CW17

The Wards

This was an interesting assignment for me. When we were first told to write a story containing the words death, ward, scalpel, healing, syringe, surgeon, oxygen, formaldehyde, crutch, hydrogen peroxide, blood, nurse, and knife, but that could not be in a hospital, my mind immediately jumped to the idea of a secret research lab. Thus this story turned out very dark, much darker than pretty much anything I’ve ever written before. It was extremely difficult to write, but I feel like the hopelessness of the story gave the last few paragraphs a poignancy they could not have had otherwise.

CW17-MegThe stench of death hangs in the air like a cloud, threatening to choke the very life out of your lungs. It’s oppressive, clinging to everyone and everything, seeming to sink down to your very bones. Some of the new wards speak of the smell of flowers in the spring and grass just after it’s rained, but though my mind knows these things must be true somewhere, their stories seem more like fairy tales to tell the younger wards when they start to cry. I’ve been a ward too long to remember anything but the dark, dank labs, and the smell of death.

A sharp scream echoed down the hallway, sending involuntary shivers down my spine. None of us ever know exactly what “tests” the surgeons are running on another ward, but we don’t have to. We know from experience that whatever they’re doing, the ward is sure to be in excruciating pain. The surgeons, the men and women who run the tests, the ones who keep us here, are sick, twisted people. Their only care is that they get their results. They don’t care about us. They don’t care about the pain they put us through.

“Meg!” One of the new wards, Charlie, I think, called out my name, beckoning me over to a ward who has just stumbled back into the common area. I can’t help but sigh. It’s always the same with the new wards. When they first arrive, when their clothes are still clean and fresh, not ripped or stained with blood, they hold onto the hope that if they can just stay alive long enough, someone will come to rescue us.

I glanced quickly at Charlie’s clothes, trying to assess what stage he’s reached. From the state they’re in, I can guess that it won’t be long before he realizes the thing that I’ve known for years. Soon he will realize that no one is coming for us.

“The surgeons ripped her arm out of socket,” he told me, gesturing at the crumpled heap lying on the floor. The small girl sobbed shakily. She could barely breathe through the pain, taking huge, gasping breathes between her sobs.

I knelt down next to her, probing the shoulder for a moment with my fingers before suddenly wrenching it back into place without warning. The sudden onslaught of pure agony made her scream shrilly, but I had already gotten up, dusting the dirt off of my knees.

“It’ll feel better in a moment, but get her a syringe from the cabinet. Don’t worry about making her supply of drugs last for the rest of the month—I doubt she’ll make it that long. She’s too little.” I said cynically. I turned to walk away, but Charlie grabbed my arm.

“We have to get her out of here,” he hissed urgently, “We have to get everyone out of here.”

I shook my head, trying not to scoff. “Get your head out of the clouds.” I told him, jerking out of his grip.

“One of the other wards found an exit!” He said, desperate for me listen.

As much as I hated to admit it, he did catch my attention with that piece of information. I had seen dozens of escape attempts, all of them failures, but no one had claimed to have found an exit before. I put on a disbelieving face as I turned around. “Why are you telling me?”

“You’re the one who’s been here the longest,” he explained. “If we’re going to have any chance of escaping, we need you to help us.”

“When do you leave?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, thinking, “There are a few supplies we’ll need to collect beforehand. We’ll have to make some crutches out of something. I think someone said they had a knife—“

I cut him off there. “What, are you kidding? We’ll never make it out of here if we have to drag along wards who can’t walk on their own!”

“We can’t just leave them!” Charlie protested angrily, “We have to take them too.”

“Then I’m out,” I told him. “You said you won’t have any chance of escaping without me? Well, I’m telling you that you can’t hope to escape if you try to bring everyone.”

“Leaving wards behind makes us no better than surgeons!” He spat passionately.

I rolled my eyes. “There’s no way they’ll make it out. Let me know when you’ve gathered the rest of your group.” I turned and walked to my bunk.

CW17-Tunnels

It was the dead of night two days later that Charlie approached me again. Despite the late hour, I was wide awake, trying to drown out the sounds of surgeons demanding a scalpel, or an oxygen tank, or any of the other numerous tools they used in their tests on us. He touched my shoulder gently, swiftly placing an unnecessary hand over my mouth so I wouldn’t cry out.

“Come on—we’re leaving,” he whispered in my ear.

The two of us crept quietly out of the room. A small knot of other wards stood huddled together in the shadows right outside the door, a few keeping careful watch on the hallways around us.

“Alright,” Charlie began, his voice barely loud enough to make out, “We don’t have much time, so we’ll have to move quickly. Henry, lead the way.”

A small ward with dull blonde hair squirmed his way to the front of the group, and strode purposefully up one of the hallways. It didn’t take us long to reach our destination—the door leading to the surgeon’s storeroom. Footsteps echoed up the hallway toward us, and suddenly I felt myself being pushed forward into the room by the other wards, each one desperate to hide from the approaching surgeon.

Charlie closed the door softly behind us. The room had a disturbingly eerie quality to it. We couldn’t risk flipping the overhead lights on, so the only illumination was from the colored lights on the equipment scattered about the room. Those tiny lights cast odd shadows, reflecting off of the glass of specimen jars and refracting to other parts of the room.

However, none of that fazed either Henry or Charlie, the two boys striding quickly through the wards to the door on the other side of the room. Charlie yanked at the handle with all of his strength, but it was apparently rusted shut, and it took a few precious seconds for him to finally jerk the door open. As the door to our escape swung open, so did the one that led to the horrors we were trying to leave behind.

The room exploded in panic. I froze. All of the wards were pushing and shoving their way inch by inch backward, knocking over shelves of experiments, sending them hurtling to the floor. Soon we were all drenched with formaldehyde. Organs and shattered glass littered the floor.

In the confusion, I saw Charlie and Henry slip out the doorway. So much for Charlie’s high and mighty ideas to get all of us to safety—I guess when push came to shove, he wasn’t the hero he thought he was.

Within moments, a crowd of surgeons flooded the room, herding us together in one corner. I could hear some of the other wards sobbing openly, and I sighed. What did they think was going to happen? We had all known that there was only a slim chance we’d be successful.

The surgeons began rounding us up one at a time, leading us separately out of the room. After nearly an hour of herding wards away, as one of the surgeons came for me, something changed. The sound of heavy, pounding footsteps filled the air, drowning out all other sound.

