The Misfortune of Repetition

Standard
Digital drawing. At center, two little girls. The girl at left stands a head taller, with her right hand on her hip and her left arm around the other girl’s shoulder. She wears a skirt, a quarter-sleeve pullover, a band around her left wrist, and a barrette in her hair. The girl at right holds a book open in her right hand, and touches a page with her left. Sparkles surround the book. She wears a dress with a pleated skirt. The girls smile and gaze at each other. Behind them are lines of script with random letters bordered by a lightning pattern.

It was the turning into her fifth year, when Anushka would enter the next epoch of her childhood, the first learning years.  Being a child whose family was of modest wealth, there were a few minor enchantments that were gifted to her.  One was a book that could summon any one of a hundred different fairy tales within its pages with a simple chant.  Another was a pair of boots that could lace themselves.  And still another was a mysterious card placed within a vivid green envelope embossed with the golden letters of the giver’s initials.

Anushka’s mother began to read the card, gasped, and tried to stuff it back into the envelope.  But the card jumped out of her hand, spun in the air before the child, and read itself.

“I give you the fortune of repetition,” an unfamiliar voice said.  “You will speak no other words but what is spoken to you.  You will be an echo of others, with no name of your own.  I grant you one mercy.  Only those who truly know you will know your true name.”

When the voice began to speak, all were shocked and horrified.  And again, Anushka’s mother tried to grasp the card, but it slipped away.

As the voice spoke its last words, Anushka’s parents and the gathered guests appeared to grow sleepy.  Then, they snapped out of their momentary drowse and began to laugh and smile again, as they had been doing before the green envelope was opened.  That envelope and the card within fluttered to the ground, forgotten by all.

Frightened, Anushka wanted to cry out to her mother.  But when she opened her mouth, nothing came out.

Her mother showed her one of the gifts she’d just received, a hairpin colored blue, like Anushka’s dress.

“Say ‘thank you, auntie,’” her mother instructed.

“Thank you, auntie,” Anushka said to one of her distant elder aunts, who had given her the hairpin.

She tried to say “mother” again.  But again, she could not utter the word.  She grasped her mother’s hand and tugged and pointed to the card fallen to the floor.  She wanted to tell her mother that she didn’t like that card, that the card was bad.  Something bad had just happened. 

But when her mother turned to where she was pointing, she saw nothing, for the card and the envelope it had come in had vanished.

“What is it, Tiya?” her mother said.

“It was right there!” Anushka wanted to say, but she could not say.

She could not say anything.

“Aren’t you a darling thing?” one of her aunts said.

Anushka turned to her aunt.  “Aren’t you a darling thing,” she said.  And all the grown folk nearby burst into laughter.

Anushka glanced at her mother, whose mouth and cheeks were smiling, but whose eyes were not.

It was her birthday, and so she was given attention by many, but she noticed that everyone was calling her Tiya.

“My name is Anushka,” she wanted to say.  But she could not say.  She could not say her own words.

She could only repeat what others said, or else remain silent.  She could speak no thoughts of her own, no words of her own, including her own name.

That card had something to do with it.  That speaking card.  But what was the reason for this cruel “gift”?  And who sent it?

Anushka was then too young to ask such questions.  She was only afraid and confused.  And so she ran away from the grown folk, and her mother let her, for it was her birthday.  She ran to her best friend, her favorite first cousin, Mitra.

***

Mitra put a hand on her younger cousin’s shoulder.  “Why are you crying, Anu?”  She frowned.  “Was someone mean to you?”

Anushka’s shoulders hitched twice from the gasping breaths she took.  Her face was hot and her cheeks were wet with tears.  She had pulled Mitra out of the room and up the stairs away from everyone else before she started crying.  And she had swallowed the scream that wanted to burst out of her throat.  But when she heard her cousin speak her name, that scream vanished.

