There is a long table with food set on it. William puts some curry, dal and roti on a plate. He looks across the room and sees Pratima sitting with Jyotsna.
"Are you related to the host?" William steps over to a young woman standing with food in her hand.
"Not really," she answers. "But, everyone in this small town is related." William smiles.
"I call Jyotsna auntie, but I don't think she really is," she laughs. "You come from the big city?"
"I suppose you could say that," William nods his head. "My last assignment has seen me in Jaipur for the last few years."
"Where were you before that?" she wonders. William looks toward the ceiling as his mind wanders back into the past.
"I was born in Goa," William finally softly responds. "That is where I grew up."
"Ah," she interjects. "What was it like growing up at the beach?"
"I had a good time..." William pauses while thinking. He is searching for something interesting to tell. "I got in lots of trouble as a child."
"Well!" she looks interested.
"Once when I was about 10 years old, some friends of mine threw firecrackers at people at the beach," William relates sheepishly.
"A group of policemen approach us and catch all three of us," he ducks his head in shame. "I have about 20 rolled up firecrackers in my pocket."
She is smiling and looking very amused.
"They load us onto a horse wagon," he continues breathlessly. "I am stuffing leaky firecrackers into the hay and clothe cushions in the truck bed. Four large horses are drawing the wagon. The smell is of hay and gunpowder. This old wagon is large and solid. The wheels are squeaking as they rush toward the station. My ten year old brain is boiling. All I can think about is how to minimize the dangerous anger of the Librarian." she looks at him curiously.
"My parents had died," William explains. "I lived in libraries from my early childhood. Instead of parents, I had library staff in charge of me."
"Is that why you got in trouble," she asks in a curious and friendly tone.
"Maybe," William shakes his head. "I was always pushing boundaries."
"Well, it had been so great coming back from visiting Mangalore and having firecrackers," he smiles. "It was great hearing the noise and smelling the smell and having the rush of adrenaline when setting them off."
"But, then I'm picked up by the police and there is a rush, but not a pleasant rush. Emotions are coursing through me like a shaking and quaking earthquake. I have a huge amount of firecrackers in my pockets. I am obsessed with getting them off my body before we get to the police station."
"Did you?" she wants to know.
"Yes," William sighs. "But, the police station cell, is a new surprise. The policeman turns a huge key in a massive lock in a solid metal door. I am not prepared for how solid and impressive the door and walls to the cell turn out to be. The smell is of disinfectant and chlorine, like a hospital." she nods sympathetically.
"The sounds are muffled through the great walls. I hear distant doors slamming and a slow shush of the air through ventilation ducts." William relives the experience. "I am alone with plenty of room to spread out. I touch the walls, they are like a smooth concrete and feel incredibly solid. They seem like they could last for one thousand years."
"That must have been horrible," she suggests.
"I think of escaping, but there is absolutely no way." he nods. "I keep looking and examining the walls, door, floor and ceiling. The ceiling is out of reach, but it doesn't matter. There are vents for air, but they are way too small for any human to squeeze through. The floor and walls have no holes, or openings of any kind, except the one door. I realize that no matter how healthy, athletic and flexible I might be, there is no possible way for me to escape. I feel like crying but can't."
"Did you learn a lesson?" she challenges.
"Yes," he presses his lips together. "I learned that if I was going to be locked up, it better be for a good reason." She laughs loudly at him. He smiles shyly.
"What is your name, young man from Goa?" she cocks her head.
"I am William Way..." he says quickly. Before he can ask her name, William hears noise coming from behind him. As he turns he sees people pushing into the room through the doorway out from the street. Those entering are a group of men led by an older woman in bright colors.
"I did not receive an invitation to your party. I was surprised," The new woman shouts across the room in Jyotsna's direction.
"You are welcome, join us in peace," Jyotsna rises to her feet.
"It is too late for that, my sister. Soon I will rule this valley, and you will bow at my feet."
"Surely we can sit down in peace as we always have, as sisters," Jyotsna bows toward her.
"Yes, can we?" Raakhi smiles. "I want the Librarians. I want them all. I want them now!" Jyotsna puts a hand on Pratima's shoulder.
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