Sameer’s text message reply came back sooner than Hina had thought. “I might see you sooner than I’d expected,” Sameer’s text said. “My mother can’t find her cell phone after the picnic, and it looks like it went back with your family instead of ours, so I’ll be around to pick it up tomorrow.”
Hina froze. She had no idea how on earth Ammi would agree to let her come downstairs to meet Sameer. Even if it was just because Sameer would come to pick up the cell phone. However, her reply to Sameer was a direct, “See you.”
The next day, Ammi told Hina to remain upstairs. Ammi had Abbu and Ray in the drawing room to receive Sameer. Even though it was a simple pickup, Ammi was giving the visit full protocol. When Sameer arrived, Ray ushered him into the drawing room where Ammi and Abbu welcomed him and Ammi insisted that he stay for tea. It was then that Sameer did something that shocked Ammi and Abbu. In the middle of a routine conversation about the news, Sameer asked, “When is Hina coming? I was looking forward to meeting her.”
Ammi stared at Sameer. Abbu stared at Ammi. Ray had the presence of mind to say, “Ammi?” This shook Ammi out of her state of shock. She pulled herself up to her full height and said, “She will be coming along shortly. Excuse me for a minute.”
Hina herself could have never guessed the power of a simple question, because she was in her casual clothes, lounging around in her room when Ammi entered. “Get ready at once,” Ammi said. “Come downstairs, and be proper.” She left.
Hina felt a thrill run through her body from tip to toe. What superpowers had caused Ammi to change her mind? Her hands were shaking so much that she could barely out on her earrings. The moment of truth came when Hina arrived in the drawing room: where was she going to sit? Ammi made her sit right next to herself. Hina looked at Sameer expectantly. Taking the cue, Sameer started to talk to her.
Hina found that the circumstances made her able to look at Sameer without feeling self-conscious. When she had been elevated from being assigned to stay inside her room, she suddenly felt like she should use the opportunity to the fullest. Sameer had a long face with a long nose and smiling brown eyes. Hina wondered whether his brown hair would look better brushed in the other direction when she suddenly became aware that she had failed to respond to one of Sameer’s questions.
“I was just thinking about something,” Hina said.
“What were you thinking about?” Sameer asked.“They say you can tell a lot about a person by what’s in their cell phone,” Hina said. “Would you mind showing me some photos from your phone?”
Sameer looked a bit taken aback, but he replied, “What type of pictures do you want to see?”
“Let’s see,” Hina said, ignoring the warning looks coming her way from Ammi. “Show me a photo of what’s most important to you.”
“That’s easy,” Sameer said. He brought up a photo on the screen and showed it to Hina.
“Your mother?” Hina asked. It was a selfie of Sameer with his mother, both of them smiling the same broad smile.
“Yes,” Sameer said.
“I need to think of a harder one to ask you,” Hina said.
“Go ahead,” Sameer said.
“What’s your most embarrassing photo?” Hina asked.
“Why would I still have it in my phone if it was so embarrassing?” Sameer asked, but he swiped through his photos again. “Ah, this one is interesting,” he said.
“Is it your most embarrassing?” Hina asked.
“No, but I still want to show it to you,” Sameer said. It was a selfie of himself that captured the view over his shoulders as he rode his bicycle. It was a glorious sunset dotted with clouds, but Hina wasn’t impressed.
“All right,” Hina said. “Next one has to be one that isn’t a selfie.”
“That’s the only condition?” Sameer asked. “That it isn’t a selfie?”
“Yes,” Hina said.
“Well, that’s easy enough.” Sameer pulled up another photo after quickly swiping past several others. “Here you go.” It was a photo of a cup of coffee at a fancy café with latte art on top in the shape of a rose.
“I like this one,” Hina said.
“You like coffee?” Sameer asked.
“No, I just like fancy things,” Hina said. “They make for good Instagram pictures.”
It was at this point that Ammi, having waited for Hina to respond to her warning signals, finally swooped in and took over the conversation with Sameer. Sameer responded politely to her and Hina sat there already plotting her next move.
“I’m so glad I have this phone call situation with Sameer going on; otherwise, I have no idea how I would actually have a full conversation with him,” Hina said to Ray, slipping onto the sofa in his room later that day.
“You’re lucky it’s been going on this far without being discovered by Ammi and Abbu,” Ray said, sliding over to make more room for Hina on the sofa.
“Forget Ammi and Abbu,” Hina said. “The girls are asking for updates!”
“You haven’t updated them in a while,” Ray said.
“How do you know that?” Hina asked.
“I haven’t heard you laughing in that specific way you laugh when you’re on the phone with your friends,” Ray answered.
“You just make things up to try and make it look like you know what’s going on,” Hina said, shaking her head while tapping away at her phone.
Ray turned around in his seat, placing an arm on the back of the sofa with his hand on Hina’s shoulder. “When you’re texting Gohar, you frown ever so slightly and stare closer at the screen. When you’re texting Amani, you raise your eyebrows and every now and then you grin in a superior sort of way. You’re texting Amani right this minute.”
“You just looked at my screen, that’s all,” Hina said.
“You just don’t like thinking about the fact that you’re easy to read,” Ray said. “The way you were being curious with Sameer today, it was obvious that you wanted to try and trip him up into showing you something that you weren’t supposed to see. Sameer was two steps ahead of you, though.”
“He just got lucky,” Hina said.
“He’s a guy,” Ray said. “He has all his secretive photos carefully kept away where no one will accidentally see them, especially the one he’s going to marry.”
“It doesn’t matter, because if I want to know something, I will just ask him,” Hina said.
“Go ahead,” Ray said, gesturing towards the phone in her hand.
I will,” Hina said. “I’ll ask him anything I like.” She dialed Sameer’s number.
To be continued...