The sun was shining brightly through the curtains, as Mary came awake with a start. The wonderful aroma of food tickled her nose causing her stomach to growl. She’d eaten nothing the day before and was hungry.
She was struggling to remember where she was when the sound of voices floated out to her. A little girl said something about mommies and heaven. A woman’s gentle voice asked a question. A little boy said something about a box.
What was that strange sound? Mary could hardly believe her ears, whom ever was in the other room was laughing! It had been so long since she’d heard laughter! That it sounded strange to her ears.
Mary got quickly to her feet, folding the blanket she returned it to the back of the couch. She then folded and stashed the children’s blankets in her backpack, intent on getting the children and leaving.
She quickly straightened her wrinkled clothing as best she could, and headed for the kitchen and her children. She had meant to be on her way before daybreak and scolded herself for being so careless.
Kimmey was busy stuffing her face, while Billy snuggled up to an elderly white haired lady, feeding him eggs, taters and milk from a spoon.
Neither Mary nor her children had ever known kindness before. The scene touched her heart and brought tears to her eyes as she remembered seeing a magazine cover picturing three or four children crowded around a breakfast table laughing and talking with an elderly couple. The caption had read, A summer with Grandma and Grandpa.
The scene in the kitchen reminded her of that picture, and she found herself wishing the woman holding her son and talking to her daughter, really was their grandmother. She hesitated in the doorway watching them astonished at the woman’s kindness.
“Mommy! Mommy!” exclaimed Kimmey, spying her mother standing in the doorway watching them. “Look Mommy! The Angel gave us breakfast, and it’s good too!”
“Come in child and welcome,” said Angelia. “Please help yourself, there’s plenty to eat. I’d get it for you, but right now, I have my hands full. Don’t I squirt,” she said, as she gently cuddled Billy in her arms.
The food looked as delicious as it smelled, hesitatingly Mary took a plate from the warming oven, put a small portion of food on it and walked slowly to the table.
Angelia immediately noticed that the girl was so undernourished that she could actually count her ribs. In addition, she looked to be several months pregnant and plum worn out, almost to the point of exhaustion.
Shaking her head, at the minute amount of food on the girl’s plate, she said, “Land sakes child, there’s not enough food on your plate to keep a bird alive.” Sitting Billy down she took the plate from the girl’s trembling hand, refilling it with a good portion of food, taking a glass from the cupboard she filled it with milk for the astonished girl.
“Eat,” Angelia commanded gently, picking Billy up and settling him back onto her lap.
“My names Mary,” said the girl, smiling timidly at the woman. How can I ever repay you for being so kind to us! I thank you from the bottom of my heart!” she said, looking at the plate on the table in front of her and wondering how she’d ever eat it all. “Thank you for feeding my children and me.
“Her names Angelia, Mommy! She’s an Angel, because she has lots and lots of food. Mommy Martha said only angels have lots and lots of food, there’s lots of food here Mommy. That means that she’s an Angel, doesn’t it Mommy?” Said Kimmey finally running down.
By the time Kimmey finished her little speech Angelia was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes. “Why on earth do they think I’m an Angel?” she asked, as she wiped her eyes with a tissue.
“Maybe, because you are,” said Mary quietly. “You didn’t have to feed us today. Yesterday when we were cold, and hungry with no place to go you let us sleep in your living room, even though we were here without your permission. Today you welcomed us warmly, showering us with kindness. You could have put us out when you came home or had me arrested for trespassing. You did neither, you let us sleep, then fed us, instead,” said Mary truthfully.
“Last night when I came home and found the three of you asleep in my living room I knew you were Henry’s children!” Angelia mused softly.
Mary’s heart suddenly began to pound in terror at her words, even though instinct told her she could trust the woman setting across from her implicitly.
“Let us settle the youngsters in the living room with some cartoons so we can talk,” said Angelia.
“What’s a cartoon?” ask Kimmey and Billy.
