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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.