Chapter 12. Reverie

Fahad walked out of Adliya Mosque after performing Friday prayer and shook hands with some acquaintances. While putting on his traditional slippers, he saw Osama approaching him in a white Thoab and without Ghetra, “Hey” he said and offered his hand.

Shakhbar?” asked Fahad shaking his hand.

Tamam

“Good that I’ve seen you. I owe you an apology” said Fahad as they walked down the steps.

“It’s me who should apologize” said Osama.

“We’re too old for this” joked Fahad.

Osama laughed, “Very last decade”

“Why don’t you come over for lunch? My parents will be happy to see you” offered Fahad.

“Sure.” Answered Osama gladly and they both walked to their cars like two little school boys who made peace after a fight in the school yard.

 

7aya Allah men yaneh” said Fahad’s mother as soon as Osama walked in the house.

“Where have you been?” said Fahad’s father glad to see him.

“The older we become the busier we get. I really miss your cooking khaltey” said Osama.

“Then let’s eat before the food gets cold” said Um Fahad. She was a typical Bahraini housewife in her 50s. After getting her diploma she started working for around a year and eventually gave up her career for the sake of her family. She was known for her excellent cooking, especially the traditional Bahraini dishes, that she published two popular cook books. After her son and daughter got old enough to take care of themselves, she started volunteering in non profitable organizations and spending her time between that and socializing like every other Bahraini woman.

“How is the business going?” asked Bu Fahad while holding a spoon full of rice.

“It’s slow. Companies have no money to pay for branding and advertising nowadays” said Osama.

“They rely on Facebook and Twitter. Free of charge and faster than any other form of advertising” said Fahad.

“Give it some time. You’re still new and you really need to build a reputation for your business” said Bu Fahad.

“How is your mother? It’s been a while since I last saw her!” asked Um Fahad placing some salad in Fahad’s plate.

“She’s good. Still refusing to leave her job in the Ministry”

“That’s good. She shouldn’t retire. One of the things that make Bahrain special is women like her. Being in high positions with high experience is something to be proud of”, said Um Fahad picking up Osama’s plate.

“Yeah but it’s stressing her. The procedure didn’t change and work is becoming harder by the day. It’s affecting her health” said Osama concerned.

“She’ll quit when she feels its time. But don’t try and convince her because she will only do what she wants” said Um Fahad returning Osama’s plate with lots of salad.

“How is work Sara?” asked Osama turning the attention to Fahad’s younger sister.

“Not so bad. Gets really busy sometimes but it’s quiet most of the time” said Sara.

“I’m trying to convince her to join the family business. She wanted experience and she gained it. Now it’s time to join us” said Bu Fahad pouring lemonade in his glass.

“I can’t have my brother and father as my colleagues. We have enough fights at home” joked Sara.

“That’s right. Leave your brother alone and let him concentrate on his job” said Um Fahad.

“Yeah Yeah take his side as usual” said Sara upset and everybody laughed.

Ana3m Allah 3elaikum. Best Machboos in the world!” said Osama once they were done with lunch and were moving to the sitting room.

“And now it’s time for Sara’s delicious dessert. I hope that you’ve left some space for that” said Fahad’s father.

“You better did. I made cheesecake today!” said Sara.

“See that’s why I don’t come here so often!” said Osama jokingly.

Um Fahad came out of the kitchen carrying a trey with a tea set on it.

“Now and that you’re all here, there is something that I want to talk to you about…” said Fahad.

 

**

 

Yara was lying lazily on her bed when Fahad called, “What are you doing?”

“In bed, watching TV”

“It’s 4pm! Why so lazy?”

“I was up all night and Tamara woke me up early to drop her to her friend’s house. Couldn’t go back to sleep and now I’m just tired” she answered in a low lazy tone.

“Why were you up all night?”

“I don’t know. Had a lot on my mind”

“Share please!”

“Don’t want to talk about it”

“Talk!” insisted Fahad.

“I miss my father. Everything is different without him. True that my mum was always out of control but he had his way of keeping this family together and make everything seems normal.. and warm”

“Ok. What else?” he asked trying to get her to open up more.

“The debts”

“Mhmmm. That’s what it’s all about then” he figured.

“Yes and it is a big deal. A very big deal. It’s the worst feeling in the world, to owe people money”

“You’ve got to stop thinking about it and think of a solution instead”

“Ok but not now. Please I don’t want to spend the day thinking about it”

“Then get up and do something” he ordered.

“Yeah Nadia is back. I will go see her later”

Yara’s bedroom door was suddenly opened and her mum walked in, “Who are you talking to?’ she asked.

“It’s Nadia. I’ll call you back” she ended the call.

“I’m going out now, with Haitham’s mother” said Sajida.

“And why are you telling me?”

“Because they are waiting for an answer and I’ve been delaying it as much as I can”

“I already told you my answer!” snapped Yara.

“No. This is not an answer. I want the answer that I’m waiting for. Talk to the guy, what will you lose? You don’t even know him and you have no valid reason for rejecting him”

“Good night mother. Have fun” said Yara and covered her face with the quilt.

“You are so your father’s daughter!” said Sajida and left the room frustrated.

 

“I missed you this time the most” said Yara while hugging Nadia.

“Thank you but I’m glad that I wasn’t here” teased Nadia as she hugged her back.

“I know, it was a mess!”

“I’m not so shocked that Dalool is still doing what she’s doing. Her anger will only grow with time. She lost everything!”

“Leave that now. Tell me all about Mohammed.” Said Yara in excitement.

“Let’s get out of this room first. I need fresh air, let’s sit in the garden” said Nadia.

 

“Everything changed since I saw him.” Said Nadia as soon as they sat outside and asked the maid to get them tea.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s a wonderful feeling. All the old feelings, all the old dreams suddenly came back to me. And it’s so freaky because I’ve been thinking about him since Beirut. Which makes me feel guilty all the time. I shouldn’t feel all of that to a married man” said Nadia.

“It’s just some old feelings that woke up inside you. It’s not like you are planning on making him cheat on his wife!”

“Of course not. Never!”

