Gabriella N., North Dakota
Amara. No last name. She can't remember it. Her oldest memory is of a dark face, soft gold-brown eyes, and curly brown hair. Warmth surrounding her as she is held by steady arms and a loving gaze. Her second-oldest memory is of sitting in a car seat in a moving car with Jorgie feeding her gummy bears before screams. Screams and crying and heat and fear and pain.
Both memories included Georgia, or Jorgie, her big sister. The one who has protected Amara and been by her side for as long as she can remember. They look alike. Amara with the same dark-toned skin but darker eyes and wavy brown hair, rather than natural, tightly coiled curls. Georgia always has hers short for practicality while Amara enjoyed having hers long; it helped her feel normal.
The lazy streets were quiet, littered here and there with brisk footsteps. People, albeit few, still running in the streets despite the late hour, almost all searching for shelter before the worst of the snowstorm was upon them. Down a dark, rarely noticed alley was a cardboard box, pressed against a heat vent in the wall, made up of smaller boxes taped, stapled, and sewn together by whatever had been available. It had three layers of holey blankets, bags, and sheets, with two overlapping each other and hanging over the opening to act as a door.
A lithe, bony female figure was on her hands and knees, halfway into the box. She wasn't thin by choice, but rather by malnourishment. She was wrapped in a heavy coat, bulky sweatpants, a hood, and rainbow-colored winter hat that originally had both pom-pom's at the end of its two cords but was now left with one. She grit her teeth when the smaller version of herself, wrapped in their thickest quilts, shivered before unwillingly producing a grating cough. She tucked the edges of the covers under the nine-year-old, taking a deep breath to try and steady her nerves. She had to stay strong for her little sister.
"Jorgie." Amara whimpered, using the fond nickname that started as a baby's inability to pronounce her big sister's full first name.
"Sh," Georgia hushed, brushing limp hair from Amara's sweaty forehead, "I'll be quick, okay?" Her eyes flashed in anger, "Some jerk stole our food. But I'll be back. Promise."
"Jorgie," Amara repeated, desperate. "It's snowing really-" She coughed, "Really hard. It's dang- dangerous. You've never been out when it's gotten this bad."
"I know, Flower. I know. But you're sick and you need food. Just stay in the box. Okay?"
Amara's purple lips trembled before she pressed them together tightly and nodded, holding back the tears. "O-okay. Hurry, please."
"I will. Don't worry." She pressed a quick kiss to Amara's forehead before pulling back, smiling, then crawling out of the box. The bitter wind and snow slapped her cheeks in fury.
Georgia shuddered, pulling the coat tighter and tugging her hood past her brows before running into the embrace of the unforgiving whiteness.
The following hours were the worst of it. The winds and crazy snow and hail, loud and menacing, screaming Amara's seclusion at her. She huddled further under her covers, trying not to cry as her box swayed back and forth, threatening to blow away and leave her exposed. Eventually, the fatigue, anxiety, and sickness dragged her under the soothing embrace of sleep.
The blizzard lessened in its ferocity hours later before coming to a still the next morning. But by then, Georgia had yet to return. After Amara woke, she poked her head out of their, somehow still intact, snow-covered box and methodically scanned the streets every five minutes for her sisters lithe, huddled form against the white. But all she ever saw were strangers walking the street, not bothering to cast a glance as they heard trembling shivers and weak coughs.
About mid-morning, Amara had gathered strength from her nap and crawled out of her box. She shuddered at the snow that fell from the brim of the box and onto her head and shoulders before shaking them weakly in an attempt to get them off. She was only half successful. She fixed her jacket and pulled her collar up to her chin, wrapping the blanket tight around her before waddling her way out of the alley. Despite her multiple covers, she still shivered. Her plum-colored lips quivered, white clouds escaping her in short, rapid puffs, and eyelids heavy with the exertion of moving.
When the act of standing became too much, she slid down against the cold wall. People ignored her, the only acknowledgment being the effort to not trip over her feet. She dozed every few minutes, feeling the icy tendrils of winter, hunger, apprehension, and sickness grope at her until she unwillingly succumbed to its clutch once more.
Happy music filled the car as a small baby of two years sat in a pink floral car seat and stared out the window to a snow-laden field.
"Flower, Flower, lookie. Candy bears."
The baby looked over at the signal word, "candy" and giggled at the semitransparent, squishy green bear, no bigger than her palm. A young girl of seven laughed and gave the bear to Flower.