Angelia was shocked. Where have you been? Why have the children never seen a cartoon? She wondered. “You know, on the television.” She said.
A cabinet on the living room wall opened to reveal a box like structure with a glass screen. Reaching down Angelia turned a knob, suddenly a bear talking to a frog appeared on the screen, causing gasps of surprise from the children.
Mary shook her head in amazement. She’d thought talking boxes and moving pictures, were stories told by people with active imaginations.
Angelia was shocked at their wonderment! Television had been around for years, so why had they never seen one before. So many questions were suddenly whirling around in Angelia’s head that she was beginning to feel dizzy!
It’s time to get some answers, thought Angelia. Besides something Kimmey had said was bothering her, something about Mommies and someone called Mommy Martha.
Leaving the children engrossed in cartoons they returned to the kitchen. Laughing at Mary’s shocked look, Angelia stacked the dishes in something called a dishwasher, added the special detergent and turned it on.
“Wow,” said Mary. “If anyone had told me a machine could actually wash dishes, I never would have believed their crazy talk!”
Before they knew it, the kitchen was spotless and they were sitting at the table with a steaming cup of coffee in front of each of them.
“Are you Henry’s children?” Angelia asked.
“Henry’s children? Who is Henry,” asked Mary.
“I guess I should have asked, if it was you and your children that Henry and Myrtle helped the night before last.”
Angelia suddenly realized that her question had Mary so frightened that the cups on the table were rattling in the saucers.
Instinctively she drew the frightened, hurting, young woman to her, enfolding her in her arms, as she had when her Karen needed a shoulder to cry on.
“He told you we were there!” sobbed Mary. “What if HE asks about us or that gas station man hollering at us for sleeping in the restroom, tells him he saw us? They’ll come here! They’ll find us! I can’t let them find us, I can’t!
“Henry would never tell anyone he saw you or the children! Henry’s son Carter, owns the gas station and he was trying to tell you that the alley was a dead end.” said Angelia.
“But this Henry told you! How can you be so sure he won’t tell someone else too?” asked Mary through her tears.
“Oh, I’m very sure,” replied Angelia. “You see Henry not only owns the Deli, he’s also my brother and the sheriff.”
“I can’t imagine what you’re running from, but I can assure you that you’ll be very safe here.”
“No! We can’t stay here,” said Mary, shaking her head profusely. “You’ve been so kind, but we can’t stay! We just can’t! We have to keep looking. We have to leave, right now, said Mary jumping up from the chair she was setting on.
“Hush now,” said Angelia gently pulling the girl to her.
“No! You don’t understand! We aren’t safe here or anywhere! He’ll track us down and heaven help us when he finds us, and he will find us! He always finds those that escape and then he tortures them and makes everyone watch.” She said trembling from head to toe!
Suddenly Kimmey burst in to the kitchen, “Mommy, Mommy, come quick! Billy said I sick Kimmey, get Mommy.”
“Oh no,” said Mary, as both women hurried into the living room where Billy lay on the couch gasping for breath and looking so pale that Mary gasped at the sight of him.
“Go potty Mommy,” said Billy.
Mary could hear the fear in his voice, Poor baby, she thought sadly. All the children had learned to use the potty as soon as they could walk. The penalty had been harsh for any child that hadn’t learned quickly and Billy had been one of those children.
Angelia quickly assessed the situation, scooped Billy up into her arms, and headed for the bathroom. She’d heard the fear in his voice. Knew Mary wasn’t the cause of it. Knew something was terribly wrong where they were concerned. Knew one-way- or-the other she was going to find out what it was.
Mary stopped pacing and looked at the clock where seconds slowly turned to minutes that dragged by even slower. Why hadn’t Angela returned with Billy? She asked herself. Why is it taking so long for them to return?
The long fingers of fear suddenly clutched at her. Taking Kimmey’s hand in hers Mary ran down the hallway, pushed opened the bathroom door and rushed inside. The bathroom was empty.