There were days when Lana woke up, opened her eyes and slowly got out of bed to make coffee, and then she thought about her life and what’s to be done with it. That’s because Lana couldn’t think, remember, calculate or approximate without those little atoms of caffeine going through her body and filling up her stomach.
However, this was not one of those days. This was one of the days when Lana’s pupils would widen the moment her eyes would open up; when it would take her less than a second to see things clearly, to realize what exactly has been done with her life. Then, she would jump out of bed, from intolerable excitement. And when she’d drink her coffee, it would be basically to cool herself down with a hot, soothing drink. And what could give her that feeling better than her own wedding day?
“Tonya!” she screamed running across the kitchen the second she heard the bell ring. It was indeed Tonya, in her denims and with a dress on her arm. Lana had to wait till the maid who had opened the door took the dress from Tonya so that she’d leap into her arms.
“Oh, thank God. Tonya, you’re here.”
“What’s the matter?” asked Tonya gently pulling her away to see her face.
“Sara’s still asleep and mum says I won’t have enough time to get ready. She’s already calling people and telling them that the wedding’s at five o’clock instead of three.”
“Hey, just relax, alright?” she took a deep breath, and so did Lana. “Now, is the dress ready?” Lana nodded. “Is the veil ready?” Lana nodded. “Have you shaved?” Lana nodded. “Have you confirmed with the hair dresser?” Lana nodded. “The make up artist?” Lana nodded. “Ok, that’s one, two …” she was counting on her fingers, “Five. No, they’re six. What are we missing? What … Your shoes! Oh my God. How could I forget? Of course it’s your shoes. Are they ready?” For the last time, this time probably more chilled than before, Lana nodded. “Ok, then. Let’s get down to business.
“We still gotta wake your lazy sister, though.” Added Tonya as they were climbing the stairs.
THE ENTIRE DAY was spent in preparations; the hairdresser and the make up artist tended to Lana, Sara, Tonya and Dalia. So, it wasn’t a short while before they had the time to get dressed. Between every couple of brushes on her cheeks or blows in her hair, Lana would peep out of her bedroom window to look at the garden being completely set up. The wedding was to take place in the garden. And even though Lana was the one who proposed the idea, now the thought of it was scaring her to death.
“What if it rains?” she asked as Tonya was zipping her dress. Dalia was dressing Sara up in her room, so the two of them were alone.
“Lana, it’s June. It’s never gonna rain.” Said Tonya as she tied the white ribbon around Lana’s waist.
“You’re right.” Lana was silent for a while. “God, it’s June.” She resumed again, obviously very worked up. “How could I be so stupid as to have an open air wedding in June? It’s too freaking hot.”
“Lana, relax, will you?” Cried Tonya with her hands around Lana’s waist.
Lana acquiesced. She decided to shut up for a while and moved instead to the jewellery department. She reached out for the jewellery box on her hairdresser and slowly opened it. It had two sets of jewellery; one was a butterfly-shaped diamond pendant with matching earrings and the other was a pearl necklace also with matching earrings and bracelet.
“You’ve managed to make me change my mind about my wedding, Lana.” Said Tonya as she was fixing her hair. “Up till this morning I wanted to have it done in the open air. I thought maybe Mohammad’s house would be a good choice. You know, his garden is almost as big as yours, so it could host a nice wedding. But after your pack of worries and insecurities, I’m thinking maybe a hotel won’t be so bad. Anyway, I haven’t officially discussed it with Mohammad yet. He still refuses to tell me what he prefers.”
Lana gave her an attentive smile. She was going to make a proposal, but she decided that maybe it wasn’t her place to do it. So she just returned to her jewellery.
“Which one do you think I should wear?”
“The butterflies.” Replied Tonya, rather spontaneously. “There’s nothing Mark loves better than butterflies.” She didn’t think about the words until they were already spoken. And when they were out, she realized that she had messed up, big time. Yet, she couldn’t take it back. And why should she feel impelled to take it back? Even if it made Lana’s face color, it was a fact; nothing could possibly change it. Therefore, she decided to finish off what she had already started. “I used to date him back in the day, and I can’t help but remember how fond he was of butterflies.” She slowly added.
After a short pause of awkward, uncomfortable silence, Lana said:
“Butterflies it is, then.”
Tonya helped her to put them on. Next, she readjusted Lana’s veil and tiara. Finally, she gently held Lana’s face between her hands and made her face the mirror.
“Now you’re perfect.” Lana politely smiled. “Ok, then. I’ll go downstairs and see how things are going, whether or not the groom arrived and maybe figure out how much longer you have to wait here. Alright?” Tonya kept smiling back at her even when she turned away and moved to the door.
“Hey, Tonya,” Called Lana, still seated by the hairdresser, stopping her, “I think you should stick to the hotel. For your wedding, I mean.”
“Oh really? You think that would be better?” asked Tonya, a bit pleased with Lana’s interest in her affairs.
“I happened to date Mohammad. And if I remember correctly, he wasn’t a big fan of surprises. And clearly, an open-air wedding; full of surprises.”
MARK WAS STANDING in the hall when Tonya went downstairs. She couldn’t take her eyes off his fluffy, fair hair when she first set eyes upon him that day. Then she moved her eyes to his black tuxedo, and his bow tie. His face was red and his eyes shyly looked back with a nervous glance. She couldn’t remember him looking more appealing than he looked at that moment. Then she remembered: it was his wedding day, and she wasn’t the one in the white dress. And that struck her so coarsely, even more harshly than the sight of Mohammad standing right next to Mark with his hand on Mark’s shoulder. Its blow was so hard on her that she wasn’t even able to face the excruciating truth: that her fiancé was standing right in front of her eyes and yet she couldn’t see one single attractive feature in him. While she saw every feature of his best friend, his groom-to-be best friend, as breathtaking. She was about to scream, what is she doing to herself? But her thoughts were interrupted by Lana’s father, whom she noticed by her shoulder.
