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White locks, p.26

White Locks, page 26

 

White Locks
 


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  Sleep finally took over me. It was filled with nightmares, where the images I’d imagined earlier become more real, more live and more hurtful.

  Like any other time, I slept restlessly away from Mazen and away from the comfort of his arms. Add to that the awful nightmares and I could call it one of the worst nights of my life.

  Sometime during the night, God put some mercy on me and I finally went into a deep sleep. My night became much calmer, as if Mazen was right there beside me.

  In the morning, I was awakened by the sound of the birds singing outside. They made the most beautiful melody, and I hated that I was too depressed to actually be able to enjoy it.

  Once I opened my eyes, the answer why my night had suddenly become all better so that I could actually sleep, made itself known. Mazen was lying right beside me on the bed with his hand holding my own.

  At first, I thought I was imagining it – it couldn’t be that he was there. And with a quick bit of math in my still-fogged head, I realized that he should’ve been in the kingdom by now, not here in London. Meaning he’d come straight here from Sweden and hadn’t gone to the kingdom at all.

  The slightest move of my head woke him up, and I was greeted by the best sight in the whole world – his eyes as they gazed back into mine.

  “Hey,” he whispered sleepily, a soft smile formed on his lips.

  “What are you doing here?” I asked the first thing that came to my mind.

  “Good morning to you, too.”

  “Seriously, what are you doing here?”

  Mazen adjusted his head on the pillow to take a better look at my face; he looked tired but still as handsome as ever. My hands and lips yearned to touch him. I had no idea how I would ever be able to leave him, or live without him.

  “The love of my life is not feeling okay. I had to be with her. That’s what I’m doing here,” he replied.

  My chest swelled, and my eyes lowered to our joined hands that were resting between us. “I’m fine. Who said I wasn’t okay?” I asked, not really looking for an answer – and not able to look into his eyes as I lied to him.

  Mazen held my hand tighter and brought it up to his chest, right above his heart. “This told me, Princess.”

  With a heavy heart, I took my hand away from his and then got up and out of bed, leaving him there without saying another word.

  My feet took me to the bathroom; I just wanted to be in another place where he wasn’t. I couldn’t face him, and somehow I was also delaying the talk I knew we would be having soon. It would be our last talk.

  The thought had me sobbing. Inside my heart there was a war, and inside my head – my thoughts battled against each other. Thinking about what I should do, and what I truly wanted to do, was driving me insane.

  After God only knows how long, I came out of the bathroom, seeing that Mazen had changed into something else and his hair was damp. He must’ve used one of the other bathrooms to shower, I realized.

  The smell of coffee hit my nose, and I looked at the side table in the corner to see that coffee and tea had been placed on it, along with a few other plates of croissants and pancakes.

  Wrong, I thought. We eat pancakes at night – that is our thing. And then I figured, maybe not anymore.

  Inside the walk-in closet, Mazen stood there as I picked something up from the shelves. Clothes that I’d never gotten the chance to wear before rested there. I wondered what life would’ve been like if we’d never had to go back to the kingdom, if we’d just stayed here in London where Mazen could’ve finished his training and I could’ve managed the London branch. I wondered what things would be like if we’d just stayed here and – loved.

  Utterly easy, were the simplest words that I could think of. There would’ve never been heartache, only love and care and joy and happily ever after.

  Mazen was leaning against the side wall, thinking that he’d be there to watch me dress. I knew what he was doing; he wanted to be playful. He wanted to make me smile and he wanted me to laugh. He thought he could take all the pain away if he tried a little bit harder.

  I knew this because I knew Mazen so well, but I also knew that he couldn’t help me this time. He couldn’t help us. What we were dealing with wasn’t going to disappear if I smiled, despite whatever Mazen was thinking.

  So, I made him leave. He didn’t argue much, he knew that I wasn’t having it.

  A sip of my coffee was tasteless on my tongue, so I refrained from having more. My stomach wouldn’t bear it anyway. I kept feeling the urge to throw up over and over again as I stood there trying to think of how to start this.

  “Did you see what happened yesterday at the conference?” Mazen asked, trying to make small talk, I guessed. I felt awful. He never wanted to talk about work when we were together unless it was a planned meeting that required us to discuss it together, as the rulers of the kingdom stated. But I guess I’d given him no choice.

  I shook my head, not looking at him. Yesterday I was dying. And I knew that by the end of this conversation I would pretty much be dead. On the inside if not the outside.

  “There was this man who asked me– …” he started, but a lone tear that was released from my eye stopped him, and he came rushing toward me. “Hey.” He took me in his arms and hugged me tightly. It hurt. But only because I needed it so much and I knew that soon, I might never get the chance to do it ever again.

  “I know you’re sad because of what the doctor said, and I want to fix it. I’ll do anything to make you smile again. But please allow me, let me in,” he said softly. “What did we say about communication, Marie? I thought we were past this. Don’t hold back from me. Talk to me, Princess.”

  The gentleness in his voice was softer than silk, and warmer than the sun. But it only made what I was about to do harder, and for a moment, I wished he was bad or mean to me. It would’ve made everything easier.