Suddenly people clad in all black burst through the door Charlie and Henry had left through, training dangerous looking guns on the surgeons.

I watched the people in black swarm into the room with disbelief as they slammed the surgeons into the walls, cuffing their hands behind their backs. There was no way this could possibly be happening. I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder, making me start. But when I looked up, it wasn’t a surgeon, or even one of the black clothed people, standing there. It was an angel.

She smiled down at me, her perfect golden hair pulled up out of her face. When she spoke, it was sweeter than anything I had ever heard. “Hello dear. My name’s Jane—I’m a nurse. Do you know what that is?”

I shook my head dumbly, stunned into silence. Was I hallucinating? No one had ever spoken to me so kindly before.

“A nurse is a person who helps people get better, who helps them heal.” She explained. She looked me up and down, taking in my condition. Suddenly I was utterly aware of my pitiful appearance. Her clothes weren’t torn and bloodied like mine, and when she helped me to my feet, I realized the grim that coated my skin was soiling her pure white hands. But all she asked was, “Can you walk?”

I nodded.

“Good!” She said brightly, beaming at me. “Will you come with me? I can get you cleaned up—I’ve got some hydrogen peroxide and some bandages for those cuts and scraps of yours. And once we get you to the hospital, we’ll get the rest of you fixed up, alright?”

I felt hot tears well up in my eyes for the first time in years. “Thank you.” I whispered, my voice catching in my throat. Slowly, but steadily, we walked out of the terrible place I had lived for as long as I could remember. I didn’t look back. For the first time in my life, I could hope.

CW16

Seasons Change

A story in the style of The Giving Tree

CW16-SpringOnce there was a little girl. More than anything else in the world, she loved to play outside. In the spring she would skip through the meadow, filling her arms with giant bouquets of wildflowers. In the summer she would run through the fields, turning cartwheels and tumbling down the grassy hills. In the fall she would jump into leaf piles all day long, sometimes hiding in a particularly large one to jump out and scare unsuspecting victims. And in the winter she couldn’t get on her jacket, scarf, and mittens fast enough to run out the door to make snow angels and have snowball fights. To her, the outdoors were one giant adventure, new things ready to be explored each day.CW16-Summer

When she played, she was often joined in her adventures by her favorite playmate, a little boy who lived down the road. One day however, when he walked up the road, something was different. He didn’t run toward her; instead he walked slowly up the road, his head down, kicking a stone as he walked. Finally the little girl couldn’t take it any longer, and she ran as fast as she could down the road to meet him.

CW16-Fall“Come on!” The little girl said excitedly, grabbing the little boy’s arm and tugging him along, trying to get him to walk faster. “I found a little creek yesterday! Let’s go!”

The boy gently pulled his arm out of her grip and stood there. The little girl looked at him in surprise, wondering why he was acting like this. She peered more closely at the little boy, and realized with a start that she could see tears running down his face.

“What’s wrong?” She asked him urgently, a look of alarm growing on her face.CW16-Winter

The little boy looked down at the ground, toeing the dirt with his shoe. “My mom said we’re moving.”

A horrified expression crossed her face as the little girl asked, “You mean you’ll never come back? I won’t ever see you again?”

Numbly, the little boy shook his head.

“That’s not fair!” The little girl protested.

He shrugged, sniffing and roughly swiping his tears away with the heel of his hand. “Mom says sometimes things change, but just because it’s different doesn’t make it bad.” He told her shakily.

“Why wouldn’t it be bad?” She asked. “You’re going to have to go to a new place you don’t know, and make new friends, and go to a new school, and you won’t know anything about it there!”

Smiling weakly, the boy looked up and said, “Just like one of our adventures, right?”

———————————————————————————————————–

A year went by, much the same as it had before. The girl still ran about and played outside, no matter what season it was. She still gathered flowers, ran through the fields, jumped in the leaves, and made snow angels. Every day was a new adventure.

But one day, very much like the day her friend had told her he was moving, her mother came to her with news of her own.

“Honey, I’ve got something I have to tell you,” her mother said, pulling her up into her lap. “Your daddy got a job in another town, so we’re all going to have to move there in a couple of weeks.”

The little girl looked up at her mother in shock. “What?” It took a moment for it to all sink in, and then she almost shouted, “We can’t move!”

Her mother wrapped her up in a hug. “I’m sorry sweetie, but we have to.”

“But it’s going to be all different! I won’t know anything, and I’ll have to make new friends, and we’ll have to live in a new house. I like it here!” The little girl protested.

Sighing, her mother asked, “What’s your favorite season?”

The little girl was taken aback, pulling out of her mother’s hug to stare at her in surprise. “What do you mean?”

Her mother smiled, and repeated, “What’s your favorite season? Out of all of the seasons, which one do you like the very best?”

“Well, I like spring…no summer…well fall…but winter is nice too…” She sat there for a moment, biting her lip and thinking very hard. Finally she answered, “I don’t know. I like them all.”

Her mother faked a shocked expression. “You mean even though you play outside all the time, you can’t decide on your favorite season? Surely since you spend so much time out there you can pick one favorite.”

She shook her head. “I can’t Mommy! I tried! I like them all. In the spring there are the pretty flowers, and in the summer you get to play all the time, and in the fall there are all the leaf piles, and in the winter you have snow.”

“Well, what if it never changed seasons and you were always stuck with the same one?” Her mother asked. “Wouldn’t you be sad you couldn’t have the other seasons too?”

The little girl thought about it for a moment, and then nodded slowly.

“Sometimes change is important,” her mother told her. “Change lets us enjoy all of the different seasons, and once we move, you’ll see that change lets us enjoy different things in life too.”

“You promise?” The little girl asked.

“I promise.” Her mother replied.

CW14

How To Describe Myself

A list of ten songs, books, poems, and movies that help give you a peek at me–my personality, my passions, my family, and everything else that makes me who I am!

