2

Nora closed the medicine cabinet with a sigh. The pills were nearly over. She sat on her bed and thought about how far she’d come. She had early memories of travelling all around the world with her gypsy parents. The carnivals, circuses, parades. Endless nights in the Sahara Desert and the pure, unadulterated joy of seeing the pyramids. Travelling by ship to India and seeing the grand splendor of Taj Mahal. The journey that was worth the exhaustion when they saw Machu Pichu. Those had been good days. But soon, too soon, trouble had arrived. Their happy little gypsy community turned in on itself. And that wretched, fateful night when a drunken brawl led to the death of her beloved father and later, her mother...

Nora had been trying to forget her terrible past for years now, but it still appeared when she least expected it. Sometimes it still haunted her, the vivid images of her father’s death and the day she heard that her mother plummeted to death from a steep cliff overlooking the raging sea.

The doorbell rang, interrupting Nora from her dark reverie and she remembered with a surge of happiness that she’d invited Zehra over for a sleepover. It would help her forget. 

The door burst open.

“I’m home!” Zehra yelled.

Nora grinned. “Technically, home means the place where–”

“Please shut up,” she said and Nora laughed. 

Zehra removed her scarf and untied her hair.

“I really, really envy your hair, ” said Nora.

“Oh please,” Zehra replied, rolling her eyes. “You have the most gorgeous red hair I’ve ever seen.”

“Yea, whatever. You better have brought your toothbrush because I sure as hell ain’t letting you use mine,” Nora joked.

Zehra rolled her eyes and waved her toothbrush in Nora’s face before going to the washroom. Nora arranged her pillows and powered up her laptop to look through Netflix for a movie to watch. If Ivanka had been there she would definitely want to watch a chick flick but she was busy and neither Nora nor Zehra liked to waste their time on cliché movies. 

Nora scrolled through Netflix and wondered why Zehra was taking so long. Just then she arrived, looking like she’d seen a ghost.

“Zea, what happened?”

“I opened the cupboard under the sink,”

Nora’s eyed widened. “And?”

Zehra glared at her and she gulped.

“Are you dying?!” Zehra asked bluntly and Nora did a double take. 

“What? No, I’m not dying!”

“Don’t you dare try and lie to me!” 

“I swear, I’m not dying! I’m alive and healthy,” 

“Then what are those pills for?” 

Nora sighed and avoided her eyes. “They’re antidepressants,” 

“Why do you have antidepressants?” Zehra demanded.

“It’s nothing I... I was diagnosed with depression, nothing big,” Nora mumbled.

“Nothing big? You’re taking pills for ‘nothing big’?”

“It’s just once a day...”

“And you didn’t think it was important enough to tell us? Or are we not worthy enough?”

“It’s not that– it’s just..” she sighed. “Listen, I’m sorry. But please don’t make this hard for me. And um... don’t tell Ivanka. I didn’t tell you guys because... I wasn’t ready,”

Zehra’s eyes softened. “I’m sorry, Nora. It was just so unexpected. What happened?”

“Nothing much... my past, I suppose.”

“You don’t need to tell me, if you don’t want to. So,” Zehra gestured to the laptop. “Let’s watch something.” 

Nora perked up. “Sure, what do you want to watch?”

“I don’t know... nothing cliché. And preferably not horror. Any suggestions?”

“Um.. The Joker?”

“Hell no,”

“Or we could just binge watch all the Avenger movies,”

“Oh I’d love to, but we don’t have the time. How about Black Panther?” 

Nora smiled and they began to watch the movie. 

Two hours later, Nora shut the laptop and stretched. “That is such a great movie,”

“It’s one of the best Marvel movies,” Zehra said and sprawled on the bed. Nora sat beside her. 

“I have a doubt,” Zehra said. 

“Yeah?”

“Do you guys know, like, sorcery and stuff?”

Nora stared in confusion. “You guys? What?”

“I mean, gypsies...”

“Oh.”

“So, do you?”

“Well I personally don’t, but I guess the others do. We do have a lot of traditions and superstitions and weird practices.”

“Ooh! Cool,”

“Yeah. I also know a bit of colloquial Arabic from when we were in Egypt. And a bit of Spanish from Andalusia. Oh, and a bit of Hindi and even some Welsh. I’ve always been good with languages,”

“Wait, you know Arabic? Keyf-al-haal ya habibti!”

“Whoa dude, I was like, really young. And it was just a bit of local Egyptian Arabic that we needed for our stay there, though I do plan on learning it.”

Zehra dimmed. “Oh, alright. Would’ve been cool to have someone to speak in Arabic to. By the way, what’s the time?”

“7.20 pm”

Zehra jumped up. “Astaghfirullah, I haven’t prayed Maghrib! Do you have a mat?”

Though Nora didn’t understand half of what Zehra said, she nodded and took out her yoga mat.

Zehra stared at her in disbelief.

“Don’t tell me you do yoga too?”

Nora smiled. “I do.”

Zehra rolled her eyes. “Is there anything you don’t do?”

“I don’t know Kung fu, or Judo, or–”

“Yea, I get it,” said Zehra, wrapping a scarf around her head. She then made sure that everything except her face and hands were covered and began  praying on the mat while Nora watched in fascination. When she was done, Zehra unwrapped her scarf, rolled the yoga mat and handed it over to Nora. 

“So that’s how you guys pray.”

“Yea, why?”

“Nothing, I just don’t get why people call you guys terrorists.”

“It’s because of these stupid ISIS...”

“No.”

Zehra looked at her. “What?”

Nora shrugged. “It’s just... those ISIS guys aren’t all, you know, Muslims. We were passing through Palestine once, and these ISIS soldiers stopped us and asked if we were Muslims. None of us were, and I remember everyone was shit scared. And then this Christian dude went ahead and said we were all Muslims and those soldiers told him to recite few verses from your um... ko...”

“Qur’an?”

“Yea, Qur’an. And we all thought we were done for sure, and this dude goes ahead and recites some random gibberish, not even in Arabic, and get this– those bloody terrorists let us pass.”

“What!”

“Yes! And the elders were all talking about how ISIS was just a façade to taint the image of a peaceful religion.”

“Wow.”

“Yea...”

“I am so jealous of all these wonderful experiences you’ve had.”

Nora smiled sadly. “I would trade it all, in a heartbeat, for a normal life with my parents,” 

Zehra teared up and held her arms out. “Aw come here, you,” 

And for the first time in a long time, Nora let the tears flow. 

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