“Then it’s nice to feel what you’re feeling. It was real. It was THE love story of your life and you will never be able to erase it from your system. So don’t feel guilty, just enjoy it”

“I saw his wife!” said Nadia in disgust.

“Oh my god. You saw Reem?” screamed Yara.

“Yeah, she took him away, as usual. She didn’t see me though. I don’t think she did.”

“You think she’s still jealous of you?” said Yara and laughed.

“How am I supposed to know? I only met her once few years back and she almost murdered me with her looks”

“Very bad choice. He deserved someone better”

“Oh well. I think choosing my country over him was a mistake. If I could only go back in time, I’d leave everything behind and go with him” she said regretfully.

“I agree. I was against it before and I didn’t encourage you to give up your life for him, but now and after all what happened with Manaf, I think that you should’ve followed your heart and not your brain”

Naseeb

“But what a coincidence!”

“I know subhan Allah. What brought him to my way?”

“Everything happens for a reason”

“So what could the reason be? Seeing his cute son that was supposed to be mine? I can’t explain the feeling. I was shaking. Shaking from head to toe. And I was so nervous that I didn’t know how to react and I just stood there looking so stupid”

“It’s normal. And I’m sure that you didn’t look stupid”

“He said something before he left. It brought me back to life after years of being dead” said Nadia dreamingly.

“What did he say?”

“He said, you look as beautiful as you always did..” said Nadia with her eyes glittering.

“Aaawww. He still has feelings for you!!”

“No, not really. He also said that he was happy that I got married” said Nadia in disappointment.

“Of course he’ll say that. What do you expect him to say?”

“Doesn’t matter. Each one of us moved on with his life” said Nadia sadly and Yara suddenly started singing, “hobbek fy galby Mhammad, ya oyoony ya hamoody”.

Nadia laughed, “You’re insane” she said as the maid came by and served them tea.

 

**

 

“I’ve been thinking about your idea, joining our businesses” said Yara while she and Fahad were going through the sales records of the exhibition.

“And?”

“I think that we should go for it.” She said without hesitation.

“What makes you think so?”

“After the exhibition I realized that I need more exposure. I need my work to be displayed to the public. Maybe it’s time for me to go to people instead of asking them to come to me”

“I’m glad that you finally think so”

“I’m happy with the exhibition’s outcome. What I have sold in three days at the exhibition is what I normally sell in around two months at the studio!”

“Then we have a lot of work to do beautiful lady”

“First let’s deal with all the payments. All the exhibition’s income will be a partial payment to that man we owe BD10,000”

“Don’t you want to wait till you get the full amount?”

“I think it’s better to pay him now and then pay the rest when I have it. This way he will know that I’m working on it”

“Ok. Do whatever you think is right.”

“Thank you. What would I do without you?” she said and patted his hand.

Santosh entered the studio with several frames in his hands, “It’s ready Madame” he said and placed the frames on her desk. It was a collection of all press releases about the exhibition in both languages. Each press release was framed in a separate frame. “Excellent!” said Fahad amazed as he went through them. “Where shall I hang them?” she asked. “I say wait till we plan the merger. A lot of changes will be made” said Fahad.

 

Yara started organizing her desk as Fahad left. She got a phone call from Tamara, “When are you coming to pick me up?”

“I’m leaving now, I’ll be there in 10 minutes”

“Fatima’s mum is asking you to come in”

“Oho, why?” said Yara annoyed.

“I don’t know. She said she wants to meet you”

“Ufff. This is your mother’s job! Why do I have to socialize instead of her?” said Yara angrily.

“Bye”

 

The maid seated Yara at the formal sitting room. The mother then came and welcomed her: “It’s good to finally meet you. My daughter talks about you all the time and how much she envies you”

“That’s sweet. I love Fatima a lot” said Yara.

“They’ve been good friends for long, Fatoom and Tamara, and they visit each other all the time. But I have never met your mother and I see you with Tamara more”

“Yeah” said Yara embarrassed.

“My husband used to know your father Allah yerhema. He met him few times. And I know your aunts, your father’s sisters. You know in Bahrain it’s a good thing that we all know each other”

“Yeah. True.”

“But yet I have never met your mum or seen her anywhere with her in laws or with Tamara.” Said the mother digging for explanations.

“She’s not very social” said Yara politely.

“Aha, and even when I ask Tamara about her she never gives me any answer. She just smiles. So I just wanted to check if everything is ok or if you need anything?” said the mother sweetly but with hidden curiosity.

“Thank you very much. I appreciate it”

“What would you like to drink? Tea? Coffee? Juice?” offered the mother.

“Thanks I really have to get going.” Said Yara and got up.

“You’re welcome anytime to visit my dear. Regards to your mum” said the mother and shook her hand, “I will call Tamara for you now”.

 

“I don’t know what’s going on with me!” said Nadia while talking to Yara on the phone.

“What’s the matter?”

“My mind is not with me. My head is full of thoughts..”

“Is it about him?”

“Yes. I really wish that I hadn’t seen him. Suddenly I’m depressed and angry. Thinking of all the ‘what ifs’ and putting scenarios of what might happen next”

“Are you out of your mind? What might happen next? The guy is married with a kid! You just met by coincidence and that’s it!”

“But there must be a reason why our paths crossed after all those years”

“I can’t believe you. How come you didn’t think this way when you agreed to marry Manaf? Or when Mohammed asked you to leave your whole life here and go with him? You were always the mature one who thought with her brain. What’s happening to you now?”

“I’m telling you I’m going insane. It’s really painful. I want to go back in time. What was I thinking marrying that cold boring man who even cheated on me!”

“Listen to me. Go have a warm shower, read Quran and try to get some sleep.”

“No no no I can’t sleep.”

“I said TRY. You will go crazy with all those stupid thoughts. Just do something about it please. Fahad is calling, I’ll talk to you later. Bye” said Yara and went for the other line.

“Hello”

“Hey gorgeous. How are you?”

“Stressed. Really!”

“What happened?”

“I’m just tired of covering up for my psycho mum!” snapped Yara.

“But that’s nothing new!”

“That’s the thing. I’m getting fed up. I feel like running away so she starts being responsible”

“Talk to her. Try in different ways if she doesn’t listen. Find a secret door”

“I was put in a very embarrassing situation tonight because of her and I also had to deal with my best friend who is losing her mind!”

