Chapters 48-49 Summary

Now, Tariq often has headaches. They started in Nasir Bagh and grew worse while he was in prison. Some nights, Laila lays a cold compress on his head or Tariq takes the pills prescribed by the doctor. These help, but many nights all Tariq can do is hold his head and moan. Laila and Tariq married the day they arrived in town, Murree, and the hotel owner Sayeed was happy that he would not have an unmarried couple living under his roof. Sayeed arranged to have a mullah come for the ceremony, and Tariq bought two simple wedding bands from the mall. That night as they lay in bed together with their children sleeping nearby, Laila reminisced about their lost youth and thought it a great blessing to have Tariq with her now.

Laila likes the atmosphere of Murree—the foggy mornings, the twilight and night sky, the souvenir shops, and the hotels. Laila likes that they have an indoor bathroom, so unlike the outhouse at Rasheed’s place, and she likes waking to the sound of Alyona, the goat, bleating in the yard. In the mornings, Laila and Tariq go around to all the rooms in the hotel, cleaning each one. Even the children help, and Aziza has taken it upon herself to clean the windows.

Laila tells Aziza the truth about Tariq, that he is her father. Laila promises her daughter that Tariq will never leave, and a look of relief appears on Aziza’s face. Tariq also acts as a father to Zalmai; he builds the boy a wagon and makes him zoo animals out of meticulously cut and folded paper. But Zalmai rebels because he misses his own father. Laila hates lying to him about Rasheed, but she knows that happiness must come with a cost. Some nights, both Aziza and Laila wake from nightmares.

One morning in September, Tariq bursts into their bungalow bringing news of Massoud’s death. The rumor is that men from Al-Qaeda who posed as journalists are responsible. Two days later, the television in the hotel lobby broadcasts the falling of the Twin Towers in New York. The Taliban promise to hide Bin Laden according to the Pashtunwali code of protecting guests. President Bush declares war on Afghanistan. Tariq wonders if the war will not be such a bad thing, and Laila is upset because people will end up dying. She blames him for not understanding what life was like in Afghanistan during the previous war. That night, Zalmai wakes up coughing, and Tariq rushes to him. When he returns to bed, Laila sees that he has been crying.