To all the confused readers: Mano is Sulaimano...Kuwaiti bes apparently he speaks Italian. Zeina doesn't know his whole story yet and he hasn't told her.
Zeina awoke to her mobile’s loud beep, she reached her arm out as far as possible trying to retrieve it. It was a message from Manaf; she had been so distracted last night with her dinner and so tired from the plane ride that upon arriving at the hotel, she had crashed without remembering to text Manaf back.
“Aloo, wainich?” The message read. Zeina clicked on the reply icon and began moving her fingers slowly across the buttons;
“Ana ib ma9er.” He texted
Zeina waited a few minutes for Manaf to reply but he didn’t, she contemplated asking about his trip but wasn’t in the mood to pretend to even care, instead she found the phonebook and looked up his number pressing Call when she found it.
“Hala…” he answered on the second ring.
“Hala feek…” she replied, an awkward silence followed and for a second Zeina wasn’t sure who was more mad at the other and who had more right to be so.
“Zain fakartay etdigeen 3alay” He snapped. Okay so he wins, Zeina thought to herself, in her anger over his unexpected trip to Dubai and Dalal’s message she had forgotten that she was the one who had disappeared for two weeks with no warning or explanation.
“Why do you think I stopped answering your calls?” Zeina asked warily, buying time…she still hadn’t decided whether it was best to tell Manaf about Faisal, although even if she did decide to tell him she would probably end up crying at the mention of his name which wouldn’t help their case at all.
“Eshdarani 3anich…entay goleeli laish” His voice wasn’t getting any kinder. Zeina paused for a bit trying to think of what to reply to his question.
“Manaf if I had a really good reason for what happened bes ma gedart agoolikiyaha o I just needed you to trust me o I promised you ina kelshay min ba3d elyoom ib yerja3 mithel gabil would you accept it?” She asked him, thinking on the spot. She immediately regretted what she said, it sounded lame and stupid and nobody would buy it, but she had nothing else to say to him. It was at that very second that she had decided she couldn’t tell Manaf about Faisal, not because she didn’t want to hurt Manaf’s feelings or cause awkwardness, but because she couldn’t utter his name ever again and she couldn’t bring herself to talk about what had happened to him at all.
“No.” Manaf’s firm word brought her back to reality for a second. “Goleeli to my face inich reja3teela o hawantay 3igub two weeks o akheeran now daraitay inich tabeeni ana” his voice grew louder and more threatening as he revealed to Zeina for the first time how he had understood the two weeks to mean.
“La kelish ma kan chithee” Zeina gasped shocked at the idea Manaf had become so convinced of.
“3ayal?” He snapped back. Zeina was at a loss for words and before she could help it the confession she had been convinced could never leave her lips tumbled out of her.
“Manaf ma reja3tla. He died.”
The silence that followed those two words burned through Zeina as she tried her best not to imagine Faisal returning from his day at the office. Faisal thinking about her and their upcoming life together convinced he would have Zeina all to himself very soon; him glancing at his phone wondering when he’d see her name on his screen again. And, most painfully, Faisal not knowing that when Zeina would finally call him it was to end things between them forever. She tried not to picture the car swerving out of control on the wet streets eventually crashing into a traffic light which crushed the car almost to an unrecognizable state. She tried not to hear the screams of Faisal’s mother and sisters as the call came to them from his office, informing them of his tragic death.
“3atham allah ajrech” Manaf finally spoke up but by then Zeina had nothing more to say; choking back a sob she excused herself promising to call him tomorrow and got off the phone. She threw it across the room, this was the mobile she had practiced her break up message on, saving it in her Drafts and waiting for the perfect time to send it to Faisal. This was the phone she didn’t want to look at ever again.
Zeina didn’t know how long it had taken her to cry herself to sleep but when she woke up she felt rested and refreshed. She rolled out of bed easily and pulled open the curtains to reveal the view of a garden filled with pedestrians; the weather looked sunny and hot and she couldn’t wait to be out in it. Quickly running to the bathroom she washed up and shoved open her suitcase picking out a pair of pink Juicy track suit shorts and matching it with a white t-shirt, she slipped on white flip flops, tied her hair in a loose knot, and gathered her things before leaving the hotel room.
