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….”

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