"Yes," he said, squinting.
"I wonder if you can help us. Can you do us a favor?"
He passed the boy to his wife. He and Laila stepped away.
"What is it, hamshira? "
She was encouraged to see that he had soft eyes, a kind face.
She told him the story that she and Mariam had agreed on. She was a biwa, she said, a
widow. She and her mother and daughter had no one left in Kabul. They were going to
Peshawar to stay with her uncle.
"You want to come with my family," the young man said
"I know it's zahmat for you. But you look like a decent brother, and I "
"Don't worry, hamshira I understand. It's no trouble. Let me go and buy your tickets."
"Thank you, brother. This is sawab, a good deed. God will remember."
She fished the envelope from her pocket beneath the burqa and passed it to him. In it was
eleven hundred afghanis, or about half of the money she'd stashed over the past year plus
the sale of the ring. He slipped the envelope in his trouser pocket.
She watched him enter the station. He returned half an hour later.
"It's best I hold on to your tickets," he said. The bus leaves in one hour, at eleven. We'll all
board together. My name is Wakil. If they ask and they shouldn't I'll tell them you're my
Laila gave him their names, and he said he would remember.
"Stay close," he said.
They sat on the bench adjacent to Wakil and his family's. It was a sunny, warm morning,
the sky streaked only by a few wispy clouds hovering in the distance over thehills. Mariam
began feeding Aziza a few of the crackers she'd remembered to bring in their rush to pack.
She offered one to Laila.
"I'll throw up," Laila laughed. "I'm too excited."
"Thank you, Mariam."
"For this. For coming with us," Laila said. "I don't think I could do this alone."
"You won't have to."
"We're going to be all right, aren't we, Mariam, where we're going?"
Mariam's hand slid across the bench and closed over hers. "The Koran says Allah is the
East and the West, therefore wherever you turn there is Allah's purpose."
"Bov!"Aziza cried, pointing to a bus. "Mayam, bov"
"I see it, Aziza jo," Mariam said. "That's right, bov. Soon we're all going to ride on a bov.
Oh, the things you're going to see."
Laila smiled. She watched a carpenter in his shop across the street sawing wood, sending
chips flying. She watched the cars bolting past, their windows coated with soot and grime.
She watched the buses growling idly at the curb, with peacocks, lions, rising suns, and
glittery swords painted on their sides.
In the warmth of the morning sun, Laila felt giddy and bold. She had another of those little