Chapter Three

I knew Noura wanted to make a comment or two when I left my bedroom but knowing better, she bit her tongue. At around 7pm we were in her car, speeding down Gulf road towards Prime and Toast on the Seif strip. “It’ll be empty.” She assured me when she had suggested it. Empty was the only suggestion I was willing to accept. 

My unwashed hair was attempting a sleek bun (it looked less greasy that way), and I was in ripped blue jeans and one of my favorite white tshirts. I shifted in the passenger’s seat uncomfortably. The button on my jeans threatened to slice into my belly and the tshirt, once loose and flattering, stuck tightly to the new roll of fat around my waist. 

“You really should go shopping before work.” Noura said gently, watching my wriggle uncomfortably. 

“I’ll go this weekend.” I muttered, hating to have to agree with her.

“Is it going to be all, like, suits and stuff?” She stopped at a red light and undid her pony tail. Noura wore her hair in a short bob while mine, on good days, fell in waves down the middle of my back. I had had plans to lighten it, balayage style, but that was before getting out of bed became a chore. 

“I have no clue. Oh no, what if it is!” I wailed, slouching in the seat.

“Listen, get a few pants navy and black and a few shirts. Play it safe. Come on, I know you really had this image of working at a magazine, going in wearing sneakers and tshirts discussing, I don’t know extinct whales and Donald Trump and stuff, but give this a try for a year. Keep applying in the meantime but you never know, you might actually like working at an investment company.” Noura said, being rational as always.

I didn’t want to think rationally. I wanted to eat carbs and watch shows and attempt to cry (even though the tears stopped coming months ago). 

“I suck at math. They accepted me by accident, and if they havent i’ll like probably sell 2 million shares of our most important stock by accident and bankrupt the company. Sounds like something likely to happen to me at this point..” 

“You’re not a broker.. wait, oh my God, did they hire you as a broker?” Noura faced me trying not to gape.

“No. Communications department.” I whispered, staring nervously at the huddle of cars parked outside the restaurant.

“Ok. Not as empty as I expected, but they’re probably all at the other ones.” Noura eased her silver Lexus SUV between two already parked cars. 

“Listen, this is a fresh start for you. Take advantage of it, don’t go in with all this negativity. This year is going to be amazing for you, I can just feel it.” Noura placed a gentle hand on my arm. Her nails were painted a light shade of white, marshmallow by Essie, most likely. I remember when my nails were always painted. 

The thing with Noura was that she was almost always right when she predicted things; in fact, half way during my relationship with him she had told me she didn’t think he was the one and that he seemed like the type to suddenly end it when it suited him. I was certain she was wrong, I mean, no human being with a pumping heart can suddenly end a six year relationship cold turkey, could they? 

Oh they could. And they did. 

We got out of the car and I followed Noura into the restaurant, keeping my gaze to the floor. It had been a long time since I had gone out and I had forgotten how dressed up girls got. I should have washed my hair.

I should have applied some make up. 

I should have stayed in bed. 

The restaurant was packed inside and knot in my belly began to form as we walked down the steps towards a table in the center that a waiter had pointed at as he rushed past us with a tray of drinks.

I spotted him before we reached our table; there, sitting the corner with three other guys, eyes glued to me. It felt like an electric shock went through my body as it registered how familiar he was before my brain could. 

I stumbled into Noura as she stopped to take her seat, unknowingly choosing the one with her back to him. 

“Switch.” I hissed, sticking to her back.

“No, go to the other side.” She took out her phone from her back pocket and plopped down carelessly into the chair so that I was standing awkwardly beside her. I willed my legs to move, to go to the other side of the table but then i’d be facing him. 

“Sara, what’s wrong with you!” Noura’s voice was much louder than necessary and I was certain he had heard. Feeling as heavy as lead, I forced one leg in front of the other and made my way to the empty chair in front of Noura, picking up the menu and trying to hide behind it. 

