In the spring of 1993, Mariam watches from the window as Rasheed escorts Laila from the house on their way to the hospital. When the couple returns the next evening, Rasheed enters the yard first and lets the gate nearly slam in Laila’s face. Laila struggles to get through the door while carrying both her newborn daughter and a bag of belongings, but Mariam turns away to return to the kitchen to warm Rasheed’s food. The first few months, Rasheed cannot stand the baby’s crying and threatens to send little Aziza down the Kabul River. Rasheed and Laila argue much about caring for the baby and Laila’s refusal to have sex with Rasheed. But Laila revels in her role as a new mother, and Mariam is exhausted by Laila’s new preoccupation. Rasheed cares little for the daughter whom he wanted to be a son and sees her more of a burden than as anything else.
One night after Rasheed’s having said that one in four children die in Afghanistan by the age of five, Laila refuses him, and the two get into a heated argument. Rasheed rushes from the room and enters Mariam’s bedroom, claiming that Mariam has taught Laila to deny him. Rasheed attempts to beat Mariam with a belt, but Laila runs into the room and lunges at him, begging him to spare Mariam. Later that night, Mariam wakes and goes to get something to drink when she finds Laila and Aziza asleep on a blanket in the middle of the floor. Aziza is awake, so Mariam comforts her and begins to bond with the baby.
Laila often whispers to Aziza that her father was handsome, and she gets nervous when she sees Rasheed looking at the baby in a strange way. He has on past occasions asked her about the relationship that she had with Tariq, but Laila maintains that they were simply like brother and sister. Laila fears what Rasheed would do if he found out that she has been stealing money from his wallet to make her escape in the spring.
Two days later, Laila wakes to find that someone has left a stack of baby clothes in front of her bedroom door. Later, she finds Mariam in the kitchen...
(The entire section contains 584 words.)
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