My first phone conversation with her was very emotional, as if I had known her all these years, even though she had remained a mystery for a decade. She
recounted her life as a wife and mother with a mix of humor and tragedy. She considered herself unlucky, but luckier than opium brides who did not have the
honorable title of wife. Darya knew other girls like her have been trafficked to become drug mules and prostitutes.
Darya's life has turned out better than I had imagined. She's the younger wife and has become the matriarch of her compound.
"Now they give me a lot of respect," she said.
She had cried for a year after arriving in Helmand, and she resisted by arguing with Sufi's first wife. Sufi beat her for disobeying. When she stopped
rebelling and completed her chores, he stopped the beatings.
"Now my hambaq (husband's other wife) and I are friends. He no longer sleeps with her. I tell her 'you send him to me now that he's an old man. I
have no use for him,'" she said, laughing.
She quickly learned Pashto, but it took her four years to get pregnant. At 18, she had a son, and he became her reason to live. She spent her days baking
bread in a clay oven, cooking, doing laundry, and looking after her child. Twice a year, Sufi took Darya to Herat to visit her mother. Her father came out
of hiding after he paid his debt in full. He still deals drugs though, she said.
On one of her trips to Herat, Darya confronted her dad for selling her to Sufi. "He told me I should be grateful because my husband can take care of me. If
he had left me to the young boys in Herat, I would've become a drug addict's wife, which is worse."
Touraj gave her the cell phone she was using as a way of making peace. Darya has forgiven her father, but not his deed. "He should've found another way.
What he did to me was wrong," she said.
During the first years of her marriage, Darya only left the Marjah compound to shop with her husband or to go to the doctor. Until the U.S. arrived with
the Afghan National Army, women could not go out on their own because the Taliban demanded that male kin accompany women in public. One morning while Darya
was busy with her household chores, Sufi took their 18-month-old outside the compound to play in the nearby creek. She heard Sufi scream, and then she saw
her dead son in his arms. The toddler drowned in the creek because Sufi had failed to watch him.
"I had lost a lot until that point, but the worst pain hit me after I lost my child. I can never forget his loss," she said, choking up.
After her firstborn's death, she had a second son, Barat, who is now 2, and a daughter, Zahra, now 8 months old. She can roam the bazaar in her burqa with
the other women from the compound. There are now fewer moral restrictions, but the night raids and house searches were a regular part of life for her
family. American troops, who have left control to Afghan authorities now, searched their compound five times in the last three years. Darya has met many
other opium brides in Marjah on her outings. A network of Helmand farmers and smugglers interact with traffickers in Herat, and bartering brides is a
regular part of business for this network.