Chapter 8. Jealousy

Dalal wasn’t shocked that Osama was interested in Yara when everything suggested that he was interested in her. She was disappointed and hurt, but she was used to being the least desired one among the three. This had always caused her security and confidence issues that she tried hard to hide by being the hyper one who admired and appreciated the smallest things in life. When in reality, she always wondered if something was wrong with her, if she was ugly or fat or too much to handle. She couldn’t understand why men were never attracted to her. Of course, there were some pathetic men that she didn’t even consider. But there never was a McDreamy or even a McAverage in her life.

When Yara called her the next morning, she was too nervous to answer. She was overwhelmed with jealousy and anger and she didn’t want her to notice that.

“Hello”

“Where are you?” wondered Yara.

“Home.”

“Come to the café! Why are you home?”

“I can’t, I have to stay. My mum is having guests” she lied.

“Oh ok. Ready for the trip?”

“Yeah, almost. Nothing much to do”

“Ok then see you tomorrow. Oh, wait. Did Osama call?”

“No.. he didn’t call..”

Dalal couldn’t keep that hurricane to herself. She had to let it out of her chest as much as she wanted to erase it from existence. Her only solution was to talk about it with the only person who knew about it; Osama.

She logged into her Facebook account, clicked on Messages, New Message:

To: Osama Farouq

Subject: Clarification

Message: Here is something that you need to know, I don’t know if you haven’t noticed or if you’re pretending that you haven’t, but Yara and Fahad like each other!!! It’s so obvious and I don’t understand how you missed it. True that they are not officially together but the sparkle is clear!! And you come to me and ask me to talk to her? Why haven’t you talked to her directly? Or talked to Fahad? And here is another thing, what happened should remain between us. If I tell Yara she will tell Fahad and you might end up losing a good friend. So I’ll keep this to myself and you do the same too for the sake of our friends.

She then clicked on Send and didn’t bother to read the message before sending it. By this time, she realized that she didn’t just lie to Yara about Osama not calling, but also lied to Osama by acting all worried about her friend’s feelings. She was well aware that blind jealously was controlling everything she was doing.

Yara was sitting by herself in the café. She was reading just like old times. It felt good to get back to her old habit but it didn’t feel the same. She felt incredibly lonely being in this place after all the action that happened in it through the past few months. Fahad was out of town, and the thought that he will not walk in any minute just like he always does was making her miss him more. She closed the book and called Nadia: “Come to the café pleeeaaaaase” she begged. “I don’t feel like it. The divorce news got spread and I don’t feel like seeing people” said Nadia in a depressed tone. “What will you do then?” asked Yara. “I will pack” she said. “I’ll go to the studio then. Have to finish some work before leaving” said Yara.

“I love this one. I think it would look nice if we hang it by the stairs, right?” Said a Western woman to her husband as they were viewing Yara’s latest collection. She was staring admiringly at the picture of the flying seagull. “I liked that one more actually” said the husband, pointing at a photo of a kid riding his bike on a bridge with a woman wearing a white maxi dress behind him. “Let’s ask for the photographer’s opinion” suggested the woman. Yara came closer as they both looked at her smilingly. They discussed the collection with her for a while and then they described the corner where the photo will be hung in their house. “I think that..if you put both photos together it would even look nicer” said Yara as she moved one of the photos and placed it under the other one. “That’s nice!” said the woman. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to push you into buying both.” Said Yara. “Oh, don’t worry. We know that this place is not commercial and that’s why we always love to come. We’ll take both!” said the man.

As soon as the couple left, a very unusual customer walked in. “Mama? What are you doing here??” asked Yara in surprise as she saw her mother open the door of the studio.

“You have a visitor” said the mother and winked. A big man followed Sajida’s lead to the studio. He was tall and chubby wearing a white Thoab and a red Ghetra. His skin was a bit dark and he looked like he was in his early 40s . “Yara dear, this is Haytham, my friend’s son. He is here to see your….” The mother looked around to look for an excuse for the man’s visit.

“Collection..” said Yara helping her mother.

“Yes, yes, he’d like to see your collection”

Yara realized that this was the rich husband that her mother was talking about. She greeted him politely and showed him around. He was obviously not interested in the photos and the studio as a whole. He walked around slowly with both hands behind his back without saying any comment or asking any question or even paying any attention to the photos.

 Yara walked closer to her mother and whispered: “I don’t think that this man is here to check out my collection. He’s here to check ME out. Your mission is accomplished. Can you please get rid of him now?” Said Yara and walked to her desk.

The mother ignored her comment and started acting all excited: “Haytham is a very successful business man. Why don’t you both talk about your businesses? I’m sure that both of you can benefit from each other”

“That would be nice..really..but I must leave right now.. I have a..doctor appointment” said Yara trying her best to escape that awkward situation.

The mother stared at her angrily which only made things more awkward.

“I was going to take off anyway. It was nice meeting you.” Said Haytham and made his way out.

“You crossed the line!” said the mother angry.

“I clearly told you that this is not what I want but you just can’t listen”

“This man is every girl’s dream so don’t be stupid. I had enough of your meaningless rejections. You’re not young anymore!!” shouted the mother.

“Yes I’m not young anymore! But you think that it’s right for a mother to bring a man into her daughter’s life like that? To display your own daughter for him to check out like a product?”

“You don’t have to put it that way! I’m looking after you and your sister!”

“That is ridiculous. Anyway I really don’t need this right now. I’m going to Beirut tomorrow by the way” said Yara carelessly.

“And I’m the last to know? How respectful of you!”

“My best friend is dealing with a divorce and I have to be there for her!”

“Your friend is even more stupid than you are!”

 “That’s none of our business, she is free to do whatever she wants!”

“What about us? What will we do here if something happens?”

“I’m not the man of the family. Learn how to survive on your own!” said Yara walking out.

“Is it true that you’re going to Beirut?” asked Tamara as she was having take out dinner from Jasmi’s with Yara while watching So You Think You Can Dance.

“Yes.”

“And leave me all alone with her?”

“She is your mother Tamara. She will never harm you.”

“But..you know her, she doesn’t know what to do when something happens. She always calls you”

“I will only be away for four days. Nothing will happen” said Yara as she took a bite of her Original Chickee Chicken Sandwich.

“My school’s open day is on Sunday. I wanted you to attend and not her”

“She’s the one who should attend. Give her a chance to prove herself to you.”

**

“There is a lipstick that I’m looking for. I’ll be in the cosmetics store” said Nadia as soon as the girls crossed the security check in Bahrain Airport.

“I need a new memory card” said Yara adjusting the shawl around her neck.

“I have to exchange my money. I’ll go to Travelex” said Dalal.

“Ok then we’ll meet in the lounge” said Nadia.

Dalal was standing in queue in front of Travelex when she spotted Osama walking towards her:

“Dalal, there you are!!”

“What are you doing here?!”

“I’m going to Dubai. I tried calling you last night after reading your message but you didn’t answer”

“Because I’m avoiding you!” she said rudely.

“I’m sorry. I had no idea about Yara and Fahad. I thought that they were only friends!”

Dalal ignored him and took a step to the front as the line moved.

“I don’t understand! Why are you angry? I meant no harm!” said Osama confused.

“You want the truth?” she said as she faced him with courage.

 “What truth?”

“There was a misunderstanding! We thought that you were interested in me! And now, my friends are asking me about you and I have to lie!” she said as she reached the counter.

Osama was too shocked that It took him a while to choose the right words: “I’m.. sorry. I didn’t mean to put you through that”

Dalal ignored him as she listened to the woman behind the counter counting her money.

“Let’s just forget this whole thing, please” he said embarrassed.

“Easy for you to say!”

“Well, if you keep on treating me this way both our friends will notice and things will get bigger”

“You’re right. Let’s just act that everything is just like it was before this incident.” She said carelessly and faced the counter. He walked away..

“I think that I’m still in denial.” Said Nadia as she took a sip of her orange juice in the lounge.

“And that’s why you need to give yourself some time to think. You can’t make decisions when you are still in denial” said Dalal.

“In her case she can. Once a cheater always a cheater” said Yara cross-legged.

“Yeah, I know that my decision will still be the same even after a hundred years. I just don’t understand what is happening right now! I’m suddenly living with my family again, suddenly traveling with you and I’m going to be single again in no time. It’s all so unexpected.”

“It won’t be easy. It’s a big change and you’ll feel like you’re going backwards. But it’s for the best. You deserve better!” said Yara.

“Yeah, and you’ll find someone else in no time!” said Dalal rudely.

“What’s up with you? You’ve been acting weird!” said Nadia.

“Nothing, I’m normal”

Yara and Nadia stared at each other in confusion. “Normal Dalal would be too hyper and excited about the trip” said Nadia.

“Well, people change! And I thought that you’re the one who asked me to act more mature?”

“What happened with Osama?” asked Nadia trying to figure out the reason behind the sudden change of behavior.

“Nothing had happened”

“So he didn’t call you yet?” asked Yara.

“He…did” said Dalal hesitantly.

“And????” said Nadia.

“And nothing. It was work related.”

The lounge’s receptionist passed by at that instant announcing that their flight is now boarding. Dalal was glad that the conversation was interrupted as they gathered their stuff and left the lounge.

Yara took the window seat and Nadia sat next to her on the aisle seat. Dalal was sitting next to a stranger on a separate row.

“What happened to her?” wondered Nadia in low voice.

