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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Cousin(s) (05/22/08)

TITLE: Hair Ribbons and Marbles
By Seema Bagai


Anita opened her closet and sighed. Where are those sandals? Fumbling through a tangle of clothes and shoes, she spotted a cardboard box covered in colored paper hearts and flowers. With a smile, she pulled out the carton and opened it. Hair ribbons, a friendship band, marbles, and other trinkets filled the container.

From the jumble within the box, Anita plucked a well-worn pink ribbon and rubbed it between her fingers. The supple satin brought back the memories she had tucked away with her childhood treasures.

Anita dashed into the house, her face covered in summer sweat and dust. Before her mother could issue a reprimand, the girl flew into the bathroom. She splashed cold water on her face, wiped off the grime with a faded green towel and ambled into the drawing room, unaware of the tear in the knee of her jeans or the mud streaked across her blue shirt.

“Oof, Anita, when will you stop running around after your brothers? You are not little anymore. Come see who is here,” Mummy beckoned.

A girl sat stiffly on the sofa. She wore a long, pink tunic with baggy trousers and a long scarf draped around her neck. Bright pink ribbons entwined her two braids. She clutched a handbag and paperback novel.

“This is your cousin-sister, Kalpana. She is staying with us during holidays, then going to boarding school. Keep each other good company,” Mummy ordered as she left cousins alone.

The two twelve-year-olds exchanged glances, each wondering how she would spend the month with the other. Anita shrugged slightly. “Do you play cricket?” Kalpana’s eyes widened and she shook her head.

“Football? Tennis? Badminton? Anything?”

Each question was met with the same wide-eyed response. Just as Anita’s impatience reached its peak, Kalpana stammered, “Marbles.” She opened her bag and withdrew a small, cloth pouch.

“Come. Let’s play.” Anita grabbed her cousin’s hand and the two scurried outside where they squatted beside the house. While Anita drew a circle in the dirt with a stick, Kalpana shook the bag of marbles onto the ground.

“Here. You start.” Kalpana said, handing over the green shooter which Anita grabbed and flung at the circle. It missed all the marbles and landed with a thud outside the circle.

Kalpana removed her scarf from her neck and tied it around her waist. Then she retrieved the shooter, flipped it from between her fingers, and knocked a black marble outside the circle. She repeated this process several times while her cousin gawked.

“Where did you learn that?” Anita inquired.

“My cousin-brothers. They teach me. Here. I show you.” Kalpana handed Anita the shooter and positioned her fingers around it. The girls spent the afternoon shooting marbles, waving away Anita’s brothers when they tried to join the game.

The summer days evaporated in a blur. Anita taught her cousin how to throw a ball and, in turn, learned how to braid her hair by herself. She even started exchanging her jeans and shirts for tunics and trousers. They spent hours giggling, sharing secrets, and avoiding the pesky boys.

The day Kalpana left, the girls walked to the corner market and bought friendship bands. They vowed to wear them around their wrists every day. Through their parting tears, Kalpana handed Anita the bag of marbles.

“You keep these. I cannot play them at school.”

For a long time after Kalpana left, Anita sat on the verandah. She watched the parade of traffic drift past the house and wiped her tears with her scarf. She opened the pouch and discovered the pink hair ribbon inside.

“Anita. Come down,” Mummy called.

Anita hastily scooped the items back into the box and pushed it into the closet. She dashed downstairs and ambled into the kitchen, wiping her dusty hands on the back of her tunic.

“See what has come.” Mummy waved her knife at a red box of sweets and envelope sitting on the table. Anita removed the ivory card from the envelope and read the gold embossed script.

“On the occasion of the marriage of their daughter Kalpana”

There was a folded piece of paper tucked into the envelope. Anita removed it and saw her name penned in Kalpana’s swirly script.

Anita shook her head and grinned. The note read, “Please wear pink”.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Shirley McClay 05/29/08
Awwww.. sweet. So cool that she found something her cousin liked and used it to build a relationship that ended up being so special.
LauraLee Shaw05/29/08
What a touching story, and you wrote it extremely well. LOVE the ending.
Phyllis Inniss05/30/08
Your very heart was in this piece. I could feel the warmth of the two cousins developing after the initial introduction and you carried it right through to the end, even ignoring the 'pesky boys'. Lovely story.
Laury Hubrich 06/01/08
Oh! What a great story and I like how you intertwined another culture into the US culture using two young girls. Very nice. Awesome writing!
Joanne Sher 06/01/08
Great job, especially, with descriptions. Everything was very vivid, and your gradual development of the girls' friendship was done beautifully. Love the ending too.
Joanne Sher 06/01/08
Great job, especially, with descriptions. Everything was very vivid, and your gradual development of the girls' friendship was done beautifully. Love the ending too.
Cheri Hardaway 06/01/08
This was a delightful read! Nice work. I loved how the two girls, so very different, became close, each learning life lessons and forging memories with the other. Blessings, Cheri
Sara Harricharan 06/02/08
This was wonderful! I loved the names, especially Kalpana. And how they were able to bond over something like Marbles. That was amazing, and so believeable, especially the ending. Really great writing! ^_^
Angela M. Baker-Bridge06/08/08
I absolutely love the tender telling of this special relationship! Very easy to visualize. Congratulations on a worthy placing. Blessings, Angel