STORY SO FAR: Amina and Ibrahim have received news from the Public Defendant that their daughter, Rahima, has been arrested for heroin trafficking in a faraway city. They are Grand-Apam and Grand-Dadam to one grandchild, Adiljan.
At the beginning of winter, the frost grows so fast along the window pane you can watch the small, white lines branching as they grow sideways away from one another. Adiljan stands with his hand to the glass for several minutes but the heat of his hand makes no difference to the crisp movement of ice along the outside surface.
“I know why,” he breathes into his transparent reflection. “Two panes of glass.” The frost is on the outer pane. He is inside with the warmth, the smell of the kitchen and the low, deliberate sounds of Grand-Dadam’s voice. The ice shuffles forward, slowly filling the pane with intricate patterns.
Grand-Apam says it’s not right to disturb someone’s rest, but Rahima shouldn’t be allowed to sleep through this. Some things only happen once a year. It’s now or never.
He runs to where she is lying on the floor of her room, her bedding a mess.
One time, when she had only just finished a rest, Rahima had invited Adiljan in here to play. Her bedding had still been unfolded and spread out over the floor.
“I have a gift for you, Adiljan,” she had said. “Under the bedclothes.”
He had crawled under the thick bed-coverings and made his way down to the bottom of the roll, all the time searching for what she had hidden. He had even gone so far under she had lost sight of him.
“Adiljan! Where have you gone? Why have you disappeared? Will you never come back to the bedroom? Haha!”
“I’m! Under! Here!” Yet even yelling as loudly as he could, he couldn’t make her hear him. How easy it was to become lost under the thick cotton wadding of his aunt’s covers.
Adiljan had tried to do the same in his own bed, but had never felt quite as lost. Curled up small or lying out flat, his body still seemed as obvious as mountains rising from the foothills. There was a magic with Rahima. What was it that she had hidden that time, anyway?
“The frost is here, Rahima. Come and watch it grow.”
She isn’t moving. He kneels beside her and puts his cool palm to her cheek but she does not stir. He pushes her face sideways on her pillow, then shoves it back the other way. “Rahima, the frost is just now coming! You have to see it.”
She lifts her eyelids for a moment, then falls back to sleep. Adiljan stands up and puts his hands on his hips. Then he turns, walks out of her room and shuts the door loudly behind him.
“Adiljan?” Grand-Apam is walking into the hall from the kitchen, wiping her fingers on her apron.
He looks down at the carpet and presses his lips together.
“What is the matter, my child?”
“The frost is growing on the windows,” he screws his toes into the carpet, watching them disappear into the pile.
“Oh. I would like to see that. Which window, my child? Come, come. Show me.” She is pushing him from behind towards the lounge room, hand in the curve of his back.
When Rahima had left Grand-Apam’s house for her new job, her bedroom had stayed empty. Then one day, Grand-Apam had taken Adiljan into the room and said it was his room to sleep in whenever he was over. That night, he had watched Grand-Apam pulling bedding from the cupboard.
“That’s Rahima’s bedding.” He had thought of the gift.
“It will do for you, too, will it not?”