“Mitra, what’s my name?” she asked,

“Anushka.  Why?  Is this a new game we’re playing?  Is that why everyone is calling you ‘Tiya’?  I missed the rules.”  Mitra sighed.  “But it’s not my fault.  I spilled lemon juice on my shirt and Ma made me go clean it up.  But it’s only lemon—Anu, what’s wrong?”

Anushka did not understand, but she did remember everything that the card had spoken.  And as she recited it to her cousin, Mitra crossed her arms and tapped her foot. 

“Yes, I remember now,” she said.  “All the grown folk were scared, and then they were not.”  Mitra sighed again, and her own eyes turned dewy.  “If only grandmother were here, we could ask her.”

Anushka had not known their grandmother well—the mother to their mothers—but she trusted Mitra’s judgment, and so she too regretted that there was no grandmother for them to go to.  Mitra seemed to believe that Anushka’s fear of the strange gift was what left her speechless when she tried to call her mother.

The girls stayed upstairs until they were called down for the eating of the sweets.  It was only then that Mitra observed that everyone was calling her younger cousin ‘Tiya.’  And that no one found it strange that Anushka could not speak unless she was first spoken to, and even then, she was only able to repeat what she heard.

And when Mitra tried to say her cousin’s true name aloud, she found that the name stuck in her throat.

As soon as they were able to, the girls stole away to be alone again.  And when they were alone, Anushka found that she could speak.

“Mitra, what’s happening?”

Mitra was a couple of years older.  And until a year prior, she had lived near enough to their grandmother to start hearing stories about sorcery.  For their grandmother had been a seasoned sorceress herself.  So it was that Mitra reasoned out what had happened.

“That card was a spell—a cursing spell it sounds like,” Mitra said.  “It cursed you to only say what other people say.  You can’t speak your own words.”

“But…I can when I’m with you.”

“I think it’s because we’re best friends, Anu.  Because I know everything about you—more than your parents, or anyone else.  So the curse didn’t work on me.  But everyone else has forgotten your name.”

Anushka’s lip began to quiver.

“Don’t worry,” Mitra said, taking her cousin by the shoulders.  “If I can remember you, then I can tell everyone else, and the curse will be broken.”

***

That evening at dinner, Mitra tried to tell their family the truth.  No one remembered anything about a green envelope with a talking card.  They thought Mitra was making up a story—a vivid one—to entertain them all.  But her mother warned her to stop.

“You’ll frighten the younger children,” she said.  “And poor Tiya doesn’t need to hear about being cursed on her birthday.”

Mitra frowned at her mother, but looked away when her mother frowned back. 

Anushka had her fists clenched all through dinner.  She kept stretching her neck and taking breaths that she eventually exhaled as sighs.  She was trying to speak.

Mitra felt helpless as first, but then she had an idea.  She told Anushka to whisper her thoughts in Mitra’s ears, then Mitra would repeat the words to Anushka, and Anushka could speak them.

They tried, but when Anushka tried to whisper, she still could say nothing.  After dinner, when some family began to leave, and others spread about the house to relax, the girls tried again.  When they were alone, Anushka was able to tell Mitra what she wanted to say to her mother. 

They went before Anushka’s mother, and Mitra whispered Anushka’s words back to Anushka so that she could speak them.

And it worked…except that Mitra’s mother was there too, and she thought that her daughter was feeding the words to Anushka.  She threatened to separate the girls if Mitra didn’t stop teaching mischief to her young cousin.

The girls clutched each other.

“No!” Mitra said.  “Don’t separate us!”

“No!” Anushka repeated.  “Don’t separate us!”

Anushka’s mother smiled.  “No one will separate you, girls.  But Mitra’s story is over.”  She took her daughter by both hands.  She smiled again, that smile that only reached up as far as her cheeks.  “And there is nothing wrong with not being able to speak your own words.”

Anushka huffed out a breathed and frowned at her mother.  “Speak your own words,” she said.

And she was too young to quite know what she meant, but her mother drew back, surprised, and she peered at her little daughter.

