Chapter 10: Carry you home

From all of the places Lana had been to, the one she really died to visit again and never had the chance to was New York. Her first time there was when she was seven, her memories weren’t the strongest, but she could almost see herself the day that plane landed, after almost twenty hours of traveling, running quickly out of the airport and begging to go sight-seeing right at that moment. Neither her parents’ exhaustion nor their repetitive refusals managed to make her stop nagging. And, she finally got what she had wanted. She could remember herself spinning around in the streets, admired by passer-bys for her flexible body and her spontaneity in dancing. Now she was back, better yet, she was back to dance; nothing could top that.

As for Mark, she soon started to forget him being around her. To her relief, he didn’t utter a word about his love to her. Maybe he doesn’t love me anymore. At first, the thought gave her comfort, then she began to feel that she had lost something she had owned before; she didn’t like that thought. So she came to believe that he still loved her. In fact, he loved her so much that he decided not to show those feelings to her lest she felt uncomfortable. That made her feel better.

 

 

 

IT WAS THE GLASS. Lana finally made it out. The entire theater looked alluring; the thick brick-red drapes, the two-level stage and the ropes coming out of everywhere. But she had seen it all before, except for the glass. She had never seen so much glass making up a theater  The upper stage was made of glass, surrounded by glass and even the stairs she had to climb to get to that upper stage were made of glass. Even the table that she was going to use in the dance was made of glass. With the lights and the special effects, the stage looked like a huge diamond; dancing on this stage would be like being the sparkle of a rock on a solitaire.

Impatiently and joyously, Lana immediately jumped on stage and started spinning around. Mark followed, slower and steadier but not less eagerly. He looked at her; as she spun, her hair flew around in the air, and when she stopped, it landed in her mouth. She looked at him and laughed so childishly as she pushed her hair behind her ears, almost blushing with shame for her immature behavior. He met her with a very loving look. Her smile was gone, and she became indifferent again.

“Turn on the music, will you?” she said with a voice void of any level of compassion.

He obeyed. Then he got some papers out of his backpack. It was the lyrics of the song. He had memorized it back in the day, but it had been a while since he last practiced. He started reciting the words, realizing that Lana was doing her part of the rehearsal; dancing. He couldn’t bring himself to look at her again, not after the thoughts she had already triggered in his head. He heard her pulling the glass table through the stage, but he didn’t look. He heard her footsteps hurriedly making their way to the glass stairs; still he didn’t look. He was almost certain she was holding her right foot as her leg was stranded in the air while she stretched her other arm; all of that and he still managed to NOT look. He just kept reciting the song. He got really nervous when he realized that he had forgotten it. He got even more nervous when he couldn’t concentrate on the song because he was too busy trying to make out the meaning of every sound Lana made. Focus Mark. He said to himself almost audibly. And just when he was beginning to focus, Lana made a sound he wished he couldn’t have made out.

IT WAS THE GLASS. All that Mark could see; it was the glass … and Lana, lying in the middle of it all. Shrapnel-like pieces of glass were all over her body, some protruding from her arms, some scattered around her slightly bent legs, slashing them into open flesh. One was the size of a fist; it was planted in her abdomen. The other, which looked more like a knife than glass, was embedded in her chest. The only thing that was more than the glass was the blood. As Mark rushed towards her, he was able to picture all that had happened a few seconds ago. She was dancing passionately on the upper stage, probably leaping when she lost control over her body and flew down landing on the glass table. If only he had kept an eye on her, if only he had dropped that stupid paper and looked up, he could’ve been able to warn her, stop her, catch her, save her. But he didn’t, and she wasn’t spared.

“Lana! Oh my God, Lana!” He said as he knelt down beside her and reached out for her. He tried holding her in his arms, yet he got scared of moving some glass that might tear something up inside. “Lana, answer me. Are you ok?”

She didn’t speak. All he heard was her very heavy breathing penetrated by some fits of whimpering. Her eyes were wide open; he took that as a good sign.

“Help.” He screamed as loud as he could. “Please, someone call an ambulance. My friend is …” he couldn’t finish the sentence; he began choking on his tears. He didn’t remember crying like that since the day his father died.

People started showing up. Curious as they were, they kept a distance. Nobody asked what had happened, they could all see for themselves. Someone spoke to Mark in Arabic, told him that the ambulance was on its way. It was Amgad, the university employee who had come with them to New York to arrange for their trip; help them prepare for their performance and keep an eye on them. In short, he was responsible for them. He was a short, young man with a small figure and a low voice. Mark, who wasn’t seeing anything but Lana’s cuts and wounds, couldn’t recognize him.

Two paramedics arrived. They carefully carried Lana, laid her on the stretcher and rushed towards the ambulance. They exchanged some words that Mark could hear but not decipher. It was like they were speaking a language foreign to him, not the same English he could speak fluently ever since he was twelve. When they reached the ambulance, he was going to jump right in. Then he stopped realizing she probably didn’t want him there.

“You’ll be ok, Lana. I’ll call your parents and I’ll take a cab right this moment to hospital. I’ll stay with you until your parents arrive.” He was still crying, but he was now trying to straighten his words up, act like a man. Just as she was being pushed through the ambulance, he felt her grabbing his wrist. It was a very weak grab, yet it was strong enough to show that she did want him with her in the ambulance. And he jumped in right away.

WAS IT FIVE HOURS? Did he spend five hours alone in hospital waiting to hear from Lana’s doctor? Mark couldn’t exactly tell. The last time he looked at his watch was when they arrived at the theater  It was five thirteen. That was the last time he saw those arms ticking. There was a watch in his hand, a clock hanging on the wall and even his cell phone could tell him the time. Yet he didn’t dare look. The longer they stayed in there, the more complications they faced. He thought to himself. So he kept convincing himself that he had only been here for a little time. The enormity of what he had to wait out was what made it seem like such a long time. But then again it was light when the accident happened; now it was dark. It had been dark for a very long time now. No, it’s just the enormity of the situation, that’s what’s making it seem like forever.

The O.R door was opened; Mark didn’t exactly hold his breath. It had been swinging back and forth for dozens of times now; all were nurses who refused to even look at him. But this time it was different. The scrubs looked different, the cap looked different, even the air about him was different. Mark knew this time it was the doctor; he was done.

“How is she?” he asked, not as urgently as he had expected. Perhaps it was the fear of getting bad news.

“She’s ok. Luckily the glass didn’t shatter lots of things inside. There was very few internal bleeding, given the way she looked on the outside. The most dangerous was the one in her abdomen, which almost ripped her stomach, and the one in her chest. But they’re all out now, and we’ve managed to stop the bleeding. She’s very fortunate; didn’t break any bones except her right arm. Probably the table absorbed the fall. She might as well start walking again in three weeks.”

