Uma lay quietly in her bed waiting patiently for the house to become silent. She heard Mama shuffle into her room and the creak of the bedsprings as she sank into them.
Uma realized she was holding her breath and let it out in a quiet "swoosh". Papa had gone to bed earlier complaining of a headache or some such. She waited a little longer than slowly slipped out of bed and padded to her cabinet where she kept all of her belongings.
Slowly Uma reached up onto the top shelf and lifted her box of Christmas cards. She stroked it lovingly before placing it in a satchel she had sewn together from scraps of fabric she had collected around the house. In the bottom of the bag was the little clothing she owned. If she had bought a bag and MamaPapa had found out they would have asked questions and Uma wouldn't have been able to go.
She had prepared beforehand by picking out her favorite bangles and wrapping them in her handkerchiefs. She grasped them to her and smiled, then gently set them on top of the card box, making sure they didn't make any noise. The last item to be put into her bag was her most precious possession: the cloth-bond volume of Ella Wheeler Wilcox's poems.
She gently peeled the pages open and shuffled through them until she found exactly what she was looking for. Five years worth of money, that she had horded and saved until she had enough to help her escape. This time would work, her parents would not catch her and she wouldn't have a 'fit'. She was past that now. She was a strong, grown woman.
Underneath the neatly stacked bills was a letter. It had been sent to her on her birthday two years ago. She ran a finger over it, remembering the words she knew by heart.
Happy birthday! How old are you now? Surely too old to still be living at home. Why haven't you found a decent man yet? Included in this letter is the address to my "farm". You are my favorite cousin and therefore welcome to visit whenever you choose.
Funny bunny, funny bunny!
Sincerely, your cousin,
The little slip of paper with the address was attached to the letter and she quickly slipped it into the book so it would not get lost. Ramu was one of the only people who understood her. Although it had been so long since she had last seen him she knew he would let her stay with him until she had found a career of her own. Ramu would be the perfect person to stay with because no one had been in touch with him since he had gotten his farm and had isolated himself from the family; something that Uma had wished to do for several years now. It wasn't that she was not greatful, it was that she wanted to explore the world around her and see if she could make it on her own, without the help of MamaPapa.
She tiptoed out of her room, out of her house, off of the family's property and onto the street where she hired a bicycle rickshaw. She would figure out everything on the ride to Ramu's.
Arun stared at the ceiling and sighed. It was once again summer. This year, like last year, he had found somewhere to stay on his own. Although the Patton family, mostly Mrs. Patton, had been extremely accommodating towards him he could not stay in that house for fear of developing an American complex. He contemplated visiting or sending them a letter seeing as Mrs. Patton had sent him numerous letters during his previous years at college.
The thought slowly dissipated until he was thinking of other, less pressing, matters. There was a knock on his bedroom door from one of his friends, a fellow countryman. After being placed on the same floor with the Indian group his sophomore year Arun had grown to like them and had opted to stay with them over the summer.
"Mail." A hand opened the door slightly and dropped two letters onto the ground. Slowly Arun got to his feet and shuffled over to the letters, grabbing the one on top. It was from his family. He opened the envelope carefully and freed the crisp piece of paper. Arun opened it and his eyes quickly scanned the page.
He first noticed that the letter was not written in Uma's careful, block handwriting. Instead it was written in his father's messy scrawl. As he read his eyes caught the word's "Uma" and "gone". He stopped and backed up a couple of sentences, which read:
We have some very grave news. Uma is gone. She has left our house in the middle of the night two weeks ago and no one has seen her since. We have contacted all of the family members but no one has heard from her or seen her. We are quite worried about–
He stopped. Uma gone? How could that be? Where could she have disappeared? Arun understood why she would want to leave the house of MamaPapa but it was strange to hear that no one knew where she was. Maybe she had actually succeeded in finding a job and place to stay. He finished reading the letter then set it down on his desk.
The second letter was also from India, it didn't have a return address but he recognized the writing immediately. Uma.
He tore open the letter and started reading frantically.
How have you been? It has been so long since I last saw you. I bet you are all grown up. I want to let you know that I am on my own now. I left the house in order to purse a career. I work odd jobs here and there but I am sure I will find something permanent soon. I am staying with Ramu and renting a spare room from him. Please don't tell Mama and Papa because I believe that I can make it even if they don't. I hope America is treating you well and that when you return to India you will set out on your own too and maybe visit me.
Many blessings for your future,
Arun clutched the letter and smiled. Of course he wouldn't tell MamaPapa. He believed in Uma and that she would do well. He smoothed the letter, read it again and then placed in on the desk next to Papa's letter. All would be well, he was sure of it.