What Remains Under The Sky

A love, not romance story

Photo by Ryan Whitlow on Unsplash

The day Inya moved in, it was raining. The ground was fresh; it gave in every step she took around her new home. She did not expect it to rain, she wasn’t a civil engineer, never thought that far ahead. She stood under a patched umbrella, and watched the water drip down her walls.

She had no space in herself for regrets. She had answered yes to the question Raf, the caretaker, had asked her: “Are you sure you want to live here?” So she set the umbrella down and her hands worked the earth into an even mound. She rummaged around for the larger plastic bags she had and ripped the seams, turning them into wide sheets. It took four bags: two black ones, a striped blue and a clear one. She tied a stone to the ends of each rectangle, climbed down the bamboo ladder Raf had prepared and tested her new roof. It wasn’t a perfect cover but it would do for the day, she’ll think of something more weatherproof tomorrow. Any tighter and she would probably suffocate, she didn’t want that. She still had a few months left.

The smell of wet earth was strong; she would get used to that. The inside was roomy enough for her to stretch — being small. Her clothes were folded all around her serving as her sheet, pillow and blanket. She breathed in her new home and closed her eyes.


The new worker at the cookie factory smiled at Inya at lunch. Her name was Rana. She ignored Rana.

“Hi, what’s your name sister?” Rana’s voice smelled like paper-wrapped caramel. Promises.

“I’m not your sister,” she replied. Her own voice was the garbage compacter at its productive heights.

“Come sit with us, don’t mind her. It’s not you, it’s her,” the others called her over to the next table.

She gave Rana a glare for good measure as the younger girl went to the next table, somewhat reluctantly. Unfortunately, they were a noisy bunch and she could hear everything as they threw questions to her like one throws pebbles to the river. For fun.

Rana moved from her own town to take care of her widow brother, who’d fallen ill, and his son. He used to work at the construction site when a beam had fallen on him and disabled him. He had no one else, and so he asked his only sister if she was willing to come. Of course she was.

When they came back from lunch, Rana was again in front of her across the workbench. One palm smoothing the hot dough, the other hand deftly pulled a strip of paper, placed it in the centre of the circle and with magic unseen by human eyes they folded, pinched, bended the smoking cookie and set it aside on another tray to harden.

They worked in silent concentration accompanied by the orchestra of the machine humming, cart wheels rolling, and the occasional beep from the oven. Time passed leisurely but steadily — that was a comfort. She next looked up when the bell rang, and another day had gladly passed.

“Oh, this one says The time is right to make new friends. How timely,” Rana whispered as she fingered her strip of paper. So much for time passing leisurely.

Inya ignored the remark and continued working but not before she glanced at the strip she had on her hand. You will live a long happy life. She folded it up without reading out loud and merely grunted. Rana seemed to take that as a reply.

“Sister, have you tried them? These cookies? Are they any good?”

She sighed, “Stop calling me sister. Just Inya.” She didn’t answer the question, but in her mind she said to herself: they taste like shit. They all do. No one really eats these things.

“Just Inya? Won’t that be rude of me? I mean you are older than I am, I think...”

“I don’t care. There are worse things people do. Now shut up and let me do my work.” She gave Rana another glare before adjusting her white cap and bowing down.


A few weeks and Rana was still as amiable, never once complaining. Inya was impressed after all. Life was hard for all of them, each with their own set of luck thunderclouds above their heads. But foolishly, Rana was determined to read her first strip of fortune each day aloud and adopting it as hers.

“Prepare for an unexpected adventure,” Rana sighed dreamily. She wasn’t going anywhere with that brother and nephew, Inya thought, swallowing down the cruel words. “What’s yours, Inya sis?”

She gave her an eyebrow for her title, “Something you lost will come up.” She fingered her paper as she read it.

“Oh, that sounds good too! Did you lose anything recently?”

Where should she start? There was no benefit in retelling stories like hers. So she replied with, “A door.”

