Saturday, 30 June 2012

Philadelphia Times Vol. 1 Edition 1

At four o’clock in the morning, the quiet of Brantford’s outskirts was broken as a half dozen cars pulled into the parking lot of Living Water Reformed Church. The fourteen members of the 2012 Mission Trip to Philadelphia had gathered together. After a few false starts the whole team was packed with their luggage into the Excursion and Mark’s minivan. By four thirty-five we had pulled onto the road and were on the way.

We arrived at the border crossing in Lewiston, New York at five thirty. An hour later we had passed the scrutiny of the security guard and answered his questions. We were official on the way to Philadelphia. The sun had risen by that time and we began to admire the scenery.

At eight o’clock we stopped at Timmie’s because we are Canadian. And what better way to start our trip than to say a fond farewell to the great Canadian coffee shop?

The roads were clear until we hit the I-81. There we ran into construction. By then we were all ready for lunch so after a quick stop for gas we found a subway and ordered subs to fill our now growling stomachs. Back on the road we continued to fight traffic. At the I-276 traffic cleared and we barreled on.

But by then we were behind by at least an hour or more. That didn’t bother us though. It had reached thirty-five degrees Celsius outside and the blacktop was steaming. We didn’t mind staying in the nice air conditioned vehicles.

Although we were packed in tight, the trip was enjoyable. We slept, listened to music, slept, played games, ate candy, listened to more music, ate more candy and then slept again. Yes, there was lot of sleeping for some people.

Four o’clock rolled around and we pulled into the parking lot of Calvary Church, our sleeping quarters for the week. There were four rooms available for us and after a quick tour we swiftly divided ourselves into the rooms. It took a bit to fit everyone’s beds in, but finally we managed.

Just before five we gathered in our ‘dining room’ to begin our week with some house rules and some instruction into what we were going to do. Martin Van Noort opened with Psalm 100 and Mark prayed, thanking God for giving us a safe trip and asking for a good time in the city. We sang for awhile and then Pastor Snodgrass and his wife Niessa arrived with our supper for the evening.

But before we could eat we needed to go tour the church we would be fixing up. Grace Fellowship Church is located in the heart of Germantown. A two storey building nestled in amongst the shops, the church is small. The basement has a lot of mold from water damage last fall. The stone walls are crumbling in places and huge chunks have fallen to the floor in other places.

The fellowship hall/sanctuary is nicely sized for the small congregation that gathers there faithfully every Sunday.  About fifteen to twenty people attend the morning service with about ten for the evening.

The upstairs of the church will need some painting and repair work. A leaky roof has caused more water damage and some of the boys will be going up high to fix it later this week. The whole church has a distinct musty smell which we hope to remove with some hard cleaning. With the water damage the whole area suffered last fall, it is a blessing that the church wasn’t severely damaged.

After a good night’s sleep we hope to join Pastor Bill Snodgrass and his congregation for their worship services tomorrow.

Quotes of the Day:

Lisa: Are we there yet?

Mark: Yes, Lisa, we just past Knors.

Heather: Can we just stumble in here tomorrow and eat breakfast and then stumble back to get dressed?

Martin: I think you need to reverse that order.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass, part 19

It was late when something woke me. I hadn’t closed the curtains and the full moon filled the room with its cold glow. I sat up and saw a figure standing by the window. He leaned against the frame, his shoulders slumped in despair. A wave of sympathy washed over me. He was trying so hard to make everything right and I wasn’t helping matters by fighting against him all the time. And now with the Elite council kicking him out, me bringing home Robyn and Macy... and my reluctance to even consider a future with him, it was no wonder he looked so tired.

I slipped out of bed and wrapped my housecoat around the thin nightgown I wore. Slowly I stepped towards Dante, one hand reaching out for him. I laid it softly on his arm and he startled.

“Crystal, I didn’t mean to wake you,” he whispered.

“It’s okay. We need to talk.” I lead him to the couch and we sat down.

I shivered and rubbed my arms. Dante hurried to the fireplace and stirred up the coals. Smiling I went and sat down on the rug.

“Come on, we’ll talk here.”

Dante’s brow wrinkled but he sat down anyway, folding his legs gracefully. I picked up one of his hands and stroked it.

