The moment he stepped out of the main door, Fury sneaked in, her eager eyes full of avid curiosity. My countenance, however, wasn’t expressing the buoyantly triumphant face that she had been anticipating. She assailed me with a volley of questions, anxious to find out what had induced such a weird shift of course. ‘I think I was too harsh on him’, I said in vindication. ‘Oh yea’, Fury derided sarcastically. Well, that wasn’t the entire truth. The worrying thing was that I truly sensed some sadness on seeing him leave. And much to my surprise my apprehension of not seeing him again preoccupied me overwhelmingly. Weird emotions rushed madly through me in such an unaccustomed manner. The exhilarating taste of the backwash of the storeroom incident as well as of the water cooler collision was far too unnerving for my romantic nature and my naïve inexperienced heart to cope with, and I was getting increasingly perplexed. However, as it turned out, his next ploy of premeditated absence seemed to achieve fully its aspiration. The romantically vulnerable female within, who had just started coming to awareness, was becoming amply enwrapped in the whys and hows, analysing, justifying and probing the reason for his absence, which seemed curiously incongruent with what had preceded it. My mood was muddied by some enigmatic glumness, which was becoming harder and harder to tackle. Strangely enough, the whole week passed with me being on the lookout for his visit. My heart would miss a beat every time I would hear the door swinging open, hoping that it’d be him.
Six days lapsed with no sign of him. I returned home on the seventh day, downhearted. The usual afternoon nap turned out to be a sheer nightmare. Like a netted fish, I tossed and turned in bed for two hours, without being able to sleep. Therefore, Fury’s camaraderie that evening was an enormous relief, or was it truly what I needed? Nevertheless, I called and persuaded her to sleep over at my place, and that we’d catch the bus together to work the next morning. In less than an hour her dad dropped her at my place. She was dressed ‘stylishly’ in a long T-shirt that hung loosely down, covering most of her knee-length skirt; her feet were clad in a pair of thongs; her uniform was thrown over one shoulder, while her purse was hanging from the other; and she carried her shoes, one in each hand. ‘Why didn’t you come in pyjamas, Fur?’ I asked laughing. She stared at me, as if my remark had called her attention to some imperative she had missed. She moved her eyes down to her clothes, examining them. ‘Good idea’, she replied in a serious tone, ‘I’ll do that next time; it’ll save me the hassle of changing anyway’. By the look on her face, I knew my suggestion was favourably received.
We went upstairs straight to my bedroom, without beating about the bush. And we secluded ourselves for over an hour, door shut, chatting, whilst we listened to some soft music, and helped ourselves from a tray of light sandwiches, salad, and a platter of fruit that mum had fixed us, and washing them down with some freshly blended juice. She lay sprawled on the bed, while I sat facing her on the floor, leaning, crossed-legged, against the wardrobe.
Fury didn’t appear the least bit eager to talk when I asked her her opinion as to why he was seemingly boycotting my office for the whole week that passed after the hostility of the storeroom. ‘You’re getting hooked up, Liana. Careful, it’s becoming risky’, those were Fury’s first words of discouraging wisdom. Her admonishment stemmed from what she deemed to be a perilously erratic swerve in my emotions. She construed my weird behaviour as an ‘unhealthy sign’; she was convinced I was over-reacting, and that I sounded as if I enjoyed mentioning his name or talking about him. It was then when I ramped. I got up from the floor ranting, and I sat on the edge of the bed, like a wild cat, ready to attack, ‘That’s ridiculous. Do you think I’m in love with him?’
She looked at me, silent, eyes squinting, her right hand supporting her left hand that cupped her chin. And she calmly threw it to my face, ‘YES you are, and it’s not I think any more, but I’m positive. And tell me here now, isn’t this what you really wanted, that he stays away from you? So what’s this all about?’
She carried on, striking further, ‘For your information, he wasn’t out of site the last few days or sick or else, in case you’re wondering. He called yesterday and spoke to Jimmy and I saw him today in Riyadh’s office’.
Well, with her established series of facts she had me surely subdued. I slid down to the floor again, and remained soundless, head down, twisting abstractedly the hem of the shorts that I had on, and utterly oblivious to the discernible disturbance that had pervaded my face. I turned to her, with a calmness that vanquished hers, ‘Correction: NO, I assure you it’s not love, although I can’t deny finding the guy quite appealing. You don’t understand, it’s hard to admit it, but I just hate being brushed aside like that. I’ve always been the one grabbing others’ attention and the one ignoring them, and it’s the first time someone ignores me like that, and it's too bitter to swallow’.
