“Shaken” Jhasmin De Castro

Read the English translation here.

“Shaken”

Jhasmin De Castro

“Doc, magiging okey lang ba ang anak ko?” tanong nung babae na kita ang pag-alala sa kanyang pagsasalita.

“Yes Mrs. Mendoza she’ll be okey within a week. Kailangan lang muna namin bantayan ang kanyang kondisyon sa ngayon.” sabi nung doctor.
Pagkatapos tingnan ng doctor ang kondisyon nung dalaga ay lumabas na ito. Hinawakan ng babae ang kamay ng kanyang anak at hinimas ito.
“Sorry anak…” sabi nung babae habang umiiyak.
“Sorry kung napabayaan namin kayo. Busy kasi kami ng papa mo lagi kaya ‘di namin kayo maasikaso. Sorry anak if you ever felt that you are not loved and alone.”
Maya-maya ay nagising si Vlaire at nakita ang kanyang ina na umiiyak habang hawak ang kanyang kamay. Nakatingin lamang siya dito at nagtataka kung bakit ito umiiyak nang maalala niya yung ginawa niya.
Blangko. Iyan yung naramdaman niya noong ginawa niya iyon. Wala siyang maramdaman. Kahit na katiting na sakit ay hindi niya maramdaman. Iniisip niya, kung bakit ganito ang naging hantungan ng buhay niya? Bakit imbis na maging masaya siya na nasa tabi niya ang kanyang ina ay wala siyang maramdaman? Ganito ba talaga kapag sanay ka na sa sakit? To the point na…iisipin mo nalang magpakamatay o kaya maglaslas para lang may maramdaman?
Sa tuwing maaalala niya iyon ay para siyang gumigising sa isang bangungot. Lahat ng masasakit na alaala, lungkot at sakit ay natatandaan niya. Para siyang nawalan ng gana sa buhay. Simula ng magtrabaho ang magulang niya at nagkaroon ng maraming problema ay unti-unti na siyang nagbago. Unti-unti siyang naging malungkot at umiwas sa kanyang mga kaibigan. Lahat ng problema niya ay kinimkim niya at hindi sinabi sa iba.
Depressed. Iyan yung naramdaman niya noong mga panahon na iyon. Malungkot siya, naging malihim, at kinimkim niya lahat ng sakit. Pero tama nga ba ang ginawa niyang desisyon? Na kinimkim ang lahat ng nararamdaman niya kahit masakit na ito ng sobra?
Habang nakatitig sa kawalan ay inisip niya ang lahat ng iyan. Maya-maya ay nagpaalam na lalabas ng kwarto ang kanyang ina at pumasok ang nurse dala ang pagkain niya. Nakatitig pa rin siya sa kawalan at hindi alam kung ano ang kanyang gagawin. Pagkatapos mailapag ng nurse ang pagkain niya ay tinanong ito ng ilang mga tanong at saka lumabas ng kwarto.
Umupo siya at tiningnan ang mga sugat sa pulsuhan niya…habang inaalala ang mga gabing iyon.

“Ate…” tawag sa kanya ng kapatid niya habang kumakatok.

“Ate kain na…”
 tawag sa kanya ng kapatid niya pero ‘di niya ito pinansin.

Umiiyak lang siya nung gabi na iyon habang unti-unti niyang sinusugatan ang kanyang sarili. Wala. Wala siyang maramdaman.
Maya-maya ay pumasok ang mga kaibigan niya at kinamusta siya. Kahit na ‘di siya sumasagot ay kinuwentuhan pa rin siya ng mga kaibigan niya ng mga nangyari sa school at maya-maya ay nagpaalam na aalis na sila. Ganun parati ang naging pamumuhay niya sa loob ng isang linggo. Kakain, matutulog, dadalawin at kakamustahin ng mga kaibigan niya, minsan mga kapatid niya na nakababata kasama ang mama at papa niya.
Nung okey na siya ay agad naman siyang pinalabas sa ospital at pinauwi na ng kanyang doctor. Pinayuhan rin siya ng doctor niya na magpa-psychiatry para matulungan siya sa kalagayan niya. Nang makarating na sila sa bahay nila ay agad siyang pumunta sa kwarto niya at nagkulong. Tahimik lang siyang nakahiga doon at nakatingin sa kisame, ‘di alam kung ano ang gagawin kaya naiyak na naman siya. Hindi niya alam kung masaya siya dahil dinalaw siya ng mga kaibigan niya, kasi ang alam niya lang…ay malungkot siya ngayon at pakiramdam niya ay parang nawawala siya.
Maya-maya ay narinig niyang may kumatok sa kwarto niya at agad niya namang pinunasan ang luha niya at binuksan ang pinto.
“Nasa baba ang missionaries ngayon at kinakamusta ka.” sabi ng mama niya.
“Sige po susunod po ako, mag-aayos lang po.” sabi niya at pumunta sa cr para maghilamos at magsuklay.
Maya-maya lang ay bumaba na rin siya at kinamusta siya ng mga missionaries. Nung hapon na iyon ay nagkaroon sila ng family home evening at nagdinner kasama ang missionaries.
“So sister, okey na daw po ba kayo?” tanong ni sister Casas at tumango naman si Vlaire bilang pagtugon.
“Sister, magpray lang po kayo at ‘wag kayo mawawalan ng pag-asa, madami pong nagmamahal sa inyo.” sabi nung companion ni sister Casas. Ngumiti lang si Vlaire kahit na alam niyang peke lang iyon.
Nung matapos magdinner kasama ang mga missionaries ay inihatid nila ito at nagpaalam.
“Sige po ingat po kayo sisters!” sabi ng kapatid ni Vlaire na si Xiara habang kumakaway dito.
“Ingat po kayo salamat ulit sa pagbisita sa amin.” sabi ng papa ni Vlaire habang nakikipag-shake hands dito.
Bago umalis ng tuluyan ang mga missionaries ay may inabot na letter si sister Mac kay Vlaire. Nagtaka naman si Vlaire ngunit nginitian niya lang ito at naglakad na kasama ang companion niya. Nung makaalis na ang mga missionaries ay umakyat naman siya sa kwarto niya at binasa ang letter ni sister Mac.

Dear sister Vlaire,

Alam ko na nahihirapan ka ngayon at nararamdaman mong parang mag-isa ka lang ngayon. Alam ko yung nararamdaman mo dahil naranasan ko rin iyan. I used to be bullied in my school before and I was a loner, I don’t have friends and my classmates don’t like me either. Kaya kapag lunch namin noon, parati akong mag-isa kumain at lagi akong nasa isang sulok. Hanggang sa nung isang araw, I gave up and I tried to kill myself. I was depressed before but with the help of the missionaries and my family, I was able to endure this trial. Pero hindi lang dahil doon, kundi dahil sa sinabi rin sa akin ng isang missionary noon na magpray lang ako at humingi ng tulong sa Diyos. That time I prayed, even though I can’t feel anything, I still prayed and do you know what happened? I felt happy and at peace. I was amaze and that time my testimony grew because of that experience. Sister Vlaire, alam ko na hindi ka mag-isa at nandiyan parati si Heavenly Father para i-ease yung burdens mo. Just pray and have faith.

Love,

Sister Mac

That time ay nagpray si Vlaire at sa wakas ay nakaramdam siya ng happiness at peace. Even though she felt shaken with her testimony before, she was glad to know that she is not alone and that Heavenly Father is always there for her.Ngayon na magse-serve na siya sa mission ay masaya siya dahil hindi nawala ang testimony niya at masaya siyang maglilingkod sa Diyos.

“The Journey” and “Lucifer’s Monologue” by Aivar Lembit

Read the original Estonian version here. To discuss this and other finalists, visit Mormon Lit Lab.

“The Journey”

written by Aivar Lembit
translated by James Goldberg

We are on a journey.
We are pure:
flowing waters
cannot remain
impure.

In a blue jug,
wounded feelings settle
like poison on our table:
let’s go
before we fill up,
let’s escape
the lull of the everyday.

We are real.
We are free:
blacksmiths forging
our own destiny.

We are strong.
We are alone:
on a path
pressed between
the steps of the soul.

On a wonderful expedition
into the eternal everyday:
toward the western sunset
and a Kingdom worn ragged
by our rhymes.

“Lucifer’s Monologue”

written by Aivar Lembit
translated by James Goldberg

This morning, Joy packed
her bag, pulled on some
frayed, faded, fashionable
jeans. She laughed
and waved—
then along came Sorrow,
who watched me reproachfully,
and sneaked in a few tears
that felt like a horse’s bit in
my mouth.

At night, I heard someone
fumbling at the door.
There were no thieves there,
just Joy, returned from a
worldwide journey
with wide eyes.
Sorrow saw it;
I let them in and locked the door.
We were three:
I fed them with the blades
found in the depths of my soul,
dropped into their hearts
the germs of envy.