“Calm down please” said Fahad sweetly.

“I can’t. Too much frustration for one night”

“Calm down right now!”

“You’re right. I’m sorry. How was the movie?” she asked trying hard to switch moods.

“Leave the movie now. Are you at home?”

“Yes, in my room!”

“Is your mum home?”

“Yes! Why?”

“Is your sitting room organized and clean?”

“Fahad!!” she said annoyed.

“I want you to go out of your room now, go to your mum, tell her that the sitting room should be properly organized, and most importantly, to book herself a day after tomorrow”

“Excuse me? What are you saying?” wondered Yara in confusion.

“I’m sending some women over..” he laughed.

“Fahad this is really not the time for your jokes!” she said angrily.

“Yara…I’m proposing to you…a day after tomorrow….” He finally said..

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Chapter 11, Mohammed

Two months later:

Yara was having coffee at the café while reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy when Nadia came in with a face that screamed joy. “Heyyyyyy” she walked towards Yara, grabbed her face and gave her a smooch.

“Ok! What’s the matter?”

“THE DIVORCE IS FINALIZED”

“FINALLY!” said Yara and got up to give her a hug. “I’m so happy to hear that!” she squeezed her.

“I can’t describe how I’m feeling. Such a relief. Now I believe that freedom is the most precious thing in life” said Nadia as she sat down.

“That idiot! I can’t believe that he was refusing to grant you the divorce all this time”

“And now it’s time for some bad news” said Nadia.

“Why can’t happy news last for a while?”

“No big deal. It’s just that I won’t be around for your exhibition”

“Noooo!” said Yara in disappointment.

“I’m really sorry. I’ll have to leave to Europe in three days to buy pieces for the shop. I tried delaying but it didn’t work”

“Why? We can go together once the exhibition is over”

“I’ll have to go with my mum. I need her to be with me while choosing the pieces, she knows better. And she has to be in Germany a week after for my dad’s check ups so we are left with no choice but to go now.”

“That’s sad. It’s a big day for me and I really need you here”

“You have Fahad here. He’ll provide you with all the support and help that you’ll need”

“Yeah but still, I need you. I need my friends. If only Dalal was still Dalal”

“Funny how we miss her after all”

“I feel guilty sometimes. Maybe I should’ve given her a second chance.”

“I totally understand. It’s the good old days that make you think this way. But when you think of all the things she said and did, you find yourself unable to forgive” said Nadia.

“Yeah, exactly”

“My mum saw her in a wedding the other day. She was with her mother and aunts”

“I wonder how she explained all of this to her mum”

“I’m sure she came up with something new. It had become a habit for her” said Nadia.

 

**

It was finally time for Yara’s exhibition. Many popular photographers and artists were participating and the press coverage was enormous. Photo holders were spread around the First Floor of Seef Mall starting from Maya La Chocolaterie and making a circle around the railings overlooking the ice rink. Yara’s four photo holders, where four photos were hung on each, were located at the spot near Caribou Coffee. She was standing by one of the holders arranging some photos an hour after the opening ceremony when Fahad appeared behind her.

“Hey beautiful!” he said.

“Hey” she said smilingly as she turned around.

“How is it going?”

“Two photos are sold already!”

“No way!”

“Yeah! I was worried that I won’t sell anything”

“You’ll sell them all, trust me. I had a look on the stands on my way here and your work is one of the best” he assured her.

After helping her with re-arranging some photos, Fahad took out a small Tiffany & Co box from his pocket and handed it to her.

“What’s this?” she wondered surprised.

“Open it and see” he answered smiling.

She opened the box like an excited kid opening a birthday gift to find a silver Tiffany key necklace: “That’s really nice!”

“Do you like it?”

“I love it”

“It’s just to show you that I’m proud of you for being here and doing all this great work”

“Thank you. Means a lot” she said as she wore it.

“Shall I get you something to eat? A muffin or something?” offered Fahad.

“A cup of coffee will do.”

“Maya or Caribou?”

“Had Caribou earlier so Maya for a change”

 

Few minutes later, Osama showed up.

“Good job!” he said. He was looking very elegant in a suit.

“Thanks. What are you doing here?”

“I had a business meeting nearby and I passed by to check out the exhibition”

“Enjoy it” said Yara and turned around, not giving him much attention.

“Yara!”

“Yes?”

“Why are you treating me like that?”

“And how am I supposed to treat you. I’m being normal!”

“Yeah and too formal”

“I don’t know what you’re expecting after what happened!”

“How many times do I have to explain this? You can’t keep this attitude forever especially that we cleared things up ages ago!”

“Can we not talk about this again? I’m trying my best to forget it and be normal so Fahad won’t notice!” said Yara harshly.

 

At the same time, Fahad was waiting for the coffee in Maya when he noticed Dalal walking by. He waived politely and she turned around and walked to him, “Good to see you!” she said.

“You too. How have you been?”

“Great!” she said and faked a smile.

“Are you here for the exhibition?”

“No, not really. It’s my lunch break”

“Do you know that Yara is exhibiting here?” he said proudly.

“Oh really? Which side?”

“There” he said and pointed all the way to where she was.

“I see. Is that Osama standing next to her?” she wondered squinting her eyes.

“Oh yeah! I didn’t know that he was here!”

“Then you better go back soon” she said sarcastically.

“Why?”

“Not a good idea to leave them alone”

“What do you mean? Is that a joke?” he laughed nervously.

“She didn’t tell you?!”

“Tell me what? Are you playing with my head again?”

“Go and ask them yourself if you don’t believe me. He had his eyes on her, and she knew about it!”

Fahad walked away in frustration without picking up his order. By the time he reached, Osama was gone.

“What’s the matter?” asked Yara when she saw his state.

“Is it true?” he asked clinching his teeth.

“What?”

“My closest friend had his eyes on you?” he screamed.

“Calm down” said Yara and took a closer step to him.

“And you knew? You knew and you stayed quiet?!” he said in disbelief.

“It was a misunderstanding! Please calm down”

He walked away in fast steps ignoring her until he disappeared from her sight. He called Osama.

