Zeina rolled to her side for the hundredth time in her bed, she had just hung up from her regular hour long phone call with Manaf; he had gone back to Ma9er to finish up whatever he had left and had been calling her every night at 11pm on the dot. The velvet box with her engagement ring lay next to her propped open and tilted so that the top of the diamond faced her. Every few minutes she’d place it on her finger then after examining it would put it back inside the box. As the minutes past she slowly began to drift off only to be visited by Manaf in her dreams.
The next two months passed by like they were happening overnight and soon enough Zeina was saying goodnight one last time to Manaf in Egypt. He came back to Kuwait and within two weeks he began working at one of his uncle’s law firms. Zeina’s phone would still ring every night at 11pm, the only difference was that their phone calls now lasted a little longer than before; Manaf would tell her all about his new cases and how different work life was from university and Zeina would complain about all the work she had to finish for her classes. It was a period of steady bliss and Zeina began to feel comfortable as they created their own routine and fell perfectly into it.
“Zeina entay met2akda inich tabeena?” Zeina’s mother asked for the hundredth time as Zeina sat next to her openly texting Manaf. Manaf’s relatives had contacted Zeina’s mother a little less than two weeks earlier and had requested a chance to sit with her and her mother. Zeina’s mother’s first reaction was to call it off before anything even happened but after Zeina’s insistence it became clear to her that there was something going on between them and that her daughter had made her mind up long ago. After the first visit and a few more phone calls the men gathered for the official visit and soon enough their engagement was announced to the world. The first few days Zeina’s phone hadn’t stopped ringing with congratulations and desperate attempts of information digging but Zeina was too busy floating on clouds to care what people were thinking or saying.
“Ee youma abeeh” Zeina replied to her mother trying as best as she could not to reveal the childish smile she had on her face. Her mother sighed grinning at her daughter and got up to look for something in the kitchen. Zeina took the opportunity to quickly call Manaf up, a few seconds later she disappointedly hung up; he hadn’t replied.
Two hours later Zeina glanced at the clock on her mobile, Manaf usually called her right after he got out of work which was a little over an hour ago, sensing something was wrong she tried again; he didn’t reply this time either. Starting to feel a bit worried she texted him and waited impatiently for a reply. None came.
A little over four hours later, as the sun began to set, Zeina’s phone rang and Manaf’s name filled the screen.
“Alo?” She almost shouted into the phone.
“Abee ashoofich” He immediately stated his voice rushed and serious
“Umm..Okay…” she replied slowly caught off guard.
“Wainich?” He asked
“Bel bait, come over etha taby” A knot began forming at the pit of Zeina’s stomach as she began to panic, this tone of voice would put any engaged woman in a fit of fear. The last thing a bride needs was an angry fiancé in the few months leading up to their wedding.
“Ahalich mawjoodeen?” He asked, he was practically spitting the words out at this point.
“Khosh 3a6eehom khabar, wana al7ean bel 6ireej..” and with that hung up. Trying to wipe the worried expression off of her face Zeina began walking around the house looking for her mother.
“Youma, Manaf bemor shwaya okay?” She asked when she found her mother arranging vases in another living room in the house.
“Ee 7abeebty akeed 7ayahh Allah…” her mother said looking up, “bes badlay” she said giving Zeina’s house outfit a once over.
Deep in thought Zeina made her way upstairs and changed into jeans and a plain t-shirt and untied her hair, tossing it to the side. Ten minutes later her mobile rang and with a heavy heart she answered Manaf telling him to come on in. As she made her way downstairs she could hear Manaf politely saying hello to her mother, then she heard her mother tell him to wait for Zeina in the guest living room. Zeina quickly walked in and her mother excused herself to give them some privacy. Manaf stood up and gave Zeina a light kiss on the cheek. Zeina having told herself that she was exaggerating and that nothing was wrong began to realize that her initial reaction was only too accurate, Manaf was very angry and it showed. His face was darkened from what Zeina assumed was a long day at work, his hair was disheveled, his upper button of his Dishdasa was opened and he was in no way or form smiling.
“3asa ma shar Manaf, emkhare3ni” Zeina began taking a seat next to him. Manaf looked away for a few seconds then ran his palms and fingers across his face before pressing his fingers on his eyes as if he was having a bad migraine.
“Rasy ibyenfijir” He muttered still covering his eyes.
“Ayeeblik Panadol?” Zeina asked him getting up and quickly heading to the cabinet that held the Panadol, on her way back she told the maid to get them some water.
“Tefathal” Zeina said handing him the pills and the glass of water, without any response Manaf swallowed the pills down with water then leaned back in his seat.
“Ma dagaitli lama 6ala3t min il maktab” Zeina tried again gently
“Tawni 6ale3” He replied curtly. Zeina kept quiet for a few seconds giving him a chance to explain what was happening but he too remained quiet.
“Ubay Manaf, tell me shesalfa” Zeina exploded finally losing her calm.
