Lin sat down on the bed in her room and looked around. It was nice, but as with most hotel rooms, it had a sterile quality to it that just wasn’t appealing. The room was decorated in shades of green, peach, and cream, all very understated. A twenty-inch TV sat on a long set of dresser drawers, the remote lying next to it, and there were two bedside tables with lamps, both of which Lin had turned on as soon as she shut and locked the door. She’d also turned the heater on, but even with the warm air blowing from it, she could do little to still the tremors that wracked her, or still the ice water that seemed to be flowing through her veins.
She knew it was only a matter of time before Bai would figure out where she had gone and follow. He had spies everywhere, and though her immediate family could be trusted, there were others, more distant cousins, she was not as sure of. All it would take was a slip of the tongue by one of her relatives to the wrong person, and Bai would know where she was. Once that happened, he would be hot on her trail, and this time she might not survive it.
Lin’s small cell phone began ringing insistently. She reached into her bag for it, and then flipped it open to see the number. Recognizing the number as the one belonging to her younger brother, she answered in Takbunuaz, their native tongue.
“Lin, Bai just left.” Duyi’s voice was urgent.
“When did he leave?”
“About thirty minutes ago. He was in a hurry, so we think someone talked.” Duyi’s voice lowered.
Lin’s palms became instantly coated with sweat. “We knew there was a possibility he would bully someone into telling them. I tried to keep it quiet where I was going, but you know how the village is.”
“Lin, I’m worried about you.” Duyi’s voice cracked before he cleared his throat. “I don’t want him to hurt you again.”
“I know, Duyi. I don’t want him to either. It’s why I decided to leave. It’s better this way. There is much more land here, and there are many Chinese immigrants with the same name as me, both of which will make it more difficult for him to find me.” Her palm slipped on the little cell phone, and she grappled with it to grip it tighter.
“But you’re so far away,” he whispered.
“I know you wanted to go with me, but you’re only fourteen, Duyi, and you still have a lot to learn from Grandfather. If you had been older . . .”
“But I could have protected you. You wouldn’t have had to be alone.”
“You’re a good protector, Duyi. You saved me when Bai would have beat me to death.” Her voice was tight with the strain. She hadn’t wanted her baby brother to see such violence. “Right now I need you to stay and look after Grandfather, as well as finish your studies.”
“I know. I don’t have to like it, but I know.” There was a long pregnant pause. “I miss you, Lin.”
“I miss you too, Duyi. But I have to do this. Staying in the village wasn’t working.”
“You know things have gotten bad when you can’t go home.” Duyi said, trying to joke.
“Yeah. Listen, little brother, I need to get unpacked and get some food and then some sleep. I’ve been driving for hours, and I’m very tired.”
“Remember what Grandfather said. You have to call us every day so we know that you are all right.”
“Of course.” She paused. “I love you, Duyi.”
There was a long pause, as though her brother were surprised. “I love you too, Lin. Be safe.”
“I will. Tell Grandfather I love him.”
“I will. Bye.”
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