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Broken Cities – by Kate
Marin opened her eyes. The room was still dark but the birds were chirping outside the window, signaling the approaching dawn. She slipped out of bed and tip-toed to the dresser. A small stub of candle lay beside a box of matches. Marin lit the candle, illuminating the room.
“Is it morning?” A soft voice whispered behind her. Marin turned and saw Jaymie sitting up in bed.
Marin nodded. “Almost.”
“Good.” Jaymie rolled off the bed. “I’ll help you.” Marin lifted the the mattress they shared and Jaymie pulled up one of the floor boards to reveal a hole six inches deep. She reached inside and pulled out the precious treasure within. A book. Its leather cover was old and worn, and smudged with dirt. After replacing the floor board, they let the mattress down and sat on it.
“Where should we read today?” Marin asked, careful to keep her voice low so as not to be heard by any possible listener.
“Psalm 121,” Jaymie said without hesitation.
“We read that yesterday and the day before.”
“After last night, we need the encouragement.”
Marin smiled. “Okay.” She undid the metal clasps holding the book shut and turned to Psalms. She began to read aloud, her voice smooth and even. “I will lift my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth…”
Jaymie leaned against Marin and read along silently. “The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.” Marin finished reading. Morning light was starting to filter in through the shutters on the window. They replaced the book in its hiding place and got dressed for the day.
In the front room, Nicole was starting to prepare breakfast. “Good morning, girls!” she greeted them as they entered.
“Good morning, Mrs. Donovan,” they chimed together. Jaymie began setting the table and Marin started fixing lunch for later.
Brain and Tanner came through the back door carrying firewood. The girls greeted them. “Morning, Mr. Donovan. Morning, Tanner.” Tanner staggered as he tried to carry too many logs for his small frame. Jaymie set down her dishes and hurried to help him. Marin smiled as she watched the pair. Jaymie was ever becoming a protective big sister to the young boy.
Everyone bustled about tending to their chores and getting ready for the coming day. Jaymie finished setting the table and then left to wake the two youngest children, Dillon and Adira, and help them get dressed.
A loud knock sounded on the front door. Everyone looked up. Brian cautiously crossed the room to the door. “Who is it?” he asked through the door.
“Caleb,” came the answer. Everyone in the room sighed in relief. Brian opened the door. Caleb stood outside. He nodded to Brian. “Mr. Donovan.”
“Caleb! Come in.” Caleb stepped inside and Brian shut the door behind him. “What brings you here so early?”
“I wanted to make sure all of you were okay. The riots got pretty close last night.”
“We’re fine. The fighting was several blocks away.”
Caleb nodded and looked around the room. “Something smells good.”
Marin smiled and came forward from the kitchen. “Breakfast is just about done. Have you eaten?”
He shook his head, his eyes hopeful.
“Would you like to eat with us?” Brian asked.
“I couldn’t. I don’t want to take your food.”
“We insist.” Brian said.
Breakfast was a tasteless porridge, but it filled the stomach. Each bowl was filled a little less than normal to provide some for their guest. Not that there was much anyway. It was hard enough to provide food for seven mouths, especially with only three workers in the home.
Although the porridge was bland, Nicole more than made up for it with a special treat. She set down a plate of strawberries in the center of the table. “Strawberries? Where did you find them?” Caleb exclaimed.
“There’s a wild strawberry plant that is growing out back. It just sprouted this spring.”
“Wow. A little gift from God right in your back yard. He is kind.”
They all involuntarily glanced at the front door. It was shut, but you never knew who could be listening.
“I’m sorry.” Caleb said quietly.
“No need to apologize.” Nicole answered. “What you said is true. He is certainly good.”
When breakfast was over everyone chipped in to help clean up and in less than ten minutes the whole house was set to order.
Brian kissed Nicole. “Got to go. Goodbye.” He rushed out the door.
Nicole picked up Adira. “I’d better go too.” She kissed her sons on the head and left, leaving Marin and Caleb to walk Jaymie and the boys to the school.
“Have a good day.” Marin hugged her sister.
“You too.” Jaymie turned and herded the two younger boys toward the building, her fiery red heir blowing in the breeze. Marin and Caleb continued on alone toward the hospital.
“You’re quiet.” Marin said braking the silence. “What’s wrong?”
“Everything. The riots were bad last night.” Caleb sounded more worried than usual. Marin looked up at him.
“They were louder, but it wasn’t…”
“It was bad.” He interrupted. “They were almost on my street. I could hear people…” He trailed off and let out a deep sigh. “I was worried about you last night.” Marin glanced up at him. “And your family,” he added. “I even considered breaking curfew and coming over to make sure you were okay.”
“I’m glad you didn’t! The soldiers shoot first and ask questions later. Anyway, we were fine,” Marin assured him.
“Yeah, but what about next time? It’s not safe to live in the city anymore.”
Marin chose her words carefully. “It’s as safe as anywhere else. Besides it’s not like we have a choice where we live.”
Caleb was quiet for a minute. Finally he spoke. “What if we did?”
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