"We are sects having different rules."
Whenever she lets me out of here, I'll grant
"Rahnavard, Z." three wishes.
Franchone studies the dog-eared passport.
Istanbul; wow, how weird. That's what I guessed,
lo many moons ago it seems, when we first met. Girl's been around,
for one so young. Well, twenty-eight—no babe in arms. More like a
well-armed babe; this faded snapshot shows her in fatigues, some
kind of paramilitary getup.
Arranging Zahra's few possessions on the
tabletop (dummy opposite), Franchone reads them a la tarot
cards spread before a fortuneteller.
Who's the other babe? Nice-looking woman. No
resemblance. Unrelated. Uninvolved?
Are these two comrades or companions,
Joy? Intimates or confederates?
He examines both expressions in the
well-worn glossy photograph, then places it side by side with the
letter penned in Arabic.
Hers, you think? Check out the
script. It's blurred in spots, like it was written in
the rain—unless whoever wrote or read it was crying her
I am here for what we
Brides of Blood are honour-bound to do, and it is good,
this drawing nigh to Him whose Grace our deaths exalt.
I am not fearful since the Prophet, peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him, lit my path that night so clearly.
You were there; you must recall. It was the night we
traded sighs beneath a sky so filled with stars that we
were luminous in our nudity. Not a chill in the air.
Pure warmth. As if a million distant suns each lent us
one refulgent beam and in its radiance we two basked
like sultry paramours, virgins each, who pledged our
troths to Allah, sharing touches chaste, if no less
passionate, unashamed before His fond, Beneficent gaze;
His eyes ,unblinking, watched us make our gentle,
blameless love till dawn.
But I am past this world,
with all its ugly pains and pretty pleasures. They
recede, as did the Angel who appeared within my dream
and bade the desert wind to give His mandate voice:
"Upraise thine arm against
that the innocents go unscathed
preserved from rabid tooth and nail
lo! are relieved,
through your self-sacrifice,
of the evil wrought
by heedless disbelievers."