A Thousand Splendid Suns (Page 51)

When they first came back to Kabul, it distressed Laila that she didn’t know where the Taliban had buried Mariam. She wished she could visit Mariam’s grave, to sit with her awhile, leave a flower or two. But Laila sees now that it doesn’t matter. Mariam is never very far. She is here, in these walls they’ve repainted, in the trees they’ve planted, in the blankets that keep the children warm, in these pillows and books and pencils. She is in the children’s laughter. She is in the verses Aziza recites and in the prayers she mutters when she bows westward. But, mostly, Mariam is in Laila’s own heart, where she shines with the bursting radiance of a thousand suns.

Someone has been calling her name, Laila realizes. She turns around, instinctively tilts her head, lifting her good ear just a tad. It’s Aziza.

"Mammy? Are you all right?"

The room has become quiet. The children are watching her.

Laila is about to answer when her breath suddenly catches. Her hands shoot down. They pat the spot where, a moment before, she’d felt a wave go through her. She waits. But there is no more movement.


"Yes, my love." Laila smiles. "I’m all right. Yes. Very much."

As she walks to her desk at the front of the class, Laila thinks of the naming game they’d played again over dinner the night before. It has become a nightly ritual ever since Laila gave Tariq and the children the news. Back and forth they go, making a case for their own choice. Tariq likes Mohammad. Zalmai, who has recently watched Superman on tape, is puzzled as to why an Afghan boy cannot be named Clark. Aziza is campaigning hard for Aman. Laila likes Omar.

But the game involves only male names. Because, if it’s a girl, Laila has already named her.