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.
“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..