What she wanted was a vacation. What she got was a revolution.
After attending her first high school party lands her in jail, Mariam thinks things can’t possibly get worse. So when her parents send her to live with her grandmother in Cairo, she is sure her life is over. Her Sittu is Darth Vader’s evil sister, and Mariam is convinced that the only sights she’ll get to see in Egypt are the rooms in her grandmother’s apartment.
Then a girl named Asmaa calls the people of Egypt to protest against their president, and Mariam finds herself in the middle of a revolution, running from teargas and falling in love for the first time, and having her first kiss.
Excerpt from Rebels By Accident by Patricia Dunn
This isn’t my first visit to Mayflower police station. The last time, Mom brought me with her to complain about a pothole. It was like the size of a quarter, but Mom insisted it was dangerous to drive over and she had a child in her car. I was thirteen.
This time, I’m at the Mayflower police station as a criminal. Sixteen (well, almost sixteen), and I’m behind bars. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. It’s not like we’re locked up with serial killers or slashers, but we are in a cell. Deanna’s with me, along with about thirty other underage girls who were at the party and didn’t manage to run away in time or convince the police to let them go. As we were piled into squad cars, I watched these girls (and even a few guys) put on all the moves to get out of the arrest—crying, flirting, screaming, fainting, and even begging—but none of it worked.
I have to say Deanna gave it her best. Not being able to crack a smile really worked to her advantage. I could see she wasn’t kidding when she told me she was a great litigator like her mom. When the cop found me hiding in the bathtub with the shower curtain drawn (could I have picked a more obvious place?) and dragged me downstairs to line up with the rest of crowd, there was Deanna telling the police we shouldn’t be responsible for the actions of some stupid guys who brought beer to the party. She almost had one cop convinced to let us go when good old Karen, the bane of my existence, stepped forward and threw up on his shoes.
All through grammar school and middle school, Karen and her butt-kisser Beth talked shit about my family and me. Their favorite insults were that my dad was in Al-Qaida and my mom was only one of his many wives. Right in the middle of the entire school cafeteria, Karen shouted, “Hey, towel head, you forget something.” When I turned to her she blew her nose into a napkin and stuck it on my head.
Well, at least she’s not in our cell. They put her, and all the other vomiting kids, in a separate cell—with buckets.
Still, it stinks in here. I stick my nose through the cell bars, trying to breathe air that doesn’t smell like puke, beer, or raw fish. Who has an open sushi bar at a high school party? Then again, what would I know about parties? Yes, tonight was also my first party since first grade.
“Come on, Mar. It’s not that bad.” Deanna pushes against my shoulder. I don’t budge. I don’t say anything.
“Funny how we started tonight wanting to get on the inside, and now we’re hoping to get out.” Deanna stands closer to me but I can’t even look at her now; I know if do, I’ll start to cry. Like I’m not already the biggest freak at school.
“Look, I know you’re freakin’ out here, but I’m sure everything will be okay.”
“Are you kidding me?” I turn to her. I lower my voice. “I’m in jail. Do you know how happy this is going to make my parents?”
“Now they can feel totally justified when they never let me leave the house again.”
Relax! We’ve just been arrested! And are now in a holding cell with girls who have picked on me—or, worse yet, ignored me—since kindergarten. On top of that, my parents are going to kill me! Why did I let Deanna talk me into going to this party?
* * *
Okay, the truth: she didn’t have to talk me into anything. I wanted to go. I would’ve done anything, even lie to my parents, to crash a party, even though I knew I wasn’t wanted, that I’d probably be kicked out on my ass as soon as I was seen there. But forcibly removed—by the police? That I didn’t expect. Still, I shouldn’t blame Deanna for helping me get what I wanted. But I do. It was amazing tonight—music and dancing—yes, I was dancing; three guys asked me to dance, and I said yes. And nobody made jokes about my dad being a towelhead or my uncle being Bin Laden.
Ever since those people tried to build their mosque near Ground Zero and there was all that controversy, my life has been worse than ever. The kids at school treat me like I’m one of those people. But I’m not. Yes, my family is Muslim, but I don’t think they should be building a mosque so close to Ground Zero, either. I mean, I believe in freedom of religion and all, and I know Muslims died at Ground Zero, too, but why would they want to be where they’re not wanted? I don’t get it. If it’s causing so much trouble, why not just build their mosque somewhere else? It’s just selfish to cause so many problems.
