Chapter Four

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The wind rustled the leaves of the juniper trees above my head and I closed my eyes, enjoying the damp air. A few crows hopped from branch to branch, above me cocking their heads at each other and occasionally cawing. The smell of freshly fried chips wafted from the canteen, tempting anyone passing by.

“Mind if I join you?”

I opened my eyes and grinned, recognizing the voice. Dawud stood before me with his hands in his pockets, sandy hair ruffled by the wind.

“Do I have a choice?”

“Not really.” He chuckled, plopping down on the bench next to mine. “Enjoying the weather?”

I nodded smiling and he leaned back against the trunk of the juniper tree, gazing at the clouds broodingly. I glanced at him worried. His shoulders were tense and jaw taut. He glanced my way and I raised an eyebrow. He shrugged, and resumed his fascination with the sky.

I pursed my lip and wondered what was bothering him. Dawud was a pretty rational guy; it took something pretty problematic to bug him. His thick eyebrows were set in an annoyed line. The wind picked up its pace and an empty Milo carton rolled across the grass near our feet. Dawud kicked it away with unnecessary force making it skid a fair distance before slowing to a stop at the foot of the basketball hoop.

He shoved his hands into his pockets and looked thoughtfully at the green carton.

“Any luck with those writing competitions?” he asked absent-mindedly, making small talk, his eyes on the carton.

“Not really.” I answered with a crooked smile. If you thought about it, it was pretty funny how I took part in so many competitions but never won. What were the odds? I must really suck. “The point is to try.” I laughed, trying to coax him out of his mood.

 “At this rate I’ll be a writer in no time.”

He relented with a smile and I rejoiced in the little victory. His eyes had warmed somewhat and he was about to say something when we noticed Jannat, Amira, Arooj, Zaid, Ali and Sundas eyeing us.

“Those idiots always move in packs,” Dawud said. “Take one of them alone and they’re helpless.”

 I was quiet, watching them casually saunter their way towards us, talking animatedly all the while and occasionally casting jeering grins our way.

“They’re coming here.” I noted drily.

“Peachy.”

The wind picked up momentum and the overgrown grass thrashed wildly. A few leaves blew off the branches of the overhead trees, swirling in the air. The air was damp and the clouds were now an ominous shade of grey. I breathed in the smell of rain and my spirits soared. I felt fresh and invigorated; like I had the power to do anything.

Jannat’s hair was tied up in a high pony, her pink sandals complementing her shirt which read ‘MY attitude depends on how YOU treat me’. Her skin tight jeans were a bright neon blue which only she could pull off. She led the group as they took their time reaching us. Amira was tagging along in the rear with Ali; trying without success to engage him in a conversation. Sundas and Arooj trailed behind Jannat more or less silently, giggling every now and then when Jannat spoke. I pitied their weak souls. They were only with Jannat so that they could get a good story, to be in the thick of all the drama and to try and get into her inner circle. Meanwhile Jannat was using them as a platform, a base on which she climbed and then looked down on everyone else. Their desperateness to be with her, to please her and to be acknowledged stoked the fiery blaze that was Jannat’s ego. And as if her mindless minions weren’t enough, she also had the class joker, Zaid, under her thumb.

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