Our Lady of Refuge Convent
The convent was nestled between two large mountains in the rolling hills
of Connecticut. It was a small convent, but it specialized in doing great
good. Some of the people who entered sought sanctuary; others, simply
a home away from a world that had become too complicated or frightening
to live in.
There was one wing of the convent devoted to those who came for quiet
prayer and reflection. But in that wing, there was also a plain room,
painted a stark white, which held a woman who was there for another reason.
She had come seeking sanctuary in its oldest sense, a place of safety
from which to hide from the world.
She sat, as though in a dream. Every day, in the same chair, facing the
same window, the red-haired woman just sat there. She was not a young
woman anymore, and her hair was tinged with gray. Her hands were restless,
moving as though seeking something shed lost. Her lips moved in
silent prayers. She liked to wear the same thing, a print dress. It was
the dress shed worn when shed last seen her son. When the
staff tried to take the dress away, she became agitated. It was as though
she feared that Jarod wouldnt recognize her if he didnt see
her looking the same as she did that day in Boston, when they had briefly
glimpsed each other. Eventually, her daughter had purchased duplicates
of the dress.
At first, she had been treated by physicians in nearby New York. Her
daughter would bring her in for the treatments. Many were tried; none
of them worked. Yet, her daughter refused to institutionalize her. Only
the mother superior knew why. An old acquaintance of her mother's, the
mother superior had been willing to give the woman a safe place to stay.
Young nuns, just entering training, found it helpful to work with this
woman. She needed to be reminded of the activities of daily living shed
turned her back on, but once reminded, she did take care of herself. Otherwise
she responded only to her daughter, and then only sporadically.
* * * * * * * * *
On the road to Salem, CT
If at first you dont succeed, Emily muttered to herself
as she drove along the highway. She so hoped that seeing the rest of her
family would help her mother. When getting so close to Jarod the last
time had caused Margaret's breakdown, Emily had panicked. Oh, sure, theyd
developed a contingency plan that got her mother to a safe spot. But Emily
wasnt sure she dared to let Margaret know she'd found the others.
As much as Emily believed her father would want to help, she couldnt
take the risk of overwhelming Margarets already slim defenses. Watching
her mother disintegrate emotionally had been terrifying.
Emily just wasnt sure she could survive it a second time.
* * * * * * * * *
Willow Glen, NH, 1985
The kitchen was small, and the table and chairs only made it more cramped.
The lighting was poor. Tiny rooms were an integral part of Emilys
childhood. It was as though her mother was afraid to have too many possessions,
lest they be taken from her.
Honey, you cant go out with him. You dont know who
he is, Margaret protested.
Mom, I do know him. Hes in my karate class. Hes a neighbor.
Get real, Emily retorted with the sarcasm only a teenager can manage.
But it could be dangerous, Margaret answered.
Sos crossing the street, Emily snapped. I need
I dont know what your father would say, Margaret protested.
No, you dont. Because I dont have one. And if I never
get a date Ill never have a chance to have a family of my own.
Emily flounced, making her skirts swirl. It was the sort of exuberant
gesture that always drove her mother wild.
Dont you think youre a little young to be starting
a family? Margaret answered.
Yes, Mom. I just want to start doing things normal people do. Ive
read about a normal life, but Ive never had one. Ill never
be sixteen again and I want to do what the other kids do. Emily
leaned against the chair with a sigh.
Margaret looked closely at her daughter this time. She saw that Emily
wasnt a child anymore and that keeping secrets from her wasnt
going to help matters. All that keeping secrets would do now would be
to encourage rebellion. All right, she said softly. Sit
down and Ill explain everything.
Margaret wrung her hands, then sighed. You really dont remember
any of this. At least Ive been able to spare you that. But before
you were born, you had two brothers. They were kidnapped. I lost my babies.
I know that! Youve always hammered into my head that I had
to be careful so that nobody would steal me. Nobody ever has, Emily
Because the Centre doesnt know where we are. Listen. When
you were a baby, someone I trusted, named Catherine Parker, tried to help.
She and your father went to break your brothers out of the Centre. It
didnt work. And Charles never showed up at the meeting point. I
dont know if hes alive or dead. I dont know if your
brothers are alive or dead. I do know Catherine is dead. I read her obituary.
She was shot. I believe her own people tried to kill her. Many times she
told me she was afraid they would hurt Jarod or her daughter if she openly
helped us. They dont know you exist. What they might do to you terrifies
me, Margaret said quietly. Her hands moved across her body in a
Mom, nobody has ever bothered us. But Ill stick out more
if I dont do anything. I promise to be careful, but you have to
let me live. Emily tried to look older than she was. She could see
the concern in her mothers eyes; concern she wasnt prepared
to translate into fear. Mothers werent supposed to be afraid.
Margaret just looked back with a sigh. I guess I cant keep
you a child forever. But you have to promise to be extra careful with
what you tell people and who you trust. I dont ever want to risk
losing you to the Centre the way I lost your brothers and your father.
