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Kiwi Sin Sneak Preview

Kiwi Sin Sneak Preview

Book 5: New Zealand Ever After

1 – Red Dawn


I knew that leaving Mount Zion meant walking into the world of the damned, and, if the Prophet was right, roasting in the burning fires of Hell. I just wasn’t expecting it to happen so soon.

I didn’t quite leave by choice, or not by any choice I could recall making. I was slow to speak and slow to act, because I thought things out before I made a move. Except on that day.

It was barely six o’clock, the gray dawn streaked with red, but I was up and dressed, working on some calculations for the new processing shed, which would hold the many different machines necessary to turn alpaca fleece into knitting wool. We were expanding our herd of Suri alpacas, and expanding the operation, too, because the Prophet always looked ahead. Mount Zion was prospering when most ventures failed, he told us often enough, because God smiles on the worthy and blesses their ventures. And if I wondered whether it was really because nobody here earned a wage, and forty years of families of twelve or fourteen or sixteen had expanded that free labor force in exponential fashion, I’d learnt not to ask that kind of question. Or any question. I kept myself to myself.

That was the problem with being chosen to help my father on the community’s necessary  business Outside, though. I saw things. And on that day, when I heard the noise from outside the gate, put down my pencil, and went out to investigate along with everybody else, I saw more.

Nobody visited Mount Zion. It was a closed community. “Sufficient unto itself,” the Prophet liked to say. Not today.

The air was chilly and damp at dawn, and the kids were shivering as everyone stood silently to watch Fruitful Warrior, one of my almost-cousins, who’d run away from her husband but had been caught again, walk away from Mount Zion once more. Not in secret this time, and not without help. I held back Fruitful’s husband, Gilead, as my dad entered a combination into the gate’s locking mechanism that only he and the Prophet knew, and the steel frame slid slowly open with a grinding of metal. Fruitful, her face bruised from Gilead’s blows, untied her cap and apron, dropped them on the ground, took off her heavy white shoes, pulled the pins out of her hair, and walked through that gate barefoot with her head held high, and Gilead’s muscles tensed with violent effort under my hands.

I wanted him to break free. I wanted an excuse. Instead, I held him tighter, even though he was nearly fifteen years my senior and due my deference by every rule I’d ever learnt. I wished, with the hot rage of sin filling my chest, that I could hit him the same way he’d hit his seventeen-year-old wife. That I could hurt him. That I could use the strength I’d honed all my life and smash his face.

Violence is forbidden at Mount Zion. Violence between adult men, that is.

Anyway, Fruitful walked out, and the second she crossed the line, her sisters grabbed her and held on. That was Chastity, the eldest, who’d left long ago, plus the sister just younger than Fruitful, who’d run along with her weeks before. Obedience, that was, sixteen years old, with her hair cut to just below her shoulders now and falling loose. She was wearing trousers and a shirt, the way women dressed Outside. Like a man, but Obedience would never look like a man.

The fella beside my cousin Chastity on the other side of that gate, who’d told us his name was Gray Tamatoa as if that would mean something, lifted a loud-hailer and announced, into the frozen shock of sudden change, “The rest of you have a choice, too. You’re hard workers. Skilled laborers. There’s a world of work out there, and it’s waiting for people like you. I’m a builder in Dunedin, just down the road, but I was born in Wanaka, just like all of you. I’ve got good jobs going begging. Too much work, and not enough labor, so if any man here wants to give it a go, I’m willing to give him a try. All you have to do is step across the line. I’ve got people to help get you started, ready to hook you up with agencies and with churches that are waiting for you. They believe in God, too, just like you. They believe in goodness and compassion and service given from a willing heart, and they’re there for you.”

“Deceiver,” the Prophet shouted. “Serpent.” The voice we all had to listen to. The voice we all had to obey.

“Daisy has done it,” Gray answered, talking back to the Prophet as nobody dared to do. “So has her brother.” Oh. “Daisy” was Chastity, then. She’d changed her given name? You weren’t allowed to do that. Names were given by the Prophet, except for my family, because my father had refused to allow our given names to be changed when the Prophet had decided on that. We’d taken the surname of the rest of my father’s family, Worthy, but that was all. My brothers and I had been named for archangels, but those names had been my parents’ choice, not the Prophet’s.

Sometimes, rebellion sprouts from the smallest seed. Eventually, an acorn grows into an oak.

Gray went on, “There’s money in your pocket, a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. There’s a house of your own, eventually, and a good life for your daughters and your sons. All you have to do is step across the line.”

