Safiah's Smile
the Muslim girl who was debased and
humiliated before her peers. Forced to leave the party rather than
suffer the stares and detestation of her classmates. But now, they
instantly accepted her. She was no longer a thorn wilting among a
flourishing rosebush. Miraculously, she had blossomed in the
loveliest rose of all.
    Malia shook her head. “Safiah,” she
whispered, slowly approaching Safiah and pulling her to the
sidelines. Malia inadvertently smeared the white lines the man in
the denim shorts had meticulously painted several minutes prior.
The paint was still wet. Frightened, she turned to the man, now on
the opposite end of the field. He was glaring at her. “Safiah,” she
repeated, “you don’t have to change yourself. You shouldn’t have
to.”
    “Malia, you don’t know what it’s like,”
Safiah whimpered.
    Malia shook her head once more. “It’s not
right. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your beliefs,” she pressed.
She looked down in agitation, sighing. Her left sneaker had become
untied, and the right sneaker was discolored in its center by a
splotch of mud.
    “Malia,” she sobbed, “you don’t know what
it’s like.”
    Malia lifted her gaze towards Safiah. Her
eyes were outlined by a heavy black liner. Her lids were powdered
with a sinister red shadow. Malia had always appreciated Safiah’s
modesty. How she never desired to boast herself to the world. Why
the drastic change?
    “Safiah, why do you want to change yourself?
You were amazing… no, you were perfect. Just as you were,” Safiah’s
eyes glimmered with appreciation for Malia’s words of kindness, and
she grinned. Malia sprung upon this spark of hope. “This isn’t
you.”
    But, wait. There was no hope. Safiah’s eyes
weren’t glimmering with gratitude. They were glimmering with anger.
“Malia,” Safiah shouted. Her voice was no longer thin. It was
burning with passionate fury. The veins in Malia’s eyes turned red.
The misty pupils no longer hazy but fiery. The cheerleaders fixed
their attention on the two companions, their eyes wide with
curiosity. “That is not your decision. It is my life. Not yours.”
Safiah’s tense stare softened and her eyes fell. “I… I’m sorry,
Malia,” she mumbled, her cheeks pink with regret. “I’m sorry, but
you really don’t know what it’s like,” she whispered and returned
to Meghan and Julie, nodding in agreement as they confessed their
frantic obsession with boots. Strange, Malia thought, it wasn’t
even winter.
    For the remaining two hours, Malia observed
as girls performed flawless somersaults and cheered with undeniable
energy, their throats never sore nor hoarse. After she memorized
their various jingles and properly learned how to bob her pompoms
at the correct angle, she trekked light-headedly from the field,
her mind spinning in confusion.
    “Malia,” Stacey scurried from behind, her
shoes crunching the freshly trimmed grass like a sneaker on a
cracker. “Tonight. Bleachers. Be there,” she commanded. She then
did something strange – she burst out wildly with laughter and
walked away. Not once looking back.
    The remaining hours of the dwindling day
passed as swiftly as lightning. Inevitably, Malia found herself
obeying the commands of Stacey Gross, captain of the varsity
cheerleaders. As the sun set and the sky turned pink, the girls
huddled beneath the metal benches. Malia recalled the time she
found herself seated on benches similar in appearance. Just one
year ago she had attended her first football game to witness Corey
Simon battle the Truman High School’s all-star team. She wondered
where he was now. What had life brought the star quarterback and
most popular senior at James Madison high school?
    “Here, Malia,” Stacey shoved a bottle into
her trembling fingers. “Enjoy,” she grinned.
    Malia shook her head. “Oh, that’s okay. I
don’t drink.” The others girls gaped at her. In astonishment but
mostly out of curiosity.
    “Malia. It’s just one

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