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Not For Me
"Come on, you have it! Pull him up nice and steady." My father cheered me on as I pulled in my catch. It was my first fish and I was really excited. I had never felt so alive; the wind blowing through my glossy black hair and the adrenaline rushing through every inch of my body as I tried with all my might to bring in that fish.
That's all I remember of my father. The next morning he was gone. No one knew what had happened to him, not even my mother. I'm now old enough to leave my tribe- the Pessoas de Era or the People of the Age to find him. When I discoursed with the elders only months ago I was not found in their favor. They suggested that I was too young and weak to make the journey. I then stubbornly vowed to prove them wrong. I would find answers, maybe even find my father and they couldn't stop me. The elders just learned of my vow and lectured me on how foolish I was, but a vow is a vow and the elders wouldn't let me break it. They accepted my, well stupid discussion and supplied me with everything I needed for the road. And the worst was over. Well, so I thought.
"One more thing Luana, you will be appointed a guide for the sake of your protection. Bento will accompany you on your journey. This will not be up for negotiation. That's final." The oldest elder made it clear that he would not allow any further changes to his plan.
Great, I'm going on a mission to save my father with a complete show-off! Could this day get any worse?
At that exact moment, Bento walked up in his heroic stature and proclaimed, "Did someone say my name?"
"Oh, hello Bento. I didn't hear anyone say your name. It must have been the wind or something."
"I said your name, Bento," The elder met eyes with me and flashed a warning, "Luana, it's final."
"Yes, sir." I look down at my hands with shame and a whole lot of rage. Why are they doing this to me? They all know I'm looking for a very providential man in the tribe's counsel. Maybe they're just trying to get rid of me or make sure that I don't succeed so they don't look like cowards.
"Luana, we should probably get going before it gets dark." Bento actually said it in a caring tone.
"For once you're actually right Bento."
"Har, har, har. That wasn't funny."
I jumped in the cart, took the reigns of my father's burros, and started clicking for them to go.
"Luana, you could get hurt! Pull back to stop them!" Bento frantically dropped what he was doing to come to my rescue.
"Don't worry Macho Man! I've been driving since I was five." I zipped around the corner of small thatched huts. I came to my better judgment once I reached my hut. I remembered the fun summer days of running through the long grass while my father sat on a stool carving out my first bow.
This is for father, NOT me. I'll go back. Bento is my best bet.
I quickly turned the cart around and pulled right up to Bento.
"I knew you would come back. Now, let's be on our way." Bento said with a smile and plopped in right beside me.
I drove for hours after sunset and finally gave up the reigns. Slowly I drifted off to sleep dreaming of the day when I will see my father again.
"Hey, Luana. Wake up. Luana..." Bento tapped me on the shoulder in one of his effortless attempts to wake me up. I opened my eyes to see the sun rising over the mountains. It seemed so small compared to the massive mountains blocking it's path to glory.
The horizon was nothing but small straggling trees and bushes that the sun had scorched clean. Not a leaf was in site. Once the sun came out it got way too hot and I had to take off my knitted shall, the sun burning my bare arms.
"Look Luana! It's a village!" Bento practically squealed with delight. He clicked and the burros picked up the pace. We got to this very peculiar village and there were people in boots and hats and strange coats. They wore weapons on their waists and around their thigh, and the structures were very large compared to out thatched huts. We walked into one of the strange structures and were met with white men with mean eyes. My father had always told me stories of the white man, but I never dreamed of seeing them in person.
Bento pulled me close to him as we walked by each set of squinted eyes. "I've heard lethal things about these people, stay close."
There were people at small wooden tables were playing some sort of game. When I asked Bento he said that they were 'gambling'. "You roll dice and pay dinheiro. Whoever won got all the money." It didn't make much sense to me but this was a strange village.
We got to a counter on the other side of the room and Bento spoke to the man who was standing behind it. He looked very important. Bento spoke these strange words to the man, nothing I had ever heard. It sounded like a bunch of gibberish, but the man understood him.
Bento looked at me when the man walked away an laughed, "I learn English at the Escola back home. That's what they speak here. You didn't think I'd be helpful in any way did you?"
"You are the daughter of the priest?" An old man walked up to me and asked me in my language.
"You can speak my language! Sim, my father is the priest of the Pessoas de Era. How did you know?" I was so confused. I was in this strange place where no one spoke my language, yet here in front of me was a man who knew my father.
"I knew your father before he disappeared and he told me stories of his beautiful daughter. I am aware that you are searching for answers, and I have them." The old man smiled and led us down a hall and into a small room with nothing but a small wooden table, three chairs and a whole lot of dust. It was dark in there, the window was covered with some white fabric. The old man then pointed to a strange raindrop shaped object. "It's called a lamp. Out here we use it for light instead of fire and torches."
"Surpreendente!" I was in awe. There had never been anything created like this back home!
"About your father, I don't know much but he left you this." The old man handed me a small bow and three arrows.
"This is the bow he was carving for me when I was little!" I cradled the bow in my hand and tears began to roll down my cheek and onto the bow.
"Sim, he told me that one day you would come looking for him. He wanted me to tell you that when you came he would be gone. Wherever you went to find him, he will have already left. Desculpa." With that, I knew I would never find my father. I started silently crying hanging my head so they couldn't see my face.
"Obrigado sir. We should be on our way. Come on Luana." Bento helped me up and out of the door. I felt weak, like fainting. Worse news had never come to me in my life.
Getting in the cart I didn't jump to the reins like usual. Time seemed to slow down and Bento seemed to worry more and more.
"Are you ok Luana?"
"Why did you let me do this Bento? Why? Why did I even think I'd have a chance at this? It was stupid." I sobbed.
"You have never been afraid to try, that's why." Bento tried to comfort me but I just threw another question at him.
"And why did I drag you out here? You would have been better off without me endangering you. I'm just thinking of myself. I'm nothing."
"I wasn't in any danger Luana. And you know what, you taught me that I wasn't number one. That it's not always about me. Luana, you care about your father, that's something. I went my entire life thinking that the world revolved around me." Bento smiled a wide smile and we started home.