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View Full Version : At The Beginning - REPOST - Ch 1 (Eve/Julian)



yhh
8.8.07, 3:25 PM
"Eve, I don't have any clean clothes for band practice today," Liz complained, while playing with her oatmeal.

The almost sixteen-year-old Eve Johnson rushed out of the bathroom with the comb still in her hair. "Eliza, you need to be quiet. Daddy is sleeping," she reprimanded her younger sister.

"He's hung-over," the seventh-grader muttered.

"Eliza- -"

"It's Liz for the millionth time," the twelve-year-old corrected.

Eve sighed. Why wasn't life fair? Liz shouldn't know anything about hangovers, but unfortunately she did. And she was right, today just like everyday for the past six months their dad was in his bedroom sipping the coffee she made for him and taking the aspirin she brought him so he could go look for a new job. But she knew already somehow, he wouldn't make it further than the liquor store and another day would pass without him finding a job. "I'll do some laundry tonight. But you know you can wear the same outfit you wore yesterday, it's just band practice not football."

Liz glared at her.

Not wanting to risk their father's ire at being too loud, Eve dropped the subject and went back to the bathroom. As she finished her hair, she fondly reminisced on how it used to be when her mother was still here. She would be combing her hair with the smell of pancakes in the air and the sound of bacon sizzling. Liz would be chatting their mother's ear off as her father readied for work. She and her father would arrive at the table simultaneously. He would say grace and they would all sit down and eat. She missed those mornings. She had naively thought they were the perfect family. She had thought her parents were madly in love. They had always been so affectionate, so loving. Not to say they didn't have their arguments, but the love they shared was like one written in the romance books she sneaked and read.

The teen could easily recall her mother telling her the story of how they met. Ruby Lincoln and Warren Johnson grew up in the same neighborhood in Cincinnati. Fourteen-year-old Warren had been the first to ever kiss twelve-year-old Ruby's lips. They were high school sweethearts who married on Ruby's twenty-first birthday. And she, Eve Lincoln Johnson, arrived on their one year anniversary. She loved hearing that story and hoped and prayed she would find a love like theirs.

But being two years from adulthood, she knew there were problems she wasn't aware of or else her family would still be together. Every night in her sleep, she relived the night everything changed. A continuous loud noise had awakened her. She crept out of her room and down the hallway and paused as she saw her parents arguing through the hallway door, which was slightly ajar. She couldn't clearly hear their words, but from the looks on their faces she knew it was serious. Forever she would regret not staying in the hallway to watch and listen to the rest of the argument, but she hadn't. She went back to bed.

At first her father tried to play it off like everything was okay. He explained away their mother's absence by saying she was visiting her friend, Joyce, who was sick in Dayton. Eve had had her doubts. She had never known her mother to leave without saying goodbye, even if it meant waking her up. Plus her dad had acted strangely. But she allowed herself to believe her dad's lies until the truth was staring her in the face. Her choir director had been sick so she had arrived home early and decided to put up the laundry she hadn't finished the day before.

She vividly remembered opening her parents' closet to see over half the closet filled with empty hangers, her mother's shoe boxes gone from the floor of the closet, her purses and sweaters gone from the shelf above. Quickly she had raced over to her mother's drawers and time after time, she found the same thing, nothing. Nothing. Nothing. There was not one trace of her mother. She ran to her parents' bathroom and searched for her mother's perfume, makeup, anything. But there was nothing. There was nothing of her mother's in the house besides pictures. Her mother, her mommy was gone. She fell on her parents' bed on her mother's side and cried and cried and cried. Life as she knew it was over.

Walking in to the room, her father took in her body racking sobs, the open drawers and closet doors and collapsed on the bed next to her. That night the strong, powerful man she had known all her life, the man she wanted her future husband to be like, changed right before her eyes into a broken hearted man who had lost the love of his life. She held him as he cried and at some points their tears mingled together. Both crying for what they had lost. And from her father's tears, she knew her mother was never returning.

The next morning a pattern began; she walked into the kitchen and cooked, after showering and dressing. Her father took one look at her at the stove and returned to his room, where he had stayed ever since.