***

Mitra was allowed to stay overnight with Anushka.  And for a while after they were admonished to go to sleep, the girls stayed up and spoke.  And when Anushka lamented that she wished she knew how to write, so she could write a letter to her mother and explain everything in her own words, she gave Mitra another idea.

Mitra wondered if writing her words was a way that Anushka could get around the spell.  That very night, she began teaching Anushka. 

“I know my letters,” Anushka said.

“Do you know how to write your name?”

Anushka shook her head.

“Then that’s where we’ll start.”

Learning how to write her name and her cousin’s name, which she was surprised to find was easier than her own, Anushka forgot all the fright and sorrow of her fifth birthday.

Smiling, she watched Mitra write.

***

Throughout the rest of her fifth year, Anushka learned how to write so well that Mitra was impressed and said that Anushka would catch up to her and surpass her.

“You’re bright, Anu,” Mitra said.  “And quick.  Like lightning.  Like your true name.”

For Anushka meant “lightning.”

Alas, only Mitra was able to read what Anushka wrote.  To everyone else, Anushka’s writing looked like gibberish.

As they grew older, Mitra continued to teach Anushka, long after her teachers had given up the task, even the ones who believed that they could discover some way to help Anushka convey her own thoughts.

When Mitra asked to be the translator of “Tiya’s” written word, she was denied.  The grown folk around them just thought that Mitra was making “Tiya” speak Mitra’s thoughts and words.  Some teachers thought that the girls were trying to cheat, having the older, cleverer Mitra do the work that her young cousin was supposed to do, but could not. 

Because Anushka could not convey her thoughts in any way that others could understand, it seemed to many that she did not have any thoughts of her own.

But Mitra always told her cousin.  “You are the bright one.  And the quick one.  Like lightning.  Like your true name.”

As they grew older still, Mitra and Anushka did all they could to try and teach Anushka’s parents everything about Anushka, so they would know her and remember her name, the name that they themselves gave to her.

And as they grew older still, several years older, Anushka began to feel guilty for being so dependent on her cousin.  She watched as Mitra sacrificed her time with her other friends so that she could help her cousin.  Some tried to be Anushka’s friends, but they could not know Anushka, for they could not know her thoughts.  They did not even know her true name. 

Mitra found out that “Tiya” meant “parrot.”  And that’s all Anushka was to everyone save Mitra.  Anushka knew they could not remain joined at the hip for all their lives.  She did not wish to hold Mitra in place with her.

But Mitra felt guilty too, for not solving the riddle of the spell that was cast on her little cousin.  Being older than Anushka, she felt responsible for saving her cousin from a curse disguised as a gift.

***

Mitra’s latest idea was a good one, Anushka thought. 

“We should have done this sooner,” Anushka said, as the girls prepared to go out to the garden and propose their idea to her mother.

Mitra shook her head.  “Traveling to grandmother’s house is a long journey.  We may only be able to go once, so it’s best that we waited.  We are old enough now to know what to look for.”

The girls knew that their grandmother was a sorceress in the old country from which their family had come.  And Mitra had started writing letters to their cousins who now lived in their grandmother’s house.  She had begun to suspect that the curse laid on Anushka might have come from one of their grandmother’s rivals, that maybe it was even meant for their grandmother.  But since she passed away, the curse had found its way to one of her heirs.  Anushka was named for their grandmother.  That may be why the spell found its way to her.

Now, Anushka was approaching her thirteenth year, a year for which she could request an extravagant gift.

So the girls went out to the garden to help Anushka’s mother with the spring plantings, and Mitra announced that Anushka had written her birthday request out for her to read to her mother.

“Is that so?” Anushka’s mother replied.  She glanced between the girls and asked to see the page, even though she could not read it.

She gazed at the page and sighed, before handing it back to Mitra.

She nodded to her niece, who began reading the request.

