Mariam leans in, asking if “the girl” knows who she is. The girl asks her to move to her other ear—she can’t hear. That first week, the girl does little other than sleep, thanks to the pink pills Rasheed buys at the hospital. Sometimes she cries out names that Mariam doesn’t recognize, and grows agitated. Other times, she’s sullen and quiet, refusing to eat, but soon surrendering. Mariam dresses her wounds, and Rasheed says she’ll stay with them until she’s better.
In Part III, we begin with Mariam’s perspective. Laila is essentially a stranger to Mariam, which helps to explain why Mariam calls her simply “the girl.” Nevertheless, Mariam is a natural caretaker—it is more surprising that Rasheed is so eager to take care of Laila as well.
Rasheed had found the girl amid the rubble of her house, and had salvaged the few books not burned or looted. Rasheed sometimes returns home from work with a new blanket and pillow or with vitamins. He tells Laila (which is how he refers to her, rather than “the girl”) that her friend Tariq’s house is now occupied by some of Sayyaf’s men. Mariam sometimes sees them playing cards and smoking next to their Kalashnikovs. The oldest is scornful and cocky, but the youngest is quiet and polite, always nodding to Mariam. One day, a rocket hits the house and kills all three boys. Rasheed says they had it coming.
Rasheed lavishes Laila with the kind of gifts he has long since stopped giving Mariam. When the narrator refers to Rasheed’s perspective, Laila is called by her name, further underlining Rasheed’s interest in her. Mariam has a far more nuanced understanding of combat than Rasheed: she knows that “Sayyaf’s men” have most likely committed brutal acts as well, but she cannot bring herself to rejoice, like Rasheed, at more loss of life.
Slowly, the girl gets better. One day, she confides to Mariam that she shouldn’t be alive: Babi wanted to take out the boxes of books, but she insisted on doing it herself, and so wasn’t in the house when it happened. Mariam recalls the day of Nana’s burial and how nothing could comfort her, not even Mullah Faizullah’s prayers.
This kind of shame is distinct from what Laila felt after sleeping with Tariq: here she feels guilt and responsibility for her parents’ death, just as Mariam did for Nana’s suicide. Knowing there is little she can do to comfort her, Mariam does not make this common experience explicit.
About a month after the blast, a man named Abdul Sharif comes to see the girl. She says she doesn’t know who he is, but Mariam tells her to come down and talk to him.
The arrival of Abdul Sharif echoes the arrival, earlier in the novel, of the man from Panjshir: these strangers tend not to bear good news.