Rana laughed, the other girls peeked curiously from the next benches. “How can you lose a door? Did someone steal it? Fancy that.”

“Not really. I sold it.” With that, she got to work.

Rana had a good hand with cooking. For someone with so little, she always managed to share her culinary experiments with her colleagues. By far, though, her best was that day’s barley cakes. Inya took a bite and gave a small smile. She remembered her own mother making these barley cakes. The aroma went through the whole house and out the door, each time calling Inya home without a need to shout. Time to eat!

“Do you like barley cakes? I can make more for you,” Rana sweetly noticed.

“No, you should feed your brother and nephew. Save what you can.”

“That’s very sweet of you to say.”

Inya frowned her disagreement.

“Do you cook at home, Inya sis?” Rana was persistent today. Perhaps she caught the smile. Inya quickly frowned.

“No. I don’t have a stove.”

Rana gaped at that. “No stove! But that’s impossible, how do you eat?”

“I have bread.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s enough.”

Rana pursed her lips and seemed about argue, but instead she asked as if testing the limits, “Can I visit your home some time?”

“No.”

That was that.


Inya climbed down her home. She’d gotten quite comfortable with her decision to stay there. It was cost effective to say the least. She’d gotten rid of most but the bare essentials of her needs. With a monthly fee, Raf has allowed her to toilet, shower and wash her clothes at the caretaker house. The whole sum went into his pocket so it was a mutually beneficial arrangement. The management had no idea of this arrangement; neither had asked them, just in case they wouldn’t allow it.

Every now and then she would pay Raf for additional help, such as when he fashioned the foldable canopy to replace her plastic bag roof — held up by a few stakes she can easily attach the blue tarpaulin canopy to.

On clear nights, she enjoyed watching the rectangle spangled sky as she waited for sleep to come, her own giant screen of stars. Closer to her, the musk scent of earth mixed with the fragrance of her thin wooden walls. At times, she would hear a rat in the distance or the night crickets. She was never truly alone, not in her definition. When the pain came, these little things tied her to the world, to another sunrise.


Something was clearly wrong. Rana did not read her first fortune strip of the day. Inya took a moment to ponder whether there were any bad luck messages and quickly dismissed the idea; all the fortune cookies had reasonably positive messages. She watched Rana through the corner of her eyes, not decreasing her speed as she folded and bent hot doughs.

Rana seemed focused on her work. Her speed had almost matched Inya after the first few weeks of clumsy practice. Her focus seemed forced, but more worryingly, the girl looked defeated. Like “normal” people around her.

Inya told herself to mind her own business. Everyone has had a bad day, or year, or life, and there’s no need to open all the can of maggots in the world. She stuck her head down and continued her work in silence.

It was some time after lunch that she heard a sniffle, once, then twice. Inya looked up. Her eyes red, Rana’s hand was as deft, but every now and then she dug in her pockets for a tissue.

“Come with me,” clipped Inya when the bell rang. They cleaned up and changed out of their uniforms.

“Where are we going?”

“You said you wanted to come to my house.”

Rana’s eyes widened, but she didn’t look at all happy, “Maybe today isn’t a good day…”

“Shut up and follow me if you want to see my house. Otherwise don’t mention it again,” Inya cut.

They went past the market where Inya bought some bread, enough for two, and some curried meat. Meat was not on her ordinary menu but she figured Rana probably needed some protein anyway. They stopped and got on a minibus going southwest. Past the industrial district where white uniformed men plodded in groups; past the state school where the children flocked around street vendors selling goldfishes, candies, crispy noodles; past the slums and its living pungent smell.

They got off in front of an abandoned lawyer’s office. Its signboard browned with dirt leaving whiter outlines of letters that was pulled out long ago, not the most imaginative name — OK Law Pty Ltd. The lawyer’s family name was Law, and his two first initials were O.K. He must have thought it clever, but it looked as though his prospective clientele had disagreed. Rana missed all these as she trudged past two steps behind Inya.

