Oh, it’s beautiful.” Said Lana as she walked in. She was looking around with profound admiration; with raised eyebrows and dropped jaws, it seemed like she had seen the eighth world wonder.
“Isn’t it?” echoed Tonya leading her into the room, which was the topic of admiration. “I told you you were gonna like it.”
Frankly, it was a lovable room. Even though it wasn’t very spacious, it did have its own character. It had those baby-blue and white striped wall papers that emphasized that it was an all-girls room. It contained a comfy 150-meter bed covered by an expensive, blue bed sheet. There was a nightstand at each side of the bed upon which lay a pink, heart-shaped lamp. The rug covering the small unoccupied part of the floor was checked black and white. Last but not least was the black, leather armchair, the large mirror, the dresser, the plasma screen TV and the huge closet which had taken up almost quarter the size of the entire room.
“It’s so feminine.” Said Lana with a wide smile drawn on her face as she ran her hands across the freshly painted wall, “Don’t you just feel like it’s screaming: estrogen?”
“And that’s a bad thing?” asked Tonya as she turned to her jokingly.
“No, it’s great.” Exclaimed Lana. She then reached out for the large window next to the dresser. It was covered with polka-dotted blue drapes whose color matched magically with the bed sheet. As Lana opened the drapes and then unlocked the sliding glass of the window, she sighed saying:
“Oh, it’s so great. Now, I can actually sleep over at your house. We can spend hours chatting after the lights go off without Nadia at our backs constantly asking us to shut up.” Nadia was Tonya’s elder sister; they used to be roommates in their old apartment in Maadi. Back then, the apartment was too small for each of the girls to have her own bedroom. But here, in this Twin house in Zayed, 6th of October city, the upper level was made up of three separate bedrooms. Tonya’s parents occupied the master bedroom with their own bathroom en Suite, while Tonya and Nadia – whose bedroom was just the same size of Tonya’s – shared another bathroom situated between their rooms. “Now, I won’t even have to sleep on the floor.” She added with a triumphant smile. “This chair’s a fold-out, isn’t it?” she asked suddenly turning around to face Tonya.
Tonya didn’t answer her back, she just moved towards the leather armchair, opened it up, and pulled the mattress out of it. In less than thirty seconds, the chair was transformed into a small bed.
“Oh!” exclaimed Lana, springing through the room and resting gracefully upon it. She kept bouncing up and down the mattress, happily with childish giggles. “This is my new bed.” She chuckled at saying it.
“From now on, you have no excuse for sleeping over.” Declared Tonya. “As a matter of fact, I suggest you move in with me. That way I could give you shelter and you could give me a decent mean of transportation.” Lana understood this as a merry joke about her eighteenth birthday gift from her parents; the new yellow VW beetle.
“So,” asked Lana, as she reached out for her purse and got her cell phone out of it. It was a Nokia 6600, very popular at that time, “are you adjusting to the new neighborhood?” It’s true the Sixth of October city was getting crowded everyday with new residents, yet it still remained an exclusive part of Cairo, especially its elite compounds.
“Not exactly adjusting. I’ve only been here … what? Even less than a week. But I like it, it’s a little too far from college, but daddy drives me there everyday on his way to work. And at least it’s easier than coming all the way from my old house in Maadi.” Replied Tonya as she gently grabbed the phone from Lana’s hand. “You bought that from Lebanon?” Lana nodded. “Is it one of those with a camera?” asked Tonya, astonished, as she turned the phone around to have a look at its back. Spotting the VG camera, she screamed, “Oh yeah it is! May I try?” without even waiting for Lana’s approval, she unlocked the keypad. Before pressing on the menu button, she noticed the wallpaper of the phone. It was a picture of Lana in the arms of a tall, stout, young man with a confident face and an even more confident smile, whom Tonya recognized as Nader, Lana’s boyfriend.
“You took that picture at Beirut?” asked Tonya with her eyes still set upon the screen of the cell, focusing on the bright chiffon dress Lana was wearing, which was blown away by the wind while the picture was taken.
“Yes.” Answered Lana simply, as she lay down on the armchair.
“Well, you never told me,” said Tonya as she put the phone down and lay on her side, pushing her long brown hair backwards and resting her head on her palm, “how was your trip to Beirut?”