Mitra watched the bemusement on her auntie’s face shift.  Brows slowly lifting at the center.  Smile relaxing and dropping into a small gape.  Gaze darting from niece to daughter.

“What say you, mother?” Mitra finished.

Anushka clasped her hands behind her back and met her mother’s gaze.  “What say you, mother?”

***

Anushka’s request was granted.  And not only was Anushka allowed to go, Mitra would be as well, if she wished. Anushka’s mother would be their escort.

The girls had hoped, but not truly expected, that Mitra would be allowed to go as well.  Anushka had not visited the old country since before she could talk—or parrot, so far as everyone else knew.  And she did not remember that visit.

They both noticed that Anushka’s mother observed them intently as they traveled.  She watched Anushka write words that she could not read.  And she watched Mitra read those words as easily as she read the words in the two languages that she had learned to read in school. 

A few years before, she had asked the girls if the writing was a secret code between them.  She surprised the girls by recognizing a pattern in the shapes that she saw.  And she had asked Anushka if she could try again to learn how to write in a known language.   

Her mother’s words had pierced Anushka’s heart.  To halt the pain of that piercing, her heart burst into flame. 

Anushka had frowned and glared at her mother.  She had wanted to say, “I have been trying, trying all this time.  You try!”  But she could not speak the words.  Tumultuous tears welled in her eyes, and when her mother tried to embrace her, Anushka pushed aside her mother’s arms.

But when she saw her mother’s confusion, Anushka calmed.  All heat was doused, and she was left with a scorched heart that felt only pity for her mother, and for herself.

“You can’t rely on Mitra forever,” her mother had said.

And Anushka had nodded.  “Can’t rely on Mitra forever.”  She could see that her mother knew that she understood. 

Her mother threw an arm around her shoulder and said, “But we are lucky to have her.”

“We are lucky to have her,” Anushka had repeated.

***

Anushka and Mitra were greeted warmly by their cousins and aunts and uncles.  They stayed in their grandmother’s house, which was much bigger than they had imagined it would be.  It was three levels tall and many rooms wide.  Two families stayed there and there was still room for guests. 

On the second day of their visit, they were shown into their grandmother’s library.  No one else went in the room, save to clean and tidy.  Books filled every shelf that lined every wall, and the ones that could not fit were stacked in every corner.  In the center of the room was a short cabinet full of scrolls and loose sheets.  Most of the books were old and outdated, and quite ordinary.

The family kept them, because they were instructed to, according to grandmother’s last wishes, and because they would have anyway as heirlooms. 

Anushka and Mitra visited the library every day, sorting through the books, to the chagrin of their hosts, who had hoped to show the girls all the places in their town that young girls would find captivating.  They had not intended to make their guests work at tidying up. 

But the girls insisted that they were enjoying themselves.  And on the seventh day, they found something on their own that captivated them, a series of handwritten journals.  The journals seemed to be written in their grandmother’s hand.  It was difficult to tell for the journals made no sense.  The characters were all familiar, but they formed no recognizable words. 

“Could it be…some kind of code?” Mitra wondered aloud.

Anushka stared at the script on one page.  She was certain she could almost grasp some pattern, some meaning.  Her gaze shifted over the page, across it, and onto the next, and the next.

She suddenly sat up straight.

“Repetition!” she said.

Repetition.  The code was repetition.  A letter repeated with a certain cadence, but another letter repeated with a different cadence.  Anushka could see the pattern.  Some of it ranged across more than one journal. 

She wrote down the first line of the first journal—at least the first according to the dates noted within.  It took her several minutes as she flipped through the journal finding the correct letters.  She tried to show Mitra what she was doing, but Mitra had difficulty following. 

The first line was a declaration that these were the journals of the sorceress Anushka.

When Anushka—the younger Anushka—was finished writing the last word, she looked at Mitra, grinning. 

“I can read it, Mitra.”

“Are you certain?”

Anushka nodded and repeated her own words.  “I can read it.”

