Part 1

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Some say that the eyes are the passageway to the soul. Eyes that sparkle with life and love belong to those who can come home to a plush place where they are loved and supported. Eyes that are hardened, angry eyes, those belong to the people who have been rejected, so sure that nobody could ever love them. But the worst, are those eyes that have no feeling, that blank indifferent stare. The eyes of someone who is so broken inside beyond repair, like a decorative vase, beautiful at first sight, but hollow inside. These are the people Jia Karana Naomi Rao has always felt bad for.
And now her sister, her dear Hana, was looking at her with those lifeless eyes. Those silver eyes that once sparkled with life, now were a plain grey, staring at her. Since their parents had left, that look had came, not leaving her face.
"Hana, it's all right. We are safe now." Jia told her, but she knew that was a lie. Jia just wanted her to smile, to cry, to bury her face in her jacket and let her tell her it was alright, Jia just wanted her to feel something. But she feared that Mami and Papi leaving may have left a hole in Hana's heart, a hole so big that it would never be filled. So big that it consumed her heart.
"No, Jia," She said, in a voice just as flat and lifeless as her eyes. "No, we aren't."
Jia turned away from her so she wouldn't see the tears.
Jia remembered looking into a mirror, Hana beside her, while Mami brushed their hair.
Hana always had a silvery coloring, her hair very pale, but not grey, not like an elder. It was a shimmery silvery blonde, and somehow, It looked not old but young. Her eyes matched, a sparkling silver, a brightness to rival the sun itself.
Jia, on the other hand always looked a bit more golden. Her eyes were not yellow but gold, and her hair was a shining golden blonde.
"You are my daughters, my silver and gold. More precious than anything." Their mother had said.
Silver and Gold.
Silver and Gold.
Jia still remembered when she had started to get sick. Mami had kept her spirit, pretending it was just age taking its course, when she began to go blind. She'd neglected seeing a doctor, even when she could barely hear, even when she was paralyzed in her bed, even when every aspect of her was as pale and fragile as a sheet of paper. Jia remembered how even on her last breath, her mother had had an unmistakable look in her once brown but now pale cream colored eyes. A look as if nothing mattered, a look as if nothing would ever matter again. Not even her daughters, her silver and gold.
Their brother Peter was the second one they'd lost. When Mami had died, Peter had taken up a mining job. There was an accident, a landslide, and and then they were going to send a stagecoach with all the wounded miners. They'd been so excited to see him, they'd even made posters, and planned things to welcome him home. When the stagecoach came, man after man stepped off. None of them were Jia's brother.
Father's heart had broken by now, shattered into irreparable pieces. He'd looked at them with the wild look of a madman, as he went around the house smashing everything in sight.
He turned to his daughters with no recognition whatsoever, a feral look on his once smile lined face, and they had ran. They had fled, running with only the clothes on their backs, no food, no money, no water. If the authorities found them, they would be separated, Jia taken to a workhouse in Panai, Hana to an orphanage in Alani.
I can't let that happen. Jia thought. She's already lost everybody, she's so broken. She can't lose me too. But the truth that Jia buried in the deepest corners of her mind was that while Hana needed her, she needed Hana more. Or she might break.
Like glass.
Like a chandelier.
Like hopes.
Like Father.
The orphanages in Alanai were horrid, basically cramped, damp buildings, where children got little food, and disease spread like wildfire. Even their small tent of leaves and meager resources were better than that.
The workhouses were no better, where you were spinning silk until your hands aches and the skin over your knuckles was raw and bleeding. There were frequent fires in the workhouses, and each one resulted in multiple casualties. You worked seven days a week, 15 hours a day, with your pay as free lodging in the workhouse and free food. It was grueling, and many people caught head lice from the work caps.
Nobody wanted to labor in the workhouses of Panai.
But many had no choice.
Like Mami.
The Grey Plague was spreading in the workhouses, and Jia has watched many friends and acquaintances and neighbors catch it, and all of them die.
They never had imagined that one of those people would end up being Mami.
The Silverglade Mines were no better.
The employers were rich and cheap, only caring about a profit, and the least thing on their mind was the welfare of those giving them that profit. The welfare of people like Peter.
He hadn't wanted to work there, Jia remembered, but he hadn't had a choice.
With Father fired from his logging job and Mami dead, Peter was the only thing keeping their family going.
Jia's family was shattered after Mami had caught the Grey Plague, shattered like a broken vase. Peter had tried to tape the pieces together, but like a vase, there was always scars. It was never truly together. It was never the same.
When Peter had left, the shoddy taping job that had kept their family together, had fallen apart.
Leaving Jia and Hana the only part still together.
They walked past a lake, and the clear blue water beckoned to Jia. "Hana. We should drink something. It's been 2 days since the last time we saw a lake."
"I don't need water." Hana said, in that dull voice, with that flat expression, looking at me with those downcast eyes.
"Yes you do!" Jia argued. "You need water. We have to survive, we have to keep going."
"For what?" Hana said, flatly. "Mami is dead. Peter is dead. Papi is mad and probably dead. What are we surviving for?"
Jia stared at her sister, appalled. "You take that back right back, Hana Renata Opalene Rao! You are living for me. You are living for you. You are living for us. You are living, because you can. Mother didn't have a chance, neither did Peter, and Father wasted his chance. But we can keep living. So don't waste it."

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