"Don't give her too many of those, Jo." A motherly voice said.
"'Kay. She looks so funny tho-."
"James, watch ou-!"
A loud crash sounded. Flower and Jo screamed as the car flipped.
Amara woke in a coughing fit and rolled onto her side. Tears fell from her closed eyes at the burn in her throat and the memory that plagued her every once in a while. Giving another cough, she shifted onto the opposite side and snuggled farther under the warm covers.
Amara's eyes snapped open and she sucked in a sharp, painful breath. It took a few seconds before she realized she was facing a large window that took up nearly the entire wall. Two pale blue curtains were pulled to each side of the window, showing an overlook of New York. Snow flurried slowly down in the evening sky, covering the white top of buildings with purple, pink, and orange hues of the setting sun. She croaked in alarm, wincing at the protesting burn of her throat. Her heart raced in fear, and she shot into a sitting position in panic, too fast, and her head spun. She keeled over and fell to the floor in a tangle of sore limbs and blankets. Groaning, she placed her hands down and tried to push herself up only for her arms to betray her and give out. Tears glazed her eyes as she laid on the floor. One trickled down the side of her face before she sniffled and bit her lip nearly hard enough to draw blood. Grunting, she shuffled out of the restricting blankets before blindly groping for the edge of the bed. With great effort, she pulled herself upright until she was leaning against the side of the bed, panting as if she had run a marathon.
She took a moment to collect herself before looking on the opposite side of the room. She sat in the corner of the bedside table and bed. Realization quickly dawned on her, how fortunate she was that she hadn't knocked her head against the corner of the table during her fall. With her eyes accustomed to the light, she noted the walls were a light gray and the carpet was a few shades darker. Aside from the furniture she leaned on, the entrance door, bathroom door, and closet doors, the rest of the room was empty of anything else.
A shiver ran up her spine. One that didn't come from the constant chill that pierced her to the bone. Where am I?
It took a full minute before she made it to her feet. The covers were wrapped around her, and she wobbled the space of the room, keeping one hand on the wall for support. Standing before the window, she stared out. She could see the sun setting just past the horizon, the streets bright with lights and tall buildings looking like silver pillars embedded with colored jewels.
Her eyes sparkled back in reflection. Dark, cracked lips parted in amazement. She'd never seen anything like it, ever. For as far as her memory stretched, her world consisted of Georgia, dirty alleys, dispassionate passersby, changing seasons, and daily, never-ending hunger. Not this birds-eye view of her home for the past seven years. Her dull bias had suddenly changed to wonder. This was what her home looked like from above? Her throat constricted, tears brimming her eyes at the sudden realization. You couldn't see the streets and dark alleys. Just moving lights and swarming masses.
No wonder it looks so beautiful. You can't see any of the problems.
She jumped at the sudden creak. Spinning on her heel, her head swum and vision went in and out of focus before she realized a person, a woman, was peeking into the room through the open door, allowing lights from the hall to leech in. The woman had a soft look and stood at 5'6. Her honey-toned face was heart-shaped, round cheeks high and freckled, the small dots spreading over the ridge of her small nose. Her thin lips, painted shiny and pale pink, parted in surprise. Her long auburn hair, French braided across her shoulder. Amara found her eyes and saw the mirroring glimmer of surprise and alarm in the big, shiny, pale green orbs. She wore black leggings with green leg warmers and a matching, tightly knit turtleneck sweater, and brown, wedged, suede ankle boots.
A couple more seconds ticked by before the woman straightened, a cheerful though anxious smile splitting her lips, "Oh! You're awake. I knew I heard something. Are you hungry? Of course, you're hungry. You're probably famished, I'd bet. You've been out for two days! You probably feel faint, too. We were scared we’d have to take you to a hospital if your fever got any worse." Her words were rapid, laced with excited nervousness. "I don't know how you're even standing! Here," The woman stepped over the threshold and made her way over. She stood before Amara and pulled the comforter tight around the girl, surprising her, before nudging her toward the bed, "You shouldn't be up." The woman arranged the child on the mattress while Amara let herself be situated, silently terrified. The woman spoke so fast and cheerily, then popped straight with a beam, "I'll be right back!" And was out of the room.
