That's the Way It Is

© Too Much Info

Disclaimer: I do not own Replay by Iyaz or the Story of Us by Taylor Swift or Percy Jackson or Sesame Street.


Prologue

On the Friday before the week of Midterms, Noora is talking with one of her friends in the other Arabic class when Zain rushes in. He's angry at how he lost in the game during recess and just pissed in general at everybody. Dropping his bag to the floor and sitting down, he notices Noora talking to some girl in his Arabic class. She's in the other class, the one the teacher kicked him out of on the first day of school. He hadn't done anything-just sat down and started talking like everybody else in the class.

It had been his first day back in an Islamic school for over a year and the teachers still didn't like him. In a bad mood, and seeing an opportunity to bother the girl he likes, he yells, "Get out, Big Bird!"

Noora is walking out of the classroom already as he says that, but her short friend with glasses turns around and says, "Big Bird? Is that the best you can come up with?"

Noora spins around, too, and starts laughing.

"Big Bird?" she laughs and says, "That's the best you come up with."

They both walk out laughing and Zain stares at their retreating backs. He had just called her Big Bird! He nicknamed her after a big fat yellow bird from Sesame Street? How could she only laugh and walk away like that wasn't insulting at all? He yells more insults to see if he can get her pissed. She's already gone and there's no angry Noora for him to laugh at.

After Arabic, Noora tells her friend Aisha, "Zain called me Big Bird before Arabic."

She's laughing, but Aisha isn't. She says, "You know, Zain's kind of nice to me."

Noora drops her backpack and gapes at Aisha. Noora knows immediately what her friend is implying and she knows what's going to happen.

"You?" she questions just in case because she can't remember any significant event where Zain was nice to Aisha and also because Aisha isn't self-centered or conceited enough to say that.

"No, you," Aisha answers. Their teacher tells everybody to sit down because she's starting the movie for the latest novel they read.

XXX

She hasn't discussed this 'Zain likes you' theory with Aisha all weekend or today, Monday. It's been driving her crazy though and Aisha notices.

"I know you're thinking about it," she says.

"About what?" Noora replies, playing dumb on purpose.

"About what I said on Friday."

It was only a sentence or two out of the handful of conversations they had throughout the weekend and Friday, but they both knew what Aisha was talking about.

"No, I'm not," Noora says. She's not thinking about it. She's lying to herself though. Right at that moment, she's looking directly at Zain across the room.

"You're thinking about it at least 80% of the time."

"No! Like 30% of the time."

"40%."

"50%."

They go on arguing until settling on 70%.

Zain calls her Big Bird two more times. After the second time, she demands him to not call her that. So, he calls her Big Bird once more, and then abides by her order.

Noora starts liking him in spite of everything.


Part I

The Boy

He glares at his brother. Doesn't he understand? He should understand. Zain had explained everything about his feelings for a girl to his older brother that morning, but the only thing his brother said was, 'You'll get over it.' Zain even explained how he'd been trying to get over it, but that it wouldn't happen! They're at the airport, being checked-in and soon to be scanned through the security. Zain doesn't care about how he's going to spend the next day flying from country to country to reach Palestine or that his friends will be graduating eighth grade while he'll be in a foreign country.

They're departing for overseas two weeks before school closes and he's leaving without being assured whether Noora knows his feelings for her. She probably isn't even aware of his existence. Did his big (and smart he must admit) mouth actually attract this girl towards him? He doesn't think so and he's sad that he has to leave. Honestly, there's no issue in spending time with his family in another country for more than a month. The issue is this girl.

XXX

Sitting in the airplane flying him and his family to New York City from Dallas, Zain can't remove Noora from his head. Zain doesn't want to think about her. He wants to stand up and move his legs. Being seated in an airplane however, he kicks the seat in front of him instead. He kicks it again and a big, muscular man turns around with threatening eyes. Zain narrows his eyes defensively at the guy and says, "Sorry, man."

When the man turns back, Zain wants something to do. With no television on domestic flights, his brother listening to music on his iPod, and his sister playing on her game boy, he decides to figure out how many kicks it'll take for the man in front of him to go ballistic. Smirking, he props his legs on top of the man's seat and continues to try to forget Noora for the next two hours.

The Girl

Noora stares at the page full of lyrics for the third love-sick song she's written in a week. She's disgusted with herself. There's nothing sweet or nice about this big-mouthed guy. He's bitter and rude. She hates how she feels. The boy simply noticed certain things about her and her friend, Aisha, had to theorize that he liked her! She crumples the paper in frustration and sighs.

Noora is depressed over Zain, a guy leaving for overseas that day. It pains her to realize that she doesn't even know if he is returning to the same school next year. They never had a conversation, but her heart still had sped at the moment he had said her name to grasp her attention for class work help. She's not going to drool over him at the graduation which if he hadn't left early; he would've come to and hopefully worn dark blue and looked very good.

