We return to Inaya on the verge of disclosing her mock O Level exams result in front of the whole family.
“Four Bs and four As,” Inaya said slowly as her family listened carefully. “That’s my mock O Level exams result.”
There was a pause where Leena thought furiously to pick the most comforting thing to say, Jasir stopped himself from shouting out his reaction, and Mama and Papa looked at each other.
“That’s good, isn’t it?” Leena spoke up first. “Half As and the rest Bs. It’s better than what you got before.”
“Don’t encourage her,” Mama said unexpectedly. “She took a year off to work on getting straight As, not to get halfway there and get four Bs.”
“I’m sure Inaya will work on her grades in the time between now and her O Level exams,” Papa said encouragingly. “You still have some time, don’t you?”
Jasir just took aim at Inaya with both hands folded into the form of a gun and made a sound like a gun going off. He blew away the imaginary smoke from the end of his fingertips and leaned back, making a knowing face at his sister.
Inaya burst into tears. The family took a split second to take its bearings, then everyone leapt into action. Leena went into the kitchen to make Inaya some tea, Jasir ran as fast as he could to get a peace offering from his candy stash, Mama enveloped Inaya in a bear hug and Papa stood by awkwardly, patting her on the head.
“I’m never going to pass my exams,” Inaya wailed. “I’m never going to make you all happy.” By this time tea, candy and a handkerchief had arrived to be offered to Inaya in turns. She accepted the tea and candy and blew her nose loudly into the handkerchief.
“There, there,” Mama said, patting Inaya on the knee. Mama was the one who could switch the fastest from critical to comforting according to the response of her children. Papa usually reserved his most critical remarks for special occasions, but on the other hand he was at a loss how to comfort his children when they were exceedingly distressed.
“It was much easier when a diaper change used to cheer them up,” Papa said thoughtfully.
“Come on, Papa,” Leena said. “You never changed our diapers. You used to hand the little ones to Mama the moment they started to stink. Clean and happy baby, Papa didn’t let go, but in the face of poo or pee he immediately used to surrender to Mama.”
“Ew,” Inaya said, wrinkling her nose. “Don’t mention toilet words in here.”
“Poo!” Leena and Jasir immediately started to sing it out. “Pee. Poo and pee!”
Inaya started laughing through her tears. Mama and Papa just looked at each other.
“It’s a good thing to know that however strangely, you three do know how to sort each other out,” Papa said. “It’s a good thing there’s three of you.”
The three siblings sat huddled together around Leena’s cell phone, which she held between them, so everyone could see the screen.
“Arisha sure has a fair number of selfies on her social media,” Jasir said, “But they are all from her good side. You know when you take a photo from your bad side, it’s the worst thing that could happen to you, especially to girls.”
“That’s your plan? You’re going to get a photo of her from an unflattering angle?” Inaya said scornfully.
“That’s not all.” Jasir looked confidently at Inaya. “Leena, you’re going to tell her that the day you take her to show her around campus is Village Day, where everyone dresses up like a village girl.”
“But it isn’t Village Day at college,” Leena said, frowning.
“That’s the brilliance of it! She won’t know it isn’t until she shows up for her tour, and then it’ll be too late to go back and change.” Jasir grinned mischievously.
“All right.” Leena leaned back and started counting on her fingers. “One, we tell her it’s dress like a villager day and hope she falls for it. Two, we wait until she’s distracted and snap a photo of her from a bad angle. Still, Jasir, I’m not sure how you’re going to get back at Arisha with just one photo? She stole more than a year’s worth of photos of Inaya.”
Jasir kept grinning. “Just wait and see, Leena. Just wait and see.”
“I didn’t know your college had festivals of this kind,” Arisha said, fanning herself with a pamphlet she had found in the back of the car. “How cute.”
“It’s not that hot in the car, you know,” Leena reminded her, frowning.
“I always keep the cooling to the max,” Arisha said loftily, “but this car is just too old. Now, our car is practically brand new, and the cooling is out of this world.”
Leena contented herself with keeping her mouth shut and suppressing a sigh. In the front, Papa twisted around to beam at the girls.
