"The project can be a little uneasy, but people have gotten to know me there," she said. "Everybody knows Peter; he's lived there since he was little. They associate me with him, and with his mother, and they leave me alone."
Part of the young woman's family migrated to France from an Arab country, like many French Jews. That shared background sometimes helps bridge the gulf with North African Muslims here. Despite ideological and religious tensions, some Jews and Muslims in mixed areas accept each other as part of a close-knit culture that treats neighbors differently than outsiders.
The couple have known each other since middle school, but their romance began in 2002 after they ran into each other on the street. Cherif had just been discharged from the army. He had permanently damaged his back and ankle in a parachute jump, ending his hope of joining an elite unit and following a military career like his grandfather.
Although hobbled, Cherif was athletic and broad-shouldered, and had a streetwise charm. As they grew close, his girlfriend said she began to see the world through his eyes. Like many dark-skinned working-class youths, he was haunted by prejudice and paranoia, by the conviction that his fellow French citizens saw him as a thug.
"He told me, 'You watch. You'll see how people react when we go out. They are thinking: What's a girl like that doing with a guy like him?' It was true. When people saw him on the subway, they would hide their cellphones like they thought he was going to steal them. That hurt him a lot. But he learned to live with it. He was proud to be with me. And I was proud to be with him," she said.
The relationship seemed to give Cherif a renewed sense of purpose. He got a job as a deliveryman, saving enough to buy a car and help his mother with household expenses.
"He was becoming a respectable, responsible guy," his girlfriend said.
But Cherif also turned increasingly religious, perhaps because of restlessness and the psychological blow of his career-ending injury. Anti-terrorism investigators say such traumas often open the door to radicalization.
Cherif started praying in his room every night, his girlfriend said, then decided to go to the neighborhood mosque. There he met Farid Benyettou. Only a year older, Benyettou wore thick glasses and unruly long hair beneath a turban, and had the magnetism of a true believer. His brother-in-law had done time for involvement in an Algerian terrorist network.
Cherif joined a "study group" that spent hours at Benyettou's apartment reading the Koran, praying and talking about Islam. The girlfriend said she never met Benyettou, whom Cherif called "my professor." But the street ideologue soon intruded into her life.
"It was like a sect," she said. "Benyettou knew all the weak and strong points of his disciples. He made them fast. He kept them awake all night praying. The fatigue made them vulnerable. Then he started clearing the environment around them. He knew I was a strong influence. He told Peter to get rid of me; I was an obstacle to his faith, a non-Muslim."
Cherif acquired a beard and a withdrawn, sullen air. He recoiled from sexual temptation, avoiding physical contact with his girlfriend and even averting his eyes from billboard advertisements for lingerie.
But unlike other wives and girlfriends of European extremists, she never considered converting to Islam. She thought she could eventually rescue him from fanaticism. Despite the tension and bickering, she was encouraged that Cherif seemed unwilling to break up with her. So she accepted Cherif's insistence on a purely "spiritual relationship."
"We talked a lot," she said with a melancholy grin. "We couldn't do anything else, so we had long conversations."
Cherif's transformation also distressed his mother. She passionately denounces radical recruiters such as Benyettou, who was jailed here last year on charges of sending his disciples to fight in Iraq.
"They toy with our children, brainwash them," she said. "They bring together a group and tell them they are all brothers together. That fraternal love, it fulfills something everyone is looking for. But it turns into hate for the outside world."
In early 2004, Cherif took part in protests against a French law banning Islamic head scarves in public schools. He was filmed by news crews and police intelligence officers next to Benyettou, raging against France and praying on the sidewalk.
Investigators say Cherif's group also displayed the fierce anti-Semitism common among Islamic extremists. One suspect made threatening comments about taking revenge on the Jewish owner of a restaurant where he had worked, according to investigators.
Cherif opposed the war in Iraq, his girlfriend said, but so did she.
When he left for Damascus, the Syrian capital, in May 2004, he said he was going to join friends studying at a Koranic school. The school has served as a way station for European jihadis on their way to Iraq.