In five days I turn 40. I mouth the number to myself in front of the mirror, I cannot decide if I like it better when I pronounce it slowly, or quickly.
I tilt my head forward and inspect my roots, then I lift my head and examine my face. Oh my. I gently pull back my cheeks and let them slide down to their new location. I count the rings around my neck. I trace the hollows under my eyes. I proceed to inspect my knees, my posture, my waist. Then I stop. Noor you mustn’t be so critical. I take another look at my face. My eyes gleam back at me, true I looked tired, but for the first time in a long time, I no longer looked scared.
Mama was waiting for me in the kitchen, being the practical woman that she is, she was never one to celebrate birthdays with balloons and rainbow cakes. Nevertheless, she always came up with a small and wonderful way to make mine special, and this year was no exception. “Let’s go to Dubai for one night, teatime at your favorite place, and some shopping.” I wasn’t in the mood. “How about this year we do my second favorite thing; Chinese takeout and Pretty Woman?” Mama was anxious, she resumed rolling out her dough, cutting it into perfect circles, and stuffing the center with cheese and parsley. She was making an unusually large batch this time. “We should do something big this year,” she tried once again. I think we’ve had enough “big” this year.
Still, I know my mom, and something is up. “Your father and I are moving back to Saudi, he’s reopening his office and has a few projects lined up.” “Mama, that’s great news!” She shakes her head, “Oo inti? Who will take care of you now that you’re all alone?”
The day before my 40th, I drop my parents off at the airport. The drive back by myself is impossibly quiet.
At home, I turn on the lights and try to make myself comfortable in the living room. I start to wonder if the room had always been this spacious. I attempt to rearrange the furniture, play some music, and scroll through my phone. Why did the kids have to be at their dad’s tonight? I desperately needed someone to call me, anyone.
My phone beeps at exactly 00:00. “Happy birthday beautiful. What’s the plan?” it was Ghazi, the younger gentleman I had met the other night. I smile. I type “You tell me…” and hit the send button.
My phone beeps again at 00:01. “Happy birthday Noor, the kids and I are taking you out for dinner. Chinese! Your attendance is mandatory, mafhoom? Julia Roberts after ;)” It was Rashed.
Shoo Noor, how are you going to celebrate?
To catch up on Chapter 1 , click here.