When Sooraya first arrived in the United States, Jean took her aside, and said, 'You can't wear that here. I'm sorry. People aren't used to it. And it'll attract unwanted attention.'
Oh, Sooraya wanted to say, and blue-furred mutants don't? Men who shoot lasers from their eyes? The other people you live with? They don't?
But she only gritted her teeth and nodded, and set out to find a suitable change of clothes.
The next day, in class, she felt Jean's eyes linger on her black-clad form.
Up yours, she thought a little shakily.
It felt strange, to wear niqab; the way it fit over her felt strange. Wrong, unusual, alien. Not because there was anything wrong with niqab – to observe hijab, modest dressing, would be piety howsoever expressed – but because it was not her. She missed the comforting familiarity of her worn blue burqa; she seethed inside, because she was adopting another culture, a Gulf rather than South Asian culture, and just so that white people could feel a little better of their self-righteousness.
What she wore had never been a prison until they made it so.
'Baked potatoes?' Dr McCoy offered.
'Yes, thank you.'
Her eyes widened, and she swallowed hard. 'No, sir,' she said, keeping the tremor out of her voice. 'Just… Brussels sprouts, that'd be fine.'
On her right, Kitty Pryde murmured, 'You don't have to survive on vegetables, y'know.'
There was no guile or malice in Kitty's look, either: only concern, anxiety, sympathy. No pity – for which Sooraya was grateful.
'You know what I mean,' Kitty continued; 'you could ask the kitchen staff. I did that, myself. Eventually.'
But Sooraya demurred, because the Professor – a man of the world, who prided himself on tolerance, whose lover was a Jew – had never heard of halal dietary laws. Instead, she kept kashrut, and did her best to avoid dishes with alcohol, and kept quiet.
And Kitty noticed, of course. Kitty noticed more than she let on.
'I don't blame you,' Kitty assured Sooraya, because her family had once had to pass, too, in the land of the supposedly free.
Nori was brushing her teeth when Sooraya stepped into the bathroom.
'Oh,' said Sooraya, breath catching and words rushed. 'I'm sorry, I thought it was empty.'
'Whaddya want?' Nori demanded through a mouthful of suds.
To do wudu, Sooraya thought. 'Nothing,' she said aloud.
'None of your funny stuff, then?'
I can use Marie's washroom, Sooraya was already telling herself. The single room that she has for safety reasons. It doesn't matter. This doesn't matter.
But – 'No,' she said to Nori, 'no funny stuff.'
'Good.' Nori's glare was pointed. ''m a feminist, okay?'
Well, so am I.
Nori was yonsei, but sometimes Sooraya thought that didn't matter; it didn't matter where you came from, only what you did and how you responded to the life around you. Some people, whose nafs was at peace, could accept obstacles with grace and charity. Some people changed, some people gave in. Nori had given in.
And Sooraya knew that she was giving in, too.
On the first day of Ramadan – her first Ramadan in America – Sooraya has breakfast with Kitty and Danielle. They sit on the back porch as the pearl dawn mist lifts, and they watch the sunrise turn the dew from silver to gold.
'Penny for your thoughts?' Dani prompts, when the kitchen clock has struck six-thirty.
Sooraya shakes her head. 'It's nothing,' she says truthfully. 'I wasn't thinking of anything at all, just how calm it is.'
'For once.' Kitty is wry; when is she never? 'Scott's not gonna like your observance. He'll say you're endangering the team, or something. He'll put you on the bench. He'll whine.'
'Fuck that,' replies Sooraya.
And what do I mean by that, Sooraya wonders at herself: angry thoughts and words are enough to break a fast.
But she's tired.
She's tired of being treated like furniture and talked over; she's tired of being painted as a helpless thrall. She's tired of people speculating about what's underneath her abaya, whether it's lingerie or a bomb. Sure, she has a duty to defend her faith, but it's a duty to Allah and to the Ummah, to her God and to her people, not an obligation towards the ignorant and the hateful.
'Come on,' she says, getting to her feet. 'Just let me go back and change, and then I'll race you to the Danger Room.'
Her burqa is still folded neatly in her closet, and she grins when she puts it on.