Soraya’s lips curl in a satisfied smile as she nears the front door and looks at her watch—9:33 pm. Baba won’t be home from his late shift at the pharmacy for nearly a half hour. Mama will have fallen asleep watching Turkish soap opera reruns waiting for him, knowing that her daughter (surely) is at Mona’s house doing homework. Soraya’s starving now and dreams of a creamy labneh sandwich with fragrant mint and ripe tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil, but when she reaches up to adjust her hijab she feels only her own thicket of amber-scented hair. It’s a tangled mess after her fevered embraces with Naji, just minutes before, in the shadowy interior of the ancient Roman temple where his fingers feathered her shoulders—the press of them on her skin, still. Soraya swivels, heart pounding, the fog that had provided welcome cover for their rendezvous now veiling the path. She retraces the route to the ruins on cautious feet, searching, searching. She’s about to resign herself to Baba’s scoldings for being bare-headed (they’ll call you a tramp!) and Mama’s scepticism over her whereabouts (no boys!), when she spies a hint of blue in the mist. Her hijab! Snagged on a jagged bit of stone on the parapet wall, waving like a long-lost friend come to help guard her secret. She silks it along her cheek, presses it to her nose. Giddy from the lingering musk of Naji’s skin still clinging to it, Soraya wraps the damp scarf so it hugs her head and neck. She doesn’t dare check the time as—breathless—she turns back towards home again.
Kathryn Silver-Hajo is a Pushcart Prize, Best Microfiction, Best Small Fictions, and Best American Food Writing nominee. Her story, “The Sweet Softness of Dates” was selected for the 2023 Wigleaf Top 50 Longlist. Her work appears in Atticus Review, Bending Genres, Citron Review, CRAFT Literary, Emerge Literary Journal, Ghost Parachute, New Flash Fiction Review, Pithead Chapel, Ruby Literary, The Phare, and other lovely places. Her flash collection Wolfsong and YA novel Roots of The Banyan Tree were both published in 2023. Kathryn is a former reader for Fractured Literary. She lives in Providence with her husband and curly-tailed pup, Kaya. Learn more at: kathrynsilverhajo.com; facebook.com/kathryn.silverhajo; twitter.com/KSilverHajo; and instagram.com/kathrynsilverhajo.