Some people , those with excitingly lavish lifestyles may say their days began with a bang. But in thirteen year old Bishaden Quampela's quiet uneventful life the bang she heard was more like the resounding blast of nuclear war heads raining down from a sky barely touched by the sun.

Rolling over she opened one tentative eye and lets it rolls over the grayness of her bedroom. The readout of her digital clock stuttered in the gloom before settling in to a steady pulse flashing 12:00am as if it were some warning against impending doom.

The room was small, from her bed it was three paces to the door. Next to the door on a small three legged stand was an even smaller two knobbed television set reminiscent of those from the time before plasma, above which was a small window looking out on the side walk and central garden of Quampela compound. The alarm clock broadcasts its warning in flashing red lights from its vantage point atop the T.V set, below the little window. Above the bed was a window larger than the one it reflected across the room, thin curtains hazed the view of twelve feet of dried grass cutoff by an ever higher brick wall. Other than a small bureau against the wall at the foot of the bed there was no other furniture or decorations in the little cell of a room at the end of a long echoing passage way..

The radios placement had nothing to do with the fact that Bishaden had a tendency to hit the snooze and roll over if the clock was too close to her bed but because the room only had one outlet which serviced only the T.V or the Radio but never both at once. Groaning with the effort Bishaden sat up and peered out at the still predawn dullness that was her life. Nothing moved in the yard beyond her window. Not even the wind stirred the far from living branches of what once was a hibiscus hedge. Maybe before she was born it bloomed but now only skeletal fingers scratched at the pane of her window.

The empty fountain was a shadow in the center of the would be garden. The round cherub cast a lugubrious glance at the chipped vase he held as if watching the essence of his soul pour forth for the birds to dance in. His smile was chipped and weather worn as was the vase from which his invisible ether pours.

Nothing stirred on sidewalk outside her door nor on the tall brick wall surrounding the Quampela compound. Bishaden lets the drapes fall back in place wishing that she had never awoken as she heard footsteps echoing in the brick and mortar halls outside her room. Obviously the bombs were dropping in some part of the house and the entire family was being roused from their beds at this ungodly hour so they all could have a say in thwarting the missiles. When it rained it poured.

"Shadi! Shadi get up , come quick !" Tampulo's annoying voice reached her even before the boy had thrown open the door. He stood in his underwear shoulder length hair a disheveled mess. If not for the briefs he wore anyone could have mistaken the scrawny ten year old for a girl. Not that they would of course, there was too many controversies in the Qumpela family already and insulting the son of eldest member would only bring down the wrath of the gods on everyone's head. Besides, Tampulo was Bishadens uncle and disrespect was not tolerated even in children. So instead of commenting on the boys appearance Bishaden simply threw her pillow at him as she stood straightening her floor length linen shift.

"Whats going on out there Pulo-kutty?" She asked slipping her feet into her house slippers and tossing the pillow back on her bed as she left the room shutting the door behind her.

"Gunjan's gone too far this time you wont believe it ! Sarmehi and Tavallah are in it too!" The boy grinned with pleasure , his dark eyes sparkled as he told of the chaos that roused the whole of Quampela compound this early in the morning. It was not usual that he knew of something before his older niece did , he reveled in his accomplishment. If only because she were allowed to sleep in the main household Bishaden would have seen the fight first hand .

They followed the sidewalk around the central garden, at an even twenty pace interval other corridors opened out on their left leading to elsewhere along the outer wall. To the right of them the circular expanse of the drying garden was an constant presence. The despondent cherub still hovered balanced on the tip toes of his left foot, wings in a frozen flutter waiting for his life force to cease its constant flow.

