'Where on earth have you been!' Mother blusters, hustling me inside, and setting a steaming bowl of stew before me on the rough wood table.

'Out,' I reply softly, but no one hears, as the rest of the family enters. Annie bounces up and down in her bare feet on the flagstones, tugging at Mothers apron.

'Mama, mama,' she bleats.

Mother bats her away softly at settles two more bowls on the table. Adam sulks by the door, arms folded.

'Come and eat,' Mother commands, slicing a loaf of bread with swift, sharp motions.

The family gradually settles at the table, and for a while the only sound is slurping and chewing, the scrape of spoon on bowl, the refreshing splash of water in a mug.

I finish first, and watch Adam toy with a sinewy lump of meat. His fringe hangs in his eyes, and he can't be bothered to sweep it away as he usually does.

I know exactly what's wrong. He turns thirteen in two weeks, and that's the age that all boys leave to join the army. He won't be back. The last time we'll ever see him is on that fatefall day when he turns twenty one, and returns home for the very last time.

One month. One month to pass on the family genes, one month to say goodbye.

It was a harsh world, under the matriach's rule, but men are un clean. They do not belong in our town.

A womans hand is strong and firm, her mind just as so. We live togethe, work together. Many things have been deneyed of us- the right to love and marry a man, the right to sing and dance and make merriment.

But we struggle on. We are happy.


The End

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