Once a year, the pretty people get dressed up to attend the annual charity gala. Everyone wants to be there, not everyone gets to go. Crowned as generous and constant donors, my ex’s family were a permanent fixture on that scene. And they always had a special table at the very front.
My once upon a time mother-in-law calls to inform me that my attendance is required. In her mind, her son’s divorce is temporary, and every now and then I play along for her sake.
The night of the gala my in-laws, Rashed, and I arrive. Dressed in cloaks and capes and forced smiles, we look like the cast of the Fantastic Four. We march into the ballroom, it feels arid and bright. I sigh. I was at that age where I was too old to enjoy a wild party, but still too young to find these sorts of functions even remotely entertaining. The first course is served, three pieces of despondent-looking shrimp. My in-laws are pleased. I never understood people’s fascination with seafood.
Rashed is bored, he stares at his phone and then abruptly leaves the table. Auntie commands me to fetch him, ma biseer haik, oumi Noor. I wade through a placid sea of jewel-toned Maria Lucia Hohans and curt hellos. I think I spot a familiar ponytail by the bar.
It couldn’t be her.
I take a second look. Rashed and Sama are laughing about something. He places his hand on her small waist and she gently leans over to adjust her tight, white dress. It has a gold back zipper that runs smoothly down the middle of her sculpted back and over her buoyant derriere. I’d never been a fan of those dresses, still, she looked good.
And they looked happy.
I run to get my coat and am fumbling for my card. And that’s when, and in front of what feels like all of the pretty people, my bag crashes to the floor. My Amazing Amal lipstick rolls several meters away before it stops. Rashed rushes over, Sama slips into the ladies room to hide. Classy. He picks up my belongings, places them in the bag, and hands it to me. I cannot even bring myself to look at him. I don’t.
As I wait for my car, I realize that I don’t have any change. Great. I notice a man also waiting for his car, “Forgive me, but may I please borrow two dinars?” He starts to chat with me. I pay no attention.
In my pink bedroom, I replay the events of the evening while I stare at my ballerina jewelry box. The dancer goes round and round to a strained version of Swan Lake. I think about my options. I could either spin round and round, or I could just take a deep breath.
And accept this.
I exhale slowly.
Everything will be better in the morning. It just has to be.
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