But tonight I was dancing and laughing. I wasn’t a freak or a weirdo; I was just another girl having fun.
* * *
“Actually,” I say, turning to Deanna, “thanks.”
“You’re thanking me?” she says.
“Hey, I know I’m in deep shit, but tonight was an adventure—probably the last one I’ll ever have until I’m thirty.”
“Don’t mention it,” she says. Most people would say she has no expression on her face, but I can tell she’s smiling.
* * *
When I first met Deanna last summer, she’d just moved here from San Francisco with her mom. I was the first person she told about her face. I googled it to try to understand better why her face doesn’t work the same way as most people’s faces, but after reading pages and pages of medical blah, blah, blah, it really just boils down to the very first thing Deanna said to me about it: “The muscles in my face don’t work.”
“Does my hair look okay?” I hear some voice from behind me say. “Do I have anything in my teeth?”
I hear another voice say, “No, but do I have anything in my teeth? My mascara smeared?”
“Are they kidding?” Deanna says to me. “We’re in a cell, and they’re worried about their makeup. They should call our school Airhead High.”
“Shush,” I say.
“Mar, no one is listening to us. This crowd is too busy hearing themselves not think.”
Deanna knows they’re shallow. The only reason she even wanted me to crash the party with her was so she could show me what I wasn’t missing. But look at the rest of them. Not one seems the least bit freaked out. Are their parents that laid-back? Damn. Maybe that’s the secret to their coolness—cool parents. If that’s true, I don’t stand a chance.
“Well, it could be worse,” she says.
“How?” I say.
“Oh shit,” she says, watching an officer unlock the large cell door. There stand Karen and Beth—Bitch and Bitchier.
“In you go,” the officer says.
Deanna looks at me. “We could be locked in here with them.”
“Look at this.” Karen stares at me. “Who’re you supposed to be? Cleopatra?”
I rub my eyes. Black eyeliner wipes off on my fingers. I’d forgotten Deanna had done my makeup before we went to the party. You look like an Egyptian queen, Deanna had said. But not any Egyptian queen. She insists I’m Hatsheput, the queen who ruled Egypt for over twenty years. Deanna says Hatsheput was the queen who was a king. Deanna loves anything Egyptian, which is probably why she’s even friends with me. But I don’t want to look like an Egyptian queen, even if she was a king. I don’t want to look like an Egyptian anything. I rub my eyes some more.
“Back off,” Deanna says, moving in between Karen and me. Karen is a half-foot taller than Deanna, but my bets are on Deanna.
“Hey, Beth.” Karen steps back, banging into the bars. “I just realized why these two are best friends.”
“They come from the same place,” Beth says, like the two of them had rehearsed this scene. Now everyone is listening. “Cleopatra and the Sphinx.”
“You mean Sphinx Face.” Karen laughs.
“She didn’t just say that,” I hear someone say.
“Yes, she did,” someone else says.
Beth lifts her hand to high-five Karen, but Deanna grabs both their hands and, just like a professional wrestler, pulls their arms behind both their backs.
“Fight, fight!” people shout around us.
“Get off me,” Beth says, struggling. Karen winces.
“Apologize.” Deanna pulls both their arms back harder.
“You’re hurting me!” Beth stops struggling.
“Apologize,” Deanna says.
“Fine. Fine. I apologize.”
Deanna lets them both go and says, “Get the fuck out of my face.”
Beth scrambles over to the other side of the cell. “You’re crazy,” she says, but it’s obvious she’s trying to save face with everyone watching. I know Deanna hears this, but she doesn’t take her eyes off Karen. Karen opens her mouth, but before anything comes out of it, she closes it and walks over to Beth.
“You okay?” Deanna says.
I nod, but I have never felt lamer. Here she stood up to both of them for the two of us, and I just stood there watching, doing nothing. And she’s asking if I’m okay? They called her Sphinx Face, and I didn’t do or say anything.
“You’ll get it next time,” she says, like she’s just treated me to a mocha cappuccino.
I force a smile. I can’t imagine doing anything as courageous as Deanna just did.