PART three: buns
Chapter 19: The Return
BUNS pressed her head against her SKIMMA, who she held against her chest, as the plane continued to rock back and forth. She didn’t mind the turbulence. Her hangover, however, did. The headache it caused was becoming less bearable by the minute.
“Do you need a bucket, love? Can you not handle it?” one of the mercenaries she was traveling with asked.
“Fakucha you,” BUNS muttered. She wanted to scream it out, but she didn’t. She knew that doing so would hurt her head more than it would his feelings and his pride.
The mercenary laughed. BUNS tightened her grip around her SKIMMA and closed her eyes. She gritted her teeth as the turbulence got worse. Ordinarily, she would not have been able to stop thinking about whether the plane would get them to their destination. But that wasn’t the case anymore, because her lucky charm was right there with her, protecting her as it sat in her lap.
The plane continued to tremble for what felt like an eternity. But it finally stopped. BUNS kept her eyes closed. Her head felt better. She wondered what her brother must be up to. It had been a while since she had spoken to him. For some reason, the day they reconnected popped into her head. It had taken BUNS a long time to fulfill the promise she had made him. But she had managed to keep it. She had returned. She had found him again. And she had taken him with her, and protected and sheltered him ever since. He was now old enough to be his own OSZA, and had started to earn his own living as well, but he wouldn’t be where he was had she not helped him with his education and finances.
It hadn’t taken BUNS long to realize that she had found her brother just in time. Things weren’t going well for him. He had just come out to their parents about his sexuality when she had reached out to him, and to this day, she wasn’t sure if his revelation was because of circumstance or by choice. Their parents, as was expected, had not reacted well. Their father, who still had a drug problem, was livid. Their mother, aghast, and already searching for a good conversion therapy clinic. Her brother was thinking of running away, and she’d happened to show up before he managed to collect enough money to do so.
He was angry with her for leaving him, and angrier about everything the fallout of the crime she had committed had done to their family. It didn’t take long for the authorities to realize who had killed the SPRITE, and the social repercussions of the act had been severe. Her family was ostracized, and blamed for everything in her absence. Nobody was willing to help them with anything, and some of the members of their community were out for their blood. Her brother was beaten and bullied at school for a long time. Things kept going downhill until he told the authorities his truth. He didn’t want to. He wasn’t ready to do so, but he had no choice. He couldn’t take another day of being treated as a criminal. An investigation was launched, much to the anger of the community. Things got even worse for a while. Her brother was blamed for lying about the SPRITE and his legacy. Fortunately, a few of the other children came forward as well. And their truth brought about an avalanche, a reckoning unlike anything the town had ever seen. Things were hectic for a while, but when they settled down, they settled down for good. Her family agreed to settle with the ANJALIKA, and nobody bullied or beat her brother again.
The wounds of everything that had happened to him after she had run away were still fresh. However, her brother’s anger had not blinded him. He still knew what she had done for him, what she had sacrificed. It, therefore, didn’t take much to convince him to skip town with her. And so, they stole away into the night, a day after she had approached him and revealed herself. Her parents didn’t even realize that she was back in town, which was just how she had wanted it. Things went by smoothly from that point on. BUNS put her brother in a boarding school, and went back to meet him as often as she could every year. They worked on their relationship, and the anger and the blame dissipated over the years. And before she knew it, he was all grown up, and ready to go into the world and be his own OSZA.
BUNS smiled to herself as she thought of those days. Things were so much simpler then. It was just the two of them. Unlike now. She wasn’t sure how, or why, it had happened. But her mother had turned up a few years ago, and reached out to her brother, wanting to reconnect. BUNS was against it. She had refused to even entertain the idea. But her brother was different. Innocent and naive. He had agreed to it, and had thereby ended up making her life much harder.
He had started spending more time with their mother, and at some point, had even managed to forgive her for everything, which had made BUNS livid. She had tried to interfere, but he hadn’t listened. She had had to accept defeat, and step back in the end. He was old enough to make his own decisions after all. Despite her brother’s best efforts, their father had refused to accept him, and continued to do so, a fact that, much to BUNS’ surprise, didn’t make her as happy as she thought it would. It actually made her a little sad instead.
Over the years, after a whole lot of cajoling, emotional blackmailing and outright threatening from her brother, BUNS had agreed to start spending some time with him and their mother. BUNS didn’t speak much whenever her mother was present, opting to communicate with her in short bursts of anger instead. She never forgave her mother for any of the things that had happened either. BUNS did, however, eventually learn to be polite and calm, albeit at a glacial pace. She even let a smile escape her steely demeanor every now and then.
A fresh round of turbulence snapped BUNS out of her thoughts. She rubbed her SKIMMA’s head and closed her eyes again, her teeth grinding against each other even more intensely. She wondered if she ever could forgive her mother for all of it, or perhaps for even some tiny part of it. She didn’t think she had it in her, and she didn’t understand how her brother did. He had suffered more than she had. And yet, he had found a way to make peace with their mother. He even wanted to make peace with their father.
She didn’t like admitting it, but she was proud of him for it. As much as she hated the fact that he was willing to give them a second chance, after everything they had done, after the manner in which they had ruined their lives, she loved him all the more for having the courage to actually take such a step. She secretly wished that, someday, she would be able to follow his example, and feel some of that simple childhood joy she still remembered, the kind that only a parent’s heartfelt hug can provide, again.