My aunt left me outside as she went in to start making lunch, and I made my way over to Khalid and Lemia. I'd called over to them, but I grew silent as my eyes met Khalid's and I couldn't keep my eyes off of him. The memories flashed through my head of the times we'd spent together on the beach, the nights on the Pasillo with all of our friends, the love we'd made... Then, the bad memories came back: the memories of the fights that I'd started, our yelling at each other, my giving up on our relationship…
"I've missed you so much!" Lemia brought me out of my daze as she hugged me.
My gaze left Khalid's as I smiled at Lemia, "I missed you, too. How have you guys been?"
"We've been great, how about yourself? Khalid's been looking forward to seeing you," she said nudging her brother. His only reaction was a shrug of his shoulders as Khalid's eyes continued to be locked on mine.
I couldn't help but to avert my gaze from Khalid's and respond to Lemia's question. It killed me to look away, but it was killing me to look at him. "The summer's been alright so far. I'm hoping that it's only going to get better now that you two are here!"
Lemia continued talking as if she hadn't noticed tension between her brother and me, "Oh, don't worry. This summer will be a blast!"
"Lemia?" Her grandmother stepped out onto their second-story balcony, beckoning Lemia to come inside.
"Asalamu alaikum, Hadja," I called out to the old woman, smiling. "Labas halik?"
She smiled down at me and replied, "Al hamdulilah! Where's your grandmother? In the house?"
"Yes, Hadja. You should go see her sometime. She's always looking for company and reasons to teach me full Moroccan cuisine," I laughed slightly.
"Your grandmother has the right idea! You should be learning to cook," Malika laughed with me. "I'll be sure to stop by sometime. Now, Lemia, come inside please. I need your help."
"One minute, Grandma," Lemia turned to me. "So do you want to go out with us tonight? It'll probably be the same as always—walking around on the Pasillo."
"Oh, definitely! I'd love to hang out and catch up some more." I wasn't lying when I said I'd love to hang out, but I was hoping that Lemia would leave at that moment so I could have a bit of alone time with Khalid.
"Then I'll see you seven. Have a nice rest of the day, and don't be late!" she smiled as she turned and walked through her grandmother's garden to the house. I was happy to finally hear the low clicking of the door being shut—but happiness was soon buried in awkwardness as I sneaked a glance at Khalid and saw him averting his eyes in the same awkward manner.
He crossed his arms and attempted breaking the silence, "So do you want to go for a walk?"
"…sure…" I replied hesitantly. It probably wasn't a good idea for us to go places together alone, and we both knew it, but I really wanted to go for a walk with him. This could've been one of my only chances to have him alone.
The plan to talk to him soon faded from my mind, though, as my timid nature sunk in. It was never like me to stay motivated for very long. We walked around the street corner in silence, both not seeming to know what to do with our hands, and I began questioning why I had accepted his invitation. Walking on the tiled sidewalk, no one would have noticed us since we were on a less traveled side street and I was surprised when I felt his hand reaching for mine. Looking up at him in shock, it wasn't a second after our eyes had met that I'd found myself in his arms claiming the embrace that I'd longed for every day of the past while.
It then hit me that we were no longer standing on the tiled sidewalk, but amongst a tangle of thorns. Opening my eyes, removing myself from the bliss I'd found, I realized that not only were we standing in one of the vacant housing lots, but it was the same lot where he'd first taken advantage of me; the lot where I'd received my first kiss from him. Pushing him away, I didn't want to know why we'd ended up embracing there. My mind was jumbled with confusion and wariness for who might have seen us standing there, partially concealed as we were.
"What is it?" Khalid inquired, a look of slight shock and surprise coming across his face. He didn't even seem to notice how bad our current position could've looked to some passersby.
I ignored him and walked back to the sidewalk, leaning against the wall there.
"So you still don't want me… Do you?" he approached me slowly and stood at a diagonal from where I stood, a couple of feet away from me.
"You're right," I replied, becoming bitter towards him—which had been opposite of my plan. "I don't want you—not right now, at least—because, with you, comes the shame of having my family consider me a whore. When you come around, you drag all of my problems right behind you and it makes my life a living Hell. No, I don't want you right now, but I do want you when I can have you without the added luggage. Having found a way out of my bitter tone, I stopped my speech.
