Chapter 20.

“We both know very well that I’m not a hero

We both know that I do not have any super powers

I may not be able to save you when you need me to

But I will gladly jump in the fire with you if you were burning

I will gladly jump in the water with you if you were drowning”

– Translated from an Arabic poem I read many years ago.


“Calm down, dear, and tell me what happened. Everything’s going to be alright. Just please stop crying and tell me. Maybe we can work it out.” I tried to reassure her and understand what happened and finally after a few more minutes of continuous sobbing and scattered words, she seemed to be capable of speaking coherently. “Sunday morning, I went out for breakfast with Abeer and her sister. I had left my laptop in my room on hibernate as usual. Anyhow, dad’s laptop is being repaired and therefore he decided to use mine in order to check his email. Usually I put our pictures in CDs and remove them from the laptop but the pictures from our last visit to Al-Shallal were still there. I blame myself for being so foolish and careless but I swear to you my dad has never even did as much as touch my laptop ever since I got it. I have no idea why this time out of all times he decided to use it instead of just waiting to use the computer at work and why on earth did he look in My Documents.


I came back home and found him waiting for me in the living room. He asked me to sit in front of him and said that we needed to talk. I felt uncomfortable when I heard his unfamiliar harsh tone. “I opened your laptop today and guess what I found in it,” he said looking directly into my eyes. “What? How could you? You don’t have the right to do that.” I raised my voice trying to seem offended especially that I didn’t know what he had found and I wasn’t going to admit anything yet. I had forgotten about the pictures.

 

He completely discarded my dismay and continued in even a harsher tone, “Well, regardless of your little protest, the point is that I saw pictures of you holding hands with some guy and clearly you’re close to him. Don’t act like I’m mistaken. You know damn well what I’m talking about so wipe that stupid shocked look off your face now. Anyhow, I really don’t want to nor do I need to know anything about this guy or whatever is going on between you two. I don’t care. You will, however, stop contacting him from this day on. I will be watching you and if, God forbid, I found out you were still talking to him then the consequences won’t be good for either of you.

 

You have disappointed me much more than I ever imagined you could. I thought I had raised you well but apparently, I didn’t. The most precious thing a girl has is her honor and reputation and for you to go and throw them away at the feet of some guy is despicable. I think it’s fate that has led me to this awful discovery. I have never laid hands on any of you personal belongings before and look what happened the first time I did. It’s such a shame that I had to find out this way. If you had any respect for your mother or me, you would’ve told us about him before. Moreover, if you had any respect for yourself, you wouldn’t have let him touch you and hold your hand like he does in the pictures.

 

Homes have doors you know and you should’ve insisted that he comes to us from the front door and asks to have a relationship with you in the proper way rather than doing it in the dark behind our backs just like low people do. I’m pretty sure that this guy once he got whatever it is he wants from you he’s going to flee and you’re never going to hear of him again. What would have you gained then? A broken heart, a dishonorable reputation, and a black future in which no decent man would want to marry you. I’m not saying any of this to intentionally hurt you but I’m telling you the truth because I love you and I want to protect you. If this guy was a man in any sense he would’ve been here in our house with his parents asking us for your hand. If he loved you in any way, he wouldn’t have allowed you to belittle yourself the way you obviously did.

 

Layla, I’m really hurt, disappointed, angry, frustrated, confused and other million things at the moment. I don’t know what to do with you. Of course, I won’t tell your mom about this. She doesn’t need to know what her daughter has been doing. For now, give me your mobile and your laptop and you’re not allowed to go out for a month unless I say otherwise.”

 

All the time he was talking, silent tears were running down my cheeks and burning them like fire. I felt so ashamed and I despised myself. I didn’t know what to say so I just sat there and prayed to God that dad would stop saying all those things but it seemed the more I prayed the more dad spoke. At the begging, he was looking into my eyes and then when I started crying he simply looked away and kept talking as if he’s addressing the wall. My dad has never treated me this way before. He never said anything hurtful to me before. When he was done, he stood to leave and looked down on me in every possible way you could look down on someone. I wished the earth would open up and swallow me. I wished I would turn into dust.

 

“I’m sorry,” I finally managed to utter, barely audibly. “What good is your sorry now? Tell me what good is your sorry now?” he said. “Dad, wait. Please believe me. He’s a really good guy. He loves me and I love him. We’ll get married and we’ll make each other happy,” I said with a breaking voice. “I don’t see him here, do you?” he said and picked up his keys and went down the stairs. “Tell your mother I might be out late tonight,” he said then slammed the door and left the house. I sat there crying for hours and hours with no one to console me except for our maid who couldn’t do anything but sit on the carpet at the corner of the living room and feel sorry for me. I cried in hope that the tears would wash the shame away but no matter how hard I cried, the shame seemed only to grow bigger and bigger it engulfed me.”

She then started crying again. I could tell she was fighting her tears as she was telling me the story taking deep breaths occasionally and being barely capable of finishing more than a couple of sentences together at once. I stayed silent the whole time not knowing what to say or do. There was no way I could understand what she must have felt. I hated myself. I loathed myself. It is my fault that Layla had to go through that. I felt so helpless sitting on the edge of my bed clutching my mobile in my hand and listening to Layla crying on the other end. I needed to make things right. I had to fix it.

                                                                                        

In the middle of everything, I could not help thinking of the irony of fate. It is only soon that we had decided that we wanted to get engaged at the end of this summer and that we would stop seeing each other and do everything the right way. Back when we saw each other almost on daily basis, none of her parents had a clue but now such a minimal mistake could lead to multiple complications.   

“Hush now darling, stop crying. We’ve been through a lot before and I promise you we’ll make it through this too some way or another. I’m going to make it right somehow, trust me. I love you from the bottom of my heart. That is a force not to be taken lightly because for you, I’ll fight the entire world. Your dad will realize that all his assumptions were wrong when he sees me knocking at your door. I’m going to prove him wrong and we’ll live happily ever after just like beauty and the beast, of course you being the beast and I’m the beauty,” I joked. I heard a very faint laugh and it made me smile.

 

“Listen, don’t worry. I believe that we’re destined to be together and your dad will have to see that too.” “But even if he agreed, he’ll never forgive me,” she said. “I promise you he will. No one can stay mad at his daughter forever not to mention that the moment we bring him a grandchild he’ll forgive and forget like nothing has ever happened.” “Thank you,” she said. “What for?” “For always being my rock and anchor. I feel like I have caused you many troubles in the last few months and made you go through a lot of drama.” I laughed and said, “It’s ok you don’t have to thank me for anything, not now. You have the rest of your life to thank me. Anyhow, I think you should you hang up now just in case someone sees you or your dad comes unannounced. You don’t want to upset him this period. Take care of yourself please and hold that pretty chin of yours up high. Everything’s going to be alright, Ok? I love you.” She said I love you too and we hung up. I sat there and started thinking. I promised her and assured her many times that everything is going to be all right when I myself did not know that for sure.     

A couple of days later, I entered my parents’ room to find my mom doing some paper work as usual. “Mom, have you got a minute?” I asked. “Yeah sure. What’s going on?” “Remember that girl I told you about a long time ago?” “Layla? Of course I do. You’re still talking to her, aren’t you? It’s obvious from your phone bills you know.” I smiled. “Yeah that’s her. Well, this is her mother’s number. I want you to call her and tell her that I want to propose to Layla.”

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