This post is dedicated to 6alal ... happy birthday ;p
It had been two weeks since the funeral and Zeina had spent a cumulative of two hours outside her bedroom. On the day of her final exam, having not picked up a book or attended a class since, she made her way to the classroom, tried her best to answer the questions, and then hurried back to her car before Manaf could look for her around campus. She hadn’t answered any of Manaf’s calls or messages during those two weeks and couldn’t bring herself to call him yet.
Her days were spent in bed barely moving, she would only eat when her mother brought food up to her room and force-fed her. Whenever Zeina felt like night had fallen she’d reach into her drawer and pull out the box of Panadol Night…taking two she waited for the drowsiness to come and make her forget the pain. She had stuffed Faisal’s sweater and his pictures in the back of her closet not knowing when she’d be able to look at them again without breaking down.
As the effect of what seemed to be the hundredth sleeping pill Zeina had taken began to wear off she sat up in bed. This was the first morning since the incident that Zeina had thought of her phone and so she began looking for it. Not remembering what drawer she had stuffed it into she began rummaging through them all one by one. Finally she found it between a bunch of socks in her third drawer, pulling it out she found it to be lifeless, she hadn’t bothered charging it over the past two weeks. As she attached it to its charger and waited for it to switch on Zeina made her way to the bathroom to wash up. The pain she had been feeling lulled today and formed into a relaxing numbness and when Faisal popped into her head she suddenly felt no wetness on her cheeks realizing that maybe her tears had dried out by now.
When she picked up her phone she found the usual missed call from Manaf who had routinely called her once in the morning and once at night every single day since he left her the day of Dalal’s barbecue. Zeina had never picked up during any of his attempts but that didn’t seem to stop him from persisting. Nervous she found his name on the list and called him.
“Aloo” he replied after several rings, his voice was groggy, obviously filled with sleep. It was then that Zeina realized she had no idea what time it was; glancing quickly at the screen it hit her that the sun hadn’t come out yet. Zeina realized it was 4 am.
“Aloo, sorry ga3adtik?” She whispered guiltily.
“Zeina? Shfeech? Feech shay?” Manaf asked panicking, she could hear him sit up in bed and a click of a lamp made its way through the phone speaker.
“La mafeeni shay, I’m so sorry ini 7agartik..” she began.
He kept quiet for a few seconds before replying, “it’s okay…esh9ar feech?”
“Ma 9ar shay…I’ve been in bed.” She replied looking around her room. It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in weeks, which it probably hadn’t since Zeina hadn’t given the maids a chance to come in. The only person who dared enter was her mother who even after a while had stopped trying to get Zeina out of bed and had instead just left plates of food on her bedside table.
“Aha…wal7ean you’re…better?” He asked her, trying to choose his last word correctly.
“A bit, ee…I’ve uhh…missed you.”
“3ayal ana shagool…mate9awarain how worried I’ve been” he told her.
“wala jad asfa…it’s just been rough o taby il 9ij I don’t want to talk about it. Solifli how have you been?”
“Wala Zayoon I’m good, listen 7abeebti ana ma agdar a6awel…ana mu bil kwait tara…” He let the words out slowly.
“Wainik” Zeina asked shocked
“Dubai..emsafer weya il rabi3…I’ve been trying to reach you to tell you bes maradaitay…”
“Ah okay..sorry..meta ibtirja3?” She asked him a bit disappointed.
“Mani raje3..bag3ad ihnee shwaya then baroo7 seeda ma9er…I’m sorry”
Zeina’s disappointment increased massively as she understood that she wouldn’t be seeing Manaf anytime soon. Suddenly waves of sadness engulfed her as the urge to cry became so powerful she had to get off the phone.
“Enzain akhaleek 3ayal…” she barely choked out.
And without giving her a time to call back or telling her when he’d next talk to her Manaf hung up. Zeina badly wanted to crawl back into the hole she had been in the past few weeks but instead decided to head downstairs.
“Ma a9aadeg!” her mother shouted gleefully as she saw Zeina coming down the stairs; Zeina let out a small smile and hugged her mother warmly. Her mother immediately dragged her to the dining room table and sat her down beginning to fill a plate up for her. Zeina dug in, realizing just then how hungry she really was….her mother didn’t leave her side staring intently at her every bite.
