Orange streaks the skyline, clouds diffusing the last remnants of day. Faduma spins into a kick and sends one vampire straight onto Delia's stake, splintering it. The other vampire rushes up from behind Delia.
"On your left," Faduma calls, smoothing her hijab and readying her own stake.
Delia laughs as she ducks. "Not the first time that's been said on this bike path, I bet."
Faduma coughs out haram dust as her stake makes a cloud of a now-former bloodsucker. "Usually during the day, though."
"These vamps have left their hidey-holes too early for my liking," Delia says. "Didn't you say they usually don't even wake up until sunset? And why are they lurking around the river, anyhow?"
"Nothing stops them from lying awake and plotting evil until it's dark enough to put it into practice," Faduma explains. "And given that we have more construction zones than crypts, gotta patrol where they're likely to be."
In unspoken agreement after the fight, they stroll north along the Mississippi's west bank, towards historic warehouses and arching bridges, criss-crossed by railroad tracks that speak of yesterday and tomorrow. Faduma shares her dates with Delia, breaking her fast in the manner of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Well, if the Prophet broke his fast in the company of a teenaged Catholic girl from Ecuador. So, maybe not exactly the same.
"My little brothers and sisters love pumping enough water to make a pretend river here, then floating leaves down it," Delia says when they get to the playground.
"Hey, I'm just glad I no longer have to use my yoga poses to make wudhu," Faduma says, grinning. "Drinking fountains can't compete with ground-level hand-operated pumps. Thanks for telling me about this."
"Least I can do, since you're my mentor or whatever," Delia says, before heading to unpack their picnic iftar. When it opened last year, this park didn't have any benches or tables, but they finally installed some this summer.
Her maghrib prayer done, Faduma joins Delia, who's crossing herself at the end of her grace before their meal. Delia's laid out stubby little home-grown carrots, cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, cheese of some sort of white variety, and homemade biscuits dusted with sugar (in which Faduma sees the hand of Delia's jatunmama). All this, and mango juice too.
"Oh, fantastic. I've been eyeing the cherry tomatoes in the break room all week. One of the nurse practitioners has way too much garden going on, but what with it being Ramadan, I never snack on the stuff she's bringing in."
"Sounds like Girl Scout Cookies," Delia says. "They're always showing up during Lent! So much temptation; I stick them in the freezer until Easter."
"Seems so far away. But hey, school's got to be starting soon, right?"
Delia sighs. "Senior year. Slayers should get some kind of dispensation; 8:40am is way too early to be napping in homeroom if you've been fighting the forces of evil all night."
"Stay in school, kids! But seriously, you have a plan for next year?" Faduma asks, popping a yellow pear tomato into her mouth and relishing the sweet crunch.
"The U," Delia says. "They have a top-rated civil engineering program."
"And you want to build bridges that don't fall into the river?" Faduma hazards a guess. Good to know Delia's going to keep protecting the locals here.
"Got it in one," Delia says. "How about you? What's next?"
Faduma steels herself; this moment was always coming. "Actually... I've signed up with MSF. You know them? Doctors Without Borders?"
Delia looks baffled. "But you're... not a doctor. I mean, you could be, but. You're not yet..."
"With the famine in Somalia, MSF needs lots of hands in the Horn of Africa. And since I speak English, Somali, and Healthcare, they were ready to put me on a plane the minute I talked to the recruiter."
"When do you leave?"
"Thursday. My parents wanted me to stay for Eid, and until yesterday we weren't sure when the crescent moon would be sighted, so..."
"I'll miss you," Delia says plaintively. "Do you have to go? There's plenty of good for you to do here."
"Didn't you say that works of mercy bring you jewels for your crown in heaven? Well, sadaqah is like that; it's charitable deeds, performed by a muslimah like me. No crown required!" Faduma grins. "You'll do fine, kid."
Delia's lower lip quavers, and Faduma reaches out a hand. "Take this stake. It's the last of the ones I carved from the latticework wood left over when they remodeled my mosque. And that vamp back there broke yours."
"Oh, I couldn't," Delia says, tracing a hand over the smooth wood, lingering.
"Sure you can. It's not like the TSA will let me take it on the plane, right? I'm already going to be Flying While Brown." Faduma's raised eyebrow says the rest.
Delia giggles, good humor restored. "Fine, I'll take it, but only until you're back. Help lots of people and stuff, okay?"
"Promise." Faduma slides off the picnic bench and stretches. "One more day of Ramadan, three more nights of patrol--"
"And Minneapolis'll be down to one slayer again," Delia finishes. "Okay, I get it; it's been eight years since you were Called. I've only been around for one of those. It's my turn."
"If I could do it, you can too," Faduma assures her. They dispose of the remnants of their picnic and walk side by side along the river in companionable silence.
Past the younger slayer is the Mississippi; eastward is Saint Paul, Wisconsin, DC, Rome, Mecca. Or in this case, MSP to AMS to NBO, then overland. There's a sizable Somali community in Amsterdam, but she won't be leaving the airport. Nairobi is wrapped up in a blur of childhood memories about leaving the refugee camp (and those they left there, when their papers came). This will be her first time on a plane since then.
Faduma's always wanted to see Somalia, inshallah. She prays that she's ready.