On goodbyes

I just don’t get it. Why does every goodbye have to end with pleads not to forget? If it’s worth remembering, then why isn’t it worth sticking to? And if it’s not worth sticking to, then why should it be worth remembering?

She hurls down the stairs, as if I had just stung her. I can tell the crying’s started, but there isn’t exactly anything I can do about that. Follow her? I wish; she’d get even more aggressive. One thing that always made us tick was how I would tell what she exactly needs at any given moment. Right now, I know she just needs to be left to her own devices. Continue reading

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Chapter 17: Out of my mind

If Lana’s life changed dramatically after marriage, Tonya’s life couldn’t have been anymore like  it had been back when she was still Miss Tonya Al-Shareef. She still went jogging first thing in the morning, had her breakfast while watching TV, practiced dancing for almost and hour, put something together in the kitchen as a small contribution to dinner (at her parent’s house, her mum usually prepared dinner, while now at her new house, the cook would prepare dinner), went shopping every couple of days and listened to some heartwarming music before going to bed.

Perhaps the one thing that had changed was her place of residence; now she was living in Baher’s house with his father. Despite Baher’s strong refusal towards this, Mr. Ali made it perfectly clear that he wasn’t going to give him a house of his own. The way he saw it: the house was huge and he was alone, and Mohammad was going to take it sooner or later after his father’s death, so why live somewhere else? Tonya didn’t disapprove; better yet, she saw this as a crucial part of her plan. This would be one of the things that shall make Lana wish she hadn’t married Mark. Tonya could tell how much Lana hated seeing her (Tonya) better than herself, richer than herself. If anything, that was probably the reason why Mohammad eventually gave in.

His father gave them the largest room in the house, more like a suite. Spacious and elegant as it was, it still had the air of a teenager’s room, for Mohammad moved his guitar, amplifier and record collection in. And that wasn’t the only stuff Tonya had to get used to being around, since Mohammad announced that Sugar would be sleeping with them! Neither being cats’ best friend nor worst enemy, it didn’t take her long to get adjusted to the fur flying in the air, the smell of her litter in their bathroom or her endless meows in the middle of the night. After a while, Tonya began to get used to her, and maybe even enjoy her company.

As for her relation with her husband, it wasn’t as successful as that with the cat. The only difference in their relationship now from their relationship before marriage was sleeping in the same room. And even in that aspect things weren’t so great, since they slept in separate beds. They spent their entire honeymoon celibate; all they did during those two weeks in the Far East was plot their revenge. Mohammad sometimes thought about making a move, yet he was always afraid of being rejected, especially that he saw no encouragement from Tonya’s side.

It wasn’t until they visited Lana and Mark’s home for the first time. Had there been one thing both of them saw as bright as the sun that night, it was Lana and Mark’s clingy habit. Lana nearly sat on Mark’s lap at one instant. And she wouldn’t take one step without giving him a kiss on the cheek first; it was like a confirmation of her every movement.

That night, Mohammad found Tonya dressed in a rather revealing nightgown instead of her regular pajamas. He was even more surprised to find her taking a seat right next to him on his fold-out couch.

“I was thinking,” she began less steadily than she had probably wanted to be, “that maybe since we’re already married, it’s time we start acting like a married couple. I mean, why should they have all the fun while we have all the misery? It’s the least of our rights.”

And that’s how it happened. Nevertheless, neither of them could feel any passion throughout the whole thing; not just the lovemaking part but their entire marriage. It was like they were performing roles in a silly play. At times, Mohammad would feel like he was just a puppet whose strings were in Tonya’s hands; she got to move him around whichever way she pleased, made him do all sorts of things that she thought had to be done. As much as he hated that, there were those times when he fantasized about Lana while Tonya was in his arms, that was when he would have wanted her to get hold of her strings, control him, strangle him, even , if she should, just to stop him from his obsessive delusions.

It was one of those times when Tonya popped up a staggering question:

“If there was one thing you could do differently about your relationship with Lana, what would that be?” she said as she looked at the ceiling. She was lying right next to him in bed, covered up with the blanket and with her hands resting on her chest.

