very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
He stared at her now as she lay on the narrow bed, gray and
gaunt in the light of the full moon, her breath rasping and shallow.
a healthy capacity for vigorous activity
Watching her teeter slowly toward the end was a bit like watching a grape slowly become a raisin: the years had sucked the life and
vitality out of her until she was nothing but a wrinkled shell of her former self.
not serious in content, attitude, or behavior
frivolous, but after all, he still needed to eat, whether or not his master lay dying.
close in time; about to occur
Now all he tasted was the stale tang of age, the sour notes that came with
impending death, and a bitter aftertaste he couldn’t quite place.
There was a sort of dark pleasure in going about a village in his other form—that of a tiny,
unassuming grasshopper—bringing bad luck wherever he went...
preoccupied with unimportant matters in a spiteful way
There was a steady stream of customers at the witch’s door, and if they weren’t asking for a way to undo her handiwork, they were asking for the same
petty meanness, the same tiny bad magics as all the others: a curse on this business, a pox on that house, an impossible-to-remove wart on that one’s nose.
insistent; unwilling to change one's mind or opinion
On the one hand, the witch had been
adamant: a pelesit must have a master to control his appetite for destruction, his craving for chaos.
a rhythmical work song originally sung by sailors
The witch’s song had been rough and raucous, and it swept you up the way a pirate
shanty does, or the musical howls of drunkards stumbling home.
But the child’s song wrapped the ghost in a tender weave of comfort and belonging and glorious wonder, sweet and innocent and
being or suggesting a large dark enclosed space
And as he watched her, he felt strange new sensations welling up from deep within the
cavernous recesses of his chest, a mix of pride and an overwhelming sense that this was a child bound for greatness.
a small concavity
And as he watched her, he felt strange new sensations welling up from deep within the cavernous
recesses of his chest, a mix of pride and an overwhelming sense that this was a child bound for greatness.
a very steep cliff
There it was again—the sense that he was in the presence of greatness, that he was teetering on the
precipice of something bigger than both of them.
feeling or showing profound respect or veneration
reverently, he picked up the girl’s plump hand and nipped at her tiny little finger—just a little nip—and drank exactly three drops of the bright red blood that dripped from the cut, sealing it quickly when he was done.
in a manner affording no ease or reassurance
He’d already stopped a stray dog from biting her as she’d tried to ruffle its fur, pulled her back from falling into a storm drain, and swatted wasps away from her face as she craned her neck to get a closer look at their nest, all the while clinging
precariously to a swaying tree branch.
given or giving freely
The most he knew was that she was a teacher, which explained her stiff bearing, the chalk dust that clung to her clothing like white shadows, the sharp, acrid smell of the Tiger Balm ointment that she applied
liberally to her aching shoulders and back after a long day in the classroom.
brief and to the point
Those times didn’t come by often, but they happened enough to make the ghost wonder about the woman and the witch and their story, about those letters and the way her handwriting looped and swirled to form that one final
terse sentence (Do not contact us again).
move or swing back and forth
“Look, Mama!” she said proudly,
brandishing the crumpled paper.
indulging in or influenced by the imagination
“She wouldn’t like this at all. She doesn’t like ‘magic and fairy tales and other
I am not a mere playmate, he said
angered at something unjust or wrong
Fairy godmothers! She wouldn’t want one of those if she really knew fairies, he thought, with an
lacking definite form or limits
Names, he knew, existed to give shape to the
nebulous, ground the unknown in a comforting reality.
smother or suppress
Suraya giggled, then quickly
stifled it before her mother heard.
reflect deeply on a subject
mulled this over quietly, wincing as Mama’s nimble fingers pulled at her hair, sending tiny needles of pain shooting into her scalp.
climb awkwardly, as if by scrambling
What are you drawing now? Pink asked,
clambering to the edge of Suraya’s notebook to try and take a peek.
of a red color at the end of the color spectrum
Suraya was eight now, tall and thin, with skin tanned a
ruddy brown from constantly being out in the sun, and a wide, ready smile.
make unclear or less visible
Her dark hair
obscured the pages of her notebook as she hunched over it on the bed, her pen moving quickly.
skillful in physical movements; especially of the hands
So caught up was Suraya in the movement of her pen, the
deft strokes bringing to life an undersea world of swirling waters and the curve of a mermaid’s shimmering tail, that it took a while to register the sounds wafting in through her open window.
the quality of affording easy familiarity and sociability
She saw these kids every day, sat with them in the classroom, knew their names and their families and the scabs on their knees—but when she was around, there was none of this
camaraderie, this easy companionship they shared, Kiran’s head bent close to Ariana’s, David’s arm looped easily over Faris’s shoulders, Aiman cracking jokes to make all of them giggle.
a raised mark on the skin
He flicked his antennae, and just as suddenly as they appeared, the mosquitoes were gone again, leaving the children bewildered, sobbing, and covered in bright red hives and
lasting for a markedly brief time
For just one
fleeting moment, Suraya let herself imagine the satisfaction of revenge, of being able to get back at every kid who had ever ignored her, taunted her, pushed her aside.
in a hesitant manner
Then she thought about the way Kiran’s eyes crinkled at the corners when she smiled, and the way Faris’s hand had felt when it
tentatively brushed against hers, and her mouth went dry.
widen or spread apart
“Only forty minutes,” Suraya muttered darkly now,
splayed on the kitchen floor.
unfortunate and deserving pity
On the ceiling, they were watching two cicaks warily circle each other in a complicated dance, their little lizard eyes darting from each other to a
hapless bug crawling in the space between them.
hang loosely or laxly
When he tired of staring at their
lolling heads or glazed eyes, he looked out of the streaky windowpane instead, as the landscape changed from rolling green to brick buildings, and the world changed from the darkness of early morning to the light of day.
spreading out in different directions
The school was a
sprawling old building with graceful arches for windows and an overwhelming air of gentle decay.
from appearances alone
When Suraya was younger, her mother had sometimes brought home back issues of an
ostensibly educational children’s magazine the school subscribed to, and one of Suraya’s favorite sections had been the Spot the Difference page, her brow furrowed as she concentrated furiously on marking all the ways the two given pictures didn’t match: a missing tree branch here, an extra flower petal there.
move in a twisting or contorted motion
Except then you looked closer and you realized the terrible truth: that every lunch box on the table was so full of worms and maggots that if you stayed quiet enough, you could hear the sticky squelch of them
writhing and wriggling through noodles and fried rice and porridge and cake and whatever else those unsuspecting mothers had so lovingly put in them this morning.
deficient in amount or quality or extent
Suraya pushed her own container with its
meager lunch way, way back onto the table.
an offensive disrespectful impudent act
He tried to maintain a defiant pose, sticking up his little grasshopper chin, but to do so to his master felt like
in a manner showing a brooding ill humor
I hear you, he said