Episode 1: “Beginnings, middles and ends”

Created & written by Marrton Dormish

Powers: The Serial is a fictional series based on true stories. With the exception of recognized personalities, locations and institutions from the past and present, all characters and places depicted in this series are fictional.

It wasn’t until after Nathan Patrick knocked on the condominium door that he wanted to run.

On the long hike from his rented condo, through the blizzard blanketing Breckenridge, Colo., he had convinced himself that going to Michael Airdrie’s New Year’s Eve party would be no big deal. Since none of his own friends were able to join him on short notice, he didn’t have any better options for the third night of his forced vacation. Still, the second his knuckles rapped the door, his indifference froze like the icicles he’d seen lining the eaves of the condo’s lobby.

What am I doing here?

He glanced at the elevator at the end of the hall, but then the door opened, U2’s Vertigo and the hum of conversation spilled into the hallway, and his arch-nemesis appeared.

“Hey…Nate! I wasn’t sure you’d be able to find the place in this weather,” Michael said. “Man, your eyebrows are frozen! Come in and sit by the fire.”

“Thanks,” Nate said, peeling off his coat. “If I can find a shack in the slums of Nairobi, I better be able to find your condo in a snow storm.”

“Right, I guess you journalists have a built-in GPS or something,” Michael said, taking Nathan’s coat and whipping it onto a hangar. “Find a spot by the fire and thaw those eyebrows.”

“Here’s a spot for you,” called a woman with a glass of dark wine in her hand. She pointed to the empty space on the ledge of the fireplace with her free hand, then extended it. “I’m Avery. Cohen-Tate. With a hyphen.”

They shook hands.

“Sorry my hands are frozen…I’m Nathan Patrick. No hyphen. Call me Nate…Any chance we can turn the fire up a little?”

Avery grinned, swiveling to twist the knob on the gas fireplace. She smells like springtime, Nate thought. “So…Avery, do you know Michael from his hush-hush government job?”

“No, we actually met tonight through my friend.” She gestured vaguely toward a clump of three women listening raptly to Michael as he detailed his selection of wine and wine coolers. “How do you know him?”

“Umm. We went to high school together,” Nathan said, wishing he hadn’t mentioned Michael.

“Oh, so you’ve been friends for what…10 or 15 years?” Avery asked.

“Uh…not really. I actually ran into him yesterday on a ski lift.”

Nathan had recognized Michael right away, but since they were one person apart on a four-person lift he had hoped he could make it to the top of the mountain un-noticed. No such luck.

“Ahh…so you weren’t friends in high school,” Avery divined. “Don’t worry, you don’t have to tell me about it…I can guess! And you can just say yes or no, okay?”

“Weeell…” Nathan winced in exaggerated pain. “I don’t like to relive the past.”

Avery pouted. “C’mon, it’ll be fun.”

“Only if I get to ask you ‘twenty questions,’ too.”

She brightened. “Okay! Let’s see—”

“Hey now, Nate, don’t hog the fire,” interrupted Michael. “Why don’t you go get yourself a drink?”

Suddenly, Nathan found himself standing with an empty wine glass in his hand. Then the door buzzed.

“Wonder who that could be,” Michael said. “Everybody I invited is here already. Help me welcome our mystery guest, Avery.”

Michael pulled her up, led her to the condo’s front door and opened it with a flourish. Nathan couldn’t see who was at the door because Michael blocked his view, but he listened carefully, hoping for a way to regain Avery’s attention.

“Oh! I’m so sorry, we must have the wrong condo,” said a musical voice. “…This is unit 310, right?”


“Really?” Nathan heard whispering. “We’re looking for 310, but…you aren’t our friends!”

Michael replied, “Well, we could be your friends.”

Nathan heard self-conscious laughing. “So, this is…,” the voice paused. He pictured a young woman, competent and pretty, consulting a scrap of paper. “Um…105 Pines, Mountain River Lodge?”

That’s my condo! Nathan thought. I wonder what unit they’re in.

