Paivi didn’t remember much about the ride home. She spent the entire time sobbing into Jason’s shoulder. He walked her up the steps to her front door. On the porch, they stopped for a moment. Both of them were at a loss for words.
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” Jason whispered into Paivi’s ear as he pulled her into his arms. She nodded. He kissed her on the cheek and gave her a squeeze, then walked down the steps back to Devon’s waiting car.
Paivi didn’t want to remain on the porch, alone in the cold, but she also didn’t want to go in. How could she even begin to explain the events of the night? She still felt nauseous and her head hurt from crying so much. She knew she must look a hot mess. She decided it would be best to edit her story. She would have to tell them about Michaela, so they would understand why they weren’t friends anymore. And at least that would explain the tears and being home early. But maybe she would leave out the YATC and the incident on the dance floor.
She took a deep breath and opened the front door. At least she was home. And for the first time, she thought about having to go back to school after two weeks off. Maybe if she told her parents more of the story, maybe she could just be home schooled. She didn’t think she could ever face Michaela again.
She walked slowly down the hall into the family room, where Mr. and Mrs. Anderson and Torsten were watching the news on television. She didn’t really know how to start. She hoped they would notice her and say something.
Her mother’s head popped up fro the couch first, glancing at the clock above the fireplace. She jumped from the couch, trying to take in everything in the dim light of the family room.
“Oh Paivi, you’re home early.” Mrs. Anderson gasped as she caught sight of Paivi’s face. “Oh no sweetie, what happened? You’re a mess!”
Mr. Anderson and Torsten opened their mouths, ready to make a joke, but chose otherwise after seeing Paivi’s red, puffy eyes. Mrs. Anderson unhooked Paivi’s badge and returned it to the monitoring device. She then led Paivi to the couch.
“Here, let’s sit down honey, that’s it.” Mrs. Anderson fluffed the pillow behind her. “Now, please tell us what happened?”
She glared at Mr. Anderson and Torsten.
“I promise they won’t say a word.”
The boys sat back sheepishly.
Paivi took a deep breath.
“Okay, but don’t say anything until I’m done.”
They nodded in agreement.
“Here goes…” Paivi leaned back into the couch and looked down at the corsage on the wrist that Jason had given her. She fiddled with the deep crimson ribbon that held the white and red roses together.
Paivi began relaying the events of the evening. She decided to tell it all—she just couldn’t hold it all in. After fifteen minutes it was over. She had finished the story, but she didn’t feel any better. She looked up, taking in the horrified looks of her family and felt worse.
“Paivi, I am so sorry honey!” Fat little tears rolled down her mother’s cheeks. She threw her arms around her daughter.
Mr. Anderson’s face went from horrified to livid.
“That’s it,” he grumbled, “you two are not returning to school after break.”
“What!” Torsten squawked.
Paivi felt relieved. The only people she would miss were Jason, and maybe Christian. There was nothing there for her anymore.
“It’s not safe for you kids. Those YATC kids are all over the place now. And we already know the school can’t protect you, as we saw after what happened to that nice Dr. Hasenpfeffer.” Mr. Anderson leaned back into the couch. “You’ll be home schooled for now. But I will go to the ATC office and inquire if we can move you out of St. Andrew.”
Mr. and Mrs. Anderson appeared to shudder at the mere mention of the ATC office.
Now it was Paivi’s turn. She didn’t want to go back to school, but leave St. Andrew? She’d lived here her whole life.
“Maria,” Mr. Anderson turned to his wife, grasping her small hands in his large ones. “St. Andrew isn’t safe for them anymore. It’s too close to Chicago, look how strong the ATC has gotten in this area in little more than a month.”
Mrs. Anderson continued to cry, but nodded.
“We can see if they can go to Tim and Alissa’s. Duluth might be safer because it’s much less populated. I’ll call them tomorrow.”
Duluth! Paivi thought. It was so far from here, and so cold.
”Can’t we just stay here, Dad?” Torsten pleaded. “You don’t want to go to Minnesota, it’s freezing there! It’s like the middle of nowhere.”
Mr. Anderson thought for a moment.
“As much as we would love to join you in Duluth, the ATC won’t let us leave St. Andrew. Their rules appear to be a little more lenient in regards to children. You two would have to go without us.”
“But it will only be temporary. It’s for your safety,” Mrs. Anderson added, trying to sound convincing, but unable to mask her misery. “We’ll talk everyday.”
“Mom, we don’t want to go without you, we don’t want to leave our house!” Paivi cried.
