"7:01" He muttered. "Eleven hours left."
He pushed his blanket away from his naked torso, climbed out of bed and walked toward the maroon curtains to open them up. He had cut his nails and trimmed his hair the night before and he used the morning sunlight to inspect his fingers.
"Why am I nervous?" He asked himself, willing the hours to pass. It was funny to him how he was very nervous about what lay ahead and yet, he wanted it to occur as soon as possible.
"I'm gonna lose my mind if I don't keep myself occupied with something." He thought.
He brought down a book from his shelf which he had been reading. "'Fools Die'. Maybe I'll be the fool today." He mused. He walked back to his bed and began where he had left off the night before. An hour later, after he couldn't focus on his book, he got out of bed and had a breakfast of fresh warm bread with some hot chocolate. The combination always made him lethargic, which he appreciated this particular morning because he needed any possible avenue to escape his current apprehension. He placed the book, face down, on the small bedside drawer beside him and closed his eyes.
"I'll just shut my eyes for a while. I'll be up way before it's time."
The sun had begun its retreat from the sky when he jolted awake. He quickly picked up his phone to check the time.
"I have an hour!" he gasped. He jumped out of bed and dashed into the bathroom. Ten minutes later, he was out with a towel around his waist, frantically searching for his bottle of olive oil.
He brought a neatly pressed thobe from a wardrobe filled with thobes and laid it on the bed, then he threw his towel on the bed and wore an undershirt and underpants before throwing the thobe over his head. He brushed his coarse hair and sprayed Cologne on the sides of his neck. His eyes kept darting to the clock on the wall every few minutes. "I'm gonna be late." He lamented.
He was almost running out of his room when it struck him that he had neglected to wear trousers underneath his thobe. Cursing himself, he swiftly ran back into the room and drew a pair of loose fitting pants up his legs then he ran out of the room a second time.
He sped down the small narrow streets in his car, thankful that the weekend brought less road users, hence making it easy for him to zoom past red lights at empty intersections. He felt almost disoriented as he struggled to give equal attention to the road he was rushing on and the directions from the GPS on his phone screen.
He almost missed the last turn that led to his destination, forcing him to break abruptly and almost causing the car following behind to crash into him. "Phew!" He exhaled, thankful to have dodged the near collision as he turned left into the quiet street.
He drove slowly until he saw the address he had been searching for then he parked his car on the grassy pavement on the side of the road in front of a black iron gate.
He dialled a number and his heart jumped into his mouth as he heard the line ring.
"Hello?" A small feminine voice answered.
"Hey, I'm outside." He said.
"Alright, I'm coming." The smooth woman's voice responded, then the line went dead.
This is it. This is really it. He tried to calm himself but the longer he waited in the car, the more he began to sweat. He kept his eyes on the rear mirror and watched the black gate in an effort to catch a glimpse of the arrival of the woman he had just spoken to on the phone. He wrapped his palm around the gear stick, squeezing it tensely.
After what felt like an hour, he saw the gate open. Two women walked out of it and he quickly jumped out of the car. He walked steadily toward the women until he was close enough to see them properly. One of them wore spectacles and he immediately recognized her as the woman from the phone call. She had very light caramel skin and dark eyeliner around her small eyes. Her nose was perfectly sculpted, like the kinds on old greek sculptures, and her lips looked like velvet. He immediately fell in love.
"Hey Bushra." He finally managed after the words seemed stuck in his throat.
"Hey you. Sorry I took a while. I had to get ready." The woman said, "This is my cousin, Rahima."
"Hello Rahima." He said, glancing at the other woman for less than a second before his eyes quickly returned to the comely woman who had just spoken to him. A broad smile crossed his face.
He suddenly noticed that she hadn't looked at him the entire time. Maybe it's the sun. He thought, the sunrays have me squinting as well. He led her to his car while her cousin went back inside the house through the gate.
"You look really beautiful."
"Thank you." She said, unimpressed.
She probably hears compliments like that every single day, he concluded. His nervousness began to return. I have to impress her or I might not get to see her again.
"It wasn't too difficult locating the house." He began.
"Yeah, I'm surprised you arrived early." She said. She still hadn't looked at him.
I shouldn't have arrived so early, I'm sure she thinks I'm desperate now. I can't believe I'm already screwing this up. "Where are your nephews?" he asked, attempting to divert from the embarrassment.
"They're inside, watching a show and stuff."
"I thought I'd be able to meet them."
"Yeah well, they got carried away."
You better think of something to say, you're boring her. What a great first impression.
"Your street looks pretty quiet." He said, struggling to keep her attention. He knew he was doing a terrible job. "Can I see your glasses?"
She hesitated for a moment, then pulled the glasses from her face and handed it to him. It was obvious to her that he was looking for a distraction. She was finally able to study the man sitting beside her as he became absorbed with inspecting the glasses which he held delicately between his fingers. She looked at him intensely for many seconds without blinking and in those moments of observation, she made her decision.
He held out his hand. Her glasses neatly folded on his palm. "Here." He said.
She picked the glasses up with her index finger and thumb and dropped them on her lap, then she held his hand before he could withdraw it, interlocking her plump fingers between his and pressing his palm tenderly.
His brain froze and he knew his efforts to think of what to say to entertain her at that point were futile, so he settled into a silence. He felt her pull his hand closer to her chest, enveloping it between both her silky palms now and rubbing it the way one rubs their palms during winter to keep them warm.
I hope this means she also likes me, he thought quietly.
"I have to go back in now." She said abruptly, letting his hand fall away from hers. "It's prayer time already."
"Oh yeah, it's getting dark." He said, as if he only just became aware of the fact. "Wouldn't want Mom to have to come drag you back inside." he joked, but she didn't laugh.
She sat still a few more moments, staring down the street through the windshield as if she could see something in the distance no one else saw. Suddenly, she reached for the door handle and pulled it. He quickly turned to open his own door so that he could walk her back to the gate but precisely that instant, he felt her hand grip his forearm, pulling him back. He turned to face her and she leaned forward and softly planted a kiss on his jawline. He was taken by surprise and turned his head slightly to look at her but as his face turned, their lips osculated and she kissed him warmly, exhaling, as though she was drained by the sudden paroxysm of passion they had just shared. She placed a palm on his chest, and with the last of her energy, pushed him gently away from herself.
"Let me go back inside." She said flatly, opening the door. "Don't walk me back." She stepped outside the car and began to saunter back to the gate.
He jumped out of the car, "Bushra, wait!" he called out to her.
She heard him but didn't turn back. He stood rooted to the spot as he watched her walk into the gate, shutting it without turning around to look at him. He stared in shock as the gate was pushed shut.
What on earth just happened? He pondered, lost.
He settled back into his car still flummoxed by the bizarre events that had just occurred when his eye caught an object sitting idly on the passenger seat where the woman had just vacated. A pair of neatly folded glasses.
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