Wednesday, July 14, 2010

YAFF MUSE: The Sounds of Violins

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).

Photo credit: "Around the Streetmarket" by Plamen Stoev

The Sound of Violins

      My eyes shut tight against it. Against him. Against the stale scent of cologne mixed with cigarettes and the bristle of his cheek along my neck and jaw. I don’t hear his grunting. I don’t feel his weight. Instead I hear music. Memories of running through the village with my sister play beneath my lids. When I open them again, I’m alone.
      He is my third customer today, but I need one more to make the quota. Another girl, Wei, screams from the other side of the silk curtain that separates our mats. My fists clench but I close my eyes to her too.
      Rain is coming. The aroma of cooked fish cuts through the humid air. Hunger rolls in my stomach. I crawl and my knees scrape along the dry clay floor as I make my way to the window at the back. The creak of the opening pane is drowned out by the sounds of customers.
      Clouds darken the alley as I skirt through crates of spoiled food and garbage out into the market. For a minute the bustle of the sellers and people overwhelm my senses, and dizziness takes hold. I close my eyes, violins play and calm returns. I step into the sea of shoppers.
      The old lady with the fish cart gives me salted Carp. If I can’t get my fourth customer, it will be the only meal I get today. When I can, I bring food back for the other girls. None are as small as me, and they won’t fit through the window.
      I think of Wei, and ask the cart lady for an extra piece. She shakes her head. No, not today. I swallow my mouthful of salty meat and pocket what remains for Wei. It’s not much, but the customer making her scream is not enough for her to make quota. She will not eat.
      My mouth waters at the smell of sweet bread. Though I have no money, I walk in a trance toward the vendor. Hope fills my chest. It’s not the toothless bald man tending the cart; it’s his son, Bao.
      I smooth my hair down, and run my hands across my threadbare black dress. He smiles as I approach the cart, then presses his finger to his lips. A blush rushes to my cheeks. He is not like the customers. No, he’s a shining star in my dark life since my brother sold me to the Mangda.
      “This is for you,” he says and palms me a sweet roll.
      “Thank you,” I say.
      The scuffle of feet let us know his father is coming. He cringes and I notice the black bruises around his cheek lead up to a bloodshot eye. I nod in understanding, and then fall into the swarm of the crowd working my way back to the alley. Thunder rattles in the distance and the rain muffles the busy market. Fat drops pelt my head and shoulders.
      I rest against the cool stone wall near my escape window. The downpour washes the fragrance of the market carts from the air leaving the stink of hot, wet garbage to hang in the alley. I open my cupped hands, the sweet dough still warm between them.
      Underneath, edges of stiff paper graze my palm. A card. Just like the ones the customers in suits carry in their pockets. The bright pink name of a teashop is crossed off. On the other side is a hand written note.
      I read it over and over again. The words on repeat through my mind.
      Meet me by the train station.
      Tonight, we hear music.
      Tonight, we run.


Worldwide, there are an estimated 2.5 million people in forced labor (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking.* The majority of trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age.**
If you would like to know how you can make a difference check out these organizations:

(*) International Labour Organization, Forced Labour Statistics Factsheet (2007)
(**) International Organization for Migration, Counter-Trafficking Database, 78 Countries, 1999-2006 (1999)


Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:
RM Gilbert
Rebekah Purdy
Cambria Dillon
Traci Kenworth
Vanessa Barger
Penny Randall


  1. Min,
    Wow, this was awesome. You immediately make your reader sympathize with the main character. Great visuals and voice! And I love that she'll get her happy ending.

  2. Sorry, Mindy. Got my websites confused. Hope you can forgive me.

  3. There are no words. Truly horrific, isn't it. You've captured so much with your character here. Makes me want to read on and know that everything turned out okay for her.

  4. Thanks ladies.

    (@Traci... no worries.)

  5. Told you people would love this! ;) And I stand by my previous statement -- your voice works really well with realistic YA...come to the dark side, sweets.

  6. Awesome Min! I love the different emotions you've woven in - hope in the middle of despair. Really lovely.