Love, Curry, and All Things in Between

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Chapter 3

That night, Hassan ran up the stairs to Fatima’s room after dinner. Not bothering to knock, he announced his arrival with a flourish of the door and a demand of “Move over!”

She stuck her tongue out at him, scowling, before scooting over to the other side of her queen bed, and he plopped down beside her.

“Do you know a girl named Anaiya?”

Fatima raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“I said, do you know a girl named Anaiya. In my grade.”

Fatima smirked. “Is there something you need to tell me?”

Hassan grinned. Fatima was, if nothing, a great gossip. “I think Shayan has a crush.”

“Anaiya… Anaiya.” She thought for a second before pulling out her iCell, fingers flying. A moment later, she giggled. “Novy knows a girl named Anaiya who goes to Seven Hills.” She opened up Anaiya’s Instagram and clicked on the most recent picture. “Is this her?”

Hassan nodded, smirking.

Fatima laughed. “Well, Novy has her phone number. And there’s no way Shayan will get her to go out with him on his own… You ready for some matchmaking?”

“It’s all for Shayan’s own good, right?” Hassan replied innocently, making a contact for Anaiya on his iCell as he copied her number off Fatima’s phone.

“Shayan and Anaiya,” Fatima said thoughtfully. “The ship name should be… Shaiya! Yes! I ship it!”

Hassan smirked. “What do we do now?”

Fatima grinned. “Oh trust me, I’m a pro at this. We just need a recording of Shayan admitting his feelings for her. And then we text it to her! Easy.”

The rest week passed quickly in a blur of being annoyed at Tommy, playing cricket with Shayan after school, flunking quizzes, and hanging out with Jason and Owen. Hassan woke up at 1:00 on Saturday morning, feeling absolutely done with all things school-related. He glared at the backpack that he’d thrown haphazardly in a corner and staggered out of bed after checking Instagram—he’d gained about a hundred followers in the past few days just from the Seven Hills kids in his grade. Hassan smirked as he clicked on Fatima’s account, smugly noting that he had twenty more followers than her as he began combing his hair.

Fatima was sitting on the kitchen counter when Hassan finally came downstairs.

“We’re going to a party tonight,” she said by way of greeting, jumping off the counter.

Hassan threw his head backwards and groaned. “A party? We’ve literally been here for less than a week.”

“Have you met the desi community?” asked Fatima sarcastically, rolling her eyes.

“True.” Hassan sighed. “Who’s going to be there?”

Fatima shrugged, unwrapping a granola bar and climbing back onto the counter. Hassan raised his eyebrows but she just shrugged again and offered him a granola bar.

Hassan retreated sulkily to his room with the granola bar in hand, almost going the wrong way but correcting himself at the last minute. He slammed the door to his room, ignoring Fatima’s yell of “stop being angsty” and flopping onto his bed to text Shayan.

We have a party today ugh

Shayan responded within minutes (for once).

I know. We’re going too.

Hassan snorted. He still couldn’t get over the fact that Shayan texted with proper grammar, no abbreviations, and punctuation. Ew.

Who else???? He sent that as his reply and offhandedly threw a pen at his backpack, already dreading the algebra worksheet that it held.

I don’t know if anyone you know is going.

Hassan sighed, switching off his iCell and tossing it onto the floor before picking it up again and hesitantly clicking on Jason’s name in his messages.

Have u done the math hw

He erased the message and wrote it again (he didn’t want Jason to think that he spent all his time doing homework like Shayan).

Hey u done the math yet

No, that still didn’t sound right… his message had to sound cool, but still get the point across, and not make it seem like he only cared about homework and studying… He erased it again, groaning.

Ugh so much hw im srsly too lazy to do it

Hassan nodded in satisfaction. That was it— the perfect message. Mentally patting himself on the back, Hassan smirked at his screen before sighing and replying to Shayan.

Haha ugh

Anyway have u done the math hw yet????

The time for the party came far too soon. Hassan exasperatedly reapplied his hair gel and checked his appearance in the mirror before meeting Fatima in the hallway upstairs.

“Api, do we have to go?” he whined.

Fatima snorted. “You ask that every single time.”

Hassan rolled his eyes at her. “That’s because I don’t want all the aunties up in my face asking about my grades and my skin tone and… ugh.” He scrunched up his face and mimed an Indian accent. “Oh, Hassan, beta, come here and tell me about how you are doing at school.”