  I shrugged myself away from his arms, the act actually paining me, but I had to do it. “Listen to you, talking about the lack of communication and holding back. Can you tell me what have you been doing for the past three months other than that?”

  Mazen’s eyes lowered; he knew he’d done exactly that for the past few months. Although I understood why, I still wished he had told me earlier. Not that it would’ve made me change my mind, though.

  “You’re right,” he sighed. “I’m sorry, Marie. But I’ve had a lot on my mind, and I didn’t want to bother you with it.”

  “Bother me with it? Bother me? You think it’s not something I should be concerned about?” I asked. Mazen looked at me closely, and I knew very well that he was trying to make out whether I knew what I was talking about or not – but not actually believing that I could’ve figured it out already. “When were you going to let me know? Were you going to send me your wedding invitation or wait until you had to disappear for seven days to ‘get to know her’ like the rules say?”

  Mazen’s eyes widened and I felt sick to my stomach as I said the words. Just thinking about the possibility that I might be involved in all of this because of some sick tradition that I had yet to learn about made my heart hurt. Who knew? Maybe it was the first wife who had to cook for them for the first seven days, like his mother had done for us back then. Who knew what messed up things I would be forced to do for my husband’s new wife.

  “Marie …”

  “There’s nothing to say, Mazen. I’ve thought about it a lot. You have to have an heir very soon to keep your position as king. I can’t provide you with that. I can’t give that to you. And your religion allows you to marry another, so … I really understand. You have to do it. It was your father’s death wish, after all.”

  “Marie, what are you saying?”

  “I’m saying the right thing. You’re free to take another wife. I’m just not going to stick around to watch it happen.” I wiped my tears, only for more to come out a moment later.

  “What?”

  “You heard me. And no hard feelings, really. I know it’
s out of your hands,” I said, my words heavy on my tongue and the whole world spinning around me. “But I’m not going to share you with another woman. I’m leaving you, Mazen.”

  It wasn’t selfishness that had made me decide to leave, it was the fact that I knew things would only get worse if I stayed. For Mazen, for me and for the whole kingdom.

  It gutted me. It tore my heart into pieces, but I had to do it.

  I heard him as he inhaled a sharp breath, then he took a few moments to let what I’d just said sink in before replying. His eyes never left mine as we stood there in a tense silence after I dropped the bomb that probably hurt me more than anything else ever could.

  “No hard feelings and you’re leaving me? That’s what you have to say, Marie?”

  “What else do you expect me to say? Can you bear the thought of me with another man, Mazen?” I asked, fully aware of what the answer to that would be.

  The thought of him touching her, being with her … the thought of him creating other memories with her that might would be similar to ours – it was tearing at my chest like a wild monster.

  I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t. It was too much for my heart to handle. I’d rather him cheat on me. Can you imagine that? If he cheated – we could call it a mistake and eventually get past it, maybe. But marriage? For her to have rights to him, just like I do? For her to be treated equally and loved just the same by him?

  I didn’t know what would be left for me if we went through that. I didn’t know what would be left of me if we did. I’d die slowly like an abandoned flower. He was my sunshine, and flowers can’t grow without that. They’d die. Just like I would be dead from the inside if I stayed to watch him marry another.

  Mazen swallowed thickly. The thought of seeing me with another pained his heart; I could see it in his eyes. “No. I wouldn’t. I would kill him with my bare hands before he could touch you,” he said, and I knew he was dead serious.

  “Exactly. So now you know how I feel.”

  “You promised to never leave me again,” he breathed out.

  “And you promised to never let me go. But marrying another woman is not actually holding me close,” I cried.

  “So, you’re just going to leave and make room for me to marry another? It’s that simple? You’re telling me I’m not worth fighting for, Marie?”

  “You’re worth dying for, Mazen,” I said without missing a beat. “But I’m not a doormat. I won’t stand by and watch you marry another. I won’t sit alone night after night knowing that you’re in bed with her in the next room. I won’t stand aside and watch your child growing inside of her. I won’t.”

  Pain was written all over my face as I spoke, and the look on Mazen’s face pretty much matched my own. Of course I was willing to fight for him. I’d fight for him until my last breath. But – this? … there was simply nothing else that we could do. I had to protect what was left of my dignity, what was left of my broken heart.

  It was killing me to watch as we both stood there, our hearts withering in pain that only the two of us could feel. We were tied to each other with strong locks. White locks. A white lock of marriage, and a white lock of love. One was hard to break, and the other was impossible to even think of untying. Our white locks were stronger than steel, but this whole thing was out of our hands.

  “And you wonder why I didn’t tell you this from the beginning? I knew exactly how you were going to react to this,” he said with a hurt voice.

  “I’ve never doubted your love. I know you love me more than anyone ever has. And, God! I love you now more than ever and I’ll love you until my last breath. I know you don’t have a hand in it. But I’m doing the only right thing I could think of.”

  “Maybe you didn’t think well enough, then.”

  My frown deepened – what did he mean by that? A small feather of hope touched my heart. Was it possible that there was something else I hadn’t thought of? Another solution to this messed-up situation? No, there couldn’t be. I doubted it.

