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By Karen L. McKee

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They don’t smell as sweet as I recall. ” He held the blossom up. ” “I think—I’d be no judge, Papa,” she said with the saddest of tones. Her swift step left him for the house and he heard angry clatter in the kitchen. He stood. What was the matter on such a pleasant day? It had been wonderful to sit in the peaceful garden as Khadija tidied their house and then went out to shop. It gave him time to contemplate the possible husbands he had identified for her. Not that he was certain any of the young men would be a match for his Pishogay.

He had even given up his dream of the pilgrimage Hajj to Holy Mecca in order to finance her escape and schooling in London. She would not shame him with the story. She would find a way to redeem herself in Allah’s eyes. Pulling on her shawl against the cold air, she went to her father. “I’m sorry, Papa—for what I said last night. It’s just—I was tired. ” She opened the window onto the garden and inhaled the fresh air from the mountains. Sunrise made the bulk of Kohi Asamayi glow gold around the edges.

There would be mayhem as the men exchanged their winnings. ” Michael asked. “From Kashgar. The Uigher. An attack. The Amrikaayi…,” Abdul Isabek began, then his face went stiff, eyes wide. He sagged against Michael. A knife handle grew from a bloom of blood on his back. The crowd seethed around them, screaming at the birds. No one had noticed the knife work. Michael scanned the nearest men seeking the danger. Across the pit he spotted the man in the gold-threaded kandahari cap. He was too far away to have wielded the blade.

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