She finds the previous love-sick written songs and tears them. She has three projects, three study guides, and three phone calls to make. Because of him, she doesn't want to do any of these tasks.

XXX

In the middle of a baby shower, Noora's working on her one of her Final Exam study guides. She is progressing on it very slowly because her mind keeps drifting to Zain. When Sarah, her best friend for the past nine years, arrives, she has to force herself to be happy and talkative with the fact Zain is leaving today never departing her mind.

"I almost forgot," Sarah says while eating cheese cake. She pinches Noora on the arm long and hard which makes her jump off the couch they're sitting on.

"Ow! What the hell was that for?!" Noora wails and sits back down.

"For not telling me until the night before he leaves," Sarah replies and slaps Noora's arm.

"I'm sorry. I tried to tell you before, but you had your own guy to obsess over," Noora replies and feels sick as she forces another bite of cheesecake down her throat.

"Actually, I think I'm over him, but you should've told me," Sarah says cheerfully. Noora looks at her skeptically. She knows that Sarah isn't over her crush on Mahmoud, but she doesn't mention her view. She's happy for Sarah if she believes she's over him.

While rubbing the arm Sarah had slapped and pinched, Noora knows she deserves the pain for informing her best friend so late. She says, "I know I should've, and I eventually did. Take my cheesecake. I don't feel good."

"You sure?"

Noora nods her head while Sarah takes the bowl from her hands.

"You look like you're about to cry," Sarah observes.

"I miss Zain and it feels so stupid," Noora replies sorrowfully.

The Boy and The Girl

Having a crush on someone who follows the same religion of Islam including the no boy and girl intermingling thing and lives in a completely different universe than you outside of school is an intense endurance. They both think this situation sucks without knowing the other thinks the same.


Part II

The Boy

Trying to forget about her, Zain searches through the movies that play on the flight to Dubai he's on. He finds Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Remembering Khalid, a friend of his, mentioning it a handful of times, Zain decides to watch it.

Percy Jackson, the main character, is being shown around Camp Half-Blood by a satyr. They're looking at the dueling field and Percy sees a brunette girl fighting on the field.

While pointing and staring at the girl Percy asks "What's her name?"


The satyr laughs and replies, "She will squash you like a bug."

"Are you serious?" he murmurs. Zain tries to forget and his attempt to forget causes him to remember. He's recalling all the times he's caught himself staring at Noora. His mind is then full of thoughts of her and that's not what he wants. Forget her, he tells himself.

Frustrated, he turns the TV off and takes off the headset. Then, he finds his iPod, puts on the earphones that go with it, and turns it on as another try to forget Noora. Replay by Iyaz plays.

Shawty´s like a melody in my head

That I can´t keep out

Got me singin´ like

Na na na na everyday

It´s like my iPod stuck on replay replay-ay-ay-ay

Remember the first time we met

You was at the mall with yo friend

I was scared to approach ya

But then you came closer

Hopin´ you would give me a chance

Who would have ever knew

That we would ever be more than friends

We´re real worldwide breakin all the rules

She like a song played again and again

That girl like somethin off a poster

That girl is a dime they say

That girl is a gun to my holster

She's runnin through my mind-

He presses stop suddenly. The lyrics he stopped on continue in his head: She's runnin' through my mind all day-ay. She is running through his mind all day. Who would have ever knew that we would ever be more than friends? The song replays in his mind and Zain realizes he knows most of the lyrics. They could never be more than friends. Hell, they could never be more than classmates. If they could be anything more, Noora and he would be real worldwide breakin' all the rules. He laughs bitterly because that's exactly what he wants.

The Girl

"I hate Zain," a friend of Noora says. Noora recollects something Zain had said rudely to the girl the week before.

"What'd he do?" she asks. Her friend throws her arms out and says, "I don't know. I just hate him!"

Aisha, who knows of her Zain dilemma, says, "He is such a jerk. He's so freaking rude to everyone."

Noora stays quiet and looks out at the guys playing on the basketball court by the playground. Zain isn't there. Why is she even looking? He had left the previous Saturday and it was currently Monday. Noora was hoping he was here though. There's the small hopeless hope he hadn't left. She stands against the pole supporting the soccer goal knowing he had left.

It feels stupid being quiet and distant because her mind is occupied with thoughts of a boy her friends disliked. Why hadn't she defended him? She knows the answer to that question. The guy has nothing to defend himself with. Noora realizes the subject had changed to graduation dresses and describes her dress exactly like she had described it the many times before.

He isn't worth it she keeps telling herself, but she continues to feel so empty.

The Boy and The Girl

Could you really miss someone you never actually knew?


Part III

The Boy

As Zain and his family wait to be checked through security in Frankfurt, Germany, he finishes last in Mario Kart on his sister's DS. His older brother watches from over his shoulder and smirks.

"You're thinking about that girl," he says.

"No, I am not," Zain growls as he swerves and crashes into the barrier.

