The Deal

In Final Girl, Season 3 by Iqra Abid

As the bus pulled to a stop, Nida slung her bag over her shoulder and shouted her thanks to the driver. Brown leaves crunched beneath her feet as soon as they made contact with the pavement. The sound followed her as she swiftly descended the street in the black of the night.

Her eyes darted in every direction as the cold wind nipped at her face like a dog sinking its teeth into a stranger. She shifted her hands into her pockets, slipping her keys between her knuckles. It was moments like this where Nida wished she could be anybody else. Someone less cowardly at least.

A loud rustle of leaves forced her to a halt. She peered around, piecing her surroundings together through the low-hanging branches of the willow tree that towered over her. Its leaves reached for her like fingers just barely grazing the top of her head, beckoning her to look up. She felt the moonlight seeping into her skin while the wind picked up around her—her long, curly hair beginning to dance along with its chaos, the warm smell of her perfume wafting into her nose with every breeze. Like magic, glittering specks of light in colours she’d only dreamed of rained down on her while the air in her lungs escaped in a quiet gasp.  

In a blink, it was gone. Nida pressed a hand to her chest to catch her breath. She turned and turned, searching for another glimpse of the light or evidence that it was real. As the darkness returned, reality urged her to continue her trek home. It was too late at night to be curious.

She hastily turned the lock and a gust of freezing autumn air billowed into the house, blowing the door wide open and carrying something dark in with it. She stepped inside and struggled to yank the key out of the lock with frigid hands, unaware of the invisible entity buying time to fit itself through the entrance of her home. 

She let out a yelp once the key slipped out of the door, the force of her pull sending her backwards. She caught the doorframe for balance and took a second to scan the front yard for anything strange. Without another sign of that mysterious light, she finally closed the door.


“Asalamalakum, Hajar Nani” Nida greeted the small, old woman next door on her way out the following day. Hajar spent her mornings drinking tea on her porch and waving to neighbours on their way to work or school. Almost everyone in their community knew her by name, recognizing that she was more wise and compassionate than the local Imam. She was also like a grandmother to many with her outdated humour and advanced problem-solving skills—Nida included.

 If only she knew the truth. The strange dark voice startled her, the intense bass of it reverberating through her body, but she didn’t get a chance to question it.

“Walakumasalam,” Hajar answered without looking in Nida’s direction. “How is your music?”

“It’s going well,” Nida answered, quickly forgetting the intrusive thought in favour of suppressing a grin. It was nice to know someone was actually interested in what she did. “I don’t think I’ll make your head hurt with my practising anymore.”

“Then that means you can play for me sometime,” she smiled slowly. “ I do enjoy free entertainment.” Nida laughed and paid her respects one last time before continuing on her route, on her way to meet her childhood best friend, Andi.

“How is your mission going?” they asked as they both climbed onto the bus. 

“Love is the air,” she answered sweetly, already grinning at the question “Which means love is on its way to me.” Nida flipped her hair slightly and fluttered her eyes. Andi rolled their eyes in response.

“You’re too confident for someone who’s never dated anyone before.” 

“Oh, mark my words Andi,” she pointed her finger in their face. “I will knock my first relationship off the bucket list by the end of this semester.”

“With what game?” Pretending to be offended, Nida playfully pushed them by the shoulder as they both laughed. 

Look up. She furrowed her eyebrows, turning to find the speaker until the bus came to an abrupt stop. People gasped as they were displaced from their seats and the standing crowd shifted, re-organizing themselves to let more riders on. She could only see the top of Andi’s head now, at the back of the bus. 

Look up. This time she did, finding a large house spider crawling its way across the roof. She dragged her bag close to her chest, trying to make her body smaller in her seat, praying the spider would not fall from the ceiling. She watched it drop, hanging from a thread of silk over a stranger’s head. She debated saying something until another spider crawled into her peripheral vision on the floor. As she watched it scuttle across the aisle, an army of spiders appeared from underneath the seats. The clicking sounds of a thousand wiry legs beating against the floor rang out as they rhythmically released high-pitched purrs. Sunlight refracted against their beady red eyes, lighting them up as they rushed their way to the front of the bus, appearing as if they were making direct eye contact with Nida as they passed her. 

She shrieked and wrapped her arms around her knees to lift her feet from the floor. She shut her eyes and tried to block out the incessant thunder of clacking legs and whining calls by covering her ears. She waited for silence before opening her eyes again. The strangers around eyed her suspiciously, unmoved by the storm of spiders that left Nida shaking. She nervously glanced over at Andi, their face shining from the light of their phone. No one else had seen what she did and what she saw didn’t happen. Closing her eyes again, Nida tried to breathe. 


