Six months ago….
“Where is it?” “Jesus Christ, mom! You scared the hell out of me” Grace yelled. “Don’t lie to me” Her mom followed her around their small, stuffy apartment like a red-eyed maniac. “I know you hide my booze you ungrateful piece of garbage.”
“I’m late for work” Grace hissed, ready to leave this nightmarish scene. She yanked her arm away when her mom tried to grab it. Then kicked the two-day old pizza box out of the way, and stormed out the door, of course followed by the notorious hail of curse words that would make anyone’s ears bleed, and the shattering sounds of empty Gin bottles her mom angrily smashes behind her… Every. Single. Night.
Since the day her dad walked out, her mom had went from being the world’s greatest mother to the meanest, most useless drunk in history, leaving her only daughter no other choice but to pick up the slack. After dropping out of college, Grace moonlighted as a waitress just to make ends meet. She pulled the apron strings taught around her waist, plastered a smile on her face and walked towards her first customer; a Hijabi Muslim woman. Great! Time for a fifteen-minute interrogation about which items on the menu are pork-free!
“Will that be all?” Grace tapped her pen on the notepad impatiently after taking the woman’s order.
“Yes, thank you very much” Grace couldn’t help but notice how pretty this woman looked when she smiled. Her white-colored silk hijab flowed gracefully around her face, accentuating her Eden green eyes along with her almost translucent porcelain skin. Too bad she had to cover all this beauty, Grace thought as she walked back to the kitchen.
“That was fast, thank you” The woman looked up from her laptop screen when Grace placed a bowl of Greek salad and a glass of pineapple juice on the table. It wasn’t fast at all actually. Grace paused to look over the woman’s shoulder, curious to see what had made her lose so much track of time. She tilted her head, silently admiring the detailed cartoon illustration of a little cute girl feeding a swan. Wow, turns out the desert ISIS princess’s got talent. “Do you like it?” The Hijabi woman asked shyly. “I LOVE it! You’re really good.” Grace heard herself say. “What’s it for?” “A new children’s book I’m working on. I’m a digital illustrator.” “That’s so cool. When I was a little girl, I would trace pictures from my favorite books over and over!” Grace admitted. “I’ve always dreamed of being an illustrator myself, but now everything is digital I guess” “Why don’t you start learning that too? I can actually recommend the greatest little place…”
Whatever it is, I’m sure I can’t afford it princess! You wanna know why? Because my scumbag dad spent all our money on his newest bimbo and left my drunken mom and I in a filthy house that’s mortgaged to the teeth! But instead of telling this stranger her sordid story, Grace just shrugged and said, “Some dreams are never meant to come true”
The next night Grace’s manager gave her an envelope someone had left for her. She opened it and found a prepaid voucher for a three-month ‘Digital Illustration’ beginner’s course and note with it that said: ‘Your dreams, you have them for a reason. Go and make them happen. Don’t you dare give up on the person you can one day become.”
“Awwwwww, that’s so sweet” Fatimah and Sarah both gushed at the same time.
Grace rested her head on the stuck elevator’s wall and reminisced with a smile. “I’ll never forget how I felt that day. It was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me” “And then what happened?” Sarah asked. “Of course I joined. Free course, right? But something else happened to me as well. This woman’s kind gesture made me change my whole view of Muslims. I decided they weren’t as ignorant and barbaric as I thought. No offence!” Grace chuckled. “So I started asking question about Islam. Why can’t they eat pork? Why do they fast? Why do women cover their hair? And it was when I found out alcohol was forbidden to Muslims, I glared at my mom passed out on the floor with an empty bottle of scotch one night and realized, this makes perfect sense.”
The two girls listened to Grace’s story with tears in their eyes. She told them how she eventually started reading the Holy Qur’an and how she finally found the peace she had been seeking all her life. Needless to say, her mom wasn’t the least bit thrilled with her daughter’s transformation, and so two weeks ago when Grace took her Shahada, her mom didn’t waste any time in cutting her off, especially now since she had found a new low-life boyfriend to get hammered with. She cold-bloodedly kicked Grace out of the house and seized all her belongings.
