As planned, Munthir was waiting for Amal at Turtle Green. For this meeting, she didn’t keep him waiting too long. She arrived on time, dressed in jeans and a black top that effortlessly highlighted her, not so slim but not so fat figure, and flat shoes. To her, it was a weekend after all, and she did dress casually when not working.
Her hair was up in a ponytail , which he thought looked nice on her. He even realized that when not formally dressed she really didn’t look her age. She smiled when she saw him, and with that smile he noticed for the first time that she had a slight overbite , but more to his delight she also had dimples. He thought to himself “Why had I never noticed her dimples before?”, and it then hit him that this was the first time he was out to understand her, and more importantly to understand himself.
He still saw that her skin was too dark, and he didn’t particularly like dark skin , but in her case however, there was something about her that even made her dark skin appear acceptable to his taste if not charming.
“I’m not late this time”, she said. “No urgent meetings?” Munthir replied.
“Come on it’s the weekend, and I don’t work on weekends.” she said.
“I thought you love your work so much, and you work for that big paycheck and title”, he replied .
As soon as the words came out of Munthir’s mouth, he realized once again that he was labeling her. To confirm his doubts she said “Here we go again!”.
“I’m sorry Amal. I don’t know what it is, I have been preoccupied lately. I have been thinking a lot about……. never mind. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t understand you ,” Amal said, “You call, you want to see me, you say it’s urgent, and the first thing you do is make another one of your assumptions. What is it Munthir? What? I’m tired of this. First you assume that I go to wild parties. Then you assume I want to get rich, and then you assume I live to work for a title and money only! Now if you see me as all these things and obviously they bother you why do you ask to meet with me?”
“I’m sorry Amal please let’s talk about something else. How was your day?” Amal, still upset, replied “Before I tell you about my day I want to make a few things clear. I work because I’m smart. I work because yes I care about my career. I don’t need to defend myself to you or anyone Munthir, so either you see these traits as acceptable to you or not. PS. I do like you, I’m not into playing games. This is your issue , please figure it out. Apart from now, my day was great.”
“What can I get you to drink?” Munthir asked
” Lemon Ice Tea” Amal replied as she pulled out her purse to give him the fee.
“No it’s on me” Munthir said as he got up to go to the counter.
On his way to the counter, he reproached himself. He really did not know why Amal’s success angered him. He thought her independence was charming, but he also knew that a girl like her would require a valid explanation for everything related to the house, the kids, and anything he would demand of her should they ever get married.
He was sure that she won’t let him be the only decision maker of the house. He didn’t necessarily crave being the only decision maker but then again he was taught that all men should want and be just that. He then remembered that his mother would not necessarily like her, given her age, her strength, and her mind, and he also knew that his mother would love Jana for her beauty alone and her sweet words.
He then thought of Sadiq’s wife Haneen . He remembered that their house did look beautiful the other evening thanks to her, and that her food tasted great. He wondered if Sadeq was upset about the fact that his wife doesn’t watch the news, read a paper, or know anything about his work. He wondered if Sadeq ever craved to tell Haneen about a work-related problem and have her attention ? He then glanced over to Amal at the table, and he wondered if she was seeing other men besides him. “A girl like her may feel she doesn’t owe me an explanation” he thought to himself, and with that raging thought he muttered to himself “Today I am planning to find out just how open minded this girl is.”
Back at the table he asked her “Where have you been going these days?”
“Aside from work, I went out a couple of times for coffee with friends, I saw a move, and I have been going to Fast Walk” she replied.
“Fast walk finishes late, and are your friends all girls?” he asked
“This is starting to sound like an interrogation” Amal sarcastically replied.
“I’m sorry, Munthir replied “I just want to know”
“Most of my friends are just girls Muthir, and let me make this easier for you, if you are wondering whether or not I am seeing someone the answer is no. If I was seeing someone, I wouldn’t be seeing you here today. Not necessarily for your sake but out of respect for the imaginary guy you are assuming I am seeing.” she lightly said, “Unless you are planning on having a normal conversation with me, I guess I will be going.”
Munthir liked her answer, it was a logical answer that made him gain her trust for the rest of the evening. From that point the conversation went smoothly, yet he couldn’t resist wondering why she was up on Facebook till 12 am two nights ago. He wanted to ask her, but he feared upsetting her, and he really didn’t want to upset her. He liked her sense of humor, and he did enjoy talking to her. The truth was that she enjoyed talking to him too, when he was not throwing strange accusations at her.
