Thirteen

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Thirteen
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Lily had suffered two broken ribs and a punctured lung. After nearly two week in the hospital, it didn't hurt as bad as it used to when she breathed. There were visible signs of improvement, at least in flesh.

"We hit something before we drove off the cliff. What was it?" Lily asked Daniel one afternoon while he tied her hair for her, getting ready for her first counseling session.

"It was a deer. We saw it dead by the road."

"Hmm," was all she said.

It was the deer. Everyone had panicked when it jumped right in out of the blue and slashed its blood across the windshield. If it had not caused that panic, perhaps her father might have had better control of the car and they would've been on their way home together. She would still have her parents... but could she really blame the deer? What does it know? But it was just so wrong! They shouldn't have died. It was not their time yet and it was this stupid deer that shouldn't even be there... Many people sighed at the bad karma deer brings. Many spoke of the plan and time of death that the Creator sets for each one of us. None of it made sense to Lily. It was just wrong. Someone played a bad joke on them and now she was an orphan. She had everything!

It didn't take more than ten minutes for Lily to step out of the session, looking as passive and empty as she went in. That blank look and the hollow eyes. When Daniel met the counselor, Dr. Victoria Chanu, a woman in her late thirties with shoulder-length coal-black hair and glasses, she told him Lily wasn't quite ready yet. It would take time.

When Lily was discharged from the hospital the next day, her father's eldest brother, Morong, took her to his house. He'd said, "Lily is now my daughter. My home is her home." Daniel accompanied them and helped set up Lily's room, which was actually Morong's first daughter, Teshangran's room. But she was out of state working as a flight attendant. Right now at home, there was Morong, his stout and unenthusiastic wife, Miriam, and their youngest, Rachel who read in grade seven. They had a son too, Geoffrey, who stayed at a  hostel in Imphal reading at grade twelve and barely ever home.

"I wish you could come with me," Daniel said as he settled on her bed beside her, looking into her eyes tenderly. "I did tell Pamo Morong I could take you with me but he wants you here with him. He is also right. He's your first uncle. Besides, the road to my village won't be good for you right now. But I promise to come and take you once you're good to travel. Then you can stay with me as long as you want. If you need anything, let me know at once. Remember Lily, I'm always there for you. You're not alone. Call me anytime, any day..."

"I'll be fine, Mocha," Lily said softly and Daniel almost burst into tears. He was sick with worry to the bone. How could he leave her here and return home alone?

"I wish I could take you with me," he said, giving her hand a light squeeze over the cover.

"Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. What about your school?"

"I should get to that too."

"Yeah. You were supposed to open admission last week."

Morong entered the room and handed a bunch of keys to Ronghei's house to Daniel, saying, "Here's the key, Daniel."

"Thank you. I wanted to clean up the place before I left," he told Lily, who only gave a nod and stared at her hands. She had missed the funeral service of her parents altogether and hadn't seen her house in weeks, and it broke her to even think of how empty it must be now. Once a house of laughter and love, now a haunting silence in its place that would never be filled the same way again.

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