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So Janaki sat there, upon another boulder, staring at the tattered straps of her sandals darkening for hours in the fading sun, feeling the Afghan evening’s chill settle all around her. She could hike back to Kabul, perhaps, or onwards, to whatever the next city was—Herat? Either way was too far, and she did not have enough money for a new bicycle in either direction. She definitely couldn’t afford anything else, and the locals passing by in carts and old trucks paid her no attention. Her thoughts fed back into each other in an hours-long loop. It was during another countless one of those iterations that a shred of conversation filtered through, from another beach months earlier, as the two of them watched the gently lapping waves of the sea. “Everyone says it’s karma that put me here,” Janaki had said. Riccardo had tightened his fingers snugly around her hands. “If karma put a good person like you in this position, then, surely, something has to balance it out?” Janaki had looked up into his eyes. “Am I a good person?” she’d asked. Even if he didn’t quite understand, Riccardo had smiled. “Something good is bound to happen to you.” The next she knew, she saw the front of a rainbow-swirled van, like another one of the brightly painted Volkswagens owned by European travellers. It pulled up to the roadside. One of the doors opened, and a woman with short, cropped jet-black hair stepped outside, the wind blowing her red scarf in trails behind her. She said something in a language Janaki could not hope to understand. “I’m sorry?” Janaki replied. “I don’t speak . . .” “Oh. I said, you look lost. Do you need a lift?” Knowing she could not muse over her luck for much longer, Janaki nodded, and the woman beckoned her into the caravan. ∗∗∗ The other woman’s name, Janaki learned as she felt a warm cup of tea enter her numbed hands, was Natsuki Sato. She’d come from Yokohama, Natsuki told her. She and her brother had both been living in West Germany for several years, and in the spring of 1974, they’d collectively decided to take a deshpande 55

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Red Cedar Review Vol. 54  

Red Cedar Review Vol. 54  

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