As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

Author:Zoulfa Katouh [Katouh, Zoulfa]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: 2022-09-13T00:00:00+00:00

The next day, Am finally has new information regarding the boat.

“It will be here in ten days. Twenty-fifth of March. We meet by Khalid Mosque at ten a.m. Do you know where that is?”

I nod. Baba and Hamza prayed Juma’a prayer there every Friday. It’s a ten-minute walk from Layla’s home.

“Good. Bring the money or there’s no boat.”

I grind my teeth. “I know.” But before I can ask about Samar, he shakes his head and walks away. My stomach feels queasy, and I hide out in my medication stockroom until Dr. Ziad needs me.

My mind wanders to the boat, and an anticipation builds in me, my fingers tingling with the promise of safety. For Layla to finally be able to sleep in a bedroom that doesn’t remind her of her incarcerated husband. Where Baby Salama would take her first steps in a house filled with flowers and the aroma of freshly baked fatayer.

My daydreams scatter with a quick knock on the stockroom door.

Kenan smiles. “Hey.”


“Dr. Ziad is looking for you.”

I jump to my feet. Dr. Ziad is in his office and when I walk in, he stands.

“Salama.” His face is white, his expression twisted with a silent pain.

Immediately I’m on edge. “What?”

Dr. Ziad looks at Kenan. “Can you give us a moment?”

Kenan glances at me before nodding slowly and closing the door behind him.

Dr. Ziad rests his hands on the desk. “I’m not going to sugarcoat this, Salama, because it’s not fair to you, and you have the right to know.” He takes a deep breath and I begin trembling. “One of the Free Syrian Army soldiers was here with information concerning detainees in the military’s detention facilities. The ones who are alive. Your brother is on the list.”

The wind has been knocked out of me.

Dr. Ziad massages his forehead, his eyes shining with tears. “He’s alive, but your father passed away.”

I’m detached from my body, my mouth uttering in a voice I don’t recognize, “Where is he?”

Dr. Ziad’s eyes don’t meet mine. “Sednaya Prison.”

The floor is falling apart, and I sway before catching the door’s handle. Sednaya Prison is one of the most brutal detention facilities in Syria. Located near Damascus—a two-hour drive from Homs. The place is worse than a death sentence. Its prisoners are stacked atop one another in cells too small to breathe in.

“I’m sorry, Salama,” he whispers. “I’m so sorry. Please, take care—”

“I need to leave,” I interrupt, flinging the door open and rushing out. My feet pick up the pace until I’m outside and I collapse over the hospital’s steps. My breaths heave in and out.

“Salama!” a voice calls, and I look back to see Kenan standing at the top of the steps. “My God, you’re shaking.”

He shrugs off his jacket and drapes it across my shoulders before sitting beside me. I close my eyes, breathing in the lemon scent of it, praying it’s enough to put the darkness back in its place. Minutes or hours pass, I don’t know, but he stays beside me on the broken steps, waiting.


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