12 AM. I am still awake. Excited? Scared? Happy? Anxious? I don’t know. But something inside me is preventing me from sleeping. I think of getting a warm glass of milk, but then I remembered yesterday’s incident and decide maybe not to do that. I decide to drink a glass of water instead. Ramzi, oh Ramzi. How I wish you were beside me right now! Wait. What’s that sound I’m hearing? Footsteps? Is Auntie Layla sleepwalking? I think of opening the door and following the footsteps, but I am again reminded of yesterday’s encounter. I decide to follow these mysterious footsteps hesitantly. I quietly open the door and stick my head out. I get a quick glance of Auntie Layla going down the stairs. I follow her slowly. Just as I finish climbing the stairs I hear the sound of the stove. Is this some kind of midnight snack? I hear the sound of kitchen utensils being put on the counter. I hear eggs crack. Eggs? People usually snack light stuff late at night. I decide to take a look inside. I swiftly yet sneakily tiptoe across the room. I hear the boom of pans falling on the ground and I lose my balance. The sound startled me and I fell to the ground. Oh goodness! What is Auntie Layla gonna do to me if she catches me sneaking on her? My question is answered as soon as Auntie Layla walks in.
Are you alright?
I am but the question is are you? Auntie why are you here in the middle of the night?
I respond. I take a look at the counter. Eggs, flour, vanilla, sugar, milk, butter. She’s baking a cake! She notices me and helps me up.
Alright! Get up now and help me bake this cake. We can leave explanations for later.
She says as she pulls me up from the floor.
I hesitantly agree. I am very confused, but for Auntie Layla’s sake I refrain from asking questions. I help her bake the cake. We sit there for a bit while waiting for the cake to finish cooking in the oven. Auntie Layla sits in her usual spot facing the wall, with the album, clothes, and flag on her lap. Curiosity starts to eat me up again, but I hold my tongue. I should not ask Auntie Layla any question. The album, the flag, the clothes! I cannot help myself.
Auntie Layla, whose clothes are these?
I blurt out.
The look on Auntie Layla’s face tells me I shouldn’t have asked that question. She takes a minute to digest the question then answers:
Those clothes belong to my husband, Adel, who serves in the military at the war.
Wait. Hold up. Her husband? Serving in the military? What I’ve heard at family reunions is that her husband’s dead. Wait he is dead! I remember seeing his tomb at the family graveyard. Okay but what about the war? Which war does she mean? There’s currently no war going on in Lebanon. My cousins said he served at the Civil War. Whoa! This makes sense now. She still believes her husband is alive.
So Auntie who is this cake for?
I ask again, just to make sure.
Well Amir today’s his birthday! I really wish he comes home this time…
she says, this time there’s a hint of hope in her usual cold and monotonic voice.
I cannot take this anymore. This is so sad. Auntie Layla believes her husband is still alive, serving the military for a civil war that is not happening. I go up to my room and sob myself quietly to sleep.
6 AM. I wake up. Do my morning chores, this time, Auntie Layla is nowhere to be seen. Yet everything is clean and left as it was before. She must’ve cleaned late at night. After I finish my breakfast, I nicely cook some extra for my aunt. As soon as I’m done the door is knocked. I open the door. Ramzi, to my surprise, exclaims:
Good morning! Are you ready for your first day?
Sabaho. Yes I am! Lets go.
We set off and go to his farm. We make some jokes on the way and enjoy the nice morning walk. I doze off a few times looking into his eyes. It’s going to be hard for me to focus on my chores with this redhead beauty around. We are greeted by his father as we reach his farm. We directly go off to work. We both clean, feed, and milk the cows together. Joking, talking, laughing, sharing. We decide to sit beside the tractor for our food break.
So, had a fight with your parents, huh? Man, you’re the talk of the town! That girlfriend of yours is sure a lucky girl to have a boyfriend that stands up for her.
he says. I choke a bit on my food. Then decide to answer:
Yeah she is! Do you have a girlfriend? Because I bet she’s also a lucky girl to have a joker like you around her.
Well, my parents are searching for a bride for me. I met this wonderful girl. She’s pretty and smart.
He says. He stops for a moment, looks down to the dirt, and says without lifting his gaze up.
I guess I want to marry her…
My heart is broken into pieces. My handsome Ramzi is taken by a girl. I want to know her name, I want to know how she looks like. She must be very beautiful, at least so it doesn’t look weird when a red haired god like Ramzi stands next to her. I look down to the dirt too, the expression of sadness in my face is so obvious that Ramzi, also looking sad says:
Hey, if this subject annoys you, we can drop it off.
We both get up, he tries to joke but in vain. I simply cannot continue. I am glad this day finished quickly, because as soon as I go back home I go up to my room to cry.
What should I do? Should I tell him my feelings and get this over with? No! The last time I did that I ended up getting beaten up and eventually, homeless. I’m so thankful Auntie Layla took me in. Auntie Layla, I haven’t seen her today. As I look outside the window I remember her story and cry more. I started crying like crazy and unconsciously, lost track of time; all of this until sleep took over me and took me into it’s realm.