“This is the only option right now Paivi, I’m sorry,” Mr. Anderson said firmly.
“Paivi, would you please lock the front door for me?” Mrs. Anderson cleared two cups and a dish from the coffee table. “I’m beat—I think we should all get some rest. We can discuss this further in the morning.”
Torsten got up from the couch and straightened out the pillows as Paivi walked slowly down the dark hallway to the front door. As she reached out to turn the deadbolt she heard a loud crunch as the wooden frame shattered and the door flew open. The force of the door hitting her in the face and shoulder knocked her to the ground. She could hear the sound of glass breaking in the family room. Her mother and brother screamed at the same time.
“Mom!” Paivi could barely get the word out.
Within seconds, men in black surrounded her. In the dim light she could see one thing she recognized immediately—the silver glow of their ATC badges. Two of them grabbed her arms, hoisting her off the floor and dragging her down the hallway to the family room.
She struggled to free herself from their grip.
“Let me go!” she screamed at them.
The agent in front of her spun around and slapped her across the face.
“Shut up!” he screamed.
Paivi’s eyes welled up with tears and her face stung. She could still feel his hand on her cheek, even though it was no longer there. She could taste blood in her mouth. She squeezed her eyes shut, willing the tears away. She didn’t want to give the beast the satisfaction of seeing her cry.
In the family room, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson were on their knees, their faces pushed into the ground by the ATC agents who were putting them in handcuffs. Two more agents had the muzzles of very large guns pointed and the backs of their heads. It appeared there were about ten agents in all—two were holding Torsten in a corner, his face twisted in rage. Two other agents walked around the room, one smashed a crystal vase, throwing it into the fireplace, while his partner chuckled.
“Must be nice to have so many fancy things. I am sure they were all illegally obtained, however, so they’ll all have to be confiscated,” he ran his fingers across the top of the television, “ATC orders.”
Paivi wasn’t even listening. She could have cared less about anything in that house. The only thing that mattered was her parents, and making it out of there in one piece.
“Check the badges, make sure we’ve got the right ones,” one of the ATC agents ordered. The men were all quite large—they could have been the defensive line on a pro-football team.
Paivi was shaking, too scared to move.
“The badge numbers are correct.”
The ringleader pulled a small black notebook from his breast pocket and flipped it open.
Mr. Anderson didn’t answer.
The man with the notebook kicked Mr. Anderson in the ribs. He cried out in pain but didn’t move.
“Please, stop!” Mrs. Anderson cried hysterically, trying to rise from the floor.
The agent backhanded Mrs. Anderson across the face. She lost her balance and tipped over.
Paivi seethed with anger. She could feel it coursing through her veins and bit her tongue to try and take her mind off it. But she knew if she said or did anything it would only get worse. “Are you John Anderson?”
Mr. Anderson nodded and whispered, “Yes.”
“And you are Maria Anderson?”
Mrs. Anderson was back on her knees.
“I am here to notify you that Mr. John Anderson, EOS number 110838 and Mrs. Maria Anderson, EOS number 110837 are under arrest for the death of Mrs. Luisa Brown, of 469 Oak Street, St. Andrew, Illinois. As an Enemy of the State, you have no right to a lawyer.” He nodded to the men standing behind Mr. and Mrs. Anderson. “Take them away.”
“Wait!” Paivi cried out, still struggling against the iron grip of her captors. “Please, listen! It was me! It’s my fault Mrs. Brown died! Take me instead!”
“No Paivi,” Mrs. Anderson cried in horror.
The agent with the notebook laughed.
“Nice try, little girl. You aren’t gonna save your parents,” he snorted. “No one can.”
He waved his hand.
The two agents behind Mr. and Mrs. Anderson grabbed them by their arms, pulling them to their feet. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson’s eyes were glazed with defeat. With the muzzle of their captors’ machine guns in their faces, they accepted the fight was over. They were marched through the shattered front door and down the front steps.
Paivi and Torsten were dropped on the floor as the agents followed the group out into the night. They jumped to their feet and followed them outside. In front of the house were five black vans with the white letters ‘ATC’ painted on the side.
Mrs. Anderson collapsed in the yard, sobbing, unable to move further. The agent that had been holding her arm gave her a kick in the head. She screamed, and giving way to emotion, she jumped up and tried to run towards Paivi and Torsten, who were standing frozen in place on the front steps.