“I would’ve called to check on her when she was in New York.” Replied Mohammad after a moment of consideration.

“What, you didn’t call back then?” asked Tonya turning to him, shocked.

“I checked on her, through Mark, and you.” He said slowly looking downwards.

“Still, you had to call her. Let her know that you cared.”

“Well, if it had been me, I wouldn’t have wanted her to call me. I wouldn’t have wanted to talk to her when I was so weak and down. I thought … I thought at such moments, people just prefer to be alone, at least ’till they’re strong enough to face the world again.”

“She didn’t want to be alone.” Remarked Tonya sarcastically. “And she found a hell of a company, too. God, Baher.” She still called him Baher when she was excited. She was trying to get used to calling him Mohammad, since it was absolutely ridiculous for a wife to call her husband by his family name. “You should’ve traveled to her. If you had done so, nothing would’ve been the way it is right now.”

“Well, I didn’t and that’s that.” Said Mohammad a bit worked up.

“What about you?” he asked after taking a moment to calm down. “What would you have done differently with Mark?”

“You know what?” she looked at him as she spoke so expressively, “Nothing; I would’ve done absolutely nothing differently. The way I see it, I didn’t mess up anything. I mean, I saw him, I liked him, I started showing him that I liked him and he started showing me that he liked me back, and before you know it: we were an item. Things were going so smoothly, just like a sweet dream. All until they went to London. I don’t know what the hell happened over there, but he came back totally different. He was cold and distant, and then he broke up with me.” Her words really got into Mohammad’s head, for he seemed so thoughtful. “Did it change things between you?” Asked Tonya, noticing the change in him. “The London trip, I mean.”

“As a matter of fact it did, but to the better. She left angry and bitter and returned tender and sweet.” They both thought about the mystery for a while, then Baher said:

“Forget about that. Can’t we get them out of our heads for just one second?”

“I wish we could.” rejoined Tonya, moving out of bed. “but as fate would have it, I’m meeting with her in half an hour.” She headed to the closet.

“Where to?” asked Mohammad, stretching his arms in the empty bed.

“The usual; shopping and then maybe dinner.” Bellowed Tonya with a distant voice coming from the closet.

“By the way,” she added coming out of the closet, fully dressed, “there’s something I wanted to tell you.”

“What?”

“It’s late.”

“What is it?”

“My period.”

Mohammad looked at her with raised eyebrows.

“Ok, I had a test and it came back positive.”

“Oh.”

“So I was thinking, with the hectically insane lives we’re leading, the last thing we need right now is a poor baby who would pay for our and their mistakes.” She looked at him in search of confirmation. “Don’t you think so?”

“I guess.” He replied hesitantly.

“So you’re with me on the abortion thingy?”

“I think it should be for the best.”

“Good,” she said picking up her purse. “I’ll tell you when I set a date, then.” And with that, she left.

 

 

 

IN LESS THAN three hours, she was back. Mohammad was trying some guitar riffs when she violently opened the door. From her red, angry face and her bright, burning eyes, Mohammad could tell something went wrong. And he didn’t need to ask, for she would tell him anyways.

“Change of plans.” She indignantly announced.

“What?” He asked laying the guitar down.

“We’re keeping the baby.”

“What? Why the hell would we do …”

“Lana’s pregnant.”

 

Chapter 16: Annie

Lana looked gravely at the guy who was squinting in front of her fridge. She was standing at his back, so if there was one thing she could clearly see, it was that penny-sized hole near his pants’ back pocket. The hole kept widening and shrinking as he moved the fridge vigorously; now plugging it in and then plugging it out.

“How many times did you say the electricity cut off yesterday?” he asked turning his neck slightly around to make it clear that he was addressing her.

“At least five times simultaneously.” Replied Lana, with her small, white hand covering her nose to prevent the smell of sweat (coming from the two dark spots under his armpits) from going into her nose. “It would go off, and in less than a second it would go on again. And then it would go off.”