He was tanned, like he had just gotten back from vacation and he looked healthy. Happy even. The broad grin on his face when I spotted him, in the middle of avidly telling a story. I recognized one of the guys with him, he was his with us in high school. One of the guys at the table bellowed with laughter and a panicked ringing formed in my ears, slowly pushing out the loud chatter and clinking of plates around me.  

“He’s here.” I hissed at Noura, not knowing the volume of my own voice. My ears were ringing that loud.

“Who?” Noura asked, immediately looking around. I glanced up to see him spot us looking and my heart sank further. My weakness was evident I could feel it. I looked like crap, my face was probably a sickly shade of yellow and my sister and I were adjusting and readjusting ourselves in our seats uncomfortably. 

He had won. Like he always did. In all our bad days and in all our good. In all the ways after he broke my heart, he had won. 

“Just ignore him and lets order.” Noura whispered, glancing back at her menu in faux nonchalance. 

“Please lets leave.” I murmured, putting the menu down and staring Noura dead in the eye. She winced and twirled a strang of her hair around her index finger.

“Sara, you’ll look stupid. Just take a deep breath..” she started but before she could finish I was out of my seat and making my way to the exit. I didn’t realize how much I was sweating until I had gotten outside and felt the air brush against my wet back. It took Noura what seemed like an endless amount of time to reach her car where I was waiting. I waited for the click of the doors unlocking yanked hard, throwing myself into the safety of her car. 

We didn’t talk the entire way home and I shamefully fought back tears. You see, it wasn’t about getting over him, it was about wanting to. I didn’t want to. I still wanted our inside jokes, our intertwined memories of high school. 

“This year will turn around for you, I just know it.” Noura whispered, and she was right, something amazing happened to me soon after…but sometimes, things can be too good to be true. 

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Chapter Two

Six. That is the number of consecutive days i’ve spent in bed. Three seasons of Suits, two depressing seasons of The Killing and I don’t even want to know how many orders on Carriage. I feel disgusting and I probably look it too, but i’ve been avoiding the mirror like it was my husband’s newer younger wife. No, I don’t have a husband. I should be married now, at least based on what we agreed to in high school. My twin sister, unidentical, will tell you I should let him off the hook for a promise he made to me when he was seventeen. But should I let him off the hook for pretending to keep that promise all through my high school years? And all through university? All four years of struggling through long distance, staying up all night to get a chance to talk to him, of doing his homework for him and turning a blind eye on all those boy trips he took… 
I need to stop before I accidentally order a dozen donuts from Carriage. That’s been happening a lot lately. In fact, so often that my skinny jeans ripped down the side of my thigh last week. The sound of the tear will forever be embedded in my memory, it probably matched the sound of my heart ripping when he dumped me. 
Fine, fine, i’m being dramatic. But I was allowed to wallow in self pity, my whole world has taken an unkind turn. I didn’t get any of the three jobs I had my heart set on, i am now six kilos heavier than when the year started (i feel like the app should have intervened at some point, but okay) and apparently he’s dating someone. The very same someone I was suspicious off two years ago but was told not to worry about. Those meme’s were right, people. If he tells you not to worry, you best begin to worry.
I was halfway through reaching for my phone when my door slid open
“Heyy.. oh, Sara, what the…” my sister Noura stopped midsentence and crinkled her nose. She was in a blue shirt dress and her hair was how she always wore it, a neat pony tail. Noura was always neat, in the way she dressed, the way she behaved and spoke, even in the way she thought. Everything was simple and every thought can be arranged and stored in its proper place.
“If you don’t like the smell then leave.” I huffed, rolling over on my belly, finally being able to reach my phone. 
“Is that the pizza from Monday?” Noura edged into my room. 
Fine, i’m not proud of what she’s witnessing. My room hasn’t been cleaned in days, half the take out boxes are still lying on the floor and there are crumbs and dried up sauces all over the sheets.
“Get up and get out.” Noura grabbed me from the sleeve of my oversized tshirt and yanked hard.
“And go where?” 
“Salon! You have work on Sunday! You’re going to go in like this?” Noura was now holding the sleeve of my gray t-shirt with the tips of her fingers like it was made of biohazardous material.
“It works for the Olsen twins.” I muttered.
“Stop saying that, you’re not worth a billion dollars! Maria, Sammy!” Noura hollered at the housekeepers to clean my room while she guided me to the living room and gently placed me on the couch. I sprawled myself, belly down on the plush navy blue fabric immediately. I had designed our tiny living room upstairs, after a year of convincing my dad to foot the bill for our redecorating. Navy blue couches, furry white rugs, a huge flat screen with Showtime. It was meant to distract me from my break up. Apparently it took more than a couch from West Elm to heal a shattered heart. I feel like people before my time had Oprah to tell them that, but we had nothing. Just skinny social media influencers living their best lives on private jets to the Maldives…
“We’re going out to dinner to celebrate, you’re starting your first job” Noura yelled over her shoulder as she followed the housekeepers into my bedroom, whispering instructions at them. I’m not going to lie, i’ve been distracting myself from thinking about that because I can’t handle accepting how nervous I truly am on top of all this depression and self pity. 
“Noura, no! I don’t want to go anywhere.” I muttered, my words semi-muffled by the sofa.
“Yalla get showered and dressed.” Noura yelled as she rushed from the door way of my room to hers. Her mobile was ringing; unlike me, her high school sweet heart didn’t dump her for a … i’d rather not say what she is. 
Knowing I couldn’t say no to my sister when she was in this mood I got up and shuffled my feet all the twelve steps to our joint bathroom and slammed the door behind me. I couldn’t be bothered to wash my hair so I kept it in the messy bun it was in and took off my clothes. I turned on the water and stood beneath it for what I hoped was a sufficient amount to convince Noura that I was making an effort before I turned it off. 

