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188 39 ~ Pippa “This doesn’t look familiar.” Emily peered into the trees. “Are we lost?” Pippa thwacked through the bushes. “Not exactly. Coming in from the south, it all looks different,” she said. She had lost her bearings almost immediately, although she thought they were heading in the right direction. Visibility wasn’t great, but the snow was lighter and the wind had died down. She thought she saw a star. “I think the trail is up here on the left.” Emily was silent for a moment. “I’m worried about the time.” “We’ll head back by midnight. I promise.” Hopefully, she could keep that promise. The trail didn’t appear on the left, but soon Pippa spotted a bush with shiny teardrop leaves. “Okay, I know where we are. This is the southern end of the rhododendron grove.” They walked side by side along the generous path, designed for people who needed extra room to maneuver. Pippa had to look away from the small openings in the hedge, openings leading to private clearings big enough for several people to lie down. Big enough for a red blanketed baby to sleep on white snow. “We were totally lost, weren’t we?” Emily asked. “Thought I fooled you.” “Nope. But now we’re okay?” Pippa tried to smile. “We’re not lost anymore, but I’m still terrified.” “Me too.” Things didn’t feel right. The forest was too quiet. By now, they should be able to hear the singing, the familiar cadence and yearning melodies. They should be able to see the pinpoint lights of the candles through the trees. If nothing else, they should smell the smoke and see the sparks from the bonfire leaping into the sky. Pippa’s Ellen Meeropol ~ 189 mind shifted to a flaming night sky in Georgia, her father’s tall shadow outlined dark against the glow in the pasture below. Snowflakes melted on her face, dripping down her cheeks. “Something’s wrong,” Emily said. “It smells like wet campfire. Like steaming coals. Like someone dumped water on the fire.” “Or snow,” Pippa said, as they scrambled down the slope to the sacred dingle. “We’re here, but they’re gone.” Broken branches littered the flat rock in the center of the circle. Discarded blankets were strewn like twisted corpses on the torn-up snow. The circle was gaptoothed , where stones had been kicked aside. Wisps of steam rose from the dead fire. “We’re still here.” A whisper and the rustle of leaves announced Jeremy’s presence just before his arms wrapped around Pippa’s chest. Sam held Timothy’s sleeping form draped over his shoulder. The boy’s feet dangled against the man’s knees. “Please don’t be angry,” Sam said. “I wanted to help.” “Sam saved us from the cops,” Jeremy said. “We’ve been waiting for you.” “How did you know we were coming?” Emily asked. “Sam said you would,” Jeremy said. Sam shrugged. “I guessed.” Pippa looked back and forth between Sam and Jeremy. “What happened?” Timothy’s sleepy voice joined the conversation. “Tian came,” he said, sliding down from Sam’s arms. “He was so cool.” “He was pretty impressive,” Sam agreed. “Really took over the celebration.” He looked at Pippa intently, like he wanted to say more. Maybe she’d have time to ask him some questions later. “But then the cops burst in and took them all away.” Jeremy’s voice wavered. “In handcuffs,” Timothy added. “It looked like the cops had been following Tian,” Sam said. “Like a trap.” “Why did they take everyone?” Emily asked. Sam shook his head. “I don’t know, but after they found some jugs, the cops got rougher, nastier. They handcuffed everyone and led them away.” Pippa pulled both boys close to her. “How’d you two manage to get away?” “Sam helped us,” Timothy said. “The blond woman seemed to recognize me,” Sam said. “My mustache.” “That would be Francie.” Pippa smiled at him. “Thank you.” Emily looked at the stones and candles, disappearing into the snow. “Sam, you take the boys home. Pippa and I have to go back to the E.R.” Pippa dug in her pocket for a key. “Take them to Pioneer Street. I’ll be home in a couple of hours. The Family of Isis may not be perfect, but we take good care of our children.” Pippa heard her own words. That’s what they always said. Was it...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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