She walked with her brother and son through the forest. Gold sewn into the seams of her sarong. She was headed to the next town, to see the man she trusted to trade her a small sack of rice for her jewelry. Her father lay weak and starving in his hut. Refusing to eat from the shame and pain of seeing his children suffer. He did not want to live. She refused to give up on him.
It was dark. Still sweltering. Tropical. Each step was laced with the fear of landmines. And then, three figures appeared in the road.
Her brother and son immediately bolted down the path, into the trees. She couldn’t see them. She prayed for them and for herself as the young men wearing red cloths and rifles approached her.
They asked her who she was and where she was going. She lied and said she was going to look for her child. They believed her.
They spoke kindly to her. Called her “Aunt.” Told her they were sorry they couldn’t escort her to her destination. Warned her to make sure she stepped where the grass was already bent because that was safe.
And they went on their way. She exhaled her relief and breathed out another prayer. She found her brother and son. They walked.
But not her father.