By: Noha Al-Sewaify
By: Noha Al-Sewaify
A Walk alone is always good after a long, tiring day. It was a cold winter night, rain was pouring with an echoing sound, his thoughts clashing in his exhausted brain matched the echo with an even louder noise! Or at least it seemed so to him. It was nearly 3 Am, nobody else was in the street, except for a stray, skinny kitten, and the moon.
The rain began to pour even harder, through the darkness and the raindrops, a blue sign that read "Mirrors" caught his eye, he ran towards his salvation, the sound of his shoes splashing in the water was as loud as his heartbeats. The moment he walked through the door he felt as if he's stepped in another world, it was warm and empty, as if it was waiting for him. He sat at a corner table and ordered a coffee. "Do you have any cigarettes?", "yes, there you go" the boy said offering him a cigarette. Funny as it is, he felt as a boy getting a long-desired toy, his wife doesn't let him smoke in the house, so he's given up smoking since they got married. It's been seven year. He stared at the cigarette for a minute or two, fantasizing about that first inhale he's about to take… and then he put that cigarette between his lips, lit it, closed his eyes, and inhaled.
A tall, slim woman in a long, purple coat rushed in, she closed her umbrella and brushed off some raindrops off her coat, she had soft, red hair, and a pale skin. He watched her take off her coat, and order a cup of hot tea, she was wearing a deep red dress, it reached slightly below her knees, she had long, smooth legs, and a beautiful figure. Her face was covered with quiet an amount of makeup, from her dark mascara, to her dark, red lipstick. "What was a gorgeous woman like her be doing there at three Am, and on such a cold and lonely night?" he wondered!
"Do you like what you see??" she asked him in an aggressive, angry tone, "oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to stare. You just reminded me of someone I used to know" he said in an apologetic tone, "oh really? And who would that be?" she said carelessly throwing her long, red hair back, "someone that's not there anymore", "I'm sorry" she seemed embarrassed of her playful attitude, she stood up, grabbed her cup and approached him, "I'm Nadia" she offered him her manicured hand, "nice to meet you, Nadia, I'm Adam". She sat herself on his table, crossed her legs and sipped her tea.
For a couple of moments afterwards he seemed lost in his own thoughts, she interrupted saying "a rough night ha?", "yeah, I had a stormy argument with my wife, can't get myself to go home yet", "I was talking about that heavy rain" she said and smiled, "oh…that too", "what did you argue about?", he was altered by her rude question, and even more by the fact that she didn't look like she realizes that it was, "it's just not the same anymore", "you look kinda young, how long have you been married?", "seven years, how about you?", she laughed a loud, flirty laugh and said, "who me??! I've never been married, and never want to be, it's too much heartache and responsibility", "you got that right".
Soon enough, the morning came, the sunlight softly entered the street outside, and shortly made it to their table. He stood up and said "I guess it's time to go home, it was nice meeting you, goodnight, or should I say good morning?" he said with a blank look on his face, "just say, see you later", "bye" he said, shook her hand fast, and left
Reaching his house, he saw his two kids getting on the school bus, they didn’t see him, he turned his key, opened the door and walked in. The house was clean and quiet, he opened the bedroom door softly so he wouldn’t wake up his wife, her dark hair covered half her bright, exhausted face, she smelled like fresh bakery, God how calm, and peaceful she looked. He slipped under the covers without changing, the bed was warm and inviting, so what if he missed one work day? He’s been on time for over nine years now, he’s entitled to miss a day if he feels like it.
She sat there at the café’ staring at space for a moment or two after he left, she didn’t wanna go to that empty apartment again, she’s scared of being alone, loneliness can kill you slowly. “I’m sorry Miss, but we’re gonna close now, you can come back in one hour, we’ll be open again” the boy said, “how much do I owe you?” she asked in a hostel tone, “that’s ok, the gentleman has already paid for both of you”. She took her umbrella and her coat and left.
