"Shouldn't you start looking for that family of yours?" Jamshid teased.
"I am on my way to their home now," my mother said.
"Really? Because it feels like you are following us. Surely we have not become so close in our travels."
And so we continued on in the same direction, making turn after turn, pass after pass, increasingly similar and then, eventually, undeniably the continuing on to the same destination. We came upon two medium-sized hovels shaded by larger surrounding buildings. Unlike many of the houses in the area, they were private, with doors in their door frames, their windows covered by dirty hanging sheets. Boxes and crates like the ones strapped to Jamshid's camel's back were cluttered everywhere, stacked high and leaning against the hovels.
My mother lifted her hands above her head for me, and Halavi obliged, craning down her neck to allow me to slide into my mother's arms. My mother held my hand tightly as she walked to one of the closed doors.
"I am sorry we cannot give you anything for your troubles."
Jamshid shifted his weight on his feet, confused. "You say that, yet you remain in my breadth. I warn you, my neighbors will not be as friendly to strangers as my nephew and I."
My mother was the unadvisable type. She rose her fist -
"Hey listen!" Jamshid protested. "Wait!"
- and knocked on the door.
Jamshid lowered his voice as though she hadn't just loudly knocked. "Come on! You can come inside my house!" He moved forward and reached to physically pull her away from it, but then backed off as it opened, and a man emerged.
The man was gaunt and lanky, so much so that he had to duck so his head didn't hit the rock doorframe. He was all angles - sharp cheekbones, a tall and pointed nose, angular, upturned eyes. On top of a natural darkness, his skin was charred from years under the desert sun, the area around his eyes darkest of all. The top part of his robe hung open around his torso, exposing a chest covered in winding ink patterns and unintelligible script. And then, of course, burns. The desert marked its people like it was claiming its territory.
The man didn't squint against the sun shining into his eyes as he studied us, a strong frown burrowing into his lips.
"Izzet." Jamshid's smile twitched. "It's been a while."
Jamshid was ignored once again as Izzet stepped forward and wrapped my mother tightly in his arms.
Jamshid, Abu, and I alike were stunned at this highly inappropriate display of affection from this ghastly, half-naked skeleton of a man to my petite, poor, unsuspecting mother. Abu shifted on his feet as I squeezed my mother's hand tighter, and Jamshid made an "eh" noise. My mother, her upper arms held in place by the embrace, brought her hand gingerly up to Izzet's arms as he rocked them.
"An, An, An, An, An, An, An," he murmured, almost too soft for me to hear.
When he finally released her, there were tears welling in his eyes. He moved his hands to her sunburnt cheeks as he pulled back, studying her again. "You finally did it, didn't you?"
He pulled back more as noticed me in her hand, glaring up at him like a kitten that thought it was a tiger. "So this is him. He looks like his father."
An older woman appeared behind the door behind him, thin and dark, wrinkles on top of wrinkles like a scroll that had been crumpled, smoothed, crumpled, and then smoothed again. "But he has your ears," she smiled, and I scowled and touched my ears that stuck out below my headscarf. "Welcome home, my dear."
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The Ants that Carried UsFantasy
✵2019 Watty Winner! ✵ They say that the two things Shah Minos loves most are fire and spies, but what he actually loves most is order. Even if it is maintained through the brutal telepathic domination of his father, the Emperor. Even if his mother b...