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The Hidden Temple (chapter two)
Mother seemed worried, about what, Malonina did not know. Mother seemed anxious, and Malonina guessed that wherever she and Kealana went once a week in the evening was making her nervous.
Malonina ground the grain with her grinding-stone, putting more force in the task than was necessary. She hated being too little to be told things, too young to wear the sulitah, the bright, long, soft cloth that older girls and women used. She still wore the shorter cocomba, which was short and coarse and childish. All of her sisters wore the sulitah except for Munamar, who was old enough to use it but instead preferred the shorter dress. She said it was more comfortable than the long sulitah that didn't let you run and stretch your legs.
“Imagine there was an attack,” Munamar would challenge when anyone criticized her eccentric ways. “What would you do then? You wouldn't be able to run away and escape. The enemy would see you because of the bright colors. If you wore the cocomba, though, you would be able to run, and they wouldn't see you as easily because of the brown color.” People scoffed at the very idea of an attack. There hadn't been one in ninety long years, so how could there possibly be one now?
Munamar and Malonina were also the only ones out of the five daughters who didn't wear a cundit. The nose ring embedded with tiny diamonds sparkled in the sunlight, a symbol of the women they were growing into. Munamar and Malonina were too young to wear it.
Kealana, the oldest, was the only daughter who wore her hair long, a sign that she was a woman and of marriageable age. Her dark hair glittered in the sun, the diamond-studded ribbons she intertwined in it shimmering as light fell upon it.
One could say they were rich; wealthy people worked in this village, unlike the town two or three days away, where people spent their time partying and resting if they were rich, and working if they weren't.
Later in the afternoon, after Malonina had finished grinding the grain, on of her sisters, Feredella, the second-oldest, burst in through the door, cheeks red, breathless, as if she had run a mile. Malonina, looking at her big sister's sulitah, and remembering Munamar's words, thought, no, most likely shuffled. She can't run in that, according to Munamar.
Malonina was curious. “Why? What happened?”
“Nothing. Where is she?” Feredella asked again, looking impatient.
“Upstairs. She's scrubbing the floor.”
Feredella turned from Malonina and scurried across the room and up the wide steps. Malonina went too, sneaking up the stairs and pressing herself to the door Feredella had just closed. She heard them talking in hushed, frightened voices.
“Mother, they were right! They are coming! Two hours away, maybe three if we're lucky.”
“Feredella, are you sure? Who told you? Are they really coming because the want a friend for that girl? And are they really attacking, or do they come in peace?”
“Mother, I'm sure. Kalin told me. They're coming for a girl about thirteen years old, maybe fourteen. Like Malonina and Munamar,” she added, her voice breaking. “They really are attacking, and they want a rich girl.”