Kennick:A Volanis Brothers NovelBy: Meg Jackson
Baba’s brows furrowed, her mouth turning downwards.
“You are going for your father. When I am gone, you will be leaving. I know you are waiting for me. You won’t need to wait much longer.”
Kennick’s heart fell. He loathed the thought of losing Baba, but it was true; she was the reason they hadn’t already returned to that town, the place Pieter Volanis had begged them to return to, to clear his name. She couldn’t travel in her condition, so they were staying put until she met her great reward.
“Kennick, you must be careful. Watch after your brothers. I sense something evil is going to happen…and another girl. I see danger for a girl. Not one of ours. A gadja.”
Gadja. A non-Rom girl. Kennick wondered what that would have to do with him, or his people. He didn’t think that anyone in the kumpania would harm a child, whether she was gypsy or not.
“Some things you cannot stop,” Baba said, her voice weakening with the strain of seeing. “Some things…Kennick, you are rom baro, in a hard time. Things are going to change. Someone is very unhappy to follow your lead. He will do horrible things. I cannot…I cannot see! Ah, I am useless!”
“No, Baba,” Kennick said, hunching forward, bringing her hand to his mouth and kissing the back of it. “You have always been the heart of our family. I will be careful. I will watch over my brothers. I will lead this kumpania well. I will not let anyone take what’s rightfully mine. I promise, Baba.”
“And promise,” Baba said, a smile now coming to her features. “That you will take this love, the love God is giving you so freely. You will take it and treasure it. Treasure her. In treasuring her, you will treasure yourself. And me. It is my only wish, Kennick. Kumpania be damned. It is my schav I care most about. Sweet…”
A snore interrupted her sentence as she drifted off to sleep. She did that so often, falling asleep in the middle of speaking. It would not be long, Kennick knew. And the thought was a stabbing pain in his heart. He released her claw-like hands, laying them on her chest. Leaning forward, he pressed his lips to her forehead.
“Atsh me develesa,” he whispered. Stay with God.
Outside, in the long corridor that separated Baba’s room from the rest of her trailer, Cristov and Damon waited, fidgeting, both having already said their goodbyes. Mina was in the kitchen, brewing a strong tea to help ease Baba’s pain. She and their aunt Ana, Baba Tayti’s only surviving child, had taken charge of attending to the ailing woman, as tradition dictated.
The Volanis family were not thoroughly chained to much of the traditional Rom laws and mores, but some things were too sacred to leave behind. Mina and Ana would care for Baba until she passed. Women tread the threshold between life and death much closer than men. Mina was strong for this reason, stronger than her brothers.
“What did she say?” Cristov asked, following Kennick to the living room, where the three brothers sat on the old, natty couch they’d grown up jumping on, sleeping on, and spilling juice on. It was beautiful for those stains.
“She said there would be trouble,” Kennick said, pointedly ignoring her prophecies of love. That was none of his brother’s business. In truth, he knew this was wrong. Everything was his brothers’ business. They didn’t hide things from each other. But Kennick didn’t feel the need to share that right now. Mina gave him a strange look as she passed through the living room, teapot in hand, as though she saw his lie in his eyes.
Damon sighed, but didn’t say anything. Cristov slumped down.
“That’s what she said to me, too,” he said. “Plus, she said some shit about me having to grow up and stop acting like a puppy. Whatever that means.”
Kennick bit back a smile.
“She said someone in the kumpania would raise hell,” Kennick continued. “About me being rom baro.”
Rom baro, the big man. The leader. The one in charge. Pieter Volanis had once held that title, and with his passing it fell to Kennick’s shoulders. As the oldest of the Volanis brothers, his father had spent his last days finalizing a life's work of teaching. Kennick had always paid close attention to the way his father led the kumpania, the group of families and extended families who travelled together, all of them Rom by blood or by marriage. Resolving disputes, dealing with the myriad businesses, being the kumpania’s liaison for law enforcement and community groups. Kennick had always known he was destined to take Pieter’s place. He just hadn’t expected it to happen so soon.
“Well, whoever it is will have a lot to handle if he tries to mess with you,” Cristov said, clapping Kennick on the back. “Everyone knows that there’s no such thing as a lone Volanis.”
“Of course,” Damon said, adding his rare two cents to the conversation. Kennick’s heart still throbbed and ached for Baba, knowing it would be a matter of days – if not hours – before they laid her to rest. But surrounded by his brothers, his sister nearby, in the trailer they’d grown up in, through laughter and tears, he knew that death was just a transition.