Later on that week at around midnight Zeina began getting ready for bed, she changed into her comfy pjs and washed up throwing herself into her bed and turning on her TV; she would curl up with a DVD for a while. It had become habit for her and Manaf to speak every night and she no longer had to ask him if he would be calling. Having already somewhat memorized Manaf’s schedule she knew that today he’d be calling within the hour. As if on cue, twenty minutes later her phone began to ring; muting the DVD she glanced at its screen…It wasn’t Manaf. Her heart pounding she read the long number blinking, she recognized the area code; the call was from London.
Her hand shaking she picked it up ready to answer, she hadn’t spoken to Faisal since he had left…she had avoided messaging him and was relieved when he didn’t attempt to message her. She knew however that eventually she’d have to face him, and the time had finally come.
“Aloo..” she answered trying to sound casual.
“Hala.” His voice was obviously upset.
“Hala feeek…shfeek are you okay?”
“Yeah fine, you?” He was forcing the words out of his mouth and Zeina noticed his tone; he was enraged but trying to sound calm.
“Ana zaina, bes adry ina feek shay tell me” She knew what he was about to say, she knew he was upset that she hadn’t called him but in her own defense she had nothing to say to him yet.
“Chinich mu im9adga 3ala Allah ini safart o khalaitich” He snapped at her, Zeina wasn’t in the mood for a fight and she really had missed him and hated to upset him or hurt him.
“Wala it’s not like that Faisal…bes I’ve been really busy with summer classes”
“Mmm..” her murmured unconvinced and Zeina didn’t try to defend herself anymore. “Enzain what have you been doing?” He asked her, his voice becoming gentler.
“Wala mako, jam3a o el bait…sometimes I go out..”
“Wain etroo7een, akeed you’ve been bored with Sara out of the country 9a7?” He said and she could feel a smile forming on his face, she began to realize how happy he was to be talking to her.
“Ee wala I miss her wayed! Bes it’s a chance for me to see some of my other friends…enta shakhbarik? How’s London and work?” Just then her phone beeped with Call Waiting, glancing at the screen she saw Manaf’s name; he let it ring twice before hanging up and a knot began to form at the pit of Zeina’s stomach.
“Wala tabeen il 9ij not good, ga3d yakrifooni ihnee o ma3ini a7ad. Ryoogi, ghaday, o 3ashay ibroo7i ib hal findiq” Zeina could feel the depression in his voice, it was obviously hard for him being there all alone with nothing but work to wake up for and an empty hotel room to return to. He had probably spent every night waiting and expecting a call from her, trying to hold out as long as he could before calling her.
He was licking his wound now, trying to tell himself that it was all in his head and that she really was busy and hadn’t forgotten about him. Guilt took over her entire body and she pushed the plan to get him off the phone as soon as possible to the back of her mind, she would stay on the phone with him for as long as he needed her, she told herself.
About an hour later, amid a heated debate over whether London’s weather was nice or not, Manaf called again. This time he let it ring once before hanging up and the knot in Zeina’s stomach grew bigger and tighter, she knew this didn’t look good but there was nothing she could do about it.
Thirty minutes later Faisal wrapped up the conversation by telling her she needed her sleep. “It was great hearing your voice Zeina, please la teg6i3een..”
“Enshallah Faisal” she promised him, vowing to text him at least once a day even though she still didn’t know what she would be doing about their issue; whatever she decided to do however shouldn’t stop her from giving him her shoulder to lean on when he was alone and out of the country. She glanced at the time as the call disconnected, it was a little past 2 am. She was sure Manaf was sleeping by now and she had no idea what to do, finally she decided to send a simple text:
“Sorry, my friend dagatli min Amreeka 3indaha problem. See you bacher.”
She felt guilty for lying but there wasn’t anything she could do. The minute Faisal was back she would clear everything up with him and she wouldn’t have to lie to any of them anymore. With a heavy heart she fell asleep.
The next day it was Zeina’s alarm that woke her up and not Manaf’s call, disappointed she checked her inbox to find zero messages and there weren’t any missed calls either. She dialed his number and waited for him to pick up but he didn’t, so she got up and began washing and dressing for class, if he didn’t answer her call he’d have to face her on campus she told herself trying to feel better. Minutes later however her phone rang and she ran out of the bathroom to pick it up, to her relief it was Manaf.
“9aba7 el khair..” he said groggily. So he hadn’t ignored her call, he was just sleeping she told herself comfortingly.
