacted, swiftly shaking out her jacket and cotton top to get some of the liquid beads off of her. “You’re going to regret you did that!”

The man puffed his chest out like an ostentatious rooster, pointing his finger inches from Kat’s face, “You and your towel head bitch aren’t going anywhere!”

“Kat, please!” Adena begged desperately and pulled more on Kat’s jacket, as the artist felt her heart was going to burst with fear. She saw a small crowd was starting to collect around them as they heard the commotion, not sure if anyone would intervene.

“No, this is bullshit!” Kat lifted and drew her hands into tight fists ready to take a swing, when suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she saw her whole table of friends pushing through the circle to get to them.

“Out of the way,” Sutton yelled, as she and Jane scooted through a small gap of bodies huddled together, protectively stopping in front of Kat and Adena, creating a barrier with their small frames.

“Hey gentlemen, you don’t want to do this,” Richard proclaimed, also pushing in with Justin by his side.

“Stand down, dudes,” Justin ordered, with hands up in front of his face.

“Oh...but maybe they do want to do this. Then they’ll get their sorry-ass fraternity suspended, seeing as they are already on probation for multiple altercations at events like these!” Kat shouted, reaching over Sutton’s shoulder to point her own finger back in the guy’s face.

Two of the other boys looked at each other, and a third said, “Come on Chip, let’s fucking blow this joint. They’re not worth it,” pulling Chip by the hoodie sleeve. As they turned to leave, Chip swung his elbow backwards, freeing his friend’s grip off of his sleeve, and accidentally connected with Richard’s face, hitting him hard on the right eye socket.

“Oh shit!” Richard covered his face complaining, and Sutton shoved the guy from behind as he hastily exited the scene.

Sutton turned back to face her boyfriend, “Are you okay, babe?”

“I’m getting the bouncers!” Jane hollered as the four men scurried away and out of the establishment.

Kat was pretty shook up and grateful her friends came to help them. But as she turned to hug Adena, she saw nothing but panic in her girl’s eyes. “Baby, it’s okay. The fools are gone...you’re safe! Let’s go home.”

“Oh, Kat....why?” Adena sniffed and Kat embraced her.

- - - - -
Back at Jane’s place, Richard laid on the guest bed with his head on Sutton’s lap, large one gallon bag filled with eye cubes over his throbbing eye. “Man, sorry hun. Guess you’re flying back to San Fran with a black eye tomorrow morning,” Sutton consoled him.

Richard lifted the cold bag and pressed on his face with gentle fingertips, “Ouch! So glad I don’t work for the Safford Board anymore.” He grimaced but then began to laugh. The laughter became contagious and spread around the room. Kat laughed too, glancing over to Adena who had been quiet since they returned to Jane’s, and was the only person not laughing. Kat was nervous and knew she was going to get an earful about her reaction to the situation when they returned home.

After the laughing died down, both Sutton and Jane glanced at each other, then looked towards Adena and Kat. Jane turned back to Sutton and lifted her brow slightly at the blonde in an inquisitive manner. They knew Adena was upset at the way Kat may have handled the altercation.

Kat looked uncomfortable and spoke up, “Hey guys, thank you so much for bravely coming to our rescue back at the bar. Adena and I appreciate it. You guys are good friends.”

“Yeppers...now we know why they call it Club Rumpus,” Sutton jested. “One things for sure man, they won’t see our sorry asses there again. No siree bob!”

“Hey, what are friends for. Those four privileged thugs were in the wrong and got off easy. We should have beat their asses,” Jane added to try and take some of the heat off of Kat’s reaction. But the group knew Jane was not the aggressive type, and chuckled.

Adena then spoke in a calm, soft voice, “Yes, thank you all for your support and friendship. I’m sorry you had to witness that. Hope it didn’t totally ruin our lovely evening.” She turned and gave Kat a half-smile, “Kat, is really late and we should get home.”

Kat nodded and rubbed the back of her own neck, looking at her watch and standing to leave. “Gosh yes, it’s 2:40 a.m. let’s go home and crash.” She reached down and took a small towel off of the coffee table. “Thank you Jane for the glass of water and also this rag for me to wipe my jacket and shirt off.”

“You’re welcome, babe.” Jane reached out and took the moist kitchen tea towel from her friend’s hand as she stood to leave. Kat walked Adena towards the coat rack with her hand to her lower back, and helped her put on her leather jacket and then put her own on. “Goodbye everyone. Have a safe flight Richard,” Kat said and waived. “Hope your eye doesn’t bruise badly.”

