“You’re back!” A bubbly voice exclaimed.
Saami’ah’s shoulders instinctively hunched and she peeked warily out of the corner of her eye to the left, where the noise had come from. Just as she’d feared, she could just make out the features of the pretty, pushy barista in her peripheral vision.
“Have you been served?” the green-eyed girl asked.
Saami’ah considered lying just so that the girl would go away but her stomach was rumbling and she was in desperate need of breakfast. Reluctantly, she shook her head.
You would have thought she’d handed the barista a chest of jewels. The girl smiled toothily and exclaimed, “Great!” before rummaging in the pocket of her apron to find her order pad which she quickly flipped open.
“So?” she prompted Saami’ah. “What’ll it be?”
Saami’ah scanned the menu, despite knowing full well what she wanted. “A stack of pancakes and coffee.”
“Hazelnut latte?” the girl checked, already writing.
Saami’ah scowled, unreasonably annoyed. “No,” she decided abruptly. “Filter coffee.”
“Are you sure?” The barista frowned, managing somehow to look like a confused puppy. “I thought you always ordered lattes.”
“Okay,” the girl chirped. “I’ll go put this in. Be right back!”
Saami’ah was already exhausted just looking at her.
Or perhaps that was the lack of caffeine. Whatever it was, it was causing a splitting headache that made her feel as though her skull was shattering into jagged shards underneath her skin. She dug her bitten off fingernails into the skin around her hairline, relishing the distraction of the faint sting even though she barely felt it through the layers of cloth wrapped around her head.
The barista dropped off her order and scurried away before Saami’ah could ask why her coffee had been delivered in a paper to-go cup instead of the usual porcelain.
She shrugged and put it to her lips, seeking to chase away her headache and nearly choked at the taste of hazelnut on her tongue.
Stupid, overly-smart barista, she thought irritably. What if she hadn’t just been being spiteful?
Were all the people in South Africa this overbearing? Adnaan had been as was her father, with the way he’d ordered her onto the southern continent.. Haseena… Haseena had been overbearing as well but Saami’ah could pardon her, knowing what she did now.
Still, that made three out of four.
It was discomforting to think that she may just simply have to get used to such behaviour. The only person who’d taken liberties with her in the UK had been her grandmother and only then because the older lady had always known more than Saami’ah herself.
“This is a latte, not filter coffee.” Saami’ah held up the half empty cup. “You need to change my bill.”
The barista’s hair – a mass of curls today – bounced as she shook her head. “Don’t worry about it. You asked for filter coffee so that’s what you get charged for.”
She breezed away before Saami’ah could protest.
Two hours later, Saami’ah reached out her hands in front of her, lacing them together and leaning forward to stretch her stiff arms. She’d been drawing almost the entire time, pausing only to stuff forkfuls of pancake in her mouth at regular intervals. Even she hadn’t been sure exactly what she’d been sketching at first, only that she’d been enjoying the exercise.
The picture had begun to take shape now however. The view outside her old window. She pretended to ignore the ache it made deep in her chest to look down at the familiar view and wished that she’d ever had the foresight to photograph the sight she’d woken up to ever since she could remember.
Life had been so much simpler then. Her grandmother had set out every rule it could ever occur to Saami’ah to even wonder about and she’d always known where she stood. By the time she’d been twelve, she could with almost a hundred percent accuracy predict what would set the old woman off and avoid it.
It had been hard to live in such a restricted environment but it was all she’d ever known and the glimpses of a different world she’d been afforded when eavesdropping on classmates hadn’t ever been enough to make her unsatisfied with her life.
Not in a way that motivated her to plan a great escape. Not like she’d been fantasizing over ever since she’d gotten to this hot, humid country.
Saami’ah heaved a sigh and fanned a hand in front of her face, trying to cool down. The little cafe had air-conditioning but against such heat, it could only do so much.
Eventually, she couldn’t take it any longer. She rummaged in her purse for some cash and folded the bills in half so she could hand them to the barista on her way out.
Then, carefully, she stowed her sketchpad and got ready to leave. She’d hole up in her bedroom and do as she’d used to before Haseena had asked her not to – lock the door and pretend she couldn’t hear the knocking on the door.
It was rude and bratty but Saami’ah simply could not deal with the people in her life for a minute longer or she would end up jumping out the first floor window. She needed space and they didn’t seem at all inclined to give it to her or attempt to understand why she needed it.
God knew her grandmother had never understood. Back then, Saami’ah had grinned and borne it but here, she knew it would not be so simple. She was far too out of practice with tolerating things that made her upset than she had been back then.
You’d never think that it had been less than a year since her grandmother had died if measuring by how much Saami’ah had changed. Should she ever see her granddaughter, Saami’ah’s grandmother would keel over in a dead faint at how unruly the girl had become.
The thought brought her a strange sense of comfort.