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from Hiren's Journey by Rebecca Onkar

Chapter 7

Abel’s hand stopped in mid-smack on its way back to his older brother’s chest.

“Hiren,” she said again and lightly tapped her own chest with her fingertips.

“He–ren.” Bram recovered his tongue first and repeated the girl’s name a few more times. She didn’t respond except to nod her head one time while looking Bram in the eye.

“Bram. Abel. Hiren,” Bram said gesturing to each one of them in turn. Then he laughed once and clapped Abel on the back.

Both brothers rose and walked back to the bench and sat down.

“She probably needs some food,” Bram said.

“And clothes,” Abel said and he stood up and walked out of the house.

Bram glanced after him with a puzzled expression on his face and then just shook his head, looked over at Hiren, who was still in the corner, and said, “I’ll make some food, not caring that she didn’t understand. It just felt good to know her name. Progress.

Bram found some potatoes and carrots and washed them off, then cut them into large chunks and threw them in the pot of boiling water that he started. He sprinkled in some salt and finally covered the pot and lay down on Abel’s bed.

Bram awoke to the sound of sizzling. He hadn’t even realized that he’d fallen asleep. Shaking the slumber from his head his eyes found the cause of the disturbance. He saw that his pot of vegetables was boiling vigorously and pushing the lid up, causing water to spurt out on to the coals beneath. For a moment he was at a loss of what to do. Then he saw a long stick by the small fireplace and used it to knock the lid off the pot. Immediately the boiling slowed down.

Suddenly Bram remembered Hiren in the corner, and his head swung in that direction and saw that she was sound asleep crumpled on the floor. He decided to just leave her there and focused on the vegetables.

Taking large black prongs, he removed the pot from the fire and placed it on the ground next to it. He took a spoon and scooped out a few potatoes and a carrot.

After letting them cool he shoveled some into his mouth. The carrots were mushy and the potatoes were still slightly raw inside and both were much too salty, but they would do.

Placing his dish aside to be washed later, Bram bumped into a wooden container of utensils and sent it crashed to the floor with a huge clatter. Once again Bram’s head swung to the corner of the room. This time Hiren was sitting straight up and wide awake. He couldn’t see the expression on her face because evening had fallen and the sun was nearly set, casting long shadows into Abel’s house and obscuring her features. However Bram was fairly certain she had that look of terror on her face again.

After a few minutes of searching Bram found and lit both a large candle and a lantern, figuring the more light the better, although Abel was certain to scold him for lighting both. Let him scold, Bram thought.

He scooped out some of the vegetables and salty broth and was ready to serve them to Hiren in the corner but he stopped midway and turned to the table and placed the plate there. He went and found a bit of old stale bread and placed it on a plate next to the vegetables. Finally, he placed a cup of water next to the plate.

He walked over to Hiren and standing in front of her he started gesturing toward her and then over to the table of food. Back and forth. Then he went and patted the place on the bench in front of the food and signaled with his hand for her to come over, all the while saying her name, “Hiren. Hiren.”

At last she did rise and walked to the table. By the scared look on her face Bram deduced that she must be very hungry.

When she sat down she simply stared at the food on her plate for a few moments. Bram realized that he had forgotten to provide a spoon and went to search through the utensils scattered on the floor. Finally he spotted one, brushed it off on his shirt and took it to her. As he reached the table he saw that she was already eating. In her hand was a piece of the hard bread that she had torn off and with that she was scooping up the vegetables and placing them with the bread in her mouth.

Bram watched her for a moment and then turned and replaced the spoon and the rest of the utensils in the container and put them back on the shelf. He also picked up the rest of the stale bread and took that over to her.

Hiren ignored him completely as she ate. Weeks of inactivity and nausea were exchanged in a day with activity and stress. Both increased her hunger mightily.

As Hiren was biting into her second chunk of bread, Abel walked in the door carrying a small chest. He placed it with a loud thump on the table next to where Bram was standing and a small scattering of dust flew off the wooden box and up into the air.

“Clothes,” was all Abel said and then he walked over to look at what was in the stew pot.
Bram paused a moment and then opened the box. It was stuck tight so Bram knocked the side of it with the heel of his hand and the lid came unstuck with a loud pop. Hiren, who had ignored the entire transaction until this point, nearly fell off the bench she jumped so high. Bram murmured “Sorry” in a soft voice before looking into the box.

Olive’s clothes. Bram didn’t recognize them but he was fairly certain that they must have belonged to Abel’s wife. A quick look through the box revealed two everyday day gingham dresses with white aprons and one pale blue and white Sunday dress. Also there was a pair of worn in but still serviceable shoes in the bottom the box in much better condition than the ones Hiren was presently wearing.

Bram looked up and caught his brother’s eye. “I left the clothes with Olive’s father after she died. Figured they might come in useful to you and to her,” nodding toward Hiren.

“They should fit her,” Abel continued. “These were Olive’s dresses from before the baby. She kept them in this box for after... They might be a little big, but Thea can adjust...” Abel paused and looked down at his hands and didn’t say any more. He turned toward the stew pot and scooped out a small amount of food.


Bram wondered how Thea might feel upon seeing her sister’s clothing on this strange girl.

Thea and Olive had never been close as ...

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