Fatima laughed, before her face lit up and she grabbed onto his wrist. “Today’s our perfect chance to get that recording of Shayan!”

He grinned, before pulling out his iCell to see if Jason had responded to his text. Sure enough, he had.

Dude just don’t do it then

I bet Shayan already did it ;)

Hassan’s eyes widened and he immediately turned off his phone before Fatima could see. Was Jason telling him to cheat off of Shayan? Sure, he got bad grades, but cheating was a whole new level of disobedient… He’d never even considered it before (okay, that was a lie. But he hadn’t ever actually gone through with it). Hassan’s mind spun. It had to be wrong to copy off of someone else’s answers… psh, since when had he cared about that? He sighed, straightening his Vineyard Vines shirt. He’d think about all that later.

The party was at some desi in Hassan’s neighborhood’s house. Hassan sighed with relief as they pulled into the driveway (there were only a few other cars, luckily, so it wouldn’t be a big party). Fatima climbed out of their car, shivering—it was still winter, after all. Hassan smirked at her, feeling grateful for his big puffer jacket. They were approximately an hour and a half late, but that was normal. Besides, Hassan had a feeling that all the cars in the driveway had arrived within the last twenty minutes or so. It was desi standard time, he thought to himself; if the party began at 8, people started arriving around 9:20.

Inside the house, the strong smell of curry hit Hassan in the face. He resisted the urge to moan and managed a somewhat polite “hello Uncle” to the man who was opening the door for them. Hassan didn’t know who that man was, but of course, he was still an uncle. All desi men were automatically Hassan’s uncles. Rolling his eyes, he carefully took off his Yeezys and put them in a sheltered corner where they wouldn’t get trampled by other guests who were even later than them.

Hassan quickly darted through the cluster of aunties near the door and slunk upstairs before anyone could stop him. Shayan was waiting at the top of the stairs and he ushered Hassan into what appeared to be the guest room. Fatima followed a few minutes later. Hassan winced as she walked in, having overheard someone ask Ammi and Abu about their daughter’s college situation. Abu would definitely be bragging now, about how Fatima was going to Harvard. He sneaked a glance over at her, noticing the guilty look on her face.

Hoping to divert her attention, he turned to Shayan. “Why do people ship you with Anaiya?”

Fatima coughed from her position sprawled out on the bed, masking a laugh.

Shayan looked like one of the sad seals that Hassan and Fatima had seen at the Lahore Zoo when Ammi and Abu took them back to Pakistan to visit their grandparents. Shayan was a sad—and blushing—seal. “Hassan, can we not…”

Fatima sighed. “Shayan, we just want to help.”

She looked so forlorn and disappointed that Shayan bit his lip and said, “Because our names sound similar and we’re both brown.” Hassan looked over at Fatima, impressed at her acting skills, and wondering why she always got bad grades in theater class.

“But… that can’t be the only reason,” said Fatima. Hassan leaned back onto the couch and decided to leave the talking to his sister.

Shayan flushed red.

Fatima gave him a hesitant smile that looked so genuine, it had to be fake. “Do you… do you like her?”

Hassan switched on the audio recording on his phone and tried very hard not to laugh.

“I… um…”

“It’s okay,” Fatima assured him. “Lying is a sin.”

Shayan’s eyes went wide and somehow, his face became even redder. “Okay. Fine.”

Fatima beamed. “Is she cute?”

Shayan looked mortified. “Um.”

“Lying is a sin.”

“Okay!” Shayan looked ready to run away and hide, but Hassan didn’t feel bad. It was all for his own good, after all.

Fatima got up and gave Shayan a hug, and he glanced away uncomfortably. Then Fatima asked, “Why do you like her?”

Shayan froze and stared at his feet. “I…”

“Lying is a—”

“A sin! I know! I know! She’s funny, okay? She makes me laugh. And she’s smart, and talented, and brave…”

Hassan fought the urge to vomit. This was like a scene out of one of the nasty lovey-dovey Bollywood movies Fatima watched. He hit the stop recording button and congratulated himself on a job well done.

Soon Hassan heard his aunt and uncle (Samia Khala and Kanooz Uncle) screaming for Shayan to come downstairs, probably to show him and his good grades off to the other desi parents. As soon as he left, Hassan sent the recording to Anaiya as Fatima giggled conspiratorially.