“Ah, that’s where you have it wrong,” Michael said. “This is Riverbend Lodge, 105 Pine. No ‘s.’ You sure you have the full address? There’s a Tall Pines on the other side of town.”

“Can we walk there from here? We made it over Loveland Pass—”

“Barely,” said another female voice.

“—But I think we just got stuck when we parked.”

Michael weighed in. “You could walk. If it weren’t a blizzard outside, and if you had warm jackets. Probably not a good idea.”

Nathan heard whispers.

“Yeah, our cell phones aren’t working…”

“Do you have a landline for your friend’s condo?” Avery asked, moving closer to the door.

“No, but the name of the place is called Mountain River Lodge,” said the voice. “Do you have a landline and a phone book or something?”

“I think so. Come on in! I’m Michael, by the way.”

Two attractive young women with stylish leather jackets, jeans and sheepskin-lined boots walked in. They’re definitely not dressed for the weather, Nathan thought.

“I’m Courtney, and this is Natalie,” said the owner of the pretty voice. “We’re so sorry to interrupt your party! Our friend is throwing one at 105 Pines, or, I guess, 105 Tall Pines.”

Nathan chimed in, “Where’s your phone book Michael?”

“Would you mind poking around for it, Nate, thanks,” Michael called over his shoulder. “Why don’t you ladies make yourselves at home while you’re here?

“But we don’t want to intrude!” Courtney protested.

“The more, the merrier!”

Avery offered to take their jackets. And with that, he lures two more into his web, Nathan thought.

To the chagrin of the invited female guests, with the possible exception of Avery, the host led the newcomers to his makeshift bar. Nathan finally found a local phone book tucked in a dark corner of the cabinet above the stove. “Didn’t know they made these things anymore,” he said with a smile, as he thumbed through the white page listings. “There,” he marked the number of the Mountain River Lodge with his finger, and offered the phone book to Courtney. “Try and enter the apartment number after you connect.”

Their friend was relieved to hear they were safe, but suggested they stay put until she could send someone with four-wheel drive to pick them up. Before long, the uninvited guests had made themselves at home. The music got louder, bottles emptied, and the clock ticked closer to midnight.

When the doorbell chimed yet again, Nathan answered the door. Before he could react, a big guy reeking of booze staggered inside, frantic for a bathroom.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” said the man loudly from inside the bathroom.

“Nice job, Nate,” Michael said sarcastically. “If he barfs everywhere, you’re cleaning it up.”

Yeah, right, Nathan thought. Please throw up. Please throw up!

When the stranger emerged, he demanded to use the phone, which he held upside down. Then he proceeded to stumble around asking all the women to dance. Finally, Michael dumped the man into the hallway and slammed the door to mock applause from his guests.

Michael managed to steal a more-than-friendly kiss from Courtney before it was even midnight. Avery, on the other hand, carefully guarded her personal space, but after the snow stopped in the early hours of 2011, she gave Nathan her business card and agreed to meet him for coffee the following week when they were both in Denver.

In a nearby hotel room, the “drunk” man removed his wig, adjusted his earpiece, and threw his booze-soaked clothes in the trash. Then he placed a call from his room.

“Cronus here.”

“It’s Booth.”

“Booth? Why are you calling from this number?”

“Relax. My cell won’t get a signal.”

“Well? What happened?”

“The girl got lost and ended up knocking on the wrong door.”

“And? Did she run into the journalist?”


“I thought you were clear on the fact that I didn’t want that to happen.”

“I was, and everything was under control, but she must have gotten an incomplete address to her friend’s condo, because they showed up somewhere else. And they got stuck in the snow. No four-wheel drive.”

“I don’t care about their car! And? What happened?”

“She ended up at the worst possible place.”


“By that you mean…?”

“She ended up at Michael Airdrie’s condo.”

“What? I can’t believe this!”

“Listen, it’s New Year’s Eve. She’s not going to have any deep conversations about her work. There’s a lot of wine at that party. Anyway, I’m monitoring their conversations, just in case. Wanna hear?”

“No. What I want is for this not to become a problem, Booth.”

“I’ll keep listening.”

“You do that.”

