I stared at the closed door for a few minutes trying to comprehend what I had just heard. I waited for Layla to open up and come back laughing to tell me it is just a cruel joke but that never happened. I called her mobile but it was turned off. I did not want to call her house number or ring the doorbell in case someone else was inside the house. I did not know what to do then. I stayed in front of her house a few more minutes then decided to leave before any of her parents comes home and sees me.
I pushed whatever thoughts and questions I had into the back of my mind. I did not want to deal with anything at that moment. I called my friend Abdurrahman and asked him for the keys to his family’s villa at Al-Durra. “Are you Ok? You don’t sound fine. What happened? And why do you want to go there?” he asked me. I did not feel like explaining anything so I told him that we would talk later but for now I just want the keys and that I will pass by his house in half an hour to take them.
I took the keys and the ownership card and headed to Al-Durra. On the way, I had the car’s windows down with the wind blasting in my face and the stereo turned up so high I could not hear my own thoughts. It was rather odd that I would go there in the middle of the week and alone, too. Abdurrahman’s puzzlement had its justification. I do not even know why I was going there in the first place. It is not something I had ever done before but at that time I had this urge to be completely isolated and for some reason, Abdurrahman’s villa was what came to my mind.
The moment I reached the villa, I took off my shoes and headed to the beach. The sun was setting and it was starting to get dark outside and clearly, it was going to be a cold night even though it was nearly summer time. The entire beach was deserted and the only sound you could hear was of the wind and the sea waves. I looked at my mobile to check if Layla had called but she had not. I sent my mother a message telling her that I might be late tonight. I rolled up my jeans and took a few steps into the freezing water. I felt alive as the coldness moved from my feet up into my whole body. I walked around the beach for a while before I lied on the sand. I put on my iPod headphones and closed my eyes. After half an hour or so, I fell asleep.
A couple of hours later, I woke up to the feeling of my mobile vibrating in my pocket. For a second, I did not realize where I was or what I was doing then it all came back to me. Just as I had hoped for and expected, it was Layla calling.
“Hey,” she said. “Hey,” I said and waited for her to start the conversation. “Where are you? It doesn’t sound like you’re home,” she inquired. “I’m at Abdurrahman’s villa in Al-Durra.” “What are you doing there?” she asked, sounding puzzled. “To tell you the truth, I have no idea. I think I just felt like I needed to go someplace where I can be by myself.” She did not say anything for a while so I said, “It’s really beautiful out here tonight. You can actually see the stars shining in the sky. I wish you were here.” I sensed she had smiled and we remained silent for a minute or two.
“Listen, I’m sorry. Are you upset?” she finally said. “No I’m not, I guess it’s ok. How can I be upset at something I don’t understand? What did you mean when you said we shouldn’t keep seeing each other?” “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for some time now. I almost made up my mind but I was waiting for the right time and trying to figure out the right way to tell you.” I did not comment and she continued after a pause, “Of course I wasn’t going to tell you now in the middle of your finals. I thought it’s best if I waited for the summer.” It all sounded too familiar for me and I hated her for that. I had a flash back from a few years ago when Dalia told me we were no longer right for each other. Is this how she is trying to let me know she is leaving me? I was squeezing the sand in my hand as hard as I could. “So is this goodbye?” I asked with impatience. “For now, not forever,” she said.
I was confused then. “What do you mean?” I asked. “I mean that we shouldn’t keep seeing each other but it doesn’t mean I stopped loving you. I really wish that one day we could get married and share a life together. I want us to be together but I want to do it the right way. Ever since that day at your room when we made love the first time, I’ve been feeling a tremendous amount of guilt and it all just keeps accumulating and bottling up inside of me. I just can’t pretend it doesn’t exist and I can’t sweep it under the carpet like I used to. Every time you touch me I can’t help feeling a little bit of guilt added up to the pile and I hear a voice in my head telling me I’m ought to stop and that I shouldn’t be doing this but my desire always wins and I find myself giving in for you. Moreover, even I, sometimes like today, can’t stop myself from wanting you. I can’t control the way I feel when we’re so close to each other. I’m not that strong.
