Kim walked into the shack and saw a toothless grin on the face of the old man staring back at her.
The old woman behind him started to laugh, rising from her chair.
“Selamat dating. Selamat dating.” [Welcome]
Kim smiled and fumbled with a worn phrase book.
She looked down at the scuffed wooden floor and spoke with great care. “Aki, Memanjakan.” [Grandfather, Grandmother]
Kim bowed deeply. She had imagined this scene countless times yet could not have prepared for the strange yet familiar sense of joy welling up inside her.
Kim thought of a verse she had learned in church –
“…the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Kim smiled through her tears, as her grandmother directed her to a chair before a table filled with food.
“Cas. Cas.” [Eat.]
Together, they sat around the table and feasted on the rice and vegetables set before them.
Kim thought of a saying she once heard – “When you’re stuck with scarcity, binge on your blessings.”
“Terima kasih.” [Thank you.], said Kim.
Her grandfather looked up from his bowl and spoke lovingly – “Cucu perempuan, terima kasih kembali” [Grandaughter, you’re welcome.]
They ate in a comfortable quietness, serenaded by the soothing sound of grey-crowned babblers foraging around them.
Kim looked down at her bowl, then glanced at her grandmother and grandfather. There was something she had to know, but she was afraid of what she might find out. She looked at them with a tentative smile. A bead of sweat fell from her grandfather’s brow.
“Mana ibu?” [Where is mother?”]
Her grandmother looked down at the wooden floor. Her grandfather slowly rose to his seat. He knelt beside Kim and started to speak, but then burst into tears. He stepped out of the shack.
“Apa memanjakan?” [What, grandmother?]
Kim’s grandmother looked up. Her face became stone stiff.
Kim fumbled quickly through her word dictionary to find the meaning – “Soldier”.
“Apa Prajurit?” [What soldier?] Kim fumbled for the words. Her grandmother sat silent beside her. Kim feverously dug through the book.
“Prajurit membunuh mana?” [Soldier kill mother?]
Kim’s grandmother looked away. A tear formed in her eye and struggled to be released. She looked back at Kim and spoke slowly.
“Tidak. Ibu adalah seorang prajurit!”
Kim didn’t need her book to translate. She could read her grandmother’s eyes. Her mother had been the soldier.
She looked deeply into her grandmother’s eyes and felt a degree of sadness she had not thought possible. She wanted to cry, but the burden was too heavy to be unleashed.
Her grandmother took her right hand and laid it on Kim’s cheeks. Her stone face turned soft and she declared with a smile,
“Ibumu mata” [Your mother’s eyes.]
Kim smiled and as she did the tears flowed through her mother’s eyes.
Word Count: 466