This, by the way, is still chapter one. Just the next part of it.
The day carries on. I go out and gather the wild mushrooms called morels, the ones found at the bases of trees, stopping each time I find one to feel its odd, shriveled shape in my fingers. Summer will be here soon.
This is the way the days go, blowing away like the carefree wind that whips through the trees. Days pass like weeks; the weeks are short as days. It all changes so easily.
On Sunday, it’s finally necessary that I go to town. I carefully, strategically, go to different shops then the last time I was here. People don’t recognize me; ask if I’m new here. This is what I want. I give everyone the same answer.
“I’m just a traveler. Only passing through.”
This isn’t true, of course. I've lived, alone, in the woods for more than a year now.
I was cut off from the rest of the world. Nobody but the wolves ever would find their way through the forest to my home. I was always by myself, and I was fine with that.
I was the unknown hermit of Kuning-daun forest, which spreads like a stain through Lesser Taniya. I was independent. I didn’t need anyone, and no one needed me.
Until Jaya came. Now I find myself caring for this young girl, this girl who doesn’t talk, with an unknown past and an uncertain future. And suddenly I’m not the hermit anymore.