A Tale Of Two Cousins (Flash Fiction Part 7)

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Flash Fiction #163

This is the 7th part. The previous six parts are here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

The next day, I came back home. Nalan was still nowhere to be found.

“Arjin, I hope you have told everything to the police. Don’t you cover for somebody else. Your aunt and I talked with the police so that they will treat you well. We absolutely don’t believe you did anything to harm your cousin. It must be somebody else. Some bad people did it. You would never do something bad to your own family, right? Arjin, I am sure you have told everything to the police. You are a brave boy. As your reward, I am going to allow you to drink a little bit of my beer today. Just a little bit.” My uncle said.

“What are you talking about? Nobody is bad. I didn’t do anything to Nalan and nobody did anything to Nalan. I hope she will appear soon.” I said.

My uncle and aunt looked at each other in a silent agreement, which I didn’t know the meaning of. However their sinister plan and secret agenda were soon revealed to my utter astonishment.

Nalan, Twenty Five Years Ago

I ran out of the south gate of the university and I didn’t stop until I reached my friend Red Cloud’s home. As I rushed inside, the chickens in their yard ran away to avoid me. Red Cloud lived in the village right outside the south gate of the university. And it was one of the several villages which sent their kids to our primary and middle school.

Even though we were in the same school, the village kids and the university kids don’t usually play together. The village kids were wary of us, and we were wary of them. My mother would routinely give out warnings to me, “they are not clean. Don’t play with them. They sing dirty songs. Don’t ever sing with them. They tell racy jokes. And never ever learn from them.” My mother barked as she watched me clear the table and pile up everything to be taken to the kitchen. To save a trip, I piled as much as I could. “Haven’t I told you a millions times already? We pile bowl on bowl, plate on plate. Only the village people will pile everything up together.”

Red Cloud and I were not friends at all until our school started a “One Helps One” program, in which one kid would pair up with another kid to help with homework and test prep. Since there were more village kids in need of academic improvement, I was assigned to help two girls. Red Cloud was one of them, and we really clicked. Red Cloud hated academic study and never touched a book if she could help it. I loved her attitude, although I took my study very seriously–it was my ticket to freedom one day. I knew it. I dreamed of getting away from my parents and I hoped my study would bring that freedom to me. And what I loved her most was her utter admiration of me. Nobody in my family cared about me, but my teachers liked me and Red Cloud admired me even more than my teachers. When I helped her finish her homework, she was so effusive with happiness that I was very touched. At home, I had never experienced the natural flow of emotions. My psychologically mad and emotionally twisted parents only understood narcissistic manipulations. They never let themselves go unless they were angry. Everything else felt like a pre-arranged performance, including their laughs.

I kept my friendship with Red Cloud as much a secret as possible. My mom knew all the teachers. If people know of my friendship with a village girl beyond the two hour each week “One Helps One” program, my mom would swoop from her narcissistic high branch she usually perched upon and break us apart.

Each day after school, I would secretly sneak out of the south gate and go to see Red Cloud. Or during the weekend, I would often sneak out.

And as I saw Red Cloud, I immediately cried and told her that my cousin was trying to kill me. Red Cloud and her father listened and thought it was a joke. Anyway, I soon calmed down. Red Cloud and her father were getting ready to go to her mother’s village to help with the harvest. Her mother had already went back two days prior, and now the father and daughter would join her. It was a village about 20 miles away. Since in the Steppe, there was almost no rain for autumn at all, people didn’t have to be wary of the weather. Villages would rent the harvest machinery in turn. This week, it happened that the village of Red Cloud’s mother got the machinery and everybody would go to help the harvesting.

Actually back then, many of the village kids would be absent from school during the harvest time since they had to help with the harvest. This was why my whereabout was not reported back by any of the village kids. Their minds were mostly on the harvest and the village party immediately after the harvest.

So I volunteered to go with Red Cloud and her father. “We need as many people as possible.” They replied. So off we went. I guess if it was the non-harvest time, Red Cloud’s father or mother would have asked me if I told my parents, but during the harvest time, things became very hectic and people’s mind were all occupied with crops.

So I stayed with Red Cloud, her parents, her grandparents for a week. During the harvest time, the whole village looked different. People didn’t even go home to sleep if their home was on the other side of the village. There was a make-shift village kitchen where food were available and several grandma were in charge of the cooking for the whole village. Everybody else was busy with the harvest. Even small children were assigned the task of picking up strayed crops left by the harvest machine.

And my mother was right that they did sing dirty songs and tell earthy jokes, even if when they were very tired. I often saw men sleeping in the field. They couldn’t sleep for long since they would get cold, which woke them up and they would get up to walk back to the village kitchen for food. I felt such warmth from the villagers. They were not related with me, but I just felt that they were the normal people that I could be friend with. While my parents were the people I should be closely associate with, but I just couldn’t since they were as cold as the Steppe wind at the end of the autumn.

And when I finally came back a week later, after attending the harvest party and eating the most delicious noodles I had ever had, I was shocked to find that everybody had been looking for me.

(To Be Continued Here)

8 thoughts on “A Tale Of Two Cousins (Flash Fiction Part 7)

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