Today's Reading

They rolled past townships with pretty steeples, church towers, bell towers, and clock towers. Jessie marveled at all the big towers. She had never been this far away from the temple community before. She'd never seen so many towers in her life. All this time she had figured the secular world was dreary and ugly. But this outside world was nicer than the temple community. It was colorful, and the people wore clothes that weren't black.

"Where are we going?" Jessie asked Sister Johanna. Sister Johanna did not answer her. She only readjusted her grip on the wheel. She was not happy. In fact, she'd been silent with Jessie ever since they left. Sister Johanna finally responded to Jessie by saying, "I don't want to hear you ask questions. Ada is putting her life on the line for you. Do you realize that? That's all you need to know. Do you know what they would do to us if they found out?"

Jessie didn't have any clue what Sister Johanna was talking about. All she knew was that this woman was a grump.

"Her life on the line?" said Jessie. "What's that mean?"

Sister Johanna shook her head and swore in German. "They're probably looking for us right now."

The night before, Ada had been emotional. Ada was much older than Jessie, who would be ten next April. Ada was married with kids, but she always paid more attention to Jessie than all the other temple orphans. She'd held Jessie in her arms and cried hard enough to clog her nose. Then she'd given Jessie a wad of money and told her to keep it in her shoe "for the trip," and she told her to mind Sister Johanna for her own safety.

When Jessie asked where she would be going, Ada said nothing more, except that she would like it there and it was very pretty. She said it would be exciting and there would be lots of sunshine. Sister Johanna stopped at a motor inn. It was dusk. She went to check in but left Jessie and the boys in the car. She came back and said, "You sleep in the car tonight with your brothers; it's safer. If anything happens, we can escape quicker. I need to lay flat tonight."

Jessie didn't even give her a yes, ma'am. She just stuck her tongue out at Johanna. Two could play at this game.

"You ungrateful...," said Sister Johanna. "If you had any idea how much I'm risking for you. Do you have any idea what is happening? I'm breaking the temple laws. If they find me they'll kill me."

Jessie put her tongue back in her mouth.

The night fell fast. Soon the whole world was black. Jessie didn't sleep in the car because her brothers stunk. Besides, this was a very big secular world. She sat on a large rock behind the motor inn, overlooking acres of farmland that spread for miles. A cow on the other side of a fence seemed interested in her, so she approached him. It stood in one place, staring at her while chewing. She named this cow Harold. Harold was a good listener. He let her talk about things as he whapped his tail against himself. She talked about everything that came to her mind. Eventually she realized Harold was a girl. So she changed her name to Harriet.

The next morning, when Sister Johanna found her curled up asleep on the rock, the woman marched across the field and grabbed her with both hands. She dragged Jessie into the vehicle by her hair. Jessie kicked and screamed, but Sister Johanna threw her into the front seat and slapped her on the face. Jessie stuck her tongue out at the woman again and said, "You don't slap very hard."

It was the wrong thing to say. Because Sister Johanna proved that she could.

"You're not my mother," Jessie added.

The woman didn't seem to care.

"And you're ugly," said Jessie. That ought to do it.

"I don't wanna hear another word outta you." Sister Johanna was beginning to cry. "Or I'm just gonna leave you right here, do you understand me?"

"I don't care if you leave me here," said Jessie.

The woman tried to slap her again, but Jessie caught her hand. Sister Johanna yanked herself free. "You stupid Kind. The Bischof wants to have you killed, Jessie. We're trying to save your life."

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