A/N- Hello! Ramadan Mubarak! I've been speaking to a few people, recieved a couple of reviews...basically some plots have remained open ended, right? All for a reason, my friends.
Until the time comes for that reason to be revealed, I've got a new set of one-shots for you. POVs of different Scarfy characters, I hope you enjoy!
As always, your R+R is appreciated.
Sami: Amongst Scary and Dangerous Females
I have a lot to be thankful for in life. Seriously, I can't even list everything. But the greatest gift God gave me was making me male. It's not arrogance or sexism talking but pure, unadulterated relief that I don't have to spend more time then absolutely necessary in the company of my mother's friends like my sister, Lee, has to. Damn, that girl's got the short end of the stick.
Still, knowing her, you'd never think it.
"Like, Oh, my, gosh, Sami! You're totally being checked out by Sura and her mum," Lee says in an impressively accurate impression of Sura, the girl with a ridiculous American vocabulary and an East London accent.
Sura is hot, don't get me wrong, and I like getting checked out. It's good for ego maintenance after all. But the way Sura is looking at me makes me uncomfortable and for Sami Saqr that is no easy feat.
"Laser vision, Lee, she doesn't blink!" I whisper, eyes switching from one of my mum's friends to another. There are all pretty similar looking with their scarves on. "Why do I have to be here again?"
Lee grins at me but says nothing. Only when I follow her line of vision and see Mama Rami smiling knowingly at us do I realise why. She looks like the only woman there who knows what we're talking about anyway.
Sometimes, I think that woman is so perceptive she must know about what happened between Leila and me. In fact, I'm confident she knows and encouraged her daughter to marry someone else. Certainly for a good reason, the two of us would never have worked out. Mama Rami must have known that, simply turning a blind eye to all the trauma the both of us felt we were going through at the time. She just set us in opposite directions and waited for time and circumstance to heal us.
But sometimes I think that she is just an ordinary mother who saw her daughter slowly going off the rails and married her off to the first fool that came along. I'm just glad that I wasn't that guy. I can say that now knowing more about who I am and who I want to be. Most definitely I can say it after seeing and hearing more about who Leila is as a wife. God is great to have put her with her husband, let's just put it that way.
I stop that trail of thought and exchange a look with Lee. I have a strong feeling she's been watching me, as I drifted off, and understood where I went. She smiled encouragingly and we silently agree that its best we leave impressions and mockery for another time. Instead, I fall silent and am forced to listen to old woman discussion. Mostly it comparing husbands, children, homes – basically it's a pissing contest. They are all trying to prove that they have it better than the other, whilst dutifully playing themselves down to avoid "evil eye".
It is boring.
I easily tune out and notice Sura is still staring. Really, the girl has no shame! Why the hell doesn't she blink?
I decide to play a little game with her. I meet her eyes and hold her gaze, giving her my smouldering. Her lips twitch, her eyes automatically turn to her mother's, calling for her attention. I stay watching a moment longer only to see her mother with a look of huge excitement take over her face. I instantly switch my attention away and I smirk despite myself.
Again, I'm thankful to be male.
I tune back into the conversation around me and realise it's become quite heated. The women are all on the edge of their seats except for Lee, who is leaning back quite comfortably. I catch up fast enough to get the general gist of the conversation - marriage.
I almost tune out again but for the way Lee's feet pointed. Only her toes touch the floor instead of resting it flat against it. That is a clear sign she is close to boiling point, even if her face is remarkably calm. Nobody knows this about her except me and Karim. He is the one that noticed it actually...where is Karim? I am pretty sure Mum forced him to stay here too.
"You have to agree with me, Khalila, you have to," Aunt I-forgot-her-name says with no real weight to her opinion. "It is quite obvious that girls are making our men feel inferior with their sharp tongues. Men are running away from their general distaste for tradition and who can blame them?"
Lee nods politely, pursing her lips and opening her eyes to show interest but I knew she was feeling the opposite, or at the very least wishing she didn't have to agree with these women for the sake of propriety. I wonder if the baby girl she is carrying inside is going to have a similar fate; I can't imagine Lee or her friends ever having such closed minded opinions but that is because I agree with almost everything Lee thinks and says. We think similarly, but maybe I will force her kid to grumble in the future, maybe I'll force her to agree with me.
"Are you thirsty, Sami?" Mama Rami asks me and jolts me out of my thoughts.
I don't say anything. I know it is only a ploy to get me to stop staring at Lee's still-flat belly. I look up and notice Lee watching me. She frowns questioningly and seems to read my thoughts. Her lips purse as she goes through some internal battle, looking at me every time her mind reaches a dead-end. She always overanalyses.
