I don't know if I'm going to keep this, but I like it well enough. It's sort a continuation from Rahsia. (With some stuff in between but eh.)
Nek proved hard to corner that evening, though Rahsia tried as hard as she could to speak to her away from her mother. She couldn’t figure out whether it was Mak who kept hovering over them or if it was Nek who kept steering them to Mak, but every time Rahsia was alone with Nek and was about to ask her about what Iman’s mother had said, she’d find that Mak was somewhere within earshot.
By the end of the night, Rahsia was grumpy and annoyed. Finally, Nek came in to tuck her into bed. Rahsia saw her chance.
“Nek,” she started to say, only to be interrupted by her grandmother.
“Rahsia, a secret is a secret. I know you want to ask me about your father, but if your mak doesn’t want it to be said, you can’t sneakily ask me and expect me to tell. That’s what it means to be a Secretkeeper. To keep the secrets safe so that you protect the dignity and the wishes of the person who told it to you.”
“But don’t I have the right to know about my father?”
Nek smoothed Rahsia’s dark hair back from her face. “You do have a right to know, but not from me.”
“But Mak doesn’t want to tell me anything! It’s not fair.” Rahsia could feel the tears prickling behind her eyelids. She forced them back. She wasn’t going to cry like a baby. Not for something stupid like this.
“And she has a right to act that way.”
“Why do you get to know?”
“Because I am her mother, child, and I have the authority to ask her to tell me. You are her child, so she can decide what part of her life she opens up to you.”
“Can’t you make her tell me?”
“What good would that do? It will only cause her pain and create a rift between you.”
“Because of who my father is?”
“No, that is over and done with. Because when you force someone to speak about something they are not ready to share, you rub chilli into wounds that have not yet healed. She carries a heavy burden in her heart that she cannot let go of yet. And I share that burden with her as the Secretkeeper.”
Rahsia’s mouth formed a silent O. “Is it difficult to be a Secretkeeper?”
“Yes. I have heard many, many terrible secrets and none of them can pass my lips. I guard them jealously, even against the priests—”
“But they can read minds, can’t they?” Rahsia interrupted. “Then they would know everything that everyone has ever told you in secret!”
Nek chuckled. “They can’t read my mind. One of the secrets our ancestors have passed down to use is how to shield our minds from being read.”
“Wow. Can you teach me?”
“I will, one day. When you are old enough, I’ll teach you how. It will be a good thing for you to learn.”
“Can we teach Iman too?”
Nek looked sharply at her. “You haven’t told her anything, have you?”
“No, Nek. I didn’t. I promised. But she told me she was afraid of going to the Rumah Ibadat because she didn’t want the priests to know where she’d hidden her stash of chocolate from her brothers.”
“It wouldn’t hurt for her to share, you know. But yes, we can teach her too. Many people in Iman have learnt various forms of mind-shielding, so it’s not like it’s a deep, dark secret. It’s good to learn in a place like Impian, where anyone could force themselves into your mind.”
“Can the King read minds?”
Nek shook her head. “No, it’s only something those of Impian blood can do. The King is from Maha. You know what Mahan’s power is, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. Now, go to sleep, Rahsia. It’s late.”
“Yes, Nek.” Rahsia snuggled further under her blankets. “Goodnight Nek.”
“Goodnight.” Nek kissed her on the forehead and then left the room, switching off the light and closing the door behind her.