Once they arrived on campus, they found Zahra, the last member of their trio, in a study room. Zahra quickly turned to Nida. “Are you coming to the auditions tomorrow? I promise you won’t regret it.”

She hesitated to answer, trying to sift through the millions of thoughts rushing through her head. “I’m still thinking about it.”

“Oh, please Nids,” Zahra begged, holding her hands together. ‘The band really needs someone like you in their flutes section. So far, all but one flautist flopped their audition.”

“Ughh,” Nida groaned and dragged her hands down her face, stretching her eyes and cheeks. “That’s so much more pressure! I have performance anxiety.”

“You have everything anxiety,” Andi teased. “Just do it, even if you’re a total disaster Zahra won’t be able to hold it against you.”

“Hey!” Zahra exclaimed. “I wouldn’t hold it against you, I would just bring it every time any minor inconvenience came up with the band and find a way to blame you.”

“Sooooo, you’d hold it against me?’ Nida nudged her with a playful smirk. Zahra pretended to think for a minute then nodded as if holding her head in shame. 

“Okay fine, I’ll do it. Only because I’m the greatest, most selfless friend to ever exist,” Nida joked. 

A loud crash from the hallway interrupted their banter. All three friends rushed to the door, but there was nothing to see. Andi slipped their way into the hall to find the source of the sound. 

Don’t ignore me, the voice demanded, sending chills down her spine as Andi re-entered the room shrugging. “I have no idea what that could’ve been.” 

But Nida couldn’t move or speak, frozen in place by fear. A large wolf spider began to slowly crawl up the closed door behind Andi, its long legs visible over their shoulder. She opened her mouth to warn them, but no words came out. 

“Woah, Nida you look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Andi said walking towards her. The spider, now on the ceiling, followed Andi. Nida’s knees locked and she winced at the sensation of Zahra’s hand on her shoulder. 

“What’s wrong?” she asked, her eyebrows furrowed with worry. Nida looked back at the ceiling to see the spider was gone. 

“You guys didn’t see that? Th-That huge…” Nida trailed off as she spun around and scanned the room for it, only to find nothing. 

“My love, what is it?” Zahra asked, holding her shoulders to catch Nida’s eyes. The small gesture of concern was enough to crack the dam keeping Nida’s dreadful emotions at bay. She collapsed into Zahra’s arms and began to sob before revealing the haunting occurrences that began the night before.


A Djinn, Zahra had suggested. Maybe she accidentally welcomed a Djinn into her life. It was all she could think about yet it made no sense to her. Nida shoved the swab-like brush into her flute, cleaning it before packing it away as she considered the possibility that the supernatural may exist. What would a Djinn want with her? 

“Hi,” Nida felt a hand brush against her arm and instinctively flinched away from it. Nida stepped back as she looked up, surprised by the girl standing in front of her.

“I didn’t know you played the flute,” Tahira greeted her. Even after a year, Nida still got lost in her deep green eyes. Her long eyelashes and perfect eyebrows made it even harder to look away.

“Uh, yeah,” she stumbled to answer. “I’ve been playing for a few years now.”

“That’s amazing,” she smiled and Nida was in a trance again, admiring the single dimple it revealed on the left side of her face and the way her eyes crinkled. “I didn’t know we had this in common. It seems like we’re going to be bandmates.”

“Oh, wow!” Really? That’s all I can come up with?

“Would you want to meet up before the first session next week? I could use some pointers if you’re okay with that.” The ceiling light behind Tahira’s head formed a sort of halo above her. This was a different kind of glow than what she saw under the tree yesterday, but the magic was still there, filling her with warmth. 

Another loud crash shook the room, their attention briefly shifting towards the pile of music stands in the corner of the room that had somehow tumbled to the ground.  

Djinn, Nida thought as Tahira gently placed her hand on hers, refocusing her on their current interaction—one that she spent many nights dreaming about.

“Oh, uh sure,” Nida answered nervously, distracted by her heart pounding her chest.  “Just shoot me a DM.” 

“Perfect, it’s a date then.” She offered one last sweet smile before walking away. 


“What do you mean you didn’t know Tahira liked girls?” Andi asked. “She was practically begging you to ask her out last year.”