I’d have done it right then, because even as my mind struggled to take it all in, my booted feet wanted to move. My brother Raphael, his wife Radiance, and their baby went first, though, because I was still holding Gilead. I handed him off to Regnum Standfast, who was young, but the only man I trusted to hold Gilead back, and followed my younger brother. Walking with my boots, not my mind. My mind was still thinking, How can this be happening? Nobody left Mount Zion, or almost nobody. Chastity and Dutiful had, because Chastity’s twin was out there this morning, too, even though we’d been told they were both dead. That they’d left the community for Outside, all those years ago, and their sin had caught up with them, as the Lord would always smite the unworthy. Except that He hadn’t, because here they both were, and Fruitful and Obedience, too. All outside the gate.

My parents followed me, bringing my youngest sister, Harmony, the only one not old enough to choose for herself, and that was the biggest surprise of all. My father was the Prophet’s right hand. If he was leaving, could it be so wrong?

It felt wrong, and it didn’t, as the Prophet’s voice boomed out, sending us off to perdition to be devoured by snakes, tormented by demons with pitchforks, to spend eternity writhing in the fire the way he’d described at least once a week for as long as I could remember, the imagery so vivid I could feel my flesh blistering.

I walked out without a cent in my pockets, with nothing to offer except my willing hands. Not prepared a bit.

Did I walk away for myself? Probably. For my family? Possibly. For Obedience? No. That would be stupid, nothing but a dream.

When Gilead escaped Regnum Standfast’s hold and charged through the gate, though, I was ready to hit him. That’s how fast I descended into sin.

I was ready, but I didn’t get the chance. Gray hit him first.


* * *

I rode with a few blokes for the short journey down the hill into Wanaka. All of us who’d left today had made this trip before, to the doctor or the dentist. The world beyond Wanaka, though? My dad and I were the only ones who’d seen that, because I’d been helping him with his occasional trips to buy and sell and making arrangements, with me doing the driving and the loading and unloading, since I’d turned sixteen. I was clinging to that thought—that this wasn’t quite as new to me—because unlike the others, I wasn’t married, even though I was past the age for it, which meant I’d walked out alone.

Never mind. It’s what Gray said. You know how to work, he’s offering work, and he’s a builder. Outside is full of people, and they don’t get married for ages, so there has to be a way to live alone.

Driving up the hill, then, away from the center of the town, and stopping on a street of large buildings that had to be houses. “Single-family homes,” they were called, and only a few people lived in each, enormous as they were and odd as that seemed.

The three other men in the car got out, so I did, too. Two of them were as tall and broad as me, and the third was taller. Highlanders players, they’d told me. I didn’t have a clue what that was, but I didn’t ask. I’d learnt that if I kept my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open, I’d eventually understand. 

We were standing on the pavement, then, with about a hundred people, all milling about in an excited sort of way, talking about what had just happened, laughing or shocked or angry or all of those things together. Having emotions, and expressing them freely. They wore jackets against the chill, and I was in my shirtsleeves, my brown trousers, and the braces that held the trousers up. I was hungry, too, because I’d worked fourteen hours yesterday, taking advantage of the summer light, and it was time for breakfast.

I wasn’t sure how I’d get breakfast. I knew no rules for this, except that breakfast would cost money I didn’t have, and suddenly, I was nauseated. I breathed my way through it, telling myself, There has to be a way, and sure enough, within five minutes or so, Gray was taking charge again.

Parceling out the refugees, is the only way I can describe what happened next. Raphael and Radiance went with a couple who introduced themselves as Matiu and Poppy Te Mana and said they had an extra apartment in their house and would be glad of the company. My parents and Harmony went with Gray.

And me? So far, nothing, and the nausea was back again.

That was when a big, fit, tough-looking fella of forty-odd, who’d done some of his own talking through the loud-hailer back there and had an air of command I recognized, told me, “We have a granny flat. You’re welcome to stay in it.”

I didn’t ask, What’s a granny flat? I said, “Thank you. Until I get myself sorted.” One thing I knew about Outside was that you did it yourself. It was like the drop of pond water we’d looked at under a microscope when I’d been at school, full of individual tiny things of different types called “single-celled organisms,” moving around seemingly at random, intent on their own business, while I was used to being just one cell in a body.

“No rush,” the man said. “Need a chat with anybody, or would you rather go?”

