Matching my stance, she stood with her arms crossed as everyone stared at us. “You have absolutely no regard for anyone but yourself! You have no respect for the people who care about you?”
She scoffed”And you do? You screaming your head off in front of your elders is supposed to be envisioned as respect?”
“Well, at least I’m not the one flirting with another man while my fiance is literally on his way to my house for dinner!”
“Both of you, enough!” Baba jaan’s voice boomed through the dining room, but we were too far gone to care. “You’ve always been jealous of me.” Waliya said. “No matter what I did, you always envied me. My looks, my grades, and now my love life!”
“Some love life you have! And as for my grades, you were the jealous one because I always scored better than you ever did!”
“You know what? I’m done with this. With you! Just because no one can ever love a soulless and ugly person like you, doesn’t mean you can take it out on me!”
“You heard me! If you were any bit attractive as I am, don’t you think Haroon would’ve already asked Baba for you?”
“Uh, please leave me out of this.” Haroon’s small voice made itself heard, but Waliya ignored him and continued her onslaught. “No one ever want you, let alone love you. You think you’re so high and mighty with all your feminism talk and thinking you’re above us all. Yes, I know you look down upon me because I have different views, I’m not stupid. Mark my words, Sarah, one day, you’ll be all alone in this world, then we’ll see how far feminism and single life will take you!” With that, she dragged her chair back, making an awful sound and stomped back to her room, whence she came, leaving me stunned and ashamed in front of the entire household. No one spoke as my eyes filled with tears, blood thumped in my ears, and I felt my face heat up. I was brought out of my stunned state when I felt a hand touch mine, jolting me out of my shocked state. I looked down to see Bareera’s sympathetic gaze on me, but sympathy was exactly what I didn’t want. I never wanted it.
I composed myself and meekly stated, “Excuse me,” and left running to my room. I could hear hushed whispers, I even heard Bareera call after me, but I didn’t care. All I wanted was to curl up and die. I may have acted like I was indestructible or made of stone, and most of the time, I was, but what Waliya had said hit my core. Being insulted was one thing, but being called what she had, broke something in me that day. Something that changed the course of my life forever.
The day passed by in a daze. I didn’t notice when the sun bade farewell to the sky and made way for the moon to monopolize it. I didn’t even know what time it was until I heard a knock at my door followed by Bareera’s bright countenance gazing at my brooding one. She quietly made her way to my bed and sat beside me and pulled me into a hug. She always knew what I needed. She also knew that I never accepted hugs from anyone but her.
“Hey,” her tone was soft as she rubbed my back, “it’s time for dinner.”
“So?” I was well aware of the fact that I sounded very rude, but I was just so angry. With Waliya for humiliating me. With amma for not stepping up for me. With Baba jaan for insulting me more. With Dada jaan for not taking my side. Last of all, I was angry with myself for creating an unnecessary scene. A scene that could have been just as easily avoided if I hadn’t let myself get so annoyed by Waliya’s actions. Actions that she had been executing all her life and mine. Still, for some reason, I snapped. And that was what I was angry about the most. Right now, the only way I found to let that anger out was to take it out on anyone who was nice and civil to me. Anyone who tried to help me. Someone like Bareera, who in no way deserved to be on the receiving end of my brunt.
“So, Azeem is here.” I scoffed. “Oh, come on, Sarah! Don’t be like that!”
“Don’t be like what? You want me to go down there again and show my humiliated face and be insulted yet again, only in front of a different guest?!” I screamed, but I felt immensely guilty when I saw Bareera flinch. “I’m sorry, Bareera, I didn’t mean to take it out on you, I promise.”
“I understand, you’re hurt.”
“No, I’m not hurt. What Waliya said did make me feel something, but it wasn’t hurt.” She sighed as she squeezed my hand in support. “I get it,” she said, and somehow, those three words meant the world to me then. “But will you please come to dinner? You have no idea what that vile creature is sprouting about you in front of Haroon and Azeem.”
“Like I care what Haroon thinks, and Azeem can just go drown in a puddle or something.” I heard her laugh at my remark which brought a smile to my dull exterior, too.
“You may not care what he thinks, but you do have to keep up appearances. You and I have never really cared what the family thinks of us, but you have to admit, you can’t live with everyone hating you and calling you names every time you turn around now, can you?” I shook me head. I knew what she was getting at. “And besides, I think Haroon wants to see you.”
I felt a frown mar my forehead as her words registered. “Why?”
“Well,” she began with a smirk, “he’s been asking about you all day. Looked kind of worried, too.”
“Well, tell him to stop. The last thing I need is a stranger worrying about me. I can take care of myself.”
“Oh, God!” She groaned, causing me to pull out of our embrace and look at her. “You get the best grades in university, you have the most medals and trophies in the entire family, and yet you’re so damn clueless!”
“What on earth are you talking about?” I had no idea why Haroon would even worry about me. Isn’t he supposed to be here for a respite and be on his merry way home and look for a job?
“Sarah!” She exclaimed as she threw a pillow at my head, “He likes you!”