1. Star Wars

OutsideThis may seem like an odd place to start out my list, but once you hear me out, you’ll understand. I’ve been watching the Star Wars movies since I was little. More than I remember watching Disney movies as a kid, I remember planting myself in front of the television to watch Star Wars with my brother. I used to pretend I was a Jedi fighting the Sith alongside such heroes as Luke Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi. InsideMy brother and I would have lightsaber duels in the backyard. I would make up stories in my head of my grand adventures traveling around the galaxy, fighting evil. Eventually my playing pretend turned into the first stories I ever wrote. I still have the butterfly notebook I wrote them in. I inwardly cringe a bit when I read through them now–they are chock-full of clichés and wish fulfillment—but they were my first stories. They are the reason I am writing today.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia

TCoNIn the first grade I was a pretty reluctant reader. I knew how to read, but for some reason, things just didn’t click. The Chronicles of Narnia made it all come together, fanning the flames of my absolute passion for reading. To my seven-year-old eyes, these books were huge! But suddenly, the size of the book didn’t matter anymore. I devoured the series at a rate of a book a week. Those books opened up a whole new world to me that I had never even dreamed could exist. And now I cannot stop reading.

3. “When Love Takes You InAnthony

This song tells the story of a life-changing part of my life. When I was eight, my family adopted two children from Russia –Anthony, who was three, and Julia, who was one. It was a big change for us. My brother Rob and I are only fourteen months apart, so he was more my partner in crime than my little brother I had to look out for. But Anthony and Julia are five and seven years younger than me respectively, so the title of “oldest” became more than just a title. I had to truly become a big sister, a roleJulia model, someone they could look up to. It breaks my heart to think about all the painful waiting my mom and dad had to go through during the adoption, “counting down the days until, they [could] hold [Anthony and Julia] close and say, ‘I love you.’” Our family wasn’t complete without them.

4. “There Will Be a Day

This song is extremely important to me, both because of the memory it brings to mind and because of the message it relates. It is a reminder of what I’m looking forward to in Heaven. When my grandmother passed away a few years ago, knowing I could look forward to the day with “No more tears, no more pain, and no more fears,” knowing one day I’d be up there with her, was more comforting than I will ever be able to explain.

5. Nancy Drew

This book series is really special to me because it has become a sort of Nancy Drewlegacy in our family. My mom and her sister read them when they were younger, and when I was eleven my mom passed them on to me. Now my younger cousin is reading them, too. Nancy Drew was a role model to me as a kid–she’s smart and brave and won’t let herself pass up the chance to help someone else. Unlike so many girls in movies and literature, she isn’t dependent on a man to do everything for her, and she wants more out of life than just to be a wife. Nancy wants to make a difference, big or small, in the lives of the people around her. I can’t wait to pass the Nancy Drew books on to my daughter someday.

6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy marks my stubbornness and desire to grow. When I asked my dad (who’s copy it was) if I could read it, his answer was that I could, but that political satire played a heavy hand in it and that it would probably go over my head. After that I was determined to get through it. I wanted to read something big, something I couldn’t fully understand, because I wanted to stretch myself, to grow past how people commonly perceived a kid my age.

7. “Rubber Meets the Road

Tail lightsJanuary 14th marks my first anniversary as the owner of my beautiful blue 2003 Ford Mustang. My dad and I spent ages researching. We read practically everything the internet had to offer on what used cars were the most affordable, which ones were the safest, and which ones got the best gas mileage. It seems like we drove to every used car lot within a fifty-mile radius. Now, Samantha (yes, I named my car) is my baby. I handpicked her and paid for half of her. And now, in the fall, I’ll be driving her to college, to Mississippi State University. The song says, “It’s time to put in motion everything you know,” and that’s how I feel. Soon I won’t be sitting around my house doing school work; I’ll be out in the world, ready to impact those around me.

8. “The Road Not Taken

As I related in an earlier blog post, “The Road Not Taken” is one of my favorite poems, and also my introduction to poetry as a whole. But more than just introducing me to the poetry genre, this particular poem reminds me that, as a Christian, I am striving to take the narrow road, the road less traveled.

9. “We Are in LoveCW14-Swing Dancing

Jazz music in general represents a lot of things in my life: it represents my dad, who first introduced me to jazz; it represents a whole section of my hobbies and interests–swing dancing, fountain pens, and typewriters; and of course it represents my love of jazz music itself. It’s vintage and modern, lively and reflective, just like me.

10. The Holy Bible

I saved this one for last because it is truly the most important. The Bible is God’s love letter to me, to everyone who has ever, or will ever, walk this earth. It defines so much of who I am. Without it, I am nothing.

CW13

Perfect Bliss

This was a very difficult one to write because the assignment said I could not use a single “e”. Not only is “e” the most commonly used letter, do you know how many times it is used in association with marriage?!

CW13-CastleThis is it. I am thoroughly and wholly full of joy. My mind lists my surroundings unconsciously, cataloguing it all to look back on soon. Anxious gasps hum as musicians start up a soft, charming harmony and I walk up toward Nikolai. I catch sight of my mom, smiling as if a ray of sunlight. Both my mom and my dad at my arm look willing to burst with joy. I distinguish his mom and dad sitting right in front, although I should think that is what most would hold as a natural location, as his dad is a King.  Rustling fabrics as individuals stand cordially, and sparkling crystals glinting off soft light –I grasp it all, but all I can wholly focus on is how blissful Nikolai looks. I know without a mirror that our looks match, for I find my mouth is tugging upward, smiling brilliantly up at him.

I practically run to him, almost tripping on my long skirt.  Nikolai stoops down to murmur into my hair, “You look stunning.” Thomas starts his narration, supplying our traditional words to copy, droning on and on, but I cannot distinguish anything but Nikolai. Nikolai clasps my hand lovingly, his big, warm hand dwarfing my own tiny hand. Thomas’s words go on for a long bit, but finally Thomas says, “I now—“ but his following words stay lost as Nikolai grabs my waist and twirls around, finally placing my flats back down, and Nikolai and I kiss.

CW12

The Twins

The Twins

How the Crocodile Got its Long Teeth

An imitation of Rudyard Kipling’s style 

            When the world was much younger than it is now, two little twin crocodilians lived deep in the swamp, forever playing in the silt and the mud, twisting and turning around in the swampy water. The two troublemakers were well known by the folks thereabouts for being terrible pranksters, happy to take any opportunity to pull a joke on an unsuspecting victim. It was their favorite game –every chance they got they’d sneak up on someone from two different sides, using their identical features to confuse whatever target they had chosen, whether it be bird, fish, or even a deer, as they danced circles around the poor creature, weaving this way and that. When the creature would try to grab one, the other would circle around to its back and tie a bit of vine around its leg so that when the two crocodilians took off, the animal would only be able to make it a couple of steps before it was jerked back by the vine.

