It’s the end of term at last and I was doing a wee bit spring cleaning when I came across this piece I wrote when I was sixteen. It was strange reading it but it filled me with that sad happiness you sometimes get from memories. Hope you enjoy it.
It was raining heavily when the children came home from school and once again the bus hadn’t come. The little ones were crouching over the benches trying to draw pictures of elephants with leadless pencils.
Christien rolled her eyes at me as Agung lobbed his soaking socks at her and stomped away down the hill. I smiled and complimented Ipo on the three-legged squiggle he was waving at me.
He pointed at the elephant and grinned. I grinned back.
“In English, e-le-phant.”
Ria gave me a hard stare.
“Gajah.” she rebuked me sternly and I smiled, watching them draw. Contentment is a blessed state of mind.
It was at this point that the school bus drew up outside the training centre and the older children from the Senior High School came pouring from the back of the van, talking loudly and waving their arms around as they rushed to the table for a cup of afternoon tea.
Tardi sidled up behind where I sat on a bench and hovered at my shoulder. Still annoyed at him from the night before, I ignored him, watching Tessa carefully copy the outline of the elephant — sorry gajah‘s trunk.
“Dees for you.” he mumbled, shoving a black plastic bag down beside me. I didn’t look as he shuffled away abashed but decided to look and see later. Priskilla seized the bag and began to open it but I rebuked her in her own language and took the gift back. She pouted and folded her arms but her looks had never had much effect on me.
The children were beginning to crowd round Jannah, waving their drawings excitedly, each eager to receive her praise and I slipped away.
It had by now stopped raining and I smiled back at the kitchen girls as I passed, dodging around the back of the building to a low stone wall, the same one I had dreamed of all those months before. I was glad that no one was there and folded one leg up, leaving the other dangling as I gazed out over the jungle, breathing slowly and deeply the muggy air.
It was too tempting. I peered into the bag and my heart stuttered.
There was a single sheet of beautifully decorated, laminated paper. I knew what it was the moment I set eyes on it and I covered my mouth as I took it out and held it in one shaking hand.
When I had asked for his testimony, I had expected that he would write a few scribbled notes on a torn out jotter page but here in front of me was a photo with a brief profile, cut out letters and evidently well rehearsed lines. I felt my heart give a little.
I began to read.
His testimony is not one that I can share without emotion in the way that many pass on second-hand stories. The broken English and familiar scrawl were enough to bring a smile to my face but the story of hardship and brokenness, of pain, despair and hope brought tears to my eyes. And it gave me hope. Hope for my own brothers.
To my shame, tears began to flow down my face from nowhere. I shut my eyes for a long time, reliving past moments, looks, words, smiles, laughter, all in a moment and I knew that I didn’t want to leave my brother here. Indeed I didn’t want to leave any of my friends and family and the pull of love against duty nearly broke my heart.
I wiped the tears away, annoyed at myself and my eyes caught a small strip of red on the back of the sheet, at the end of his testimony:
<dear: CARA> in bright bold letters,
Thank you for all the laughs and all the help that you’ve given me during you time here (Living water village) I hope you will always use you’re talent to worship God. I pray that throughout you life you will always follow Jesus beause it is His desire. love Tardi
And an old nursery rhyme came into my mind,
One for sorrow, Two for joy,
Three for a girl and Four for a boy.
Five for silver, Six for gold
And seven for a secret, never yet told.
I didn’t mind crying then. The seventh time since I had arrived in this strange place, the most beautiful Hell on earth. And I cried for a secret that had at last been made known. I knew that in the coming days there would be difficulty and tears, lots of tears. But I knew that I would be able to look back in love, without anger or bitterness, without guilt and without regret despite everything that had happened.
But I also knew that despite the pleading of my family here, the family in England needed me more. Yet in my heart, I was ready to give them up a while longer.
Matt appeared on the wall beside me and sat a moment in silence.
I closed my eyes.
“Tardi gave me his testimony.”
“May I read it?”
I passed it to him without a word, watching the darkening trees, sleepy with the mountain lullaby of whistling cicadas. After a while he handed it back.
“You don’t want to go.”
I shook my head.
“But it’s time for you to go.”
I looked at him but he was watching the forest as I had been moments before.
“My family need me.”
The words leaving my mouth somehow confirmed my choice within me and I knew that my children, though I would miss them dearly and would not see them for a long time yet, were safe. They would be safe. I could leave them in the hands of God and no harm would befall them. But my family by blood needed me more. My own desires and hopes were in that moment irrelevant.
“I’m needed back in the UK.”
Matt just nodded.
“You’ll miss them, won’t you?”
There was a lull filled in by the forest’s constant tuneless humming.
“But I’ll see them again.”
“How do you know?”
“Aku tau dalam hatiku.” I grinned, patting my liver.
He scowled his London gangster scowl.
“English!” he growled.
I laughed then and he smiled.
“I just know.”