Chapter 4 – Baby

I told Sensei that I wanted to go see Mama and the baby. He told me no.

We were standing outside of Sensei's house, where we had lived the last couple of weeks. A hot breeze was blowing down the canyon. Kankurou had begun to play with some debris off to the side, sticking twigs into the hull of a nut. I put my hands on my hips and told Sensei that we were GOING to go see Mama and the baby.

Sensei sighed. "Your mother is dead, Temari."

"No she is not!" I yelled. "You just don't want us to see her!"

"She is dead, and the Kazekage has threatened to kill you if you go near the baby. You should just forget about it and go back to studying."

"She is NOT DEAD!" I screamed, my eyes screwed shut. I whirled and began to run, kicking sand up in Sensei's face. Risking a glance behind me, I saw Kankurou struggle to his feet and try to follow, but Sensei grabbed his arm and my brother yelped in pain. I turned to face the road ahead of me.

The few weeks of exercise had already begun to change me. I ran strong back towards my house, dodging the townsfolk going around their business.

My house came into view from between the other houses as I neared the cliff. I could see the shadow of a person moving inside, a shadow with blonde, shoulder-length hair. "Mama!" I cried out, throwing open the door and running inside. The air inside was very still, hot, and repressive.

The figure turned around slowly. "Mari?" he whispered. "Come here, 'Mari..."

"Uncle Yasha!" I ran up and threw my arms around my uncle, sure that my mother would be right behind him. He dropped to his knees and took me into his arms. "Why didn't you come back? 'Kurou and I have missed you and Mama, and I wanted to see the baby." I buried my face in his shoulder.

"'Mari..." My uncle's arms tightened around me. "You're such a good girl, Temari. And your brother is such a good boy..."

I shoved my way out of the hug and ran over to peak into my parent's old bedroom. "Where's Mama, Uncle Ya-- What's so funny?"

Uncle Yasha hadn't risen from the floor. He was holding his face in his hands, his whole body shaking. I wandered over and grabbed his arms, trying to pull his hands away from his face. I wasn't sure anymore that he was laughing.

He let his hands fall, and I could see the tears, his eyes and mouth twisted with pain. "Uncle Yasha, why are you crying?"

He just shook his head and pulled me towards him, trying to hold me like a doll. I shoved him off and backed away. Mama had to be here somewhere, and she would be able to explain. I ran over to the doorway of my old room and peaked inside.

"NO!" howled Yashamaru, and he threw himself at me, pulling me back. He grabbed my chin roughly and made me look at his face. "Temari, you are not to go in there. You are never, ever to go in that room again. I can't lose you too." He held me so tight I couldn't get away and sobbed some more into my shirt.

I craned my neck, trying to see what was inside that room. Around the corner of the door, I could see one leg of Kankurou's old ninja doll lying on the swept stone floor, forgotten on the day that Sensei came to the house. A little brushing of sand next to the doll moved slightly, like in a soft breeze.

Uncle Yasha picked me up and carried me outside, shutting the door and locking it carefully behind him. He set me on the flat rock we used as a doorstep and knelt to meet my eyes.

"Temari, I'm going to tell you something very important. Do you think you can listen?" Scared by Uncle Yasha's change in behavior, I nodded, eyes wide. "'Mari, your Mama is dead. She was killed by your new brother, and your father let him kill her. The baby –"

"Mama is NOT DEAD," I interrupted, glaring into Uncle Yasha's blue eyes.

He put his hand over his face and took a deep, ragged breath. "Temari, please, your life depends on believing me. Everything you've known up until now has been a lie. Our family has been a lie. Your father is a bad man, and he will hurt you and 'Kurou if you don't believe me. YOUR MOTHER IS DEAD." I had never heard Uncle Yashamaru speak so seriously before. Uncle Yasha was supposed to be a happy, laughing man, not this hard and sober person in front of me. "My sister – my sister is dead, and she was killed by your youngest brother. He has a monster inside of him, and that monster could kill you or 'Kurou if you make it mad. Do you understand me?"

Wide-eyed, I nodded. I could feel tears forming in my eyes, stinging at the corners. I wanted Mama very, very badly. I wanted her to hold me and tell me that everything would be all right.

But Uncle Yasha continued. "You need to stay away from this house. Stay with Baki, and keep Kankurou away from here as well. You two need to become the best ninjas you can, and Baki can help you do that. You are NOT to come and see me again, Temari."

"What if the baby kills you too?" I asked, feeling the shattering of everything I had loved.

"The baby won't kill me. The Kazekage has ordered that I take care of him; maybe learn to control him. He's using us, 'Mari, both me and the baby. He put the monster in the baby. Your father is an evil man." Yasha took a trembling breath. "Do not trust you father! And don't come back here. Please, Temari. For me."

I hugged myself and looked down at my feet. The sand had blown up over the step and was slowly covering my toes. I concentrated on the sand, not knowing what else to think about.

"Go back to Baki, my niece. He will take care of you, and teach you to survive. That's all we can do anymore, survive." My Uncle Yashamaru, whom I had loved, unlocked the door and slipped inside my old house. He gave me a grim smile, then shut the door. I heard the click of a lock.

I stared at the unmoving door for a long time, listening to the faint sounds of Uncle Yasha sobbing inside of it. The denial was being to dissolve. If Mama was not dead, then where was she? Why hadn't she come to see us? Why would Uncle Yasha leave us like this if what he said wasn't true?

I crouched on the step until I couldn't cry anymore. The salt from my tears had filled my throat until it was too rough to breath, and then I fell asleep against the door as the sun hit the top of the sky.