Before too long the other creatures grew wise to the crocodilian’s trick, but the two troublemakers made sure to always play their prank somewhere where there was enough mud or underbrush for them to disappear in so that they could pop their heads up out of it every once in a while, but their target wouldn’t be able to tell whether he was watching one or both of the crocodilians. Soon the problem had grown so severe that the other animals called a special meeting in order to deal with the problem.

“We cannot allow this to carry on as it has,” the Owl said, beginning the discussion as the rest of the animals settled down. “We should not have to go about our days worried those two will pop out of nowhere to accost and harass us!”

“All of that sounds well and good Owl,” the Raccoon said, “but what are we supposed to do about it? What can we do about it?”

The Snake hissed angrily. “We ssssshould punissshhh them for thisssss. They ssssshhhhould not be allowed to continue.”

“Of course they cannot persist in their tricks Snake,” Owl said soothingly, “But punishing them may not benefit us either.”

“Why not?” The Otter protested angrily. “They’re bullying us! We shouldn’t have to put up with this!”

“We all agree this isn’t fair, but punishing them will most likely just make them mad.” The Deer said, adding his level head to the discussion. “Punishing them may stop their tricks for a short time, but then they will only begin their tricks again more energetically than before. Then their tricks will truly be unbearable.”

“Then what do we do?” The Otter asked.

“We will combat their tricks on the most elementary of levels. We will make it impossible for them to trick us any longer,” the Owl said. “We must change one of their appearances.”

 

“Where is everyone today?” The Elder of the two –though only by a few seconds as the Younger always insisted—asked his brother, looking suspiciously around the swamp.

The Younger looked up, glancing around in surprise. “What are you talking about?”

“There isn’t anyone anywhere!” The Elder said, becoming more and more anxious as he searched the swamp for any signs of life.

“Really brother, you shouldn’t get so worried over something so ridiculous,” the Younger said with a shake of his head.

But as the Elder turned his eyes back to his brother, the still, silent swamp exploded with sound as animals shot out of the underbrush, water, and mud from every direction. Before the crocodilians had a chance to react, they had been seized by many pairs of paws, hooves, wings, and webbed feet. The Snake twisted around the Younger, holding him securely, as the Elder was trussed up with a few lengths of vine. When the two were safely pinned, the Otter approached the Younger as the Owl flew to a branch where both of the troublemakers could see him.

“We have had more than enough of your trickery and pranks. In order to keep you from continuing with your terrible behavior, the rest of us animals have decided there was only one course of action for us to pursue,” the Owl explained from his perch. “It has been decided that you, Younger, will be given longer teeth so that all of the animals may tell you two apart. From this day on, you will only be referred to by your given names, Alligator and Crocodile. And, most important of all, you must agree to stop your tricks, or we vow you will be banished from the swamplands. Do you understand?”

Crocodile looked up with wide eyes. “You can’t do that! It’s not fair!”

“Perhapsssss thisssssss lesssssson of yoursssss Owl will be more effective than I had thought.” The Snake hissed in Crocodile’s ear. “Perhapsssss now you will underssssstand how we have felt when you played your tricksssss.”

The Otter grabbed hold of Crocodile’s teeth and pulled as hard as he could until Crocodile’s teeth were obviously much longer than his brother Alligator’s.  And that is how the Crocodile got his long teeth.

CW11

A New Family

This piece is based on the picture below. It was quite interesting imagining their conversation!

 Conversation

“Jason, wait!” The petite woman called after the fleeing figure.

The man next to her sighed. “I’ll go talk to him. He’s going to have to get over all of this.” He sighed again, crossing his arms roughly across his chest. “I’m sorry Donna –he doesn’t normally act like this. It’s just, in his eyes, this is all happening so fast. He thinks I’m betraying Kate’s memory by marrying again so soon.”

Donna nodded sadly, a look of deep sympathy in her eyes. “We could probably have handled all of this a little better too,” she pointed out. After a moment she added as the man moved to put on his shoes, “I should be the one to talk to him John. If you go out there now he’ll just get mad at you, at me, and it will be that much harder for either of us to get through to him the next time. I’m smaller and I’m a woman –I’ll portray a less threatening figure.”

John raised an eyebrow in surprise, but just shrugged. “It doesn’t matter to me. You’re the psychiatrist.”

Donna sighed imperceptivity, pursing her lips. “John, you know just because I’m a trained psychiatrist, that doesn’t make me a super hero, right?”

“Sorry,” he told her, grinning at her and leaning down to give her a light kiss. “You just always seem like a super hero to me.”

“I’m going to go find him now,” she announced, slipping on the black ballet flats she had left next to the door.

“He’ll probably be at the train tracks,” John said over his shoulder as he went back inside, “He likes to go there to think.”

“Thanks John,” she said with a hesitant smile, “wish me luck!”

 

“What do you want Dad?” Jason asked angrily as he turned his head toward the sound of footsteps behind him. When he saw that it was actually Donna, his ears turned bright red in embarrassment. “Oh, sorry,” he mumbled, “I thought you were my dad.”

“Yeah, it almost was,” Donna admitted, sitting on the train tracks across from him. “He was pretty mad you said those things to him like that in front of me.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” he told her, his ears getting even redder, “I’m sure you’re nice enough –you’re just not my mom.”

“Jason,” Donna began softly, “I know how you feel—“

Jason jerked his head up, looking at her in disbelief. “How could you? How could you even say that?” He asked harshly, hot tears welling up in his eyes. “You can’t know how I feel.”

She opened her mouth to reply, but he cut her off. “Just because you’re a shrink doesn’t mean you can tell me you understand how I feel when you don’t! Don’t they teach you that lying isn’t ethical in shrink school?”

“Jason, I understand you’re mad, but I lost my mom too, when I was just a little younger than you,” she explained.

Jason dropped his gaze, ashamed for reacting as he had. “Sorry,” he said quietly, “I didn’t know.”

“It was really hard for me at first, especially when my dad started dating again. When he proposed to the woman he had been dating for almost a year, I was so hurt he would try to replace my mom like that I ran away from home. A friend of mine in the neighborhood let me stay with her until my father figured out where I was. You know what he told me?”

He shook his head.

“He told me that he wasn’t trying to replace my mom. He explained to me how he still ached every time he thought about my mom and how he wished more than anything that she were still alive. I realized that he wasn’t giving my stepmother my mom’s place in his heart, but just giving her a piece of it too.”