“Dante, I never meant to hurt you it’s just when Dominique suggested going to see my family, I just didn’t think about anything else. I am sorry.”

Dante brushed my hair back from my face. “I know. And I’m sorry I didn’t take you back there sooner. To tell the truth, I almost forgot about them.”

“Did they ever send anymore letters after that first one?” I had to know. Had he hid them from me or had my family given up on me?

Dante shook his head. “I’ve never received another letter from them.”

I sighed. “I don’t understand. They would have sent more to me. They loved me.”

A tear slid down my cheek as I realized I would never hear their beloved voices again. There would be no more late night talks with Trinity, no more mock fighting with Lance. I would never again spend time teaching Alex how to fight, to hunt, to survive. Quincy and Pete were silent forever and Grandpa’s words of wisdom would only be remembered by me. Robyn was young and would soon forget. And Macy would never remember him.

Dante drew me to his chest and I relaxed against him. He rubbed my back and I closed my eyes. It felt good to have someone holding me for once, instead of always holding everyone else.

“Crystal, can you forgive me?”

I looked up at him. “For what?”

“For trying to turn you into something you are not,” he said. “For taking you away from the ones you loved. And for not giving you a chance to explain to them what was really happening.”

“Dante, it’s not all your fault.”

“I think it is.”

I pushed away from him. “What do you mean? You didn’t do anything.”

He stood up and poked at the fire again. “If I had let you go back and explain we could have brought them all here. I didn’t think the government would go after them. But I should have known. Virgilian knew that we were looking for you, so she probably told someone.”

“But she didn’t know that you had found me, did she?”

“I didn’t tell her and neither did Dominique. I haven’t spoken to her in at least five months. I avoided her as much as possible to tell the truth.”

I pulled my knees up and hugged them to my chest. If it wasn’t Dante or Dominique, who could it be? Savannah didn’t know who I was. Or did she?

“Does Savannah know who I am, what I am?”

Dante shook his head. I stood up and warmed my hands over the flames. “Dante, if you didn’t tell and Dominique didn’t and Savannah doesn’t know then you have spy in your house.”

He looked at me, denial in his eyes. It slowly faded away as he realized I was right.

“But who? They’ve all been with me since I moved here. I trust them all.”

I shrugged. “Someone is playing you. Or maybe someone heard something and let it slip to another servant. There has to be an explanation to all this.”

“There is. I think I did it.”

We both turned and saw Savannah in the doorway, one hand behind her back. Dante straightened and I moved towards her.

“What did you do, Savannah?” Dante’s voice had grown hard and I pressed a hand against him to keep him away from her.

Savannah swallowed and pulled her hand out from behind her back. Clutched in her hand was a bundle of envelopes. “These belong to you, Crystal. I didn’t want you hurting Dante like Virgilian did so I tried to make you forget about your family.”

I walked towards Savannah. “What do you know about me?”

Savannah shook her head. “Nothing. I don’t know why Dante is so eager to have you here. No will tell me.”

“That’s because if you knew you would be in danger,” Dominique said coming up behind her. “And Dante and I couldn’t let that happen to you.”

I laughed. “Protecting people from secrets gets them killed. If I’ve learned anything from this, it’s that. You’d better tell her everything.”

“But Virgilian came to the house once when Crystal was sick. I entertained her in the parlour. She wanted to borrow a book so I went to get it. When I came back she was coming down the stairs. She said she needed to use the bathroom but she seemed very eager to leave. She almost forgot her book.”

Dante looked at me and I groaned.

“She must have looked in on me one time when I was out of it. Great. Well, Dante, that army they are amassing is going to be at your doorstep in a matter of days. Good luck with that.”

“What is going on?” Savannah stomped her foot. “I want to know.”

“Then grow up and stop stomping you foot,” I said. “This isn’t something little girls can handle.”

“Crystal.” Dante shoved me a little. “Can you be more rude?”

“This isn’t rude, Dante, I’m just telling the truth. She can’t be your naive little sister anymore. If she wants in she is going to have to become the woman she is. And will you please all take this somewhere else. I don’t want them to wake up.” I gestured to the two girls sleeping on my bed. “I don’t want them to know yet. Macy won’t understand and I don’t want Robyn worrying. She’s seen too much.”

