By:  Heba Abdulla  Ongoing
Language: English
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An extraordinary girl in an ordinary town, Zehra Mahmood has led her life in the isolated and challenging way of a stoic believer. Apart from her friends Nora and Ivanka, Zehra's life was devoid of colour. Till one day, she overstepped an imaginary line and her world turned upside down. Thrown into her path were mysterious characters and unexpected twists that had her running for her life and choosing between two grueling options: fight or flight.

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20 Chapters
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 yell
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 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 f
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 The two people sat next to each other on the worn-out couch. The only source of illumination in the dark, dank basement was the laptop in front of them. They were wearing identical black hoodies and black jeans, with a metallic mask covering the lower half of their face. It distorted their voices, which was convenient because they weren’t supposed to know each other’s identity.“We need code names,” one said to the other, typing away on the laptop. “Alright, I’ll be Star One,”“I guess that makes me Star Two?”“Yes, of course.”“Ha ha. Not happening. If you’re Star One, I’m Alpha Star.”“That’s not–”“Deal?”Star One sighed. “Deal.”"I'm assuming you're a guy...?" asked Alpha Star.Star One rolled their eyes. "Assume whatever you want," "Okay bas
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 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. 
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 “I shouldn’t have gone to the stupid party!” Ivanka shouted, tears streaming down her face. She was finally home; she’d hunted Hugo down and got home as soon as possible. She felt uncomfortably cold, even after having taken a warm bath and wearing warm clothes. Hurt and anger stirred in her chest and she felt awful. Humiliation filled her as she remembered the raucous laughter of the jocks who'd been in the pool when she fell. The water and loose dress combined with the mascara on her face had made her look like a total idiot. Ivanka squeezed her eyes shut, willing the embarrassing images to go away. What was it it about her that was so disastrous? How did she always land in such situations and wind up embarrassing herself? Why had she gone to the stupid party in the first place?!“It was your decision. I didn’t force you to come,” Hugo bit back. "In fact, you persuaded me to take you along with you,"
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 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
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 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?” 
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 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?”
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 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
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 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
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