If I Should Speak, page 1
If I Should Speak
Copyright © 2000, 2012 by Umm Zakiyyah.
All Rights Reserved.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2001129076
Order information at muslimfiction.com and ummzakiyyah.com
Quotations from the Bible Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version ®. Copyright © 1973, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
Quotations from the Qur’an are taken from Yusuf Ali translations.
Camp Springs, MD USA
Cover design by firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover photograph by gezzeg/shutterstock.com
All characters and events in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons or incidents is coincidental.
All quotes from real people or books have been cited in the footnotes as such.
For all who have open minds and hearts and ever tread the path of life as students.
“What is the life of this world but amusement and play?
But verily the Home in the Hereafter—that is Life indeed,
If they but knew.”
—Qur’an, Al-‘Ankaboot (29:64)
I’m tired of this!” Tamika kicked her dormitory room door closed in disgust. Her roommate’s clothes were thrown carelessly about the room. A pair of shorts still lay untouched on her roommate’s desk. They had been there for two days already. Blond hair strands had begun to gather into dust balls under Jennifer’s bed.
Angry, Tamika stormed out of the room, marching down the hall to the resident advisor’s (RA) room to get the vacuum cleaner. She was pounding impatiently on Mandy’s door before she realized it.
The RA quickly opened the door. “What’s wrong?” She gasped, thinking the matter to be an emergency. Her red hair was disheveled, and red imprints stood out against her pale skin. She had been sleeping.
“Sorry to wake you,” Tamika apologized in a calmer tone than her knocking had suggested, “but I need to borrow the vacuum cleaner.”
Mandy rolled her eyes and sucked her teeth, upset for having been disturbed for such a trivial matter. She rolled the vacuum into the hall, and she slammed the door in Tamika’s face without a word. Mandy was so angry that she did not even remember to take Tamika’s student identification card as collateral.
Tamika shrugged, too upset with Jennifer to allow the RA’s rudeness to bother her. Sighing, she rolled the vacuum down the hall. In her room, she took one last look at the disastrous mess before she began cleaning.
Tamika had heard horror stories from her friends who had experienced strenuous roommate situations, but now she was experiencing it firsthand. She had been lucky the year before as a freshman, when she was placed with her now best friend Makisha. However, Makisha now had a single, no roommate, a situation of which Tamika could only dream.
As she vacuumed and organized the room, Tamika thought of Jennifer’s forever broken promises, swearing that she would clean her side of the room. Tamika would usually keep both sides tidy, but Jennifer would complain, stating that it made her feel guilty and promising that she would clean her side from then on.
Today, the two had discussed the uncleanness of the room, and Jennifer had promised that her side of the room would be clean before Tamika returned that afternoon. However, Jennifer was nowhere in sight, and half of the room was untouched, unkempt for yet another day.
Just as Tamika turned off the vacuum, the door opened.
“Oh my God!” Jennifer was saying to her friend Christina as they entered the room. “You’ve gotta be kidding!”
Before Christina could respond, she and Jennifer’s eyes caught Tamika’s icy glare. Jennifer’s dark blue eyes slowly traced every inch of the room, and Tamika’s gaze remained fixed on Jennifer, whose blond hair was pulled casually back in a ponytail and hung just above her shoulders. She was dressed in a navy blue sweatshirt and matching pants and was wearing running shoes. Jennifer’s face was slightly reddened and moist with perspiration, indicating to Tamika that her roommate had been exercising—Jennifer had been relaxing and enjoying herself while she cleaned the room.
“Oh my God,” Jennifer said, cupping her hand over her mouth, remembering just then. “I’m so sorry, Tamika.” She smiled uneasily. “I totally forgot. Oh my God.”
“Yeah,” Tamika agreed sarcastically. “‘Oh my God’ is right.” Her stare did not leave her roommate’s face.
“Okay,” Jennifer defended, “I forgot, okay?” She rolled her eyes and waved her hand at Tamika. “Don’t make such a big deal, gosh.”
“I better go,” Christina announced, leaving the room and closing the door without waiting for a reply.
“A big deal!” Tamika exclaimed impatiently.
“Calm down, for God’s sake. I forgot.”
She felt herself becoming hot with anger. “Calm down!” She let her voice descend to a lower tone. “Calm down?” she whispered in disbelief. She held the handle of the vacuum and shook the machine in her tight grip. “You see this, huh? Miss Forgetful? Do you?”
“Well, this is what I’ve been doing for the last forty minutes.” Tamika shook her head at a loss for words.
“I told you I’d do it,” Jennifer retorted.
“But did you?”
She rolled her eyes and shoved past Tamika with her shoulders, throwing Tamika off balance momentarily. Jennifer collapsed in her desk chair and groaned, furiously pulling the ponytail holder from her sweat-dampened hair, letting her hair fall comfortably over her shoulders. “I don’t have time for this. I have studying to do.” She opened a book, fumbling through the pages nervously.
