Outside the walls of that house, there was a war raging. But the three of us, in your father's house, we made our own little haven from it. My vision started going by the late 1980s, so I had Hassan read me your mother's books. We would sit in the foyer, by the stove, and Hassan would read me from _Masnawi_ or _Khayyám_, as Farzana cooked in the kitchen. And every morning, Hassan placed a flower on the little mound by the sweetbrier bushes.
In early 1990, Farzana became pregnant again. It was that same year, in the middle of the summer, that a woman covered in a sky blue burqa knocked on the front gates one morning. When I walked up to the gates, she was swaying on her feet, like she was too weak to even stand. I asked her what she wanted, but she would not answer.
"Who are you??I said. But she just collapsed right there in the driveway. I yelled for Hassan and he helped me carry her into the house, to the living room. We lay her on the sofa and took off her burqa. Beneath it, we found a toothless woman with stringy graying hair and sores on her arms. She looked like she had not eaten for days. But the worst of it by far was her face. Someone had taken a knife to it and... Amir jan, the slashes cut this way and that way. One of the cuts went from cheekbone to hairline and it had not spared her left eye on the way. It was grotesque. I patted her brow with a wet cloth and she opened her eyes. "Where is Hassan??she whispered.
"I'm right here,?Hassan said. He took her hand and squeezed it.
Her good eye rolled to him. "I have walked long and far to see if you are as beautiful in the flesh as you are in my dreams. And you are. Even more.?She pulled his hand to her scarred face. "Smile for me. Please.?
Hassan did and the old woman wept. "You smiled coming out of me, did anyone ever tell you? And I wouldn't even hold you. Allah forgive me, I wouldn't even hold you.?
None of us had seen Sanaubar since she had eloped with a band of singers and dancers in 1964, just after she had given birth to Hassan. You never saw her, Amir, but in her youth, she was a vision. She had a dimpled smile and a walk that drove men crazy. No one who passed her on the street, be it a man or a woman, could look at her only once. And now...
Hassan dropped her hand and bolted out of the house. I went after him, but he was too fast. I saw him running up the hill where you two used to play, his feet kicking up plumes of dust. I let him go. I sat with Sanaubar all day as the sky went from bright blue to purple. Hassan still had not come back when night fell and moonlight bathed the clouds. Sanaubar cried that coming back had been a mistake, maybe even a worse one than leaving. But I made her stay. Hassan would return, I knew.