CITY OF BRASS meets THE POPPY WAR
Of all Dada’s lessons, becoming a killer is what Khamilla learned best.
So when her parents are murdered by the sultana’s spies, she’ll stop at nothing to avenge them.
Even if it means infiltrating the sultana’s elite military to train as a soldier.
Even if it means fighting on the wrong side of a brewing war.
Even if it costs her humanity.
The blade glistens in the dying light.
I dig my feet into the dirt as Dada’s calloused hands slice the poisoned bread into fourths. My uma once told me hands define one’s story. Are they soft and supple like a bird soaring high on its first flight? Or are they scarred from the world, rough like a hawk set on caging its prey?
Studying Dada’s marred hands, I think hawk.
He passes me one piece, and I draw it into my mouth. My tongue prods at the sodden bread as I take in my Dada, reading him like a language.
His eyebrows are drawn together, with crease lines on his brown skin. His arms are crossed, legs closed too tightly like a taut blade against skin, eager for release. He’s irritated, judging by the leftward tilt of his body toward our hidden estate. Still, he betrays no flicker of revelation, nothing to inform me what sours the bread.
With his patience worn thin, Dada opens his mouth.
“Wait!” I plead. “I think I’ve figured it out.”
Clenching his jaw, Dada’s gaze touches mine. “You think, or you know?”
His words are always a test. I brush a finger against the dupatta wrapped loosely on the back of my head, seeking fortune in my red shawl.
With the bread reduced to tasteless mush, I spit it onto the weeds crusting the land.