“Three weeks?” Mark had been listening with relief, all until those words came up. “What’s wrong with her walking? Why can’t she walk right away?”

“The glass had damaged many muscles and ligaments. It’s gonna be a while before she starts using her limbs properly.”

“What about dancing? She’s a dancer. She won’t be able to survive without …”

Mark was cut adrift, “Wow, dancing! I’m afraid that’s very unlikely.”

“Can I see her?”

“Sure, she’s in the intensive care so you can’t stay long. But I can let the nurse take you there.”

The place looked very uncomfortable. The sound of machines beeping increased as he approached Lana’s bed. She lay down, eyes closed with tubes coming out of her mouth and nose. She wasn’t wearing anything; a sole white sheet was all that covered her up. Her exposed arms were full of plastered cuts; one was right at her wrist.

“Was her wrist cut?” Mark asked the nurse.

“Yes. But don’t worry, it’s all fixed.”

He reached out his hand to touch hers; her index finger was connected to yet another device. He looked at her face; miraculously, it had been spared any cuts. Her eyes slowly opened, she looked at his direction.

“Are you ok?” he asked her with watery eyes.

“Yes.” Her voice was a lot lower and weaker than he had expected it to be. “What happened?”

“You had an accident you …”

“No, I remember that. I meant what happened here in hospital? What did the doctor say?”

“He said you were very fortunate.” Mark was trying so difficultly to smile, “He fixed you all up inside.”

“I can’t feel my body, I can’t feel anything.” She moaned slightly moving her head.

“You’ve just been through surgery. It’s probably the anesthetic.” Interrupted the nurse. “Don’t worry. The effect is fading away as we speak.” She then turned to Mark, “I’m afraid you have to leave. I promised the doctor you won’t be long.”

He sighed, then held out Lana’s hand. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” She nodded with tears in her eyes. “In the time being, if you need me, just ask one of the nurses to call for me and I’ll be right there.” She nodded again.

He turned around, but his hand was still wrapped around hers, just as he was about to cut it off the hook, he felt her fingers clinging and she feebly uttered his name. “Mark, I won’t be able to dance again, will I?”

“DID YOU SEE HER?” asked someone in Arabic. Mark turned around. But before he saw his face he was able to tell it was Amgad. Mark had barely noticed his presence all through the day. He couldn’t recall him calling 911, or sitting right next to him in the hospital’s waiting room, or even walking back and forth beside him in front of the O.R. Amgad had been like a shadow, a ghost; Mark knew he had to be there, yet he was never certain about his presence. “Is she ok?”

“She’s fine.”

“Her parents are on their way. I told them that the doctor said she was no longer in danger. But you know how parents are like. They never believe it until they see for themselves. Besides, I heard her parents are untouchable. I think they’re coming here in a private jet or something.”

Mark eyed him with disrespect. He could feel the hostility in the air. “Anyway,” he said tapping Mark on the shoulder, “they wouldn’t have to worry about the hospital fees. We – referring to the college – have it all covered.” Mark still didn’t talk to him. “I’m going back to the hotel to get some sleep. Why don’t you come with me?”

“Thank you. But I’d rather stay here. I promised her I wouldn’t leave the hospital.”

“Suit yourself. I’ll be back first thing in the morning.” He began moving, then he turned around and said, “And if you need anything before then, just give me a call.”

When he was finally gone, Mark sat on one of the waiting chairs in the corridor. Soon he fell asleep. He was later on awoken by a soft, feminine voice. It was the same nurse that took him to see Lana.

“They have moved your friend out of the I.C.U. She’s in a regular room now.”

Mark quickly got up and followed the nurse. He could see that it was morning again. He had been sleeping for almost six hours. They walked through a long corridor, then they took the elevator. Mark always hated the smell of hospitals. Even their neon lights gave him stomach cramps. It all reminded him of his father’s death; all those times he used to play hide and seek with his brother on the hospital stairs. That one time they broke the small glass box in which the fire extinguisher is put. They fearfully rushed to the hospital cafeteria and tried to hide there. However, they were caught by one of the janitors and the hospital’s manager told their parents all about their mischief. Mark passed by one of those fire extinguishers now, he looked the other way. Finally, they reached Lana’s room. It was a very small room with a single bed, a single nightstand and just one chair. Lana was in bed, now she was wearing a hospital gown. The nurse gave him a few instructions then left. Mark slowly and quietly pulled the chair to her bedside, then he stayed there. He hesitated about holding her hand. He knew she wouldn’t like it now that she was out of the danger zone. He tried keeping his hands in his pockets so that they won’t reach out for hers, yet they were restless. To his relief, she finally opened her eyes.

“Hey.” He said.

“Hey.” She opened one hand; he put his in it.

“How are you feeling?”

“Better. I had a dream, about you.”

“About me?” his face lightened up.

“I was falling again. But this time you caught me. You carried me all the way to hospital and the doctor told us I was ok, that I could still dance.”

“Lana, I …”

“No, no, no.” she interrupted him saying, “I didn’t mean to blame you. It’s just that I feel like … like you kind of saved me yesterday. I don’t know how long I could have lain there before someone came to look for me. I wasn’t even able to scream. I’m very lucky I had you there with me.”

He didn’t smile, at least his lips didn’t, but his eyes were jumping up and down with joy. Was she giving him mixed signals? He thought it was very likely; she was weak and alone and had nobody else to take care of her. He didn’t take her for a manipulator, but he expected anything from her. To him, she was full of surprises.

“Where have you gone?” she asked interrupting his thoughts. Her voice was still low, but it was a lot stronger than before.

“I’m right here.”

“Good, because I’m bored to death. I need company.” She cunningly smiled.

“Your parents will be here anytime soon.” Said Mark casually. “Amgad told them about what happened. He said they’re already on a plane to New York.”

“God, my parents. They’re just so over-protective.” She turned her head and blew at the ceiling.

“I don’t blame them. I mean, my mother isn’t that over-protective and she could’ve worn wings and flown here if she had been in their place.” Lana gave out a silent laugh. “Hell, even Baher’s father would have flown right away if it had been him.” Her face changed at this remark. It seemed she didn’t want to remember Mohammad, not now, not like this.

“Speaking of whom, did he call?” she asked referring to Mohammad.

“I don’t think he even knows.”

“Please! If my parents know, then my sister knows. And if my sister knows, then everybody knows. She must’ve told Tonya and Tonya must’ve told him.” Now it was Mark’s face that changed.

