Kara: Re-Assignment

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I stared into the dented plate of metal that served as a mirror. I picked up the sheers to begin the work on my hair. A monthly procedure that was habitual and necessary. A ritual that allowed my thoughts to wander to the memories that plagued me in most my waking hours. 

The lush grass of the meadow cushions my feet as they pound after the steps of the fair-haired boy in front of me. 

"Kal, wait!" I call out. He looks over his shoulder and grins. 

"Kara, you know the rules. The last one to the river does all the chores this week." He calls back.

Kal was a year older and had the long legs to match. So naturally every time we played this game I lost. Our parents trailed behind with the picnic basket with our lunch.

Suddenly mud was squishing between my toes. I was at the river bed. I glance around in search of my brother when I am forced to duck as a mud ball sails over my head. 

"Kal!" I squeal in protest. 

I scoop up my own handful of mud to retaliate. Mud begins to fly as we bob and weave our way closer to the water. Kal grabs two handfuls of mud and hops on a rock that juts above the water surface. He throws one ball and it splatters on my summer dress. Then he jumps to the next rock, they lead like stepping stones across the lazy water. I can hear Mama and Papa's laughter in the meadow as they stroll hand and hand towards us. 

Kal ducks a ball of mud from me and throws his own. Kal casts about in search of more projectiles. Two more rocks and he would be on the other shore. The next rock is further and higher than the others. Kal flashes me one last mischievous grin before he makes the leap. I watch him fly across the gap in what feels like a second that stretches into eternity. Kal's mud-slicked toes slip from the edge of the river-smoothed boulder. A loud crack sounds across the water as Kal's head hits the hard surface then disappears into the water. 

I blink and I am at home again, sitting on my mother's lap. Papa is on the other side of the dust-streaked window, shoulders hunched as he finishes patting down the small mound of dirt. Mama presses her cheek to my hair and a dampness seeps through to my head. 

Crowds press in on all sides and Papa's hands grip my legs tightly as I am perched on his shoulders. The man on the platform holds a parchment that he reads from. I am too distracted by the men in shiny metal suits on either side of him to pay attention to the words. Papa quickly puts me down and pulls me through the crowd, away from the shiny men. 

The splintered chair pricks my bottom and makes me squirm as Mama stands behind me. Tears fall down my cheeks as my hair falls off my shoulders to the floor. I do not understand what is happening other than Mama and Papa are arguing and crying and packing what little we own. 

The small cart bounces along the open road as the old donkey pulls against Papa's reins. Mama's body fends off the chill of the night better than the thin blanket wrapped around us. Our hut shrinks in the distance, illuminated only by the pale moonlight.

The pants are hot as I work with Papa. I haul logs back and forth as he splits them with the ax. 

"Papa, I am so tired. Please, can we stop? Kal used to help and it was easier." Pain explodes across my face and whips my head to the side. Papa gruffly grabs my shoulders with his scarred hands. 

"Never say that. You are Kal. Kara died." he says just as harshly as the slap. tears well in my eyes.

"Kal," his voice softens. " It is the only way to keep us safe, to keep you safe. Now, we must make you a proper man."

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