Zeina opened her eyes to a noise coming from behind her, turning in her bed, she glanced groggily around for the source; seconds later she found it, it was her phone vibrating. Lighting up what little space it could, Zeina squinted, picking it up without reading the name on the screen, it would hurt her eyes too much to stare directly at the light.
“Aloo” she said sleepily.
“Goomay…” a man’s voice answered her, immediately she knew it was Manaf; his voice was filled with sleep more than hers was.
“Gawim nafsik awal” she joked burying her head under the sheets, she was too sleepy to wake up. She had spent the entire night on the phone with Manaf and he had promised to make sure she’d be awake for her class.
“Laish, mat7iseeni im9a79e7” he joked back moaning deep into his pillow, “abee anaaaaam…golay 7ag il shams etwakher!”
“Wakhray …wakhray..” Zeina whispered falling back to sleep.
“Heyy…Zeina… Zayoona…gooomay!” His voice got louder and Zeina jolted up from the noise.
“Enshallah, enshallah” she said pushing the covers aside, “enta ba3ad goom, lat6oofik mu7athartik..”
“Et6oofni mu7atharti kaifha…bes mat6oofni Zayoon” he said pulling himself up in bed. Zeina beamed at what he said, she was beginning to realize just how hard she was falling for Manaf, and she couldn’t help the fear that settled in her stomach the more she fell in love with him. The more she got attached, the harder it would hurt if something bad happened.
“Degeeli lai rekabtay il sayara..” he told her before hanging up. Zeina ran to the bathroom, Manaf hadn’t given her enough time, girls got up much earlier for classes than guys did, they had way more to do before it, and Manaf had woken her up at boys’ time!
Pulling out several jeans from her closet she began contemplating her outfit; picking out the lightest pair she had and matching it with a pink Juicy t-shirt; she wanted to go casual for whatever Manaf had planned for her, not wanting him to think she was a girly-girl who had to get dressed up for everything. Putting on white Chanel ballerina shoes and grabbing her white bag from the day before she ran out of the room, seconds later she ran back…she hadn’t even looked at her hair. Quickly running a comb through it she began to think of her options, finally she decided to complete the look with a tidy pony-tail; when she was done she ran out of the door for the last time. She didn’t wait to get into the car before dialing Manaf’s number, which she had memorized already.
“Ahlan ahlan…” He spoke into the phone, obviously expecting her call; she could hear a car’s radio in the background, he was already on his way.
“Haa wain we9alt?” She asked him her engine beginning to purr, she turned the AC on to the highest, “7ar moot..” she muttered. He chuckled and Zeina smiled to herself, his laugh made the butterflies in her stomach dance.
Minutes later she pulled into the university parking lot looking for his car, finding it she parked near it and they got out together. Manaf was wearing black training pants and a red polo; he was holding a large 5-subject notebook like it was as light as a sheet of paper, his mobile and car keys in his other hand. Zeina waited for him to catch up and they began walking towards the entrance, as they walked Manaf leaned over taking her textbook out of her hand and holding it for her. At the center of the campus they split up, Manaf telling her he’d wait for her in his car when they finished, she nodded and headed to class.
A little over an hour later Zeina rushed out of class and made her way to the parking lot, strands of her hair had come loose from how much she played with it during class; she was very nervous and didn’t have anything else to play with. Manaf was in his car, music blasting, car seat pushed all the way back so that he was in lying position; Zeina knocked on his window and he shot up in his seat. He adjusted the seat and pressed the unlock button at the same time,and Zeina got in the car, leaving the door open; Manaf lowered the volume of the radio and smiled at her.
“Bas2ilich so2al..” he told her.
“Hatha el so2al ili getli 3ana? Eli betkhisha 7ag ba3dain?” She asked him.
“Laa yuba eshda3wa Zayoon, khair shar magdar as2ilich shay ya3ni?” He argued, Zeina laughed and waited for his question.
“Goleeli shetkhafeen mina?” He turned his body towards her and placed his hand on the steering wheel gazing intently at her. Zeina paused to think..
“Umm..sharks, I guess. And heights…o umm, wayed ashya2..”
“Sharks…Heights..” he whispered to himself nodding and staring at the steering wheel, “o ba3ad?”
Zeina paused nervously, not knowing if she should tell him what her biggest fear was, she decided to go ahead and do it, her relationship with Manaf was unlike any other she had had and she had decided to take risks this time, even if it failed. She would at least look back at this 30 years from now and say that she tried to have an unconventional relationship with a new and mysterious man, with no walls around her, no more playing games or keeping secrets.
“I’m afraid of having my heart broken..” she whispered. Manaf’s head shot up and his eyes were filled with shock at her statement…it was obvious he wasn’t expecting what she had said. He stared at her, not looking away for a long time and Zeina stared back. The hot air touching the back of her neck from the open door mixed with the cold air hitting her face and chest from the blaring AC in front of her, it sent a shiver up her spine and she shuddered slightly. Not moving his gaze from her face and immediately picking up on her shiver he navigated his fingers toward the AC button and switched off, eyes still on Zeina he leaned past her body and shut the door behind her.
