Chapter Two
(The Secret Admirer)

The next morning I was awoken by Shady shaking me, telling me he was going to be late for school.

"Mom, mom. Mom, get up!"

"I'm up, I'm up." I looked at him and smiled. "Good morning, love," I picked him up and put him on my bed, kissing his head.

"Morning, mom."

"Who woke you up?"

"I woke up by myself. And now I'm going to be late for school, come on."

"Alright. Go put your clothes on and I'll be right there."

"Okay." He jumped off my bed and ran out of the room.

Grinning, I pulled myself out of bed and went into the washroom attached to my bedroom. I washed my face and grabbed a towel, drying it off. As I was putting the towel back, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I had never really thought I was pretty until Hisham came along. He made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world and no one was more beautiful. Then he stopped telling me that and I went back to thinking I was just… plain looking. My straight brown hair was nothing special. My hazel eyes were nothing special. My nose was simple, and my smile was okay. My skin tone was naturally a tan color, but it had gotten paler over the past couple years. That was probably because of Hisham too. I sighed and turned away from the mirror. I hadn't cared much how I looked after Hisham left. I hadn't even worn makeup after he left, not even once. I didn't see the point of it. I had no one to impress.

I pulled out a pair of jeans and a blue T-shirt from my closet and pulled them on. Running a brush through my hair, I could hear Hisham talking to Shady, telling him something about not giving the teacher a hard time at school. I smiled and shook my head. Shady had never given his teacher a hard time and Hisham and I both knew that. He was a shy little boy who was adored at school not only by his teachers, but his girl classmates. I thought it was pretty cute how they chased him around the playground, trying to hug him. After pulling my hair into a ponytail, I grabbed a sweater and my purse then walked out of the room.

"Good morning, Hala," Hisham greeted me.

"Good morning. Did you even sleep?"

"No. I just finished working."

"Go sleep now."

"I promised Huda I'd take her out for breakfast. I will when we come back though, don't worry, " he smiled at me.

I winced. "Alright. Where's Shady?" I asked.

"Downstairs."

"Okay. I'll see you later."

"See ya."

I went downstairs, into the kitchen to find Huda putting cereal for Shady.

"Good morning, Huda."

"Hey," she glanced at me. "Shady's just having breakfast. You can take him in a few minutes."

I sat at the table across from Shady. "No work today?" I asked Huda.

"No, I have the week off."

"Oh. Are you out of hairstyles?" I grinned. Huda worked as a hairdresser at a salon near our house. It was something she was good at and liked to do. She had beautiful hair herself: black and wavy, reaching the middle of her back. Of course, she always messed around with it and did different things to it.

She rolled her eyes at me. "I'll never be out of hairstyles."

"I can tell."

"I should do your hair for you soon. I haven't done your hair in so long."

"No, Huda. My hair's fine."

"Come on. We can give you a little makeover."

"I don't need to."

"Yeah, you do."

"No. I have no one to impress, how many times do I have to tell you that?"

Despite what happened with Hisham, Huda and I had managed to remain friends. We weren't as close as we once had been, but we were still good friends. I don't know why I stayed friends with her. Maybe because I knew that love did crazy things to you sometimes. It could also be because it wasn't really her fault. It was mostly Hisham who wanted to be with her. But then again, she didn't say no.

"Well, who would you have to impress if you don't try to find someone to impress?" I knew she knew the answer to that; we just never talked about it.

"Who cares? Are you done, Shady?"

"Almost. One more bite." He took a bite and looked at me. "Done."

"Go put your shoes on." After he left the kitchen, I looked at Huda. "Have fun at breakfast today."

"Thanks."

I followed Shady into the foyer and slipped my shoes on. Just as we were walking out the door, Hisham's brother, Fady, walked in carrying a couple bags.

"Hi uncle Fady," Shady smiled up at him.

"Hey kiddo. Going to school?"

"Yup."

"Have fun." Fady looked at me. "I brought us breakfast. But it can wait until you come back."

"Kay. I won't be long, ten minutes," I said.

"Okay. I'll be waiting," he winked at me. I rolled my eyes and lightly punched his arm as I walked out.