“I’m sure that it has something to do with Osama.”  Yara whispered back.

“Yeah I didn’t buy that story!”

“You think I should ask Fahad?”

“No, he won’t have an answer anyway. Guys don’t discuss such things!”

“Yeah. They only gossip about some cheating losers” said Yara referring to Manaf. They both laughed and Yara took out a book from her handbag and opened the page where the bookmark was placed.

“Do you miss him?” asked Nadia smiling.

“I do!”

“You really like him.”

“I haven’t seen him for three days and I miss him insanely”

“Enjoy it while it lasts” said Nadia in a brokenhearted tone.

**

It was the girls’ second day in Beirut. Splitting up house chores; Dalal washed the dishes and Nadia wiped the table while Yara had a shower. It was her reward for being the first to wake up and arrange for a delicious breakfast. She couldn’t resist the smell of fresh Mana’eesh that came from the baker around the corner and so she walked down the street and had a Kashkavan cheese Man’oosheh on the go. By the time Dalal and Nadia woke up, a beautiful table was set in the balcony with flowers in the center and medium round bowls filled with fresh spreads and olives placed all around it and a basket of Mana’eesh on the side. Nothing felt better than that cold breeze hitting their faces while they sipped tea and admired a view of endless mountains.

“I really don’t feel like blow drying my hair!” said Yara after leaving the shower.

“Then don’t. Your waves always look better in winter” said Nadia.

After applying mascara and blusher, Yara went to the sitting room and waited for the girls to get ready. Her phone rang, it was an unknown number: “Hello?”

“Hello you!”

“FAHAD!” she screamed happily as she walked out to the balcony.

“Before you start yelling, I got a woolen hat and a scarf. How’s Beirut?”

“It’s gorgeous. I love this place”

“Me too, I really wish that I was there instead”

“How was the game?” she asked excited.

“WE LOST! But it’s always exciting to be there!”

“Loving the spirit”

“I will call you back in two minutes” said Fahad and hung up.

Yara went back inside the apartment as Nadia walked out of the room holding a pendant, “Will you close this for me please” she said as she handed it to Yara, turned around and held her hair up. The apartment’s bell rang the moment Yara hooked Nadia’s pendant. “Will you get that please?” said Nadia and walked back to the room. Yara walked lazily to the door and opened it to find the least expected person standing in front of her. It was Fahad….

She inhaled all the oxygen that was in the room in one gasp. “Hi!” said Fahad with a grin with his hands in his pockets. He was wearing a black blazer and blue jeans.

“What… are you… doing..here?” asked Yara shivering.

Nadia came out again at that moment: “You made it!” she said and winked to Fahad.

Yara was frightened and she was staring at both of them in shock. “Surprise?” said Nadia.

 Yara stared back at Fahad breathless.

 “Please come in Fahad. I’ll get her water before she faints” said Nadia as she headed to the kitchen.

“ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?” yelled Yara as she hit Fahad’s shoulder.

“And that is what I get for flying all the way here!”

She was still in shock and shivering.

“I missed you” he said looking straight into her eyes.

 “It’s so good to see you” she said sincerely and was almost in tears.

“Fahad. Welcome to Beirut” she Dalal approaching quietly.

 “Thanks Dalal.”

Yara stared at Dalal in confusion: “You knew too?”

“Yup!” she affirmed casually and walked out to the balcony.

“I need air” said Yara gasping and they both followed Dalal to the balcony.

Few minutes later, Nadia joined carrying a trey with four cups of Turkish Coffee and water.

“Thank you. How are you feeling?” asked Fahad as he picked up a cup from Nadia.

“Trying my best to avoid thinking about it. Thanks for your help by the way. I never got the chance to thank you” said Nadia.

“I apologize for not informing Yara earlier. It would’ve spared you that trip”

“It was the best way to find out trust me! Cutting cords right away”

“When did you get here?” asked Yara, still nervous.

“This morning”

“And where are you staying?”

“With my aunt and her husband. He is Lebanese so they come and stay here every now and then.”

“Oh that’s nice” said Nadia.

“Yeah she gets excited when we visit” he said.

“I hope that you didn’t surprise her too and gave her a heart attack” said Yara approaching a cup of water.

Fahad and Nadia laughed.

“Dalal? I need to go to a nearby shop to get some…groceries. Will you come with me?” said Nadia in an attempt to leave Yara and Fahad alone.

“But we got all the groceries yesterday!”

“Yeah but we forgot some things. Come on” said Nadia as she patted Dalal’s back and they both left.

“I never knew about your aunt’s Lebanese husband” said Yara.

“It’s the reason why I love this country. So many memories”

Beirut Sit El Dunia” said Yara quoting Majida’s song.

“Indeed. Can’t be said any better”

Yara got up and stood by the balcony’s railings “Look at this gorgeous view” she said as she stood with both her hands resting on the rail. The icy tip of Qurnat as Sawda was looking small viewed from where they were. Fahad walked to her and stood near. The wind was playing with her hair as she kept on staring far into the horizon. She turned her head to find him staring at her with a soft smile. She smiled back nervously. He pulled her closer with his hand around her waist. She felt so weak being surrounded with his masculine arm. Each heartbeat spoke a story of its own. They stared at each other’s eyes till his nose touched hers, and the awaited words finally came out: “I love you..”  he  said..

Advertisements

Chapter 7. Expectations

In fancy pink and golden teacups, the girls were sipping tea in Nadia’s bedroom at her parents’ house. This spacious and beautifully decorated room witnessed many life changing debates and discussions. It was always were they gathered to discuss matters that couldn’t be discussed in public because It’d probably require screaming or weeping!

As soon as Nadia arrived from Qatar, she packed all her belongings from her villa and moved to her parents’ house. She intended to do that to make it clear to Manaf that there was no going back. Her mind was already made on ending this marriage and deleting every trace of his existence from her life.

“I don’t know what hurts more, the fact that my husband cheated on me or how my parents are blaming me for it!” said Nadia. She was sitting on her bed with her hair falling on her face without any drop of make up. She was still a symbol of beauty even in her worst conditions.

“Why are they blaming you?” asked Dalal holding a cup and sitting on a nearby chair.

“They believe that I didn’t give him enough attention and that I wasn’t a dedicated wife”.

“You gave up your career for him! You devoted your whole life to him! It was the other way around, he wasn’t man enough!” said Yara angrily.

“Exactly!” agreed Dalal.

“My parents don’t see that. They only see the big picture; the divorce and what people will think and say matters to them more”

“Give them some time and they will come to their senses. There is no doubt that your happiness matters to them more. They’re still in shock.” said Yara as she refilled her cup with more tea.

“I don’t think so. Last night they were trying to convince me to go back to him! They want me to forgive him and forget that it had ever happened!”

“Did you consider that?” wondered Dalal anxiously.

“Of course not! What he did is unforgivable!” Screamed Nadia.

“Very cheap. And it’s hard to digest because it’s really out of his character!” said Yara in disgust.

“What was his excuse?” asked Dalal.

“Excuse? He had no excuse! He apologized a million time but he had no excuse!”

“But at least he’s feeling guilty” said Dalal digging for positive things to say.

“It’s too late. Guilt and apology will do him no good now”

Nadia’s mother opened the bedroom door and peaked in. She was petite but age added few pounds to her little figure. Her short light brown hair was always neatly blow-dried and her big nose was the first feature to be noticed in her face. With half her body inside the room, she started lecturing: “Talk to her girls. Tell her that divorce is not easy and that women need to sacrifice in order for their families to survive”.

The girls nodded smilingly out of respect.

“If every woman asks for a divorce whenever something happens then no couple will remain married for good” she continued while stepping in giving a full view of her short pink floral Jalabiya.

“Mama, we talked about this already” said Nadia in an attempt to stop her.

“I’ll send you dinner in a bit” said her mother feeling insulted as she turned around and left the room.

“You want my honest opinion? I don’t see you heartbroken” said Yara.

“What do you mean?”

“You are not hurt out of jealousy or because your man had been with another woman. You are angry with yourself because you made the wrong choice by marrying Manaf and because he favored another woman over you!” explained Yara.

“Isn’t that normal since I was never in love with him?”

“It’s like you were waiting for an opportunity to walk away” said Dalal.

“You’re not even crying Nadia. Look at you, you are angry and upset but not heartbroken!” said Yara.

Nadia stayed quiet for few moments and her eyes started to glitter with tears: “Maybe I’m just replacing my pain with anger. Maybe it’s easier when I’m angry with myself” she said as tears started to fall over her cheeks.

“You need to let it out” said Yara as she patted her back and pulled her closer.

“And I was feeling guilty just for checking out that guy in Durra last week. I felt like a cheater just by admiring a guy’s looks while he spent the whole week with another woman!” said Nadia sobbing.

“I have an idea, what about we get away for a while just until things get quiet here” suggested Dalal in one of her bubbly moments.

“One of us needs to deal with a divorce, one is drowning in debts and one has no leave days left from work. Can’t happen” said Yara.

“Actually, that would be perfect” said Nadia as she wiped her tears, reached for her mobile from her bed side table and dialed her dad’s personal assistant number: “Hello Abdullatif, please book three tickets to Beirut with the following names..”

