So, Humza, my brother, and I finally decide to play out our challenge on each other and win the Mario game. I don't like it that he is already 20 points ahead of me, but I also know how to make a great comeback at the very end. Which I would have if we were not interrupted.
"Iman! Humza! Afreen Khala and her family are coming over in an hour! Hurry up and help me clean the house!"
These are not the words I like to hear when I'm focused on blasting my car over the road on the TV screen. In fact, I barely register my mother's words. It isn't until she comes in and switches off the TV that I realize it's time to be serious.
"Aw Mom. C'mon," Humza whines in his gooey voice. But it is not going to win over Ammi's heart this time.
"Who's coming over?" I ask, staring at the black TV screen. Now that the animation has stopped, I can focus on what she is saying.
"Afreen Khala from Toronto. She just called me. They're over at your Chacha's house right now. But they'll be coming here in a bit. We have so much to do!"
"And why are they coming over suddenly?" I ask, not thinking it is rude at all.
"Iman, I don't have time to answer your questions. Now get up and help me in the kitchen. Humza! Tidy up the living room. Now."
I get up, because I know if I don't, my mother will be minutes away from getting a heart attack. Humza does too, but he feels compelled to irritate me, as always.
"I told you I would win."
I sneak a scornful look at him. "We didn't finish the game so it doesn't count."
In the kitchen, I busy myself in frying samosas while my mom prepares for the pakora. Honestly, I can't help but admit that Indian food is the worst for your health. No food is Indian without being drenched in oil. (Well, maybe that's a bit exaggerated, but you know what I mean) And all the curries? Well, they're full of oil and spices too.
Luckily for us, my mom is a health freak. So she adjusts accordingly, but not for guests. Which is a little ironic.
"Are you sure we shouldn't bake these samosas instead?" I ask her. I know better than to ask her. She hates it more than anything when someone tries to talk to her while she's busy cooking, especially under pressure. Surprisingly, she answers.
"No, it doesn't look good. I'll bake some pastries instead."
I purse my lips. Who was coming again? Had I seen them before? Having such a large family does that you sometimes. You forget who's who. Afreen rings a bell, but then again it is a pretty common name.
The bell rings just as we are wrapping up.
"Iman, get me my dupatta. Hurry!"
Why is my mother so anxious? This isn't the first time we have guests over. Maybe it's because Dad isn't home.
I give her the matching dupatta and in fifteen seconds, my mom fixes herself so no one can tell she's been cooking in the kitchen. Now that takes skill.
Afreen Khala isn't really my Khala, or I obviously would know her. But she's my actual Khala's (meaning Aunt) sister-in-law's high school friend from India. Pretty complex relationship.
Afreen Khala is actually not that bad. She's quite jolly and sweet. But it does annoy me like crazy that she feeds her six year old granddaughter instead of letting her eat by herself. She's not an infant for God's sake!
Uncle is coming a little later because he's busy cruising on Devon Avenue. I just keep observing the six year old while smiling politely at her own mother. God, that girl is spoiled and naughty. She won't let her mother rest for a single minute. I look at Humza enviously, who is getting along perfectly with the young grandson. He's showing off his video game collection again.
I urge Afreen Khala to eat some sweets. And she moves to grab a piece from the plate, the little girl shrieks.
What in the world? Now I'm really scared.
"She gets tense when she sees new people," her mother explains, but of course I don't buy it. Toddlers have stranger anxiety, not six year olds.
Anyway, after two hours of trying to please our guests while controlling my resentment towards the little girl, I am free at last.
"Ammi, that girl was an annoying brat," I tell my mom afterward.
"That's what happens when you spoil children," she simply says.
I'm glad my mom didn't spoil me. People would hate me then. You don't hate me do you? You hardly know me.
Well, it is awfully hot now because the AC broke down on us. I'm going to grab some cold milk and see if Ammi lets us replay our Mario game.
American Muslim Girl