Seven Days in Bali by Abeer Fahim.
To start reading from the beginning, click here.
Chapter 5 Part 1
Good morning Bali. It’s day four and it’s been a rollercoaster ride. I’m not even sure where to start today. Yesterday I went out with Emilio. Yes, just Emilio. I guess it’s ok because his girlfriend was the one who suggested it. I know this sounds really strange, but yesterday had me thinking a lot about the “other woman”. I’ve never been her. I never thought there could ever be any justification for being her. But ever since the divorce, this was the one afternoon where I actually started to feel better about myself. To be honest, I only thought about Tia when I was getting ready to go out with Emilio. I felt just a little bit guilty knowing how excited I was to be going out with him alone. But when I was with him, she was no longer there. It was just us. And hours earlier I had judged Eleanor for her relationship with Richard. How could I – just a few hours later – be in her place?
I wonder if that’s what happens sometimes – you get hurt and you end up hurting someone else. Is that why she took Allen away from me? Was she hurt? Well, I guess she didn’t really take him away. It’s not like he was snatched. He chose to walk away. And I still hate him. And I still can’t say her name. But I was so close to being her.
What will I do if Emilio sends me a message? Will I go out with him today? Will I let him hold my hand again? Will I somehow justify it? What if this really is the only thing that can make me happy now?
Why is it that so often one person’s happiness is based on someone else’s sorrow? Why is it that one person’s gain is another person’s loss? Is it always a zero sum game? What if Richard was the one thing in Eleanor’s life that made her feel safe?
And Allen’s freedom was my misery.
Surely, not everyone’s life is so entangled with someone else’s. It’s not always like that. But what if it is?
I still hate him. I still don’t want to say her name. I still don’t want to be her.
But why am I walking in her footsteps?
Lara woke up at 7am, feeling more energized than she had felt in a long time. Her hair didn’t seem as messy, and her heart didn’t feel as broken. There was something different, just like there had been something different a few days ago. But she couldn’t trust it. That thing – whatever it was that she felt – could not be trusted. She trusted it a few days ago, only to find herself feeling shattered again. Just when I start to believe that I’m healing – that horrible feeling comes back –
all of it. I can’t trust how I feel. I’ll try to enjoy it, but I know it won’t last.
As soon as she woke up, her hands reached for her phone. Should she have expected a message form Emilio over night? As she lay down, she could not stop thinking of Emilio. He told her to contact him, but she was sure he also had her number. Surely Tia had given it to him the day they were supposed to go out together. If he wanted to contact her, he would. And she wanted him to. The way he looked at her, the way he held her hand. When was the last time Allen had looked at her that way?
Lost in thought, Lara was startled when she heard a notification on her phone. It was a Whatsapp message from Amy.
Hi Lara … it’s been a while. How are you holding up? And how’s Bali? Want to chat on Skype sometime?
Lara’s heart sank as she read the message. It was one of those things she was dreading the most about the divorce – the conversations she would have, especially with people like Amy.
Amy was married to one of Allen’s work colleagues. Lara never really got along with Amy. Lara thought of the time when Amy made her feel very uncomfortable about what she was wearing. They were all invited to a friend’s gathering, and Lara wore a pair of leopard print stilettos with high waist jeans and a sleeveless black top. Lara got many compliments for her outfit – until Amy showed up. Lara would never forget Amy’s words that day, “trying hard to stand out Lara”. Lara was taken aback by Amy’s bluntness, and just as she was about to respond, Amy put a hand on Lara’s shoulder and said, “I’m just kidding of course! Cute outfit.”
But Lara wasn’t so sure about the “just kidding” part. This wasn’t the first time Amy had made a comment that threw Lara off balance. And sure enough, that very evening, Amy shocked Lara when she insinuated that Allen was paying too much attention to another woman at the party. Lara was speaking to Amy and a group of friends when Amy went outside to the backyard to smoke a cigarette. When she returned, she had an amused expression on her face. She spoke to Lara and the group for a while, then asked Lara if she would accompany her while she smoked another cigarette. Lara looked around and noticed that Allen wasn’t there, but guessed that he must be in the kitchen or dining room speaking to one of his friends. As they walked outside, Amy had a smile on her face – looking back now, Lara could see how cunning that smile was.
“Some fresh air,” Amy said as she took a deep breath. It was a beautiful summer evening in Chicago.
“Oh, look,” Amy said pointing to a bench at the other side of the backyard, “Isn’t that Allen?”
It was dark, with the exception of some fairy lights on the trees, but even in the distance, Lara noticed that it was Allen talking with a woman.
“Yea,” Lara shrugged. She did her best not to appear phased by it.
“You’re one confident woman, Lara …”
“What do you mean?”
“If my husband were sitting on a bench in a dark backyard talking to a woman … I mean I don’t even think you know her … and there are quite a few couches in there …”
“Are you done?” Lara said pointing to the cigarette.
Lara walked back inside the house. It crossed her mind to go over to Allen who was so engrossed in the conversation that he didn’t even look Lara’s way. She thought of walking over to talk to him and the other woman who she had never met before. But she decided against that. Allen is allowed to have conversations with other women. And I’m right here anyway. If there was anything, he wouldn’t be talking to her.
A few minutes later, Allen and the woman walked back inside. The woman laughed at something Allen was saying, and Lara noticed that Allen had placed his hand on her back for a moment, before walking away to get a drink.
Later that evening Lara asked Allen about the woman. He replied without hesitation, “oh she’s friends with Matt from the office.”