  “Mazen, I know you sought religious advice. I know you can’t get out of doing it.”

  Mazen shook his head. “Do you really know? I asked for religious advice to learn how I could pay up for not obeying my father’s death wish, Marie. That was what I was doing.”

  I blinked twice.

  “What?”

  “Even before I got my answer, I wasn’t going to do it, anyway. But guess what? The Sheikh told me that I wasn’t obliged to obey in the first place, therefore I didn’t have to do anything to pay up for it.”

  “What do you mean?” My heartbeats were going a mile a minute, and I held my breath waiting for his answer.

  “The Sheikh reminded me that we should never obey something which would mean committing a sin. If I followed my father’s wish – I’d be a sinner. Because it would be building another house by destroying the first one, and you know how sacred and valued marriage is in Islam, Marie.”

  I couldn’t believe my ears. Mazen had already decided he wasn’t going to do it? How come? I’d never been more confused.

  “You promised your father.”

  “Some promises are made just to be broken, Princess.”

  “But – I can’t … I have problems and my treatment will take a long time. It’ll be almost impossible for us to have a son before the two years are over.”

  “There’s nothing that’s far from God. If he wills for us to have a son soon, there’s no human in the whole world who can stop it.” He sounded very confident in what he was saying, and though I believed every word that he was saying – I still couldn’t understand.

  “But – but what if it doesn’t happen?”

  “Then it was never meant to be.”

  “Mazen, do you know what that even means?”

  Mazen sighed. “I know.”

  I was taken aback by what he was saying. “You’d give up your title?”

  “For you? I’d give up my own life. I’ll forever do whatever it takes for you to stay by my side, Marie. Don’t tell me you don’t know that already.”

  “But, Mazen – that’s … that’s huge!” My hand came up to touch my forehead. My world was already spinning, but my head was spinning in the opposite direction. I did know that his love for me was unconditional, but to the point that he’d give up ruling a whole nation just to be with me? I was so overwhelmed by that that I was left completely speechless.

  “I know that, Princess.” He walked toward me and didn’t stop until he was standing right in front of me. “What do you think I’ve been thinking about all this time? It’s a big deal, but I’m selfish enough to take this road. I can’t stand a life without you. It’s as simple as that.”

  His hand touched my cheek softly, and I leaned into it, seeking comfort and desperate for the ease only he could provide me. He was seriously giving up everything for me?

  No!

  I snapped out of my dazzled mind that had been possessed by the idea that Mazen’s love for me could reach the moon and the stars, and took a step back abruptly.

  “No, Mazen. I can’t let you do this. This is not just about us; this is about millions of people, a whole kingdom. I can’t allow your uncle to rule then for Jasem to take over a few years later. I care for those people. I won’t let him turn this kingdom into some nasty forest where women and children have to suffer the most. I can’t.”

  “Do you think I’ve never thought about that? I’ve thought about it a lot,” he said. “But you’re expecting the worst to happen. We still have time. Long or short, we still have it. Many things could happen. Have you forgotten about my brother? He could have an heir soon, and then we wouldn’t have to worry about that. The kingdom would be even better in his hands – even better than in my own hands, believe it or not.”

  The fact that Prince Fahd was still in the picture had been truly lost on me. But Rosanna had her own difficulties as well. I had no idea what her views were on her husband taking another wife, but I knew it was something I wouldn’t w
ish on my enemy.

  “What if–…”

  “Stop with that, Princess,” Mazen cut me off. “Stop imagining and expecting only the bad things to happen. God is the most merciful, he has a plan for everything. Whomever he chooses, he’ll be the king next. Consider how I could choke and die this very moment – you’ll have nothing to do then. And if the title goes to Jasem eventually, then so it be. Put your faith in God. He knows best.”

  Moments passed as I stood there, trying to comprehend everything he was saying. “I can’t believe you’re doing all of this for me.” A new round of tears made an appearance in my eyes as I looked at him with longing and adoration.

  “Not only for you, Princess.” He shook his head then touched my face again. “I’ve told you before, I’m so in love with you – the thought of just touching another woman makes me sick. I’m saving myself from a wretched life where you’re not right next to me.”

  My hand covered his as I looked deeply into his eyes, seeing the sweetest frown on his face. “I’m scared for our people.” It was how I truly felt.

  A soft smile played on Mazen’s lips. “We’ll figure it out, Marie. We’ll figure it out. As long as we’re together – everything is going to be okay.”

  I nodded, knowing that my anxiety had been holding me back from living day by day. I’ve always worried about the future, but now it wasn’t just my own. As their queen, I wanted to do what was best for them, even if it meant me leaving the love of my life.

  My lips touched his, and an apology was silently made. I knew he understood why I’d come to that decision and how I was looking at the bigger picture. But I was glad he could make me see things differently, in another way where my insecurity and anxiety weren’t preventing me from seeing it.

  “Now, what did we say about communication?” He was playful again, and it seemed like all he wanted was to see me smile. I chuckled, my mind not able to comprehend the strength this man had, the wisdom and loyalty. I just knew that I couldn’t love him more in that moment, as my eyes looked at him with admiration and awe.

 
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