- - - - -
In the Lyft ride back to Brooklyn the girls sat quietly in the backseat, loosely holding hands. Kat leaned towards Adena a couple of times and pecked her cheek. Adena was expressionless and kept looking forward, but responded the second time by laying her head on Kat’s shoulder.

At home, Kat silently hung up their jackets on hooks while Adena unraveled her hijab, leaving it on the entry console for another day’s worry. As Kat turned to walk towards the closet, Adena grabbed her by a pant loop from behind, stopping her. “I’m not mad at you.” Kat turned and looked into her eyes. “What you did was very brave and I would have stood in front of you too, to protect you from that atrocious man.” Adena reached out and took Kat’s hands in hers. “But, I’m upset because when I asked you to back down, you didn’t.”

Kat swallowed and ducked her head. “Adena. I’m not going to let anyone talk to you that way, so disrespectful. I’m going to hurt them if - -“

“Is okay.” Adena interrupted. “Listen to yourself, Kat. It just terrifies me with worry that you are the one that’s going to get hurt one day, defending my pride against someone twice your size. And, I could never...NEVER forgive myself if that happened.” Adena’s voice cracked as she spoke and Kat lifted her hands up to caress her face.

“Well, then what do you want me to do next time? And you know there will unfortunately be a next time. I can’t just stand there and let it happen.” Kat shook her head and dropped her hands down by her side. “My gut reaction is to step in and fight for you, because...because...I love you!” Kat started crying and Adena quickly held her.

“Oh joon, come here.”

After a few minutes of hugging and back rubbing, Kat was calm. So, Adena suggested they change into pajamas and wash up. “Is okay, joon. Come, let’s get ready and go to bed so we can snuggle.”

In bed, Adena laid with her head on her pillow, staring up at the ceiling. Kat half-laid on top of her fiancée with her hair down, getting her scalp delicately massaged. After a long silence, Adena inhaled deeply and spoke. “I’m considering not wearing my hijab when we go out together at night. Especially to a bar full of alcohol and rowdy people.”

Kat lifted her head and leaned up on her elbows to look into Adena’s eyes, shaking her head. “No, no you can’t do that Dee. It’s wrong, that’s who you are.”

Adena slightly shrugged her shoulders. “Contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t written as mandatory to wear the hijab. It won’t change me inside, only on the outside. I’ll always be the proud lesbian Muslim you know and love.” Adena gave a tight lip smile and pushed Kat’s curls away from her face.

“But...if you do that, it would mean they won,” Kat quipped.

Adena cupped Kat’s round cheeks. “They’d only win if you got hurt, and I’m never going to let that happen, baby.”

A lone tear rolled down Kat’s cheek and Adena wiped it with her thumb. Kat leaned forward and laid back down on Adena, as she was before. Adena reached over to the small Tiffany style lamp and turned it off, making the room go pitch black.

“I love you, Adena.”

“Asheghetam, Kat.”

- - - - -
Mid-Sunday morning, Adena got ready to go to a nearby studio to meet with Firuze for a couple of hours, while Kat prepared for a jog with her friends. “Okay, I’ll see you back at home for dinner, babe. Have a safe run and say hello to the girls. Remember to tell them that I’ll go next time? I love you.” Adena kissed her girl’s lips, grabbed her large art portfolio and left.

“Will do...hello to Firuze, too. Stay safe and text me when you get there. Love you, Dee.” Kat watched Adena exit the apartment in her tight skinny blue jeans, baggy sweater, and matching hijab. She finished putting on her socks and running shoes, heading out a few minutes later to Jane’s place.

“Hey guys!” Kat entered the SoHo apartment as Sutton opened the door. “Adena says hello and sorry she can’t join us today. She’ll try and come jogging next Sunday, for sure.”

Jane was pushing off a wall, in a runner’s stretch, and Kat and Sutton joined in. “Sounds like a plan,” Jane responded, walking past them and taking the spare key off a hook. The three were soon off and running outside.

“So...did you get in trouble last night after you got home?” Sutton asked huffing, keeping in pace with her two friends who were jogging next to her down the wide sidewalk.

Jane perked up and turned towards Kat, “Yeah, was Adena truly mad at you for standing up to that asshole?”

Kat shook her head at them, “No, of course she’s not mad I stuck up for her...fucking privileged class a-holes! That’s one thing I certainly don’t miss about NYU. All the rich kids with fucking closed minds and sense of entitlement.”

“Come on, not all NYU rich kids are bad...look at you, babe,” Jane pointed out.

“Yeah, for sure!” Sutton added, with a nod of the head towards her curly haired friend.