Joy put Sorrow into song,
Sorrow put Joy back in the picture.

No one touched me
I was just a soul,
suspended.
Overseer.
Knocker.
Informer.
Accuser in court,
reporting before the Father.

I wrote down their every mistake,
liberating them from their
angel-souls with shining,
virtuous bodies.
I taught them
the world’s wisdom:
hard-working obedience,
obedient hard work,
and they praised me.

We became more and more alike:
Joy became Sorrow and Sorrow, Joy.
Life became beautiful.
Order was happiness
and it was everywhere:
order in the house,
order in the sauna.
Your own river
and your own mountain…

what else could you want?
Life always up and down,
like a roller coaster?
Heights and depths
like in American mountains?

“Läheme Rändama” ja “Lutsiferi Monoloog,” Aivar Lembit

Read the English translation here.

“Läheme Rändama”

Aivar Lembit

läheme rändama
oleme puhtad
voolav vesi ei saa
jääda saastunuks
sinisesse kannu
settivad haavatud tunded
mürk meie toidulaual
laseme jalga
enne kui täitub
laseme jalga
igavast igapäevast
oleme tõelised
oleme vabad
sepad iseenda saatusele
oleme tugevad
oleme üksi
iseenda juures
seespool piiri
hingetreppide vahele
surutud teerajal
imelisel avastusretkel
igavesse igapäeva
õhtumaa öös
riimidest räsitud kuningriiki

“Lutsiferi Monoloog”

Aivar Lembit

hommikul pakkis rõõm oma koti
tõmbas jalga luitunud teksad
moodsad ja kärisenud
naeris ja lehvitas
tuli kurbus
vaatas mind etteheitvalt
poetas paar pisarat
suu ümber hobuserauda
meenutav võre
vastu ööd kuulsin kedagi
ukse kallal kobistamas
ei olnud vargad
oli rõõm
kes oma maailmarännakult
tagasi saabus
suurte silmadega
tunnistas teda kurbus
lukustasin uksed
olime kolmekesti
söötsin neid oma pahelise hinge
soppidest leitud teradega
tilgutasin nende südametesse
kadeduse idusid
rõõm pani kurbuse laulu sisse
kurbus pani rõõmu pildi peale
mind ei puudutanud keegi
olin ju ainult hing
hõljuma pandud
järelevaataja
koputaja
pealekaebaja
süüdistaja kohtus
ettekandja isa ees
iga eksimuse kirjutasin üles
vabastasin nad nende inglihingedest
valgetest ja vooruslikest kehadest
õpetasin neile
maailma tarkusi
töökat kuulekust
kuulekat töökust
nemad kiitsid mind
muutusime kõik üha sarnasemaks
rõõmust sai kurbus ja kurbusest sai rõõm
elu muutus ilusaks
kord oli nüüd õnn ja seda oli kõikjal
kord majas
kord saunas
oma jõgi ja oma mägi
mida veel tahta
ikka üles ja alla
elu nagu ameerika mägedes

“Victor” by David Hurtado

To discuss this and other finalists, visit Mormon Lit Lab.

“Victor”

written by David Hurtado

I prefer to believe that when my dad died he had seen an angel beckoning him home.  I prefer to think that as his spirit rose to leave, his stubborn body also arose from where he slept and tried to follow.  I imagine the ligaments connecting spirit and body stretched tight and then snapped like an old rubber band, his body crumpling to the hard floor, the institutional carpet marking his face and bruising his head.

I prefer to believe that as his soul shed its skin and bone, he rejoiced.  That the veil strained him apart like a sieve, allowing only the most heavenly parts to pass. That he stood, nobly, to heed the call home.

I prefer this image to the nagging thought that he just needed to pee and that being stubborn from birth he didn’t call a nurse for help.  (I had seen him do it the day before, attempting to stand on his own and pee into a urinal.  I’d had to hold him up, my arms under his arms, his hands trembling, his breathing shallow and fast.)  It’s entirely possible that this was the scenario.  That his congested heart simply couldn’t take the strain of standing to pee, so he collapsed and expired, apologetic and alone.

***

My dad was a sucker for the American dream. One time in Lima, I must have been about nine, he came home with a whole case of soap in his arms, from an American company. He was going to sell it on the side, and recruit others to do the same. He said we’d be better off and he wouldn’t have to work so hard anymore. He said his friend Manuel from the Mormon church was already making lots of money this way.

Mom was furious. But she calmly stubbed out her cigarette, sauntered over to Dad, and slapped him square in the face like a Peruvian Joan Crawford.  “Que ya te dije, Víctor. I warned you” she said, her lip curled, her eyes challenging. We all flinched, anticipating retribution. Dad’s eyes burned down at her and for a moment his fists clenched at his sides. But then, a calm spread over his face and down his shoulders. He simply said, “Ya veras. You’ll see”, and went back to the car for the other five boxes of soap.

This new church was strange, but Dad was a little different now. He still lost his temper from time to time, but he was clearly trying to kick the habit. For another thing, he quit smoking, a change he was more successful with. I think that Mom smoked more often around him, just to spite him. But he never smoked another cigarette.

He was the first to be baptized in our family. I didn’t really get it but I was there watching with my sisters. We made faces and exchanged carcajadas when the tall American missionary pushed Dad under the water.

In a few months the rest of us were baptized, even Mom, though I recall her lighting up on the drive home after the service. Those Elders really had something to write home about that week: five kids and their mother all dunked. I was last. The Elders had explained to us that baptism washed all our sins away, so I was surprised the water still looked clean when it was my turn.

Mom and Dad argued less violently, but more frequently. It seemed that almost anything could trigger a fight. Maybe that’s why Dad spent so much time helping the missionaries, or maybe it was the time he spent with them that made Mom so angry. Chicken or egg, I guess. In any case, he spent more and more time with church duties, driving the missionaries around, shuttling their investigators to and from church, and staying late after church on Sundays to help the leaders with paperwork.

It all came to a head the day Dad lost his job. Mom went into the bedroom and locked the door. Dad loaded my sisters and I into the car and took us to visit our Grandma and Aunt. My sisters ran in, excited to play. Dad and I went across the street to the Olivar and kicked a ball around. We pretended that the olive trees were defenders we had to pass, dribble and weave around to reach the goal. Some of those trees were over 300 years old, their misshapen trunks like giant cathedral candles still burning, and coated with centuries of dripped wax.

After playing for a while, Dad knelt and embraced me. “Carlitos”, he said, “I’m going to the United States. Elder Johnson’s parents have a job for me on their farm.”

I hugged him and cried, “No te vayas Papi! Don’t go!” He looked at me for a long time with tears in his eyes. He kissed me on the cheeks and forehead and hugged me more tightly.

“Be brave”, he whispered. “I will work very hard and come back for you as soon as possible.”

Dad stayed with his mother and sister in the house by the Olivar until the day he left. I stood on the airport observation deck with my sisters. We all waved as he walked resolutely across the tarmac and up the stairs to the plane. Just before entering, he turned and waved at us with both arms held high above his head.

***

Mom found a job sewing where her mother worked. We moved in with her parents. Her alcoholic father supervised my sisters and me. I learned to stay out of the house and out of sight as much as possible.  Whichever sibling was first home from school got the worst of it. But for my sisters, staying out late could be just as scary.  He treated all of us like his personal property, like Solomon’s concubines.

My friends and I used to get into all kinds of trouble.  We played a game with the discarded lids of tin cans.  We cut them around the edges like a circular saw blade, and put two holes in the center like a button.  Then we’d run a string through both holes in a big loop.  By twisting it up  and pulling on the loops from both sides, the metal blade would spin and we would challenge each other to duels, trying to cut each others strings.  This often devolved into trying to cut each other, or stray dogs, or smaller kids.

It took four years for Dad to save enough money to send for us. But he finally arranged for my sisters and I to join him in Utah. I didn’t understand, until Mom didn’t board the plane, that she wasn’t coming.

We were 5 unaccompanied minors from the slums of Lince.  We had no luggage, and even if we had, there was nothing worth putting in it.  After my dad left, the lights went out for me.  My childhood disintegrated, my innocence was terminated. Yet here I was on a plane, with stewardesses making sure I had water to drink and food to eat.  It remains my life’s most surreal experience; to fly, to land safely in Los Angeles, and there to be introduced to my Dad’s new wife, who I had no idea existed.

They took us to Disneyland.  I don’t know which was more impressive, the Sleeping Beauty Castle, Tom Sawyers Island, or the sight of people throwing away food; but that jarring juxtaposition, that suspension of disbelief that frays only at the edges, was our introduction to the United States.  From there we drove to our new home in Salt Lake City, leaving behind the Lima-like climate of Southern California, traversing deserts, vast open spaces, the perplexing anomaly of Las Vegas, and finally the snow-capped peaks of our new home.