“Where are you?” asked Fahad.

“I haven’t seen you so I left. I’m walking to my car”

“Where?”

“The parking lot of the new extension. By the fountain”

“Stay where you are!”

By the time Fahad reached the fountain, he spotted Osama standing next to his Audi with the front door open. Fahad took faster steps when he saw him and his breathing got heavier. He grabbed his shirt and pulled him closer roughly, “haqeer” he said.

Osama was taken aback by surprise and shock had numbed his tongue.

“Out of all the girls in this world you had your eyes on mine? What does that mean? Tell me what does that mean?” asked Fahad with his hand still grasping Osama’s shirt.

“Are you out of your mind?” said Osama and managed to pull himself out of Fahad’s attack, “people are staring! Get inside the car!”

Fahad looked around and saw that some people were staring from a distance. With his face flushed red, he swallowed his anger and got into the passenger seat. He sat quietly for few moments.

“I had no idea that you liked her”

“Come on!” screamed Fahad.

“Let me finish. I don’t know how you just found out about it, but back then you and Yara were not together. I noticed how you got closer to her but I thought that she was just a friend, just like many other girls we know.” Explained Osama while Fahad remained quiet. “And yes. She is a nice girl and you know how I was looking for a serious relationship. I asked Dalal to talk to her, to see if she was involved with someone or anything of that sort. And that was how I found out that you two had something going on”

“And that’s it? You’re saying that this is how it started and ended? The terrified look I just saw on her face said much more!”

“Dalal played a major role in this. Why do you think that they don’t hang out with her anymore?”

“That’s a total different issue. She tried to come between me and Yara” answered Fahad in confidence.

“Not just that. She tried to make me come between you and Yara!”

He let out a sarcastic laugh.

“Fahad. I’m like your brother and you know for sure that I won’t allow any girl to ruin our friendship. Dalal played with my head and made me believe that Yara liked me. I was a fool and I talked to Yara about it. But Yara got really offended and she was hurt for you!”

“Unbelievable!” said Fahad shaking his head.

 

Yara was wandering around the mall looking for a trace of Fahad. She was extremely worried and he wasn’t answering his phone. Running out of options, she called Nadia. “I told you not to leave me alone!” said Yara the moment Nadia picked up the phone.

“I’m in Rome. And no matter what is going on right now I really don’t care!” teased Nadia.

“Fahad found out about Osama and he disappeared in a very, very angry mood. I’m worried sick!”

“I told you that you should’ve told him about it”

“This is not the time for your lectures.”

“You can’t do anything now. Just wait till he calms down and he will call you”

“But what if he’s driving? He was very frustrated and I’m worried that he’ll hurt himself”

“He won’t! He’s a mature man. You should be able to have more control over your anxious thoughts. Now let me enjoy my last day in Rome and go deal with your mad issues” said Nadia and ended the call.

Yara didn’t find comfort in Nadia’s words and kept on calling Fahad till he finally picked up. “ARE YOU OK?” she asked in panic.

“Yes. I’m fine”

“Where are you? I looked everywhere!”

“Meet me by the entrance next to the fountain” he said and put the phone down. “We’re not done!” he said to Osama and left the car.

They both reached the entrance at the same time. “I’m sorry I never told you” said Yara.

“He just told me everything.”

“But what happened so suddenly? You just went to get coffee!”

“I met Dalal”

“What? And she brought it up? She’s still playing this game? And why would you believe her!”

“She didn’t lie this time! And it’s not appropriate to find out about it from her!” he said upset.

“I only did it because I didn’t want you to get hurt”

“I know but it’s not an excuse to hide it from me”

“I’m sorry” she said sincerely.

“I just want you to be focused on your exhibition right now. Let me walk you up”

 

**

Sloane Street was Nadia’s weakest point in London. It was cold but sunny that morning. She was walking around with her long hair looking as gorgeous as always with its big waves. Huge D&G shades covered most of her face and she had a fashionable black coat on with a belt that was tightened around her waist.

She was on her way out of Louis Vuitton carrying their brown bag in her hand when she suddenly spotted a very familiar face. An average height man, white skin and a goatee. He was wearing a black leather coat and holding a little boy’s hand. The world stopped. She stood where she was, and everything around her seemed to be on hold too. She stared at him pulling that kid carefully, watching his steps with a caring smile. That smile took her back in time, long back. She took slow steps towards him, and he turned around at the same time. He stared at her with his eyes glittering. “Nadia?”

Nadia was washed away by emotions, memories and crushed dreams. She stared at the kid smilingly with teary eyes:

“Khalid..”

“Yes. He finally came to the world”

Nadia lowered herself down and opened her arms for the kid. He refused to go to her and clinched around his father’s leg. “Go give auntie a big hug” he said and tried pushing him to her, but he refused again. Nadia smiled and stood up, “He has your nose” she said, still overwhelmed and shivering. He smiled and kept staring at her, “Shloanech?” he finally asked.

“I’m good, hamdilla” she answered nodding.

“It’s been years..”

“Long years”

“I heard that you got married” he said as he patted the kid’s head.

“I did..” she answered quietly and briefly.

“I was.. happy.. to hear that..” he said hesitant.

“You still live here?”

“Yeah. This little boy is British” he laughed.

Nadia smiled.

“What are you doing in London?” he asked.

“Short visit” she said and was interrupted by a woman who appeared from behind: “MOHAMMED” screamed the woman with her red lipstick and short, thick black hair. “COMING” he answered as he looked back at her. “It was really nice to see you, Nadia” he said and carried the little boy up.

“You too” she replied quietly.

“You still look as beautiful as you always did..” he said gently and walked away.

She watched him walk away carrying his son, Khalid. The son that they dreamed about once upon a time. She watched him walk to his wife, the woman who stole her love, her dreams and a man that was once hers..

Chapter 10. Complications

As he usually did every morning at ten, Fahad passed by the studio to give Yara a cup of her favorite coffee. She was sitting on her desk, focused on the laptop and going through the pictures she took in Beirut.

“Wow. That’s an excellent one” he said as he saw a picture of the sunset behind the Rawcheh.

“Yeah! I’m glad I got it right!” she said happily.

