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Nothing was as Manar had imagined it would be. Her mother should have been there and her two aunts. Her older sister whose hand she had held through two births and who had pledged to do the same for her.
There should have been clean sheets and basins of warm water, someone with a cool cloth for her head. And on the other side of the house, the men regaling Yusuf with stories of their own children’s arrivals, so that when the time came he would be awake to say the adhan and perform the takneek, the first sweet smudge of dates in the child’s mouth.
But there was none of this.
The room smelled of blood and feces. Manar’s mostly, but other women’s as well. Old blood, and on the once-white walls the stained remnants of past catastrophes. Birth or death or both...



Home, Sabri Kanj reminded himself as the jet touched down on the runway and the massive engines whined to a stop. Fairuz on the radio and his mother singing along in the kitchen. Lamb sausages on the grill. A memory to see you through, his friend, Khalid, had told him once, speaking from experience, something they won’t be able to take from you...


I knew the first time I saw John Valsamis what he was. It was a warm afternoon, one of those early spring snaps that won’t last. Barely March and shirt-sleeves weather, the streams fat with run-off, the first green shoots of the crocuses struggling upward toward the light. I had taken Lucifer out for his walk and when we came home Valsamis was parked on the road just outside my driveway, a small neat man in a white Twingo, a rental. Though I didn’t know why, I knew as surely as if I had invited him that he had come for me...