A Cup of Friendship by Deborah Rodriguez

By Deborah Rodriguez

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Sunny concurred. And they both smiled. Halajan walked down the back hallway to the door that led to a small courtyard behind the café, where she could have some privacy and take off her hot, itchy scarf. It was the only way a woman could do such a brazen thing in Kabul these days and not be stoned. Ach, the stupid Talib idiots, she thought as her plastic shoes click-clacked on the marble-tiled floors, one of the many improvements Sunny made to her house. What little men they are, she thought, to put women back in the burqa.

You want to eat? ” They reluctantly handed their firearms to Sunny, who then handed them to her barista and right-hand man, Bashir Hadi, who put them in the back room, where weapons were stored along with mops and brooms. They took off their leather jackets and scarves and Sunny hung them in the front closet. She met Bashir Hadi back at the counter. “I have some errands. I’ll be back as soon as I can,” she said, taking off her apron. “I’ll go with you,” he said, as he always did. “I’m fine,” she replied, in their daily tradition.

But then Tommy found contract work in the south, first doing security for an NGO—a nongovernmental organization—then training the Afghan military, and finally becoming a sniper. He was paid more than he’d ever imagined making in a lifetime, so he would be gone for long stretches at a time. Sometimes he’d call telling her he had a weekend off and they’d both fly to Dubai, which was surprisingly easy and worth every penny, for furtive lovemaking in a fancy, high-rise hotel. But mostly it was long stretches of waiting, trying to live her life, pretending she was independent and strong when she was just a woman spending her life waiting.

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