…..Yes Xahri, what is it? He points towards the gate and I follow his finger and at the end of it I see people running and there’s a lot of noise more like chaos. Out of fear, I got up, grabbed his hand and started running towards the gate too but then I remember that we left my mother behind or maybe she left us. At this point I’m confused so I ask Xahri where mommy was and he just looked at his feet. I yelled at him, “where did mommy go?”, then he started to cry. I look around trying to find her. I was thinking to myself “she couldn’t have left us again” or maybe stern face came to take her and made her drop to the ground like my older brother and sisters. I’m trying to calm Xahri down and find my mother at the same time and I became overwhelmed. Everything was spinning, it felt like we were in the middle and everything around us was moving at super speed but we couldn’t move. I had to bend down, hands over my ears so I could focus and think, think of where she could be. Then I remember the biscuits she gave my brother and I. Maybe she’s there. She may have gone back there to find us. With Xahri on my heels, we went back there but we couldn’t find her. We couldn’t find the rest of the biscuits and juice pack either. Maybe somebody found them or it could have been the wind. I didn’t want to panic again, I didn’t want to upset Xahri any more than he already was. We keep going around in circles and just as I was about to give up and leave, another kid, older, came to me and asked what we were doing there and why we weren’t leaving. I didn’t understand what he meant by the last statement. Did he know that nobody was allowed to leave the compound except for when stern face and his friends came to get us? Or maybe he is new around here so he doesn’t know yet how things work around here. I asked him what he meant and he told me the story of how some people escaped the last raid and they came to tell us that the soldiers have taken stern face and his friends away and there was a lot of fighting and that we were now free. I didn’t understand what he was saying but I definitely understood free. When he was done with his story, I asked if he had seen my mother. I tried my best to describe her and he said he did. I was very happy and begged him to take Xahri and me to her. We hurried out of the compound, as fast as our little legs could carry us and followed him closely for a couple of hours until we got to another compound. It was quiet in there. It seemed like the madness that we just left was a different world away. There were some chickens picking worms in the ground. I also saw some dogs snoozing under a mango tree. It was a big as the compound we were held captive but unlike the lone tree in the center, this one had many trees. It seemed like it had all the fruits in the world and that thought reminded me of the hunger I had been fighting so hard to ignore. We finally got to the door of the building. It was a mud hut. Then the young boy started shouting “Mama! Mama!!” I have found another one. I was a little confused and scared. I didn’t know what he was talking about and I held on to Xahri’s hand, preparing to run. But then a woman came out and she looked at me and said “Come, don’t be scared, I wouldn’t hurt you”, I wasn’t sure to believe her but I didn’t think we had a choice so I went with her. I whispered to the boy “this is not my mother” and he said “No, she is mama”. I wanted to go back outside. My mother must be looking for us. She must be worried. We are going to get in trouble for leaving. All of these thoughts coursing through my mind. I’m also very tired and hungry. Xahri looks like he is about to faint and I was worried that if I decided to run away, he wouldn’t be able to run fast and I wasn’t going to leave him behind so I decided to follow mama. My mother will find us here. This is the only compound close to where we were held captive so yes, she will find us here but that’s if she makes a right at the gate. What if she makes a left? What is on the left? This place is really far too. What if she gets tired and can’t keep on. We should have given her some biscuits and juice too. We enter into another room in the hut and there are some children in there. They were seated on benches on either side of a long table eating some yam porridge. The sight and smell of food made my stomach growl. I’m not sure if mama heard that but then she told Xahri and me to have a sit and asked the boy to get us plates and cups of water. The other children didn’t give us any mind at all, they were eating and chatting away. They seemed to be from a different place from where we were coming. Joshua brought the plates and cups of water as mama had instructed and she served us some yam porridge. Xahri and I were ravenous, we devoured the food so quickly that mama decided to give us more only if we promised to slow down. When we finished eating, mama told us we needed a bath. Joshua took us outside the hut and gave us two buckets of water. A sponge made from raffia and some soap. I bathed Xahri first and took him in before having a bath myself. By the time I went back into the hut, Xahri was asleep and I lay beside him and I fell asleep before my head hit the mat.
