Nora and Zehra picked up a sleepy Ivanka from her house and headed to school in Nora’s car. Ivanka immediately fell asleep in the backseat but jolted awake when they stopped abruptly at a red light.
“Didn’t sleep well yesterday?” Zehra asked.
Ivanka shook her head. “Party at Shay Chris'.”
The light turned green but neither Nora nor Zehra moved as they gaped at Ivanka. The car behind them honked and Zehra finally found her voice.
“You. Ivanka Anne Schneider. Went. To. A cheerleader party?!”
Ivanka ran a hand through her hair. “Just start the damn car, we’re causing a block.”
Nora started driving and Zehra turned to Ivanka.
“Seriously, what’s wrong with you? Shay Chris' party? Were you high!”
“There could’ve been consequences,&rdquo
Alpha Star and Star One sat in the dark basement in front of the laptop.“I sent the voice clippings to MRO.” said Star One.“Good. They’ll like that,” Alpha Star said.“Yes. And I’ve heard a new organization has cropped up. They call themselves SRO. Kinda like an anti-MRO programme.”“SRO? What does that stand for?”“No idea.”“Hmm...” Alpha star said absentmindedly.“Listen... don't you think this is all–”“No,”“What?”“No. I know what you’re about to ask and I’ve asked it to myself a hell lot of times, and the answer is no.”Star One sighed. “Fine, what’s our next move?”
Svetlana Johnson sat across from Hugo Schneider as he ate his hamburger and she picked at her salad.“Does Lucas know?”“Yes. He wasn't happy,”Svetlana pursed her lips. “I'm not surprised.”“Does your sister know about us?”He shook his head. “No. Hardly anyone knows,”“Ivanka would be livid if she found out,”Hugo was quiet for some time. “Why do you torture her like that?”Svetlana shifted uncomfortably. “It’s not under my control, Hugo. You have to get that. I... I must do it. I must do as Alicia says or I’m...”“You’re what?”Svetlana swallowed and took her time. “Alicia knows a lot of stuff about me.”“What stuff?”
Zehra did get selected for the songbird contest. She squealed and hugged Nora and Ivanka, jumping up and down. Despite all her pretence and modesty, Zehra really did love singing. Seema Singh came up to them.“Congrats, Zehra. I heard you sing, it was amazing.”“Thanks!”“Hey Seema, you okay now?” Ivanka asked. Seema looked confused.“What?”“You know, you were sick and everything...”Seema rolled her eyes and ran a hand down her face. “Listen, I’m S-I-K-H, okay? You’re Jewish, Zehra’s a Muslim and I’m Sikh. Get it?”“Oh.” Ivanka looked dumbstruck. “Sorry...”“It’s fine, I get it all the time. Anyways, gotta run see you around!” Seema said and ran off.Zehra’s p
Zehra entered home and locked the door behind her.“Assalamu Alaykum, Mama,” she called out.“Wa alaykum salam, Zea,” her mother replied, emerging from the kitchen.Zehra put her sneakers away and was about to head upstairs to her room, when she noticed that something was off. She turned at the foot of the stairs and saw her mom watching her with a distant expression.“What’s up. Mama?”Her mother shrugged. “Nothing. Go and take a shower.”Zehra put her backpack down and removed her scarf. “Alright, tell me.”Her mom glared at her. “Go take a shower and pray ‘Asr, Zea,”“Not till you tell me what’s going on,” Zehra said and sat on the bottom stair, knowing that this would take some persuasion. Brown parents
Lucas plopped onto the seat next to Zehra's. She was agitated."Sup. Zehra.""Hey, Luke," she said absentmindedly."What's wrong?""Huh? Nothing. Nothing's wrong.""What happened? Another email!?Zehra sighed and shook her head. And then she told him everything. Lucas felt his blood boil as his jaw tightened and his fist curled."That son of a..." He got up suddenly walked out of the classroom. She sat confused, till she heard a commotion and rushed outside.Lucas was punching the living daylights out of Hugo.Zehra's hand flew to her mouth as they pounded at each other. Lucas' eyes had darkened and he was furious."How dare you, you conniving traitor!"Punch."I can't believe you were my friend!Punch."I trusted you!!"Kick.It took three minutes for four of their teammates to pull them apart. Ivanka rushed to Hugo and
Zehra opened her eyes and saw Nora curled up into a ball next to her, sleeping contentedly. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the time. 4:50 am.The previous night, Nora and Ivanka had refused to let Zehra return home alone. So Ivanka had gone home while Nora had accompanied Zehra and slept over at hers.Zehra brushed her teeth, took ablution and prayed. Nora woke up at 5:00 am.“Morning, sleepyhead.”Nora looked at the clock. “Five?! It’s not morning, it’s night!”She yawned and pulled the covers over her head. Zehra chuckled and waited, counting in her head.Three.Nora turned to the right.Two.She curled into a ball and then stretched out.One.Nora groaned and sat up. “My sleep ditched me!”<
“And you went?!” asked Lucas incredulously. “Are you out of your mind?!”Zehra rolled her eyes. “What was I supposed to do, sit at home like a coward?”“He could’ve harmed you. You could’ve been killed!”“Come on. Stop being so dramatic.”They were sitting on one of the benches in Central Park. She’d jogged out of the woods and run into Lucas.“Next time, please don’t be so reckless. Don’t…” he swallowed and gritted his teeth. “Don’t let your anger get the better of you.”Zehra looked at him. He’d suddenly tensed and looked agitated. “Are you okay?”He was silent for a while and then got up.“Come on,” he said. “I want you to meet someone.”Th
Zehra turned to find Lucas gazing intensely at her, and blushed. She cleared her throat pointedly."Um...?"He smiled, looking slightly starry-eyed. "Zehra I-""Luke, no."Zehra was no oblivious fool, she knew what he was going to say. "I'm sorry Lucas, but we," she gestured to the two of them, "cannot happen."He looked pained. "Zehra...""I'm sorry Luke, I see you as a brother, no less, no more."He nodded curtly and looked away. Zehra immediately felt guilty and tried to change the subject."Horrid weather, huh?" she winced as soon as the words left her mouth. The weather? Seriously?Lucas just nodded and said nothing. What had started as a lovely day was now rapidly going downhill. Zehra shifted uncomfortably as the air grew thick with tension. Suddenly, the carriage jolted and they slowly descended. She