Chapter Four

East Pakistan

January 1967

The northern frosts had blown the chill over the mountains and into the southeast. The winter was never as bitter as the other nations, but even so it was not a comforting season for her people. There was no reason to think about heating systems in these villages. There was a shortage of table fans as is from the immense summer heats, who would've thought that it would be this cold in this country? Neelufah had heard stories of the snow and icicles that plagued people in foreign lands. She could not fathom such a notion. Frozen flakes from the sky? Why, she could only picture that as a shower of basmati rice from the heavens. Now wouldn't that be the day?

Neelufah rose from under the netted curtains hanging from her bedpost and slipped on her sandals. She could feel the cold from the stone floor seeping in through the thin materials of her footwear, grasping at her feet and ankles in a merciless bite.

"Is my tea ready yet?" she called out into the hallway as she groggily stepped into the bathroom. A shivering hand rose to flip the power switch in front of her. No light graced her bleary eyes and Neelufah grunted with annoyance. The power had gone out again for the evening and she doubted it would come back on until the next morning.

Neelufah turned back towards her bedroom and extended her arm out amongst the dark. Her soft hand slowly trailed the wall before brushing against the wooden dresser in front of her, awaiting the feel of the metal knob attached to the drawer where she kept her matchsticks.

Once the matches were acquired and a candle was lit, Neelufah squinted and blinked her long lashes, not yet used to the light after her slumber. When she came to, she was met with her father's dark eyes and her mother's thin smile. Her mouth curved wider into a grin until her eyes darted north and fell onto her slightly hooked nose. Neelufah scowled; of all the things to inherit from her grandfather. She turned away from the oval mirror in front of her and grabbed her candle before darting out into the dark hallway.

Her tea must have gotten cold by now. She hadn't realized she dozed off shortly after asking for a cup to be prepared for her. Surely the servants would have set the teacup next to her nightstand while she slept. It was no matter, Neelufah needed to go to the kitchen anyway as she hadn't eaten since earlier that morning.

As she strolled down the corridor, Neelufah kept her eyes downcast on the little flame dancing on the candle's wick. Her eyes were mesmerized at the fluid motion of the flame and the shadows it cast on the walls ahead of her.

Neelufah slowed her footsteps as she neared the kitchen, eyes still trained on the candle flame when her ears caught the sound of a low whistle. The girl stood motionless and tilted her head to the side and waited.

From the window at the far right adjacent to the kitchen doorway came once more the whistle that she had just heard. It was a low and steady stream of sound that could have easily been mistaken for a nightly wind. But Neelufah knew better.

Somebody was outside.

Setting the candle down on a nearby table, Neelufah immersed herself in the surrounding darkness and quietly approached the window. The shutters were closed but it was not enough to block out the sounds from the other side.

Neelufah slowly wet her lips and formed her mouth into a tiny O so that there was a small opening for air. Turning her head around her and ensuring that she was in fact alone, Neelufah carefully blew, mimicking the whistle from earlier and waited. Yet her ears could only hear the loud humming from the blood that was wildly being pumped from her heart.

It had been a few seconds before Neelufah slumped her shoulders. Perhaps it was her imagination going off again. How she longed for excitement from within the walls of this house. Shaking the thoughts away she turned back towards the dim lighting from where she left the candle.

Before her sandals took another step away from the window, the whistle returned only this time it was a tune she was fondly familiar with. The girl froze mid step and smiled before turning around to face the window again. Once more she wet her lips and returned the whistler's call. This time she changed the tune and waited, as it was now the whistler's turn to mimic her tune. Once her ears were graced with the expected sounds and her thoughts were confirmed, Neelufah threw back the shutters and plunged her upper torso out into the nightly air as she laugh

"Shhh! Don't be so loud; you'll give us away!" Neelufah's eyes were bright with mirth as she peered down at the plump face of a boy who was several years younger and looked as if he would much rather not be out in cold in the dead of night.

"Bablu, I knew it was you! Do you have the letter?" Neelufah whispered, eagerly extending her hand down towards the boy.

"I wouldn't be out here freezing if I didn't!" he scowled as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded note. Before placing it in Neelufah's outstretched palm the boy pulled away and raised his eyebrow. "Aren't you forgetting something?"

Neelufah furrowed her eyebrows before rolling her eyes. "Acha wait here, I'll be back." Bablu pulled his jacket closer to his body and grunted as the elder girl disappeared back into the darkness inside her house. This would be the last time he'd play messenger. He had better things to do than sneak around at night whistling the stupid songs she liked. They needed to come up with a better signal. Bablu grimaced as a gust of wind howled through the trees and brushed past his hair, pricking his ears with bitter cold.

"Hurry up, I'm going to freeze any minute now!" He whispered harshly up at the window.

"Acha Baba, I'm here, I'm here!" Neelufah dashed back towards the window and tossed several gold coins into the boys shivering hands. "Is this money?" He asked, holding up the coins in the moonlight. He had never seen this type of currency before, let alone able to hold any in his eleven years of living.

"Even better," Neelufah smirked as she watched the boy rub his fingers against the gold aluminum foil.

"Chocolate?!" Neelufah chuckled as she reached down towards the boy. "Can I have my letter now?" The boy had been too absorbed in the fact that he had English chocolates in his palms that Neelufah had to flick the boy across his forehead to get his attention.

"Oh, here," Bablu said as he rubbed his forehead, placing the neatly folded letter in her awaiting hand. "I'll come by tomorrow afternoon for your response." If he had known tonight's payment would be in bedeshi chocolates, Bablu would have agreed to have done this a lot sooner.

"It'll be hidden beneath the flower pot by the front gates," Neelufah smiled before she bid him farewell. She watched as the boy pocketed the chocolates and ducked into the shadows before darting out into the empty streets.

Neelufah turned from the window and tucked the note into her blouse before closing the shutters. She leaned back against its doors no longer feeling the brisk winter seep into her clothes. 'He finally replied,' she bit her lip to keep herself from smiling too much. Unable to suppress a laugh, the girl took a few deep breaths and fixed her features to return back to its emotionless state.

Retrieving her forgotten candle from the table nearby, Neelufah straightened her back and tip toed back to her room, no longer caring about her cup of tea and instead waiting to relinquish her craving for the words scrawled within the letter.

Author's note: WELL, two chapters in one day? someone's in the holiday spirit. haha.

Okay yeah, new time period, new character, wheres the story going? hah we'll find out.

translations-please refer to previous chapter's author's note. XD

-stay well peeps.