I sat on the edge of the bed and stroked Robyn’s head. Both girls looked so innocent lying among the pillows. But I knew that Robyn had seen things Dante and Savannah only dreamed about. Macy would soon forget the horrors she knew.

“They need a safe place to stay. A place that will keep them safe. No one can know who I am or they’ll get to me through Robyn and Macy. They’re all I have left.” My voice dropped and I felt Dante’s hand on my shoulder.

“Take her to the study, Dominique. Tell her everything.”

Dominique took Savannah’s hand and led her away. I watched as she walked away. Savannah looked over her shoulder mouthing “Forgive me.”

I nodded and her features relaxed. With a sigh I turned back to Dante. He had walked back to the fireplace and was leaning on it.

“Dante, what are we going to do?” I tugged my housecoat tighter around my shoulders. “Am I putting you all in danger?”

Dante shook his head and turned to me. The fire behind him made his profile stand with sharp lines. “We were all in danger before you came here. We’ve be fighting against the Elite government for years now. If they find out what we are doing, we’re all dead.”

I stood up and walked over to him. “Why me? Why did God choose me to be this person? And how are we supposed to do this without Destiny? Without my sister it’s over before it begins.”

“Listen, Crystal,” he took my hands in his, “I’ve been looking for your sister. That’s one reason I wanted to go to the meeting today. All the records of anyone every born, killed or taken are in the Parliament Building. I was going to look through the records and find out where Destiny was taken.”

I gasped. “You think she’s still alive?”

Dante shrugged. “I really don’t know. Right now I’m grasping at straws.”

I tugged my hands free and went to look out the window. The moon shone down on everything, their shadows showing sharply against the white snow. The window pane was cold against my fingertips. This was a mess. I didn’t even know what was happening anymore. I stood there, staring into a vast unknown. Pondering what was going to happen I realized I didn’t even know what drove Dante. Why he wanted this so badly, why I was so important to his plans.

“Dante, why do you want this? Why you and not someone that has lived for fifty or sixty years in this world?”

“Because I don’t like people treating others like dirt. My father never paid any attention to me when I was young. When I reached my teens he wanted me to help him reach the top of the world. He wanted to be president. I thought it would be so amazing, so right. I would be the president’s son. But the way he was going about it was so wrong.  He hurt so many people and when I confronted him about it, he just laughed.”

Dante’s voice faded and I looked at him. He was sitting in a chair, his head in his hands. I padded over to him and sat on the arm of the chair. Pulling his head to my chest I stroked his hair as I had once done with Alex and Lance.

“That’s when I figured out that the whole world was treated like my father treated people. So I decided to stop it. I saw the way my father lived. He was never happy, always pushing for more. And this is the only way I can stop the pain, the tragedy we call life. When I found that prophecy, suddenly everything became clear. It would happen. The world would go back to the way it was. I didn’t know it would be in my time until your grandfather appeared one day. He knew the man who had the dream. Somehow he had discovered that I was looking for you and your sister. He came to our house once about eight years ago and showed me a picture of you and your sister. He never told me your names, he just said when the time was right he send both of you to me.”

“What were you going to do with us?” I stilled my hands in his hair.

“I don’t know.  There really is no explanation to what you two girls are meant to do. Somehow the two of you together will bring an end to this misery.”

“Oh, Dante, what have we gotten ourselves into?” I laid my cheek on his head and he reached up to hold my hand.

“Crystal, will help me figure out what to do?”

The sun was peering over the horizon by now and I looked up as the pinks and golds of the early morning light floated into the room. Light cascaded over the bed and turned Robyn’s hair to auburn and Macy’s to spun gold. Truscott yawned and Buddy and Anne woke up.

“I’ll help you.”

Dante framed my face in his hands. “Are you absolutely sure? This might kill you.”

My lips creased into a smile. “Dante, you know I was never going to live that long. I want to help.”

He pulled my head down and kissed me.

I heard a groan behind me and turned to see Robyn sitting up, her hair in a tangle around her face.

“What are you doing?”