He gave a nod and turned his neck back to face the fridge. Lana eyed him with interest mingled with a little bit of disgust. His fat physique, bald head and squealing voice weren’t all that made her deplore him. Neither was it his constant desire and endless trials to make it seem like he understood everything that had to do with her fridge. It was the fact that she had to spend her morning around him instead of being in the club or maybe out shopping. It had only been three months since she got married. And it was still difficult for her to get adjusted to her new life.

Nowadays, she couldn’t make one single decision without thinking of all the possible consequences it might have upon her marriage and husband. She had to call her mother-in-law every morning and check on her. That’s besides visiting her at least once every week. At first, those visits were more like a burden on Lana, especially when Leila, her mother-in-law, would start her talk about Mark and all the things he loved and the things he preferred. Even though Leila was probably only reminiscing about her cherished son’s childhood, Lana always took her words as some kind of lecture on how she should treat Mark. Nevertheless, Lana was beginning to get used to Leila’s annoying habits. Besides, she was now becoming great friends with Mark’s youngest sister, Maya. Particularly that they seemed to have the same interests, for Maya was very fond of dancing and she was now a freshman in college, faculty of Arts, CairoUniversity. Whenever those two were together, they just cliqued.

Mai, who was only two years younger than Lana, was the one everybody expected Lana to befriend. However, she struck Lana as some kind of a loner. She would spend most of her time either reading or studying. Now that she was in her third year in college, studying computer science, Lana realized she had to study a lot. But she also realized there was a part of her that focused on studying as an excuse to stay away from people.

As for Omar, he was the strangest of all of Leila’s kids. A devoted playboy, he probably dated all the girls in his class and even two classes up. Despite his bumpy voyage in college, once he got to work he seemed to change completely. He worked in the stocks, besides a full-time job in the bank. Yet, he always managed to find time for the ladies. Generally, Lana liked him; thought his reckless way of life was somewhat appealing, but he never struck her as a dependable man. She always believed that Mark was ten times better as a husband. But she still enjoyed the part of her duties that involved having him as her companion at least once a week.

Be that as it may, all the marriage duties which came with the territory were nothing compared with what she was doing currently;  taking care of all the house-related problems all on her own. Never in her life had Lana escorted a technician before; she didn’t even know how to behave around those people. Not even her mother, or father, had to take care of such dirty businesses back at her parents’ house. Things just seemed to get miraculously fixed back there, or perhaps it was the servants who took care of those kinds of chores. But now, she didn’t even have a full-time maid, and Mark made it perfectly clear that he couldn’t possibly take a day off just to hear the technician’s diagnosis, when Lana, who was entirely free, could do it instead.

“I’m sorry ma’am.” Said the technician after a full hour of complete inspection and failed trials. “It seems dead to me.”

“What?” cried Lana, taking her hands out of her back pocket, for this is where they had remained for most of that hour. “C’mon, this is a Busch. It can’t just die. For God’s sake, it’s brand new. Can’t we do anything to fix it?”

“Of course you can fix it.” he answered very confidently. “But it would cost you something in the neighborhood of seven, maybe eight thousand pounds. See,” he said trying to explain the problem with making shapes of his hands and fingers, “the turbulence in the electricity blew off the system. So fixing it would be almost like getting a brand new fridge, especially that you know how expensive its spare parts are. I’m so sorry, this isn’t usually the case, but you were very unfortunate with this fridge. I can see for myself that it’s as good as new.”

“What about the guarantee?”

“You do have the policy, but it’s not stamped.”

“So?”

“So it’s almost useless. It should’ve been stamped by the retailer who sold it to you. Or if you still have the receipt,” Lana disappointedly shook her head. Her father would throw those away as soon as he got out of the shop. He couldn’t have kept it.

“And if we fix it, it would be brand new?” asked Lana.

“Certainly! Shall I take it with me to get it fixed?”

Lana excused herself for a moment and went to the bedroom. She called Mark and told him about what had taken place.

“Shall I tell him to take it?” she enquired rather rhetorically.

“I don’t know, Lana. We could buy another new fridge for less than this amount of money.”

“Yeah, but this is a Busch. I mean, we bought it for twelve thousand pounds, it would only be fair to pay seven thousand to get it fixed.” Reasoned Lana.

