It's been a long time since sharing on a Fiction Friday. I'm so excited to be hosting this week. After reading, leave a comment and a link to your site where we can come enjoy the fiction you've chosen to share.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with a group of Indian (Hindu) women in a small preschool. While they were educating their children, I found there was a lot I had to learn as well and I grew to really love these women and children. I'm a little nervous about sharing this one. I may have gotten facts crossed with others. Just know, it is my hope to honor these people as I write this because they're close to God's heart as much as any one of us are.
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Children crowded through the door as though each believed someone would decide there was plenty on the plane and slam the door on the rest. A dimpled fist wrapped around Semony Dilhon’s wrist. Turning to shoo the person attached to the wrist off, she found herself staring into a soggy face half her height. Curls plastered against the girl’s face, green goo stretched from her nose to her chin. Eeewww… Semony clenched her fist. The desire to jerk her arm away from the snotty mess next to her grew with each sniffle and dripping tear. Instead, rolling her eyes, she moved forward as the others pushed in behind her.
Why don’t they say something? She glared at the grownups with clipboards.
“Semony Dil-Dil hon?” the woman, called Miss M.—because her name was long and difficult—barely looked up.
Semony chewed her tongue. Couldn’t anyone pronounce her name right?
Apparently she was expecting something. “Semony.” She glanced around, before locking eyes with Semony. “Ah, I remember.”
She waved Semony ahead and another, older child, showed her to her room. A quick look around confirmed Semony’s fear: no safe place to hide. A bunk and a twin bed hugged the walls opposite each other. If she’d had a choice, she would have stayed home. At least there she knew what to expect. Here, little slimy people followed her as though she were their savior.
Well, I’m not.
She deposited her bag onto the bottom bunk, heaved a sigh, and sank to the mattress. This wasn’t going to be anything that her rescuers had promised. Death would be better. To follow her family into the grave, security and comfort awaited her. But death denied her entrance. Even in starvation, she begged for death but somehow she wasn’t found worthy. Maybe her parents’ god wasn’t as caring as they’d told her. It could be they were deceived as the soldiers accused.
That must be what happened. Their god didn’t see, and the Hindu gods couldn’t help them because they turned their backs on them.
Semony vowed in that moment. Never make the gods angry. If she must live, she would please them; make them know she has good karma.
Footsteps tip-tapped toward the door. A quick scan of the room revealed no place to go. Another in the room would insist she meet their gaze. But if she wasn’t seen…
She scrambled from the bed, slid under the bunk and pressed her body against the wall. Four feet approached. One whimpering, another consoling, Semony guessed who was in her room. Slimy-green-goo-nose-girl.
It was the woman who hacked her name.
“Semony, where are you dear?”
I am no deer.
The woman turned, sinking onto Semony’s bed. Slimy-green-goo-nose-girl joined the lady. “Semony, are you hiding in here? Come on out and meet your roommate.”
Pressing harder against the wall, Semony wished she could disappear. Her face burned. She wouldn’t allow anyone to see her weak. Her breath came in shallow whispers. If the gods loved her, Miss M. would leave her alone. If the gods loved her, slimy-green-goo-nose-girl would stay away from her.
“Listen, Amelia.” Miss M. stood. “I’m going to see if I can find Semony. You stay here. Everything will be all right.”
“Y-ye-es Ma’am.” Sniff.
No. Don’t stay. You can’t stay. This isn’t right. Semony knew, they weren’t supposed to be together. The girl—Amelia?—was obviously not Hindu. She couldn’t possibly be Semony’s roommate. It would make the gods unhappy. Wouldn’t it?
Or—maybe—if she was kind to the infidel girl, the gods would look on her with kindness. No. Only those born Hindu were chosen, special, to serve the gods. Those not chosen to be Hindu must have made the gods unhappy.
Semony may only be thirteen but she felt, and others said, that she had a mature grasp of their faith. No one could convert into or out of Hinduism. They’re chosen. Their fates are sealed. To try and deny this truth is to question the gods. And no one questions them. Turning their backs on the gods is what brought trouble on her parents. Semony had to remind herself of this. Her parents tried to leave, to make alliance with the Christian God. This is why they are dead. She would remain faithful.
Clamping her eyes shut, she prayed. Please, help me be faithful to you. Help me to please you. I do not want the same fate as theirs.
The moments ticked by. Semony listened; the room remained silent then a sniff followed by ragged breaths. She rolled her eyes. She’s still crying? Ugh.
Would it hurt so bad to offer a sleeve, or a shoulder? She didn’t have to follow their god. Wasn’t it part of their Hindu faith, to be kind to others? Weren’t they a peaceful people?
Before she could move, Miss M. returned. “I can’t find her anywhere. Come with me. You can stay with me until supper.”
“S-supper? I’m hungry.”
“Soon, my dear.” Her voice was kind, although Semony hesitated to trust. She was, after all, a grownup, a Christian, and one like those who led her parents away from their gods. Yes. Be careful with that one. Pulling back the hand she’d extended when she considered leaving her hiding place, she waited for the two to leave.
Their voices faded, the door clicked. The room, once again, was silent. She was alone again. Maybe she could stay here until they reach their destination. What about being nice to the girl? She screwed up her nose. Slimy-green-goo-nose-girl … gonna be stuck with her until the end of this trip. Maybe I’ll stay here.
She rolled her eyes. How her mind shifted faster than a see-saw she couldn’t understand. Her father laughed at her indecisiveness. Her mother shook her head. “Make up your mind, child. You’re making us dizzy.” Laughter in their home had been a normal thing—something she could count on. No more. She must make up her mind and hold herself true to it.
The day grew long and the room darkened. “Lights out.” Miss M.’s feet lifted from the floor. Semony’s heart groaned. She’d hoped to climb upon her bed. To do so now would reveal her secret. She would never be safe again. Her stomach grumbled, tattling on her resistance to supper time. How could she come out then? It would have been as dangerous as now. She pressed her hands into her stomach, hoping to squelch the angry tones threatening to expose her.
Music filled the room, a soft cello caressing her ears until her eyelids drooped. Just five minutes, and I will feel better.
Karlene A. Jacobsen