"Then why are you losing a game that you've always been able to play perfectly?" he questions.

"Shut up," Zain responds. He attempts one more time with the same results and Zakariyya's smirk grows.

"You know, you told me there was a girl, but not who she was," he says.

Their younger sister whines, "I want to play now."

Zain disregards her and holds the handheld at a height the girl can't reach.

"You don't care," he says. Zakariyya shrugs and snatches the game and hands it to Zainab.

"I'm curious," he responds while discarding his phone, iPod, watch and wallet into the bucket to be scanned. Zain drops his own phone, his Puma bag strapped over his shoulders, and a variety of coins from his pockets. The rest of their family consisting of their mother, father, and sister follow after them.

"Where's she from?"

"She's Paki," Zain responds as they look for their gate number.

"Whoa, what happened to my racist little brother?" he teases.

"Just because I point out Khalid's black all time doesn't make me racist," Zain defends himself.

"He's not the only person," Zakariyya reminds.

"Nobody cares. They know I'm joking."

The fact that Noora is from Pakistan and he's from Palestine doesn't affect his feelings at all. It does affect the chances of a relationship. With boys and girls being forbidden to 'intermingle' in Islam therefore the only possible solution being marriage, Desis and Arabs having superiority problems towards each other, and Noora and Zain living in different universes outside of school, nothing can happen.

"You think she likes you back?" he says-reverting the topic to another area of the subject.

"No," Zain says immediately.

"She hasn't laughed at any of your jokes? Or smiled at you? Or treat you differently?"

His brother continues to list signs that show whether she likes him also or not. Zain doesn't listen to him until Zakariyya considers the idea that she might know he likes her.

"If you dropped any hints…were meaner to her…or teased her lot…or mentioned her too much…," he goes on.

"I was nice to her," Zain interrupts defensively.

"Nicer to her than the other girls?"

His mouth is open to respond, but he collides with another passerby. They step sideways the way all pairs do when traveling in the same paths but different directions. Eventually, one of them steps the opposite way of the other, the apologies are said, and the incident is considered only another part of Zain's stupid day. It reminds Zain of the few times he's bumped into Noora in the hallways. Other than becoming angry like with other girls, he waits for either himself or her to step the opposite way of the other and then quietly walks away as does she.

As they wait to be boarded on the plane flying them to Dubai, Zakariyya asks again, "Do you think she likes you?'

"No."

"Then…do you think she knows you like her?"

Zain doesn't reply. She might know he likes her, or she might not know. He knows it doesn't change things either way.

The Girl

Noora sits in class glancing at Khalid, nicknamed Dr. Phil by Aisha. Her best friend had thought of another one of her 'theories'. She bases it on the following facts: he is always in the middle of everyone's drama, the boys are always seen talking to him secretly and he always finds out the girls' drama. It is always only him. All of it leads back to Dr. Phil. After developing that theory, Aisha had mentioned that may know that Noora likes Zain.

Biting her lip, looking across the classroom towards Zain's empty seat and then turning around to acknowledge Aisha's kicking, she tries to feel happy. She actually feels desperate enough to ask Khalid if he knows anything or not. She's still deciding whether she should ask or not when Khalid says, "Anybody miss Zain?"

Nobody responds, so he begins asking the guys individually. When he's finished asking all of them, Khalid asks Noora, "Do you miss Zain?"

"Yes," she immediately says, but closes her eyes briefly after realizing what she should've said. She sees his eyebrows rise in curiosity and hears the 'oooh' sounds made from all over the room.

"I don't," she says.

"Oh…oh…but you just said you did!" he yells excitedly.

"So?"

"So, you miss Zain," he says.

"Uh…no, I don't," she says in an obvious manner.

He looks at her skeptically for another minute, then turns to talk with the guys. Noora turns to smile at Aisha.

"It all leads back to him," Aisha says, and Noora stops smiling. She's holding on the small hope of this theory being proved wrong.

XXX

On Tuesday, the following day, Noora is leaning against the small boxed barriers surrounding each computer station in the school's computer lab. Standing sideways, her back is facing Khalid's computer, also known as Dr. Phil. She doesn't know he's discussing with one of his clients. Eventually, she sighs and tilts her head to see how Khalid's group's project has progressed. Noora discovers he's chatting on Gmail instead of working on the biggest PowerPoint presentation project they've ever been assigned for Computer class.

Khalid: she said yes.

Zain: seriously?

Khalid: would i lie to you?

Zain: um. yeah.

Khalid: she likes you, man. i'm not lying.

Aisha begins nudging Noora to see the background for their project. She unwillingly turns her head and concentrates on how they're presenting a week from now.

"Hey, Khalid, have you started on your part yet?" Omar, his group leader, asks.

"Yeah, yeah," Khalid replies absentmindedly.

"How are you chatting with Zain?"

"It's only 5 P.M. in Palestine right now. Eight-hour time difference," he explains.

"You need to start on the project."

"I will. I will."

