Twelve

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Dziirai - Brother in Poumai

Twelve
☢☢☢

Daniel and Pavei were stacking up the chairs they'd borrowed from the village youth club when Khosiivei, one of Pavei's friends, sped into the front yard on his motorbike, dusty head and nearly falling off as he drifted to a halt. The sun had long gone, leaving the sky in a deep shade of purple.

"Dziirai Daniel," he panted without getting down and stared at him, pale-faced as if he'd just encountered a ghost. He couldn't bring himself to tell him.

Taking notice of the ghastly face, Daniel's thoughts, somehow, went for Lily at once. He put the chairs down and asked, "What is it?"

Khosiivei swallowed, sweated, and said, "Lily and her parents... they drove off the cliff."

"What?!" Pavei exclaimed and turned to Daniel who glared hard at Khosiivei as if he'd made up a very bad joke he could never accept.

"Where?" Daniel demanded, hands balled into tight fists at his sides.

"It happened about three kilometers after the next village..."

"Oh, God," gasped Pavei.

"Lily..." Daniel asked in a choked voice, and Pavei saw hot tears gather in his big brother's eyes. He had never seen him cry.

"She was still alive when we found her," Khosiivei said... as if death was all she had to expect... as if she had died. "Some people have taken her to the district hospital. They're on their way now. I came to tell you right away."

Tormented with the news, as if he'd just been given fifty lashes and choked nearly to death, Daniel groaned and sank onto the nearest chair, wiping his face. He could barely stand on his two feet.

"What about my Paate and Darcha?" he looked up at Khosiivei with a distraught face.

Khosiivei shook his head as he struggled to give him an answer. "I don't know, Dziirai. We only saw Lily by the road. Some of the men have gone down the cliff to look for them."

Daniel looked away, groaning again and holding his head between his hands, eyes shut close as he fought to register what he'd been told. They were with him nearly two hours ago. How could this happen? How the hell did this happen?

God! Lily.

I shouldn't have let them leave.

He turned to Pavei and told him to get the keys. Pavei ran inside and came back out immediately, Che Dune and Puh Khozii, and his cousins right behind him in panic.

"What is going on? Is what I'm hearing true?" Che Dune looked at everyone, hoping she was wrong but no one said anything, and Daniel already looked as white as a ghost.

He took the keys from Pavei and climbed into his truck. Pavei followed him without a word, and so did Khozii. They screeched out of the yard, leaving a thick cloud of dust behind them. Che Dune paced around the porch, asking the rest what could be done until she sank to the porch steps and wept.

Pavei and Khozii braved through the ride, nearly fearing for their own lives as well, as Daniel barreled down the rattling road. But nothing could've saved him from the agony that awaited him. An hour down the road, by the edge of the cliff, under a weak moonlight, lay Ronghei. Motionless in the dirt. And nothing would wake him up again. He'd left.

A small crowd had gathered around him and they stepped aside when his son arrived for him. Somewhere, in a different land, somewhere far away, he might have heard the boys weeping–the grief and the heartbreak–might have felt his hands on his bloodied cheeks, but he was not coming back.

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