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Chapter Two

Chapter Two

Roya enjoys an unnoticed window in the stairwell overlooking the greenhouse with the mud roof. Each spring she watches the rain fall on the roof and in a few weeks hundreds of red poppies bloom. No one has seen Alieh since she left that day and most believe the rumor she has transferred. Nelly, her fellow classmate disagrees saying no one in her neighborhood has seen her either. Roya has a special connection with the poppies. She believes they reflect her own feelings of joy, sorrow, and fear. They rise from the mud proudly, but bend their heads in modesty. She notices Shireen is standing by her, who says she loves the poppies as well and proceeds to read Roya a poem which mentions a sky of red poppies. Roya likes the poem, but lashes out saying it is nonsense. Shireen says she shouldn’t have tried to break through Roya’s thick shell, to which Roya responds there is no shell, she just has nothing to say. Shireen tells her she doesn’t have to say anything if she doesn’t want to.

From that day on the two have a connection. Often in class the students who write their own poetry are encouraged to read it to the class. Among Jenab’s favorites is Shireen. Roya thinks he critiques her too harshly, but perhaps because he knows she can handle it. A few weeks later, Shireen arrives at the window Roya is in and says something about the school is changing, but she may be the only one who can see it. Roya responds with it may be a little bit of both.

Just before Norooz, the Persian New Year, Pedar announces he will not be able to leave his work and wants his family to come to their farm to celebrate with him. They do not want to miss the celebration in Mashad, but he insists and orders them to come.

After their arrival, Roya sits by a tree to read. After a while she hears a voice addressing her as Miss Roya and looks to find her childhood friend Zahra. Her friend explains she can’t stay for long as she has to get back to work at her loom, but Roya asks to come along. The villagers work for her father and act as if he owns them. This treatment makes Roya uncomfortable. Roya recalls that what initially made her like Zahra is the fact that her mother too had died at a young age and she had an often distant father due to work. Her Grandmother, Bibi, makes some tea for Roya, giving her some candy too. After Bibi leaves, Roya asks Zahra what her salary is. She explains she does not get one, but gets a year’s supply of some basic necessities, kerosene for heat in the winter and money for new clothes on Norooz. They have dinner together and at nighttime Zahra walks Roya back to her house. Roya gives her a bill and says to buy her a scarf that she makes with it. Zahra refuses at first thinking it is too much, but eventually takes it.

Soon they are back in the city. When Roya goes back to school she sees Shireen in the schoolyard and goes to talk to her. Shireen shows her a diary style Phillips Medical notebook she has brought and explains in class they can write notes back and forth to each other in it. The girls are put in a group for a project and decide to stay at school during lunch to work on it. Shireen goes to the prayer room to do her prayers and Roya decides to come along. She watches Shireen cleanse herself with water while saying verses in Arabic. After she asks Roya to hand her a prayer seal and continues with namaz. Roya asks her if she likes it and she responds that it brings her peace.

By the end of her junior year the two are close friends and Jenab refers to them collectively as his two scholars. The school has fallen silent about Alieh, virtually no one mentioning it anymore, but Roya senses a change, and thinks it will not soon be calm anymore.


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