Fiction: Masquerade Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Fifteen

The pushy barista from her coffee shop?

Saami’ah blinked rapidly, trying to reconcile this information. The barista was a student at her university. Possibly even from her faculty, if Saami’ah was reading the title on her textbook correctly.

“Sorry!” the girl chirped. “Wasn’t looking where I was going, as usual.”

“It’s fine. My fault.

The girl’s eyes narrowed. “Do I know you? Your voice sounds familiar.”

“The coffee shop,” Saami’ah admitted reluctantly.

The barista’s eyes widened in recognition. “Oh, right! The reluctant hazelnut latte girl.”

The what?

The barista blushed lightly and Saami’ah realised she’d voiced the errant thought. “It’s what I call you – or called you, you don’t come around much anymore. I didn’t know your name, so…” She trailed off.

Saami’ah shifted. “Right.”

The barista smiled. “This is the part where you tell me your name?” she prompted.

“Saami’ah.”

“Nice to meet you, Saami’ah.” The barista juggled her armful of books and backpack and stuck out a hand. “I’m Laiqah.”

“Hi.”

“I’ve never seen you on campus before,” Laiqah commented.

“It’s sort of a new thing,” Saami’ah admitted. “I’m trying to catch up.”

Laiqah grinned. “Same. I’m not the most conscientious student. But, if you want,” she stuck a hand in the bag that hung off her shoulder. “Here, put your number in. I could use a new study buddy.”

Saami’ah exchanged numbers with the girl and made her way to the library, still feeling bewildered. Why was she – Laiqah, apparently – so friendly? It was unnerving. Who even offered a stranger a phone – Saami’ah knew better and she’d grown up in a village that barely had a police station, it was so small.

Was the girl a cartoon character?

Saami’ah’s phone buzzed with a text from an unknown number. ‘Hi!’ it read. ‘It’s Laiqah – you know, from Roasted, Not Burned?’ The words were followed by a string of coffee cup emojis.

Another buzz. ‘What classes are you taking? I forgot to ask, how silly. Tell me which ones and I’ll dig up all the stuff I have on them to forward to you?’

Third buzz. ‘Oh, what’s your email address?’

Saami’ah switched her phone to silent and pulled out the list of books she’d written earlier, beginning to wander the stacks in search of them. Fifteen minutes later, frazzled and panicking, she shot off her first text to Laiqah. ‘Why are all the textbooks missing?’

‘Oh, they’ve been booked for months. Since the first day of classes. You’re going to have to buy them or download pirated copies. This late in the year, there aren’t many second-hand books available but you could try the online bookstores maybe?’

Saami’ah opened her phone’s browser and began to search. As she looked, she kept a mental tally. By the time she’d gotten to the final book, she was ready to be ill. Why was it all so expensive?

Her mind was still focused on the alarmingly large total when she got back to her father’s house. Haseena met her almost as soon as she’d walked in. “You were gone a long time,” her stepmother commented. “Where’d you go?”

“I was at the university.”

“Oh? Why didn’t you tell me they’d called you in? I would have gone with you. We could have talked to them about arranging a deferment for you. It might not be too late actually…” Haseena trailed off, checking her watch. “If we leave now, we might get there before the admin staff have left for the day.

“I already talked to the Dean.” Saami’ah explained the deal she’d worked out.

“That’s wonderful,” Haseena praised. “I’m proud of you for sorting it out by yourself, Saami’ah. Well done.”

Saami’ah blinked. “Thanks.”

“What are you going to need? Stationery, tutors? Oh, some extra books maybe?”

“Um, textbooks, it looks like.” Saami’ah shifted, feeling uncomfortable. “I don’t think I’ll get them all though – they’re pretty pricey. The library’s all out of copies so I’m going to have to buy a couple, but I’ll try to work out what’s urgent and plan it all out.”

Her stepmother shook her head. “Buy everything. What’s the total amount?”

Saami’ah told her, expecting shock.

“Alright,” Haseena agreed easily. “Here, take my card and buy everything online. Give it back to me when you’re done.”

Saami’ah gaped after her. What.

The second she thought she’d figured out the people she lived with, they did something else to throw her off balance. Haseena had just handed her a credit card – and yes, she’d get a bank statement at the end of the month detailing what Saami’ah had done with the thing. But still!

She would never understand South African people. It seemed they were all insane. Maybe this was why the crime statistics were so insane, because people didn’t grasp the concept of suspicion.

Who knew… not her, at least.

 

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Take full advantage of what you’re being given.

 

She pulled out her cell phone and checked out the full cart, wincing again at the final amount once shipping had been calculated. It may not have been her own money but it was still someone’s, and Saami’ah couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of irresponsibility. The money could have been stretched further, by a lot, if only she’d had the time to wait.

Adnaan found her dithering in the corridor. “What are you up to?”

“Buying textbooks. Well, I bought them. I’m… digesting.”

“Huh?” He stared at her. “What are you talking about?”

“Never mind. Let me go give your Mum her card back.”

He stepped back to let her pass and then fell into step beside her. “You’re starting uni again?”

“Yep.”

“Does Dad know? It might help his blood pressure to know you’re deciding to be responsible when I tell him I’m dropping out.”

“I thought you were almost done.” She’d heard Adnaan complain about the remaining few credits he had outstanding more than once.

“I am,” he agreed. “But I want to survive to next year and these things are draining the life from me.” He slumped comically as though there was a physical weight on his back. “I’m done. I’m quitting.”

2 thoughts on “Fiction: Masquerade Chapter Fifteen

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