Like Huda, Fady and I were good friends, but we weren't too close. He was the only one that stuck by me when Hisham walked out on us, and I could always count on him. But after what happened with Hisham, I never trusted any guy much. I guess I was scared of getting too close to them and having them hurt me later. Even so, Fady had always been a good friend no matter how much I tried to keep my distance. I gave up on avoiding him after a while of him being everywhere I went.

I know you're probably still wondering why we all live in the same house. I still didn't forget that. You'll find out, promise.

Helping Shady into the car, I could see Hisham standing at his bedroom window, carrying Malak and waving at us. I couldn't help but smile as I waved back.

"Look, Shady. Malak's waving at you," I pointed to the window. Shady giggled and waved back at them.

I got into the car and turned it on, taking one last look at Hisham and Malak. As I backed out of the driveway, I could only think about what it would have been like if Huda hadn't come back. I would never have known anything and we would still be a beautiful family. Not that we weren't now, but it would have been better. Hisham was a great dad and loved his kids, but there was always the wondering of how things would have been if we were still together.

"Mom, if Malak's my little sister, does that mean I have to take care of her?" Shady asked.

I smiled. "Of course you do. She's your little sister. You have to take care of her and protect her."

"So if someone bothers her when she starts school, do I have to help her?"

"Yes."

"Okay."

I thought about why he was asking me that. I had noticed before that he always made sure to watch her and take care of her. It was definitely a good thing. I had always dreamed of having kids like that. An older boy watching over his little sister. It was the right thing because they had no one else but each other after their parents were gone.

I stopped the car in front of Shady's school and got out. After helping him out of the car and kissing his cheek, I watched him run into school. Smiling, I got back into the car and turned the radio on. As I drove home, I hummed to the songs that were playing.

Once I got home, I walked into the kitchen, looking for Fady. Not there. After checking in the living room, I went upstairs and into my room.

"Hello." He was sitting on my bed, our breakfast spread out on my covers.

"Fady! Why is the food on my bed!?" I glared at him.

He grinned. "Where do you want me to put it? On the floor?"

"No, you idiot. On my desk. Or you could've gotten the coffee table from the living room. Stupid."

"Shut up. Just come eat."

I put my purse on my chair and sat across from Fady on my bed. "Who put those in your hair?" I asked him, noticing little princess clips on his black hair.

"Your crazy daughter. She said I look pretty."

I laughed. "Where is she?"

"Huda took her with them."

"Oh."

Something I really liked about Huda was the way she treated Malak and Shady. It was like she was a second mom to them, except I never liked to refer to her as that. I always thought of her as their aunt or an older sister even. I had never known the reason she treated them the way she did when they weren't her kids. They were my kids with Hisham. That would have bothered most women, but it never seemed to get to her. Maybe it was because of the relationship between her and I and our past. All in all, I liked that she didn't ignore them and push them away as most other woman I've seen do.

"What's that?" Fady asked.

"What's what?"

He pointed to my desk. "That."

I looked over and saw the journal. "Oh, that. My journal."

"You have a journal?"

"I do now."

"Can I read it?"

"No! You better not have read anything!" I grabbed the journal from my desk and flipped it open. Something on the last page I had written on caught my eye. Someone else's handwriting was there, other than mine. Confused, I read what it said.

[ - - -]

It's crazy, you walked into the room one day, just like every other day,
except this time my heart skipped a beat.

[ - - - ]

I wanted to tell you all my secrets, but you became one instead.

[ - - - ]

"Did you write in here, Fady?" I looked at him.

"No," he looked confused. "I didn't touch it."

"You're sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure. Why? Did someone write in it?"

"Yeah. Was anyone else in here?"

"I don't know."

"Fady, are you sure it wasn't you?"

"What the hell, I'm sure. Can I see? Maybe I know the writing."

I hesitated, but handed him the journal. "That's so weird. Who would write that?" I tried to think of someone who would write something like that to me. No one came to mind. Weird.

"I don't know. I haven't seen the handwriting before."

"Should I write back?"

"If you feel like you should. I'm going to go get something to drink."

I nodded, not noticing him leave.

No one would even look in the journal. Who could it have been? I racked my brain for someone who had handwriting similar to the one on the paper, but no one came to mind. Sighing, I grabbed a pen and began to write.

[ - - - ]

There is someone in her past that she hasn't gotten over yet.
Each day's like the last. She misses what she can't forget.
It's just an empty space where something used to be.
Now she guards the gate, but she's lost the key.
So no one enters; but no one leaves.