“What’s your stepmother like?” Jason asked, looking shyly up at her, his cheeks still burning. “Do you two get along now?”

Donna smiled and nodded. “Of course it’s a different relationship than the one I had with my mom, but she’s still one of my best friends.”

Jason was silent for a moment before asking, “I really hurt my dad, didn’t I?”

“I don’t think anyone wants to be told they don’t love their dead wife or husband. It’s kind of a slap in the face to tell you the truth.” Donna told him softly.

Jason sighed, standing up and brushing the dirt off of the seat of his pants. “Then I had better go apologize,” he said slowly. “Maybe then we can start this relationship thing over with a fresh start.”

“I’m sure he’d appreciate that,” Donna agreed with a wide smile, “And I’d certainly like that too.”

CW 10

A Chance Meeting With a Tall, Dark Stranger

The time I met a stranger who knew everything about me…and who I knew everything about too. If you are feeling like listening to a little music while you are reading, try this track and this track.

CW10-Sherlock“You there! Girl!” A well-dressed stranger yelled down the street, the bottom of his long overcoat flapping behind him as he ran. I discreetly looked around, not wanting to be caught putting my nose into someone else’s business, looking for the girl he was yelling at. Then I realized with a start, when I didn’t see any other women nearby, that he was talking to me!

By that time he had reached me, slightly out of breath, his dark hair tousled and sticking up in every direction. “What is the date of today?” He asked me seriously.

“Are you okay?” I questioned slowly, looking at him oddly. It wasn’t every day that strange men sprinted down the street to ask you the date. The thought crossed my mind that he might be on drugs.

“I’m clean, I swear. No drugs, no alcohol.” He told me, as if reading my thoughts. “This is important! What is the date of today?”

“November 28th,” I answered, my expression changing to one of incredulity. Who was this man? And how had he known exactly what I was thinking?

“The year! What’s the year?” He asked impatiently, growing agitated.

I looked up at him in surprise, but there was no sign of any jest in his eyes. His expression was deadly serious. “It’s 2012.” I said, beginning to wonder if this weren’t all an elaborate prank being pulled on me.

When he heard my answer, his face broke out into a wide grin, an excited light dancing in his eyes. “Oh, this is brilliant!” He exclaimed, trying to contain his glee.

“Would you please explain to me what’s going on?” I asked flatly. “How did you know what I was thinking?”

“Educated guess,” he replied, reigning in his excitement to explain. “You are obviously an intelligent young woman, so of course you would be cautious about a stranger approaching you as I did. Your expression told me that you didn’t trust me, that you were on guard, and the slight disgust that crossed your face after I asked what the date of today was told me that you labeled me as some type of low-life. So that, together with the oddity of my question, led me to believe that you thought I was drunk or doing drugs.”

I narrowed my eyes, suddenly worried about what I had unknowingly gotten myself into. “And why were you asking such an odd question in the first place?” I asked brashly.

“That is simple.” He told me, grinning again. “You have the honor of being the first person to ever talk to a time traveler!”

Now I knew someone was playing a joke. “Who put you up to this? Was it Rob? Carley? Alyssa?”

His eyebrows furrowed, his forehead creasing, and he frowned. “This isn’t a joke,” he declared.

“You aren’t a time traveler,” I argued, planting my hands solidly on my hips. “This is ridiculous!”

He sighed, turning away as he ran an anxious hand through his hair in exasperation. When he turned back around he had a vaguely fake smile plastered onto his face. “Let’s try this again,” he said, extending his hand to shake mine. “I’m Sherlock Holmes, from the year 18—“

“Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes?” I exclaimed in astonishment, interrupting him before he could finish. “Now I know you have to be joking.”

“Who’s Arthur Conan Doyle?” He questioned sharply, narrowing his eyes in obvious displeasure, though I couldn’t tell whether it was over his lack of knowledge or the way I had made it sound like someone owned him.

“He’s a famous author,” I explained, rolling my eyes. “He created the Sherlock Holmes novels starring the infamous detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Doctor John Watson. Like you didn’t already know that.”

“As strange as it may seem, I didn’t,” he replied. “I do indeed know Watson, but I was under the impression that it was he, not this Doyle, who wrote down the details of my cases.”

“But you aren’t real!” I exclaimed. “You’re a fictional character!”

“You shook my hand, you know for a fact that I am flesh and blood,” he pointed out. “And when you’ve ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable…”

“Must be the truth,” I finished for him. “I know, I’ve read that before. You still haven’t proved that you aren’t some actor one of my friends hired to pull a practical joke on me.”

He—I still refused to think of him as Sherlock Holmes—stood there for a few seconds, seemingly thinking hard. After a brief moment his eyes brightened. “You said you knew that I was a detective, correct?”

“I said I knew that Sherlock Holmes was a detective,” I replied, “but yes, I did.”

“Then the only way to prove I am not a fake is to give you an example of my skill,” he said decisively. He stared hard at me, his eyes flicking back and forth as he studied me intently.

“I do have things I need to be doing.” I told him.

“I told you before that you are intelligent,” He began slowly, “I will further say that you are well-read as well, reading a range of books, both classical and those from this time. As you are intelligent, I would imagine that you keep up with modern technology, possessing proficiency in most, if not all of the technology you come in contact with. However, you are more of a traditional person, having skills in things like dancing and sewing that other’s your age might not. You are a perfectionist, but your finger nails are bitten raggedly, so I would assume that you bite your nails when you are anxious.”

I held up a hand, stopping him there. “None of that’s conclusive. Any of my friends could have fed you all of that information.”

“So you admit that it is all true?” He asked, raising an eyebrow.

“All of that’s true,” I admitted finally.

“And yet you still don’t believe me,” he sighed. “There isn’t anything I can say to prove my identity, is there?”

“I highly doubt there is anything you could say that I would accept as proof,” I answered, “And any piece of paper you ‘just happened’ to have on you that proved you were the Sherlock Holmes could easily have been faked.”

“But, I can prove that I am a time traveler!” He exclaimed suddenly, grabbing my arm and producing a small deceive from inside his coat. “Hold onto me!”

I blinked once and found myself staring not at the familiar street I had been standing on not momCW10-221b Baker St.ents before, but instead standing outside of 221 Baker Street, in what could only be Victorian London. “But—“ I stuttered out, spinning all the way around as I tried to grasp the impossibility of what had happened. “But we’re in London! I live in America!”

