Seasons had come and gone; presidents in Kabul had been inaugurated and murdered; an empire had been defeated; old wars had ended and new ones had broken out. But Mariam had hardly noticed, hardly cared.She had passed these years in a distant corner of her mind. A dry, barren field, out beyond wish and lament,beyond dream and disillusionment. There, the future did not matter. And the past held only this wisdom: that love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion. And whenever those twin poisonuous flowers began to sprout in the parched land of that field, Mariam uprooted them. She uprooted them and ditched them before they took hold.But somehow, over these last months, Laila and Aziza --a harami like herself,as it turned out--had become extensions of her,and now, without them, the life Mariam had tolerated for so long suddenly seemed intolerable.