Amara stared after the woman's back, confused. She debated climbing out of bed again but opted not to, instead pulling herself into a sitting position. She didn't know where she was, and she didn't know how the woman would respond to defiance. She gulped thickly when she heard incoming footsteps. The woman entered with a small tray, carrying an assortment of foodstuffs, a cup, and a pitcher of water. The woman paused beside the bed and held the tray with one hand, the second searching beneath it until two props fell into position. She smiled brightly and set it on Amara's lap.
"I didn't know what you'd like, so I brought enough to feed a small army." The woman said kindly.
"Th-" Amara cringed at the crack in her voice. Immediately the woman picked up the cup on the tray and held it to Amara's lips. Amara took hold, and the woman's hand retreated as she downed the entire cup. Amara took a deep breath, quickly feeling better and less light-headed, "Thank you. Is- is all this food for me?" She questioned quietly.
"Of course! Have as much as you'd like." The woman prompted.
Amara eyed the woman suspiciously, stared at the food, then back up to the woman. No food is ever free. A beat passed before she gingerly took a piece of white meat. She focused on the woman's face as she took a small bite of the meat. But any attention to a possible, negative reaction immediately dissipated as the blissful flavor exploded on her tongue. Her eyes widened and she stared at the food in her hand before taking another, larger, ravenous bite. She chewed quick, another bite, chew, swallow, again.
The woman laughed quietly. Slightly amused, slightly alarmed. "Um, enjoy yourself. But… Go slow. Or you’ll get sicker. Um, I'll let you be and check back in a few."
Amara barely heard the woman as she ate the last morsel and moved onto a roll of warm, honeyed cornbread. It was gone in less than two seconds. The fruit came next. She sorted through them while taking a bite of another piece of white meat. A vine of red grapes disappeared. The only evidence of its existence being the actual vine.
By the time the woman returned minutes later, the cranberry sauce slices, red grapes, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey meat, cornbread, and green beans were completely gone.
The woman held a pitcher and blinked as she stared at the crumb-littered tray. "Small army or a small, starving, homeless child. Okay." She muttered quietly to herself before coming closer and refilling Amara's cup and setting the tray on the bedside table. "How are you feeling?"
Amara emptied the cup and took her first deep breath since she started eating. A burp rushed past her lips, and she squeaked in surprise, covering her mouth with her empty hand. Her throat felt better.
The woman gave an airy laugh and set the cup on the bedside table. "Well, I'm assuming." Slowly, she held her hands out placatingly before placing the back of her hand against Amara's forehead. She hummed, a frown pinching her lips, and pulled away. "You're still too warm, but it's certainly better than when we first found you. You gave us quite a fright, young lady."
"U-us?" Amara stuttered, drawing her knees to her chest for more warmth.
The woman nodded, "Hmhmm. My sister and husband." She blinked before wincing, "Sorry, I haven't told you my name. It's Willow." She introduced herself before staring at Amara expectantly.
"Amara." The girl whispered meekly.
Willow's lips split into a grin. "That's a beautiful name!"
"No problem. Um, do you know your last name?"
Amara shook her head.
A pitying shimmer went over Willow's eyes. She sighed, "So you've been living on the streets alone for a while, huh? Stars, you can't be older than ten."
At the mention of being alone, Amara straightened, "I-I wasn't alone, though. My sister, she left during the storm. Someone stole our food and I was sick so she had to find something for me." Her lips trembled and tears welled, "If it weren't for me-" A gentle, but firm hand took hold of her shoulder.
"Hey, hey. None of that. What does your sister look like? What's her name? We might be able to find her." She paused, eyes widening. "Wait. Did she leave during the blizzard? The snowstorm?" She asked, sounding slightly frantic.
Amara sniffled and nodded.
"Oh, my- our power went out for hours during that. Why would she-?" She stood suddenly, "Stay here, Darling. I'll be right back." She gave a soothing smile and brushed her knuckles across Amara's cheeks before turning and jogging out of the room.
Anxiety and self-blame welled in Amara and she buried herself under the covers. Minutes passed with her sniffling and shuddering beneath the covers. But she refused to cry. Georgia would want her to be strong.
She flinched when a hand suddenly pulled back the covers and Willow looked down at her in concern. "C'mon, sit up." She produced a soft tissue seemingly out of thin air and wiped Amara's eyes and nose. When she pulled back, Amara noticed the man behind Willow.