Noora is listening to the exchange and rolls her eyes. Did girls really fall for these guys? Look at yourself, she thinks.

The Boy and The Girl

So, what if they know that I like them? It isn't the matter of what if to either of them, it's the idea that if the other knows, the other might like them back.


Part IV

The Boy

"What's Khalid saying?" Zakariyya asks in an uninterested tone.

"That he's got to go and work on the computer project," Zain answers.

Zain opens another window to block out the Gmail chat he's having with Khalid when Zakariyya comes to see what he's typing. After failing to grab hold of the mouse once, the older boy pushes his younger brother off the chair and restores the window with the chat.

Khalid: she said yes.

Zain: seriously?

Khalid: would i lie to you?

Zain: um. yeah.

Khalid: she likes you, man. i'm not lying.

Zain: what am i supposed to do about it then?

Khalid: g2g do the computer project.

Zain: u better come back and answer my question

"Ha, she misses you," Zakariyya says teasingly while reading the chat from the beginning that explains what had happened.

"No, she doesn't."

"Yes, she does," Zakariyya taunts. After he finishes reading the chat, he swivels the chair around and says a little more seriously, "She does."

"She said she doesn't!" Zain disagrees. He wants to believe she does. Despite all the restrictions in Islam, and being half-way across the world from her, he wants to believe she misses him or maybe even likes him, but she had said she doesn't.

"Because she doesn't want anyone to know she does," he says. He continues with a slight smirk, "I mean...she likes you."

"You're making me feel better," Zain says sarcastically. What's wrong with liking him? His big unattractive mouth, he remembers. He can't help it if he likes saying what's on his mind though. If it comes out too harsh, that's too bad for the person he's talking to. It's a part of his personality.

"So, it wouldn't help to say that you might not see her again?"

Zain keeps his sarcastic tone and says, "Thanks for reminding me."

"You'll meet some other girl in public school," Zakariyya says indifferently.

"It'll still be the same," the younger boy replies. He doesn't get how being in a public school instead of a private one could make having a crush easier. Religion would still prevent him from having a relationship.

"Public school is different," Zakariyya says.

"Yeah, over there you can easily find an empty classroom to make out in," Zain replies, the sarcasm coming back.

"Ye-ah," Zakariyya stutters. Zain walks out of the room and doesn't see the way his brother gulps nervously, and then spins his chair back to face the computer.

XXX

"You couldn't sleep? Jetlag?" Zakariyya inquires of his younger brother who is standing outside in his pajamas with a basketball in his hands. Zain shrugs in response.

"Are you thinking about that girl?"

"No," Zain replies as he walks over to the basketball hoop in front of their uncle's house. Swish. The ball goes in. Swish. The ball goes in again. Swish. It goes in. Swish. It goes in again. No swish. The ball doesn't go in.

Zakariyya snatches the ball from Zain's hands. His eyes challenge Zain to go against him. Zakariyya knows neither of them can sleep. Both of them are awake and alert-nowhere near tired. So, why not use up all their energy through a one-on-one basketball game?

After playing for almost an hour, they are sweating, joking around, and enjoying themselves.

"Zain, would you ever go out with that girl?" Zakariyya asks out of nowhere. Zain mutters something about why in the world he would do that, and throws the basketball on the ground.

"I wasn't here because of Noora," Zain says after a short silence.

"Hey, I couldn't sleep either, but…were you thinking about her at all?"

Zain glares at this brother. Why does he suddenly care?

"That's none of your business," he replies.

XXX

A couple of days later Zain is absentmindedly typing random things on his Facebook. He notices his friend Omar is online, and begins a chat with the guy. Omar doesn't reply right away though. Zain is deciding to sign out when his friend finally says something.

Zain

hey

Omar

hey. how's Palestine?

Zain

its ok. how's school?

Omar

finals coming up.

Zain

good luck. seriously.

Omar

they couldn't have been that hard

Zain

not for you

Omar

not if you study.

hey, you know Noora?

Zain

yea

Omar

what you told Khalid to tell her got her really mad

she hates Khalid and probab you 2.

Zain

what did i tell khalid?

Their conversation continues and ends with Zain very confused.

XXX

Determined to talk to Khalid via Facebook chat, Zain finally finds the other guy online late Saturday night. Not wanting to sound desperate, Zain waits until the middle of their conversation before asking Khalid about what he told Noora.

Zain

did i tell you to tell noora something last time we chatted?

Khalid

idk

Zain

someone told me she thinks i did

While Zain waits for Khalid's reply, he hopes the guy has a good explanation.

The Girl

"Stupid projects. Stupid Finals. Stupid school," Noora mutters angrily.

"I know! What kind of teachers gives projects due on the week before Finals?" Aisha begins saying as the two girls walk to their lockers. Noora zones out her friend's complaints; they're things Noora has heard multiple times.

