Chapter 5. Weekend

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello”

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

“Yup. I’m outdoors” she giggled.

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

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

“But I don’t want to”

“Why not?”

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

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

“All the difference.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah we are staying for the weekend.”

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

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

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

“Maybe” she teased again.

 

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

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

 

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

“Are you ok?”

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

“Not really” she answered pressing on her waist.

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

“Do you have a phone?”

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nadia walked in at that moment.

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

“I don’t know. Sudden pain”

“Sit down I’ll get you water”

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

“I didn’t have my phone”

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

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

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

“Aha. A very handsome one”

“No way” said Yara and laughed loudly.

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

“Don’t make me laugh. I’m in pain”

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

“Telling you was a bad idea”

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

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

 

**

 

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

“Hey Fahad”

“Hey. How are you today?”

“I’m good. Are you here yet?”

“Yeah I’m riding my bike”

“Oh! We are walking to Al-Osra.”

“Great, I’ll meet you there then”

 

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

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

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

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

“Sure” said said as they both started walking.

“How are things now? Getting better?”

“Not really”

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

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

“Not really. It was cute!”

“It was rude!”

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

“Fine, if you say so”

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

“Take a guess” she dared.

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

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

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

“Keep going”

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

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

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

“You’re close”

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

“CORRECT” Yara screamed.

“YESSSSS. So what’s my prize?”

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

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

Fahad laughed loudly: “What an impression”

“Actually it can be one of her new songs”

“There is a song I like called Bel alb khaleeny

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

“One of my favorites” he nodded.

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

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

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

“What’s my prize?” he asked again.

“What do you want?”

“I want to know more about you..”

 

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

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

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

“But that won’t be fair, right?”

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

“Any highlight”

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

Chapter 4, Guilt

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

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

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

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

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

“Wanna go out for dinner tonight?”

“Sure”

“Where do you feel like going?”

“Anywhere”

“Shall we go to Meat Co?”

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

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

 

**

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

“Want some?” said Tamara opening the box.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Art Gallery. I sell photos and paintings”.

“Awesome. What about you Nadia?”

“She’s a housewife” answered Manaf.

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

“Oh, you studied law?”

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

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

“Who are you with?” asked Manaf.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You think that I was rude to Fahad?”

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

“I can!!” said Yara.

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

 

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

Nadia smiled: “I understand”.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey Ahmedo, sup?” said Yara.

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oops” said Tamara.

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can forgive you under one condition”

“Women! And what’s that condition?”

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 3, Debts

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

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

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

“Are you still having a problem with electricity?”

“Yes sir”

“What is the matter? Maybe I can help”

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

“Hi!” she said smiling.

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

“Those are my friends Dalal and Nadia”

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

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

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

“By the way girls, Fahad owns this café”

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

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

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

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

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

Nehna wel amar jeeran” Nadia started singing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Come home immediately!”.

**

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

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

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

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

“That would be great. Thanks”

**

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

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

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

“You knew my father?” She wondered sweetly.

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

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

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

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

“He owes you money?” she guessed

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

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

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

“Wait” whispered Yara back.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 2, Neighbors

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

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

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

“I came to see you!”

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

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

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

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

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

“No way!! Did you find her?”

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

“Wow. This is bad.”

“Try telling her that!” said Yara sarcastically.

“Does she know you’re traveling?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

“There is no electricity Madame”

“Is it the whole block or just us?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello” said the man.

“Hi” said Yara in embarrassment.

“I’m sorry, bad timing?”

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

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

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

“Yara.” She said while shaking his hand.

“I’m the owner of the café next door”

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

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

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

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

“Wow. That’s great!”

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

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

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

“Wow” he finally said.

“You like her?” asked Yara smiling.

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

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

“Impressive! You’re talented.”

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

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

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

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

“You’re most welcome”

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

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

**

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

“I KNOW” said Nadia while taking her breath.

“Run faster. You’re being lazy!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh no, who’s that cheesy person?”

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

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

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

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