The Great Apple Juice Fiasco
Early February, the temperature in the whole of England had been taken down several notches and it was snowing. An excitement buzzed amongst the Londoners for the days off school or work, the snow fights and at the blanket of pure white on the city's mostly grey landscape.
I would be excited, I would be jumping for joy except that my boss was a sadist. Even if there was a blizzard on the way, if there was a typhoon or anything where millions worth of government money would be lost in a minute and the whole world had hit a standstill I would still need to work. If there was no way whatsoever I could get into work, thousands others given the day off, I would need to work from home. The life of a scriptwriter is not as glamorous as it might sound.
My name is Khalila Saqr. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Ca-lee-la Suck-ker. Well it wasn't the way to pronounce it but it was how everybody else, non-Arab and sometimes a few Arabs, pronounce it so you needn't worry about it. My mother is Egyptian, born there and raised in Paris and Tokyo. 6 months in each city, every year for the first 20 years of her life. You'd think that knocked the Arab right out of her? Hell no! Typical Arab, through and through. She met my father, Syrian born and Syrian bred, on a transit flight from Cairo to Aleppo to London. They fell in love, got married, had me!
I was their little angel, soft blonde curls and almond shaped grey eyes, not an attention seeker because I got it anyway. Not spoilt because my grandmother wouldn't allow it but still completely allowed to run amuck. Some things never changed. It was just the three of us for a good eight years and then out popped four more. All boys, two years between each of them…it's almost like they planned it. All extremely confident, superbly brilliant, gorgeous, charming, conniving and evil with a variation in personality that made them all get along perfectly to create an almost unstoppable force of destruction.
Almost because of course, my mum was a force to reckon with all on her own. I'm grateful to say I do not live in the same house as them, miss them like crazy? Sure. Live with them? I'm not suicidal. I moved out of home when I went to Exeter university, all the way down in Cornwall, which is in the little pointy bit on the bottom of the UK if you didn't know. I had a brilliant time there, learned to surf, learned to be independent, learned to juggle fun and work, a little shakily but I did alright in the end and by that point I felt that I had done almost all I wanted to do that I couldn't do in a Hijab. That is the Islamic headscarf. For that reason and a couple more spiritual ones, I decided to wear it! And have done ever since.
I live with my best friend Onoko. Not Japanese like her name might suggest but Mauritian. 5'6, long black hair that was so thick and straight it looked like a dark waterfall on her back. She has naturally tan skin and big round eyes, brown and bright that you can't miss them and a smile that could make anybody happy. Her dad, a national airline pilot, had been so happy that his wife called mid-air to inform him of their baby girl that he took one look outside the window onto an oil tanker and named her after it. No such thing as Onoko oil, it was actually Orialco Oil company. Turned out he was overdue for an eye test.
At that moment, the two of us were vegging in front of the TV having a Captain Planet marathon. Classic!
"I'll never understand why Baddies always disclose their plan before it's complete! They're just asking for trouble aren't they?" Onoko said, taking the Gobstopper she'd been working on for the past two hours out of her mouth and having a short break from it.
"Could be a medical condition. Inflated self-esteem and an unnecessary tendency to say what you're thinking are both symptoms of a Manic Episode and can be linked to Bipolar Disorder," I suggested. Or, like me, the writers spent too much time thinking of the back story to not mention it in the script. Sometimes people just didn't get it otherwise...or so we liked to tell ourselves.
Onoko looked at me pensively and then nodded towards the T.V. where Duke Nukem was monologue-ing.
"Deep beneath that evil radioactive exterior lies a troubled uranium heart," she said solemnly. I nodded in agreement. That was a good line, I should've written that down and used it somewhere.
"Duke Nukem deserves our sympathy, not our hatred."
"If only he would learn the lesson that every other bad guy should," Onoko said waving her gobstopper around.
"He can't. He's a bad guy, he's arrogant and self involved, he's convinced his plan will work so he's going to tell the world about it."
"I wish I had an evil plan," she sighed and put the large sweet back in her mouth, her attention returned to the cartoon and I couldn't help but worry about her state of mind. I patted her shoulder sympathetically and waited for the second sigh…aw, there it was.
"Hey guys, what'chya doing?"
We lived with another girl, Michigan. A Canadian international student who was the sweetest girl I'd ever kept the company of, not because she had flawless patience and endless kind thoughts but because I couldn't really stand 'sweet' girls so much and she was the most I could put up with. She has the bluest of blue eyes, blonde hair that falls to her shoulder neatly (and she's had it the same way in the two years I've known her, never tied up or anything, always immaculate...peculiar to say the least) and was the tallest out of three of us at 5'9. She was a stunner no doubt and a devoted housemate and friend when she had her moments.
"Watching Duke about to Nuke 'em," Onoko said to her as she sat beside her, the gobstopper popping in and out of her mouth while she spoke, giggled and sighed. I could practically see the bacteria growing.