“Ready to go,” I said, because I couldn’t think of what I’d say to anyone. The only person I needed to talk to was Gray, and he was heading into one of the houses, a block of glass and steel unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

The man saw me watching and said, “I’ll ring him later and ask him about you starting work, shall I?”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’m Gabriel, by the way. Gabriel Worthy.”

He put out a hand. “Drew Callahan.” His eyes were gray, which was unusual, and he had some long-healed white scars on his forehead and around his eyes, and another one on his chin. He looked tough and felt quiet and calm, and I relaxed a bit. He asked, “You hungry?” and I relaxed a little more.

“Yeh,” I said. “But I don’t have money for food.”

“I’ll shout you food until you’re earning,” he said. “Let’s go, then.” And climbed up into the kind of car called an SUV. The seats seemed to be covered in leather, another thing I hadn’t seen before, the instrument panel gleamed with electronics, and it was about as far from Mount Zion’s small fleet of battered old farm utes as it was possible to be.

I climbed in, trying to scrape off my dirty boots along the way, but said, “I’ll keep an account.”

He set off down the hill, his movements assured and economical, and said, “No worries. I’m good for a few meals. Can’t be bothered to keep track of all that anyway.”

I had a little notebook and a stub of pencil in my pocket, as I always did. I pulled them out and said, “No need. I’ll do it.”

He braked to a stop at a sign, glanced over at the calculations I’d made this morning, and said, “Looks like heaps of maths. That what you do, then?”

“No,” I said, feeling a bit embarrassed. “Just working out lumber, electric, that sort of thing, and a bit about the design.”

“Hmm,” he said. “In your head,” and didn’t say anything else until we’d stopped in town. “Takeaway OK?”

“Yeh,” I said. “You’ll have been up all night, though, I’m thinking.” The Prophet had told us men outside were soft, but this man, though he was old enough to be a grandfather, didn’t seem that way.

“Nah,” he said. “I’m good. Hang on, then, and I’ll be back with breakfast. Coffee?”

“Uh …” I said. “I haven’t had it.” Coffee was an intoxicant, and a sin.

“Well,” he said, “reckon it’s time to try.” And got out of the car.

* * *

Some things were the same, I found. You felt better once you’d eaten, more settled. Drew didn’t talk much, other than saying, “Three and a half hours to Dunedin.”

“Fine,” I said, because I had to say something, then looked out the window at not much at all and tried not to be overwhelmed by what I’d done, the yawning expanse of the unknown.

One moment, I was staring absently at the intersection ahead as we drove along beside Lake Dunstan. The next, I was shouting, “On your right!” at the top of my lungs.

It couldn’t have taken Drew a half second to react, because even as I shouted it, as the car ahead made the right turn to the north toward Wanaka, swinging too wide, into the wrong lane, into our lane, Drew was slamming on the brake and driving straight off the road to the left, all the way onto the verge and nearly down the bank and into the water. I saw two horrified faces, mouths and eyes stretched, through the windscreen of the car as it flashed past, then heard the squeal of brakes as it slowed and swerved left, back into its own lane.

I hadn’t even started to breathe again when another car, headed north too fast, was past us as well. Almost at the same moment I registered it, I heard the noise behind me. Loud and sudden and brutal, the sound of metal crunching into metal.

Drew said, “Shit,” punched a button for his hazard lights, and was stopped and out of the car, but I was faster. I hadn’t had to hit the lights or turn off the car. I was sprinting, because the too-fast driver had hit the wrong-way driver from the rear. Even as the too-fast driver pulled to the side of the road, the wrong-way car was spinning down the highway in a sickening circle, then catching an edge of pavement and flipping. It rolled once, all the way around. Another half-roll, and it came to rest on its roof, rocking a little.

The other car had stopped, and somebody could be hurt in there, but I couldn’t pay attention to that. I was running toward the crumpled rear of the wrong-way car, because I was smelling gas, and gas plus the kind of sparks you got when a car rolled on pavement …

That meant fire.

Get in through the windows, I thought. The doors would be locked.

The driver, a youngish fella, was upside-down, still conscious, eyes wide. Drew was there, though. I could feel his presence behind me, so I kept running around the car to the other side.

A woman here. Dark hair, white face, upside down. I shouted, “Punch your seat belt! Punch it!” Drew wasn’t shouting, because he was already hauling. The driver must have unclipped, but the passenger hadn’t. She was fumbling for the latch, and I wasn’t just smelling gas anymore. I was smelling smoke.

I didn’t think. I crouched, and then I straightened. Right into the shattered window, grabbing for the shoulder harness and following it up, punching where the button would be.