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Chapter One

My throat stung and as I struggled to swallow, I knew that the tears were going to appear at any moment. I looked around the garden, scattered colors of dresses hanging on moving bodies blurred as the first set of tears fell down my cheeks. Behind the bodies there was a steely blend of the lake’s surface and the sky. I focused on the gray, willing the tears away. 

When I was certain the tears weren’t going to stop I began walking towards the large stairs that curved all the way down the villa where the wedding was going to be held. I wobbled in the Louboutins that Shaikha had chosen for me and for a second I cursed her. I cursed her for choosing the shoes, the dress, for convincing me to come. Then I cursed myself for being so weak, so quick to throw myself a pity party. If Shaikha was here she wouldn’t be running away, she’d flip her hair, lick her teeth and aim for the jugular. But I wasn’t Shaikha, in fact, I was the far opposite of her. The universe seemed to want to participate in my pity party because about half way down the never ending cobbled stairs the sky parted and heavy sheets of rain began to fall; I shuddered as a gust of icy wind blew across, releasing strands of hair from the messy braid Mimi had instructed the hairstylist to create. Thankfully, the dress I was wearing was tight enough to forever be part of me and it stayed in its place against the heavy tug of the wind.

“Hey! Sara!” I heard a man’s voice call out behind me. I couldn’t place who’s voice it was and I didn’t turn around to find out; instead I rushed towards the dock that was a good two minute jog away. I slipped my heels off when I realized that I was most likely going to tumble in the rain and ran the rest of the way. At the dock, an Italian man began to greet me benevolantly before noticing my tear streaked face and immediately opened the door of the water taxi. He shrugged heavily towards a perched driver of another taxi then got in behind me. 
“Grand Hotel, please.” I half whimpered. I stared at the back of his head as he nodded and within seconds we were speeding across the lake. 
How did I get here, you ask? To Como? To the wedding of the decade? To this whimpering mess? Let me start at the beginning .. 

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