The line went dead.

Ezekiel Thomas looked over his reading glasses at the glowing computer screen on his prized red oak roll-top desk. His forefingers hovered back and forth over the keyboard like hungry birds of prey. He stared at the thin, black cursor at the end of the email he had painstakingly typed. The cursor blinked at him, had been blinking at him for an hour, silent witness to his indecision.

For the dozenth time, his eyes strayed to the beginning of his message.

Please don’t erase this before you read it.

No doubt you know from the email address who this is.

My letters have all been returned unopened so I thought I’d try to reach you this way.

I know you hate me, but there are things that need to be said. Secrets you need to hear. They were meant for you. There’s no one else to hear them.

I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be around, but I’d like to see you before the end. I know you’re not exactly free to come and go as you please, but I will reimburse your expenses if you do come.

I will not write you another message. If you don’t respond, I will know you no longer have a place for me in your heart.

Ezekiel rubbed his eyes with his forefingers. He took a deep breath. Then he opened one eye, one of his forefingers swooped, and he clicked “Send.”

Through her bloodshot and watering eyes, Addis Tola gathered the money she had earned.

“We found a good spot on the street today,” she rasped to the elderly woman and young boy on either side of her. “Not too close, but not too far from the big church.”

Addis’s bell-like voice, which had rung out so many times during village festivals back home, had long since broken. The white sores scoring her mouth made it painful for her even to speak above a whisper.

She counted her money slowly, her back leaning against the low stone wall where she had stationed herself since first light. One, two, three, four, five, 15—bless that elder who clucked his tongue and gave me 10 birr—and 10, 20, 25, 50, 51 santim.

That was all the money Addis had to her name—15 birr and 51 santim, plus the 36 birr she had carefully saved from when she had last been able to work three months earlier.

A good day, Addis mused.

She stood carefully, her insides burning.

“Until tomorrow,” said her neighbors.

“Tomorrow,” agreed Addis.

She turned and trudged toward the deep, abandoned quarry where Ayana and Amare waited. Every dozen paces or so, she doubled over coughing.

Only seven more days until the seventh of January—until Christmas day, she reminded herself. If I can only manage a Christmas meal, I will be content.

Self-consciously, Addis readjusted her thin head scarf to cover the angry red sores spotting her ears, neck and forehead. It took her longer than usual to approach the quarry. Her legs simply defied her urgency.

Finally, gasping for breath, she stood at the quarry’s rim. Ayala and Amare saw her immediately, silhouetted by the setting sun.

“Mami! Mami!” they cried. Ayala scrambled up first, just like always, their small water bucket in her tiny hand. “Mami, you look like a star standing there!”

Addis smiled thinly. “Ah-ay! You are my star, little Flower,” she said, placing a clammy hand on Ayala’s matted hair. “You are my six-year-old star!”

Amare puffed up just then, arms pumping, belly bouncing beneath his torn red T-shirt. He wrapped his arms around Addis’s legs and started to wail. “Don’t cry, my Handsome One,” Addis said, bending to lift him up, only she couldn’t. Fighting her own tears, she sat down at the edge of the abandoned quarry and pulled Amare onto her lap.

“I took care of Amare, just like you asked, Mami,” said Ayala earnestly as she picked at the white lesions below her eye. “He only dirtied himself twice today because he couldn’t make it to the ditch. But I helped clean him up.”

“Thank you, little Flower. I am so proud of you!” Addis whispered with pride. “And I have brought enough so we can eat today. Where is young Dahnay to run and get something for us?”

“Here I am,” said a stringy youth with dark, deep-set eyes.

“Selam, Dahnay. Ten birr today,” Addis said, handing over the bills. “Please get as much as you can.”

Dahnay vanished into the lengthening shadows.

“Tell us what you saw today, Mami,” Ayala pleaded. Amare looked up at her, his gaunt face streaked with tears. So Addis narrated her day, transforming the passersby who mostly ignored her into princes and princesses, and the church into a vast palace with room for everyone.