After 2 hours they walked to their cars, and he tried to subtly to hold her hand. She ignored his advances and pretended she didn’t even understand what he was doing. This gesture re-assured him further. He apologized again for the rocky beginning of their outing, leaving both parties feeling very positive.
On that same evening Jana made a call to her best friend Sarah, and she told her all the details about her evening with Munthir the night before.
Sarah asked her “So, do you like him?” .
“Not really” Jana replied, “but he is a good catch.”
“So, if I set you up with another perspective groom would you see him?” Sarah asked
“Are you asking this hypothetically or do you know of a perspective groom?” Jana replied
“My husband’s cousin,” Sarah said,” he is a family doctor. He is in his late thirties, and he has his own clinic. What would you say?”
“Well, I’m still a free agent, I don’t mind seeing all my options. Tell me more about him, and when can I see him ?” Jana asked.
For the next hour, she used her phone call with Sarah to learn everything about the new prospect including favorite color, favorite team, favorite food, and any other detail that would help her appear more charming. After all, she really felt she wanted to be married within a year, and with that resolve, the phone call ended, with a date set for a “Chance” meeting with the new perspective groom. Jana even ensured that the date wouldn’t overlap with the second date Haneen was setting up between her and Munthir.
The next day, Jana called Haneen and told her how eager she was to see Munthir again. After all, she wanted to make a rational decision as to who will qualify for the role of husband.
“You know I don’t meet that many men, ” she said to Haneen, “And, I would never go out with a guy alone. So, the only way this will ever work is if you set it up. Also, I did like Munthir, and I want you to give us another chance. I gave him my number but he never called.”
Touched by Jana’s innocence, Haneen set the date for the next week, and she told Sadeq to do whatever it took to convince Munthir to agree.
The truth was that Munthir was not too keen on seeing Jana. Following his last outing with Amal, he felt that he was more interested in her. From that day forward, they enjoyed long phone conversations. Chat sessions on whatsapp, two quick meetings on their lunch breaks, and an outing where she helped him pick out a wedding present for his newly -wed friends. He thought , she was someone he could be himself around, and he felt that she was being herself too. Therefore, he ignored Sadeq’s pleas to meet once again with Jana.
Frustrated by the predicament he and his wife would be in, Sadeq insisted on knowing why.
“It’s that Amal girl right?” Sadeq said
“Is that any of your business, we are getting to know each other and I like what I see.” Munthir replied.
“I will look bad !” Sadeq said.
“You shouldn’t have set dates up without informing me” Munthir replied
“Go on this one date, and then say it’s not meant to be.” Sadeq said.
“I won’t” Munthir replied, slamming the line in his face.
Annoyed by his behavior, Sadeq and Haneen paid a little visit to Munthir’s mom the following day, and they told her the details of what her son has been up to, and how he had put them in a bad position with Jana and her family. These words were enough to enrage Layla Munthir’s mother.
That evening, when Munthir walked into the door of his home, his mom met him at the doorway.
“When were you going to tell me you were seeing that Amal girl !” she shouted, “And, when were you going to tell me that you are refusing to see a beautiful , ready, and sensible girl like Jana, and for what.”
“I can’t lead her on Mom,” Munthir said” I just don’t like her”
“You did not see her except once,” she exclaimed, “you are refusing her for an old maid, a girl who didn’t find a husband? A girl who is too open minded? A girl who is probably seeing one million other men besides you? A girl who will probably not even give me enough grand children. You are going to see Jana, you are not going to break my heart. I will even tell your father ! ” she shouted, just before the tears started rolling down her eyes.
Munthir was just too familiar with his mother’s tantrums, and over the years he learned to walk away and not even reply to her. He ignored her tears and her shouts, and he went into his room and closed the door to talk to Amal.
His father also chose to ignore his wife Layla. He just felt she was causing too much of a stir over nothing. He believed his son was free to do whatever he pleased, and eventually the upheaval in their house died down for the evening and only temporarily.
The next day Layla was not pleased with her sense of defeat, so she picked up the phone, and made a few calls. She was on a mission to find Amal’s number, and eventually she succeeded. With a scrap paper in hand, she anxiously dialed the seven digits .As soon as Amal picked up she said, “I’m Munthir’s Mom, and I want to talk to you about your relationship with my son. Tomorrow meet me for coffee at 5, no is not an option, and if Munthir ever finds out about this call, I will never forgive you.”
Startled by the aggressive tone, Amal had no choice but to agree.
Next part will be posted on Sundar, stay tuned.