“9aba7 elnoor..” She replied, pulling open her closet door. “Ha 3indik anything special planned for today? 3ashan a3aref shalbis”
“Nope.” He replied shortly. Taken aback Zeina didn’t know what to reply; was it in her head or was his response a little dry? Manaf didn’t give her a chance to reply anyway and told her in the same tone as before “ana mabi at2akhar lazim agoom abadil” and with that the phone disconnected.
Zeina worried the entire drive to the university and had no idea what to tell him when she saw him, deep down she was kind of upset, he had no right to get pissed at her because she was on the phone all night and had ignored him. Maybe it really was an emergency, and she had every right to talk at all hours of the night if she wanted to! She prepared her little angry speech as a wave of nervousness hit her when she saw his white car parked in front of her. She parked a few cars down and got out. She began walking to class not wanting to call him first and praying he’d call her before the class started; he didn’t, instead he texted.
“Zeina, an6erich bel gahwa when you’re done.” It said. She couldn’t tell what his tone was like since it was a text and decided to wait and see for herself. Shockingly though, when she got to the gahwa he was waiting and smiling, maybe it’s all in my head? She thought to herself returning his smile nervously and taking her regular seat in front of him. Every day since their first day at the coffee shop Manaf had surprised her with a new drink and she eagerly took a sip of the one in front of her; it was lemonade. She smiled approvingly and leaned back.
“Ha enshallah gedartaw et7iloon moshkilat refeejtich” He asked innocently. Zeina cursed herself for freaking out, 9ij ina when you’re guilty you feel like the whole world knows your secret, she told herself.
“Ee el7imdila, it’s not that serious though bes ehya daloo3a shwaya” Zeina lied. “So how was class?” She quickly changed the subject. He didn’t ask anymore questions but began fidgeting with his pocket to take out his ringing phone. Usually he answered his phone in front of her but this time he silenced it and put it upside down on the table to hide the screen.
“Tegdar etrid 3alaih” Zeina told him politely.
“La 3adi, it’s not important..” and with that he gazed away for a long time. “Mabi il 9aif ykhali9 et9adgeen”
“Wela ana…ra7 etrid ma9er?”
“Ee, last semester” He smiled proudly. “Ra7 tolheen 3alay etha re7t?”
“Laish mara7 akalmik?” Zeina asked panicking, embarrassingly the shock registered in her voice and face. Manaf laughed at her reaction.
“La akeed ra7 etkalmeeni, bes mara7 ashoofich kether ma ana abi, ebroo7a al7ean ashoofich kelyoom o ma ashba3!”
“Oh” she lowered her face in embarrassment; she was never one to hide her reactions well.
Manaf’s phone rang again and he silenced it one more time. Behind Manaf, Zeina spotted a girl waving at her, it was one of her old friends asking her to come over, “Manaf dgeega warja3lik ok?” She told him getting up slowly, he glanced back, spotting her friend then nodded understandingly.
Zeina walked over to her friend and hugged her, “Zayoon minziman 3anich!” Squealed the girl, “Esh’hal 9edfa we’re both taking 9aifi! Shlon your classes?”
“wala tamam, and yours? Zain shefnach!” Zeina tried her best to be polite and not sound hurried.
“Ana il 7emdila ib khair o my classes are great. By the way Zayoon 3indi natharatich ib sayarti nasyat’hom 9arlich almost shahar! Ta3alay e5theehom I’m going there now.” Nodding Zeina followed her to the parking spotting Manaf’s eyes on her she lifted her index finger gesturing that she will be back in a minute. Zeina chatted the whole way to her friend’s car, took her glasses and began heading back.
As she made her way to the coffee shop she saw that Manaf was making a call, slowly creeping up behind him as to not make any noise she heard what he was saying, “Dalal, mama, have I ever given you a reason to doubt me? Getlich I’ll get it for you, elyoom aroo7 il 9al7iya.” He paused for a few seconds listening, “enzain..Dalool, ana weya il shabab al7ean etkhaleeni adeglich awal ma a6la3?” And with that he hung up. Zeina immediately walked up to him trying to shake the shocked and hurt look off her face.
“Sorry re7t ayeeb shay min sayart’ha” she said in a weak voice.
“La 3adi, meno hathy?” He asked her smiling as if nothing had happened.
“Wa7da kanat ma3ay ib class last semester. Warak shay? Do you have to leave?” She asked him suspiciously.
