My name is Fatima Daas.
I write stories so I don’t have to live my own.
I’m twelve years old when I go on a school trip to Budapest.

Everyone gathers in the evening to go over the itinerary.
Right after dinner, in a big room where there’s no network.
Impossible to connect to MSN or Skyblog, or send a message to kill the boredom.

After the meeting, the teachers give us one free hour before bedtime.
I stay in the big room with Rokya.
She puts her legs on the table.
I do the same.
I have a Happy Families deck in my pocket, so I take it out.
But we didn’t play Happy Families at all.
Two classmates joined us: Lola and Murat.
Rokya suggests we play Truth or Dare.
Murat and Lola agree.
I say, “You’re on, but we have to do crazy stuff! Not just say ‘good night’ to a teacher.”
Everyone laughs.
“Okay, then you go first, since you’re so into it!”

Murat thinks he’s intimidating me by saying that, so I act like he can’t get to me, like I’m not worried about what he might ask me to do.
I say, sure of myself and overarticulating, “I choose DARE!”

Murat strokes his chin with his right hand, staring up at the ceiling. I have to laugh.
“Okay, get up and give Lola a kiss.”
I’m about to stand when Murat finishes his sentence, “ON THE MOUTH,” with a grin, as though, by adding that phrase, he’s made the dare impossible.
Rokya bursts out laughing. She translates:
“Basically, in case you didn’t get it, Fatima, you have to kiss Lola.”
“Ugh, you lot are sick! No way. Murat, you’re disgusting!”
When I say that, Lola thanks me.
I don’t know if I find her pretty. I never thought about it.
“Nah, nah, Lola. This idiot is being well weird. It’s not you who’s disgusting. I wasn’t saying that about you.”

Lola gives me a quick, gentle kiss on the lips. I don’t have time to say or do anything and it’s already done.”

Lola smiles as she thinks about what she’s about to say.
“Okay, okay, relax! I’m happy to take the dare, just to help you out.”

I lower my eyes when I hear the word “happy”.
I look at her without saying anything, then I lower my eyes again.

“Well, go!” yells Murat. “Go ahead, it’s your dare, Lola!

I’ve stopped moving.
I’m frozen.
I hear Lola stand up.
She comes over to me.
I think about shoving her.
Knocking her to the ground.
I don’t do anything. Luckily.
She would have hit her head against the corner of the table.

Lola gives me a quick, gentle kiss on the lips.
I don’t have time to say or do anything and it’s already done.
She makes a point of looking at me before she returns to sit in her chair. She says, “Who’s next?” with a wink at me.

I’m twelve years old.
I don’t understand what just happened.
Rokya is sleeping in the same room as me.
She wanted to give me a hug before we went to bed. I refused.
And then, during the night, alone, there’s something that terrifies me.
A thought I don’t put into words: I’m going to hell.
I want to get up, join Rokya in her bed, wake her up maybe.
Tell her that I’d like a hug after all.
I don’t know how to talk.
So I stay in my bed alone.
I try to think about something else, but then, Lola pops back up.

Lola is a tomboy, too, but not like me.
Physically, she looks like a girl.
She found the balance.
I don’t think that Lola likes girls.
In any case, we never talked about that game.
And I didn’t ever play Truth or Dare again.

from The Last One (Hope Road, £11.99)


Fatima Daas (the author’s pseudonym) was born in 1995 and grew up in the Parisian banlieue of Clichy-sous-Bois, where her parents settled after arriving from Algeria. In high school Daas participated in writing workshops led by Tanguy Viel. Well aware of the contradictions, she defines herself as Muslim, feminist and gay. The Last One, translated by Lara Vergnaud, is published in paperback and eBook in the UK by Hope Road, and in the US by Other Press.

Author portrait © Olivier Roller

Lara Vergnaud’s previous translations include Ahmed Bouanani’s The Hospital (New Directions, 2018), Zahia Rahmani’s France, Story of a Childhood (Yale University Press, 2016) Yamen Manai’s The Ardent Swarm (Amazon Crossing, 2021) and Samira Sedira’s People Like Them (Raven Books, 2021), as well as works by Mohamed Leftah, Joy Sorman and Scholastique Mukasonga. She is the recipient of two PEN/Heim Translation Grants and a French Voices Grand Prize and has been nominated for the National Translation Award.