I rolled my eyes and pushed Dante back. Going to the bed I hugged her. “Robyn, this is Dante. Dante, my sister Robyn.”

Dante got up and came to the bed. “Hello, Robyn. I’m glad to meet you.”

“Why were you kissing him?” Robyn demanded. “I don’t like him.”

I laughed and sat down on the blue comforter. “Robyn, don’t be so rude. Dante is letting us stay here.”

“Do I have to like him?” Robyn flopped back onto the bed and threw her hands up in the air.

“No,” I said calmly. “But you have to be polite.”

Macy’s baby blues opened and she smiled when she saw me. She crawled into my arms and pressed her head against my shoulder.

“And this is Macy.”

“Macy’s Crystal’s—“

I cut Robyn off before she finished. “My sister.”

Robyn wrinkled her brow and then buried her face in a pillow. I rubbed her back.

“Well, I’ll let you ladies get dressed. See you at breakfast.” He leaned down and pressed a kiss to my head. “We’ll talk later.”

I nodded. When he had left the room I looked at my girls and met Robyn’s scowling face.


She simple shook her head and climbed out of the bed. Running to the window she clambered onto the window seat and stared outside. “Is this all Dante’s?”

I nodded. “Yep, it’s all his.”

Robyn stroked Buddy’s head. “Wow, I think I’m going to like it here.”

I laughed and stood up. “Come on, let’s see what Elise can whip together before breakfast for you two to wear.”

Robyn slid to the floor and ran to my side. “What’s wrong with my pants and shirt?”

“Around here girls wear skirts.”

Robyn groaned. I just shook my head and led her down the hall to the sewing room.    


Saturday, 9 June 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass part 18

In the car it was silent as we drove away from Locke Alley. Robyn pressed her face to the window and watched the landscape as it rushed by. The three dogs were crowded on the seat beside her. I held Macy in my arms, her steady breathing calming and soothing. With quiet words I directed Dominique out of the slums.

I wanted him to see the rest of the world so I pointed the way out that would take us by the mines. There slaves worked day and night to dig out gold, copper, silver and coal. New deposits where found all the time and slave class grew with each opening mine.

Chinese, Japanese, blacks, anyone from Asia and all those who threatened the government where forced to work in the mines or on the large farms. They did the work that even the poor refused to do.

With so many people dying in the slums it only made sense that the poor class would be jumping at the opportunity to make some money. But the mines and the farms were jobs that we despised. The only jobs the poor would take in those places was the position of overseer. We had our pride to consider. And that was something else Dante and Savannah would never understand. How could we allow our children to starve when we could make money in the mines?

But what they didn’t understand was that before the fourth war we had worked the mines. But so many of us had died down there or of lung consumption that we refused to go back. So instead the slaves died while we struggled to feed ourselves. But with so many Asian countries filled with people there was a never ending supply of workers.

I didn’t agree with it, but what could I do? One day it would all change again. Someone new would rise to power and change. But for now we stayed in our classes, doing the jobs we deemed right for our situation.

We had left the mines and moved into the working class area. Here people held a regular job. Nurses, clerks, maids, general labourers and others lived in the little white houses. Their children attended school and in grade eight began to decide what they wanted to do for a job. Here they had a choice.

This was the east working class area. Elise had come from the west working class and i wondered how different the place was compared to here. Where there slums where she came from? Where the Elite’s neighbourhood’s in the centre of four districts? I had heard tell of the North and South districts. Was it possible that it was built up the same way on all points of the compass? The slave mines and fields, the slums of the poor, the working class and then the middle class.

I asked Dominique and he squirmed a little before answering.

“Yes, it’s like this on all sides of the Elite’s housing area. But we have a very large area. Dante’s house is on the out skirts of the east side. If you look at a map the Elite’s area stretches all the way up to North Bay and down to Lake Ontario. But on all sides it is surrounded by hundreds of people that are poorer than us.”

“If there was a revolt, you’d be died,” I murmured.

Dominique nodded. “We would. That’s why Dante went to that meeting this week. They are trying to make a defense line in case an attack should occur.”

“What does he hope to accomplish there?” We were getting closer to the middle class now and I could see business men in suits mingling with doctors and lawyers.

