Yara was lying on her bed with a book in her hand. The TV was on but her full attention was on the novel that she was reading. Jane Austin was her usual companion when she felt down, but this time the classic British drama won’t help. Her depression was bigger and deeper and she related it more to Turkish drama. That’s how the novel that she was holding succeeded in taking her to another world. The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak.
Her mobile rang, but she didn’t care to cut off the sentence that she was reading to pick it up. The caller had to wait and the phone kept ringing before she finally put down the book and reached for the phone. “Yes?” she answered annoyed.
“Hi Yara” said Alia.
“Hi!” she sat straight.
“How are you doing?”
“Fine..” she answered puzzled.
“Is this a bad time to talk?”
“No. Tell me”
“The other day.. when we met.. maybe I wasn’t clear enough about what I had told you”
“Did Fahad ask you to tell me this?”
“No, I just felt that..maybe.. what I had told you caused this separation..by not explaining the situation as it is..”
“Alia did Fahad ask you to call me and tell me this?”
“We discussed it and we agreed that, maybe, I should’ve said it in a better way..”
“What is it that you want to say?”
“We both had problems. And it wasn’t right to hide my issues and speak as if he was responsible for the whole thing”
“It doesn’t matter really”
“It does. I know it’s too late and I’m sorry, but I really hope that you think about it and…” she said and Yara interrupted her, “it’s not that. Not just that. Thank you for explaining but this wasn’t the only issue..”
“Fahad is a great guy. I’m not saying that I meant to do that, but a small part of me must’ve been jealous.” Admitted Alia.
“Thank you. Appreciate your honesty..”
After ending the call, Yara thought about Alia’s words for a while. Was it possible that Alia was still in love with him? And after all the problems that they faced, does she still have hope to win him back? It sounded impossible from Fahad’s side. But what about Alia’s feelings? She shook her head, kicked the thoughts away and went back to her book.
Sajida ordered the maid to move a plastic table and some chairs to the so-called garden in the house yard. There wasn’t any grass or any flowers in it. None of them were really interested in taking care of it. But the weather was lovely and Sajida was in a very bad state of mind. Staying home was choking her and she didn’t feel like going out in public and seeing people. That bare “garden” was her only getaway.
“It’s like I’m suddenly realizing that my life was always worthless” said Sajida while sipping tea with Nadia and Yara in the garden.
“But what made you think that? Why are you blaming yourself for what happened to your daughters?” asked Nadia.
“What kind of attention was I giving them? Every mother loves her kids, we can’t argue about that. But my attention was always focused on other things. Things that seemed too valuable to me.” Confessed Sajida.
Yara was very nervous to hear her strong, unbreakable mother sounding so weak. She remained quiet to make sure that Sajida had all the space that she needed to open up.
“Remember my reaction when you told me about Fahad? I only started considering him when you talked to me about his well-known family and what they owned” said Sajida.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.” said Nadia sweetly.
“I think that I’ve been through this before. This feeling that I’m feeling today, the guilt and the depression. It’s exactly what I felt when I lost my husband.” she said moving the cup of tea in her hand as she spoke.
“But we wanted you to get out of that mood back then. Even if you went back to being who you were, we accepted it because it’s just who you are” said Yara finally.
“I could’ve lost my daughter easily. I blame myself fully for what had happened to Tamara. All those years I had no idea where she had spent her time or who she was with”
“But I did and this still happened. It’s no one’s fault” said Yara comforting her.
“It wasn’t your responsibility. Which makes it worse! You were always like a mother to her more than I was”
“It’s never too late. She is still young and you are still here for her” said Nadia patting her hand.
“I can’t bear seeing her like that. She’s scared to leave the house and can’t sleep alone in her room.” said Sajida.
“I really think that she needs professional help. Let’s get her a psychiatrist. We shouldn’t ignore it” said Yara.
“I don’t want to put her under any pressure” said Sajida refusing.
“We can introduce her to him or her as a family friend or something and she won’t even notice” said Nadia.
“I don’t know. I think that she needs to get out of this country for a while. It’s hard for her to get back to her normal life. She needs a change” said Sajida.
“A trip maybe?” said Nadia.
“Longer than that. A long getaway that will make her forget this incident” said Sajida.