“Shfeek Manaf..” she asked fearfully, the silence had gone on too long and she was starting to think she might have offended him with what she had said.
“How bad was it?” He asked her this time looking down at his hands.
“Bad was what?”
“The first time you got hurt.” He looked back up at her. Zeina paused with horror, she had not meant for the conversation to turn in this direction and she had nothing to say to Manaf on this topic.
“Manaf..don’t ask me hal as2ila” she whined turning away.
“Khala9 enshallah, I’m sorry” he collected himself and replaced his hands on the wheel, “enzain abee awadeech mokan… bes please lat7iseen ina I’m pressuring you in any way. Tegdereen tel7igeeni ib sayartich or you can ride with me…ili yray7ich” He told her.
Zeina thought for a few minutes, “Sorry, bes 3adi al7igik? Mu 3an shay wala…”
“Laaa!” He interrupted her, “la you don’t have to explain, ana abi ili yray7ich… khaleech close behind ok, I drive fast” he smiled and winked at her. When she was sure she hadn’t offended him she got out of his car and into hers, pulling out and following him out of the parking lot. Zeina had to be home for lunch which was almost an hour away and she had no idea where he was taking her, she hoped it wouldn’t take long although she wanted to spend much more than an hour with him.
Manaf wasn’t lying about his driving, Zeina tried her best to follow him as he weaved in and out of streets, from lane to lane, speeding at some parts then hitting the brakes heavily at others where she knew there were cameras eventually though she found herself on Gulf Road. He called her then and she picked up, “Tara we’re almost there ha…bes mu tekhtar3ain! O tara mu 3gaidi okay bes this is the only place bil kwait for this..unless 3adi 3indich etsafreen ma3ay?”
“Umm..I’ll settle for the thing bil kwait thank you..” Zeina replied laughing, “and what is the thing by the way?”
“Al7ean itshofeen yala yemeen..” He told her hanging up and turning his right turn signal on, Zeina copied him and turned into the lane next to hers, the only thing in front of her was Shi3ib park.
OH MY GOD – NO WAY! Zeina thought as Manaf’s car pulled into the Amusement Park’s entrance. Horror began to fill her entire being, how could he bring her to this place?! He parked his car and Zeina, still in shock parked next to him. Should she bolt? Should she tell him she had to go home urgently? In three huge strides he made his way to her car and opened her door.
“Mara7 ten7ashain” he told her grabbing her arm; it was as if he had read her thoughts.
“Manaf, what are we doing here?” She asked him, letting her shock and horror show in her face and voice. He reached over her, grabbed her bag and with a gentle pull she was out of the car, he led her back to his car, opening the trunk and placing her bag in it, “Telephonii..” she said as he closed the trunk.
“Ma te7tajaina..” he told her and began walking to the entrance.
“I wore jeans for this??” She asked him, he was still holding her arm and half dragging her.
“For part of this…one part..” He told her glancing around. Zeina let him lead her through the park, it was beyond empty, and eventually she was facing the thing he was guiding her towards; the large bungee jump ride that she had seen so many times from the streets as she drove past the park. Zeina slowly lifted her head up to see where it ended, but it took her a long time before she was able to see the top of it.
“Mosta7eeeeeeeeeeel” She told him pulling her arm out of his grasp and beginning to walk away, Manaf, without moving his feet leaned back, grabbed her from each side of her arms and half lifted her, half dragged her back to her original spot. He put his arm around her waist to stop her from running away as he began to talk to the man that ran the machine, he nodded something then pushed open a tiny gate ushering them in.
“La la ..tekfa Manaf” Zeina’s voice began to turn hysterical and she could feel tears forming behind her eyes, she was deathly afraid of a third floor balcony, and this ride’s height was something beyond death! Manaf kept quiet as she begged him to turn around and leave, his arm remained firmly around her waist keeping her from walking away. He waited a few more seconds before he began to tug at her body to follow him towards the ride, Zeina tried to plant her feet as hard as possible into the ground but her weight was no match for Manaf’s arm even, let alone his entire body. She began sliding forward, by now letting him carry her entire weight as numbness began to form in her legs from the fear.
“Manaf you don’t understand, wala akhaf.. I’m not joking, this isn’t fun kelish” She pleaded with him putting her hands on his chest and pushing him back, trying her best not to burst into tears and embarrass herself. Manaf took her hands into his one empty hand and looked down at her,
“Zayoon, it’s going to be okay don’t worry. Fe ashya2 lazim etjarbeenha mara ib 7ayatich 3al aqal.. Oo I’m with you…”
“We’ll DIE!” Zeina tried to instill some fear in him. He laughed at her desperate attempt..
