Zeina awoke to find the one missed call from Manaf, not knowing if she was relieved he had even called or disappointed because it was just once she threw her phone to the side and threw her pillow over her head muffling her cries of frustration. Should she confront him? Tell him she had overheard him talking to a girl? But so what? He wasn’t her husband, he didn’t owe her any explanations! He hadn’t promised her anything to betray her trust! And that Dalal! “Stupid, stupid Dalal!” Zeina muttered taking her head out from under the pillow before she suffocated.
It was the weekend and she would be heading out to the Shalaih soon, her mother liked going first thing in the morning instead of the day before. Getting up she threw her overnight bag on the bed and began thinking of what to wear. She knew it was a day for over-sized sweaters and ice cream. She wondered what Manaf would be doing today, and she began to consider calling or texting him; she knew though that she shouldn’t, and more importantly that Sara would crucify her if she did!
Buy why would she ignore him? He hadn’t technically done anything wrong! But he was interested in her wasn’t he? He wouldn’t be doing all this if he wasn’t! All this time spent together and all this attention?
“If only this relationship was defined!” She muttered to herself wiping her wet face with a small towel. Just then it hit her, maybe it should be defined! She needed Manaf to tell her exactly what he wanted out of this! Then she could confront him about anything she wanted to. But how was she going to get him to do that?
“Hi Manaf 9aba7 el khair, listen quick question….do you love me?” She muttered sarcastically to herself as she threw her largest sweater into the bag. Just as she was tossing her Crocs in her phone began to ring; it was Manaf.
“Okay, you’re going to answer him, you’re going to find out by the end of this weekend if he’s in it for a relationship or not, and Sara is never going to find out!” She told herself before answering the phone.
“9aba7 el khair” Manaf answered her groggily.
“9aba7 el noor” Zeina noticed that she was much less cheerful than usual and as hard as she could she knew she couldn’t go back to being normal with him. She continued to walk around her room, rummaging in one of her drawers.
“Esh’hal z3aaj, what’re you doing?” He asked her turning in his bed, something crashed on the floor. “a77777…” his voice became slightly higher.
“Sheno hatha?” Zeina asked stuffing the last of her clothes in her bag and zipping it up.
“3oodi” He muttered back.
“Oh..” Zeina was left breathless for a few seconds; she snapped out of it the minute she heard her mother calling for her, it was time to go.
“Manaf, ana baroo7 el shalaih al7ean omy na6ratni..” she told him.
“Okay..” he answered fiddling with the 3ood.
“enta sheno betsawee?” She couldn’t resist asking.
“madry ma qarart, tabeeni agoolich lama I do?” He asked her, his voice had gotten lower and he was obviously nervous.
Caught off guard Zeina didn’t know how to respond, so she responded the best way she could…stupidly.
“Umm…madry…laish? mu ela!” She stuttered.
“Madry gelt yemkin tabeen et3arfeen wain akoon ana?” He tried explaining.
“Enta taby etgooli?” She asked him.
“Ee abi… o ham abeech entay itgoleenli” He murmured skeptical about the way she was going to react.
OH MY GOD! DOES THIS COUNT AS DEFINING THE RELATIONSHIP? Zeina scream-thought to herself.
“Okay, I’ll tell you if you tell me..” Zeina teased.
“I’ll tell you…always” He whispered relieved.
Zeina’s mother called out to her one more time.
“Enzain Manaf I really have to go now ..”
“Okay take care..” and with that they hung up. Zeina grabbed her overnight back, her hand bag, and a hair tie before running down the stairs. She was wearing a light purple half sleeve juicy training suit and a large dark purple bag to go with it. Pulling her hair up in a pony tail she threw her bag into her back seat and got into the car waiting for her mother to get into the passenger’s seat.
“Ma abi at2akhar..” Her mother began saying as she fought with the seat belt, “3azma nas 3al ghada…”
“Meno?” Zeina asked
“Khaltich so3ad o banat’ha, Um Nasser Al Flani, Khaltich Maryam, o Um Jassem o banat’ha” She told her. Zeina immediately hit the brakes, both their bodies lurched forward then crashed into the seats behind them.
“Bsmilla shfeech!” Her mother asked leaning to see outside the window at the street.
“Um… my shoe slipped off..” Zeina muttered thinking on the spot, she began driving again chewing nervously on her lower lip. The rest of the drive was filled with Zeina’s mother’s chatter as Zeina tried to suppress the jealous rage that was building up inside of her; from the corner of her eye she saw her mobile blink with a new message but didn’t dare touch her phone while driving in front of her mother.
