Chapter 6

Zavala lays Hakim down on his bed, supporting him so that his head comes to rest softly on the pillow. Safiyah pulls his blanket up, trembling, stopping short of drawing it over his face.

When she reaches for her husband's hand beside her, she realizes she is stained up to her elbows with her son's dark, blackened blood. The blood of a deep, interior wound.

Zavala reaches for the edge of his son's blanket, adjusting it to cover Hakim's shoulder, carefully, as if he is afraid to wake him.


"What will you do now?"

Amani has a way of cutting to the heart of things. Hakim has been buried for a month. Flowers on his headstone. The sisters sit, overlooking the graveyard. The night air is thick with summer warmth. All is silvered in the moonlight. The cicadas sing. The world does not stop and witness her grief.

Safiyah shakes her head, silent. Her sister puts an arm around her shoulders.

"You will have to decide."

The silence grows heavy. She feels Amani draw her into an embrace.

"He was a good boy," her sister says, and Safiyah hears the quaver in her voice. "Stubborn and brave, like his father."

They part, and Amani clasps Safiyah's hands in hers. Her sister gives a sad smile; Safiyah does not return it. Her grief is solitary. Inward. She cries when she is alone.

"Zavala is at Hakim's grave most nights," Safiyah says at last.

But not tonight.

"Sleep," her sister says. "Sleep, and think about your future. Here, or elsewhere."

"You want me to leave?" Safiyah asks. Amani shakes her head, squeezes her sister's hands.

"No. Never. But I want you to find your joy again. I don't believe you'll find it here."


"Bring him back."

Safiyah hears Zavala's voice when she returns home. She follows the sound to their bedroom.

"Bring him back," he demands again. There is a tremor in Zavala's voice. Safiyah peers through the slip of space offered by the unlatched door. Her husband faces away from her, speaking to his Ghost.

"I can't," Targe says.

Targe stares up at Zavala. She can see the Ghost shivering.

"Take my Light and bring him back." He struggles at every word.

"You know I can't."

"Would you?" Zavala asks, something clawing into his voice. "Would you bring him back, if you could?"

If Targe speaks, Safiyah doesn't hear it. But she hears the scrape of Zavala's gun on the nightstand.

"Find a way. Bring him back," Zavala pleads.

Safiyah doesn't hesitate when she sees Zavala raise the weapon. She swings open the door. Her husband flinches, turns, sees her standing at the threshold. Careful, she walks to him, puts a hand on his arm, lowers his gun. Zavala falls to his knees, the gun clattering to the floor.

Safiyah reaches for Targe, and he floats to her. She holds him in her hands. There is a thrum, a warmth, in her palms. The Ghost's singular eye, pale blue, looks up at her. She remembers all the times he hovered just out of Hakim's reach, teasing him, playing with him. In that moment, she knows that Targe loved him too.

"We cannot change what happened," she whispers to her husband. "This will not change who we are."

She thinks he will turn to her and ask, Who am I? But he doesn't. Targe leaves her embrace to hover beside Zavala.

"I can't stay here," she says. He says nothing. He knows himself—and he knows who she is too. She is certain.

Safiyah searches his face. She sees Hakim when she looks at him. She sees her own pain, reflected in his eyes. And she sees his pain as well, just as endless as the years he will suffer beyond her own. Safiyah looks away.

"I can't understand eternity," she says, sadly. "I don't know if you can either. But you will live it. I will not."

Zavala takes a hard breath, and the sob drags itself from his body. She looks at him again.

"Don't forget us, Zavala." Her voice breaks. "For all your years. Please."