Lyla woke up to find her husband asleep next to her in his full clothes, he smelled like cigarettes and coffee, she sat there staring at him, after a while she left the bed and went to take a shower. The water was so hot and relaxing, she closed her eyes and let the water wash down the kids, the stress, and the bitterness of the argument from the night before. As she drank her coffee she wondered how her life came down to this? She always thought she’d live an exciting life, her friends always thought she’d be the happy, successful one. School was her fame time, she was the centre of attention, her strong character made her the teachers’ pit, and the group leader, as her long, dark hair, green eyes, and flirty attitude made her the boys’ out-of-reach fantasy. How did it all come down to this? The kids are all that she’s got, her 5 year old boy was a sweetheart, and the 4 year old was the prettiest little girl in the neighborhood, she loves her kids, but that’s not all, is it? Something’s missing, she is not happy, a tear fill in her coffee, so she got up, and threw it down the sink, along with her disappointment, she got dressed and went to the supermarket.
The dinner was set on the table, the smell was so good, Adam came down to find his wife sitting alone on the table waiting for everybody to join in, “where are the kids?”, “washing their hands” she said without looking at him. “I made a pretty painting this morning, mom, it was so pretty that the teacher put it on the wall”, “you ‘painted’ one honey, not made one, you don’t make paintings”, the boy looked very disappointed and ate silently, “that’s great son, what did you paint?” Adam said trying to save the situation, “a cow and a tree and a dog”, “nice, maybe you can ‘paint’ another one so mom could hang it on our refrigerator”, “can I mom?”, “of course baby, I’d love that” she said and kissed him on his forehead, “now eat you dinner before it gets cold”.
“I have to get a cat or something” Nadia said to herself walking in her cold apartment, “a cat would defiantly keep me company”. She went straight to take a bath, filled her tub with warm water and her favorite French perfume, she added some moisturizer, and lit a few candles. As the water fill, she took off her dress and stared at her own reflection in the mirror, she was a beautiful woman, and she knew it. Lying there in the tub she thought of that poor, miserable man from that night, how sad it must feel to be in an unhappy marriage, and she’d know, she often heard her mom crying through the bedroom wall, she used to watch her tears fall in the side mirror, as she, the child, was in the back seat, it broke her heart every time. “I wonder how his wife looks like? She’s probably one of those women that let themselves go, fat and all messed up, do they have any kids? Children are such a disaster to one’s looks, they ruin your figure, your hair starts to fall, your skin all exhausted”. She took a couple of handful of the warm water and started throwing them down her back, “if I ever have a daughter, she’ll be the prettiest little girl alive, she’ll have my hair and my nose, maybe she can have her father’s skin I’m too pale” she paused at that thought, she couldn’t think of any man with a nice skin, she just couldn’t think of any man, there was no man, a tear fill in the water and took her mind of the thought, she laid back her head, and stared at the ceiling.
“You know, you could have been much nicer to your son this evening” Adam said to his wife as she was reading a book in bed, “and what makes you such an expert? You barley know your children, I’m the one who has to make sure they speak properly, I’m the one who has to make sure they eat properly and behave like human beings”, “they’re not yet human beings, they’re still kids, Lyla”, “then I suppose you’re still a kid too”, “what’s is that supposed to mean”, “it means whatever the hell you want it to mean”, “is that gonna be the end of all our conversations?”, “ha, what conversations??!”, “listen, I’m trying to talk to you and you’re being so unbelievable”, “am I? That’s just great, and what do you call your coming home at 7 am this morning?”, “I was out on a walk, I needed the fresh air, I felt that I was suffocating in here”, “a walk and a cigarette” she said, turned off the light, and turned her back to him. Both of them laid awake almost all through that night, their backs to each other’s.
