I am in the Capitol City now. It takes two days by bus to get here. Two days of 14 hours driving. Well, 12 hours driving and probably 2 hours of miscellaneous stops to use the great Country X toilet and eat stuff.

I am sore.

Lucky for me, I had a great seat in the front (#2. If you are ever in Country X and are prone to motion sickness, book early and get seat #2. Or #1. You can see out.)

I am not really sure how to catch you up. Was it an eventful few days since I last wrote? Probably not. But now that I have time to sit still, I realize it is full of sparkles. Should I tell a coherent story, or just the sparkles?

But maybe the sparkles don’t make sense outside the story. Maybe the story is almost sparkle

C spent Christmas Eve at my house. I went around 5 to pick her up from her house. Walking down the road toward the bazaar, where I live, she suddenly seemed to remember how to chatter and she began to tell me about the meaning of prayer flags. Then someone walked by, asked her something, and she forgot to finish what she saying. I lost the thread. I figured she lost the thread too. I learned about Country X hell, but I still don’t know what prayer flags really mean.

She spent most of the evening on the phone with boys. Four of them, I think. One potential boyfriend (He asked her out. She isn’t sure.) Three friends. I did not tell her they probably wish for more. That’s not really a sparkle. It’s just what happened. C was in my house. She sat in a corner of my bedroom and talked on the phone. There was, I guess, a feeling of “fine” about it. It’s hard to explain the fine. Maybe like she wasn’t in “ma’am’s” house. She was in my house. I mean, that is what just-turned-14-year-old girls do.

We got dinner out. She was not afraid to be with me, the way she might have been even a week ago. She wanted chow mein, but she got mo-mos instead. And I made her wait an unreasonably time because I wanted roti. Then we went back to my house and we ate. She confessed she hates my cooking (not in those terms). It is like what her step-dad makes when he cooks. I was not surprised.

Then she slept in my bed with me. Or rather, she talked to the not-boyfriend while I fell asleep. It was wonderful to have her there with me. She is there, with me. She is absolutely, completely safe. I can hear her breathing, and I know she is alive and sleeping.

Towards morning—I woke up at midnight and after that did not sleep very soundly, as happens to me sometimes, when there is a lot to process (people can be safe now)—she curled up close to me and put her head on my chest. I stroked her hair and she moved away again. I wondered if any part of her unconscious knew what she had done. C never touches me. She bends her head so that I can kiss the top of her head, but she does not touch me. If I hug her, she stands there, sometimes stiffly and sometimes softly.

I made pancakes in the morning while she slept—she asked the night before about the ingredients, as if wondering aloud if I had them in the house. Then I rather rudely woke her up by yanking off the covers. We ate. I let her try a piece of dark chocolate she didn’t like. I let her unwrap her present. Then I walked her home. It was 9 by then, and she was worried that her mom would be angry. Her mom had said to “come fast.”

So I went to where mom was weaving and apologized. I said, “C told me she had work at home, but I wouldn’t allow her to go.”

When I came back an hour or two later with presents for the rest of the kids (I hadn’t been able to get one for her brother the day before), I asked C quietly if she gotten scolded.

No.

Anyway, the kids opened their presents. The class 6 girl played with the blocks I gave to her one-year-old brother. Her 7-year-old sister took the jumprope I gave to the Class 6 child and went outside to play with it. So everyone was happy.

Her mom sent the Class 6 girl upstairs for a rachu her neighbours were selling, saying Madam brought Christmas presents for all the kids, but we have nothing for her. C told me to leave it and her mom would do the fringe for me.

So when I came in the evening again, that is what C was doing. Watching TV and slowly doing what has to be done to the fringe to make it look nice. (I watched. I have no clue how to do it still.)

I stayed until 8, when she begged me for the third time to leave. She was scared I wouldn’t get home safely.

I hugged her and went. She said, “When you leave Y-town, call me.” I said I would send a text, since the bus was leaving at 6 am.

***Interlude***

There are more sparkles, but it is bedtime now.

I am in the Capitol City and C is not answering the phone tonight, but I feel almost certain that she is not dead.

 

 

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