***

Our stepmother was an English teacher.  She also spoke Spanish, having been a missionary in Argentina.  This came in handy, no doubt, as we acclimated to our new surroundings.  The next few years were a blur as my sisters and I learned to speak English and to present ourselves and our cultural background to our homogenous peers in a way that capitalized on the novelty and minimized the differences.

By the time I was a junior at Highland High School I had figured out where I fit in. I tried to emulate The Fonz among my peers, and Richie Cunningham in the presence of adults. I had an auto class and got the idea I could make my stepmom’s old Barracuda into a street racer. She got on my case for “tracking grease into the house,” but she let me mess with her car because she thought I was just giving it a tune-up. I told her it would help my grade.  It sounded pretty sweet with the headers and glasspacks I installed, but I wrapped it around a phone pole the next day.

Dad still struggled with his temper. He could sometimes lose it over late dinner or other minor infractions. But he usually kept his composure in major crises. Still, I wasn’t sure how he’d respond to the news that I had totaled his wife’s car.

He arrived from his first job each day with just enough time to eat dinner and put on his uniform for his evening job at the gas station. I stood and told him about the car as he was getting up from the table. Dad was furious, but he just stood and glared at me for a moment, then went to change.  My stepmom was frozen in her seat, her head bowed, her whole body shrinking.  “That went better than I expected” she said under her breath.

I awoke at about 1AM and found Dad seated at the kitchen table with two cups of hot cocoa and buttered toast . He motioned for me to join him. For a moment we sat in silence.

“I’m glad you weren’t hurt, Son,”

I poured out apologies. “I’m so sorry Dad. I’m sorry I messed up. I don’t know why I keep doing such stupid things. Why can’t I just be good? . . .”

It was one of those moments when you surprise even yourself with your grief. So much emotional baggage all suddenly unpacked itself, raw and incomprehensible.  He hugged me the way he had in the Olivar.  When I finally calmed down, he held my face in his incongruently soft, powerful hands and looked directly into my eyes.

“Son,” he said, “you are a child of God.”

“But so is everyone.” I replied.

“Son, YOU are a child of God. He doesn’t make mistakes. And in the same way an apple tree doesn’t grow peaches, you are the fruit of God’s tree. You are His child. All of eternity is for you to grow up to be like Him.”

***

Last weekend I sobbed the same way I did that night, as I brushed leaves and grass clippings from Dad’s headstone in a little cemetery just off of 45th South. I had gone to the temple that morning. By the third day I had fallen blissfully asleep, the same way my dad did the day he escorted me through my first endowment more than 30 years ago. I never thought I’d become so inured to that holy place.  But it isn’t born of disrespect. It’s just an awkward mixture of the miraculous and the mundane.

Either way, I woke up for the important parts, and I stood up when I was supposed to. I stood the way I’d prefer to believe that my dad did; that upon hearing a chorus of angels and ancestors he awoke and stood to join them. I’d prefer to think that he felt peace, like a long slow exhale, like water rippling on sand, like God himself had accepted all of his apologies once and for all and led him away by the hand.

That’s what I want to believe.

That’s my preference.

“Tatau” by Lehua Parker

To discuss this and other finalists, visit Mormon Lit Lab.

“Tatau”

written by Lehua Parker

Uncle Akumu has tattoos. Big, thick pe’a lines shout his ancient Samoan genealogy as they crisscross his thighs. On his arms he carries his own story. There’s Aunty Lani’s name surrounded by vines and pua fiti. There’s a manta ray and turtle,  a bullet with RIP for cousin Ikaika, and something I can’t make out that’s covered in swirls and shark teeth that rolls over his shoulder and down his back. When I ask Uncle about it, he just says some things are better remembered than displayed.

Uncle Akumu is cool.

When I tell Bishop I want history like Uncle Akumu, he frowns. “No, you don’t,” he says. “The church forbids tatau.”

But I do. I say, “I want to be just like Uncle Akumu.”

“No, Kiliona,” he says. “You want to be like Jesus. Does Jesus have tattoos?”

Of course I want to be like Jesus. We sing songs about how we want to be like Jesus in Primary as He looks down from His poster. Sister Sinaloa says Jesus knows everything, like if you asked Him for help with your math homework, He’d know all the answers.

But Jesus also tells you to figure it out for yourself. Read. Ponder. Pray.

I read, ponder, and pray, but I still don’t know the answers.

When I ask Uncle Akumu for help, he laughs his great booming laugh. He takes my math paper off the counter and wraps his arms around me. “Math is hard,” he says and rubs my head. “Good thing you smart.” He sits next to me and shows me how six times five is thirty. How eleven divided by seven is one, remainder four, and how two goes into eight four times. Pretty soon my homework’s done. Tomorrow when Mrs. Tui calls on me, I’ll know the answers.

Jesus knows all the answers to all my questions, but Uncle Akumu helps me get my homework done.

That’s why I want to be like Uncle Akumu, tattoos and all.

Maybe Jesus is really like Uncle Akumu, only we can’t see His tattoos under His red robes.

Maybe Bishop never looked.

“Two Missions” by Andreza Castro

Read the original Portuguese version here. To discuss this and other finalists, visit Mormon Lit Lab.

Two Missions

by Andreza Castro
translated by Katherine Cowley

When he was young, Arata dreamed of finishing high school, completing college, having a good job, being married and having children…now, at twenty-five years old, doing his second degree (which to him was the task of someone who did not have employment), and working as an intern, he felt like he was running out of options.

One day, as he was returning from a reunion with his friends…

*****

At the reunion:

Yang told how he had been promoted to a higher position at his company.

Usui invited everyone to his wedding, which would occur in two weeks.

Ikura announced that he would be a father for the second time.

When the time came for Arata to give updates, he felt completely frustrated and embarrassed.

In all the years since high school, his friends had achieved their goals, but Arata’s life did not have any great expectations. He didn’t want to tell his friends that he was still an intern and that he lived alone in a single room.

“I got promoted!”

He said it with as much conviction as he could muster in that moment. Everyone celebrated for him, but beneath the façade, Arata knew it was nothing more than a lie. When the reunion finally ended, he thanked God. On the way home, he was stopped by two well-dressed young men. One had blond hair and the other dark hair. To Arata’s astonishment, they greeted him by calling him by name, even though he had never seen them before in his life. Arata greeted them mechanically and then asked how the two young people (for he noted that they seemed to be younger than him) knew his name. The pair smiled and instead of replying with “how” they began to tell the entire life story of Arata. In that moment, he realized they must be hallucinations, because they stated things about his life that no one else besides him knew. That reunion was not good for me, he thought. He returned to the path toward his house as if nothing had happened, trying to convince himself that it all existed only in his mind.

“We are not hallucinations!”

He heard the voice of one of them speaking in a mild tone. Arata quickly turned back around, with eyes open wide.

“What do you want with me? Are you some type of ghost?” he yelled at the two young people.

They both smiled and asked him to set his mind at rest, for they were only there to help. Arata decided to listen to what they had to say—after all, he couldn’t see any other alternative.

The two young men introduced themselves; the one with the light hair was called Cooper and the other with the dark hair was Akamaro. They offered Arata a solution for of his problems, but he would have to pass a test over the course of one year. For this test, he would need to travel back to the year 1846. If and only if the test was completed to the very end, then his former problems would be resolved. He instantly refused them; to his ears, the two young men were merely ridiculing him. The young men did not insist—they just asked him to bring home a small box with a pill, and if he changed his mind, to take it. He stowed the box in his pocket and returned to his house. When he arrived, he lay on his bed, completely alone, and took the small box out of his pocket.

“Back to 1846, what a joke!” he said to himself as he swallowed the pill. He was sure that it was only a prank. At dawn, he opened his eyes and saw that everything was as it had been the prior day, he smiled alone, and he began to prepare himself to start a new day. He sighed before opening the door and stepped out with his eyes closed, feeling the breeze (colder than normal) touch his face.

“AHHHHHHHHHH…!!!”

Arata no longer saw people walking hunched over, staring at their cell phones, nor high tech cars…the women were dressed in dresses long and wore a sort of head cap Arata had never seen before; the men, not a one of them in jeans, and they wore hats, their beards were long, and it seemed like the longer they were the more children they had. He thought that he was dreaming, that the conversation from the night before had driven him mad. He closed his eyes again and turned toward the door from where he had exited, but when he opened his eyes, the door was no longer there. Arata began to strike at the wall without thinking about what he was doing. He felt a hand on his arm, turned in fright, and saw Akamaro standing in front of him.

“So, you took the pill!” Akamaro confirmed with a calm smile on his face. Arata immediately questioned the tranquility of Akamaro and wanted to know the purpose of being here, in 1846. Akamaro explained that this would be the experience for Arata and he would be with him to observe its evolution over the course of one year. Akamaro waited until Arata finished freaking out and then brought him to the pioneer camp, where from then on they would both remain until the end of the test.

