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There are two girls and a boy. The boy goes missing when he is 5, disappearing on a Sunday afternoon when everyone is sleeping. Two girls braid each other’s hair and go door to door, asking people if they have seen their brother. They forget to show them his photograph—instead they say he talked too much, his favourite colour was yellow, and he liked eating dosa podi with bananas. Two girls do this every day until people tell them to stop being a nuisance. They watch their father grow a beard and listen to their mother cry in her sleep. Two girls learn to boil milk and make curd rice. The aunty next door invites them over for a meal and tells them that her twin sister drowned in a well when she was six years old. One girl steals the aunty’s framed picture of Nehru and replaces it with a rock painted with pink nail polish. One girl leaves her a note saying “You are having smart face I love you". Two girls wave to the aunty whenever they see her. She does not wave back.

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Two girls watch the rain with their fingers interlocked. Water backs up in the bathroom and the house begins to smell of mildew. They drink hot water with ginger and spear centipedes with their ink pens. Two girls draw kolams in their textbooks as they listen to K. Priya talk about her mama and how he puts his tongue in her mouth and squeezes her breasts. One girl asks if that hurts and K. Priya says only a little, anyway he loves me so much. One girl pictures K. Priya’s mama naked and starts to laugh. Two girls go to K. Priya’s house and watch porn on her mama’s computer when no one is home. It’s only bad when you watch alone, says K. Priya. A pixelated man drags his hand across his chest while he morosely fucks a woman from behind. His T-shirt says “If you don’t drink then you’re a boring cunt and all your stories suck." One girl watches with her mouth open. One girl wonders if all men look like this when they have sex.

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Two girls have long legs, thin hair laced with lice, and fungal infections that leave deep purple blooms around their crotch. Their father wears a picture of his son on a ring and gives English coaching to boys who sit in their living room, pretending not to see the two girls. Two girls memorize poems by Nissim Ezekiel and plan their future. They read news articles about girls who get raped and killed and decide that while it is generally bad to rape and kill girls, these things always happen for a reason. In the summer, their mother decides to clear out the almirah and throw away anything that hasn’t been used in the past six months. They find dead lizards, a framed picture of Nehru, and two pairs of small, blue shorts. Two girls put these things in a plastic bag and promise to burn them in the back. Each girl keeps one pair of blue shorts. One girl keeps the framed picture of Nehru.

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Two girls get a wedding invitation from K. Priya and notice that she is not getting married to her mama. They eat watermelon in the summer and make alternative plans for the future, which include computer classes and the power of positive thinking. One girl thinks they will get married to wealthy brothers who own a lorry company. One girl thinks no one will marry them and they will develop terminal diseases in their breasts. Their father puts a photograph of his son on the television and their mother dusts it every day with the end of her sari. Two girls look at it and think that the boy looks poor, angry and nothing like their brother. Two girls look for photographs of two girls. But they can’t find any.

To submit a prompt (a word, phrase, quote or brief idea), mail Kuzhali at kuzhali.stories@gmail.com or tweet it using the hashtag #kuzhalistories.

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