Durme, durme,” The young woman’s voice caught as she tried to sing to the screaming child. The tears were pouring down her face almost as fast as the infant’s. Tight black curls sprung out in all directions. She had left the small home in a hurry and forgot to grab her headscarf. No one was around at this hour anyway. Walking outside usually calmed the little one, but tonight it wasn’t working, but at least no one else was kept awake by the inconsolable cries.
Six weeks old. The woman already had the mom sway down pat. She pulled her tunic free from a thorn bush and tried to remember the rest of the words to the lullaby. Her husband remembered it being sung to him as a babe, and Eema was always singing it over him, but the tune still was new and unfamiliar to her, and hearing them sing it together made the girl homesick.
Should I go get her? I wake her up every night. I have to learn how to do this. A raindrop. How far have I walked? The raindrops splattered across her cheeks as she turned her face to the sky. The stars hid behind angry clouds. Big drops of rain hit the young baby boy’s face, and his mother pulled him close, looking for shelter. A roll of thunder, and now it was pouring.
Should-have-known-better feelings washed over her faster than the torrent. The young woman ran back toward the home, desperate to get her child to a safe, warm dry place. Why was home so far away? She scrambled forward, and saw a little rock ledge and struggled over to it. A cave. One arm holding the babe tight, and the other clawing at the loose ground, she climbed up the embankment and into the dripping, but drier, cave.
The child had stopped crying, he blinked his big dark brown eyes, as if startled by the rain. She smiled down at him—he had her mother’s eyes. The young woman sat on a rock and began to nurse him. She rested her own head back on the rocky wall, still humming, but this time the tune was in her own language, one she remembered singing as a child. He’s asleep. She closed her eyes and let out a heavy breath. The rain was still pouring down. She pushed the thick hair back out of her face with her free hand, trying to make the best decision for the thousandth time that hour. If I go back out, the rain will wake him, but if I stay here, he will sleep. I need sleep. She glanced around. No spot looked more comfortable than another. She wished she had remembered her headscarf. She laid the wrinkly, red-faced child down, and prayed he wouldn’t wake up for a couple of hours. His eyelids fluttered, but he continued to snooze—breathing shuddery breaths that always made the young woman worry. She curled up beside him and was asleep as soon as her eyes closed.
Her face scrunched in sleepy confusion as she blinked up at the dark cave ceiling. The sound of rain rushed outside.
His hand was on her shoulder now. She turned and fell into his arms. “How did you find me?”
“I got worried when I heard the storm and you and little Obed were gone. I came looking for you, and this cave seemed like a natural place to take shelter, and I was right. How long have you been out here?” He asked, brushing some dirt off her cheek.
“Baby!” She turned and rushed back to where the little one lay, still sleeping peacefully on the dusty floor.
“He won’t sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time in his cradle, but he stays in dreamland on a dirt floor in the middle of the woods? I say we move here.” The man stroked his beard and chuckled, pleased with himself. Then, seeing only a small smile on the woman’s face, and her eyes brimming with tears, he rushed over to her. “Metuka, metuka, what’s wrong?”
She shook her head, and leaned into his embrace, “I just—I--” She looked up at him. “I miss home.” She said, trying to whisper, “I miss being where everything is familiar and makes sense. I miss my family.”
The man grew a little stiff, and rubbed his eye, “What do you mean? You chose to come here. You have your eema. . .and me. We’re trying our best to make you feel like this is home, metuka.”
“I know, I know. And if I had to make the choice again, I wouldn’t change anything.”
The man’s muscles relaxed again.
“But I miss my people, my traditions, my own eema, my sister. . .”
“They were visiting two weeks--”
“It isn’t the same. You know it isn’t the same.”
“Well, Metuka, I don’t know what to tell you.”
She put her head in her hands. “I need sleep.”
“Then sleep, I’ll keep watch.”
She smiled up at him, “But at the same time, I feel like all I do is sleep and take care of little one.”
The man rested his arm over his head, his right hand drooping over his left ear. “You know, this cave was a childhood hideout of mine.”