“Is our Barbie ready, yet? ‘Cause the maa’zoun is here and we should probably get started.”
“She’s ready.” Said Tonya looking down at her entangled hands. “I’ll go get her.”
In a few minutes, all the noise in the hall came to an end, and the violins started playing very tunefully. All eyes were turned upon the stairs; down descended the princess of the entire ceremony. In her sleeveless, white dress, tightening up at the chest and loosening down the waist, with a wide, white ribbon separating both parts, Lana couldn’t look more majestic. However, in Mark’s eyes; she looked simply angelic. The sight of her in that way made him remember the time he first saw her dance. He could see that pretty, diffident smile on her face, that same smile he would only see when she danced. After she stopped dancing, he thought that smile would disappear from his life. He knew it was a smile which expressed her utmost pleasure, and it pained him to think that he couldn’t whatsoever manage to draw it upon her face. But now the smile was back, and his heart leaped out of his chest when he watched it widen across her face, making her look all innocent and childish.
She was carefully seated next to her father, who was sitting on the maa’zoun’s right and who, in turn, had Mark sitting on his left. First, the maa’zoun got out some papers which had been prepared earlier by Lana and Mark; papers that legalized their marriage and recorded their marriage conditions. All they had to do now was sign them. And being signed, the maa’zoun stretched out his hand and Mr. El Masry put his hand upon it and then Mark put his hand on Mr. El Masry’s. Then the three hands were covered with a handkerchief. Doing that, the marriage ceremony began, with both Mark and Mr. El Masry, on behalf of Lana, repeating the wedding vows after the maa’zoun. When it was over, women gave out the joyous sound known in Arabic as a zaghrouta, and Dalia came over with the wedding ring. Mark slowly took Lana’s hand and pushed the ring through her finger. It was a beautiful, solitaire ring; even though the rock wasn’t that big, it looked so enchanting. Then they helped each other switch their wedding rings from the right hand to the left one.
Being finished, they greeted the maa’zoun and moved, followed by their parents, siblings and guests, out to the garden. That was when the fire works started going off, the glitter started flowing around and the slow music started playing. It was a moment to love and cherish forever. A moment that made both of them, as he looked into her brown, glimmering eyes and she looked into his green, cheery eyes, forget all about the tension they’ve been living in ever since their engagement. They forgot about his mother’s disapproval of the wedding program – wanting a real oriental Zaffa with the drums and the bagpipes, and of her mother’s disapproval on their place of residence – feeling that the apartment was too small for her daughter to live in. They forgot about the fights they’ve had, the hardships they’ve lived through and the obstacles they’ve faced. If there was one thing they both kept coming back to, it surely was their little kiss at sunrise. It was the only time they ever kissed – excluding of course that kiss in London – and they both couldn’t believe that they could taste this feeling again and not have to feel guilty about it. Life seemed so bright in their eyes, and for a while they seemed to be living in one of those love songs they used to patronize.
The time for cutting the cake came up, and their rectangular-shaped, four-level wedding cake made their mouths water as they cut it together with the same wish: that they should live in happiness and never part. At that time it seemed so ridiculous for them to wish for such a thing, for they couldn’t possible see any reason why they shouldn’t live happily ever after.
They were called, afterwards, to the dance floor for their first dance. The music started playing and their bodies moved closer. When she rested her face against Mark’s chest, feeling his strong muscles contract with nervousness, his breathing get louder and louder, Lana could hardly believe that she was in his arms. They were almost levitating; it felt as if they were dancing on a cloud up in the sky and everything else around them disappeared; all the things they had to give up to be married, all the sacrifices they had to make, all the hearts they had to break; everything, except for the beating of their own, excited hearts.
BEING SO ABSORBED, Lana couldn’t notice Tonya’s sudden disappearance. Nadia, who was watching the happy couple with a pinch of bitterness, noticed her sister’s escape. She glanced at Mohammad to see if Tonya was with him, and that made him realize that Tonya was missing. Nadia’s mind became less troubled when she watched Mohammad exiting the crowd and taking off to look for her sister.
He almost skirted around the entire house until he found her hiding by the shade of some abandoned tree by the back door. She was facing the wall and her arm was covering her face. He could tell that she was crying.
“Tonya, are you alright?” he asked dubiously touching her back. He twitched when the tip of his fingers got in contact with her bare back. Her strapless dress exposed it all.
She slowly turned around and faced him, and contrary to what he’d expected of her, he saw her eyes red with tears. “I can’t stand it Mohammad. Something inside me kept telling me that this day would never come. Despite all, I somehow thought I would never have to go through it. But now it’s happening, and I just don’t know how the hell I’m supposed to overcome it.” she spoke in-between sobs.
“But we have a plan.”
“To hell with our plan!” she screamed as she stamped her foot. “God, I’m just … I’m choking, Mohammad.” She threw herself in his arms. And he was extremely receptive. He kept patting her shoulder and going through her hair, thinking about their own wedding night. He knew they would never be as happy as Lana and Mark were at that moment, that they would never be so sincere about their first dance. Yet him marrying Tonya somehow seemed inevitable. She was the only girl he’d been with for the past three years, and he knew almost everything about her. Since marrying someone he loved was no longer an option for him, Tonya was the best wife he could currently think of. And he knew she felt the same way about him.
Nevertheless, despite his agony due to seeing Lana in Mark’s arms instead of his, he couldn’t help but ache when he saw Tonya crying so hard over Mark. If there was one thing he knew for sure at that particular instant, it was that he hated Mark, and that he couldn’t wait to take his revenge.