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Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine

The end of school comes and Roya becomes nostalgic for the school. She thinks of how she will not see most of these girls ever again, as many do not continue their education and reunions are unheard of. Shireen and Jenab find her in front and Jenab thanks her for the painting she gave him. It shows a man, holding a little girl’s hand, walking her through a dark forest. The attached note reads: “Dear Mr. Elmi: thank you for illuminating the way.” He wishes his scholars good luck and good bye.

Mitra has decided to continue her education in England to study European History. Since women not leaving the house until marriage is tradition, Roya is baffled as to how her father agreed to this. Her departure comes quick and Roya finds herself missing her sister quite frequently. Reza is finally going to be a senior. Even though he is the eldest of the three his poor grades kept him back until he was a year behind Roya.

Everyone starts preparing for university exams or “concourse” which instead of happening over a year, like school exit exams, happen all in one day. Roya decides to call Tahereh Ahmandi, a former classmate to study together. They study day after day. Tahereh's father drives her, but Fridays he works late, so Roya offers to pick her up. Akbar advises Roya to put on a chador, because of the neighborhood they are going to. They turn into an alley so small it can barely fit one car. Roya decides to get out and walk. She can tell the people know she is not one of them, even with the chador. She finds Tahereh’s house and she invites her in for tea. They have tea and her mother tells her how she wants Tahereh to become a nurse. Roya wonders if Tahereh was consulted with this plan.

Two days before exams, Shireen calls Roya to go shopping. Roya thinks this is a joke, but finds Shireen is serious when she says it’s really important. She meets her in the shopping district. Shireen tells her the book store across the street is owned by Eemon’s friend and that he is in there. She tells her to go in with her and pretend she needs to buy a book. Inside the store there are three people. Roya pretends to browse, as Shireen talks to the man who she figures out must be Eemon. After a few minutes Shireen comes back to Roya and thanks her for being her safety net. If anyone were to find out, she could call it a coincidence. She seems happy and at ease. She tells her a date has been set for the wedding. Her father changed his mind thanks to persuasion by Jenab, and her Maman convincing him she was now a “marked girl” for the last incident and that this was the only solution to save the family name. After one year of her schooling, they are to be married, but are not allowed to see each other unless one of her parents is present.

The night before exams Tahereh sleeps over. Akbar drops Tahereh off at the nursing school and outside the medical school is a hoard of protesters. Roya is worried it will interfere with her exams, but there are so many guards Akbar assures her it will not. Walking out of her exam she sees there are no more protesters. She leans against a tree, waiting for Akbar when she feels something wet on her back. She looks to see something red and realizes it is blood. She freaks out and when she sees her family car runs to it telling Akbar she thinks someone was killed. He runs to check it out, but comes back and tells her it is okay, that it was probably just a lamb sacrifice.

Shireen, Tahereh, and Roya are all admitted to their school of choice. Shireen and Roya both go to Mashad University, but the medical and science buildings are apart from each other. They see each other occasionally in the library, but rarely have time to talk. A few months later Shireen calls to tell Roya she is getting married, but just a small family-only ceremony to sign some papers. Roya says when she marries she’s going to have everything, along with a fabulous dress. Shireen says this is a waste of money.

Roya notices a change in her friend over the months. She talks less of her life and more of society, particularly condemning the rich. She never insults Roya though, excusing her family because she knows how good Roya is. This leads Roya to think about the wealth of her family.


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