“Don’t you ever put your hands on me again,” Tamika hissed through gritted teeth, struggling to calm herself.
“My hands didn’t touch you,” her roommate corrected, still facing her book.
“Don’t be funny with me girl. You know exactly what I mean.”
“Okay,” Jennifer said, fed up, abruptly turning in her chair to face her roommate. “Is this about the room or what?”
“No,” Tamika replied, fuming. “This is about your junk everywhere and how I’m tired of you playing Miss Innocent whenever I bring it to your attention.”
Her roommate opened her mouth to say something.
“Don’t say another word to me,” she stopped her. “I don’t wanna hear ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘Oh my God’ come outta your mouth again.”
Frustrated, Jennifer stood, tossed her hair, and picked up the receiver to her phone that sat on a nightstand next to her bed. “I’m calling my mother,” she announced, obviously hurt and upset. Her face grew red, and her eyes began to water.
Annoyed, Tamika dashed over to her roommate and slammed the receiver down before Jennifer could finish dialing. “Oh no you’re not,” she protested. “Not this time.” Her hand was on top of Jennifer’s, pressing forcefully.
Jennifer threw Tamika’s hand off of hers, snatched up the receiver and began dialing again. Tears were now streaming down her cheeks. She hissed the word under her breath, but Tamika had heard.
“What did you say?” Tamika asked incredulously in a whisper. “What did you say?” The question now became a dare.
Her roommate proudly flipped her hair and turned her back to Tamika, intentionally ignoring the question. She carried the entire phone to her bed and held the receiver between her shoulder and ear. “Mom?” she whined into the phone. “Nothi
Tamika did not blink as she stared disbelieving at Jennifer, the filthy word still stinging her ears. Rage built up inside of her, and she struggled to control herself. Never in her life had she heard such a word come out of a White person’s mouth except while watching an old movie—until now.
Before she could even consider the repercussions of her action, Tamika yanked Jennifer’s phone cord from the wall in her frustration and held the end tightly in her fist.
“Mom? Mom?” Jennifer pressed the button on the phone repeatedly. Panicked and immediately realizing what had happened, she jerked around to face Tamika, whose glare was cruel and unmoving.
“What did you say?” Tamika demanded louder than before, now that she definitely had her roommate’s attention.
Jennifer’s shock interrupted her crying, and she slowly set her phone down, staring at her roommate, livid. “That was my mother,” she hissed.
“I asked you a question,” Tamika reminded her. The cord’s end was now causing her palm to sweat with the tight grip.
“That was my mother, you—!” Infuriated, Jennifer was now on her feet, arms swinging wildly at her roommate, her obscenities flying almost as quickly as her arms.
Before Jennifer could take hold of Tamika’s hair, Tamika dropped the cord and caught her roommate’s arms. She then thrust Jennifer away from her in a desperate attempt to protect herself. Jennifer fell into the bed with such force that the bed moved several feet as her heavy body crashed into it. Jennifer let out a scream and again began to shout offenses at Tamika, calling her every accursed name she could think of. A second later, she was on her feet again, charging at Tamika, who again tried to catch her arms, but this time unsuccessfully. Instead, the two fell on the floor, Jennifer on top, pulling and yanking at Tamika’s hair. Somehow Tamika managed to overcome her. Now on top, Tamika pinned Jennifer down, pressing her arms against the floor forcefully to restrain Jennifer’s flying arms.
“Get off me! Get off me!” Jennifer hollered as she realized her defeat, hoping someone would hear.
The sound of a phone ringing came from Tamika’s desk.
But no one seemed to hear it.
“Get off me!”
A moment later the door swung open, and Mandy stared at the roommates, stunned. “What on earth is going on in here!” Two other residents rushed into the doorway, panting. “Go call security!” Mandy instructed desperately, her eyes glued to Tamika. Both residents ran in obedience.
The ringing ceased.
Jennifer began to cry again, and for a moment all that could be heard were her sobs and sniffles.
Sensing how the scene must appear to the RA, Tamika slowly removed herself from Jennifer and stood several feet from her roommate.
Mandy quickly ran to Jennifer and knelt beside her, gently holding her hand to help her get up. “Are you okay?”
Sniffling, Jennifer nodded, unable to speak.
Mandy glared at Tamika, her green eyes scolding, shaking her head as if it were a shame as she helped Jennifer to her feet.
“You’re hurt!” Mandy cried as she saw blood on Jennifer’s hand.
Jennifer touched the back of her head again and glanced at her fingers. She was bleeding! “I, I,” she started to say.
“Don’t worry,” Mandy consoled her, glancing disapprovingly at Tamika. “You can tell security.” She paused, looking at both roommates and said, “But now, both of you need to come with me.”
