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New Year.. (10)

'So Khaled keeps calling me' I said fiddling with my teaspoon. Mariam and I were both sitting having our afternoon tea at the four seasons, enjoying the beautiful view over the west bay area.
'Did you answer?'
'No. I don't want to, I don't know why he keeps calling me, he stopped for a couple of weeks and now he started again'
'Tell him about Ahmed'
'Why would that be significant to him?'
'I don't know, so he knows you're taken'
'But I'm not'
'He told he loves you'
'Yeah, and then nothing, which also worries me'
'What do you mean?'
'I mean he said he loves me, but then what? Where is this going?'
'What do you want?'
'I don't know, which is also why I don't want to ask, I don't want to freak him out and I don't want to freak out either, I mean, it's too soon right?'
'I guess, I don't know'

I shrugged my shoulders, trying to ignore the feeling that's been nagging at me for a while. I know he loves me, and I care for him too, but eventually we were going to have to have a discussion about where this 'love' is heading. Whether we liked it or not, we lived in a conservative society and the last thing I wanted was people talking about me.

'So what about Khaled?'
'I don't know Mariam, I mean, I don't know if I have the energy to keep fighting him off'
'How so?'
'I mean, it's Khaled'
'I know what you mean'
'Despite everything, he will always be Khaled'
'You know, sometimes I think that maybe it really was for the best, and not only because of Ahmed, but also because I think if we had ended up together we would've been miserable'
'You think so? I always thought you two were the perfect couple'
'Really? I sometimes doubted us'
'Yeah, I never mentioned it before, but sometimes I used to feel that he loved me too much and I think partially that was why I took the break up so hard, I didn't see it coming'
'I felt that too, that he loved you more than you loved him'
'I must confess, I sometimes felt suffocated'
'Did you tell him that?'
'No, but I kind of pushed him away when I felt that. I think, had we ended up together he would've been miserable'
'No I don't think that'
'I do. Now that I can think about it rationally, he would've had to work so hard to keep me happy, that eventually he would've resented me'
'You're over thinking things'
'I don't know'
'Do you miss him?'
'Khaled?' I asked, trying to buy myself some time.

Did I miss him?

I wasn't sure, my relationship with Ahmed was different, it was easier, it was more mature and it made sense. With Khaled I felt like a spoilt child, a child whose every whim was indulged.

I looked back at Mariam,
'Of course I miss him, he'll always be my Khaled.'

New Year.. (9)


That, in one word is how my life has been going. I don't think I could describe it in any other way. I wake up every morning with a message from him, we talk, we laugh; it could be considered boring if it weren't so perfect.

Ahmed: What are you doing?
Alia: Procrastinating. You?
Ahmed: Procrastinating. I'm supposed to be working on next year's budget.
Alia: I'm supposed to be reading a journal article on Education.
Ahmed: But instead you're reading our message history and thinking of me?
Alia: Haha. No, I'm reading an article on mid-heels and how they're making a come back.
Ahmed: And what are your thoughts on this controversial subject?
Alia: I think it's ridiculous. You can't pretend to be in heels when you're in a 3 inch heel.
Ahmed: I love a woman with strong convictions. It's either black or white with you huh?
Alia: Yes. You're either in or out.
Ahmed: I'm in :)
Alia: I know you are. You can't help it :)
Ahmed: I really can't.

I smiled at his text, knowing that he genuinely meant that, and I felt comfort in that; in knowing that he feels about me exactly the same way I feel about him, I was, finally, after all these years over Khaled.

New Year.. (8)

'You appreciate his honesty? Really? I mean.. who says that?'
'I know.. I'm such an idiot' I felt like slapping myself, every time I remembered what I said I realise I really do have feelings for him, 'Mariam.. I do care about him.. really'
'I know.. It's obvious..'
We were having our weekly Friday brunch and were discussing my stupidity over a plate of French toast.
'I mean really.. I can't wrap my head around it.. why would you say that?'
'Mariaaaam.. I want to kill myself'
'So what happened after you said that?'
'Nothing.. he went quiet, it became awkward and then he said he was tired, he had a long day and has to wake up early for Friday prayers'
'That never stopped him before'
'I know'
'And then what? nothing since then?'
'No, it's the first time he doesn't call me or text me when he wakes up. I usually either find a message or missed call when I wake up; today, nothing'
'Did you call him?'
'No. Should I?'
'Seeing that you crushed his heart yesterday, yeah I think you should'