"Stupid locker!" Aisha yells after her locker won't open. Noora holds back her laugh as she watches Aisha bang her locker with her fists. As her friend tries doing the combination again, Ayah and Maryam, two girls from their class, walk into the hallway.

"Hey, Aisha. Hey, Noora," Ayah says. Noora's about to reply until Aisha says, "My stupid locker won't open!"

"Is it jammed?" Ayah asks.

"It's been like that all year," Noora says.

"Oh," the other girl replies. For someone popular, Ayah has the decency at any rate to try to seem curious, but usually it's more like she likes prying in everyone else's lives.

"Oh, yeah, I didn't know you missed Zain, Noora," Ayah says. She's smiling, and trying to mock Noora.

Simultaneously, Noora says, "I don't.", and Aisha, whose locker had finally opened, says, "She doesn't."

"I hadn't realized what Khalid asked when he asked whether I missed Zain or not," Noora explains to Ayah.

"So, you don't miss him?" Ayah asks. Maryam, who's waiting for Ayah beside her, doesn't seem to care about their conversation.

"Why would I?" Noora says.

Ayah seems to not have expected this reply, and her mouth is open as if she was about to say something, but something had stopped her from doing so. She finally says, "I don't know."

XXX

Noora and Aisha are discussing and analyzing each teacher they have while sitting in class. At the moment, they're on their Arabic teachers.

"The point is that this school needs a better Arabic curriculum and somebody who can actually teach it properly," Aisha says.

"Well…"

"I've heard about Mr. Mustafa who's a good teacher or whatever. My Arabic teacher needs help," Aisha interrupts. Noora laughs out loud and sees Khalid talking to Mahmoud in hushed whispers beside her.

"They're such girls," Aisha points out.

"I know. It's hilarious," Noora laughs.

"Are you still depressed over you-know-who?"

"Huh? Oh, do I look depressed?" she asks while she's laughing over the guys gossiping beside her.

"No, you look crazy. What's so funny?"

"Look at them! It's funny!" she exclaims. She's laughing, ignoring anything that reminds her of Zain, and most of all, she's happy. Aisha shakes her head at the girl in mock disappointment.

"Hey, Noora!" Khalid calls out and turns his head to look at her.

"Yeah?" She stops laughing, but is grinning ear-to-ear.

"You like Zain, right?"

She stops grinning, and her mouth is slightly agape. She hadn't been expecting that.

"Whatever gave you that stupid idea," Aisha says to defend her friend.

"When she said she missed him," Khalid replies. He's smirking and Noora's prepared to slap him.

"I wouldn't miss a guy that doesn't have a six-pack," she says without thinking. She smacks herself on the head mentally as she remembers joking around yesterday with Aisha and Sarah about how it'd feel better missing Zain if he had a six-pack. It had been funny the day before, but not currently.

Khalid begins laughing. Mahmoud, who's sitting behind him and beside Aisha, isn't laughing as hard and asks in an almost serious voice, "Zain has a six-pack, right, Khalid?"

"U-huh," he replies sarcastically through his laughter.

"Oh, shut up," she says and turns red, if not redder.

"Seriously though, do you really think a guy like Zain…or any guy with a six-pack would like a girl like you?" he asks after his laugher at the previous remark subsides.

"I don't know," she yells at him, hoping the loudness of her voice can hide how disappointed she feels.

"Well, Zain just wanted me to let you know that he doesn't like you," Khalid finishes off, with a slightly accomplished look on his face.

She's too angry to respond. A girl like her? Nerdy and not noticed so much?So, what if Zain is semi-popular compared to her near to nobody status? She's near to being nobody. She is noticed, and this is what's irritating her. Khalid, the top of the 'food chain', the most popular guy in their grade, the guy every guy looks up to, has no issue with talking to her! Someone like him wouldn't talk to someone unpopular. Why does Zain think so lowly of her that he, a guy with a popularity status half of Khalid's, would say, "Tell her I can't like a girl like her."?

XXX

"Is he saying he'd like a girl like Ayah instead?" she's asking Sarah after school furiously.

"Calm down. He's a jerk for telling Khalid to tell you that okay? He has no reason to say something so rude to you either," Sara says.

"And nobody better kill him in Palestine because I'm going to kill him myself when he comes back," she continues.

Noora smiles at her best friend's loyalty, but it fades as she says, "It's not just that I was told I'm unlikable. It's that Khalid pretty much told me Zain doesn't like me and I really thought he did."

At least she knows now that Zain can't like a girl like her. She wishes she could say she can't like a guy like him.

The Boy and The Girl

Why do I care?


Part V

The Boy

"It's a stupid school, and they think public school will be better for me," he says.

"Isn't that the reason parents would send you to an Islamic school?" his cousin asks.

"Messed up huh?"

"Is the school so bad?"

"There's worse," he replies simply. In all schools, some Muslim teenagers just aren't that religious. They follow the rules loosely. Then, there are a couple of religious kids who follow the rules strictly. There are also those who just don't seem Muslim at all. There are Muslim guys and girls that go out and do drugs and mess up their lives. Some schools have more of one than the other.

