Starting Over

Isabelle stared at the vast, bustling city sprawling out before her. She’d seen the pictures, she’d read the blog posts, she’d pored over the travel guides, but this…

It was like an ant colony, she decided. All of those little people down on the streets, driving about in their cars and taxis, were the ants. The towering buildings, the skyscrapers: those were the anthills. 

However, Isabelle decided that maybe the analogy didn’t work after all; this city was much noisier than an ant colony. Was it always so busy? Would she be able to stand listening to all the clamour 24/7?

A twinge of fear pinched in her gut. What if she hated it here in Dubai? What if she wanted to go back home? 

No. She was never going back. 

Her stomach growled, bringing practicality into her thoughts. She might as well go find something good to eat since the city was known for its variety of food. She glanced back inside her flat at her luggage, no more than a large suitcase, a duffel bag, and a small travel backpack. The only belongings of an heiress. 

Part of her was frightened by the concept, but the other part of her was thrilled. She could build a whole new life here from the ground up; no parents telling her what she could and couldn’t be, no societal pressures, just her as one of the vast number in this ever-busy city.

She could hardly tear herself away from her balcony, but once she remembered that she should be back before dark to get some rest and adjust to the time change, she made a decision and went back into the flat. She slid a spotless glass door closed behind her and captured one last glimpse of the sunset glinting off a skyscraper’s windows. 

Isabelle checked her backpack for her wallet and passport, and, satisfied that they were still in place, decided to head out onto the streets. She’d taken the taxi here to her new flat, but now she wanted to walk down the pavement and really get a sense of the city, to breathe it in as her new home. 

The air was dusty as she walked out of the building. She turned around and glanced up, trying to count the floors to find her balcony on the fifteenth. She gave up after a minute, deciding it was next to impossible. 

She turned toward the city and the people walking up and down the roads. A man dressed in a suit with a fedora strode by with his hands in his pockets, grinning as he loudly belted a tune in Italian. 

And then, with a deep breath, Isabelle started down the street. 

The city was an eclectic mix of people and cultures, though she noticed a predominantly Middle Eastern influence. People from all over the world populated every street corner, and it felt good to be in a place where she didn’t stand out. 

Isabelle looked down at her phone to find an address she’d saved earlier. It was an outdoor restaurant that had looked rather intriguing, as the restaurant was nothing more than the size of a food truck. Yet, apparently, the food was amazing. 

It wasn’t too far from her flat, so the walk was rather brief. The restaurant was indeed small, essentially a wooden shack, which made it seem like an anachronism in this city of metal and glass. However, it was stylish nonetheless, the wood stained with sienna hues. There was a long line for the restaurant, and the smell permeating the air made Isabelle’s stomach grumble. 

She looked to her phone for the menu, which she’d had saved for several hours. The restaurant boasted spectacularly grilled meats with their own unique seasoning that, according to reviewers, was to die for. Isabelle had already set her heart on some chicken that came with mango chutney and a side of seasoned potatoes. As she stepped in line, excitement bubbled up within her so much that she hardly minded the wait. 

It seemed like an eternity, but eventually, Isabelle’s turn came. A grinning man with long, dark locks took her order. Even though the restaurant was working efficiently, the young man took the time to ask where she was from. He seemed thrilled that she was from the U.K. 

“I’ve always wanted to go there,” he said with a friendly wave as Isabelle had to move on and wait for her food. 

It was such a funny thing. Isabelle never wanted to see England again. 

As she waited for her food, she had the opportunity to watch the cooks at work on charcoal grills. The scraping of spatulas against the grate reminded her of the grill that her father had blown up when they’d been on holiday in America—but she quickly shook the thought away. She wasn’t going to think about them or miss them.

Her food was handed to her soon enough with a mute, though affable, nod. Isabelle took a bite and flavours exploded in her mouth. People hadn’t been exaggerating about this place. 

The seating area was packed to its limit, but Isabelle was content to stand and watch. With so many people constantly moving about here and there, Isabelle wondered if she could ever hope to befriend anyone in this city. 

But now, at least, she could choose her own friends. She could actually be herself and make her own decisions. 

Finally, she was free.

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