So I picked up my phone and dialled his number,
'That's weird, his phone is off'
'Try again, maybe there's no coverage'
'No, still off'
'Poor guy, you broke his heart'
'Oh come on'
'You know it's not easy for guys to open up about their feelings'
'Well it's not easy for me either!' I snapped at her, feeling irritated, mostly at myself. Here I was, knowing that I'm falling for someone, and somehow sabotaging my own relationship because of fear of losing myself in it, and ending up with a broken heart again.

I kept telling myself all day that I was ok, and that I need to take a step forward. He has been trying from the start, taking all the first steps, leading conversations, reassuring me in every way possible and what did I do?

I threw it all in his face.

When he didn't call or text until the evening I knew I had caused a rift in our new and fragile relationship, so I decided that for once I should take a first step; I should apologise after our first fight.

I dialled his number again and waited for his voice on the other end; it was weird, the dial tone was international; did he travel? I quickly shut the phone, not knowing how to react. As soon as I did I got a text message from him,

Ahmed: I'm in Dubai. What's up?

What's up? Really? Yesterday you were in love and today what's up?

Alia: Dubai?
Ahmed: Yeah
Alia: You didn't tell me you were going
Ahmed: I didn't realize I had to
Alia: I see. No you don't have to of course. Have fun, sorry to bother you.

I was fuming.

But did I have the right to be? I wasn't sure but that feeling was horrible. What if he meets someone there? I mean technically he could meet someone here, if he wanted to, but that trip made me uneasy, it made me feel that he could disappear from my life just as quickly as he had filled it, and I wasn't sure if I was ready to face the gap he would leave in my life.

Ahmed: I didn't tell you because I decided this morning.
Alia: Ok. Enjoy.
Ahmed: Thanks. You called, did you want something?

Did I?

Yes, I did. I wanted him.

Alia: Yes.
Ahmed: ?

I took a leap of faith, hoping that he will catch me

Alia: I wanted to say I don't do casual either.
Ahmed: I love you.

And he did.

New Year.. (7)

Falling in love; there's no feeling like it.

I want to talk to him all the time, and when I'm not talking to him, I'm talking about him, I even make myself sick with the sweetness of the relationship. I don't know if it's because it's the start of the relationship or because this is how love is really meant to feel.

Like you're floating on a cloud, suspended over reality where no one matters but you and him.

I woke up this morning to the sound of the morning call to prayer and thanked God for making him cross my path. I've always believed in fate and that if it was meant to be it will be. He told me last night that he wasn't going to take this job, but something made him do it, take a leap and change. Maybe if he hadn't taken the job we wouldn't have met he said. 

I don't think there are wasted opportunities for if God meant for it to happen, and if it was good for you then it would happen; no matter what. 

'So you think I would've met you and fallen in love with you anyway?'
'Fallen in love?' I could feel the heat rushing to my face, and that heat had nothing to do with the layers of blankets I was hiding under and more to do with my pounding heart
'Yes?' I whispered
'I kind of just told you I'm falling in love with you..'
'Would you like to respond to that?' 
I could sense he was a bit nervous, and that made my heart swell with love for him. Maybe love was a strong word, maybe it was too soon, but I don't know, it felt right, I debated for a few seconds whether or not I should acknowledge what he said,
'Alia.. you're making me nervous.. is this too soon?'
Was it? I didn't know. He wasn't young and I wasn't young, maybe it was time to explore where this was going, but was I ready? Was he suggesting what I think he's suggesting?
'Alia.. we can pretend this didn't happen and I didn't say anything.. but really, this is how I feel. I don't want you to think that this is a casual thing for me, I don't do casual' he said, his voice steady and quiet, more serious than I've ever known him to be,
'Ok? As in let's pretend this never happened?'
'No, ok as in I'm not sure what to say and I appreciate your honesty'
'I see'

And the mood shifted, it was awkward and weird and we were never awkward and weird, from the day we met 6 weeks ago the conversation always flowed and this was new to me. I had a million thoughts rushing through my mind, I knew I was falling for him too, why didn't I say it? I was mentally kicking myself for being so stupid.