He cleared his throat. “She couldn’t have known.” He then said, “If she had known, she would’ve called me right away to check on you.”

“Where’s your cell?”

Mark paused and started looking for it in his pocket. Not finding it, he stood up and started looking harder. Lana giggled carefully in fear of hurting her chest.

“You’re right.” He said after a while. “I must have forgotten it at the hotel.”

He stayed with her all day long, trying to make her feel better; something which proved to be not very difficult after all. At night her parents arrived. Her sister didn’t come with them. Mrs. Masry said that she had a summer camp in London. Her mother looked a lot different from the way she had looked all the other times Mark had seen her. She didn’t have even a brush of make up on. And her hair – which turned out to be not straight, but very curly – was combed backwards and tied. She looked ten years older that way. As for her father, he didn’t seem quite different, except for the worry-lines that appeared on his forehead. Mark stayed with them for five minutes then he excused himself.

“I’ll come again tomorrow.” He told Lana before leaving the room.

On his way to the elevator, he heard someone call his name. He turned around to come face to face with Mr. El Masry, Lana’s dad.

“I just want to thank you for taking care of my daughter until our arrival. They told me you didn’t leave her even for one second.”

“It had been my pleasure, sir.”

They shook hands, then Mark got on the elevator.

 

 

WHEN HE FINALLY reached his hotel room, he found his cell phone lying on the bed. The battery was dying. He got the charger out of the nightstand drawer and plugged it in. He then opened it to see if there were any missed calls. He found two from his mother, half a dozen from Tonya and one from Mohammad. He called his mother to tell her he was ok. Later, he called Mohammad to tell him that Lana was ok. He didn’t call Tonya.

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Chapter 7: I really want you

The talent show day came … and passed. Lana and Mohammad performed their piece with all the love and talent they possessed. If it hadn’t been for Mohammad’s little mistake with the riffs, they would’ve been declared the winners of the competition right at the spot. As for Mark and Tonya, their piece didn’t go on as smoothly as they had expected. Tonya’s choreography wasn’t that artistic, and if that wasn’t bad enough, she messed up some moves and forgot about others. Nevertheless, Mark’s voice never faltered throughout the performance, not even for once.

The results were out almost a week after the talent show. That day, things were a bit tense between Lana and Mohammad. It wasn’t so pleasant when Mohammad kept refusing to introduce Lana to his band. At some point, Lana accused him of trying to drive her away; that made the relationship a little stressful. But now the stress was even more, given the situation with the competition and all. As they were arguing about a certain chord that Lana insisted Mohammad had been strumming the wrong way all day long, Mark came running toward them.

“Lana,” he cried from a distance, “we won, we won the competition.”

“What?” screamed Lana, instantly standing up and turning her head toward Mark. “Who won? What competition?”

“The talent show.” Replied Mark, stealing air in between his words; he was now standing right in front of Lana. “You and I won first place! We’re traveling to London next week. Then, we’ll go to New York.”

“Oh my God!” exclaimed Lana, with her very red-with-heat face. She held her head with her arms as she span around to face Mohammad. “I can’t believe it.”

“Neither can I.” Said Mark. “I’ve been refusing to participate in that talent show for the past three years, telling myself I wasn’t good enough. Now, just look what happened.”

For all this time, Mohammad didn’t utter a single syllable; he was simply speechless. Not only had he worked his hardest for the past month to win the competition, but he also pushed Lana through some of her most desperate moments. Now, look who’s laughing! It didn’t hurt him that Mark had won. It hurt him that he had lost; Mohammad, the guy with the band! The professional musician! If anything, Mohammad had been yearning for that trip to London. He would dream every night that he went there with Lana, and that they spoke to Mark and Tonya in those red phone booths and kissed in front of the Big Ben. Now all his dreams where shattered; Mark had taken it all away.

“Congratulations.” He said trying his best to conceal the envy he felt deep down inside. “You were great, man; totally deserved it.”

“I’m afraid I’m gonna have to borrow your partner for the time being.” Said Mark jokingly as he wrapped his arm around Lana’s shoulder.

“Does Tonya know?” asked Mohammad. There was an ulterior motive behind his question, yet Mark pretended he hadn’t noticed it.

“Not yet.” He coolly replied. “I just thought about congratulating Lana first.”

“Why? What’s going on?” asked Tonya suddenly coming from behind.

Mark and Lana both told her at once. Her reaction was very different from Mohammad’s. She seemed extremely happy for them. Then she remembered the trip. Her facial expressions altered a bit at that, they weren’t as relaxed or happy as before. For one thing, she didn’t want to be separated from Mark for a whole week. And for another thing, she didn’t want him traveling with another girl, even if that girl was her best friend.

LANA’s CDS HAD been scattered around everywhere since the day she joined college. She wasn’t a very organized person, especially when it came to her CDs. But now, she was traveling to London. And those CDs had to accompany her just about everywhere she went. As she was collecting them one after the other from the theatre, Mohammad came in. She looked at him, then she looked the other way. She was nowhere near impressed with the way he had met the news about her winning the competition, and she decided to give him a piece of her mind.

“So the rumors are true,” he said approaching her with his hands in his pocket and his eyes on the floor, “you are packing.” Now his eyes were turned to her.

She was silent. Bending over the floor to pick up one of the CDs, she accidentally dropped her necklace. It was a necklace given to her by Mohammad as some kind of lucky charm back in the day when they were rehearsing for the talent show. She didn’t pick it up. Mohammad noticed that. He slowly moved toward the necklace, picked it up and handed it to her with his stretched arm.

“You dropped that.” He said. An ugly smile had worked itself to his face; he looked creepy.

“Thanks.” She said it while grabbing the necklace forcefully, sounding like she meant quite the opposite of gratitude.

“You’re still gonna need it in London, even with Mark with you.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” she asked with a look of disgust.

“Nothing, it’s just that the two of you seem to be getting along quite well these days that to a stranger’s eyes, you would look like real partners.”

“That’s oughta be a compliment.” She was now obviously crossed, “I mean, we are gonna play partners in London. It would be great to seem convincing; just what we’re going for.”

“I can’t believe you’re excited about that trip!” Said Mohammad, finally dropping the mask. “It was our dream, our thing.” At both syllables, he strongly struck his chest. “At least pretend to be sorry we both didn’t win.”

“Well, at least you pretend you’re happy for me!” cried Lana overwhelmed. “God,” she turned around and moved away from him. “Your jealousy is unbelievable. Simply unbelievable! Can’t you see that I have won? It was my dream, and it finally came true.”

“I thought your dream was for the both of us to win.” Muttered Mohammad in a broken tone.

