“Can we help you?” Mike said in a very proprietorial way looking up at Asra who stood looking at Kendra.
“It’s okay, he’s an …old friend,” Kendra said. She spoke evenly but inside she was falling apart. Asra looked so good. She’d forgotten or rather had forced herself to forget how sexy he was, how absolutely gorgeous. Her broken heart which had retreated to a place she tried to forget about, came out in full force. She couldn’t help herself. She loved this man. She still loved Asra. She could lie to herself and pretend she didn’t, but she knew one day she’d have to accept he’d been the love of her life.
Maybe she imagined it but she thought she saw hurt in his eyes, the same ache she was feeling. Did he still love her too? Or was she imagining everything? She thought she likely was.
“You look great,” he said to her, ignoring everyone else at the table. “I …you never took my calls, never answered my emails…I’ve missed you.”
Kendra was raw again, as raw as that night in her flat the night she lied to him and said she never loved him. She couldn’t move for fear she’d come apart in pieces, disintegrate right there.
The tension was broken when a woman came up to him, a beautiful woman with short cut, dark hair. “Asra, where’d you run off to?”
Asra turned to the woman. “Marea, I want you to meet a friend. Marea this is Kendra.”
Kendra wasn’t sure she could still breathe but she held her hand out mechnically and shook Marea’s hand.
An older, tall, gangly white man came up to the group. “Guys, we need to get going. Marea’s parents just called, their waiting for us at home,” he said in a strong American accent.
Asra hadn’t taken his eyes off Kendra. “Kendra, this is Mark Landers, Professor Landers, he works at the University with Marea in Cairo,” Asra said still looking at Kendra. Kendra shook the older man’s hand. Then Asra said, “Mark and Marea are getting married. That’s what we’re celebrating tonight. Their upcoming marriage.”
Too much was happening. Kendra couldn’t seem to keep on top of things. Her heart was jumping in her chest, first one side then the other, first stopping them speeding up. She placed her hand on her chest in an effort to calm the poor thing. Before she could sort her emotions out enough to say something, Mark said, “Guys we really need to go. I don’t want my future in-laws to think I’m late all of the time. They’re already not very keen on me being American. We don’t want them to change their mind all together.”
“It was great to meet you, Kendra, Asra never stops talking about you,” Marea said. Mark and Marea headed off and Asra lingered a moment.
“Kendra, it really was great to see you. I think about you everyday,” Asra said. He didn’t wait for her response. He didn’t need it. He just wanted her to know the truth. He turned and followed Marea and her fiancé.
“What was that about?” Mark asked looking first at Kendra then at Bianca for some sort of explanation.
“Kendra you’re fine,” Bianca said grabbing Kendra’s hands in hers and speaking slowly. “You’re fine. It’s all over. You’re okay. You don’t need to let him mess you up now. You’re doing so great.”
Kendra turned to Mark. “I’m sorry, I need to go.”
Mark, still confused, stood up and let her out. Kendra left some money on the table and left, running for the door.
Kendra needed to think. She needed to sort out all of her feelings. She sat in her apartment the lights still off, still wearing her coat. Carmen lay asleep on her lap.
Her body felt like it had been bashed around, it felt bruised. She felt weak with emotion. As soon as she saw Asra, she knew she had never stopped loving him, and she never would, no matter how long she tried to lie to herself. And he felt the same, she knew that now. She knew she’d made a terrible mistake by not having given him a chance to explain things. She should have trusted him; she should have trusted their love. But she hadn’t. She’d let Asra down, again. She saw the pain in his eyes at the restaurant. She’d been horrible to him. She’d been so unfair.
There was a knock at the door. She was sure it was Bianca, but she didn’t want to talk. She ignored the knocking, hoping she’d go away. She sat quietly petting Carmen. After a few minutes the knocking stopped and Kendra was relieved. She’d talk to Bianca the next day, after she sorted out her feelings. She’d speak to her then when she had everything figured out.
She let her head fall back on the sofa and she closed her eyes. How had she ruined her relationship with Asra? Was it because after Will she would never be able to trust men completely? Was she damaged in some way?
Suddenly she felt someone in the room and opened her eyes and there was Asra standing in the light from the street lamp out the window. “I knocked, no one answered ….and the door was open…I’m sorry but I had to see you.”
“Asra.” She said his name like an ending. Like a final decision.
He sat next to her and grabbed her up in the security of his arms. She kissed him, unsure at first. Then he kissed her back. “Asra, I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you.”
“I should have told you everything right away. Yes, Marea and I were once engaged. My father and hers have been friends since they were young boys, they were so happy we were getting married. But then she went to America for her masters degree and that’s were she met Mark. She told me about it soon after she moved in with him. I was devastated. She begged me not to tell anyone. Mark was older and American and they were living together. These were all things her father would not approve of. I agreed. We kept pretending that the engagement was still on, for her sake. It didn’t matter to me, in fact it helped in a way when dealing with my father and the issue of the restaurant. It gave me more of a reason why it was better he give the restaurant to Thiti since I’d be moving to Cairo. I didn’t want any of this family stuff harming what was between us. That’s why I never told you my father’s restaurant was in London. I didn’t want any of that between us. I didn’t tell you and then time had passed and it felt awkward to say it. It was dishonest, I know, but I felt it was hurting no one, of course, until it all came between you and I. I knew if you could only let me explain…”
“But I didn’t and I’m so sorry,” Kendra said running her hand along his beautiful face. “But I understand now.”
He kissed her deeply and Kendra’s body shook with want. He kissed her neck. Kendra pulled at her clothes, trying to remove them to allow him access to where he wanted.
He pulled her to him. Kendra ran her hand over his cheek, it was wet with tears.
“I missed you so much Kendra. I can’t believe you’re giving me another chance. I was sure you were gone from me forever,” he said.
She wiped the tears from his cheeks. “I never stopped loving you. That day, that horrible day, I lied to you when I said I didn’t love you. I was upset, I was scared about what I was losing.”
Asra kissed her.
“I love you Asra, I always will,” Kendra said into his shoulder.
“I’ve loved you since that first kiss in Egypt, and I’ve never stopped, not for a single second,” Asra said, holding her tightly.