“I want to see the one of me and you. The one that Nadia took with that same view”

“Wait! I haven’t seen them yet!” she said and started skipping till she found it. “There..” she said grinning.

“I LOVE it” he said as they both stared at the picture. The Rawcheh was right behind them and they were standing on the left side of the photo. He had his arm around her and they both were laughing. He was in a black jacket with a striped black and gray scarf around his neck while she had a fuchsia shawl hanging loosely around her shoulders.

“E-mail it to me. I love how natural it is.”

Santosh walked in at that moment: “Madame, this came for you” he handed Yara a letter.

“What is it?” asked Fahad while Yara was reading it.

“It’s an invitation to participate in an exhibition in two months” she answered with her attention still on the letter.

“Oh! Where?”

“It will be held in Seef Mall.. and we’ll get to sell our photos”

“That’s awesome. An excellent opportunity for you”

“You think? I’m nervous!” she said as she put the letter down.

“Why nervous? You have a great collection. And you can always re-print old collections!”

“I’d rather have a theme”

“Even better. You can do it and you have enough time.”

“And I need money!”

“Don’t make this about the money. It’s your passion and it’s your career!”

“You’re right. I’ll just have to commit myself the coming two months to this event”

The door opened and they both turned around. They froze when they saw the face of that unwanted visitor. It was Manaf.

Al Salam Alaikum” he said.

Alaikum elsalam” they both replied dryly.

“Sorry to show up so suddenly. I need to speak to you” said Manaf . Yara looked at Fahad in a, you-can-go-now look, but he was hesitant to leave her alone with him. “I’ll be fine” she whispered.

“Call me” said Fahad and walked out without saying a word to Manaf.

“Yes?” said Yara facing him.

“Talk to her. Please”

“About what?” asked Yara folding her hands on her chest.

“You are the only person she listens to. Tell her that we should work this out. I don’t want to lose her”

“You just realized that?”

“She won’t listen to me, but she listens to you.”

“Listen to me Manaf. Nadia got hurt before, but none of the people who hurt her did what you did to her. None of them stooped down to your level”

He remained quiet.

“Are you really expecting her to forgive you? Or for any of us to try and put her in the arms of a cheater? We trusted you and treated you like family. We let you in our lives with open arms and you turn out to be that cheap?!”

“I know. Trust me, I know that what I did was bad, but..”

“Nadia is strong, she will get over this in no time and she will move on, but something inside of her will always remember this ugly feeling of being cheated on.” She said as they were still standing in the middle of the studio.

“I made a mistake. Being away most of the week is not easy..”

“Not an excuse. You lost our respect. Please don’t show up again. And stay away from Nadia!”

Meanwhile, Fahad was having coffee with Osama in the café and discussing the football match that Fahad attended. Yara walked in to pick up another cup of coffee and had a short chat with them both. Osama wasn’t focused on what she was saying, he was remembering what Dalal said about her not being honest to Fahad. He watched the way she communicated with Fahad, the way she looked at him and even the words she chose while speaking to him. There was something going on for sure between the two, he thought. But what if she really was not sincere like Dalal had said? He would never do anything that would risk his friendship with Fahad. But he still couldn’t put the doubt aside that it’s possible for Dalal’s words to be true, that Yara maybe wished that he was the one instead of Fahad. His admiration grew as he watched her speak passionately about her work and plans. And he felt the urge to try, to fight, and to do what it takes to find out her true feelings.

Yara meant to mention Dalal’s name to sense if anything was going on between her and Osama: “Did you tell Dalal to make you a copy of that CD you liked in Beirut?” asked Yara while staring at Fahad but monitoring Osama’s face expressions discreetly.

No expressions.

“No, not yet. I will call her now” said Fahad as Yara went back to the studio and Osama left the café.

“Hello” answered Dalal.

“Dalool, shloanech?

Zaina.”

“Where is the CD that you promised?”

“Oh I forgot. I will do it today and pass it to you”

“Thanks!”

“Anytime. Is Yara with you?”

“No, she’s in the studio”

Dalal let out a sarcastic laugh.

“What?” asked Fahad.

“Yesterday she was saying that she needs a break from you!” said Dalal laughingly.

“Why would she say that?”

“Maybe she was joking. She was just saying that after spending so much time with you the past few days she needs some me-time! Give her some space..”

“Ok..but..”

“Oh no don’t worry I’m sure that she didn’t mean it. Anyway, I’ll do the CD and pass it to you. See you.” She said and ended the call.

The new love excitement was suddenly replaced with doubt and fear. Yara never confessed her feelings to him. Her feelings were revealed through what she did and said, but she never spoke them out even when he did. He flew from a continent to another to see her and he had some strong feelings towards her and towards this relationship. It was the first time for him to fall in love with a woman after his divorce. He didn’t want it to go wrong again and he feared that maybe he was moving too fast.

His feet suddenly walked him to the studio with his doubts leading the way. Yara was holding her camera in her hand and staring at its screen when he suddenly walked in and stood right in front of her.

“What?” she asked and lowered the camera.

“Do you love me?”

Yara laughed nervously: “What’s with the question?”

“It’s a simple question. Yes or no?” he asked seriously.

“Fahad? What’s going on?”

“I waited for the perfect moment to say it but you never did! Does that mean anything?” he was becoming more serious with every word.

“I don’t have to say the words to show you that I do.” she said sweetly.

Fahad stared at her for few moments: “You can’t say it. You’re still not confident about your feelings and that’s why you can’t say it”

“So you’re doubting my feelings?”

Fahad took a deep breath and didn’t answer.

“And you’re saying that you can’t see it in my eyes? Or in the way I worry about you and care for you?” she asked in disappointment.

“Don’t turn this on me now!” he said angrily.

“What happened to you so suddenly? You were completely normal few minutes ago!”

“You’re still refusing to answer!”

