All foreign words in italics will be listed in a key at the bottom of each chapter for reference.

Chapter 2: Fatima

I'm sitting on the floor of the masallah (prayer hall) next to Ru. She just can't stop talking! "And I was like istughfirullah (may God forgive you) girl, did I hear you say what I thought you just said?" she says. "I'm trying to read." I tell her. "Come on, sis!" She says. "It's Ramadan, have a little spirit!"

"By doing what, gossiping?" I snap and I immediately regret it.

"Calm yourself, child." she says playfully. "Oh great, it's Maria!" Ru waves enthusiastically to her friend. Oh great. I think. It's Maria.

Maria is Ru's friend. She's nice enough, but for some reason I don't really like her. "Salaam Ruqayya!" Maria hugs Ru and they squeal. "Ramadan mubarak!" Ru greets. Maria hugs me as well, and I can smell the bottles of "Moonlight Path" body spray infused into her neon yellow scarf—I have to restrain myself from visibly choking from the overwhelming scent.

"I have so many stories to tell!" Maria squeals.

Yay. I think. "So," she begins. "You know Tarik?"

"Turkish Tarik or Arab Tarik?" asks Ruqayya.

"Turkish Tarik. But I do have another one on Arab Tarik…"

"Go!" urges Ru eagerly.

"Allahu-akbar!" sounds the adhan call. Thank God. I think to myself. We all reach forward to grab a date from the bowl on the plastic floor covering. The first bite is magical. The taste of it on my tongue releases a sigh from my chest.

"So." Maria restarts- covering her chewing mouth with her hand. "As I was saying."

Oh good Lord, save me! I think. "I need to use the restroom." I announce and stand up. As soon as I'm up, I'm out of there.

I adjust my black-rimmed glasses and head across the hall towards the women's bathroom. Inside are three women having a conversation in chortling Urdu. I don't understand a word they say, but the sight of them somehow makes me happy. Ramadan is here for real.

I take a seat on one of the washing stools and flip on the tap, letting a stream of water splash onto the tiles and down the drain. I dip my bare foot into the water and pull back suddenly. The woman sitting beside me laughs, her eyes twinkling. "It's cold, isn't it?" I smile and nod. As I wash my hands, then mouth, then nose, and then face, I watch the three women. The lines on their caramel skin crease around their eyes when they smile and laugh- which they do a lot. I finish washing my feet as the women drape colorful scarves onto their heads and swing them around their necks and down their backs. Red, blue, and yellow fabrics speckled with shining sequins sway, and they lift my spirits. When I emerge behind the ladies into the prayer hall, prayer is about to start. We take our places in line and I wriggle my bare toes in the plush green carpet. There are rows of women in front of me, and even more rows of men in front of them. So many people, there are. We raise our arms and bring them down to our chests, and begin to pray.

Boy stories and makeup and squealing kids fade from around me as I sink into contentedness.

Ramadan is here.


Glossary (in order of appearance):

masallah: arabic word for "prayer hall"

istaghfirullah: God forgive

mubarak: blessed (e.g. Ramadan mubarak: blessed Ramadan)

Allahu akbar: God is greater (is the starting line of the call to prayer)

adhan: the call to prayer

A/N Please tell me what you think! Fatima is a lot less joking and playful than her older sister Ru. This'll be a major element in the upcoming chapters' plot development. At this point, nothing has really taken place, I know. I'm trying to set the scene and introduce you to the characters and some of the themes.