“Thanks guys. However, Adena was upset because I didn’t back down sooner and I didn’t walk away from the confrontation when she asked me to.” The threesome separated briefly to get around a mob of senior citizens who were apparently in a walking club, all wearing the same aqua colored t-shirts.

They reassembled again and continued their side-by-side run, and Kat went on, “She’s just afraid that I’m going to get myself really in trouble some day.”

“Like when you got arrested for punching the guy in Brooklyn?” Sutton asked.

“No...more like get physically hurt by one of these creeps.” Jane turned and looked at Kat, forehead furrowed with concern for her friend. “Aah, god! I just can’t stand there and let anyone treat her like that, guys. Say such terrible things to her just ‘cuz they’re ignorant and hateful.” Kat’s frustration could be heard in her voice.

The girls came to an intersection and jogged in place while a horse drawn carriage trotted by. “Well, what can you do to handle the next situation better?”

“Or better yet, Sutton, let’s try and figure out what Kat and Adena can do to avoid such a situation?”

Kat shook her head and wiped sweat off her forehead with the back of her wrist. The trio crossed the street and entered Central Park. Kat held up her fingers and listed three choices, “Beyond just stay put at home, number one; never go out together, number two; or move to a deserted island, number three. There’s just no way to avoid it guys. Xenophobia and racism is everywhere. Especially Islamophobia in our country. I’m so, so sick of it all.”

“Yeah, it is sickening alright,” Jane said and Sutton agreed nodding her head.

- - - - -
The girls ran their usual 45 minute route then headed to brunch after their cool down. They avoided the subject of the ugly-bar situation with Kat until she brought it up again while eating. “Adena wants to stop wearing her hijab when we’re out together.”

Jane reacted wide eyed, “Oh...isn’t that against her religious convictions?”

“Yeah, can she do that?” Sutton asked.

Kat let out a big sigh, “She can choose to do whatever she wants, guys. She says it won’t make her any less a Muslim. But I just feel it’s wrong she has to do that because of a negative outside force, and not just decide to on her own free will. Additionally, I feel like she’s doing it because of me...which is extra-upsetting and makes me feel guilty.”

Jane took a small sip of her mimosa, pausing to think about what her friend just said. She reached out and laid her hand gently on Kat’s forearm, “Now you guys have entered another realm of your relationship, Kat. This is the more serious part of your union. Adena’s just looking out for your well-being and is willing to make whatever sacrifice and adjustment is needed to keep you both happy and safe. This is what committed partners do for each other, compromises that must be made in life. You are probably doing it too, and will be doing it more as the years go by.”

“Yeah, true. It can’t be butterflies and cotton candy all the time,” Sutton added, rolling her eyes. “Look at me and Richard, 3,000 miles apart so he can do what makes him truly happy.”

Kat laid her fork down and tugged on her earlobe, “Yeah, but I wish strangers weren’t such jerks and mind their own business. Not judge another person on what they’re wearing or look like.”

“Sorry Kat,” Jane added. “Unfortunately for some that’s human nature, being put off by what’s different, or by what some people don’t understand, or by-“

Sutton interrupted, “...and, some people are just natural born assholes and jerks!”

- - - - -
In the early evening Kat and Adena decided to walk a few blocks from home to a small jazz bar that was famous for their chicken fingers and fried zucchini. For the first time since Kat met Adena, she did not cover her hair outdoors. Kat sat across from her at the small booth in the pub, sharing soft smiles and stares.

“What?” Adena grinned up at Kat.

“Nothing. You just look so different, love.”

“But you see me without my hijab all the time at home,” she responded.

Kat shrugged her left shoulder slightly at her, “I just have to get used to it when we’re out, that’s all.” Kat’s expression was sad, and Adena reached over and held her hand, rubbing her fingers gently with her thumb.

“Is okay, baby. It’ll be fine. Now...more importantly, let’s order because I’m starving.” Adena smiled and took the small paper menu from the center of the table and handed a second to Kat.

Their favorite group ‘Kool Katz’ were playing tonight and soon the food came to their table. “Yum, I love all this fried food! Good thing I ran this morning in preparation for a cholesterol spike,” Kat made a silly face and Adena chuckled.

“Oh but it tastes so good, babe. We can burn it off later tonight.” Adena wiggled her eyebrows at Kat, who grinned and bobbed her head joyfully back at her in response.

When their stomachs were full they got up and slow danced, cheek to cheek, in a very intimate way. Kat really liked the small establishment because a lot of queer couples frequented it, so it meant they felt comfortable to be themselves there, no one gave anyone dirty looks or shocked stares.

As Kat held Adena close, she thought about how wonderfully content her life was and how she was looking forward to a lifetime of shared experiences with her beautiful girl.