Heidi scowled at her reflection in the lake. Using her stick she shuffled closer towards the edge. She would have jumped if her age didn’t prevent her, but instead she just let herself fall.
A wave of water hit Heidi. She took a deep breath from the shock. Her body spluttered as the lake took her for his own.
When her lungs filled with water, Heidi felt a pang of regret. What about her family? How would they cope without her? How would she cope without them? She fought against the current pulling her under. The lake wasn’t going to let her escape now- it pulled on her every move.
Abruptly, Heidi’s body stopped fighting. She could no longer feel her aching joints. The water swirled around her body, Heidi was dancing with the waves. Finally at peace.
I could swear she was smiling when she came to face me.
When I approached, Hibiki was curled up tightly like an unborn foetus. He wasn’t shivering anymore. I’m not even sure he could feel the cold at all.
The boat rocked Hibiki’s body from side to side. “Shhhhh. Shhhhh.” Hibiki sung with the ocean.
His father stood above him, “We’ll reach the shore soon. You’re going to be okay.” Hibiki attempted to reach out in response but only managed to spread his body further across the floor. One of the crew tucked Hibiki’s arm back under the blanket. He placed his only coat on top of Hibiki.
“Stay with us.” As much as Hibiki tried to obey his father, his body prevented him.
He was tired. He let go.
His father’s shaking hands searched for a pulse. Hibiki’s struggling lungs took a few slow, shallow breaths. The boat hit the shallow sand. Too late.
I wrapped my warm arms around Hibiki.
Sammie slammed the empty shot glass down on the table. She screwed her face up from the taste and checked if she had notifications on her phone. None.
“Stop checking that damn thing.” The barman looked at Sammie with disdain. “Live in the real world.”
She decided to ignore his comment. She couldn’t face an argument right now. “Another shot please.”
Just then Sammie’s phone rang. She answered it immediately, gathering up her stuff to leave. The barman turned around with the shot, only to find his customer halfway across the room.
Once outside, she took a deep breath as if this alone could sober her up. Sammie clambered into her car, throwing her phone down beside her. She didn’t look around as she pulled out- there was no time to waste.
By the time she saw the truck, I was already there. Her scream was caught in her throat.
Sweat dripped down the side of Ebele’s face. She twisted to vomit in the bucket beside her bed. There was nothing left inside her to throw up. Ebele continued to dry-retch. It hurt to move. She shivered and pulled the blanket up around her neck.
An older woman mopped Ebele’s forehead with an old rag.
Ebele forced her aching legs to stand. She felt dizzy.
“You need rest Ebele. Everything else can wait.”
With a wave of her hand Ebele dismissed this woman’s advice. Ebele was old enough to know what this meant. Many people in the village had died from malaria. She had to say goodbye.
Ebele’s headache intensified as her vision blurred. She reached out to hold onto the bed, but her hand found me instead.
I took her hand in mine.
Ebele began to shake. Her hand fell from mine. Lungs filled with fresh air.
PICTURE: from the front cover of ‘The Book Theif’