Once there, Arata perceived that there were many families, and that despite the intense cold, they seemed content to be there in the camp. Akamaro explained that all of them, now including Arata, were pioneers (of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) who were heading to “New Jerusalem.”

As he met these people, he noted that his clothes now appeared like everyone else’s. He still did not know if this was all a dream or if he was actually living as a pioneer in 1846. He understood that the people believed that God spoke to them through a prophet named Joseph Smith. To Arata, it was simple for these people to believe in the words of a prophet—they were suffering and needed some hope. Joseph Smith seemed to give them this hope.

His first month in the camp was one of the most difficult. He refused to believe that everything would work out for them in the end; it was too improbable in his mind. In his second month, something occurred which he called “the impossible,” but for Akamaro was a miracle. The first miracle.

It was the morning of the final day of the month, and Arata’s shift was ending; he had spent the night awake watching the tents on the east side. He was seated, blowing on his frozen hands, when Akamaro stopped in front of him and called for an emergency meeting. Arata did not understand how he could help, but still, he went with Akamaro. One of the members of the camp was on the brink of death because he had not eaten for three days so he could give a little more food to his children. Arata saw no solution to that problem: the man would need more food, enough food to sate him and keep him alive. The food reserve they had was for five days and they needed it to feed the entire camp. They did not have sufficient food to give to the man. Arata did not know why, but he took grains out of his pocket, grains he had saved from last night’s dinner for lunch today, another thing he did not know why he had done. He was certain that Akamaro, unlike him, would know what to do with the grains so he handed them over to him. Akamaro expressed his gratitude to Arata with a broad smile. Arata then watched to see what Akamaro and the other members would do. One of them placed the grains in a worn pan that the women used to prepare meals; they covered the pan and one of them offered a prayer. Arata felt the sensation of his heart swelling within him, and in the middle of the prayer as thanks was given to God, he felt honored and happy to hear his name. After the “amen,” he went closer, for he wanted to see with his own eyes what was about to happen. Akamaro asked Arata to take the lid from the pan. He was startled by the quantity of food that had appeared inside the pan. Happiness was stamped on the face of everyone, even Arata.

Throughout the day, people went to him with thanks, and the scene of the full pan repeated time and time again. From that day on, Arata began to have a different perspective on what was happening and he decided to fully live his one year experience as a pioneer. Many other miracles occurred and Arata was present in many of them. The desire to help others grew every day and when he remembered that his test was nearing completion, his sadness was notable. He was well accepted among the pioneers and made many friendships, but he knew that none of them, in fact, would remember him.

“The people will not remember you, Arata,” said Akamaro during a conversation with him. “But they will remember that there lived a man who gave everything to help them, and their feelings will remain forever.”

He was seated by Akamaro’s side and his thoughts were not in the place where they now were, in 2018. He heard the noise of a door opening.

“Arata!”

He recognized the voice—it was Cooper. Cooper accompanied him to the office from where Cooper had exited. He sat in a chair in front of a table and Cooper sat across from him. Arata’s test was completed, he had passed it successfully, but the news did not bring him much joy. Cooper informed him that he could choose the job he wanted and begin his new life. Arata could not think of anything, for he wanted to continue helping people. In that case, Cooper had an idea, but he didn’t think Arata would accept it.

“I accept!” Arata responded two times, without needing to deliberate.

As he left the room to tell Akamaro he saw a young woman, who then entered the office he had just left.

Two years later, as a returned missionary, he found the woman he had seen when he finished his pioneer test. They had both been pioneers, but they did not remember each other.

His perspective on life had been much changed, and he understood that before the test he had not been prepared to have a good job, to marry, and to have the children he desired.

Now, working in his desired field, with a wife and children, he prepared himself for the day he would be reunited with the friends he had made in 1846 in the camp of the pioneers.

“Duas Missões” por Andreza Castro

Read the English translation here.

Duas Missões

Andreza Castro

Arata, quando jovem, sonhava em terminar o ensino médio, concluir uma faculdade, ter um bom emprego, casar-se e ter filhos… com 25 anos, fazendo sua segunda pós-graduação (o que pra ele é coisa de quem não tem emprego) e trabalhando como estagiário, sente-se que não tem mais jeito.

Certo dia, voltando de uma reunião com os amigos…

Na reunião

Yang contou que foi promovido para um cargo mais alto na empresa que trabalha.

Usui os convidou para seu casamento que acontecerá em 2 semanas.

Ikura deu a notícia que será pai pela segunda vez.

Quando chegou a vez de Arata contar suas novidades, sentiu-se completamente frustado e envergonhado.

Durante todos os anos após ter terminado o ensino médio, seus amigos alcançaram seus objetivos, porém, Arata permanecia em sua vida sem mais expectativas. Ele não queria contar para seus amigos que é apenas um estagiário que mora sozinho em um quarto.

fui promovido!

Respondeu com o máximo de convicção que conseguiu reunir naquele momento. Todos comemoraram, mas no fundo, Arata sabia que aquilo não passava de uma mentira.

Quando finalmente a reunião acabou e ele agradeceu a Deus por isso, no caminho de volta, é parado por dois jovens bem vestidos. Um tinha cabelos louros e o outro cabelos escuros. Eles o cumprimentou chamando-o pelo nome, para o espanto de Arata, pois nunca tinha visto aqueles caras em sua vida. Arata os cumprimentou de forma retórica e logo quis saber como os dois jovens (pois ele notou que pareciam ser mais novos que ele) sabiam seu nome.

Os dois sorriram e ao invés de responder “como”, eles começaram a contar toda a história da vida de Arata. Neste momento, ele pensou ser alucinações, pois eram coisas de sua vida, que a não ser ele mesmo, ninguém mais sabia. Aquela reunião não me fez bem, ele pensou. Voltou a caminhar em direção a sua casa como se nada daquilo realmente tivesse acontecido, tentando se convencer de que tudo não passara de coisa da sua cabeça.

não somos alucinações!

Ele ouviu a voz de um deles falar em um tom descontraído. Arata virou-se rapidamente para trás com os olhos arregalados.

o que vocês querem comigo? São algum tipo de fantasma, por acaso?

Gritou para os dois jovens. Ambos sorriram e pediram para que se acalmasse, eles só estavam ali para ajudar. Arata resolveu ouvir o que eles tinham para lhe dizer, afinal, não encontrou outra alternativa.

Os dois jovens se apresentaram, o de cabelo claro se chamava Cooper e o outro de cabelo escuro era o Akamaro. Eles lhe ofereceram a solução para os problemas de Arata, porém, ele teria que passar por um teste durante 1 ano, o mesmo teria que voltar para o ano de 1846 e somente se o teste fosse feito até o final, aqueles problemas seriam resolvidos. Ele negou rapidamente, aos seus ouvidos, os dois jovens estavam apenas zombando dele. Os jovens não insistiram, apenas pediram para que ele levasse uma caixinha com um comprimido para casa e se ele mudasse de ideia, era só tomar. Guardou no bolso a caixinha e seguiu o caminho de casa. Quando chegou em casa, deitou em sua cama, completamente sozinho, ele tirou a caixinha do bolso.

voltar para 1846, que piada!

Disse a si mesmo e tomou o comprimido. Ele tinha certeza que aquilo era só uma brincadeira.

Ao amanhecer, abriu os olhos e viu que tudo estava como no dia anterior, sorriu sozinho e começou a se aprontar para começar mais um dia. Suspirou antes de abrir a porta, saiu de olhos fechados sentindo a brisa (mais fria que o normal) tocar seu rosto.

AHHHHHHHHHH…!!!

Arata agora não via mais pessoas andando corcundas olhando para seus celulares, nem carros com alta tecnologia… as mulheres vestiam vestidos longos e uma espécie de touca na cabeça que Arata nunca vira antes, os homens, não tinha nenhum de jeans, e usavam chapéus, suas barbas eram compridas, parecia que quanto mais compridas eram, mais filhos tinham. Ele pensou estar sonhando, a conversa da noite passada o tinha deixado maluco. Fechou os olhos de novo e virou-se para a porta de onde tinha saído, mas quando abriu os olhos, não havia mais porta ali. Arata começou a bater na parede sem pensar no que estava fazendo. Sentiu uma mão sobre seu ombro, ao virar assustado, viu Akamaro em pé em sua frente.

então você tomou!

Akamaro confirmou com um sorriso tranquilo no rosto. Arata logo questionou a tranquilidade de Akamaro e quis saber o motivo de estarem ali, em 1846. Akamaro explicou que aquilo serviria de experiência para a Arata e ele estaria junto para observar  a sua evolução durante 1 ano.

Akamaro esperou Arata terminar de surtar e o levou para um acampamento de pioneiros, onde dali em diante, ambos estariam até o fim do teste.