“What do you have in mind?” asked Yara worried about Sajida’s wild ideas.
“Boarding school” she fired.
“WHAT? THAT’S CRAZY!” screamed Yara.
“Why not? My Kuwaiti friend sent her daughter and she is doing really well. It is what Tamara needs right now.” said Sajida coldly.
“You have any idea how much that costs? You’ll have to sell the house!!” said Yara still not believing it.
“Let it be. We sell the house, me and Tamara move to Switzerland and you marry Fahad” said Sajida.
“Nadia, say something!! I think menopause is driving her insane!! Look at how she jumped from feeling guilty to going back to being the typical Sajida!!” screamed Yara.
Nadia laughed, “aunty that can’t happen. Maybe we should be realistic for now” said Nadia nicely.
“And I am not going back to Fahad just so you fulfill your dreams!! A couple of minutes ago you were crashing down about all the times that you wasted by not giving us any attention!!”
“It’s for your best at the end of the day. You won’t have to worry about taking care of us!” said Sajida.
“And you really think that you can manage a whole life by yourself? You call me even when you want to order food delivery!!” said Yara.
“I want to make it up to her. I want to fix this in any way possible.” Said Sajida insisting.
“And you want to go to Switzerland! Your old dream of living in Europe still exists I see..” said Yara.
“It’s not wise to sell the house. It’s the only thing left for you” said Nadia.
“Yes. You are right.” Said Sajida finally convinced.
“Leave if you want to, and if you can. But don’t force me to go back to Fahad for that!” said Yara still hurt.
“You are old enough to know what’s best for you. Maybe you can come with us too and find a job there” suggested Sajida.
“No. None of that will happen. Please stop dreaming mama. Please! We have enough to deal with right now and the last thing I need is you going overboard with your dreams.”
“Here is a good change of subject. My shop’s official opening is going to be next Wednesday. And I need you both to help me.” Ordered Nadia.
“My love, I wish I can. But you know how..” said Sajida but Nadia interrupted, “I know and that’s why I’ll be forcing you to work with me. You need to get your head out of this”
“I’m good at nothing” said Sajida and let out a sarcastic laugh.
“Yes, you are. I need your help with the flower arrangements.” Said Nadia.
“Your mother can do that”
“I like your taste more. And you can’t say no to me” said Nadia as she got up and kissed Sajida’s forehead.
“How are you feeling?” asked Mohammed as he sat on the opposite side of Reem in her parents’ house.
“Free!” she said clearly upset.
“You don’t have to keep treating me this way you know?”
“I can’t control it!”
“Reem, we have a son. For his sake we have to remain in good terms. As his parents!” he said maturely.
“Let’s just get done with this” she said not caring about what he said.
“Fine, as you wish. I will pick him up every Friday morning and bring him back by the evening. That would be fixed as a family day. Anything else that comes along we can deal with as it happens”, he said.
“You won’t be able to see him during the week. He sleeps early and you work late” she said now calmer.
“I’ll get to know once I settle down with a job”
“And please, I don’t want that woman to be close to him.” She said rudely.
“He’s just a kid. You can’t put limits between him and people around him. And Nadia is a nice woman and she will be good to him” he said in an assuring tone.
“How would you feel if I got married and your son got attached to my husband?” she asked straight forward.
“What kind of a question is that? The kid knows his parents very well and I see no need to get into these useless arguments!” he said as he got up.
“Easy for you to say! Put yourself in my shoes, and see for yourself how a woman feels to see her family breaking apart” she said hurt.
Mohammed took a deep breath losing patience, “where is he? I want to see him before I leave.” He said while walking out.
“He’s not here. My brother took him out” she said walking him out.
“Take good care of him Reem.” He said heading out.
“He’s my son too, remember?” she said as they stared at each other’s faces one last time. He turned around, put on his sunglasses and left.
Yara walked into the café in slow steps. She took off her sunglasses and looked around for Fahad. He was sitting in his usual spot flipping a sports magazine with no interest. She smiled to the waiters and waitresses a sad smile with her head lowered down. Their faces brought her so many good memories of all the times that she had spent there either with her books, her friends, or with Fahad.
“Hi” she said as she stood in front of him.
“Hi” he said smiling.