“Tabeen ne6la3?” She asked her, hovering, as she followed Zeina to the living room. Not wanting to ruin her mother’s lovely mood she agreed.
“Wain ma tabeen mama” she smiled when she saw her mother’s face light up.
“Khala9 ana badeg 3ala wa7da min refeejati mayta tabi te6la3 9arlaha fatra, ne6la3 kelina gahwa eshrayech…”
Zeina agreed and began flipping through the channels, her mood getting better with every minute.
A few hours of reruns later Zeina’s mother informed Zeina it was time to get ready for afternoon tea; without asking any questions she made her way upstairs and got dressed in as simple an outfit as she could. Jeans and a black top with black sandals; she went light on the makeup and pulled her hair into a messy bun.
“Shaklich eyaaanin” her mother gushed as she made her way downstairs again; Zeina knew her mother was trying to keep her in as good a mood as possible so that she would avoid shutting herself back into her room again. “entay etsogeen?” Her mother asked her; whenever Zeina had gone out with her mother in the past that specific question had not been necessary because Zeina always drove, but in light of the recent events Zeina’s mother wasn’t sure just how much Zeina was up for.
Smiling at her mother’s increased concern she nodded, “6ab3an youma…I always drive”
“Ee madry gelt yemkin elyoom malich khelg” she replied smiling and getting into the passenger’s seat.
“Wain aroo7?” Zeina asked pulling out of the driveway.
“Avenues…” Her mother replied taking out her ringing phone, “..hala Um Jassem, hala wala..eee e7na 6ala3na al7ean bel darb…yala khosh akalmich lai we9alna”.
It was at this point that Zeina’s heart flipped for the first time that day; nausea overtook her, and she fought the urge to scream with rage. Just her luck, the day she finally pulls herself out of bed and decides to get some fresh it, it had to be shared with Um Jassem, and without a doubt her nosy daughter who wouldn’t pass of an opportunity to piss Zeina off.
“Dalal betkoon mawjood?” Zeina asked through clenched teeth.
Her mother didn’t pick up on her tone and instead answered cheerfully “ee 7abeebti…” Zeina knew that her mother thought she was doing her a favor by inviting Dalal along and she hadn’t gotten around to telling her that she disliked Dalal; but even if she had wanted to she couldn’t tell her it was because of Manaf since her mother still had no idea what was going on between them.
Zeina’s mother controlled the conversation for the rest of the ride obviously trying to keep Zeina as busy as possible, asking her a million meaningless questions about what things she wanted to buy soon, if her car needed to be fixed, whether she liked to buy the new Chanel bag she was asking for, and many more. If Zeina’s mother wasn’t asking questions she was talking about the many women in Zeina’s family who had just given birth and who was vacationing where this summer. Zeina enjoyed the fact that she didn’t have to talk because the closer she found herself getting to the Avenues, the worse her mood became.
Eventually Zeina pulled her car into one of the empty parking spots in the yellow colored section and followed her mother, who was on the phone with Um Jassem, inside the mall. She could hear the word Starbucks coming from her mother as she grabbed her phone to check if there were any messages…there wasn’t.
“Ohma ib Starbucks..” Zeina’s mother told her as she headed up the escalator.
“Okay…” Zeina faked a smile.
When they made their way into Starbucks Zeina’s attention was immediately caught by a pair of daringly red lips; they were naturally, Dalal’s. The color of the devil, Zeina thought to herself. She plastered her fake smile on her face once again and began her polite pleasantries with Um Jassem and her devil daughter. Zeina longed to see Dana’s comforting face right now like she had at the Shalaih but she had no idea where Dana was right now and couldn’t bring her over to Starbucks no matter how much she longed to.
The first part of the hour was dedicated to listening politely as Zeina’s mother and Um Jassem talked about what was new in Kuwait and who was engaged to who, Zeina’s mother relisted the names that she had told Zeina off in the car, of all the women who had recently given birth. They began arranging their calenders in order to attend all the estiqbalat and funerals together.
“Youma..abi atisawag” Dalal whined finally interrupting the conversation.
“Waay bismilla tawna ga3deen 7abeebti…” Um Jassem replied turning back to her coffee and beginning to discuss a new topic.
“La7tha..roo7aw entay o Zeina..” Zeina’s mother insisted to Zeina’s great disappointment.
