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Chapter Two

Two Years Earlier

“Huh?” I tried to read his face as he turned towards me. Nothing but a blank expression remained.
We sat there clutching our knees to our chests looking at nothing. Nothing but a moonlit lake in the middle of the valley where smoke rose out of the houses and lights turned off in the townspeople's homes one by one like lightning bugs drifting to sleep as we sat on top of our favorite hill. For a moment, I hoped he wouldn’t catch me envy his dark curls. I tried not to think about it but I knew this was our last time together. Together as friends.
“You remember last year when we went to the cinema for my birthday? And how they weren't going to let you in? But I said my father was a general and how he could get them in trouble if they didn't listen to me?”
“Yes.” I was worried as he said that because it took him a moment to think about it. "Yes, but we were only children, then."
“Children? That was last year. We still are children.”
He said nothing. We continued to stare at the houses, although by then, only a few lights twinkled in the distance.
“The truth is, I didn't do it because I was brave, I did it because--” I paused for a moment, trying not to allow my voice to quiver. “I did it because I was scared of never seeing you again. They would've taken you away, you know.”
He exhaled a loud and deep sigh. “Anna, it doesn’t matter anymore,” he said as he shook his head. “They’ve taken my father, they’ve take my brother, and I know they will take me, too. I don’t think I need any more of your sympathy.” His words were flat and tasteless like he was planning on saying that all along.
This crushed me. How could he say that to me after all I’ve done for him? After all the food and clothes I’ve sneaked out of my house to give to him and his family?
“You just don’t understand,” Daniel continued.
“What? What do I not understand about you? I understand that you’re my best friend, and—and that we’re supposed to share how we feel with each other.” I paused for a breath and continued. “How do they have anything to do with me?”
He wouldn’t look at me. He stared into the heavens like there were answers lying within the stars.
“It has everything to do with you, Anna,” he finally spoke. Something austere and strange appeared in his voice.
“What? Because of my father?”
“Would you kill me if I said yes?”
“Daniel, you know I can’t even stop him.”
“Anna! Do you have any sense in which it is wrong? Could you be as blind to not even know how my family has been suffering because of people like your father?”
“Yes I think it’s wrong!”
“Then why can’t you do something about it?!” He pounded his fists into the dirt as his face reddened with fury.
Anger and confusion flooded my mind. “You think he’ll really listen to me?” I whispered.
“Well, have you ever tried?”
No answers were given as questions flew from our mouths like arrows. I glanced at the yellow star just below his right shoulder. What ever happened to us? I felt like a traitor, not even recognizing how many restrictions people like Daniel were up against.
“I am sorry, Daniel. I wish I could change things, too, but I don’t want to speak about my father. Goodbye.”
I stood up and walked toward the houses with the moon as my guide. And just like that, without looking back, the flash of that memory will stay forever in my heart. Our relationship was like a candle, burning in the beginning, but as time went on, the wind blew out the flame with nothing left.
Two years have passed, and a thousand year reign will follow. I haven’t seen Daniel Kaufmann, my friend and my companion, since.
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