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Warm fire sparks. Hands joined around me. Murmuring voices. It might seem boring, and most definitely repetitive, but I take comfort in this small yearly ritual, since I can nothing else.
“Sit,” a voice offers. I slide to the soft sandy ground and the Grandfather bows his head. Slowly the rest of us do the same.
The Grandfather murmurs a prayer of some sort that we repeat before we are each handed a papaya. The sacred fruit, they call it. I have no idea why, but I wouldn't turn down a treat this good.
My two friends sit nearby, Enriq and Androka. He whispers something to her and Androka passes it on to me.
“Enriq says the Grandfather wants to talk to you.”
My stomach churns. The Grandfather never wants to have to deal with us “children.”
“Yeah.” It's Enriq who answers.
On wobbly knees I cross around the circle to the Grandfather, at the head of the fire.
With the Grandfather, you are not to speak until spoken to, but this time, roiling with anxiety, I can't contain myself.
“Sir?” I say, uneasy.
He seems to sigh, though I can't hear it. “Meltha.” It's like an open-ended question, and then it disappears.
“Sir?” I say again.
He turns and faces me, his dark eyes wise with age. “Meltha. I'm promoting you to Green tonight.”
“Green?” I can't contain my excitement either. Although only a step up from Yellow, it's a title of maturity.
He nods. “You've proven yourself a very responsible young lady.”
I'm so overwhelmed with happiness yet at the same time humility that I don't know what to say.
He dips his head, signaling his finality, at which point I run back over to Enriq and Androka.
“I made Green!” I grin and dance around them.
“Lucky,” they pout.
“I am lucky,” I say, and for the first time in a while, I smile.