I lie across my bed, mindlessly flipping through pages of a poetry anthology my dad assigned me. My nanni made my bedspread as a gift for my mom when I was born. I guess it was really a gift for me, though. She quilted it together from her old cotton saris, and even some that had been worn by my great-grandmother. Much of the multicolored fabric is faded now, the color worn away by time and sunlight, but it’s the softest, most comfortable thing in the world. She passed away two years ago, but when I’m wrapped in this quilt, it’s like her arms are reaching out to hug me when she knows I need it most.

I’m reading Macbeth for AP English—a class I am no longer taking. My father is homeschooling me, and he insists we follow the curriculum. He also likes to add his own flourishes, hence all the poetry—right now it’s Wordsworth and Emily Dickinson and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. My parents pulled me from school because they were too scared of what might happen to me, terrified that my suspension could lead to much worse. I put up a giant fight, but a part of me was scared, too.

Homeschooling doesn’t mean slacking off, though. Not to my parents. I still have the syllabi from all my classes, and David’s been bringing me assignments. And since my dad lost his job, he’s been taking his commitment to my learning seriously. I think it gives him something to do besides worrying about finding employment. He can’t. At least not as a professor at any school that receives public funding.

My parents haven’t said anything to me about money, but I know they’re worried. My mom is still treating patients in her chiropractic office—she’s known some for years—but in the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed her coming home early. Last Friday, she didn’t go into work at all.

I grab the poetry anthology and flip to an Emily Dickinson poem and read the title out loud: “Hope is the thing with feathers.” The wind kicks up and whirls, and the leaves of the old oak outside my window brush up against the pane, stealing my attention. I put the book down. An eighties teen movie might not be what I need right now, but I’m also too agitated to read a poem about hope being a bird. I can’t concentrate. All my feelings are churned up, and I’m not in the mood to be inspired.

A car pulls up outside the house. A door slams, then another. I roll off my bed onto the worn blue dhurrie rug that feels almost slick under my feet and step to the window to see who could be coming to our house this late.

Below my window, two men in dark suits are walking toward our front door. My throat gets thick and my pulse quickens. Are they here for me? This can’t be for me. Dudes in suits seem excessive for a girl breaking curfew. If anyone were to come to arrest me, wouldn’t it be the police? But nothing is what it should be anymore.

A dark van with a black-and-white logo emblazoned on the door parks behind my mom’s sedan. I squint to make out the van’s logo, lit only by streetlamps: EXCLUSION AUTHORITY. A door of the van slides open, and four white men in sandstone-colored uniforms step out and flank the sidewalk leading to our house. Behind their van, the police chief pulls up in his squad car and steps out.

Run, I say to myself. But I can’t move. I try to scream to warn my parents, but no sound comes out of my mouth. Run. You have to move, to run. The doorbell rings, immediately followed by a loud pounding at the door. I hear my parents; they’re already in the foyer.




There is no running or hiding or screaming. I’m frozen. One of the Army guys (are they the Army?) turns and sees me at the window. I drop to the floor. My breathing is loud. Short, quick breaths. I crawl across the floor of my bedroom, the wood boards under my rug creaking ever so slightly. I open my door a crack. Then more. Not that I need to. Suit #1’s voice bellows through the house.

“Identify yourselves,” the voice says. “Are you Ali and Sophia Amin?”

What the fuck? Mrs. Brown. It had to have been her who reported me. Or maybe Jim from Patriot’s Alliance didn’t buy David’s lie about Ashley. God. I did this. What have I done? I stand up, and my body moves forward in a jerk, then another, and then I’m flying down the stairs. Both men are in our foyer, facing my parents. These men—the Suits—they’re both white and broad-shouldered and expressionless. One of them has his hand near his hip. I narrow my eyes. It’s a gun. His hand hovers near a gun.

“Stop!” I yell. “It’s my fault. My parents had nothing to do with it.”

My mom turns toward the staircase, eyes wide. Suit #2 draws a gun, and suddenly time slows down, like it’s viscous, and my entire body is drenched in sweat. I can’t feel my limbs, and the edges of my vision begin to blur. The only thing in focus is the gun. Pointed at me. My mom screams, and my dad yells my name, but the sound is muffled, like they are far away. So far away. And I can’t get to them.

My dad moves forward to try to reach me, but Suit #1 grabs him and throws him to the ground, twisting his arm behind his back. My dad’s glasses fall off and slide across the floor. There is more screaming. Earsplitting, unnatural animal sounds, and I realize they’re coming from me.

Then there’s only silence and the weight of the air in the room pressing on our bodies. And my short, shallow breaths, forcing my chest to rise and fall too fast, making me light-headed.

Suit #1 nods at Suit #2, who points his gun away from me and reholsters it under his suit coat.

Suit #1 releases my father’s arm and pulls him up.

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