They both remained silent. Both saw themselves as victims and saw each other as errants. By then, Mark was already in the middle of the theatre, yet neither of them seemed to notice him till he spoke.

“Lana, they want us at the dean’s office. Probably gotta do with the passports or something.”

“Right behind you.” Said Lana picking up her backpack while her eyes were still fixed at Mohammad. She followed Mark, looked back at Mohammad one last time, stopped, held on to a pole near the door of the theatre, let herself go so that the only thing keeping her from falling was her firm grab to that pole, then she was gone. That was the last time she ever saw Mohammad till the day she traveled to London.

THE WAY TO the airport was very festive. All Lana’s family was with her in the car. Her father rode in the front by the chauffeur’s side. While her mother and younger sister, Sara, sat next to her in the backseat. They were all talking to Lana, each giving her advice on how to manage her time between shopping and sightseeing, how to practice well before the performance and never fear the judges. They kept reminding her that going there was the real prize, and all that followed didn’t matter.

It wasn’t Lana’s first visit to London, but it was the first time she ever traveled alone. The only thing that comforted her was that Mark was going with her; even though they weren’t great friends, they were close enough to enjoy each other’s company.

When they had finally arrived at the airport, the chauffeur rushed out of the Land Rover and opened the trunk. He pulled out two suitcases and a handbag. It’s a fact, Lana wasn’t traveling light. And why should she? She had millions of pieces of clothes to wear, an entire week to spend in London and lots of outings to look forward to. However, the only problem that faced her was who should carry all that luggage.

“Lana!” she heard someone scream as she was getting out of the car. She turned around and realized that she was face to face with Tonya. They had already said their goodbyes back at her house the night before, but of course Tonya had to drive Mark to the airport. She quickly ran toward Lana’s family and greeted them one after the other. Lana’s parents had always loved Tonya, but lately, they’ve been feeling that she was a bit distant from their daughter.

All that time, Mark was inside the airport with his family. Tonya led Lana and her family inside to meet him. For the first time ever, Lana was introduced to Mark’s mother. She had seen Mohammad’s father before; nevertheless, that wasn’t such a happy encounter to remember. But Mark’s mother was very different; she was this middle-aged, nice woman who looked very elegant and beautiful. Her loose, white shirt made her look so bright and her Hijab didn’t only cover up her hair, but her wrinkles as well. She had Mark’s green eyes, but hers were a bit larger. She shook hands with Lana’s mother with a bright smile. Also, Mark’s little sisters looked like nice people, even though they seemed a bit foolish and maybe even childish. As for his brother, he didn’t look like him at all. He was also tall but with a slim body and brown hair. He shared his sisters’ foolishness, but wasn’t as childish as they were.

The two families would’ve spent hours blending together if they hadn’t called for Lana and Mark’s flight. That was when they said goodbye to everyone, grabbed their luggage – Mark surely helping Lana with hers – and left. They spent some time at the boarding lines then they went to the cafeteria. All that time, one thing was on Lana’s mind; Mohammad didn’t come to say goodbye. Mark was able to tell, so he decided this was the best way to make conversation.

“He’s not gonna come.” He began, sitting down on the table with her right after they had ordered. “I’ve been friends with him for years now and I know exactly how he thinks.”

“Who is it you’re talking about?” asked Lana, trying to play dumb. Seeing that it wasn’t going to work from Mark’s sly smile, she said: “And how does he think?”

“He thinks you humiliated him, and that you should apologize first.” Said Mark, sipping some soda.

“What the hell have I done to humiliate him?” enquired Lana, her voice slightly raised.

“I’m telling you how he thinks, not what I think.” Replied Mark defensively. He was silent for a while, then he rejoined, “just let it be. It’s gonna work itself out.”

“See! That’s the problem. We haven’t reached that place yet. Right now it either works or it doesn’t, no in betweens. And from where I’m standing, it’s not working.”

They were interrupted by the waiter’s arrival at the table. He placed down a plate of spaghetti with meatballs and another plate of French fries. Lana started nibbling on the French fries, while Mark worked his way to the spaghetti. He then took a look at her and said,

“You know, those fries aren’t gonna fill your hunger. You’ll want to eat again once we get on the plane. And with the economy tickets we have, trust me, eating is not advisable.” Lana smiled, for the first time since they were alone together. “C’mon,” he said, rolling the fork through the spaghetti and feeding her, “it’s delicious.” Lana opened her mouth and took the chunkiest bite she had taken in ages, then they both burst out into laughter.

Despite being able to make Lana laugh, Mark hadn’t been accurate in his words. For if he had known Mohammad well enough, he would have seen him standing at the airport right in front of the cafeteria and watching Lana eating spaghetti from behind an ornamental tree. Getting to that part of the airport wasn’t allowed for non-travelers; however, Mohammad’s father had his own connections. And when Mohammad told him he needed permission to get inside the airport, Mr. Baher couldn’t help but comply, owing to the dim hope that maybe this favor could narrow the gap between them. Nevertheless, standing like a fool behind that tree and seeing how happy Lana seemed and how she wasn’t even thinking about him, Mohammad regretted having asked for such a favor. His eyes were watering up with tears. That was when he realized how deeply he felt for Lana, how it wasn’t just a fling and that perhaps he was already in love with her. He could’ve gone straight to her, told her he was sorry and that he loved her. Yet, he couldn’t. He hated himself, but not to that extent. However, he loved her just about to any extent. In the end, he found it best to leave and pretend he had never come in the first place.

THE PLANE WASN’T any better than Mark had expected it to be. When the food was served, Mark winked at Lana and they both tried to conceal their laughter till the flight attendant moved to the seats in the opposite aisle. They watched a movie, during which Lana fell asleep on Mark’s shoulder. He gently tapped her on the shoulder to wake her up.

“Lana,” he said in a whisper, “the plane has landed. We’re here.”

She slowly opened her eyes and turned to him smiling. Then he unloaded their handbags from above their seats and carried them through the shuttle bus. From the shuttle bus, they moved to the airport and from the airport to the hotel where they would be staying.

“HELLO,” muttered Lana as she dimly answered the phone, still half asleep and her eyes not yet opened.

“Hey, it’s me.” The voice on the phone paused, then continued, “did I wake you up?”

“Yeah,” replied Lana seating herself up in bed and taking a look at her watch, “and for that I must thank you. I almost overslept.”

“Sorry,” said Mark in a not-very-apologetic tone, “but I was just wondering if you’d like to go out. I’ve been taking some rides around the city for the past few days and I know a place where we can go.”