“Tahawasht weya weld 3ami” he muttered finally still not looking at Zeina. Zeina immediately knew which cousin he was referring to, weld 3am Manaf is the son of the uncle he was working for and was also working at the same maktab. Zeina also knew from what Manaf told her that he was lazy and his father was getting sick of it, and that problems between him and Manaf had begun almost as soon as Manaf had began working for the firm. Manaf instantly became his uncle’s favorite employee, always on time and always trying his hardest, the difference between him and weld 3ama was evident from day one.
Glad that this wasn’t about her Zeina took a deep relaxing breath before gently putting her hand on his back and rubbing it.
“Sh9aar?” She asked
“gabel la agoolich abeech taw3ideeni inich mat3a9been, because I did shay yemkin may3ajbich”, the butterflies that had just disappeared from Zeina’s stomach reappeared immediately. Manaf was still not looking her in the eye.
“Gooli” She spoke up in a steady tone
“fe offer, 7ada qawii, o I really want it o ana the perfect person for it o 3ami kan misti3id ya36eeniya lain weld 3ami…” Manaf followed the mention of his cousin with a few curse words, something he had never done in front of Zeina before, “qarar ina e9eer yahel o ela qa9eb yabi il position. El mohim gam shway we6ig’ha bachya 3ind ibooh tekfa 3a6ni o ana ra7 at3adal aw3idik o madry shino, 6ab3an 7achy fathy o ma 9adag 3amii. El mohim he made a huge scene bil maktab fashalna ga3ad e9arekh 3alay o radait 9arakht 3alaih o dash baina 3ami ewagefna wel kel ekhiz. Ya3ni jad kan el wath3 efashel ma china ahal kelish…”
“Ba3ad 3omriii” Zeina cooed leaning in closer and hugging Manaf; he didn’t return her hug.
“Al7ean ana ba3ad 3omrich, ba3ad eshway bet3a9been adry. Bes wala jad Zeina mali khilg elyoom wa9el 7adii..”
“Sheli bekhaleeni a3a9eb?” She asked him hesitantly.
“3igub il scene ili 9ar…” Manaf began after a short silence, “3ami sakar 3ala nafsa il maktab ma bagha a7ad edish 3alaih. Ga3adt ib maktibi an6er lana ma 7abait amshi gabel la a3titherla…el mohim yoom 6ala3 re7tla o kan 7ail im3a9eb 3a6ani mu7athara 3ooda 3an shlon he created the firm on his own o shlon kan yetmana ina welda yagthib kelshay o shlon welda mu rathy e9eer rayal o shlon now he has to choose weld ekhooh 3ala welda lana welda be6aye7 il shareka bil ga3 … o 3a6ani kalam ya3ni el 9ara7a 7asasni ina ga3d ya36eeni akthar min welda o ina it was really hurting him. Fa gali ra7 a36eek il position lanik you fought hal kither for it…”
Manaf trailed off and kept quiet for a while, “Enzain o how does this affect me?” Zeina asked him.
“El position mu bel kwait…” He finally said.
“Wain il position?”
“New York…” He finally turned away and stared at her intently trying to read her reaction. Zeina thought about it for a second and used all the power she could muster not to squeal and jump up and down.
“That’s a bad thing?” She finally asked a broad smile on her face.
“Ee…we leave ib 5 weeks, ya3ni kelshay you’ve been planning for the wedding gets cancelled..”
“Oh..” Zeina realized suddenly. She thought of all the work her mother and aunts had been putting in for the wedding and all the money her father had already begun spending for the preparations. “Ya3ni mako 3ers?” Her voice lowered slightly with disappointment.
“Embala, etha tegdireen etzahbeen 7ag 3ers ib a month…” He said his voice not filled with optimism at all.
“Bes…Bes…” Zeina began, a million thoughts running through her head, there was no way she could plan a wedding in a month, she wasn’t sure she was willing to sacrifice a wedding for a job, and what about her derasa? For the first time since Manaf had come over she began to feel angry, “ubay Manaf, what if I don’t want to go!” She snapped, realizing the position he had put her in. “O ba3dain how long is this for?!”
“six months…” he whispered, “3igub kel ili 9ar o 3a6ani il position 3ami magdar agoola la2 Zayoon..”
“SIX MONTHS! Bes kelshay ib 7ayati ra7 yetghayar!” Her voice went a pitch higher
“agdar aroo7 ebroo7i…” he almost whispered to himself.
“Na3aaaaaaaaam? Hatha ili nage9 ba3ad!” Zeina muttered turning away with rage.
“Zeina 7abeebti I know your angry o walah il 3atheem ma aloomich ana ghabi o 7aywan o 7a6aitich ib mawqef bayekh..” He slowly got up from his seat picking up his cell phone and car keys, “o ana rasi ibyenfijir 9arli 10 sa3at bil maktab I need to sleep shwaya. Tekfain fakray bil mawthoo3 wana ra7 amor 3alaich bacher il 9ib7 entifaham some more. Please lat3a9been 3alay 7abeebti..” and with that he kissed her forehead and headed out of the door. Zeina remained in her seat, she listened as Manaf said goodbye to her mother assuring her that nothing was wrong, she then heard the front door shut and finally she heard the machine of his car come to life outside.