Throughout the first two days in the cave, Ron and Shara talked about their past, mostly their family history. Each took time alone by the pond to clean. Ron spent hours towards the entrance of the cave writing in a small 5 x 8 journal that he took with him on missions. He wrote about significant events and even drew sketches whenever he had time. Shara prepared meals on a scheduled time, usually as the sun dropped below the western horizon. The meals consisted of flat-bread and rice usually, and always coincided with talk, laughter, card games, and hot tea.
Mornings were becoming Ron’s favorite, the time to see the sunrise from the Hindu Kush with a cup of hot tea in his hand. It was also a time when Shara conducted her morning prayer. He waited until she finished and then would stay there for a few moments more to pray himself. Throughout the day, Ron returned to the same spot at the cave entrance to attempt contacting members of his team, write and draw in his journal, and otherwise sit and watch the wind whip dust devils across the valley below.
On the third morning, day six, Ron made sure that he woke early along with Shara to follow her as she walked, mat under arm, to the cave entrance. Shara knelt down to begin her Morning Prayer ritual, although still aware of the fact that Ron stood to her left at the entrance. Right after the third time she rose from her bow, she kept her eyes forward, staring straight ahead and said to Ron. “Join me if you wish.” She then slid over to her right leaving a small amount of space on the mat where Ron could kneel.
Ron did not say a word but he knelt down next to Shara, and before he bowed his head, he noticed their shadows against a golden ray of light across the western portion of the cave wall. After bowing his head low to the ground, he kept it there for the duration of his prayer. Then he whispered the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6 and Luke 11, meditating on its words. He followed this by whispering Psalm 23. When he sensed that Shara finished, he added, “And please protect Shara and me from harm in the days to come. Amen.”
Both he and Shara sat up on their knees and exchanged glances. Ron got up first and then held out his hand to help Shara stand up next to him. She extended her hand towards him and once she had been helped completely to her feet, they stood looking at each other for three seconds. Then Ron broke the silence. “Thank you for letting me pray with you this morning.”
Shara looked back Ron, smiled, and said. “You are welcome. Thank you for joining me.”
“Ba kamale meil (My pleasure).”
Then the two of them went to share some more hot tea and breakfast together, another moment that Ron savored each morning. Shara talked about herself, background, dreams, and ambitions during their morning cups of tea. Ron found Shara to be an amazing girl, one who had risen against overwhelming odds.
Although he liked being at the cave with Shara he knew that they would need to move away soon and could not remain. Ron enjoyed Shara’s company, her mere presence. He liked watching her, liked the way her eyes met his that always resulted in her luminous smile. Her lovely and graceful form combined a strong will and determination, all attributes that Ron felt would fit well into his world. Here, she would have nothing but heartache.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked.
“Well, to be honest, you.”
“Really? What about me.”
“I was thinking how sweet you are, how wasted all your beauty is in this place, how you should be in America.”
Shara smiled and thought a moment. “Believe it or not, I have always dreamed about going to America, even before I met you.”
Ron pondered her words a moment. “I will see what I can do to make this possible for you.”
“You have such powers, Hawk?”
They both laughed. “I wish. But, do not give up your hope.”
“I will not. You are the closest that I have been to my dream.”
During the days spent in the cave, Ron could hear the distant sounds of the JDAMS bombs being called in on the Taliban across the valley. Ron knew that Chief Hall and SFC Banks set out ahead of the team, most likely with one of the Air Force liaisons to call in the strikes from another high location. On occasions, Ron heard the Taliban chatter on the Motorola from Mazar and knew that if nothing else, the bombing had a huge psychological affect based on their panic stricken voices.
Captain Carter and his team continued north along the Darya Balkh River, calling in strikes along the way as they pushed north.
Unbeknownst to Ron, his team faced a battle near a village called, Pol-i-Barak, which sat between the converging rivers of Darya Balkh and Darya Suf. With Masood’s cavalry and Mohaqeq’s infantry, all to coincide with the precision smartbombs from the US Air Force, the Taliban were soundly defeated again.
Ron decided to venture outside the cave to look around before it got too dark. Walking back inside, he found Shara busily washing herself at the designated cleaning area of the pond.