It wasn’t long before Dahnay returned with several spongy cakes of injera bread and their little bucket full of cloudy water. “Thank you, Dahnay,” Addis said, handing him 50 santim. He disappeared into the quarry.

Addis and her kids shared sips of the tiny water bucket in between bites of injera, until the last drop and crumb were gone. Then they visited the ditch, giggling when they played “Pinch-Your-Nose.” As the sun set, they made their way down into the quarry. They passed neighbors huddled beneath makeshift shelters, and soon, they reached their own. Addis removed her scarf, and they crawled between their pile of patched and worn blankets.

Someone’s baby started crying nearby, then another’s. Before long, Amare started sniffling, but Addis pulled him close, and, snuggling next to Ayala, she whispered them to sleep, “Eshiruru, esururu, baby-ee, eshiruru, esururu…”

Ezekiel was regretting he’d written such a dramatic e-mail, let alone sent it unsigned, when he heard a light knock at his door.

“Who in the world…at this hour?” he muttered to himself, frowning.

When he opened the door, though, he couldn’t help but grin. “Well, now, child—”

“Happy New Year, Mr. Thomas!” said a young woman in a party hat who took a deep breath and blew on a pink kazoo. “You didn’t come to the party so I thought I would come to your room to give you your new year’s kiss!”

“Well, now—”

She stepped inside, wrapped him in a big hug and pecked him on the cheek. “It’s so dark in here! What are you doing, having a séance? Can I turn on the light?” She glanced at him and when he didn’t object, she flipped the switch. “That’s better! I was so disappointed when I didn’t see you at the party, Mr. Thomas, when you told me you would be there, and—”

“I said I might come, Lora Jean, but—”

“And I thought, I can’t let Mr. Thomas be alone on New Year’s Eve, I just can’t let him usher in 2011 holed up in that room of his, brooding, because I wouldn’t be doing my job, and besides I was getting bored listening to Mr. Collins tell me about his baseball card collection for like the thousandth time. I mean, I like baseball as much as the next girl, which means I could take it or leave it, but after like an hour of ‘Yankees this’ and ‘Yankees that,’ I couldn’t take it any more and I thought, ‘I need to escape’ and—”

“And here you are,” Ezekiel said with a chuckle.

“Here I am! I mean—wait, I thought I asked you to call me ‘LJ’ instead of ‘Lora Jean,’ because ‘Lora Jean’ is so old sounding, so Gone with the Wind, even though I’ve never seen that movie, but I’ve heard all about its swooning females, and I’m just not that kind of girl. I mean, even though I’m just a junior in high school, I like to have stimulating conversations about things that really matter, and I love Mr. Collins, but I have to draw the line somewhere, and besides, you and I have known each other now for what, three months?”

“A’right then, I’ll call you LJ, if you call me Zeke. I feel bad enough as it is. You calling me by my grandpa’s name makes me feel as ol’ as Methuselah!”

“Deal, Mr. Thomas! I mean Zeke.” They laughed.

“You know, LJ, you are just like a warm breeze sweeping right through this old man’s cold heart! Have a seat and we’ll talk a spell.”

Ezekiel shuffled over to the only guest chair in his room, a grey plastic patio chair. He hands shook as he held it for her while she sat. “Thank you, Zeke! You are such a gentleman. I’m not such a modern girl that I don’t like a little attention from a handsome man now and then.”

“Oh, you go on, chil’” Ezekiel smiled, as he creaked into the rolling chair in front of his desk.

“So what were you doing before I came to celebrate?”

“Oh, I was just counting my blessings to be a part of the Park Hill Retirement Community.”

“Really? Are you being serious or sarcastic?”

“You tell me, LJ.”

“You don’t like it here?” LJ asked, her voice lowered.

“Oh, it’s…nice enough.”

“Right. That sounds like a nice way of saying, ‘This place stinks.’ Even though you’ve lived here in Denver for most of your life, I know PHRC isn’t home yet. I’m sure it’s been a hard adjustment for you, Zeke, but hey, you get to see me four nights a week, don’t you? Aren’t I worth a smile or two?”