**

The noise of the drill was shaking the studio. Fahad walked in to find Santosh drilling the wall while Yara was standing on a chair holding a photo. He stood where he was quietly waiting for that very noisy drill to stop. “Hey shorty” he finally said when Santosh stopped drilling. Yara and Santosh looked back to find him standing with his arms folded on his chest. “Hey! How long have you been here?” asked Yara as she jumped off the chair and put the photo down. Her hair was tied up with a pencil and she was wearing light faded jeans with striped white and navy blue Urban Outfitters t-shirt. “Nice hair! How did you do that?” he said as she came closer. “YouTube!” she said proudly. He turned her over and removed the pencil from her hair: “It looks better this way” he said as her soft hair fell on her shoulder and handed her the pencil with a smile. Yara blushed and turned around to Santosh who was hammering a nail into the wall: “Are you done yet Santosh? Please hang that remaining photo and you can leave then. Thank you”

“You’re lucky. We just finished arranging my new collection which I shot in Durra” she said turning back to Fahad.

Fahad walked closer to the wall noticing all the additions. “May I have an exclusive presentation of the new collection from the talented photographer herself?”

“Certainly. The collection is called Tranquility” she said as she stood next to the wall acting all professional.

“Interesting” said Fahad with his hand on his chin.

“What do you think of this photo?” she said pointing to a photo of a seagull flying over the sea.

“Hmm. The ability to achieve your dreams” said Fahad giving it a title.

“How? Fly high and the sky is your limit? Very cliché Fahad!”

Fahad laughed: “This is the part where you should say that the beauty of art is that each person sees it from his own perspective”

“I’m sorry but your perspective has nothing to do with art” she said jokingly.

Fahad laughed again and moved few steps towards another photo: “I love this one” he said while staring at a black and white photo of a child playing with sand with his father standing next to him. They were facing the sea and the picture was taken from behind.

“Really? I wasn’t sure about adding it to the collection”

“Why? It’s amazing! It speaks of stability”

“This is how you see stability?” she asked in a serious tone this time.

“Yeah. .” he said and remained quiet for few moments. “There is something that I need to tell you” he continued as he turned around and faced her. “Let’s sit down..” he gently held her back and directed her towards the two armchairs in the corner.

She sat down quietly waiting for him to speak. She hated how he always popped up serious announcements when least expected.

“I never told you why I divorced my wife”

“And why do you feel that I should know by now?” she asked nervously.

“We’ve become good friends..”

The mention of the word “friends” gave Yara a great deal of disappointment. “Tell me then”

“She didn’t want to have kids” he said staring at the floor.

“Oh. What were her reasons?!”

“Our marriage went perfectly well and we loved each other. But, this was a huge issue that stood between us” he said without answering her question.

Yara felt surprisingly jealous as he mentioned being in love with another woman. “Do you still love her?”

“It doesn’t matter. We’ve been out of each others lives for two years now”

Yara didn’t hear the answer that she wanted to hear and it was very hard for her to control her feelings: “You obviously didn’t get over her!”

“This is not the point Yara. Why are you insisting to know?” he said sounding upset.

“I’m not!” she snapped.

“Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to tell you!” he said in frustration.

Meanwhile, Osama was waiting for Fahad in the café when Dalal walked in. He waved politely and she walked towards his table:

“Shloanek?”

“I’m doing good. How about you?”

“Very well. Have you seen Yara around?” she asked looking around.

“Not really. I’ve been waiting for Fahad for a while and seems like you’ll be waiting too. Please join me until one of them arrives.”

“Oh, sure, that would be nice” she said excitedly as she took a seat.

“So, how’s work? Enjoying banking?” he asked.

“Not really. It’s all dry routine work but I don’t see myself doing anything else”

“Really? And why is that?”

“I don’t feel that I have the creativity or the talent to work in marketing or anything of that sort. And in Bahrain it’s either this or that”

“Or you could sell cupcakes!”

“Oh don’t get me started. Seems like all Bahrainis are suddenly bakers and designers”

Osama laughed and nodded.

“So what do you do now?” asked Dalal.

“I used to work in GFH in Investment Placement”

“Oh, is that how you know Manaf?”

“Yeah. But this is Bahrain, everyone knows everyone. I knew him before but we became friends in Doha”

“I see. And now?” she asked curiously.

“I’m starting my own business. I never liked Investment Placement but it was a good experience. I gained many connections” he said in confidence. And bonuses, thought Dalal.

“What’s the new business about?” asked Dalal but Osama didn’t seem to hear her as someone who just walked in stole his attention. Dalal turned around following his gaze to find Yara. “Oh, there she is! Thank you for the company” she said as she got up.

“Hey, would you mind if you give me your phone number? There is something that I’d like to talk to you about” said Osama a bit hesitant.

“Sure” said Dalal with a big smile and a pounding heart.

“What’s going on? Why do you look upset?” asked Dalal as she approached Yara.

“Long story. Can we get out of here?”

“But Nadia is coming!”

“I don’t care I just don’t want to stay here one more minute”

“Too late. She’s here!”

Yara ignored Dalal and made her way out of the café.

“What’s wrong with her?” asked Nadia.

“No idea!” said Dalal and they both followed her out.

“Yara. Where are you going? My car is here. COME!” ordered Nadia while Yara was walking towards the studio. She turned around and walked back to Nadia: “Please don’t force me to talk. Now open the car!”. She got into the back seat of Nadia’s shiny Black Mercedes as soon as Nadia clicked on her key.

“He hints! He hints all the time. Oh Yara you are cute, I like your hair Yara, I want to see you Yara. I don’t know if I’m crazy but he flirts!”

Nadia and Dalal couldn’t help laughing.

“And why are you angry?” asked Dalal sitting on the front seat.

“He speaks to me about his ex-wife and how much he loved her because we are GOOD FRIENDS by now” she said in more frustration.

“Calm down. I’ll take you for a drive and you let all the thoughts out” said Nadia as she started driving.

“Today he proved that I mean nothing to him!”

“Did he actually say that?” asked Dalal.

“No. But when I asked him if he still loved her he refused to answer!”

“Doesn’t mean that he still does. He’s a man. Men don’t reveal their feelings” said Nadia.

“I don’t like how he keeps using the word friends”

“Of course he’ll use the word friends. What do you want him to say? You’ve only known him a couple of months. Give it some time” said Nadia.

“I thought that you were more mature than that. You are jumping to conclusions. You are being me!” said Dalal.

Serenity finally descended in the car for few moments when Nadia turned on the radio; Fadhel Shaker was singing Law Ala Alby.

Dalal turned to the back seat excitedly: “Do you love him?”

“Leave me alone” said Yara hiding a smile and forcing her lips to frown.

“How do you feel when you’re with him?” asked Nadia while staring at Yara through the rear view mirror.

“I feel Friendship!” she said emphasizing.

“Put what happened today aside and think, how do you feel when you see him? Or when he calls” asked Dalal.

“I feel my heart falling onto my stomach” admitted Yara finally.

“Aaaawwwwww” Nadia and Dalal said together.

“Ok enough. I should get over this silly feeling anyway and be his…friend”

“Since you don’t want to talk about it anymore, I have some news” said Dalal facing them both.

“It better be good” said Nadia.

“It is” said Dalal with a grin.

“Just say it” said Yara fed up and not bothered.

“Osama asked for my number!”

“NO WAY” screamed Nadia.

“How did that happen?” asked Yara and jumped between the two front seats.

“We were talking, waiting for you and Fahad, and then he said that he wants to talk to me about something” she said overexcited.

“Something? What a lame excuse!” laughed Nadia.

“Osama from accounting!! Can you believe it!! I can’t I can’t!!” screamed Dalal joyfully.

“Maybe he really wants to talk about something! Stay calm. Don’t expect!” warned Yara.

**

Yara was arranging the laundry in her cupboard while listening to Majida. Every time she heard a message notification she hoped that it was him but she kept getting disappointed. She thought of calling him, but a part of her wanted to test how much she meant to him.

It was around 9:30pm when Yara gave up the hope of hearing from Fahad. She heard a BBM notification and reached her phone carelessly. To her surprise, it was him:

Fahad: Are you upset?

Yara: A little. You?

Fahad: LOL, I’m not upset

Yara: 🙂

Fahad: By the way, I am over her.

Yara remained quiet.

Fahad: I’m sorry I snapped. It’s just that it’s a sensitive topic.

Yara: I understand

Fahad: My trip to London is confirmed. We finalized the booking today and bought the tickets for the football match. Should start packing.

Yara: And I will pack for Beirut!

Fahad: Ha?

Yara: Nadia is taking us for few days.

Fahad: Oh. How is she coping by the way?

Yara: She’s better. We managed to get her mind out of it with our issues.

Fahad: That’s good. And you could use the change.

Yara: Yeah. When are you coming back?

Fahad: After a week.

Yara: A WEEK!

Fahad: Yeah :D.. Will you miss me? 😛

Yara: Oh don’t start..

Fahad: I will miss you 🙂

Yara: Pack warm clothes. It’s too cold over there now. Don’t forget a woolen hat and a scarf for the stadium.

Fahad: I don’t have any. I threw them all away before I came back from the States.

Yara: Then go and do some shopping!

Fahad: I don’t think that I have any time to shop over there before the game. And tomorrow I’ll be busy here with my father all day.

Yara: Why did you leave it for last minute!

Fahad: Are you worried about me 😛

Yara: Yes. Happy?

Fahad: Happy 🙂

**

“What’s wrong with you today? Why are you sitting all by yourself?” wondered Dalal’s mother as she got into her room.

“Nothing I’m just tired” said Dalal laying on bed.

“Why!”

