War that started near the Afghani borders has erupted in Kabul. Laila hates the bombs whistling overhead, the sound of pending destruction. The streets are patrolled by militia and Laila rarely leaves home. When she does, she's always with the protective company of Tariq. One afternoon, Tariq shows Laila the gun he's bought and tells her he's willing to use it to defend her. They share their first kiss.
As the battles escalate during the spring and the start of summer, Hakim decides to take Laila out of school to keep her safe. In the evenings after work, Hakim goes over lessons with Laila. Although she admires her father's teaching skills, Laila is constantly distracted by her emerging feelings for Tariq.
One summer day, a rocket kills Laila's good friend, Giti, when she is walking through town. At the funeral, Laila breaks down in tears — for her friend, and for the brothers she lost when she was very young.
In Chapter 24, Hosseini shows how gender influences Tariq and Laila's experience of war-torn Kabul. War acts as yet another limiting factor on women's lives. In addition to domestic and religious expectations, war keeps women at home. Whereas Laila used to travel about as she pleased, as violence increases, Laila's trips outside the home become infrequent until finally she is taken out of school for her own safety. The cruelty of these limitations is enhanced by the fact that in Afghan society, it is men, not women, who decide to wage war in the first place — .
Tariq's experience of the war is empowering rather than limiting. Tariq takes on the masculine responsibility of protecting women, particularly Laila. This responsibility gives him confidence, even though he's nearly just as likely to get hurt as Laila is while walking the streets of Kabul. Tariq purchases a gun — a symbol of power. After showing his gun to Laila, Tariq confirms his sense of masculinity by kissing her. War's limiting power over Laila serves to make her even more desirable to Tariq — she needs him more than ever now, not just emotionally, but also as a defender against physical injury.