The Garden was once a jewel centered in the heart of the compound. It was said that the man who built this place brick by brick built it from the inside out, wrapping the buildings around the garden. The very hallways, all twenty of them were spokes on a wheel each inevitable leading to the heart of the great maze of interconnected houses and stalls endless spiral stairs and elegant arched walkways and closet sized boxes at the end of forgotten passages where children were forced to live because of a mistake made by a parent. Now the jewel at the heart of all this extravagance, the prize at the end of the rainbow the light at the end of long echoing corridors with domed ceilings and intricately worked friezes depicting the best that ancient Rome had to offer lead not to some wonderfully enticing vision of paradise in a bottle but to a barren field just as dilapidated as the rest of the crumpling vision left by a man to with talents ambitions to opulent for this world .

The main hall of the Compound was wide and spacious. Double doors stood open at the end of this extravagant corridor the two children slowly approached. Large plant holders stood empty but still added grandeur to the barely lighted hall, the geometric patterns designing each of the kraters were a Greek inspiration. The cracking stucco textured walls were painted a dull brownish-gold .The color of 'the sun setting on the walls of Venice' as the children's great-great-grandfather called it. Now looking at the chipping paint and cracking stucco Bishaden wondered what her great-great- grandfather would say if he saw what his legacy had become. A raucous bickering hell house. Voices rebounded up and down the corridor bombarding the kids with obscenities and half guided insults as they drew closer to the wide open doors.

Inside was a roiling mess. There was obviously three divisions standing in the wide entryway. The center group consists of Kali, Bishadens aunt, Tampulo's cousin, and several of the elder members of the Quampela clan. They talk quietly amongst themselves , every now and then looking to one of the other groups awaiting some form of confrontation.

To the left of the door stands Gunjan in a pair of bark slacks and a white T-Shirt he is a stunning vision of perfection his new girlfriend Michele Patel from Jersey stands next to him her white shift the same as the one worn by Bishaden was no less than flattering on her curvaceous body. Golden threads hung around her small shoulders as looked from person to person as if trying to see into their souls. The brooding Vishan stood solidly beside his cousin and best friend. Sarasvati and her foreign husband Drughan stands around them both anxious and shifty Drughan keeps his green eyes averted trying to make as little eye contact as possible while Sarasvati fixed the room with a scowl daring anyone to step up to her.

The last and loudest group is most of Tampulo's family. His father sits in the only chair in the entryway a tin folding chair brought in to accommodate his deteriorating condition. He coughed every now and then but these body wracking spasms could barely be heard over the voice of Malusia the daughter of his late sister and cousin to his son. Malusia had a short temper and was boiling with anger her face resembled a burnt beet as she paced arms waving as if directing traffic if cars could fly. She wore a long red sleeping gown which swirled around her red slippered feet. Matching her stride for stride Sarmehi agreed whole heatedly nodding his head vigorously at her every word the smile on his face would be no more appropriate if his continuously bobbing head were to fall off his needle neck and roll across the room. He was a small man roughly two heads shorter than his raving cousin and always plotting a way out of doing his part on the Family business. Also amongst this raucous group the timid Tavallah seemed far out of place. He wore only a pair of light blue cotton pants and a small shiva pendant necklace on a cord around his neck. Although not religious he was very superstitious and known for seeing signs in the simplest of things.

Working herself into a blinding fury Malusia yells her cousins name and stamps across the room only to meet face to face with her male reflection. They were so much alike in features that she Vishan had taken pride in confusing the elders into a stupor in their youth . Now that they were older they hardly spoke. Malusia scowls at him for a moment before trying to push her way around clawing at Gunjan around Vishan's head.

"I will kill you you sorry excuse for a man! How dare you bring more bad luck on this family haven't we suffered enough for your brothers problems !" she demands thrusting herself into Vishan. He gently lowers her wrists and speaks softly.

"Lusia , Lusia what has come over you! It is no business of yours who Gunjan marries ! You can not tell him who to love all we can do is support each other .If you cant do that then we cant call this a family we're no better than pack of apes in the jungle! This fighting is useless. I will not see it. It will not be done. You talk to your uncle and explain to him that times change ! People grow and learn. The world is out there. Just because you have never left these wall do not mean that others cannot come in. This isn't life it's a prison!" Vishan's soft spoken speech was endearing and heartfelt but it did nothing to cool the flames of hatred in his twin. She glowered closes her eyes then in a frightful display she launches a new attack bringing up the past , events she never saw things she was never a party to yet throwing them in his face like flowers against the plague.