She remained silent for a few moments, seemingly appreciative of my openness, ‘Forget about him Liana, please’, she said, and joined me on the floor. She sat facing me, swaying gently, one hand gesturing, the other resting on my knee. ‘This is how it starts always, and one thing leads to another, and all of a sudden you find yourself drowned in the ocean of his love’. By verbalizing the facts, Fury was rationalizing my, seemingly, odd behaviour. ‘You know nothing yet about the guy. Have you thought of the possibility of him being married? Besides, if he had been somehow reckless, he must be a hundred percent certain now, after that harsh disciplining, that you’re not the easy type, so just forget about him, please’.
Fury was the voice of sanity. But I was restless, bewildered, and unable to understand my behaviour, or the obscure rebellious emotions that were intruding upon my innermost thoughts through each day of his absence. I stretched my legs in front of me, and crossed my hands, busy chewing it over. ‘Liana?’ She nudged my arm, impatient for a reply, but I had none. Such ‘unpleasant’ surmises never occurred to me and I didn’t appreciate the mere assumption of them. It further perplexed the inexperienced kid that I was, newly introduced to the world of men. I wondered, naively, why he would chase me if he were married. When I asked if she truly believed he was married, she shook her head laughing,
‘With his charisma and at his age? If he’s not currently married, then he is hundred percent divorced, and probably more than once, and with at least one or two kids, and most definitely with a live-in’. She talked and counted ‘those merits’ on her fingers, ‘You know their culture, and how much easier than ours it is getting married or even getting divorced’.
Fury’s hawkish eyes did not fail to grasp the possibility that I was striving to deny, or how lost and confused I was becoming. She carried on with her sincere counselling, trying to dissuade me out of my preoccupation, and urging me to focus instead on my job, and to turn away from the pointless complications of battling or loving or even marrying a foreigner.
In a conspicuous attempt to divert my attention away, she flipped the channel, spilling the beans about some ongoing plan of an Iraqi engineer working with the BMS group, who, having already verified my Christian background with Mai, intended asking for my hand in marriage. Louay, as she called him, was a handsome engineer of thirty-one, who was considered capable enough to head his whole section at such a young age. She laughed when I teased, ‘Perhaps an active Bathist’. Mai told her how much I had captured his attention, and that his fears were that someone else would get to me ahead of him, as he was aware of the increasing interest that I was receiving among his colleagues. Done with Louay’s ‘credentials’, she waited, hopeful that such merits would raise enough interest to rid me of the ‘American influence’. My reply, nevertheless, was a mere twist of the lips, and an indifferent shrug.
‘And what’s that supposed to mean?’ she asked.
‘You know my opinion of conventional marriages’, I replied.
Conventional marriages never appealed to me. I always viewed them as transactions that gave no considerations for emotions and feelings, but were mainly arranged according to some criteria based on visual aspects and absurd materialistic calculations, and fashioned according to the merits and advantages arising from beauty, wealth, education, honour, reputation, and social backgrounds, but love? ‘It will come later, with time’. What if it doesn’t? Here lies the tragedy: marriage then becomes a mere task, a mission, and anything else but a happy life together, and the woman or even the man would hopelessly and powerlessly adapt to their ill destiny, and tailor a whole life to accommodate a partnership that is legitimised only by a certificate.
‘You’re a hopeless case, like all we needed was this bloody Martin’, she said, and got up, heading for the bathroom. When she drew nearer to the door, a zooming pillow landed at the back of her head, avenging the wicked comment. She stopped dead. A few instants and she turned, eyes glancing sideways. She bent slowly down, grabbed the pillow from the floor, rounded it up into a ball, and with her teeth clenched, not only retaliated with a strong adverse action, but threw herself on me in a merciless attack. She wouldn’t let go of me before I received a 'clean’ beating from an undeclared Kurdish wrestling champion.
Next morning, deferring to Fury’s advice, I sought to keep him off my mind. ‘She is right’, I thought, ‘my life was far smoother before I met him’. I immersed myself completely in the pile of work awaiting me, and in between tasks chatted with Jack, who believed that I was regaining my lost enthusiasm.
To Be Continued.......