Now Lana wouldn’t usually accept such an invitation, especially since she was extremely tired due to working around the clock the previous week on her piece at the festival and finally performing it the day before at the festival. Moreover, she was leaving the following morning so she needed to stay in and pack. And most importantly, she wasn’t fond of going out with people whom she didn’t very well know to places she didn’t know any better either; that was Tonya’s thing. But all things considered, she felt the need to chill out a bit after an extremely tiring week, and Mark was giving her this opportunity.

Dressed in a scarlet evening gown with a length an inch or two above her knees and wearing her bright brown hair down, Lana looked truly majestic. As Mark hesitantly knocked at the door of her hotel room, he realized that he was doing something very wrong. It could be considered cheating on his girlfriend, or even worse; stealing his best friend’s girl. He weighed his options and realized that if he stayed, he would be a hypocrite and if he left he would be a coward. And even though he was out of time, he made his decision; he chose to be a hypocrite.

But even that was weird in a way. Meaning, he did not feel the smallest remorse for spending such a long evening with Lana. Guilt didn’t even cross his mind when he asked her to dance to Lady in Red’s soft tunes. Tonya’s picture never came up in his mind; it was like she wasn’t even a part of his life. And that didn’t bother him, not at all.

“Do you know I worked as a waiter for a while?” he began right after the waiter had served their drinks, “it’s not an easy job.”

“When was that?” enquired Lana, a bit disturbed.

“Right after I finished school.” He looked her straight in the eye, unlike Mohammad who seldom made eye contacts when speaking about his past. “My father had been dead for some years and my little sister was having some problems in math and she needed to take a private lesson we couldn’t afford. That’s of course beside the electricity bill which we had been doing our best to ditch for almost a month. My mother was working three jobs at once and she still couldn’t support us. So I had to stand up and do what I was obliged to do.” He took in some of his alcoholic drink. Lana sat opposite to him on the table. She had a facial expression which he hadn’t expected at all. Instead of pity or empathy, she looked at him with complete admiration, which gave him the courage to continue. “But then the freeze on my father’s bank accounts was lifted and life was so much better. And if that wasn’t enough, I got a scholarship in our college. It’s like … it gets worse, and worse, but then it can’t help but get better.”

“You never told me that before.” Said Lana slightly blaming him. Did she have the right to blame him? He didn’t believe so, but he wished she felt so. Because that would mean that he’s closer to her than he realized; that she considered him a good friend. Oh, just the sound of it felt so impelling. If she could just give him a sign! If!

The way back to the hotel was the closest Mark had ever been to heaven. The diner wasn’t that far from the hotel so they didn’t have to take a cab; they walked home on foot. As they stepped out of the diner, they saw a couple of guys who looked like muggers across the street. Lana uneasily engaged Mark’s arm and drew him a bit closer to her. A chill spread all over his body, one that he tried so hard to hide. A while later, just as they had moved away from those muggers, he felt her shiver.

“You’re cold!” he said turning to her while they were still walking. Her face was white and her lips were blue. Before she could say anything, he stopped, took off his coat and placed it over her shoulder. Then he slowly buttoned it with so much care. When he was done, he took her arm and they were on their way again.

When they had finally reached her room’s door, he just couldn’t let her go.

“Good night.” She said smiling. Then she turned around and opened the door. He took a deep breath, then he closed the door behind her … after he had stepped into her room.

“Look,” he said with a very quick pace, not at all caring about her very surprised condition. “There’s something I really need to tell you. The first time I saw you, it was long before the academic year; long before anybody else had seen you, even Baher. It was during the summer vacation. I was at college to pay the tuition and you were there with your mother, taking a tour around the campus. You probably didn’t notice me, but I did. And I was hooked.” He stopped for a moment to breathe, and very heavily he did. “Then I waited to see you again at the beginning of the year but I didn’t. Tonya showed up, and don’t get me wrong; I really like her, but just as a friend. She was the one who misunderstood the whole thing. Anyway, when I saw you again and knew (from Tonya) that you were seeing someone, I decided to let it go and stick with Tonya. I thought I was gonna be able to get over that stupid crush, except … it’s not a crush …”

“Mark,” begged Lana as she bit her lower lip, trying to shut him up.

“Don’t think this is easy for me: realizing I’m in love with my best friend’s girlfriend, who also happens to be my girlfriend’s best friend.”

“In love!” echoed Lana laughingly, though she was on the verge of breaking down.

“Yes.” Sighed Mark, “I do love you. And I know it’s impossible to believe, but if you search deep down inside, you’ll realize you love me too.”

She tried to utter some words, but he stopped her by gently placing his index finger on her mouth. He then approached her till their bodies touched.

“Please, Mark, no.” she said melting into tears as she pushed him back with her hands. He held back her hands, pushed her to the wall and started kissing her. She tried to get away, but she was too weak for his muscles. And also there was a part of her that enjoyed the drama. However, something suddenly snapped inside her when she realized that she could actually get raped. She started making violent moves and was about to scream at the top of her lungs when … he suddenly stopped. He let go of her hands, moved a step or two backwards, then he just covered his face with his hands.

“I’m sorry.” He said with the deepest degree of regret. “I don’t know what … I’m just extremely sorry.” He then turned around and stormed out of the room.

Standing against the wall with her dress slightly torn, her lipstick all over her face and Mark’s coat thrown at her feet, Lana still couldn’t catch her breath. Her wide nostrils contracted then relaxed as the mascara – mingled with tears – stained her fair cheeks. She then slowly moved to her bed, threw herself upon it and chocked on her tears.

 

Chapter 6: Words don’t come easy

Thursday night; the official play-day of all Egyptian youth since it precedes the Muslim Sabbath, Friday. Tonya, who had escorted Lana to her home, was getting ready in front of the mirror. The girls knew it was going to be a cold night, and they put that into account when choosing their outfits. Tonya brought over with her her hot-pink, woolly, turtleneck pullover and her plaid Technicolor miniskirt patterned with squares in black, blue, red and pink. Even though they made her thighs look even chubbier than they already were, she simply adored those little skirts and shorts. As she admiringly observed herself in the mirror, Tonya helped herself in putting on her long, golden earrings with a small flower protruding at the end, and she buckled the thin, golden necklace with a similar flower pendant. She had borrowed Lana’s golden Tissot watch and was now adding the final touches to her make-up. The heavy mascara, the pinkish eye shadow, the brown lipstick, the peach-colored foundation with the soft blusher spread on it; every single cosmetic was used to make Tonya as alluring as ever.

