The red box with Dalal’s wedding invitation sat on Zeina’s bedside table; Dalal had been kind enough to send her mother one too even though they both knew that Zeina’s mother wouldn’t go. Walking around in her bathrobe Zeina caught a glance of herself in the mirror, her bare face stared back at her; she had just returned from the hairdressers and couldn’t stop admiring the amazing job they had done. Having woken up with extreme impatience for the event to come she decided to waste as much time as possible, and so she had grabbed the nearest pile of magazines and began flipping through for a new hair color. This is how her light hair had now turned into a shade slightly darker than chocolate; she realized, staring at herself, that her darker hair brought out the paleness of her skin making her look more delicate than ever. Almost every hair style ever invented had gone through her head in the week leading up to today and having narrowed it down to ten different styles, it took her all the way until the very last minute in the hairdresser’s seat to settle on the one she wore now.
Her hair puffed up slightly from the front, was pulled back neatly and sprayed to perfection with the rest of it pulled to the back in a large neat bun. An assortment of pins with single silver crystals were neatly placed around her hair. She stared at her phone impatiently waiting for the makeup artist to call and tell her that she had arrived; Zeina longed to call Manaf but she knew he was too busy with his brother to talk. Ever since he had gotten back from Ma9er two days ago they had been on the phone constantly and Zeina lacked so much sleep she was shocked she could walk. She had begged Manaf to tell her what the surprise he had for her was but he had been persistent in his decision to wait until the wedding. Just then her phone rang interrupting her thoughts, running she made her way to the living room downstairs and waited for the makeup lady to be let in. Once she was in she presented her gown to her so that they could decide on the makeup.
Zeina had put a lot of thought into what she would wear; unlike any other wedding, this one had an audience she was longing to impress. Amirah, the makeup artist admired the dress with wide eyes and Zeina didn’t blame her, this was by far the prettiest dress Zeina had bought for a wedding. It lay flowing from its hanger to the ground, a deep crimson color that had always been Zeina’s favorite. It took Amirah a little over half an hour to complete Zeina’s makeup and when she finally glanced at her face in the mirror her smoky black eyes and crimson lips gazed back.
“entay lazim kel mara eta2akharain?” Zeina’s mother appeared lecturing her daughter and smiling broadly at the same time, it was obvious that she liked the outcome of her daughter’s hair and makeup.
“Yala ka al7ean balbis” Zeina replied once again making her way upstairs, it was at that moment that she began to feel the formation of butterflies in her stomach. Her mother followed her carrying the dress carefully and calling at the maids to make some bukhoor for Zeina. Inside Zeina’s bedroom her mother cleared off some stuff from her bed and lay the dress on it and immediately began fussing about the shoes and what clutch she was going to use with the dress; Zeina however was not listening to her mother because she had noticed a new message blinking on her mobile screen and the name of the sender was Manaf.
Slowly she clicked on the icon opening the message, the words “I love you” immediately filled the screen; hiding her need to scream with glee as best as she could Zeina put the phone down and turned her focus to her mother. She began undressing and started putting on the layers of clothing she needed, finishing off with her dress. Her mother helpfully adjusted everything she put on making sure Zeina didn’t mess up her hair or make up in the process then like most obsessive mothers she began going over a verbal checklist of things Zeina should have done or should be wearing. When they were finally done Zeina threw in everything she needed into the dark silver clutch she was using and headed to her mother’s room to accessories. Opting to go with big earrings Zeina chose a simple diamond necklace and a simple diamond encrusted Cartier watch for her wrist.
Finally she began making her way downstairs for the final touches, perfume and bukhour. As she lifted her dress to avoid tripping over it she could overhear her mother silently mumbling a few ad3iya to protect her daughter from el 3ain. When Zeina’s mother was done spraying every inch of Zeina’s skin with 3i6er and spreading as much bukhour smoke around her and her hair she was ready to go; covering her bare chest and shoulders with a black shawl Zeina left the house and got into the driver’s car and began directing him towards Dalal’s house, which according to the invitation is where the wedding was taking place.
The butterflies which had been slowly increasing since the makeup session were wreaking havoc in Zeina’s stomach as she finally pulled up to the house. If Zeina had thought the house looked nice when she had first seen it then there were no words to describe how it had transformed for the wedding. Bright white lights filled the place so abundantly that a person had to take a few minutes to let their eyes adjust to the brightness; and from what Zeina could see from her car window, the side garden was filled with decorations that had a silvery theme. A uniformed man made his way to her car and opened the door for her and taking a deep breath Zeina made her way towards the music and crowd of dancing women.
The basement, where everyone was gathered was decorated magnificently with large sheaths of clear silver material that stuck to the corners of the ceilings and then drooped low into the center of the room before rising up again, finally ending as a bow on one of the sides of the large chandelier that hung in the center of the ceiling. The chairs that were aligned on opposite sides of the room were enough to fit hundreds of people and almost all of them were already occupied. The Kosha (where the bride and groom sat) was positioned in the front of the room between the two sides of chairs; was one of the largest and longest Zeina had ever seen. The left side of it had a glamorous backrest that went halfway up the height of the room with patterns and holes in it; scattered across the patterns were tiny silver bows and bright shining crystals. The rest of the Kosha twisted into a large S-shape, stopping only a few feet from the first row of seats.
