Fiction: Masquerade Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve

She woke up somehow feeling more tired than she had when her head hit the pillow. Disentangling herself from the earphones that had somehow spent the whole night glued to her ears took longer than she’d ever thought could be possible – had they merged while she slept?

Eventually, Saami’ah was free to stumble towards the bathroom, yawning and scrubbing at her eyes the whole way. Splashing some water on her face helped push away the fog but her head throbbed angrily from the cold and she leaned over the sink, waiting for it to subside.

Her stomach growled angrily but the thought of food made her feel ill. All she wanted was to go back to bed. There was nothing stopping her, really – she had nowhere to go and no one to see. Now that the truth was out, she didn’t even have to camp out in a coffee shop for the day to avoid any uncomfortable questions.

A sudden, urgent need to yawn battled with the lingering urge to heave and Saami’ah could only groan pitifully as her body tried to obey both instructions, resulting in bile rising to the back of her throat and then sticking there, making the delicate tissues burn from the exposure to the acid.

Another wave of nausea had her clutching at the sink to keep herself upright as her stomach turned itself inside out, expelling its contents into the sink.

When it was all over, she crawled back into bed and pulled the covers over her head. She wanted to step into the shower but something told her that if she got in, she might not be able to get back out. Instead, she lay in bed, trying to find a comfortable position that would ease the ache in her bones.

She shut her eyes and waited for sleep to come.

An angry buzz sounded from the vicinity of her bedside table and Saami’ah flung out an arm blindly, desperate to make it stop. There was a clatter and then, blessedly, silence.

If she’d been less ill, she would have realized that the buzz was from her phone, and more importantly: that no one called her besides Haseena and her father. Instead, Saami’ah fell back to sleep, only waking three hours later when a locksmith who’d been called by her frantic stepmother opened her door.

Initially, when Saami’ah opened her eyes and saw the strange man in the doorway, she thought she was dreaming. She blinked and reached up to rub at her eyes. “Whuh?”

Haseena fairly shoved the locksmith out of the way. “Saami’ah!” There were spots of colour high on her cheeks. “What’s going on here? I thought something had happened to you!”

Saami’ah felt like her brain had been filled with porridge. “What?” she mumbled, trying to fight a yawn. “I was sleeping.”

Ma’am?” the locksmith interjected. “My fee?”

Please go and speak to my husband,” Haseena donned a plastic smile. “Thank you for the help.”

She waited until the man had left before speaking again. “Saami’ah,” she sighed. “I just don’t understand why you would do something like this. I’ve asked you so many times to not lock this door. And with those cords in, you don’t hear a thing when someone is trying to speak to you!” She paused to draw breath, shaking her head. “I just don’t understand.”

Neither did Saami’ah, but she understood the tone all too well. Her shoulders hunched involuntarily and her fingers began to pluck at her split ends. “Sorry,” she tossed out, knowing that usually helped.

Haseena heaved an even larger sigh. “Saami’ah, we both know you’re not being sincere. You’ve been doing this deliberately ever since you got here. Frankly, it’s disrespectful.”

Saami’ah’s head throbbed. “Could we talk about this later? I don’t feel well.”

A funny look crossed Haseena’s face. It was gone before Saami’ah could try to decipher it, and exhausted as she was, she barely realised that things had gone badly at all until Haseena turned on her heel and left without another word to her – pointedly pushing the door open as far as it could go as she went.

Someone was shaking her shoulder. Saami’ah opened her eyes a slit and peered up at the blurry figure. She blinked and it became recognisable as her father. “What is it?” She lifted herself up into a sitting position so she could look at him properly.

You slept all day. Is something wrong?”

“’m just sick.” Why they were making such a big deal over it, Saami’ah didn’t know. It wasn’t like she had lectures to go to. Perhaps they’d forgotten. She reminded her father, the faintly confused look he wore in response confirming her suspicions.

How long have you been feeling sick?”

Since morning.” Saami’ah supplied. She recounted the way she’d woken, still not quite sure what her father was looking for in her answers.

We’ll get you some medicine.”

I don’t need anything expensive,” was her knee-jerk response. Saami’ah had gotten a large shock the first time she’d been exposed to the South African health services. Badly run and expensive, they were so different to the NHS that she’d been utterly lost.

There was a nod of acknowledgement. “Are you hungry?”

Saami’ah could think of little worse than eating at that moment. “No, thank you. I just want to sleep.”

She was left alone then, with the door still wide open. The noise from the rest of the house was annoying to deal with but getting up to close the door was more annoying still. And… Haseena hadn’t wanted her to, right? She’d made someone come in and open it. Or had Saami’ah dreamed that?

She couldn’t tell. Her dreams had been so strange, filled with Haseena, her grandmother, and even her father. It was impossible that they’d ever have been in a room together though.


The door could stay open. Saami’ah would use her earphones to drown out the noise.

But where was her cellphone?

She was so tired. She wanted to go back to sleep. It couldn’t hurt, could it?

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