He was tall, over 6'0, with square shoulders and a broad chest. The three qualities were the first and only things Amara noticed before she yelped and hid back under the covers. All too well, she remembered tall men with similar heavy features. They were always so terrifying with their large hands, trying to catch and hurt Georgia and her. But Georgia was smart and always found a way for them to escape.
"What happened?" A deep voice, the man, asked.
"I think you scared her," Willow responded.
A heavy sigh, "That's unfortunate."
Amara felt the bed dip and the blankets shifted before Willow was hiding with her. Willow shifted, as to not fall off the bed, before turning her attention to Amara and smiling over the girl's shoulder. Willow’s poor eyesight had yet to adjust.
"I can't see you. Can you see me? I'm not wearing my glasses." Willow asked.
Amara nodded before whispering, "Yes."
"'Kay, good. Are you scared of him?"
"You shouldn't be. His name is Orion. He looks pretty large, but he's super sweet." Willow groped, half-blind before her hand landed on Amara's wrist. She squeezed slightly. "He can help. He's a police ma-"
"Georgia said not to trust the policemen! They'll separate us!" Amara cried. She pulled her wrist away and curled tighter into her ball.
"Oh, Honey... He won't do that. He just needs you to tell him what Georgia looks like so he and his police friends can find her, and then we’ll do everything we can to keep you together."
There was a beat of silence while Amara tossed the words around in her head. Her nine-year-old mind was on overdrive. She was tired, cold, and afraid. She just wanted her big sister, safe and warm, together.
"You pinky promise he won't take us away when he finds her?"
Pause, then a soft, relieved laugh. "Yes, Amara. I promise. But I can't see, so can I pull back the covers?"
"Okay, thank you." Willow sat up and pushed the covers down, using her body to block Orion from Amara's view. She linked her pinky with the youngster's, and they both smiled before she shifted left on the bed, allowing Amara to see him.
Amara nervously fidgeted with her hands, head ducked. She looked up through her lashes and surveyed him. Six foot, square shoulders, and broad chest. He had a strong jawline and high cheekbones with a 5 o'clock shadow, deep-set almond aquamarine blue eyes sheltered by thick brows, an aquiline nose, and sun-kissed skin. He had straight, midnight hair, with his bangs covering one of his piercing eyes. He wore well-used blue dad jeans, a black sweater with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and a pair of white shoes. His hands were tucked into his jeans with shoulders pulled back into a lax, demure position.
He gave her a crooked grin, "Amara, right?"
Amara nodded silently.
"Cool." With slow, deliberate steps, he made his way closer until he was beside the bed. He dropped into a squat, so he was eye level and less threatening, and held out a hand, "Name's Orion."
She glanced from his sparkly eyes down to his hand and back before gingerly reaching out. Her small hand dwarfed his in comparison as he folded it around hers for a gentle shake. Amara's shoulders loosened slightly at the kindness of him, and she pulled back when he let go.
He remained on his haunches, "So, Amara, what's your sister's name?"
"Georgia," Amara whispered.
"Pretty name, like yours. She looks like you?"
She shook her head, giving him a look as if he was the dumbest adult in existence. "No. She's bigger and taller."
He chuckled, "Can you be specific? She as tall as me or Will? Tall as Willow? How old is she?"
Amara sucked in a deep breath at the oncoming questions. "I-I-"
Willow grasped her shoulder and pulled Amara against her. She wrapped her arm around the younger and rubbed the opposite arm in a comforting manner. "It's okay, Amara. Just close your eyes and imagine Georgia in your mind. Tell us what she looks like. What was she wearing when you last saw her?"
Amara leaned into Willow's comforting embrace and her eyes fluttered shut. "I-it was snowing bad. I was in the box, and she was outside, covering me up with all our quilts and blankets. She had her really big brown jacket we found in the trash. It reached her knees and she was wearing her three pants. Her leggings and jeans and sweatpants. She had her orange hoodie, I think. It has a bunch of holes in the sleeves and her big rainbow hat with one missing pom-pom. 'Cause, there were two, and her brown boots that were too big."
"Okay, good, Amara. Real good. What does her face look like? Skin, eyes?" Orion asked.
"Small face, kinda like an oval, I guess." She held up her hands to make a shape with her pointer fingers and thumb. "This is an oval. Her skin is super dark. She has dark hair like me, too. But it stops at her shoulders and is really curly. Her eyes are brown but lighter than mine. They look like shiny earth."
