Zeina’s mother woke her up at around 10 in the morning.
“Goomay youma, yala benterayag” she told her lovingly patting her shoulder. “thab7ich hal telifon! Mu zain et7i6eena yamich cham mara agoolich…” Her mother instantly began nagging over the phone that had fallen near Zeina’s head after her last conversation with Manaf.
“Youma, khaleeh…mafeeha shay” Zeina muttered groggily trying to open her eyes and take the phone out of her mother’s hand. After her mother left and shut the door Zeina made her way to the bathroom to wash up, already beginning to go over the conversation she was going to have with Faisal later on in the day. Just before heading down for breakfast she called Manaf, he answered immediately.
“Haaa?” He whined on the phone.
“Affaa..chithee yridoon 3alay?” Zeina replied looking for a hair band to tie her hair with.
“sheno? Meno?” He asked obviously confused. Zeina didn’t answer him smiling at the way he got so disoriented when he woke up. She could imagine him tied up into his covers, his eyes closed tight, trying to put sentences together while half of him was still deep in sleep.
“Zayoon?” He said after a moments silence.
“Ee...akhaleek etkamel noomtik?” She said, not really asking him.
“Tabeen shay?” he asked
“La salamtik, call me lama teg3ad okay?” She smiled and as he gave her an incomprehensible grunt she hung up. She dialed Faisal’s number next, it was turned off. Not wanting to lose her nerve she found his Kuwaiti number that he took with him everywhere and called it as well…it was off as well. Feeling a bit relieved she made her way downstairs and asked for French toast, something she had been craving since the night before.
After finishing her breakfast she got a call from one of her friends telling her about dinner at the Avenues. Zeina agreed, already bored with the shalaih. As time went by Zeina couldn’t help noticing that Manaf didn’t call her. Soon it became lunch time, and after lunch it became time for her to leave the shalaih before the sun set and he still hadn’t called. Zeina contemplated calling him and finally as she got into her car she dialed his number; it rang with no answer.
Zeina began wondering what he was up to that was keeping him so busy he had forgotten to call her but couldn’t come up with anything. As she drove back home alone in the car she decided to try Faisal again, taking a few breaths to calm her nerves she dialed his first number; still the phone was turned off. She tried his second line, it was still off too. Knowing Faisal she knew that this wasn’t something normal and a wave of nausea washed over her. Where could he be?
Eventually she made it to her house, pulling up to the driveway she grabbed her overnight from the back seat and made her way inside throwing it at the bottom of the staircase before running up it and into her bedroom. She tried Manaf one more time but he didn’t reply.
“Wainik?” She texted immediately throwing the phone on her bed and hitting the shower. When she came out she checked her phone revealing no missed calls or new texts. She decided to keep herself busy and called her friend asking her what time she should be at the Avenues, “Ba3ad sa3a o ni9…chithee..” her friend told her. Zeina knew that in Kuwaiti time, this meant at least two hours from now. She sat herself in front of her large mirror and took out the curler and began tackling her hair. In the background Mtv was playing the best of the 90’s and a chorus of some boy-band’s love song filled the room.
“Alaah, ayam il boy bands..” Zeina laughed to herself. As she finished her hair and moved to her makeup she couldn’t help but glance at her phone which had remained silent all day long; she began to feel uncomfortable and didn’t know who was causing the majority of it Manaf or Faisal. Remembering that she hadn’t texted Faisal she grabbed her phone and wrote out “Call me please..” before forwarding it to both his numbers not knowing anymore which one he was using.
A little over an hour later she was done, she had picked out her outfit and laid it out on her bed. She stared one more time at her phone and fought off the urge to call Manaf one more time. She threw her laptop onto her lap and began to waste time surfing the internet. A while later her phone rang, her heart soaring, she made a grab for it and stared at the screen hoping to see Manaf’s name; it wasn’t however, instead it was her friend.
“Yala 6el3ay..ana ib 6ereeji” her friend sing-songed. Zeina told her she’d be on her way in a minute and began to change hurriedly, running out of the door within minutes. She began making her way to the Avenues, texting her friend every once in a while asking her where they’d be sitting.
Zeina glanced at her phone for the hundredth time; in front of her sat four of her friends all chattering animatedly about the newly released Twilight movie. Zeina had read the book and was borderline obsessed with it and would have loved to join the conversation but the fact that neither Manaf or Faisal had answered her all day was making her so nervous she didn’t have the energy to speak. Instead she kept her mouth busy with tiny bites of Chocolate Bar’s Mini Cake, licking the white icing off of her lips with every bite. Her eyes barely left the screen of her phone and if she was forced to make eye contact with one of the girls she made sure that some of her attention was given to the side to be able to catch any sudden bright lights coming from her phone, unfortunately the phone remained lifeless on the table all through dessert.
“Yala banat ana asta2then, waray ga3da bacher o omy ebtithba7ni etha ma ga3adt weyaha gabil la anam..” one of the girls spoke getting up from the table.
“Salmay 3alaiha..” “Way ya7laila” the girls chorused after her. Zeina attempted a huge smile as she realized that the night was coming to an end and still no Manaf or Faisal. The other two girls excused themselves right after the first, stating they needed to pick something up from one of the stores before leaving.
“Ee ta3alay Zayoon, ana abi shay min the new Avenues..etyeen ma3ay?” The last girl sitting turned to Zeina. Not wanting to head home and be alone with her thoughts Zeina agreed. They began walking across the mall, tiny groups of men and women noisily chattered around them; some of them rudely crashing into Zeina but she didn’t care this time. She was too deep into her thoughts. She realized she was more upset with Manaf for not calling but more worried about Faisal. Eventually they made it into the new phase; “Ay ma7al tabeen?” Zeina asked her friend.
