Once the second cup had been poured, Ibrahim leaned forward and balanced his teacup on his knee. They found her, he said, his eyes lowered. They did? The tension drained out of Nayir so suddenly that it hurt. Where?
About two kilometers south of the Shrawi campsite. She was in a wadi.
Theyve had men there for a week. Are they certain its her?
Who found her? Were not sure. Someone who wasnt working for the family. Travelers.
How do you know this?
Tahsins cousin Majid came to our camp and delivered the news. Hed spoken to the coroner. Ibrahim took another sip of his tea. He said that the travelers took her back to Jeddah. She was already dead.
Yes. Ibrahim sat back. The travelers took her to the coroners office in Jeddah. They had no idea who she was.
It was over. He thought about his men outside, wondered if they would feel relief or disappointment. Probably relief. He wasnt sure what to tell them about the girl. It was odd that the familys own search party had been stationed near the wadi. A group of cousins and servants must have been right on top of her, yet they had missed her completely. They had also missed whoever had been traveling through the area. The travelers must have returned her body to the city before the Shrawis had even figured out that theyd passed through. All of this made Nayir uneasy, but he would have to double-check the information; it wasnt exactly reliable.
How did the family find out about it? he asked.
Someone at the coroners office knows the family and called them to break the news.
Nayir nodded, still feeling numb. The teapot was empty. Slowly he stood and went to the stove. He poured more water into the pot and lit the match for the stove with a clumsy twitch, burning the tip of his thumb. The sharpness of the pain lit a spark inside him, a quick, fierce anger. The urge to find her was still strong. Forgive me for my pride, he thought. I should think about the family now. But he couldnt.
He went back and sat down. Do you know how she died?
No. There was a sad acceptance in the boys eyes. Heat stroke, I imagine.
Its a terrible way to die, Nayir said. I cant help thinking theres something we could have done.
I doubt it.
Why? Nayir asked. What do you think happened to her?
The Bedouin looked him straight in the eye. Same thing that happens to any girl, I think.
And whats that? Nayir asked. Love? Sex? What do you know about it? Ibrahims face told him that it had been wrong to ask; the boy was blushing. Nayir wanted to know more, to pry the answers out of him, but he knew too that if Noufs death had happened because of love or sex, then any truthful reply would be less proper still. Modestly, he waited for an elaboration, but Ibrahim merely sipped his tea, resolute in his silence.
Excerpted from Finding Nouf by Zoë Ferraris Copyright © 2008 by Zoë Ferraris. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin. 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
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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