“How is it in the back?” he asked happily. “Entertained? Comfortable? Ready to take on the day? We don’t want you two getting bored and uncomfortable, now, do we?” He had not heard Arisha’s complaints to Leena.
“My mother pulled my hair back really tight into this braid with the decorative tassel braided in, it’s giving me a headache,” Arisha replied. “I don’t understand why you didn’t follow the dress up theme, Leena.”
“Oh, I didn’t have anything in my wardrobe that would fit the theme,” Leena answered quickly.
“Really?” Arisha appeared doubtful. “I would think, between you and Inaya, both of you would easily have a dozen dresses that would look like they belong to village folk.” Arisha smiled a slow and sarcastic smile. “You two never really got the city polish, you know?”
“There, there,” Papa said, not really listening. “We’re almost at the college. You two have fun, now!”
It was Leena’s turn to smile when, upon walking into the campus, Arisha’s extended braid swinging behind her, it became clear that nobody was dressed according to any theme. Arisha swung around to face Leena, her eyes wide with anger.
“You tricked me!” Arisha gasped and clutched her throat, her dramatic tears ready to gush forth. “Everybody is dressed regularly. Where is the fun fair? Is there any fun fair at all?”
“It’s at the sports ground,” Leena lied smoothly, suppressing a grin. “It’s a long walk. We should be on our way. Don’t you want to see the lecture halls first, though?”
“I am not entering any lecture hall with this threaded braid and country bangles,” Arisha replied stiffly. “Let’s keep going.”
When they had walked all the way to the sports ground, it became clear that there was no fun fair. Arisha started crying in earnest, tears dripping down her nose and off her chin.
“Let me check the college announcement board online,” Leena said, bringing up her cell phone and swiftly clicking a photo of Arisha in her distressed state. She had remembered to turn the shutter tone off beforehand so Arisha wouldn’t suspect that she was taking a photo of her. “Looks like the dress like a village girl day is a few weeks away. Oops.”
“You did this on purpose!” Arisha struggled to open her traditional, ornamented purse, which had bits of reflective glass that sparkled in the sun. Finally, finding her pocket tissue, she wiped her face and gave Leena a good hard glare. “What did I ever do to you?”
“Let’s see.” Leena raised her hands and started ticking off the offenses on her fingers. “One, you stole selfies of Inaya from her Facebook account and uploaded them to a fake Instagram account and kept this going for months. Two, you locked Inaya into the store room when all the family was together on Eid, and it took hours for someone to hear her banging on the door. Three, you wrote on Inaya’s forehead with permanent marker while she was sleeping, and it took a week for it to rub off. Four...well, you get the picture. You have a thing against Inaya and you know it.”
“Lies, lies, all lies.” Arisha raised a shaking finger and pointed it at Leena. “Inaya is the real culprit here. You know she was born shortly after me and even though I am the prettier and smarter one, the family always gave her preferential treatment because she was younger. I am justified in feeling the way I do about her, but I never did any of these things to her.”
Leena rolled her eyes and heaved a frustrated sigh. “I know you’re not going to admit to it, but that’s not the point. Just back off my little sister, will you? I’ve got her back.”
“I am going to complain to your father as soon as he gets here to pick us up,” Arisha said firmly. “The whole family is going to hear about this.”
“Hold onto that until this evening,” Leena said, smiling a small and secret smile. “I have a surprise that may just change your mind.”
Leena waited until the evening, with Jasir and Inaya crowding around the cell phone screen, then she sent the silly, sweaty and tear-filled photo of Arisha to Arisha herself. She followed it up with the message, “If you try to pull anything clever on us, we’re going to upload this for the world to see.” The three siblings giggled and high-fived each other. Arisha’s explosive reply via text message only made them laugh harder. It wasn’t until the next morning that Inaya presented herself in front of Leena with a worried face.
“I feel bad about what we did to Arisha,” Inaya said.
What will come out of Inaya’s regret for what they did to Arisha? What other academic and non-academic adventures await the three siblings? We will find out in the next episode of Hackschool Project.