Badria wakes. The sun is not yet up. The cock has not yet called. Perhaps it was the hoot of loons, the stirring of goats in the barn, the restless wandering of the wind among the budding cherry trees

“Does the wind taste the tart ripeness of the fruit?” she wonders.

She bends to the fire. Charcoal is dear and they have little. Badria tries to ignore the cold of her hands, the chill that sneaks beneath her heaviest robe. The fire must be used to heat water for Farzam’s tea, to heat the rice for his breakfast. For Badria’s part, cold water will do; whatever warmth lays hidden in yesterday’s rice pot will suffice. But Farzam’s tea…

“Where does the winter go?” she asks herself. “When the earth comes back to life? When the nights again are warm and the days glow with heat and desire.”

Perhaps the teacher who has come to the village knows the answer to such questions. She would ask him if allowed, but Badria is not allowed. Women do not speak to men—not even to teachers. Particularly not to teachers. It is written. That is enough.

The spark catches. The handful of straw flares. A corner of the rich charcoal smolders. While the red heat spreads, she fetches water from the well. The water is clear and cold. She uses some to wash her face. The hem of her garment serves as washcloth. As Badria walks, the wet corner clings to her leg.

She giggles. Sensation is enough to bring laughter or tears. Badria’s body sings. It is the song of life. How could it be otherwise, even at eleven years she is woman. Even at eleven years the child within her blooms.

It is written. That is enough.

Farzam will soon wake. “Where is my tea?” he will bellow. She will have it ready. He will be pleased. He will not hit her. He will not curse her father for a bad deal. He will not demand the three goats back. She will be worth the price.