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We were eleven and twelve years old; our limbs had grown a bit taller, a few more teeth had fallen out and been replaced, our faces and minds had matured, but deep down our essence was still the same.

I didn't want to get out of bed. The view from my bedroom window predicted it to be a crisp and clear autumn morning. The tree crowns swayed gently back and forth in the wind. I imagined they were waving a sorrowful goodbye to what little still remained of my sleep.

Mjinska had already been in my room to warn me that Yuri was on his way. I had grunted and wrapped the duvet tighter around myself as a response.

I closed my eyes in protest and bargained with God to grant me eternal rest.

A small part of me kept insisting that if I complained loud enough, strapped myself to my bed and stood my ground firmly, my father and Yuri would tire of me dragging my feet. All I was really asking for was for them to forget about my existence, just this once.

Light streamed in through narrow slits in the draperies, and cast long lines of light onto the walls. The air felt suspended in the room. If in that instance, I had attempted to strain my ears I would have heard the muffled barks of the hunting dogs chained outside by the gable. But there was someone much closer who stole my attention. My father's footsteps scuffed about in the living room upstairs, getting the last preparation in place for the hunt.

The dogs belong to my aunt's husband, Mr Benofs. Yuri, I remembered, was also bringing over his mutt.

I groaned inwardly.

This predicament of mine had set into motion the prior evening, over dinner at our residence. During the course of the meal we had somehow diverged onto the topic of hunting. Mr Benofs told the table that he and my father were planning on 'catching game' early the following morning. A discussion about the health of one of the dogs followed, but by then I had successfully zoned out.

Mr Benofs said something which brought my attention back to the table. He had said that hunting was a man's sport and that a boy who hadn't killed his first game at the age of twelve would remain stuck in boyhood forever.

I frowned and looked up at him in disbelief.

- It's common knowledge, he said with a nonchalant shrug.

I looked over at my father and saw that he was nodding in affirmation. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Did it mean I had to kill an animal to become a man? I felt sick to my stomach.

My father went on to tell us a story about when my grandfather had taken him out to shoot his first buck. He was an animated storyteller my father, and Yuri had fallen for all the colourful adjectives being thrown around the dinner table. He had gotten a gleam in his eyes which I knew meant he was inspired to do something reckless. He asked Mr Benofs if he could join them hunting.

Mr Benofs smiled like the Cheshire cat.

- Well of course young man.

I burned holes into the side of Yuri's face with my glare, but he successfully avoided looking my way for the rest of dinner.

Yuri had this obsession with my father. I thought that he sought too much approval from him. I would point this out to him at times, but he would deny it or shrug it off by saying that I was just rude in comparison. I couldn't have known what Yuri was thinking at that moment, but seeing as my father had been carefully listening in on his and Mr Benofs's conversation, I somehow suspected that Yuri wanted to appease him by appearing as the more sensible of the two of us.

Whether or not he had intentionally done so, he had fallen head first into my father's trap and, in the process, had dragged me down along with him.

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