Come with me for lunch, to meet Saeed. I rolled toward him.
Next time. He stroked my back. Ive got a busy few weeks coming up. You go and do your Iranian thing and Ill get everything straight here.
All right, but promise youll come and say hello soon.
I promise. He kissed my neck. Ill miss your mothers cooking.
My parents home was on Richmond Hill, large and set back from the road, far away from the rest of grimy London. The pine trees at the gate always welcomed me first, with their lemon green scent and the memory of childhood summers, scrambling up to the top branches, often away from my parents arguing, to sit in the peace and dust motes with blood on my shins. I walked along the tidy, tiled, black-and-white path to the front door, which my father opened before I knocked.
We hugged. You look well. He held me back from himself.
How are things here? I asked, and he rolled his eyes.
Saeeds upstairs, settling into his room. He seems well enough. Your mothers in the garden. She wanted some quiet. A bit overwhelmed, I think.
Ill go find her, I said, and he disappeared back into his book-lined study.
Along the hall, the house was full of the smell of her cooking, the soft, starchy scent of basmati, saffron, and roasting lamb. I went through the kitchen with steam on its windows and along the narrow blue corridor with its long cupboards full of henna, herbs, dried figs, and limes from her last trip home. The air was cool above the terra-cotta floor, before the steps down to the back door and into the garden.
I could hear my old tape player from behind the yew hedge and beyond the rose garden, the tinny sound of tombok drums and sitar. I passed the greenhouse, figs and jasmine growing up one side, overhanging the path, and found her on the bottom lawn, kneeling quietly, eyes concentrating on her hands, weeding and tidying. She was still beautiful at over sixty: high cheekbones and dark hair to her shoulders.
Excerpted from The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther. Copyright © 2006 by Yasmin Crowther. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Group USA. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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