Twenty minutes later Zeina pulled into her family’s shalaih and parked in front of the door, her mother got out of the car amid screams of greetings from Zeina’s little cousins; Zeina took this opportunity to check her message, like she had hoped it was from Manaf:
“Zayoonti, ana baroo7 atghada bara weya weld 3ami ;*”
Zeina couldn’t help but smile at the message, she felt a warm sensation fill her entire body; she wanted Manaf badly, and she wanted him all to herself! This was a good step forward in their relationship, maybe the next one will come up soon. Stuffing the mobile in her front pocket she made her way into the shalaih. She made her rounds saying hi to everyone, kissing the people she needed to kiss, then threw herself on the couch facing her family. A little less than an hour later the guests began arriving, luckily for Zeina, Um Jassem and her daughters were the first to arrive. Dalal, naturally, sat herself next to Zeina the person she knew the best out of the rest, even though she barely knew her.
“Shloonich!” Dalal began talking immediately about one of her cousins’ upcoming wedding describing her dress and the way she wanted to style her hair. Zeina nodded and said “alaah” at all the right times but deep down she couldn’t help but fume. She’s so fake, she thought to herself. O her dress isn’t going to be nice! She tried to make herself feel better although she knew Dalal had a great style when it came to fashion and whatever she picked would probably look stunning. That little fact didn’t help Zeina as she tried to hate the woman sitting in front of her.
Just then, just when Zeina had thought up a good excuse to allow her to get up and head to her room for a while, Dalal mentioned the name that made Zeina’s entire body freeze with fear, “ta3alay, shlon et3arfeen Manaf Al Flani?” She asked her. Zeina racked her entire brain for a good answer to that but she couldn’t think of anything; in fact she couldn’t even remember her name anymore.
“Umm..ma3ana bil jam3a..” she attempted feebly.
“Ee adree..bes 7ag 9aifi 9a7?” Dalal asked, she looked completely cool and collected and Zeina had no clue how she could have managed.
“madry wala..” She mumbled toying with her mobile.
“Ashoofich weyah bil jam3a, kelyoom teg3idoon ma3a ba3ath..” Dalal continued innocently but Zeina knew she had an agenda.
“Ee wetha?” She shot back, it was time she ended this conversation, the way it was headed was making Zeina umcomfortable.
“deeray balich minnah..” She continued not meeting Zeina’s eyes.
“Laish?” Zeina took the bait foolishly and allowed Dalal to continue.
“Kan ykalem wa7da a3arfha… he cheated on her. Y3aref 7ag il banat ihwa, bes ebsir3a ymil.. fa na9ee7ti wakhray 3anah gabil la ymil minich” She said slyly this time meeting her eyes. Dalal’s eyes were filled with rage, even more rage than Zeina could have mustered up herself.
“Eli yesmi3ich ygoool ini akalma..” Zeina replied faking a laugh.
“Tabeen il 9ij, it looks like you do” Dalal smiled innocently before getting up to pour herself some tea. Zeina didn’t wait for her to return she grabbed her phone from her lap and stomped to her bedroom. Tears stung her eyes and she had no idea why she was crying; she had thought Dalal was the victim in this whole thing when Manaf had left her, but now it was so obvious that Dalal was marking her territory which meant that there still was something between her and Manaf and considering the way Manaf had run away when he saw her coming that day on campus, Manaf didn’t plan on ending it with her anytime soon.
A knock on the door interrupted Zeina’s thought, she quickly wiped a tear from her cheek and turned to face whoever was coming in. It was Dana, the eldest daughter of Zeina’s aunt Maryam; Dana was also bent khalat Dalal. She was a little bit older than the two of them at 27 years old, she was married and had just had her second kid.
“Hala Dana shloonich” Zeina smiled politely. They would talk from time to time, and Zeina had confided in her once or twice, seeking her advice. Dana was the perfect mix of a young woman who knew what life was like for people their age in their generation, and at the same time had the wisdom of an older woman who was married and had more experiences then her.
“7abeebti e9eer akalmich..” Dana whispered shutting the door behind her.
“Ee sure..” Zeina answered sitting in bed and patting the empty spot beside her, she tried her best to fake a smile.
“sema3t Dalal etkalmich 3an Manaf Al Flani…” Dana began looking straight at Zeina trying to read her reaction.
“Ee..she was warning me..” Zeina replied curiosity filling her up.
“Goleeli eshgalatlich bil thab6 7abeebti..” Dana said patting Zeina’s shoulder in a motherly way. Zeina felt the tears begin to rush back, she loved the way Dana always made her feel comfortable and how she could always trust her. Immediately Zeina repeated everything Dalal had told her just minutes ago. After she had finished Dana dazed off deep in thought then took a deep breath and turned her focus to Zeina.
