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”

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