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HOME > Classical Novels > A Thousand Splendid Suns > Chapter 13.
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Chapter 13.
On the bus ride home from the doctor, the strangest thingwas happening to Mariam. Everywhere she looked, she sawbright colors: on the drab, gray concrete apartments, on thetin-roofed, open-fronted stores, in the muddy water flowing inthe gutters. It was as though a rainbow had melted into hereyes.
Rasheed was drumming his gloved fingers and humming asong. Every time the bus bucked over a pothole and jerkedforward, his hand shot protectively over her belly.
"What about Zalmai?" he said. "It's a good Pashtun name.""What if it's a girl?" Mariam said.
"I think it's a boy. Yes. A boy."A murmur was passing through the bus. Some passengerswere pointing at something and other passengers were leaningacross seats to see.
"Look," said Rasheed, tapping a knuckle on the glass. He wassmiling. "There. See?"On the streets, Mariam saw people stopping in their tracks. Attraffic lights, faces emerged from the windows of cars, turnedupward toward the falling softness. What was it about aseason's first snowfall, Mariam wondered, that was soentrancing? Was it the chance to see something as yetunsoiled, untrodden? To catch the fleeting grace of a newseason, a lovely beginning, before it was trampled andcorrupted?
"If it's a girl," Rasheed said, "and it isn't, but, if itis a girl,then you can choose whatever name you want."* * *Mahiam awoke the next morning to the sound of sawing andhammering- She wrapped a shawl around her and went outinto the snowblown yard. The heavy snowfall of the previousnight had stopped. Now only a scattering of light, swirling flakestickled her cheeks. The air was windless and smelled likeburning coal. Kabul was eerily silent, quilted in white, tendrils ofsmoke snaking up here and there.
She found Rasheed in the toolshed, pounding nails into aplank of wood. When he saw her, he removed a nail from thecorner of his mouth.
"It was going to be a surprise. He'll need a crib. You weren'tsupposed to see until it was done."Mariam wished he wouldn't do that, hitch his hopes to itsbeing a boy. As happy as she was about this pregnancy, hisexpectation weighed on her. Yesterday, Rasheed had gone outand come home with a suede winter coat for a boy, linedinside with soft sheepskin, the sleeves embroidered with fine redand yellow silk thread.
Rasheed lifted a long, narrow board. As he began to saw it inhalf, he said the stairs worried him. "Something will have to bedone about them later, when he's old enough to climb." Thestove worried him too, he said. The knives and forks wouldhave to be stowed somewhere out of reach. "You can't be toocareful Boys are reckless creatures."Mariam pulled the shawl around her against the chill.
* * *The next morning, Rasheed said he wanted to invite hisfriends for dinner to celebrate. All morning, Mariam cleanedlentils and moistened rice. She sliced eggplants forborani, andcooked leeks and ground beef foraushak. She swept the floor,beat the curtains, aired the house, despite the snow that hadstarted up again. She arranged mattresses and cushions alongthe walls of the living room, placed bowls of candy and roastedalmonds on the table.
She was in her room by early evening before the first of themen arrived. She lay in bed as the hoots and laughter andbantering voices downstairs began to mushroom. She couldn'tkeep her hands from drifting to her belly. She thought of whatwas growing there, and happiness rushed in like a gust ofwind blowing a door wide open. Her eyes watered.
Mariam thought of her six-hundred-and-fifty-kilometer bus tripwith Rasheed, from Herat in the west, near the border withIran, to Kabul in the east. They had passed small towns andbig towns, and knots of little villages that kept springing up oneafter another. They had gone over mountains and acrossraw-burned deserts, from one province to the next. And hereshe was now, over those boulders and parched hills, with ahome of her own, a husband of her own, heading toward onefinal, cherished province............
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