“Then why wouldn’t she just ask me out? Clearly, I’m oblivious!” She was exasperated by her disbelief—not only was she suddenly talented enough to be in the university band, but she managed to land a date with the only girl she’s had a massive crush on. 

You know it’s wrong, Nida. The stupid voice. Nida continued to ignore it, just as Zahra had told her to. This was a good thing, love is good. It can never be wrong.

“She just did, loser,” Andi pointed out as they reached Nida’s house. As they hugged and parted ways, Hajar slowly stepped onto her porch. She called to Nida before she could unlock her door.

“Nida, what is that?” Hajar pointed behind her, beckoning Nida to turn. All she could see were the houses that lined her street. Nothing stood out.  “What are you talking about, Nani?” 

“Haven’t I told you about the Djiins? How they fall in love and consume mortal lives with their jealousy?” she asked quietly and quickly. Suddenly the wind began to whistle and whip around them. “Do not walk under trees at night and if you must, keep your hair tied and never, ever wear perfume. Haven’t I told you before?”

“I….” Nida tried to think. The message felt familiar but she wasn’t sure. The intensity of the wind began to unravel the loose, make-shift bun she made on the bus home. Goosebumps covered skin, raising the hair on the back of her neck.

“Go inside,” Hajar whispered, uncharacteristically low and dark. “Do not make it any promises.”


“Where have you been?” Nida jumped at the sound of her mother’s voice, raising her hands to defend herself before sighing in recognition. Her mother moved so quietly and quickly. Nida should be used to her sudden appearances by now. 

“I was at school,” Nida answered while taking off her shoes. “I told you I had auditions today.” 

“Your audition ended an hour ago.” She was squinting at Nida, analyzing her appearance to find any traces of unwanted behaviours. 

See, she thinks you’re a bad daughter. She knows what you are. 

Good, then I don’t have to tell her. 

“It takes an hour to get home,” Nida said annoyed, frustrated with both the Djinn in her head and her mother’s interrogation routine. 

Chi. Are you talking back to me now?” her mother scrunched up her face, shooting Nida a disapproving glare before turning away. 

“Nooo,” Nida droned with slight sarcasm, following close behind as her mother led them into the kitchen. “If you would let me take the car on Tuesdays, you wouldn’t have to worry so much.” 

“Kabhi nahi!” she exclaimed in Urdu. “I would worry even more.”

“Why?” Nida whined, settling into a tall stool at their kitchen island. “I’m such a good driver!”  Her mother let out a loud laugh and rummaged through the fridge. 

“That’s funny. Are you planning to go into comedy?” She pulled out a plate and began filling it with rice and daal. 

See, they will never accept you as you are. She rolled her eyes at the Djinn and a sharp pain pierced her skull. She cringed, holding her head in her hands before trying to act like nothing was wrong.

“What are you doing pouting? Go clean up.” Nida watched her mother for a moment as her head throbbed before silently obeying. In the bathroom, she wondered what her mother would say if she told her about the hallucinations, the light. Slowly, the pain faded. She washed her hands and considered all the possibilities, intently watching the water stream from the tap. 

From the corner of her eye, she noticed something small and dark move quickly across the wall through her reflection. She whipped around, her wet hands spraying droplets of water across the floor. Leaning back against the sink she surveyed the wall, worried a spider had found its way into the bathroom. 

“Nida,” her mom called from the kitchen, muffled by the closed door. “Come eat!” A shiver ran down Nida’s spine allowing her to shake off her fear and disgust. She turned back towards the sink to grab a hand towel and noticed a small crack in the mirror. She gently touched the crack but as soon as her finger pressed against the glass, the crack expanded without a sound—shooting through the rest of the mirror like a spider web. Nida watched her distorted reflection in shock, daring it to move, until a knock on the bathroom door pulled her gaze away from the mirror.

“Hey, your food is getting cold,” a quiet voice spoke from outside. It was her younger sister, Saira. The only person who would take her side if she told the truth about what happened to the mirror. She swung the door open and hauled Saira inside.

“Look, you have to believe me,” Nida started, but Saira ignored her and made her way to the sink. 

“What, that you’re not running up the water bill?” Saira joked, turning off the running water. 

“No, the mirror….” Nida trailed off when she looked up. The mirror was completely intact. She watched as Saira took a closer look at her reflection to remove a piece of fluff from her bangs. “What about the mirror?” she asked. 

Wide-eyed, Nida took in the scene in front of her. What. The. Hell. She backed out of the doorway and mumbled a “never mind.” 