"Women are the cause of increased divorce rates because they are working, have their own income and don't 'need' husbands," another woman says, followed by the murmured approval of the ones around her.
Why? Why is Mama forcing me to stick around this time?
"With all respect, Auntie," Lee begins. She keeps her voice steady despite the way the comment bursts out of her like it can't bear it to remain inside any longer. "Just because women don't 'need' husbands to survive, as you say, doesn't mean they don't need husbands as life partners. It also doesn't mean that they don't want husbands."
The women mutter amongst themselves in differing opinions. I see my mother, on the other side of the living room, stand a little straighter, glare at one particular woman and her comment that I wish I can hear. Mama then looks up at Lee with a strange look, sort of like pride but also like she was afraid of her.
Very peculiar and slightly psychotic but, again, I thank Allah he made me a man and much less complicated.
"Of course, our society is such that if a girl openly declares she wants marriage then it fails her, naming her all sorts of dishonourable names," Lee continued in reply to some lady's view on unmarried girl etiquette. "So we must hide behind wanting a better income and the need to have children as drives. It is more acceptable, apparently, for a girl to marry a stranger out of a desire to breed than for love."
"You have the most sarcastic way of making everyone and everything seem idiotic," the lady snaps, looking at Lee with such disgust.
I hold back a string of curses from erupting and, trust me, it's hard to stay quiet. I can tell Lee is upset by the comment from the way her fingers flex suddenly, but her face shows nothing but an inoffensive smile. I'm sure my face shows a lot more and I'm not even ashamed about it.
"Khalila, my love, can you get your aunt some coffee?" Mama Rami says while there is a slight lull in conversation.
Lee nods graciously, getting up and excusing herself with a disappointed look on her face.
I have no idea why she is dissatisfied when she put all those women in their place like that! Like magic –Pow! Take that you insolent, close-minded women! I stick around only a moment longer to hear the conversation start up again, a mesh of opinions that instantly become a loud roar, before I follow Lee towards the kitchen.
Mum catches me midway and draws me close. She has to have the best poker face in the world, seriously, that is stoic with a major italicisation.
"If you could suggest to her that the two of you leave, in your special way, then I'd be very grateful," she whispers, looking at me unfalteringly.
"You're kicking her out?"I can't believe it! Especially when things are just starting to get better between the two of them. I thought Mum had learned the lesson that trying to shut Lee out was a bad idea but evidently...
"It's for her own good. Any second now these women will turn!" Mum whispers, sounding alarmed but, again, face bland. She looks as if I am asking her about the food she's made. "I don't want her to hear something upsetting."
"Alright, we'll go," I concede, frowning, unable to walk away before I clarify the puzzlement in my mind. "Just for the record, you don't agree with what these women think, do you?"
"It's not as simple as that, Sami," Mum says with patience and understanding. Suddenly the hard face is gone, a little remorse shows before it is up again. She nudges her head in the direction of the kitchen and sends me on my way without another word.
I don't particularly want to stick around anyway. I can have a chat with Mum later, alone, and get a better idea of the world I'm not very much a part of. I'll sit her down and get her to explain to me why she would want me to suffer all afternoon too.
I walk into the kitchen, expecting to find Lee pacing while the water for the coffee boils and going through a range of curses - like she normally does when she is subjected to Arab women groups for too long. But instead she is sitting at the table, looking amused, with Karim.
This is where he disappeared to!
"Sick man!" I greet him with a slap on his shoulder, causing him to smile more. "I need to do the whole silently disappear thing you've got down. Even Mama has forgotten you're here."
"Can't," Karim said, grinning from ear to ear and shaking his head. He took a forefinger and pointed it to his chest. "At least, you can't do it like me."
"Hell, Sami, you can't even do it like me and I'm not that good at it!" Lee interjects, slapping the palm Karim slipped out for a five.
I roll my eyes and sit beside Lee, shaking my head as I pick at the fruit basket in front of me.
"Let's do it my way and just leave then," I say, picking up an eyebrow when neither of them made any attempt to oppose the idea.
"Let me just finish Khala Najiya's coffee, pack up some food for us and then we'll go, ok?"Lee says, jumping up enthusiastically. She stumbles, getting dizzy but Karim manages to keep her upright until her head stops spinning. She smiles at us sheepishly and shrugs. "Still not used to Foetus taking up my blood supply, you know?"
