Fiction: Masquerade Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty

Saami’ah had been sitting in lectures for three hours and she knew one thing for sure – she was completely out of her depth. Her hand ached and it took her a moment of concentration to uncurl it. Her fingers seemed to have up and decided to go on strike and she couldn’t blame them. It had been half a year since she’d done any kind of serious writing and she’d quickly fallen out of practice. She hadn’t brought her laptop with her to class because its battery had been draining every fifteen minutes like clockwork whenever she tried to unplug it from the wall socket, but she was now regretting not taking advantage of the little bit of respite the device would have given her. She was going to have to figure out how to repair the battery or get a replacement.

It was odd to think that she could just go up to Haseena or her father and tell them that she needed something in order to receive it. When she’d lived with her grandmother, they’d shopped in charity shops and secondhand markets a lot, and Saami’ah had learned to make do with what she had for as long as she could because there often wasn’t money to spare in their budget for unexpected expenses. Even the expected expenses were tough to deal with. Her grandmother had worked, and worked hard but she’d been old and there’d been only so much that she was able to do at that age. She’d had Saami’ah’s mum when she was over thirty and then by the time Saami’ah herself had come along she should have been getting ready for the early retirement she’d planned for. Her grandmother had been seventy four when she’d died and she’d never even gotten to retire because Saami’ah hadn’t finished school yet. Fourteen extra years that she hadn’t been bargaining on because Saami’ah’s mum hadn’t wanted a baby.

It barely stung now to think of the young woman who’d been unable to cope with her and so ready to hand her off like an ill-fitting piece of clothing. Saami’ah had never gotten to bond with her mum very much at all. She’d been too young to make many meaningful memories of her and her mum hadn’t been ready or able to spare the time for a toddler who wanted attention and care. When she was younger, Saami’ah had dreamed of her mother coming back and carrying her off like a fairy godmother, having gone away and become rich and successful and so ready to treat Saami’ah like a little princess.

At first, she’d shared her imaginings with her grandmother, desperate for someone else to agree and reassure her that Mummy was going to come and take care of her the way she saw other little girls’ mothers do for them. Mummy would be there to run around and play with her and help her do her hair nicely. Her grandmother’s hands were too gnarled and shaky to do anything but pull her hair and Saami’ah had always been jealous of the other girls’ fancy, pretty hairstyles when she got to school with her half-falling-open ponytail.

Her grandmother had hated the daydreaming and had often scolded her for it. Daydreaming was a sin in the old lady’s eyes. She believed it caused flightiness and always insisted that Saami’ah spend the exact amount of time praying to make up for it whenever little Saami’ah tried to share.

Saami’ah hadn’t been able to share with the other kids at school either because it would have meant her admitting that she was jealous of them. So her little daydreams were her very own secret and she’d used to use them to lull herself to sleep at night when she’d been having a bad day or on the occasion that she had a nightmare.

When she got older, she learned enough about the circumstances surrounding her arrival into the world to first resent her mother for leaving her and then hate her father for abandoning them as her grandmother revealed different parts of the story. Sometimes she wondered who exactly had been telling the truth about it all, and whether it was possible that her grandmother had chosen to lie so blatantly about everything when the old woman had been so adamantly against lying in every other situation.

Her gut told her that Haseena and her father had been telling her the truth, especially when she considered Adnaan’s age, but the loyalty she still held to her grandmother made it hard for her to not automatically go to defend the old woman, even in her own head. It was harder to let go of that loyalty than it was to accept that her mother had abandoned her. She could understand the motive for her being dumped off with her grandmother. She could not understand why the grandmother who hadn’t been able to manage caring for her had insisted on keeping her and ensuring that she wouldn’t want anything to do with her father.

Hadn’t she heard more than once that her father’d taken advantage of her mother? Hadn’t she heard more than once that she was better off without him? Hadn’t she been told the one time that she’d threatened to run off and find him so that she could live with him that she was welcome to go and she’d sorely regret ever leaving?

Saami’ah wished she could go back and talk to her grandmother again, maybe even call the old woman’s bluff. Now, two of the people who could have given her their sides of the story were dead and she was forced to try to make up her own mind about the third, without being able to listen to all the factors.

It was uncomfortable, even more uncomfortable than asking her father or stepmother for things. But as with that, she supposed she was just going to have to get used to it. For the time being, there was no other option available to her.

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