Although three years had passed, the girl still didn’t know if fleeing Palaedia had been a good idea.
But she hadn’t had time to think. She had just bundled her brother up in her arms and ran — ran far away from the bodies of her parents, from the little shop she’d grown up in, from the land she'd once called home. The distance didn't matter, though. The memories of that day had followed her like a shadow. As if they were imprinted into the backs of her eyelids and she was cursed to relive those moments every time she dared to blink.
“Did you sell anything?”
Abhipadma’s sullen tone made it clear he already knew the answer. The girl wrangled a smile onto her face as she closed the front door to their hut behind her.
“Don’t worry,” she said, carefully lacing her voice with an encouraging chipperness as she put down the garments she was carrying on the small cot they shared. “Tomorrow promises to be a better day.”
“That’s what you say everyday.”
The girl’s smile waned. Her brother flopped onto the ground, tracing idle patterns in the dust. The wheeze in his breath seemed louder in the silence. The girl had thought that the clean ocean breeze of Orion's peninsula would help him but the dirt carpeting the floor of their hovel dispelled any possible assistance. It settled in his lungs, filling his insides with a perpetual haze.
“It’s killing him,” she thought, running her gaze over Abhipadma’s sunken cheeks and his dull, lifeless eyes. “His home is killing him.”
It wasn’t a matter of if, but a matter of when. She had to get him out of here.
“No,” she said firmly. “I mean it this time. Tomorrow will be different. I will make it different. I promise.”
Abhipadma laughed, but it was a hollow, horrible sound. “We’ll see.”
The girl watched her brother, despair gnawing away at her heart. The boy who'd stubbornly declared he would never grow up, who'd dragged her into games with pudgy and persistent fingers, had been replaced by someone she didn't recognise.
And she was afraid she would never get him back.