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Chapter 1
by John Zelenski 
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Walker’s Vale


The long and winding drive up through the Delaware Valley to the tiny township of Walker’s Vale, actually started quite uneventful. The midday sun seemed to cast its warm and inviting path before us with an assuming welcome. Our older overworked SUV was stuffed to the gills with the shipping supplies that I was to use for my soon to be full-time, online business. My wife Maria, myself, and our daughter Liza had little room to maneuver inside the crowded interior, which I felt somewhat guilty about.
"Are we almost there yet?"
Those were the unspoken words I imagined Liza sprouting in my ear. If only she could speak, I thought, just to hear her say "daddy". I had prayed often, although increasingly less and less in recent months; mostly in the wee hours of the morning while attempting to chase away my own doubts. But nothing except cold silence came from my daughter - and heaven. Instead, her eyes followed the passing marshmallow clouds intently on that very humid June morning and my mind floated on a sea of apprehension and confusion.
"It's a perfect day for a move," Maria voiced softly while she turned the air conditioning up to two.
"Yes, and since most of our things have been sent ahead, we can get an early start arranging the furniture." I added.
Maria turned to me with a slight twinkle in her light brown eyes and gently placed her hand upon my shoulder. "Are you kidding? The first thing you’re going to do my dear, is get that stove hooked up so we can enjoy our first meal in our new home tonight." This, to me, was an early indication that her usual banter was up to par this day. “Obsessive Compulsive,” she mumbled, barely audible.
“I heard that," I said with a slight grin which eventually turned into a chuckle. She then, began to giggle in her tender and airy manner that I never grew tired of hearing. As she pulled her shoulder length auburn hair above her head and gazed out of her window, her slender frame slouched back in her seat and I caught the scent of her sweet perfume. I thought back to the day when I first met her working at a department store. She was working as a clerk by day and a part-time student by night – the proverbial candle burning at both ends. Maria hadn't changed much. Not in her appearance or her uncompromising faith and devotion to the things she held dear. I, on the other hand, admitted to myself silently that I had grown sloppy - unfortunately in most categories.
My attention was suddenly directed to the dash as my new cell phone began to spin like a top as it vibrated.
"When are you going to use those new rings tones I downloaded for you hun?" my wife asked while picking it up.
"Well, I just can't decide which one to use, they're all so great, you know?" She lowered her eyebrows into a scowl and glared at me. The truth was I couldn't stand the "churchy" songs she selected, but was too embarrassed to tell her.
"It's your sister, and she sent a text. 'Start a new verse, for better or worse'.
“What does that mean,” I asked with a slight tinge of anger in my voice.
“Don't get upset, she means well and ever since she learned how to text she's been having fun." Maria put the phone back on the dash and turned the air conditioning up to the maximum.
“I suppose." I gripped the steering wheel a bit tighter with one hand, and with the other, turned the center vent streaming with cold air in my direction.
Ever since I could remember, my older sister was combining Bible verses with her own proverbs into silly aphorisms that were meant to inspire and encourage but in my opinion largely amounted to total nonsense. I loved her, but she could be quite overbearing at times. With my mother now gone, however, I tolerated it for her sake.
"I think that old weeping willow tree should be just over that hill," I said with renewed enthusiasm. "From there we’ll be at the house in minutes".
Maria drew a deep breath and slowly released it through pursed lips. "I wonder how Liza will adjust to her new surroundings? I mean this is going to be a big change for us, but especially for her, you know?"
I nodded in agreement and turned my head toward our daughter in the backseat. She, securely settled in her booster seat, seemed so much smaller surrounded by my neatly stacked pile of boxes. "Yes, believe me, I know. I've thought about that probably a thousand times. We’ll try to make her as comfortable as possible as soon as we get there, I promise."
Liza's tiny hands suddenly began to clap and wave wildly as she spotted the approaching tree, which brought to mind just how keen her sense of remembrance was for a four year old with a mental handicap.
"Someone is excited to be here!" I exclaimed.
"Hey look, there’s that old church we always see and there’s actually people coming out this time, Maria interrupted. I thought it was abandoned or something."
"Yeah, but that’s kind of weird for a Thursday, and at 11:30 in the morning?” I questioned.
Maria turned off the air conditioning and rolled down the window. "Maybe they were having a meeting or something"?
"Yeah, but on a Thursday at 11:30 in the morning?” I repeated with a responding inquisitive tone.

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