“I crashed at my aunt’s house for a couple of days until her husband…” Grace paused then shook it off quickly, “Anyways, long story short, I found out my Granma was still alive. She took me in with open arms and that’s how I ended up here!” “Wow, what a story” Sarah sniffed. “Oh my God is my mascara running?” She quickly turned around to look in the mirror.
“I can’t believe you’re Muslim. We’ve been badgering you for the past, I don’t know, 37 hours and you never said anything!” Fatimah said.
“I know! Okay I’m gonna hug you now” Sarah wailed.
“Yeah, but don’t squeeze too hard coz I’m dying to pee!’ Grace joked.
A new kind of bond was tying the girls together, it was as if they had discovered they were blood relatives or something. They talked about their fears and their plans for the future. They shared anecdotes, embarrassing stories, and secret dreams, completely ignoring the fact that in reality, they were only three strangers stuck in a broken elevator.
“Why are you so stubborn Fatimah? I said eat all the fruits you want but not dates. Having a ‘date’ is Haram. It’s HARAAAAM!” Fatimah mimicked her dad’s deep, loud gargling voice, while the girls laughed till their tears came down.
“You’re hilarious! You’d make a great actress or script writer or somethin’, you’re really good!” Grace gasped for air.
“Oh you should see how I scare my little cousins. I love telling them stories, it’s the highlight of my week” Fatimah boasted. “Then write children books. Oh my God and I can illustrate them! We’ll be like a power team!” Grace said.
“And I can design the outfits you’ll work in” Sarah joked.
“Umm no thanks. I plan on going to Jannah” Fatimah made a face and then held her stomach.
“Did you just fart?” Sarah plugged her nose.
“Eww no! That’s my stomach growling” Fatimah turned red with embarrassment.
“You know, instead of bickering, how about teaching the new convert over here some ‘Islam’ stuff? Like how should I dress? What exactly is considered ‘Islamic attire’?”
“Don’t look at me, I’m not like a scholar or anything!” Sarah said.
“You don’t have to be a scholar to know what’s modest and what’s not.” Fatimah gave Sarah a dirty look. “Muslim women should be all covered up in loose clothes that aren’t transparent nor grab attention. That’s pretty much the gist of it”
“Wow, I need to go shopping then” Grace pondered.
“Yeah, if we ever get out of here” Sarah added. “Wait, remember that story, when three men were like stuck in a cave and they all started relating their secret good deeds or something and then the walls of the cave parted and they like got out?”
“Oh I read that story somewhere. We should totally do that!” Grace said.
The three girls fell silent for longer than they would have liked, with their eyes going back and forth, anticipating the first recount of a ‘selfless deed’.
“Hmmmm I can’t think of anything” Fatimah finally admitted.
“Kind of ironic, huh? We think we’re trapped in an elevator when in reality, we’re actually trapped in a selfish, materialistic, existence, only caring about the pleasures of this life….” Grace said.
“Whoa, that’s deep girl” Sarah teased. “Yeah, you’re the one to talk, Instagram queen!” Fatimah snapped.
“Maybe your first ‘good deed’ should be getting off your stupid high horse and trying not to judge people so much” Sarah yelled.
“Fatimah I like you a lot, but Sarah’s right. Enough with the cheap shots. I’m pretty sure modesty includes treating others with kindness.” Grace rested her hand softly on Fatimah’s hand. “Okay, but if I promise not to judge will you promise to fix your Hijab style?”
“Fine!” Sarah crossed her arms. “Fine” Fatimah did the same.
The three girls stared awkwardly at each other and then cracked up laughing.
“Ahhhh you know what I wish for right now? A Kit-Kat bar. Yummm! I’ve been on a diet for so long I forgot what chocolate tastes like” Sarah drooled. “Grace, what’s your biggest wish?”
“I wish I could tell my mean boss at the pharmacy where he could shove it and find a job I love. Something to do with art and graphic design and stuff”
“What about you Fatimah?”
“I don’t wanna say” Fatimah blushed.