“La2..” he said, his eyes were no longer on hers, instead they were looking behind her, squinting as if trying to make something out clearly. Zeina glanced behind her, what she saw choked her up, it was Dalal, Um Jassem’s daughter walking across the campus towards the coffee shop. Manaf’s eyes didn’t leave her as she got closer and closer.
“Actually Zayoon, I just remembered, 3indi shaqla lazim asaweeha, adeglich soon okay?” He hurriedly got up. It was the first time since she met him that he didn’t offer to walk her to her car. Zeina mustered up a smile but didn’t reply, and Manaf didn’t wait for her to…he began walking briskly making his way out of the coffee shop with large strides straining himself not to run.
Zeina didn’t know how she should feel, was everything that has been happening a nice little dream that was about to burst? Was she now about to see for herself how much of her mother’s words about this man were true? Had she just betrayed her best friend, her mother, and the man madly in love with hers’ trust? Zeina began to take a sip of her lemonade before it reminded her of Manaf, no longer craving it she pushed it aside and got up out of her seat tears beginning to sting her eyes. She’d need to get out of there before Dalal spotted her and came over to speak with her, she was too afraid of her reaction to allow that to happen. She almost jogged to the parking lot and began heading towards her car.
Once inside her car the silence made her thoughts turn into screams; she wondered if he was on the phone with her right now. Manaf had always not only walked her to her car but also called her the entire drive back or in some cases texted but today he had done none of those things. Her hand shaking slightly she began to dial his number, she held the phone to her ear waiting…
“The caller has another call..” The recording said.
A low sob escaped Zeina as tears began to flood her eyes. Could it be? Was Dalal back in his life? Maybe her mom had it wrong, maybe they got back together but Um Jassem hadn’t told her mother. A million thoughts raced through Zeina’s head as tears began to fall down her face. She wiped them away violently trying to gain her sight enough to at least see her way back to her house. Once she was in her garage she tried to calm her reddened eyes and nose pushing down the hysteria as much as possible. Sara would have been the first person she would go to in such a situation, but she was halfway across the world. The second person she could go to was her mother, but she would kill her if she found out how long this had been going on under her nose, and especially with a guy she didn’t approve of.
Trying her best to look natural she made her way into the house and excused herself to go upstairs and change. Zeina nervously thought of how to act when Manaf called, should she confront him? Should she pretend nothing happened? Should she ignore?
Finally her emotions became too strong for her to endure and she dialed Sara’s number; it was time she was honest with her friend. Sara only needed to say “aloo” for Zeina to burst back into tears. The comforting sound of her best friend opened the flood gates and Zeina poured her heart out confessing to every single 7arf that took place between her, Manaf, and Faisal. Sara listened quietly without saying anything; Zeina knew Sara wanted to yell at her, to tell her she deserved it. She had warned her that the guy was no good, that she was making a mistake, and by the time she realized it she’d be too deep in love with him not to get hurt. But Zeina’s tear filled voice broke Sara’s heart and she couldn’t bear to yell at her, especially with the fact that they were so far apart from each other.
“Zayoon, I know this is hard, but you know what I think you should do? Khala9, wakhray 3an Manaf, if you don’t want to ignore him faj2a without an explanation just tell him you’re busy and start pulling away slowly or that the amount of time you’re spending together is inappropriate. Rej3ay 7ag Faisal, y7ibich o shareech! Work things out these few weeks and when he comes back start planning your wedding together. He’ll make you forget about Manaf soon enough” Sara told her softly.
Twenty minutes later, Zeina was somewhat less hysterical and her phone call with Sara came to an end.
“Salmay 3ala khalty” she said to Sara as she hung up. She wondered what she would tell Manaf when he did call back, but as more and more time went by she began to fear him not calling her at all. According to Manaf’s usual schedule he should be home and in bed now getting ready for his afternoon nap, which means that he’s either going to sleep without calling her which was unusual, or that he was out and wasn’t planning on taking a nap.
Not bearing the silence in her room Zeina grabbed her phone and contemplated who to call; finally she decided on Faisal. She had after all vowed to speak to him every day.
“Zayoonti” He answered her, happiness obviously filling his voice, “you kept your promise”
Her mind only half with Faisal she listened as he told her about his office stories and talked about the Stock Market, something he was passionate about but which Zeina understood none off. She agreed with everything he said as part of her waited exasperatedly for a beep to inform her of another incoming call.
Manaf did eventually call her that day, but not until a little past 1 in the morning; but by the time he did Zeina had already cried herself to sleep.