Author: Heba Abdulla


She could see it in her peripheral vision. It was there, out in the open. The muted moonlight filtering through the high windows gave it a sinister gleam. But how could she take it? There were so many people around... too many witnesses. Keeping it in sight, she moved forward nonchalantly, hands tucked into the pockets of her dark robes. Her pulse increased as she neared it and slowly, casually she stretched her hand out, almost reaching it. People around her began to notice so she extended her outstretched hand, just a little more but–

 Zehra woke up with a start. She lay in bed with her eyes wide open in the dark, breathing heavily. As usual, she tried to remember what the object in the dream was. What had she been reaching out for? The dreams always ended in the same place, abruptly. It was making her nervous; strange recurring dreams just weren’t her cup of tea.  

Breathe in, breathe out.

“Zea!” her mother yelled from the kitchen. “Zea, wake up! You have school!”

Breathe in, breathe out.

“Zea... are you up?”

In, out.

She heard footsteps on the staircase and seconds later her door flew open.

Astaghfirullah! Why are you still in bed? Come on now, up! Chop chop!”

Zehra rolled her eyes and got out of bed.

“There’s no need to be so dramatic, Mama,”

“Now now, young lady, watch your mouth and get your lazy self into the shower and down for breakfast in ten minutes! Surra!"

Zehra sighed.

Westbrooke high wasn’t exactly all that it claimed to be; an unbiased, secular and social ground that provided opportunities for its students to spread their wings and soar high and what not. It was slightly elitist and a bit racist. Zehra knew it from experience; being a brown Muslim girl in Westbrooke High was no easy task.

As Zehra opened her locker she saw, in the reflection of her locker mirror, a cheerleader approach Nora. Zehra shut her locker and adjusted her headscarf before approaching them.

Nora Williams, like Zehra and their friend Ivanka Schneider, was a typical outcast at this typical school. She was a quiet, studious girl with extraordinary brain power who was adopted at a young age from a gypsy clan. She was a very calm person and wasn’t in the least affected by bullying. 

Zehra could hear the cheerleader Alexia taunt Nora.

“–because after all, you’re just an abandoned gypsy! Ooh look who’s here, it’s the terrorist,”

Zehra rolled her eyes and tried not to let it get to her as she grabbed Nora’s arm and walked away from the despicable bully. She looked into Nora’s clear green eyes.

“Are you okay?” Zehra asked.

“Yes, I assure you, I’m quite unperturbed,” Nora said with a smile. 

Zehra laughed as they joined Ivanka at her locker. Ivanka’s usually pale face was flushed and angry as she slammed her locker shut and turned to them with blazing eyes. 

“What in the world does she think of herself?!” she demanded. 

Zehra raised a brow. “Let me guess… Svetlana Johnson?”

“Yes!” Ivanka yelled, drawing curious glances. “That mo-”

Zehra clapped a hand over Ivanka’s mouth. “Alright, no swearing. What happened?”

“What happened? I was here minding my own damn business and then she goes all “someone call 911, those shoes are definitely from the museum,” like, why the hell does she care what kind of shoes I wear?” Ivanka said and threw her hands up in frustration.

“Why don’t you just ignore her?” Nora asked. 

“Okay, listen miss,” Ivanka turned to Nora. “I do not have the kind of calm emotional balance and self defense mechanisms that you have. I am not well-practiced in karate and taekwondo, like you. It’s easy for you to say.”

Nora shrugged. “Touché,”

Hugo appeared out of nowhere. “You know martial arts?”

Nora shrugged again. “Yeah. I’m not an expert or anything, but I know it.”

“She’s amazing at it!” Zehra added. 

“Damn that’s cool,” Hugo said, impressed.

Hugo was Ivanka’s half-brother. They were like twins in all physical aspects except their hair and eyes. Ivanka had her mother’s blond hair and blue eyes while Hugo had his mother’s black hair and grey eyes. But their personalities could not be more different. Hugo was popular and well liked by everyone in the school but hardly anyone knew about Ivanka and even if they did, it was as the quiet, nerdy sister of Hugo Schneider. 

The lunch bell rang and Zehra, Nora and Ivanka rushed outside. Lunch at school was a tedious affair and they preferred to eat out. Why suffer condescending glares and snide remarks when they could just relax for an hour elsewhere?

The three of them got into Ivanka’s Volkswagen and drove to the nearest McDonald’s. The three of them placed their orders and sat in their usual corner.

“I wonder how many calories are there in these,” Ivanka speculated when the food arrived. 

“I wonder how you’re not one of Alexia’s minions,” said Zehra. “I mean, with a popular brother in the school team and blonde-”

“I’m not their kind of blond. I have this stupid frizzy light yellow hair that makes my pale face look paler. I mean, if I had your beautiful brown hair or Nora’s lush red hair-”

Both Zehra and Nora rolled their eyes. 

“-and either yours or Nora’s complexion-”

“Okay, shut up,” Nora intervened. “I’m literally a Black girl with red hair. There couldn’t be a worse combination,”

Zehra laughed. “How did that happen anyway?” 

“My mother had red hair and my father was Black so here I am,” Nora explained. 

Ivanka threw her hands up, sending a fry flying. “I was just stating facts! And anyway, you both know these stuff are unhealthy.”

“No, it’s not.” Zehra said. Ivanka and Nora raised their eyebrows at her and she smiled. “Well, there’s the bread, it’s carbohydrates, totally good for our body. And lettuce, it’s a veggie! And the tomato, its-”

She was cut off as two crumpled paper napkin come flying at her and she laughed. 

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