"That's Fatima Syed"
“Behind every great man is not a woman, she beside him, she is with him, not behind him.”
“Go talk to her,” a girl said in a harsh whisper. She ushered her friend, who was standing nervously beside her, and gestured to another girl coming their way.
A flush of rose bloomed along the highest points of her friend’s face. She shook her head, flustered at the suggestion of such a daunting task. The flyer in her hands crumpled due to the jittery trembles of her hands.
“Are you insane?” The nervous girl said with an equally harsh bite to her tone. “Do you know who that is? That’s Fatima Said!” The mere taste of the infamous stranger’s name was enough to close up her throat, just as how a whiff of peanuts would send her on an early trip to the afterlife.
“And?” Her nonchalant friend raised her brow, indifferent to the perilous ring in her friend’s words.
“She will cut out our tongues, shove them down our throats, and watch us choke...WITH a bucket of popcorn!”
“Come on, Morgana. It’s for a good cause.” The nonchalant friend while referring to their propped up trifold with pride.
Displayed on their table were an elaborate assortment of pro-life propaganda which included counciling flyers, ‘I Am Pro-Life’ stickers, some statistics about abortions, and short stories from abortion survivors. The sight of their hard work gave Morgana a boost of courage and she put herself up to the task.
“Fine. But I’m telling you, if she reaches for my mouth, you’re paying for my funeral arrangements!”
Her nonchalant friend beamed a worldly smile before saying, “You’re the best.”
Morgana rolled her eyes and counted to three. On three, she waved Fatima Said over, making sure to exaggerate her movements to seize Fatima’s attention. Fatima was swamped in a sea of college students. Campus was always crowded, especially at the height of noon. Imagine hundreds of students shuffling past each other in different directions on a sweltering day, and you have accurately depicted life at UCB.
Oh, why did U.C.B. had to be so populated? Morgana whined internally.
Her whining was cut to a short end when Fatima’s sharp eyes spotted her from within the crowd. Morgana’s poor heart threatened to leap out of her chest as Fatima came closer. Fatima was decked in a loose fitting black bodycon dress. Dark kohl rimmed her brown eyes, accentuating its almond shape. The blackness of her dress and the boldness of her eyes was too much for Morgana’s taste. She would have found Fatima’s appearance jarring if it had not been for her pale pink hijab to offset her phantom esque outfit and her sharp cheekbones.
Morgana frantically assembled a dialogue of what to say when Fatima beat her to the chase.
“You’re here to preach to me about pro-life propaganda.” Fatima’s rosebud lips stretched to form an amusing smile. At least, it was amusing to her. To Morgana, she could have easily mistaken Fatima’s smile for the Joker.
“Y-Yes! W-Would you be interested in hearing some statistics? How about a flyer? Did you know that according to the CDC, more than 63 million abortions have occured in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade in 1973?”
“Hm. Interesting.” Fatima said without much thought, but Morgana took it as an open invitation.
“Would you like to hear more?” Morgana asked.
Morgana’s nonchalant friend noticed a scintillating gleam in Fatima’s kohl rimmed eyes. Taking it as a portent for trouble, she watched from her side of the table with a heightened sense of alertness.
Morgana’s voice rose sharply from the satisfaction of possessing (or believing she had) Fatima’s full attention. “Did you know that a fetus’s heart starts beating during the fifth week of pregnancy?”
“Ah. How fascinating.” Fatima said with a dull bluntness on her end. “Now that I’ve listened to you reiterate your facts, would you care if I respond?”
Morgana immediately felt her stomach sink from a growing sense of dread. “Um...okay.”
“How would you propose we handle all the kids flooding the foster care system?”
As usual, Fatima did not fail to strike when it was least expected. In many ways, she was like a cobra. Lethal. Calculating. It was best to avoid cobras when possible, and Morgana knew this well.
“E-Every child deserves a chance at life.” Morgana wanted to slap herself for stuttering. Years of speech therapy significantly improved her impediment, but it always showed when she buckled under pressure. The sharpness of Fatima’s quick tongue yanked her back to a sterile scented office in the back of her mind. She would scream if she could, but she felt herself becoming lost in the empty void of Fatima’s cold brown eyes.
Fatima responded, “You’re right. Every child does deserve a chance at life. But my question for you is, where do you draw the line?”
“‘Draw the line’?” Morgana echoed back, unsure and confused like a child.
Fatima leaned in closer, closing the gap between herself and Morgana. Her sudden movement sent Morgana tripping over her own ankles, causing her to grip onto the table in a last minute attempt to save herself.
“Don’t be so naive, Morgana. Everyone has a line.” Fatima tucked her lips into a full pout as she taunted the girl. Morgana felt herself shrink in Fatima’s presence. Morgana, who was never able to withstand the pressures of opposition, retreated into herself for the fear of disappearing completely.
“There is an exception to every rule, a limit to every belief. So now I’m asking you again.” Fatima’s hand grabbed a pen from the table and clicked it. With one swift motion, she marked a crisp line on the back of Morgana’s hand. Morgana withdrew like she had been cut. “Where do you draw the line?”
Morgana, too stunned to answer, simply bit down on her quivering lips to withhold her tears.
“Is it rape?” Fatima asked.
Morgana looked down at her black marked hand and saw it shake.
“Incest?” Fatima’s face broke out into an uncontrollable grin as Morgana’s eyes swelled red.
“How about endangerment to a mother’s health? Birth defects?”
Morgana broke down into tears. Hiding her face in her hands to cover up her shame, she turned away and sobbed in an inconsolable manner which turned heads everywhere. Fatima only chuckled under her breath as she was deaf to Morgana’s distress.
Morgana’s friend, who had been observing the entirety of their interaction, finally decided to draw the line when she stepped in to end the commotion once and for all.
Fatima turned to the girl and smiled. It was a lady-like smile that would have won her over with her charm had it not been for the coldness of her eyes.
“You should go,” the friend said with heroic grandeur.
It fed Fatima’s insatiable appetite for pain.
“I will. On one condition.”
“And what’s that?” The girl asked.
“Where do you draw the line?”
Fatima stared into the girl’s eyes. At first, the girl stared back at her with an intense disposition equal to Fatima’s; however, a hidden all-knowing darkness in Fatima’s soul broke the girl. She cracked, fearing that Fatima had unearthed a secret she had buried deep in the faults of her heart. She told herself that she was being irrational...or so she thought.
The girl’s cheeks paled as Fatima leaned over the table and confirmed her worst fear.
“You can’t draw the line because you already crossed the line. You’re the worst kind of dirt. You’re a hypocrite.”
The girl’s body petrified into a tragic statue of some sort. Her body, drastically drained of its color, assumed the appearance of luxurious marble as a large teardrop, too light to fall, clung to the crevice of her eye. Fatima’s cruel truth had turned her into stone.
Indifferent to the mess she created, Fatima took a pen and left.