"Um..." She opened her eyes and looked at Orion. From somewhere he had pulled out a notebook and pen and was writing things down, using his knee as a table. "I don't- I..."
Orion stood. "Compared to me."
Amara squinted before pointing to his arm. "She's a little taller than your arm knee."
There was a brief pause. "Arm knee?" Willow muttered.
"Elbow." He pointed to the crook of his arm, "Mean this? My elbow?"
Amara nodded and he wrote it down. "Okay. Good, Amara. Great detail. Age? She responds to Georgia?"
"She's fifteen. I call her Jorgie."
Orion wrote the last of it into his notepad before flipping it shut and tucking it, and the pen, into his back pocket. He smiled a crooked, kind smile to Amara, "Thank you, Amara. This is a big help." He turned his attention to Willow, "I'm going to call the precinct."
Willow nodded, and they watched him leave the room before she turned to Amara. She grasped the girl's face, "You did a great job, Honey."
"Will they find her?" Amara whispered, big, glimmery brown eyes staring up at Willow hopefully.
Willow gulped thickly before wrapping her arms around Amara's shoulders and pulling her to her chest. "They'll certainly try their best, Darling."
After a few minutes, Willow pulled away. Amara looked at her curiously. "Would you like a bath?"
Willow blinked, brows slowly rising in a mix of concern and alarm. "Have you never had a bath before?"
"I have." She held up her fingers, "Four months ago, I think."
"Four?" Willow yelped before sighing, "That certainly explains a lot. C'mon, Honey."
Willow made her way over and helped Amara stand before leading the girl to the bathroom. Willow helped her undress before gnawing her lip, "Are you okay in the water? Alone?"
Amara nodded, "Yep! I swim in the lake a lot!"
"Lake? There isn't a lake for miles."
"The one with all the trash," Amara stated nonchalantly.
Willow's face twisted in horror and disgust, "Okay. No more swimming in dirty water. You're going to take a nice, hot bath in clean water with nice smelling soaps." She led Amara into the large tub and they both adjusted the temp to where it was comfortable. Willow grabbed the soaps and showed her which ones to use. "'Kay, you do that. I'm going to see if Oli has any clothes that might fit you."
Amara sat in the tub for a few minutes, playing with the bubbles after lathering her hair, twice, and washing her body. The water soon got cold and she struggled to figure out how to drain the water before randomly pulling the diverter. She jumped when the drain made loud bubble sounds before watching the water gradually disappear. The tub was nearly empty when Willow returned, carrying a bundle of clothes.
"C'mon, Honey. Let's get you dried off." Willow held her under the armpits and hoisted her out of the tub before helping Amara dry herself off. She handed the girl the bundle.
Amara clothed herself in the warm, fuzzy articles. It was a loose jogger, gray leg warmers, pink flats, gray fingerless gloves, and an oversized pastel pink-purple fade sweater with a pale blue triangle on the front and white cat in the middle. Willow moved behind her and carefully combed through her hair before braiding it across her shoulder.
"There. All fresh." Willow set, holding her shoulders and looking at Amara through their reflection. Tears welled in Amara's eyes and Willow panicked, moving to the front of the girl and crouching so they were at eye level.
"Hey, what's wrong?"
Amara's lips trembled, "You won't send me away, will you?"
Willow's chest tightened in sorrow, "Oh, no, Honey. You're safe here. No one's sending you away and no one will take you, I promise. Orion is gonna find your sister."
Amara sobbed before lurching forward, burying her face into Willow's neck, wrapping her arms around the woman for a tight hug. Willow was frozen in surprise before exhaling deeply and holding the girl tightly.
Almost a week passed, and every day Amara asked about her sister. Where's Jorgie? Is Jorgie okay? Have you found Jorgie? Where's Jorgie!? Aside from a few, understandable, breakdowns, Amara was quiet and well-behaved. She feared being sent away and was always complacent. Which worried Willow and Orion. They couldn't fully comprehend how, for eight years, Amara learned to listen to her sister. Only bad things came when she didn't.
Amara met Olivian, Willow's younger sister, the first night after she had washed up.
Willow had walked her down the hall. The walls were littered with canvases big and small, with paintings that varied in talent. Most were landscapes with near-identical photographs beside them. Signed in the corner of all of them was a swirly written O. Daniels. When they exited the hall, they were at the mouth of a joint kitchen, living room, and dining area.
