Extract from Tariq Mehmood’s novel ‘You’re not Proper.’

Shamshad:

I had gone to the graveyard with my friend Laila to see the new headstone on my granddad’s grave. May the Almighty grant him a place in Heaven. It was made of royal white marble, with the Kalma carved into it, running around its flowery edge. Someone had written ‘EDL’ on the last one. We were sitting on a bench under one of the new CCTV cameras, which covered our graveyard, when Karen Malik came flying over the fence and landed on her bum not far from us.
What else can you do but laugh at someone whose behind is stuck up in the air and whose knickers have gone up their bum?
‘There’s nothing worst then someone like her,’ I said loudly to Laila, making sure Karen heard me. ‘Especially when she’s sucking up to her gora gang.’
‘Oh, Shami,’ Laila protested, squeezing my hand, ‘lets not let her spoil it.’
I nodded letting out a sigh of relief, but still couldn’t help thinking about how her gang had made me feel so bad, so often, how they had humiliated me because I am a Muslim, especially that Donna.
‘You know Laila, once when I went past her gang, Donna started singing, “God made little, brown people. He made ’em in the night. He made ’em in a hurry and forgot to paint ’em white.”’
‘It’s stupid,’ Laila laughed.
‘It is a bit, but then I didn’t think it was, funny, you know. But what really got under my nose was the way Karen laughed with them.’
‘What a cow,’ Laila said.
‘Isn’t she just.’
After Karen went to see her gang, Laila and I strolled up the path to see what she was going to get up to.
I didn’t see them coming. They jumped up from behind us. Donna pushed Laila through the hedge. She held my wrists so tightly in her fat hand it hurt. I wish I had said nothing to her, just punched her in the face when she ripped my hijab off, but ended up saying the most stupid thing in the world, ‘Me dad’ll kill me!’
I don’t know why, but when that Chole was waving my hijab in front of my face, pretending somehow I talked like that, made me think about her seventh birthday party. She was so excited she just couldn’t blow the candles out and I blew them out for her and she gave me a great big hug and kissed me on my cheek.
What made me really, really mad was the way Karen joined in laughing at me. It’s one thing leaving Islam for her mum’s religion, but it’s another ganging up with her WTM posse and insulting mine. It’s just as well they ran off when I came back with the girls.
On the way back home, I said to Laila, ‘I’m going to teach that Karen a lesson tomorrow, she will never ever forget.’
On the way home I prayed inside my head, ‘Ya Allah, give me strength to get my own back on her.’
That night when I went to sleep, even then I couldn’t keep Karen out of my dreams. I dreamed I was going to a special assembly at school. Everyone was there. There was only one chair left empty. It was in the front of the hall. Everyone was looking at me. Karen was standing next to me, her eye on the chair. I ran for the chair. Everyone cheered. She ran for the same chair. I grabbed her hand, to pull her back but she snatched it free and beat me to the chair. The teachers were praising her. Everyone was clapping for her and laughing at me. My mother stood at the back of the hall. Stone-faced, as ever. I ran to her, crying. I held my arms out for mum to hug me. She folded her arms. I ran past her and just as I got outside the Assembly Hall, there was Karen and her mother. Her white mother was combing Karen’s hair.
The next morning, I put a pair of scissors in my bag and caught the bus to school early to wait for Karen.

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