“Oh, yes,” he—Sherlock Holmes—said with a chuckle, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly, “I worked that into my device so that I wouldn’t accidently end up stuck in the middle of two walls. I had thought I had set it for somewhere uninhabited, but my knowledge of the future is only experimental at best.”

“Sherlock, what are you doing?” Doctor Watson asked disparagingly as he walked out of the door and down the steps of 221b Baker Street. “Who’s this?”

“I’m Christine Dunn,” I said, introducing myself shyly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Doctor Watson. I’ve read so much about you.”

“The pleasure is all mine,” he told me graciously, taking my outstretched hand and giving it a shake, even if it was a bit hesitantly, “It’s not often I get to meet an American.” Watson turned to Sherlock looking apologetic. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything, but Holmes, the Royal Family is sending us a car. They have a case they want you to take care of.”

Sherlock groaned. “Don’t they know I am in the middle of research?” He grumbled in frustration. “The Royal’s always have such terrible timing.”

“I was assured it was urgent.” Watson told him.

“It’s always urgent.” Sherlock responded with a sigh. “Fine. Let me take this lovely young woman home and then I’ll deal with whatever case they need me to solve. Ms. Dunn, if you’ll take my hand again.” He said, holding out his hand toward me.

I took it and after another blink I was standing back on the street as before. “You’re really Sherlock Holmes.” I breathed slowly, looking up incredulously at him.

“I am indeed.” Sherlock replied with a smile. “I am sorry to have to leave you so quickly, but I have a case to solve!”

I opened my mouth to ask him another question, but he disappeared right in front of my eyes.

“No one is ever going to believe this.” I said to myself, shaking my head. I barely believed it all myself!

CW9

The D. C. Metro Station

Taking a look at one of my favorite places through the eyes of people very different from myself

The Business Woman

I surveyed the station in disgust. Though I knew it was much faster to take the Metro than to brave the streets of D. C. and the traffic that clogged them, I couldn’t help but wrinkle my nose a little and grip my briefcase a bit tighter. There were more than a few men waiting on the train that I would not be surprised to find out had jumped the turnstile to get a free ride. Their outfits screamed of homelessness –crumpled up like they had been sleeping in those clothes for weeks, torn and frayed at the edges, not to mention all of the grease stains. Newspapers and flyers flew back and forth along the narrow strip of concrete as each new train pulled up to the loading platform. A bit of bile that I quickly swallowed back down rose in my throat as strangers jostled past me to get on board. I hoped once I got off the dirty, crowded platform and into the train that I would be able to sit down and close my eyes and forget about this place. Maybe if I did that I could pretend I was somewhere else, someplace pleasant. I would definitely be bringing my iPod with me for my commute tomorrow.

The Child
This is so exciting! I don’t like being pushed around by all of the older people, but it’s still really cool to see all the people! There’re bunches and bunches of people everywhere! I can’t wait to see the big dinosaur Mom told us about at the museum. I’ve never seen a dinosaur before. She said there are treasures like a pirate has in a treasure chest too! I like coming here. All the trains are so cool! Sometimes they come whizzing past us and make the wind blow really hard on every one! That’s really funny, ‘cause then it makes everyone’s hair whip around all crazy. When they leave they start really slow and make a neat noise, but it’s really loud. When they stop it’s loud too. They make a screeching sound like when the teacher writes on the blackboard, but worse! It kind of hurts my ears and I don’t like that. I found lots of pennies on the ground though, so it makes the loud sounds not so bad. I’ve been saving all my pennies I find on the ground. I have them all in my pocket ‘cause Mommy said if I found enough pennies I could get an ice cream!

The Mother
I don’t know why I always think these trips will be fun when I plan them! I know the kids always talk about our trips to D. C. for months afterward, going over every single detail until I’m sick of hearing about it. I know it’s their favorite trip to take and the only time they’ll stop bickering in the car long enough for me to hear the song on the radio station. Of course, that’s only because they’re whispering conspiratorially about how they can convince me to buy them a treat. But taking the Metro is so hard with two little ones hanging on my arms! The stops and the trains are always so crowded –I’m scared to death one of them is going to let go of my hand and get lost in the pressing crowd of people. Not to mention how easy it would be for one of them to run up to the side of the tracks and slip and fall onto them. I think if I didn’t have to worry about them I might actually enjoy not having to drive in D. C. traffic, but next time I need to go on a Saturday so Steve can come with me.

The Teenager
Why does Mom still force me to come on these trips with them? Waiting for our train is so boring and I can’t sit down anywhere. There’s always some old lady already sitting on the one bench in the entire station, and the floor is so nasty I wouldn’t sit there no matter how bad my feet hurt. Mom always makes me give up my seat on the train too, so my feet are always killing me by the end of the day. I really wish she would stop glaring at me. You can’t hear yourself think in here! It’s not my fault she took my iPod so I can’t listen to any music to drown out all these people. I didn’t mean to kick my little sister –there was gum on my shoe and I was trying to get it off! Maybe I would be in a better mood if I wasn’t so bored! D. C. isn’t that special anyway –it’s just a bunch of old, crumbling buildings with some old stuff that nobody cares about anymore inside. I’d pick staying at home to play Minecraft over walking around D. C. any day. Even going to school would be better than this.

CW8

Snowfall

The first chapter of the book I am writing this November

Arianna

Since the Prince had asked her father for her hand only a few months ago, the time had seem to fly by as if it had sprouted wings. Arianna felt almost as if she were peering into a life that was not her own. Nikolai was truly amazing –a perfect gentleman, honest, handsome, and the Crown Prince of the entire kingdom of Snowfall no less.

What she didn’t understand was why, of all the beautiful young women in the kingdom, he had picked her. She was fair at most everything she did, but Arianna knew women who could stitch tapestries that could make you weep from the sight of it, women who could make lovely conversation with complete strangers, who could dance like they were floating on air. Why would he choose her over them?

He said that he loved her, but Arianna wasn’t sure she believed love still existed in Snowfall, where all the marriages were arranged in one way or another. Her own parents had been married to settle a land dispute between two noble families. Even the prince, the man who would rule the kingdom when his parents died, was given a group of suitable women to choose from instead of being able to choose whomever he pleased.