“I’m sorry to call and ask to see you so suddenly” she said sitting down.
“Don’t apologize. You know that I was hoping that you’d call” said Fahad still smiling. She didn’t react but looked down with her face expression unchanged.
“What’s the matter? Is everything OK?” asked Fahad concerned.
“Yes, I just came here to give you this” she said opening her handbag, picking up an envelope and handing it to him. He took it confused and opened it. “What is this for?” he asked staring at a cheque.
“It’s the money that you paid to cover the debt. I promised you that I’ll pay it back” she answered seriously.
“Yara!” he said upset.
“Please, it’s your family’s money and you can’t argue about it”
“Where did you get the money from? Is it from the sale of the Studio?” he asked angry.
“Why did you sell the Studio? To pay me back?” he kept questioning.
“Part of the reason, yes”
“You sold your career Yara! You know what that means? What are you going to do now?” he asked shocked.
“We needed the money and this is your share of it. I will find a job, no big deal”
“This was always your problem since I first met you. Your pride came on top of everything else!” he said in anger.
“That is who I am. But, I want to thank you for all the times that you stood by my family’s side. We really appreciate it, all of us” she said deeply.
“Why are you saying this now?”
“Because, this is goodbye”
“What do you mean? You left me a while ago!”
“Yes, but it’s only getting harder with our families in between and we being in touch whenever something comes up. All that must stop in order for us to be able to get over each other easily.” She explained sadly.
“A strong relationship was formed between our families and you can’t just cut it off”
“It was only formed because we were together. And now, It has to stop!”
“This is Bahrain, Yara. No matter how far we get, things will always bring us back to each other in different ways”
“But we have to try. We have to stay away from each other” she begged.
“Then you will like what you’re about to hear” he said hurt.
“What?” she said turning her head to him with sudden attention.
“I might move to Dubai for a year or so” he said with no face expression.
“Why?” she asked shocked.
“Our office is starting up a new branch there and a family member must work on that to give it a strong kick”
“Yes, but just like you said, we need to stay away from each other” he said getting back at her.
She took a deep breath, picked up her bag and stood up, “Just, stay safe..” she said from the bottom of her heart and walked away, leaving him behind in the place that brought them together. He stared at her while she walked away quietly with so many words left unsaid stuck in his throat. But what was the use of speaking now? The long, separate ways that she asked for, started at that very moment..
“I still don’t understand why you sent him an invitation!” said Yara upset while sitting on the floor in Nadia’s shop.
“How can I NOT invite him? It won’t be appropriate!” said Nadia holding a lace ribbon.
“You’re inviting him as who? Someone who I was planning to marry?”
“You’re so selfish! Just because you broke up with the guy you can’t ask us all to cut contact with him so suddenly!” said Nadia while cutting the ribbon.
“You all did because we were together!” said Yara playing with her shoelace.
“Doesn’t make it any different. And you have to get used to seeing him around and dealing with him in a mature way” said Nadia making a bow with the ribbon.
“I don’t have to if he’s moving to Dubai!” she said acting careless.
“Even if he does. You’ll still see him around and hear his news. You have to know how to deal with that” said Nadia sticking the bow on a small wrapped box.
“I hope that he doesn’t come. I think he won’t!”
“I think he will. He’ll think that it won’t be appropriate if he doesn’t” said Nadia holding the box and staring at the bow.
“Don’t you think that it could be hurtful for me? Seeing him around?” asked Yara raising her head up.
“No, I think it’s a good exercise. Will you get up and help me with the boxes please?” said Nadia handing her the scissors.
“A part of me is sad that he might leave Bahrain. It will be easier for us though. But, I don’t know. It’s just sad that he won’t be around” said Yara getting up and reaching for the ribbon.
“I have a total opposite situation to deal with. My husband to be has a son and I have to form a relationship with him” said Nadia folding her arms.
“He’s just a kid”
“Yes and that’s the problem. I know it won’t be easy for Mohammed too, to be a good father to a son who’s not living with him. And I have to make it easier for him too” she said worried.
“You’ll be fine. You’re sweet and loving by nature” said Yara with her full concentration on the box that she was working on.
“I have this fear of becoming the evil woman who stole his dad from his mum”
“As long as Reem doesn’t plant that in his head then you won’t be” said Yara finishing her first box.