A girl was sitting on the leather couch, TV playing a show, but the stranger's attention was rapt to what was on her lap. As they got closer, they noticed her auburn head was bobbing side-to-side and she was humming softly. Amara was at first startled by the thirteen-year-old girl's appearance. Olivian looked identical to her older sister, only four inches shorter. They shared the heart-shaped face and small nose, Olivian's freckles darker and in larger amounts on her light skin, with darker green eyes. She wore large Windsor glasses with a black frame. Her auburn hair was different than other thirteen-year-olds hair Amara had seen, layered and swept to the right with the left half of her head in a tapered shave. She wore a white sleeveless tucked into a high-waisted, black, sailor mini skirt, and Doc Martins.
"Oli," Willow said softly.
Oli didn't hear her and Willow sighed. She leaned down and snapped her fingers in front of the girl's face. Oli flinched and hissed, snapping her head up with eyes narrowed. They widened in surprise, however, when she saw Amara and scrutinized her outfit.
"Oh." Her annoyed expression fell away and she looked back at the drawing pad in her lap, pressed a few buttons and a bold line, caused when Willow scared her, disappeared, before turning the tablet off and setting it aside. She pulled a pair of Walkman from over her ears before focusing back on Willow and Amara.
"You finally woke up." She said bluntly, causing Willow to sigh.
"Oli, this is Amara. Amara, O-"
Oli thrust her hand forward, "Name's Olivian. My friends call me Oli. Don't call me Oli." Amara slowly took her hand and Olivian gave a firm shake before pulling away. She scooched closer and squinted, "Yet. Might change. Anyway. How old are you?"
Olivian hummed, "Cool. I'm thirteen. We found you on the streets a few days ago. You looked half-dead, y'know-"
"Olivian Mae!" Willow scolded.
"What?" Olivian groaned, giving an annoyed look to her sister. "She did." Her gaze jumped back down to Amara, who had a slight smile. A smile tugged at the corner of Olivian's mouth, too. "Will nearly fainted when she saw you."
Amara giggled, and the sisters shared a look, both smiling.
It was five days later when the front door slammed. Willow was preparing lunch in the kitchen while Olivian and Amara sat on the living room floor, drawing and playing with Legos, respectively.
The three females jumped, startled. They shared a look while Willow dried her hands.
"You two stay here. I'll go see what it was." She exited the joint room and walked down the hall before yelping, "Oh my- Orion!"
Amara and Olivian jumped to their feet, previous activities forgotten, and raced to the mouth of the hall before peeking over the edge of the wall. Orion was slouched over in his police garbs, minus his jacket, Willow in front of him, fretting and examining his face. The girls came closer and realized his face was littered with bruises and flecks of dried blood. At his hairline was a cut that was still dripping red.
Olivian's brows jumped, and she raced forward, "Who'd you beat up?" Olivian asked excitedly, pushing Willow to the side before making a surprised sound. She crouched down slightly before standing tall again. "Oh. She looks like- so, you must be- hey, Mars! C'mere!"
Amara slowly inched forward, still anxious due to the sight of blood, before her eyes landed on the covered form Orion held at his side. It was slouched over, shivering, features hidden by Orion's police jacket. Willow's eyes were shining bright, a broad grin splitting her mouth while Orion wore a tired smile and Olivian looked smug. Amara took too long, for Olivian, to make her way over, so the latter grabbed her by the upper arm and pulled her closer.
"Amara wouldn't shut up about you, y'know," Olivian said, rather casually.
The form's shivering stopped suddenly before they slowly lifted their head. Their eyes met and Amara cried, springing forward, wrapping her arms around her sister, burying her face into Georgia's sweaty neck. Georgia's skinny arms wrapped tight around Amara's waist and pulled her as close as she could.
"Flower." They collapsed into each other's arms, crying softly. The trio spoke above them.
"What happened to you two?" Willow asked.
Olivian squinted at Georgia's filthy clothing, “Better yet, where'd you find her?”
"The Morelli's got her a few days ago. But thanks to a few leads and Amara's description," He grinned toothily, "We took down the entire branch. We even got Baud's black book." He paused for breath, eyes glistening. "Willow, this could take down the entire gang. All of it. We can finally clean the streets.”
Willow laughed joyfully and grabbed Orion for a hug, only for him to groan through a chuckle. "Ow, ow, ow. Careful, Doll. My ribs. Ow."