Chegando lá, Arata percebeu que havia muitas famílias, que apesar do frio intenso, elas pareciam contentes de estarem ali naquele acampamento. Akamaro explicou que todos aqueles, inclusive Arata agora, eram pioneiros (d’A Igreja de Jesus Cristo dos Santos dos Últimos Dias), que estavam indo em rumo a “Nova Jerusalém”.

Ao se reunir com aquelas pessoas, ele notou que suas vestes agora era como a de todos ali. Ainda não sabia se tudo era um sonho ou estava mesmo vivendo como pioneiro em 1846. Ele entendeu que as pessoas acreditavam que Deus falava com elas através de um Profeta chamado Joseph Smith. Para Arata, era fácil aquelas pessoas acreditarem nas palavras do Profeta, estavam sofrendo e precisavam de alguma esperança. Joseph Smith parecia dar-lhes essa esperança.

Seu primeiro mês no acampamento foi um dos mais difíceis. Ele se recusava a acreditar que tudo daria certo para eles no final, era improvável demais para sua mente. Em seu segundo mês, aconteceu algo que ele chamou de “o impossível”, mas para Akamaro era um milagre. O primeiro milagre.

Na manhã do último dia do mês, estava acabando o turno de Arata, ele passara a noite acordado vigiando as barracas do lado leste. Sentado, assoprando os mãos que estavam congeladas, Akamaro parou em sua frente e o chamou para uma emergência. Arata não entendeu como ele poderia ajudar, mas mesmo assim, foi com Akamaro. Um dos membros do acampamento estava à beira da morte, pois deixara de comer por 3 dias para dar um pouco mais de alimento ao seus filhos. Arata não via solução para aquele problema, aquele membro precisaria de mais alimento, alimento suficiente para se saciar e manter-se vivo. A reserva de alimentos que tinham era para 5 dias e precisavam alimentar todos do acampamento. Não tinha comida suficiente para isso. Arata não sabia o porquê, mas tirou alguns grãos do bolso que deixou da janta da noite passada para o almoço do dia seguinte, outra coisa que também não sabia o porquê. Ele tinha certeza que Akamaro, diferente dele, saberia o que fazer com os grãos, então entregou a ele. Akamaro expressou sua gratidão a Arata com um largo sorriso. Arata apenas assistiu o que Akamaro e os outros membros fizeram. Um deles colocou os grãos dentro de uma panela desgastada que as mulheres usavam para preparar as refeições, eles fecharam a panela e um deles fez uma oração. Arata sentia uma sensação de que seu coração estava inchando dentro de si, sentiu-se honrado e feliz ao ouvir seu nome no meio dos agradecimentos à Deus naquela oração. Após o “amém”, ele foi para mais perto, queria ver com os próprios olhos o que estava prestes a acontecer. Akamaro pediu a Arata para tirar a tampa da panela. Ele se assustou com a quantidade de comida que aparecera dentro da panela. A alegria estava estampada no rosto de todos, até mesmo de Arata.

Durante todo o dia, pessoas iam até ele para agradecer, a cena da panela cheia se repetia várias e várias vezes. A partir desse dia, Arata começou a ter um olhar diferente para o que estava acontecendo e decidiu viver completamente o seu 1 ano de experiência como pioneiro. Muitos outros milagres aconteceram e Arata esteve presente em muitos deles. O desejo de ajudar aumentava a cada dia e quando lembrava que seu teste estava chegando ao fim, sua tristeza era notável. Fora muito bem aceito entre os pioneiros e fizera muitas amizades, mas sabia que ninguém de fato lembraria dele.

as pessoas não vão lembrar de você, Arata. Mas vão lembrar que existiu um homem que deu tudo de si para os ajudar, os sentimentos permanecerão para sempre.

Falou Akamaro durante uma conversa com Arata.

Estava sentado ao lado de Akamaro, seus pensamentos não estavam naquele lugar, em 2018. Ouviu o barulho de uma porta abrindo.

Arata!

Ele reconheceu a voz, era o Cooper. O acompanhou até o escritório de onde Cooper tinha saído. Sentou em uma cadeira de frente para uma mesa onde Cooper foi para trás. O teste de Arata foi aceito, ele passou com sucesso, mas a notícia não o alegrou muito. Cooper o informou que ele poderia escolher o emprego que quisesse e começar sua nova vida. Arata não conseguia pensar em nada, ele queria continuar ajudando pessoas. Cooper então teve uma ideia, mas não acreditava que Arata aceitaria.

eu aceito!

Arata respondeu sem pensar duas vezes. Saiu da sala para contar a Akamaro e viu uma jovem mulher, logo ela entrou no escritório onde ele tinha acabo de sair.

2 anos depois, como missionário retornado, Arata reencontrou a jovem mulher que tinha visto quando terminou seu teste como pioneiro. Ambos tinham sido pioneiros, mas não se lembravam um do outro.

Sua perspectiva de vida havia mudado, ele entendera que antes do seu teste, ele não estava preparado para ter um bom emprego, casar-se e ter filhos como desejava.

Agora, trabalhando na área que desejava, com esposa e filhos, se preparavam para o dia em que reencontrariam os amigos que fizeram em 1846 no acampamento dos pioneiros.

“The Secret Friend” by Amanda Araújo de Castro

Read the original Portuguese version here. To discuss this and other finalists, visit Mormon Lit Lab.

The Secret Friend

by Amanda Araújo de Castro
translated by Katherine Cowley

Pedro is lying on his bed with his cellphone headphones in. His mother enters his bedroom.

“I can’t believe you aren’t packing your things.”
He hears enough of what she’s said to pull out his headphones and say, “I’ll clean it.”

She leaves the room, impatient, and he throws himself to his bed, thinking about this change of cities. To think that he will have to leave the neighborhood he loves so much, his friends, and move to a new ward and stake and have everything be new and different.

Two days pass and they are already in their new house, their new neighborhood.

Today is his first Sunday in his new ward and he decides not to talk to anyone.

On the way back to the house, his family chats in the car.

“Everyone here seems very friendly,” says his mother.
“Our classroom was quite full,” says Pedro’s fifteen-year-old sister.
“The juice was a nice welcome,” comments his father.
“And you son, what did you think?” asks his mother.
“It was fine,” responds Pedro without animation.
“You sound so excited,” says his sister.
Pedro continues to look at the view through the car window.

A few days pass, and now it’s vacation. Pedro’s mom calls into his bedroom, telling him that some teenagers from the ward are waiting for him in the living room. They invite Pedro to go with them to an activity and he accepts.

They arrive and everyone is very excited, having all sorts of fun, but what catches Pedro’s attention is a girl singing while a boy plays a guitar.

What a pretty girl and what a lovely voice, he thinks. I wonder what her name is. He keeps watching her. At the end of the day, the activity is over and he leaves without having any contact with her—not even eye contact.

On Sunday he is in his young men’s lesson when he needs to leave to get copies from the library. As he walks down the hall, he sees that beautiful young woman coming. She walks past him and smiles. What a beautiful smile. She seems shy, and I think I like her. I should tell her that I’ve been watching her, he thinks.

More days pass…it’s Sunday, again. At the end of the meeting his mother informs him that they will eat lunch at the house of another member.

When they arrive at the member’s house, to his surprise he discovers that it is the house of the young woman he has been watching. He feels a bit shy but is glad to get a chance to meet her. After lunch he goes to the porch and plays with a kitten, and the girl comes out to talk to him.

“He’s adorable, isn’t he?” She smiles.
“Yes,” Pedro responds, smiling, and then he sits there, not knowing what to say. Then he risks it and says, “What’s your name?”
“Liz. What’s yours?”
“Pedro. It’s good to meet you.”
“Same. Are you liking the ward?”
“I’m adjusting well. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming.”
“That’s good. If you need something, feel free to let me know.”
“Ok! Thanks!”

Two days pass. Pedro is in his house and receives a call on the landline.

“Hi, it’s Liz.”
“Hi Liz, how are things?”
“I’m good. How about you?”
“Really good. I was just calling to invite you to family home evening with me.”
“Let’s do it. What time?”
“In thirty minutes. Can you make it?
“I can. I’ll come to your house then.”
“Ok! I’ll be expecting you.”
“Sounds good.”

Pedro gets ready and meets Liz. They attend family home evening, they enjoy themselves, and after he heads home by himself. On his way home, he keeps thinking how he might approach her. He decides to start sending her email anonymously. Once he’s inside, he logs onto LDS Tools and finds her email in the ward directory.

He opens his laptop and writes.

From: Secret Friend
To: Liz
Subject: can we be friends?

Hi. How are you? I am looking for someone I can talk to and I chose you.

 

From: Liz
To: Secret Friend
Subject: we can

Hi. I’m good. First I want to know how you found my email? And why did you choose me?

 

From: Secret Friend
To: Liz
Subject: I am a very shy person

I found your email on a site, you should be careful where you leave your personal info haha and I chose you because I think your name is very different and pretty.