Mitra peered at the journal, at the translation.

“This is no coincidence,” Mitra said.

“This is no coincidence,” Anushka repeated.

***

“Maybe it wasn’t a rival who sent that spell of repetition after all,” Mitra mused as Anushka worked to translate the rest of the first page.  “Maybe it was grandmother herself.”  She paced across the library.  “But why would she do such a thing?”

“Was she angry with me? Or…with mother?”

Mitra shook her head.  “I never saw grandmother get angry.  But if she ever did, she wouldn’t curse anyone.  I don’t think she would.  Maybe it wasn’t a curse after all.  Maybe it was meant to be a gift.  Maybe something went wrong.  They say grandmother was a seasoned sorceress.  But what if she was not as skilled as…”  Mitra shook her head.  “I’m sorry, Anu.  My guessing games don’t matter.  What matters is that we find—you find—some way to break the spell.” 

There were a few dozen journals. And though they were not thick volumes, their grandmother’s script was dense. 

“I’ll try to help if you teach me,” Mitra said, “but I’ll be much slower than you.  This might take us all summer.”

***

It took much longer than a summer to translate even one volume.  Anushka was allowed to take all the volumes home with her, so long as she took good care of them.  She emptied a chest full of old clothes and kept the volumes in there, carefully sealed against water and sunlight.  She kept her own notebook within as well. 

But it soon became clear to both girls that to translate any further might be dangerous.  There was a reason their grandmother wrote the journals in code, and it was likely not just to thwart rivals or enemies.  Anushka had already read of tricky potions requiring the use of substances that could injure or kill.  Mitra remembered a severe scar across the inside of their grandmother’s upper right arm.  It looked like a burn, one that their grandmother described receiving after handing a particularly volatile toxin.

“She was still young enough to make reckless mistakes,” Anushka said.

“So are we.”

“But what’s the harm?  Only you can read what I write.”

“You’re probably right.  But, Anu, if you translate all the journals just so I can read them, it will take you a lifetime.  You’ll go faster if you just read them yourself, and tell me when you’ve found something that can help you.”

Anushka agreed.  She began to just read and study her grandmother’s journals, which were organized in some places, and haphazard in others.  There were recipes for potions next to stray notions, and chants meant to be spoken next to drawings of mystical tokens.  Every summer, the girls would revisit their grandmother’s house.  They would search for and find some of the items—both useful and not—that were noted in their grandmother’s journals.

While they searched for an end to Anushka’s curse, they found other ways to circumvent it.

They found a couple of talking stones that Anushka learned how to attune to herself and to Mitra.  The stones allowed them to speak to each other from a distance, and better yet, Anushka could speak without having Mitra next to her.  Mitra could whisper the words through the stone. 

But she would still need to know what Anushka wanted to say.  So Anushka found a bottle of enchanted ink.  When splashed onto a properly treated piece of parchment, the ink would form the letters that were written by an enchanted quill to which the ink was connected. 

Mitra would keep the parchment, Anushka the quill.  So long as Anushka’s penmanship was clear, Mitra would be able to read what Anushka wanted to say.  For the first time since she could remember, Anushka felt as if she had regained a part of herself.  But it was not quite the same as having her own words.  If Anushka needed to speak when Mitra was away from the parchment, she would still find herself wordless.  And even though Mitra told her to call on her whenever she needed, Anushka often resisted that need.  She could not be free of her curse, but at least her cousin could be, if only sometimes.

No one seemed surprised when Anushka—Tiya to everyone else—appeared to be speaking her own words.  As Anushka adapted to the curse, so did the curse adapt itself to her it seemed.  Most found some explanation or other for why Tiya was no longer a parrot. 