The first week, she was able to convince his boss that he was sick. The second week, his boss bought that their mother was sick. But by the third week, she couldn't think of any more excuses and his boss had run out of patience. She had left for school each morning with her father promising to talk to his boss, yet each evening when she returned, the smell of alcohol permeated the room and her father was passed out.

She had tried her hardest to protect Liz from the truth, but it wasn't hard to see that their mother wasn't coming back and dad was on his way to becoming an alcoholic. She tried as much as she could to make it up to Liz. Freshly cooked meals, baked treats, whatever she could think of to help make the then eleven-year-old's life easier. But nothing she did could ever make up for the lost of the girl's mother.

Somehow time moved swiftly and the creditors were calling and mailing letters. The bank manager, a friend of the family's, also came a knockin'. Suddenly Eve had found herself the head of the household. She had dropped out of choir and the drama club. She had paid the household bills with what little was in the checking account. She got herself a part-time job working at the local mom and pop grocery store, where her mom used to shop. This money
enabled her to put food on the table, though it was no
where near as delicious and scrumptious as the food their mother made. Liz made sure she knew that.

She knew everyone knew her mother was gone, but she was so grateful no one mentioned it. She continued the lie that her mother was taking care of sick Aunt Irma in New Jersey. Though it wasn't a complete lie, they did have a crazy Aunt Irma who lived in Jersey. Although people didn't believe her tale about her mom or dad, they tried to help her and Liz in other ways. One of the mothers at the church always made sure she slipped her and Liz at least five dollars whenever and wherever she saw them. She had wanted to take what people offered, her pride screamed no, but she had to be sensible- - they needed the extra money, the extra food, the extra clothes.

The first time she pawned something to pay the rent, she had been extremely uncomfortable and nervous. She was pretty sure the pawn shop owner could smell her fear and ripped her off. But what could she do? She needed to keep a roof over their heads because her dad couldn't. Sadly enough, she found with each of her returns it got easier and easier. Or at least she told herself that. Because if she didnít, she wouldn't be able to walk through the doors. With each trip, she was losing more and more of her childhood and the life she once knew.

"Evie, come on. We're going to be late," Liz yelled.

Snapping out of her reverie, Eve gave her aging eyes one last look and headed out.

yhh
8.14.07, 10:44 AM
They were living in hell and it was all her fault. If only she had dropped out of school and gotten a full-time job. Warren Johnson never would have known the difference. If she had worked full-time and maybe gotten another night part-time job, she might have earned enough to squeak by. To pay the rent, the utilities, and the bare necessities. But she could never figure out what to do with Liz. An idle Liz was a trouble-making Liz. She couldn't leave the girl home alone for hours on end. And not just because of the trouble Liz would have caused, but also because her little sister didn't deserve a life where she was home by herself, cooking her own dinner, washing her own clothes. Her baby sister was entitled to as much of a normal childhood as possible. It wasn't Eliza's fault that their mother had taken off to parts unknown without a backwards glance. Without a thought of her two daughters. Without a concern of the damage it would cause on their family. But she couldnít dwell on the choices her mother made; it was too late for that now. She, Eve Marie Johnson, had to deal with the present. And the present was living with Aunt Irma.

Eve sighed as she rolled over on to her side and stared out the window through the black safety bars. The bars just confirmed the fact that she was in prison. The state trying to be helpful took her from the home she knew and loved and brought her here. Here, to Aunt Irma's, the aunt neither her mother nor father had ever wanted to spend time with. She had been dying to contact her father to check on him, but the phone had been shut off long ago. And if her calculations were correct, he would also be homeless now. Her poor father. She never wanted to be so in love with someone that if they left, her whole world was destroyed. She was never going to fall in love. She wanted children so she had to marry, but she was going to marry a man whom she had much in common with and was friendly with. No sticky love messing things up.

Staring at the stars up above, she wondered who turned them in. Who called the department of children and family services on the Johnson family? And why did he or she do it? Their family wasn't perfect, but they were getting by. Why hadn't someone called on the Codik family? Everyone knew Mr. Codik came home drunk from work and beat his wife and kids. Yet no one lifted a finger to call on him. Why hadn't anyone called the state on the Smith kids? Their mother was a prostitute and a drug user. Those three kids fended for themselves, yet they still got to stay home.