As she began making her way down the corridor she pulled out her mobile and called her father who didn’t pick up; she then speedily texted him: Baba 9aba7 el khair, ana ga3adt imbacher o 6ala3t…mara7 aroo7 b3eed call me lama teg3idoon” And with that she shoved it into her bag and almost skipped out of the hotel, giving the doorman the brightest smile she could on her way out.
She found herself a Taxi and got into the backseat explaining to him that she wanted to buy a new phone and if he knew any Nokia or Sony Ericsson stores. Her emotional attachment to this particular phone would grow the more time she hung on to it and she needed to avoid checking through her inbox to see the old messages Faisal had sent her. She also didn’t have the heart to delete them. The taxi driver knew exactly what she needed and began weaving his way down a street filled with small shops and boutiques on each side. He let Zeina out with a warm goodbye and signaled her towards a small store that had a big Nokia sign on top of it. She nodded thanking him and made her way inside the store. It didn’t take Zeina long to pick out a new phone and with the bag hanging from her arm she made her way through the boutiques around it. She entered the first bakery she saw, dizzied immediately by the smell of fresh bread and coffee, and asked for juice. As she made her way down the second side of the street, her heart began expanding with joy. She wanted to be here forever, and not go back to crying over Faisal or caring about whether Manaf was going to dump her or not.
As she left her fifth store, she began feeling the burden of all the bags she was carrying. Zeina was not one to control herself when on a shopping spree and knew that if she didn’t head back to the hotel to drop off the bags there’d be no way she could buy anything else soon. Taking a seat on a nearby bench, Zeina placed all her bags between her legs and took out her phone to check for messages. Her parents still hadn’t called but she wasn’t surprised, her parents always slept in on vacations, preferring an early lunch than breakfast.
Just as she was flipping her phone shut, something in the corner of Zeina’s eye caught her attention. It was someone staring directly at her from across the street. Mano. He stood motionless, facing her, and had both hands in his pockets. He wore black training pants and a grey sweater on top and looked as if he hadn’t slept at all last night. After they both gazed at each other for several seconds he slowly pulled out one of his hands and raised it in a wave; Zeina awkwardly waved back; she immediately lowered her head though as she realized that he had started making his way across the street towards her.
“Bonjourno” he smiled when he was finally in front of her.
“Hey…” She smiled back looking up and shielding her eyes with her hand. The sun was piercing and she was beginning to feel the effect of it all.
“Is there anything left in the stores?” He asked jokingly, pointing at the bags around her.
“Well yes…but only because I can’t carry anymore bags. Wait till I drop these off at the hotel and come back for round two” she teased back. Mano let out a laugh that exposed a childlike side of him Zeina had not expected. His entire head tilted back and his eyes squinted shut as he roared with laughter.
“Where are you headed to next?” He asked her
“The X-Hotel, I was going to get a cab”
“Why not walk?”
“Umm…well yeah I can walk I guess..” Zeina replied awkwardly, not knowing what else to say, she really wanted to take a cab.
“Well then can I walk with you?”
OH! Zeina mentally smacked herself.
“Sure..” She smiled. She loved the fact that he had no idea she was Kuwaiti and thought he had her fooled. As she got up from the bench and walked towards him she reminded herself not to slip up and say anything in Arabic or tell him that she was Kuwaiti. For this trip she was a foreigner and she was going to play dumb and pretend she had no idea he was Kuwaiti.
Mano politely took the bags she was carrying out of her hands and let her take a few steps ahead of him; “I have no idea where the hotel is by the way” Zeina laughed turning to face him.
“No problem, it’s just straight ahead, keep walking”, Mano placed a light hand on the bottom of her back to direct her forward; Zeina pushed a strand of hair behind her ear, the loose ponytail her hair was pulled back in was messily falling out of place and finally deciding to let it loose she raised a single hand and pulled the hair tie back letting waves of her long hair cascade around her shoulders and down her back. She adjusted what she could of it with her fingers and turned to face Mano, who hadn’t removed his eyes off of her.
