Chapter 8: She will be loved

The flight back to Cairo couldn’t have been more uncomfortable to Lana or Mark. They have managed to avoid each other the entire time, but as expected, their seats were booked right next to one another. Lana just sat down quietly, buckled up and opened her purse to get a book and read. Mark didn’t dare set eyes on her either, so he too grabbed the flight magazine and started going through it. When the plane landed, Mark tried to help Lana with unloading her luggage, but she politely pushed him away. That was when he realized that he had ruined his life by his stupid confession the other night. Everybody was waiting for the happy winners at the airport; everybody who had come to say goodbye almost a week before was now back to welcome them home. But there was one person added to the list, or at least this time he planned on getting himself seen at the airport; of course that would be Mohammad. Standing there, with a warm smile set on his face, Mohammad decided he was going to act cool. He didn’t necessarily have to apologize, but at least he could begin with a warm gesture. Lana ran toward everyone, violently kissing her parents and twirling around with her sister in her arms. Then, when she noticed Mohammad, she rushed toward him throwing herself in his arms and bursting into tears. Mohammad was very surprised; as a matter of fact, everybody was. Only Mark was able to understand her, and he wished he hadn’t. EVEN THOUGH MARK’S attitude with Tonya at the airport was normal, the way he treated her later was very different. She could feel him slipping away, and she wasn’t going to let that just happen. Studying the whole case inside out, she began to suspect there was somebody else. Then everybody became a suspect. If Lana hadn’t been avoiding any kind of contact with him, Tonya would have definitely suspected her. Lana’s birthday came up, and due to her investigative activities, Tonya did not remember it for the first time through their fourteen years of friendship. Lana didn’t seem to really care; she knew other stuff were currently occupying Tonya’s mind. And Lana felt very bad for seeing her best friend feel so strongly about someone who turned out to be no better than a cheat. She wanted to tell her that he didn’t deserve her, that he confessed his love to Lana and almost raped her, but she promised herself she was never going to open that subject up ever again, not to anyone. Why? Firstly because she knew that Mark deeply regretted all what happened that doomed night. She also believed that everybody deserved a second chance, and letting out such a secret wouldn’t only destroy Mark’s life but it would also tarnish her reputation. But most importantly, she had this strange notion deep inside; she almost felt that Mark’s true feelings toward her gave her some kind of pleasure. Ever since her break up with Nader, she had been having self-esteem issues. Now Baher’s love to her made things good, but Mark’s love made things even better. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy being in all hearts all at once? As those thoughts were running through her head, Tonya was rearranging her books in her purse as they were both seated in the auditorium; right after their lecture had ended. Out of the blue, Mark was in sight. He slowly and heavily dragged his leg and reached them. The second Lana saw him come into the auditorium; she put on her jacket, grabbed her car keys and took off. She didn’t even take her notebook; that was as badly as she had wanted to leave. When asked where she was going, by Tonya, she said: “I’m just gonna take a ride, to give you guys some privacy.” She did go to her car, turned the key and even started the engine, but she didn’t go anywhere. She realized she had nowhere to go; she had a lecture in less than two hours and she couldn’t possibly drive all the way to Qautameya then come back on such a short gap. She was just going to wait this meeting out in the car and once she sees Mark coming out of the building, she was going to get back to Tonya. Nevertheless, her simple plan was disturbed by Mohammad’s sudden arrival. He tried to surprise her but he failed; she had already seen his reflection in the front mirror. However, his wrapped up gift to her did manage to take her breath away. “Oh my God,” she said happily accepting it, “you shouldn’t have.” “Why not?” he asked with that same romantic smile on his face, “isn’t today your birthday?” “How did you know?” she enquired as her eyes moved from him to the gift she was trying so eagerly to open. “You told me before your birthday was on March 15th.” “You remembered!” she exclaimed as she finally managed to open the gift. It was a teddy bear; brown in color, the size of real cat, holding an iron chest with a heart-shaped lock between its arms. There was a paper inside the chest; Lana could see it through the iron bars, but it was locked and there was no key around. “What is that?” asked Lana quite astonished. “Is that a note inside?” “Yeah, but you gotta figure out where the key is first so that you’d be able to read the note, which is – by the way – a poem I wrote for you.” “Is this some kind of riddle?” said Lana, brightly smiling. Mohammad just shrugged his shoulders. She began by looking for the key in the car. Then she realized that he couldn’t have possibly had the time or the chance to hide it there. That was when she realized that he must have it on him. She started going through his pockets with extreme thoroughness; still he didn’t seem to care. It was when she took notice of his fist which appeared to be clenched around something. She gave out a sly look, then she threw both her hands on it, violently trying to unclench it. Just at that moment, they both burst into laughter, a laughter which was interrupted by Mark’s tap on her window. She let go of Mohammad’s hand and cast him a look of surprise. It was the first time she looked at him since that night. He made a gesture that meant he needed to talk with her, so she opened her window. “Happy birthday,” he said smiling and handing her a bag. “Thanks.” She said taking the bag. She opened it and out of it she got the book the kite runner by Khaled Hosseini. “Tonya said it was on your list of ‘must read’.” He said referring to the book. “It is, I mean was.” She said, a little less uneasy than he had expected her to be. That gave him hope. “Ok,” he said after some awkward silence, “I better get going.” It was a while before she realized she had been staring at him as he moved away from the car. Then she directed her stares to the book as she kept flipping its pages and going through it with great attention. She totally forgot about the key that was still in Mohammad’s fist. Seeing her negligence to his gift and her full devotion to Mark’s, Mohammad decided to withdraw, at least for the time being. “Where are you going?” cried Lana following him out of the car, barely able to run in her shoes. Wrong day to wear high heels, she thought to herself. “To my car” “But you still haven’t given me the key yet!” said Lana getting back on track. “Oh, good thing you remember.” Commented Mohammad cynically. “Stop,” she said as she finally managed to reach him after some jogging. She grabbed him by the arm as she said, “I wanna read the poem. That’s part of your gift, isn’t it?” He stopped running from her, took a heavy breath and looked her straight in the eye. He knew she was just making amends, that she neither cared about him nor about his gift as she pretended to care, but he just couldn’t resist her charm. He slowly unclenched his fist, and she took hold of the key and rushed to the car to get the teddy bear and open the chest. After some effort, she was holding the note in her hands and silently reading the poem. The smile on her face and the way she rocked her body as she moved from one stanza to the other made it all worth the while for Mohammad. WHEN SHE VISITED Tonya’s home that day, she was already napping. Even though her eyes were closed, Lana could tell from her wet pillow that she had been crying. When she woke up, Tonya slowly opened the drawer of her night stand, while she was still in bed, and got something out of it. Then she approached Lana and handed her something as she kissed her on the cheek. “Happy birthday,” she said trying so difficultly to smile. “Thank you.” Said Lana relieved. She had already given up on the idea that Tonya would remember her birthday that year. She opened the gift; it was a silver heart-shaped necklace. It looked very simple yet elegant, which assured Lana that Tonya wasn’t the one who chose it. “It’s beautiful, thanks.” Said Lana. Again Tonya tried to smile, but this time Lana could clearly see her puffed eyes and the wrinkles that were already gaining on her face. “Are you ok?” she asked rather hesitantly. “Yeah,” moaned Tonya turning around. “Is there something wrong with Mark? You two don’t seem to be getting along quite well.” Added Lana. “Yeah, well … maybe that’s why we broke up.”


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