As Lana watched her adding little, simple details to finish off her appearance, she finally realized how this disorganized shape she always found Tonya in got built about. To her, Tonya always overdressed, over-accessorized and over-embellished in a somewhat vulgar way. She had been taught by Dalia that simplicity is the key to irresistible beauty. And Lana always took that to extreme levels, for she would rather under-dress than dress properly for the occasion. For instance, at that particular instance, Lana was in a short black and white dress, all tight from head to bottom, slightly showing the turns at her waist, sleeveless and with a neckline which covered her chest completely and only showed fragments of her bare shoulders. She wore her hair up high in the form of a long ponytail of certain volume. Both she and Tonya were wearing black, opaque tights and black, leather boots, but Tonya’s had fur along their edges.

Turning around from the mirror, Tonya eyed Lana judgingly.

“What?” asked Lana, sensing some comment on the way.

“You look great.” It didn’t look like she meant it. “But the thing is, the dress is a bit bulky. It might need something to spice it up a bit, let’s say a … a brooch!”

“No way!” refused Lana immediately. “I’m not wearing one of those in a million years.”

“What about some long necklace with a relatively large pendant?” suggested Tonya, already going through Lana’s accessory drawer. “I’m thinking white gold, since you’re in black and white and all. There,” she said pulling one end of a necklace out, “with this beautiful dolphin-shaped pendant, this piece’s definitely gonna give you the edge your looking for.”

Lana wasn’t so sure. After all, she never liked leaving herself in Tonya’s hands. But this time it was different, for the necklace really did suit her well that she actually considered going for it. She took one final look at the mirror, believed that the dress needed a simple touch to make it shine, then looked at the necklace; saw that it was simple enough.

“Ok, then. Buckle me up.” She said holding out her ponytail and turning her back towards Tonya.

AS THE CHAUFFEUR pulled over by the side walk, Tonya immediately noticed Mark waiting by.

“There, Bassiouni,” she said to the chauffer hastily, “that’s where we take off. Thanks.” With that she grabbed Lana’s hand and pulled her out of the car behind her.

“Hey, Mark.” She said stretching her hand to meet him.

“Hey.” He replied, with less excitement. “Hey there, Lana.”

“Hello.” Lana wasn’t looking at him as much as she was looking around. “Where’s Mohammad?”

“Inside, getting ready.”

“So this is the Sawy Culture Wheel.” Said Tonya looking at the large gate covering some tunnel which stretched under the May 15th bridge curiously.

“Yes it is.” Answered Mark. “Shall we?”

The girls nodded, and he led them inside to take their seats.

ONLY OPENING UP in 2003, the Sawy culture wheel had presented Cairo with a new type of entertainment. It was placed in a very awkward position, though in Zamalek, one of the classiest districts in Cairo, The Sawy wheel was actually built up underneath a bridge, in a place that used to be a garbage dumpster just a few years before. Now, it offered all different types of courses, ranging from photography to guitar and even self defense courses. Nevertheless, what it really added the most was a place where all underground bands could perform for recognition. In the Sawy wheel, any growing talent had a chance to have their own show without much hassle, and perhaps that was the brightest reason why people were so high on it.

“So Lana,” began Mark, as the three of them were now standing in front of their seats, anxiously waiting for Mohammad’s band, ‘Bangels’, to make their debut appearance, “is this your first visit to the Sawy wheel?”

“Actually yeah.”

“What? You never performed here before? Never participated in any of the dance activities here?”

Lana shook her head.

“This is not exactly the place for Lana’s performances.” Explained Tonya. “She had done over a dozen performances in the Cairo Opera house.”

“Good God!” exclaimed Mark, surprised. “No wonder you find this place disgraceful.”

“I don’t find it disgraceful.” Protested Lana, heatedly.

“Then what do you think of it?”

“Good enough, considering it’s actually under a bridge. We all know what those unfortunate places are destined to become here in Egypt.” That is: garages, shelters for the homeless and, as in our current case, huge garbage dumpsters.

“So,” said Lana after a while of silence, during which Mark and Tonya exchanged a few whispers, “have you listened to Mohammad’s band perform before? Are they good?”

“What? You never listened to Mohammad sing?” asked Tonya, sarcastically.

“Of course I’ve listened to Mohammad. I’m talking about the whole band. Are they as talented as Mohammad is?”

“They are actually.” Replied Mark. “They have this certain style in performing; I’m sure you’re gonna like them.”

“Well, she has met them before,” concluded Tonya, “haven’t you?”

“No, actually I haven’t.”

“Seriously?”

“He doesn’t ever talk about them, even.” Replied Lana innocently.

“What do you talk about then? You’re always murmuring to each other. What do you discuss?

“He’s always asking me questions that sometimes I feel I’m with a secret agent. Hardly ever speaks about himself. Even when I ask him about the guys in his band, he usually tends to change the subject.”

“And don’t expect him to lead an introduction.” Said Mark with certitude.

“Why not?” asked Tonya, a little upset.

“That’s just the way Mohammad is. The smoke of mystery that surrounds him; it’s not an act. He really doesn’t like to talk about himself. I know it’s spooky, especially for girls, but it’s just who he is.”

Lana listened with a doubtful ear, somewhat mystical. “But don’t worry though,” continued Mark, returning to her, “I’ll tell you all about them if you want to.”

She suddenly became extremely attentive; Mark could see she was starving for his briefing. “Now the band’s made up of five members: two guitarists; Baher, who’s also a vocalist, and Mustafa; long, curly, black hair, small body, pale skin and a pair of blue eyes you’ll hardly see from over here. Very talented, but a bit unstable. Then there’s Ashraf; that’s the main vocalist, he performs in almost ninety-nine percent of the songs, usually alongside Baher. And of course there’s Youssef; short, brown hair, confident smile and sweet words. He’s the bass guitar player. But, beware of him, big time. He’s a serious playboy. And not like my brother; this guy can bring about disasters. He’s on everything that’s not in the book; drugs, alcohol, fornication. If you ever get worried that music’s gonna have a bad influence on Baher, that’s the guy to fear. And if he comes to say hello after the party, when he’s shaking hands with you very heartily; he’s not being nice, he’s being dirty.” He said the last words with a certain air of menace. “I mean it; careful.” He now turned his eyes towards Tonya, made her see that the words were also for her ears. Despite Lana’s disapproval of having to hear something like that from him, feeling that he had no right to give her such advice, Tonya couldn’t have loved listening to anything more, for this meant that he was trying to protect her. And when Lana would believe that she doesn’t need protection, Tonya would be thrilled to find someone willing to do the job.

“Last but not least,” resumed Mark, “is Assal.”

“Assal?” The name was an Egyptian equivalent of the word: honey.