“So tell me about yourself Mano…” Zeina faced him, he regained himself, turning away for a second then met her gaze again.
“Well, I’m Italian. I work, have been working for several years now…”
“What do you work as?” Zeina interrupted him, she was always curious as to what peoples’ jobs were, she didn’t mind sitting and talking for hours about a person’s job, and found small details like what they did day by day to be fascinating.
“Well, my family owns a few businesses so I help out in managing them” He smiled, Zeina could tell he was very proud with this answer, she could also tell that this was a typical Kuwaiti male response.
“What about you?” He asked her. Zeina tried, with as little detail as possible, to tell him about being in University and what her life was like.
For the next twenty minutes Mano told Zeina things about him, things that were too good to be true in Zeina’s opinion. He lived in a large house with his extended family, his mother had passed away three years ago, and he drove a Ferrari which he had bought with his own money. Zeina couldn’t help but feel that he was trying to pick her up, and what better bait than a western tourist? She was aware that many Khaleeji guys tried these tricks on women when on vacation and she couldn’t help but be glad when the large sign of the hotel loomed into view up ahead.
“Thank you so much” She told him politely, quickly pulling the bags out of his hands.
“I had a nice time..” He began telling her, standing awkwardly, waiting for her to hint to him what would happen next, but when Zeina refused to speak or move Mano was forced to make the next move. “I was wondering maybe if you wanted to hang out sometime. You could give me a call I’ll show you around”
This was exactly what Zeina was expecting and was hoping to avoid, she put on the most courteous face she could as she began letting him down easily “I’m sorry Mano, I’m only here for two more days, and I’ll be spending most of those days with my family. It was really nice meeting you though” She flashed him a quick smile, and with a small wave she headed into the hotel, leaving Mano with his crushed expression outside. Zeina had lied to him, she wasn’t leaving in two days and she wasn’t planning on spending too much time with her family on this trip. Pushing him to the back of her head she headed to her room, throwing the bags on the floor and crashing on the bed when she was finally inside.
She picked up the phone and dialed Manaf’s number, feeling she could finally face him after what had happened last night. Manaf didn’t reply and so Zeina decided to send him a nice message in case he was still upset over last night and was ignoring her: “Sorry 3ala ams…please degli awal matshoof el msg” She texted.
Less than an hour later she joined her finally awake parents at the lobby and they headed out to sight see and shop. Zeina played with her new cell phone during the entire lunch meal trying to understand how it worked. After lunch they shopped a little more before Zeina’s dad insisted that he needed to nap if he was going to make it to dinner alive and so all three of them headed back to the hotel. The two hours that Zeina’s dad took to sleep were spent at the Spa with her Zeina’s mother getting facials and a massage. Finally, Zeina’s mother’s cell phone ranging telling them that her father was finally awake and that it was time for round three of shopping.
By the time they made it to the restaurant for dinner everyone was exhausted; it was ten o’clock and Zeina was already picturing her comfortable hotel bed with longing. The restaurant was a nice little one on a corner with tables outside and inside. Zeina’s father had picked one outside since the weather had turned quite breezy and was too great to waste by sitting indoors.
“Sheno ebta6libeen?” Zeina’s mother asked her as they looked over the menu; everything looked delicious to Zeina, but as she went through the menu a second time she began to focus on the different pastas available. She had room for two main dishes and dessert from all the walking and decided to go with the heaviest, cheesiest pasta they had.
Zeina began flipping through the dessert section as she overhead her father call the waiter and begin to list their orders.
“And your drinks, Sir?” Asked the waiter, and Zeina, not being able to help recognizing the voice, looked up from the menu.
There, in a waiters’ uniform, stood Mano, notepad and pen in hand, shocked and embarrassed features on his face. Zeina tried not to choke with shock as a coughing fit hit her that second.
“Bsmilla 3alaich shfeech” Her mother asked panicking, slapping her on the back lightly. “Water…quickly” She told Mano with a wave of her hand and to both their relief, Mano disappeared from the table. The rest of the night a different waiter waited on them but Zeina couldn’t help spotting Mano walking by every once in a while with a tray in his hand.