When Layla’s father is murdered in the Karachi desert, he leaves behind mysteries about his life–and about Layla’s birth. Exposed to the realities of police corruption, child trafficking, and entrenched classism, she must find the truth or risk losing her identity and the people who matter to her the most.
Layla hid in the dark kitchen, waiting to see who came down from her father’s bedroom, waiting to see the face behind the voice.
Within minutes she heard footsteps. But not on the marble landing inside the house. Someone was clanging down the spiral, wrought-iron staircase that reached down to the front lawn from her father’s bedroom balcony. Layla rushed out the front door and nearly collided with the figure picking her way across the grass. Both came to a halt, face-to-face on the dark front lawn, lit only by dim globe lights flanking the gate at the bottom of the driveway.
“You must be her,” the woman said through reddened lips. She was older, in her twenties or even thirties. “The daughter, supposedly.”
Layla nodded, unsure of what that meant. She watched the lady adjust her white chiffon dupatta around her shoulders. There was no sound but the fluttering of fabric in Karachi’s sea breeze, cool in the desert night. But Layla’s forehead prickled with perspiration, and her long, brown hair stuck to the nape of her neck.
“But you–” she started.
“What about me?”
Layla couldn’t take her eyes off those lips, red like runny ketchup. Pulling her eyes away, she spotted the spiral staircase, glistening black and snaking up from behind the woman’s head all the way to the bedroom.
“I know who you are,” Layla whispered.
The woman’s mouth became a sneer, a bold, red check mark. “But do you know who you are?”