She had a loose robe draped over much of her body, but her wavy sand-colored hair hung over her exposed shoulders and a smooth, gorgeous, leg as she had it lifted onto a two-foot rock while carefully tending to her injured foot. When Ron spotted her, he wanted to turn around quickly to avoid being seen. Instead, he hesitated briefly, long enough for Shara to look up and take notice of him standing there watching her.
Shara did not try to take cover, nor did she say anything. She simply looked at Ron and smiled.
“I’m sorry.” Ron said, while finally turning around.
“You do not need to be sorry.”
He turned around to look back at her. “I,” Ron hesitated, I was looking for some rope. How much rope do you have in here?”
“We keep a couple of bundles here. One, I used to help you up the cliff. Remember? It is over there on the ledge.” Shara lifted her right arm to point in the direction of the rope. By doing so, whether intentional or not, her robe slid partially off of her right side exposing much of her front curvaceous body.
Ron quickly turned his head to where she was pointing and walked briskly to get the rope. “Thank you!” He yelled back. Then he muttered to himself, “Ghad! Get it together, Hawk! Get it together.”
“I did not hear you!” Shara called out to him.
“Nothing. Just talking to myself,.” Ron yelled.
Ron grabbed the rope and took it outside, trying hard not to look back at Shara. He then gathered the other one that was now piled at the base of the tree. Sitting down and pulling out his survival knife, Ron grabbed two equal strands of the rope and began to secure each strand to the base of the tree with a timber hitch knot. Then he cut one-foot pieces of rope from the second bundle and used each piece as rungs for a rope ladder. He cut out 16 pieces into twelve-inch lengths. Ron made sure that the two strands he used to secure with the timber hitch knots were spaced apart enough to leave a few inches on the left and right sides of each rung so that he could create loops with both of his hands. Ron let each strand sit in the groove of his thumb that he turned up to create the loops where he then inserted his thumbs.
Moments later, Shara walked out to the entrance of the cave. “What are you doing?’
“Hey, I’m glad you’re here. I need your help for a minute, please. I’m making a rope ladder.”
She came to his side. “You cut the rope.”
“Yes, but I’m making it easier for one person to be able to climb up and down this cliff.”
“What can I do?”
“Insert those pieces of rope that I cut into this gap that I have with my thumbs.”
Shara grabbed a piece of rope and placed it through the two loops that Ron held open and then let go of the rope.
“I need you to keep holding the rope, please.” Ron said as he sat there with his arms fully extended maintaining the loop hold.
“I wish I had a camera,” Shara said laughing. “Maybe I will go back inside now.”
Before he could respond back, Shara stepped forward towards him, very close, and reached for the rope, removing it from his hands slowly. “Like this?” she asked while holding the rope in place.
“Tashakur.” Ron said looking at her. He began securing each end with a square knot. “We have fifteen more like this to do.”
“Ba kamale meil.” Shara responded with her stunning smile.
When they had finished, Ron threw the tail end of the rope ladder over the 12-foot cliff. Looking at Shara, he said. “Now watch how easy this will be.”
Ron turned around and began climbing down the ladder until he reached the bottom. Looking back up at Shara, he said, “Come on down. Try it.”
“Sure.” Shara climbed down the ladder until they were face-to-face below the cliff.
“Well?” Ron asked.
“Wasn’t it easier than before?”
“I will let you know after I climb up.”
As Shara started climbing the top, Ron waited until she got half-way up and then he began shaking the ladder.
“Earthquake!” he shouted.
Shara held on tightly and yelled something at Ron in Pashto that he did not understand. He knew enough by her tone of voice that he had better start holding the ladder steady though.
“That was for leaving me with my hands up earlier.”
“You crazy man!”
When Shara reached the top, she turned around quickly and began pulling the rope ladder up. Ron grabbed it before she could get the bottom of it past him.
“Come on up, funny man,” Shara said. Then, she held out her Peshkabz knife and started to cut the rope.
“You wouldn’t.” Ron said.
“Oh no? You are Hawk, correct? You can fly up.” Then, Shara started to cut the rope.
“Wait! Don’t do it!”
Shara started laughing. “I got you, didn’t I?”
Ron just shook his head and muttered, “Women.”
“What did you say? I could not hear you.”
“Will you let me come up now?”
“Of course. Why are you down there? Hurry up so we can have some tea.