Mahtab finds her children and grows into a strong woman
| As the weeks went by Mahtab shined. She learned quickly how to read and write. She took care of her husband, and they both glowed with new love. He had more energy for his work. Everything to him now seemed bright and godly, but one problem still haunted him. Her children. He had promised her he would find them, but how could he. She didn't know where she had been, where her children had been sold, and she had no pictures of anyone. He hired an artist to teach Mahtab to draw, and she could draw the glimpses of these memories from her mind.
She first drew a dark picture of the obese brother-in-law staggering over her with a half-crazed look and in the backgroud her husband and the sister-in-law laughing. She had to face her fears first. Next she drew the faces of her children, round cherry faces with bright eyes and light flyaway hair, one girl and two boys. She drew huts and mountains and village women in traditional dress. The teacher started thinking he knew the area of these traditional people near to the northeastern border of Pakistan. Dr. Azadi called his police friend, Naseer, again, "I have another mysterious job for you!"
"It has to do with Mahtab, doesn't it?"
"Yes, I need your help to find her children. Come over at once." Naseer came over and took the pictures. He hoped he would not have to visit or find the brother-in-law again, but he had promised to help the woman with his life, and he never backed down from a promise. Dr. Azadi pledged to provide the funds for the search. Naseer asked Mahtab the names and birthdates of the children. She felt ashamed that she didn't know their birthdates or the birth years. Those years were like living in a prison all locked up with no information. No visitors except the midwife. No one to help her with the children. Her former husband would not let her take them to the doctor's if they were ill. He wanted them to die, but they had survived and her husband cursed at her and the children. She guessed it had been almost five years since they had been sold. She told Naseer the names of her children: Malekah, the girl, must be around 9 now. Iman, the oldest would be about 13 and Rahman the second son would be about 11 now.
Naseer returned to his police department and put in a missing persons report for each child to be sent to all provinces and towns. Then there was the waiting. After almost a month, Naseer received a report that there were two boys working together lifting and carrying items over the mountains and sometimes got work with the local farmers. Naseer responded with the message to keep the boys in sight and he would come to investigate. It took almost 20 hours to drive to the location, and with the help of the locals, he found two boys living in an abandoned metal container, living off bread and water. He asked them their names, the oldest spoke up, "Iman, and this is my brother Rahman." He asked if they remembered their mother's name. They didn't remember the name, but they remembered the face. Naseer showed them a picture of their mother on the phone, and they confirmed it was their mother, but they were too tired for tears. Naseer took them to the police car, drove them to a local hostel and had them bathed and changed into new clothes. He ordered a dinner of Shorwa-E-Tarkari for them and let them rest before interrogating them on the whereabouts of their sister.
In the morning, he let them wake up on their own and then asked if they knew where their sister was. They remembered their father had sold her to a farmer and his wife in perhaps Konar province. Naseer gathered the boys and they all piled in the car. It was off to Konar province to find the girl. He stopped along the way asking the locals if there was an old couple on a farm with a girl about nine years old. After what seemed an endless number of stops, he heard that there was an old man whose wife had died a year ago who was living with his young daughter. They obtained the directions and set off to the farm. As they approached the farm, a young girl in worn clothes came out to greet them. The boys were excited for they thought it was their sister under the hijab, but they couldn't be sure. They were directed to enter the house where they found an old man slumped in a chair.
Naseer greeted him and asked him if he had purchased the girl about five years ago. The old farmer confirmed that he had. He and his wife didn't have children and they wanted a daughter to help in the house. He said he loved the girl as his own. Naseer first thanked him for taking care of the girl, and added that the girl's mother was looking for her. The old man replied he would be heartbroken to lose her and didn't want to sell her back. Naseer inquired the old man and the girl's name. The old man told him his name was Mirzakhan and the young girl was Malekah. When the boys heard this, the whooped and hollered and hoisted their sister in their arms. Naseer quickly thought of a deal. He promised to pay someone to look after the old man's farm and he would drive them all to the city to see her mother. After a bit of negotiating, the old man agreed to this plan. Naseer, the boys, Mirzakhan and little Malekah set off on the journey to see Mahtab. Naseer stopped along the way, buying a new set of clothes for Mahtab and making sure everyone was comfortable. He had called Dr. Azadi to let him know that he had found the children and they were coming back, coming home.
Mahtab prepared for their arrival. She hired more housekeepers and cooks. She renovated the rooms for the children to sleep in. But harder yet, she had to prepare her heart to see them again. She felt guilty for having not fought for them. She felt weak, but she asked God to forgive her, and she had to forgive herself. She would not let them leave her sight again. She would make up for what had happened.
All along the way, Naseer kept the children and the old man busy with stories from his being a police, and also told them about their mother's adventures. The children also had much anxiety about seeing their mother again. Would she love them? Would she want to keep them? Would her new husband be kind to them? Naseer reassured them that they would be well-loved by Dr. Azadi and Mahtab.
It had been a long ride. Naseer pulled up to Dr. Azadi's house. He didn't have to sound the horn as Mahtab and Dr. Azadi had been anxiously waiting by the window since they had been told the news the children had been found. Mahtab raced to them with faintful legs. They yelled, "Mama!" and she fell at their feet and kissed them from head to toe. Dr. Azadi stood behind them all, enjoying the scene of this long awaited homecoming. He greeted Naseer with a hug and kissed his cheeks, and wiped the tears from his own eyes and peeped out, "Thank you, brother. I owe you so much." Naseer helped Mirzakhan from the car, and introduced him to Dr. Azadi and Mahtab. Mahtab bowed her head with her hand on her heart and thanked the old man for taking care of her daughter, and assured him he was welcomed to stay for as long as he wanted and that they would help him in any way he needed. Then Mahtab took the children into her arms and turned to look at Dr. Azadi. "Children, this is your new father, Doctor Emir Azadi. He is kind, and you can call him Agha if you wish. He wants to help us." The children cautiously approached him one by one and kissed his hand, saying, "Salaam Agha."
Dr. Azadi cleared his throat and said in a loud voice, "This is a day for celebration. Welcome children to your new home. I trust you will all be kind to your mother. You must obey her. She has been through hard times, and so have you, but with God's grace we can make it through all the difficult times. Tonight is a night for eating, talking and dancing!" They invited the aunts and their families as well as Naseer's family. Mahtab excused herself from the party to say her prayers. She asked the gardener to take food to the homeless children at the edge of town and she prayed, " Thank you God for your goodness, and let us never forget those who need our help. Amen."