Suddenly Inya whipped her head towards Rana as if it just occurred to her and asked, “Do you have to go home to your brother soon?”

“Hmm well, as soon as I can. But I’ve asked the lady next door to keep an eye.”

Inya moved on with what she accepted as permission.

They stopped in front of a cemetery park; its curly wrought iron gates at odds with the white three-storied concrete building just across the road. Casually, Inya reached between the gate bars and slid the inside lock free. The gate creaked open with her push. As if compelled, Rana’s hands went up to hug her arms, her eyes darted around, and what was previously cluttering her mind was replaced by new concern.

“Why are we here?”

Inya ignored her. The sun hung lower, burning the sky into an orange — magenta hue. The cemetery was at least a few hectares by Rana’s estimation. Stones various shapes and sizes were laid out, indicating the occupied plots. They walked deeper to where the stones were closer to each other, the plots no longer covered by cement; times have changed and earth has followed the economic supply and demand curve.

They came to a hole dug in the ground, two by one. On its short side, a bamboo ladder led down to a plain, unadorned coffin. There was no gravestone in sight for this plot. Rana looked down curiously.

Inya reached the ladder and climbed down the hole until she stood on the small space between the coffin and the dirt wall. She bent down and lifted the coffin lid and turned it to its side.

Rana shrieked and covered her eyes with her hands, wondering if the day where she didn’t care to announce her fortune cookie strip was her day to die. There was a rustle, then Inya’s voice, “Come down. This is where I sleep.”

Rana slowly brought down her arms from her face and she faced the open coffin. It was empty — of corpse. Inya was already moving a few clothing items from around where a body would have been laid. She looked like she was making space. Rana slowly stepped down the ladder, pausing at each rung to consider climbing up again.

Without looking back, Inya spoke, “I sold everything I had, including my last hovel and bought this plot here. I don’t need a lot of space, and I use Raf’s for utilities, washing and the lot. When I die, all he needs to do is shut it and cover the plot. Job done.”

There was a sterile tone to Inya’s voice and a coldness that dared Rana to start throwing judgement. Even though Rana felt it, the situation was too absurd for her to take nonchalantly. Before she was able to say anything, Inya gestured her inside.

“I’ve made some space. Try lying down.”

Rana did not see an easy way out of the situation, so she did as she was told. She fidgeted a bit, navigating the clothes all packed around her. When Inya stepped in and sat beside her, her view to the sky was completely cleared. She let out a small gasp at the sky view, framed by the dirt walls. It was getting darker, and the clouds had made way for the full moon. Dark magenta danced slowly, intimately with the sky’s blue hues as the sun creep away. Rana let a simple thought creep in for just a moment, a momentary loss of sanity, that this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

“Nice, isn’t it?”

The pride in that voice brought Rana back, “What about bad weather?”

Inya beamed and pointed at the rim of her home, and Rana caught a glimpse of what might to be folded cloth. “I cover the pit with that, there’s a gap still so I can get air flowing. I haven’t been flooded so far, but I suspect that when the storm season comes I might have to think of something else. But I don’t think I have to worry about that…” Her voice faded away into some internal thought.

Something was digging into Rana’s waist. She felt around and in the dim moonlight she saw that it was a cardboard box with a ribbon on top. She recognised it as the kind of box that held the wedding binding cloth inside. A piece of cloth long enough to tie the wrist of a couple. “You have a husband,” she remarked, carefully placing the box where it was and moving so as not to crush it.

“I had a husband. A son too.” It was as if she wanted to say more, but she didn’t.

Without meaning to, Rana started sobbing; the round moon distorted by her waves of tears. Inya did not make a sound, and for a while watched the sky, then she reorganised her clothes and laid down beside Rana. It was a tight fit, but the coffin managed to encase the two anyway.

