It had taken Mary a little over six years to save the money, she counted it carefully, praying it would be enough. Paying for the tickets, she quickly stuffed them into a hole inside her coat pocket, where they would be safe from prying eyes. No one could know she had them, no one!
“Hurry up Mary,” snapped Casey, hastily maneuvering around piles of merchandise crammed onto a table in front of the ticket counter. “I’ve already looked through this stuff. There’s no need to go through it again, besides we need to finish our shopping before the van returns.”
Sighing, Mary turned and smiled at Casey. “Your right, we must hurry. Our husband Zachariah has given me permission to spend the night with my children. I really don’t want to mess that up!”
“Wow, a whole night! How’d you manage that?” asked Casey.
Mary shrugged, “I told him I was pregnant and asked permission to tell Billy and Kimmey. I nearly fainted when permission was granted!”
Casey stared open mouthed at Mary. “Your night was three weeks ago, so how?”
“That’s when I told him,” Mary said. “I sure hope he hasn’t forgotten or changed his mind.”
“Either way,” Casey stated worriedly, “we’d better hurry. I don’t want to keep the van waiting or get caught dawdling, do you!”
Both girls had been on the receiving end of the great Zachariah Snippet’s anger more than once and had the bruises to prove it. The thought of angering him sent shivers of fear up and down their spines.
Mary had been harshly disciplined after living only a few days at the commune. She had been terrified of Zachariah Snippet ever since that fateful day that he’d come to the children’s quarters, made a surprise inspection, and had accompanied them to the dining hall.
Five-year-old Mary, having been ordered to clean her plate, had refused saying the food tasted yucky. Zachariah had ordered her taken into a small room and swiftly punished.
She’d then sat through the next three meals with only water to drink. It had been a hard lesson and she’d learned quickly after that.
It seemed that her tormentors had done their work well, because within two weeks all memories of home were gone.
Six children, Mary, Casey, Casety, Clara, Martha and Mary-Lou, had all arrived at the commune together. Sometimes in dreams, they were again children laughing and playing in a beautiful castle or riding a little train in a beautiful garden.
The dreams, upon waking to the travails of the morning were forgotten, until she’d received the photo. In the photo was the huge cream-colored mansion of her dreams.
The little girl in the photo sat at a child’s table with two life-size dolls and a woman. The woman was kneeling down beside the little girl.
“Come on Mary,” said Casey nudging her in the ribs a second time. “The van just pulled up, stop day dreaming, we’ve got to go!” Quickly the girls gathered their parcels and hurried out to the van.
Soon after they returned, Zachariah was served a meal of London broil, baked potato, creamed peas with baby onions, tossed garden salad and cherry pie topped with French vanilla ice cream.
The women then hurried to the workers cafeteria where they ate a hurried meal of meatless cabbage soup with un-buttered bread and a glass of Kool-Aid, before hurrying back to clean the kitchen and the living quarters.
After they’d returned Zachariah surprised everyone by telling them that because he was in such a good mood, Mary had his permission to spend the night with her children, but she must finish her work, collect her things, and leave before dark or she couldn’t go.
Swiftly scrubbing the kitchen, Mary gathered everything she needed, then posed for flight she hastily closed the door behind her, it was already dark.
The children were in a small trailer at the other end of the compound, next to the security shack. A security guard would check on them around two thirty in the morning, giving her a window of approximately forty-five minutes to carry out her plan.
The bus would leave at precisely three thirty A.M. with or without them.
Mary looked anxiously at the clock again. The guard should have been here ten minutes ago she thought. Just as she had given up all hope, the bedroom door finally opened and the guard shined a light into the room.
Closing her eyes she pretended to be asleep, quietly the guard closed the door.
Fear engulfed her as they slipped quietly from the doorway and into the shadows. Pulling a rusty old wagon from its hiding place, she swiftly squirted the wheels with the oil she’d hidden in an old mustard bottle.
Settling Kimmey and Billy into the wagon she slowly pulled it to the fence behind the trailer, where she quickly found the rotten boards which she pulled from the posts. Once removed they barely had room to squeeze through, but squeeze through they did. Carefully replacing the boards, she quickened her pace, even though one of the wagon wheels had started to wobble.
She’d almost made it to the bus station, when in her haste the wagon hit a rock sending the wheel flying and the children tumbling to the ground. Falling to her knees, she gathered them close and said a desperate prayer that they would make it on time.
Picking up a sobbing Billy, she asked Kimmey, “How fast could you run if someone was chasing you with a big stick and you were trying to get away?”
“If Daddy was chasing me I could run really fast,” Kimmey said solemnly.
“Really fast, huh, can you take my hand and show me how fast you would run?” asked her mother.
It had been close, too close, thought a breathless Mary, as she settled Kimmey in the seat next to her, and pulled Billy onto her lap. With a sigh, she wrapped her arms lovingly around her children and prayed for the guidance she would need. Mary was only seventeen. She felt as if she were fifty.
Suddenly it hit her! They were free! They had escaped.
She could see the scenery as it flashed past the window. Yes, they had escaped and tomorrow, well tomorrow was a new day and a new beginning.