“I need to focus on the launch now. Tomorrow morning the arrangements will arrive and we’ll have all the final touches completed. For now we have to finish these giveaways and arrange that shelf with all the frames” said Nadia heading to it.
“What about my photos?” wondered Yara concerned.
“You said Santosh will come and hang them tomorrow morning!” said Nadia confused.
“Right! I think I’m losing my mind” she said picking another box.
“You think your mother was serious about the boarding school?” asked Nadia with a laugh on her face.
“Yes, of course she was. It’s typical of her to think of such crazy ideas”
“It’s a good idea if you can afford it” said Nadia arranging the frames shelf.
“I don’t think that Tamara should live away from us. She needs us. And a boarding school in Switzerland will only make her cold and too serious”
“You have a point. Let’s just focus and finish so we could rest for tomorrow” said Nadia.
“I don’t think that it’s a good idea for him to leave” said Fouzia.
“But why? I think there are many reasons why he should” said Sara while playing with her hair, wearing a jalabia and spending the evening with her mum in the living room.
“But not even a year has passed since he got back from the States!” said Fouzia sadly.
“I know that it’s hard for you and you want him to be around. But think of his career and how that will add a lot to his experience.”
“Nothing is worth living away from home!” said Fouzia reaching for her mobile and going through her messages quietly. “This is a reminder about Nadia’s shop opening tomorrow. Shall we go?” asked Fouzia staring at Sara.
“I don’t know, don’t feel like it. But we should. Even if we pass by for few minutes it will do”
“I hope that your brother won’t go” said Fouzia concerned.
“Why? To avoid seeing Yara?”
“Yes. I want him to get over her quickly”
“Then why don’t you want him to work in Dubai? He will be away from her for a while and getting over her will be easier.”
“That’s right, but I’m being selfish. I want him to be near me”
“It’s only Dubai mama, he can come every weekend”
“Once he settles there he will barely come and visit” she said certain.
“We can visit him then. We all need an excuse to go to Dubai” said Sara.
The day has finally come. Nadia was running around and arranging many last minute details in the shop. She was fully dressed with her make up on and her hair styled in big waves. The traditional floral short dress that she was wearing was being sold in one corner of the shop and her gold plated Turkish-style earrings encrusted with a Fuchsia stone was also being sold there. The smell of Bukhoor was covering the place and some workers were arranging the flowers that Sajida chose by the entrance of the shop.
“Sorry to be late” said Yara approaching from the parking.
“I’ll kill you. Get in quick.” Said Nadia nervous.
“I was stuck in traffic. How do I look?” asked Yara walking into the shop.
“Good, good” said Nadia without paying much attention.
“My pictures!” said Yara happily as she stared at the wall behind the counter. She selected five framed photos of her last year New York collection since she had nothing new to display. Two colorful photos were taken in Central Park and the other three were random street photos that screamed New York.
“Write the prices of your photos on those labels quickly, we’ll need to stick them now” ordered Nadia handing her a sheet of labels and a pen.
“Is the Shaikha arriving on time for the opening ceremony?”
“I don’t know but we better be ready on time.” Said Nadia.
Once all the formalities and the headache of the official opening were over, the crowd felt more relaxed and the ambience became more casual. People started to mingle and look around the shop without having to put on a fake smile or an act for the media photographers. Fairouz was singing some chill out classics in the background.
“Congratulations. You turned this location into a wonderful place! The touches are just amazing” said a tall woman with rectangle black framed glasses and a boy cut hairstyle.
“Thanks aunty. Means a lot” said Nadia and was pulled by another woman from the other side who also gave her a similar comment.
“You must be tired too ha? But it’s almost over and we’ll all get some peace of mind. Just writing the invitations list got me all stressed out” said Nadia’s mum to Yara, who wasn’t paying much attention and had her eyes fixed on the entrance. Fahad didn’t show up yet. And as much as she wished that he doesn’t come, she wanted him to walk into that door so badly. But he didn’t.
“Dalal! Nice to see you. It’s been a while” said Osama holding a long glass of orange juice and wearing a tight Ralph Lauren Polo that showed off his muscular arms.