“Oh come on!”
“Okay, I wish I could leave the prison my parents call home, fall in love and get married to a nice guy”
“Ohhhh myyyyy” Sarah teased.
“Fatimah and Mr. Ninja sitting on a tree. K.I.S…”
“Oh my God, wait! Guys do you hear that? Someone’s here” Grace’s heart stopped.
“HELP! HELP!” They all banged on the door frantically.
“Hang in there! We’re gonna get you out” They heard a voice holler from outside.
At last, the maintenance people had finally woken up from their coma and came to their rescue. Twenty minutes later the three girls were out on solid ground with enough personal space to stretch out their arms and legs.
“Oh my God Saif! What are you doing here?” Sarah ran to hug her eldest brother, who’s been waiting outside with the maintenance people.
“Just finished my graveyard shift. I took the stairs coz the elevator wasn’t working and I heard laughter sounds, one of which was a bit too loud and way too familiar.” Saif semi-scolded. “I figured you guys were stuck so I called for help!”
“You’re the best brother in the history of brothers” Sarah hugged him again. “Come, let me introduce you to my new friends. This is Grace, a new revert and a great ‘digital illustrator’ in the making, and this is…”
“A digital illustrator? Subhan Allah! My friend just started his marketing and advertising business and was asking if I knew anyone good. Would you be interested at all?” Saif asked.
“Oh my God, ABSOLUTELY!” Grace couldn’t contain her excitement. “I’m still a beginner though”
“Yeah, he’s looking for fresh talent. Here’s his card. I’ll call him to put in a good word for you as well.” Saif said then directed his gaze towards the Niqabi girl. “Salam… uhmmm… I don’t think Sarah has introduced us yet.”
“Well duh! I was just about to do that. This is Fatimah, our neighbor. She writes children books” Sarah added.
Fatimah laughed and looked away shyly.
“Really?” Saif smiled.
“No” Fatimah laughed, her covered face still tomato red. “But Sarah used the time we were stuck in the elevator wisely. She drew out our whole future.”
“We should get going. Thank you so much Saif! For everything. I really appreciate it” Grace hugged both girls, took Fatimah’s arm and left.
“How long have you guys been stuck in that elevator?” Saif asked. “And more importantly, why are you dressed like that? I thought we talked about this! ”
“Here we go” Sarah rolled her eyes. “Another lecture about the principles of Fiqh! It’s weird. You know, as if I don’t get enough abuse from you, I actually had to spend the last 6 hours trapped with your female version”
“Who?” Saif asked.
“Fatimah, the Ninja girl. She made me promise to fix my Hijab style. And honestly? I’m kinda looking forward to doing that”
“She must be really special, then” Saif had this faraway look in his eyes.
“She is” Sarah smiled.
“Is she married?” Saif asked.
“Nope! She’s single and ready to mingle” Sarah joked. Saif wrapped his arm around his sister’s neck, jokingly pretending to strangle her.
“Oh my God, what’s that in your hand. A grocery bag?” Sarah’s anticipation was rising to the roof.
“Yeah, I never had time to eat so I bought some snacks on the way home. KitKat?” Her brother offered her favorite red-wrapped chocolate bar, knowing she’ll never take it. She’s been on a diet since the 1800s.
“Exactly what we asked for; a job, a groom and a Kitkat” Sarah smiled to herself, thanking Allah for His kindness with tears in her eyes.
“What did you say?” Saif was confused.
“Nothing” Sarah chuckled. She logged onto her Instagram account and posted a quote…
“There comes a moment when you’re trapped between who you were and who you wish to be. Suddenly you know…. It’s time to start something new.
Just trust in your Lord And never be afraid of new beginnings…”
Lilly S. Mohsen
Lilly S. Mohsen is the author of “Live Your Story’ and ‘The Prophets To Islam’ Series for children. Lilly is a part-time therapist and a spiritual speaker. She’s currently pursuing another Diploma in Islamic Psychology and is a contributing writer to a number of educational and Inspirational blogs. Find her on www.Lillynotes.com