The hand-scrawled sign in Elly's window was visible from street level and also from the top of the building across the street, where the naked Dareen knelt behind the parapet. She looked down at the handful of people at the entrance, chatting on cell phones, writing on pads or punching into palm pilots. They must be reporters, trying to get an interview with NakedGirl. Was Elly's sign directed at them or was she advising her airborne naked friend that it wasn't a good idea to return yet?
Dareen looked around quickly to make sure no one was looking. After flying back across the country at a leisurely pace, enjoying the sun on her skin at a thousand feet, she had timed it so that it would be dark by the time she got back to Atlanta, darkness that would hide her nakedness. She still felt improper and immoral, being naked outdoors. As a Muslim woman, and as NakedGirl called to use her super powers, she didn't know whether to hold onto this feeling, or pray that she might finally overcome it.
But she had to, so she shook herself and, looking at the reporters and slowly getting up, brushing the pebbles off her knees, she considered where else to go. The best choice was unfortunately the most shaming. She would have to go to her parents' house.
It was easy from the air, even at night, to find the street in Dunwoody, about ten miles from downtown. She had driven there many times. It wasn't the house she had grown up in; her parents had bought this new, spacious house on this curvy residential street only a few years ago when she was the only child still at home. After living in cramped houses as a young couple, her parents had always wanted a big house with lots of space. Hovering two hundred feet up, their youngest child contemplated the familiar house way down there past her toes. This was not going to be easy.
It was just too much to stand naked at the front door and knock. She didn't want neighbors seeing a naked woman in front of her parent's house. Instead she alighted on the patio in back and found that the sliding glass door was unlocked. As quietly as possible she opened it and padded silently through the kitchen.
Her parents were in the living room. The TV was off, which was unusual, and her father was reading a newspaper. Her mother was embroidering, her latest hobby. Dareen, one arm across her nipples, the other hand over her crotch, approached and wondered if she shouldn't have knocked on the back door. They would have been less shocked that way, perhaps. Both parents stared up at her with mouths open.
Her mother caught her breath and said, "Get some clothes on, Dar!"
"I can't, Umi," Dareen said in a tiny voice. Her family didn't speak Arabic any more but the children still used the Arabic words for "Mom" and "Dad". "If I do I won't be able to fly."
Her father, wincing as he tried not to look at how his daughter had "developed", looked her in the eye and said, "Young lady, I don't care if you're a super hero, out to save the world. Put clothes on and be a normal girl!"
Dareen felt almost on the verge of tears. She had always been a "good girl" and could not remember ever having incurred her parents' disapproval like this. Especially for doing something so shameful as walking around naked. She desperately wanted to run to her old room and put on clothes, but she knew she had to wait. "I'm sorry, Baba, I can't fly with clothes on. And I have to fly to find Elly. She has my things from when I went to New York."
"Yes, we heard about your antics," her mother said. "Ripping down the American flag. Akbar has formed a prayer group about it." Akbar was the Imam at their mosque. "We keep saying we know nothing about it. Now they think we're bad parents, who don't talk to their little girl."
"Umi, I didn't mean to -- I had to -- take off my clothes because I got the feeling..." She knew that this sounded ridiculous but she forced herself to say it through because it was the truth, and with her parents she always had to be truthful. "I can tell when there's a pulse bomb, like that time a few weeks ago. There was one that almost went off over Washington D.C."
Her father stood up. "What?"
Dareen clutched herself tighter, and looked down at her bare toes squirming on the carpet. "I flew up and grabbed the missile and threw it up into the atmosphere."
Her parents looked at each other. Her mother said, "THAT wasn't on the news."
"I don't think anyone found out. It was too high up... You believe me, don't you?" In her nakedness and desolation she seemed upset.
Her father thought a moment and said, "Of course we do, Bibi." This is Arabic for "Baby"; he used to call her that all the time. Seeing his youngest child so ill at ease, he went to her and, not wanting to hug her when she was naked, he instead leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead, like he had done a thousand times before when she was a little girl.
"Oh Baba," she said, putting her arms around his neck and hugging him. He stood there not knowing what to do, feeling her huge firm breasts crushed against him, trying not to look down past her bare butt cheeks. And then heard her sniffle and rub her nose. He decided to hug the back of her head in his hands.
She broke the embrace and again covered herself with her hands. "I've got to find Elly."
"She called," her mother said, "she's at a friend's house. Dar, you should stay with us."
"Have any press people called you?"
"Well yes, but we can handle it, Dar." Her mother was more understanding now.
Dareen knew this was just not true. She couldn't stay here and put her parents in the glare of publicity sure to come. To her parents' relief she said, "I've got to get some clothes... Do you have a burka? Or a chador?"
"A what? Look in my closet, I've got a couple I think," her mother said. The family had some very conservative relatives in Savannah and Dareen's mother sometimes wore a burka when visiting their mosque.
Dareen almost choked with frustration as she handled the burkas without being able to put them on yet. Downstairs, she dashed into the kitchen and called the number her mother gave.
"I'm at Sherry's," Elly said.
"The white guy you work with, that guy with the confederate flag on his door? Billy? When I called your work he said we could stay at his girlfriend's. Jamal invited us to his place too. Maybe we can alternate. I think we're going to have to be nomads for a while. I've got your things here. Let me give you directions."
"I know where it is." It was the place where she had foiled the drive-by shooting, where Billy Gibbs had seen her from his girlfriend's window.
Clutching the folded-up burkas in front of her, Dareen hopped into the living room and bent forward to kiss her parents good-bye. She backed out of the room, not wanting to show her bare butt. But they could not help watching as she walked out onto the patio and, with a little jump, flew off silently into the night. She dared not do so much as tie the burkas around her wrist; in spite of her intense desire for covering she had to hold them in one hand as she stretched her arms out in front of her, once again feeling the rushing of the night air over every part of her as she went to the other side of town.