The lamp's frail light cut the darkness in yellow rays. And the cramped house with broken furniture spoke of poverty.
“What is wrong with Aiko?” Papa inquired.
“Typhoid,” she blurted out as she ran a wet cloth over Aiko's scorching head.
“I am afraid that typhoid in pregnancy is a massive threat to the mother and child,” Yang added while glimpsing at Mika's innocent eyes.
“Is there any cure?” he inquired worriedly.
“Cross the border. You won't find anything here,” came her quick reply as she prescribed the medicine.
Mika poked her father on the elbow after she left.
“Didn't Leong's mother and her baby die of typhoid? Could it be the same with Mum and the baby?” Mika asked.
“Ssshh, don't say that, darling. Nothing will happen to Aiko and the baby,” Papa assured Mika as his voice veiled the fear that reigned within.
Mika held her mother's hands tightly to her chest. And Papa waved a hand-fan over her sweating body.
The next day he went to the village market with a faint hope of finding the medicine Yang had prescribed. The market lacked regular necessities as the country had been plagued by all kinds of suffering. It was more like a lifeless patch of land. They tortured their own kind. They neither provided them an access to a normal life nor let them escape the land. The fleers were sent to the torturing camps when they failed to cross the border.
Papa mustered the courage to bring the medicine anyhow from the adjacent country often described as heaven by the countrymen. And he thought of fleeing this land with his family once Aiko became alright. Though the unfortunate tales of his known people getting caught and facing the authority's wrath haunted him, he was firm on his decision.
The ocean had claimed the sun before he got home. Freeing his legs from the stiff boots, he sat beside Aiko and Mika.
“I am leaving tonight. I will be getting the medicine for you, and after you get okay, we will hopefully escape from this country,” he said quickly. These words jolted both Mika and Aiko since it was all too sudden.
“But you will get killed. Don't you know what happened to Msai and her daughter when they were caught?” Aiko fumed with anger.
“Don't worry, darling. Nothing will happen to me,” came Papa's persuading reply as he clutched Mika and Aiko in a tight hug.
He rummaged through the rickety shelf to pack the necessities for the risky journey while Aiko and Mika aided him.
“Goodbye. Take care of Aiko and the baby, Mika,” he glanced at Mika with a pacifying smile after he kissed Aiko and her swollen belly.
As he slid outside the door, Mika and Aiko broke down in tears. Papa didn't seem afraid of death. A pool of tears welled in his eyes too, but he held them back. He knew he had to be strong. He didn't glance back at them. He knew that doing so would have stopped him from going. They were unattached magnets, and Papa's pace was the separating force until they became two different poles.
A month elapsed. The cold winds made the air nippy. Mika sat on the porch as her mother's lifeless body rested on her lap. The baby had stopped kicking inside her too. Mika's tears dried up. She caught a glimpse of the sky, aware that Papa couldn't make it to the heaven across the border. But he certainly made it to the one that reigned over the sky.