While the age gap that separated Dina and me wasn’t great—only a few years stood between us—we were, however, as unlike as two people could be in our personalities. She was a strong-willed individual, who had a reputation for being logical and rational. She would pinpoint her goals in life incisively, and would march towards them with dogged determination. In contrast I was frequently a prey to emotions, and harboured such overwhelmingly romantic aspirations. She was living then, just like any other unmarried fellow female, with her father and her brother, my Uncle Sam, who was a few years older than she was, and who was also unmarried. Dina worked at the time as a banker, while Uncle Sam managed his own business—an agency selling automobiles spare parts. My sweet old grandpa was a retiree, who had spent his entire life working in the governmental sector, just like the majority of Iraqis. He was the most wonderful grandpa one could ever wish for, gifted with a phenomenal sense of humour. His stories and jokes were a wonderful social lubricant at any gathering, eliciting wholehearted laughs even from those with the longest faces. I guess it was this cheerfulness and outstanding sense of humour that contributed to his living to the age of ninety-two, or it may have been his unabated attachment to the bottle, which may have also contributed to his convivial nature and jocular tendency? I wonder.
I returned home on Wednesday afternoon, drained and depleted. I went to Dina seeking relief and support, and returned overburdened with worries and concerns, and heavy with dismay and fear. When I entered the house, Mum would have noticed that the usual rosy colour, which was a feature of my face, had disappeared, thanks to his harrowing absence and to the seven days of warfare that Dina had inflicted on me. ‘Are you alright, honey?’ Mum asked worriedly, when I kissed her. I smiled, assuring her there was nothing to worry about, ‘Just tired mum’.
My appetite was no longer in evidence. The amount of food my stomach was receiving diminished by the day. Mum had cooked my favourite dish, but I didn’t have the least desire for food. I went upstairs to my room and called Fury; I updated her with the newest of Dina’s onslaughts. Fury reassured me that things would start improving with his return.
Despite all the anguish and those nasty concerns that Dina had planted in my mind, I was enormously excited, counting the minutes and seconds to my seeing him again. It was to be my big day, the day I had waited for over seven days, seven long and excruciating days. They seemed like seven years.
The last few hours, nevertheless, were the hardest. Fury reckoned that I seemed pretty much like someone approaching the end of Ramadan, the Muslim’s fasting month. She said fasting over most of the month wasn’t as hard as the final few days. I guess that depiction fitted perfectly my state of mind, for I had been fasting a whole week, but those last few hours were an inconceivable torture. I imagined how our meeting would be: What would I say? What would he say? How would he approach me? It was our first parting, and I wondered if he’d missed me as much as I missed him, if things were as hard on him as they were on me. I knew I’d be saying nothing; my bashful nature would force me always into a torturing silence. I always did the listening while he did all the talking, but just the thought of his nearness was a great thrill and an enormous relief: ‘He’ll take care of all this nuisance’.
Though I had been in bed since nine, I had hardly slept a wink. I got up at the crack of dawn, excited and thrilled and couldn’t wait to get to work. ‘This is your day, Liana; you've earned it; you've well-earned it’. I was preparing a warm welcome, donning myself in a yellow top , my favourite colour, the one that suits me best. It was first time that I had broken with my uniform by wearing such a bright colour as yellow. It seemed a too vivid infringement of the regulations governing our dress code, ‘but who cares’. A warning letter would be the worst that could happen, not a big deal, and it was worthwhile. Dad reprimanded me upon seeing me decked out in yellow. He stressed that I should have more respect for rules. ‘It’s boring, dad, wearing the same colour everyday. It’s good to have a change, once in a while’, I argued. I wore crimson make-up. ‘It goes fabulously with yellow’, I thought. ‘It brings out the best of my skin and my hair’. Let alone the eyes of Arabia.
Fury and the girls were stunned to see me in yellow. ‘Have mercy on the guy, Liana’, Fury whispered as I sat down next to her in the establishment bus. ‘He’s been away for a whole week. You can’t do this to him on his very first day back’. I beamed with joy on hearing that; for all that beauty was for him, to show him how much I loved him, and how much I cared, and how much I wanted to please him with the face and the beauty that he loved and admired so much.
My body quivered, my heart raced, the closer I got to the office. I even felt a slight stomach-ache, and frequent colic waves. Dina’s impact on me seemed to be receding now. He solely possessed my mind, and I was thinking of him, only of him.
Before I entered the office, a trip to the toilets was essential. I looked in the mirror, ensuring that everything was flawless and perfect, entirely perfect, and off, then, to the office. The effect of yellow in the office was overwhelming. The first comment came from Al, as usual. ‘Dear Lord’, he whispered, and he just belted up, not saying another word. Jack smiled. Tom winked, and Gerhard expressed praise in German, "sehr schön", Liana!. Hearing all those compliments was gratifying, but it was he who mattered, not anyone else. It was he whom I wanted to impress.
I sat busying myself with my papers, anxious and waiting and often glancing at the main entrance. Those few moments surely made me acknowledge how hard the last few days had been, much like the deprivation of food during Ramadan.
Not long afterwards, he turned up. My heart thumped with excitement the moment I saw him; my hands trembled, and a surge ran through my whole body, electrifying me. Tom was at the main entrance leaving when he stepped in, and they both stood there talking. He stood facing Tom, although I was within view on his right. The office was a throng of people. Jack was at his desk; Al and Larry were busily conferring about some aspect of work. There were three Iraqi engineers talking to Jimmy, while Gerhard and I sat next to each other working on some charts.
I glanced twice towards him. The first time I saw that he was still talking to Tom, but on the second time I found him staring at me. Our eyes met, but I turned mine away quickly. I couldn’t, I just couldn’t look into the depths of those eyes that had me lost for a whole week.
He was wearing an off-white shirt and navy blue pants. He was good at choosing colours that suited his skin fabulously, but it was first time I saw him in off-white, and he looked just stunning. I glanced towards Fury. She was attending to her duties, recording every single tiny detail that I could have missed.
Tom stepped out; he walked in with a general greeting, ‘Good morning everybody’. All eyes moved towards him, so did mine, and everyone, replied but I didn’t. I just looked ecstatically at him. He looked at everyone, but totally avoided looking in my direction.
To Be Continued.......