“Come with me” she said as she walked to the armchairs still holding her camera. “Sit” she ordered him and he obeyed. She then sat next to him on the arm of the chair, put her hand around his shoulder and went through some photos of them in Beirut. “Look at all this. You don’t think that it means anything? Did I fail in any way to make you feel special? It’s normal for you to make the first moves and confess first because you are the man. You know that i’m not the kind of girl who’d make first moves or play games to get what she wants. It doesn’t mean that I love you any less”

He then picked her hand that was around his shoulder and kissed it softly, “You’re right. I’m sorry”

“I don’t know where did all this come from..” she said as she brushed his almost bald head with her hand, “but if it means so much to you…I love you”

Few hours later, Osama called Yara and asked her to meet him anywhere other than the studio or the café. Yara was certain that he wanted to talk to her about Dalal and avoid the chance of her running into them. They decided to meet up at Crepe Café in Budaiya right away.

“I love the smell of Crepe. One of my favorite things in life” said Yara after taking a deep breath.

Osama looked at her and smiled quietly.

“So, what’s so urgent?” asked Yara.

“I was hesitant, to tell you this, actually. But Dalal gave me the courage to do so..” He said.

“Oh you did the right thing. I’m here for both of you and I’m glad to help in any way I can. Me and Nadia have been sensing that something is going on between you two but Dalal refused to speak. She’s been acting strange lately. I hope that everything is ok?”

“Seems like we have a misunderstanding here” said Osama as he scratched his head.

“Misunderstanding?”

“Dalal told me that the three of you thought that I was interested in her when I asked for her number, right?”

“Yeah! She told us that your call was work related. After that she started acting all different and weird!”

“When I called Dalal, I told her that I am interested in one of you, but it wasn’t her!”

“Nadia????” asked Yara in shock.

“No. You!”

“WHAT? Me? What do you mean ME?”

“I had no idea that you and Fahad liked each other. I thought that you were only friends.”

“I can’t believe this. No wonder she was hurt and quiet all this time”

“I didn’t mean to hurt her and I apologized. She then told me that you and Fahad liked each other. But few days later she told me a total different thing. And that’s why I asked to see you”

“What did she tell you?!”

“She said that you’re starting to get annoyed of Fahad following you around. And..that you wished that.. it was me instead!”

“I don’t believe this. This is impossible. Dalal would never say such a thing. Why would she?” said Yara trying to keep her voice down.

“So…that’s obviously not true then..”

“Osama. You are driving me insane right now and I am trying my best to remain calm. All I can tell you is that I love Fahad and he loves me and I can’t believe that you actually have your eyes on the girl he loves. I don’t know if you are coming up with all this or if Dalal lied to you but all this drama is very childish!!!!”

“I would never stab Fahad in the back. Trust me! And that’s why I’m talking to you privately. I needed to know the truth.”

“Why would Dalal do this to me? Dalal is my lifetime best friend and she would never come up with stories to ruin my life!”

“If I had any idea that you and Fahad were together I wouldn’t have called Dalal in first place. I might be responsible for all this mess but i didn’t mean for it to happen”

“I will not say any of this to Fahad because I don’t want him to get hurt. I wouldn’t want him to go through the pain of losing a friend just like I’m about to lose one!” said Yara as she got up and left furiously.

As soon as she got in the car she called Nadia and told her what had just happened. They both agreed that she should confront Dalal right away before accusing her of anything. She then called Dalal and asked to meet her urgently in Nadia’s house as soon as she can.

Yara was too frustrated when she arrived to Nadia’s house but she had to go through all the chitchats with Nadia’s family. She only got rid of that when Dalal arrived and they moved to Nadia’s room.

“Hello?” said Nadia answering her phone.

“Hey Nadia, is Yara with you?” said Fahad.

“Yeah she’s here, just a second” said Nadia and handed Yara the phone.

“Hi Fahad”

Wainech? I’ve been calling you for a while!”

“Oh. I’m sorry I must have left my phone in the car”

“Where are you?”

“Nadia’s house. Can I call you back later”

“Why do you sound irritated?”

“I’m not. I have to go now I will call you once I leave”

“Yara. What’s wrong?”

“Nothingggggg. I’ll call you later!” she said and ended up the call.

 

“What’s so urgent?” asked Dalal nervously sitting on Nadia’s bed.

“I was with Osama a while ago!” said Yara.

Without saying a word, Dalal suddenly broke down and cried.

“You did say that..” said Yara in disbelief.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry” said Dalal sobbing, “I don’t know what I was saying and doing. I couldn’t bare seeing you so happy with Fahad while the guy I had my eyes on was interested in you!”

Yara and Nadia stared at each other in shock. “So you try and ruin that for her? What kind of a friend are you!” screamed Nadia.

“You realize that by doing that you didn’t ruin anything for me, you ruined your whole life” said Yara.

“I never did anything like that before and you know that very well. You two are like my sisters. I just don’t know what had got into me this time!” said Dalal while wiping her tears.

“I lost my trust in you and I don’t think that I can forgive you for this. You tried to ruin my relationship with the man I love and make him lose his friend!! This is huge Dalal and I still can’t believe that you out of all people did this!”

“Trust is fragile. Once it’s broken, it’s hard to fix..” said Nadia.

Dalal gathered herself and got up, “Sometimes life gets tough and it becomes hard to control your feelings. You should understand. And I hope that you do someday!” she said and picked up her handbag.

“If you think that life is just about men then your life will always be tough. You traded our friendship with a guy who wasn’t even interested in you. This is Friendship 101: Never let a guy come between you and your friends” said Nadia.

“I’m sorry. I love you so much..” said Dalal and walked out..

Yara was driving home with her mind occupied with everything that happened on that day; Manaf’s return, Osama’s confession, and on top of all that, Dalal’s betrayal. She then remembered Fahad and his doubts. Is it possible that Dalal caused that too?! She called Fahad immediately.

“Did you talk to Dalal today?” asked Yara.

“Yes. To ask about the CD, remember?”

“Hmm”

“Will you please tell me what’s going on?”

“Let’s just say that today..i have lost a good friend..”

Fahad came to understand that Dalal was trying to ruin his relationship with Yara, but he had no clue that the one who unintentionally caused all of this at first place was his good friend, Osama.

Chapter 9, Beirut

The talkative Lebanese driver was jumping from a topic to the other while driving the girls downtown. Dalal was sitting on the passenger seat nodding in response to his political talk and had no idea what he was talking about. Nadia was on the phone with her mum while Yara was staring through the window with her mind else where.