“Can’t anyone spend some time by himself in this house?”

Kaifech” said her mother carelessly and left.

Dalal’s phone rang. She prayed that it was Osama. IT’S HIM. She jumped off the bed when she saw an unfamiliar number on the screen.

“Hello?”

“Hey Dalal, It’s Osama. I hope that I’m not disturbing you”

“No, no. Not at all” she said happily.

“Are you with your friends?”

“No I’m at home.” she said feeling a crunch in her stomach.

“Great.”

“How is your day?”

“I don’t know how to start..” Said Osama in hesitation.

Dalal let out a nervous laugh: “You can tell me anything”

“It’s a bit sensitive. I’ve been seeing you around with your friends often lately, and, honestly speaking, the three of you are amazing girls from what I saw and heard..And..there is one of you that I’d like to get to know more.” He said politely.

“Ok?” said Dalal trying her best to calm down.

“Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not someone who plays around!” he giggled.

“Oh yes we know. We know.. that.. you are a .. descent person”

“So will you help me?”

“Help you?”

“Yes. Would you please try and find out, in anyway you can, if Yara would be interested?”

Chapter 6. Affair

It was a cloudy morning. The lack of sunshine never failed to put Yara in a cranky mood. “You don’t have to cook if no one is at home. Who will eat all this food? It will end up in the trash. How many times do I have to tell you this” she lectured the maid while having a bowl of cereal in her pajamas.

“Madame asked me to always make food” said the maid in a Filipino accent.

“Because she’s not paying for it!” said Yara in frustration as she picked her phone to check the message she received. It was a BBM from Fahad: “I will be there in half an hour to pick up the photo“.

She had a very little time to dress up and the rush and nervousness made it more difficult. She picked up a yellow dress from the cupboard and faced the mirror. Too much, she thought. She dropped it on her bed and stared at all the outfits in the cupboard again with both hands on her waist. Natural morning look, she thought to herself over and over again. She brushed her hair with both hands and held it up in a bun, why am I putting all this effort! She wondered. Why am I nervous! We are friends, only friends. She thought and picked up a gray V-neck Ralph Lauren t-shirt with her favorite denim jeans and clipped her messy bun with a plastic hair clip.

 

With classical music playing in the background, Yara walked out of the small storeroom in the studio carrying Fahad’s wrapped photo: “Good morning” she said with a cheerful smile when she noticed him making his way in.

“Good morning. You’re way too fresh for a gloomy morning” he said smiling.

“Not at all” she confessed as she put the photo down.

“Here is your favorite coffee” he handed her a take-out coffee cup.

“Skinny Latte! Perfect timing. Thank you!” she said as she took the cup and led the way to two brown leather arm chairs on the corner of the studio. “Please have a seat”

“Can’t wait to hang that photo in the café!” he said as he sat down.

“You could’ve taken it days before. Why wait for me?” she took a sip.

“Maybe it’s just an excuse to see you?” he said in a steady and serious tone.

Yara smiled shyly, “I need your help” she changed the topic.

“Anything you need”

“I want to start looking for a job”

“Are you sure about this?”

“Yes, I don’t have any other choice” she said heavy-hearted.

“What kind of job? Bank? Government?”

“I don’t know. I majored in Business Administration but I don’t have any experience”

“Then it’s not going to be easy. As you know, getting a job is very difficult these days” he crossed his legs and placed one hand under his chin.

“Then what am I supposed to do?”

“Actually, I’ve been thinking about something lately and I was waiting for the right time to talk to you about it”

Yara got suddenly nervous.

“Try to imagine this” he said as he got up and walked to the wall behind the desk “Imagine if you take down this wall. What would happen?”

“I will be breaking the wall between the studio and the café?” she guessed.

“There you go!” he said excited.

“What do you mean?”

“A joint venture. We break this wall which separates our businesses”

“I still don’t get it. We have different businesses”

“And that is the cool part. Imagine a café/gallery. Nothing will change for both of us. I will still have my café and you will still have your gallery. We’ll only get to share customers. My customers will view your work and your customers will have my coffee”

“Interesting. But how will that solve my financial problems?”

“You will get more exposure, more revenue and you can expand with more products or add more services. Another option is that I rent your space. That way both businesses will operate under one management and one name, and you will be paid a fixed monthly rate which is the rent, and of course a percentage of the profit”

“Option two is a very smart way of making me work for you, boss!” she teased.

He laughed loudly “I knew that you’d think this way. The first option is a safe bet but the second is guaranteed income for you.”

“Give me some time to think about it. Too much to process. Too much for a gloomy morning!” she smiled.

“Of course, take your time. And now…” he said as he walked to the wrapped photo and picked it up “let’s go and hang this”.

She got up and followed him to the café, still holding the coffee cup; “You realize that if we break down that wall you won’t need this photo anymore”

“Till then…choose a spot” he said as he stood in the center of the café holding the photo.

“Ahh. Honestly? I think that you should replace that guitar painting with it. I always thought that it’s ugly”

Fahad laughed “You got it.”

Yara’s phone rang at that moment. It was Nadia.

“Hello” Yara answered.

“Hey. Where are you?”

“I’m in the café with Fahad”

“Big steps. Good job!”

“What’s up?” said Yara, avoiding to comment with Fahad standing right next to her.

“I’m going to Qatar today to surprise Manaf”

“Oh, that’s nice. Have fun. Will speak later”

“I’ll be back on Wednesday. See you.”

 

“Any of your friends are coming?” asked Fahad as soon as Yara ended the call.

“Not really. Nadia is on her way to Qatar”

“Her husband works in Qatar right?”

“Yeah, she is going to surprise him.” said Yara with a smile.

Fahad looked suddenly anxious. They were still standing in the center of the café. The picture that he was holding was leaning on a nearby chair. He put his mobile in his pocket and crossed his arms.

“What’s wrong?” asked Yara noticing his absent mind.

“Nothing. Never mind” he said hesitant.

“Are you sure? You seem annoyed” she said concerned.

“Let’s sit down” said Fahad and lead the way to the furthest table in the café.

“I don’t know Nadia’s husband, but Osama does” said Fahad as soon as they sat down.

“Yes we know”

“I don’t know if I should tell you this. You might misunderstand me again. But.. I know that Nadia means a lot to you.. and..”

“Please talk. It’s too late to change your mind!” she insisted.

“Osama has been my friend for many long years and I trust him. So I’m only going to tell you this because I heard it from, what I consider, a reliable source”

“Enough introductions please!”

“Osama saw Nadia’s husband with another woman several times in Qatar” he finally said.

“WHAT? MANAF? That’s impossible!” screamed Yara.

“Don’t freak out. I wasn’t going to tell you but I felt I should since she’s going to surprise him” he said trying to calm her.

“You don’t know Manaf. Manaf is the kind of guy who’s only interested in his job and the stock market, not women!” said Yara angrily.

“True, I don’t know him. But I know Osama and he won’t speak of someone unless he was sure. After meeting Nadia the other day he was really pissed off about it. And that’s when he told me.”

“Maybe she’s his colleague, or his cousin or something” said Yara trying to figure out an explanation.

“They were holding hands in public”

“Oh my god. I can’t believe this!”

“You have to stop her or there might be a big chance that she will find out the hard way”

**

“Her phone is still off!” said Dalal as soon as Yara picked up her call.

“I know I’ve been calling continuously too” said Yara with one hand on the steering wheel.

“I want her to find out. Let her find out” said Dalal angry.

“She’s all alone over there. It’s not the right way to find out”

“I knew from the beginning that he was a wrong choice!”

“But what are the odds that she walks in and sees them together. Maybe she won’t find out” said Yara hopeful.

She ended the call thinking about Dalal’s words and remembering all the old conversations and analysis of this marriage. They always knew that he was not the right person for Nadia. And now, they will have to face that fact after turning their back on it for years.

 

**

 

“Come over here” said Yara’s mother as soon as she spotted Yara walking in the house.

Yara walked to the sitting room, dropped her handbag and took a seat comfortably in preparation for Sajida’s next storm: “Yes mother”.

“I got you a husband” said Sajida coldly while filing her nails.

“What? You’re funny!” laughed Yara.

“I’m serious. A good catch as well” said raised her head.

“So you went husband-hunting for me?” said Yara sarcastically.

“And why not? These days, this is what good mothers do” said Sajida proudly.

“This is really not a good time mama..” said Yara and was about to get up.

“Wait, I didn’t finish”

“Mama, you know me better than that. You know that I will never get married this way or in any other arranged way by you or by anyone else” said Yara emphasizing each word.

“We don’t have a choice this time. He is rich and if you marry him it will be our way out of all those debts” she said, still as cold as ice.

“I can’t believe you. Even if a miracle happens and I marry this guy, how can you accept to make him pay for our problems” said Yara angry.

“You’re a little girl. By time, you will realize that life is not what you think it is.”

“Please don’t open up this topic with me again” said Yara and walked away.

“You are making a big mistake. Be smart for once in your life!”

Yara ignored her and kept walking away.

 

**

 

Nadia walked to the reception desk of The Ritz Carlton Doha where two receptionists received her with warm smiles. One of them greeted Nadia and welcomed her while the other was engaged in a phone conversation.

“How can I help you Madame?” asked the receptionist.

“I need the key to Mr. Manaf Mansour’s room. I’m his wife”

The receptionist looked confused: “Mr. Manaf from Bahrain?”

