On her knees and white-knuckling the porcelain bowl, Samar awaited the next surge of morning sickness to spew forth. In the kitchen, Abdul was shrieking at one of his buddies on the prepaid cell phone she’d purchased for him at Wal-Mart yesterday.
“Pray God my baby isn’t a boy,” she implored and wretched the remainder (hopefully) of last night’s shawarma into the toilet bowl. Abdul appeared in the doorway. His brow wrinkled, and his mean-badger eyes squinted as he looked down at Samar. “I go away for a few days. Try to get this dump cleaned up for when I come back.” She nodded, still gazing into the bowl as if it were a crystal ball. A grin tugged at the corners of her mouth. Go blow yourself up. Do the world a favor.
But she didn’t dare say it.
Samar waited for the slam of the door, got to her feet and into the shower.
There was a big day ahead. Huge, even.
On the bus ride across town, Samar’s insides bubbled with anticipation and excitement: the beginning of a brand new life was a mere three stops away. She watched out the window as the neighborhood signage changed from Arabic characters, to Latin, and finally to Hebrew. She realized her tenacity was paying off as the Hebrew letters began to transform themselves into words as she sounded them out in her mind.
One more stop.
Samar’s stomach flipped. She rifled through her purse in search of the compact mirror, but it was too late. The bus slowed to a stop at the corner of 53rd and 116th.
She thanked the driver and got off. Samar and glanced around, no Chasya in sight. Surely she hadn’t forgotten! Or what if something had happened? Samar plopped onto a wooden bench across from the bagel shop, fraught with worry. She returned the puzzled glances of passers-by with a nervous smile, searching every face for Chasya’s. Five minutes had passed, then ten. Finally, Chasya’s tiny frame came in to view; trotting toward Samar and smiling that smile that caused Samar’s heart to somersault. Together they sat on the bench. Had Samar and Chasya been any closer, they’d have been sitting one atop the other.
“Are you okay? Sorry I’m late. Where’s Abdul?” Chasya spoke quickly, yet in a gentle tone. Her dark eyes darted about in search of anyone or anything unusual.
Samar nodded and recounted the morning’s events. Chasya held her hand.
“It can’t be a boy, it just can’t be!” Samar wailed. And then the tears came, and came some more.
Chasya took Samar in her arms, rocking her trembling body back and forth. “It’s okay. Boy or girl…it will be okay. Nu? I promise you, my love. I promise you.” Chasya handed Samar a crumpled tissue from her jeans pocket.
Samar nodded and blew her nose. She managed a weak smile through her tears. “Nu.”
“Okay, then.” Chasya concluded. “You sure you’re ready?
“I’m ready.” Samar nodded. “I want to live the rest of my life as a Jew with you and my, no, I mean our baby.”
And together the two women, one in a hijab and abaya the other dressed in jeans and sweater, strode down the street. Hand in hand they climbed the stairs that lead to the future, and to the doors of Congregation Beth Israel.