Her short, lavender skirt, white, silky blouse, the wind running through her long, red hair, the high heels, the lipstick, it all made everyone on the street turn, look, and stare, she loved that, although she always pretended that it annoyed her, but it didn’t. “You’re late again, Nadia” her boss said as she walked in his office, “I’m so sorry, the traffic was…”, “never mind, you’re lucky you look as good as you do in the morning” she laughed out loud, but his remark shook her to the bone, that’s all she was, something good to look at, “do you want me to get you anything, sir?”, “yes, my morning coffee, sugar”. Passing by the coffee machine she over heard two women talk about her “yeah, she comes in 25 minutes late and she gets away with it”, “of course, cause she can, she probably already paid the price last night”, “I don’t really think she’s sleeping with him, I think he just enjoys looking up her so-called skirt, or down her so-called blouse, though he doesn’t really need to look down, there’s not much left to peep at, it’s all out there anyways”, the women laughed, and went their separate ways. She gathered herself together, made the coffee, and took it to the boss. Just another cup of coffee on another day.
Adam went to buy the birthday cake, his little girl was really the apple of his eye, he went to 3 different stored to get her one with “the little mermaid” on it, they invited about 30 guests for that birthday. Meanwhile, Lyla was home making appetizers for the big night, the kids helped too. By six pm his parents and hers were already there, they got the kids a bunch of lovely toys and candy. “Can you be any slower? they keep asking about you”, “well, excuse me for wanting to look good for, it takes a lot to clean up after five hours in the kitchen”, “you look lovely, honey” he said softly and kissed her on the cheek, she was so touched by his tenderness, she smiled at him, his heart pounded for that long-forgotten smile, just like the old days, they stared at each other for a moment, “mom, grandpa is asking about you, he said if you don’t go down now, he won’t give you any chocolate”, “ok, let’s go baby” she said and gave her husband her hand, when they walked in the room her dad said “here comes my princess” and stood up and gave her a big hug. The rest of the evening was fun, a lot of kids, a lot of noise, a lot of food, and a lot of laughs, “you look nice, Lyla, where did you find this dress” her best friend asked, “you won’t believe it, I got it on sale from that mini mall down the road”, “well, nobody can wear it like you do, I wish I look as nice as you after seven years of marriage”, “you are still charming after 3 sweetie”.
When blowing the candles Adam stood behind his wife holding her, he was proud of how beautiful she looked, and how much effort she gave into the party, their daughter blew her 4 candles and everyone clapped, they both kissed her, then all the kids ran out to play. Later, a cousin offered Adam a cigarette “no thanks, when we got married, Lyla told me that she won’t let me smoke in the house, so I quit”, “so your wife made you quit”, “well, she used to know how to make me do anything” Adam said with a sigh, “not really, I used to think I know, but now I’m old enough to know how well you can let me down” Lyla said in a bitter tone, while looking at her husband, then turned to the friend and continued “I caught him smoking the other day”, everyone was silent for a moment, then his mother said “thanks for the lovely evening, Lyla, this was fun”, “oh, it was nothing, thanks for taking the trouble of coming all the way for her birthday, that made her very happy, all of us really”.
When everyone was gone, Lyla went to the bedroom leaving all the mess till the morning, she put on her sweats and washed of the makeup and the party, she was already in bed when Adam walked in, he silently slipped in, both said nothing, then after a few minutes he said “so, I let you down?”, she was surprised he remembered something that she had said, “and what’s with that ‘thanks for coming all that way for the birthday’ that you said to my mom, it’s her GRAND DAUGHTER’S birthday”, “what are you talking about? I was trying to be nice”, she was surprised by the absurdity of what he was saying, “and how long have I been letting you down?”, “since we had our first child”, “funny, I think of the exact same thing, but in my head, it’s you who let me down, you who completely threw everything away, your baby was all that mattered, I was nothing”, Lyla sat up and looked at him and said “and you did nothing, you left me here with all the work, you continued with your life and your friends as if nothing has changed, and when you came home, you expected me to be all anxious to see you, and throw myself in your arms, forgetting that I have been wearing myself out, for your house, your son, and you”, Adam sat up as well “don’t say you wear yourself out for me, for your son, sure, your house, but not me, I was the last on your list, I used to be the first, remember?”, “no, you weren’t the first on my list, you were my list, all I had was you, I quit my job, my social life, all for you, you were all that I have, but now I have our children too, our home, I can’t keep up anymore, I’m a human Adam, don’t you remember what that’s like?” her tone louder and angrier, “well remember that I never asked you to give up anything, and if I recall correctly, you were glad to give them up’, “well, I was a naïve, fool, I was in love”, “you were in love??!” they both paused, then in a lower voice she said “do you even know why I told you not to smoke in the house? Because I figured out that it will make you quit, and I wanted you to live forever, cause I couldn’t imagine my world without you… and not for the kids, not so that you’d b there for them, we didn’t have any kids back then, I wanted you there for me, and you didn’t get it, you just don’t get it, now you can smoke two packs a day for all I care”, “what are you saying? You don’t care anymore?”, “no, you don’t care” she concluded in a low tone, and then turned her back to him.