“Well, let’s just think about that for a while, shall we? Give me a day or two and tell the guy we’ll get back to him later. Alright?”

So Lana passed the message to the technician and then she escorted him out of the house. Next, she called her mother to tell her about all that has happened – for Lana was in the habit of vividly describing to her mother every tiny event of her life – and asked for her opinion on the subject.

“What were you thinking, Lana?” said Dalia over the phone, “you can’t possibly get it fixed with the genuine spare parts for a fairer price. Tell your husband we’ll pay for it if he doesn’t have the cash right now. You can’t throw away a brand new Busch just because fixing it was a bit pricy!”

WHEN MARK CAME home that night, Lana was in the bedroom reading. In fact, she wasn’t exactly reading as much as she was going through some old magazines. As she heard the key move inside the door, she quickly rushed outside with the magazine in her hand. But just as she was about to walk in to the living room and welcome her husband home, she heard him speak with another man. Being in her nightshirt, she paced back into the bedroom and waited till she heard the apartment’s door close.

Coming out on tiptoes, with the rolled up magazine still in her hand, Lana moved cautiously until she was able to tell that the stranger was gone. Before she got the chance to ask Mark who this guy was, she saw a huge cardboard-box in the kitchen. She understood that the stranger was the one who carried the box into the house.

“What is that?” she asked kissing Mark on the cheek.

“It’s our new fridge.” He replied smilingly wrapping his arms around her waist and drawing her closer to him. Then he looked at her face in wait of the joyous expression he expected to find.

“You bought a new fridge?” she said moving away from him and roaming around the cardboard box, trying to read what was written on it.

“I figured we …”

Universal!” exclaimed Lana finally coming across the fridge’s brand.

“What’s wrong with it?” asked Mark, sensing the attitude.

“It’s Egyptian-made; that’s what’s wrong with it! We’ve been around a German fridge all this time, and now we suddenly have to get used to dealing with an Egyptian product with all its faultiness and malfunctions?”

“Well, in case you haven’t noticed, our great, all German fridge is dead; after only less than three months of usage.”

“Exactly, so how long do you think this is gonna last? And by the way, the fridge isn’t dead. It just needs to get fixed.”

“For eight thousand pounds!”

“Pappy’s gonna pay for it. I mean, till you can pay him back.”

Mark impatiently looked at the ceiling as he wiped his face with both his hands. He would’ve snapped at her had he spoken at that particular instant, so he remained silent till he was able to keep his cool. “Lana, we can’t just turn to your parents every time we face a problem.”

“Consider it a wedding gift.”

“Another wedding gift? C’mon, Lana, I think your father’s proved his generosity already. And as much as I am grateful for this generosity, I’m gonna have to pass this one.” He paused a while to breathe. “Now, we already got ourselves a new fridge. And if we sell the old one, we’ll manage.”

He then moved to the fridge and began taking it out of its box. The sound of the cardboard in friction with the nylon surrounding the fridge failed at making Lana look at the new device. She just stood in the living room, with a distant look toward the window. Mark noticed.

“Check this out,” he began, trying to break the ice, “It’s 25-feet wide. That’s 7-feet wider than the old one.” Lana cast off a careless glance towards the neglected object. “And it also comes with a water dispenser. Didn’t you want one of those?” he asked looking at her. She saw in his eyes that he was begging for acceptance, and she complied. Slowly moving into the kitchen, she touched the aluminum exterior of the fridge. “Come here; let me show you how to use it.” he said smiling.

MARK WAS IN the habit of reading in bed before going to sleep. Every night, he would spend almost an hour reading anything before putting the lights out. It helped clear his mind and prepare him for a sound sleep. So usually, after the lights go out, Mark would be in no time snoring.

Nevertheless, that night, Lana didn’t hear the snoring begin after darkness prevailed. Instead, she felt Mark’s hand on her shoulder. She was sleeping with her back facing him, yet she was able to tell his every-second movement. His hand kept running around her body till it reached her waist. That’s when she felt him getting closer, with his hand stroking her chest. She had been trying to keep silent all night long, but this final move sort of triggered all her canned acrimony. She burst into loud tears.

