Chapter One

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In the Name of Allah—The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful

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A high-pitched chime sounded as the front doors of Mirsae Islamic High School burst open. Students walked out and chatted away, and cars popped in and out of the parking lot. The Sun glared overhead.

Marwan stepped outside and put a hand to his forehead. It was only his second month here, and he was already doubting his reasons for coming. He'd been home schooled for years and was used to it. He only started high school hoping he'd make some friends.

But there was always too much going on! Not a single day went by without him being assigned homework in every subject. Not to mention verses of the Quran and sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he had to memorize—there wasn't a single day that went by without having work to do. Marwan felt compressed into his own little bubble. No one could get out and no one could come in.

Marwan crossed the street a block away from his home. When he got there, he'd have to do his homework, cook dinner, clean his room, and finish folding the laundry from yesterday. Then he had to work on some extra-curricular science fair project. It was mandatory for his school credits.

He sighed. Homeschool was way easier. At least he was able to have snack breaks whenever he wanted and got to choose what to involve himself in.

He reached his front door and pulled out his wallet. Using the attached key to unlock the door and go inside, he dropped his backpack and looked around. The house looked deserted.

In the kitchen, Marwan found a sticky note saying Ma and Salima were out at a sister's bridal shower. They wouldn't return till after Isha prayer. That meant he'd be asleep by the time they came back, and he was supposed to leave the door unlocked.

He sighed, wishing life didn't have to be so quiet and lonely. If only everything had been completely different. If only he was a whole other person.

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