Paivi suddenly sprang to life, leaping off the front steps and running towards her mother. She reached her just as the two agents did, grabbing her mother by the arms. Paivi lunged, grabbing onto her mother, holding on as if her life depended on it. Rather, her life did depend on it. She couldn’t see life without her parents.
Torsten reached the group in the middle of the yard, pounding on the arm of one of the agents. The agent flung his arm back, striking Torsten in the face and throwing him to the ground.
“Let go or I’ll shoot!” shouted a gruff voice.
Paivi looked up to see the gun pointed at her own head.
“Paivi, I love you. Please do what the man says!” Mrs. Anderson whispered into her ear. She released her grip on Paivi.
“Take care of your brother.”
Paivi let go, her knees gave out and she collapsed into the snow. The agents hurried Mrs. Anderson to join her husband at the back of the van, waiting with its black doors open, ready to swallow them. Her parents stepped in gingerly, unbalanced by their handcuffed hands. Paivi looked up and down the street, wishing someone, anyone, would magically appear and come to save them. She was sobbing uncontrollably. The Cardinellis house next door was dark. All of the other homes were brightly lit, and she could see people standing in their windows, watching and doing nothing. Slowly the people in each house, not wanting to be seen eavesdropping, moved away from the windows and turned out their lights. One by one they went dark, leaving Torsten and Paivi alone in their pain on the front lawn.
The instant the van door slammed shut Paivi reacted to the horrible pain burning through her, touching every inch of her. It felt so much more powerful than the anger. She wailed so loud it reverberated off of every house on the street. It came from the deepest part of her soul, now damaged and torn. The vans pulled away, disappearing in a glow of red taillights at the end of the block. She took a deep breath and screamed, this time louder and more tormented. She felt like she was going to explode, every inch of her feeling so hot that her blood was boiling. She was sure she would die. She heard the sounds of glass breaking and the rumbling of an explosion. She opened her eyes, watching as the windows in all of the houses on the street, save the Cardinellis and her own, shattered, blowing out over the lawn as if each house had a bomb in it, set for the same time.
Torsten was at her side.
“Did you do that?” Torsten was in awe.
She managed to find her feet with Torsten’s help. Her green dress was torn, face bloodied and her beautifully coiffed hair lie ragged around her face. Paivi’s corsage lay in the white snow, crushed by the struggle. All that could be seen was a few of the red petals and what remained of the crimson ribbon.
A light snow had begun to fall, brushing lightly on Paivi’s bare shoulders.
“Paivi,” Torsten sniffed. “We should go inside. We can’t stay out here.”
Paivi nodded and he guided her back to the front steps and into the house as she numbly followed. She sat down on the stairs, unable to go any further. Torsten left her there and attempted to secure the damaged doors. He returned to find her sitting, silently staring off into the distance. He wedged himself in next to her on the steps.
“Paivi, what are we gonna do?”
She didn’t answer.
There was the sound of sirens in the distance.
“Paivi, please, I need you right now! You’ve got to figure something out.”
“I don’t know what to do, Tor.” Paivi’s voice was barely audible.
Torsten looked at her in anger.
“Mom and Dad are gone, Paivi. We’re all alone. We have to do something. We can’t just sit here. And we can’t stay here. This isn’t home anymore.”
She hid her face in her hands. It felt like someone had put her head on upside down and backwards. She couldn’t, she didn’t want to, wrap her head around the facts. Her parents were gone. How was she supposed to know what to do next?
“Paivi!” Torsten pleaded.
“Torsten!” she screamed back. “I don’t know what to do! How am I supposed to decide?”
Her voice echoed through the living room. Torsten shrank back.
“Ahhhh!” she cried out in pain as her neck burned. She grabbed at the necklace, which seemed to be the culprit. It felt like scalding hot water was being poured on her neck and chest. Paivi jumped up from the steps, dancing around, holding the necklace away from her chest. It immediately began to cool.
Paivi noticed, while holding it in front of her that the words on the back of the locket she had gotten from her parents were moving. She looked at it again, unsure if her brain was playing tricks on her after so much stress. It was no mistake—the letters appeared to be floating, like fish in a fish bowl. Some letters were right up against the surface, and some appeared to be floating somewhere deeper in the locket.
“What are you doing?” Torsten jumped up, alarmed. “What are you looking at?”
He stepped next to her, looking at the necklace.
“Whoa! Are those letters moving?”
“I think so.”
“What does it mean?”
“I don’t know. It’s never done this before.”
Some of the letters floated closer to each other and raced to the surface.