There was one exception, Anushka’s mother, whose mind already held a seed of suspicion.  That seed began to sprout.  It grew even more when Anushka seemed to show some interest in gardening, and even demonstrated some skill in growing the most delicate and delicious variety of strawberries one summer—the blue sugar strawberry.  Under Anushka’s seemingly enchanted thumb, the blue sugars thrived.  Sweet and fresh from the vine, and growing in such abundance that her mother had enough to make a few cakes and tarts.

Anushka had learned the trick of growing the blue sugars from a lengthy section in her grandmother’s fifth journal.

***

Three years passed in this way. 

Anushka and Mitra kept no secret about what they were doing.  There was a curse upon the girl the rest of the world knew as Tiya.  And the two girls were determined to break that curse.

The rest of the family thought it was harmless.  There was no way that the two girls had broken the secret code of a seasoned sorceress. 

But in the third summer, after returning from their visit, Anushka read something in her grandmother’s journals that upset her so much that she locked herself in her room.  

For three days, Anushka would not emerge.  Her mother left meals by her door, and sang songs to her at bedtime. 

Weeping, she pleaded with Mitra.  “Only you can break this sadness that’s come over her.  Only you ever could.  If I could do it, I would.  I would take all her pain and sorrow and leave her only with joy.  It’s too much to ask of you, but I ask it anyway.”

But even Mitra could not console her, or persuade her to say—or write—what was wrong.

On the fourth day, Anushka opened her door to her cousin.

“It doesn’t smell as bad in here as I expected,” Mitra said.

But Anushka did not smile.  She sighed and took a seat by the window.  One of their grandmother’s journals was open on her writing desk.

“I had hoped to find a contradiction before I reached the end,” Anushka said.  She turned to Mitra, who expected to find the telltale signs of crying on her younger cousin’s face.  But Anushka’s eyes were not red and raw.  They were clear and resigned.  Her face was not puffed but smooth and blank.

“From the beginning, from that first book, she had said that curses cannot be broken,” Anushka said.

Mitra pursed her lips.  “You never told me that.”

“Because I did not want it to be true.  I thought, so long as the words aren’t spoken, they’re not true.”

Anushka at last revealed that throughout the journals, her grandmother had written many things about curses.  She had corrected her knowledge on many points.  But one thing about curses she had known from the beginning. 

Curses could not be broken.  And they could not be removed.  They could only be passed down.  So even if Anushka was content to live her life as a parrot, she would doom her children—at least one of them—to bear the same curse.

***

Mitra did not know what to say.  She began to pace.  “You’ve only read the journals once.  It’s possible there is something you missed, or something you don’t yet understand.  You are learning quickly, but there is always more to learn.”

“There’s no hope, Mitra.  At least not for me.  But there is one bright side.”

Mitra spun around and threw up her hands expectantly.

“Both of us can set down this burden now,” Anushka said, “of finding some way to break the curse.  I can study grandmother’s journals and translate them for you, so you can pass them down to your children.  But—“

“You’re right, cousin.  You should set your burden down.  You’ve been doing all the work until now.  Leave it to me for a while.”

“Mitra…”

“I just have to come up with my next idea.”

“…I don’t have a choice.  But you’re not cursed.  Don’t feel guilty about leaving me behind.”

Mitra stopped pacing and sat down before her cousin.  “Alright then, if you’re cursed to be a parrot then repeat what I say next.”  She grasped Anushka by the arms.  “If I cannot break this curse, then I will bend it as far as it will go.  If I cannot remove this curse, then I will transform it.” 

Anushka paused, then spoke the words, but with little conviction.  “But how?” she said. 

Mitra snapped her fingers and pointed to her.  “The curser gave you one mercy, remember?”

Anushka shook her head.  “Everyone would have to know me for the curse to be done.  It’s not possible for everyone in the world to know me.”

Mitra could say nothing to that.

She tried to think of something, but it was Anushka who spoke next, asking Mitra about her friends, one in particular who seemed to fancy her.  They began to speak of everything but curses and sorcery until Anushka’s mother called them down to dinner.  They rose, and Mitra opened the door, but stopped when she felt her cousin’s hand on her shoulder.  She turned toward Anushka.