Emily nodded. I promise.
That day shed also made another promise to herself. Shed
find her brothers and her father and reunite them with her mother. Somehow,
Emily swore, shed learn everything she needed to in order to defeat
the Centre and reunite her family.
* * * * * * * * *
Emily turned her car onto the last street before Uncle Maxs. Ever
since the day her mother had explained the need for secrecy, Emily had
gone along with her mothers plans. After all, Margaret had been
the only family Emily had. Finding her brothers had been the one thing
that Emily had been sure would help to give her the normal family she
desperately wanted. It was one thing, she had always thought, to not have
a father because your parents were divorced, or your father died. To not
have a father because he had to run for his life seemed an injustice she
refused to accept.
That day in Boston, seeing Jarod, seeing the danger he was in, Emily
had grown stronger. It wasnt a myth, something her mother had made
up to keep her daughter in line. It wasnt a delusion. There really
were people chasing her brother who would stop at nothing to harm her
That day had also been too much for Margaret. She had retreated into
a world of her own, and nothing Emily could do seemed to help. Eventually
there had been no choice. Emily had to place her mother in an environment
where she could receive skilled nursing care.
Uncle Max had been a godsend then. Hed known which convent would
keep their secret and why Margaret would be willing to go there. Some
of those secrets Margaret had only been willing to trust to another adult.
Emily frowned. If Jarod were here, shed be able to convince her
mother that they were both adults. She wasnt sure that either Jordan
or Ethan would be enough to help Margaret. After all, like her, they werent
Emily parked her car outside the small white bungalow. She walked up
the steps and knocked on the door.
OK, coming. She heard the sounds of his cane tap on the floor.
Uncle Max was retired air force, a friend of her parents. Hed been
injured in a plane crash after retirement and walked with a cane or used
a wheelchair. Perhaps the Centre hadnt sought him out because his
connection with the Major was too tenuous. Max had been Charles
flight instructor. Or, Emily had sometimes thought, perhaps they just
didnt care about her and her mother. Maybe, to the Centre, all females
were like Catherine Parker... expendable.
He let her in and she followed him to the old beat-up kitchen where theyd
shared dinners between relocations.
Hey, sweetheart. Whats wrong?
Mom, Emily answered, going to the stove to put the kettle
on for tea.
Is there a change?
Not exactly. She paused. Awhile back I found my Dad,
or rather, he found me. He really misses Mom.
You thought he wouldnt? Max asked.
Not really. Mom doesnt talk about him. She just talks about
Jarod. I never really understood that part of it. Emily poured her
tea, then refilled Maxs cup.
It was hard for Margaret before you children were born. Shes
a homebody, always was, always will be. Charles work took him from
one town to another. Margaret believed that was part of the reason they
couldnt conceive. It caused enough friction to drive them to doctors,
and eventually to NuGenesis. As much as Margaret loves her children and
feels youre a special blessing, she also has inside her a lot of
guilt. She believes that if they hadnt gone to NuGenesis, none of
you would be in any danger. She wanted children enough to do anything,
face anything. But its a little hard for the average person to anticipate
something like the Centre coming after them. Max looked her straight
in the eyes. Can you understand that?
You mean she thinks Dad is at fault? Or that she is? Emily
A little of both. If it were simple, Margaret would snap out of
this state in no time. But she cant get around the idea that she
insisted on having children instead of adopting when they had fertility
problems. As a mother, she feels responsible for her childrens lives.
It doesnt have to make sense. Thats why shes got problems.
Max groaned. It got to be too much when she saw the Centre try
to take Jarod back. They were trying to hurt him. She was powerless to
help him, and Im sure that has eaten away at her more than anything.
Theres no feeling quite so bad as being totally helpless when someone
you love is in danger. I should know, Max thought to himself.
He loved Emily as though she were his own. Hed taught her everything
hed learned from his special ops days in order to keep her safe
and give her the skills shed need to avoid the Centre. But he still
hated the fact that she put herself at risk at all.
Thats all very well, and it does help. But my question is,
can I, should I, tell her about Dad?
Its your decision, Emily. But for what its worth, I
doubt you could make things worse. Max sighed. I go to visit
her every week and theres no response. Most likely if you tell her
about your Dad youll get the same lack of attention. It cant
hurt to try.
Okay. Emily put the tea cups in the sink.
Do you want me to come with you? Max asked.
No. I reach Mom a little, every time I visit. Its just that
she cant keep focused if I dont stay there. I guess I just
needed to talk to a friend before I jumped into the hot seat. She
turned to leave.
Ill always be your friend, kid. You know that. And if you
want to tell your Dad about me, go ahead. Max hadnt understood
why Emily wanted to keep him a secret. But hed gone along with everything
shed suggested, because once hed trained her to research,
to plan, and to learn how to take cover, shed shown that she had
the ability to become a chameleon and get into her role. He sometimes
thought he served the purpose of a dress rehearsal for a consummate actress.
Once shed practiced what she wanted to be, she simply walked out
the door and into her role.