Throughout the night Zeina tossed and turned, waking up a total of five times. The last time she awoke was an hour before her alarm was supposed to ring; deciding it was pointless to go back to sleep she pulled herself up in bed and hugged her pillow tightly. She looked around her room for something to keep her busy but there was nothing. Nothing else but the internet available to her at this hour she grabbed her laptop and logged into her MSN account, Faisal rarely got on msn but she hoped on this rare occasion he’d be online and she could get him to call her. To her disappointment Faisal’s messenger icon was dark meaning he wasn't, she opened chat boxes for the few people she could find online and began chatting randomly about anything that popped into her head.
As she began to wash up and get dressed she wondered if Manaf would call her before he headed to class like he always did; and as time slowly went by and Zeina began making her way to her car she began to realize that it wasn’t likely he’d be calling her.
Her phone didn’t blink until midway through her class:
Manaf: Ta3aleeli il gahwa after class bakalmich.
Zeina’s heart pumped in her chest; 'so he was the face to face kind of guy'…She thought to herself not knowing why she was feeling more nervous than relief. She had always thought people should deal with their issues by talking it out directly to each other and not hiding behind texts and msn, but the thought of Manaf with his burning black eyes and acid tongue waiting for her made her reconsider the texting idea. She could ignore him and say that she had been too angry at his behavior last night to meet with him but she knew that was cowardly and he’d see right through it so she began bracing herself for the confrontation.
Zeina was excellent at confrontations, she was always calm, diplomatic, and managed to get straight to the point. She had always been able to do damage control among her friends whenever a minor misunderstanding occurred and she was always considered the mediator between many of her friends when they needed to work things out. Zeina’s theory about this was that even if it didn’t work out she could just walk away and never speak to the person again, but that idea caused a heavy tug on her heart. If this went wrong she didn’t want to walk away from Manaf and never speak to him again.
'What if he was planning on ending it with her instead of talking it out?' The thought hit Zeina like a truck and just before the panic could wash over her entire body the professor signaled that the class was over by walking out of the room. Zeina took more time than was necessary to gather her one notebook and adjust her top. Her hand beginning to shake she grabbed her bag and began making her way to where Manaf was waiting for her, a million negative thoughts went through her head as she thought of the worst case scenario possible.
Taking a deep breath she walked over to Manaf’s table, he looked up at her but didn’t smile, instead he looked back across the table and spoke at someone Zeina couldn’t see. As Zeina made her way through the crowd she began getting a clearer look at Manaf, he was sitting at a table for four, across from him the gorgeous girl from the Avenues sat; legs crossed, coffee mug in hand, she glanced over her shoulder at Zeina and gave her a tight indefinable smile. Zeina could feel the sound of her heart over the music that came from every corner of the place, for a second she contemplated turning around and making a run for the parking lot but she had already lost control of her legs and was walking like a zombie towards Manaf’s table. When she was standing right in front of them she opened her mouth to speak but no words came out.
“El salam 3alaikom” the girl gave Manaf a careful look before turning to face Zeina. She picked up her bag, which to Zeina’s great annoyance was another Hermes Birkin from the seat nearest to Zeina and pushed it out for Zeina to sit in. Tentativeley Zeina sunk into it still unable to speak, she continued to stare at her, throwing a few glaring looks at Manaf.
“Zeina, this is Dalal….Dalal, Zeina..” Manaf spoke finally gesturing from one girl to the other and then back again before leaning back obviously done talking.
“Awal shay lat3a9been…” the girl spoke directly at Zeina now, after Manaf had given her a nod of approval to talk, Zeina noticed that her voice was more delicate than any other woman she had ever spoken to, it was almost childlike but in an adorable way. “…bes tara Manaf gali 3anich o gali 3an ili 9ar bainkom. Manaf mithel ekhoy le9gheer o mosta7eel aftha7a aw aftha7 eli ye7ibhom fa nobody is going to know about this conversation..” She smiled at Zeina in a very sisterly way and Zeina felt herself loosening up at the words “ekhoy le9gheer..”
“okay…?” Zeina said finally finding her voice..
“Iboy o bu Slaiman rabi3 min 3omor o e7na we were practically raised together..” she turned to give Manaf a smile, his face didn’t change expressions. “o Manaf methil ekhoy, o ib nafs il wagt Manaf soon enshallah bekoon ekho rayli…” She beamed at the last statement.
Zeina immediately understood, this was Sulaiman’s fiancé. She could feel her cheeks redden with embarrassment which was immediately replaced with rage.
“Tara you could have said that min il bedaya…” Zeina snapped turning to Manaf who was smirking back at her now; the rage from within her began to rise until she felt tears stinging her eyes.
“Sorry es7ibich all the way here, all I wanted was an explanation..” Zeina turned to Dalal and spoke shyly.
“O by the way, hathy el Dalal il wa7eeda ili akalemha” Manaf added leaning in and staring at Zeina seriously, she gave him another nasty look and turned back to Dalal.
“Mabrook, I guess” she let out a nervous laugh not knowing what else to say to the stranger in front of her.
“alah ebarik ib 7ayatich wel faal lich inshallah” she said turning to Manaf and giving him a meaningful smile as she said the last part, Manaf laughed and turned to face away obviously men7irij by what she had said.