Eventually the sob lost its purpose and faded into sniffles. Inya waited the sky to darken, and for the moon and stars to no longer impress her guest. “Tell me.”

“It’s my nephew. He is… he is sick. The doctor said he would need an operation to remove this thing that grew inside him. But I… my brother… we don’t have enough. Not nearly enough,” Rana’s voice was throaty, no longer the sweet promise of morning, “My brother, he doesn’t know yet. I don’t know how to tell him. I don’t know what to do. There isn’t enough time. My nephew… he is in pain.”

For a second, Inya saw the face of her son. The face of death as the boy faced it himself. She remembered how it felt that day as his last spasm faded away, and her heart twisted in that recognised shape, tracing old scars by remembering. They laid side by side, their body heat mingling in the night breeze, breaths heavy with old and fresh pain. Half lost half found, they stared at the unconcerned universe.

A hammering sound brought them back to the depth of the death pit. A distant thud of metal and wood. Inya frowned; she was unfamiliar with this sound. Rana sat up, but Inya signaled her to keep quiet. Inya climbed the ladder and stopped when she could see out to the rest of the graveyard. The hammering continued. She expected it to be Raf, though Raf never worked on the graves at night. She saw two shadows in some distance on a grave. Shovels against the tree next to them, a hole dug on the ground. The two shadows were standing around, looking down into the pit.

Inya climbed back down and whispered to Rana, “Grave robbers.”

Rana gasped. “What should we do?”

“Hmm… laugh.”

“What?”

Inya climbed up halfway and cooed. After a few minutes she repeated this, and then she laughed. She laughed with all the bitterness she had inside of her, a laugh that held no light. The wind blew her laughter and faded it into the night without echo. But this made it even harder for the men to figure out where the sound was coming from. With no one in sight, the grave robbers shouted, grabbed their shovels and ran for their life. Inya chuckled genuinely as she looked back at Rana with a glint in her eye.

Rana was wide-eyed and tense. Her body was prepared to fly from that place. She panted her adrenaline out as she saw Inya’s joyful face.

“Don’t worry. They’re gone. Serves them right. I’ll tell Raf tomorrow to fix that grave. It’s the first time it’s happened since I stayed here. Otherwise it’s pretty safe. The odd rat or two,” she tried to assure Rana.

Rana nodded slowly unconvinced. “I… I think I better go.”

“Yes, it’s getting late. Must be around seven now. Let’s go, I’ll take you to the bus stop.”


The next day, Rana was back to her usual self, though there was a slightly tired tone to her voice.

Inya whispered, “Let’s go to your place after work.”

Rana couldn’t help but be surprised with the suggestion, not that she minded. She nodded in silence. When work was done, she led the way to her brother’s house. It wasn’t too far — just a quick ride on the minibus. She disappeared through the door — a sad workmanship of reclaimed wood planks. Inya ducked through the entrance and stood for awhile adjusting her eyes to the dim room. The house smelled of grease and hard work; hard work that never seemed to be enough. It was a familiar smell for Inya.

On one corner was a stove, the kitchen of the house. The opposite held a narrow sponge mattress on the floor with a few scrap fabrics covering. A smaller mattress, smaller, children-sized sat on a third corner. There was no seating or tables. An opening to another room was sectioned off by a curtain behind which Rana seemed to have disappeared to.

Inya sat on the vinyl-covered floor and waited. A short while later, Rana came back from the other room, “My brother’s asleep.” Inya just nodded.

“I came to give you this,” Inya kept her voice low. She rummaged around her bag and took out a small cloth bag. She held it out for Rana.

Rana took the bag, peered inside and gasped, “Gold. Where did you get this?” Her eyes grew large.

“It’s mine. This was my meagre dowry. I don’t expect I’ll be out wearing it anytime soon. It’s better to use it. Sell it and use the money. It’s not enough but I will have more tomorrow morning for you.”