“It was ok.” Replied Lana, not exactly with the amount of excitement Tonya had expected to see. “The weather was nice, and whenever Nader was in college, mum would take me shopping for almost the entire day. I ended up with a bouncing cheque and a load of luggage. Fun, but not exactly worth wasting my first week in college.”
“Oh, I’ll tell you all about that later.” Rushed Tonya, doing some careless hand gesture. “Just focus on Nader now. Is he happy in Beirut? Does he like college back there?” Nader attended the same school with Lana and Tonya. They started dating during their final year at high school. Later, after the results were out, Nader took Lana by surprise by telling her that he had decided to attend college in Beirut where his mother was living. He even asked her to join him, but given how absurd the whole idea sounded, Lana had to pass. However, after much pleading from his side, Lana’s mother agreed to take her to Beirut so that she could spend his first week in college with him. But only after they had booked the flight tickets to Beirut did they realize that Lana’s college would start just about that same time. At first, Lana’s father strongly disapproved of the trip, but after a lot of pleading, this time from Lana’s side, they came to the conclusion that nothing really happens in the first week of college and that many people actually miss it.
“He’s fine,” Lana now had crossed one foot over the other, “and says ‘hi’, by the way. But the thing is,” now she became a little more excited, “he wasn’t so happy to see me. I slightly regret missing out on my first days in college for him when he’s so … distant.” Tonya looked her straight in the eye, trying her best not to smile, “Don’t say ‘I told you so.’”
“Wasn’t gonna.” Muttered Tonya defensively. “But in case it doesn’t work …”
“It is gonna work.” Interrupted Lana, annoyed. “We’re just going through a rough patch. I know I’ve never gone through a long-distance relationship before, but I’m sure it’s gonna be alright. We just need a little time to get adjusted.” She waited for a while until she was able to hide the tension in the tone of her voice, then she resumed: “Anyway, how is college? It’s so different from school, isn’t it?”
It was like a crowded room full of crammed up words and stories had burst open. Lana was aware of Tonya’s talkative abilities, but she could have never imagined that Tonya was that gifted. She began from the very beginning: the day her parents drove her to the new semi-detached house they were now occupying. She described the long day they had spent unpacking their furniture from cardboard boxes, bags and even large containers. She told her how awful her first night was, and how she begged Nadia to spend the night with her in her room. Old as she was, Tonya was still frightened of being alone in a strange, dark room.
Then she moved onto the first day in college; the classes and how breathtaking it was to attend her first college class ever: Arts. She vividly drew the picture of each and every professor she was taking her classes with, never neglecting the slightest detail. She warned Lana about the bad tempered ones, made her long to meet the interesting ones and fear the vindictive ones. If Lana had attended the classes herself, she could never have gathered such an accurate report.
Finally, she came to the part she had long yearned to discuss with Lana ever since her arrival at the airport.
“I met a guy!” she said with the happiest tone she possessed, her eyes so bright and her face so red.
Now, dating was never Tonya’s thing; romance was – and still is, but not dating. It was always Lana who had those great boyfriend stories; how they spent their Valentine, what her gift was and why she broke up with Mr. Perfect. As for Tonya, all she had in exchange for those amazing stories were pathetic news about her countless crushes. But now things were so different: Tonya met a guy! And this guy seemed to be the one, given the way her eyes sparkled when she talked about him.
“What is his name?” asked Lana, rolling enthusiastically up in bed and acting as a typical girl craving for details.
“My God, Tonya. Is he a Copt?” asked Lana with a sudden change of face. She was never prejudiced against Copts, but she just knew that since Tonya was a Muslim, she could never marry a one. It was religiously and socially prohibited, so it seemed like such a disaster for Tonya to have a relationship without a future, especially that it was her first relationship ever.
“No, of course not.” Replied Tonya, patronizingly. “His mother was Copt, before she met his father. She converted into Islam right before they got married. However, she wanted to call her eldest son after her father.”
“Look who knows all about Mark’s history!” said Lana teasingly.
“Of course I know all about him.” Uttered Tonya, a bit embarrassed. “I’m telling you: I love this guy.”
“Well, I’d just love to meet him. I’ve been so off love lately. Perhaps, if I saw you with a boyfriend, it could be the cue to make me bounce back.”