“Really? It isn’t far from town.”
“Now it isn’t, back then it was way out in the middle of nowhere.” He smirked. “The way I discovered it isn’t a story that would earn me any bragging rights.”
The woman laid her head down on her husband’s shoulder. “What do you mean?”
He smiled down at her, “I don’t know if I should tell you this, I’m not exactly a hero in this story.”
She let out a breathy laugh. “Then I definitely need to hear it.”
He was glad to hear her laugh. He tilted his head up—his eyes scanning the dark walls and mysteries of this cave. “I was probably about eight or nine. All my family had gotten together to celebrate the feast of the new moon, as usual—always so much fun as a kid. I got to eat good food and play with my cousins. It was always the best day of the month. This time though didn’t end as well for me.”
“Hey, wait for me!”
I was no longer the youngest of the cousin pack, and that came with more responsibilities. “You have to keep up, Aviva, or you will have to go back to your eema.”
“I’m not going back,” Aviva said with a pout. “Your abba told you to watch me.”
“Well, hurry up. I don’t want to waste all our time waiting on you.” I ran into the cousin huddle.
“Bo! Stop being so mean.” Rachel glared at me and took Aviva’s hand. “Come on, you want to play a game?”
“Yeah!” Aviva grinned at me.
“Alright, how about everyone hide, and I’ll see if I can find you before it’s time to eat.” Rachel said, hand on hip, "and whoever I can’t find before the dinner horn can have my dessert.”
Elbowing and grins rippled around the group.
Aviva giggled, “You’ll never find me!”
Rachel smiled down at her, then turned to me. “I’m sure Bo will be glad to help you find the perfect hiding spot.”
I rolled my eyes and grimaced at her.
“Yay, Bo always finds the best places to hide! We’re going to get your dessert for sure.” Aviva cheered.
I raised my eyebrows at Rachel, “For sure.” I stomped away, “Come on, Aviva. Make sure you count to 100, Rachel.”
Aviva skipped beside me, stifling giggles, and peaking behind her. “Where are we going?”
“To the best hiding spot.”
“Where--” Aviva’s foot caught on a tree root, and she flew forward, tripping down the riverbank and landing with her hands in the water, sending a splash up in her face.
I slid down after her and pulled her up. “You alright?”
She giggled and brushed the dirt off her tunic.
I shook my head. “What did you do that for? I’d be in huge trouble if anything happened to you.” I glanced across the riverbank. Beyond the opposite shore hosted rolling hills, low brush, and trees. “Rachel would never look over there.” I could already taste the desert.
“Bo, we can’t go over there!”
“My eema said not to cross the creek.”
“Yeah? Mine never said anything about it.”
“I can’t go!”
“Aviva,” I gestured across the creek, “some of the best hiding spots are over there. Don’t you want that dessert?”
“Well, yeah. . .”
“You can stay here if you want. Hide in the bushes or something. I’m going over there.” I waded into the creek bed.
“You aren’t supposed to leave me!” Aviva stomped her foot in protest.
“Rachel will find you soon enough,” I said, not looking back. I reached the other bank and turned around to see Aviva pacing the sandy shore. I gave a quick wave and went to find the perfect hiding place. Rachel would never cross the creek, and time was running out, so I squatted behind the first fat bush I found. I peered through the sparse branches at Aviva. She was still pacing and throwing in a good foot stomp every few steps. I can only imagine what was going through her head.
“He always does this to me! Everyone does this to me. I’m always left behind while the others go do the fun stuff. I want that dessert, too.” She stopped pacing and looked over the creek. Then she timidly put a bare toe in the water.
I watched as she stepped into the creek. I rolled my eyes. Rachel would be coming around the corner any second now and Aviva would lead her right to me. I glanced back at the river. Aviva was gone. I stood straight up. Nowhere to be seen. “Aviva!” I jumped past the bush and slid down the bank. The creek was muddied, but Aviva wasn’t there.
“Here I come!” Rachel’s voice drifted over the hill.
I sprinted downstream. "Aviva!”