Rana opened and closed her mouth a few times. Slowly a tear fell to her cheek, “Sis, I cannot take this from you. It’s not why I told you. You live in a coffin in a graveyard. You eat plain bread from that shop every night, how can I…? How can you?”

Inya chuckled, “Don’t be dramatic, I’m living fine and will die better. You should take this. I don’t have any intention of using it. I have my wages and that’s enough for me. This, I didn’t keep it for sentimental reasons, it was just because it’s easy to keep with me. And I’m going to get more. Don’t worry, we will fix your nephew. I’m not going to let another boy die.”

“Get more?”

“Don’t worry about it. Where’s your nephew?”

“He’s at the neighbour’s house. I am just going to pick him up now.”

“Good. I’ll be off then. No… no… don’t bother seeing me off, just get your nephew. You’re busy enough.” Inya got up and stepped out of the house, leaving Rana clutching at the cloth bag in confusion.


“What are you doing?”

Inya knew the voice well. She gasped and turned around to see the matching figure in the moonlight. “Rana…” Her hands dropped the shovel.

Rana’s face looked pale. She clutched the cloth bag she had received earlier that evening, while her other hand held a plastic lunchbox. She took a step back from Inya and the half-dug grave in front of Inya. It was the same grave dug by the grave robbers the night before. “Sister… are you… is this?” Rana raised the cloth bag she carried.

“What are you doing here? Come with me.” Inya dragged Rana back to her own patch of grave. Once there, she let go of Rana’s hand.

“I… I came to return it. I didn’t feel right accepting this after all. But… but what are you doing?”

“Sssh. I told you the truth, that was my dowry. It’s mine. But I know you need more, and last night I got the idea after you left.”

“This’s a crime! How could you..?” Rana looked at Inya in mixed expression of fear and love.

“Listen to me. I know that necklace I had isn’t nearly enough. You need money for the operation, for medicine, for your brother. You’re new at the factory, so there’s no way they will give you an advance. I asked once a long time ago and they said no, even though I’d been there twenty years. If you don’t have anything else to pawn, your nephew is going to die. Do you understand me?”

“I know, of course I know! I know but still, this isn’t right Sister. I love you for doing this, but this isn’t the right way.”

“Am I killing anyone? No. Am I stealing from anyone who’s going to use it? No. No one has to know. I’m not taking anything for my own luxury. This is life and death, Rana. It is that simple.”

Rana shook her head as she stepped back, “No. It’s still wrong. If you get caught…”

“I don’t have to. Go home, and don’t tell anyone what you see. If I find anything of worth I’ll give it to you tomorrow, okay? If I was dead, I’d rather someone take my gold to save the living.”

“God.. God…”

“God has nothing to do with this. It’s my choosing, and I will bear the responsibility.”

Rana sat down on the earth mound beside Inya’s grave, her eyes darting nervously as she considered it. She mumbled as she read the name on the gravestone next to Inya’s.

Inya plopped down beside her, “That’s my husband.” She then turned around and pointed at the opposite side, “And that’s my son. I have everything I need here, Rana. You… you have a future still.”

Rana’s eyes glassed and she sobbed, “What have I done? I shouldn’t have told you.”

Inya waited as Rana cried in almost silence. The soft rustling of the frangipani leaves making motherly sounds. The frangipani flowers were associated with grief and bad luck, but to Inya they are what acceptance smelled like. It was a long time before Rana raised her head and looked at Inya, her cheeks streaked with river streaks.

“Will you let me do this?” Inya asked softly.

Rana took a few deep breaths, “Yes… but… I will work so hard I will buy them back, and.. and… I’ll return them. By God I will.”

Inya sighed. It would take years for Rana to earn enough, and by that time…

“Okay. Go home and I’ll bring what I find to you tomorrow.”

“No. I agreed to this so I should be here with you,” Rana firmly stood her ground.

