The doorbell rang shrill, drilling a hole in her ear. Momina opened her eyes and looked around the room blearily. Vaguely, she could hear her mom yelling something downstairs.
She rubbed the sleep from her eyes, her limbs sore. The doorbell rang again.
“Mhm…mhm,” Momina mumbled.
“Mina! Get the milk!” her mother roared at the top of her lungs.
Momina rolled over on her back, and the next moment she fell on her back with a loud thud. She let out a low moan.
“MO-MI-NA!” Downstairs her mother yelled each syllable separately.
“I’m coming!” she croaked. The faint light peeping through the curtains had a faint blue tint, hinting at the early morning. Momina squinted at the luminous digits of the wall clock.
It read something like six in the morning. Too early, she moaned internally. It was the first day of summer vacation. She should not have been up at this hour. It was unnatural.
Downstairs she heard her mom bang pans on the stove. She pushed herself up from the floor with a grunt.
She had only taken a step further when her foot caught into something on the floor, and she tripped face forward. She let out a howl, the pain blossoming over her elbows and knees.
Her sister was sleeping on a mattress in a new spot on the floor. She smacked her sister’s leg away as she got up again, now almost awake.
Downstairs, a silver pan was waiting for her in the kitchen.
“The gawala has been waiting for eons!” her mother snarled in her direction as she kneaded dough.
Without responding, Momina grabbed the pan and shuffled to the front screen door. Stifling a yawn, she pushed it open, crossed the yard and opened the front iron gate.
She had taken only a few steps outside the gate when a figure zipped past her, pushing her back. Momina lost her balance and landed on her backside as her silver pan clattered next to her.
“HEY! Jackass!” she yelled at her smirking neighbor Asfandyar.
The milkman clucked his tongue at him.
“Why do you do that?!” she demanded still on the ground.
“Come first, get first,” Asfand said over his shoulder, as the milkman poured milk in his pan.
“I swear, one of these days I’ll fix that smug face of yours!!!”
Asfand turned around and waggled his eyebrows at her fuming form. As he passed her, he kicked away her slipper that come off her feet when she had fallen and scampered back towards his house.
“HEY!!!” Momina yelled looking over her shoulder at his retreating hobbling figure. “I’ll kill you Asfand! You rat! I’ll kill yo—”
“You okay?” A quiet voice cut her retorts short. A girl was standing in front of her. Momina squinted to make out her face against the bright blue sky.
The girl had very short hair that fell into her large brown eyes.
“Oh hello,” Momina said brightly.
“What are you doing on the ground?” the girl asked. She had a strange accent. Momina could not put her finger on where it was from.
“My friend pushed me. He thinks he’s very funny” She thumbed over her shoulder.
The girl was holding a lollipop in one hand and a plastic shopping bag in the other. She popped the lollipop in her mouth and extended her free hand to Momina.
Momina stared at it for a moment and then grabbed it. She brushed her clothes, now covered in grey dust.
“Baji, you want the milk or not?” the milkman asked looking tired.
“Who are you calling baji?” Momina glowered at him while extending her pan to the milkman.
“Do you live nearby?” she asked the girl who was sucking on the lollipop while looking at Momina thoughtfully. In response she nodded.
“Where?” Momina asked. Milkman placed the cap over his metal containers hanging over his motorbike and drove away.
The girl pointed over Momina’s shoulder, towards the gate where moments ago Asfandyar had entered.
“No way! Are you the new tenants at Malik uncle’s house?”
The girl didn’t respond to that.
“Good luck living with that beast, Asfandyar,” Momina said taking a deep breath, “I swear, at times I question whether he is a human or not. Take today for example.
Who pushes around innocent neighbors? He is so immature. I think being the youngest in the family does that to you. Still, you have Bobs, who is such a precious child.
You should see him, the whole neighborhood is proud of him. He is an angel, I tell you, an angel. You mark my words, one day he’ll be known throughout Lahore”
Momina paused for breath. The girl only stared at her.
“I mean, Uncle and Aunty Malik are amazing people. Even Sarah, Asfand’s older sister is agreeable. I guess every family has a rotten egg, and you can’t really do anything about it.
I wonder who’s that in my family…?” her voice trailed off.
“Hey,” Momina said suddenly as the girl made to walk over to the neighboring gate. The girl stopped dead in her tracks.
“You never told me your name.” Momina said almost accusingly.
“Alev,” replied the girl.
“I’m Momina Hussain, but you can call me Mina. It was nice to meet you Alev. Alev. That’s a different name. Is it Arabic?”
Alev, the new girl, thought about it for a second, and then responded.
“Turkish, I think.”
“Huh. I’ll see you around, Alev.”
Momina waved merrily and spun around heading back towards her green gate.
“Don’t let that caveman push you around,” she said calling over her shoulder, most probably referring to the landlors’s son, Asfandyar.