Based on the prompt on Today’s Author: “When the wind blew a certain way, it brought a scent that reminded him of his grandmother’s house.”
When the wind blew a certain way, it brought a scent that reminded her of her grandmother’s house. She had to stay on task but being back in this village so many years later, she could not help turn head. If she walked a little upwind, she was sure she would find the old houses in gardens with their tiny stalls lined up on dusty streets along the railroad.
The first time she spent the night at her grandmother’s house, she was woken up by the train passing by, shaking the whole house like a cradle. She was surprised to see her father still fast asleep.
While staring up at the ceiling, watching the shadow of the train pass by right through her room, she thought about her father’s childhood. He had mentioned a few times how he would run around bare foot, back in the days when he could not pronounce his “r”s. She imagined her own authoritative dad, had she known the word, she would have used charismatic, asking his “mothav” for “bvead” with “buttev” and “sugav”. She giggled.
Her silent laughter froze in mid-air. She sensed motion, the sound of rustling at the window by her bed, a presence. Her heart started thumping, filling the room louder than the train that had just passed. If only her father would wake up. He would know how to deal with it. He would take care of the “presence”.
Instead he inhaled loudly with a touch of snotty snore sitting on his nostrils. The rustling stopped. A second later, she heard it again, too close for her to lie still in her bed. It was touching her, brushing against her hair. She got up screaming. Her father woke up with an instinct to protect his offspring, turned the lights on and grabbed his daughter in a matter of seconds, throwing a threatening glare at the enemy.
In her father’s arms, she shut her eyes, trembling. When her father did not move, she opened her eyes to face the enemy… on the floor. Staring back at them, too afraid to move, except for its chin swelling regularly, was a frog. All this commotion, fear and anxiety was only for… a frog.
Her father let her go. Cranky that his sleep had been interrupted, he told her frogs were all over the place in this town. She could not be so jumpy, away from the protective high concrete walls of the big city. This was one of the safest places they could be, so she better go back to sleep.
After the speech, he caught the frog and set it free through the same window it had gotten in.
A soft touch on her shoulder brought her back to the present. It was time for lunch. She washed the soil off her hands and followed the rest of the volunteers into the food tent.
For lunch, they were serving a root dish she had only eaten at her grandmother’s house before. It was a dish specific to this area, a meal that required tradition in the execution.
Years ago, for dinner, her grandmother had cooked the root that only the locals knew where to find, how to cut and how to cook. The smell of the dish was still lingering in all the rooms long after they had sat in the common room, sharing fruits and eating the corn her grandmother had popped in her special pan.
When she went to bed, the root smell had mixed with popcorn, comforting her to sleep. She opened her eyes only slightly now when the train passed, and let it rock her to sleep with its regular “tuddum, tuddum” lullaby on the rails.
She still found rustling by the window somewhat distressing, but had gotten used to the animals she could not easily find in the city. If it was not a frog, it was a dog; if not, a cat, a sheep or once, even the neighbor’s donkey that had made its way out of the stall.
So when there was some rustling by the window, she did not make much of it. She closed her eyes and let her body waft into slumber in the arms of root and corn…
A hand suddenly grabbed her shoulder. For a split second she took it for her father’s but it was much harsher, and a lot less loving.
“Get down on the floor!” Her father woke up with fear in his eyes, staring beggingly at the man holding his daughter.
She heard thumping and her father painfully screaming, begging for his daughter to be left free while she was locked in an empty room.
Soon, her grandparents’ voices joined the choir of painful begging in between blunt thumps and fierce orders.
She hid under the bed. She expected her father to chase those men away any second, to open the door and hold her, to make everything right, turn everything back to the way they were a few hours ago, eating fruits and popcorn with her grandparents in a root smelling house, where the greatest disturbance was animals gone astray.
This was the last time she saw her father, her grandparents and the house itself. The same night, various other houses were attacked with most people either dragged away into anonymity or killed on the spot.
A greater part of the village was damaged first by the civil war and then by the bombings of origins too obscure and tangled to figure out.
She was dragged from one camp to another on trains and trucks until she was left at the porch of an old woman who took care of a small collection of orphans in her little home as if they were her own.
Now, a grown woman, she was back at this village of her childhood she could not recognize anymore, building a new town from scratch for the a little girl to live in safety with her family, in a house that would be smelling roots only her people could cook while the train scheduled to run again soon rocked their home in peace and only harmless animals slowly approached her window.
Word Count: 1030