All she and Liz had left of their family, of their mother, of how things used to be, was in their house. In their neighborhood. In their community. Now they were thousands of miles from home, from everything familiar. If only she had thought about talking to Liz about what to say and what not to say, if anyone of authority questioned the young girl about their home life. How was Liz to know the social worker would use the knowledge about their home life that Liz had freely given would be used against them? The now eighth grader was led to believe the social worker was going to help improve their current situation. What the adults in the room neglected to tell Eliza was that to them that meant taking them from their father and sending them to live with their religious fanatical aunt.

She knew Liz blamed herself for them being here, but she was trying to reassure the girl it wasn't her fault. She even told Liz that she also believed the social worker wanted to help them and told her about their mother leaving and their dad not working. Liz had seemed comforted by hearing her older sister's confession. Liz's comfort eased her conscious about the outright lie she had told her sister. The social worker, Mrs. Coward, had come to the high school to talk to her, but she hadn't said one word to the woman. But her silence was of no help. A week later, Eve and Eliza Johnson were on a train from Baltimore, Maryland to Dayton, Ohio.

She could still easily picture her father's sobbing face as the social worker drove them away. The pain in his eyes were a sight she would never forget. Was it possible to break a broken man more? The look in her father's eyes said yes.

On the train, she held back her own tears as she comforted Liz. She had seriously considered jumping off the train and disappearing with Liz. But her practical nature told her that wouldn't work. She had been able to make a go of things back home because people knew them, knew her family. So as quickly as the idea popped into her head, it fled. Instead she focused on telling Liz about how great it would be living with Aunt Irma, a woman Liz didn't even remember. And how their daddy might move there to be closer to them and eventually get her back. The lies flowed out of her mouth with an ease that scared her.

Stepping off the train, Eve had looked around the terminal for their aunt but did not see a single, pleasant-looking middle-aged black woman in sight. But she did see a woman who looked old beyond her years wearing a long, loose-fitting black skirt with a long-sleeved white blouse that had every button buttoned. The woman's hair was worn in a tight bun and nondescript black flats completed the outfit. In her bones, she had known that woman was their Aunt Irma and their life had gone from bad to worse. She had said a quick prayer, picked up their suitcase and walked towards the woman.

The moonlight highlighted the tears running down her face. She had so wanted a better life for herself, but most especially for Liz and that wasn't to be here. Their aunt took one look at them and found them lacking. They were too worldly she had said and turned her back expecting them to follow her out of the train station.

As they took the long bus ride back to Aunt Irma's, Eve frantically searched her mind for anything she could remember her parents saying about Irma. She vaguely remembered talk about her aunt's husband dying in the war and her having a miscarriage upon hearing the news. If she remembered correctly, it was shortly after the double loss that Irma turned her life over to the church and bought herself a gold wedding band, saying God was her husband.

When they had arrived at the very plain and basic home, Eve could feel the coldness before they even stepped inside the house. Their aunt had led them into a bedroom that contained two twin beds, a desk, one bureau, and one dresser. The room was devoid of any pictures, as was the rest of the house. Well, minus the pictures of Jesus. Jesus on the cross. Jesus rising from the tomb. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Jesus walking on water. Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. Jesus at the last supper. Jesus surrounded by children. Jesus carrying his cross. She hadn't seen or known this many pictures existed of Jesus in all these different scenarios. As they had unpacked their clothes, every outfit Eve took out of the two suitcases was deemed un-Christian like. Eve and Liz didn't have that many clothes to begin with, but by the time Aunt Irma was finished, each girl was left with one long sleeve blouse. While Irma was going through the donated clothes her church family had given her to make a wardrobe for Liz, Eve had sense enough to hide the bottle of perfume her mother had left behind. Her aunt was a firm believer that possessions and beautification were of the devil. One only needed the bare minimum to survive. Anything else would separate you from God.

So here she lay on the rock hard mattress that her tired body still hadn't gotten used to, praying the future held something better for her and Liz. She was so tired of the rigorous routine. Every day began at 5AM for Bible reading and prayer. At 6AM, she was allowed exactly 15 minutes to bathe in the lukewarm water, hot water was a sinful luxury, and get dressed. Then she was off to her room to get it in pristine order before she went to the kitchen to eat plain oatmeal and have a glass of water with Liz. They ate in silence after a 15 minute grace. By the time her aunt was finishing praying, the unappetizing oatmeal was usually cold or on the verge of becoming cold. After breakfast had been eaten and the kitchen had been restored to its previous prestine appearance, she swept, dust mopped, and mopped the hardwood floors throughout the house, while Liz carefully dusted the numerous pictures of Jesus and the sparse furniture. Carpet, she had discovered was also a no-no.

