Paranoia

Seema lived two lives. Her parents thought they raised the perfect Muslim girl. Straight A's, nice friends, college acceptances flying in. And boys? Out of the question. In her parents eyes she was the girl who could do nothing wrong. The outside world got a different taste of Seema. She was the it girl, known for partying and having fun. Her lives stay separate and everything is going fine, until Ahmed moves to town. Secrets come out as Seema's perfect world is torn, and replaced with paranoia.

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1. Morning

"Seema, come downstairs chand!"  Ammi yells.

I roll my eyes and pull my covers up over my head. Not this bullshit again, I thought. After a long night spent "studying" at Lexy's house, a girl needed a break. I dozed off for about two minutes until my phone started to buzz. I sighed and grabbed it, the light illuminating my dark room. Reminder: Yale Acceptance Letters come out today. I shot up and ran downstairs, the warmth of the carpet tickling my bare feet. I rush over to my dad, who's sipping his morning tea while watching Anderson Cooper talk about how our country is stronger than ever and "just needs our support."

"Subha khair Baba," I greet him as I scan the table for any mail. Nothing. He nods, his mouth full of Ammi's eggs and toast.

"Ammi, did any - " I start, not getting more than a few words out before my mother interrupts me.

"Beti, I told you last night our mail comes at 5:30. It's only 10 in the morning, you have all day!"

 

I slumped down and quietly ate my breakfast. Seven hours of waiting. Every second went by achingly until finally, I caved in. 

"Ammi, I'm going over to Lexy's and then the mall after. I should be back by 5. I'll eat outside and might go get a new haircut." I called over my shoulder as I went upstairs to get ready. 

I was already in the bathroom before I heard my mom's response. I got into the hot shower, which was a good change from the cold March air of Massachusetts. As I massaged shampoo into my scalp, I thought about how so many places I applied to were in the vicinity of our town. No escape from my parents, who sheltered me because I was the only child. I thought about my parents for a bit. They were themselves the Muslims who set an example for everyone, yet at the same time didn't. They didn't pray five times a day, but whenever they got the chance to, recited the Quran. Ammi didn't wear a hijab, yet still tried to cover herself. Baba didn't have a full on beard, yet kept a little one just for the sake of religion. As for me, my parents were lenient. I could dress as I please, which was a relief since my wardrobe choice is a bit provocative. I was expected to pray and follow my religion guidelines, like no pork, but most of it was up to me, except for the unspoken agreement: no boys. Ever since I was a little girl, boys were out of the question until after college. Aside from the fact that my grades also had to be good, I was raised to be the smartest girl in class, a lot of extracurriculars. My parents would never believe that that girl was me, along with the party girl I was known for in school.

 I slipped out of the shower and dried myself, walking into my room wearing nothing but a towel on my head. I stared myself in the mirror. You could make out the outline of my ribs from under my pale Pakistani skin and my arms and legs were like little sticks. I was skinny, almost too skinny. Except for the boobs and butt I had, I almost looked unnatural. I put on a pushup bra and a thong and walked over to my closet. I settled on tight white jeans with a few rips and a pale pink fitted cropped sweater. I wore my favorite Steve Madden boots and blow dried my hair, which I brushed out into the black waves I've had since well, forever. I threw on my 18th birthday present, a Burberry trench coat and grabbed my phone and car keys and was out. I waved goodbye to my parents and stepped into the driver seats of my silver Hyundai, also a present for my 18th. I drove the 5 minutes it took to get to Lexy's house.

Lexy. Where do I even start?

When we first moved here from Pakistan when I was two, we knew no one here. The 2nd night we were here, the chirpy white lady from next door came with a box of brownies and introduced herself and her daughter, Alexandria Elizabeth Prescott. Ever since then, Lexy and I've been inseparable. From spending Eid at our house to Christmas at theirs, we were all one big happy family. I walked into their house, always knowing where the spare key was and walked up the spiral stairs to Lexy's room. She was standing in front of her closet, deciding between a tan sweater or a purple and black flannel. 

"Definitely the sweater," I called as she nodded and put it on.

"Baby, I love you, but those split ends are giving me agita. Come on, I booked an appointment with Portia," she said as she hugged me. We both got in the car as I drove to downtown Boston,  a good 10 minutes away. 

"So about last night. Amanda says she's really mad about how you stole the show. Tsk Tsk Seema, outshining the birthday girl on her special night." Lexy laughed.

I rolled my eyes "Come on, her dress was definitely prettier than mine. She looked stunning."

Lexy replied, "Yes, but your prettier. God, Seema you're literally the hottest girl in our school. Amanda's boyfriend couldn't keep his eyes off of you."

"Shut up, you know boys aren't allowed."

Lexy sighed. "I know, I know. But tell me this, what guy isn't ready to date you."

Before I answered, we pulled up to Portia's salon and walked out of the car.

"We aren't done with this discussion yet Seema." Lexy called in a sing-song voice.

"Portia! Hi, just a little trim please. No layers this time, all one length." I changed the subject and greeted my hairstylist since when I was six. 

"Of course jaan," she replied, calling me darling in Urdu. Portia came from Pakistan just like me, which caused us to have an even closer bond. 

I quickly got a haircut, and as I was thanking Portia she gestured to the sofa in the back of the counter. 

"Seema, this is my nephew from New Jersey. He'll be finishing senior year here after some... complications in his old town."

That was the first time I saw Ahmed Imran.

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