He remembers Khalid's reason for telling Noora he can't like a girl like her. He knows his friend as someone who appears to be religious, but his reason doesn't seem Islamic at all. It's just stupid.

"You and your brother have already told us about the worse," his cousin says and Zain decides to ignore thoughts about school for the rest of the break. He had already dealt with Khalid anyways and he can't do anything for Noora.

XXX

Hadn't he just been thinking about those 'Muslim' teenagers who date and do drugs only a week ago? He hadn't thought that an example of one shared his room with him everyday.

"Man, you're disgusting."

"It was just one girl!" Zakariyya protests.

"One girl you'd make out with in school in an empty classroom five times a week."

"It was just once," he mutters.

"It was six months," Zain says harshly.

"We broke up."

"She dumped you."

"I wasn't going to meet her parents," his brother says in an obvious tone.

"And nobody knew a thing?" Zain asks, ignoring what he said.

"No," his older brother says dejectedly. His brother continues saying it was a mistake and the reason he kept pestering him about that girl was to make sure Zain hadn't been doing the same thing, but the younger boy doesn't listen. He's still thinking about what his older brother did. He somehow believes his brother made out with a girl in an empty classroom before, but he doesn't trust his brother anymore. Zakariyya has a whole life that his family doesn't know about. Doesn't Zain, too?

I don't start a relationship with the girl I like, he thinks.

XXX

He laughs along with his friends. It's the Meet & Greet for his school. His old school now. He doesn't mind going back to public school. He was there three years before. He's sure it'll be the same three years later.

They joke and bother the teacher whose classroom they were in. She's trying to explain how it's her third year in this school and so on, but being the only people in the classroom with just a few 9th grade girls, they want to have some fun. Zain's not coming back, so, his impression on this high school teacher won't matter much.

"Could you guys shut up?!" one of the girls yells. Zain turns to his side to find Noora. The girl who had yelled sits behind her and he can't remember her name. He only remembers seeing Noora with her a lot.

"Sure," Khalid replies smugly.

"He's not going to listen," Noora tells the girl.

"How do you know?" Zain asks her on impulse.

"Believe me, I just know," she says. Her eyes are narrowed and everyone can see she's pissed.

The guys decide to leave then, but before they can reach downstairs, Noora calls out, "Zain!"

He turns around, confused. What would Noora want?

"Dude, you look bald! Get some hair!" she yells out from the top of the stairs. His friends start making 'oooh' sounds and yell out comments like, 'You just got burned!' while he tries to process what Noora had said.

Zain's about to say something back, but he can't think of anything. She's almost out of hearing range anyways. It's supposed to be the day he clears out everything, where he tells her what Khalid told her was a stupid plan made out of jealousy. He had known they liked each other, and disliked the fact that the girl he liked, Ayah, liked his best friend Mahmoud instead. He had wanted to ruin any chances for them.

Hell, what chances? It isn't some tragic love story Zain's stuck in here. It's the reality where a Muslim guy and girl aren't supposed to have any chances. They're not supposed to take any chances. They have to wait until they're ready for marriage, but he is definitely not ready for that.

He shrugs and walks downstairs with his friends who're joking about his hair.

She's not worth your time, he tells himself when he sees her later.

XXX

Public school isn't so bad for him. He hadn't been expecting for it to in the first place.

He can't help wondering how many of the people around him have done what his brother did, how many of them won't beyond it, how many of them had wasted tears on it, and how many of them do it all the time. He checks out his fair share of girls, but getting their numbers, too? It isn't going to lead anywhere, but to him in a load of shit.

XXX

There's nothing going on between Ayah and him. They couldn't comment on each other Facebook walls, talk and chat without someone coming up with the winding up an idea they were together.

For some reason, he's hoping Noora hasn't heard a thing. It's something in the back of his mind as he looks at her from afar at one of the Islamic school's fundraisers. She turns around and sees him. He doesn't look away, but she does.

Well, she remembers him for sure. He still doesn't know if she remembers everything else. He had given her a nickname once.

He doesn't care if she remembers though. He really doesn't.

XXX

"Hey, you need to see this," Omar says as he's rummaging around his room. Zain's waiting for him to find the video game they want. He hands him a piece of paper.

That's the Way It Is

You say something; I realize I'm laughing

You laugh and smile wide; I feel happy inside.

You act all rude and mean; I make sure I'm not going to be seen.

You give attitude; I think it's stupidly cute.

Your name is called; I turn around.

Your voice is heard; I listen word for word

That's the way it used to be; now, there isn't anything of you for me to see.

Now, your name is heard, I force myself to listen word for word.

Your face is seen; I keep waiting for my accelerating heartbeat

You give attitude; I roll my eyes

You act all rude and mean; hey, this is just your routine.