Taking a couple steps away from me, Khalid made a glance towards his grandma's house before looking back at me. "I'm sorry you feel that way. I'll leave you alone then."
Watching as he began to walk away slowly, I knew that the last thing I wanted to do was watch him walk away. Running up behind him, I wrapped my arms around him and held him close.
"Let's just take it slow, okay?"
"That's alright with me," he replied with a smile.
We finished walking the short distance to our street and said our goodbyes. Unable to give one last hug, we decided to shake hands and head to our houses. I couldn't help but look back at him as I entered my grandparents' garden, but he was already closing the front door behind him.
Smiling slightly to myself, I was happy that he'd agreed to take things slowly—I didn't need problems again this summer. Walking into the main hallway, I could already smell the food my aunt had been making for lunch. I didn't need to enter the kitchen to know what was already steaming on the extra burner that my aunt had for occasions such as these; the aroma of couscous was unmistakable, as it was my favorite dish. The vegetables weren't my favorite part, but the combination of the grain with chicken was delicious!
Coming to the conclusion that the food was far too done for me to help cook, I decided to help by setting the table. Bringing out the bread basket, some spoons, glasses, and a couple extra plates, the table was set in a couple of seconds, but I easily found myself more work to do. I'd realized that there was a shortage of bread so I volunteered myself to go to the store and buy a couple more loaves. Grabbing three durhams, I threw a shawl over my head and shoulders, and began walking towards the store.
As I reached the store, I greeted the shopkeeper and asked him for some bread. "Tleta khobes, moonfadlak," I said, motioning towards the round flat loaves. Exchanging the loaves for the three coins, I thanked him and walked back home.
Lunch was filling and the best lunch I'd had in quite a while. No one could beat my aunt when it came to cooking. After lunch, the dishes were done and I was left to go sit on the roof, reading until it was time for me to get ready for the Pasillo.
Because it was going to be my first official outing with Khalid, I decided that I had to pick the perfect outfit. Instantly, I knew what I wanted to wear—a green skirt, and top. This was, of course, accented by my jewelry, but all that really mattered to me was the green. Once I was ready, I said goodnight to my aunt and uncle, grabbed my key and headed to Khalid's house to meet them.
Ringing the doorbell, Lemia was out on the balcony in a few seconds. "Come in! The door's open," she smiled at me. I met her upstairs and we both entered the apartment together. "Khalid's not ready yet, so we'll have to wait for him," she said, sitting down near a table and motioning for me to sit also.
"Okay, that's alright with me."
We waited as Khalid changed in his room. When he finally came out, his shirt was still unbuttoned, but he looked quite handsome despite his disheveled look.
"Hey!" he smiled at me, and admired my appearance for a second. Then, the smile disappeared as his grandmother came out of her room.
"Asalamu alaikum, Hadja," I greeted her.
"Wa alaikum—" She cut herself off as she saw Khalid and chased him across the room, swatting at him with her hands. "Don't you know how to be decent around women? Button up your shirt…!"
Khalid cornered himself on a couch and tried to shield himself while also fixing his shirt. Having finally been able to button up his shirt, he tried stopping his grandma. "Grandma! I'm dressed!"
Having caught her attention, he watched as she stepped away, and continued, "Is this better? Smehli…"
"Shoomalik," his grandma replied, giving him a warning look before turning towards us girls. "Have fun girls and let me know if he causes any trouble. Okay?"
"Yes, Grandma," Lemia answered. "We will." All three of us seemed to be stifling laughter, by this point, so we made our goodbyes short and headed for the Pasillo. The moment the front door closed, we couldn't help but let out the laughs we'd been holding in.
Playfully punching Khalid, I had to take advantage of his embarrassment and make fun of him. "Good job, Khalid," I said still smiling. "Way to get taken out by an old woman!"
"Hey! She's strong… You don't know what kind of strength that woman has!" he replied.
"Sure…" I smiled.