“That’s his family name.” explained Mark. “He’s first name’s also Mohammad – so now you see why we all call him Baher. He’s a bit chubby, not very attractive for a rock star. But when he gets around those drums, he just sets the stage on fire. Outside the stage, though, he’s a little too shy. But he’s a good guy, no need to fear him.” Throughout this long clarification, Lana looked at Mark like a student looking at her professor, always nodding and trying to digest the whole information. “Of course, when they all get on stage, I’ll be able to explain a bit more, since they’re gonna be right in front of you.”

“That is if she could see anything from where she’s standing.” Interrupted Tonya facetiously. “One thing you don’t know about Lana is her struggle with her height.”

Lana gave out an embarrassed smile.

“She’s not that short.” Said Mark amusedly, checking her out. He noticed that her boots were of high heels, but not too high.

“Oh, oh, oh,” babbled Tonya, “since you’re both here, please stand shoulder to shoulder, so that I could see the difference in height.” That ought to have been enjoyable, given Mark’s relatively tall nature and Lana’s relatively short one.

“If someone hears you say that, they’d think you’re a tower yourself.” Lana punched back with the same sense of humor. She had a point, for Tonya was only a few centimeters longer than Lana.

“Do you know that she once had a boyfriend who made her wear heels so that people wouldn’t make fun of them when they’re walking together?”

“He did not!” exclaimed Lana fitfully.

“He did too! He was almost as tall as you,” she was referring to Mark, “and some of his friends told him he should dump her because they looked ridiculous together. She came to me practically begging for me to teach her to walk in high heels.” Lana looked haughtily away, yet Mark seemed to be quite enjoying himself. “Up till now, if you watch closely, you’ll notice how she can hardly hold her grounds when walking in heels.”

“You make it sound like I had a million boyfriends who totally controlled me.”

“But you did!”

“No, I didn’t. I only started dating in the tenth grade. They must have been only three boyfriends.”

“Five.”

“What? No way, I would remember if …”

“Five.” Insisted Tonya. “Ahmad, Sameh, Shereef, Nader and Baher.”

“Mohammad’s not my boyfriend.”

“Yeah right.” Tonya was again speaking only to Mark. “Another thing you should know about Lana is that it takes her at least six months to confess that she’s actually in love with someone.”

“That’s not true.” Objected Lana.

“And once she does, she begins facing the problems and all the imperfections in the relationship, since, you know, it takes those almost six months to surface. So technically, she misses out on the best part in any relationship during the period of time she spends in denial.”

“Don’t listen to her.” Now Lana was the one only talking to Mark. “She’s just tryin’a tarnish my reputation; paint a hideous picture of me.”

“I’m just stating facts.” Said Tonya defensively.

“Anyways, even if that’s your way of loving,” intervened Mark, after a while of indulging in the show they had both been playing out, “you still gotta claim Baher all to yourself if you really like him. For who knows? If the crowds cheer for him tonight, I won’t be surprised if some chick ends up steeling him away from you by the end of the concert. After all, he is gonna be a rock star, and that’s like: girls’ magnet.”

Lana took that as a joke, but deep inside, she knew that it could be true, for Mohammad was known in college as a womanizer.

Soon afterwards, the concert began and the ‘Bangels’ hit the stage. The moment they all took position, Lana began to apply Mark’s words on the scene that was right in front of her eyes. And she had to give it to him; Mark had been very thorough in his description, since even though it was the first time to see them, Lana felt like she had already seen the band members before through his efficient sketch.

“Better take off your coats, girls. You won’t be needing them anymore, since the show’s getting started and the heat is already on.” Said Mark, excitedly applauding and cheering for his best friend.

Tonya immediately took his advice, and threw the coat back at her seat. But Lana; she thought twice before making such a – in her opinion – rash act, given it was a cold night in November and she was only wearing a sleeveless dress underneath.

They began playing, mostly rock songs but no metal included; a relief to Lana, who adored all genres of music, yet hated metal and hard rock with all her heart. After a few songs, Lana whispered to Tonya that it seemed they were a cover band for The Calling. They weren’t Lana’s favorite, but she certainly enjoyed their music. Like Mark had said, it was Ashraf who performed most of the songs; his voice was so similar to that of Alex Band, harsh, masculine yet tuneful. It shared a similarity with Mark’s strong voice; Lana wondered for a second why he too didn’t make up a band of his own, but she dared not ask him.

In the end, and after a lot of cheering from the audience, Mohammad announced that they would wrap it all up with a song by Mohammad’s own words and musical composition. This was about the only song in which Ashraf hadn’t participated, for it was sung entirely by Muhammad. Before playing out the solo, Mohammad said that he dedicated this song to a beautiful girl who was currently gaining on his heart. Mark and Tonya glanced at Lana playfully; she was already in tears.

When it was all over, the three of them rushed to Mohammad to congratulate him on his huge success. From Mark, Lana had learnt that Baher’ band had performed in school and in college a couple of times. Yet this was considered their first official performance, and since it was very pleasant, Mohammad suggested the four of them leave immediately for somewhere where they could “celebrate”. This was a relief to Lana, for it meant that she wouldn’t have to shake hands with Youssef.

When they had all crammed up in Mohammad’s Astra, Lana riding in the front seat, Mohammad drove to the nearest outlet to the Nile, where he parked in some secluded place, hidden away from the people’s eyes by large, branchy trees. Anyways, Zamalek wasn’t that crowded with pedestrians around the Nile, especially if compared with other parts of the corniche.

The moment the engine stopped, Lana opened the CD compartment and began searching for some decent CD to play.

“’Bomba 2003’,” she read out from an old tape, “what the hell is that?”

“Just some Arabic mix tape.” Replied Mohammad.

“God, I hate those.” Joined Tonya from behind. “They always remove repeated verses and overlap the songs that you can hardly tell where one song ends and the other begins.”

“They were ok before downloading songs from the internet.” Said Mohammad. “You see, each invention has its time of glory.”

“Yeah, then so long mix tapes.”

“There, ‘Old is Gold’,” Lana held the CD up in her hand, “that’s gotta be oldies and classics, right?”

Mohammad nodded.

“I think I’ve found us something to listen to.” Announced Lana, pressing the eject button, replacing the CD in the player with the one she had just found, then pressing play. “There; enjoy.” She said as she turned on the volume. The first song was j’ai quitte mon pays by Enrico Macias. The boys were surprised when Lana began singing along with the song.

“You know French?” asked Mohammad, a bit astonished.

“She speaks it fluently.” Assured Tonya.

“Why, you went to a British school, right?” Lana nodded. “They don’t teach fluent French there, as far as I know.”

“I didn’t learn French at school.” Explained Lana. “It’s practically my mother’s first language. I think I learnt to speak it even before I could speak Arabic. None of you guys have learnt any French in school?”

