As she opened her eyes Zeina tried to remember saying goodnight to Manaf, she couldn’t. Assuming she had fallen asleep on the phone she began reaching under the covers looking for her mobile…within seconds she found it on the lower left side of her bed. Flipping the screen open, her jaw dropped with shock, 16 missed calls and three texts. She couldn’t remember the last time her phone had been that busy. Unfortunately for her though, ten of the missed calls were from Mr. X, he had called her earlier the night before, sometime during the early morning, and a few hours ago. Four were from Sara and two were from random friends who were probably just calling to say hi. She clicked her way to the inbox to check her messages and all three of them were from Mr. X.
A nervous knot began to form in her stomach, what should she tell Mr. X? That she wasn’t sure she wanted to marry him, even though she had practically forced him to propose to her? Truth be told, Zeina didn’t think she had even forgiven him yet for breaking her heart, or that she could ever. Knowing she had to get it over with she found Mr. X’s number and called him. He picked up immediately.
“Zeina!” His voice was filled with the anguish of waiting, the anguish she knew so well from the years she had been with him.
“Hala Faisal…” It was hard saying his name; it had become so comfortable on her tongue that she found herself constantly calling it out when refer to other guys. It was the name she had spent thousands of conversations whispering.
“Wainich entay! Laish matredeen 3alay?” His voice slowly began turning towards anger and the knot in Zeina’s stomach tightened.
“Madry Faisal, walah madry. I’m so confused…”
“Minik enta. You make things so hard for me o I’ve stopped thinking clearly a long time ago when it came to things that revolved around you.”
“What are you trying to get at Zeina?” His voice lowered.
Zeina took in a deep breath before pouring her heart out.
“Faisal, I don’t think we should be getting married. I can’t make you any promises when I’m like this, when even I don’t know what I want, how can I ask you to give it to me? It’s not fair for you.”
“Zeina…Zeina 7abeebti..” he was preparing to negotiate and Zeina knew it.
“Faisal, please let’s just take a break shwaya.”
“Take a break laish Zeina? 3ashan you can leave me? Fe shay thany bil mawthoo3 you’re not just confused, fe a7ad thany 9a7?”
“No, of course not..” Zeina lied.
“Listen sweety, I’ve been gone a long time I understand, wala I do, and I’m sure you met some people during that time. Bes 7abeebti you know ma7ad y7ibich kethri, and whoever that guy in your life is, law misti3id ya36eech ili ana ba36eechiya then you would have been married by now. Adry inich confused o adry ina ili sawaita feech mu shwaya, you have every right to be upset. Bes don’t end this, mar7ala wet3adi I promise, and then you’ll see, you’ll see that you were just upset and it wasn’t worth ending it.”
Zeina kept quiet, she had nothing to say. What could anyone say in response to that? Faisal picked up on her silence and realized she had nothing to say and so he decided to speak for her.
“Tabeen break 9a7? Khala9 I’m willing to give it to you…” he began getting desperate, this wasn’t a side of Zeina he had seen before and it scared him. “Ana emsafer London for the next few weeks, lansawii shay before that. E5thay these weeks to think o 9adgeeni you’ll see ina we’re meant to be o awal ma arja3 inkalem ahalich ok 7abeebti!” He said it in a statement and not a question. He was sure that she was just overwhelmed by the sudden decision to get married and that she had a few unfinished things on the side, but he was sure she’d finish them, end them and throw them out when she realized how serious he was. Zeina had always loved him, and she always will.
“Ok..” Zeina whispered. She had nothing more to say, and the idea of a few weeks to think felt good to her although she knew deep down inside her decision had been made. She just couldn’t bear to break Faisal’s heart, even though he had broken hers. Maybe it was because he had, that she knew how it felt, and couldn’t put him through the same thing.
“O Zayoon please mara thanya lama adig 3alaich lata7gereeni…” He sounded very hurt as he said this to her.
“I didn’t, I promise, bes kent ta3bana o ga6a my phone silent o nayma..”
“Okay…” he said, sounding reassured.