“Honey, you are worth a heap more than that,” Ezekiel said. “You are about the only thing that’s kept me sane these last few months.”

“Aww,” LJ said, pleased. “Zeke, I don’t even think you liked me at first…I guess I’m hard to be around for some people, ‘cause I talk so much. I guess I come on a little too strong sometimes.”

“It did take a while to figur’ out if you were for real,” Ezekiel said.

“And? What’s your verdict?” LJ probed, leaning forward.

Ezekiel frowned and rubbed his chin. “I guess you’ll do,” he said, but when he saw LJ’s forehead wrinkle, he laughed from deep in his belly.

LJ smiled in relief. “So, how should we celebrate the new year? Want to play checkers or play cards or watch a movie ? Oh, wait, no! I want a rematch at chess! My shift doesn’t end until 2, so you had better get your game on! Or—” She hesitated. “Or, would you rather be alone?”

“Well…I guess I could use the company. Can’t sleep anyway,” Zeke said, rubbing his chin. “I got it! I’ll tell you ‘bout the baseball card collection I started when I was just six years old!”

Erika Jones carefully guided the silver Toyota Highlander onto the Colfax exit ramp, but apparently not smoothly enough for her husband, Howie.

“Whoa! Stop swerving! It’s blizzarding in case you hadn’t noticed, Ju-lie, and I’d rather not wreck. Just got this 4×4 last month, y’know.” Ever since he’d had a few too many drinks at Cronus Corporation’s New Year’s Eve party, Howie had been in attack mode.

“I know, hon. I’m not swerving, just avoiding.” Erika said calmly, squinting to make out where the white dotted line for her lane was. I’m glad he doesn’t drink very often, she thought. He’d be a nasty drunk.

In her best counselor’s voice, Erika asked, “Is there something you’d like to talk about before we pick up LJ from work? This was your idea, you know, picking her up instead of having her drive home by herself.”

“No, I don’t want to talk,” grumped Howie, as they coasted to a stop. “I don’t feel like being analyzed. I just want to make sure my daughter is safely home and then sleep until next year.” Howie chuckled at his own cleverness.

Suddenly, Erika jumped, when a man wearing a tattered blue Denver Broncos hoodie materialized out of the snow. He stood next to the stoplight with his arms at his sides. Leaning against his leg was an upside-down sign that read, “ANYthing HElpS.”

“What the—? Where did he come from?” said Howie.

“I wonder what he’s doing out here so late?” Erika wondered. “He must be freezing!”

“Waiting to hijack someone’s new car, probably. Lock the doors.” Howie fumbled for the lock button.

Erika ignored him. She whizzed down the driver’s window. “Are you okay, sir? Isn’t it a little late to be, um…” Erika shivered as cold air invaded the Highlander.

The man peered into the van, his eyes vacant. “Yeah. I’m not ‘flashing a sign’ though,” he said through chapped lips. “I’m…hitching…I need a ride…Been here a while…You’re the only one who’s looked at me.”

“Erika!” hissed Howie, tugging on her sleeve and blasting the heater. “Roll up the window!”

Erika shrugged off Howie’s hand, “He might freeze to death out there!” To the stranger, she said, “Where are you trying to get?”

“Shelter. An overflow shelter, I mean.”

“Okay…where is it?”

“Um…Ah…I can’t remember.” The man looked around as if unsure where he was. He rested his hand on the open window. “I’m not—”

“That’s it!” Howie interrupted. “We’re going, Erika. NOW!”

He tried to grab the steering wheel, but Erika pushed his hand away. “Okay, okay…I’m sorry, sir, we’re on our way to pick up our daughter, and—”

“He doesn’t need to know that!” Howie yelled. The man removed his hand from the window and stepped back.

“Sorry,” Erika said again to the stranger. She merged onto Colfax, and raised her window. The stranger receded into the swirling snow in her rearview mirror.

“Sometimes you are such a jerk, Howie.”

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

With evening prayer complete, Sister Rosa Avana Paredes briefly faced the altar, touching one knee to the cold stone floor. She crossed herself and kissed her right thumb, then joined eight of her sisters as they filed out of the chapel. They made their way across the inner courtyard, through their convent’s receiving room and out the side gate to the adjoining two-story compound that housed the 72 orphans under their care.

