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2: Nila's Story - The Ways

After breakfast, the two children played Scrabble while Matilda read old newspapers on the living chair by the fireplace. Alan's fingers were shaking as he placed a letter 'B' onto the game board; veins inside his arm were most likely congested by his own bruises. Nila held Alan's arm to stop him from placing tiles onto the game board then shoved away all the tiles that were previously on it. She put her index finger in front of her lips, hinting Alan not to alert Matilda who had her nose behind newspapers. Then picked out some tiles and placed them onto the game board one by one, spelling four lines of words. Alan read them:

DO YOU

WANT TO

RUNAWAY
FROM HERE

Alan searched inside the bag of tiles and picked out two pieces of tiles from it. He put one tile on top of the last letter in the four lines, the other one below it. Making the word “YES” in vertical.

Nila grabbed some tiles and made a few words again. This time it read:

ARE YOU READY

Alan answered with the same two tiles he used before, making a “YES” with the second letter of the last word that Nila made.

The girl glanced at Matilda for the last time, making sure she was busy with her newspapers. Then she grabbed the boy's hand and dashed towards the front door. She hadn't noticed that the door was already opened, which was quite an unusual thing for this house. Both Nila and Alan went outside the house for the first time, but they hadn't the time to stop and wonder at the views outside the house - Matilda was already coming out after them.

The children ran along on a stone road. There seemed to have no other way as the whole place was an ocean of fir trees. Nila guessed that the road might lead to the town because she saw the deliveryman walking this way every week he left. After running on the road for about ten minutes, they could still see Matilda behind them. The old woman wasn't even gasping to breath after all that running, quite unusual for her age.

Quite unexpectedly, the children saw someone standing on the way in front of them, in the middle of a crossroad. Nila seemed to recognize this person. 'He's wearing a clown's hat covering his face this time, how funny!' she thought, but fear rose inside her the next moment as she thought that the deliveryman would probably stop them and turn them out to Matilda for even more bonus tips that she paid him. There was no going back either way as Matilda was still behind them. The children finally ran up to the center of the the crossroad where the deliveryman stood at. They greeted him when they met. Nila had an idea as she looked at the man's gigantic clown's hat. She got out her favorite toy mask from her dress pocket and showed it to the man. The man seemed uninterested for he hadn't moved for a bit (They couldn't really tell for they couldn't see his face). Nila put on the toy mask on herself, took it off, then tried to hand the mask to the man. Her hand reaching near enough to the man so he could see it under his hat's crack. He took it from her, then turned around from the children. He took off his own clown's hat and wore the toy mask that Nila gave him then turned back around. It was too small for him but still covered the center part of his face, it even had two holes that he could see through from, unlike those hats or hoods that he used to wear that covered his whole face.

The deliveryman then offered to help the children. To their surprise, he already knew that they were running away from Matilda. He asked the children to snuggle into his large coat and stand back behind him in a straight line and they did so. The man now looked like a hunchback with two humps (the children) on his back. His legs were large enough that if you looked at him from the front side, you wouldn't even see the children's legs that were actually behind them. He took off his toy mask and slipped it into his coat's pocket then put on back his clown's hat so Matilda wouldn't be suspicious when she saw him. Matilda was coming up to the crossroad so the deliveryman told the children not to move their legs or body. She came up to him and asked if he saw two children who came by.

He nodded and pointed to the road on the far right with his finger.

Matilda beamed at the man and said that if he told the truth she will offer him ten bronze coins.

Inside his coat, Nila got worried that he would accept her offer and sell them out for money that she slumped her body a bit to the left. Matilda noticed that and beamed even more at the man with narrowed eyes. Neither of the children or the man dared to move or blink an eye anymore at the moment.

Then Matilda spurted out some swearing words and called the man a freak for he was a hunchback and had a moving hump. As if not wanted to stay for a few more minutes with the man, she moved along to the road on the far right with her cane, mumbling and grunting swearing words as she went.

The children waited until Matilda disappeared into the bends and curves of the long road then came out from the man's large coat. They giggled because their trick, which seemed quite silly to begin with, actually worked on Matilda, who blinded herself because of her own narrow-mindedness.

They thanked the deliveryman, hugging him on the waist as they did, the man hugged back. The children felt warmth from the hug; they had never been hugged or hugged anyone during the days when they lived at Matilda's house. Nor was the deliveryman, the townspeople never wanted to go near him, not to mention hugging.

The man stepped away to the road on the far right, blocking its way, and gestured the children to move on. Leaving them to choose between the road in front of them or the road on the far left.

Alan pulled Nila to the road on the left and so that way they went.


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