“Well, you spent quite some time alone talking to her …”
“Well she didn’t have anyone to talk to … other than Matt …”
The conversation ended there – the same way that many conversations between Lara and Allen ended. There was more she wanted to say, but she was not prepared to doubt Allen, not enough for a second. It scared her – uncertainty. She wanted to be certain about things. And she married Allen feeling certain that he was a loyal man. She wasn’t going to question him now. If she did once – she would do it again and again. She couldn’t live like that. She didn’t want to feel insecure. She didn’t want to think for a moment that Allen could be with someone else. And she wasn’t going to let Amy change that.
But why was Amy messaging her now? She hadn’t seen her for months. Of course she heard about the divorce. Of course she heard about the other woman. She may even be friends with the other woman. Was she gloating over what happened? One of Lara’s fears was having to face people like Amy. Amy was part of Lara’s circle of friends, and sooner or later, she would have to see her.
Lara was afraid of talking to Amy. She felt the fear creep into her body, and the energy she had woken up slowly draining. I told you not to trust that feeling, Lara. Your happiness doesn’t last. Not now, anyway.
She had already written in her journal about her previous day in Bali, but she needed to write again. She took a deep breath and started writing …
Amy is just one person I am afraid of, but she’s not the only one. This divorce has turned so many people in my life into ghosts. The thought of speaking to them haunts me. Will they say “I told you so”? Are they happy that my marriage has been destroyed? Why is Amy messaging me now? She was never particularly kind to me. She can’t possibly want to be my friend now. She wants me to know that she knows. She wants to make sure I’m miserable. She probably even has something to tell me. Do I even want to listen? If anyone were to ask me what I’m most afraid of doing today, it’s this – speaking to Amy. I’m afraid of how every word she’ll say will make me feel. I’m afraid of hearing that name … that woman’s name. I don’t want to hear it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what ‘dares’ really mean. I’m starting to realize that no one can define a dare for someone else – only we know what we are truly afraid of, and only we know how much courage it takes to face our fears. If I went to a stranger right now and said that I’m so afraid of speaking to a woman called “Amy” – dare me to speak to her – what would the stranger say? But if I went to a stranger and told them to dare me to go skydiving – well, that sounds more like a dare, doesn’t it?
Well, right now, I am more afraid of speaking to Amy than I am of skydiving. That’s the thing about being divorced – it isn’t a private affair. Everyone who knows has something to say about it. And I’m afraid of what they have to say.
Do I have the courage to talk to her? Will it make me feel worse? It probably will. But that’s the “worse” that I am so afraid of. Maybe if I talk to her, I’ll finally realize I can survive what she has to say, even it breaks me just a little bit more. I’m going back to Chicago in a few days.
I can’t hide forever.
“Good morning Eleanor,” Lara said as she walked outside to the terrace after spending an hour in bed, thinking and writing.
“Good morning! I’m a bit lazy today. No yoga for me,” Eleanor said, as she sat drinking her tea, a breakfast tray in front of her.
“That’s fine. It’s a vacation after all.”
“Want some scones?”
“I might just have one and some of the tea. I don’t mind a lazy morning either.”
“Plans for today?” Eleanor asked.
“Let’s do something together,” Lara said eagerly, “I’d love to spend more time with you.”
“I’m flattered,” Eleanor smiled, “but are you sure you don’t have other plans?”
“None at all,” Lara said quickly.
“Well, if that’s the case, then I would love to go to the beach.”
Lara and Eleanor agreed to meet in a few hours and go to the beach together. Lara went for a walk around the resort after breakfast. She was secretly hoping to bump into Emilio. He hadn’t sent her a message, and she felt silly expecting one. She walked near the yoga platform and saw Tia teaching a class. Lara sat on a table next to the pool and ordered a smoothie. She looked aimlessly through her phone, and checked Whatsapp several times to see if Emilio was online. She could message him if she wanted to – he told her to. But it wouldn’t feel right. If he really wants to find me, he will … and Tia … this isn’t right. Maybe it’s best that he hasn’t.
As she sat thinking that it was best that he had probably forgotten about her, Lara got a message – from Emilio.
Good morning. Hope you slept well. How are you today?
Lara stared at her phone screen. She was so excited to hear from him, but wasn’t sure how to respond. He’s just asking how you’re doing, Lara. You can reply to that.
Good morning. I slept well, thank you. How are you?
He was online and typing a response.
I’m just at another hotel nearby for some yoga classes I teach here. I’m good. I want to see you again.
Lara’s heart skipped a beat as she read his message. She knew it was wrong. She knew she was just in desperate need for attention. It wasn’t even about him. It was about how she needed to feel. Lara, he has a girlfriend. But, if you do choose to go out with him … just as friends … that might be ok. Just as friends.
Yesterday was fun. I’m just not sure ….
Just a coffee? I promise not to hold your hand this time.
I’m going with Eleanor to the beach. I don’t think I’ll have time.
After the beach?
That might work.
As Lara looked at her phone, waiting for a response from Emilio, the waiter came with her smoothie. She thanked him and put her phone down on the table to sign the receipt and leave him a tip.
“Are you enjoying your time here, M’am?” the waiter asked.
“Yes, very much – thank you,” Lara said.
She glanced back at her phone after the waiter left, and Emilio hadn’t replied yet. She sipped her smoothie, and indulged in the moment – a very handsome man was interested in her. She didn’t even have to message him first. If only I could show you, Allen, and her … both of you … here I am, in Bali, and there’s this man who ….
“Good morning…” Lara almost jumped when she heard the voice over her shoulder. The phone was right there on the table. The messages were open. Emilio hadn’t replied yet. And as she quickly turned her head around, Lara saw Tia standing right behind her – staring at the phone.
End of Chapter 5 Part 1