A Reunion of Hearts

When Fa Khaero spoke, his deep voice seeped into the walls of the hut, their old dark wood absorbing the low tremors as they escaped his lips. Mako strained to make out each word. Perhaps Khaero spoke so quietly on purpose. Perhaps he did not want Mako to know the whole truth.


He began from the start. He spoke of his love for Eliza, of the joy when Mako was first brought into the world, a world that had not been as harsh then, but more soft, hazy around the edges, more lenient and loving. Or so Khaero remembered.


“And when Marta was born, I could seek for no more happiness than I already had. My heart was filled to the brim – I thought it would rupture if I wasn’t careful.” Khaero looked into Mako’s eyes as he spoke, but his gaze was far away, unseeing, dreaming perhaps of past experiences. A sad gaze.


Mako had told him about Marta. Had told him through clenched jaws as if unclenching them would have left the rest of his inner turmoil to spill out with reckless speed. Now Khaero’s eyes were filled with a lonely sadness Mako had only ever seen before on his mother’s face. Had she been thinking of her disappeared husband? Had she truly known where he had gone? The letter had said… Just as Mako was about to push his need for an answer, Khaero spoke again.


“My son, this winter has been the worst, but there have also been other dreadful times in which our people struggled to survive. Scorching summers in the valley, frozen lakes, rains that would wash away farmers’ lands, and storms, the might of which could take out a whole settlement – this is what happened to Artiget, you have told me. Not fire, as my dream showed, but wind…” He seemed to ponder on this for a while longer before a decision suddenly made itself evident before his eyes. “We will go to Artiget, find what remains of the family possessions you have lost, and bury the frozen dead. I will find-” his voice broke as he tried to say his wife’s name, and he knocked his fist on the pinewood table to steady himself. Mako understood. No matter Khaero’s actions, he had always loved Eliza. And Marta. And him – Mako.




“I will find Eliza and bury her as she deserves.” Khaero’s face was filled with newfound determination. “And I will amend my sins by taking care of you and your friend Ari, who seems so fond of you. I wish I had been fonder and not so in love with my happiness. Then I would have stayed. But I went to help others. I couldn’t be so happy all alone with my family, while others struggled in the scorching heatwaves that you were too young to remember, or the frozen lakes that were impenetrable by the thickest and sharpest of axes. I told Eliza. She had been furious – she had a right to be.” Khaero avoided Mako’s eye as he pushed on with his story. Mako didn’t seek it out. Remembering Ari’s advice, he let his father tell him in his own good time. “I loved her – I loved my family – so much, but I couldn’t live like that, knowing my heart was bursting with happiness, which I could share with others. You may not understand until you have children of your own. You want to love and cherish them, but when others struggle – you feel responsible to help because you are so happy, so lucky in life.”


Mako could see the toll this confession was taking on his father, but he stepped closer, not letting Khaero forget the reason for why he had left and the happiness he could now once again experience at the sight of his only son, well and close.


“So I left Artiget, I went down to the villages in the valleys and helped people – the poor, the elderly, the lost, the sick. I helped anyone I felt needed helping, anyone who asked and didn’t ask. I laid out my heart and happiness for people to share and relish in the beautiful emotions I had fuelling my everyday existing. But Artiget would not have forgiven my departure. I knew Eliza wouldn’t tell the truth about my disappearance – she would have been ashamed. So I agreed to let her fake my death. It was the most ungracious, selfish thing I had ever done in my life, but Eliza knew I could not live on like this, and she knew the likelihood I would never see my family again. She helped me despite her misgivings, and I promised once I had settled someplace else, had helped who needed helping, I would send a secret messenger for them to come to me, to join me in a new village far away from our past in Artiget. Until then, we would live separate lives.”


The bitter taste of salty tears lingered on Mako’s tongue as he licked the droplets off his cheeks, too stunned and angry and saddened to do anything else other than stare at the empty space in which his father had just been sitting. Khaero had walked over to one of the walls to breathe in a fresh scent of air through one of the slits. As the rising sun’s rays caught his face, Mako saw out of the corner of his eye the reflection they left on his father’s skin and realised Khaero was also crying.


The two of them stood like this, in silence, for a long while, each contemplating his own thoughts, living in his own world and reliving the past as both a strangling nightmare and a happiness with no end. A man and a boy, finally reunited…yet struggling to find the right words to become who they had always been to each other – a father and his son.




In the few days that followed, Khearo took a large entourage of his best men up to the broken village of Artiget to recover any remaining possessions of his lost family, gather up any livestock that had managed to survive in the deadly storm – of this there wasn’t much – and bury any dead they could find. It was only on the eve of the fifth day of their travels, the day they had reached Artiget and scanned it in every direction for any signs of life, that Mako finally spoke to Khaero after their meeting in the Fa’s hut some seven days past. As Mako stood gazing over the valley beneath, a small fire crackling in the background as the men settled down to rest after a long day of searching and burying the dead, he felt almost as if he was back at home, in the house he remembered, filled with Eliza and Marta, and their chirpy voices, and the sounds of the livestock fidgeting and squabbling in the shed in the yard, and the fire, and the loving, beautiful stories Eliza would tell them in the evenings…


There was no use in fighting his father. Just as there had been no use in Eliza doing so. She had let him go and live the life he needed to live. But life had come and permanently separated her from Khaero in the thick of a raging storm, leaving no promise for a reunion Eliza must have waited for every single living moment of every single day, the lie of Khaero’s death lying damply in her stomach.


Mako couldn’t break his family any further. What was more important, he did not wish to. There had been enough of that in the past. And time had the marvellous capacity to heal any wounded heart, even one whose scars seem to open and reopen at every mention of a lost one.


Turning around, Mako saw Ari’s bright ginger flock of hair bobbing around among the army men of his father, twisting here and there excitedly as they teased her, lightening the mood of the evening after a day of heavy hearts and work.


He couldn’t lose it all. Not now that they had come so far and finally met the one who had – through his own loving heart – shifted his family aside to do good for others. Mako was not like that – he would not leave behind his loved ones, old or new.


“I forgive you.”


Though the words were not directed to any human form in audible distance, somewhere at the edge of the fire, the big dark head of Mako’s father turned and nodded as if in acceptance and gratitude. Though perhaps this could have been in answer to one of his men’s questions.


It did not matter. What did was Mako. And his attitude towards the future. And for now, the future held the best possible outcome for him and those he held dearest.

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This is a perfect ending - reconciliation and resolution. The journey began with Mako helping his mother and ended with his father giving the dead a dignified burial. You have told this story well, drawing all the threads skilfully together. Your next draft will tidy up sections that need expanding and others which might be better edited out. In a sentence what would you say this story is about?