The cold breeze of the night was slowly shifting as dawn approached. In a few hours, the sands would shift again, and the heat of the day would make it unbearable for them to stay there anymore. Khalid held her close to his chest, looking down over the horizon. It was rare for them to have some time to themselves like this. He didn't want to let her go. But for some reason that he was not able to comprehend, Khalid didn't understand why it felt so wrong to hold her like that. He sighed in contemplation. What could it be? He wondered.
"Is something bothering you, dear?" She asked, raising her head.
Khalid smiled, running his hand through her dark curls. She was such a beautiful woman, his Fatin. He loved her with all his heart and soul, from her deep black eyes to her little hands that perfectly fit inside his own. Fatin was a small woman, almost half his height. Often when they went into the city rarely, people mistook them for an older brother and sister, though they looked nothing alike, and they were of the same age. They had grown up together in the deserts of Tadmur with their small community of Nabataeans. Centuries after the destruction of the city of Tadmur, their people had managed to rebuild a new Tadmur, hidden from the eyes of the average human.
Fatin and Khalid depended on rare moments like these when they could slip away from the hustle and bustle of Tadmur. Falling in love was not an option for marriage in their community. In truth, people engaging in pre-marital affairs usually got punished according to the norms of their people. And it often resulted in the excommunication of one of the two from Tadmur. All their memories of the city would get erased. They'd then have to spend the rest of their lives without any memory of who they were, in some land far away from home.
Khalid didn't want that for the two of them. At least among wolves, there was the concept of having mates. If one were to find their mate, they were to get married instantly without delay, before the couple ventured to experiment with their attraction towards each other. He hoped that that one loophole would let him marry Fatin as soon as possible. It was getting more difficult as time passed to get these moments alone in the desert, risking their safety and that of their community. Getting married was the best option for them. The only problem was that Fatin was an air elemental and the high priestess's only daughter. His beloved caught his chin with her nimble hands and turned him towards her, trying to gain his attention.
"Khalid, what is it?" Fatin asked, looking concerned.
"I was wondering why I feel sad." He said, gazing at her with much warmth.
Her golden skin glowed like gold under the light of the moon. Fatin's bright eyes turned a bit dull as a soft sigh escaped her chewed lips.
"I can understand." She said, wrapping her hands around his torso tighter.
"You do?" Khalid asked, confused.
How could she understand what was in his mind? He wondered.
Fatin nodded. "The dawn approaches." She said, pointing her hand towards the Eastern horizon. "I wish I could stay longer."
Khalid smiled. At last, she didn't understand why he was sad. He wondered what her reaction would be if he ever told her the truth. Would she ever understand? Was this how it was supposed to feel? There was no tug of emotions or a bond, like the one his mother had explained. But he knew one thing for sure. Fatin was the one who he wanted to get married to, no matter what.
"Do you have to go?" He asked, tracing his hand on the high contours of her cheeks.
"For now," Fatin replied with a sad smile.
Khalid suddenly stood up, separating himself from her embrace. "I've decided." He said with determination.
"Hmm?" Fatin asked, looking confused.
Khalid didn't waste any time getting down on his knees. He had seen this in the few movies that he had watched while sneaking into the French garrisons. Fatin had even told him once that it was how she wanted it to be, with a dreamy look on her face. He watched her expression change from being confused to that of shock.
"Khalid! What are you doing?!" She exclaimed, looking flustered.
With a happy sigh, he said, producing a ring from the pouch on his waist, "Fatin, I don't think I can bear to part with you anymore. I want us to stay together at all times. I need you to breathe. I can't see a life without you in it. Will you.." He paused, looking nervously at her. "Will you marry me?" He asked in haste, watching her mouth drop.
"Khalid I..." Fatin stuttered, unable to complete her sentence.
He could hear her heartbeat skyrocket as she contemplated her words. He chuckled, all his nervousness vanishing.
"I promise I'll always keep you happy." He said with a shy smile.
"But your baba...." Fatin trailed off, looking around.
Khalid leaned forward to grab either side of her shoulders. His father was the Alpha of their pack. He was one strict man when it came to things like these. Fatin's worry was only natural, and it mirrored his own. But he wasn't going to let it overshadow his decision.
"As soon as the festival is over, Fatin." He said, looking at her with determination, "I will tell baba everything."
"Will they allow us to get married?" She asked, with eyes full of fear.
"They have to." Khalid said, cupping her cheek, "Because I love you."
At that, Fatin broke into a smile. She leaned in to his hand with a happy sigh.
"I love you too." She said, extending his hand towards him.
Khalid wasted no time in sliding the ring onto her finger. He wanted to make her his before she changed her mind. But even she looked at the simple gold band in excitement, he wasn't feeling content. The same odd sentiment tugged at his heart. Something was missing.
"Fatin?" He asked, lifting her chin to face him.
"Hmm?" She asked, with eyes full of love.
"Does your heart feel whole when you're with me?" Khalid asked, searching her face for an answer.
Fatin smiled, tugging him towards her. "My heart is the warmest when I'm with you." She said, placing a small peck on his lips.