a short story
Jessica turned from where she was parting the heavily brocaded curtains to peer outside into the darkness. She found a large woman with deep olive skin gesturing toward a crushed velvet cushion on a chair in the dining room. The woman’s gold embroidered traditional dress that was wrapped about her made Jessica wish she could be in the comfort of her own apartment right then. She had missed American Idol to come tonight, she thought sadly. It was hard to believe that just a year before she had auditioned to be on the show. But she imagined she would have to give up dancing for good now…
“Sit,” the woman said again. “We will have tea.”
It was then that Jessica remembered the woman from earlier. The woman’s accent had slightly distorted the intonations of the brief English outbursts she had used to command the servers who couldn’t seem to set up or clear out fast enough for the woman’s tastes.
“Useless,” Jessica remembered hearing the woman mutter in a low voice after a server scurried from the room swaying under the weight of the stack of glass plates with half-eaten food on them. Then the woman began chatting in a language that Jessica did not recognize or understand.
“Thank you,” Jessica murmured as made her way to the table. But she didn’t feel thankful. She felt suffocated and overwhelmed. The house smelled of scented burning wood and she wondered if it would be rude to open a window.
“Islam means peace,” a burly imām with a large beard had told her two months before, when she still hadn’t gotten up the nerve to become Muslim though she knew it was the right thing to do. “When you say the shahādah, all your sins are wiped away. And you feel new.”
But Jessica didn’t feel new. She didn’t even feel peace. She just felt…lonely, incredibly lonely. How would she tell her parents? They would kill her…
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Previously published via muslimmatters.org