The next morning Adam was late for work, he didn’t get any sleep, driving to work, he thought of that red-haired woman from the café, he wondered how she was doing, he didn’t even know why he thought of her, what was her name? Something Russian, Nadia, that’s it, Nadia, he wondered if he’d ever meet her again, he’d ask her how she was doing! Weird as it is, but she didn’t look happy, she was very beautiful, but sad, well since he’s late anyways, he might pass by that café, maybe she’s having breakfast! He took an exit and drove to the café.
“Good morning, sir, I’m on time today”, “yes, I see that, how come?”, “I woke up thirty minutes earlier”, “well, it’s fine as long as it doesn’t affect the way you look every morning” he said and winked at her, she smiled and ached, “should I make your coffee now?”, “you know what, since you’re early, why don’t you go the extra mile this morning, why don’t you be a doll and go to that café down the street, and get me breakfast, sugar?”, “sure”, she took his money and went.
Adam sat at that same corner table drinking tea, she wasn’t there, but since he was, a cup of tea would reduce his lose! He sat reading the paper when he heard “hi, it’s you again” he looked up and there she was, in a pink dress, and all that red hair and lipstick, “hi, how ironic for us to meet again like this, Nadia, right?”, “yeah, and you’re Adam”, “yeah, how is it going?”, “great, and you?”, “wonderful, why don’t you sit down?”, “well, I really shouldn’t, I’m getting breakfast for my boss”, “wow, doesn’t that annoy you when they ask for such things? You shouldn’t get breakfast to anyone, matter of fact, breakfast should be brought to a woman like you” he said and smiled, she felt flattered and said, “ok, what the hell! Let the bastard wait” and they booth laughed.
There was something about him that captured her heart, it’s not his looks, he’s not that good looking, he is handsome though, can’t be his dark eyes, cause she always fill for bright eyes, it could be his sense of humor, or maybe his tenderness, somehow he had a fatherly warmth around him, it diffidently has a lot to do with the way he treats her, not because she looks the way she does, but for who she really is, although they just met, but he seemed to know who she really is, and respect it, one thing for sure, it’s not that ring on his finger.
“I’m gonna leave now, I gotta go to work, besides, the bastard must be starving” he said smiling as he pointed, with his eyes, to her boss’ breakfast on the table, then stood up, “yeah, you’re right” she said smiling, then she stood up and said in a low tone “wanna take my number, maybe next time you’re coming down here you could give me a call!!”, he was taken by the suggestion, but not annoyed, not at all, he looked her deep in the eye and said “I’d love that” he remained staring into her for a few moments, she trembled a bit then said “it’s 555-7676”, “I won’t forget it” he said and gave her a charming smile, he then rushed out the door, and away. For a minute or two she stood still holding her boss’ breakfast, then she took off, “I’d love that, and I won’t forget” he was such a nice gentleman!
Adam arrived home late that night, he didn’t want another confrontation with Lyla, as he walked in the bedroom door she took her eyes of her book, and gave him ‘the look’; “it’s eight pm”, “so??”, “so??!! You’re three hours late! We had dinner alone”, “what do you mean alone? You just said it, ‘we’, you ate with the kids”, Lyla shook her head and continued reading her book. He changed his clothes and went to bed without anymore words, “so, do you wanna tell me where you were?”, “I don’t, but do you wanna know?”, she got furious and said “yes, I’d like to know”, “we had to work late tonight”, “couldn’t you have called to tell me that you were going to be late”, “why???! I thought that we settled that last night, you don’t care, right?” the minute the words came out of his mouth, he knew how harsh they were, but she couldn’t see it on his face cause it was turned the other way, she swallowed his cruelty, and turned the off the light..