Arianna stared at herself in the mirror, her warm brown curls tumbling down her back. Her wedding dress had been laid out on the bed behind her, the edge of the skirt just barely visible in the corner of the mirror. Her mother had told her to summon the maid when she had finished washing and doing her hair, but for some reason, perhaps one last bit of rebellion toward the stilted life she led, she decided this was one dress she would put on for herself.

Nikolai

Nikolai pulled at the neck of his stiffly collared shirt, sweating both from the warmth of the small church packed with people and from the nervousness that also kept him rooted to his place. He felt like she should have been here by now. All of the guests had already arrived and had been waiting at least thirty minutes for the bride to arrive and walk down the aisle, and he couldn’t help but imagine the bored glances and ill-disguised yawns were a result of their thoughts that the wedding might not happen after all.

This was supposed to be the biggest day of his life, the day he became a man, the master of his own house. But instead, here he stood, worried his bride wouldn’t make the wedding at all. He thought she at least liked him. He thought she enjoyed his company, even if she didn’t love him as he loved her. Though he knew that family honor dictated much of the marriage customs in their kingdom, and he acknowledged it could certainly feel stifling to be told who you were going to marry, he had hoped that his marriage to Arianna could avoid that. Now, as the minutes ticked by, he was not so sure.

“Arianna!” Her mother called through the door, knocking loudly to get her daughter’s attention. “What are you doing in there? You are going to be late for your own wedding!”

Arianna glanced up in surprise at the ancient, towering grandfather clock that stood vigil on one side of the room. Getting into her dress on her own had taken longer than she had thought that it would. Struggling to reach the last button high up on her back, she called loudly “Sorry Mother! I’m almost ready! Just give me one more moment!”

“We really have to leave—“ Teresa said anxiously as she pushed open the door, sweeping into the room in a wave of elegant silk and delicately arranged blonde hair. When she caught sight of her daughter trying to button the top button of her cream lace wedding dress, she stopped in her tracks, a look of appalled horror crossing her face. “Arianna, what are you doing? You do realize that we hired a maid for a reason? You are about to be married to the Crown Prince! You can’t be seen doing these things for yourself like a commoner!”

“Mother—” Arianna began in consternation, opening her mouth to revisit the argument they’d had many times before, but Teresa cut her off with a shake of her head.

“Darling, we don’t have time to argue over these things right now. The wedding has already been put off too many times.” Teresa said with a sigh, putting the final touches on Arianna’s attire.

“You can’t seriously be blaming him for that can you?” Arianna asked with surprise, twisting around to look at her mother. “It’s hardly Nikolai’s fault that he was called off to help a village defend itself from a dragon!”

“I didn’t say it was.” Teresa reassured her. “I’m merely reminding you of how important it is that you are not the one to put off the wedding late this time. Now come, the carriage is waiting for us outside.”

 

The doors to the church swung open suddenly to reveal Arianna gliding up the steps, her father waiting at the top to take her arm and lead her down the aisle. She was stunning in a long cream lace wedding dress that caressed the floor in front of her feet before lengthening in the back to slide gracefully behind her. The top of her brown hair had been gently pulled back from her face, secured with a cream ribbon and a tiny white rose, the rest of her curls tumbling down behind her back. She was without doubt the most beautiful woman in Snowfall.

Any of the doubts he had felt only moments before now fled at the sight of her. After the agonizing wait as she walked slowly up the aisle, he looked into her eyes and knew that whatever problems they had, whatever difficulties they went through, he would give up everything he had for this woman that stood before him.

But as the clergyman began the ceremony, something huge hit the roof with a heavy, echoing thud. The ceiling groaned eerily above them, the wooden support beams moaning in protest. Then a pair of monstrous claws punched their way through the roof. The entire church was open to the sunlight in an instant, wood pieces falling down to hit the floor as people dove out of the way.

The Royal Guard stood, dumbfounded, hands raising shaking swords in a feeble defense against the dragon that was sticking its head into the church. The building, with its grandiose stained windows and magnificent arches that made the large building seem even bigger, now seemed small in comparison to the head of the monstrous beast. Though such defense seemed pathetic and worthless, Nikolai unsheathed the ceremonial saber on his waist, pushing Arianna behind him.

“Do something!” He shouted desperately at the Guardsmen as the dragon drew his head out of the church to make room for his claws.

Even striking with all of their strength as one man, Nikolai did not think they could defeat such a beast on their own. But defeating the beast was not his priority –getting Arianna to safety was. He put his free hand out behind him and felt her slip her petite one in his.

“I need to get you out of here,” he told her, trying to channel as much strength as he could into his voice, while trying to keep his hands steady. “When I say, I want you to run toward the front doors. I’ll keep it occupied. Alright?”

There was a silence behind him for a moment before Arianna answered, “Oh, right. Alright.”

“Good,” he said, carefully watching the dragon as it tried to peer in over its claws that were swiping at the Guardsmen below it. He waited for it to move its attention from them to the opposite side of the room before yelling, “Now run!”

She did, hitching up her long skirt in her hands in order to take longer strides, the delicate lace wilting from her harsh handling. As soon as she moved, the dragon’s focus whipped back over to their side of the room, perhaps seeing Nikolai now standing on his own, or maybe catching sight of the brighter cream of Arianna’s gown dancing in the flickering light.

Without hesitation the dragon’s claw came down on Nikolai, knocking him to the ground as if he did not weigh anything and trapping him beneath the dragon’s scaly palm. He tried to raise his sword arm to stab the sensitive skin on top of him, but one of the tips of the dragon’s claws had caught on the thick, heavy fabric of his shirt sleeve, pinning his arm to the ground. No matter how much he yanked, he couldn’t get himself free before a piercing scream sent chills through his body.

“Arianna!” He yelled, unable to see what was happening.

She screamed again and the dragon began to rise. Nikolai could hear the sound of giant wings beating outside the church, and felt the sharp rush of wind as the wings created an updraft around him. He rolled out from underneath the dragon’s claws as soon as he untangled his sleeve from the claw. Scampering to his feet, Nikolai caught sight of a bit of white cloth rising into the air.

“No,” he breathed in terror. Without thinking he lurched forward, gaining enough momentum to launch himself off of one of the pews into the air, catching hold of the dragon’s claw. His arm nearly wrenched out of socket from the swift jerks every time the dragon flapped its powerful wings, his entire arm feeling like it was on fire from the pain that coursed through it. Just as he thought he wouldn’t be able to hold on any longer, the dragon’s claw curled in on itself and he sat, realizing that he was now in the hands of a gigantic dragon.