“YOU,” Paivi read the first word aloud.
“MUST,” Torsten read, still amazed.
Paivi waited. The letters returned to floating around aimlessly. Paivi shook the locket. They continued to float, some of them bumped into each other.
“Well, where are we supposed to go?” shouted Paivi in frustration.
The next two words popped up quickly.
“That necklace just told you off!” Torsten laughed.
“Oh, shut up.”
The next words came more slowly.
YOU MUST GO TO FRIENDS
“But where please?” Paivi tried to control her voice and be polite to the locket.
“North?” Torsten started, confused.
“Oh, north, to Minnesota. That’s where Mom and Dad talked about sending us, to Tim and Alissa’s in Duluth.”
“Paivi, how are we going to get to Duluth? Are we really going to listen to a necklace?”
“Oh, I’m sorry! Do you happen to have any other ideas? Besides, this appears to be more than just a necklace,” she said, shaking the locket at him.
The words swirled around and returned to their original position around the edge of the circle, displaying the Gaelic saying once again.
Paivi’s mind was spinning. They had a plan. They had to get to Duluth.
She started to pace back and froth across the living room.
She topped and looked at Torsten.
“I don’t want to stay here tonight.”
“Me neither,” he agreed. “But where are we going to go?”
“I know, I’m thinking. It said we have to go to friends. Well, the only way we are going to get to Duluth is with help from friends. But which friends?” She rubbed her temples with her fingers. It did nothing to remove the dull ache.
“The Cardinellis aren’t home tonight. What other friends are there?” Torsten asked, running his hands through is hair.
Paivi thought for a moment. She didn’t have many friends left. In fact, she could only think of two. There was Christian, whom she only recently saw as a friend, because he understood what she was going through. It wasn’t safe to go there, though. What if he’d had a similar night? She now had her answer.
“We can’t go to Christian’s, it wouldn’t be safe. But we could go to Jason’s. I trust him. And his mom seemed like she was on our side.”
“Three miles or so,” she estimated.
“And how are we going to get there?”
Torsten made a face. “Walk three miles in the cold? But it’s snowing!”
“Yeah, I got it, but neither of us can drive and our bikes are somewhere in the shed. By the time we get them ready, we could be at Jason’s.”
“I guess,” he conceded.
Paivi began pacing again, thinking aloud.
“We also have to try to get across town without getting stopped. We’ll have to stick to the backyards.”
“Alright. Go fill up a backpack with what you need. Take warm clothes, but only one backpack. We don’t want any ATC agents we come across to think we look suspicious.”
They both ran up the stairs. Paivi darted into her room. She grabbed her backpack off the floor, dumping its contents out. She wouldn’t be needing her school books anymore. She changed into warmer clothes, leaving the remnants of the once beautiful dress in a heap on the floor.
If I ever come back, she thought, I’ll burn it. I never want to remember this night.
Into the backpack went as many pants, sweaters, t-shirts, underwear and socks she could stuff in. In the bathroom she grabbed her toothbrush and a hairbrush. She ran back into her room, remembering one last thing she wanted. From the pile of jewelry that she had dumped out earlier on her dresser, she grabbed the ornate box that had held the locket she still wore. For some reason, she felt she couldn’t leave it.
Paivi met Torsten in the loft. They walked over to the bookcase in silence. 1984. The Scarlet Letter. Utopia. Heart of Darkness. One by one they pulled the books from their spots on the shelf, opening them to reveal small bundles of money. They each put some in their pockets and in their backpacks. They placed each book gently back in its place.
They stopped in the family room one last time. Paivi took a deep breath and looked around. Torsten was right. It didn’t feel like home anymore. She picked up a picture frame that had been knocked to the floor earlier. It was a photo of the family on their last vacation. Those were better days, a beautiful, sunny day on the beach. It seemed like a lifetime ago now. She shoved the frame into her over-stuffed backpack.
“I think we’re ready,” Paivi put on her winter coat, pulling up the hood. She wound a scarf around her head, covering her nose and mouth.
“Aren’t we taking our EOS badges?” Torsten gestured to the device on the kitchen counter where the badges were glowing brightly in the dim light.
“If we can help it, we’ll never wear them again. Let’s go.” Paivi opened the broken back door. “I don’t want anyone to see us leave.”
Torsten shut the door as best he could and pulled up his hood, tying it tight to keep the wind out. It was snowing lightly—giant, fluffy flakes that floated through the air.
They set off through the backyards, disappearing into the shadows.