I hide in the bamboo again, the way I did when I was a child and my nurses wanted to put me to bed. I would complain that the sun had not yet fallen behind the mountains, and then I would hide from them in the gardens, in the bamboo.
They always knew I was there, of course. But they would pretend to look for me anyway, pretend to be puzzled by a child who could disappear so quickly.
The men who come out of the house are not pretending. They’re looking for my father, or any other member of my family. I sink lower, crouching in the bamboo, and pray they cannot see me through the waving stalks and leaves. I can see the glint of the rifles they carry, the flash of moonlight on a straight cap or a uniform button. They are soldiers, men I had hoped never to see in our house. My father knew they would come eventually.
I don’t think he expected them to come so soon.
They circle the fish pond, kicking our raked paths to dust with their heavy boots. They’ll burn the house when they finish their search, and set fire to the gardens as well. The plum trees, the lilies, the fountains. Everything will burn. Our village will burn. But if they leave before they find me, if I can stay hidden, then maybe I can slip out the gate while they’re setting the fires in the house. I can run to the mountains, the same as the other refugees, and when the war is over and our men have killed theirs, we can come back. Back to ashes and soot, to burned homes and cinders. We can rebuild, same as we have always done. Same as we’ve been planning.
I’ll have to do it alone now. They’ve found everyone else, but I can see they aren’t going to find me. They don’t expect to find anyone out here, certainly not a woman who feels more like a child with every passing moment. A child, hiding in the bamboo.