Note: None of the pictures were drawn by me. They were done by a friend of mine who is a fantastic artist! 😀

CW 7

Where You Go, I Will Go

A Modern Retelling of the first chapter of Ruth

Dark clouds hung forbiddingly over the dismal scene, the sun hiding itself from the heartbreaking sight at the graveyard. A woman, whose hair had not yet grayed, but yet was old enough to have grown children herself, knelt in front of her husband’s grave, her face in her hands as she wept bitterly for her loss. Her family left Israel for America so that they could have a fresh start, a place to raise their boys away from the turmoil of the Middle East, and instead she had lost her dearest love in a country far from home.

This land still felt so foreign and strange to her. She didn’t know how she would be able to live in a country that was not her home, but she knew she must. Both of her sons were engaged after all, and to American women who would not be willing to give up their safe houses just to provide their mother-in-law relief from the culture shock.

She jumped, the feather light touch of a hand on her shoulder startling her.

“Parvin?” Her soon-to-be daughter-in-law’s voice said softly, “We should go inside now. It’s starting to rain.”

Parvin looked up in surprise, only now noticing the icy chill that had crept into the air as the misty rain had begun to fall. She heard the sharp snap of an opening umbrella and the area around her darkened even further as Kate wrapped a warm arm around her shoulders, holding the umbrella above their heads. Now the rain began in earnest and the two women hurried inside.

Ten Years Later

The sharp scent of fresh Italian filled the modest kitchen and living room, the television droning on with the latest news in the background.

“…more Israelis living abroad are making their way back home, new immigration statistics show. But the immigration data may be more indicative of America’s economic woes than of Israel’s growing attractiveness…” The anchor was saying before the ringing doorbell stole Kate’s attention.

“Coming!” She called as she wiped her hands off on a damp towel, swiftly removing the plain apron protecting her neat floral dress from the red spaghetti sauce she had been fixing. With only a brief pause to smooth her hair in front of the hall mirror, Kate hurried to the front door to let her guests in.

Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law stood bundled up against the cold of January in New York City. A chilly wind seemed determined to remind them of why the townhouse looked so inviting, the house warmed by the fires on the stove and in the small fireplace, and Kate quickly ushered them in.

“Sarah, Parvin!” Kate exclaimed happily, taking their coats and scarves. “You got here just in time. Dinner’s almost ready and Matt called about thirty minutes ago. He said Keth’s meeting was finally over and they were on their way home, so they shouldn’t be too much longer.”

Sarah sniffed the air, peering at the bubbling pots on the stove top. “Italian?” She queried with a wry smile. “You always make Italian when it’s your turn to cook. Is that all you know how to make?”

Frowning slightly, Kate replied, sounding a little hurt, “I thought you liked my Italian.”

Parvin quickly intervened. “Kate dear, everyone likes your Italian. Sarah was only teasing.”

Sarah opened her mouth to argue otherwise when Kate’s phone rang, sending her scurrying into the kitchen to answer it.

“Hello?” Kate said cheerfully, not recognizing the number.

“Is this Kate Morrison?” An unfamiliar man asked.

“It is.” She replied curtly. “May I ask who’s calling?”

“I’m Officer Dixon. I’m sorry ma’am, but your husband and his brother were in an accident.”

Two Months Later

The three women sat around the table silently, their actions an unpleasant parody of happier meals spent together with the two men whose places now sat empty.

Parvin broke the painful silence with an even more painful sentence. “I’ve decided to move back to Israel.”

Kate jerked her head up to stare at her mother-in-law, shocked. “You’re leaving?”

Nodding, she said seriously, “I’ve made up my mind. I cannot support myself here in this country, and after all these years, I still do not understand it. It’s time I returned to my own country –there is nothing left to keep me here.”

“But you have us!” Sarah exclaimed.

Parvin smiled. “I am certainly grateful for the love you girls have shown me over the years, but if I were to stay, I would only be a burden. I’m ready to go home.”

“Then let us come with you!” Sarah said determinedly.

Kate nodded her agreement. “Parvin, you know that I love you as I loved my own parents. You and Sarah are the only family I have left. Please let us come with you.”

Parvin only shook her head. “I could not allow it. I am an old woman who has nothing left but to return to her home. You two are young –you still have a future to look forward to. I will not let you throw that away to blindly follow me.”

“Then at least let us help you how we can.” Sarah pleaded. “We can help you pack or sell your house or anything else you need.”

A slight smile tugged at the corners of Parvin’s mouth as she replied, “I would appreciate all the help I can get.”

Three Months Later

The day of Parvin’s departure dawned crisp and clear, the summer sun quickly burning off any early morning fog. Kate arrived at Parvin’s apartment bright and early, having volunteered to drive her to the airport.

“What am I going to do without you two girls?” Parvin asked with a chuckle as Kate took the suitcase she was struggling to pull down the steps, and quickly loaded it into the back of the van. As she looked at the car however, she realized that something was different. “Kate, whose car is this? You have a van.”

Kate smiled, a twinkling gleam in her eyes. “It’s a rental actually. I sold my car yesterday. The contract for my house is finalized too –the couple should be moving in by the time we reach Israel.”

“Kate, dear, I was only kidding a moment ago when I asked what I would do without you. I am perfectly capable of living by myself; I don’t need you to give up everything to take care of me.” Parvin told her.

“Parvin, I told you before that you and Sarah are my only family.” The younger woman began, turning to look her mother-in-law squarely in the eye. “I love Sarah dearly, but you’re the one I don’t think I can live without. These past ten years, you are the one who has always been there for me as my whole world seemed to fall apart. When my parents died, you were the one who held me as I sobbed and wondered how such a thing could happen to me. You gave me hope that I would see them again, hope I hadn’t had since I turned my back on God. You have been my solid rock since Matt died, and now my mind is made up. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.”

With a sigh, Parvin asked, “There is nothing I can say that will change your mind?”

Kate shook her head.

“Then how can I be upset?” She asked, joyful tears springing to her eyes. A wide smile lit up her face, and she opened her arms up to her daughter-in-law. “I have been blessed by you more than I deserve.”

Kate stepped into the hug, holding Parvin tight. Finally she gently pulled away, saying, “We had better get going. We don’t want to miss our plane.”