By the time she and Liz finished their chores, it was time for the forty-five minute walk to school. The school bus passed them every day, but Aunt Irma said they couldnít take it. Why should they ride, she said, when they had two perfectly good feet and legs? There were people in the world with neither and so they walked. They walked in their ankle length skirts, long sleeve blouses, and their hair pulled back in a tight bun. Eve had always loved school, but she had never been more appreciative as she was when life with Aunt Irma kicked in.

School was now not just a place for her to learn, but it was an escape from her aunt's tirades on things that were sinful, evil, and of the devil.

She didn't even mind that the kids at school kept their distance because of the clothes she wore. She wouldn't be allowed to invite them over anyway. Aunt Irma wasn't going to allow neither her nor Liz to have any friends who were heathens. The only children their age they were allowed to talk to and associate with were the ones at the church. But they were so indoctrinated into this church's wacky teachings, they kept their distance. Once again, she and Liz were considered strange. She knew the lack of friends bothered Liz so she convinced her aunt that Liz should probably stay at least an hour after school to help the junior high kids who were struggling in English; Liz excelled in that subject. Their aunt was always on them and forcing them to help others so she couldn't say no to Liz helping the less fortunate. And Liz did help the younger kids, but she also got to hang out with the other eighth-grade tutors and finally make some friends.

While waiting for Liz so they could walk back home, Eve did her homework and fantasized about when she and Liz could be free of this madness. She was counting down the days until her eighteenth birthday. As soon as that day hit, she was out the door. She had a few dollars left over from the final things she pawned at home. She also was saving the money some of the parishioners gave her for doing chores for them. Every weekend, Aunt Irma had her and Liz volunteering to do chores or yard work at various church members' houses. Some worked them like slaves and didn't give a word of thanks. When Liz complained, Aunt Irma beat her so bad the girl couldn't sit down properly for the rest of the day. Their aunt was quick to tell them she was helping them store up heavenly treasures by letting them help others. Eve thought sarcastically, how kind of her. But a few members who thought Irma was a little off, secretly slipped Eve and Liz a few dollars. She would never forget those people.

As she heard the creaking of the floor boards, she knew it was time to get up and go to devotionals. They only had five minutes to be on their knees on the cold, hard floor before their aunt came in and whipped their bare butts. It had happened on more than one occasion. Refusing to cry, Eve kept reminding herself it would all be over soon. Soon she would be graduating, soon she would be eighteen, and soon she would be free of this madness. Now the question
was how to save Liz too?

Sometimes she wished her aunt would beat them constantly, give them black eyes, deprive them of food until they were nearly at death's door, even if these options would be better than the lack of love and warmth they were missing out on. Their father may have been a drunk, but neither she nor Liz ever doubted for a second that he loved them.

Waking Liz up, pushing her out of bed and towards the living room, Eve vowed that her kids would never have a life like this.

yhh
8.14.07, 10:49 AM
Eve marked off another day on her school-made calendar. Another week and it was over. She sighed. Another week and she would be an official high school graduate. And in another week-and-a-half, she would be a legal adult. Eighteen! It seemed like it took the big one-eight forever to come, but it was finally upon her and she was more than ready for it. She had put in her two years in hell and soon she would be free.

Hearing the warning bell, the brunette slammed her locker shut and rushed off to class. As she slid past her teacher, she took her usual seat in the back. Thank goodness this was study hall. If it wasn't for this class, she wouldn't know when she would have had the time to formulate her plan. Aunt Irma never gave her a moment to herself. The older woman truly took the phrase to heart "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." The second she and Lizzy walked through the door, Aunt Irma kept them busy. The only alone time they had was in the restroom. And if they stayed in there too long, she was questioning why they were in there so long.

But the straw that broke the camel's back happened just last week. After helping two elderly ladies from her aunt's church get their flower beds in order, she had taken her muddy, dirty, sweaty self to her aunt's house.

