by Annie Q. Syed

The pink and white roses for flower arrangements created exactly the ambiance Sabeen had imagined for this day. Tied in a fishtail braid, her thick black hair tumbled past her right shoulder onto her periwinkle chiffon dress. She looked past her reflection in the mirrored panel and saw Walid in the entrance of the hotel lobby; his profile skinnier than she remembered.

‘This looks beautiful.’ Walid, a foot taller, gently turned her around.

Without helium, gravity had won against the silver balloons tied to the red leather stools. Next to a measuring beaker and champagne bottle were empty cocktail and whiskey glasses. The bar foot rail was broken. The crystal chandelier in their makeshift ballroom remained unscathed.

‘It doesn’t get brighter than that.’ Sabeen looked up at the hanging lights and shrugged.

‘It looks just right.’ Walid kissed her forehead.

Outside, the Saadallah al-Jabiri town square was lively like in the old days. They could hear whispers of football chatter amongst men and at a certain angle even see some women smoking under the cover of olive trees. Children rode their bikes over the shrapnel and debris.

‘They are all here,’ Walid said, eyes closed.

Four hundred thousand gone in seven years, Sabine thought. Baba, imprisoned for a year that had become three, should have been released today.

‘Maybe he will show up later.’ Sabeen’s words muffled against Walid’s chest.

They danced without music, stepping around crushed plaster and bullet casings.

Annie Q. Syed is a reader and writer who teaches full time to inspire students to read and write. Her stories, Collection of Auguries, were published in 2013. Her work has appeared in Burning House Press, Tahoma Literary Review, Ellipses Zine, Blue Fifth Review, The Bangor Literary Journal, Afreada, and in Reflex Fiction anthology. You can find more of her writings and thoughts at