 

From: Liz
To: Secret Friend
Subject: now I am scared

I really leave my email in a lot of places haha I need to be more careful and thanks for the compliment on my name haha my dad heard it in a film and named me it.

 

From: Secret Friend
To: Liz
Subject: I’m a good person haha

Careful haha yes… you’re welcome

 

They chat quite a bit and Pedro is happy that things are going as planned.

Ten days pass and they exchange emails every day.

He goes to the chapel to play soccer.

As he arrives, he runs into Liz.

“Hi Liz.”
“Hi Pedro. How are you?”
“I’m good and you? You disappeared!”
“Wow, I’m sorry. I’m not being very welcoming, am I?”
“No worries. You already did your part.”
“I thought about you this week. I was going to call your house.”
Was she really thinking about me? thought Pedro.
“Can you give me your number? It’s easier to keep in touch.”
“Of course, why didn’t I think of that before?”

She gives him her number and she leaves saying that it will solve some things. When he arrives home, he sends a text to Liz.

SMS: I saved your number on my phone.
SMS: great, I saved yours too.

He decides to open his email and speak to her there.

 

From: S. F.
To: Liz
Subject: say three things about yourself

I like to play video games
I love eating French fries
I don’t like it when people walk slow in front of me.

 

From: Liz
To: S. F.
Subject: I like this game

I’m 16 years old
I like to sing
I don’t like it when people yell at me
How old are you?

 

From: S. F.
To: Liz
Subject: that’s cool haha

I’m 16 years old. But don’t ask me my name haha

 

They chat a little more on email. I wish I could tell you more details, but I need to summarize what happens between them.

Forty-five days pass and Pedro is growing a lot closer to Liz, both as a friend and as a secret friend. He has discovered the things she likes and has managed to impress the girl. Liz asks a few questions to see if she can figure out who the secret friend is.

Two months go by and they are very close friends.

A few days later, Pedro invites Liz to go out for ice cream.

 

“What do you like best, chocolate or strawberry?” she says, trying to discover if Pedro is her secret friend, because her secret friend once said that if any option is placed against chocolate, he will always choose chocolate.
“Chocolate,” he responds with a smile.
“Vanilla with chocolate flakes or chocolate?” she asks again.
“Chocolate!” He smiles. “Always chocolate.”

Immediately Liz wonders if this was already a coincidence.

“I love chocolate too,” she says, smiling.

Liz starts asking questions and bringing up certain subjects to see if the two are similar and she reaches the conclusion that they are. When it’s time to leave, Pedro drops Liz off at her house. She finds herself thinking of Pedro and realizes she is falling in love with her friend.

Pedro reaches home and wonders if it would be too suspicious to email her right now. He keeps thinking about her and how close they are to each other. And he asks himself what she might think about him.

Meanwhile, Liz is in her house, rereading the conversations from the emails and the text messages, searching for similarities between the two. She notices that the writing is different, but that the two participate in similar things. But pretty soon she grows sad because of course lots of boys like the same things, and so it must be a coincidence, but if she could choose, the secret friend would be Pedro, because the secret friend seems to like her and Pedro doesn’t.

Pedro is lying down, listening to his music, and he comes to the conclusion that he should tell Liz that he’s the secret friend even if it could put their friendship at risk.

On another day, there is an activity at the church building. Pedro watches Liz and their eyes meet and they stare at each other in a cute way. Then Pedro winks at her and blows her a kiss; she starts laughing and he feels his heart race. At the end of the activity he runs to her and gives her a big hug. They keep hugging without saying anything.

“Did you know…?” Pedro begins to say but then changes his mind at the same moment.
“What?” she asks, still hugging him.
“That I am very hungry.” He smiles.
“This isn’t a new thing.” She looks up to see his face. The two of them look at each other closely without speaking.
He still doesn’t know how to tell her, so he says, “You are beautiful!” He gives her a kiss on the cheek, which makes his heart skip out of his mouth. He pulls her affectionately on the arm and says he’ll take her home.

Pedro still hasn’t told her that he is the secret friend, and so he starts showing more affection in his emails, leaving some shyness aside.

 

From: S. F.
To: Liz

Good morning, love of my life! Haha

 

From:  Liz
To: S. F.

Love of your life? Hahaha good morning.
Speaking of love, have you ever fallen in love with someone?

 

From: S. F.
To: Liz

Yes, I have fallen in love. And you?

 

From: Liz
To: S. F.

I am in love with someone, and I’m beginning to think that he may be too, before it didn’t seem like he was at all, but now he’s been getting closer to me and I really want this to happen. When he smiles at me my heart races, I’ve never felt like this before. I don’t know if you even want to hear about, but we talk so much about everything and I just need to pour out my heart.

 

From: S. F.
To: Liz

You can pour out your heart to me any time you want. You were very kind to me to be my friend without knowing who I am. And with Passion, she always leaves us without ground to stand on. I know I’m being foolish, but tell me more about this passion…

 

From: Liz
To: A. S.

I really like him, but I don’t have the courage to tell him, and I’m also afraid that he just sees me as a good friend and I’m confusing things. I don’t even know if I should say this to you haha but once I thought you liked me. You were always a fluff with me, and I even thought that I wanted you to be Pedro because he seemed to like me only as a friend haha but I came to the conclusion that even though you like the same things, it was because boys always like the same things, and your writing was different and sometimes I would be talking to both of you at the same time… you must think I’m insane. Hahaha

 

Stop everything, she wrote my name, thinks Pedro. He starts jumping with happiness, thinking that he should tell her everything. Fueled by his excitement, he gets on his bike and rides to Liz’s house. His arrival surprises her.

“Pedro, I wasn’t expecting you, come in! You seem flustered.”
“Hi Liz, I’m sorry for coming here without warning, but there’s something I need to tell you.”
“You can tell me.” She gives a worried smile.
“I am the secret friend, I am the one who exchanged emails with you every day. I’m sorry. I don’t know what you’re going to think about this, especially since you opened up your heart to me today.”
“It’s you?” she says levelly, still afraid he doesn’t like her.
“But before you get worried, I want to say that I really like you.” He gives her a hug.
“Good. I really like you too.” She hugs him, still a little shocked.

The two remain in their embrace. After, they sit.

“I did all of this because I didn’t know how to win your affection. I am a bit shy, but when you said today that you liked me, I came here on impulse.”
“No worries, I think everything you did was cute, but I was just scared when you told me you did not like me.”
“Never. You are the most incredible girl I’ve ever met.”
“And you are the most incredible boy I’ve ever met.” She blushes as she smiles.

He takes her hand, and the two exchange passionate glances. He shifts a little closer to her and gives her a kiss.

“O Amigo Secreto” por Amanda Araújo de Castro

Read the English translation here.

O Amigo Secreto

Amanda Araújo de Castro

Pedro estava deitado em sua cama com fones de ouvidos mexendo no celular.  Entra sua mãe em seu quarto.

– Eu não acredito que você não está arrumando suas coisas
Um pouco entendiado ele retira seus fones e diz
– Já vou arrumar.

Ela impaciente sai do quarto e ele se joga na cama pensando nessa mudança de cidade. Que terá que deixar o bairro que tanto ama, seus amigos, mudará de ala e estaca e terá que passar por adaptações.

Passam 2 dias e já estão na nova casa,  no novo bairro.

Hoje é seu primeiro domingo na ala nova e ele pretende não conversar com ninguém.

No caminho de volta para casa.

Conversa no carro.

– Aqui todos parecem muito bem animados. – diz sua mãe.
– A nossa sala estava bem cheia – Diz irmã de Pedro que tem 15 anos.
– O sumo foi bem recepcionista.  -comenta seu pai.
– E você filho, o que achou?  – pergunta sua mãe.
– Foi bom. – responde Pedro sem animação.
– Quanta animação. – Sua irmã então diz.
Pedro continua a olhar a paisagem pela janela do carro.

Passam alguns dias, está em período  férias… A mãe de Pedro chama ele no quarto dizendo que tem uns jovens da ala esperando na sala. Eles convidam Pedro para ir a uma atividade e ele aceita.

Chegando lá, estão todos bem animados, se divertindo da várias formas, mas o que chama atenção dele é uma moça que está cantando enquanto um rapaz toca violão.

Que menina bonita e que voz serena,  pensa ele. Qual será o nome dela? Fica observando. No fim do dia, acaba a atividade e ele vai embora sem ter tido nenhum contato com aquela moça, nem mesmo visual.

Domingo está na aula dos rapazes,  quando precisa sair para pegar umas impressões na biblioteca, quando vai andando no corredor, vê aquela bela moça vindo, ela passa por ele e sorrir. Que belo sorriso. Ela parece tímida e eu pareço que estou apaixonado.  Preciso confessar que tenho observado ela,  pensa Pedro.