Dominique stopped at a crosswalk and waited for the people to cross. “i don’t know. Maybe he’s going to convince them that we need to help the people that would attack us. Not fight back.”

“Good luck with that.” I stroked Macy’s head and smiled. She had fallen asleep on my lap. “There is too much hate between all the classes. It’s going to take a miracle to bring us all together.”

“You could be that miracle,” Dominique said, staring straight ahead. “Dante was right, you know.”

I frowned. “About what?”

“If the two of you are together it could prove that we are all the same.” Dominique pulled out of the classy neighbourhood and into the abandoned area close to the Brooke’s house.

“You mean if I married him?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Dominique had seemed like the one sane person in the house and now he wanted me to marry Dante? It was beyond belief.

Dominique shrugged. “Well, maybe. Do you love him?”

“What? I barely know him.”

“He loves you.” Dominique’s voice was low and I strained to catch his words. ‘He doesn’t know it, but he does. He thinks he’s just protecting you like he does Savannah. But really what he does for you is above and beyond a brotherly duty.”

I turned away from him and stared out the window. Did I love him? I didn’t know. What did love feel like? Sure I had kissed him, but that wasn’t about love, that was about... well, I didn’t know what that was about. But surely it wasn’t love. Or was it? I was confused. The last few days had messed with my brain. Of course I didn’t love him. How could I? He had taken me away from my family and they were dead. I only had Robyn and Macy left.

At the thought of Robyn I remembered she was in the back seat and could hear every word we had said. I turned and saw that she had fallen asleep, her head resting on Buddy’s back. Buddy looked up at me and wagged his tail slowly. I reached back and stroked his nose. Then i laughed. Dante was going to get a surprise when he came home. Two more girls and two more dogs. Oh, to see the look on his face.

But there was a surprise for us when we pulled into the drive. Dante’s black limo was parked by the front steps and Dante was climbing out.

“What’s he doing back?” I hissed. “I thought he was supposed to be gone all week.”

“So did I,” Dominique muttered. “This is not good.”

I sighed and shook my head. “Well, let’s park and get this party started.”

Dominique pulled his car up behind Dante’s and I climbed out, holding Macy. Dante stood at the top of the front steps and I started towards him.

“Crystal, what are you doing? Who is that?”

I climbed the steps and then stopped beside him. “What are you doing home?” I shifted Macy’s weight in my arms. “What happened to the meeting?”

“It got cancelled,” Dante answered. “Who’s she?”

I bit my lip. “Macy. And that’s Robyn.” I nodded towards the sleeping, limp form in Dominique’s arms.

“Your sisters?” Dante asked.

I nodded. It was best for now that he thought that. I would tell him the truth one day.

“What happened to them? Why are they here? Can’t your family take care of them?”

I sighed. “Dante, can I please lay Macy down before I answer all your questions? She’s heavy.”

“Of course. Shall I get Elise to ready a room for them?” Dante opened the door and lead us inside.

“No, I’ll just bring them to my room for now. Dante, don’t be mad at me. Don’t get angry at Dom. I had to go back. I’m sorry.”

Dante swallowed and looked away from me. “It’s okay. I just wish you hadn’t had to go behind my back.”

I nodded. “I know. Let me them settled and then we’ll talk.” I rested one hand on his arm for a moment. He covered it with his hand and gave it a squeeze.

Upstairs I laid Macy on my bed. Dominique laid Robyn beside her and I pulled a blanket up to cover them. Elise hovered behind us, cooing and making sweet little comments.

“Elise, can you stay with them until I come back?” I asked the maid. “Come get me when they wake up.”

“Of, course, Crystal. The poor, sweet things.”

I left the room and went downstairs with Dominique.

“Crystal, I’ll tell him it was my idea. I don’t want him angry at you.”

I nodded. “Alright. But Nicky, don’t mention what you know about Macy. I can’t let him know yet.”

He bit his lip, thinking. I knew what I asked. He would have to keep a secret from his best friend. It was hard thing to do for anyone but more so for Dominique. Dante was a brother to him. There were no secrets between them.

Finally he nodded. “Alright. But not forever.”

“No, not forever. I’ll tell when the time is right. But our relationship is so strange. I don’t think this will make it stronger.”

