Hearing a light thump outside, she walked to the front door and opened it slowly. Wind and snow swirled and the cold lashed her cheeks. By her feet she discovered a small pot with tiny white flowers. She recognized it as a Galanthus nivalis. Footprints in the snow led to and from the porch and a note tied to the slender stalk fluttered in the icy air…

(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)

“Who was at the door?” called Sabih from his den.

Najiyah appeared in the doorway holding a small flower pot. “Look, Father, someone left this snowdrop plant. Isn’t it pretty?”

Sabih snorted. “Was it that Crawford boy?”

“I don’t know,” Najiyah lied. “The footprints had disappeared around the hedge by the time I covered my head and answered the door.”

“Najiyah, just because we live among infidels does not mean you can act like one. When the time comes, I will arrange a suitable marriage for you. For now, you must comport yourself as befits a female follower of the Prophet. (Peace be upon him.)”

Najiyah cast her eyes downward. “Yes, Father.”

“Bring that plant here.”

Najiyah crossed the room, nodding a polite greeting to Butris and Jibril, gathered around the small table with her father. Blueprints and rough sketches of a building lay scattered across the tabletop.

Sabih snatched the pot from her and looked at the attached card. “A beautiful snowdrop for a beautiful girl,” he read in a mocking, singsong voice. “How does he know you’re beautiful? Have you been leaving the house without your hijab?”

“N Ö No, Father.”

Sabih set the flower pot next to his computer. He turned his attention back to the map in front of him and Najiyah knew she was dismissed. As she left the room, Butris said, “I’ll drive the van through this southeast parking entrance…”

A few minutes later, the adhan on Sabih’s computer sounded. The three men came into the living room and knelt into the position of prayer. Nijiyah retreated to the kitchen where Maysaa, her mother, was preparing the evening meal. Together, they prostrated themselves for three minutes while a muezzin on a CD intoned the prayers.

As they were standing up, Najiyah said, “Mother, Julian Crawford left a snowdrop flower for me on the porch.”

“You must not see him again,” said Maysaa sharply.

“Mother, I like him. He likes me. We’re not doing anything wrong.”

“Yes you are! You will bring dishonor to our family.” Maysaa’s expression softened as she touched her daughter’s shoulder. “My darling, don’t you remember what happened to Zahrah?”

Najiyah did indeed remember. Zahrah and Najiyah attended the same madrasa, though they barely knew each other. Zahrah flaunted school rules and incurred the wrath of the instructors when she cinched her burqa with a wide, fashionable belt, thereby calling attention to her figure. The Imam called a special assembly to publicly humiliate her. Najiyah smiled as she recalled how Zahrah had flung the Imam’s words in his face, showing up the next day with her burqa shortened to knee length. If that weren’t bad enough, a leather-clad man on a motorcycle picked her up after school. When she climbed on the back, her dress rode even higher on her legs.

But the next day Zahrah wasn’t in school. Expelled? No. The smile vanished from Najiyah’s face as she thought back to that fateful lunch period when the rumor, later proved true, raced through the student body. A guy emptying trash at a 7-Eleven had found Zahrah’s body in the dumpster.

The murder was never solved, but EVERYONE knew: A Muslim girl does not bring shame to her family.

Butris and Jibril joined the family for dinner. They had broken bread together before, but tonight was different somehow. The very air seemed tense, as though it anticipated a horrific event of some sort. Butris normally ate like a trencherman, but he acted jittery and distracted, barely touching the haleem Maysaa had spent all day cooking.

After evening prayer, Sabih told Najiyah, “You will ride with us this night, Daughter. You will learn how a soldier of jihad honors Allah.”

Najiyah’s stomach churned, but she knew better than to argue. She got into the family car with Jibril and her father. Butris drove his own van. Had it always had Ohio plates?

When they turned onto Millikin Way, Najiyah knew their destination. “Oh, Father, not the library.” Fear gripped her stomach – Julian often studied there in the evenings.

“Yes, the library,” said Sabih. “The infidels spew their profanity and blasphemy from that so-called `seat of knowledge.’ As Caliph Omar stated in 632, `If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them, and if they are opposed, destroy them.'” He parked two blocks from the library while Butris kept going.

“You need not fear Butris will lose his nerve,” said Jibril. “He is committed to jihad.”

Najiyah wanted to run, to yell, to warn the librarians and their patrons, but recognized the futility of trying. A tear drop formed in her eye as she thought about Julian’s snowdrop. She stood with the two men, desperately watching the solemn brown building.

Sabih checked his cell phone. “Butris should be in position.”

Jibril nodded. “Won’t be long now.”

“Oh yes it will,” came a voice from behind them.

All three turned as one to see four men holding guns. “FBI. Your friend Butris is already in custody. No fireworks tonight.”

As a female agent patted her down, Najiyah heard another say, “Great idea, Mel, getting that Crawford kid to deliver a plant with a microphone in it.”