“Thank you, Mitra,” Anushka said, as they stood in the last glow of that day’s sun.  She put her hands on her cousin’s shoulders.  “I am still young.  I have plenty of time to read grandmother’s journals again, and again.  To study them closely.  And even to study sorcery as a trade.”

Mitra grinned.  “Truly?  I thought sorcery would suit you, but I didn’t want to press you on it.”

“Most do not think I am very bright.  And one has to be bright to study sorcery, but I think I may have found a few tricks that might help me with that.” Anushka tipped her head toward the chest full of their grandmother’s journals.  “Some of sorcery is about words, but some of it is about gestures.  And gestures I can do.” 

Mitra laughed and embraced her cousin.  They broke apart, and Mitra crossed her arms and smiled.  “You’re not bending the curse,” she said.  “You’re bending yourself around it.  That’s even cleverer.  I should have known.  After all, you are bright.  And quick.”

“Like lightning,” Anushka said.  “Even if I cannot use my voice, my meaning will be known.”

“Well spoken, Anu.”

Anushka’s mother stepped through the open doorway then.  She could not have heard anything the girls—mostly Mitra—spoke.  Elsewise, Mitra would not have been able to call her cousin by the short form of her true name.

And yet, she peered at her daughter with a curious gleam in her eye.  She clasped her hands together as she stepped into the room.  She took a breath.

“Anushka?” she said.

Mitra gaped.  The girls exchanged a glance, and Anushka stepped toward her mother.

“Mother…you know my name?”

Her mother raised a brow, and put a hand on her hip.  “My only daughter’s name?  Of course I know it.”

Anushka felt something prickle and crack within her, not a painful crack, but a relieving crack.  As if she carried a heavy jar, and the crack had allowed something to escape, so that the jar was just a bit lighter.  The feeling was familiar, and yet she could not recall where she might have felt it before. 

Her mother glanced between the girls.  “I came to see what you two rascals are up to.” 

Without hesitation, Anushka began to explain that she was lamenting to Mitra about not being able to break the curse upon her.

“Don’t lose hope, dearest,” her mother said.  “You have me and you have Mitra.  And I will still try to convince your father about the curse if it takes me all my life.”

She spoke as if she had always known of the curse, but then she stopped herself and told them that they could conspire into the night after dinner.  Anushka promised they would be down in a few moments, and her mother relented, leaving the girls alone once again.

Once her mother was out of earshot, Anushka turned to Mitra.  They started laughing and as she laughed, Anushka burst into tears and fell into Mitra’s arms.  It was the first time she’d heard her mother speak her true name in ten years.  She had not realized, had not let herself realize, how keenly she had longed to hear mother utter her true name. 

“Auntie doesn’t seem to realize that she hasn’t known about the curse all this time,” Mitra said. 

“It’s a mercy,” Anushka said.  “She would suffer more than I have if she knew that she had not known me all these years, almost all my life.”

Anushka told Mitra about that feeling she had felt, the cracking.  She remembered now when she had felt it last.  It was when Mitra recognized her at her birthday party, and made Anushka’s scream of terror vanish.

“The curse cannot be broken,” Anushka said, “but it can be damaged.  Maybe it can be cracked in so many places that it might as well be broken.”

“But…we had given up on…how did this happen?”

“My mother has been curious about what we’re doing.  She has been watching and asking, ever since we found grandmother’s journals.  Maybe…maybe even before then.”

“Then it’s taken her years to know you.  Will it take your father that long?”

“I hope not.  Now that we have my mother’s help.”  Anushka was a silent a moment.

“I know what you’re thinking, Anu.  She won’t forget you now that she knows you.” 

“I am afraid of that.”

“Let’s go bother her one more time, just so you can see.”

Anushka nodded.  “Let’s go bother her…one more time,” she repeated.


Copyright © 2021  Nila L. Patel

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