Standing on a ledge sprayed by a cool waterfall, she is daring her brother to jump. Nikhil keeps questioning her as if her answers will shorten the distance to the lake below. “How old were you when you first did this?”
“And that scar on your head isn’t from some rocks down there?”
“It’s from the hiking accident. You know that. Don’t be such a baby.”
“And why did you jump from up here?”
“Anlee pushed me,” she says, giving him a small shove that sends him over the edge. Her laughter drowns out his yells, and she screams exuberantly as she leaps after him.
Down in the lake, he’s waiting to scowl and lecture her. “You’re crazy, you know that?”
She grins unrepentantly. There are some things her baby brother would never do on his own; he just needs to be steered in the right direction. “Fun, huh?”
A reluctant smile inches across his face. “Yeah.”
“Want to go again?”
He stares at her. “You are crazy.” He turns toward the bank. “I’m going home.”
“No, stay, Nik. We can –”
They’re both startled by a splash a few feet away. Quan swims up to them. “Jumping?” he asks with an eager grin.
“She is. I’m going,” Nikhil says as he heads for the bank. Once he’s on land, he looks back at them and calls, “Hey, Quan! Zhu tamin ya min – she’ll sneak up on you.”
Zoe turns her most innocent face to Quan, trying to look appalled at her brother for making such a slanderous statement. “Don’t even try it,” he says; “I know you too well.”
She shrugs as if she’s given up. “Fine.” She treads water, moving in a slow circle around him, her head just above the surface. “How’s Anlee?” she asks quietly.
“Don’t mention this to anyone. Not even Nik,” he says seriously. He leans a little closer even though there’s no one around to eavesdrop. “I saw her yesterday. She says she’s doing real well, that Lok has a good job.” He can’t believe his family has been torn apart because of one piece of paper. “What does it matter that they’re not married?” he shouts, forgetful of his earlier caution. She reaches out a hand to him, he calms as it rests on his upper arm. “Baby’s cute, anyway. Just like his uncle,” he grins. He shrugs her hand off. “Come on, race ya to the top.” He swims swiftly to the shore and pulls himself onto land. He turns back to taunt her for being so slow but the triumph dies on his lips. She’s emerging from the water, and he’s shocked by how beautiful she is. He shakes his head.
“Water in your ears?” she laughs, coming up behind him, tapping a playful rhythm on his shoulder blades. “Come on, I thought we were racing.” She speeds ahead, running easily up the grassy slope, darting nimbly among the rocks. Her every movement is grace, and he can’t believe that he’s never noticed before how her bronze skin glows, how her curls tighten when they’re dripping wet, how her smile is dangerously alluring. She reaches the top and turns so fast he doesn’t have time to hide the longing on his face. She goes still. She waits for him to reach her. And then she kisses him and it’s soft and sweet and wet.
“zhu tamin ya min” “watch your back”
Continue: Part 6/21