“Ee yala Zeina goomay please..” Dalal innocently pleaded with Zeina. It was obvious this is what she wanted, and Zeina began to dread what Dalal had to say to her that needed to be done in private and not in front of the mothers. Unwillingly, but not wanting to be impolite, Zeina got up and followed Dalal out of Starbucks and towards the first store.
Dalal went on and on about a type of dress she was dying to have and that she had seen it on some girl who had told her she had gotten it at the Avenues. Zeina kept quiet during most of the conversation, limiting herself with words but trying to be as polite as possible when doing so. Finally, as they left their first store Dalal began talking about what Zeina was worried about…Manaf.
“Tathkereen hathak Manaf eli ma3ana bil jam3a?” She asked innocently, not meeting Zeina’s eyes. Zeina glared at her, she didn’t have the energy for Dalal’s mind games and wasn’t interested in anything she had to say.
“Ee..” Zeina muttered back, unfortunately she had to play along with Dalal since she couldn’t really run out of the Avenues like a mad man, although she longed to very much. Instead she kept following Dalal from rack to rack of clothes and focusing all her will power on not strangling the devil girl in front of her.
“Tadreen ina al7ean bel emarat?” She smiled. Zeina was taken aback by the statement, it was not what she had expected to hear and had no idea how Dalal would know something like that.
“Wetha?” Zeina asked her, what she really longed to ask was ESHDARACH, but she knew she couldn’t.
“3adi agoolich serr….kent a3arfa ana ..3adil..” Dalal smiled slyly.
“Laa?” Zeina asked her. She was being dragged into Dalal’s nasty battlefield whether she liked it or not. She knew that whatever Dalal had to say would have little truth to it but it would nonetheless kill Zeina with curiosity and jealousy.
“Ee…bes please latgooleen 7ag a7ad…entay mithel ekhty watheq feech…” Dalal lied shamelessly… “bes yatna fatra wakharna 3an ba3ath. Now shway shway ga3d yerja3…et3arfeenhom il reyayeel masra3 ma yolhoon. Dagli gabil la yroo7 edbay o el 3ayar ga3ad egooli eshtabeen min ihnaak o madry shino eratheeni” Dalal let out an overjoyed giggle, beaming with delight.
Zeina’s stomach felt as if it had been kicked. No way it couldn’t be true, Dalal was flat out lying. But could she really be that low? She knew Zeina would find out she was lying eventually, would she really put herself in that position? Zeina’s questions were answered almost immediately as Dalal picked up her mobile and began flipping through the inbox.
“Shoofay….el message ili daza..” she held out her mobile to Zeina and her hand shaking Zeina took it and glanced at the screen. There in fact was Manaf’s number on the top of the message and beneath it the words “…khala9 etha tabeen shay goleeli.”
“ya7laila..” Zeina gasped out turning her face away from Dalal. This was exactly what she didn’t need on her day out. She regretted the second she had gotten out of bed and wished she was under her covers that very second. Dalal eyed Zeina intently as Zeina contemplated what to do that very second; Zeina considered things from slapping Dalal, to beating her with a bunch of hangers but finally decided to do something Dalal would not expect.
“hold on to him 3adil Dalool, layroo7 min eedich, good guys are hard to find” Zeina forced her biggest smile, “ta3alay tawni athker abi leggings, 3adi nazreg na5ethli?” And with that Zeina led the way out of the store smiling broadly and made her way to H&M to pick up leggings she didn’t need. Dalal walked after her speechless. After getting the leggings Zeina faked having dinner plans and told Dalal they needed to head back to their mothers so that she could leave.
Zeina practically dragged her mother out of Avenues, her mother tried complaining and getting her daughter to explain but Zeina insisted there was nothing wrong and that she was too overwhelmed with the za7ma and wanted to relax at home.
“3ala ra7tich…” her mother finally gave in, staring at her daughters face questioningly as she got into the car.
The drive back was silent, Zeina’s mother didn’t try to make any conversation as Zeina fumed behind the wheel. Once the car was parked Zeina stormed back upstairs to her bedroom and began dialing Manaf’s number…he didn’t pick up.
Zeina got into her PJs and threw herself in front of the television for the rest of the day, her mobile never leaving her lap. Manaf didn’t call back, instead he sent her a message at one in the morning “el shabab ma3ay bil ghorfa magdar adeg, akalmich bacher tesbi7een 3ala khair.”
Zeina turned off her phone without replying.