Dominique laughed. And I smiled. At least we agreed on something.

The butler directed us to Dante’s office. He was sitting by the fire place staring into the flames.

“Dante,” I said sinking to the floor beside him.

He turned to me and I saw the hurt in his face. I was taken aback. Had it been that important to him that he take me home?

“Dante, are you okay?” I asked, laying a hand on his leg. “What’s wrong?”

“They’ve cancelled my membership in the Elite Circle of Governors.”

“What?” Dominique sat down hard in the chair across from him. “They can do that?”

Dante shrugged. “Apparently. You’re out too. In fact everyone involved in the Vision of the Future is out. I don’t know who told them about us, but I’m guessing it was Virgilian. She’s jealous.”

“Jealous of who?” Who could she be jealous of? She had it all, didn’t she?

“Of you, of Savannah?”

“Me?” I stared at Dante in shock. “Why?”

“Because she wants to marry me. And now your here.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Touchy woman.”

“We were betrothed once.” Dante turned back to the fire.

I looked at Dominique who nodded. “Virgilian was caught with another man. She ended up having his child. They got married and then last year she filed for divorce. Now she thinks that she should have Dante back.”

“But what does Savannah have that she wants? Don’t tell me, she thinks if she doesn’t get Dante, you’re the next best thing?”

Dante and Dominique laughed. “You’ve nailed her,” Dante said.

“Then why is she part of the Vision for the Future?” How a woman like Virgilian was allowed into such a circle was beyond me.

“She has money and she seemed so eager to help us out. Then we found out she was only trying to look good in Dante’s eyes. She’s been kicked out. We changed so much stuff after she left. But she knew who was in and I guess that was all it took to get the Elite’s to forgive her.”

“Well, what’s going to happened to you two?” I asked looking between them.

“Nothing. We just have no say in what happens in the laws anymore. They will just cover it up and no one will know that difference. For all the general public know, we resigned because of work or something like that. They’ll come up with something good.”

Dante continued brooding into the fire and I sat silently by his feet. Was this what I had to look forward to over the next years? Dante and Dominique loosing positions because they wanted to help me and the ones I loved?

Finally Dante shook off his melancholy and turned to me. “So, tell me. How is your family?”

I began to tell him about their deaths but the pain sudden hit me.

He handed me a handkerchief when I began to cry. Dominique took over the story and at the end Dante was speechless. He turned to me, remorse and pain mingled in his smoky blue eyes.

“Crystal, I’m sorry.”

I shook my head and left the room. It wasn’t his fault but right now I couldn’t talk about it. I flew up the stairs and burst into my room startling Elise. I sent her away and sank onto the bed beside my family. Robyn had her arm wrapped protectively around Macy and they snuggled together. Buddy, Anne and Truscott lay on the floor, ever watchful. I laid down beside my girls and laid an arm across them. They would never be alone again. I would always take care of them even if Dante and Savannah didn’t want to. These two precious girls where a part of my life and anyone who wanted me to be a part of their life would have to take Robyn and Macy in the deal.

I closed my eyes and allowed the sweet relief of sleep roll over me.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass part 17

I don’t know how long I sat staring at the destruction, but when I finally came back to the world a cold wind had come up. Rubbing my arms I stood up. My foot kicked a stone. I bent down and picked it up. I turned it over in my hand. Was this all that I would have left of the home where I had lived, the people I loved?

My fingertips turned black and I began to brush the soot from the pebble. But the soot wasn’t from the fire. I raised the stone to my eyelevel and studied the lines closely. Someone had written two letters on the small rock. Two letters that I recognized. LA. My breath came in spurts now. I pressed a hand to my heart commanding it to be still. LA, the code to meet at Locke Alley. How many times had I scratched it onto the side of a building or into a tree? I had sent Truscott home with a note with those letters many times. Someone had left a message for me. But who? Friend or enemy? It had to be a friend. Who else would have written LA intertwined like that?

“Crystal, are you okay?”

I turned to Dominique and saw that his normally ruddy face had taken on an ashen hue. He made no move to touch me. For that I was thankful. If anyone had, I think I would have lost it.

“We need to go to Locke Alley,” I said. “The truth is there.”