“I know! I’m fine. Nothing new” she said excited.
“You look different. What did you change?”
“A nose job?” she said teasing.
“Hmm no, no.” he said observing her face.
“My hair is not blonde anymore”
“Oh, right” he said finally noticing.
“Needed the change”
“It looks better this way” he said nicely.
“How are you? How’s the new business?” asked Dalal.
“It’s doing well. The market is picking up and I started expanding around The GCC”
“That’s great! Need to employ someone? I’m getting sick of banking and been looking for a job for a while” she said with one hand on her waist and another carrying her Miu Miu.
“Well, I currently have few staff and we’re not hiring at the moment. Plus, your major and experience are totally in a different field”
“Yup, I’m stuck” she said nodding her head.
“But you can pass by the office and see how things work. Maybe it will inspire you to find out what you want to do next.”
“That would be nice! I definitely will”
“OK. You have my number. Call whenever you can make it”
“Look at those two! Are they finally getting along with each other?” wondered Nadia staring at Osama and Dalal.
“Is he that desperate?” said Yara.
“You’re mean! What’s with the mood?” asked Nadia fixing her hair in one of the for-sale mirrors.
“Why didn’t he come? To avoid seeing me?” wondered Yara with a hurt look on her face.
“Don’t put it this way. You know what you mean to him! And I thought that him coming was a bad idea?”
“I just can’t stop thinking and wondering…..” she said but suddenly stopped talking while staring at the door. Nadia looked around to find Fahad, Sara and their mother walking into the door. “I really wish that you wished for a one million dinars!” said Nadia and headed to greet them by the door.
Yara got nervous. She didn’t know how to react to seeing them. As happy as she suddenly got, his appearance with his family made her feel embarrassed for some reason.
“Hey, how are you?” said Sara approaching her.
“I’m ok. Missed you” said Yara quietly as she hugged her back.
“Ahlan. Shloanech?” said Fouzia nicely as she followed Sara and kissed Yara, “Wain Sajida?” she asked.
“She left. She still doesn’t feel like being in public so she came before the opening ceremony and left” said Yara nervously as Sara and Fouzia moved on with their greetings to the rest of the crowd and left Yara and Fahad alone, face to face.
They stared at each other awkwardly for few seconds, too hesitant to even smile. “Are you upset?” she asked quietly and slowly.
“No, I’m not” he said and smiled. She smiled back nervously.
“We could’ve been here as a couple, and now we are standing in front of each other like total strangers who are trying to make conversation” he said putting on a sweet face that failed to hide his frustration about it.
“It’s not meant to be..”
He looked in the other direction and was about to walk away but he stopped, “I am moving to Dubai tomorrow” he said dryly.
She stared at him in shock, “So soon?”
“Yup. It’s happening..” he said without displaying any emotions.
She kept staring at him, her face and eyes were fixed at his. The crowd around her didn’t exist at that moment. As crowded as the room was, no one existed for her except for him. Little waves of moistness started appearing in her eyes. And he was about to take a step forward and hold her hand, ask her not to cry, and tell her that everything is going to be fine like he always did. But he didn’t. He couldn’t cross those barriers and limits that she’s been building.
“Not every love story has a happy ending..” she said with tears finally streaming down her face.
“Goodbye then, Yara..” he said adding a smile after saying her name. He turned around and disappeared between the crowd.
“Look who’s here! This is aunt Yara” said Nadia holding little Khalid’s hand. “What’s wrong?” asked Nadia noticing Yara’s tears.
“It’s over. It’s really over” said Yara devastated.
“What do you mean? What happened?” asked Nadia waving at Mohammed to come and take Khalid.
“He’s leaving.. tomorrow.. what will happen to me now? What will I do? How empty will my life be, without a job, and without him..” she said getting hit by reality.
“Yara, this is what you wanted and what you asked for! Didn’t you think about the consequences before?”
“I lost him..” she said with a miserable face expression.
“He’s still here Yara. Go and talk to him before it’s too late!” said Nadia trying to look as normal as possible not to make a scene.
“I have to leave. I’m sorry. I can’t stay here” said Yara heading to the door.
“I’ll come as soon as I’m done” said Nadia concerned. But Yara was in a world of her own. She rushed out of the shop like a ghost, trying to disappear without being noticed.