Passam mais alguns dias… é domingo, novamente. Ao término da reunião, sua mãe avisa que eles irão almoçar na casa de um membro. Pedro não via a hora de chegar em casa e percebe que vai demorar um pouco.

Quando chegam na casa do membro, para sua surpresa, descobre que está na casa da moça a qual ele observa. Ele fica um pouco tímido, mas feliz por ter a chance de conhece-la. Após o almoço ele sai para varanda para brincar com um gatinho e a moça vai lá falar com ele.

-Ele é adorável,  certo? – sorri.
-Sim. – sorri e responde Pedro, e fica sem saber o que falar.  Então arrisca e diz – Qual é seu nome?
– Liz e o seu?
– Pedro,  prazer em te conhecer.
– Igualmente,  Está gostando de nossa ala?
– Estou bem adaptando, vocês são bem animados e receptivos.
– Que bom, se precisar de algo, pode contar comigo.
– Ok! Obrigado!

Passam dois dias, Pedro estava em casa e recebeu uma ligação no telefone fixo.

– Oi, aqui é Liz.
– Oi Liz, tudo bem?
– Tudo sim e você?
– Muito bem,  eu estou te ligando para te chamar para ir a uma noite familiar comigo.
– Vamos sim, que horas?
– Daqui 30 minutos…  Pode ser?
– Pode, eu passo na sua casa então.
– Ok!  Te espero!
– Tá bom!

Pedro se arruma e busca Liz. Vão à noite familiar, se divertem, depois ele deixa ela em casa. Voltando para casa, fica pensando em uma maneira de se aproximar dela. Então decide que começará enviar e-mail em anonimato. Chegando em casa, entra no site dos membros da ala e consegue o e-mail dela.

Abre o notebook e escreve.

De: Amigo Secreto
Para: Liz
Assunto: podemos ser amigos?

Oi. Tudo bem? Estou a procura de alguém que eu possa conversar e te escolhi.

 

De: Liz
Para: Amigo Secreto
Assunto: podemos

Oi. Tudo sim. Primeiro gostaria de saber como conseguiu meu e-mail? E por que me escolheu?

 

De: Amigo Secreto
Para: Liz
Assunto: Eu sou uma pessoa mais tímida

Eu consegui seu email em um site,  cuidado onde deixa seus dados pessoais haha e eu escolhi seu você porque achei o nome mais diferente e bonito.

 

De: Liz
Para: Amigo secreto
Assunto: fiquei com medo agora

Eu realmente deixo meu e-mail em muitos lugares haha preciso tomar mais cuidado  e obrigada pelo elogio do nome haha foi meu pai que escutou em um filme e quis colocar.

 

De: Amigo Secreto
Para : Liz
Assunto : eu sou do bem haha

Cuidado haha sim…  De nada

 

Eles conversam bastante e Pedro fica feliz por as coisas estarem saindo como planejado.

10 dias se passam e eles trocam e-mails todos os dias.

Ele vai à capela jogar futebol. Chegando lá, encontra Liz.

– Oi Liz.
– Oi Pedro. Tudo bem?
– Tudo sim e você? Sumiu!
– Nossa, me desculpe…  não estou sendo uma boa recepcionista, né?!
– Fique tranquila. Você já fez sua parte.
– Eu pensei em você nessa semana.  Iria ligar em sua casa.
Quer dizer que ela pensou em mim? pensou Pedro.
– Você pode me passar seu número?  Fica mais fácil de manter contato.
– Claro, por que não pensei nisso antes?

Passa o número dela e ela sai dizendo que vai resolver algumas coisas. Chegando em casa ele manda um SMS para Liz.

SMS: salvei seu número aqui.
SMS: que ótimo, salvei aqui também.

Decide abrir seu email e falar com ela por lá.

 

De: A. S.
Para: Liz
Assunto : diga três coisas sobre você

Eu gosto de jogar videogame
Eu adoro comer batata frita
Eu não gosto quando andam devagar na minha frente.

 

De: Liz
Para: A. S.
Assunto: gostei desse joguinho

Eu tenho 16 anos
Eu gosto de cantar
Eu não gosto quando gritam comigo
Você tem quantos anos?

 

De: A. S.
Para: Liz
Assunto: ele é legal haha

Eu tenho 16 anos.  Mas não me pergunte meu nome haha

 

Eles conversam um pouco mais no e-mail. Eu queria poder contar mais detalhes, mas preciso resumir.

Passam 45 dias e Pedro está bem mais próximo de Liz, tanto como amigo quanto como amigo secreto. Ele tem descoberto as coisas que ela gosta e assim tem conseguido impressionar a garota. Liz faz algumas perguntas para ver se descobre quem é o amigo secreto.

Passam dois meses e eles estão muito amigos.

Passam mais alguns dias e Pedro convida Liz para tomar sorvete.

-Qual você mais gosta, chocolate ou morango?  – Diz Liz tentando descobrir se Pedro é o amigo secreto, porque esse amigo uma vez disse que qualquer opção colocada com chocolate, ele sempre vai escolher o chocolate.
– Chocolate. – responde sorrindo
– Flocos ou chocolate? – pergunta novamente.
– Chocolate! – sorri. – sempre chocolate.

Logo Liz pensa que isso já coincidiu.

– Eu amo de chocolate também. – diz ela sorrindo.

Então Liz fica fazendo umas perguntas e entrando em alguns assuntos para ver se os dois se parecem e ela chega à conclusão que sim. Na hora de ir embora,  Pedro deixa Liz em casa.  Ela se pega pensando em Pedro e acha que está apaixonada por esse amigo.

Pedro chega em casa e fica pensando se não seria muito suspeito enviar o e-mail nesse mesmo momento. Fica pensando nela e como os dois estão próximos. E se perguntando o que será que Liz pensa sobre ele.

Enquanto isso, Liz na sua casa, reler as conversas no e-mail e as mensagens de texto procurando semelhança entre os dois. Porém, percebe que a escrita é diferente, mas que os dois compartilham de coisas parecidas. Mas logo depois fica triste por pensar que meninos gostam das mesmas coisas, então deve ser só coincidência, mas que se ela pudesse escolher, esse amigo secreto seria o Pedro, porque o amigo secreto parece gostar dela e Pedro não.

Pedro deitado ouvindo suas músicas chega a conclusão que deve contar para Liz que ele é o amigo secreto mesmo que isso possa colocar a amizade deles em risco.

No outro dia, tem uma atividade na capela. Pedro estar observando Liz e os olhares deles se encontram e eles ficam se encarando de forma fofa. Então Pedro pisca para ela e manda beijo, ela começa a rir e sente seu coração acelerar. No final da atividade ele corre e a abraça forte. Eles ficam abraçados sem falar nada.

– Sabia…?  – Pedro começa a falar e desiste no mesmo instante.
– O que? – pergunta, ainda abraçados
– Que eu to com fome. – sorrir.
– Isso nem é novidade. – olha para cima para ver o rosto dele. Os dois ficam se olhando bem próximos sem falar nada.
Ele fica sem jeito e fala
– Você é linda! – dá um beijo na bochecha dela, o que faz seu coração faltar sair pela boca. Ele puxa ela de modo carinhoso pelo braço e diz que deixará ela em casa.

Como Pedro não consegue falar para ela que é o amigo secreto, começa a demonstrar mais carinho, deixando um pouco a timidez de lado.

 

De: A. S.
Para: Liz

Bom dia, amor da minha vida! haha

 

De: Liz
Para: A. S.

Amor da sua vida?  Hahaha bom dia.
Falar em amor…  você já se apaixonou alguma vez?

 

De: A. S.
Para: Liz

Eu já má apaixonei sim e você?

 

De: Liz
Para: A. S.

Eu estou apaixonada, estou começando achar que ele talvez esteja também, antes não parecia, mas agora ele tem se aproximado mais de mim e eu quero muito que isso aconteça. Quando ele sorrir para mim meu coração acelera, nunca tinha acontecido isso antes. Eu nem sei se você quer saber sobre isso, mas a gente conversa tanto sobre tudo, precisava desabafar.

 

De: A. S.
Para: Liz

Você pode desabafar sempre que quiser.  Você foi muito gentil comigo sendo minha amiga mesmo sem saber quem eu sou. E sobre a paixão, ela nos deixa assim sem chão. A gente fica bobo, mas me conte mais sobre essa paixão…

 

De: Liz
Para: A. S.

Eu gosto muito dele, mas não tenho coragem de falar, também tenho medo de que ele me veja apenas como uma boa amiga e eu estar confundindo as coisas. Eu nem sei se deveria falar isso para você haha mas uma vez eu cheguei a pensar que você gostasse de mim. Você sempre foi um fofo comigo e até pensei que queria que vocês fosse Pedro, porque ele parecia gostar de mim só como amiga haha mas depois cheguei a conclusão que apenas os gostos de vocês eram parecidos,  porque meninos gostam de coisas iguais,  mas a escrita era diferente e também  porque já conversei com vocês dois ao mesmo tempo…  você deve achar que sou uma doida. hahaha

 

Peraí, ela escreveu meu nome, pensa Pedro e começa a pular de felicidade, pensando que deve contar tudo para ela.  Aproveitando a empolgação, pega sua bicicleta e vai a caminho da casa de Liz.  Chegando lá, ela se surpreende.

