She stepped light down the road, this mother, her feet pat-patting on the soft, red dirt. The weight of the one child pulled on her back, a sweet, sleepy weight. The other walked beside, proud at being so big. The mother shaded her eyes against the morning sun to judge the land, to know how far until they should stop to drink, eat some of their hard-saved beans.
The land was wide here, a stretch of red and brown dust, rock, and scraggle-tooth trees far into the sky. Only this road brave enough to go through it, this road and this mother.
Another two days, she decided, to the grandmother's house. They could make it that long on the beans. The water was closer—with the little one still sucking milk, the mother's mouth got dried up sometimes. Not dry like the deer bones next to the road, but almost.
"See that rock pile there, way down if you squint?" she said to the big one. Ahadi, her strong boy. Skin the color of embers at night, dark with glints of fire. Cheekbones and eyes just like his daddy. She cringed from that thought, back to the boy before her. Here. Alive. "We stop there to rest. You make it that far?"
"Yes, Mama." He gave her a smile, slow and small. He was quiet since his daddy gone. No telling if he'd seen it. She didn't want to know.