“There’s just no rhyme or reason…
Only this sense of completion…
And in your eyes I see the missing pieces I’m searching for…
“Yes?” I heard Layla’s voice coming from the intercom of her house after I rang the bell. “Guess who?” I replied. “What took you so long? And why didn’t you call instead of ringing the bell like this? You scared me. I’m a little bit nervous,” she said in an anxious voice. “Don’t be. I’m only ten minutes late because I forgot something and had to go back home for it. Anyhow, get down. I’m waiting.” “Just a minute.”
I was standing in front of the house holding a bouquet of flowers in my hand when Layla opened the door. A dozen lilies, which Layla loves, with a couple of red roses look more beautiful than what you would imagine. I stepped in and said good morning. “This is for you. I’m sorry I’m late but having these done took longer than I expected.” I handed her the flowers and she gave me a gentle kiss. “Thank you,” she said. She pointed towards a large suitcase sitting in front of the inner wooden door and said, “That’s what I’m taking.” “Don’t you think it’s a little bit too much for a weekend? What do you have in there? Your entire wardrobe?” I asked. “Stuff!” she replied. “Hopefully all the lingerie I didn’t see yet.” I winked at her. She blushed and said playfully, “You’ll see.”
It was Wednesday around 10 a.m. and the weather was perfect for the beach. The sun was up and blazing hot but there was this slight breeze in the air. I loaded her suitcase into my car and we headed towards Al-Durra. We had told our parents that we were going to be spending the entire weekend there with our friends. Of course, our close friends knew about that lie so they could cover up for us just in case of the unlikely event that our parents decided to check up on us.
I had begged my friend, Abdurrahman, to lend me his private villa at Al-Durra for that weekend. He agreed after I told him why I needed it. I came once during the previous week and gave Ameen, the Pakistani man who takes care of the villa, a 100 Riyals and asked him to clean it thoroughly before the weekend.
The road was smooth and we sang along to the songs on the radio with the windows rolled down. When we reached the villa, Ameen was waiting for us and helped us carry our bags into the living room. After he left, we took a quick tour around the place and unpacked a few things. I asked Layla, “What do you think?” “It’s very nice. I think we’ll have a great weekend, starting from now.” She then took off her Abaya and changed into her swimsuit.
There were only a few kids with a maid on the beach when we first got into the water but half an hour later, a group of guys came and disturbed our peace. They would not stop staring and making comments about us. I wanted to say something about it to them but Layla would not let me because she thought antagonizing them would only push them to annoy us more. Luckily, a couple of girls showed up after some time and the guys completely forgot about us and turned their attention to the new comers.
At night, we just stayed in and watched a couple of sitcoms then a movie during which Layla fell asleep in my arms half an hour before it ended. I carried her to the bed and lied next to her. I do not remember when I fell asleep but I remember we both had smiles on our faces.
“Wake up, sleepyhead!” I opened my eyes slightly to recognize Layla lying next to me trying to wake me up. “Come on. I made you breakfast,” she said. She kissed me on the cheek then jumped off the bed. I yawned then I lifted my head and sat up straight. After a minute, I yelled, “Breakfast! I knew I forgot to bring something!” I hit my forehead with my palm then continued, “I wanted to make you pancakes and bring it you in bed just like the movies.” Layla laughed and said, “It’s ok. I wanted to make you something sophisticated too but I looked around the place and couldn’t find any ingredients. The breakfast I made you is a bowel of milk and cornflakes.” “Thank you,” I said. I went to the bathroom, washed my face, and headed to the kitchen table. Layla was sitting wearing the t-shirt I had on last night. I went to her and hugged her. “You know, I could get used to this,” I whispered into her ear.
“Listen, I got you something and I hope you like it. I had intended on giving it to you Friday morning before we leave but I figured I’d give it to you now especially since our friends are coming over tonight,” I said to Layla late afternoon. We had invited many of our friends to come and join us on Thursday night. We had brought board games, playing cards and asked them to bring along anything fun they wanted. We were going to celebrate our anniversary with everyone but we insisted that no one brings us gifts of any kind. The cake, beverages and the big stereo would be more than enough we told them.
About a month ago, I purchased a diamond solitaire ring to give to Layla as our anniversary present. It cost me 4000 Riyals half of which I saved over the last couple of months while the other half was a loan from my mother. I was worried I would get the ring’s size wrong so while Layla was away I went into her house since I had the keys to the outer doors and to her room and I took a ring from her jewelry box and asked the jeweler to adjust the ring I bought to that size. I thought it was very beautiful and would only look more beautiful on Layla’s delicate hand.
I took the small wrapped box out of my pocket and put it on the living room’s table. “What’s that?” she asked. “Open it up, please,” I said. She took it and opened it slowly. “Oh my god, it’s beautiful! You really didn’t have to. This is too much,” she said but I could tell she was happy with it. I was glad and proud. “Happy anniversary dear,” I said and kissed her. I took her hand in mine then. “Would you let me do the honor?” I asked. She nodded her head. I took the ring and gently placed it in her right ring finger. “Now everyone can know that you’re spoken for,” I said then kissed her forehead. “I love you,” I told her. “I love you more than you know,” she said.
“Let me bring you your gift. I’m sure you’ll love it,” she said. She came back with a red box that had a small teddy bear on top. Inside the box, there were three things. The first was a photo album that contains many of our pictures together in addition to many of hers ever since she was a baby. The second thing was a red boxer. The third was a book. The cover was of the sun setting on a beach. “They Were in Love,” the title read. I looked at Layla with a questioning look so she took the book, opened the index page and pointed at my name printed there. “My friend’s uncle works in a publishing company and she told me they were publishing a poems’ book about lost love all of which are written by various young poets. She had read some of yours before and thought they were very good. Therefore, I took some of them and sent it to her uncle who picked two to be included here. This all happened two months ago but I wanted to wait till now to tell you. I know you’ve always wanted to have your poems published and now you are officially a published writer,” she said. “You are one of a kind, do you know that? That’s why I love you. Who else would’ve thought of this? This is amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better gift. Thank you.” I hugged her.
At night, we had a small celebration. Layla kept the ring on and showed it to everyone. I did the same with her gifts. Many of our friends came and we had a great time. One of the rather unexpected yet wonderful results of that evening is that my friend and the owner of the villa, Abdurrahman, ended up marrying Layla’s friend, Rana, only a year later.
Friday morning as we were packing to leave so we can go home, Layla asked, “What if my parents saw the ring? What would I say?” “Well, don’t wear it around the house. It’s as simple as that. It’s your mother you should be slightly concerned about but not your father. He probably won’t even notice you’re wearing a ring. Only wear it when you go out. Unless you don’t want it then I could return it,” I joked. “Oh, you’re so funny!” she said and hit my arm lightly with her fist. I took her in my arms and started tickling her until we both fell on the nearest sofa laughing.
Even though we had many anniversaries in the years to follow, that anniversary will always remain in my heart as the most special one of all. It was the first time we watched a sunset together, the first time we went to a beach together, the first time we slept a night next to each other and the first time we woke up in the morning next to each other. The ring, the photo album and the book that contains my poems will always serve as simple reminders of what a magical time we had then and how young and crazy in love we were. We thought we were invincible. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that weekend.