You laugh and smile wide; I don't even see

You say something; I ain't caring

That's the way it is.

He's a little taken aback at some of the lines, but his heart beats rapidly as he sees Big Bird doodled at the bottom.

"Who wrote this?" he asks in a tone that sounds more freaked out than thrilled.

"Uh…Noora. I really don't know about the Big Bird part but I mean…she left it on her desk and I saw it and…well, you liked her last year and it was about some guy and she might've liked you last year, too, and…," Omar's saying.

Zain zones him out. He feels relaxed. He can get over her completely now that he knows she remembers.

The Girl

"Forget him. Forget him. Forget him," she kept saying out loud while banging her head against her pillow.

"Ugh," she groans as she lifts her head up to look at the time. It's past 11 P.M. She's been lying in bed for an over half an hour distracting herself with stupid thoughts. It had worked up until now.

She had been so sure he does like her. Even if he doesn't, why would he tell one of his friends to tell a girl that he doesn't like her when he's half-way across the world with probably more important things to deal with?

"Because he's a jerk," she says.

The whole incident keeps replaying in her head and she can't stand it.

He wouldn't like a girl like you.

He doesn't like you.

"Well, Zain just wanted me to let you know that he doesn't like you," Khalid finishes off, with a slightly accomplished look on his face.

He had looked so happy. He had been enjoying telling her. He had accomplished his job, his task. He had reached the last step in his evil plan to sabotage any hope for her. So, Zain doesn't like her. He got the message across and did it hurt? A little. Maybe a lot. But only because she had been told in the most pathetic and stupid and mean way.

Some evil plan of Khalid's. He's probably jealous that the girl Zain likes likes him back while the girl he's been trying to get, Ayah, has her eyes for the hearththrob of the 8th grade, Mahmoud.

She laughs out loud. That could actually be true.

XXX

"You're probably right," Aisha says after Noora tells her of, finally, one of her own theories.

"But…"

"Nope. I think he's jealous," Noora interrupts.

"Of what? Your tragic love life?"

"Shut up."

XXX

Over the summer, Noora gets over Zain two to three times. After coming back from Pakistan, she has only three weeks until her school's Meet & Greet. She knows she might see Zain on that day. She doesn't want to. She never wants to see him again actually.

Unfortunately, she does. Her heart skips a beat and just thumps frantically as she sits beside him in her new high school Islamic Studies teacher's classroom. Zain, Khalid, and a bunch of other idiots from her grade are throwing comments and laughing their heads off.

She's sitting with Sarah and her best friend eventually yells, "Could you guys shut up?!"

"Sure," Khalid replies smugly.

"He's not going to listen," she says to her

"How do you know?" Zain asks Noora.

"Believe me, I just know," she says in an angry tone. She's put at ease when they leave.

"His hair's still short," Sarah states as they walk out of the classroom together.

"It doesn't look that bad…" Noora begins saying and trails off.

"He looked much better with long hair," Sarah says.

"Tell him that," Noora says and smirks.

"Fine. I will. Wait. You tell him that."

"What? No…well, I don't know," Noora hesitates. She decides she has nothing to lose or gain with this and finds him right there, going down the stairs with all the other jerks in her grade.

"Zain!" she calls out. She listens to the thumping of her heart as she waits for a response. He turns around to see who called him. He looks confused as he sees Noora.

"Dude, you look bald! Get some hair!" she yells out from the top of the stairs. His friends start making 'oooh' sounds and yell out comments like, 'You just got burned!' and 'She just disssed you!' She rolls her eyes at their idiocy and walks away. The confused look on his face is enough for her. She'll be laughing for days.

"I don't think he realized what you said," Sarah says skeptically.

"He will," Noora says as she recalls his puzzled face.

"Watch him realize hours later," she jokes and they go on thinking up scenarios of Zain's reactions.

Reactions they'll never know of, Noora realizes. She shrugs that thought off. She doesn't need to know. Forget the what if's, she thinks but they go through her mind.

What if he was coming back this year?

They'd be ignoring each other and it'd be 8th grade all over again.

What if we weren't Muslim?

They'd be wasting their time on each other. They'd make mistakes. They'd cross lines and borders that were never there to prevent them from making those mistakes. It'd start with flirting, going on to dating, kissing, and beyond that. The ending? A break-up. Then, the story begins all over again and again and again.

What if he really did like me?

She snorts. Nothing would've happened.

XXX

It isn't hard at all for her to get used to not seeing Zain in school. She'd dealt with that back in the last two weeks of school from the school year before.

At one of her school's fundraisers, she turns around and discovers Zain looking at her. She hadn't been expecting to see him at all. It had crossed her mind briefly, but only for a moment. She turns back to her friends immediately. She doesn't want to revitalize her feelings only to have them die and then revitalize again when she sees him next.

