Chapter Twenty Four
Writing an exam was the easiest possible way to feel stupid. Saami’ah had spent the past two weeks writing five. She was ready to shun her books for a month – and she’d get exactly that because there were still exams being sat for the next week before their 21 day semester break began.
Adnaan on the other hand had written his first exam on the very first day and was only writing his second on Wednesday. Saami’ah thought the anticipation might be harder for him than actually sitting down in an exam – he’d been panicking harder as the days went by, not that she’d been around much to be witness to it. Saami’ah had spent more hours out of the house than in and she’d only seen the other people she lived with for moments at a time when she bumped into them as she walked in and out the front door.
It had been oddly lonely. Somewhere along the line, she’d gotten used to spending time with people again and not having anyone around hadn’t let her appreciate the solitude. It had made her feel a little hollow instead.
But that would change tonight. It was early Friday afternoon and she’d just finished her final exam. She could afford to sit down to a meal with her father and stepmother – and even the thought that Adnaan would not be there as a buffer didn’t make her anticipation over that bit of routine dim.
She’d missed them. She’d missed the mandatory family advice, and the fussing that Haseena was still prone to every so often. She’d missed her father’s probing questions about how she spent her days. Even though both those things constantly annoyed her when they were happening, somehow the lack of them had been worse.
One good thing that had come out of her spending so much time studying was the friendship that she’d been developing with Laiqah. Saami’ah had had friends before, but it was never quite like this. Those friendships were the product of proximity and she’d cut those ties when she started withdrawing after her grandmother had died. After she’d left, it hadn’t been hard to stop keeping in touch – most of the connections she’d once had had already been fizzling out at that stage.
In this one thing, she was normal. Going off to university did mean finding a new friend group for most people. She’d gone further than the majority of her peers but almost everyone had split away from somewhere, because of the different programmes and schools that people picked now that it was time to specialise and find a niche.
Having a friend (and yes, Laiqah was a friend, even if Saami’ah had found the other girl odd at first) had made the work of the past month a great deal easier to handle. Saami’ah was sure that if she hadn’t had someone else to talk to and complain with, she would have ended up taking her bad mood out on Adnaan or worse, Haseena.
Laiqah’d been incredibly curious about the messed up family dynamics, and about why Saami’ah sounded and looked so different to Adnaan once the two had been introduced, which had been a bit uncomfortable. Adnaan had been no help that day, clearly distracted. He’d gone “Huh?” a lot that day and stared into space.
At home, Saami’ah indulged herself in a steaming hot shower, letting the heat leech the tension from her. She didn’t like to waste the water and usually kept her showers short out of long-ago formed habit, but today was special. Today, she was celebrating.
It was impossible to take a shower long enough to let the water run cold, even when she sat down on the tile and pretended to be in the middle of a waterfall. Eventually, she’d had her fill and climbed out, almost light-headed and exquisitely relaxed. If not for her growling stomach, she might have gone straight to her bed and shut her eyes to take a nap.
She might have been better off if she had just taken a nap. Downstairs, she found chaos. Her father was yelling into his cell phone and shouting down the hallway, having two conversations at once. She couldn’t make out the threads of either one, only picking out the odd word here and there and without a clue as to how to make them match up together.
Once her father caught sight of her though, he quickly ended his call. His frown deepened further as he looked at her and he muttered to himself, “They’ll just have to live with it.”
He held out one of Haseena’s jackets to her, and told her to wait for her stepmother so she could drive her somewhere. “She’s very upset right now and it’s not a good idea for her to be driving, but I can’t wait for the two of you.”
“What’s going on?”
“Your grandmother – my mother, not your mother’s mother – is in the hospital. She was taken there in an ambulance a little while ago. I just got the call now, and I need to head over there to take care of things.”
Her grandmother. Her other grandmother. She was in the hospital. The stench of antiseptic filled her nose and suddenly, Saami’ah was a year younger and listening to a very nice doctor tell her that her grandmother had passed away and ask whether there was anyone they could call for her.
She shuddered. “Is she going to be okay? Your mum?”
“I hope so,” her father told her. “Can you drive your stepmother to the hospital? She’ll be able to show you the way.”
She nodded. “Yeah. I hope everything’s alright.”
“Thank you, Saami’ah. I’ll see you later, okay?”
She stood there and fiddled with the zipper on Haseena’s jacket after he’d left, wondering what was going to happen now. Being rushed to a hospital by ambulance… That didn’t sound good. Was she about to attend another funeral?