I recently met an elderly lady at my local mosque and whenever I go there, I always see her. When I first met her we introduced ourselves to one another, and she told me that she lives an hour away and travels the distance, all alone, by bus. Too shy to ask her I’d wonder what’d make a delicate lady like her travel all that distance. Today she told me that she lost her husband over a year ago and ever since then, she comes here to make up for his missed prayers and to recite Quran in his name. If we were to really choose our spouses based on their level of faith, we’d be forever blessed in this life, and the next.
The first time Zinat holds her son—his skin still slick, his small face puckered as though he were born with a lime under his tongue—she draws in a shuddering breath. He is so warm at her breast, his small fists beating at the air as he squalls. She thinks: this was within me. I carried him within me.
Then, abjectly, she begins to weep.
“Lady, Zinat, let me—here, I will take him—" Indrani says quickly, moving around the midwife and reaching for the baby.
"No," Zinat says, choking on a sob. "No, I only…I wasn’t expecting him to be so real. I never thought—he has knees. I never thought about my child having knees. Look at his little knees, Indrani.”
Zinat touches the baby’s still-soft pate with a trembling hand, and her son quiets, looking up at her with dark eyes. ”I will call you Maazin,” she whispers. Her voice wavers on breaking when she says, gently, ”He was a hero among my people—our people, yours and mine. So I will call you Maazin, whether your father wills it or no.”
Remembering, she looks up. “Where is the Lord Boromir?”
Indrani’s expression goes shuttered and blank. “I do not know, my lady.”
“You are usually better at lying to me,” Zinat observes dryly. In her arms, Maazin yawns, and Zinat feels a vast swell of affection
Indrani sighs. “Last I heard, Lord Boromir was in the musallah. Drunk. And shouting at the One that if He could not see you through this childbirth, then He was no god worthy of worship. The Lord Faramir was attempting to calm him, but—I think the length of the labor drove him to a panic.”
Zinat sighs. “Will someone fetch him, please? And inform him he has no place shouting at my god.”
“Is that all you would have me tell him?” Indrani asks impishly.
Zinat smiles down at Maazin, who has fallen asleep in her rocking arms, his cheek pressed to her breast. “You might mention that he has a son. If the subject arises.”
(Boromir bursts into the room ten minutes later, causing Zinat’s ladies to cry out–but he has eyes only for Zinat, for his son. He draws near the bed like one approaching an altar, reverence and wonder writ plainly on his face. Look at his little knees, he breathes after a long moment, and does not understand why Zinat laughs.)