Why did I not say it?

I know.

Because I said it to Khaled and he broke my heart.

So now what?

New Year.. (6)

I struggled a lot without you. I won't lie to you or myself anymore, yes I was young and stupid and maybe I didn't handle it the way I should've, but I didn't know what else to do or how to act. You were my first love. My only love, until today. Yes I got married and god help me I hate saying this but I don't love her, I tried as much as I could but really, she's not you. Every word, every action reminded me of you. As lame as that sounds, it's the truth, I cringe even as I'm typing this, but it's time to tell you, I don't even know why I'm telling you, I mean there's no point, I'm married, I have a child for god's sake but I can't help it anymore. 
It's stupid. I used to laugh at people who fall in love and not end up together, it's so cliche. Until it happened to me, I couldn't tell you my parents wanted me to marry from the family, how could I tell you that when your parents have always given you everything you wanted, how can I tell you that mine are nothing like yours? How can I say that the family I love more than life itself denied me the one thing I wanted; you. 
Again, it's pointless telling you this, but I did fight for us, for as long as I could. I fought until there was nothing left in me, until I just gave up and told them to do whatever they wanted, I naively thought that if I did that they'll feel bad and finally give in, instead they set the date for my wedding.
I couldn't face you after that, it was the cowardly thing to do, I realize that, but I couldn't face you. I couldn't see you hating me, and I certainly couldn't bring my wife to where you and I shared so much. I had to move, I had to be as far as possible, and please tell Mariam, it pained me being away from her as well, I always thought of her as a sister.
I'm moving to your hometown; do you realize how ironic that is? We always used to argue about where we would live when we got married and I always said I would never move. It kills me that now we will be in the same country but not together. 
You asked me what I wanted from you, I really don't know. But I know that I just can't stay away anymore. I don't think I'm doing the right thing, I think I'm hurting both you and me by getting in touch, but I can't handle it anymore. I can't lie to myself, I need you in my life.


I didn't realize I was crying as I read his email until my vision blurred. Just like that, with a few lines, my heart broke all over again. I hit forward and sent it to Mariam.

"What do you think?"
"About what?"
"I sent you an email, read it"
"I'm at work I'll check it when I go home"
"La please read it now"
"Ok hold on"

She was quiet for a bit, I could hear her breathing as she skimmed through the words in front of her.

"Are you ok?"
"I don't know" and I burst out crying, "everything just came back to me, and I can't live through that again I really can't"
"I know, I know"
"No, I was just starting to get over him, why did he do this? Why is he telling me this? It was easier when I didn't know he was hurting too"
"Maybe that's why he did what he did, because deep down he knew it would be easier for you to move on if you hated him"
"I don't know all I know is that my heart is breaking, it feels like I'm back in London."
"Don't do this to yourself, things will be better inshallah. And you have Ahmed now, he's crazy about you, he can't stop talking about you"
"We've only known each other for 10 days"
"Yeah well, you're off on a good start, and he's a good guy"
"I know"
"Goomy, wash your face, come meet Ahmed and me for lunch"
"Maybe he's busy"
"Text him and tell him you're coming, I guarantee he'll cancel all his meetings for you"
"Haha ok. I'll text him"
"Yallah, see you"

I wiped my face and tried to smile, how can a few lines bring back so many memories?  I had been praying for so long for Khaled's return not knowing that when he does return it would be the last thing I really wanted.

Alia: Do you want to have lunch?
Ahmed: I'm not hungry,  very busy day today
Alia: Oh ok, sorry, Mariam thought you would be free for lunch with us.

That was an ubrupt message, I thought, so unlike him. As soon as I sent my last message my phone rang,

"Hello busy man" I pretended to be light hearted, it bothered me that his message bothered me so much.
"Were you inviting me to lunch or were you just inquiring after my general well being?"
"Haha la I was inviting you"
"In that case I'm starving and I'm entirely free all afternoon, where are we going?"
"Haha you're crazy, you just said you're busy"
"You're crazy if you think I would miss out on lunch with you. I miss you"

And just like that, I smiled and felt that the future will be better.

