Fiction: Masquerade Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen

Saami’ah still didn’t quite understand what the big deal was – but the heart of the message was clear. She’d messed up big.

She hated not being able to lock the door behind her, but Haseena had been crystal clear. Either the door stayed open, or there wouldn’t be a door. Saami’ah’d picked the obvious option.

In a way, it relieved her to finally know where the line was. She did better with clear boundaries, always had.

Adnaan had even unwittingly taken some of the heat off her by irritating his parents with questions about some relatives. Saami’ah didn’t know who they were, but then she didn’t know most of her father’s family. They’d all introduced themselves in one long string that first time she’d met them all – about a week after she’d flown into SA. She’d been carted along to a giant family get together, which they’d called a braai.

It had been exhausting to meet so many new people who all knew her name and seemed to very easily forget that she knew nothing about any of them. Perhaps seeing that, her new ‘family’ hadn’t taken her along to the monthly get togethers after that. This was something that didn’t bother Saami’ah. The very thought of being related to such a large crush of people was overwhelming, even now.

Family, to Saami’ah, had always been a set of lukewarm, duty-filled bonds with people. Her grandmother took her in for the sake of duty, her mother shirked her own duty and abandoned Saami’ah – as had her father. Except… he hadn’t, not from the story he had to tell.

Saami’ah still didn’t know what to believe there. It was hard to reconcile this new truth with what she’d been told all her life: that no one had wanted her, and her grandmother had been saddled with her.

That one truth had formed the foundation of her identity. She’d always been careful not to impose herself on people, careful to go with the flow and stick to the shadows while she learned the rules of their networks.

It had earned her a reputation as a loner, and a strange one. Saami’ah had found the role easy to slip into. No one made demands of her as a loner. No one pulled her in, only to abandon her when they found something better.

She was unobtrusive. At least, she had been back home.

Here, the rules were upside down, the people were upside down… Saami’ah herself was upside down. She couldn’t make sense of her own emotions even. And they were so strong, stronger than they ever had been at home.

It was as though some kind of barrier had broken within her, and everything was spilling out, contaminating her like an exploded ink cartridge. Deep down, she knew she’d never remove the stains, that they were slowly becoming part of her new self.

She’d never thought much of herself, as it was. Her grandmother had been adept at seeing the signs Saami’ah was beginning to grow a big head and had always been quick to deflate her. The old woman had been determined that Saami’ah would grow to be different than her mother, and she had. They looked similar, but inside… Saami’ah was nothing like the vibrant woman who lived between the pages of the old photo albums Saami’ah’d once spent hours looking through.

Except… her mother had ruined her life and Saami’ah was in the middle of tearing her own to shreds. She’d wasted more money in one year than she’d ever possessed before, all because she’d been in a new place and she didn’t like being ordered around.

Her grandmother would be so disappointed in her if she’d been alive to see that. But then, if the old lady had been alive, Saami’ah would still have no idea her father even knew she was alive.

That was irrelevant though. She’d been reckless and irresponsible and now she needed to fix herself before she slipped any further and truly ended up in the dirt.

She’d attended barely a class – would it even be possible for her to scrape together enough knowledge in the little time remaining before she had to sit exams? Was it even worth the bother of trying?

Yes. If they let her, at least. She had nothing else to do, after all.

It was going to be humiliating to try and beg for a second chance, but Saami’ah was adept at swallowing pride. It was necessary to live with her hardy grandmother, and Saami’ah knew she hadn’t forgotten the old skill.

It was time to pull it out, dust it off, and put it to use. Time to put herself back to use instead of languishing like some princess with no sense.

If only she’d come to her realisation at a more convenient time of day than 2:14AM. She rolled her eyes at herself and stretched to try and grab her laptop from the edge of her desk.

Then she scowled. She’d just resolved to be less lazy and she was avoiding getting up out of bed? She really had gotten pathetic.

In fact… Saami’ah bypassed her desk entirely and entered her bathroom. She’d get ready for the day now and spend the next few hours trying to find her university’s appeals process. There was no reason to lie in bed and waste time, after all.

The beady-eyed professor looked Saami’ah up and down dubiously. “You understand that it’s very unlikely you will manage to pass any of these modules, let alone all six? It would be far more productive for you to simply take two or three – you’d satisfy the university’s condoning requirements and that would be that. You could start again next year.”

I’m sure,” Saami’ah insisted firmly. She’d been fighting her case for three hours with four separate people and she was exhausted. But this was the final hurdle. If she got the Dean to sign off on her scheme, she’d be golden.

The bespectacled man sighed. “Very well. I am, against my better judgement, going to allow you to attempt this. I appreciate your candour, though I do think you are biting off far more than you can chew right now.”

Thank you!” Saami’ah ignored the cautioning. She’d been warned against her plans several times over the course of the day already – and besides, there was no need to defend herself. She was getting what she wanted anyway.

She waited while the paperwork was filed electronically and then hurried to the campus library. Now that she’d ticked off the first and most important item on her to do list, it was time to start studying – and there was a stack of books as tall as her knee that made up the required reading she’d missed out on so far. She needed to catch up, immediately.

So impatient was she to finally start doing something that she nearly crashed into the girl heading in the opposite direction on the crosswalk.

Saami’ah wobbled, catching her balance and looked up with an apology on her lips for the unsuspecting stranger. But it wasn’t a stranger at all!

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