Hal 7ayah…” she muttered, “Zayoon 7abeebti.. entay sam3a 3an ili 9ar bainha o bain Manaf 9a7? Eshlon kanaw i7ibon ba3ath ba3dain tarak’ha?” She waited for Zeina’s reply. Zeina nodded her head, pulling her knees up and hugging them protectively around her body. She didn’t think she could handle another lecture about staying away from Manaf, especially if it came from Dana.
“It’s all a lie..” Dana continued, Zeina’s eyes widened with shock but she didn’t dare interrupt her, “ekhta refeejti 7ail o 9adgeeni that’s not how it happened! Manaf 7abha o hal 7ayah ga9at 3alaih! Adry inha bint khalty bes wala hal bint ma3refaw ishlon eraboonha. Kanat etkalem 2 guys ghaira tadreen! O yoom wa7d minhom qarar yatrik’ha gamat ga6at nafs’ha zyada 3ala Manaf 3ashan et7ira, lain il walad maskeen 9adag’ha o khaf yakhsir’ha o aqna3 ahala yakh6iboonha lah! Gam hathak reja3laha yoom dara…o el ghabiya hadat hatha Manaf o ra7atla raketh! 6ab3an she got what she deserved hathak had’ha ba3ad shahar o kha6ab bent 3ama. Matat ila shwaya Dalal! Rja3at 7ag Manaf tabchy wetirajah..bes ahala ma khalooh yerja3laha! Gamat hathy o khalty alah yhadeehom e6al3oon 7achy 3an il rayal o 9arat Dalal il maskeena il mathlooma! 7ayah wala!”
Zeina tried to swallow the lump that was forming in the back of her throat as Dana told her the story.
“Ma a9adeg” she whispered when Dana had finished.
“Ee ekhar3oon! Bes ihya laish kalemtich al7ean? Goleeli il 9ij Zeina entay itkalmeena?”
Zeina thought for a second, trying to word her answer in a right way.
“La technically I don’t, I mean we’re friends o we’re getting to know each other bes yoom sema3t salfat Dalal kheft akhaleeha it becomes anything more than that..” Zeina replied. It was a good balance of the truth without admitting that she was in love with the man and wanted a relationship with him.
“Shoofay, ihya etha 7asat ina bainkom shay ra7 ye7la eb 3ainha again o hal maynoona alah yaster minha matadreen what lengths she will go to. Deeray balich 3ala nafsich o 3ala sem3itich…no guy is worth your reputation ha sweety” Dana said holding Zeina’s hand between hers. “Bes il rayal khosh wa7d, I would know…o ma3alaich min kalam il nas. Just please be careful” With that Dana got up and began making her way towards the door.
“Dana..” Zeina called after her getting up from the bed and following her, “Mashkoora wayed” She hugged her tightly.
“el 3afo 7abeebti…I knew a Dalal once in my life, o kharebat shay wayed zain 3alay. Anyway I have no regrets, I have my husband now. Enshallah you’ll be as happy and as settled down as I am soon. Ma3ina it doesn’t get any easier…” Dana laughed and Zeina joined her. They began walking out of the room together and joined the rest of the family and guest at the table for lunch. Dalal didn’t remove her eyes from Dana or Zeina, who shared secret glances and smiles, during the entire meal.
As it got darker and some of the guests began to leave Zeina went to retrieve her phone which she had forgotten in her bedroom since her long talk with Dana. Picking it up she found a missed call from Sara and a message from Manaf.
“Eshda3wa Zayoon nasyatna ilyoom” It said. She dialed his number immediately.
“Hala Hala..” Manaf answered on the second ring.
“Ana ansaak Manaf? 3aaib 3alaik..” She teased him.
“La wala nasyatni… goleeeli mino le7mar ili imlaheech 3ani khal a6iga” Zeina laughed before asking him where he was.
“Shway o baroo7 il dwaniya” he replied, “wentay eshga3da etsaween?”
“Wala nothing, kent ga3da weya ahali dashait akalmik o barja3lihom ba3d eshway…”
“Enzain ra7 akalmich elaila?” He asked her; it was unusual for him to ask, usually it was her asking him.
“Ee akeed, laish feek shay?”
“La bes kent abi as2ilich a few questions..”
“Ask me now” she told him, already too curious to wait.
“La abeech etkooneen fathyatli o ba3dain ana lazim amshi soon, fa elaila a7san..”
“Khala9 3ala ra7tik, by the way is one of the questions going to be the one that you’ve been waiting so long to ask?” She asked him.