“Yes. He doesn’t know that I’m here”

“But.. can you excuse me for a second?” she walked few steps away, picked up the phone, dialed three numbers and waited. She was tapping her fingers on the table nervously. There was no answer. She whispered some words to the other receptionist who stared at Nadia confused and shook her head.

“I apologize but I’m not allowed to give anyone a key without the permission of the guest”

“Oh come on. I’m his wife and I’m here to surprise him. He won’t mind, trust me” begged Nadia.

At the same moment, one of the higher level hotel staff passed by and noticed the two of them arguing. “What’s the matter?” he asked. Nadia explained the situation to him while the receptionist listened quietly.

“Give her the key” he ordered.

“But..”

“It’s ok, Mr. Manaf is a regular. Give her the key” he insisted.

 

The sound of TV was heard through the door as Nadia inserted the key card and the small green light blinked. She walked in dragging her small bag and the door shut behind her.

To her surprise, there was a lady in tight jeans and white sleeveless t-shirt lying comfortably on the sofa. Her long black hair was covering her arms. The lady suddenly sat up, terrified of the image of a strange woman standing in front of her.

“I’m sorry, they must have given me the wrong room” said Nadia as she turned around embarrassed.

On her way out, her eyes fell on a black Delsey suitcase with a familiar sticker on it. A sticker that said: Nadia & Manaf in a calligraphic Arabic font that was specially made for their wedding giveaways. Isn’t this the suitcase I packed for Manaf? She wondered. She looked back and forth between the lady and the suitcase trying hard to put the pieces of the puzzle together. “Who are you?” asked Nadia in confusion. The lady stood up, picked up her handbag and walked out without saying a word realizing who Nadia was.

Nadia’s head started spinning with flashbacks that are finally making sense to her; The receptionist’s hesitation, Manaf’s ignorance and recent lack of affection. The twister inside her head kept getting wider and faster as the shock grew bigger and as the pieces of the puzzle were finally put together; My husband is cheating on me..

Chapter 5. Weekend

There were times  when I used to wonder, what good things have I done to deserve this good life? But life can suddenly push you from the highest mountain to the deepest sea. I now wonder how I got here. Back to a basic life where I struggle to afford my minimal needs. So many dreams I had. So many goals to acheive…

“What are you writing?” said Nadia as she passed by the dining table in her jogging clothes.

“Nothing, just some thoughts”, said Yara closing her notebook.

“I’m going for a jog.. see you in a bit” said Nadia as she picked up a bottle of water and left the house.

 

“Come watch this movie. It’s so romantic”, said Dalal who was sitting comfortably on a couch.

“No thank you. Save the romance for yourself. I’ll go read by the sea” said Yara.

“Oh no, please don’t tell me it’s Jane Austin again!”

“Nope! Malcolm Gladwell. You probably don’t know him as well”, said Yara as she picked up her book and mobile and headed outside through the sliding glass door.

She stood facing the sea and took a very deep breath. Her mobile rang interrupting her attempt to have a quiet moment. But she couldn’t help smiling when she saw Fahad’s name.

“Hello”

“Hala! I was hoping that you’d be at the studio but your background sounds windy”

“Yup. I’m outdoors” she giggled.

“Santosh called me and said that my photo is ready”

“He must’ve picked it up from the framing shop today then. You can pick it up from him, I’m sure that he’s there now”

“But I don’t want to”

“Why not?”

“Because I want you to give it to me..”

Yara stayed quiet for a few moments, “what difference will it make?” she finally asked.

“All the difference.”

“You’ll have to wait then” she said teasing.

“Why is that? You’re not going to the studio today?”

“Nope. I am in the furthest part of Bahrain right now”

“Oh, you’re in Durra?” he asked interested.

“I am. Facing the blue sea and standing under beautiful white clouds”

“I’m coming tomorrow actually. Will you be there?”

“Yeah we are staying for the weekend.”

“Nice. My friend Osama owns a house there so we’re going for some beach activities”

Yara almost laughed and turned her head towards Dalal through the glass door. She was too intrigued to the movie not realizing that the adventure that she wished for might be happening. “Fun! We are staying at my friend Nadia’s house.”

“Great. So we’ll probably see you tomorrow?” he asked in a hopeful tone.

“Maybe” she teased again.

 

Nadia was jogging over the second bridge with her ipod on. Her long black hair was tied up in a ponytail that was swinging left and right with each step. Just when she made a right turn on the roundabout, she noticed a guy who was jogging as well. Their paths crossed for a moment but she couldn’t help noticing his masculine figure and handsome face. Her pace slowed down as she remembered her husband Manaf. An average looking guy with an average personality. There was nothing special about him whatsoever. No special talents, no hobbies, and no interests. He was one of the many guys who proposed to Nadia, and as time passed by, this question kept getting louder and louder in her head: Why did I choose him?

Out of the three girls who were friends since elementary school, Nadia was always the one who stood out. She was the most attractive one, the most desired one, and the one with the sweetest personality. Yara used to always tell her that she must’ve swallowed a magnet that kept pulling men to her. Her family played a big role in developing that personality. She was their only daughter and she got a great deal of attention. A BMW was her first car and she was one of the first girls in Bahrain who owned a Birkin. When it was time for her to answer fate’s call, she let down all the men who were crazy about her and chose the most average one. By that time she had enough of all the love drama and all she wanted was stability. She chose the guy who’d provide her with a secured life and a routine. His big salary and huge bonuses were new to him. He came from a middle class family and got lucky with his job. She didn’t care about that. She owned everything she desired but she was far from being materialistic.

 

Nadia felt a sudden sharp pain in the right side of her waist. She took deep breaths and drank lots of water but the pain got worse by the minute. She then started feeling dizzy and lost her balance for a moment. Her phone was in the house and she had no choice but to sit on the pavement and wait for the pain to go.

“Are you ok?”

She looked up to find the guy that crossed her way few minutes ago leaning over in concern.

“Not really” she answered pressing on her waist.

“What can I do for you?” he asked politely.

“Do you have a phone?”

“No, it’s not with me. I can go and get it from the car but it would make more sense to get the car and take you somewhere? You look very pale”

“I don’t think that I have another option! Please take me home” answered Nadia in a desperate need to get back to the house.

“Wait right here” he left running in the opposite direction.

 

“And this place is finally getting exciting” said Dalal in amazement when Yara told her that Osama owns a house in Durra. Yara couldn’t focus on the book that she was reading by the sea. She went back in and sat with Dalal.

“I think that I should walk around with my camera. Might find some nice things to shoot. The sun will be setting shortly” thought Yara.

“Oh, you’re suddenly inspired. I wonder why” teased Dalal.

“No, silly. It’s just that the debts are increasing and I can’t sit back and relax. I have to try in every possible way”

“But that won’t be a permanent solution. Even if you shoot and sell, you will never cover those debts by doing that only.”

“I know! I think that I should start looking for a job”

 

Nadia walked in at that moment.

“What happened?” asked Yara in concern as she saw how weak she was.

“I don’t know. Sudden pain”

“Sit down I’ll get you water”

“Why didn’t you call us?” asked Dalal.

“I didn’t have my phone”

“And how did you manage to walk back?” wondered Dalal.

“I got a lift” said Nadia and threw her weak body on the sofa.

“A random lift?” asked Yara in confusion while handing her a bottle of water.

“Aha. A very handsome one”

“No way” said Yara and laughed loudly.

“Why don’t I ever jog!!” Dalal shook her head.

“Don’t make me laugh. I’m in pain”

“I can’t believe that you actually hitchhiked” said Yara still laughing.

“Telling you was a bad idea”

“Focus girls, who’s the handsome lift?” asked Dalal.

“ENOUGH. I was too tired to walk and the guy offered me a  two minutes ride. I’m married in-case you forgot. End of topic”

 

**

 

The girls were walking to Al Osra supermarket the next day when Yara’s phone rang:

“Hey Fahad”

“Hey. How are you today?”

“I’m good. Are you here yet?”

“Yeah I’m riding my bike”

“Oh! We are walking to Al-Osra.”

“Great, I’ll meet you there then”

 

When they reached the supermarket, Fahad was standing near the entrance with the bike parked next to him. He chatted with them shortly then Nadia pulled Dalal inside the supermarket to give Yara and Fahad some space.

“I love your dress” said Fahad while staring at Yara’s white summer dress.

“Thanks. It’s from Greece” she blushed.

“Wanna go for a walk? Need a break from cycling”

“Sure” said said as they both started walking.

“How are things now? Getting better?”

“Not really”

“I’m not going to offer my services just so you won’t get offended.”

Yara laughed softly, “Seems like I scared you off”.

“Not really. It was cute!”

“It was rude!”

“It’s cute when a nice person tries to be rude”

“Fine, if you say so”

“Tell me. What’s your favorite song for Majida?”

“Take a guess” she dared.

“Hmm. I don’t think that it’s Kalimat because you don’t seem to be so cliché” he said with his hand brushing his almost bold head.

“True. You have three guesses. Two more to go” she said with her hands folded on her chest.

“You seem to be a classic person. It could be Ana am bahlam. But no. It must be something richer for an art lover”

“Keep going”

“Last guess.” He turned around and faced her as he walked backwards.

“Come on. It’s not that hard to guess”

“By now I’m sure that it’s one of the poem songs. But there are so many of them!”

“You’re close”

Akhraja men me’atafih eljareeda…” he started singing .

“CORRECT” Yara screamed.

