Perchance to Dream


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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 she’d lost. Her lips moved in silent prayers. She liked to wear the same thing, a print dress. It was the dress she’d worn when she’d last seen her son. When the staff tried to take the dress away, she became agitated. It was as though she feared that Jarod wouldn’t recognize her if he didn’t 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 she’d 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 don’t 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, they’d developed a contingency plan that got her mother to a safe spot. But Emily wasn’t sure she dared to let Margaret know she'd found the others. As much as Emily believed her father would want to help, she couldn’t take the risk of overwhelming Margaret’s already slim defenses. Watching her mother disintegrate emotionally had been terrifying.

Emily just wasn’t 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 Emily’s childhood. It was as though her mother was afraid to have too many possessions, lest they be taken from her.

“Honey, you can’t go out with him. You don’t know who he is,” Margaret protested.

“Mom, I do know him. He’s in my karate class. He’s a neighbor. Get real,” Emily retorted with the sarcasm only a teenager can manage.

“But it could be dangerous,” Margaret answered.

“So’s crossing the street,” Emily snapped. “I need a life.”

“I don’t know what your father would say,” Margaret protested.

“No, you don’t. Because I don’t have one. And if I never get a date I’ll 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.

“Don’t you think you’re a little young to be starting a family?” Margaret answered.

“Yes, Mom. I just want to start doing things normal people do. I’ve read about a normal life, but I’ve never had one. I’ll 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 wasn’t a child anymore and that keeping secrets from her wasn’t going to help matters. All that keeping secrets would do now would be to encourage rebellion. “All right,” she said softly. “Sit down and I’ll explain everything.”

Emily sat.

Margaret wrung her hands, then sighed. “You really don’t remember any of this. At least I’ve 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! You’ve always hammered into my head that I had to be careful so that nobody would steal me. Nobody ever has,” Emily protested.

“Because the Centre doesn’t 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 didn’t work. And Charles never showed up at the meeting point. I don’t know if he’s alive or dead. I don’t 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 don’t know you exist. What they might do to you terrifies me,” Margaret said quietly. Her hands moved across her body in a protective gesture.

“Mom, nobody has ever bothered us. But I’ll stick out more if I don’t 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 mother’s eyes; concern she wasn’t prepared to translate into fear. Mothers weren’t supposed to be afraid.

Margaret just looked back with a sigh. “I guess I can’t keep you a child forever. But you have to promise to be extra careful with what you tell people and who you trust. I don’t ever want to risk losing you to the Centre the way I lost your brothers and your father.”

Emily nodded. “I promise.”

That day she’d also made another promise to herself. She’d find her brothers and her father and reunite them with her mother. Somehow, Emily swore, she’d learn everything she needed to in order to defeat the Centre and reunite her family.

* * * * * * * * *

Present day

Emily turned her car onto the last street before Uncle Max’s. Ever since the day her mother had explained the need for secrecy, Emily had gone along with her mother’s 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 wasn’t a myth, something her mother had made up to keep her daughter in line. It wasn’t a delusion. There really were people chasing her brother who would stop at nothing to harm her family.

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. He’d 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, she’d be able to convince her mother that they were both adults. She wasn’t sure that either Jordan or Ethan would be enough to help Margaret. After all, like her, they weren’t Jarod.

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. He’d been injured in a plane crash after retirement and walked with a cane or used a wheelchair. Perhaps the Centre hadn’t 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 didn’t 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 they’d shared dinners between relocations.

“Hey, sweetheart. What’s 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 wouldn’t?” Max asked.

“Not really. Mom doesn’t talk about him. She just talks about Jarod. I never really understood that part of it.” Emily poured her tea, then refilled Max’s cup.

“It was hard for Margaret before you children were born. She’s 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 couldn’t conceive. It caused enough friction to drive them to doctors, and eventually to NuGenesis. As much as Margaret loves her children and feels you’re a special blessing, she also has inside her a lot of guilt. She believes that if they hadn’t gone to NuGenesis, none of you would be in any danger. She wanted children enough to do anything, face anything. But it’s 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 asked.

“A little of both. If it were simple, Margaret would snap out of this state in no time. But she can’t 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 children’s lives. It doesn’t have to make sense. That’s why she’s 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 I’m sure that has eaten away at her more than anything. There’s 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. He’d taught her everything he’d learned from his special ops days in order to keep her safe and give her the skills she’d need to avoid the Centre. But he still hated the fact that she put herself at risk at all.

“That’s all very well, and it does help. But my question is, can I, should I, tell her about Dad?”

“It’s your decision, Emily. But for what it’s worth, I doubt you could make things worse.” Max sighed. “I go to visit her every week and there’s no response. Most likely if you tell her about your Dad you’ll get the same lack of attention. It can’t 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. It’s just that she can’t keep focused if I don’t stay there. I guess I just needed to talk to a friend before I jumped into the hot seat.” She turned to leave.

“I’ll always be your friend, kid. You know that. And if you want to tell your Dad about me, go ahead.” Max hadn’t understood why Emily wanted to keep him a secret. But he’d gone along with everything she’d suggested, because once he’d trained her to research, to plan, and to learn how to take cover, she’d 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 she’d practiced what she wanted to be, she simply walked out the door and into her role.

On to Act II

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