Rafiq was standing on the sidewalk, waiting for Joy when Ranya walked up to him. “So, I hear that you’re married,” she said, her expression hostile as she looked up at him.
Rafiq set his cup down, his eyes meeting hers squarely. “Who told you?”
“Dhara. When were you going to tell me?” Dhara was his cousin.
“I wasn’t aware that telling you was an obligation.”
“I would have preferred to hear it from you than from Dhara. She got a kick out of telling me. I know she doesn’t like me. So, who is she?”
“Someone you don’t know.”
“I heard that she’s black.”
“So, you couldn’t marry one of your own?”
“Ranya, I really don’t want to have this conversation with you.”
“Do you love her?”
“Of course, I do. I wouldn’t have married her if I didn’t.”
“What about me? I thought I was the one you were going to marry.”
“I never said anything to you about marriage, Ranya.”
“I thought you cared about me.”
“Then, why did you break up with me?”
“We just weren’t compatible.”
“And you and she are?”
“Yes. So, you see, color has nothing to do with whether or not two people are meant for each other. As soon as I met her, I knew that she was the one for me.”
“What about your parents? How do they feel about your wife?” She almost choked over the word, wife.
“My parents don’t have a problem with her race like you do.”
“Well, I’m not going to wish you the best because I don’t.” She gave him a nasty look before she turned and marched off.
Rafiq watched her go with relief. It had been an unpleasant encounter but he had tried to be as civil as possible. He knew that ending his relationship with her was the wisest thing to do and it wasn’t only because they were incompatible but her prejudice toward black women was something he just couldn’t tolerate.
After they broke up, he put relationships on hold and just concentrated on his career. Then, he met Joy. When she walked into the café where he was having a Cappuccino, it was as if time stood still. He was mesmerized and completely bowled over. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. And his heart skipped a beat when she turned and looked at him.
Then, she walked over to him. “Do you have the time?” she asked, her eyes traveling over him.
“Yes. It’s four-fifteen.”
“Do you have somewhere to go?”
“Nowhere in particular.”
“Stay and have a coffee or something with me.”
“What about your girlfriend?”
“I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“All right, I’ll stay for a little while.”
“May I buy you a tea, coffee or a juice?”
“Thank you. I’ll have a Latte.”
He signalled to the waitress and placed the order. After she was gone, he asked, “What about a boyfriend?”
She smiled at him. “Do you honestly think that if I had a boyfriend, I would be sitting here with you even though you’re very easy on the eyes?”
Her remark had pleased him immensely and he was relieved to know that she didn’t have a boyfriend. She ended up staying for two hours and as he was giving her a ride home, he asked her out on a date. He proposed on their fourth date and they got married the following year.
“Who was that woman you were talking to?” a voice inquired behind him and he turned around to find Joy standing there watching him.
He immediately hugged and kissed her. “That was Ranya,” he said when he drew back.
“She’s very pretty.”
“She doesn’t hold a candle to you.”
“So, what were you two talking about?”
“My marriage to you.”
“I bet she wasn’t thrilled about it.”
“No, she wasn’t. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. It never would have worked out between her and me even if you and I hadn’t met.”
“Some people aren’t meant to be together.”
His eyes darkened on her upturned face. “But you and I are. We were made for each other. I knew that the moment you walked into that café.”
She smiled up at him. “What would have happened if I hadn’t asked you for the time?”
“I would have found another way to get to know you.”
“So, where are you taking me for dinner this evening?”
“It’s a surprise.” He reached for her hand, twining his fingers with hers as they started to walk down the sidewalk. Dinner turned out to be Chicken Biryani, her favorite dish which he had prepared while she was visiting her grandmother in the nursing home. The table was set, complete with unlit candles, covered dishes and a bottle of wine. “Happy birthday,” he said, smiling when he saw the expression on her face.
She ran over to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Thank you.” And then she grabbed his hand and was pulling him towards the bedroom.
“But what about the dinner?” he asked.
“First things first. I’ve been thinking about this all day today.”
He grinned, thrilled, his heart pounding with excitement. “Be gentle with me.”
As they made love, he wondered how he could have existed before he met her. Life began for him that day when she walked into the café and stole his heart.