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Home Before Eleven

by Sulthana Begum, 17 & Mahruba Sultana, 17

I couldn’t believe they did this to me. Again. I knew life didn’t revolve around me. I told myself that there must be loads of people out there like me. But sometimes I found it hard to believe. Like now.

“We’ll eat at their house so I don’t expect you to cook,” Mum called to me as she ushered the two little brats of brothers out of the door, after Dad. “But I do expect you to clean the house. We’ll be back before eleven.”

It was bad enough being Bengali, Muslim and female. It was a really bad combination if you didn’t have a meek, accept-all-rules personality. But it was an all out war if you were someone like me. Everything you wanted to do was against the rules. Like going to my mate Monisha’s 18th birthday party, which was tonight. In an hour, in fact.

“No, you can’t,” my parents replied when I asked if I could go. “We’re off to your aunt’s and we need you to look after the house since you decided not to come.”
My parents were cautious people. They thought they had everybody sussed out by stereotyping them. Any man with long hair was after your purse. Any boy with a boxed beard was a druggie. And any girl who didn’t wear a scarf was guaranteed to be a bad influence. And appropriate to the situation now, if you left the house empty, it was giving telepathic signals to all available burglars to come and rob it. So it suited them well that I refused to go to my aunt’s house. Who would want to, man? She was huge and always had to hug you, so you’d be stifled in to her stomach, just trying to breathe. And the stuff she cooked! The only reason my parents went was because sometimes it was the daughter-in-law that did the cooking.

Oh, man, I so wanted to go to the party! And I’d promised Monisha I’d come too. But mainly, I wanted to see what kind of a party it would be like. I’d been to a few parties before when the parental bodies were lenient. They were tame stuff with a bit of food and dancing in the living room to rubbish garage music. How could anyone like garage music? Yeuch.

Monisha and I would lounge on the sofas, with Monisha making quiet, snide remarks to me about the rubbish music and lame dancing. She promised her party would be different. Very different. And it sounded it too. Her parents were away for two weeks and her older sister pretty much let her do anything. And because Monisha’s family were rich, they had one of those big, flash houses with a living room the size of my whole flat and instead of a long strip of garden, she had two made into one, like a park.

The phone rang. It was Monisha.
“You definitely coming then?” she asked.
“I can’t, my parents, you know,” I replied. “They’re out and will be back about eleven and I have to watch the house.”
“No, c’mon,” Monisha whined. “They’re out right? So why don’t you come anyway? I mean you’ll be back before they are and they’ll never know.”
"No! What if they call or something?”
“Well, what about that girl next door?”
“Goldie? What about her?”

Goldie was two years younger than me, lived next door and came to my house at the weirdest time. Her parents wouldn’t mind. At one time she stayed over after college all the way up till midnight. My hints didn’t work, so I had to eventually tell her blatantly to go home. And not once did her parents call. I nicknamed her Goldie because she had one gold tooth. She was all right but her timings were awful and she kept touching everything from my jewellery to my computer like she was inspecting whether it was worth stealing.

“Get Goldie to house-sit, innit,” Monisha suggested. Well, more like ordered. “And if your parents call, tell her to tell them that you’re in the shower or something. And then she can let you know on your mobile so you can call them back and say all’s cool.”

Not only was Monisha a good friend, she was also the ultimate parents’ nightmare. She was Bad Influence with capital letters in every parent’s eyes. She smoked and told me she tasted champagne once but it tasted like piss. Her specialist subject was How to Deceive Parents.
“Monisha! You’re asking me to go behind my parents’ back!”
“I know,” she answered and I could imagine the grin on her face. “At least promise me you’ll think about it, yeah?”
“That’s all I will do,” I replied.
“Good. See you at nine!” and she hung up before I could say anything.

I thought about it and dismissed the idea. I cleaned the house. I looked at the clock. I had a shower. The outfit I bought for the party stared back at me from the cupboard. I looked away and my eyes fell on Monisha’s wrapped present and the card, propped up on my desk. Should I go or shouldn’t I? The fact that I did want to go to this party spun inside my head. I felt as if everything in my room was staring at me. Near my outfit was my phone, next to my phone was my entire make up kit and next to that was Monisha’s present, wrapped, telling me to go. It all started to make sense; it wasn’t so much me wanting to go to this party as it was the party wanting me to be there! Monisha was right. I could get back before eleven, no problemo! Oh but… what if? …

If I went I’d be deceiving my parents but would have the opportunity to have a great time. All these questions were making me wonder what if? What if? But on the other hand if I didn’t go, I would have to sit in front of the TV all night, and that wasn’t my idea of a great night when parents weren’t home and wouldn’t be for ages.

