Saami’ah hated Saturdays.
“Saami’ah?” Haseena knocked lightly on the door. “Can I come in?”
In the middle of brushing her hair, Saami’ah seriously considered ignoring the woman.
Haseena tapped on the door again. “Saami’ah?”
“Come in,” she gave in.
The door swung open immediately and Saami’ah’s stepmother hurried in as though afraid she was on a time limit.
“Oh!” Haseena gasped.
Saami’ah turned away from the mirror again with a frown. “What’s wrong?” Scanning the room, she saw nothing to explain Haseena’s outburst.
“Sorry,” Haseena apologized. “I’ve never seen your hair before, it took me by surprise. How long have you been growing it?”
Saami’ah fingered the thigh-length waves. “I’ve always had long hair,” she admitted. Her grandmother had never allowed her to do anything more than trim it in their bathroom, maintaining that good girls had long hair. She shook her head ruefully, remembering the fights.
Saami’ah’d hated having to deal with it when she was younger. But even now that it was more inconvenient than ever, she’d never considered cutting it. She simply gritted her teeth through the sweating and discomfort until she’d gotten used to it.
She’d never answered Haseena’s question, Saami’ah realized. Turning to the other woman, she explained, “It’s always been long. My grandmother liked it that way.”
“It’s beautiful,” Haseena told her, oddly earnest. The compliment made Saami’ah uncomfortable. “Thanks,” she replied finally, with ill grace.
She turned back to the mirror, expecting Haseena to leave but Haseena seemed content to stand there and watch Saami’ah get dressed.
“Did you need something?” Saami’ah prompted.
“What? Oh! We’re going out for lunch in an hour.”
Saami’ah nodded. “Okay. When are you getting back?”
Haseena shook her head, a glint coming into her eyes. “No. We’re going out. You too.”
Saami’ah’s eyes widened at the order and she bit back the immediate refusal that sprang to her lips. “I’d prefer not to,” she said lightly, once her temper had subsided.
Spending an entire meal with the people she lived with did not sound appealing.
Haseena frowned. “Why not?” The grumpy look on her face warned Saami’ah to step carefully.
“It’s hard to eat with the niqaab,” Saami’ah leapt on the excuse.
Haseena’s face cleared. “Oh,” she said in a much lighter tone. “Don’t worry about that. I made sure our reservations are somewhere with pardah facilities.”
“Make sure you’re ready to leave by noon please,” Haseena instructed, finally turning to leave.
Saami’ah made a non-committal noise and concentrated on keeping the scowl from her face.
I should’ve just pretended to be asleep, she thought regretfully.
“Saami’ah, time to go!” Haseena called up the stairs. “Saa- Oh!” She caught sight of Saami’ah sitting on the porch. “I thought you were still inside.”
Saami’ah shook her head. “No sense in prolonging things,” she muttered.
“What?” Haseena’s brow furrowed.
“Which car are we taking?”
“The black one.”
Saami’ah stood. “I’ll go wait in the car then.”
Five minutes later, her step-brother had slid into the seat next to hers and they were on their way. Saami’ah had taken the precaution of slipping a set of earphones into her ears while she’d been getting dressed and she wasted no time in drowning out the awkward silence with her favourite playlist.
The music relaxed her and lifted her mood enough that Saami’ah was almost looking forward to the meal by the time they got to the restaurant.
She hung back in the waiting area while Haseena sorted out their reservations, focusing on her phone and only looking up when her name was called.
Haseena stood above her with a pinched look on her face. Her lips were pursed and there were spots of colour high up on her cheekbones.
“Saami’ah, I’m so sorry. There was some kind of mix up with our reservations and they won’t be able to accommodate you.”
Saami’ah nodded silently.
“We can go somewhere else,” Haseena added. “Or…” she trailed off.
Saami’ah knew what she was meant to do now. Volunteer to be inconvenienced so no one else had to be. Resentfully, she did. “It’s fine. I’ll eat with my niqaab on.”
Haseena looked relieved. “Are you sure you don’t mind?” she asked rhetorically.
“It’s fine,” Saami’ah lied. “Let’s just eat.” Quickly, she thought. So I can get back to my bedroom and not have to deal with you all any longer.