The night is dark and I can’t sleep. I climb over the sleeping bodies of my younger brother and sister, and tiptoe to the doorway. There’s no door. We had one, but Father chopped it up for firewood when we were all sick and couldn’t go out to find any. I shiver. It’s always cold, but snuggling up to their little bodies does make a difference. I won’t stand here long.
I’m watching Mother, holding the cooking pot above her head. She looks funny, … and then I hear it. Drip … drip. The roof is leaking, and Mother catches the drops of water. “Let me take a turn,” my father whispers.
“No, please, go to sleep. It’s another long day in the field tomorrow, you’ll need your rest.”
I can’t believe what I’m seeing. I never thought to ask where the water came from for the cooking. I tiptoe back to the mattress on the floor. I settle down without waking the others, but I don’t want to be cosy under this sheet. I want to catch the rain so Mother can rest. I let the tears fall until I go to sleep …
* * *
I always loved the freedom of running, but my pace is slower this morning. I kissed Mother goodbye and left the house as usual to go to the project. I pass a market stall and think they must have been working for hours. I wave to Auntie, because today it’s her turn on our stall. Tomorrow Mother will leave home early with some of the baskets she’s made, and I’ll have to feed the little ones their breakfast. There are so many treats at the market – bowls of steaming-hot rice, toys, knitted blankets … I wish we could afford a blanket.
I turn a corner and now I can see the church. I make my way through a gate in the fence, as other children play in the street with any pieces of rubbish they can lay their hands on. I try not to look at them. I know it’s an honour to be here, and I know I’ve done nothing to deserve it. I hear the love in their words and see it on their faces as we’re welcomed into the building. There’s a door here, and windows. Even a room full of computers. I only sit at one of these once a week, but they tell us that one day, we can use them to write to people all over the world.
They tell us lots of things here. They read from the Bible, giving us little bits to remember, and they tell us we can dream. We can have a future, they say. I didn’t like that at the start. I sulked. I thought they wouldn’t say the same if they really knew how we lived. They visited us once. I didn’t think they’d come back, … but they came back. They visit often now – every few weeks; they know how we live, and still, they say, we can dream. What if they’re right? What if there’s more to life than catching the rain?
* * *