“Mama, the reason I travelled was to stay away from all this drama that you’re making. I really don’t care what your friends are saying or what my aunts are thinking” said Nadia.  “My God! She just can’t stop whining. I’m going to turn this thing off” she ended the call and turned off her phone.

Yara turned her head around calmly: “What is it?”

“You’re under anesthesia” laughed Nadia.

Yara smiled and stayed quiet.

“Can you believe that he came all this way to see you?” Said Nadia lowering her voice.

“And he said it…he finally said it”

“Said what? What are you talking about?” asked Nadia leaning closer.

“What I always wanted to hear..”

“WHAT?” screamed Nadia and the driver and Dalal looked back. Yara gave her a be-quiet look.

“He told you that he loves you?” whispered Nadia.

Yara winked and Dalal turned around curious: “He did?”

“He did.. he did” she said with complete satisfaction.

Everything around Yara suddenly started looking different. A boost of confidence was suddenly aroused within her and she felt pretty for the first time. It was a new kind of happiness. Just as if a dose of endorphins were injected in her veins.

“Shall we split-up or shall we shop together?” asked Nadia as they walked around Solidare.

“Is there anything specific that you need?” asked Yara.

“Not really. Therapy shopping”

“Then I think I’ll go to Virgin. There is a book that I’m looking for” said Yara.

“Dalal? What do you want to do?” asked Nadia.

“I dunno. Nothing in mind” she answered carelessly.

“Come with me to Virgin and get some CDs for the car” suggested Yara.

“Ok”

“Plus, those soldiers by the entrance freak me out. I don’t want to go alone” said Yara.

Nadia laughed: “Please, they flirt!”

“Yes. Flirting with a gun IS freaky”

“Call me when you’re done.” Said Nadia walking away.

“Don’t forget lunch! Fahad will be waiting for us” said Yara.

“Yes yes I told the driver to be here at two!” said Nadia and disappeared inside a shop.

“You don’t seem like you’re enjoying your time” said Yara walking beside Dalal.

“I am.”

“We’ve been friends for so long and we’ve never seen you like this. You’re too quiet!”

“Yeah. But don’t worry. I’m just growing up, I guess!”

“But we miss the real hyper you!” said Yara sincerely.

“I don’t understand you two. All my life you’ve been trying to calm me down, and now that I finally became the person that you wanted me to become you’re missing the old me?”

“You know,” said Yara as she put her arm around Dalal’s shoulder “you were always the one who made things easier for me”

“Me? I was always the annoying stupid one!”

“No you were not! We might tease you all the time but the way you were always happy and excited about everything made things bearable”

“That’s new!”

“If anything is hurting you, you know that we are here for you. You can talk whenever you feel like it” said Yara and kissed Dalal’s cheek.

Yara was reading the back cover of a book when her phone rang, she felt happily nervous when she saw Fahad’s name:

“Hello”

“Hey beautiful. Where are you?”

“Virgin, and you?”

“I’m with my aunt, she went to make coffee and I thought that I’d check on my girl”

Yara’s heart dropped, she wasn’t used to all that cheesiness and attention. “Listen, there is a concert for Fairouz tomorrow. You want to go?”

“Yeah I heard about it but I was certain that it’s sold out!”

“It is, but our driver has some tickets that he wants to sell. Not good seats though”

“Tell him it’s SOLD!”

 

The girls were seated already when Fahad arrived to Mayas Restaurant. “Sorry for being late ladies!” he said as he took a seat next to Yara.

“We’ve just arrived” said Nadia.

“I heard that the food here is really good” he said as he was handed the menu.

“It is” affirmed Nadia.

“Then spare us the headache and take care of the order” said Fahad.

Dalal didn’t pay them any attention. She was glued to her Blackberry. A part of her was glad that things got out in the open between Yara and Fahad so Osama would feel guilty. But jealousy was still there. She couldn’t bear seeing Yara happy with a guy.

“You two look great together” said Nadia unable to hide her excitement after placing the order.

“We do! Don’t we?” said Fahad and patted Yara’s hand.

“I’m so happy for you” said Nadia with a huge grin.

Dalal put her phone aside: “But you must be careful. You two are lucky to have nearby businesses where you can see each other, but people do talk.” She said daringly creating awkward vibes.

“We are mature enough to know what’s right and what’s not! And who cares what people think as long as you know your limits?” said Yara offended.

“I know. I’m just saying!” said Dalal wickedly and went back to her phone.

Just on the right time, the waiter arrived with the Mazza and broke the awkwardness.

“So what’s the plan tonight?” asked Yara while the table was being cleared.

“I have a booking at Music Hall but it only starts at 11pm” said Nadia.

“Oh that’s nice! I’ve been wanting to go there for a while” said Fahad as he asked for the cheque.

“I’ll be right back” said Dalal and headed to the washroom.

“Don’t worry about what Dalal said earlier. She’s been acting weird lately” said Nadia.

“It’s ok. She sounded upset though” said Fahad.

“Yeah she can be too honest sometimes but she doesn’t mean any harm” said Yara.

“None taken. Anyway, my ride is here. I’ll see you girls tonight” he said as he placed some cash inside the bill, kissed Yara on her forehead and left.

Dalal’s phone was ringing on the coffee table at the sitting room.

“Shall I pick it up?” wondered Yara.

“I don’t know, at least see who’s calling. Maybe it’s her mum” said Nadia loudly from the kitchen.

“No number!”

“Pick it up!”

“Hello?” answered Yara.

“Hello?” said a manly voice.

“Yes? Who is it?”

“Yara?”

“Yes!”

“It’s Osama”

“Osama! Hi!”

“Hi. How is it going?” he asked nervously.

“Great. You want to talk to Dalal?” she asked casually.

“Yes please”

“She’s having a shower I’ll ask her to call you back”

“Ok, thanks”

“Who was it” asked Nadia peaking from the kitchen.

“Osama!” said Yara with a surprised expression.

“I thought she said that they don’t speak to each other!”

“No idea. This girl is hiding something!”