She never referred to Irma Johnson's house as her own. And she never, never referred to it as a home because it was far from that. A home existed only if there was love inside and the only love inside of the Johnson home was the love she and Lizzy had for each other. Eve quickly stopped herself before she became upset over all the things her aunt's house wasn't. Praising God that her aunt wasn't home, she had jumped in the shower to cleanse herself and enjoy a few minutes of solitude. And like she always did when she was trying to relax, she started singing.

"You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative," she sang. Oh, how her mother had loved that song, particularly when she had been feeling sad or low. Whenever the teen sang the song, she could easily picture her mother cooking dinner, dusting the furniture, ironing in front of the living room window, singing this song.

But unfortunately for Eve, the moment she had begun to sing her aunt walked into the bathroom to see which of her nieces was showering at a non-showering time.
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Irma Johnson had had enough. She had tried to teach these heathen children what was right in God's sight, but it seemed like she had made such little progress. She had known it was going to be an uphill battle since they had received no church training. She hadn't counted the sinful church with a drummer as a real church. That place had just been the devil's playground to corrupt the heathens even more than they were already confused.

But she was done playing Mrs. Nice Woman. She had quickly left the bathroom and returned seconds later. She had yanked open the shower curtain, dragged a dripping wet Eve Johnson out of the shower, and laid her across her lap. Then she had gone to work with her belt on Eve's bare bottom. She was going to beat the devil out of the girl if it was the last thing she did.
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Eve had worked overtime not to cry as the leather belt slapped down on her. The water gave the licks an extra sting. She had known tears and a confession of wrongdoing would have ended the punishment quicker, but she wouldn't do it. She wouldn't give her aunt the satisfaction. So instead, the teen had gone to her happy place. The place she had created shortly after her mother had left. The place where she was a happily married woman with a husband who loved her completely and senselessly and they were raising two beautiful girls. Her fantasy family always had two girls in it. She wanted a chance to give these girls the chances and lives she and Liz had missed out on. Her fantasy family helped her through the rough times. She would one day make that family a reality.

After what seemed like endless years, her aunt had finally stopped beating her. Then the lecture had begun, followed by the reading of the Bible, and concluded with prayer for repentance for Eve's wicked soul. It was a few days before the high school senior could sit down without gently
lowering herself. It was a good thing that she knew her
aunt's supposed god wasn't the real deal or she would have turned into a Satanist in a hot second. She didn't wish ill-will on Irma Johnson, but she knew one day the old woman would have to pay for what she had done to her and Liz.

Liz. Liz. Liz. Elizabeth Johnson had been on her mind a lot since the singing/beating incident. She had to leave, but she knew she couldn't take Liz. She wished that wasn't true, but it was. She would be a legal adult. She could blend in with the crowds. She could get lost in the masses, if necessary. But she couldn't do any of that with a fourteen-year-old girl attached to her side. Eve got sick at the very thought of leaving her sister in this hell hole. But she didn't know what else she could do, except pray for the best for Liz. She had already planned to save money for the day Liz turned eighteen so she could send for her.

Taking her emotions out of the picture, Eve tried to look at the situation logically. She hated to admit it, but her sister was good at conning people. She was still unsure as to where Lizzy picked that up. Liz could play their aunt like a fine-tuned piano when she wanted to. Just like the younger girl used to do to their daddy. Their mom had been hip to Liz's tricks. Maybe if Liz could keep up the act, her little sister would be safe until she could come back for her. She laughed bitterly in her mind. Keep the act up for four years? She didn't know if her sister or anyone could do that. And if they could, what would they be like mentally, emotionally, psychologically, after pretending for so long? She didn't want that for her sister. She really didn't, but she didn't know what other options she had. She had considered going back to their hometown and seeing if one of their neighbors would take Liz in, but she hadn't talked to anyone from there since they had been forced to leave.

She couldn't write to anyone because she had no where for the letters to go if anyone wrote back. A few teachers had reached out to her but after the social worker incident at their last school; she was leery so she had wisely stayed clear of them. Besides the school secretary was on the usher board with her aunt so that would have been a recipe for disaster.

No, the sad truth was Liz was going to have to stay with Irma. There was no way around it. She hated that. But that wasn't nearly as bad as the fact that she wouldn't be able to tell Liz that she was leaving. She loved her little sister to death, but that little girl couldn't keep a secret to save her life. Eve wished she could tell Liz, but instead she had decided to err on the side of caution and not say anything.

