I waited until Baba fell asleep, and then folded a blanket. I used it as a prayer rug. Bowing my head to the ground, I recited half-forgotten verses from the Koran—verses the mullah had made us commit to memory in Kabul—and asked for kindness from a God I wasn’t sure existed. I envied the mullah now, envied his faith and certainty.
I envied her. Her secret was out. Spoken. Dealt with. I opened my mouth and almost told her how I’d betrayed Hassan, lied, driven him out, and destroyed a forty-year relationship between Baba and Ali. But I didn’t. I suspected there were many ways in which Soraya Taheri was a better person than me. Courage was just one of them.
And I remember wondering if Hassan too had married. And if so, whose face he had seen in the mirror under the veil? Whose henna-painted hands had he held?
We all had our reasons for not adopting. Soraya had hers, the general his, and I had this: that perhaps something, someone, somewhere had decided to deny me fatherhood for the things I had done. Maybe this was my punishment, and perhaps justly so. It wasn’t meant to be, Khala Jamila had said. Or maybe, it was meant not to be.