Every year, like the changing of the guard, all the kids at my children’s school are subjected to a “random” shuffle to ensure fairness and equality in the classroom. Yet every year, there are two distinct classes: one for the golden kids and one for the lesser thans. As a child of divorce, it seems my youngest did not make the cut and was cast away to the latter where he knew no one. He didn’t deserve this. This was our fault.
Rashed calls and we meet at a small café that used to be quite popular. Its customers had moved on to other venues, and the place, like our relationship, felt like a vague memory dotted with blurred details that make you wonder if it ever really existed. He orders me a brownie.
We start talking, he grabs a spoon and helps himself to my dessert. I ponder this for a moment, he was so relaxed about it, so familiar. I let him enjoy a few more bites and then rudely tell him that this meeting is not about food. I worry that a small part of me will always be angry with him.
He suggests that we let the boy choose, would he like to give the school another chance, or would he like to try someplace new? Honestly, if he’s anything like his father he’ll be running to school number two.
He is still chewing. “That didn’t work out,” he says flatly. Jad?
“Nothing will ever come close to my first…school.” And there, in the middle of that sad and isolated café, on a dusty and quiet Tuesday, Rashed tells me he wants us to try again. “I am sorry it took me such a long time to realize that, Noor.”
The following week he invites us to a barbeque at his house. He tackles the grill, I make lemonade, just like we used to. Afterwards, the kids run to their rooms to TikTok, and Rashed and I are left in the kitchen to talk. He asks if I am ready to come back.
I stare at my lap, hiding my bare ring finger in the folds of my yellow Three Graces sundress, and I ask the man I once loved so dearly, did you ever think that maybe we were never meant to be?
Back home, I plant a kiss on my mother’s head, then finally finish unpacking. I gently release my wedding dress from the confines of its grey and tattered box. It sparkles in the sunlight, majestic, peaceful, oblivious to all that has happened since.
I stand in front of it, hoping it might say something to help me remember the small and awkward girl who once wore it.
It remains silent.
I look in the mirror and smile.
She couldn’t have been me.