She had slowly been collecting normal clothes from the Salvation Army when her aunt had sent her to make donations. Lucky for her, her school was between her aunt's house and the Salvation Army. Her trust locker held the clothes she would be taking with her next week. She had only purchased a few key pieces that she could mix and match. She had read about that once in one of her mother's fashion magazines.

For some reason, Eve Johnson had chosen Boston for her new home. She wasn't sure why, but something about the city called out to her. At the public library, she had copied all the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the jazz clubs or supper clubs from the Boston Yellow Pages. She knew some of the places might not be looking for a young songstress, but at least she had a starting place.

Many nights, she wondered what made her decide to pursue singing. She had always loved singing and since she was going for broke by moving away far from family, or rather far from Liz, she might as well go for broke. Maybe it was a silly kid dream to imagine she could become a famous singer. Or even just someone who got paid to perform in front of others. Well even if it was a childhood dream, she was still going to pursue it. Of course her practical mind wasn't going to allow her to put all her eggs in one basket.

In the mornings, she would apply for office jobs. Thanks to her typing class and women in the work force jobs, she was able to type 70wpm, take dictation, and write in shorthand. Her teacher had told her any employer would be happy to have her. From Mrs. Boxes' lips to her future employer's ear. In the afternoons when the clubs had opened up, she would try to meet with the managers and try to audition. In a truly perfect world, she would work as a secretary during the day and sing at night. That way she could have two paychecks coming in and maybe Liz could come live with her that much faster.

Eve felt better than she had in a while. She was almost free of Irma Johnson's house and clutches. Away from the supposed Christians at that sparsely populated church that saw what the good sister was doing to her nieces, yet didn't intervene in any way. She didn't need them. That's what she told herself. She and Liz would live through this and be stronger for it. The few times that she and Liz discussed all that had happened to them, she had been frightened by the anger and hatred in Liz's voice when it came to their parents. She too was upset by what seemed like Warren and Ruby's abandonment, but she kept in mind she didn't know the full story. She didn't know what drove her parents apart. What had that final argument been about? She didn't want to blow off Liz's feelings, but she was sure some of her sister's thoughts came from her being so young. Liz was a baby thrust into the middle of grown folks' business. She hoped that somewhere inside of Liz, a youthful hope still existed and could survive all that the young teen was about to endure and had endured thus far.

Her escape was planned down to the "t." Since Aunt Irma didn't believe in self-congratulations a la graduations, Eve wouldn't be participating. She had looked forward to the day she graduated with glee before- - before her mother left and they were taken from her father. But now in this strange city, new school filled with unknown people, she was perfectly happy not attending. Instead the day after, she would be helping clean the football field of graduation debris and the school from its year of usage. Mrs. Sims, the school secretary, had provided her with the perfect escape route.

After the school was cleaned, Mrs. Sims sent one trusted student on the two hour bus ride to the main library to donate all the books collected out of lockers and throughout the school. She had been chosen to be the one to drop off the books. And much to her delight, she had discovered that the Greyhound Bus Station was two blocks away from the library. And even better, based on her estimated time of arrival and book deposit, there would be five buses leaving the station within twenty minutes of her
arrival at the bus terminal. Buses going in all different directions. A little something to throw her aunt off the scent in case she decided to look for her, which she highly doubted. But just in case, she thought better to be safe than sorry.

Mrs. Sims had also invited her to work the overnight shift with the school janitors as they washed walls throughout the school and painted the rooms that really needed it. She immediately agreed. This would give her a good eighteen hour head start before anyone noticed she was missing. She was leaving behind all of those horrible clothes her aunt had bought for her so there would be no sign there that she was gone. In fact, the only things she was taken from that house were: the pictures she had hidden of her family; the last few hundred she had left of her mother's hidden stash; and her mother's wedding ring which she had found buried in the garden at their house.

She sighed; she was taking three items from a house she had lived in for two years and they were all items she had arrived with. Sometimes she had nightmares that her plan would somehow fall apart. But she knew that was just fear talking. Everything would work out. Everything had to work out. Because if she stayed here any longer she would surely die.