In the morning, Mariam is given a long-sleeved green dress and hijab, and taken to the same room as yesterday, which now has a Koran, green veil, and mirror on the table. Nargis places the veil on Mariam’s head, and Rasheed enters the room, smelling of cigarette smoke and thick cologne. The man is tall, with broad shoulders and a thick belly, and Mariam’s heart starts to beat quickly.
Rasheed is first described through sensory clues, which are unfamiliar, overpowering, and distasteful—just the way Rasheed’s personality will turn out to be. This is clearly a much older man, which makes fifteen-year-old Mariam’s apprehension even more understandable.
The mullah says that the wedding ceremony or nikka will be brief since Rasheed has bus tickets to Kabul for that day. When the mullah asks Mariam if she accepts this man as her husband, she initially stays quiet. After a few awkward moments, Jalil whispers her name and she finally says, “Yes.” The mirror is slipped under her veil, and she sees both her own face, long, triangular, with eyes too close together—a face not pretty, though not unpleasant either—as well as the ruddy cheeks, watery eyes, and coarse salt-and-pepper hair of Rasheed.
The mullah’s questions seem meant to evoke a true desire on the part of those getting married, but it is clear that in this case, Mariam is being virtually coerced. The fact that she cannot see Rasheed as he really is—only through a mirror—is meant to suggest a more profound intimacy, but here only ominously foreshadows what awaits her.
They exchange thin gold bands, and Mariam signs her name to the contract. The narrator tells us that twenty-seven years later, when she would next sign her name to a document, it would also be in the presence of a mullah.
This is the first of several cases in which the narrator will give the reader a hint of foreshadowing, which suggests continuity and thematic resonance even in the midst of overwhelming change.
As Mariam and Rasheed wait for the bus, Jalil tells Mariam how beautiful Kabul is. Unable to stand it, she tells him she used to worship him, and didn’t know that he was ashamed of her. He stammers that he’ll visit her, but she says she never wants to hear from him again. He tells her not to leave like this, but she turns and climbs up the stairs to the bus. She doesn’t turn to look as Jalil knocks at the glass or runs alongside the bus before disappearing behind it.
For the first time, Mariam explicitly tells Jalil off for the way he treated her and Nana, now that she has come to understand his insincerity and Nana’s sacrifices. Jalil does seem upset, even contrite, but forgiveness is out of the question for Mariam: after all, she is only leaving now because she is being sent out from Jalil’s home.