By Dana Shalabi
It was a normal outing with friends but they were not her friends they were the friends of her cousin Maha. Tala only agreed to go out with her cousin in order to forget her own worries. After all, she was recovering from a broken heart, an engagement that ended badly. In fact it was the engagement of the worst kind, as her now ex fiancé Ahmad cheated on her, and the betrayal of trust caused her to walk away.
The two extended families tried to interfere in the matter. Her mother implored her to accept the apology Ahmad had given and to thank God that his shenanigans did not surface after marriage. Her father kept reminding her that she was 28 years old referencing the social fact that many deny. He told her that prospects dwindle with age and that she should accept that things sometimes go wrong in relationships.
Ahmad himself begged for her forgiveness, but she couldn’t find it in her to forgive and to forget. For her it was more than an issue of cheating, it was a promise broken, an agreement not honored. It was a betrayal of trust, and a stab in the back. So, when all attempts of reconciliation failed, the two families met. The engagement was called off and the now ex couple returned the gifts they once exchanged.
This final meeting was followed by three months of despair for Tala. She couldn’t find it in her to go out and face her friends, her family, and her colleagues at work. She did not regret her decision but she regretted the nothingness of memories once shared and the evaporation of memories to come. She couldn’t face being around people who would ask her about Ahmad. To her, re-telling the story of their ended relationship re-opened wounds she was trying to heal. For the three months that passed her only solace was her love for painting, her love for music, and the little kids she taught art to. Tala loved teaching art to kids with special needs. She thanked God that she was passionate about her job as all her other passions in life seemed bland.
When the incident was still new, her parents left her to her own devices. Being an introvert by nature, Tala drew deeper and deeper into herself. But after three months had passed, her mother got concerned. She called her cousin in tears expressing how worried she was about her daughter. So, on one fine evening in April, Maha took Tala out to meet her friends.
Tala did not want to go, but her cousin practically dragged her with her. She was so adamant about going that she wore the first simple flowered dress she saw and no makeup. She tied her long black hair into a pony tail and she even carried a purse that just didn’t match. Tala was never into fashion, she always dressed practically but on this outing in particular she displayed a new level of practical that bordered more on the messy.
The outing was in a farm belonging to one of Maha’s many rich friends, a beautiful place filled with fruit trees, framed by green mountains. On that particular evening the breeze was swishy , the birds were singing, as the sunset painted its own waves of gold and purple in the sky. Tala was taking in the natural scenery, while Maha and her friends were ignoring it. instead, they chatted, danced, sang, played games, and even joked about one another.
As Maha huddled around her friends, Tala sat quietly alone . As time went by she found her thoughts wondering about details in her life she was hoping to forget. Feeling more invisible then she actually was, she then got up and decided to take photos of the flowers, the sun, and the trees. Little did she know that there was a man watching her from the moment she walked in.
Something about her made him feel that she stood out from the crowd. All the other girls seemed to look the same to him. They all had blonde hair, red hair, or any color of hair that matched the golden tan they miraculously pulled off in April. They wore outfits that made their perfect figures stand out, heels that hid their height, and make up that covered any skin flaws. They all laughed loudly, commented openly, and spoke about diets, the gym, the occasional book, and actors and actresses emphatically, and there was Tala sitting the whole time quietly .
As she got up, he followed her. He was shocked at himself as to why he was so intrigued by her. He watched her from a distance as she took photos of the budding flowers in the grass. After about fifteen minutes of silence, he then walked up to her to talk , marking the start of another chapter in her life that would change her.
Stay tuned for part two Saturday May 20.