“YESSSSS. So what’s my prize?”

“I’ll guess your favorite song first and then we’ll think of a prize.”

“Deal! Go ahead” he said excited as he walked next to her. She stared at him with a smile. “Definitely not a poem song. You seem to be irrational and a bit insane”

Fahad laughed loudly: “What an impression”

“Actually it can be one of her new songs”

“There is a song I like called Bel alb khaleeny

“It’s a nice song. But seriously, this is your favorite song?” She wondered shocked.

“One of my favorites” he nodded.

Yara laughed: “It is nice. But not for a Khaleeji guy!”

“Why the stereotyping? I like to break the rules!”

“Hmm. You are not typical then..” she smiled.

“What’s my prize?” he asked again.

“What do you want?”

“I want to know more about you..”

 

They kept on walking till they reached one of the beaches. It was getting dark. They sat on the sand not caring about their clothes getting stained. Yara started explaining her current situation starting from her father’s death till the very last debt she recently found out about.

“Your turn” she said turning her head to him.

“Maybe it should be only about you today” he suggested trying to get away with it.

“But that won’t be fair, right?”

He smiled, “What do you want to know?”

“Any highlight”

Fahad stared at the sea and stayed quiet for few moments: “I’m divorced…” he said.

Chapter 4, Guilt

Everyone envied Nadia for living in a luxurious modern villa that overlooked the sea. They envied her for her beauty, elegance, and marrying a rich man who was lucky enough to be employed as an Investment Placement Officer in a time when the market was booming. She, herself, was feeling blessed to have all that although she came from a well off and known family. It’s the attention, the admiration, and being under the spotlight that kept her going.

After spending two hours at the gym, she walked into her house to find her husband Manaf sitting on a white leather sofa holding his iPad. “You’re back early this week”, she said, surprised to see him.

“Yup. My evening flight was canceled so I took an earlier one” he said coldly with his eyes fixed on the iPad.

Nadia walked to the sofa and sat beside him, “It’s good that they informed you earlier at least”.

“Yeah” he nodded, still with all his attention on the iPad.

“Wanna go out for dinner tonight?”

“Sure”

“Where do you feel like going?”

“Anywhere”

“Shall we go to Meat Co?”

“Let’s keep it casual. Blaze Burgers will do. And call your friends if you like” he finally raised his head and looked her in the eyes.

Instead of screaming and accusing him of being ignorant recently and obviously avoiding spending quality time with her, she swallowed it all and calmly reached for her mobile and messaged the girls: “Manaf is inviting you for dinner tonight. See you in Blaze at 8”.

 

**

Yara was laying on her bed watching Grey’s Anatomy when Tamara walked in carrying a box of Krispy Kreme donuts.

“Want some?” said Tamara opening the box.

“Please, that’s a perfect mood lifter” said Yara picking up an Original Glazed.

“You seriously watch this?” asked Tamara as she turned her head to the TV.

“I’m 28, what do you expect me to watch? Hannah Montana?”

“No. Glee!” said Tamara and let her tongue out.

“Get lost” said Yara as she watched Tamara making her way out of the room. She admired her for finding her joy in watching Glee and in a box full of donuts. She wished for two things at that moment, for her to be at Tamara’s age, and for her father to be alive. Things would have been different if he was still alive. She’d travel around the world just like she always did, buy designer bags and stay in five star hotels. She missed feeling safe and secured. She missed all the love and support that he used to provide her with. It’s been months since he left, but she still can’t get over the fact that he’s gone and how his death changed her life tremendously.

Her mind then shifted to the last time she saw Fahad. She thought of her harsh reaction and how that made her live with guilt the past few days. She realized by then that the way she handled it was wrong, and that she let out everything that she was going through on him.

Meredith Grey ended the episode with her life quotes, but Yara’s mind was far from it.  The only thing that brought her back to her senses was the clock that pointed at 7. Time to get ready for dinner.

 

**

“I will never get over how good this burger is!” said Yara as she took a bite of Old School Burger.

“This place should expand around GCC. I can easily find investors in Doha” said Manaf confident.

“By the way Manaf, I’ll spend the weekend in Durrat AlBahrain with the girls” said Nadia and took a sip of diet coke.

“Sure” nodded Manaf and went on bragging about the need to market Bahraini businesses in the Gulf. She was hoping that he’d object, that he’d ask her to spend the weekend with him since they only get to see each other on weekends. But she wasn’t surprised that he didn’t.

The three ladies turned their heads around curiously to see the person that Manaf was waving at warmly through the big window. That window offered an excellent view of everyone who passed by to access Adliya where all the hip and fine dining restaurants were located. And what a view it was to find Osama waving and smiling back!

Dalal’s eyes popped out of place: “He knows him too!” she whispered to Yara who was sitting next to her.

“Ssshhhh. He’s coming” said Yara and looked back to check if Fahad was with him, but he wasn’t.

The backdoor was opened, Osama walked in and made his way directly to Manaf who stood up to greet him. The ladies exchanged confused looks.

“This is Nadia my wife” said Manaf introducing them. “And those are Yara and Dalal, her friends”.

“You girls look familiar” said Osama after greeting them.

“Accounting class” said Dalal excitingly and Yara hit her leg immediately.

“Oh yes that’s right. It’s been a while. So what do you do now?” he asked sweetly.

“I work in BBK” Said Dalal, still excited.

Osama nodded and turned his gaze to Yara. “I have my own business” she said calmly.

“That’s great. What kind of business?”

“Art Gallery. I sell photos and paintings”.

“Awesome. What about you Nadia?”

“She’s a housewife” answered Manaf.

“I used to work in a law firm but I quit when I got married.” Explained Nadia offended.

“Oh, you studied law?”

“Yeah, accounting class did me no good so I transferred”

Osama laughed, “It’s good to see you girls after all those years.”

“Who are you with?” asked Manaf.

“With the guys. They are upstairs. Can you pass by our table when you’re done? I want you to meet someone” said Osama.

“I can come now.” said Manaf and followed Osama upstairs.

“Can you believe what just happened?” asked Dalal in over excitement.

Nadia started giving Dalal a long lecture about how she should act more mature with men: “You have to be calm. Don’t be such a blah”.

“What did I say? He asked and I answered!”

“She will never get it. Leave her!” said Yara with a distracted mind. She was hoping that Fahad was not upstairs, and that he doesn’t turn out to know Manaf as well.

“But what are the odds? We don’t see the guy for years and suddenly he’s everywhere!” said Dalal, still not getting over it.

“Hey, what are you thinking of?” said Nadia as she noticed Yara absent minded.

“You think that I was rude to Fahad?”

“Yes. You had a point, but he seems to be a gentleman and I’m sure that he didn’t mean to offend you” said Nadia.

“I really don’t understand how you had the ability to insult him!” said Dalal.

“I was angry and I shouldn’t have judged him” she looked around nervously with a feeling that he’d suddenly show up and join the guys upstairs. Scenarios were playing in her head with different reactions and conversations. He didn’t come.

The ladies were walking towards Lilo Cafe to have dessert after dinner when Dalal’s phone rang: “Hey mama…I’m fine…dinner was delicious…I had the Tabooga….”.
“They have the cheesiest mother-daughter relationship I’ve ever seen” said Yara as Dalal kept on giving her mother details about their evening.

 

“Girls, my mother is inviting you over to watch a movie now” said Dalal loudly.

“I can’t, Manaf just got back today.” Said Nadia.

“I can!!” said Yara.

“Great…Mama, Yara is coming..Who’s at home?”

 

“I need to spend some time with that hyper family. I need it for some reason” whispered Yara.

Nadia smiled: “I understand”.

**

“Yaraaaaa, finally, shloanech? How is your mother? Why don’t you ever come visit?” said Dalal’s mother as she grabbed Yara and showered her with kisses without giving her any chance to answer. “I always ask Dalal about you. Why don’t you come have lunch with us? This is your house my dear you shouldn’t be shy. And get your mother too I’d love to see her, you know I love being around people always…….” She went on and on while Yara struggled to breath between all the rough hugs and smooches.

“So which movie are we going to watch?” wondered Dalal taking a seat.

“Your brother got this one. Hangover? and I have an Egyptian one with Ahmed Helmi. Which one do you like Yara?” asked the mother holding the DVDs.

“Let’s watch the Egyptian one” said Yara, in desperate need for this family’s crazy comments.

“AHMEDDDDDDDDDDD, WE ARE GOING TO WATCH THE MOVIE! COME HERE RIGHT NOW!” screamed the mother.

“Oh Yara’s here!” said Dalal’s brother as he walked out of his room wiping the lenses of his eyeglasses with his t-shirt.

“Hey Ahmedo, sup?” said Yara.

“Still single” he joked and put the glasses on.

“Only because you’re blind my son. Look how gorgeous this girl is. You better marry her before someone else steals her just like they did with Nadia.” Said the mother.

Ahmed blushed and got embarrassed when Nadia’s name was mentioned. He was one of the many guys who had a crush on her before she got married.

“Come on auntie, he’s like a brother to us. We grew up together” said Yara in an attempt to make the conversation less awkward.

“Don’t start this brother issue. There is no such thing. Yalla play the movie, I want to laugh. And you two will realize someday that you’re wrong. What a generation!”  Complained Dalal’s mother and took a pile of sunflower seeds from a bowl that was placed on the table beside her.

