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Pearson Mary E, “The kiss of deception”, public translation into English from English More about this translation.

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I paused, my fingers lingering on a knot, twisting it, thinking of my mother and the last time she had brushed my hair. I was twelve. I had done my own hair for years at that point, except for special occasions when an attendant arranged it, but that morning my mother said she’d take care of it. Every detail of that day was still vivid, a rare dawn in January when the sun rose warm and bright, a day that had no right to be so cheerful. Her fingers had been gentle, methodical, her low aimless hum like the wind between the trees making me forget why she was arranging my hair, but then her hand paused on my cheek, and she whispered in my ear, Close your eyes if you need to. No one will know. But I hadn’t closed my eyes, because I was only twelve and had never attended a public execution.

When I stood between my brothers as a required witness, straight and tall, still as stone, as was expected, my hair perfectly pinned and arranged—with each step, each proclamation of guilt, the tightening of the rope, the pleading and tears of a grown man, the frantic wails, the final call, and then the quick thud of a floor falling away, a short humble sound that drew the line between his life and death, the last sound he would ever hear—through it all, I kept my eyes open.

When I returned to my room, I threw the clothes I was wearing into the fire and pulled the pins from my hair. I brushed and brushed, until my mother came in and pulled me to her chest, and I cried, saying I wished I had helped the man escape. Taking another life, she had whispered, even a guilty one, should never be easy. If it were, we’d be little more than animals.

Was it hard for Kaden to take another life? But I knew the answer. Even through my rage and despair, I had seen his face the night I asked him how many he had killed, the heavy weight that pressed behind his eyes. It had cost him. Who might he have been if he hadn’t been born in Venda?

I continued walking, working at the knot until it was gone. When I reached the brook, I took off my boots and laid them on a low wall. I wiggled my toes, appreciating the small freedom of cool sand spreading between them. I stepped into the water, bending to cup some in my hands, and I washed the dust from my face. The things that last. I felt the irony among these crumbling ruins. It was still the simplest pleasure of a bath that had outlasted the sprawling greatness of a city. Ruin and renewal ever side by side.

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