By next week, the Djinn was buried in the back of her mind. While Hajar’s warning rang in her head, the hallucinations disappeared. Sleep deprivation, she explained away. That’s all that was.

As she walked up to Tahira’s house—tote bag in one hand, flute in the other—reality finally sank in. This would be her first ever date and it was with Tahira. Her palms were sweating like crazy and she was suddenly concerned about how she smelled. She went to take a sniff of herself, not expecting the front door to swing open. 

“You must be Nida!” a tall, round older man bellowed. “Come in, we’re so excited to meet you.” Nida let out a nervous laugh as she said salam and followed him into the house. “I am Tahira’s father. You must meet my parents.”

Her father led her into a sitting room where assumingly Tahira’s entire family was waiting. A young girl patted an empty spot on the couch between her and a woman who looked like an older version of Tahira, beckoning her to sit with them. 

Nida joined them and they all took turns introducing themselves and complimenting her. Tahira was on her way home from school, they told her. They’d been preparing for her visit all week, buying tons of unique fruits for a sweet charcuterie board and making all sorts of Lebanese desserts like baklava and knafeh. They told jokes and stories, and Nida spent much of her time laughing. Her heart was bubbling again with that sweet warm feeling. She wasn’t used to such attentive, welcoming treatment. They spoke to her as if they’d known her forever like she was always a member of their family. Nida’s eyes began to water without her noticing. 

When Tahira finally did arrive, she was greeted by hugs and kisses from every person in the room. Tahira took Nida’s hand and led her to another room, apologizing for her “overbearing” family. She handed Nida a glass of water and turned her back to begin assembling her flute.

“They’ve known that I’ve liked you since last year so they’re just really excited for me,” she explained. Nida choked on the sip of water she had taken, reattracting Tahira’s gaze. 

“Are you okay?” Tahira asked, rushing over to take the glass out of Nida’s hands and putting it down on the floor. She was kneeling by Nida now, resting her hands on top of Nida’s to comfort her. 

“Your parents know you….” Nida tried to pose the question, but her cheeks began to flush.

“That I like girls? They knew way before I did.” Tahira laughed, gently squeezing Nida’s hands. Nida started back at her in awe, once again transported by her soft smile and doe-like eyes, but also by the dream of acceptance, the one that Tahira was currently living.  

It isn’t true, the Djinn grumbled to her. She pretends.

Nida tried to ignore it but the longer she looked at Tahira, the louder the Djinn was. 

She manipulates them, no real Muslim could ever accept this. Tahira’s smile began to distort, becoming more sinister as the Djinn continued. 

“Give me a second,” Tahira said, getting up on her feet. “I have something for you.”

Nida tried to shake off the Djinn, but her stomach started twisting. Nausea washed over her as if she’d eaten something rotten and it was clawing its way back up her throat to escape. 

Something is wrong, she thought to herself. It’s not just me, it can’t be me. Then she was on her feet, rummaging through the room, looking for evidence that something was off as the Djinn said. 

“Hey,” Tahira called when she returned and Nida whipped around to face her, hiding a locket she had picked up behind her back. Tahira held two bowls of mint chocolate chip ice cream, reminding Nida of the day they first met where they bonded over their love for the underrated flavour. Still, the Djinn’s voice made her skin itch. She eyed the bowls and the front door, trying to think of a quick escape.

“Uh- I’m sorry, I have to go,” she stuttered, slipping the locket into the back pocket of her jeans. “I forgot I have an appointment.” She quickly gathered her things in her arms and rushed past Tahira, flying out the door.


The Djinn had been patient, expecting Nida’s own shame to consume her and keep her from seeing that girl. If her own disgrace would not deter her, the Djinn would feast on her fear, pluck her worst qualities out of her like an embalmer emptying a corpse of its organs. It would persist and spin it webs of chaos into everything she knew until nothing in her life was untouched by the Djinn; until she was empty and alone, her self-hatred consuming her soul; until she was left begging for the Djinn’s mercy. Only then would they become inseparable and only then, would the Djinn ease its hold on her.  


Nida found her way onto a bus home despite her disastrous exit. She leaned back and closed her eyes, ready to release a terribly inconsiderate sigh of exhaustion until she felt the locket pressing into her skin. After struggling to pull it out, she found the pendant was broken, one of the doors missing from the locket’s hinges. She was disappointed by its further emptiness, lacking any evidence that an image was ever housed in its gold-plated walls. 