Yara was laughing so hard that her eyes were tearing because of all the hilarious commentaries around her. All kind of junk were being passed around; cheese curls, popcorn, seeds, soft drinks, tea…etc.  For a couple of hours this family managed to get Yara’s attention away from all her problems. She blocked all the thoughts and enjoyed the night.

**

The next morning, Yara was reversing the car out of her garage when she noticed Tamara by the house door waving and asking her to come back. She parked the car outside and went back in: “What is it?”

“You’ve got to see this!” said Tamara pointing her head to the hallway. Yara turned around and froze in shock: “Mama!! What happened to you!”

Her mother was standing in her full glory and elegance. She was wearing a short navy blue dress with a black belt around her waist, her thick black hair was blow-dried, her face was finally looking alive with pink blusher on her cheeks and eyeliner and mascara perfectly applied. Her black high heels added few centimeters to her tall posture and her Gucci handbag was dangling on her arm.

“I thought that you’d be happy to see me like this!” said the mother with her hand on her waist.

The girls stared at each other and burst out laughing. “Seriously, what are you up to?” Asked Yara.

“Well, I decided that it’s time for me to move on” said Sajida.

“By doing what exactly?” asked Yara trying to hold a laugh.

“By living! As simple as that!” said the mother.

“Oops” said Tamara.

“It’s time to fix my relations with all people around me. Or maybe find new people and new relations. You see, if I had any good friends or if I was in good terms with my family we could’ve got help when we needed it!” said the mother moving a streak of hair away from her face.

“Now we’re talking” said Yara realizing her mother’s intentions.

“Please tell me that you didn’t expect me to say that I’m getting a job!” said the mother.

“Coming from you, it won’t make sense!” said Yara.

“Good. And now excuse me, I have a lot of work to do” said the mother and made her way out with the sound of her heels echoing all around the house.

**

Yara was re-arranging some photos in the studio when she suddenly saw Fahad crossing the road towards his café. She rushed outside,“FAHAD”, she called after him.

“I owe you an apology”, said Yara nervously after they said their hellos. “I wish that I could take it back. I was angry and I didn’t know what I was saying”.

“I just wish that you gave me a chance to explain. It was a misunderstanding. I tried calling you to tell you about it before you found out”

“I know, I realized that later on” she lowered her head.

“Anyhow, you have to be sure that I wasn’t prying and that I wasn’t trying to insult you or anything of that sort”

Yara smiled “You know..I was thinking.. a man who appreciates art cannot be insensitive.”.

Fahad laughed “I don’t blame you. I’m a stranger who paid your bill. It is freaky in a way”.

“I’m sorry. It’s just that a lot is going on and I let it out on you”

“I’m sorry too. I should’ve talked to you before taking any action”

“I can forgive you under one condition”

“Women! And what’s that condition?”

“You don’t pay me for the photo that you ordered from me”

“Come on. It’s worth much more than the bill I paid”

“It’s the only thing that will make me feel better about all this!” she insisted.

“Alright fine. It’s a deal. Friends?” said Fahad as he offered his hand for her to shake.

She slowly moved her hand away from her waist and placed it in his warm masculine hand: “Friends” she said..

Chapter 3, Debts

After parking his black X5 on the pavement, Fahad was walking towards the café when he noticed that the lights in Yara’s studio were still off. It’s been a week since he first met her and every time he passed by he found the place dark or closed. This time he saw a shadow moving inside so he walked in.

“Hello?” said Fahad trying to get the Indian guy’s attention.

“Hello sir, sorry we are closed” said Santosh.

“Are you still having a problem with electricity?”

“Yes sir”

“What is the matter? Maybe I can help”

“Thank you, sir. We are working on it”

“But it’s been a week. Let me get one of my staff to check it” said Fahad as he walked out.

“No, sir. You can’t do anything. We already talked to the EWA and we’ll get it back soon” said Santosh trying to cover up.

“It doesn’t take that long to fix whatever could be wrong! I will talk to them” insisted Fahad and left the studio.

**

Yara, Dalal and Nadia were having their usual coffee gathering at the café:

“I was really excited about Paris and now I’m just running out of things to look forward to!” said Dalal in a whiny tone.
“No one needed it as much as I did, trust me. But we have to think of another plan” Said Yara.
“You wanna go to Durrat AlBahrain for the weekend?” asked Nadia.
“Please, no. I hate that place.” Said Dalal.
“Why not. We’ll get to be away and relax by the pool” Yara nodded.
“How boring! This is not what I had in mind. I was hoping for a fun and loud break!” Said Dalal disappointed.
“But that’s our only option right now. So you either come or not!” warned Nadia.
“You know that I’ll end up coming anyway!” said Dalal annoyed. “Oh wait, who’s that hottie?” she wondered as she saw Fahad walking in the café.

Yara turned her head to see Fahad approaching their table: “Hi Yara”

“Hi!” she said smiling.

“Good to see you here!” he said while Dalal was looking at both of them with question marks all over her face.

“Those are my friends Dalal and Nadia”

“Nice to meet you” he shook their hands and turned back to Yara: “How have you been? Is my picture ready yet?”.

“Not yet, I’m really sorry didn’t get a chance to work on it. Been very busy the past week”

“It’s ok, no rush. Just give me a call once it’s ready” he said and handed her his business card.

“By the way girls, Fahad owns this café”

 “Oh really?” said Dalal with one eyebrow crossed.

 “Any complaints, you know who to go to” said Fahad as he excused himself and walked away.

“He’s something!!” said Nadia amazed as soon as he left “and you had nothing to say about him except for the photo he liked?”

“How do you know this guy?” wondered Dalal.

“He passed by the studio last week and introduced himself.” she said casually and took of sip of coffee.

Nehna wel amar jeeran” Nadia started singing.

“He’s not wearing a ring!!” said Dalal excited.

“Stop it girls. Seriously! You can’t do this every time I meet someone” said Yara irritated.

“He is not someone, he is SOMETHING!!” said Nadia hitting Yara’s arm.

“Look at that gray hair. I thought that he was bald at the beginning but…” said Dalal while checking him out.

“Stop staring at the guy both of you!!” yelled Yara.

“And look who just joined him” said Dalal with her jaw dropped down.

“Osama from accounting?!.” Said Nadia in shock.

“I can tell that they are good friends” said Dalal while observing them.

“And how did you figure that out Miss?” Yara said sarcastically.

“He didn’t shake his hand and the way they are talking to each other is very casual” said Dalal, still observing.

Yara’s phone rang interrupting “It’s my mum. Something must be wrong!! Hello?”

“Come home immediately!”.

**

“Hey ladies, did Yara leave?” asked Fahad approaching their table.

“Yeah, she had to leave. Need anything?” asked Nadia.

“Yeah, I need to talk to her about something quite urgent. Never mind I’ll speak to the Indian guy in the studio” he said and was about to leave.

“Do you want her phone number?” asked Dalal as if she was waiting for such chances to present themselves.

“That would be great. Thanks”

**

Yara walking into the house to find her mother sitting in the living room with a man that she had never seen before. He looked like a typical Bahraini man in his 50s, wearing a white Thoab and white Ghetra with a distinguishable white moustache.

Yara looked at him and back at her mother, waiting for an explanation. “Sit down.” Ordered her mother. Yara sat slowly next to her mum facing the man and waiting for him to speak.

“You look a lot like your father”, he said smiling.

“You knew my father?” She wondered sweetly.

“Your father was a friend of mine. Allah yerhima, he was a great man”.

Yara was still confused. Her father was a very social man and he knew a lot of people, but his family was well aware of his close friends and this man was not one of them.

“Anything we can help you with?” she asked politely.

“I’m sorry that I’ll have to tell you this. I tried to delay it as much as possible, but unfortunately it can’t be delayed anymore”

“He owes you money?” she guessed

“Yes. It was a part of a business deal that we never got to start. I assure you that I wouldn’t have asked for it if it weren’t really needed. I understand your situation. But as you know, with the current market conditions we are all facing some problems”

“You don’t have to apologize. It’s your money and you have every right to ask for it.”

Her mother stared at her with anger “Ask him if he can prove it!”

“Wait” whispered Yara back.

“Here are copies of some documents stating the amount I lent him with dates and signatures. Read it and contact me whenever you’re ready. I’m very sorry again for the inconvenience” he said as he got up.

“Thank you. I’ll surely get back to you” she said as she walked him out.

 

“This is ridiculous”, screamed the mother as soon as Yara returned.

“Please don’t start! The man was very polite and understanding.” said Yara as she went through the documents.

“How much does he want? Wait, let me have Xanax first. Where are my pills!” she fetched under the cautions.

Yara’s face went pale, she lowered the papers on her lap and stared at her mother: “10,000 Dinars!”

 

Meanwhile, Yara’s phone was ringing on silent in her handbag. She was too agitated to notice. The world was spinning around her and she couldn’t even hear her mother’s continuous cries and complaints. She couldn’t manage to pay an electricity bill, how about BD10,000?

**

The room was dark and quiet. Yara opened her eyes wondering what time it was. She reached for her mobile that was still unchecked to find 3 missed calls. One was from Santosh but the rest of the numbers were unfamiliar. It was 8 in the morning. What could he possibly want this early? She called him immediately.

“Good morning Madame”
“Good morning Santosh. What’s going on?”
“The electricity is back!”
“What? How did that happen? We didn’t pay the bill!”
“I don’t know but it was back this morning”
“I’m coming now”

She headed to the studio right away. It felt good to see it back to life, but she was sure that it was some kind of a mistake. “Santosh, do you know anything about this? I didn’t pay the bill!” she asked him as soon as she walked in.