“anyway, kenna ana o Manaf ga3d enkhali9 some last minute stuff 7ag Sulaiman lana it’s his birthday 3igub bacher o bensaweela barbecue ib baitna o that’s the main reason I’m here. Dagaitla ams o kan 7ail met’thayeg o yoom sa2alta what happened gali ina fe wa7da shafita weyay o tethayigat o estaghraabt 7aaail …” her voice dripped dala3 as she spoke “ma la 3ada Manaf yehtam ib hal swalif. No3a ygool bel 6agag o yamshi, fa ana gelt akeed hal yedeeda hathy special..” she winked at Zeina and patted her hand gently, “fa if it’s not too uncomfortable with you I was wondering if after all this was cleared up etha you’d like to come to the barbeque, eta3arafain 3ala ahal Manaf o me ba3ad, ma abee we get off on the wrong foot, kha9atan bacher bel mostaqbal inshallah we’ll need each other to deal with Manafo o ekhooh il de3la.. I can’t handle them all by myself” she giggled teasingly.
Zeina felt herself blush at Dalal’s constant hints of the future; had Manaf already talked to her about marriage?
“Mashkoora wayed Dalal..” Zeina began not knowing how to answer her invitation, luckily she didn’t have to, Manaf did for her.
“Ra7 etyeen…” He told her, his mood had gotten better and a small smile was plastered on his face.
“Umm..okay, enshallah…” she smiled at Dalal, Manaf stretched his arm out and touched his hand over Zeina’s squeezing it for a minute before pulling it back to his lap.
“Heeyyaa..” Dalal clapped quietly smiling at Manaf and Zeina.
“Khala9 mu za3lana?” She asked Zeina, obviously caring if she was upset or not.
“La wala I’m not, o walla sorry for all of this Dalal, I feel bad for dragging you into this please la ta5theen fekra mu zaina 3ani…”
“Ubay bel 3aaaks..” Dalal interrupted her, her eyes widening with shock, “latgoleen chithee, your practically family o law mu elyoom chan soon we would have been introduced to each other fa its better we got it done sooner.” She said. Right then her phone began ringing, “weeh it’s Sulaiman, 6ayart’hom ew9alat!! Baroo7lihom el ma6ar..mara7 etyey?” She asked quickly standing up.
“embala dgeega wal7igich..” he told her.
“It was GREAT seeing you Zeina…” she emphasized, her words running together, “please please khal enshoofich bil barbecue okay!”
“Enshallah see you..” Zeina smiled as Dalal rushed out the door answering her fiancé with a squeal as she disappeared around the corner.
Manaf turned to Zeina and stared at her for a few seconds, Zeina couldn’t read his face.
“Za3lana?” He asked after a minute of silence.
“La2…bes the way you acted el bara7a sucked!” She told him pouting slightly and turning away. She wasn’t going to let him off that easily, Dalal had done all the work for him.
“Ee ams tethayagt ana min shaghla thanya, shaghla we need to talk about..” He told her. Zeina immediately knew what the shaghla was.
“Adry…I called him katha mara bes lail7ean ma rad 3alay. Awal ma he does I promise I’ll do it..” Zeina told him, her shoulders loosening. She hadn’t realized how tense she had been during Dalal’s presence.
“Law raad 3alaich chan sawaiteeha wela la2?” He asked her staring intently into her eyes. His gaze made a hole right through her and no matter how hard Zeina forced herself to stare back into his eyes, she could only manage to do so for a few seconds before the tension they caused became too forceful for her to handle.
“Of course..” she said shredding the napkin Dalal had left under her drink in front of her.
“Okay..” he replied.
“Wenta met’thayeg?” She asked him even though she knew she shouldn’t, she wanted to make sure there were no hard feelings before they left.
“La, bes ra7 atithayag if you don’t come to the barbecue..”
“Ee about that..” Zeina began, “eshbitgool 7ag ahalik?” She asked him.
“Bagoolihom ili tabeeni agoola, ana ma3indi mani3 I tell them the truth o introduce you 3adil, bes etha mayray7ich hal shay Dalal will say inich refeejat’ha o yaya 3ashanha..”
“Ah okay…” She told him, this made a lot of sense, and gave her no excuse to reject the invitation.
“Entay eshtabeeni agoolihom..” He asked her.
“Umm..refeejat Dalal please..just for now” she told him. She was too uncomfortable with being introduced as his girlfriend, at least not yet.
“3ala ra7tich” he smiled and touched her hand one more time. “7abeebti ana lazim amshi al7ean ahali tawhom wa9leen..” he grabbed his cell phone and began getting up, Zeina followed suit.
“garat 3ainik..” She said picking up her bag.
“Eb wayh nebeyich..” he replied opening the door for her and walking her to her car.
“Adeglich ba3dain okay 7abeebti” he told her closing her car door behind her.
As Zeina began adjusting her seatbelt her mobile buzzed with a message, Zeina couldn’t recognize the number.
991xxxxx: “Hi it’s Dalal, save my number 7ayati o I’ll send you 3inwan baitna now ;*…”
Zeina sped towards the Avenues to shop for an outfit her jaw hurting her from the wide smile on her face that wouldn’t go away.