Fiction: Masquerade Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten

Saami’ah felt like she was going to crawl out of her own skin. She appreciated that they were trying to be nice and include her but if she didn’t get some alone time – and soon – she was going to run around the house shrieking like a wild animal.

Figuratively. Probably.

She didn’t understand how they could all be so clingy and in one another’s space for so long without getting a headache. More than a handful of hours dealing with any one person made her long for her own bedroom with its lock and isolated, quiet space.

Yet another way that she was entirely different from them all. They probably thought she was weird and ungrateful, but she couldn’t change her reaction. She had not said anything – she did possess some sense – but she’d begun to withdraw more and more as time went by, not entirely deliberately.

Maybe she could pretend to be sleepy? It would be a thin excuse but it was the best she could do. It wasn’t like she could use homework as an excuse any more. Speaking of which… her father had still not addressed the situation at all.

After interrogating her on what she liked to do, they’d been called by her stepmother to eat lunch. She’d spent the meal devoting herself to her food and filling her mouth accidentally on purpose any time someone seemed to want to speak to her.

Her stomach ached from how much she’d stuffed it with chicken, mashed potatoes and the spicy corn Haseena loved to set out so often. Saami’ah had overeaten so much, she actually did feel slightly drowsy from the overload.

She blinked slowly from where she sat curled on a chair while the rest enjoyed a cup of tea. They liked tea almost as much as the world’s most stereotypical British person but Saami’ah couldn’t stand the spicy ‘masala’ variety they all drank.

She saved her tea drinking for the coffee shops she camped out in. It wasn’t great but it was enough to just barely satisfy her craving. Sometimes. If she pretended.

Good tea (loose leaf tea) was non-existent here, however. Saami’ah had just come to accept that good tea was out of reach for now. Until she got back to the UK. If she ever did again, that was.

When she’d off-handedly mentioned it, in the middle of explaining to her father about a small band that she enjoyed listening to and couldn’t wait to hear again, he’d gone rigid and his face had clouded over.

Saami’ah had gotten the hint and quickly changed the subject, pretending that the air hadn’t just gotten heavy with his disapproval. It had been her tactic for attempting to keep the peace when she lived with her grandmother from the tender age of six, the first age she’d been old enough to notice when the old woman would go pointedly silent and the way her irritation would show in her body language.

It only ever helped so much but the action was now so ingrained a habit in her that she did it automatically.

Adnaan groaned, reaching up to extend his arms and then contort himself into various uncomfortable looking positions. “I ate too much,” he complained, patting his middle. “Someone’s gonna have to roll me off this couch.”

He looked directly at Saami’ah. “You ate properly for once,” he commented.

Adnaan,” her – their – father scolded sharply.

It’s true!” he exclaimed defensively. “She’s always darting off to her bedroom. Usually she barely eats anything so she can leave faster.” Saami’ah couldn’t tell if he was offended or amused.

And that has nothing to do with you, does it?”

Adnaan scowled, looking put out. “I was just saying.”

Well talk about something else.”

Come on, Dad-”

Adnaan, son, it’s been a long day,” Haseena intervened. “Just drop it.”

Adnaan stuffed a biscuit in his mouth and began to chew.

Haseena turned to me and put a smile on her face. “I’m glad you enjoyed the food tonight.”

Saami’ah returned the smile. “It was great.” Haseena’s food was always good. Eating with a group, on the other hand…

She shifted uncomfortably. “Um, I’m actually kind of tired. I think I’m going to head upstairs.”

We’ll see you tomorrow then.”

Saami’ah nodded lamely. “Right. Um, bye.”

Back in her bedroom, she breathed a sigh of relief and collapsed fully clothed onto her bed, letting the comfortable mass swallow her.

She should probably get up and get undressed, but it was just so much easier to lie there and pretend to be a statue. If she got up, her brain would begin replaying the insane events of that afternoon and she’d once again begin to fret about the strange behaviour the adults in this house seemed to constantly exhibit.

Maybe it was just because they weren’t British but Saami’ah could not predict what they would do at all. Unlike her grandmother or her teachers or, really, anyone she’d known back home in their village.

Saami’ah groped for the earphone cords she knew would be trailing over a bedside table and cursed, stretching until she finally caught them. Half a minute later, she was scrolling through her playlists, trying to find something soothing to calm herself to sleep.

She’d wake up once the rest of the house was asleep and do everything she hadn’t gotten the chance to because of the ambush she’d walked into.

With that happy thought, she began to drift off into slumber.

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