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HOME > Classical Novels > A Thousand Splendid Suns > Part Four Chapter 48.
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Part Four Chapter 48.
Tariq has headaches now.
Some nights, Laila awakens and finds him on the edge oftheir bed, rocking, his undershirt pulled over his head Theheadaches began in Nasir Bagh, he says, then worsened inprison. Sometimes they make him vomit, blind him in one eye.
He says it feels like a butcher's knife burrowing in one temple,twisting slowly through his brain, then poking out the otherside.
"I can taste the metal, even, when they begin."Sometimes Laila wets a cloth and lays it on his forehead andthat helps a little. The little round white pills Sayeed's doctorgave Tariq help too. But some nights, all Tariq can do is holdhis head and moan, his eyes bloodshot, his nose dripping. Lailasits with him when he's in the grip of it like that, rubs theback of his neck, takes his hand in hers, the metal of hiswedding band cold against her palm.
They married the day that they arrived in Murree. Sayeedlooked relieved when Tariq told him they would. He would nothave to broach with Tariq the delicate matter of an unmarriedcouple living in his hotel. Sayeed is not at all as Laila hadpictured him, ruddy-faced and pea-eyed. He has asalt-and-pepper mustache whose ends he rolls to a sharp tip,and a shock of long gray hair combed back from the brow.
He is a soft-spoken, mannerly man, with measured speech andgraceful movements.
It was Sayeecl who summoned a friend and a mullah forthenikka that day, Sayeed who pulled Tariq aside and gave himmoney. Tariq wouldn't take it, but Sayeed insisted. Tariq wentto the Mall then and came back with two simple, thin weddingbands. They married later that night, after the children hadgone to bed.
In the mirror, beneath the green veil that the mullah drapedover their heads, Laila's eyes met Tariq's. There were no tears,no wedding-day smiles, no whispered oaths of long-lasting love.
In silence, Laila looked at their reflection, at faces that hadaged beyond their years, at the pouches and lines and sagsthat now marked their once-scrubbed, youthful faces. Tariqopened his mouth and began to say something, but, just as hedid, someone pulled the veil, and Laila missed what it was thathe was going to say.
That night, they lay in bed as husband and wife, as thechildren snored below them on sleeping cots. Laila rememberedthe ease with which they would crowd the air between themwith words, she and Tariq, when they were younger, thehaywire, brisk flow of their speech, always interrupting eachother, tugging each other's collar to emphasize a point, thequickness to laugh, the eagerness to delight. So much hadhappened since those childhood days, so much that needed tobe said. But that first night the enormity of it all stole thewords from her. That night, it was blessing enough to bebeside him. It was blessing enough to know that he was here,to feel the warmth of him next to her, to lie with him, theirheads touching, his right hand laced in her left.
In the middle of the night, when Laila woke up thirsty, shefound their hands still clamped together, in the white-knuckle,anxious way of children clutching balloon strings.
* * *Laila likes Mukree'S cool, foggy mornings and its dazzlingtwilights, the dark brilliance of the sky at night; the green ofthe pines and the soft brown of the squirrels darting up anddown the sturdy tree trunks; the sudden downpours that sendshoppers in the Mall scrambling for awning cover. She likes thesouvenir shops, and the various hotels that house tourists, evenas the locals bemoan the constant construction, the expansionof infrastructure that they say is eating away at Murree'snatural beauty. Laila finds it odd that people should lamentthebuilding of buildings. In Kabul, they would celebrate it.
She likes that they have a bathroom, not an outhouse but anactual bathroom, with a toilet that flushes, a shower, and asink too, with twin faucets from which she can draw, with aflick of her wrist, water, either hot or cold. She likes waking upto the sound of Alyona bleating in the morning, and theharmlessly cantankerous cook, Adiba, who works marvels in thekitchen.
Sometimes, as Laila watches Tariq sleep, as her childrenmutter and stir in their own sleep, a great big lump ofgratitude catches in her throat, makes her eyes water.
In the mornings, Laila follows Tariq from room to room. Keysjingle from a ring clipped to his waist and a spray bottle ofwindow cleaner dangles from the belt loops of his jeans. Lailabrings a pail filled with rags, disinfectant, a toilet brush, andspray wax for the dressers. Aziza tags along, a mop in onehand, the bean-stuffed doll Mariam had made for her in theother. Zalmai trails them reluctantly, sulkily, always a few stepsbehind.
Laila vacuums, makes the bed, and dusts. Tariq washes thebathroom sink and tub, scrubs the toilet and mops thelinoleum floor. He stocks the shelves with clean towels,miniature shampoo bottles, and bars of almond-scented soap.
Aziza............
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