“Paul & Joe” She replied, Zeina followed like a zombie listening half-heartedly to her friends story about one of the arguments she had had with the salesman from another store. Once Zeina’s friend had finished picking out an outfit from Paul & Joe they headed out of the store; just then a man’s profile grabbed Zeina’s attention. He was a handsome man, standing a few meters in front of her, covered slightly by the moving crowd around him; he was staring down at his phone reading something. It took Zeina all of two seconds to recognize him… it was Manaf. Zeina’s eyes didn’t move from him as she watched him there standing alone looking around, as if searching. Suddenly his eyes met the object he was looking for; a tall, slender, beautiful woman. Her hair cascaded in thick honey brown layers to her back, her face shifted into a huge smile as she spotted Manaf and began walking towards him. Her features were perfect, big doe-eyes perfectly outlined with black kohl, red puffy lips, and the clear white skin of a baby. She wore skinny black jeans, a white top with a black vest over it, casual yet she still looked like a model. Delicately slung on her arm was the black Hermes Birkin bag; the one Zeina was dying to have. This bag was just the cherry on top of the huge sundae of dismay that Zeina had in front of her.
Her breath stopped midway up her lungs as she saw Manaf smile back and greet her. They were face to face now laughing and talking, completely comfortable with each other; a few seconds later Manaf led her towards one of the stores around the corner.
“Zeina shfeech!” A hand shook Zeina slightly but Zeina was too dazed to reply.
“Sheno? Mafeeni shay” She muttered, the lump in her throat was too large to allow her to saying anything else.
“Akeed, wayhich abyath!” her friend continued worried.
“La mafeeni shay, faj2a shab 3alay ba6ni madry laish…” she lied feebly beginning to walk in the opposite direction from the one that Manaf and the girl had taken. Her friend followed not knowing what else to do; they continued to the parking lot in silence, her friend glancing at Zeina every few minutes nervously but decided not to say anything. Zeina said goodbye as politely as she could as she headed towards her car and once she was safely inside she began breathing heavily trying not to hyperventilate.
This time she couldn’t call Sara.
Zeina checked her phone, Manaf had called twice but she hadn’t picked up. She knew she should confront him but what if he told her something like “it was my sister..” and it wasn’t? He could easily lie to her and tell her it was someone he knew. No matter how much she wanted to trust Manaf, she kept remembering the warnings she had received about him, all aside from Dana who had defended him. But what if Dana was wrong too?
Zeina dialed Manaf’s number deciding she’d figure out what to tell him once she started talking to him.
“Hala bil ga63a..” He answered on the second ring.
“Hala feek..” She replied her voice lacking any kind of emotion.
“Shloonich..” He asked her, she could tell he was fiddling with stuff.
“Ana zain…shloon yoomich meta 7adartay min il shalaih?” He asked her not noticing her tone and Zeina was thankful for it. But suddenly an idea hit her.
“Ba3d el ghada beshway…enta shino sawait elyoom?” she asked him, this was his chance to confess.
“Mako, re7t avenues a5eth shaghla o ba3dain el dwaniya shwaya.. entay eshsawaitay?”
“Re7t avenues weya rab3ik?” She asked him ignoring his question.
“Yup.” He replied. Zeina’s heart sank.
“Ana kent ib avenues ilyoom ba3ad Manaf..” She told him fighting off the tears, it was at this point that her voice failed her and began quivering.
“La, sh3indich ehnaak?” He asked her, his voice had changed as well, it became alert and careful.
“Ta3ashait…o sheftik ihnaak, refeejik mashallah wayed jameel, china bint!” Zeina snapped letting go of all of her sense. Manaf paused for a second and took a deep breath.
“Zayoon..mu chithee il salfa..” He began but he was stuttering and obviously was at a loss for words.
“La shakelha chithee il salfa o akthar ba3ad…Manaf ana feeni il noom o banam. Bye”
“Zeina eshda3wa…khal entifaham.” He told her, but then kept quiet offering her no explanation.
“La o tabeeni adeg 3ala Faisal wagoola maykalemni ha! Wenta min waray cham wa7da ga3ed etkalem?”
“Zeina mu ga3d akalem ghairich..” he began, “o min ye6la3 Faisal?” He asked then immediately understood, “ah hathak..”
“Ee HATHAK…” Zeina’s voice rose considerably as she felt fury build up, she kept imagining the beautiful woman with him and the jealousy, like a monster inside her, began to grow. “O ashwani ma getla ywakher wela chan…”
“Sheno..” Manaf interrupted her, his voice had turned from stuttering to poisonous, “ma kalamtee lail7ean?” Manaf’s rage was unlike Zeina’s, he was quiet and collected but she could feel the venom dripping with every word he said.
“Laish agoola, ka enta ga3d etkalemli Dalal o te6la3li ma3a madry mino..” She continued, his sudden reaction to her last statement caught her off-guard, she hadn’t expected him to get angry she was prepared to be the only enraged person in this conversation.
Manaf didn’t reply for a few seconds but she could feel his angry breathing as he tried to regain control of himself.
“Momkin a3aref laish ma dagaitay 3alaih?” He asked her speaking through his teeth.
“taby taglib il salfa 3alay ana?!” Zeina defended herself, “eshrayek etgooli enta laish you’re lying to me o mino hal banat eli ib 7ayatik when you’re telling me I’m the only one. La o foog hatha taby etkoon the only one in my life ba3ad!” Big helpless tears began falling down Zeina’s cheeks as she tried to control the sobbing out of her voice.
“Zeina, rasi y3awerni baroo7 anam.” Manaf whispered into the phone.
“Fine” She muttered back disconnecting the phone; she threw herself onto her pillow and covered her face with her blanket then cried herself to sleep.