“What’s the matter?” asked Mark startled as he sat in bed and turned the lights on. “Is everything ok?”

“Please Mark,” she began with a choked-under-tears voice, “if you love me, please just return that fridge and let pappy fix our old one, please.”

“I … I don’t understand. Haven’t we settled that already?”

“You don’t get it. I can’t just have people come into the house and see this. My mum alone is gonna go mad. And Tonya, oh my God! Tonya’s coming by tomorrow! If she sees it she’s gonna start pitying me in her all-so-considerate manner. It’s just eight thousand pounds Mark, please.”

“I don’t have them! Alright?” cried Mark, finally snapping. “All I had was the money with which I got the fridge tonight. I was gonna buy myself some new clothes but I thought, ‘hey, this fridge thing’s really bugging her, so I gotta prioritize.’”

“And I’m telling you, you don’t have to pay anything. You just let pappy …”

“I’m not letting anyone pay ANYTHING.” Screamed Mark so loudly that Lana fearfully trembled. “Pity! Now people are gonna pity you? For God’s sake, Lana, this is a four-thousand-pound fridge; it’s no junk.”

For a few minutes, Lana remained right next to him in bed, all shivering and crying. This time he didn’t apologize; didn’t pat her on the shoulder; didn’t even ask her to sleep. He just rolled around in bed with his back turned towards her. Gaining enough strength to walk on her feet, Lana quietly moved to the kitchen. She stood there in the middle, staring at the new fridge.

“Stupid, stupid fridge.” She cried kicking it.

Then, she sat on the kitchen bar and started going through everything placed there. She came across the magazine she was reading when Mark came home. It was the issue where her wedding pictures were published. She viciously grabbed it and began flipping its pages till she reached her wedding.  A very happy couple with fire in their eyes and love printed all over their faces stared back at her. She tried to look for all the love she had felt on that day; she found it all there. Yet the dreams weren’t really fulfilled. The life she had imagined to live with Mark was so different from the life she was currently leading. Unlike what she had anticipated, she didn’t have a job. And as much as she hated to admit it, money matters were causing a bit of an issue between them. And there were also the people’s expectations, especially Tonya and Sara’s; every time she got around those two, they would start talking about how beautiful her life ought to be now that she had married the love of her life, congratulating her on being able to come across material differences so largely. It all burnt her up inside; that she constantly failed at making her dreams come true. First, it had been the dancing, but screwing this up wasn’t her fault. She had adopted her marriage as her new dream; that was where she planned on shining and reaching the stars. However, there were times when she felt it was so challenging to move forward. And that night topped all her hard moments.

Then she remembered her mother’s words; how she had predicted that Lana wouldn’t be able to live happily with Mark due to his financial situation. She hated to be that materialistic. Even if it was a fact, she still wouldn’t admit it.

Her eyes rested once and for all on that detested fridge, and for the first time, she saw it in a different light. She saw Mark, walking out of work so exhausted and in desperate need of rest, yet making his way to the shop to buy the fridge. She saw his not-so-rich wardrobe, with many old, out-fashioned clothes and she saw how much that wardrobe must have needed refreshing. And most importantly, she saw him foreseeing the look on her face when seeing the new fridge – a look of relief, happiness and satisfaction, and how that look would’ve been worth all his trouble. And lastly, she saw her own reaction; ruthless and ungrateful as it was and saw how strongly she had hurt him.

With the tears still in her eyes, Lana ran to the bedroom. She found him lying there in bed, just like she had left him, but she could tell that he wasn’t yet asleep. Kneeling down on the floor at his bedside, she slowly grabbed his hand, all masculine and full of veins, and kissed it.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered truly remorsefully.

Even though it was dark, she could see his eyes open. They looked so bright; perhaps it was the tears that made them shine so. “I can never fully describe to you how much I hate myself right now.” She said pushing his straight hair backwards. “But I only hope you would have a heart big enough to forgive me.” Her hand was now on his cheek, which was so hot (probably with rage). His hand caught hers off guard and drew it to his lips. He engraved a tender kiss upon it. Lana sighed in relief. He then pulled her into bed and took her into his arms.