Suddenly, the lights on the bus began to flicker. Shadows stretched and shrank in the ebbing luminescence, a kaleidoscope effect of shapes dancing across the floor and Nida’s hands. She looked up to see the dim light scattering across the faces of other riders until it sputtered to halt, the strobes emitting a cold blue glow where Nida was sitting—the rest of the bus immersed in darkness.

The man sitting across from Nida began to seize, falling out of his seat and onto the sticky floor. Nida gasped loudly, yelling for help. No one around her moved and the man on the floor twitched. Slowly, he lifted himself up onto his arms and crawled towards Nida, foam dripping from around his mouth. He grabbed her ankle and she kicked at his hand to no avail. She screamed again, pleading for help as she struggled to release herself from the stranger’s hands. He raised himself to meet her eyes and gave her a toothy grin that stretched as far as his ears, his eyes entirely black. 

Nida scrambled to the side and pulled herself away from the man. She ran to the closest doors and pushed them open to jump out of the bus. Expecting her feet to meet concrete, Nida shrieked when she started to float. 

Nida, the Djinn boomed. I am trying to show you the truth. Open your eyes.  She didn’t realize she was squeezing her eyes shut until tears slipped down her cheek. 

“I can’t,” she cried. She struggled to stay upright, holding her arms out for balance while sobs shook her entire body.

Open. Your. Eyes. A gust of wind knocked her over, forcing her onto her backside and she did finally, open her eyes. A soft white glow surrounded her like a cloud, fractured by fragments of pink and orange patterns swimming in the air around her. 

Tahira is a danger to you, and her family. You must stop her.

She reached her hand out to grasp the light and it dissipated like fog between her fingers. A tingling sensation bolted through Nida’s body, briefly filling her with an intense stroke of energy and strength. Delirious, Nida whispered and she shook her head “why, why me?”

You know right from wrong, you can remind them of the right path. 

“I can’t take this anymore,” Nida collapsed onto her side, landing again on nothing but air. “What about me?” she mumbled, slipping in and out of consciousness. “None of this changes who I am, what I am.”

That power you felt strike you like lightning—it will be yours. It is the cure. You will finally make them proud.  

Proud. The word rings through Nida’s head, over and over. All she wanted was to make her parents proud, but she had accepted that it was impossible when she first realized she could never love a man and give her parents grandchildren. She had abandoned the pipedream so long ago, yet the Djinn held it out for her on a silver platter, already ready for taking. She felt the shame and dread spark again, her stomach turning inside out. 

“Please,” she begged.  She could no longer stand the feeling of being herself; her soul felt dirty and her body permanently ached in longing and shame. “My heart is so heavy with the weight of loving the wrong people. Please, fix me.” 

Then take my hand, make me a promise

Even frantic Nida hesitated, Hajar’s voice ringing in her head. “What promise?”

Get rid of Tahira. In exchange, I will clean your soul. You will be born again, become someone good.

Good, she repeated as her senses faltered one by one. Good. She slowly stretched her hand out into the emptiness as her eyes flickered shut, the light melting into darkness.


When the doorbell rang the next day, Nida knew Tahira was on the other side of the door. 

Remember the deal, the Djinn nagged at the sight of her. 

Tahira started apologizing before they could even greet each other and Nida listened quietly. Promise aside, there was so much Nida wanted to say but she couldn’t figure out where to start. There was a sense of urgency filling the pit of her stomach, as if she would never get a chance to be honest with Tahira if she didn’t say what she needed to now. Still, her lips remained sealed—under the Djinn’s control. 

She’s not here to apologize.

“I shouldn’t have invited you over,” Tahira lamented. “Meeting the family on the first date is definitely a red flag.” Nida watched Tahira twist, fold, and bend her hands with nervousness before she broke the awkward silence. 

“It’s not your fault,” Nida avoided her eyes. “Your family was so kind and supportive.” She stopped to take a deep breath.

“I think I was jealous,” Nida turned her face away, warmth creeping into her cheeks. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt that safe before. I just wish my parents could do that for me. See me. Know me. And still love me.” 

“How do you know they wouldn’t?” she asked. Nida didn’t trust herself to answer without crying, offering only a shrug in response. Tahira gently turned Nida towards her with a finger under her chin.

 “I see you.” Nida found herself locked in her gaze once again as Tahira softly pulled her face forward and leaned in, her eyes fluttering shut. 

No, she wants to ruin you.

Nida immediately stepped back , the sound of footsteps behind her flipping a switch of panic inside her. 

