Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating(3)

“Just wait a few more minutes …” I mumble, staring straight ahead at Abba. Trying to tune back in to his speech. I have—of course—already heard it many times. I could probably give the speech myself, if I didn’t absolutely hate speaking in front of people.

Still, I can’t ignore the way Dee leans over me to exchange a pointed glance with Aisling. Like being here an extra five minutes is truly painful for the two of them.

I chew on my lip, trying to decide the best course of action. On one hand, I don’t want to leave Abba here mid-speech. On the other hand, I don’t want Aisling and Dee to keep disrupting him.

“Come on,” I find myself whispering as I motion for the two of them to follow. In a few moments, we’ve weaved through the throng of people outside the mosque and are outside the gates. I can still hear the murmur of Abba’s speech here, but it’s not loud enough to decipher the words.

“If your dad gets pissed, just tell him that you had plans with us,” Aisling says when she glances at me. Like she can see the tension in my expression, and she’s mistaken it for fear of repercussion from Abba.

“He won’t get angry,” I mutter, following Aisling and Dee toward the bus stop.

“We don’t have to go to all of his speeches, do we?” Aisling asks. There’s a sneer in her voice, though she tries—and fails—to keep it out of her expression.

I have to stifle a sigh. I’m wishing that I had never told Aisling and Dee about this. When they asked me to hang out today, I should have said I was doing anything else—anything other than helping Abba with his political campaign.

Even hearing that it was going to take place outside the mosque hadn’t stopped Aisling and Dee from wanting to tag along. I had even felt a beat of excitement that I could show them our mosque. After all, I’ve spent so much of my time there—Eid, and jummah on the holidays when I don’t have school.

But it was obviously a mistake.

“I thought it was kind of interesting,” Dee says. Aisling turns to her with surprise written all over her face. She obviously doesn’t think anyone is capable of being interested in Abba’s political campaign, in the fact that he might be the first South Asian and the first Muslim to be elected to the county council.

“My dad says he’s so proud of how progressive Irish politics have gotten. That even someone whose English isn’t …”—

Dee glances at me—“… so great has a shot at winning.”

I can only settle Dee with a frown. “My dad’s English is perfect.”

In fact, his English is probably even better than mine. Unlike us, Amma and Abba spent their childhood learning all the mechanics of the English language. Abba sometimes uses so many big, obscure words that I’m sure he’s memorizing a dictionary in his spare time.

“Yeah, but … you know.” Dee raises an eyebrow like this is some kind of inside joke.

“I know …?”

“He has an accent,” Dee says. “Like, kind of a thick one.”

“Everyone has an accent,” I insist. I want to press on about it more. Abba being in the running for the county council elections is a big deal, after all.

But Aisling and Dee don’t get it, and I’m not sure I can make them understand.

“I guess, yeah. It was kind of boring …” I cross my arms and lean against the glass of the bus stop, trying to ignore the uncomfortable gnawing in my stomach.

Moments later, the bus pulls up in front of us, and the three of us pile on. Aisling and Dee slip after each other in the same row, and I slide into a window seat on the other side. My eyes take in the mosque passing by us as the bus begins to pull away. There’s a crowd of people going toward the mosque now. I know Abba planned to join everyone for Maghrib prayer after his speech—even though he rarely prays at home.

I wish for a moment that I had insisted on staying until the rally was finished. But we did make plans to leave at six thirty, and I guess it’s not Dee and Aisling’s fault that Abba’s speech went longer. Or that Maghrib prayer isn’t until much later. I doubt Aisling and Dee even know what Maghrib prayer is—never mind when it takes place.

“So, when we get to mine, Dee and I want to catch up on Riverdafe,” Aisling says. She had originally suggested that I go over to watch a movie—like old times, when the three of us spent our days holed up in each other’s rooms. But it feels like we haven’t done that in months.

“I’m not sure I want to watch Riverdafe,” I say, regretting the words immediately as I watch Aisling’s eyebrows furrow.

“Well, it’s two against one, sorry,” Dee chimes in.

I heave a sigh. “You know … it’s getting late. I should probably just get off at my stop and go home.”

“Seriously?” Aisling crosses her arms over her chest, examining me with a glare. “You said you would come over today if we went to your dad’s thing.”

“I said I was going to my dad’s thing, and maybe after I’d come over. You wanted to come to my dad’s thing.”

Aisling just rolls her eyes, like I had somehow forced her into the mosque against her will—like anybody could force Aisling to do anything she didn’t want to do.

“Tell your parents that you want to stay over. I’m staying the night,” Dee says.

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