“Deep breath, everyone,” said Sister Abigail, Rosa’s favorite fully professed nun. The sisters bent their heads together and giggled.

Thanks to the usual diligence of their lay sisters, the children were already seated at the nine long makeshift tables where they ate their meals. Rosa took her usual place at 15-year-old Ignacio’s table, as her sisters interspersed themselves among the other children. “Let us pray,” led Sister Abigail. “Our Father, who art in heaven…” Eighty voices joined hers, and after “Amen,” 80 hands mirrored the sign of the cross. Then the hum of laughter and conversation began.

“So, Nacho, have you kept all these rascals in line on this first day of the new year?”

“Sí, Hermana Rosa,” Nacho replied. “Yes, Sister Rosa…but only barely.”

Rosa poked at the waistlines of the giggling little ones next to her, “Ay, no, these are the nicest and best children in all Ciudad Juarez. Surely, they behaved like angels today.”

Ignacio scowled, mussing the hair of the adoring four-year-old next to him. None of the children cared about the puckered, diagonal scar on his left cheek, though prospective parents had always looked at him differently once they saw his profile.

“I’m not sure they’re angels, Hermana…but I guess they’re not so bad.”

Rosa smiled at Ignacio. In the two-and-a-half years of her juniorado, or trial sisterhood, at the Juarez, Mexico, convent and orphanage of the Sisters of Charity and Mercy, she had grown especially attached to Ignacio. His scar made him look sinister, but his gentle, caring spirit made him as valuable to the day-and-night operation of the orphanage as the lay sisters who helped cook, clean and care for the children. With a few exceptions, the orphans ranged in age from three-months-old to eight-years-old.

When Rosa first arrived at the convent after her two years as a novice near Mexico City, she had been eager to do more than pray and examine her conscience, but the reality of working with the little ones day after day after day while trying to maintain her own spiritual discipline quickly disabused her of her romantic notions of “active-life ministry.” Over time, she learned to endure having to say bittersweet goodbyes to children she had come to love as her own, and to face each day with renewed faith and hope, even when she might be the one to discover an abandoned newborn at the front gate, as she had once during her shift as gatekeeper.

The longer she stayed, the longer she lived the sisters’ rhythm of prayer, contemplation and service, the more genuine her calling to the convent seemed.

After a dinner full of teasing Ignacio and the little ones, she was getting ready to help gather up the bowls at her table, when Sister Abigail tapped her on the shoulder.

“Madre Sofia would like to see you in her office right away, Hermana Rosa.”

“Claro, gracias, Madre Abigail,” Rosa said, deferring to Sister Abigail’s higher rank. “Of course, thank you, Mother Abigail…Nacho, will you finish up here? I will try to join you upstairs to help tuck in the little ones.”

“Claro que sí, Hermana,” Ignacio said. “¡Venga, niños! Come on, kids! Dishes to the kitchen.”

Rosa walked briskly back through the side gate and receiving room and found the door to the small, unadorned office used by Mother Sofia already open.

“Dios te bendiga, mi hija,” said Mother Sofia. “God bless you, my daughter.” The convent’s highest ranking but shortest nun gave Rosa a warm hug. She gestured to the dark wooden chair in front of her used office desk, then dragged her own chair around next to Rosa’s.

“And God bless you, as well, Madre.” Rosa smoothed the front of her habit and then the back, before she sat, already feeling uncomfortable because of Mother Sofia’s informality.

“How are you, mi hija?”

“Well, Madre, very well.”

“I am glad to hear that. I have been pleased with your work. It is hard for me to believe you have been here for two-and-a-half years already.”

“De acuerdo, Madre…I agree, Mother…I can hardly believe it has been that long, but it has been a pleasure. Truly.”

Mother Sofia eyebrow’s raised. Her gnarled fingers caressed the large bronzed crucifix around her neck. “Really? Has it always been?”

