“What? When? Are you sure? I see. No, it’s ok. Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks for letting me know,” I said then hung up the phone. Layla and I were having lunch in Chili’s on a Saturday a few weeks after our anniversary. She had a questioning look in her eyes while I was talking on the phone. “Who was that?” she asked me. “That was Bashar. He told me that this morning Dalia announced she was engaged to Amro last Thursday. His cousin, Noha, called and informed him. I must say that’s a little bit unexpected though.” “Why? They have been together for nearly two years now if I’m not mistaken, right? It’s natural,” she commented. “Well, I have a confession to make,” I said then paused for a few seconds.
“When you were away in Egypt during the summer, Dalia called me. She said the reason why she called was to say she was sorry that I lost my grandma and to offer her condolences but after we talked for some time, she admitted she had another reason to call. She asked me for a second chance.” I stopped to observe how Layla reacts to that. Strangely, she appeared calm and nonchalant. I continued and told her the rest of that phone conversation. She did not say a word while I was speaking. She was just looking at me in a funny way. “I’m sorry. I meant to tell you about it before but I thought it might upset you so I didn’t,” I said. She sat there in silence for a couple of minutes. I was surprised when she finally looked into my eyes and smiled.
“You know what? I’m not mad and I’m not even upset. I guess it’s ok. It doesn’t really matter. I knew when we first started going out that you weren’t completely over Dalia but I figured with time you’d be. I thought I could help speed up the process too but I guess everything must take its course. During the last year, sometimes I wondered in the back of my mind if you loved me as a substitute to Dalia. Sometimes I feared I was only a faint image of what you had and could have had with her. One time I actually almost cried at night. I never told you this before. Remember when I was in your room a couple of months ago and I was going through your books and found that small surgery book that she gave you? She wrote, “Whenever you study this book, think of me,” and drew a small heart on the first page. She gave it to you two years before you actually needed to have it. This year, I saw that you were actually studying from it. When I asked you about the writing, you just said, “Oh, Dalia gave me this book a couple of years ago. I only needed it recently.” You said it like it’s nothing. I told myself it’s nothing. Still, I don’t know why, that night I couldn’t sleep and I nearly had tears in my eyes because of a question that never occurred to me before, What if she called one day and asked him for a second chance? Literally, that was the question. I was terrified that I couldn’t convince myself that you’d tell her no and you’d stay with me.
The next morning I called you and we went out like we usually do and I decided I’d never bring up that night. Mainly because I felt silly and weak and because I didn’t want you to think I didn’t have faith in you or us. Somehow, I didn’t torture myself with that question again. I just told myself you’d always choose me over her. I’m sorry my belief in that wasn’t complete but I decided I’d take the chance anyway. Now I’m actually glad I never have to wonder again. I never have to worry about her again. I wish her a good life away from you and me.” She said her words in a calm voice but I could easily feel something was trembling beneath them.
“I’m sorry. I never knew you felt this way. You should’ve told me instead of going through these questions alone. I would’ve assured you a long time ago that my heart belongs to you only.” I reached and took her hands in mine. “Never doubt that,” I told her.
“Let me tell you something, I have loved Rami but I was over him sooner than I thought was possible, I managed to learn how to move on and just live my life without him. I never brought him up in conversations with you, not in the beginning at least. You, on the other hand, talked awfully much of how heart-broken you were. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind it then. It was just a little more than I would have preferred. You know what? I believe that a woman’s heart breaks easier than a man’s but it heals faster.
I know it. I could be wrong but that is what I have observed among most of the people around me. A guy could and would lie, play around and even cheat and it’s rather uncommon that he falls truly in love with someone but if he does, then it’s usually forever and it takes him a long time to just be able to move on if that girl he loved betrayed him or left him. He might meet a dozen other girls after her but she’d always be that one whom he let down his guard for and loved. And even though girls don’t usually lie, play around or cheat like guys do, they tend to fall in love quicker, and because their hearts are more fragile, they get broken much easier but somehow, they usually manage to get back on their feet and seek love again.
I can tell now you’re finally over Dalia. She would be no more than a very small part of your memory and a non-existence in the life you and I are going to lead together. Now even if Dalia had problems with Amro in their relationship, which really doesn’t concern me, they must have worked them out or she just decided to settle down for him. Why bother wonder, anyhow? But you know what? I’d like to call her. Give me your mobile.”
I opened my eyes in disbelief. “What? Why?” I asked cautiously. “I just want to congratulate her, that’s all,” she answered. She reached out her hand and nodded her head. I gave her the mobile. She took it, searched for Dalia’s name and dialed her number. She had never spoken to Dalia before and she saw her only twice by accident during the last year.
“Hello. Dalia? This is Layla Hashem, Khalid’s wife in case you didn’t know. I heard that you got engaged over the weekend. That’s wonderful. I just want to congratulate you and wish you a happy life, hopefully, away from my man and me if you don’t mind. He told me about your little phone call in the summer and I don’t appreciate it but it doesn’t matter now, does it? Anyhow, congratulations again and may you find the happiness I have found. Goodbye.” She simply hung up the phone after that.
I sat there speechless. I did not know what to say. “That was amazing,” I blurted after a while and laughed. She smiled at me and said, “I’m going to delete her number now from your mobile and all related contacts if it’s ok with you. There’s no reason to keep any of them anymore.” It is strange that as I watched Layla delete Dalia from my phone memory I felt that Dalia has been deleted completely from my life once and for all. I smiled and raised Layla’s hand to my lips and kissed it gently.
“But you’re not getting off the hook that easy Mr.!” she pointed out seconds later. “You’re going to do something for me. We have discussed this before and you promised me you would do it whenever I felt it was the right time. Well, I think it’s the right time. I think you should meet Yasser when he comes home from Birmingham for Christmas break.” Yasser is Layla’s brother.