[ - - - ]

I stared at the page, wondering if that sounded right. I didn't know exactly how to explain what I was trying to say. I can't let go of my past and I can't move on. Basically, I just don't want anything to do with love and I don't want to talk about love. I decided to leave it at that. Maybe if I kept replying to him, I could find out who it was.

Putting the journal back on my desk, I cleaned up the breakfast Fady and I hadn't eaten much of and took it down into the kitchen, where Fady was sitting.

"Figure out who it was yet?" he asked me.

"No. I wrote back though."

"So how's this person supposed to know that what you wrote is for him if you write in your journal all the time anyway?"

"Um… I guess I should find a way to show that," I thought, beginning to wash the dishes. "I could call him my secret admirer and write that on top of what I reply," I laughed.

Fady chuckled. "Why not? Do that."

"You think so?"

"Sure."

"Okay, I will."

"Are you scared?"

"No," I glanced at him. His emerald green eyes looked distant, like he was thinking of something. "You okay?" I asked him.

"Yeah, yeah. I was just trying to think of who would write something like that to you."

I shrugged. "We'll figure it out."

"I'm going to watch the basketball game," he said, getting up.

"Come watch in my room. You can keep me company."

"Kay."

We went up to my bedroom and turned on the TV. Fady made himself comfortable on my bed as I sat on my chair in front of my desk and picked up my journal.

"What are you going to write?" he asked me.

"None of your business."

She spent hours away from the house, crying in the rain. She thought about him, her kids, Huda, and herself. He wanted to break the unbreakable. He wanted to shatter everything into tiny pieces. Never had she been able to imagine them apart. Never had she imagined he would leave their family.

What would happen to their family? The perfect family that they had built, what would happen to it? She thought about how he was such an amazing husband and father. How could an amazing man like that tear them apart? Even through all her sadness and even though her heart was completely destroyed, all she could think was, "He's probably happier this way. I want his happiness."

Making her way back home late that night, she thought of what she would say to him.

As she got closer to her house, she could see him standing outside in the rain. Trying to hold back more tears, she approached him, looking at the ground.

"Oh my gosh, Hala!" He threw his arms around her and held on tightly. "Where have you been!? Do you know how worried I've been!?" She didn't say anything or hug him back, not wanting to break down in front of him. "You're so crazy. You're going to get so sick, Hala. Come inside." He grabbed her hand and pulled her into the house, shutting the door behind them.

"Where are the kids?" she whispered, still not looking him in the eye.

"I put them to bed a few hours ago. Go dry off and come back. We need to talk."

She went upstairs and pulled out a towel from one of the hall closets. After drying off her hair, she changed her clothes and went back to the living room. She sat next to him on the couch, trying not to make eye contact.

"I want to get this all over with right now," she mumbled.

"Okay," he sighed. "Listen, I'm so sorry. I really am. I've felt like crap ever since she came back and it's been tearing me apart. I never wanted to hurt you, but now I can't hurt her either. I'm so sorry. I just don't know what to do. I'm sorry."

"It's okay," she said quietly.

"Look me in the eye and say that," he ordered. "Look me in the eye and tell me that it's okay."

She looked him in the eye. "It's… It's…"

"It's not okay! I know it's not okay. Don't tell me it is! It's just not, okay!? I love you so much. I love our family so much. This isn't okay for you and it's not okay for me. I don't even know why I told you about Huda."

"You love her. Look Hisham, if you're happy that way, be with her."

He stared at her, so many expressions on his face. "What are you saying? Do you hear yourself?"

"You told me how much you loved her. I know what love is like. I know how happy it makes you being with the person you love the most. Love is an amazing thing. No matter how much it hurts people, it's such a beautiful thing. It's nice to have love. Especially when you're next to the person who has your heart." A tear rolled down his cheek as he listened to her words. "Be with her," she whispered. "I want you to be happy."

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her hair. "You're so beautiful. I'm so sorry."

"Don't think about me. Make Huda happy and make yourself happy. I know it's what you want." Oh, how it crushed her to tell him that. It crushed her, yet she loved making him happy.

"I'll still be here when you need anything. I promise you, if you ever need something or just need someone to talk to, I'm there. Okay?" he told her, gazing into her eyes. She believed him. She knew he never broke a promise and she knew he would always be there for her. Not only because she was his kids' mom, but because she mattered to him. Maybe not in the way she wanted, but she knew he did care for her.