An hour later, Tamika found herself with a conduct charge of physical assault, a Conduct Board hearing the following evening, and a room to herself for the night. The campus security had asked Jennifer if she wanted Tamika moved to another room that night, but Jennifer declined the offer, stating that she would rather stay with a friend, because she felt unsafe in a room to which Tamika had a key.
The word echoed in Tamika’s head. Unsafe. Really? she asked herself as she recounted the entire incident and the conversation with the campus security that had followed. The security personnel had allowed Jennifer to tell an exaggerated version of the story, with no interruptions from Tamika. In her story, Jennifer told of Tamika’s alleged prior intimidation and the feeling that at any moment, Tamika would become violent. Whenever Tamika had tried to interject and correct her, she was told, “Quiet, please,” by the security officers, who were taking notes on Jennifer’s statements. Of course, Mandy’s presence made the situation no better.
Mandy explained how she found Tamika on top of a bleeding, screaming, and helpless Jennifer. The RA’s vivid recap of the scene rendered even Tamika speechless. Mandy had no idea what had been going on in the room, yet she had much to say. It seemed no one cared to hear Tamika’s side of the story. However, they did pretend to listen when the officers asked her to recount her side, a gesture that Tamika sensed was based more on routine than sincere concern for the truth. The blank stares and mechanical nods made it clear to Tamika that the interest was feigned. And despite the sound of pen strokes whistling across the pages of the officers’ report as she spoke, it was clear she was talking to herself. It was no use trying to expound upon her version of the incident. She was already guilty in their minds, and her carrying on, as she had started to do, only made her case worse. So she had decided to just call it a night, and she went back to her room.
Presently, Tamika lay in her clean room, staring at the water stained ceiling. The vacuum cleaner stood next to her desk. Its plug was still in the outlet. She sighed out of frustration and got out of bed. She pulled the plug from the wall and wrapped the cord neatly on the vacuum. She then pushed the vacuum to the corner of her room, deciding that she would return it in the morning. She doubted that she could stomach the sight of Mandy again that night.
As she situated the vacuum in the corner, her eyes grazed her reflection in the mirror. For a second, she barely recognized the young woman who stared back at her. The once meticulously sculpted mascara now created dark, ominous shadows around her eyes, making her appear almost ghostly in the glass. Her almond brown eyes were usually bright, almost jovial, but they now sat behind the shadowy gloom, hidden and distant, their kindness concealed by the stress that had greeted them, suggesting that beneath them was irrational emotion—anger waiting to unleash itself. Thin red welts swelled from her cheeks, likely the result of Jennifer’s irate fingernails scraping her skin, and although their presence should have suggested that she had been a victim, the blood stained scrapes instead made her appear almost vicious, intimating more a brutal branding than an injury. The honey brown of her face, normally smooth, seemed rough at the moment, her tightened, angry jaw only exacerbating the ferocious appearance. Fistfuls of permed hair protruded awkwardly from one side of her head, an unwanted complement to the now unkempt, loosened bun at the back of her head.
Had this threatening person who now stared back at Tamika been the young woman the security had seen and with whom they had spoken? Had she been the young woman with whom Jennifer had lived? If so, then perhaps Tamika could see how a misunderstanding could have brewed.
Unexpectedly, her reflection blurred, and before she could stop them, the tears fell, sliding slowly, then quickening, down her cheeks. Ashamed, Tamika covered her face with her hands and let herself sob, her shoulders shaking with each cry, at that moment wishing she were anywhere else but school.
Tamika sat in the lobby of Streamsdale University Student Center at 6:45 the next evening. Her Conduct Board hearing would begin in fifteen minutes. She had opted to attend the hearing without a Faculty Advisor, who would act somewhat like a lawyer for her. She would have laughed at the security officers’ suggestion, except they were serious. The entire hearing was a joke to Tamika, and the idea of a “law
Glancing at her watch, Tamika groaned. It was 6:59. She stood, and unexpectedly, her heart began to pound. Why am I nervous? she wondered as she opened the door to the room in which the case would be held.
The room was set up similar to a courtroom, except the university’s desks, tables, and chairs were being used for the effect. She smiled uneasily as she glanced across the room at the Conduct Board members, who were mostly students, seated at a long table facing her. There were two college professors on the board, and one was Dr. Sanders, her Religion 150 professor. Instinctively, she waved at him, momentarily forgetting where she was. Immediately, she was ashamed, realizing that she had done the wrong thing, which was confirmed by the uncomfortable expression on Dr. Sanders’s face after the friendly gesture. His eyes quickly glanced away from her, now looking at the pen and paper before him.
Tamika was directed to sit down in a chair in front of everyone, and the hearing began. A student introduced herself and read Tamika what she thought would be her rights. But instead, the student explained that Tamika was under Streamsdale University’s Honor Code and would be held accountable for any false testimony. She went on to tell Tamika that the case could not be discussed with any member of the board outside the room and that Tamika was forbidden to approach any of them concerning the hearing.
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