Anaiya replied within minutes.

Uh who r u

Fatima snatched the phone from Hassan.

Shayan’s cousins <3

The three-dotted bubble popped up to show that Anaiya was replying. Hassan squealed in excitement as he glanced over at the door to make sure Shayan wasn’t coming back yet. He smirked when he saw her response.

WTH why do u have my number

Fatima grinned.

Novy

Did u listen to the recording???

Anaiya didn’t reply and Hassan groaned. Fatima handed him his phone back, sighing.

“Do you think she listened to it?” asked Hassan quietly.

“Probably not,” replied Fatima despondently. “If some stranger sent me a recording, I wouldn’t either.”

However, as Shayan slipped back into the room, a blush permanently stained on his face, Hassan’s iCell chimed.

Hassan tapped on the screen, practically cackling when he saw Anaiya’s reply.

Fatima leaned over to look, and she pressed both hands over her heart with the expression of a heartsick puppy. “Aw… that’s so sweet!”

<3 :) :)

Anaiya had simply sent a heart and two smiley faces, but Hassan had been around enough middle school girls to know that this was a very, very good sign.

Shayan peered over at them curiously, but Hassan tilted his phone away so Shayan wouldn’t see. Not that they’d done anything wrong, of course.

Fatima opened Netflix on her phone and started playing a cheesy desi movie while Shayan and Hassan groaned in protest, whispering in her brother’s ear that it was to give them some inspiration for a reply to Anaiya.

“Api, do we haaaaave to watch this? We’ve already seen it like a hundred times,” Hassan complained (he hated this movie).

“And we already know Maryam dies at the end,” supplied Shayan. “So there’s really no point.”

Fatima rolled her eyes at them. “Shut up. I get to pick.”

“Says who?” demanded Hassan.

“Me,” Fatima replied easily. “So shut your faces and watch the movie.”

Hassan and Shayan exchanged a look of annoyance and settled onto the couch to play Clash Royale instead (Hassan had insisted that Shayan download the game).

Two hours later (the party still wasn’t over, but that was normal considering desi parties usually went past midnight), after Fatima had watched Ali cry over Maryam’s dead body for approximately the hundredth time and Hassan and Shayan had played their fill of Clash Royale, they sprawled on the bed and Fatima began to play her desi song playlist, quickly singing along loudly to Balam Pichkari. Shayan winced at Fatima’s off-key singing and Hassan sighed (he was used to it). He got up and switched the song to The Breakup Song, a more preferable choice. Suddenly having flashbacks to his second cousin Navya’s wedding, when the uncles had dragged a miserable sixth-grade Hassan onto the dance floor, he leapt to his feet and started dancing. Shayan groaned and covered his face. Somehow, Hassan’s dancing was even worse than Fatima’s singing. Fatima saw the look of horror on Shayan’s face and, grinning, she jumped up and pulled him off the bed. Shayan stared at her, mortified, and so she grabbed his hands and waved them around in the air in a somewhat accurate replication of the dance moves in the music video. Shayan moved his arms robotically, still frozen in utter shock. Fatima rolled her eyes and Hassan laughed. Poor Anaiya would have to teach Shayan how to dance, or else that would make for a very, very boring wedding.

That gave him an idea, and when Shayan snuck off to the bathroom to escape their horrid singing, Hassan pulled out his iCell.

Do u want his number?

He sent the text to Anaiya, smirking. A reply came just seconds later.

Ok :)

He grinned and sent Shayan’s contact info to her, feeling rather proud of himself. He gave Fatima a thumbs-up when she looked over at him and she laughed and winked.

When Shayan came back from the bathroom and opened up his iCell for another round of Clash Royale, his face flushed crimson and his mouth dropped open.

“What is it?” asked Fatima, sounding so genuinely concerned that Hassan was fooled for a moment.

Shayan glanced suspiciously at him but he forced his face into a mask of innocence.

Fatima peered over Shayan’s shoulder. She bit her lip to keep from squealing before mouthing at Hassan, “It worked!!!”

Shayan spent the rest of the evening in a bubble of happiness while Hassan and Fatima watched another Bollywood movie. Even at the sad part when Anand kicked Tasnim out of his house and told her to never come back, Shayan still radiated pure happiness as he texted Anaiya, a wide smile on his face. Hassan grinned to himself (see, it’d all been for Shayan’s own good).

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