Tales of The Phoenix City – Chapter 21

The door remained stubbornly closed.

– Nina! Nina open that door! I know you’re in there! You’re not a Prima Donna before a representation!

The lock bolted and he was faced with the blotched, reddish, disheveled face of his sister.

– Ok, now you’re going to tell me why you’ve been avoiding me this way. Is it because of Lily, who, by the way, is ignoring me as well? What’s wrong with you, you’ve never done that to me before.

Nina banged the glass of ginger tea she had been drinking on the wooden table.

– Ziad! Contrary to everything you seem to believe, the world doesn’t revolve around your little person! Neither me nor Lily have given you much thought lately to be honest. Pardon us for having lives besides of you.

The harsh tone shocked him. Nina had almost never snapped at him: she teased him, made fun of him, laughed at him and scolded him, but was never grumpy and snappy, deliberately pushing him out of her world. They were as close as siblings could be, Ziad sometimes composing music for Nina’s shows, each other being the recipients of their own innermost secrets. His sister’s silence hurt and alarmed him at the same time. What could be so wrong that she would hide away from him? What had happened to her?

– Well, that’s always nice to hear anyway. So what’s your excuse for pretending you’re an only child?

Nina winced at the mere word. Child. A Child. Jesus, was she going to be a mother?

Ziad saw his sister blanch and proceeded to panic in due form.

– Khalas, that’s enough! You’re pale. You’re elusive. Your answers are vague. You’ve been avoiding me. What is wrong with you? Nina! It’s me! Your brother, Ziad, me! I know I haven’t been perfect and always available to you lately, but I’m still, well, me! What’s up?

Suddenly Nina felt very weary, as if all the fight had gone out from her. She had felt immensely tired lately, making her bless the day she had hired Yasmine as a PR/ assistant as she was the one making the workshop run.

She plonked herself on her beloved club armchair with a sigh and started crying. Ziad, always the last person to know how to react when faced with tears, let his panic levels shoot out of the roof.

 – You’re sick? Are you sick? You’re sick! I know it! What’s wrong with you, what, is it cancer? Is it? I told you to go and do all the tests you were supposed to take! But did you listen? Nooooo Miss Nina Haddad never ever listens to anyone! And what am I supposed to do then? Huh? Mom is in Canada at Auntie Rania’s, so I can’t even summon her here. She’s always been right of course, you’re so stubborn it’s not even funny. And, it’s too hot in your flat, just open a fucking window will you, it’s like the fucking House of Usher in here.

Nina took a look at her brother’s worried face, waving and gesturing frantically in her small apartment and felt a sudden urge to laugh.

Outside, the night had started to fall. The sun had begun its descent towards the sea, plummeting in the deep blues and greens as if for a kiss. It was one of these common yet ever so graceful Beirut sunset, all sanguine oranges and pink hues, the sky inflamed with blood against the icy blue of the water. The view worked its magic and helped her calm down a bit. Very softly, almost as a whisper, she asked Ziad to sit down, showing him an empty pouf in front of her. Rather, he sat down at her feet, his big black eyes humid with worry, looking up at her, his gaze never letting go of her face. My beloved brother, she thought. Like this, he almost looked like her baby brother again, the same that had so violently rebelled against their father’s death, not understanding it, not wanting to accept it. Then again, it was not possibly human to ask a fifteen year old to accept serenely that he won’t grow up with his father by his side.

Oh Baba. He was yet another victim of 15 years of civil war: he might not have been shot by a bullet, he might not have been executed, but the years in the shelter, worrying over his family, trying to make them survive in the mess and horror had taken their toll on him, weakening his heart until one day, at 53, it just stopped working. He had dropped by his sisters, brought them labneh and cheese, came home and dropped dead on the couch. And that was it, really. The tears and the cries and the frantic calls to the ambulance were all drowned in a blurry mix in her memory. Only one thought had hung on: she was not to see her father again.

And now she was pregnant with a child she was not so sure she’d want to keep.

 – I’m pregant.

– I swear, for a second, my heart stopped beating.

– Yeah well, make it work again, and listen to me. I’m pregnant, it’s still early stages, I’m completely freaked out, haven’t told the father yet, he too keeps calling me and knocking on my door and I pretend not to be home.

– Who IS the father?

– You’re not gonna like it.

– Because I’m liking the rest?

– Do you remember that guy who came about three months ago, asking to potentially buy Nina Haddad Creations and split the shares?

– That God-awful capitalist?

– That God-awful capitalist.

– Well apparently I don’t have such a problem with capitalists, as I seem to go out for coffees with them, then lunch, then dinners, then to bed, then to carry their children, then looking for hospitals to have an abortion.

Ziad looked up at Nina, at her distressed face.

– Nina. It’s gonna be ok. It’ll be ok. I’m here. Your crazy friends are here.

– You bet we are, hollered a voice, banging the door open. Well, if this isn’t the AntiChrist.

Nina lowered herself down to Ziad: remind me to take my spare key from Gabrielle.

– Jesus Fucking Christ, you think Beiruti Princess doesn’t have one? She’ll give it to me.

– No I won’t.

– Yes you will.

Grace hugged Nina fiercely and dropped a lemon pie on her lap.

– Gabrielle, stop swearing and bring napkins. We have decisions to take.

Nina couldn’t decide if it were the situation, or the hormones, or her friends’ kindness, but soon she was in tears again.

– Oh for fuck’s sake. Easy there waterworks!

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