What we’re doing is not right and you know that. God is watching us all the time and as hard as I try to ignore that thought, sometimes in the middle of the night it’s so dominating that I find myself begging for His forgiveness and promising Him that I will stop what I’m doing and going to be good again. However, the next morning when I see you, all the promises and pleas just disappear. We can’t make it without God’s blessing you know. We need to acknowledge that what we are doing is wrong and try to make it right. It’s never too late and I’m sure He’ll forgive us if we’re truly remorseful. We should stop and be good. Don’t you agree?” She sounded like she was going to cry and her voice had a plea for me to agree. “Tell me why suddenly you’re feeling this guilt? What’s the difference between yesterday and today? I do agree with what you just had said but I need to know more, to understand.”
“It’s not suddenly. I told you I always felt this guilt but I could always hide it deep inside and not think about it but today when we were in the car and that officer caught us, I felt my heart sink down to my knees. I found myself thinking, why oh why did I have to start this? I was scared as hell of what might happen. I feared for me, for you and for our future. What would’ve happened if that officer didn’t let us go? Have you thought about that? I have and it’s terrifying. In addition to the obvious troubles we would get in, my parents would find out about us in the most disgraceful way and they would learn about what we’ve been doing. Where would I hide from them then? And how on earth could you come to our house to ask for my hand in marriage and hold your head up high in front of them? And even if they agreed to you, they’d always resent you deep within and they will never look at me the same again. I want them to treat you with the respect you deserve. I want them to look at you as a son they have gained and I want them to love you like I do. If, god forbid, that officer was someone else there’s no telling what would’ve happened.
It’s enough how bad I feel for hiding everything about us from my parents. You have no idea how happy I was when you met Yasser. At least, my sister and brother knows you personally and I can’t wait for the day I could tell my parents that this is the man I love but you know them, it has be done the proper way. Listen, I’m sorry if you misunderstood me but I barley had time to think clearly myself and in my heart I believe this is the right thing to do.” She stopped and took a deep breath then sighed.
“I’m really surprised you hadn’t brought up any of this before. You know I’d understand,” I said because I did understand. I myself struggled with the same issues. I carried the burden of being aware that what we were doing was a major sin and that God was watching us. I did not want to share that burden with Layla however. I just kept it to myself and pushed it away as hard as I could. All along, she struggled too. I knew how hard it was for her to hide our relationship from her parents. I was lucky enough that both of my parents knew about us while hers did not. I was lost in my own thoughts for a couple of minutes then I asked, “So, what should we do then?” “I’m not sure but we can’t see each other. I don’t think I feel good even about simply going out on a date anymore. What do you think?”
“How about we don’t see each other but at least let us talk over the phone. I have two more exams and then it’s the summer and you’re probably going away as usual. So can I see you once before you go? Then after you come back, we’ll see what happens. Hopefully on the final week of the vacation before school starts, I’ll bring my parents and we’ll come visit you at your house, how about that?”
I heard her gasp. “Are you serious?” Her voice was high pitched and excited. “Why not? It seems like the perfect timing. You’d be a graduate and even though I still have two more years to go, families tend to give medical students a break. I know we had said that at we’d get engaged the end of my 5th year but I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t do it before that. I trust that you’d say yes and not embarrass me and my parents by saying no,” I joked and she said, “I love you. I don’t know what else to say.” “I love you too. You do know that’s why I’m marrying you to begin with! I believe my parents will be thrilled when I tell them I want to get engaged because God knows they want me to get married as quickly as possible I don’t know why. The trick remains in convincing your parents but I think I’m a decent candidate and good enough for you.” “If my parents even said that I need to think about it I will tell them I don’t need to think about anything but I’m sure they’ll adore you. How could they not! If their daughter loves you and my genes come from them, at least they’ll like you!” We laughed and it felt good and pure. The summer had turned into a waiting period for us until the day we’re engaged. The future was bright and filled with the promise of happiness.
I finished my exams and got an overall grade of a B+. Layla graduated with a GPA of 4.4, which she was upset about since it was so close to an A but still impressive nonetheless. I saw her on the night prior to her departure and we had a good time. She had brought along a cheesecake that she had made herself at home and I thought that was very sweet of her. Even though we asked the waiter at Casper to put it in the refrigerator the moment we got in there, it was too late to save it and it had already melted. We still ate it and it was the best cheesecake any of us ever had.
When Layla came back at the end of the summer, we agreed to meet at Osaka on Monday. I tried to call her Sunday night but her mobile was turned off. Her mobile remained closed through out Monday too and I started to get worried. I sensed something was wrong but did not know what. I decided that the best thing I could do was wait. Tuesday morning Layla called me using a calling card. The moment I heard her voice I knew that something bad had happened. I barely understood what she was trying to tell me because she was choking on her tears. “My dad found out about us,” she said.