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HOME > Classical Novels > A Thousand Splendid Suns > Chapter 19.
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Chapter 19.
I need to speak to your parents,dokhiarjan" he said whenLaila opened the door. He was a stocky man, with a sharp,weather-roughened face. He wore a potato-colored coat, and abrown woolpakol on his head"Can I tell them who's here?"Then Babi's hand was on Laila's shoulder, and he gentlypulled her from the door.
"Why don't you go upstairs, Laila. Go on."As she moved toward the steps, Laila heard the visitor say toBabi that he had news from Panjshir. Mammy was in theroom now too. She had one hand clamped over her mouth,and her eyes were skipping from Babi to the man in thepakolLaila peeked from the top of the stairs. She watched thestranger sit down with her parents. He leaned toward them.
Said a few muted words. Then Babi's face was white, andgetting whiter, and he was looking at his hands, and Mammywas screaming, screaming, and tearing at her hair.
* * *The next morning, the day ofthefaiiha, a flock of neighborhoodwomen descended on the house and took charge ofpreparations for thekhatm dinner that would take place afterthe funeral Mammy sat on the couch the whole morning, herfingers working a handkerchief, her face bloated. She wastended to by a pair of sniffling women who took turns pattingMammy's hand gingerly, like she was the rarest and mostfragile doll in the world. Mammy did not seem aware of theirpresence.
Laila kneeled before her mother and took her hands.
"Mammy."Mammy's eyes drifted down. She blinked.
"We'll take care of her, Laila jan," one of the women saidwith an air of self-importance. Laila had been to funerals beforewhere she had seen women like this, women who relished allthings that had to do with death, official consolers who let noone trespass on their self-appointed duties.
"It's under control. You go on now, girl, and do somethingelse. Leave your mother be."Shooed away, Laila felt useless. She bounced from one roomto the next. She puttered around the kitchen for a while. Anuncharacteristically subdued Hasina and her mother came. Sodid Giti and her mother. When Giti saw Laila, she hurriedover, threw her bony arms around her, and gave Laila a verylong, and surprisingly strong, embrace. When she pulled back,tears had pooled in her eyes. "I am so sorry, Laila," she said.
Laila thanked her. The three girls sat outside in the yard untilone of the women assigned them the task of washing glassesand stacking plates on the table.
Babi too kept walking in and out of the house aimlessly,looking, it seemed, for something to do.
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