She first showed it to me on a Tuesday afternoon after school, when we had come out of our evening bath.
The black wash basin, big enough for both of us, was filled to the brim with warm soapy water. Usually we slapped at the water, and the soap suds would make our eyes sting and our noses clog.
But today my sister was not very enthusiastic.
She held something tight in her palm, and would not open her fist. She ended her bath quickly and completely ignored me. She seemed preoccupied with whatever was in her hand as she would bring it close to her face and peek at it.
She wrapped a towel around her body and ran into our bedroom. Now I was really curious. I found her lying on her bed, her legs crossed and one palm under the other open one.
There was something shiny in her hand. It was beautiful. I sat next to her and we started at it for what felt like eternity, touched its rough edges, and marvelled at how the sun’s rays bounced off it.
The help wiped us down, oiled our little bodies, and dressed us in our pyjamas. As soon as she was done, we resumed staring at the glass-like object, and the million reflections of ourselves on its surface.
My sister said she had noticed something shiny lying on the football pitch at school three days earlier. She has strayed from the designated playing field and was at the very edge of the compound, but she had always been an inquisitive child, a bit of an explorer. She had no idea what it was, but was enthralled by its beauty.
We finally came out of our trance and headed to the living room for dinner.
We first hid the shiny glass under my sister’s pillow, but quickly realised that someone could find it. Under our beds were boxes and piles of old stuff that no one cared about. We found an old music box and stashed our prized piece of glass inside.
The following day, at break time, my sister took me to the place where she had found the piece of glass and we looked for another one so that I could have my own. We were crawling on our bellies in the long grass. We searched for 20 minutes during the first break, 30 minutes during the second, and over lunch time, to no avail.
We searched every day but came up empty. Our only consolation was that when we got home at the end of the day, the shiny glass would be waiting for us in the old music box under the bed. It was our little secret, a bond that united us.
Our grades began to slip as we became obsessed with the glass and finding more like it.
The searches became longer, more concentrated, fervent, desperate. We widened our search after we completely exhausted the areas closest to the first spot.
When we got home, we would drop our bags at the door, run into our bedroom, pull out the shiny glass and get lost in its beauty.
When we were finally convinced that we were out of our depth, we decided to show our shiny glass to our father. He must know what it was and what to do with it. We decided that we would show it to him the following day after school.
We came home from school running.
Dad’s jalopy was parked in the driveway and we felt our excitement peak. We ran into the house, dropped our bags by the door as usual and rushed to our room. We knelt by the bed and lifted the covers to reach for the music box. There was nothing.
The old bags, boxes of old clothes and the music box with our shiny glass were gone. We checked again, thinking our minds were playing tricks on us, but nothing!
We ran to the kitchen, held the help by her skirts and demanded to know where the boxes under the bed were.
“Your mom told me to clean the rooms out,” she said nonchalantly. “I threw everything out. What we didn’t burn we gave to charity.”
My sister reached for the dish rack and hurled several plates across the