Rated 13 and up
Ashes on the Water
By Gwendolyn Clare
I hoped that Ranjeet’s friends were as disreputable as promised. Ranjeet himself was late, of course. I’d asked him to park his car out on the road and meet me behind the house–my cousin is, shall we say, out of favor, and I couldn’t afford to get caught with him. So I sat on the dry, cracked ground in the shadow of the house, waiting where Father wouldn’t think to look for me. A meter away, heat rose off the sun-baked earth, wavering like water, as if the dormant land dreamed of monsoon season. I shut my eyes against the image. For years now, each summer has come harsher than the last.
Soft footsteps in the dirt, and Ranjeet strolled around the corner of the house, calling, “You’ll never make it across the border, kid.”
I stood up and brushed the dust off my jeans, annoyed. Seventeen and he still calls me a kid. “Why don’t you say that a little louder? I don’t think the neighbors could hear you clearly.”
The closest neighbors live on the other side of a one-hectare vacant field that used to be the mango grove, before the mango trees withered. I used to sit on Father’s shoulders to help with the harvest when I was small. He keeps saying we’re going to replant the grove, but nobody’s all that eager to dig up the dead roots.
Ranjeet folded his arms and leaned back against the side of the house. “You know it’s true.”
“Did you get the papers for me, or not?”
He pulled a thick envelope out of the inner pocket of his cream-colored sportcoat, but he held on to it, turning it over in his hands. “What are you planning to do, smuggle it in your shoes? You’re going to get caught.”