"I think you just need to learn to take it easy," Karim says comfortingly, shrugging as he walks with her to the stove. He waits while she takes out the coffee pot and the jar filled with the rich, dark powder but then takes over. He silences her protests with a disarming smile. They sort of stare at each other in an unspoken exchange and Lee turns into goo, just like that.
I smile, keeping quiet while the two of them had a quiet little conversation, and watch. Lee has always been able to talk to anybody and make them feel like she knows exactly what they are going through. She switches, almost, still Khalila but adapts to whoever she is talking with so she behaves similarly, putting them at ease. With us, all her brothers, it's something I don't think she even notices she does. With me, I suppose she is a little less careful. She's always said she has no filter when she speaks to me, and I believe it to a certain extent. She is definitely more open with me but she still has the worry every good older sister has. She doesn't want to harm us, even if it is from her simply venting.
I watch as she packs some of the leftover food none of us got to eat because we were too busy serving the guests. She is busy telling some story to Karim, obviously a carefree one because of the way his eyes crinkled in mirth. He hardly ever smiled when Lee wasn't around. It isn't because he is unhappy but because Lee somehow brings him out of his pensive and serious, and more predominant, aspect of his personality.
Pretty soon, Lee will be off travelling the world, shooting externals for her film. Karim was only supposed to join her for a couple of weeks, when they were in Palestine but she somehow managed to persuade my mother to let him join her for the whole thing. I'm a little bit jealous, of course, hanging around a film set, seeing the best of the most beautiful parts of the world is far more exciting than filing papers and making coffee at a pretentious law firm all summer. But it's good for them to be around each other, my jealousy doesn't last for long at all.
Lee walks over to me and hands me a cool bag, sealed but heavy in my expectant hands, giving me a playful wink.
"How should we make our escape without Mama getting angry at me?" she asks, crouching a little to kiss the top of my head.
I have no idea what it the affection is given for but I certainly feel gushy from it.
"I'll pull her to one side, distract her, while you and Sami creep out and then I will silently follow," Karim suggests, taking the small coffee pot off the heat.
"So that's how you guys normally do it," she mumbles, walking back to him.
"Foolproof," I add with a nod.
With a plan decided, Lee starts pouring the coffee into the espresso cups. In a little over a minute all three of us will be out of the house and free. It's hard to control the excitement lurching from the pits of my excitement. The three of us haven't just chilled in a long time.
We hear an offensively loud laugh, resounding from the living room and all look at each other with mild disgust. But the feeling is quickly replaced with shock when we hear what follows the cackle.
"Some women have impure bellies, they aren't able to carry boys," the crass voice announced. "It's a little surprising but not unexpected really. She is a wild one, isn't she? Never mind, Neel, maybe your sons will marry better women. Like Najiya's daughter in law bearing her Sabr."
Fury, in its purest form, fills me right up to my head. My eyes feel like they are going to explode the moment they see Lee clutch her stomach protectively. I follow my instincts, my feet react first and storm out of the kitchen but I get dragged back in with such force that I fall back against Karim. It only serves to help him keep me stationed, even as I struggle, my younger brother is stronger than me. That doesn't even matter anymore.
"Some woman just cussed us in our own home," I say, not bothering to keep my voice down. "With idiocy of all things! You think I'm going to let her stay a minute longer?"
Lee rushes in front of me and holds her hands over my mouth.
"Just because you're carrying a girl does not make you a target!" I say, coming out muffled between her fingers.
She gives me a pleading look but I stop struggling only because I'm worried I might accidentally hurt her and Foetus.
"Calm down," she soothes, leaning closer and giving me a kiss on my cheek. It acts like some sort of button because I'm instantly calmer, at least on the outside. Lee sighs, and peels her hand away from me, watching me to see if I would behave or not.
I'm still not sure myself. I still want to show that woman a thing or two about Saqrs but I don't want to disappoint anybody, especially not Lee.
"It doesn't matter what she thinks. I'm not ashamed for having a girl, quite the opposite, I'm overjoyed," Lee says softly and with no hesitation. "What I value the most is that all my family are happy too, and this little girl is going to grow up with people that love her and the thought of being a girl is a gift to them not a hindrance."
"So, let me say that to her," I plead. "Let me just show her that we're not interested in her opinions."
"Your guests have a right over you," Karim says from behind me, reminding me of our old Islamic Studies lessons. "We can't go in their guns blazing, you know better than that."
My mind resolves on the fact that I'm actually powerless. If it was a group of men then I'd have easily retorted calmly with a comment that would have shut them up. That is if my Dad wasn't there, in which case he'd have made them feel an inch high with as little as four words and the look; the surest way to make someone feel like an insect.
