It was the day before New Year and Taraka was in church with her mother that evening. She saw tears in her mother's eyes as she knelt to pray. Taraka was upset and her heart went fast, pitter patter, pitter
patter. But, she thought it best not to ask her mother why. So, she closed her eyes and prayed harder for her dear father who was away up north of the country as he was in the army. A big war was going on there.
Taraka sat on the bench while Amma went on
praying. She thought of the dream she had a couple of nights after Christmas. She saw an overturned truck on a wooded road and someone escaping from it into the jungle. She screwed her eyes tight and tried to remember the person. The person was a man but the image was shadowy. "Yes," she said to herself, "it must be my father." So, she went on thinking. She knew that the jungle in the north central area was very thick. "Was the man wounded? How could he go through the jungle?"
She thought of this dream every now and again. Then at home, she called Bibi, her little doggie and told him, "Now, Bibi, why did I
think that the person was trying to escape?"
Bibi looked at her with melting eyes and licked her hand. Then she replied to Bibi,"Because, it's the way the person crept towards the jungle looking backwards every now and then." Bibi blinked his eyes.
"Was the man injured? Was he limping? Ooooh,
I remember a shining star too."
Bibi knew his mistress was telling him something important and he replied "Woof, woof." She gave Bibi a hug and patted him. Bibi wagged his tail.
She told Amma the dream. Amma listened intently and told her daughter, "All of us hear so much about the war in our country. If you open a newspaper, most of the news is about the war. We see it in the television and we talk about it. So, little Taraka, it's no wonder you dreamt about it."
"No, Amma, I'm sure it has something to do with Thaththa. I saw a star shining bright too."
"That must be the Christmas star," replied Amma. "Don't think too much about dreams, Taraka. We all dream, but the dreams fade away by morning." Amma continued, "Do get a move on, we both have work to do."
Amma was a teacher and was very busy planning the work for the New Year for her new class. She also had to cook.
Taraka had her own chores to do. She had to clean Bibi's kennel and tidy and clean the bedrooms. More so, as their house help was on holiday too. While working, Taraka thought it better not to bring up the subject of the dream again. Also, she heard a conversation between Amma and her sister, Aunty Ruwi. They spoke about missing army people.
"Oh! I hope Thath is not missing," she thought to herself. She remembered her friend Aruni's father, also in the army and who was missing more than a year now. "Go away, dreadful thought. Go now, my Thath is not missing."
She remembered how her father used to look at the evening star, Venus, which was the brightest of the stars and say, "I have a bright star too, my Taraka." He also told Taraka that wherever he was, he used to look at the sky at night and make a wish for his little daughter on the shining star. Taraka smiled as she remembered the sound of Thath's voice. It was a deep and comfortable one. She closed her eyes and wished again, "Please let my Thath come home to us."
She took a quick look at Amma's face. It was so sad. Taraka was worried. "What'll I do?""I know, I'll give her a bunch of flowers when we go home."
She remembered that the pink araliya tree in the garden was full of flowers. So, when they went home after church, she ran to the garden and Bibi came running too. She picked the long stick with a hook at the end and managed to pluck two clusters of araliya. She took them to her mother with Bibi following her and wagging his tail.
She presented them to
mother with a flourishing bow. Mother laughed and hugged her and said, "Thank you, duwa."
That night the sky was full of stars. She looked at them and remembered what her Thath had shown and taught her about stars. She took time to trace the patterns of stars.
There was the Milky Way, Orion, a group of seven bright stars and the Great Bear and the Little Bear. She looked at the star Venus and made her favourite wish. When it was getting late she settled down to sleep.
Much, much later, like in a dream she felt someone kissing her forehead and whispering, " Taraka, my little star, I have come home." Taraka smiled and snuggled in her sleep.
Next morning, Taraka woke up early. She heard the kettle boiling and voices in the kitchen. She peeped into the little pantry and yelled. " Thath, you are here. Hurray, my dream has come true." She rushed into her father's arms.
She saw that he had a bandaged foot. "How's my brightest star?" asked Thath. "Fine, now. Thath, what happened?"
"A long story, for later, but for now, I was held
captive. Then one evening when the truck carrying some of us overturned near a jungle, we escaped. My foot got injured but I and a
couple of others dragged
ourselves away. Whew! What an adventure."
Taraka thought of her dream and said, " I too had an adventure. I'll tell it to you later too." As she
snuggled happily in her father's lap she saw her mother's radiant smile.