– Pedro!  Não esperava você aqui,  entre! Você parece agitado.
– Oi Liz, desculpa vir assim sem avisar,  mas precisava te dizer uma coisa.
– Pode falar! – sorri preocupada.
– Eu sou o amigo secreto, fui eu que troquei e-mail com você todos os dias, desculpe. Eu não sei o que vai pensar sobre isso, ainda mais que abriu o seu coração hoje.
– É você?  – sem reação e com medo dele não gostar mesmo dela.
– Mas antes que fique preocupada, eu gosto muito de você – abraça ela.
– Que bom, também gosto muito de você. – abraçando ele um pouco chocada.

Os dois ficam abraçados. Depois sentam.

– Eu fiz tudo isso porque não sabia como te conquistar, eu sou um pouco tímido, mas quando você falou hoje que gostava de mim, vim pelo impulso.
– Sem problemas, eu acho fofo tudo isso que fez, mas só fiquei com medo quando me disse de você não gostar de mim.
– Jamais, você é a menina mais incrível que eu já conheci.
– E você é o rapaz mais incrível que já conheci. – sorrir com vergonha.

Ele segura na mão dela, os dois trocam olhares apaixonados. Ele se aproxima um pouco mais dela e a beija.

“A Sunday at Laginha” by César Augusto Medina Fortes

Read the original Portuguese version here. To discuss this and other finalists, visit Mormon Lit Lab.

A Sunday at Laginha

by César Augusto Medina Fortes
translated by Katherine Cowley

As we did every Sunday, my siblings and I rose early and attended church. After church, after eating, we started making our plans, because the afternoon was always reserved for us, the children of the Ribeira Bote and the Ilha de Madeira, to visit Laginha Beach. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do on the Lord’s day, so I would hide from my mother, because if she knew what I planned we would fight about it.

I left to find my friends. There were no boundaries and no rules. We entered the front door of missus Maria of Valentim and left through her back gate, passing through her home to reach Ilha de Madeira—the neighborhood called Island of Timber—where we invited our friends Johny de Carola, Aristides, Tino, Djoy and others. Jair of Fátima always wanted to go with us, but his mother rarely let him. Ivone of missus Ciza was always willing to come and would join the front of our line.

After informing our friends in Ilha de Madeira, it was time to head over to 10th Street. For a shortcut, we would enter the back gate of missus Sabina’s house and leave by the front door, which put us directly on 10th Street. Our families were all friends and we could enter one house or another without problems, as long as we greeted everyone with civility. Civility was something we never lacked, for if we were lacking the adults had permission from our parents to chide us and then we would immediately follow their orders.

On 10th Street we called for them—Paulo of Mr. Jon Bloco, Rogério, Chimaz, Papai, Livramente, Nelsa d’Ya, Valdemar of madame Alice, my brother Joselito, my cousins, the twins Paulo and Jorge, Sílvio, as well as Renato and Dixa of Poia, Djão of madame Linda, Jair, Gui and Paulo of missus Mari of Lurdes, Nelson, Zé and Didi of madame Montinha, Zé of madame Rosário, Ligim of madame Eduina, Ligim of madame Polina, Johny of madame Teresinha, Didi of madame Olívia and many others, the group large and increasing in size as we passed, whistling, by the doors of different families. We had a whistle as a code and when one of us gave the tune, the person inside would return it and quickly open the door. We would all gather together on the street and make sure no one was missing so that we could head to Laginha Beach. Our route took us through the Alto de Sentina, Alto de Mira-mar, Praça Nova, and then to Laginha itself.

On the way we would play games, as all children do, and one of those games was to push. Near the restaurant called Sodade, someone remembered to give a push to Jorge of Mana and he went down with such force that he fell against a gate. The gate opened, and as the house had a few steps, Jorge tumbled down the stairs until he stopped in the middle of the backyard. The lady of the house was startled by the noise and went at once to help Jorge get up, and she asked him if he was alright. Jorge of Mana, as he was clever, said that he might soon faint. The poor lady went quickly and brought him a sweet bread and a cup of juice. Jorge ate and licked his lips. Once we were out of there Zé of missus Montinha said, “Caramba. Jorge is lucky even in a fall. Seriously.”

And so we continued on our path to Laginha. We passed the Superinha factory where they make a soda that, for us, was the best in the world. Near the technical school, we discovered a date tree bursting with dates, yellow and sweet, ready for us to eat. It was time for our fruit shooters, Valdemar and Tchitchi. They picked up stones and threw them into the bunches, and then those that were youngest of our group picked up the dates that fell on the ground and distributed them to everyone. From there, we caught sight of the beautiful sea of the Laginha. But the walk from there to the beach was a torment. The tar seemed to melt in the hot sun, and we, with our bare feet, would always skip across because of how it burned us. There were times when some of us ended up with blisters on the soles of our feet.

Finally, we would arrive at the much desired Laginha beach. Everyone ran for the water. We competed, diving and jumping in the waves. After, we went to our “diving board”—the jumping point at the Stone Pier. We would make a line and all of us would jump and when we dove into the water, it was mandatory to swim through the tunnel under the dock. João was almost always the first to pass through it and the others would follow him. When we reached the other side, we arrived almost out of breath, but happy. I remember there was one time when we all traversed the tunnel, but when we rose out of the water we were missing someone, Nelsa d’Ya. Valdemar quickly dove down and went to find him. He had been stuck in a narrow part of the tunnel, for Nelsa d’Ya was a big guy.

Once we had gotten over our scare and we had Nelsa d’Ya on dry land, we began to laugh until we fell onto the sand. As children, we found it a great joke. Funny things always happened to Nelsa d’Ya. After spitting up some water, he soon began to do somersaults, something he was very good at.

In the meantime, Kunhanha had the crazy idea of scaling the Electra sea water abstraction plant to the top of the tower, where we could jump into the water. Climbing up wasn’t difficult. The older ones helped the younger ones until we’d all succeeded at reaching the roof of the building, which must have been around ten meters high. From that summit, we could take in the whole of Laginha beach, which was full of people. They looked like a group of little ants stretched out across the beach. We could see the entire Bay of Mindelo and some ships unloading winter corn, coming from the United States and going directly to the silos of MOAVE, where it would later be distributed to the population fleeing famine. The sun was strong as it hit our skin, but we could not remove our feet from that rooftop, with a view that would please any tourist and for us was free.

After all the good parts, now came the bad part. Climbing down the side of the building was impossible. The only way off was to jump into the water. From the top, we could see the water down below and I was engulfed in terror. We all regretted accepting the challenge. And I kept asking God to help us in this difficult moment. No one took the first jump. We were all afraid. And suddenly we heard a noise in the water: “Tchiluf.” We went to see; it was João who had taken the leap. And Zé of madame Montinha yelled out, “What a rogue!” And João yelled from below, “The water is good and warm. You can jump.”

And from that moment, they began jumping, one after another, like dolphins. Only Sílvio and I stayed there, too afraid to jump. Our fear was if there was any iron in the water we would be impaled, for we had dived there earlier and we knew that in this section there were many iron plates and scraps on the sea floor. We didn’t want to risk it. We stayed there, watching our friends, down below, playing in the water, and we, trapped by fear on top of the Laginha water plant. The sun began to set behind Monte Cara and night covered Laginha beach. Now we could see almost nothing, from there at the top.

It was then that we heard a voice, it was Didi of madame Montinha shouting, “César of madame Mari D’Vinha and Sílvio of madame Rosa, set aside your fear. You have to jump. If you don’t, you will be left here alone on the beach of Laginha.”

In that moment, we realized it was “now or never.” We took each other’s hands, we closed our eyes, we said a prayer to God that he would protect us, and, screaming, we leapt out, cannonball style. We abode in the air for an eternity before we reached the water. We hit our “tails” with great force on the water. You see, it was literally a leap in the dark. It was a lonely affliction. We swam and reached our friends, who had already been waiting for us for quite some time. And we, full of pain in our butts, were still to be ridiculed. They rolled on the sand with so much laughter, every single time they saw us walking with our hands on our behinds, rubbing at the pain from the cannonball jump.

And we set off towards Ribeira Bote, our beloved neighborhood. We entered our home quietly, afraid to take a beating from our mother. She must have been very worried with all of life’s problems, for she did not even notice us. Which was just as well, for we didn’t have any more space for any more smacks, with the size of the pain we already felt. We took saltpeter, we ate our dinner, and we went to sleep dreaming of Laginha.