Lying in her bed late that night, Nadia felt weird about the whole thing, Adam was often on her mind, more than a married man should be, and what’s with that giving him her number idea? What was she thinking, or what was she not? The guy has a wife somewhere, maybe kids! He did say that he argues with his wife a lot, she has to be a stupid woman to drive such a nice man away. “She probably married him for his money” she thought, “he doesn’t look that rich, but he looks like he’s doing well, maybe it was one of those settling marriages, poor Adam, looks like she treats him really bad! What woman would do that? She must be a heartless bitch” she said out loud, “If I was her, I’d take care of him, yeah…if I was his wife, I’d make him happy” she thought, then went to sleep.
Lyla was making breakfast for the kids the next morning, Adam noticed she didn’t make any for him, she was still mad, she doesn’t have the right to be, after all, she’s the one who said she didn’t care anymore. “You take the kids to school today, I’m too tired”, “but I’d be late for work, you’ve nothing else to do”, “yeah, I have nothing else to do, but you’re taking them to school”. Adam was mad at her childish attitude, but he drove the kids to work, as soon as he arrived to work, he looked around, and after he made sure nobody was close, he picked up the phone and dialed Nadia’s number, “hello, Nadia? It’s Adam from the.., “I know who you are, I’m so glad you called”, “good, hmmm”, “listen I gotta go to work I’m already late, but, you wanna meet me at the café at around lunch time, one or so?”, “yeah, that’ll be great”, “alright, see you then, bye”, “bye”. Adam hung up and sat there talking himself into how ordinary and casual what he just did was, it’s not like he’s having an affair, not that Lyla would care if he was, besides, Nadia isn’t that type, she’s got more respect for herself, she wouldn’t, neither would he, then he worked away the hours till lunch time, till he meets her again.
“I don’t know what to do anymore, I’m going crazy” Lyla said to her best friend as they were sitting in the latter’s kitchen, “I try talking with him, but we always end up arguing or yelling, it’s like we’re two strangers, strangers who don’t even like each other, they simply remind each other of an long-forgotten lover or something” she let go a tear and sipped her coffee, “well, maybe you should try finding out if something else is bothering him”, “what else?”, “I don’t know, did anything change in his routine lately?”, “well, he got home late a couple of times”, “how late”, “like three, four hours, once he stayed up all night” her friend had an uneasy look on her face, but said nothing, Lyla then said “nooo, he wouldn’t, he’s not the type”, “what do you mean he’s not the type? He’s a man, isn’t he? Don’t get me wrong, I love Adam, but I’m just saying, if a man can’t find comfort home, he seeks it elsewhere”, Lyla drifted away with her own subsections a bit, her friend felt for her and tried to ease her pain “you know what, you’re right, Adam is a good father and a loyal husband, how about this, why don’t you bring the kids over here tonight, and plan a nice evening for the both of you alone?”, “that doesn’t sound so bad, I’ll do it, I’ll call him as soon as I get home, and tell him not to be late, I’ll say his parents are coming over or something”, “sounds good”. The two best friends went on discussing other things, but Lyla’s mind was all busy with plans of what to do when Adam gets home.
Nadia was so thrilled by his phone call, she figured, now that they’ll meet for lunch, she’d probably be late returning to work afterwards, besides, she wanted to take a little more time fixing herself, so, she called in sick, not that her presence is that important, or anything, let someone else bring him the damn coffee. She went shopping for some food, the café’s food isn’t that nice, they might just come back to her place, after all, it’ll be midday, and he’s a respectable man, not a big deal. She got fresh flowers, a couple of vases, scented the apartment, took a bath, wore an exciting, red dress, manicured her toes and nails, she must have really liked Adam.