The red curtain was opened. A blond lady in a maxi golden dress started singing in French with a band playing behind her. The three girls and Fahad were seated on a table in the front row. Yara noticed that Nadia was absent minded since they arrived. “Nadia? Is something wrong?” asked Yara leaning on the table.

“I’m fine” said Nadia faking a smile.

Yara sat straight and turned to Fahad: “She’s not fine”

“It’s normal for her to get weak sometimes. Her wound is still fresh. But she is doing great” said Fahad while looking at Nadia discreetly.

“I guess..” said Yara nibbling on some nuts.

“Last time I came to this place I was with him. That’s all” said Nadia interrupting.

“How boring!” said Yara.

“Don’t be so sad. Next year this time, you’ll be married!” said Dalal sarcastically.

“Oh by the way. Osama called you today” said Yara  suddenly remembering.

“What? When?” asked Dalal nervously and got withdrawn with her phone.

Several singers and bands appeared on stage throughout the night. After two hours of entertainment and chatters, the curtain opened again and a melody that took Yara’s breath away started playing. “Oh my god I LOVE this song!”. It was a jazzed up version of Ya Sitty Ya Khetyara that took Yara back to the 80’s. She started swinging with the rhythms of the song and singing the lyrics, when suddenly, Fahad stood up and offered his hand. Yara was too into the music that she got up without hesitation, he put his arm around her waist and started swinging her to the left and to the right. The surrounding crowd’s attention got diverted from the stage to the dancing couple and they started clapping and cheering for them in admiration. She put her arms around his neck as they kept on dancing and enjoying being the center of attention although nothing seemed to exist for them except for themselves and the music. Nadia was blown away! She was so excited to see Yara as she’s never seen her before. Yara’s long black gypsy dress made her look like a professional dancer and inspired her to make a few gypsy moves as Fahad watched and clapped with total admiration. Everyone was envying that happy couple at that moment except for one. One who was taken by jealousy and hatred of her life time best friend..

 

After spending the afternoon in Verdun for a brunch, some shopping and making fun of Dalal for flirting with a Lebanese sales person, the girls headed to Al Rawcheh in order for Yara to take some photos.

“I’ll need the sun to go down a bit” said Yara after taking a few test shots.

“We can have coffee till then” suggested Nadia.

“Yeah, I think it will need another twenty minutes for the sun to set” said Yara checking the photos.

Yara’s phone rang while they were walking to the café: “Hello sister!”

“Your sister is grounded!” said Tamara in an upset tone.

“Grounded? Since when does Sajida ground her daughters?” she laughed.

“My stupid Science teacher told her that I bring my phone to class!”

“Do you?”

“Everyone does!”

“I’ll be back tomorrow and you tell me all about it”

“Wait. She wants to talk to you” said Tamara and handed the phone to her mom. “When are you coming?” asked her mother.

“I’m fine thanks for asking!”

“You’re there enjoying your time while we have a lot to do and worry about here!”

“I’m coming tomorrow!” said Yara harshly.

“And we’ll talk about Haytham”

“That’s a closed topic. Ok? See you tomorrow” she said and ended the call in frustration.
“All my life I’ve been dreaming of owning a small shop that sells random stuff” said Nadia sipping coffee.

“What kind of stuff?” asked Fahad.

“Fashionable clothes, funky accessories, country style home decorations, gifts and giveaways. All kinds of unique items”

“She’s been dreaming of that since we were in elementary school” said Yara.

“You can do it now!” suggested Fahad.

“Yeah. I’ve been thinking about it yesterday. I quit my job for a man who betrayed me and now I have to do something with my life”

“That makes the two of us” said Yara.

“So if Yara agrees about my merger business suggestion maybe you could join and we’ll have our own department store” joked Fahad.

The girls laughed except for Dalal, who was in her own world staring at the sea.

“What do you do beside the café?” asked Nadia.

“Family business. My dad and uncles have several businesses but I’m mainly focused on the food division” Said Fahad.

“That’s nice. And this is how you started the café I assume”

“Yeah. I’m a strong believer in family businesses. I mean, if your family created it’s own wealth by being an entrepreneur why work for someone else?”

“True, but that won’t work for me since my family business is construction!”

“Then create your own division of family business. Starting that dream shop can be the beginning” said Fahad.

Dalal was clearly annoyed that day. She went for a walk while the rest were taking pictures of each other by the Rawcheh. She couldn’t bare how left out she was, how different and undesired. All those wicked thoughts were multiplying in her head when she decided to start taking action. She dialed Osama’s number. And just when she was about to press on the call button, she changed her mind and cleared the number from the screen.

It was finally time for the concert. The atmosphere was electric; the red carpet, the orchestra, the astonished crowd and Fairouz herself in all her glory and strong, magnificent presence. Nadia was so happy to attend a concert for Fairouz for the second time. But it was Yara’s first time to see Fairouz live and she was glad that she was experiencing it with Fahad.

Nadia was in her own world with all her attention on the stage while swinging melodically with the music. Her eyes got teary when Fairouz sang Keefak Enta. Her all time favorite song.

Fahad was extremely happy, he was holding Yara’s hand or wrapping his arm around her throughout the whole concert. Yara laughed every time he sang along with a song and teased him about his very bad singing voice. All of that only made Dalal feel more and more left out. During the second interval, she took her mobile and walked out. This time, she did call Osama.

“Dalal!” answered Osama.

“You called me yesterday?” she asked dryly.

“Yes! I just wanted to apologize for the whole misunderstanding”

“And I’m sure that you were glad that Yara answered!”

“No, no, it’s a closed topic”

“Do you know that Fahad is here with us in Beirut?”

“He messaged me last night saying that he’s visiting his aunt. But I didn’t know that you’re there till now! You didn’t tell me in the airport”

“We are here and your friend followed us to stalk Yara. I was wrong. Yara doesn’t like him” lied Dalal.

“What are you saying? You’re contradicting yourself!”

“Yara is responding to Fahad because he is her only option. But she is really annoyed to see him everywhere she goes. And now that he followed her all the way here, she’s just sick of it!”

“Are you sure?”

“Last night she told me something. She said that she wishes that it was you instead”

“What!?”

“If you want my advice, I’d say fight for her. Save your friend and win the girl you want….”

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..

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..