When Michael Met Mina

When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah Page A

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Authors: Randa Abdel-Fattah
supportive).
    â€˜Everybody dies,’ Nathan helpfully offers. ‘I don’t want Dad to die. Or you. Or Michael. Or me, although I’d rather you die first because you’ve lived longer and it’s only fair. But you will die, you know. You could kiss me goodnight tonight and die in your sleep and Dad could be alive and okay in Baghdad as bombs detonate around him.’ He shrugs as though Mum is an idiot for not working out something so logical.
    â€˜Thank you, Nathan,’ Mum says wearily.
    â€˜Any time, Mum. Can I have more juice please?’

Mina
    Paula’s coming over for dinner tonight. I’ve been buzzing all day, like a kid waiting for her birthday party to start. The house is sparkling and smells of lemon bleach, frangipani and lamb biryani. Mum and I have been cleaning and cooking for hours because according to my mum’s logic, adolescent friendships are made or broken by the orderliness of one’s linen closet.
    I’m putting the last touches to the table for two that I’ve set on the verandah, and Mum is checking the stove.
    â€˜So her parents are both lawyers?’ Mum asks.
    â€˜Yep.’
    â€˜And they go on holidays overseas every year?’
    â€˜Well that’s what I’ve picked up from our conversations.’
    â€˜And she has a car?’
    â€˜Well, not exactly. She’s only sixteen, Mum, I told you that.’
    â€˜But you mentioned she has a car.’
    â€˜It’s her sister’s car. But she’s overseas so she’s left her car here and Paula’s taking driving lessons in the car.’
    â€˜And the car is a Saab?’
    â€˜Mum, quit it will you? I know what you’re thinking and she’s not like that, and no, she’s not going to judge us because we’re living in a shoebox.’
    Mum pauses, then draws a breath. ‘I just want to make a good impression. For your sake.’
    Mercifully, the front buzzer rings. I leap from the couch and run to answer and let Paula in. Within seconds she’s at the front door. She sees Mum and launches at her, giving her a big hug and a lopsided, utterly endearing grin.
    It doesn’t take long for Paula to be inducted into the Hall of Acceptable Friends.
    Mum insists on leaving the two of us alone to eat dinner and hang out. Because the apartment is so small, she retreats to her bedroom with a cup of tea, bowl of salted pumpkin seeds and the second half of a Bollywood movie.
    â€˜I’ve always wanted to watch a Bollywood movie,’ Paula says as we eat dinner.
    â€˜If you ever end up watching one, just expect to watch it over a few days because who has three straight hours free?’
    After we’ve eaten and washed up, we balance a junk food stash between us and go to my room. We settle onto my bed, spread the food around us, take out my laptop, and start watching funny YouTube clips of models tripping on runways, people falling off bikes and other Fail compilations that send us into fits of hysteria.
    â€˜So you think my Lord of the Rings movie marathon is a good idea?’ I ask Paula after we finally catch our breath.
    â€˜Definitely! Morello’s a big fan by the way. So, you know, we have Middle Earth in common. Bet you his wife doesn’t even know the difference between an orc and troll.’
    â€˜Easy. Just think of the difference between Terrence and Fred.’
    She laughs.
    â€˜So where will we hold the marathon?’ I ask. ‘If we get enough people we could all chip in and hire the strata community hall here.’
    â€˜How about we do it at my place? We’ve got a cinema room.’
    â€˜A cinema room?’
    Paula looks momentarily embarrassed. ‘Yeah, yeah. I know.’
    Despite my misgivings, Paula insists that her parents won’t mind an invasion of teenagers.
    She waves a hand dismissively. ‘It’s called emotional blackmail. Let me demonstrate.’ She sits up, grins at me. ‘Pay

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