The front door opened and shut with a slam and I turned around at the sound of heavy footsteps coming towards us in the living room. I should have mentioned before, we had a fourth part-time/honorary housemate; Jessica. The gasp and incomprehensible muttering coming from the corridor was coming from her. She actually had her own place but she was always hiding from something, or more accurately someone, so spent most of her nights sharing my bed with me.
Jess was my closest friend from school. Maneater and energizer-battery-powered-playboy-bunny-extraordinaire, she picked guys up faster than you can sneeze and dropped them before you reached for the tissue. She was a slut but God, I loved her. Straight to the point, fast witted, a sick sense of humour and with a laugh that could rival the Wicked Witch of the West.
"Need to stay over again Lils," she said to me, making herself comfortable on the other sofa.
"Who is it this time? You never said," Michigan asked interestedly. Her Canadian accent a noticeable contrast to Jess's Chester accent, which she still hadn't quite lost despite moving to London when she was 11.
"Would you have remembered if I told you?"
"Nah probably not," all three of us said at the same time. Jess smiled proudly at me and I couldn't stop the head shake or smile. Michigan walked into the kitchen and we all heard a gut wrenching intake of breath. Like when you walk in on a murder or something.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Onoko called out to her worriedly.
"She's run out of apple juice again," I said to Onoko, unfazed by the dramatics. Michigan ran back into the living room and stood in front of us, alarmed and distressed.
"I've run out of apple juice!" I let myself enjoy a small smile before returning my attention to Michigan. "I was so sure I had another carton!"
"Better inform neighbourhood watch." The sarcastic in me could not be controlled. Michigan began to pace back and forth in thought.
"I wouldn't do that, I'm avoiding Jimmy at the moment," Jessica said seriously, knowing I meant it as a joke. Oh, she must have moved onto the guys on our street.
"Jimmy? He's nice!" Onoko defended our very friendly neighbour.
"Clingy," Jess said distastefully. Onoko looked at her surprised. Clingy to Jess was like nodding in acknowledgement after sex.
"I'd never have pegged him as clingy. Did he call tons?"
"Oh yeah, he called like a couple of days after we hooked up and then he saw me on the street the week after and was asking too many questions," Jess explained.
"Like how I was and stuff." She shuddered dramatically and Onoko raised an eyebrow in my direction, obviously amused. Michigan finally sat down after all her pacing with the empty carton in one hand, looking at it sadly.
"We can get more juice from the shop if you like?" I suggested, merely as a hint that the shop was only down the road and it wasn't the horrible catastrophe she was making it out to be. Michigan looked up at me happily.
"Hey you going? That'll be great thanks babe. Can I get three? I don't want to run out of juice again." I felt my jaw drop all the way to my lap. What was I saying about her being a sweet girl? I looked at Onoko who shrugged at me. I suppose I did get myself into that one. Should have kept my big mouth shut and let her puppy-dog eye that carton for all the time in the world.
"Alright, anybody else?" I offered as I got up. I was still dressed, still had my headscarf on and we were running out of ice cream anyway.
"We're going to be out of milk tomorrow," Onoko reminded me, not bothering to take the sweet out this time, so it just came out as a mumble.
"I wouldn't turn down Coke," Jessica said hopefully, her face turning into a grin as soon as she changed that sentence into something dirty. No, she certainly wouldn't mind that.
"Maybe some munchies since we're all here now. You can't have a Captain Planet marathon without Potato Chips, can you?" Michigan added as an afterthought. Potato Chips, why did they have to complicate things on the other side of the Atlantic. They were Crisps. Crisps!
"Or biscuits," Onoko imputed, mumbled. She sucked up the saliva in her mouth, slurping noisily. I couldn't believe I lived with these people.
"But get the Viennese kind 'cause they're the best," Jessica said, looking at me thoughtfully. Ah, Jess! She wouldn't leave me to go to the shop alone. She was my pal, my bud- "Maybe you should write this down Lils." Ok she would.
"Have we got coffee?" Michigan asked, the question directed at Onoko, our hot drinks expert. Onoko nodded, her mouth full of the gob stopper. She sucked the saliva again and took it out. Seriously, I thought my brothers were disgusting.
"We're out of hot chocolate though, Khalila made us some this morning," she said to Michigan. Apparently I'm the errand girl or something, just being overlooked. What did a girl have to do to get noticed around here? Whip off her head scarf and tie it around her waist in a belly dance extravaganza? Michigan looked up at me and smiled kindly.
"I suppose you'll have to get some hot chocolate too. Thanks Babe!" I turned around slowly, shocked, though it really shouldn't have surprised me. I knew my housemates were lazy pieces of shi-
"Lils!" Jessica called me back. Hope rekindled! I turned around and saw her smiling at me and she passed me a note. "Wrote it down for 'ya."
"Thanks," I said grudgingly, grabbing my jacket before they thought of anything else.
"Don't know what I'd do without that girl. Love her to bits," I overheard Michigan say and the girls murmured in approval. My annoyance melted right down. I shook my head smiling. I was such a push over...so easily comforted.