Chapter 2: You’re Beautiful

My life is brilliant …” Sang Mohammad as he played on his guitar with Lana dancing to the tunes of the song as they rehearsed on stage. Ever since he set his eyes on Lana, Mohammad was captured. From the moment Tonya introduced them, and she gently invited him to a drink with a warm smile, he realized that this could actually be the girl he marries someday. He’s been getting butterflies in his stomach every time he ran into her. And he wasn’t discouraged when Tonya told him that Lana was seeing someone else.

Was it because he saw himself as desirable? God forbid. If anything, Mohammad saw himself as a failure with every possible meaning that word could hold. His wavy black hair, hazel eyes, stolid composure of five-foot-seven height and tanned complexion made him look almost sexy – at least that was what all the girls thought – but it never gave him enough confidence to see himself so. Even when a girl liked him, he’d assume it’s owing to his father’s money not his own self. However, he wanted Lana, and he was going to get her by any means, even if that meant using the ‘money’ card.

And honestly, who could blame him? As she stood on stage wearing this navy blue miniskirt and white top, with her long, mousy hair covering her shoulders, swinging from side to side and stretching her arms artfully, anyone would’ve mistaken her for an angel. And she couldn’t look more angelic than when she was dancing.

Coming from an aristocratic family, she had taken ballet classes since the day she could walk. In addition to piano lessons of course – but let’s focus on ballet for now. By the year she turned thirteen, she had become a brilliant dancer; that was when she started learning other types of dance. She learnt hip-hop dancing, Latin dancing, fox-trotting and even the quick step. But there was nothing she adored more than contemporary dancing. She’d set the stage on fire whenever she danced contemporary. She mastered it, could dance it even better than ballet.

So, it was no surprise when she signed up for all the dance activities there were in college. As soon as she had returned from Beirut, she started her dance lessons with Tonya – who was also a good dancer, but nowhere as good a dancer as Lana was. By now Lana had started to bond with her colleagues. The first one she was introduced to (by Tonya) was of course Mark, who was in his forth year in college; majoring in architecture (engineering).

Lana firstly liked Mark; he seemed like a decent, reliable guy. And when it came to the way he looked, he was definitely her type. Six foot one, light brown hair, dark green, almond eyes, broad shoulders,  fair complexion and a rounded nose. If she hadn’t been dating Nader and him Tonya, he would’ve definitely been a prospect boyfriend.

Nevertheless, when it came to bonding, she never got along with him quite well. It was always his best friend Mohammad who got her to smile when she was down and open up in her most reserved moments. Even though Mark’s singing voice was better and stronger than Mohammad’s, she could never dance to his tunes. Simply because it was Mohammad who could sing in English, Mohammad who could play the guitar and Mohammad who could write and compose the most passionate songs ever. In short, in two weeks, Mohammad had become Lana’s new best friend.

And that made it very easy for the two of them to team up for their mid-term activity project. A number was requested of every pair of students. And they had chosen you’re beautiful by James Blunt as their song and contemporary dancing as their genre – or must we say Lana had made those choices? They met ever afternoon right after their classes and rehearsed. They would perform it in the mid-year talent show and the best dancer and singer would get the chance to perform abroad during different festivals.

That was their second week of rehearsal, and they were working their hardest for at least three hours a day. They had the theatre to themselves only once a week and now was one of their turns. This time they had grabbed Tonya and Mark – who were also teamed up for their own number – to show them how far along they got with their piece.

Despite Mohammad’s magical abilities with the guitar, he always messed up the notes whenever Lana was around. But now he was getting used to her being around him almost all day long, so things were getting a little better. Anyhow, this didn’t stop him from forgetting to sing at the intro. They had to stop. Lana, wiping off the sweat on her brows with the back of her arm and sighing desperately, turned to him and said:

“Focus Mohammad, that’s the third time you miss the intro today.” She was the only one who called him Mohammad, everyone else just called him by his family name: Baher. It’s because the name Mohammad is so common in the Arabic speaking world that if everybody used it, no one would be able to tell who’s who.

“Sorry,” said Mohammad looking down with supposedly hidden shame. Tonya and Mark, who were seated in the audiences’ seats, exchanged looks as they concealed their smile; they were making fun of his zero abilities of handling the ladies.

Not paying attention to their humorous nature, Mohammad started from the beginning. He played the solo perfectly – which was typical of him, as Lana stretched her right leg and arm slowly and then drew them back toward her with professional skills – which was also typical of her. This time he did not miss the intro:

“My life is brilliant …” he sang with the sweetest, gentlest voice, “ … my love is pure, I saw an angel …” he turned his eyes towards Lana with his pair of large, hazel eyes, as she was bending backwards and throwing her arms in the air, “of that I’m sure. She smiled at me on the subway, she was with another man …” his voice became painfully dramatic at this specific verse, “But I won’t lose hope, sleep on that ‘cause I’ve got a plan.”

“You’re beautiful …” the guitar was getting louder, more intense, and so was Lana. She was now twirling composedly, since the song was somewhat calm. “… You’re beautiful it’s true …”

Tonya also loved this part; for the first time ever since the beginning of this performance, she put her eyes on Mark, who was sitting right next to her. He was very absorbed, so she just rested her head on his shoulder, rubbed her high cheekbone against his biceps, and sighed lovingly.

“…I saw your face in a crowded place.” Mark was really caught up in the performance. He eyed Lana with strange animation. He didn’t even notice Tonya’s tender caresses and quiet love words. He just pinned his eyes on Lana, silently admiring her dancing skills, musicality and above all; her wandering soul. “…and I don’t know what to do, ‘cause I’ll never be with you.”

Mohammad was being torn apart with every verse he recited; he was simply letting it all out and maybe that was what made him sound so Goddamn real. Lana could tell he was dedicating the song to her, but she decided to be professional about it. She just bent her body then embraced herself, kneeled down then jumped up, twirled then leaped across the theatre with only on thing on her mind: the number. Words like “… yes she caught my eyes as I walked on by …” and “… and I don’t think that I’ll see her again but we shared a moment that would last till the end …” meant no more to her than lyrics from the background music.

Nevertheless, they meant a lot more than that to Mohammad, who was so heated yet lovable, trying so hard yet somehow constantly failing to have an eye contact, a “moment” with her. Mark was no better; his eyes were falling into a deep well, deep enough that even Tonya’s firm/gentle grab of his hand couldn’t save him from drowning in it. He couldn’t stop creepily staring and heavily breathing, seeing nobody and nothing except for Lana, who was still only dancing.

“But it’s time to face the truth …” heard Mark, finally coming back to the real world and reaching out with his unoccupied hand to grab Tonya’s, “…I will never be with you.”


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