“Why are you standing in the street?”, “waiting for you, hi, how are you?” Adam was a little puzzled, but more enchanted by how pretty and sexy Nadia looked, “I’m fine, I’m very fine, how are you?” he said smiling, “I thought, you know, since it’s lunch time, and the café’s food isn’t all that, I prepared lunch at my apartment, it’s right over there” she said softly and pointed to an apartment in the building across the street, Adam looked where her finger pointed, and wondered what she was thinking!! but whatever it was that she was thinking, he had NO idea what to say to her, then she said “I promise you won’t be late for going back to work” she said as she grabbed his arm smoothly, and started walking towards the apartment.
Later when she arrived home, Lyla picked up the phone and called her husband at work “Adam hasn’t got back in the office since he went out for lunch ma’am, but I’ll be glad to tell him to give you a call back as soon as he walks in”, “oh, thanks very much” she put the phone down, and struggled a bit to wash off the negative thoughts, she started preparing for that nice dinner, he likes pasta, she’ll make pasta, and chicken, it’s 4 o’clock! He’s been out for lunch for over three hours! Maybe she’d make a cake too, he likes cake, he might be on a business errand or something, but wouldn’t the secretary know?
Both tables were all set, both women hoped, and all three hearts pounded. Lyla sat alone, in all her glamour, waiting away her doubts, and her husband. Nadia sat across the table from the husband, hoping he enjoys her cooking, and her. “it’s quite a late lunch” Adam said, trying to break the tension in the air, “yeah, it’s an early dinner”, “I suppose you didn’t go to work today” Adam said while examining the obviously, newly decorated apartment, and the full set table, “no, I didn’t, I thought since it’s your first time over, the apartment should look it’s best” she said giggling, he, on the other hand, didn’t look as happy, what does she mean “the first time”, and why did she go through all this trouble? She missed a work day for this! Spent a decent sum of money, and time, what could she be thinking???!! Nadia stood up, moved across the room and turned on some music.
In the meantime, Lyla was standing in front of the clock wondering where Adam was! She turned around and faced an actual-size mirror, she looked good, in a long black dress, and simple makeup, what’s this, wrinkles? She took a closer look, she had wrinkles, she’s thirty two and has wrinkles! Damn those years, they took away her beauty, her youth, and maybe her husband. She battled with a persistent tear not to mess up her makeup, she walked away from the mirror, turned on some old jazz, and sat again on the table, waiting.
Adam watched Nadia take the dishes to the kitchen, she reminded him of Lyla, he loved Lyla so much, he loves her, it’s just not the same as it used to be when they were in school, he caught his own reflection in a mirror across the room, who was that man? A middle aged man, in a strange woman’s apartment, on a Tuesday afternoon! The children would be so ashamed if they knew what their father was doing, his parents, his friends, and Lyla! She’s been with him through a lot, obstacles and drama, and at some point, through the happiest memories of his life, actually, She was the happiest memories of his life, the green-eyed girl from the art class.
As Nadia was washing her hands in the bathroom she was staring at the running water, what a man, he never made a move, didn’t talk down to her, he respected her, she’d love to cook him dinner every night, to watch him joke around and speak of the world, to dress up for him when he comes home from work? But what is the point? If every one of those nights he goes back home, to his wife, while she cries herself to sleep? She looked up, then smiled to herself in the mirror, a sad smile, and walked out.
When Nadia walked in the room, Adam was standing by the door, with his jacket on, “I’m sorry, I can’t”, he said with sorrow in his eyes, and an apology in his voice, she smiled softly and said, “I know” she walked up to him and stood very close as she held his hand for a goodbye, they stayed in each other’s eyes for a moment or two, then, he walked out, and away. She sat on the floor behind the door for a while, smiling through her tears.
Lyla stared at her husband as he walked in and across the room, he looked so wrapped up in his own world, “you’re late” she said, “sorry” he didn’t even look at her, not knowing what words were coming out of his mouth, and she knew that too, “no, you’re not”, “please, I can’t do this again, not tonight, can I just go to bed?” he said and walked on to the bed room. Lyla sat still on her table, what just happened? He didn’t notice anything! He didn’t even look at her! He walked straight through her! She began eating the pasta and the chicken, swallowing her tears down along.