Had she noticed his missed calls though, she would have ignored them anyway, which made her feel more guilt than she could handle.
“Esh3indik ib London?” She asked him trying to make polite conversation.
“A few meetings, as usual…ta3alay meta et3a6leen?” He asked her.
“Hal esboo3 akher esboo3…” She told him, realizing for the first time that the course was almost over.
“Ah ya3ni emti7anat..ha shada 7ailich?” He asked enthusiastically and Zeina knew he was trying to show her how much he cared, and at the same time wanting to know what she’d be doing while he was away.
“9aifi?” He asked. A shot of electricity went through her spine. She had completely forgotten about her Summer Class, and about Manaf coming back to Kuwait soon. She felt a pang of guilt as she answered him with a yes; if only he knew why she was taking the class.
Faisal’s phone beeped with another call and he told her he had to go, but not before telling her how much he loved her and reassuring her that this was just a phase that would pass.
Zeina called Sara next and tried to convince that everything was okay. Sara insisted on knowing what was happening with Faisal and the proposal and Zeina told her that they were going to talk more about it when he came back from London, omitting the fact that Zeina was having major second thoughts about it.
“Zeina, is all this because of that Manaf guy?” Sara had asked during their conversation, “methil ma getlich in7a6aitay ib nafs mawqef Dalal o you’re making the same mistake. Congratulations..” she said sarcastically. Not in the mood for a lecture and as fear began to form at the base of her stomach of the fact that Sara might be right, Zeina decided to lie to her friend. Just a tiny little lie.
“A9lan Sara I’m not that interested in him o we don’t talk that much. It’s just that I’m still hurt by Faisal fa that’s why. But anyway everything will be clear when he gets back..” and with that they closed the topic and moved on to talk about exams and the summer. Sara was not taking any summer classes, instead she was off to the States with her family.
“Maleeqa, ma3indich salfa taking 9aifi..” Sara teased. Another wave of guilt washed over Zeina.
Eventually the conversation ended and Zeina made her way to the bathroom to wash up. As she stepped out her phone began ringing, she leaned over her pillows looking for it.
MANAF, the screen blinked on and off. She answered it on the third ring.
“9aba7 el khair..” He voice was filled with sleep.
“9aba7 el noor.. ams 6e7t nayma 3alaik?” She giggled.
“6e7tay nayma o bes?” He laughed, “tadreen enich eta7achain wentay nayma?”
“Ayshay, ayshay! Ubay eshgilt?” Zeina’s face began to blush as she thought of all the embarrassing things that could have slipped up.
“Hmm, nadaiteeni Sara cham mara, o ba3dain ta7al6amtay shwaya, etgooleenli heday sha3ri..” he laughed. Zeina laughed along with him relieved that Faisal’s name hadn’t been brought up.
“Zayo—ooooon..” he said with a burst of energy, his voice had turned hyper, something she had never heard before, and he had also called her Zayoon instead of Zeina.
“Halaaaaaaaa…” she laughed back with as much energy.
“3igub bacher!” He sighed, “enzain eshtabeen min ma9r? ghair 3ilab il fool ili shareehom lich!”
Zeina burst out laughing, he was so happy it was adorable.
“Walaht 3ala ahalik?” She asked him. He went silent for a second and Zeina waited for his response.
“ahali mu bel kwait, saferaw London..” he told her, the cheerfulness leaving his voice.
Zeina felt uncomfortable asking any more questions so she started telling him about how hot the weather has become and how bad the traffic is, but not over-looking just how severely his voice changed when she mentioned his family.
Ten days had passed and it was the first day of summer classes, Zeina was standing in front of the mirror observing her tenth outfit and finding every fault possible with it. This would be the first time she’d be seeing Manaf since the few times she had when she first met him. She had woken a little earlier than usual to turn her usually straight hair into large waves and she was toying with the idea of pulling some of it up.
She finally settled on a yellow summer dress that fell short of her knees by an inch and white flip flops. She used a few pins to strategically pin up some of her hair to give it a messy look. She grabbed her large white bag looking for her keys and cell phone as she made her way across the room.