I open my eyes. It is time to wake up. It is so serene. The sound of nature is always so welcoming. This is how my family and I like it.
We live deep in the jungle, in a solitary home. I live with my parents and my older brother. Being the youngest daughter in the family has many advantages… and disadvantages. I have most of my chores done without even lifting a finger. Whenever my brother tries to drill me, my parents are just a scream away.
“Little sister, you will have to scrub the toilet today and there is no better time to do that than now,” here he is again, trying his luck. He passes me the pail and brush.
“Mommy! Daddy! Help! Big brother is bullying me!” I scream.
Two figures storm into the house and glare at my brother.
“Don’t you dare, little boy!” mommy bends down and stares at him.
“How are you, my little princess?” daddy leads me to the kitchen. “Sit down and have a cookie.”
My brother, hunching, passes by carrying the pail and brush. He walks into the bathroom in defeat, shoulders slump. In another minute, I hear water splashing and the sound of scrubbing. I let guilt creep in for a few seconds before I swallow it along with my cookie. Now, it is time for the second part of my plan.
“Dad! I’m leaving the dishes in the sink!” I call out. “I’m going out to play now!”
“Girl, go take a bath and brush your teeth before doing anything else!” mommy calls out.
“I wanted to but I can’t. Brother is in there!”
Perfect timing, I must say. Note to self not to repeat this trick too often. I put on my slippers and stroll out to the open. I climb to the top of the slide my daddy made last year. I used to feel I am on top of the world but the novelty is wearing off. I slide down and enjoy the sinking feeling in my stomach, even though it lasts only for a split second. Once I land on the ground, I bounce off and land on the swing. I pump my legs and go higher and higher. If mommy sees this she will give me a good nagging.
I could not, and should not, stop moving because the mosquitoes will have me for food. I let the pendulum motion slow down before I hop off and move on to the next challenge. It is really fun to be the youngest in the family. I can spend every one of my waking hours playing and enjoying life.
When I reach the seesaw, I realise I lack a partner on the other end. My brother is still cleaning the toilet. I guess I will have to skip this unless… no, I do not want to play with my parents today. There are days that I like to spend alone and today is one of them.
After several rounds, I notice the time of day is shifting. Nature’s rhythm is changing. The owls’ hooting and crickets’ chirping are making way to those of early birds. I can hear a cockerel calling in the distance. Full of energy, I can play all day long but… the crunching sound of daddy’s footsteps on the jungle grounds is a sign to go home.
“Sweetheart, the sun is rising in a matter of minutes,” Daddy takes my hand. “It is time to go in.”
Like I mentioned earlier, being the youngest has disadvantages. I do not have as much freedom. I am always being told not to do this and that. My constant arguments with my parents and brother about staying up to see the sunrise fall on deaf ears. They tell me direct sunlight will burn us alive. I ask them why but their answers are not forthcoming.
As I follow my daddy home, I wonder if everyone is like us or is there anyone who lives in the day and sleeps in the night. Daddy closes the door and pulls down the window shutters while mommy prepares my room.
“Storytime!” daddy waits for me to get into bed and starts his story of the day. I think I manage to escape the day without a shower. I allow myself to chuckle, mentally.
As daddy drones on about some princess and her prince charming, my mind wanders off again into the unknown world I have never been to. My curiosity has been overwhelming. It is like an eternal flame that no water can put out. I have tried several efforts to go out into the sunlit world and venture beyond whatever invisible borders my family has set. Unfortunately, the attempts always ended in tears because I was caught.
I pretend to fall asleep. Daddy stops after several more paragraphs. I sense my mommy standing by the door. Someone blows out the candle and closes the door. I wait for my heart to beat a thousand times before I rise from my bed. I put my ear to the door. Silence. I push the door open as slow as possible but it still creaks. I can see the whole living room. Daylight streaming through gaps provides enough light. No one stirs so I creep to the main door.
I usually get caught here because the door is much heavier and the sound the hinges make can be as loud as thunder. The morning light hurts my eyes. I have to squint for a while. I turn to look but the room is too dark. I hope it is my lucky day so I turn and run off into the day. I forget to wear my slippers but I am not going to chance it.
I run until I have to slow down to catch my breath. My house is as small as a nut. I lean behind a giant tree to rest. In my eight years, this is my first time outdoors in the morning. I reach out and a beam of sunlight falls on the back of my palm. I do not feel any burning. My confidence is building. About a few hundred steps away, I see a clearing. Without hesitation, I run for it. I have to know.
I stop just a few steps shy of the clearing. I can feel the warmth of the sun. My mind tells me to turn back but my heart says it is fine to move ahead. I take a deep breath and walk forward. I step into the sunshine.