New Year.. (5)

Ahmed: Good morning sleeping beauty
Alia: Hey, good morning
Ahmed: Slept well?
Alia: Yeah, you?
Ahmed: Yes. Would I sound lame if I said I've been thinking about you?
Alia: Yes you would :)

I laughed as I typed my message to him, I was still lying in bed, feeling good after our long conversation last night. I have to call Mariam to give her all the updates.
Ahmed: Ok then I won't say that :)
Ahmed: What are you doing today?
Alia: I don't know, no plans. Maybe dinner with the girls . You?
Ahmed: Just finished Friday prayers, going to the beach now
Alia: Taqabal Allah. Isn't it too cold?
Ahmed: I'm a tough boy ;) I can handle it
Alia: Boy? That's an interesting choice of words :)
Ahmed: Haha fine, have fun I'll talk to you later
Alia: You too

I got up to take a shower and change before talking to Mariam, when I came back I found another missed call from Khaled.

'Hey, good morning'
'Guess who called me last night?'
'Ahmed? Ahmed! Oh my god tell me everything!'
'Haha why are you so excited?'
'Because, he's cute and you've been single for ever'
'So have you!'
'Yeah well, you should be excited for me if I find someone like him'
'When you find, not if'
'Yeah yeah. Enough about me, tell me what happened?'
'He texted me when I left your house, then he called around midnight and we talked until 6 am'
'Bas? That's all your gonna tell me? You talked?'
'Haha yeah, you want me to go through the whole conversation?'
'No just give me the highlights'
'Well, he's 33, studied in the US, he was in a serious relationship with someone for a long time, but I didn't ask who, he said she wasn't from here but I don't know maybe she used to study with him?'
'Why didn't you ask?'
'I don't know, it's too soon, plus I don't want him to ask about my history'
'You don't have much of a history'
'No, but there's Khaled, I'm not comfortable talking about him, I don't know how he is, I mean some guys become weird when they know you were with someone before'
'He doesn't seem like one of those guys, he seems quite cool'
'Yeah but still. And Khaled is still calling me'
'Did you answer?'
'No. I don't want to'
'Maybe you should hear what he has to say, if only to stop him from calling you all the time'
'He's been saying the same bullshit, I love you, I miss you, bla bla bla. He's calling again' I said as I looked at my call waiting, 'maybe I should answer, let me call you back'

'Na3am' I said, finally taking his call,
'Good morning'
'What do you want Khaled?'
'I want to explain things'
'I don't want to hear them, please stop harassing me. I've moved on with my life, I'm fine and I just want you to leave me alone'
'No buts please, really, I've had enough. Just stop calling me, stop it, it's annoying and frankly a bit pathetic.'
'I see. Ok then..'
'Bye' and I shut the phone.

New Year.. (4)

'So.. he asked about you'
'Who?' I felt my heart fluttering, hoping it was Ahmed she was talking about, I tried to appear uninterested, it's been 4 days since we met and she hadn't mentioned him so I assumed he was wasn't interested, 'pass me the pop corn' I said, reaching out to the bowl next to my friend. We were both sitting in her bed, watching TV, it was a quiet Thursday night we decided we wanted to spend at home doing nothing.
'Ahmed, he asked about you' she repeated grinning,
'Yeah.. I gave him your number'
'What!' I screamed slapping her on the hand in the popcorn bowl
'Hahahahahha look at your face!'
'Of course look at my face! Are you serious? You're joking right?'
'La wallah I'm not, he asked about you after lunch immediately, I knew that if I told you you'd panic and stop me from doing anything, so, for the past 4 days I've been spending time with him to get to know him for you, you know, like a screening period and let me tell you, he's awesome'
'How and why did you give him my number?'
'He asked for it after lunch immediately, but I told him I have to think about it and see if he's worthy of you'
'You can't be serious'
'No I am, I'm surprised he still didn't call you, he was very keen'
'Well, maybe he changed his mind' I replied, fidgeting with the blanket on my lap,
'I doubt it, maybe he's nervous, he was nervous when he talked to me, he said he didn't want to offend anyone'
'Aww that's sweet, what did he say?'
'He said that it was nice meeting you, you seem very nice, I said yes, you're my best friend and he better not break your heart'
'You didn't!'
'I did, he laughed and he said he liked you, and would like to get to know you better and so I said I'll think about it'
'Hmm... well, let's see if he calls'
We spent the rest of the evening watching TV and gossiping, at 11:30 I got the call from the parents asking when I'll be home so I got into my car and headed home, just as I was driving through our gates my phone beeped with a new message,