The rest of the night went by smoothly. The three of us had a great time on the Pasillo, and eventually had found things to laugh about—besides Khalid's stupidity. For most of the night, Khalid and I were able to keep our hands to ourselves, but that didn't stop our hands from deciding to grab each other at random times. Catching ourselves, we'd place Lemia between us so as to stop it from happening again, but that didn't help for very long.
As we walked home, the streets were deserted so Khalid and I decided it'd be safe to put our arms around each other. "You don't mind, do you, Lemia?" I asked, not wanting to make her uncomfortable.
"Naw… I'm fine, just don't start making out or anything."
We finished the walk home in silent peace. Upon reaching our street, it was time to say our goodbyes. Hugging Khalid, I had to push him away as I saw another person walk onto the street.
"Sorry, there's someone else," I said with a sad look on my face.
"It's okay. Let's get you home," he replied.
Khalid and Lemia saw me to my door and left me to let myself in. I waited for them to disappear into their house before finally closing the front door of mine and heading to bed for the night. That sleep was the best sleep I'd had in a while.
-The Stalker's POV-
I'd missed my chance to get to her, so my next move should've been to keep walking by, but I didn't. My legs seemed to be glued in place as she stood talking and smiling with these two strangers. Well, I guess they weren't both strangers—I'd seen the guy around enough times, at the beach playing football, but I'd never really met him.
Standing just out of sight, I watched until one of the three—the other girl—went into the tall white house. The red-headed beauty was left alone, standing awkwardly with the man. My prayers for her to leave him and go home couldn't be answered, either; no, she had to agree to walk with him around the corner. This other man was going to be stealing her before I'd had a chance to get to her. Not really thinking, my subconscious decided it'd be a good idea to follow them, and maybe even break up their little get-together. The last I saw of them was the two holding hands as they turned another corner—by the time I'd reached the end of the street, I'd lost the courage to confront them. I'd have my chance later, and that was certain.
Having nothing else to do, I decided that, since I wasn't going to be confronting her, it'd be best for me to go home for the rest of the day. Upon arriving at my parents' three-story house, I went inside and immediately laid down to rest. If I was going to be ready for anything tonight, I'd need my head to be clear.
I woke at around six—perfect timing for dinner. My mother had made a delicious stew of vegetables, but I didn't try to stay and savor it; I had other plans which needed to be executed now. Throwing on a pair of dark blue jeans and a brown belt, I decided that black would be a good color to wear tonight. Selecting a long-sleeved shirt, I threw it over my head and headed towards the bathroom to fix my hair.
It wasn't too long before my hair was gelled and I was ready to head out and meet my friends on the Pasillo. Walking by the street my prize lived on, I noticed a trio of people leaving from the white house that the girl had entered into yesterday. "It's them…" I thought to myself. "Perfect…"
Arriving at the Pasillo, I wasn't so much looking for my friends as I was for that red-head. I wasn't about to let the other man have her for himself—she was to be mine. My friends tried to coax me out of my daze, but I couldn't think about anything other than her. Until I saw her, I wouldn't know if he'd taken her—I wouldn't know if she'd still be mine for the taking.
Her red hair was striking, her pale face unmistakable, so it was hard to miss her when my eyes finally found her. Smiling with her two friends, her face was a light in the darkness of my mind. As my group passed by hers, all I could think of was walking up to her and telling the other man to take his hands off of her—I'd seen him reaching for her—but I didn't.
Our groups passed each other many times that night, but I never spoke to her. The last I saw of the trio was when they decided to head home and turned off of the Pasillo. Thinking they were far enough away, the girl eagerly hugged the man she'd been with, but I saw all that had happened—and I didn't like it. She would be mine and no one else's.
Terms to Explain:
1. "Hadja": A title used to address a woman who has made the Hadj (pilgrimage) to Mecca (Islamic holy city).
2. "Tleta khobes, moonfadlak": "Three bread, please." I actually had to look this one up! Bread was a word that, I guess, had slipped from my mind. I was thinking to myself "I'm pretty sure this is right…" but I just HAD to be certain.
3. "Smehli": Sorry.
4. "Shoomalik": Shame on you.