“La fe cham shay I have planned for us to do before you can die..” He chuckled dragging her the last few steps before the entrance of the ride. Zeina’s heart began to pound and her throat got too dry for her to beg anymore; she let Manaf guide her into the center box and dress her up with the suit that was placed hanging. She closed her eyes as the sound of her heart began flooding her ears, she feared losing consciousness soon. Manaf stroked her back gently getting in beside her and strapping himself in, “this is nothing, don’t worry..” he told her soothingly.
Once they wore both strapped in the man got off the ledge and headed away, within seconds a noise filled Zeina’s ears and something tugged their body upwards, immediately Zeina let out shriek. Manaf burst into laughter beside her, “bsmilla Zeina! Ne6ray 3al aqal..my feet are still on the ground” he laughed at her. Looking down, Zeina realized he was right, only her feet were off the ground. The ride began and their bodies began moving backwards higher and higher into the air; Zeina grabbed Manaf’s hand and held on to it with as much strength as she could, tears began flowing freely.
“It’s okay” He whispered into her ear holding her hand tighter. Eventually they made it to the top, Zeina began feeling dizzy and spots of black clouded her vision. Manaf’s hand gripped hers tighter but Zeina was too numb to feel anything. With a sudden pull and a loud whooshing sound Zeina felt herself plummeting; it was a feeling so scary she would not be able to describe it. Her heart felt as if it had dislodged itself and was crawling up her throat and for a few seconds she felt herself suffocating. She closed her eyes tightly not wanting to see the ground coming towards her. Soon she felt herself beginning to rise a little after the long fall, then she began to fall again, this time a shorter distance than the first.
“Zayoon..” Manaf’s voice came in clearly for the first time she had been strapped in.
“Na3am..” She whispered her eyes still closed tightly.
“Khala9na tara.” He told her touching her cheek lightly; she opened her eyes and sure enough she was back on the ground and Manaf was unstrapping her. Wobbling she tried to gain her balance enough at least to walk off the platform; she failed miserably however and had to be dragged off by Manaf. They walked out of the park in silence, Manaf’s arms still around her.
By the time they reached her car an appropriate amount of rage had come back to her and she turned to him, “How DARE you..” she yelled, but before she could continue her sentence she burst into tears. Manaf, even more shocked at her reaction than she was, rushed forward to hug her.
“Laa laa, latabcheen Zayoon! Waaaih..” he said beginning to wipe her tears with his fingers.
“I- I’m S- Sorry..” Zeina sobbed.
“It’s okay don’t cry…you want to go back on the ride?” He teased.
“No!” Zeina shot back, wiping her face with the back of her hand like a little child. Manaf was very amused by this display and began to chuckle, wiping a tear away with his thumb.
“Are you okay now?” He whispered.
“Ee..” She answered him trying her best to smile, “sorry, it was scary..”
“Enta sheftay shay 3ashan etkhafeen? Kentay imqamtha” He told her playfully nudging her arm, “ne6reeni dgeega” he said and made his way back to his car to get her bag. He handed it to her and she reached in for the keys, she unlocked the car and he opened the door for her; still feeling shaky she let him help her up into the car. Holding the door open he stared at her in silence for a few seconds, “are you sure you’re okay?” He asked again. Zeina nodded smiling. “Mu za3lana?” He asked, this time the worry and guilt was more than evident.
“Wala I’m not, thank you a9lan .. you made me try something new.” She said trying to make him feel better.
“Good..” He smiled relieved, “wain betroo7een al7ean?”
“El bait..ghada” She told him, pulling her legs into the car and turning it on, “enta?”
“Bait..noom..” He laughed…
“Call me when you wake up?” She asked him, tilting her head to the side and smiling questioningly.
“Sooner” he promised shutting the door behind her; Zeina watched him walk away. She couldn’t help noticing the way he walked with such great confidence, he clicked the car button and his Bentley blinked twice, without looking back he opened the door and slid gracefully inside and within seconds its engine came to life; not wanting to be caught staring Zeina immediately backed out of her spot and sped away.
As she walked up the front steps of her house Zeina’s phone beeped with a message, taking it out she smiled at Manaf’s name on the screen;
“Aren’t you glad we tackled one of your fears today?” It read…Zeina paused at the door to reply,
“ee I am..”
“Next week enshallah we’ll try out the next one..” He replied almost immediately,
“Which one?” Zeina asked, she had no idea what he was talking about..she turned the doorknob and pushed her way in as she opened the newly received message.
“Sharks ..ba3ad what else?”
Zeina’s face froze in shock, the colors draining from her cheeks.
“Haaaw shfeeech!” Came her mother’s voice from inside as she saw the look of fear on her daughters face.
“Hala yoma..la wela shay..” Zeina stuttered and took a deep breath closing the door behind her.
“Enzain yala ghada ebsir3a” she told her daughter who nodded and made her way upstairs to wash up.