To his credit Dominique didn’t try to stop me he just opened the door to the car and let me slip in. Truscott crawled in with me and laid his head on my lap. I stroked his ears and wondered if he understood what was wrong. His emotions where directly related to mine. If I was sad, so was Truscott, if I was happy then Truscott bounded around like a young pup. Did he know that with the family gone and the house burnt there was the possibility the Anne and Buddy were gone too?

“Crystal, how do I get to this alley?” Dominique studied the road. “I can’t remember this place. I have no idea where we are.”

I took a deep breath and then pointed the way out for him. I don’t remember much of the ride to Locke Alley. Before I knew it the peeling, red door was in sight.

“Stop here,” I said. “This is it.”

Dominique looked around in obvious discomfort. “Are you sure this is safe?”

I looked at him and shook my head. “There is no safe place down here. But no one would dare touch me here. Thirty people would jump to my rescue and the attacker wouldn’t make it out alive.”

I shuddered as I thought of that one time when my protectors where not around, when I was destroyed or very nearly. The result of that attack had made my life only slightly better and it was the hope that she was still alive that made me get out of the car and walk towards that door.

My hands trembled as I grasped the door handle and pulled the door opened. The comforting, familiar sounds blasted out at me and I felt normal for the first time in months. This was where I knew what was happening. The scent of Sally’s hot chocolate mixed with the aroma of Jess’s cakes. Sharp, tangy scents of spices mingled with the harsh smell of cleaners. I smiled and stepped inside. The dim lighting kept people from seeing me and I stood drinking in the sights and sounds.

Bone Jones was haggling over a glass creation with a customer. Jacker laughed with Patrol Justice and Kindle and his gang huddled in a corner. Here nothing had changed. The underground market was still going steady. I began to walk through the booths, Dominique right beside me. I could feel his muscles tense beneath my hand.

“Relax, Nicky, this is my place. No will hurt me here.” Not even Kindle dare lay a hand on me. To touch me, Crystal the Girl with Angel Hair, was a sin that was long in forgiving. Around here I was the celebrity, the girl who had survived so much and still managed to smile. And I was still smiling now, maybe not as wide and happily, but I was smiling.

And then over the din I heard it. The sweet, bell like sound of laughter. The laughter I would never forget. I spun around trying to place the sound. There it was again. It came from the direction of Sally’s booth. Truscott suddenly barked and race ahead. I dropped Dominique’s arm and gathered my skirts. Racing after my dog I skidded to a stop when I reached Sally’s spot. There on the floor playing with some glass animals where my girls. Robyn’s red curls were tied back with a ragged green ribbon. Her face was smudged with dirt but her green eyes shone all the more. Across from Robyn sat Macy, her pudgy fingers making a small horse jump over a stick. Her blond hair shone in the weak light of the lantern and her blue eyes gleamed with secrets only she knew. And beside both girls lay their ever faithful companions, Buddy and Anne. Truscott barked once and both dogs bounded to their feet and towards him. Robyn was the first to see me and her face went slack.

Heedless of the muck and dirt on the floor I sank to my knees and opened my arms. Robyn leapt to her feet and flew into my arms, crying my name. Tears flowed freely down my face and I didn’t care who saw them. Macy toddled across the floor reaching for me.

“Mama, Mama.” Her sweet voice tugged at my heart and I gathered her to me, crying and rocking them.

“Sh, sh, everything’s going to be alright,” I whispered to my girls.

Robyn hiccupped and looked into my face. “It can’t be alright. They’re all gone. They burned.”

She buried her face in my shoulders and cried, her thin body shaking until I was sure it would fly apart. Macy touched my face as if not quite believing I held her. I kissed both her cheeks and rested my own cheek on her soft curls. She hadn’t forgotten me.

“Crystal, you’re alive.”

Slowly the voices and sounds crept back into my senses. I stood up, resting Macy on my hip and holding Robyn close to my side. Sally, Jacker, Bone Jones and Patrol Justice stood around me and beyond them the rest of the familiar faces in Locke Alley.

“I’m alive, thanks to Dante Brooke and his sister. But what happened?”

The question brought shouts and anger to the room.