“I don’t know Madame. But a man came yesterday and said that he will do something about it”
“A man? Who’s he?”
“He said that he’s the owner of that cafe” said Santosh pointing.
“Oh no!! Did you tell him anything about the bill?” she panicked.
“No. I told him many times that it will be back soon but he insisted to check”
“And why didn’t you tell me about this?” she screamed.

Santosh looked down and remained quiet while her panic grew to anger. She called EWA to investigate and found out that the bill was paid. She left the studio in frustration and headed to the café next door. The place was nearly empty. She looked around for Fahad but she couldn’t find him. She took a deep breath in a failed trial to calm down and sat on the nearest seat she found. One of the waitresses asked her if she’d like to have her usual coffee. “Yes please. What time does Mr. Fahad usually comes?” asked Yara. “He doesn’t have a usual time” answered the waitress.

She remembered the business card that he had handed her the previous day, and just then she realized that she had left her handbag at home. Placing her head on her palm, she thought that she heard his voice somewhere in the background of her awful morning. She turned around to see him walking towards her smiling. She stood up and looked him straight in the eyes: “I appreciate how you’re trying to help. But what you did is totally unacceptable!”

“Please let me explain”
“You are interfering in my business. It was a personal issue!”
“You are angry now. Give yourself few minutes to calm down, have a cup of coffee and we will talk about it”
“We barely know each other. Thank you for your help but I don’t need your money!”
“I apologize if you look at it this way. I thought it was a technical issue and I tried to help. The money can be considered a part of what I owe you for the photo I’m buying from you” he said gently.
“You will be getting your money back! I appreciate your concern as a neighbor but in the future please know your limits!” She said as she turned around and stormed out of the cafe, leaving him standing next to the puzzled waitress who was about to serve her coffee.

Chapter 2, Neighbors

Yara jumped out of her bed, frightened by the sound of hard knocks on her door. She rushed to the door and opened it to find Nadia standing in front of her with two Starbucks Coffee takeout cups in her hand.

“Good morning” said Nadia with a huge smile and handed Yara a cup.

“What are you doing here?” Yara stared at her with her eyes half closed.

“I came to see you!”

“It’s only 10 in the morning!” Yara took a sip and walked back to bed.

“How come you’re still asleep? I thought you’d be at the studio but I didn’t see your car there” said Nadia while walking to Yara’s bed and sitting on the edge.

“I stayed up late! Mum and her never ending drama!”

“Anything new? I didn’t see her when I came in”

“Tamara disappeared for two days and she had no idea!”

“No way!! Did you find her?”

“After going insane? Yes! She was in her friend’s house in Amwaj and she didn’t bother telling us. Of course my mother wouldn’t have noticed if I haven’t and she blamed me for being careless!”

“Wow. This is bad.”

“Try telling her that!” said Yara sarcastically.

“Does she know you’re traveling?”

“Yeah but I don’t think that it’s going to happen. I can’t leave them right now.”

“What are you going to do then? You really needed that photo shoot”

“I don’t know. I need to come up with another plan. I’m really running out of photos to sell.”

“Get dressed and let’s go somewhere nice, have breakfast & talk about this.” Said Nadia excitedly.

“I can’t! I have to be at the studio and I’m already late.”

“What am I going to do then? I have a personal trainer at 2:00 and plenty of free time till then!”

“Find yourself a job” said Yara as she got up and headed to the bathroom.

**

The front door was locked and the lights were off. Yara took a closer peak through the glass front door to see if Santosh, the Indian guy who helped her in the studio, was there. But the only thing she saw was her reflection. She knocked but there was no answer. And just when she was about to call him, he opened the door.

“There you are! Why are the lights off?” asked Yara as she walked in.

“There is no electricity Madame”

“Is it the whole block or just us?”

“Madame, they cut it off because we didn’t pay the bill yet”.

Yara bit on her lips. “Oh, I see. You can go then, Santosh. There is nothing that you can do. I will take care of that” she said while trying hard to hide her embarrassment.

Yara took a deep breath, put her hands on her waist and walked to the few photos and paintings that were left on the wall. That wall was always full of framed pictures that she shot around the world and simple art pieces that she bought from different countries. She took slow steps and sat on top of her vintage wooden desk. She took off her trademark black-framed glasses, picked up an elastic band and tied her short brown hair in a ponytail while taking an overall look at the studio. It was dark, and the only source of light was the sunrays that were coming through the glass door. That reminded her of the very first day when her father gave her this place to establish her own gallery. It was a grocery store that her grandfather used to own. Once he passed away, her father didn’t have the time nor the will to run it and he ended up closing the business down. Yara’s mother insisted that the place must be sold or rented. But Yara’s father, who believed in his daughter’s talent in photography and appreciated her eyes for art, didn’t listen to his wife and gave Yara the place and all the support she needed to start it up. Since then, she had put all her energy and power to make this place a dream come true. She traveled around the world, took random pictures and portraits in Florence, Cairo, Cappadocia, South of France, Japan and several beaches in the Far East. She bought paintings from Camden Market in London and Van Gogh’s postcard collection from MOMA and the Guggenheim in New York. Her passion had no geographical borders and no cultural boundary limits.

The death of her father changed everything. Her strong and controlling mother suddenly turned to a depressed and helpless person. That left Yara with no choice but to be the caretaker of the family. She had to spend her own money to pay for bills and groceries. What made it even worse are the debts that her father left. They had to spend a major amount of the will to pay off those debts and that was the main reason behind her mother’s depression.

Yara’s Tod’s shoes were swinging front and back across each other as her legs were dangling off the desk. She thought of her mother’s usual words: “This business of yours will not feed us. Go find yourself a real job”.  But she simply couldn’t let this place die or replace her passion with a job that will lock her up in a cubicle all day. She had to think of another way to save her business and her family.

She rested her hands on the desk and threw her head back. Paris will not happen not only because she had to be around her family, but also because she had to spend the amount that she saved up for a trip to cover other expenses, starting from the electricity bill. She yawned and stretched both arms up in the air when she suddenly heard the door of the studio open. She turned her head right in a quick move to find a manly figure by the door. She jumped on her feet and stood still.

“Hello” said the man.

“Hi” said Yara in embarrassment.

“I’m sorry, bad timing?”

“No, not at all! Excuse the darkness, we have a problem with electricity”

“If you like I can call one of my staff to fix it. Oh I’m Fahad by the way” he said as he approached her and shook her hand.

His broad shoulders were the first thing she noticed the moment he walked in. When he approached closer, she noticed his almost bald head, hooked nose and goatee.

“Yara.” She said while shaking his hand.

“I’m the owner of the café next door”

“Oh really? I’ve been a loyal customer since I started this studio”

“That’s great to hear. So you own this place!”

“Yup, but how come I’ve never seen you around? I’m between here and the cafe almost every day!”

“I’ve been out of town. I started the business two years ago and got an opportunity to do my MBA in Boston at the same time so I rented it. The rent agreement ended a couple of days ago and I’m back to business.”

“Wow. That’s great!”

“Thanks. I was curious to see this place so I thought of passing by”

“It’s usually livelier with lights, music, and more photos and pieces of course” she said shyly.

Fahad walked closer to the main wall were all the pictures were hung. He then posed in front of a big photo in the center of the wall. She noticed how this photo stole his attention as he folded his arms and observed it.

“Wow” he finally said.

“You like her?” asked Yara smiling.

“I love her! She’s my favorite singer. You took this picture yourself?” he turned to Yara.

“Yeah, that was during her concert here in Bahrain a couple of years ago. I had to beg for a photography permit”

“Impressive! You’re talented.”

“I think it’s more about her charisma and character and not my talent”

“Well, all those facts are making this photo a piece of art. Is it for sale? I’m trying to bring life back to the café and this could be a great start!”

“Actually it’s more of an exhibited piece. It’s been on this wall for two years. But if you like it this much I can make you an exact copy” she offered.

“That would be great! Thank you very much” he said excited.

“You’re most welcome”

“Alright Yara it was a pleasure meeting you but I should get going now. Please pass by for a cup of coffee anytime. We’re neighbors!” said Fahad while walking out.

“I’ll see you around” she said with a warm smile.

**

Nadia was jogging on the treadmill at the gym when her personal trainer walked up to her: “You’re gaining weight girl!”

“I KNOW” said Nadia while taking her breath.

“Run faster. You’re being lazy!”

“Been spending a lot of time on my sofa eating junk and watching TV”

“You’re young and beautiful. Go out and have fun!” she snapped!

“My friends work all day and my husband is out of town all week and he’s only here on weekends”

“Oh that must be tough. But it’s not an excuse to gain weight. Run faster!” she said again in a motivational tone and walked away.

Nadia’s phone rang at the same time. “Yes Yara” she said gasping for breath.

“You know that Majida Al-Roumi framed photo that’s been hanging in the studio for a while?”

“The one I always make fun of? What’s with it?”

“Someone is actually very interested in it!” said Yara in excitement.

“Oh no, who’s that cheesy person?”

“It’s the owner of the café next door. He passed by today”

“Is he cute? How old is he?” asked Nadia curiously.

“I’m talking about the photo and not the guy! You know me, I didn’t pay attention.”

“I know that tone Yara. You checked him out and you’re trying to hide it. TELL ME MORE”