“One Caramel Macchiato and one Vanilla Frappuccino?” asked Mohammad, the guy who worked at Starbucks, Ice Land branch, the minute he saw us coming in. We had been frequenting this particular Starbucks enough for him to memorize our faces and our usual orders. “Sure,” we said and greeted him. When our orders were ready, we took them and went to my house.
It had become customary for us to spend our mornings together in my room. We would have loved to alternate between her room and mine but she could not fake sickness often or it would have seemed suspicious. However, things were going as smoothly as we could hope. She had this arrangement with her friend Rana in which Rana would go with Layla to college on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday and Layla would go with Rana on Sunday and Tuesday. What her parents did not know was that on the days Layla was supposed to go with Rana; it was I who picked her up. Her parents never doubted a thing. She would kiss them good morning, go down early and leave them thinking that she is going with Rana. I cannot say we did not feel guilty for fooling her parents the way we did but our desire to be together was more powerful than anything else was.
Sometimes we would pass by Starbucks or Barnies to get our morning beverages before going back to my house. My whole family would usually be gone by then. The house was always empty except for our maid, Lucy. Lucy had been working for us for over seven years and I did not worry about her presence. I would open up the door and call out for her to close the door of the kitchen on herself where she would be cooking lunch and tell her not to go out for a couple of minutes which she did without asking questions. I would take Layla’s hand and lead her upstairs to my room. Once we were inside, I would lock the door and we would be in our own little haven.
We did everything you could imagine in those days. We watched movies while sitting on the bed curled up in each other’s arms. Just a couple of days ago we had watched The Incredibles and we laughed until tears fell from our eyes. One morning, she tried out my entire wardrobe and looked rather funny in most of my clothes. The second time she was in my room; she chose her favorite shirt and boxers and took them with her. We flipped through music channels and made fun of all the new singers that seem to pop up every second. We played Monopoly a few times and she won every single time! I tried teaching her Baloot, a famous Saudi cards game, but it was a hopeless case. “Teach me again. Teach me again!” she would say a couple of weeks after my last attempt to let her understand the game and I’d give in and try again but she never got it so I finally gave up! On some rare occasions, we would study if anyone of us had an exam on the same day at noon or on the same week. I would pretend that I fully understood whatever she was blabbering about, nodding my head often as if I knew all about Accounting. She did the same too with me whenever I paced around the room repeating things I had just read in one of my huge Medical books. More than once, we just fell asleep the minute we reached the room.
In those days, the morning belonged to us. The four hours from 8:30 until 12:30 on each Sunday and Tuesday were the finest hours of each week. They were amazing. We would still go out on other days in which I would take Layla from college and we would go have lunch before I drop her at her house or occasionally we would go out on a Thursday night but in those times, usually a friend of hers, Dania or Rana, or a friend of mine would accompany us. That is why we preferred those mornings together. We were alone and we were free to do whatever we wanted to do. I used to kid around that the only thing left for me to do was to give her a drawer in my closet so she can keep some of her clothes and “female” items in it.
On the first couple of weeks of our “PMS” or “Perfect Morning Sex” as we jokingly called them, our mobiles would not stop ringing due to friends calling and asking why we had not showed up to college. The next morning we would just say PMS laughingly whenever someone asked why we were absent the day before. After a while, no one bothered to call or ask. Surely, our best friends had a faint idea of what PMS meant.
We always set the alarm on 12 so we could have time to dress and leave the house before my sister and my brother come back from college and school. I would call out to Lucy and tell her to enter her small room and we would go down the stairs, get into my car, and drive away. Sometimes I took Layla back to her house and sometimes I took her to college. As you can see, the situation could not have been more perfect. It seemed like everything was working to our benefit. We felt we could go on like that forever.
It was on a Sunday or a Tuesday morning, I cannot remember which, and we were both asleep on my bed when I was awakened by the sound of knocking on the door. I lifted my head from the pillow and saw that Layla was still sleeping peacefully next to me. I figured it was probably Lucy wanting to ask me about what I preferred for Lunch or something like that so I just said, “Lucy I’m asleep. Leave me alone please.” The blood froze in my veins when the knocking got harder and I heard a voice that was not Lucy’s saying, “Khalid, open up. Why is your door locked?” It was my father’s voice.