He definitely remembers her though. He had been looking right at her. He might still be, but she doesn't check. It's difficult not to. She remembers all the lectures in which they tell you to lower your gaze. She decides to try it. She walks along looking down with Sarah, Aisha and a few of her other friends. Then, she bumps into someone. It's some Arab lady who's in a rush and keeps on walking while Noora is left behind, trying to stumble out an apology.

"What were you doing?" her friends ask her through laughter at her frustration. The lady had just kept on walking without listening to her!

"Lowering my gaze!" she yells. She looks around to see if anyone has heard but most of the people are in the banquet hall. Her friends laugh harder and Noora gives up and glances at Zain down the wide hall.

She sighs. She really doesn't care about him anymore. According to the latest rumors, he probably likes Ayah. She wonder why that rumor hurts her if she doesn't care.

XXX

I used to think that one day we'd tell the story of us,
And how we met
And how the sparks flew instantly
And people would say they're the lucky ones

I used to know my place was the spot next to you,
Now I'm searching the room for an empty seat
Cause lately I don't even know what page you're on

Oh, a simple complication,
Miscommunications lead to fallout,
So many things that I wish you knew
So many walls up that I can't break through


Noora's listening to the new songs on Taylor Swift's most recent album, Speak Now. She's stumbled on one of them called The Story of Us. She bops her head up and down lightly to the beat. She continues listening as she has a window up on her laptop displaying the lyrics.


Now I'm standing alone in a crowded room
And we're not speaking
And I'm dyin' to know
Is it killing you
Like it's killing me, yeah?
I don't know what to say since a twist of fate, when it all broke down
And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now

Next chapter

How'd we end up this way?
See me nervously pulling at my clothes and trying to look busy
And you're doing your best to avoid me
I'm starting to think one day I'll tell the story of us
Of how I was losing my mind when I saw you here
But you held your pride like you should have held me,
Oh I'm scared to see the ending why are we pretending this is nothing
I'd tell you I miss you but I don't know how
I've never heard silence quite this loud.

She stares at the lyrics. For some reason, it reminds her of Zain and herself.

(Chorus)
Now I'm standing alone in a crowded room
And we're not speaking
And I'm dying to know
Is it killing you
Like it's killing me, yeah?
And I don't know what to say since a twist of fate, when it all broke down
And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now

At the fundraiser, she had been wondering. She'd been wondering for weeks. Is he feeling the same way she is?

This is looking like a contest
Of who can act like they care less
But I liked it better when you were on my side

She doesn't care for sure. I don't care she thinks as if she's trying to convince keeps on listening.


The battle's in your hands now
But I would lay my armor down
If you say you'd rather love than fight


So many things that you wish I knew
But the story of us might be ending soon

She's sure there can be many things Zain could tell her. The chorus repeats.

Now, I'm standing alone in a crowded room
And we're not speaking
And I'm dying to know
Is it killing you
Like it's killing me, yeah?
And I don't know what to say since a twist of fate, when it all broke down
And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now , now, now, now

And we're not speaking,
And I'm dying to know is it killing you like it's killing me, yeah
And I don't know what to say since a twist of fate, cause we're going down.
And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now
The End

She faintly remembers once when Aisha, the one who started this 'tragedy', told her she's kind of happy for her. Well, there's nothing for her to be happy for Noora now.

"There's nothing to be sad about either," Aisha says when Noora tells her friend her thoughts and about the song. Noora sees that she's right.

XXX

"Did you see Zain? He grew his hair," one of the air-headed girls in her class asks Ayah.

"Yeah, he looks kind of hot now," Ayah replies. Noora smiles slightly, and when Aisha asks her what she's smiling about, she shakes her head while still smiling.

XXX

"Hey, Sarah, did you see Zain? He grew his hair," Noora asks Sarah later. She's kind of laughing because what if he grew it because of her.

"Yeah, I told you he looks so much better with long hair!" she replies exasperatedly.

"You think he actually listened to me?" Noora asks.

"Probably. He was smart to. It was my advice though," she reminds.

"U-huh," she glances side-ways at her friend.

XXX

The next time his name is mentioned in class, Noora doesn't bother to listen. She knows she's over him and it's a relief for her. She writes one more love-sick song. She leaves it on her desk while the teacher asks to talk to her. She doesn't realize she left her song unaccompanied a minute or two enough for someone to copy off.

She comes back to her desk, glances over the song written on the piece of paper, and feels nothing. She remembers when she did feel something. It's been months of all these stupid feelings. They're finally gone.

Ya' Allah, and to think all these months of dealing with these emotions were caused by Zain calling her Big Bird. She doodles it on the bottom of the page.

The Boy and The Girl

I don't regret a thing though. I want to remember them.


(A/N) Maybe you believe not being aloud to intermingle with the opposite sex is hard. It's your opinion. I love my religion Islam no matter. Please review; tell me what you think, give encouragement or constructive criticism.

**Thank you to my best friend Aisha for beta-ing, being constructive and interested and my best friend Sarah for being encouraging throughout and giving her opinions, too, for this story.