Mommy, tell us again how you picked Daddy from a digital lineup of the world’s most eligible bachelors.
Did you really sleep with him the first night you met?
What does it mean that his proposal was orgasmic?
There wasn’t a single moment Zhang would change about their journey since it had taken all of it to bring them together, but certain aspects could be paraphrased for the retelling.
Love at first sight.
Discovering themselves and each other in the face of adversity.
Maybe even that Grandma Hadia taught Grandma Xiaoli how to belly dance.
A month later, Zhang stood wrapped in Rachid’s embrace on the balcony of his palace suite as they watched the sun set behind the city’s skyline. Rachid nuzzled his wife’s neck.
“I heard from Abby,” Zhang said. “They’re finally back from their honeymoon.”
Rachid said, “I spoke to Dominic. After everything that happened here, I was relieved to hear that his server went online without a hitch.”
“Do you think they’ll come back for your coronation, or did our wedding weekend scare them off?” Zhang asked into the night sky.
“Dominic is a bit of a nervous wreck regarding his wife’s health lately, but I’m sure we can convince them to give us a second chance.”
“Lil would probably move here if it weren’t for Jake,” Zhang joked.
With a rumble of laughter, Rachid said, “Your parents are enough.”
Zhang said, “I think it’s hilarious that my mother is studying Arabic when she never learned English.”
Rachid hugged his wife back into his chest and said, “She and my grandmother have been pretty inseparable since your parents moved in. I wonder if they will get along as well once they speak the same language.”
With an amused glance back at her husband, Zhang asked, “What are you saying about my mother?”
Rachid laughed. “Nothing. I have to love her – she gave me you.”
Zhang lightly tapped her husband’s forearm. “Oh, sweet words, but you can tell me the truth.”
After a moment of thought, Rachid said, “Your mother is a strong, opinionated, stubborn woman. And so are you. I hope our daughters are as brave and loyal.” He rubbed his chin on the top of his wife’s head. “Although they will not be allowed to date . . . possibly ever.”
“And our sons?” Zhang asked with a joking edge to her question.
“They will only be banned from attending American weddings.”
“Because they might end up with someone like me?” Zhang challenged, some of the humor leaving her voice.
“There is no one else like you, Zhang.” Rachid kissed her neck between each word.
“Our children will not be raised with a double standard.”
“No, but they will be raised to respect the old ways as well as the new. As we do. It is a line we must all walk to belong. When you are out in the countryside, you curb your tongue and you dress as we dress. I know you do it out of respect for me, but it has also won you acceptance from my people.”
Zhang sighed. “It’s not always easy.”
Pushing her hair back to expose her ear to his attention, Rachid said, “We could have left and made our home anywhere in the world. We still can if this is too much for you.”
Hugging her husband’s arms to her waist, Zhang said, “No, I see you show the same respect to my culture when we visit. You hold yourself differently and tone down the whole arrogant-prince act, and I know how hard that is for you. I’ll survive.”
Rachid growled, spun his wife in his arms and said, “Just survive?”
Zhang leaned against her husband and wiggled a bit until she felt him begin to stiffen. “Queen Zhang. It’ll be difficult, but I’ll manage somehow.” A sudden thought flew into her passion-dazed brain. “Speaking of difficult, I’d like Jeremy to be part of the ground team when Proximus relocates here next month.”
Rachid drew back and asked, “Why do we need a hacker?”
Zhang said, “He’s a genius when it comes to firewalls and encryption.” Rachid didn’t look convinced. “And I owe him.”
Frowning, Rachid responded, “We both do. What does he want?”
“He already has Corisi Enterprises and Andrade Global as clients. If he adds Proximus to his résumé there won’t be a company in the world who won’t bid for his services. He says becoming rich is part of his plan.”
“To win the heart of some woman.”
Rachid kissed his wife’s lips softy. “Then we’ll hire him, because I cannot think of a more noble cause.”
With a twinkle of mischief in her eyes, Zhang asked, “Do you think all this sweet talk will get you a new fantasy tonight?”
Rachid’s eyebrows rose and fell suggestively. “You have more?”
Rising up onto her tiptoes, Zhang whispered into her husband’s ear, “An infinite supply of them.”
In one bold move, Rachid swung Zhang up into his arms, carried her through the suite and headed for the bedroom. “Then it is fortunate that we have a lifetime to explore them.”
As Zhang sunk into the softness of the bed and pulled her eager new husband down on top of her, she thought, I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Universe.
The cosmos answered in a whisper that tickled her thoughts even as she started to lose herself to passion: Boy or girl?
It doesn’t matter, Zhang answered and rolled on top of her husband, playfully trapping him beneath her. I already have everything I need.
So, four then.
Zhang paused and sat straight up on Rachid.
Four? I never said four.
“Are you okay?” Rachid asked, suddenly concerned.
Looking down at her husband, Zhang decided she was. She kissed him and he forgot his question. Sometimes when you lose to the universe, you win.
Better get started then.