+97455...: Hi, it was nice meeting you the other day :)

I smiled as I read his message,
Alia: Who's this?
+97455...: Oh I'm sorry, this is Ahmed, we met the other day, I'm sorry I thought Mariam told you..

I laughed saving his number, imagining him flustered and typing this message.

Alia: Oh yeah, she did mention it, I didn't realise it was you now
Ahmed: You have random people texting you at night saying it was nice to meet you?
Alia: Haha no I don't, I actually don't meet a lot of people here since I don't work
Ahmed: I know, Mariam told me she usually has to drag you out of the house
Alia: So what else did Mariam tell you? I typed smiling as I walked into my room and started getting ready for bed. I couldn't remember the last time I was genuinely smiling and looking forward to something, somehow he made me eager to get to know him. Again, it might be that smile, I smiled myself remembering it as I snuggled in bed,
Ahmed: I won't tell you, it's a secret between my colleague and me ;)
Alia: Really? You're both gonna gang up on me?
Ahmed: Hmm yeah, you could say that
Alia: So, tell me about yourself..
Ahmed: What do you want to know?
Alia: I don't know, if you were to write a short bio about yourself what would you say?
Ahmed: Haha bio as in for work?
Alia: Umm.. no, bio as in for a dating site
Ahmed: I never needed a dating site
I laughed, he was confident and charming, I liked that.
Alia: La wallah? I see..
Ahmed: Haha I'm kidding, well basic info, I'm 33, single, I studied in the US, moved back around 9 years ago, struggled a bit as I'm sure you did too, I worked in my previous job for about 8 and a half years and now I moved to this job with Mariam.
Ahmed: Can I ask you something?
Alia: Sure
Ahmed: Can I call you? I sense that we'll be talking for a while and my fingers are not as nimble as they used to be
Alia: Haha this is what happens with old age
Ahmed: Hey, I'm not that old.
Ahmed: So can I?
Alia: Of course :)

The phone rang almost immediately,
'Hello' he said as soon as I picked up the phone, his voice sent a shiver down my spine, the raspy voice of a smoker,
'Do you smoke?' I blurted immediately,
'Haha I do, why?'
'You have a smoker's voice'
'Is that good or bad?'
'Voice good, smell bad'
'I'll make sure I spray cologne before seeing you'
'Who said anything about seeing me?'
'Too soon?' he whispered, 'ok I'm sorry'
'It's ok'
'So, what were we saying?'
'That you were old?'
'Haha no, before that, I was giving you my dating profile'
'Yeah.. so, how come you're still single?'
'Umm.. I wasn't until recently, I mean I wasn't married or anything, but I was in a long term relationship with someone not from here, it was serious, well I was serious but it didn't work out'
'I'm sorry'
'It's ok.. some things are not meant to be, I believe it's for the best'
'I guess'
'You tell me about yourself'
'Oh I'm so bad with this'
'So you tricked me into revealing my dating profile and you won't give me yours?'
'Haha I'm just bad at talking about myself'
'Ok, so I'll ask and you answer'
'Sounds good'
'Your age?'
'You're a baby, I knew you were young but I didn't realise how young'
'Hey! I'm not a baby'
'You are. Single I hope?'
'Yes' I laughed,
'You were with Mariam in London?'
'Yes, we've been best friends since we were kids, I'm not good at meeting people, so what few friends I have I've had for ever'
'Well, I hope to be your friend'
'Well, I hope for more than a friend, but friend will do for now..' he whispered, I could feel the heat rising to my face and thanked god that this was a phone call and he wasn't actually here with me.
'Umm.. are you going to respond to that or you'll just keep me hanging?'
'Keep you hanging' I laughed.
'So, why literature?'
'I always loved reading, as I said I'm not good with people, I'm not good with confrontation so I didn't feel like I'd be good in a business environment. Also, I wanted to do something I'm passionate about, and a career in shoe business wasn't an option'
'Haha, fair enough. But teaching won't be easy for someone who's not comfortable with people'
'It's not that I'm not comfortable with people, I mean I'm not shy or anything, I just find it difficult to connect with people, create relationships, you know what I mean?'
'Yeah I get it'

