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Sarayu B, 11

I got the news sometime in January. I was waiting, waiting, waiting for my grandmother to get better. She had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier, and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed so... unreal. I'd heard about many people who got sick and even died from COVID, but I couldn’t imagine my grandma, the one I knew and loved since my birth, passing away from a small, simple illness.

It was the afternoon one day—Thursday, I think—when I was told. I was in the room I share with my brother, logged into Google Meet. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we had been having school through meetings, virtually, learning everything we would normally learn.

Then my mom came in, in her pajamas, which was strange. She never came into the room in the middle of my class unless I called her or she was bringing me a snack or something.

She was upset. I could tell by the way she stood there in the doorway. Then she told me. The words struck me like lightning.

“Ammamma got COVID,” she said simply in Telugu, smiling weakly. The way she said it, she could easily have been talking about a stranger. But no. It was my grandma, her mom. Thoughts were spiraling about in my head, but I managed to say, “How do you know?”

“We were told just now,” my mom said. “She’s in the hospital.” My heart lurched. It was like being struck by lightning the second time.

My mom left and walked into the master bedroom, the floorboards creaking under her feet. I tried to focus on the meeting, but I couldn’t.

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