Driving towards Qurayat, Audrey was up in the front pasenger seat with Masoud while he drove. And Khaleel and Majnoon were in the backseat with me, Khaleel trying to sleep and Majnoon, Celeste and I gabbing about Mandhi and how we three love to eat it, and our differing techniques for consumption.
But I was seated beside Khaleel, not Celeste.
I don't know how the shift had happened, but it had. We had split off into couples. Not real couples mind you, but from that one day I had taken off drifing with Khaleel as a joke, the two of us racing Masoud in a manner to horrify Audrey through the quiet streets of Muscat a few hours before Fajr, I had become rider to his roller.
He had my pillow tucked under his head, and as per usual whenever Celeste, Majnoon and I launched into endless chat, he'd get grumpy and slide off into sleep (or glaring) because his English wasn't quite as rapid-fire as ours. And I had started to compensate for this. It is my natural urge as the former social-butterfly/perenial party hostess to make sure everyone is engaged and involved and having a goodtime.
It was a long drive and somewhere along the line there was one of those military-cum-ROP roadblocks. You know, the ones where the truck with the mounted machine gun and two guys in camo sit in the sun roasting while an Omani man takes your ids and then passes you onward (unless you have tinted windows)? Anyways. the line up from the random highway checkpoint was so long that I had to replace my lipstick (on my lips) around four times. Between eating pretzels and gulping Al Rawabi mango and Vimto, it comes off. Reaching for my handbag the fourth time, tucked as it was between Khaleel and I's rather compacted-together bodies, he peeled open one brown eye and shook his head as if to warn, 'don't you dare do that again.'
Ha! I scoffed, holding up the lipstick and the open handbag, using the mirror on the inner fold of the open handbag to dramatically begin to line my lips with delicious sandblasted coral coloured gushy lipstick paste.
Khaleel's hand shot out lightning-quick and snatched the handbag right out of my hands! He took it, and held it over his head, touching the roof of the vehicle.
I knit my brows and unbuckled my seatbelt.
"You look pretty without makeup," Khaleel purred, while I arched my back, ready for catfight.
I pounced on him, clambering over Majnoon and Celeste in the process and kicking Audrey in the front seat in the head to get my make-up.
As Masoud drove Khaleel unrolled the window and started tossing things out as we went, concealer, eyeshadows, and a few of Audrey's Mother's expensive makeup brushes. I tried to pull his arm out from the window but it was made of steel. I pounded his stupid chest with two small helpless girly fists and then jumped across Majnoon and Celeste to the other side of the vehicle where Khaleel couldn't catch me.
There, mirror-less, I reapplied my lipstick with dramatic flourish.
To Khaleel: "The make up you just through out the window belongs to Audrey not me, soooooooooooo....." I tucked the lipstick safely into the pocket of my jeans.
Khaleel snaked across the floor with his arm and caught my ankle in an iron-grip, pulling me so hard and so quick across the back of the 4x4 that I got carpet burn, and he retrieved the lipstick with little effort.
It flew out the window and disapeared into the sandy-mountain-rocky lanscape behind us.
My mouth was open as wide as the window. So was everyone else's in the vehicle. Except maybe Masoud's, since he doesn't support the wearing of makeup by women anyway.
I think everyone was just more or less shocked by the fact the Khaleel and I had touched eachother and wrestled like children. Except maybe Majnoon, who knew Khaleel's way of joking better than I did. But Majnoon was upset that Khaleeli had thrown my belongings out the window and gave his friend a look of "what the hell?!"
Khaleel settled back into MY pillow, sniggling his shoulders into it, while my mouth still hung open.
"What?" he softly barked at Majnoon, clsoing his eyes smugly. "She looks beautiful without makeup."
Majnoon just shook his head.
"I have to pee," announced Audrey, rubbing her head because I had kicked her in the head, but still so shocked by the last episode expressed between Khaleel and I that she had quite forgotten she had been kicked in the head short moments ago.
"There's a bathroom," Masoud remarked pulling over our circus.
Celeste was smirking at Khaleel and Majnoon and Audrey got out of the car. Masoud was jamming out to 'Madonna' and I turned to Khaleel.
"I can't believe you just did that!"
He opened one eye, looked at me, amused, and closed it again.
I really didn't know what to do.
Majnoon reemerged to the car with Audrey. They settled back in and we drove in rather uneventful quiet until we reached our destination.
Getting out, after camp was set, Majnoon came to me with a small package. He'd got it when we were stopped at the last gas station/convenience store to buy "laham" ie coal and for Audrey to use the bathroom. I opened it slowly and found inside the package the brightest, most frightfully red lipstick I have TO THIS DAY ever comprehended. Majnoon did so in full vantage of Khaleel, who regarded the gesture aptly.
Khaleel opened his mouth to say something but Celeste interjected, "I don't see a ring on her finger."
Khaleel closed his mouth, and Majnoon, before going over back to joking with Khaleel, smiled at me.
"Wear it until he gives you your wedding, hmmm Majnoonah? Then he can throw out all your makeup as he likes to, ha!"
And with that Majnoon went back to slicing pieces of squid while wearing latex gloves with Khaleel, watching a movie on Masoud's laptop, and we girls carried camping chairs to the cliff edge, set out the spread for our barbecue, and practiced the throwing of fishing lines tied to styrofoam. Celeste was a master, Audrey a natural, and I snagged my abaya on two attempts.
I went to the car to pout and didn't know why I was upset.
Khaleel came to see what was up and everybody else was busy so they didn't notice. He had removed the latex glove stained with squid ink.
He leaned against the car while my feet were dangling out and the rest of me was pouting within.
"Why are you not cooking with Audrey and Cela?" he asked me.
I didn't answer for a long time. Then I started... "You don't.... like me.... to wear makeup????"
Khaleel shook his head and smiled softly, this look people don't see because it is only between us, a side of him that he hides from the world most of the time, behind jokes, and being a jerk.
"No," he scratched his stubble. "You look good with no make up."
"But you like makeup?!" I defended. He did. He had pointed to the wedding makeup advert. in his football rag only a few days ago saying such.
"I do," he said, "But not all the time."
"Not on me... in public?" I swallow, leaning slightly out of the vehicle to inquire.
Khaleel throws his hands up in the air. "Do what you want!" and stalks away.
I blink, and get out of the car.
[more to come].
didn't realize then