Inya gave a disappointed smile and walked away to pick up the shovel. They continued digging in turns and eventually they opened their first coffin after many failed tries with the crowbar. Anita Gesch. 1910–1984. Her flesh had completely decomposed, thankfully, and only bones remained. The clothes were stacked around the coffin, just like Inya’s. She crouched down beside the coffin. Anita was apparently married. Inya slowly took off the wedding band from the finger. She felt around the skeleton and drew a small black pouch from underneath the spine. She pulled the pouch strings and peered inside and nodded.

“Two necklaces here,” she informed Rana and dropped the ring inside it. She passed the pouch to Rana, and together they closed the coffin and started the long journey of reburying Anita.

Rana whispered, “Mrs Anita. I won’t forget your name.”


The next night, it was Mr Abishek, a government clerk that died some ten years ago. The body was somewhat decomposed, and the sight scared Rana into runing all the way across the graveyard to Inya’s home. However, it did not deter Inya to donate his jade ring and a silver pocket watch to their worthy cause.

Inya carefully selected her ‘victims’. Those that had moderately priced graves but didn’t look as though they were visited often. Those with granite stones and carved serif letters.

They pawned the items separately at different suburbs. Rana kept a secret note listing each item, who it belonged to, and which shop it went to. She kept it under her pillow each night as she dreamt of skeletons that asked her where their memories have gone.

They stopped after the seventh, when Rana begged Inya to. There was enough for the surgery, though not more. Inya relented as she saw how much heavier and sombre Rana’s expression grew each day. It was a lot to bear for the young woman, the guilt and desperation.

For awhile, everything was going as planned and Rana’s tension seemed to loosen. Then, Inya skipped work for two days in a row.

“Apparently she’s been arrested. Some sort of stealing,” announced the supervisor at the morning assembly, without any more information to give.

Rana gasped and paled. Her lips trembled as she held herself from falling right then and there. She excused herself with a headache and ran from police station to station.

Finally, at the station close to her home, they looked at her in interest. “You are here for Mrs Inya?”

“Yes, yes. Can I see her?”

“Hang on.”


The visiting room was furnished with basic tables and chairs close enough to each other that you could reach the person at the next table if you stretched sideways. Inya sat on the hard chair; next to her a lady was crying holding a baby. She was visiting a sullen man who hadn’t said anything since Inya sat down ten minutes prior. When an officer brought Rana in, the lady’s sobbing faded away into the background.

“What happened?”

Rana didn’t look starved but her eyes looked swollen from lack of sleep and too much crying. She sat down slowly, savouring the act of stalling from answering Inya’s sharp gaze.

“The pawn shop. One of them called the police in I think. They came over the other morning,” she looked resigned. “Could you check on my brother please? He would be so worried.”

“Have you said anything to them, confessed? Signed anything?”

“I said yes to stealing when they asked me. I didn’t say why, they haven’t prodded me much further and I didn’t mention your name at all, I promise,” her eyes teared. “I’m so sorry. Tell my brother and nephew I’m so so sorry. What will happen to them? God.”

Inya reached for Rana’s hands and felt its burning agony between her own palms. “Oh, you foolish girl. I’ll take care of this. Get some sleep.”


The few days flew by for Inya. It took her little time to sort out a few loose ties, before she was ready to wear the uniform.

“What happened!”

The comedy wasn’t lost to Inya when Rana started with the same words she used, now on the opposite side of the table. Inya smiled.

“I did say I’d take care of this. Simple, I told them the truth. It was my idea after all. I did it. You came and caught me on the act so I coerced you to help me sell things to the pawn shops. I told them I’ve spent all the monies too. If they ask you anything at all, just say that you gave me all the money.” She seemed almost proud at her success.

Rana’s eyes bulged. The police had released her without saying much. They seemed unconcerned about her questions about what happened next. It was only a day later she learned that Inya was now behind the bars.

“You were good not to tell them about your brother and nephew. That makes it easier. Now don’t be stupid and tell them anything else about what we did. Just go away and take care of your family, you hear me?”