“BE QUIET!” Patrol Justice’s booming voice shut the crowd up in only seconds. “I’ll tell Crystal what happened. The rest of you just get on with things.”

The crowd broke up and Justice led me to a quiet corner. Sally whipped up some of her famous hot chocolate and slid a mug in front of me and Dominique, who still hadn’t said a word. He was staring at Macy and she buried her face in my chest. Robyn’s eyes hadn’t left my face and I wondered if she had even see Dominique.

“Dom, this is Patrol Justice, a family friend. Justice, this is Dominique St. Clair.” I wasn’t going get into what had happened to me until I knew what had happened with my family.

“Justice, what happened?”

Justice ran a hand through his blond hair. “I tried to stop it, Crystal. But I was too late.”

With growing horror I listened as he unfolded the demise of my family. Someone high up in the government had finally heard of a girl with angel hair living among the east slums. Even after all these years they still remembered that they hadn’t gotten both of us. Two days after I left government officials began the search for me. No one knew who had finally talked but a week later the men had showed up at my house. After searching the house they took the family one at a time into the living room and demanded them to reveal where I was. Of course no one but Grandpa knew where I was. And Grandpa had died the day I left. When the men had questioned everyone they arrested Pete and Lance. Quincy had pulled out her gun and demanded that her husband and son be released. The men laughed and one had reached out for her gun. Quincy, in a move that surprised everyone, shot the man. That was when all chaos ensued. And in the confusion, Robyn had snuck out with Macy. The dogs had been locked in the cellar and she released them. They had hidden in the woods and listened as shots rang out through the night. Then the noise stopped and five out seven men left the house. They had splashed some gasoline on the house and torched it.

“I’m sorry, Crystal. We did everything to get the men off your trail.” Patrol Justice reached out and squeezed my hand. “We still haven’t found the squealer, but when we do...”

“I bet I know who did it,” I said harshly. “There is only one person that would be angry enough to do this thing.”

“It wasn’t me, Crystal.” His voice came from beside me and I looked up in the troubled grey eyes of Kindle. “I would never do that to you?”

“Why not?” I challenged. “You’ve done other things to me.”

Kindle’s face twisted in pain. “I know and for that I’m sorry. But I’ve tried to help you out anyway I could since she was born.”

He looked down at Macy. His eyes softened and he reached down to touch her fine hair. I studied him and was shocked to see that he eyes held something akin to love in them. I looked down at Macy and saw she was staring up at her father, a shy smile on her face.

“You know that extra five dollars you got each week?” Kindle asked, pulling his hand away from my baby.

I nodded, remembering the envelope that was slid under the door every Friday night, Inside had been a single five dollar bill. It was always addressed to me. We never knew where it came from but I thanked the Lord every night that someone was looking out for me and my baby. Now I had found out who it was from and I couldn’t believe it. The man I had always hated suddenly didn’t seem all that awful now. Of course he had down some things that I could never forgive, but he had also given me the thing I treasured most on this earth. My daughter, my Macy... our baby.

I touched Kindle’s hand and when his shocked face turned to mine, I whispered the words I think he always wanted to hear from me. “I forgive you, Kindle. And thank you.” I pressed a kiss to my baby’s head as Kindle walked away.

Dominique looked between me and the man walking away. Then he looked at Macy. “What happened to you?”

“Dom, I’m sure you can put two and two together. He’s Macy’s father. And no, I didn’t choose that way.” I squeezed his hand. “I wasn’t raised like that. He was different before, angry, cold.”

“Oh, Crystal. Dante doesn’t know any of this, does he?” Dominique reached out and caressed Macy’s cheek.

I shook my head. “No, but I will tell him. One day. When he’s ready to hear. Now he’s not.”

Dominique nodded and raised his mug to his mouth. Silence fell among us and I closed my eyes, breathing in the scent of my baby. God, thank you for keeping her safe. Give me the courage to take the next step. Thank you for giving me the strength to forgive Kindle. Let him know that You love him. Thank you for keeping Robyn safe. Help me tell Dante the truth when we are both ready. I love you, Father of All.

Robyn leaned into me and I wrapped my cape around her thin shoulders.

“Dominique, let’s go home.”

He nodded and got to his feet.