Dresses of almost every color and design filled the center platform, dancing towards the Kosha and then back in the opposite direction; some stopping in front of family members to dance for a quick minute or two. Zeina made her way to the seats that held the bride’s side of the family and took her place towards the back. She spotted Dalal’s sisters dancing among the crowd and waited patiently for them to glance in her direction so she could say hello.
Two hours later when Zeina had finished saying hello to both sisters and had danced a couple of times with them, she made her way to her seat along with the rest of the crowd as the DJ indicated the entrance of the bride. Minutes later Dalal walked in, followed by her two sisters and began her walk down the aisle. With every step she took her sisters leaned over and adjusted her long train and once she had reached the Kosha her mother, who had been waiting for her there, helped her up the step and seating her down. Close friends and relatives immediately began making their way up to her to congratulate her.
Zeina’s phone vibrated in her hand and a shot of excitement went up her spine as she read Manaf’s message “al7ean bindish” and soon enough the DJ announced that the men were there and told the women to cover up if necessary. Zeina’s heart pounded with excitement, this would be the first time she’d see Manaf since before he left for Ma9er and she felt like she had waited a lifetime; adjusting herself in her sit she tried to lean in the best angle so that she could see past the rows of women. The door slowly opened and the groom walked in followed by several of his and the bride’s closest relatives, among them Manaf. Zeina caught her breath as she stared at him in his Qetra walking down the aisle behind his brother; she had never seen him look so grown up and manly and she felt something inside her tighten around her heart with love.
After the men were done congratulating each other and were done posing for pictures Zeina saw Manaf leave without glancing once at the crowd. Her heart fell with disappointment; she was hoping that he would spot her. After Dalal had danced the bride and groom made their way out of the room and towards the back garden to cut the cake and have dinner. The rest of the women made their way back to the dance floor and resumed dancing. Zeina took her phone and messaged her mother to send the driver, she was getting tired and wasn’t in the mood for dinner. As she waited patiently for her driver to call her Deema, Dalal’s sister, took a seat beside her.
“Ha mestansa?” She asked.
“Ee wayed, Daloool mashallah etyanin!” She replied
“Ee ya7lailha, tara we’re so glad you could make it” she continued. Zeina wanted to reach out and hug her, Dalal and her sisters were some of the nicest people Zeina had ever met. “Enzain sem3ay, Manaf yabi ekalmich he’s upstairs ta3alay ma3ay…” And with that Deema got up with Zeina closely behind. Deema led Zeina up a set of stairs and into a small closed living room where Manaf was sitting on the couch busy texting.
“A7em” Deema playfully cleared her throat, Manaf looked up and his mouth widened into a small gap as he stared at Zeina in awe. Deema laughed quietly, “akhaleekom 3ayal…bes yawailkom etha sakartaw il baab haa!” she joked before closing it herself. Zeina stood by the door blushing; she had never been so exposed in front of a man before, especially a man she was madly in love with.
“Mashallah…” Manaf finally breathed out still looking Zeina over from head to toe. He was now on his feet; the mobile had dropped from his hand back onto the couch. For a few seconds they stood there staring at each other.
“Ahlan…” Zeina whispered looking away and focusing on a pillow next to her, she couldn’t meet Manaf’s piercing gaze anymore. Memories of the first time she saw him came flooding back to her and she remembered the power of his eyes; the very same eyes that still hadn’t removed themselves off of her face and body.
In two swift strides Manaf was standing in front of her putting one hand under her chin and slowly turning her face towards him. “Yala 3ad 6al3eeni” he whispered. Zeina continued avoiding him with his eyes directing them instead downwards but he was standing so close that looking down meant staring at his broad chest that lay close beneath the thin cotton material of his dishdasha. Realizing that Manaf was waiting for her to look up she slowly raised her eyes towards his face and gazed into his black eyes; and they stared expressionlessly back at her.
“Did you have fun?” He asked her not removing his eyes.
“Yes” Zeina replied weakly back
“Ra7 tolheen 3alay lama arid asafer?” He asked a small grin forming on his face.
“Manaaf” Zeina let out a small groan “laish et’thakerni…now ytheeg khelgi” She whined
“Affaa…ana agdar athayeg khilgech? Goleeeli bes, agdar?” He asked
“Ee tegdar, ra7 etsafer wetkhaleeni” she replied
“Enzain wetha reja3t ebsir3a?” He asked in all seriousness, Zeina stared at him for a second trying to understand what he meant.
“Define ebsir3a…” She replied skeptically
“Ya3ni bel ketheer shahrain…”
“Ollaaa…ya3ni shahrain ebsir3a bil nesba lek?” She pulled away from him and took a seat, Manaf immediately took his place beside her.
“La bes 3igub hal shahrain khala9 ag3ad bil kwait ma arja3 Ma9er…” He continued, a smile creeping across his face.
