What do you do when your world view’s been rocked? Saami’ah didn’t know. But she was fairly certain that the answer wasn’t eating, as Adnaan was trying to convince her to do.
“Come on,” he pleaded. “Mom will skin me alive if she finds out I put you off your food. Do you want that to happen?”
Saami’ah felt an absurd urge to laugh. “I’m not hungry any more,” she said again. “It’s not your fault.
Adnaan looked unconvinced. “Come on,” he wheedled, holding out her plate. “Just a bite!”
Saami’ah shook her head, feeling like a toddler. “I just wanna go up to bed.”
Adnaan’s shoulders slumped and he dropped the act. “I’m sorry, Saami’ah. If I’d known, I would have kept my mouth shut.”
“But you didn’t know,” Saami’ah replied, feeling uncharacteristically charitable. “So just stop blaming yourself already and let me go to bed.”
“You’re not very practiced at this whole consoling thing, are you?” Adnaan commented.
“How did you know?” Saami’ah asked, surprised.
“You kind of ordered me to feel better just now.”
“Oh. Is that… wrong?” Saami’ah asked. It was how her grandmother had reacted when she’d ever been upset.
“Uh, no,” her brother replied unconvincingly. “You’re fine.”
Saami’ah yawned widely, suddenly barely able to keep her eyes open.
Adnaan’s eyes widened comically at the unexpectedly loud sound. “You weren’t kidding, huh? You really are tired.”
“Yeah.” Saami’ah agreed. “I really am. I don’t know how I’m going to get up to bed without making a noise.”
“That’s unexpectedly sweet of you.”
“I just don’t want to have to deal with questions about why I was awake if I disturb them,” she indicated toward the ceiling.
“Saami’ah… the parents know we’re here,” Adnaan said slowly. “You weren’t that quiet.”
Saami’ah blinked. “Then why didn’t anyone?” she mumbled, trailing off.
“Why would they? It’s not like either of us still has a bed time.”
“Yeah,” Saami’ah agreed. “But…” But she was used to adults wanting her to be seen and not heard.
“Relax, Saami’ah. It’s your house too,” Adnaan said gently.
“Yeah, but you’re his daughter,” he reminded her. “So it’s yours too.”
Did he really think that was how it worked? Maybe in fairytales and bedtime stories. But real life was never that kind.
She didn’t say as much to Adnaan. It wasn’t her place to ruin his fantasy. “I’m going to bed,” she said, putting an end to the conversation.
Safely in her bedroom, she collapsed onto the bed with a sigh. It took the abuse with barely a creak. It had taken her so long to get used to such a soft bed, she remembered.
She’d been so used to sleeping on a thin mattress that she’d tossed and turned uneasily for weeks, unable to shake the discomfort.
Now she only had to close her eyes and she was halfway to sleep already.
Saami’ah’s dreams were filled with her grandmother’s voice, admonishing her and declaring that she was just like her wild mother.
The dream shifted and Saami’ah was suddenly thirteen years old again, her cheeks burning with shame as she was yanked away from her friends by her furious grandmother.
The old woman had especially detested Saami’ah ever being paid any sort of attention by a man and catching sight of her granddaughter speaking to a man had infuriated her to no end.
Saami’ah had never understood the fanatical approach that was taken to keep her chaste then. But now, awake and gasping for air – Adnaan’s story from earlier still fresh in her mind – she began to understand.
His words had been true. She was the product of an affair and her grandmother had been willing ti take no chances that she would turn out to be as easy with her affections as Saami’ah’s mother had been before her.
That was why the old woman had been so harsh.
Fresh guilt welled within her as she thought of Haseena. The older woman was completely innocent and yet she’d been the target for Saami’ah’s frustrations.
And Haseena hadn’t been required to allow Saami’ah into her home. It was stunning that she ever had, with Saami’ah being visible proof of her husband’s infidelity.
Saami’ah bowed her head in shame, remembering the many unkind things she’d thought about her stepmother. She owed Haseena an apology. A large one.