After 1, 034 days in the same dingy room (he doesn’t know that she’s kept count) with new scars on their malnourished bodies every other day, hope is hard to come across but they make do with what they can.
They paint the dark room with iridescent recollections of their father’s smile and their mother’s hugs, their dog’s soft fur and their grandmother’s stories. She brightens the lovely nights (what they consider to be nights) with whispered recitations of the poems she learnt in school. They sing their songs under their breaths, dance the dances they hope to never forget. They pray to the gods they never prayed to at home, cross their fingers and knock on wood. The Man took them away from their home but he couldn’t take their home away from them.
One morning or afternoon or evening or night, The Man is in their room, his breath stinking, slurring curses at the both of them. Her brother looks at her from under the table and mutters a curse in their language. It sounds like school bells and jostling each other in the hallways. The Man looks straight at him, his face contorting into something ugly and spits, demanding to know what he said. Her brother looks him in the eye, not backing down and she watches him in dread, opening her mouth to tell him to leave it, they’d regret it. The Man lifts his hand and slaps him hard enough to knock out another tooth. She flinches, standing up, ready to protect him. She steps forward and The Man pushes her on the ground as if she’s weightless. He leers at her, his hand on her knee and her brother punches him. Again and again and again. But The Man is stronger. He kicks and punches and slaps and she tries to stop him, she does but The Man throws her against the wall and she sinks onto the floor, her head throbbing and her body aching.
Eventually The Man stops. He views the damage done: her bloody brother laying sprawled on the floor, she, huddled against the wall and she can see the satisfaction on his face. He’s vile. “I will kill you if you cross me, you hear me?”
They know his language, the language of invaders. Their language is a warm hug, a flap of a bird’s wings, a balloon flying away, a key to their prison, a weapon in this war.
Her brother spits out the blood in his mouth, wincing while sitting up and smiles a gruesome smile, his eyes wild. She looks at him worriedly, concerned. He opens his mouth and softly sings the first few lines of their parents’s wedding song.
The Man stops in his tracks. He turns around. She can see the vein in his forehead bulging. He looks at her brother. She bites her lip hard enough to draw blood.