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.