Mariam barely sees the girl during the day, but they sometimes inevitably run into each other, leading to tension and awkwardness. Sometimes she can smell Rasheed on him—he never sleeps with Mariam anymore, thankfully, and even thinking about him makes her feel sick.
Mariam’s feelings are complex: she has long ago lost hope of having a loving relationship with Rasheed, but even so, the shameful position he and Laila have placed her in leads her to despise both.
At night, Rasheed insists they all eat together, and tries to get Mariam to talk to the girl. He tells Laila that Mariam is a village girl, a harami, but is a good worker and has no pretensions. Even as a thirty-three-year-old, the word still stings Mariam.
The very word harami is a powerful conveyor of shame, still potent enough to suggest that Mariam will never be loved and never belong anywhere, as she always feared.
Rasheed says that he doesn’t want to speak ill of the dead, but he is concerned about Laila’s parents’ leniency with her. Mariam sees the girl’s look of hatred, though Rasheed misses it. Now, he says, Laila is the queen of the house, and he has to guard her honor. She shouldn’t leave the house without his company—she can ask Mariam to fetch anything she’d like, since Mariam isn’t worth as much. He also tells Laila she’ll have to wear a burqa when they’re out together, for her own protection.
Though Rasheed still dotes on Laila, he does so according to his own protocol, which in this case means retaining strict boundaries between male and female spheres, and “honoring” a woman by covering her and refusing to allow her to walk around on her own. That Mariam is allowed to do so reflects that Rasheed no longer considers her a woman, a full human being.
One day, Mariam is folding laundry when she turns around and sees the girl in the doorway. She tries to make small talk, asking Mariam if she knew her mother. Mariam says she didn’t really. When the girl tries to broach the subject of the other night, Mariam says she won’t be her servant. She says that Laila can’t use her looks against Mariam, and snaps that she can start contributing to the household chores now that she’s healed. The girl tries to thank Mariam for nursing her, but Mariam says she wouldn’t have if she’d known she would steal her husband. She coldly lays out the rules for how they’ll split up the chores. Mariam has never spoken so forcefully or sharply, but she can’t feel satisfied when she sees the girl’s face teary and drooping.
Ever since Mariam nursed Laila back to health, she has endured the shame and sting of having to share her household with another woman, especially now that Rasheed speaks scornfully of Mariam even in her presence. This is one of the first times Mariam stands up for herself and attempts to set her own boundaries. However, Mariam is still kind enough at heart that she gains little satisfaction from speaking harshly at Laila, even if Laila is the source of much of Mariam’s own suffering.