“You have to go,” she tries to push Tahira out of the doorway, but Tahira doesn’t budge, asking Nida to wait.

“Hello,” Nida mother chirps from behind her. “Nids, you didn’t tell me we had a guest.” She turned to see her parents, Saira, and Hajar standing behind them and felt her heat begin to race. “Hajar Nani just came to drop off some food.”

“Asalamalakum, I’m Tahira.” Nida looked back and forth between the girl on their porch and her family inside. She wasn’t prepared for something like this, for her loved ones to unexpectedly meet someone she was romantically involved with. There was no time for her to come up with a convincing lie. Had they seen their almost kiss? 

She’s here to expose you. In her panic, Nida believed the Djinn. 

“She was just leaving,” Nida explained, trying again to push Tahira out the door. This time she was successful, Tahira’s feet stumbling backwards. 

Again. Nida obeyed, pushing Tahira over and over and over again until they met the edge of the first step. 

“Nida!” Hajar bellowed from behind her. Her strong voice echoed through Nida’s mind, pulling her free from the Djinn’s grasp. With wide eyes she reached her arm out to grab Tahira, saving her from falling down the endless porch steps. They stayed like that for a moment, fear glistening in both of their eyes as they heaved. She held Tahira close as they regained their footing before bursting into tears and falling at her feet. Tahira followed her to the ground, stroking her hair. 

Her mother came running over, clutching her daughter close.  “Jaanu, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”  Nida couldn’t answer, her sobs left her breathless.

“We are your family,” she looked up to see everyone else looking over in concern. Hajar continued, “Unburden yourself, we can be trusted.” 

They’re lying, the Djinn growled, but she couldn’t hear its voice over her weeping.

“N-no, I can’t,” she cried, shaking her head. “You’ll hate me.”

“You are my daughter,” her mother grabbed Nida’s face, holding her gaze intently. “Nothing will ever change that. I will always be here to protect you and hold you.”

Wiping at her nose, Nida tried to breathe. Her mother guided her; they inhaled and exhaled together until Nida could speak again. 

“I-” she hesitated, tears welling up in her eyes again. “I don’t like boys, Mama. I can’t like them, I’ve tried.” She tried to turn away but her mother redirected her gaze. She nodded, beckoning her to continue.

“I’m a lesbian,” the words felt like cotton in her mouth. As the words lingered in the air, Nida felt the universe shift beneath her. Her mother pulled her into a tight hug, and Saira cheered in the background. 

“You think something like that would make me hate you?” her mother asked, holding Nida by her shoulders. “Who are we to hate or judge you? God made you as you are. With love and care. You came to me from Him to love and be loved.”

Nida was breathless in shock. She turned to her father who crouched down beside her and kissed her forehead. 

“I have never been more proud of you than I am right now,” he told her. 

She looked up briefly. Hajar smiled at her, beaming with pride. Her sister celebrating, shouting finally, and Tahira—beautiful Tahira was grinning, wiping her tears. 

“It is not you against the world, Nida,” her mother said, grabbing her face again “It is us against the world.” She burrowed herself in her mother’s arms and felt a weight lift from her shoulders. As her shame dissolved and her heart swelled with warmth, she knew then that the Djinn was finally gone. 

After everyone went back inside, she was left alone with Tahira. Nida stared at her feet, too embarrassed to look up. She tried to think of explanations but Tahira spoke up first.

“I know it wasn’t your fault. Zahra told me about the Djinn,” she hesitated before continuing. “I saw it too. Before you caught me.”

Nida fidgeted with her hands, not ready to talk about the Djinn yet. Instead, she rustled through her pockets and pulled out the broken locket. 

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I don’t know why I took this.” Tahira burst into laughter at the sight of it, startling Nida. 

“Oh my gosh, of all the things!” she exclaimed, grabbing it from her. “Look.” She peeled back a bronze screen that Nida hadn’t noticed before. Behind it was a black and white picture of two middle-aged women—one bending down to kiss the shorter woman on the cheek. 

“My aunts,” Tahira explained softly. It was the first time she ever looked remotely shy in front of Nida, her cheeks slightly pink. “They live in the U.K. They gave this to me when I first came out to them. They were the only ones who knew for years.” They admired the picture in silence for a few moments. Something new sparked in her, something that felt like bravery. Finally, Nida looked Tahira in the eyes and held out her hand. 

“Do you want some ice cream? I have mint chocolate chip.”