…..Xahri and I are playing in the backyard with the other kids when I hear a familiar voice. I heard mama say “Oh, they are well, they are in the back…”, I wonder who she’s talking to so I turn around the corner and it’s my mother, I run towards her, arms flailing beside me, my mother had her arms stretched out ready to catch me just as I jumped into them almost sending the both of us to the ground. To say I was happy is an understatement. I had a million and one questions but I couldn’t find the words. My arms tight around her neck, I didn’t want to lose her again. She’s saying something but I can’t hear her. At this point, all I want to hear is “we are going home”. We go inside the house and mama offers her something to eat and drink. I’m kind of surprised that she didn’t ask for Xahri and for a brief moment, I allow myself believe that I’m her favorite. That she really missed me and nothing else mattered. Mama asks me to get off my mother so she can eat her food. I reluctantly let go of her and use the opportunity to go find Xahri. I mean, mother can’t disappear again while she’s eating, I know that mama wouldn’t let that happen. I run outside to where we were playing and I didn’t find anyone there. Everywhere seemed awfully quiet. Well maybe they have all gone into the other shed, but there is nobody there. I begin to panic because this feeling is familiar. It’s like the last time mommy came and gave us biscuits and the juice pack and then disappeared. So I run back to where she was eating earlier and she’s not there either. “What is happening?” this can’t be happening again! Where did everybody go? Did she take Xahri home and leave me here? Oh no, this is because of what I was thinking earlier- that I’m her favorite. I shouldn’t have been bad. Mama! Mama!! Mommy! Mommy!! Mommy!!! Xahri! Joshua!! Where is everybody? Finally, I hear someone call my name from afar and I run towards the voice but it seems far away and the whole place starts to vibrate. I am so confused at this point and beyond panic so I scream, as loud as I can and that’s when she came in, mama held me. Whispering words I can’t make out to me, she’s rocking me back and forth. Then I come to it and hear her “It’s okay, it’s okay Ravvit”, “You are okay, mama is here”. I open my eyes and there are a hundred more staring down at me. In the corner of my eye, I see Xahri in the corner, looking terrified. I’m trying to figure out where they all were and where is my mother? Why does she keep leaving us behind? Is she tired of us? Is it because I am bad? Where is my mommy? I mutter quietly, mama looks at me like I had just spoke a foreign language. I ask her again, and that’s when she asked all the other kids to leave. She still hasn’t answered my question. She says to me that she has to take me somewhere. I ask about my mother again but she deflects. She tells me about a place that she will take us kids to. A place where we will be happy, where we can go to school and learn things. I don’t want to go there, I want my mother, I’m happy here, and Joshua reads some books to us so I don’t need to learn anything. Then mama said that this place she wants to take us is better than her hut and I can find mother there. I ask her why she let my mother go in the first place. She looks at me with that same like of confusion and then pulls me in and rocks me back and forth, muttering some words and now she’s sobbing. I’m thinking maybe she is upset for letting my mother go and she is sorry. So I tell her that I will stop asking questions and that I forgive her for letting my mother go. She helps me to my feet and tells me to call Joshua and three of the older kids. I do as she asks and everyone keeps looking at me like something is wrong. Well I guess my screams were really loud. It must have worked because they all came out from wherever they were hiding. She gives them some instructions and the next thing is they start giving us these little bags to put our things in. I was helping Xahri pack his little bag when mama walked into the room and Resa asked “Mama, why are we packing our things? Are they coming to get us again? And mama responded “You are packing your things because you all are going home” A deafening silence followed. I don’t know if it was because we were too excited to speak, or we were silent out of fear, or maybe because we didn’t know where home was or worse, we had forgotten what home was. The concept of “home” was so far gone that we didn’t know whether going there was a good or bad thing.