word in the face of all that the Mujahideen factions had done the murders, the lootings, the
rapes, the tortures, the executions, the bombings, the tens of thousands of rockets they had
fired at each other, heedless of all the innocent people who would die in the cross fire.
Order. But she bit her tongue.
"If you send us back," she said instead, slowly, "there is no saying what he will do to us."
She could see the effort it took him to keep his eyes from shifting. "What a man does in
his home is his business."
"What about the law, then, Officer Rahman?" Tears of rage stung her eyes. "Will you be
there to maintain order?"
"As a matter of policy, we do not interfere with private family matters, hamshira"
"Of course you don't. When it benefits the man. And isn't this a 'private family matter,' as
you say? Isn't it?"
He pushed back from his desk and stood up, straightened his jacket. "I believe this
interview is finished. I must say, hamshira, that you have made a very poor case for
yourself. Very poor indeed. Now, if you would wait outside I will have a few words with
your...whoever she is."
Laila began to protest, then to yell, and he had to summon the help of two more men to
have her dragged out of his office.
Mariam's interview lasted only a few minutes. When she came out, she looked shaken.
"He asked so many questions," she said. "I'm sorry, Laila jo. I am not smart like you. He
asked so many questions, I didn't know the answers. I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault, Mariam," Laila said weakly. "It's mine. It's all my fault. Everything is
It was past six o'clock when the police car pulled up in front of the house. Laila and
Mariam were made to wait in the backseat, guarded by a Mujahid soldier in the passenger
seat. The driver was the one who got out of the car, who knocked on the door, who spoke to
Rasheed. It was he who motioned for them to come.
"Welcome home," the man in the front seat said, lighting a cigarette.
"You," he said to Mariam. "You wait here."
Mariam quietly took a seat on the couch.
"You two, upstairs."
Rasheed grabbed Laila by the elbow and pushed her up the steps. He was still wearing the
shoes he wore to work, hadn't yet changed to his flip flops, taken off his watch, hadn't even
shed his coat yet. Laila pictured him as he must have been an hour, or maybe minutes,
earlier, rushing from one room to another, slamming doors, furious and incredulous,
cursing under his breath.
At the top of the stairs, Laila turned to him.
"She didn't want to do it," she said. "I made her do it. She didn't want to go "
Laila didn't see the punch coming. One moment she was talking and the next she was on
all fours, wide eyed and red faced, trying to draw a breath. It was as if a car had hit her at