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from Hiren's Journey by Rebecca Onkar

Chapter 10
Love at First Sight

When Bram and Hiren reached Abel’s small house Bram was surprised to find Abel gone. Not pausing to wait, Bram gathered up his few belongings, and the trunk of clothes Abel had given to Hiren, and loaded them into the buckboard wagon he had borrowed from Curtis Mickelhauser to haul the church bell back to Littleton. Hiren busied herself with plucking the rest of the burrs out of her skirt and stockings; she was conscientiously avoiding Bram’s eye.

During the two hour trip to Littleton Bram spoke much, filling the time with words seemed to relax Hiren and the few times that Bram stopped speaking and the pair traveled in silence he could visibly see her body tense up and her breathing become shallow. So, Bram kept talking only falling silent when he saw his small house in the distance. At that point he stopped Marvelous, the gentle roan who pulled the wagon, and he and Hiren stared at the simple wooden house and small barn. The fields beyond the house seemed to sway on the morning breeze and when the wagon had come to a full stop they could hear the plop, plop, plop of the tricking stream on the left.

Bram was filled with a swirl of anticipation and anxiety and the combination compelled him to urge Marvelous on again; it was just a little further.

At the sight of the house in the distance Hiren’s anxiety returned full force. She had allowed herself to be lulled into relaxation while the man talked on and on in his strange language that she could not understand.

Bram. That was the man’s name. This much she understood.

Somehow she knew that she would soon reach her final destination and that she would travel no further. So overwhelmed with anxiety was she, that when the wagon stopped in front of the house and she attempted to lift her leg to climb down she found that she could not move an inch. Her legs refused to budge. At last, Hiren wrapped her hands around the bottom edge of her seat and made the decision to just stay put on the wagon. Let the horrors that awaited her in that house wait. If they wanted her, they could come and get her.

Moments later her resolution and temporary paralysis left her and she quickly jumped off the wagon and walked right into the house.

There was a baby crying.

“Mumi, Jai is so hot, he has a fever. He won’t stop crying Mumi.” Hiren pleaded with her mother to take three year old baby Jai and comfort him but Mother wasn’t rising from her bed. She had been laying there for two days, barely moving. Occasionally, she would rise from her place on the floor and crawl to the doorway of the house to vomit and then collapse back inside. Since yesterday she was vomiting right where she lay, she didn’t even attempt to move out of the house anymore.

Hiren stuck her hand out to touch her mother’s shoulder and when she did she felt the heat rising from her body. Hiren handed screaming Jai to Kusha and gently rolled her mother over. Mother’s mouth was hanging open as she slept and Hiren was shocked to see many small red spots on her mother’s tongue and all around the inside of her mouth.

“Mumi. Wake up! Mumi!” Hiren cried out and then tangled her hands into her moth...

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