Daria looked at her sister’s family, clustered in the living room. “We can only take three of the kids with us.” She turned to her husband for support.
“Three. I’m sorry. That’s all we can afford, what with the cost of the passage on top of raising them afterwards. But we will take three.” With that, Ricardo Blake excused himself and went into the kitchen to put the tea on.
The children looked back and forth between their mother and their aunt. Finally their eyes settled on their mother. The final decision would be hers. The small woman cleared her throat, not returning her children’s gazes. “I can’t do this.”
Just then, Ricardo returned with the copper tea tray. However, on the tray were eight cups up-side down but no tea. He motioned to one of the children to approach. The 12-year-old boy brushed the curls out of his eyes slightly and approached his uncle. “Pick a cup, Raúl.” The boy turned over a cup. A black wooden knight fell out. Ricardo nodded at his nephew, who stepped aside slightly. Raúl then motioned to his siblings.
Luz was next. She carefully turned over the sturdy mug as if it were the finest china. Pawn. She went and sat back down by her mother. Each child took a turn, by age. Esperanza, white knight. Carlos, pawn. Manolo, pawn. Diego, pawn. Marta, pawn. Julio, knight. It was decided.
Raúl’s mother stifled a cry. “I’ll bring them tomorrow with their things. If that’s ok. That’ll give you time to get the paperwork done.” She got up to leave, but turned around after a few steps. Daria went over to her sister and they held each other. Then the children and their mother wordlessly left.
Ricardo went back into the kitchen and got the actual tea things this time. As he poured the hot tea, he mused aloud. “I’m not so sure about this. What if they don’t let us take the kids with us? And even if they do, really, what are we doing?”
“We’re giving them a better life. And helping the ones left behind as well. Really. Besides, we are a family already.”
“But are you sure Father Orlando will do this?”
“It’s all arranged. Tomorrow we take Raúl, Esperanza, and Julio to the church and have them baptized. We’ll be listed as their parents, and the baptismal document will be enough. They don’t check that closely any more. As long as the tickets are paid for, they don’t care!” Daria sighed and took another drink of her tea.
Ricardo got up and sat next to his wife. He put his arm around her and held her close. “You’ll see. Everything will be okay. We’ll have a family, and a new life. For all of us. Really. We’ll be fine.”
“For our Sisters who are about to embark on a journey, that they travel in safety, we pray to the Lord.”
“Lord, hear our prayer,” responded the congregation. While some actually looked like nuns, with veils and various styles of habits, others looked like perfectly ordinary women. Each of these had quite a firm opinion about this trip, as well as the three who were chosen to undertake it.
Sr. Damian glanced around the Motherhouse chapel. It was hard to believe that soon she’d be traveling with only two other sisters, and never see the rest of her religious family again. Not that she was close to all of them; there were certainly members of her community who drove her up the
wall. In fact, there was a time when she thought that Sr. Gregory was so pompous that … no, she shouldn’t think those things in chapel. Plus, she’d have to put the past behind her; Sr. Gregory was one of the chosen. The third was Sr. Matthias. She was pretty young, and it was a surprise that she’d be going along. She certainly hadn’t been in the community very long – only a decade or so. But that’s who the Superior General picked, and that was that. Sr. Damian put her Office book away and followed the trail of sisters to the refectory.
Mitch rolled over and looked at his wife. He was really surprised, actually, that she’d agreed to embark on this journey. They hadn’t been that close lately, but he knew the trip would be just the ticket to get their marriage back on track. It was already beginning to work, and they hadn’t even left yet. But now she was taking more interest in her appearance and had even started wearing perfume again. Not that he actually cared for that scent, but it was nice to know she was making an effort!
“No, you’re not taking the dogs! I have the list right here of what we’re allowed to take, and it doesn’t mention dogs.” Louise looked at her 16-year-old son, knowing what was coming.
“Well, it doesn’t say we can’t take them either, does it? And dogs might come in handy! Keep us safe, and all that.”
“And warm,” added his sister. “If it turns out to be colder than we think, the dogs can at least sleep with us!”
“Fine. You go down to the office tomorrow and get permission. I have too much to do before we leave.”
“But what if we just happen to have them with us? Once they see the dogs, they’ll see the wisdom of having them with us, and they won’t refuse us.” Mike looked back at Michelle. They were good at this, from years of practice.
“Plus, if they decide to turn the dogs away, they’ll have to take them themselves. It’ll be too late for us to make arrangements for them!” Michelle noticed an older man enter the room. “Grandpa, tell mom we need to take the dogs with us!”
“Actually, I was thinking of that myself, honey. We don’t know what we’ll find once we get there, or even along the way. The earlier colonists didn’t exactly send back postcards. And if they didn’t bring any dogs at all, then our two dogs will mean … well … that we’ll have dogs there.” Arthur Bradford had grown rather fond of Debit and Credit himself in the past two years.
“How will we feed them? Once we get across the Bay of Sorrows, provided we all survive that nightmare, we’re facing the unknown the rest of the trip. But I’m willing to bet we’re not going to run across any stores.”
Arthur had thought some of this out already. “We’re going where some colonizing parties have gone before us, but not so many that they would’ve already killed off all the wildlife. These were bred to be hunting dogs, in spite of what your husband named them!”
“Well, you guys have to work out the dogs thing yourself. I have too much to do getting the rest of us ready!”
January Peterson looked again at the list in her hand. She already had the paperwork saying she’d passed the physical and gotten all her shots. Her outstanding debts were paid off, and being single meant she didn’t need a consent affidavit from a spouse. The packing was going to be the hard part – deciding what to take along and leave behind. She only had one crate she could fill, aside from what she could carry herself. Tomorrow she’d see if she could find out if anyone else single was going; perhaps they could travel together and only bring one set of cooking utensils to share, freeing up space for both of them.
Fr. Casey looked around. Packing would be the easy part. He just hoped the nuns in the travel party knew how to make communion hosts! Surely he had instructions for that somewhere. Too bad these weren’t diocesan nuns. He had no say in who was chosen. There was nothing he could do about that now. As long as they understood the need to take care of the priest – cooking, cleaning, etc., then he’d be free to do his important work. There was some Protestant pastor coming along as well. Jim something. Kiesling. Well, as long as he stuck to his own people and didn’t get any ideas about collaboration, there wouldn’t be any problems.
Harris Cambridge looked at his list. He divided them into Families, Singles, and Others. The nuns and priests were Others. Tomorrow when they all met, he’d have to get the names of the three Blake kids. Including himself, there were 200 people in this travel party, as there had been in the earlier ones. He just hoped he had the skills and good luck to lead them all. Once they found the previous colonists, they’d have to decide if they wanted to join them or start their own town. Of course, that would depend in part on how many survived the trip.