“But… I agreed to it, you didn’t force me to, and you did it because of me!”

“Sssssh. Shut up girl. Don’t let all my work go to waste. It’ll be fine. The court date is next week. They can put me in jail for a few years for all I care, it really would only be for a couple of months,” she shrugged.

Something in Inya’s words felt odd to Rana, but with all the emotions surging inside her she ignored it. She sighed and opened the lunchbox she carried and pushed it towards Rana. “At least eat this.” Inside was rice with curried vegetables and a barley cake snuggled in.

Inya grinned and grabbed the barley cake. “Thanks.”


They could hear the rain on the roof as they watched each other, covering the noises from other tables. The meeting room was an antithesis to Inya’s cell. It repelled her, refusing one to stay for longer than necessary, whereas her cell felt ghosted by its previous occupants.

“Why are you here again? You should stay away, just in case they start investigating you again,” Inya wore her best scolding expression. Her skin fell loose around her cheeks and eyes, the difference in her fading complexion and the dimming eyes more pronounced than the difference in calendar days.

“No. I don’t care. Two years, Inya! I don’t know why you’re smiling. I will keep coming, you are family now.”

Inya fidgeted with her blue grey uniform. She wasn’t prepared to have a ‘family’. That would complicate things; less attachment is better when her time is nearing. The pain was coming more often now; ironically, she appreciated the hard prison bed than the grave pit even though it was dank and hard.

“I heard from Raf,” Rana approached cautiously.

“What about?”

“You. Why you were in that graveyard. He said you have two to three months at most. Is this true?”

Inya sighed inside and groaned outside. She did not want more conversation on this. “Yes. That’s what the doctor told me, about a year ago.”

“Oh Inya, you should have kept some of the money for yourself. Do people here know? They could move you to a better facility, maybe?”

“What would I need the money for?” Inya seemed insulted at the suggestion, “It’s not curable. It’s a waiting game. I prepared myself to cause the least amount of work required from anyone. People here... they won’t be able to do much. Move me where? Everywhere is overpopulated. Let the hospital work on people who can actually be saved.”

Something went upside down deep inside Rana hearing the passionate anger in Inya’s insistence. It was anger, but also love, this woman with hard angles in her heart and her cruel kindness.

It pained her to break the news, but she hardened herself. “I have bad news.”

“Hmm?”

“The cemetery management was notified. They nullified your ownership of the plot. Raf luckily, didn’t lose his job, but he got a stern warning. All your preparations… and they won’t let you be buried there...”

Inya fell quiet for a bit, chewing the news and how it tasted within her mouth. Her tongue had lost its taste recently as her pain intensified, but even through the numbness she could taste this news — like iron, salty and metal. The grave plot was the last bit of thing in her life she thought she could control. To be beside her husband and son was apparently too much to ask for. “Well,” she carefully composed her reply, “that hardly matters since I’m here for two years. The state will take care of where I’ll be.” She hoped her words didn’t come out false.

“I’ve taken your clothes and coffin since then. They’re at my place. When you get out of this place, you’re coming to my place.”

Inya laughed, remembering the space she came into when she visited Rana’s hovel, “Where are you putting that coffin? Just get rid of it. You can wear any of my clothes, I obviously don’t need them.”

“I said, when you get out of this place — no buts and ifs, walking or otherwise, you’re coming to us,” she said in her best imitation to Inya’s stern voice. She let it sink in before continuing, “As for the coffin, I’ll just say we have a dining table now.”

Their eyes met in a silent argument; an offer, a counter, refusal, acceptance, and then simply gratitude. “A dining table, huh?”

They laughed, wrinkles agreeing. Their voices rich with promises against the receding rain.

Thank you million times for reading this story, give yourself a pat on the back you’ve read five thousand something words. This story would not have been readable without the help of my dear friends Tamyka Bell and Kathy Jacobs. Any feedback is also very welcomed.