My hand reached to the phone, and yes, it was okay for Goldie to come round as we agreed to a reasonable payment rate. I realised I had half an hour to get ready, so I slapped on some make up and did my hair up, explained everything to Goldie and left with my heart sounding like carnival drums.

As I entered the party zone, loud music blared in the room, which I made out to be Pink’s Get the party started. But Monisha was nowhere to be seen. I spotted a quiet corner for me to stand in and see if I could find her. Then the strangest thing happened. This boy who seemed pretty familiar to me came up and said: “Hey! How ya doin? I’m Joinal.”
“Hi Joinal I’m Anisa… erm, do you know where Monisha is?”
“Erm…no, how ‘bout a drink?”
“No thanks, I’m not here to drink!” I replied uninterested, craning my neck to look round the crowd of people for Monisha.
“Er…okay,” he said. He gave me a weird look and walked off. Only then did I look and saw him looking at me with his bunch of mates and laughing. I hadn’t been there 5 minutes and had already become a laughing stock. But I didn’t care because I knew I was there to have a good time and I didn’t care what people thought of me. Then it hit me. It was actually Joinal, Joinal captain of the football team, who everyone seemed to fancy apart from me, and he was talking to me and I just went and shut him off like that! Doh! That was only the first mistake of the night. So I thought, I’ll show them, I can take alcohol too! I grabbed a can of beer off Joinal and gulped it down.

“Hey!” Joinal said, “What you doin?” But he seemed impressed. I looked at Joinal and I actually found him quite attractive, considering he wasn’t my usual type. I’ll take another drink again, I thought. I wanted to impress him more. This time, I grabbed a glass of champagne from some boy carrying it around. Oh no! I’d never felt like this before, maybe it was the alcohol. I knew that people tend to find the opposite sex 25% more attractive when they have had about 2 pints of beer than they normally would. Alcohol! On no! I’d been drinking. I thought I would pass out because I was in complete shock. How could I? What was I thinking? I had to get out of there! I realised what Monisha was talking about. She was right, the champagne did stink of piss and I was pissed with champagne and beer. I didn’t know how much I had taken in but I knew it must have been a lot.

I felt dizzy and as if I was about to puke. I found the nearest exit and legged it outside. After the vomiting ordeal I felt better, only then to realise I had come out the front door. Someone must have been watching. And I wasn’t wrong; there she was an old lady standing next door with her eyes popping out in total disbelief.
“Oh my goodness! Children these days! How old are you, beti?”
“Erm…” I replied. Well, that said a lot didn’t it? Come on, I had to say something and all that came out was in a drunken voice: “I’ve been in there, they’ve got some nice… erm… smellin’ drinks.”
“Oh dear! I feel… I feel…”

What was she talking about? I was the one suffering here, and there she was, acting like a drama queen with her hand on her forehead as if she was in theatre. But then she collapsed on to the ground. At first I was worried that it might’ve been my breath or something, but then it came to me that I wasn’t allowed to drink. Man! I was going to be doomed for life now! Not being in the best state of mind, I only knew I had to do something. I was shaking her and telling her the pavement wasn’t the best place to fall asleep. And then I realised I should call for help!

“Heeellllllppppp!!!!!” I cried. But the music from Monisha’s house was too loud. It was pumping across the street and drowning my voice. I eventually realised this through my drunken stupor. I could either sit here yelling till I was blue in the face or go and do something to help this poor lady who I’d frightened to death. Hopefully, not quite dead yet. She’d left her door open. I had to step over her body to get in. I stumbled across the passage that was lit with a garish yellow light. I spied the phone on a telephone stand. The numbers floated in front of my face. I had to dial 4 times before I managed to press 999. I finally got through and let them know what had happened.

“She’s sorta fainted,” I said, conveniently forgetting that I scared the poor lady dead. After I hung up, the seriousness of the emergency woke me up even though the taste of alcohol lingered in my mouth. This was major, major trouble. Not only had I broken my parent’s trust, I’d gone and killed some old lady. It wasn’t funny anymore.

I sat on the soft green carpet next to the phone, staring at my victim lying on the doorway. It looked creepy, like I was some kind of a serial killer or something. I sat still, feeling sick. Even louder than the music next door, the ambulance arrived with its piercing wail. Out poured half the neighbourhood, mostly the party people from Monisha’s house. Everybody watched as I came out of the old lady’s house to lead the paramedics to her. One of them noticed the vomit next to the doorstep.
“Did she do that?” he asked. I was inclined to say yes because I didn’t want to admit that it was me, half drunken who probably killed the old lady. But what if they made the wrong diagnosis or something?
“No,” I admitted, “it was me. When I found her.”
They did some checks on her.
“Will she be alright?” I queried anxiously.
“Yes, yes,” the medic answered. “She’s just fainted. We’ll give her some oxygen and then take her in for a check up.”

