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HOME > Classical Novels > A Thousand Splendid Suns > Chapter 8.
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Chapter 8.
In the morning, Mariam was given a long-sleeved, dark greendress to wear over white cotton trousers. Afsoon gave her agreen hijab and a pair of matching sandals.
She was taken to the room with the long, brown table, exceptnow there was a bowl of sugar-coated almond candy in themiddle of the table, a Koran, a green veil, and a mirror. Twomen Mariam had never seen before- witnesses, shepresumed-and a mullah she did not recognize were alreadyseated at the table.
Jalil showed her to a chair. He was wearing a light brownsuit and a red tie. His hair was washed. When he pulled outthe chair for her, he tried to smile encouragingly. Khadija andAfsoon sat on Mariam's side of the table this time.
The mullah motioned toward the veil, and Nargis arranged iton Mariam's head before taking a seat. Mariam looked downat her hands.
"You can call him in now," Jalil said to someone.
Mariam smelled him before she saw him. Cigarette smoke andthick, sweet cologne, not faint like Jalil's. The scent of it floodedMariam's nostrils. Through the veil, from the corner of her eye,Mariam saw a tall man, thick-bellied and broad-shouldered,stooping in the doorway. The size of him almost made hergasp, and she had to drop her gaze, her heart hammeringaway. She sensed him lingering in the doorway. Then his slow,heavy-footed movement across the room. The candy bowl onthe table clinked in tune with his steps. With a thick grunt, hedropped on a chair beside her. He breathed noisily.
The mullah welcomed them. He said this would not be atraditional nikka"I understand that Rasheedagha has tickets for the bus toKabul that leaves shortly. So, in the interest of time, we willbypass some of the traditional steps to speed up theproceedings."The mullah gave a few blessings, said a few words about theimportance of marriage. He asked Jalil if he had any objectionsto this union, and Jalil shook his head. Then the mullah askedRasheed if he indeed wished to enter into a marriage contractwith Mariam. Rasheed said, "Yes." His harsh, raspy voicereminded Mariam of the sound of dry autumn leaves crushedunderfoot.
"And do you, Mariam jan, accept this man as your husband?"Mariam stayed quiet. Throats were cleared.
"She does," a female voice said from down the table.
"Actually," the mullah said, "she herself has to answer. Andshe should wait until I ask three times. The point is, he'sseeking her, not the other way around."He asked the question two more times. When Mariam didn'tanswer, he asked it once more, this time moreforcefully- Mariam could feel Jalil beside her shifting on hisseat, could sense feet crossing and uncrossing beneath thetable. There was more throat clearing. A small, white handreached out and flicked a bit of dust off the table.
"Mariam," Jalil whispered.
"Yes," she said shakily.
A mirror was passed beneath the veil. In it, Mariam saw herown face first, the archless, unshapely eyebrows, the flat hair,the eyes, mirthless green and set so closely together that onemight mistake her for being cross-eyed. Her skin was coarseand had a dull, spotty appearance. She thought her brow toowide, the chin too narrow, the lips too thin. The overallimpression was of a long face, a triangular face, a bithoundlike. And yet Mariam saw that, oddly enough, the wholeof these unmemorable parts made for a face that was notpretty but, somehow, not unpleasant to look at either.
In the mirror, Mariam had her first glimpse of Rasheed: thebig, square, ruddy face; the hooked nose; the flushed cheeksthat gave the impression of sly cheerfulness; the watery,bloodshot eyes; the crowded teeth, the front two pushedtogether like a gabled roof; the impossibly low hairline, barelytwo finger widths above the bushy eyebrows; the wall of thick,coarse, salt-and-pepper hair.
Their gazes met briefly in the glass and slid away.
This is the face of my............
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