Chapter One – The Lady at Trinity Church

Hatches discovered a neat little opportunity to bug her sister by singing the lyrics to her favorite candy commercial.

It’s a JUICY, fine treat with oh so many pops that tickles and tickles your tongue like it’s never gonna stop! Don’t be choosy, choose JUICY tadada dum!

Kids her age usually expect a good hearty laugh when they pretend to be cute. Mores loathed the sound of that stupid jingle reverberating in her head. She could only fathom the need to scream at her younger sister, but she settled with a rather constipated look.

Mores was 15 years old, nearly twice as old as Hatches. Apart from the throbbing vein, you could almost figure that Mores was in no mood for some casual sisterly bonding in the manner she was clutching her hair, breaking a strand or two.

“Shoo away Hatches! Go eat some rice pudding from the fridge!”

Those were the kind of distractions her mother would put forth when Mores was as young as her sister. Hatches would have been more than happy to leave on one gesture of the occasion but even she would prefer talking to her sister over some sticky old fudge from the fridge. Something or the other was always bothering Mores and a fragile mind like Hatches could sense that too.

Daddy was home sooner than usual that day.  Hatches left the fudge for some dried scones in the cupboard. Meanwhile, Mores had just started to pen down a line in her journal entry titled “Why I keep more than one shadow.”

I know she is looking at me, peering over the curvatures of the whisky clouds of heaven. I want to say something, anything to hear the mellifluous tone of her voice. It’s not that I cannot recall her voice; in fact I can accurately describe the felt of her hair and skin. Everyone loves their mother, you’ll think. Everyone knows there is nothing above her. I had one such mother too. Because she told me I was her child, because she said so and ergo, I believed her. I also believed her when she told me that if anyone mentioned the word ‘adopted’, it refers to that miraculous state when the baby’s heartbeat coincides with that of the mother at the time of her birth so as to give the mother an almost painless delivery.  And so, for the first decade of my life, I would never hesitate to declare that, yes, I’m an adopted child.

“I bet you aren’t! My mom always said I’m special.”  

My family and friends would appreciate my enthusiasm but not everyone is like family or friends. It’s so funny to see how the sparkle in the eyes of a child lasts till she is innocent, unaware of her adjacent, changing milieu. Now, all kinds of people visit my home ever since that fatal day. My mother died 5 years ago in an accident. But what if I told you that I was the murderer?

“Mores! Why haven’t you set the plates yet, darla?”

Darla was just a short and sweet way of saying “darling”, not that either word takes a whole lot of time to say, still Daddy would say it so lovingly. Mores hurried down what seemed like a flight of a twisted staircase. If you’d ask any fellow– he would say that the Dannenberg house was no less than a staid dungeon. The architecture, highly austere, could only arise from the mind of an ascetic. Their home was a small establishment off the coast of the Passaic River in Minestorm County. One cannot really call it a county since there were less than 100 people inhabiting it. The legend goes that some of less known tyrants and warriors of the 17th and 18th centuries developed aliases so as to escape lurid threats from their homelands. Many practiced polygamy common in those days. A saying goes that the fifth wife of the impending Prince of Yatsch formed a successful revolution with other wives to protect their rights and defend themselves against their husband outlaws. Some of those warriors and wives lived here, in the presently called Minestorm County.

Mores’s father, Hermon worked a blue collar job as a delivery truck driver. The income just about managed to run the Dannenberg household. Infrequently, he wouldn’t show up for days on account of high priority deliveries that needed to be shipped within the earliest. In such cases, Hermon would call over Sister Parsley to look after the children.

At the bottom of the staircase stood a man who was a little over 6ft and had the quiet expression of a leafless tree. The equanimity of his voice and actions owed perhaps due to his profound love for his late wife. The man had wrinkles of crow feet embellishing his forehead and eyes. He either looked too old for his children or too young for the antiquity of his home. But for a widowed man, he couldn’t have had it any other way. Ever since Mirina left him, Hermon was withering in thoughts and was clearly losing his peace. For a man, a wife can be a prized possession or poison. However, if you chanced to ask him today, Hermon would have trouble deciding.

When a family is broken, the healing brings it closer, they say. Hermon grew more detached from his daughters because of the simple ways they reminded him of Mirina. It is miraculous how precious Mores is in more ways like Mirina than their own flesh and blood, Hatches.

Mores was only a year old when a young lady from the local marketplace quietly approached Hermon and Mirina at the intersection of the library and Trinity Church. She had very little to say but it seemed like she was in an awful hurry to say it. The beautiful lady covered her baby with a golden colored veil while its hair, partially visible, was soft and brown. Her daintiness conflicted in no way with her mellow voice, which was muffled, as she held her one hand close to her mouth and the other to hold her baby.

“Would you like to purchase some of my berries? Please for the child.”

“How much do you sell them for?” Mirina asked.

“No. Meer. Why do you want to buy them here?” Hermon intervened.

“10 wafers for a whole basket. I promise that they are the freshest you will find.”

The wives are always stubborn when it comes to a bargain and they look out for the health of the children, even if they aren’t her own.

“Look at it this way Hermon. I will be buying it for her baby and I know how much you like this fruit.”

A second later, she smiled at the lady and added, “I’ll take the whole basket.”

The lady measured the contents and handed the basket to the young couple.

“You have done a great honor by being the first to take my fruit. May God keep you both in his arms.”

“Let’s go now Meer! It is getting very dark.”

Mirina was pleased with the sweetness of the berries as she sneaked some into her mouth. Long walks can make anyone hungry. Hermon was tempted to try some too.

The lady disappeared from her chosen venue of selling berries.

Home was near and the two made preparations for dinner. It was near bedtime that Hermon heard a loud thud in the kitchen.

He ran like a bolt of lightning and stood aghast next to his wife who had turned white as she lay helplessly on the floor.

The basket was moving about. And inside was a beautiful baby covered in a golden veil.

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