Malusia argues openly with her brother Vishan. Her once beautiful face now contorted with anger as she screamed obscenities at her older brother. He stands his face darkened with a boiling hate that he loathes to let loose. He takes the abuse silently, teeth clenched so tight that his jaw muscles bulge at the sides of his head, his temples pound with unrestrained fury. No doubt he was silently yelling back at her ruthlessly thrashing her, but only inside. Vishan is the calm one he bites back his fury and slowly closes his eyes, Malusia takes this act of restraint as a show of superiority and explodes again slashing at him with pounding fists. He braces himself arms at his side fists clenched tightly lest they move of their own accord to strike her.

Kali rushes forth to drag her older sister back. Like her name sake Kali was dark and vengeful but she hated to see the family at odds with each other. They were mostly sisters and brothers, Vishan and Malusia are twins the oldest two. Kali and Sarasvati are also twins but they had different mothers from their older siblings. There is also Digah , Laeidad and Kenny. But they have each gone their separate ways leaving the family to 'seek my own destiny!' as Kenny so righteously put it. Kenny was a western taught scholar, at the age of sixteen he had already graduated from Oxford in England. By twenty four he was teaching psychology and ethics in America. At twenty nine he had refused the bride the Family had produced for him and taken an American wench who immediately set out to destroy the family. When quiet plotting came to open hostility Kenny took his American bitch and left but not wholly. The other two , Digah and Laeidad never gave the courtesy of an excuse for their departure they simply disappeared into the abyss of western thought.

Uncle Thaid helps Kali restrain Malusia, he always sided with his dark young niece, she was the most reasonable under pressure. She thought clearly and saw things from every angle before making a decision. She was what ever man needed in his life. Thiad smiled shrewdly as he hustled his niece into an envelope of open arms. Durmah scowled at her and comforted the anguished tears as Kali stepped up once again to do battle with those who would change their ways of life.

Malusia's screams hit Bishadan deep. Not the veracity of how it was said not the piercing wails or the stamping spitting cursing but the words she said. Bishaden had always respected Malusia as a shrewd business woman but now she saw her as a demon straight from hell with all the trimmings. The bad words spoken of Bishaden's father coupled with the fact that he had left her behind ,or been forced to. The girl turned away from the door as Tampulo hurried as to not miss any more action. His grin was a wide and devious as Sarmehi's but his held innocence not malice. She began to walk, her slippers whispering soothingly on the concrete walk way. The sun was just biting through the gloom ,an orange ball just half way above the sloping roofline. Bishaden watched it climb into the sky, watched the spiraling flight of a large bird on the wing, enjoying the freedom of the sky. She closed blotted her eyes on the sleeve of her shift. When she looked up again the sun had cleared the roof and beamed down on her but the light could not drive away the coldness which had seeped into her bones with Malusia's fiery words. Somehow she had wondered into the Garden, the cherub fixed her with a sad smile as she looked up into his worn marble face.

She tried to hold his stare but rock is stronger than an unwanted bastards nerve. She blinked and began again this time her lower lip trembled with bottled fear and self-pity. She was strong , she knew she was. She hadn't cried since she was seven when her father supposedly came for her and left with out a word only catching a glimpse of him from a window as he climbed into a black car and drove away forever. She bit back the rising emptiness that tightened her chest and focused on the little cherub again if she could conquer him , if she could conquer rock than she was truly strong but as she gazed into the cherubs face a tear found its way from the statues smile squinted eye down his left cheek and splattered on the rim of the vase he held. She turned away in disgust . Even the statue felt sorry for her she was such a pitiful site that she made a statue cry. Bishaden couldn't hold back her tears any more she sat in the shadow of the smiling cherub and cried her heart out as the sun rose and beamed down on a day that started with a bang and was destined to end in a whimper.