So you were gone.
There was the knife, still on the counter. There was the empty egg carton. You had said you were going to the farm to buy me some golden duck eggs. Nothing less would serve. I believed you. I believe you still.
And in your place was an ancient woman with long silver hair, braided in many braids, and eyes as blue as the sea. She was once beautiful, I thought. Like a princess. Or like the coldest, starkest stone which could have been sapphire in another world. But her crown was nowhere to be found, nor the gems I knew must be hers, and she muttered as she ebbed and flowed. I cannot explain the ebbing and flowing, which had nothing to do with her movements. (There she stood at the threshold of the kitchen, between me and the afternoon light, which was caught by her shadow and turned back where I could not touch it.)
The ebbing and flowing had more to do with who she was inside. Advancing, retreating. Giving, taking. Unsettled. Nothing final. Nothing you could count on, except that the rhythm of advance-retreat would continue. All without words. I felt she was like a fairytale, with some kind of terrifying magic you could not see, could only feel, the way you feel the paradox of burning when you sit in winter on icy ground.
I stood very still, and then she moved. No, barged. As if I were not actually in the room. But also as if she was trampling into my soul. My grandmother’s white china with the silver edges was suddenly in her hands. Your silver spoon. Into the trash they went.
“You won’t be needing these, ” she turned and said.
Then she reached into the folds of her voluminous robe (who wears a robe when coming to a stranger’s home?) and pulled out a green velvet bag. I watched her pry it open with thick fingers. She produced a wooden tile, blank. The kind of tiles you always hope will come your way when playing Scrabble.
But there was no hope in the room. And I did not want to play.
The Novelist is a pleasurable escape into the known and unknown world of Laura’s inner journey. Barkat’s ability to weave poetry into prose makes it impossible not to sink into her beautiful writing. It’s one of those rare books you’ll finish but leave on the nightstand.
—Darrelyn Saloom, co-author of My Call to the Ring: A Memoir of A Girl Who Yearns to Box