“We used to take it when we were in national school, up till preparatory or something. But we weren’t really learning it, you know. Just memorizing some empty words that would get us through to the next year.” Mohammad said. He once told her that he and Mark used to be in the same school, Manor House, till third Prep, that Mohammad even attended the funeral of Mark’s father. However, afterwards, Mohammad’s father decided to transfer him to an American high-school while Mark joined the IGSCE division in the Manor House. They didn’t become best friends, though, until they met again in college.

“Yeah, but Mark’s mum knows French,” intervened Tonya, again, “doesn’t she, Mark?”

“Sure. She actually was in the Mer de Dieu, since it was a nuns’ school and all. So her French’s pretty good. But mine is not as good, though. Never took it seriously.” Lana listened with great interest. From what she’d heard about Mark’s mum – for Tonya gave her a full description of all their meetings – she seemed like a nice person to know.

“Enough about the schools’ talk here, alright?” said Mohammad, irritated. “How about you talk about something else?”

“Like for example, your performance tonight?” suggested Lana with a wicked wink.

“Well,” began Mohammad, smilingly.

“It was awesome.” Blurted Tonya clapping her hands enthusiastically. “Everything was great; the choice of songs, the music playing, the singing. It was all synchronized perfectly.”

“Yeah, man; you totally rocked.”

“Yes, by the way, Mark, you know what I’ve been thinking all through the show?” Mark was silent, waited for Tonya to tell him. “Why on earth you never thought about starting up your own band. I mean, you’ve got the voice, the charisma.” Suddenly, Lana felt red with embarrassment. Realizing that nobody noticed her state, she waited anxiously for Mark’s reply to the question she had longed to ask.

“Actually, it’s not my thing.” answered Mark. “I take music as a hobby, unlike Mohammad. Besides, those bands are all about folks who sing western covers. I’m all about Eastern music, on the other hand. It suits my voice best.”

“Well,” started Lana, looking back at him from her front seat, “how about the Opera? That’s exactly the place for a voice like yours, especially if you’re gonna sing Tarab; classic oriental music. As a matter of fact, I can hook you up with a few guys who might secure you an audition.”

“Thanks, but I’d rather it remained a hobby.” Said Mark politely. “My greatest dream is to become an architect. The whole singing thing is just gonna stand in my way.”

Just as the song ended, and a new song: can’t help falling in love by Elvis Presley began, Tonya and Mark excused themselves, said they were going to have a walk by the Nile. That left Lana and Mohammad by themselves. The awkward moment of silence was broken by Mohammad.

“So you never told me what you thought of my performance tonight.”

“Loved it.” Said Lana, shrinking back in her seat for a while. “But,” she now looked up, as if she had mustered all the courage to get her speaking honestly, “there is one thing I wanted to ask you about.”

“What?”

“Haven’t you ever considered singing for James Blunt?”

“God, you’re just obsessed with that guy, aren’t you?” Said Mohammad with a humorous laugh.

“Not exactly. But he is really good. I mean, his songs are so simple, yet they carry a certain depth within them.”

“And if I shall sing for James Blunt, which of his songs would you want me to sing?” asked Mohammad meekly.

“Any song. I love all of his album.” She was referring to his debut album, Back to Bedlam, for it was the only one released back then.

“Yeah, but which of them do you like the most? You’re beautiful?” Mohammad took the wild guess given it was the song she had chosen for their talent show number.

“No, in fact, my favorite’s goodbye my lover.” Confessed Lana dreamingly, in her mild, sweet voice. “When I really feel like dancing, I just turn it on and all the best moves just keep flowing by.”

“Why didn’t you suggest we use it in our number then? Instead of you’re beautiful, I mean.”

“Two reasons,” Lana held out her index and middle fingers. “First; because its performance depends solely on the piano, and you only play the guitar, so I figured it would be better if we stick to what you know best. And second; for me to dance perfectly to a song, I have to really feel its words. And since I haven’t gone through that painful goodbye yet, I figured it was best to take one thing at a time. Besides, I’m not really looking forward to saying goodbye to someone I love like that.” Mohammad couldn’t find something to say that would come up to that, so he decided to keep his mouth shut. “Oh,” she screamed excitedly, turning on the volume, “there’s another of my favorites.” The song she called her “favorite” was Moon River by Frank Sinatra. “I used to listen to this song by the sea in Hurghada when I’d go there with my family during my midterm vacation. It would be night and the moon would shine through the dark, shimmering sea as the wind would gently blow my hair. As much as I enjoyed the view, I would always imagine I was in truth overlooking the river. Can’t believe I’m living through it tonight.” She said as she looked romantically out the window. “And a full moon, too.”

That night, Mohammad discovered a number of things about Lana; things that made him fall deeper for her. As the songs rolled on, her excitement reached its climax, until she jumped out of the car and began dancing by the riverside. To fully satisfy her, Mohammad opened his trunk and connected the bazooka speakers he had installed in there. The sound they produced was scary in its clarity, all the better for Lana, who had already taken off her coat and boots, and was dancing like a crazy person. What amazed Mohammad the most was her rare gift of knowing how to dance to every single tune, no matter how different it is from the one that precedes or follows it. Whether it was slow, jazz, Latin, pop, or even soft rock, it didn’t matter; Lana always found a way around it. It suddenly occurred to him that their love for music was almost equal, but they loved it each from a different prospective.

After almost an hour, Mark and Tonya returned holding hands.

“We come bearing gifts.” Said Tonya shaking a plastic bag she held in her hand.

“What is it?” Lana ran lightly towards them, trying to peep through the bag and see what it contained.

“Ice-cream.” Tonya started distributing the Mega ice-cream sticks.

“I can’t believe ice-cream could be so delicious in this freezing weather.” Said Mohammad as he broke through the thick chocolate crust.

“Me too.” Added Lana. “Oh,” she exclaimed running back to the car with the uneaten ice-cream still in her hand, “I love this song!”

“What is it?” asked Mark clueless.

Words don’t come easy by F.R. David.” Answered Mohammad, walking slowly towards Lana. “Words,” he began singing, pretending that the ice-cream stick was his microphone, “don’t come eeeeasy … to me. How can I find a was …  to make you see I love you? Words don’t come easy.”

Lana fluttered from side to side, as she joyously sucked on her ice-cream. Mohammad leisurely approached her, and when his mouth was at her right ear, he tenderly whispered:

“You know that the song I sang tonight at the concert was dedicated to you?” Lana blushed against her will to stay cool, as she looked up to his hazel eyes. “And so is this one.”