Oh, man! I decided I’d just have to sit down and get myself together after this horrific ordeal. I sat myself down on the pavement. It wasn’t long till people started crowding me and asking me the most hideous questions like, “Did you fight her?” and “Why was the old woman messing with you anyway?”

It seemed as though they were under the impression that I had a fight with the woman. I mean, what made them think that? So even though I felt dizzy, I stood up and stumbled my way into Monisha’s house. The music stopped. Okay, I thought, everyone’s outside and obviously shocked after what happened. I made my way up to the bathroom. When I took a look in the mirror I saw a bruise on my cheek. Oh, that’s why they thought I had had a fight. As I turned to face the door, I saw some fake teeth on top of the sink; I turned with uneasiness and saw some sarees hanging from the towel rail. I was shocked because Monisha’s mum didn’t wear sarees, and I was even more shocked because no one old enough to wear fake teeth lived here. To my horror I finally came to the realisation that AAAAHHHH!!!!!! It wasn’t Monisha’s house, it was her next door neighbour’s house. Those teeth were presumably the old lady’s teeth and those sarees were the old woman’s sarees.
How was I to know? One, I was drunk and two, her door and Monisha’s door were open and right next to each other, so I stepped into the closest one. Could it get any worse? I thought not. Never in my life had I run that fast down the stairs and out of the door.

Actually, it did get worse. Everybody from the party were still standing outside and just looked at me as if I had robbed the whole house or something. I froze. Monisha stepped forward.
“Hey, that was brilliant, man!” she exclaimed. “Even I wouldn’t have thought to do that. You’re such a dark horse! Here was me thinking I was the bad girl! Let me get you another glass of champagne to celebrate your new personality!”
She walked into her house, taking with her as many people as she could, telling them the party wasn’t over. So nearly everyone followed her back in.
“Did you find anything valuable in there then?” asked this boy, who looked like one of those boys who would mug old ladies. Not only was I pointed at for nearly killing the woman, now everyone thought that I was trying to steal stuff from her house. Oh no! What could I do now? I could hear everyone whispering to each other and some girls gave me dirty looks. Oh shit! I nearly forgot I had to get home! I looked around, still confused. Everyone had surrounded my exits. I turned around to the old woman’s house to phone home and see if my parents had got home yet. Oh! What was the time? I had to know the time before I called.
“Erm... can some- someone tell me the… the time. Please?” I stammered to the nearest person, who happened to be Joinal’s friend.
“I don’t think this is the right time to get chirpsy with me!” he whispered, winking. Joinal grinned at me. I realised I’d just blurted out a pick up line. But I hadn’t meant it like that. AAHHHHHH!!!! Everything I did, and everything I said seemed to come out wrong. Then Joinal punched his mate and said to me, “He was just joking. Ignore him. It’s ten thirty.”
“Ten thirty?”
“Yeah,” confirmed Joinal.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!” I panicked.
“C’mon, let’s go somewhere quiet,” he said, looking at the other people. He took me inside Monisha’s house, to the conservatory where it was quieter. We sat down on the chair and I told him everything about how my parents wouldn’t let me come to the party. And how I had to get home before 11 o’clock.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be cool. I’ll take you home.” He had such a calming voice. We rushed past the crowd and got into his car. I felt like those big celebrities with a bodyguard being Joinal right next to me. But it was not the time to think like that, my aim was to get home. While in the car, I kept on asking him what the time was. He told me to relax and that everything was going to be all right. He also lent me his mobile to call home. Goldie answered and said that my parents weren’t home yet and that they called twice to check up on the house.
“What!” I exclaimed, “Where did you say I was?”
“I said that you were in the toilet both times because you had diarrhoea.”
“What??!! Okay, whatever, I’m on my way now.”
I looked at Joinal and saw him smirking. “Diarrhoea?”
We both burst out laughing.

When I got home, Goldie had trashed the place. There were crumbs all over her face and my cookie jar was empty except for one cookie. She came out with: “I’m still feeling a bit peckish, can I have the last one?”
That really set me off. I wanted to kill her. Instead I sent her home without her payment, but she was too stupid to realise that. Next time I won’t get her to cover for me! Diarrhoea! What kind of stupid excuse was that?

Watch out for the next part of Anisa's story coming soon!

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