"Thanks," she could barely force a smile at him. "What about our kids?"

"Um, I was thinking we could still live together?"

"Would Huda live with us?"

"Probably. And my brother."

"Oh. I don't know. I don't think I can."

"Please? I can't be away from my kids. Please, Hala. I'll do anything."

"Let me think about it."

"Thanks."

"I'm going to bed now."

"I'm sorry, Hala. I know how hard this is for you, but I love her. I'm so sorry," he said, sincerely.

I shut my eyes tightly, swallowing back tears. I knew what I did was worth seeing him happy, but it hurt so badly all the same.

"You okay?" Fady asked. I opened my eyes to find him looking at me worriedly.

"I'm okay," I muttered, looking away.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. Don't worry about it."

I put the journal back on my desk and looked at the TV. The basketball game Fady was watching was on a commercial break. Deciding to finish watching the game with him, I sat on the edge of my bed.

* * *

After picking up Shady from school afterward that day, I lay in bed, trying to get some sleep. But sleep and I weren't very good friends, so I obviously couldn't nap. Not now, not ever. How I hated that. Sighing, I picked up my journal from where it still was on my desk and opened it to the page I last wrote on. The same handwriting of my secret admirer was there again.

[ - - - ]

You need to trust
that you can tell me things
I might not want to hear.

[ - - - ]

I read and re-read the message, trying to understand what he was trying to say. I went back and read my reply to him returned to trying to decipher his. Maybe he was trying to tell me to talk to him about what happened. That was probably it, since I was saying I didn't want to talk about it. He was good at understanding things, I could tell already.

[ - - - ]

Secret Admirer:
there's a sadness in her smile that only he can replace. but then he was
the one who took away the happiness in the first place.

[ - - - ]

* * *

Later that night, after putting the kids to bed, I sat in the living room with everyone else watching a movie. The movie was a romantic comedy that Huda had picked out. I couldn't concentrate on the movie with Hisham sitting across from me holding her and whispering random things in her ear, like he used to with me when we watched movies. Watching him, I could only long to be in his arms, having his breath on my ear again. I wished to be in her place. I missed him. I missed him more than anything, ever. I missed hearing him tell me he loved me again. I missed his kisses and his gentle touch.

"Um, I'm going to go bed," I said. I couldn't sit there any longer without crying.

"Goodnight," Fady replied, giving me a small smile. I could always tell he knew that it hurt me to see them together, which was the reason why I always slipped away.

"'Night."

I rushed up to my bedroom and made sure to close the door. I wasn't going to cry. I was strong; I couldn't cry. No crying. I looked around my room, trying to find something to occupy me. I picked up my journal, which I seemed to be getting addicted to, and lay on bed, flipping it open. My secret admirer had written something again.

[ - - - ]

She never believes anything, ever.
You could tell her that the sky is blue,
That you love her to death,
That she looks pretty,
All of it to her is nonsense.
She holds her own truths
&& admire that about her.
She's the girl you want to marry.
She's the girl you want to save,
&& it happens to work out perfectly
That she needs to be saved a lot.
She's the girl you want to learn from,
&& she's got a lot to teach.
She's the girl you want to spend your life with,
&& she's got a lot of living to do.
She's the girl you're in love with.

[ - - - ]

me & you..
we could make the whole world jealous

[ - - - ]

I couldn't help but smile a little. No one had said anything like that to me in so long. I read it over, but this time I could only frown. This wasn't leading anywhere good. Love wasn't for me anymore. I couldn't love again if I couldn't give someone my whole heart. I didn't want to hurt anyone and I could never know who this person was. It could be someone important to me and even if it wasn't, I don't think I'd be able to hurt them. It was never easy for me to hurt anyone. Deciding not to reply this time, I wrote my own entry, thinking about Hisham.

[ - - - ]

I saw you with her tonight,
You seemed so happy to hold her.
Did I ever tell you, you were my world?
I guess I should have mentioned that earlier,
Like when we were together; you were happy with me.
That and a million other things left unsaid.
Like how you make me feel horrible,
worthless, and most of all,
I hope you treat her like you treated me.
'cause I've never been happier,
Then when I was with you.

[ - - - ]