Rosa looked at the floor. “Well…perhaps not always…but lately, I have felt so happy here, like our work here has confirmed my vocation. I feel más formada now, more formed spiritually, and able to serve.”

“I am glad to hear it, mi hija,” Mother Sofia said, dropping the crucifix to her chest. She leaned over and picked up a piece of printer paper from her desk. “My child, I have something very important to discuss with you. So important that I had to take you away from the children’s bedtime ritual that you enjoy so much.”

“Yes, Madre, what is it?”

“Before I tell you, I want to say that knowing your…past, I had my doubts about you when you first arrived. Like our two other junior sisters, you were in your early twenties, but unlike them, you had seen and done much in your life before arriving here.”

Rosa flushed in embarrassment, but Mother Sofia immediately held up her hand. “No, mi hija, I don’t say this to embarrass you or to make you feel less worthy than any of us who serve here. I say this only to prepare you…I worried that the pull of the life you had lived would prove too powerful for you to remain a part of our order, but I have been pleasantly surprised. So surprised in fact, that I look forward to this summer when you have the opportunity to renew your vows.”

“Gracias, Madre. I know I have not yet received my ring as you and the other professed sisters have, but I feel as if I am already the bride of Christ in my heart.”

“Sí, Hermana Rosa. I see that is so,” said Mother Sofia, her kind grey eyes tinged with sadness. “Which is why I have spoken with the Mother General at length, and why we have fasted for you since we received this.” She held up the paper in her hand.

Rosa’s heart skipped. What could be on that paper that would make her say such things?


“Mi hija, you know that we are living in dangerous times and in an especially dangerous place.” Mother Sofia’s voice trailed off, as if she couldn’t bear to recount the horrors of the last four years. “Thirty thousand dead in Mexico because of esos monstruos, those monsters, who run the drug cartels. So many dead in our own poor city. So many lives under siege.”

Rosa’s heart sank. “Sí, Madre. Horrible.”

Mother Sofia shook the paper at Rosa. “And now, it seems, God save us,” she crossed herself, “…that this evil is reaching out its hand to ensnare you, mi hija, and the rest of us, too.”

“But…how, Madre?”

“You know that at your encouragement and the encouragement of our other, younger sisters, I helped convince the Mother General, God bless her, that we needed to enter the 21st century by putting up a page on this Internet, ¿Sí?”

“Sí, Madre.”

“So that aspiring nuns and potential aspirants could get in touch with us more easily?”

“Sí, Madre.”

“Well, it turns out, they are not the only ones who want to get in touch with us. Or, to be more specific, with you.”

“Madre, I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean,” said Rosa, her eyes filling with tears. Images from her past flooded over her.

“Mother General and I talked long before we decided to tell you of this,” she shook the paper again. “I thought it might be better to simply burn it, or whatever you do with such things on this Internet. But she felt there might be some danger for you…and even for the rest of us…if we simply ignored it…You see, someone sent a message to us, via this Internet, and it arrived at the Mother House, which checks such things. Mother General quickly realized the message was meant for you.”

Mother Sofia offered the paper to Rosa.

“But what if I don’t want to know, Madre?” Rosa protested. “What if I don’t ever want to allow el mundo afuera, the outside world, to…pollute me again?”

“Nuestro Dueño y Señor, our Lord and Master, is Lord even over el mundo afuera, mi hija. You must read it.”

“But, Madre, I can’t,” pleaded Rosa.

“Need I remind you of your vow, Hermana?” asked Mother Sofia gently. “…Of obedience?”

“It is of my vows that I am thinking, Mother! Of obedience and poverty and chastity!”

“Mi hija, I know you must feel scared. But sometimes we have to face again that which we leave behind forever.” Mother Sofia took Rosa’s hand and placed the sheet of paper between her fingers. “Read it now or I will read it to you.”

“No, Madre…I…I will do it.” Rosa breathed a silent prayer. Such a thin, light piece of nothing, that it should threaten me so, Rosa thought.

She looked at the sheet of paper. When she saw who sent the message, her free hand involuntarily flew to her mouth.

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