[Hanging by a Moment] was still playing from my mobile while its screen kept blinking [Layla is calling] I put my mobile on Silent and threw it on the passenger’s seat. I was not ready to talk to her just yet. I needed to clear my mind for I was still confused. I felt disoriented. I tried thinking of other things such as the Pathology quiz we were having the next day but I could not concentrate on anything. The voice in my head was still asking too many questions. “Probably it’s nothing,” I kept reassuring myself. Maybe I am just making a big deal of it. In the end, it was just a simple Thank You message. In my mind, I knew it was not the message itself that worried me the most, not even the fact that they had talked last night was. It was the things that might follow I was afraid of. I did not want them to have a relationship of any kind. I would not feel comfortable knowing that he could call her anytime he needed to “talk.”
I took my mobile and looked at its screen. 3 Missed calls and 1 message received. I could not help smiling. Someone else might have not stopped calling and sending messages but she knew better. She knew that I did not like it when people kept on calling. She knew I needed some time alone to figure things out on my own. She also knew that I would call her the minute I find it in me to do so. I turned the volume of the stereo way up high so I could not hear my own thoughts for a while. I kept driving to nowhere in particular.
When it started getting dark, I came back home. My mom asked me where have I been and why have I not been answering my phone. I apologized and told her I had to stay late in college and that I had forgotten my mobile on Silent. She asked me what is wrong. I knew my mom could read me like an open book and I was never good at concealing the way I feel. I said nothing and asked her if I could take Noor, my sister, out.
Noor and I went to Gelato, Al-Tahleya branch, which we used to call our “cheer-up place.” We usually went there whenever one of us felt down or upset over something for it offered good Ice Cream and good Mo’assel, hubbly bubbly. The place was rather small but we liked it very much. The setting was nice. We had befriended the manager a long time ago and the waiters knew us well enough by then. We ordered a strawberry milkshake, a plate with five different kinds of ice cream and an apple Mo’assel.
Those who knew me knew about my close relationship with Noor. We kept almost no secrets from each other. We often talked at length about everything that is going on in our lives. She usually was the one offering advice when I was in need while I served as a sympathetic ear whenever she needed one. It is true that she is almost two years younger than I am but she knows about life much more than I do. She understands how relationships work in a way that never fails to amaze me. We were not always this close though. We had a better relationship than most siblings usually have but during the last two years, we grew closer. She was a tremendous help after my first relationship ended rather badly during my second year of college. I was heart-broken and I thought I would never recover. I have no idea what I would have done if she had not been there for me during that difficult period of my life. I owe her more than I could ever repay. I will always be grateful to her.
“So, what’s wrong?” she asked. I told her about what happened that morning, more or less. She did not ask me what I was doing at Layla’s house. “What should I do?” I pleaded. “Well, I think you should call her the moment we get home and give her a chance to explain things. Don’t make any judgments yet. It doesn’t seem like something you should worry about. Layla loves you. I could tell from the way she looks at you and holds your hand. Even if it wasn’t the first time they talked, I don’t think it meant anything to her. It’s usually hard to ignore the first person you’ve been with. Just ask her to please not talk to him anymore if it bothers you this much and I assure you she would do as you asked. You’re making a big deal out of nothing. I thought you were worried about something more serious. Just talk to her tonight and everything will be ok,” she said. We stayed for another hour before we left.
I finally called Layla around midnight. She was still awake with her mobile in her hand or something because she answered even before I heard a single ring in my mine. “Hey,” I said. She said Hey back and we both fell silent. Up until that moment, I had not exactly decided how I am going to discuss the whole thing with her. I had struggled with different scenarios in my mind throughout the day but at the end, I just dialed her number with nothing premeditated to say but “Hey” as I did. “Thank you for putting the alarm on 2 o’clock so I could wake up before Lama comes back home and for folding my clothes too,” she said. “It’s ok. You’re welcome,” I said and we both fell silent again. “Listen, Khalid, I’m sorry.”
She paused as if to wait for me to say anything but when she saw that I did not respond she continued, “Last night wasn’t the first time Rami called. However, it was the first time I bothered to answer. During the last month he had called me three or four times but I never picked up.” I interrupted her saying, “You should’ve hung up in his face rather than just let it ring.” “Please let me finish. He even sent me a couple of messages, which I deleted without even reading. Anyhow, last night, I think it was around 2 or 3, I woke up to the ringing of my mobile thinking probably it’s you. When I looked at the screen, turned out it was Rami who is calling. His calls were annoying me so I figured I should just answer and ask him to please not to call again. When I said hello, he asked me how I was doing and apologized for calling so late and waking me up. He wanted to make small talk but I cut him off asking him to get to the point why he is calling me. He then told me he was engaged.
Can you believe that? He’s engaged to Halah, the girl I saw him with that day at Java. I used to think I would get upset if such a thing ever happened. The strange thing is that I didn’t. It didn’t stir up any kind of emotions in me. It was like a stranger was telling he is getting married, which I guess in a way is what Rami has become to me. I thought of you and I smiled. I pictured us getting engaged ourselves one day and me calling Rami to tell him the same thing he was telling me then. He gave me the dates for Al-Milka and the wedding day and where they will be held. He asked me if I wanted to attend any. I said, “No, thank you.” I congratulated him and told him I was happy for him, which wasn’t entirely true but I figured what the hell. We talked for a couple of more minutes then he asked me if I had forgiven him. I shrugged and said, “There’s no need for us to bring up that subject ever again.” I congratulated him again and we hung up.
The whole conversation couldn’t have been more than ten minutes. There’s nothing about it that should make you upset. I’m sorry. If I knew you’d leave me to wake up and not find you by my side, I would never have talked to him in the first place.” “Why didn’t you tell me about it in the morning then?” I asked. “Because it was the first time I let you into my house. The first time I let you into my room. I didn’t want to start our day together by mentioning Rami because I thought it might turn you off or upset you. I would have told you later for sure but not when we’re alone in my room. I wouldn’t waste our precious time together on such a small matter.” I apologized for leaving the way I did. I felt rather foolish and embarrassed from myself that moment. We then talked about our lovely morning together and how it was almost perfect if that message had not come.
“You know what? How about I pretend I’m still sick tomorrow so I can stay home alone again. I promise I would make it up to you.” She was back to her usual playful self, using her seductive voice tone. I could not help smiling and saying, “Well, you know I have a Pathology quiz tomorrow but I’d be more than willing to miss it if you’re going to wear that red dress of yours. Preferably with nothing underneath” I said in the same tone of her voice.
“So, is everything ok between us? I’m looking at the mobile with my cute puppy eyes. I look adorable. Too bad you can’t see me now,” she said. “You know what? I think you might be able to show me those cute puppy eyes of yours. Move your curtain and open up your window.” “No way!” she said giggling. I saw her window slide open and her beautiful face peered out from it. She was wearing the pink PJ I had undressed her from that very same morning. I was standing in front of my car, which I had parked in the empty piece of land opposite her window. I waved to her and she waved back. She was screaming at my ears through the mobile, “You’re crazy! Did you know that? It’s very cold out there! Don’t tell me you’ve been standing there the entire time!” I smiled and said, “Well, No. I’ve been here half an hour before I called you.” She laughed some more at this and said, “I love you.” I told her I loved her too. I stood there while she sat on the edge of her window and we talked until the break of dawn. Then I got into my car and went home to take a shower, change and come back to her house when everyone has left. Four hours later, I was in her room and we had our perfect morning that day.