The conversation was easy, light, he was nice and funny, we were actually on the phone for six hours without realising it.
'I'm so glad it's a Thursday, well it's Friday now, I don't know how I would've gone to work if it was a weekday'
'I'm sorry I kept you up'
'No, I loved it, can I call you again tomorrow? tomorrow as in when I wake up in 4 hours?'
'Haha no, I need my beauty sleep, you can call me in 8 hours'
'Ok, sleep well beautiful, I'll talk to you soon'
'Ok, you too'
I shut the phone and put it next to me, and for the first time in a long time, I fell asleep smiling.

New Year.. (3)

It's been a week since the call with Khaled, a week filled with messages that I didn't respond to, I even stopped reading them two days ago because they all say the same thing; he loved me, he never meant to hurt me, he wants us to be friends. It just doesn't make sense to me at all, why is he telling me all this and why now?

I tried to concentrate on studying but all my attempts at deciphering the words in front of me were unsuccessful.

Mariam: Hey, wanna go out for lunch?

I looked at her message and contemplated leaving my warm bed and getting dressed, the gloomy January weather matching my mood, I decided it would be best if I stayed in.

Alia: Don't feel like it, I'm all snuggled up in bed.

As soon as I sent the message my phone started ringing, my best friend calling,

'Hey, get out of bed and come for lunch'
'I don't feel like getting changed, unless we're going somewhere we won't see anyone then I'll come'
'No! The whole point of this lunch is to see someone! There's a new guy in the office, I want you to meet him'
'What? Why?'
'Because, he's cute, tall, smart and single. That's a combo you never find these days'
'So? You meet him'
'I've already met him, he's nice, I approve of him for you'
'Come on. He'll see me and fall in love? Plus how do you know he's single?'
'I asked.'
'Oh for the love of God. Who did you ask?'
'The office gossip'
'What? Now they're gonna go tell him you're interested in him!'
'I don't care. Get your ass out of bed, look hot and join us for lunch at 2, I gave you 2 hours to try to look decent, don't waste time'
'But it's cold outside'
'It's Doha, get over it, it's probably 15 degrees'
I laughed as I shut the phone and dragged myself to the bathroom, an hour and a half later I must admit I did look decent as I left my house to join my friend for lunch.

Mariam: Where are you? We're all here.
Alia: I'm just parking, wait how many of you are there?
Mariam: 5
Alia: I hate socialising with a lot of people
Mariam: I know, I put you between me and him so if you don't like him you can just talk to me
Alia: Thank you my good friend

I walked in to the restaurant, filled with the usual lunch hour business crowd and spotted my friend with her group of work colleagues. I had met most of them before, actually all of them except for the tall guy sitting next to the empty seat, my seat.

'Hi everyone' I said as I reached the table, after the usual hellos I was seated in my designated seat next to the handsome man, his name was Ahmed, he had just joined Mariam's company a week ago and was getting to know everyone. He was handsome in an unconventional way, there was something about him, his eyes I think, that made you look twice at his face. Or maybe it was his smile, I wasn't sure, but there was definitely something there.

'So Alia, what do you do? Do you work with us in the office?' he asked,
'No, no, I'm unemployed'
'Really? Why is that?' he asked, with a slight frown. God he was cute.
'Umm.. well not unemployed, I'm doing my Phd, will teach when I finish, hopefully in 3 years'
'That's interesting, what do you study?'
'Literature, I was always a book worm'
'Really? That sounds great. I knew you didn't work with us, I'm sure I would've noticed you around the building'
At that sentence, I blushed, and surprisingly he blushed too. There was something very endearing in this Ahmed, something that woke up the sleeping butterflies in my stomach and had them fluttering around for the whole hour he was sitting next to me.