Chapter 1 Lucy Learns She Has a Home.
Lucy hadn’t slept decently for almost two weeks, not since Mrs. Celia, who oversaw the orphanage where she lived, told her that her birth family had been located and she had a living brother and a grandfather.
Her parents had died, but her real live brother and grandfather were looking for her.
Now, her suitcase, filled with her newest clothes, stood by her door, and her beautiful smoky blue suit hung on a peg ready for her to wear in the morning. She’d bought new shoes, cute bluish-grey pumps with a little strap to wear for the occasion of meeting her birth family.
Aunt Gwen had glanced at the cute pumps and good suit and pushed Lucy’s bangs out of her eyes. “Maybe you better wear walking shoes and casual clothes. Your family doesn’t live near any towns or villages.”
Lucy ignored Aunt Gwen. She wanted to look her very best for her real family.
Papa Jake, the president of the country sat down beside her in the Compound library where she did her homework. “I’m familiar with that area somewhat. You best wear sandals for the trip to the border. Native peoples in Mesa and Montsea provinces wear sandals.”
Alone in her room, Lucy stroked her cute pumps. They did have a strap on them like sandals. Lucy turned the shoes over in her hands, remembering how other children at school wouldn’t play with her before Mrs. Celia came and moved her orphan family into The Compound and gave them pretty new clothes. The first thing she learned in school was that children who aren’t pretty and don’t have pretty clothes aren’t liked. She lifted the shoe to her nose and sniffed the new leather smell, believing there was a greater chance her family would love and respect her if she looked beautiful and stylish. A tear ran down her cheek as the fear of rejection broke out of the prison in her brain where she kept her most horrific memories. Her family had thrown her away before. Her stomach knotted with the desire to be loved and accepted now.
At dinner, Mrs. Celia seemed to understand Lucy’s fears that her birth family wouldn’t love her and hugged her saying, “Wear whatever gives you confidence. Pack your comfortable clothes where they’ll be handy when you need them.”
Lucy had long imagined her mother would have been just like Mrs. Celia, who seemed to understand a girl’s heart and loved everybody, even children who sometimes misbehaved or didn’t do their schoolwork. She’d never known her mother and felt just a little bit thankful there wasn’t a mother somewhere to compete in her heart with Mrs. Celia.
Lucy knelt at the communion rail after Compline. She lit a candle, placing it carefully in a holder. “Father in Heaven, thank you for my brother Curtis. Forgive me for feeling thankful my parents had not thrown me away and forgive me for all the years I feared they had. I wish they’d lived, but I’m thankful they hadn’t just…” Tears slid down her face. She fished in her pocket for a tissue to blow her nose. “I don’t mean to be sinful, and I’m really thankful I have a grandpapa and a brother.” She looked up when she felt someone beside her.
Papa Jake knelt beside her at the rail. He wiped at her tears with his handkerchief, then turned and sat on the kneeling rail beside her. “Now, tell me what has you so upset.“
“Am I bad for feeling thankful when my parents are dead?” Lucy sniffed and blew her nose on the handkerchief Papa had given her.
He patted her shoulder. “No. No, you’re not wrong. It’s a good thing to be thankful your parents loved you. It’s good to be thankful that you know the history of how you came to be placed in an orphanage.” He adjusted his weight on the narrow rail. “Your family must have been very poor. Some of our mountain communities are poorer than anything you’ve seen in the city. Your Grandpapa wouldn’t have had anybody to take care of you while he worked long hours. He may not have had food for a baby.” Jake looked up into the dark reaches of the cathedral dome. “In my travels, I’ve met people who have little more than a hut, who live off lichens, roots and whatever small animals they can find. When you visit your brother and grandpapa, you’ll see such poverty. I don’t want you to be discouraged or shocked. The poverty is one reason I want all our people to adopt a modern lifestyle.”
Lucy nodded and sniffed, but Papa Jake’s admonitions about poverty flew over her head as her overactive imagination conjured an image of her grandfather in faded and tattered clothes standing at the door to small one-room cabin holding out his arms to his returning granddaughter. The words to describe her relief at being assured her parents had loved her do not exist outside the human heart.
After two weeks of worry, tears, thanksgiving, and fear, Lucy boarded the first morning train to Mesa City. She managed to sleep a little once the train left the station. She was accustomed to traveling with Mrs. Celia to visit the other orphanages, so she confidently wheeled her suitcase to the platform for the train north. She sniffed the spicy scent of meats and sweet treats prepared by vendors in stalls beside the station. Her stomach growled asking for food. Her throat constricted. She glanced again at the stall selling fried bread with honey and cinnamon on it. She sat on a bench. I’ll get fish and bean cakes on the train.
After breakfast, she sat looking out the window without seeing the fields and rivers flying past her window. What will Grandpapa be like? The letter from the nuns said it’s my brother who’s looking for me. Will Grandpapa be angry that I’m visiting? What will we eat? Do they eat lichens like Papa Jake said? Surely they must have some sort of hut. Will my brother hug me? Do they speak the common language? What if they speak a dialect I don’t know? She got up visited the restroom for the dozenth time.
A voice on the intercom interrupted her fantasy in which her brother, a big mountain man like her adoptive brother, U’Kee, handed her a bouquet of wildflowers and said, “You look just like I remember Mama.”
Tears slid down Lucy’s cheeks as the conductor’s voice echoed through the car. “Three-rivers station. Arriving at three-rivers. This is the end of the line. Check that you have all your packages and luggage before you get off the train. Thank you for traveling with Rouseff Rail Services.”