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I am a very lucky mom. Women are like tea bags; you never know how strong they are until they’re put in hot water. —ELEANOR ROOSEVELT Contents Cover Also by Deborah Rodriguez Title Page Copyright Dedication Epigraph Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40 Chapter 41 Acknowledgments About the Author It was a vibrant blue-skied Afghan morning, the kind that made Yazmina stop to loosen her scarf and tilt her face to the sun.

Three years ago, it was safe to walk, but today, as the Taliban and fundamentalist thinking were finding ground again in Kabul, it was not. She was courting kidnappers, Bashir Hadi had told her again and again, and was at risk of being shot. Take the car, he’d told her, and if she had to walk, she must keep her head down, not speak unless spoken to, never take the same route twice, do this and that and never this and always that, and it made her sick. She respected the ways of this country—she knew, for example, to always cover her head and her arms—but she also respected herself, and sometimes, she simply had to walk.

She arrived at the ministry safely, and with her roses in hand. The gray-walled, somber building reminded her of the hospital where her mother had died, except for the layer of earthen dust that covered everything in Kabul. When she reached the minister’s waiting room, she found a young woman shrouded in a dark blue veil sitting behind a dilapidated metal desk. The minute she saw Sunny, she clicked off her computer screen. Sunny knew from the look in her eyes that she’d been on the Internet, probably chatting with someone, the only way a boy and girl could talk to each other freely in Kabul.

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