“So, listen,” Laila said as they climbed the stairs, “about yesterday. I’m sorry, I think we all came on a bit … I don’t know. It’s mostly Murad – he gets bizarre sometimes.”
Sami shrugged. “Whatever. This Samir is your boyfriend?”
“Yeah. You got one?”
Sami snorted. “A boyfriend? No.”
But Laila didn’t seem to have heard. She looked around Sami’s room, transfixed at the roof sloping over the bed, the cushioned window seat where the blinds were drawn up for a sweeping view of the valley. “Whoa! This is … so crazy! Amazing crazy. I guess this is what happens if your grandmother is an architect.”
“Yep.” When she gestured for Laila to sit, she bounded across the room to plant herself on the window seat.
Sami sat on her chair. “So the Sprite last evening, was there anything in it?”
Laila nodded. “Beer. Not too much. We usually have shandies because plain beer is eurgh.” She made a face. “I think I should apologise for that too – Murad shouldn’t have given it to you without telling you what was in it.”
“Murad is an idiot. We’ve established that.”
The grimace that Laila gave Sami was almost painful. “So, I hope, because of him, you won’t think the worst of me.”
“No. It’s cool.”
“Good. Oh, I have something for you, to make up, hopefully.” She dived into her own backpack and pulled out a sheaf of photocopied A4 sheets held together with a binder clip. “The physics notes you wanted.”
Sami’s eyes went wide. “Oh. Wow. Thanks! Where did you get them?”
“Murad. I got him to make copies for you as a punishment for being an a-hole. And before you chuck them back at me, these are almost as good as having Photocopy’s.”
“I appreciate it. Thank you.”
Something had definitely shifted between them. A kind of truce, if not a complete dropping of guard.
Sami followed Laila’s finger to the glittery cloth bag wedged between the wall and the door. She made a face.
“It’s stuff for my cousin’s wedding next month.” She glared at it. If only the intensity of her disgust could make the whole thing go up in flames. “A very distant cousin.” As if that made it better. “She’s doing this weird thing – wants a bunch of us to be bridesmaids and do a dance performance.”
OMG, why am I telling her all this?
“Bridesmaids – like a church wedding?”
“I would say it’s more of a Bollywood wedding.”
If Laila was judging, it didn’t show on her face at least. “I see. So, what is it? Your dress?”
Sami winced at the word. “I guess.”
Laila gaped. “You mean, you haven’t looked?”
“Not really. It’ll be some stupid girly stuff.”
“What? Why? Hasn’t your cousin met you?”
Sami snorted. “I guess she’s in denial.” She wouldn’t be the only one.
Laila’s lips twitched in a smile. She nodded at the bag. “Aren’t you even curious about what’s inside?”
“You look.” Sami picked up the bag and dropped it next to Laila. She sat down on her chair again, edging it as far as she could get from the packet.
“Okay, if you’re sure.”
“Yes, yes. I just want it over with.”
Laila unzipped the bag and peeped inside. “Er … it’s … there’s a bit of zari …”
Sami groaned and dropped her head in her hands.
“It’s not so bad actually.”
“What is it? Not a ghagra or anything, is it?”
“It’s a sari.”
She groaned again, raising her head. “FFS!”
“Did you just say FFS?”
“Yeah. Keeps the mother off my case. I told her its short for ‘fiddlesticks’.” Sami leaned forward and peered inside the bag that
Laila was still holding. “I don’t know why she’s putting me through it. She knows I’d never wear something like this. I bet my mother encouraged this – she lives in the wild hope that I’ll wake up one day and turn girly.”
Laila narrowed her eyes, studying her. “It’ll take a lot more than saris and heels to make you girly. I bet you’ll look like a …”
“Sorry … it was, no, nothing—”
“Oh my god, just say it already.”
Laila gave her a sheepish grin. “I was going to say, you’d look like a guy in drag.”
For a second, Sami was speechless. Then she burst out laughing. When she finally wiped her eyes, even Laila had a grin on her face.
“So, what are you going to do?” she asked. “Will you wear it?”
“Hmm.” Sami reached into the bag and pulled out the sari. Laila was right, it wasn’t terrible, at least it wasn’t too blingy – a sea-green that sort of shimmered into a darker shade, with a black and silver border. “Maybe I will wear it.”
She looked at Laila, Laila looked back at her. Then they both burst out laughing.
“All right, I have to agree, your cousin is in a deep state of denial,” Laila said finally. “Do you have to wear it?”
Sami made a face. “Ma might make me.”
“Couldn’t you ask her if you could, I don’t know, wear something else in the same colour scheme?”
“What? More girly crap. No thanks!”
“We-ell,” Laila’s glance drifted to the sari and then back to Sami, “it’s not crap, really. Definitely not you, I give you that.”
Sami brightened. “You want it? Take it!”
“What? No, that’s not what I meant to – ”
“No, I mean it. Take it. Wear it. Throw it away. Give it away. Whatever.” She was sick of people trying to box her in.
“I …” she trailed off, staring at Sami thoughtfully. “You know what, I will take it. I want to try something. Thank you.”
“Thank you.” If Laila took it away, Ma couldn’t make her wear it. Of course, she’d have a fit, but Sami would cross that bridge when she came to it.
Excerpted with permission from It Has No Name, Payal Dhar, Red Panda.