One month later:
Nadia’s house was getting busier by the minute. The huge tent that was set in the garden was buzzing with loud music, white light bulbs and dressed up guests walking in and out. Nadia’s mother was supervising the waitresses in the other corner of the yard about the buffet and greeting people at the same time. “Please don’t exhaust yourself. The night is young!” said Sajida approaching her in a short tight black dress that revealed the shape of her waist. The sleeves were long and there was a silver brooch right under the v-neck.
“I’m too excited I can’t relax” Said Nadia’s mum happily.
“Tell me, how can I help?” asked Sajida patting her shoulder.
“Go check on the bride. I’m sure that she needs supervision” said Nadia’s mum. Sajida nodded and made her way to Nadia’s bedroom upstairs.
The classic Zaffa finally started and electrified the venue. All the ladies had their eyes fixed on the entrance of the tent, waiting for the new bride and groom to walk in. Both mothers were standing by the entrance proudly trying to clear the way for the newlywed. Nadia walked in and took every woman’s breath away. She was more beautiful than usual in a very classy beige off-shoulder dress. The moment she stepped in, she took two steps to the left and turned around, making way for the bride and groom to walk in…when finally, Yara entered the tent in a long sleeved white lace dress, holding Fahad’s hand….
Fouzia couldn’t stop her tears when she saw her son in a traditional Thoab & Bishit. She got closer to him proudly and hugged him while he kissed her forehead. Yara was extremely nervous, hating to be under the spotlight and not believing that after all, it was really happening. Nadia was asking her to smile while fixing her dress every now and then.
“So..not every love story has a happy ending?” whispered Fahad in Yara’s ear with a huge smile on his face while they stood on stage and endless cameras were flashing at them.
“Not ours, at least” she said raising her head up so he could hear her with all the loud music on.
“You happy?” he asked staring at her.
“About facing the world hand in hand? I think I’m more happy about getting the studio back” she teased him and they both laughed. It was a natural, full of love laugh that all ladies who were staring at them adored.
Sajida walked up to the stage proudly pulling Tamara who was too shy to go up there. She kissed Yara dryly in a typical Sajida way but then kissed Fahad warmly and he kissed her head. “You brought life back to the family” said Sajida holding his arm.
Yara was staring at Tamara happily, it’s been a while since she saw her dressed up and laughing. The four of them stood close to each other for a photo and then Fouzia, Sara and her father joined.
The guests moved outside for the buffet while Yara and Fahad started walking around the tent casually chatting with friends and family. Nadia approached Yara and handed her a glass of water that she requested earlier. “Yalla when is your turn?” asked Fahad excited.
“We’re not rushing since we won’t go through all that typical process that you’re going through” teased Nadia.
“That’s the Bahraini way!” he said defending.
“We’ll cut that short since it’s the second time for both of us. Melcha and marriage will be at the same time. So we’ll have to get fully ready with all the preparations” she explained.
“It’s my second time too but I am a classic person” he said proudly. Yara offered him some water after drinking half of the glass, he took it gladly and drank the rest.
“I asked Osama to pass by but I don’t see any sign of him!” said Fahad looking at his watch.
“He’s on his way!” said Dalal joining them. The three of them stared at her confused. “He is helping me with my career. We are.. friends.. now” she explained. They nodded smilingly and Yara and Nadia stared at each other laughingly. “Told you. Desperate!” whispered Yara in Nadia’s ear and they both laughed.
Yara and Fahad walked hand in hand to a random empty table in the tent. They sat down and she took a deep breath, “can I take my shoes off? It’s killing me! Can’t stand high heals” she whined.
“Wait for few hours! It’s just one night and it will pass!”
“Fine” she obeyed annoyed but happy.
“Last night you were saying that you didn’t forgive me 100%”
“Today you are officially mine in front of Allah and the entire world. So is it still less than 100% or….?”
“Honestly?” she pretended to be serious.
“The moment they told me that the signing was completed and that we officially belonged to each other, I forgot everything..” she said looking at his eyes lovingly.
“And we’re as good as we were back in Beirut?” he asked staring back at her eyes.
She nodded, “Better…”.
He picked up her hand and kissed it, “And it will only get better”..