“Ay shay…shlon o derastik?” Zeina asked her voice rising eagerly.
“Ma3alaich shlon elmohim arja3 lekwait forever…eshrayech?”
“CHAN ZAIN!” Zeina replied, it sounded almost too good to be true and she was half waiting for Manaf to take it back.
“Will it make you happy?” He asked her, his face was back to being serious
“Akeed it will, eshrayek Manaf?” Zeina realized that his expression had thrown her off, he seemed unsure of whether his presence really made Zeina happy. “Shfeek shaklik mu im9adeg?”
Manaf suddenly became very nervous and he gazed away for a second deep in thought, he opened his mouth to begin speaking before changing his mind and silently stared some more.
“Shfeek tell me?” Zeina asked him, curious to know what was making him act this way.
“Bagoolich shay bes mu 3aref shlon, faj2a I got nervous” He laughed at himself, still not meeting her eyes.
“Gooli, you can tell me anything” She told him gently trying to comfort him. Manaf got up walked towards the other side of the room and took something out from a small chest that sat atop a antique-looking table. Holding it in a way so that Zeina couldn’t make out what it was he slowly made his way back towards her and took his seat next to her.
“I really wanted to talk to you about this before bes Dalal o Deema eqna3ooni that surprising you would be a better idea o el 9ara7a 7adi mit7asef now ina I didn’t talk to you about this lana ….” He began rambling and turning his head to look away.
“Ubay Manaf, ga3d etkhare3ni..just say it, I’m sure it’s not a big deal…” Zeina told him wanting to reach out and pry the thing out of his hands so she could look at it.
“I’m done Zeina.” He finally said, pausing to take in her reaction. Zeina didn’t know what he meant.
“Done with what Manaf?”
“Done with derasti..”
“Oh. Hathy il mofaja2a?” She asked skeptically.
“Ee…” He smiled broadly. Zeina wanted to slap him. This was the surprise he had made her wait so long for?
“Oh…7ayati mabrook” Zeina forced the words out from between her teeth.
“Alah ebarik feech, matadreen how happy I am. Mu lazim arja3 khala9” He beamed at her. Zeina nodded and smiled back as much as she possibly could before glancing at her mobile to see several missed calls from her driver.
“Umm 7ayati, tadri ana 7adi wedi ag3ad ma3ak bes sayeqna ta7at o I can’t be late” She told him, she wanted to get out of the room before she exploded in his face. Could he and Dalal be so tafheen that they called this a “surprise” that was worth coming for?
“Okay 7abeebti” Manaf replied unfazed by her lame excuse. Zeina, feeling slightly upset by him not asking her to stay longer, got up and began wrapping herself with her shawl and heading towards the door. As she twisted the knob open she heard Manaf getting up from his seat, “ta3alay Zayoon baqait as2ilich” He spoke casually from behind her.
“Hala?” She muttered back not wanting to turn around.
“Will you marry me?”
Zeina froze in her place, she didn’t trust her ears, had he really said those words? Slowly she turned around to see a confident and grinning Manaf staring back at her. When she met his gaze he gave her a small wink and began walking towards her, displaying what he had hidden in his palm. A small red velvet box sat there staring back at Zeina who was too speechless to say anything. With two fingers he popped the box open and revealed a diamond ring.
“You have to hide it though, min ahalich, adry mosta7eel ekhaloonich etizawajain wa7d lail7ean bugala course. You don’t mind waiting these two months do you?” He asked leaning in close to her.
“La..I don’t” She finally choked out still staring at the ring, slowly she reached in and took the ring into her hand turning it over. She realized that Manaf was staring at her reading every expression. She put it back in the box and smiling put the box into her clutch.
She stared at Manaf for a long time taking in all his wonderful features, images of the past few months ran through her head and she couldn’t believe how fast the time had gone and how much they had been through. She felt as if she had met him yesterday.
“Thank you” She whispered.
“For the ring? You’re welcome…” He replied a little taken aback by her words.
“No, not for the ring. Thank you, for not breaking my heart”. As Manaf understood what she was trying to say his face turned into a deep frown and raising both hands he took her tiny face into them and held it tightly for a few minutes.
“Ana ma nwait, wela 7atan 7ag la7tha, ini al3ab 3alaich.” And with that he kissed her forehead, before gently letting go of her face. A wave of emotion hit Zeina and she longed to hug him and cry a few tears of joy but controlling herself she told him once again that she had to go, this time meaning it.
“Okay 7abeebti, will you call me gabel la etnameen?” He asked innocently. Not being able to control herself Zeina closed the distance between them and leaned in to kiss him lightly on the cheek. As she pulled back she inhaled his cologne and found herself fighting the urge to lean back in. Manaf’s face blushed slightly causing Zeina to blush with him.
“Thank you 7abeebti” He whispered shyly, and with that Zeina slipped out of the room. Finding Dalal’s sisters she congratulated them one last time and made her way to her waiting car. Once inside she took the ring out and tried it on her finger; a tear of joy rolled down her face as she thought of what was to come.