"But we can't let her say things like that!"I say, moving out of Karim's grip. The three of us sort of huddle together to talk and I see them exchange another look, as if deliberating with eye expressions on the right course of action. "Look, I know you're both going to say that she's ignorant and her words don't hurt. Normally I'd agree with you but not this time. Impure bellies carry girls? Come on! I thought we were supposed to be moving forward as a society. Letting this kind of thinking go unchallenged is irresponsible!"
"You can't say anything," Lee says, shaking her head. Her eyes bore into mine in full seriousness. "Mum will kill me if I let you tarnish your perfect image. You know why she insisted you guys stick around this time, right?"
"She's parading us in front of the girls and their mothers," Karim replies, rolling his eyes. "I feel so cheap."
"Welcome to the club, I had her sole focus for years before you," Lee says in good humour, trying to relieve the tension.
I'm not so dumb that I get carried away with the new bit of information. It is shocking, yes, but not more so than the lady's comment. It still rings in my ear.
"So if there is no point in speaking to the ignorant, why invite them to our home?" I ask, bringing the conversation back before it gets lost. I can't handle the fact that the lady is still sitting, probably smug, having done all that. Mama hasn't even done anything either! No, it is definitely up to me to honour the family at this time, I just have to do it in the right way.
"If we don't speak to the ignorant, as you say, then they remain so," Lee says, with a big smile on her face, amused at me. Her hand gently touches my cheek and she scrunches up her nose. "God gave us a voice and we should use it against the wrong. Sometimes it is important to stay silent. Sometimes it is right to speak up and clear misconceptions. Just because she said that loud enough to be heard by all doesn't mean that anybody hearing it respects her for it."
"Why do I get the feeling that you've already figured out what to do and it's something I'll never be able to accomplish?" It's more than a feeling, it's an eventuality. Lee knows exactly how to defend herself, much to my mother's annoyance. It may not be socially acceptable for a girl to oppose a woman's view but Lee was no girl. She has as much right as the rest of them, if not more because her open mindedness guaranteed her more insight.
"Let's get out of here, boys!" Picking up the tray, she grins at me and wiggles her eyebrows.
Karim has already taken the bag of food I'd discarded during my rage and looks eager to leave, following her out of the kitchen quickly while I sort of dawdle behind. I see all the heads turn towards them, some focus on Karim, the young girls mostly but some of their mothers did too. Most look at Lee, their eyes full of gossip and analysis.
My mum, being kissed on top of the head by Karim, doesn't seem to notice when Lee stands in front of Mama Rami and hands her the coffee. Mum is solely focussed on Karim as he tells of our plan to leave, looking disappointed but accepting, as if she hadn't suggested it to me moments ago.
Mum doesn't see the way Lee smiles, radiating happiness to the women we were sitting with earlier. Even as her eyes fall on one of them, obviously the perpetrator behind the hurtful words, her smile deepens.
"Those baby hormones must have you doped up," the lady persists in her attack on Lee.
This time Mama breaks her concentration, and her mask, and turns to witness the scene.
"No, it's just that I was taught the true believer does not let words hurt them," Lee says, sounding almost musical as she adds a gentle chuckle. She sets the tray down on the table, kisses Mama Rami twice, blows kisses to a few more people as she bids them goodbye and then turns, almost as an afterthought to the woman, now sporting a sour face. "Oh, and Auntie, that wasn't sarcasm. Does it still make the listener feel idiotic?"
My eyes widen and I feel an overwhelming surge of pride. Karim shoots me a look and speeds out of the living room, face about to burst in amusement. I struggle to hold back the laugh. I fail in fact and it comes out in hissing chuckles. Mum glares at me as I pass her which only makes me want to laugh more and I follow Karim out quickly, bumping into him in the landing and the both of us burst into raucous laughter.
"Quick, you guys," Lee says, rushing to us, red faced and wrapping a scarf on her head with super speed. She slipped into her shoes, grabbed her bag and coat and left the house quicker than it took Karim and me to calm ourselves.
"Tell her she's in big trouble," Mum hisses, appearing in the corridor, pointing a finger authoritatively.
I grin at her, willing that act to drop. I know she is amazed, behind the stern look on her face. I know she is proud of Lee even if she finds it difficult to show it to her.
Mum weakens a little, shows me a hint of a gleeful smile and whispers to me, "I've always wanted to put that woman in her place."
By the time I stood up straight to smile at her, her seriousness returns and she disappears back into the living room.
Women! They say one thing, do another, and look like they mean something else entirely. Man, I'm glad I'm not one.
A/N- Big thanks to Aderyn who is my super brainy Beta.