Willow giggled, pulling back, "Sorry. C'mon, let's get you cleaned up; then you can eat lunch." She turned her to Olivian, who was leaning against the wall, smiling at the sisters. Georgia had fallen asleep in Amara's arms, drained from the experiences of the last week. "Keep watch of them, will you? After I get some food in him, do you want to help Amara and me clean her up, too?"
Olivian shrugged, "Sure." She glanced down, then up again, "Hey, Will?"
"Hm?" The woman hummed, turning back around. She saw the thoughtful look on Olivian's face and smiled.
"What is it?"
"Are we keeping them?"
Orion faltered slightly, coughing. He chuckled, turning to face Olivian and the two other sisters. "You've gotta give her credit for being forthright."
Willow smiled, "Some tact would be nice, but..." She breathed deeply, staring up at Orion hopefully, "Rion, could we? You know I can't... Could we? They have no family."
Orion looked between the four of them. By now Amara was looking up with wide, vulnerable eyes. In the short time she had been there, she had somehow become a part of their family. "I'm going to be so outnumbered."
A beat passed in the heavy silence, his words sinking in before Willow squealed in joy and jumped, arms outstretched for a hug before retracting and dancing in circles. Orion and Olivian both chuckled while Amara smiled, leaning against her sister.
"Orion Nolan, I love you!" She exclaimed, grabbing his face and mashing their lips together.
Orion made a hmph sound in surprise and Olivian laughed. "Cool. More guests for Thanksgiving."
The holiday was two weeks later, and everything was perfect. Georgia and Amara quickly adjusted to their new home. It was good for all of them. Orion and his team followed their leads with the black book, and over half of the Morelli gang were locked away, and they were close to capturing the rest. Amara and Georgia were quick in school and had Olivian at their back.
Now, they sat around the table with extended family and friends. Mr. and Mrs. Daniels, Willow and Olivian's parents, took to Amara and Georgia as if they were their blood grandchildren. Many more minors, girls, and boys, were found in the grasp of the Morelli gang. Children of thought-to-be Vilomah parents were soon returned, some adopted by Orion’s co-workers, prompted by his and Willow’s decision, while others were simply relieved to have escaped from the cruelty they had suffered.
"Okay, time for prayer!" Orion announced when Nathan finally sat with a loaded plate.
Everyone linked hands and bowed their heads, "Dear Heavenly Father, Our Creator, thank You for Your blessings. Thank You for this day that we may come together in Your Name and praise You. Thank You for Your love and grace. Thank You for our food, and shelter, warmth, and comfort. Thank You for blessing us beyond comprehension. We thank You for leading Will, Oli and me to Mars. We thank You for giving us the compassion to help her. We thank You for putting it in our hearts to adopt Mars and Jo. We thank You for providing us with the means to provide for them. We thank You for putting in our friends' hearts to follow and take in these children like You have taken us in, under your wing to provide unending love and everlasting life. Thank You, Father, and in Your name, we pray, Amen." They lifted their heads and all shared a smile, all of the children, many of the women, and a few men, though they would deny, had tears in their eyes. Orion clapped his hands, "Okay, let's eat! Will and Kat've been working in the kitchen for hours. All these smells. Top-notch torture. I'm starving."
Later that night, Amara and Georgia snuggled under the covers of their individual beds. Their tummies were full, and they were tired from the excitement of the long day. They shared a room with Olivian, who was hiding under her blankets with her pad, drawing while listening to music through her Walkman.
"Hey, Jorgie?" Amara whispered, her eyes peeking over the edge of her comforter, looking at her sister who was parallel to her.
"Hm?" The older hummed, nestling into her pillow. Despite sleeping in the bed for two weeks, she still wasn't used to its comfort. A few seconds passed but Amara had yet to respond. Georgia uncurled slightly and focused her gaze on the shiny brown beads in the darkness. "What, Flower?"
"Are we home now?"
Georgia blinked before smiling. She lifted her covers in invitation and Amara crawled out of bed, quickly dashing over. They snuggled together before Georgia whispered softly, eyes fluttering shut. "Ya, Flower. We're home now."
Enlightium Academy is proud of the writing our students do and wants to give them the chance to publish their work. All Enlightium students in grades 7–12 are invited to submit their writing through the Spotlight Program. Every month, one piece of student work will be chosen to be published. Check out our main page on the Spotlight Program for more details.