4

After dinner Zehra had wandered off while Nora had gone to the washroom. She wondered where Zehra was, and remembered that Zehra had wanted to check out Nora’s grand piano. Nora was not musically inclined but her adoptive parents loved music and had a music room where they kept all their instruments and speakers. 

Nora walked into the music room and found Zehra at the piano. She knew that Zehra liked to play the piano but she wasn’t aware the Zehra was this good at it. Nora stood at the doorway as Zehra sang softly.

“And you can’t see my covered hair, so you sit there and you stare, and you judge me with your eyes, you’re sure I’m in despair! But are you not aware... under the scarf that I wear, I have feelings, and I do care...”

Nora smiled, and sat beside Zehra. She nodded at Nora and continued to sing. The words flowed out of her and Nora was reminded of what a beautiful voice Zehra had. 

“So don’t you see! That I’m truly free, this piece of scarf on me, I wear so proudly. To preserve my dignity, my modesty, my integrity, so don’t judge me... she says with a smile, I’m the one who’s free...”

She ended the song rested her head on Nora’s shoulder.

“Who’s song is that?” asked Nora.

“Sami Yusuf,” Zehra replied. 

“Am I supposed to know who that is?”

“Not really. But he’s a really talented and popular singer among us.”

Nora was silent for a while. “Living here… must be hard for you huh?”

Zehra sighed. “Sometimes... yeah. It’s just– I guess it would’ve been so much easier if I was in an Arab country. I mean, it would be totally awesome to live in like, Qatar or somewhere like that. Not only is it really developed, but their culture is totally compatible to mine. Here, it’s just that... I walk outside and people look at me like I’m gonna bomb the street any moment. Like, come on! Why does a piece of clothing I wear on my head suddenly make me less of a human? This country claims to be a "developed, first world" country but the way they treat immigrants is atrocious. The insults I hear and racism I face– okay I’m ranting now,”

“It’s fine. Homo sapiens need to vent sometimes.”

 Zehra chuckled. “Ain’t that the truth. It also helps that you’re a really good listener,” 

“I know what it’s like to have so much to say and no one to talk to. I don’t want that happening to you. Anytime you wanna talk, I’m right here.” 

Zehra smiled and hugged Nora. “You’re the best,” 

Ivanka stood in front of the mirror and checked her reflection nervously. She was wearing a dark green dress that reached below her knees and green heels. The dress was a bit loose and it hung off her skinny frame but Ivanka had given up trying to make it tighter. Her frizzy hair had been tamed to a more presentable look and her glasses had been replaced with contact lenses. She was also wearing mascara and lip gloss; she’d given up on eyeliner after three attempts and a whole lot of wipes. 

Ivanka was finally going to a party. Sure, she’d gotten invitations before; girls who wanted to score with her brother sometimes invited her to their parties. But she’d never really gone to one because parties just weren’t her scene and every time she mentioned a party to Zehra or Nora they just rolled their eyes at her. They were content with sitting at home with their books and the internet, but at times Ivanka did wish she could just live a normal high school life. She was going to this party because it was cheerleader Shay Chris’ party and Ivanka hoped it would boost her social status. 

When she arrived with Hugo, loud music attacked her ears and she was met with a house full of drunk people. Hugo disappeared, being accustomed to such parties, and Ivanka cringed as she entered. The place was a mess and reeked of alcohol. She contemplated backing away and just going home but Hugo’s friend Lucas David caught sight of her and pulled her in.

“Welcome to the complete and utter madness of a cheerleader’s party!” he screamed over the music.

“Where’s Hugo?” Ivanka shouted back.

“Now, now, don’t be such a wuss. Enjoy!”

And he disappeared. Ivanka stood lost for a moment, deeply regretting her decision to come to the party. What was she thinking? Parties were definitely not her scene. What in the world made her think that her introverted self would ever find a place in a popular girl’s party?

Ivanka slowly made her way towards the pool for some fresh air. She was standing with her arms wrapped around herself in the patio when Alexia staggered up to her. 

“Oooh, look who it is! It’s the dorky loser! LANA! Look who’s here!” she yelled. 

Svetlana Johnson appeared next to Alexia and looked surprised to see Ivanka.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Svetlana snapped.

“The same that you are,” Ivanka bit back defensively.

 Svetlana laughed loudly. “I highly doubt that, loser.”

 Alexia giggled and hit Svetlana’s arm as she laughed. The drink in Svetlana’s hand want flying and spilled all over Ivanka’s dress.

“Oops,” Alexia giggled again and Ivanka gasped in horror. 

“You... you total moron!” Ivanka shouted and both Svetlana and Alexia laughed harder. Just then, Shay Chris appeared and frowned at them. 

“What the hell, guys? C’mon, Ivanka, I’ll help you clean up.” 

She winked at the other two and led Ivanka away. Ivanka felt relieved. The dress clung to her body and felt really uncomfortable. Maybe she’d get a change of clothes from the illustrious wardrobe of Shay Chris...

By the time she realized they were heading towards the pool, it was too late.

“Have a good time!” 

Shay smirked as Ivanka fell into the pool with a loud splash.

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