The second it released, she fell straight down onto her head, but I wasn’t worrying about that. I had my hands around her hips and was turning her awkwardly and hauling her out, legs first. She was tangled in the belt, and I pulled harder, the steep bank beside me not giving me enough space for the leverage I needed.

The smell was stronger now. Leaking gas. And smoke. Something catching.

I pulled like it was life and death, because it was, and she came loose. Her abdomen hit the edge of the window hard as I pulled her out upside-down by the legs, and she cried out.

The back of the car was burning, the flames licking toward us, but I had her mostly out, grabbing her around the middle now. It was a long way around there, and she was heavy.

Because she was pregnant.

The heat was a scorching thing. I could feel it on my cheeks, my arms. I was dragging her away from the bank that trapped us, around the front of the car. Then I had her in my arms, and I was running.

The blast like a furnace as the fire reached the gas tank and blew. A bloom of heat on my back, my legs, stinging hard, but I was striding like my legs could cover the world.

We were out.

We were free.



2 – The Wages of Sin


By the time I lowered the woman to the grass, there were three more cars parked on the verge, and men running. One holding a handful of flares, running back toward Wanaka, the other waving his arms over his head at oncoming traffic in the other direction. Brave, but foolish. Drew, who had the driver of the burning car sitting propped against the bank, shouted to the arm-waving man, “Flares in the boot of my car, across the highway,” and pointed, and the man ran for them.

I registered all that in a sort of compartment in my mind, a dispassionate corner that was taking stock, and then I was setting the woman down gently, beside her husband. I was afraid to look, afraid of what I’d see, but that dispassionate corner had me looking anyway, because it was necessary.

She wasn’t crying. She was gasping, holding her belly, and I wanted to pray, but I didn’t really know how. I knew about a vengeful God who punished sinners for their wickedness, and would punish me, too, for my sins today. God was probably punishing her right now, but that didn’t feel right. What could she have done to deserve this? I didn’t know how you asked for mercy, so I just crouched beside her and asked, “What hurts?”

“Susannah,” the man said. “Susannah. Oh, my God. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I only forgot for a minute. How could it happen that fast?”

Drew said, “I’ve rung for the police and the ambos. They’ll be here soon to check her out.” He was still holding his phone, though, and now, he did some clicking around, waited a minute, then said, “Gray? Got the number of that doctor fella, Matiu? Read it out to me.” Some more clicking, then he was saying, “That Matiu Te Mana? Drew Callahan here. Still in Wanaka, or on your way?” Another few seconds, and he said, “Come on as fast as you can, then. There’s been an accident at the intersection with the Gibbston Highway. Got a pregnant woman here who needs attention, and some burns as well. Ambos on their way, but you’ll be faster, and I want you to look at this lady.” He rang off and told the woman, “There’s help coming. An emergency doc, and the ambos. They’ll take care of you, and the baby. What’s hurting? Are you having contractions?”

She said, “I … I don’t know. I don’t think so. I hit my belly hard on the window, though. It hurts. Is the baby … do you think she …”

Drew said, still calm as a glacial lake, “Pretty protected in there, with the amniotic fluid and all. Your body takes it in order to protect her, eh. I’ve got three kids myself, and I’m guessing you’re doing a pretty fair job of that protection right now. How far gone are you?”

“Thirty … thirty weeks,” the woman gasped.

“We’ve been traveling,” the man said. “Our honeymoon, before the baby. I’ve been driving on the left for two weeks! I wasn’t even going that fast. I realized as soon as I made the turn, as soon as I saw you. It was only a second. How could it happen in a second?” He had hold of the woman now, and I thought about how many things could happen in a second. You could turn your back on your home. You could hurt your family. You could burn down your life.

“American, are you, mate?” Drew asked. Still calm, but he was stepping behind me, checking out my back.

I said, “I’m fine. Stings a bit, that’s all. Got a little hot there, maybe.”

The woman focused on me, then. “You got me out,” she said, her voice still jerky with shock. “You pulled me out. When the car was burning. You saved my life. My baby’s life.”

Well, this was embarrassing. “No worries,” I said. “Anybody would’ve done the same.”

“What’s your name?” she asked. “Because I want to name the baby after you.”

“Gabriel,” I said. “But, ah …”

“An angel’s name,” she said. “Oh, my God. You’re an angel. That’s why you’re so beautiful. You’re an angel.”

“Archangel,” Drew said, the corner of his mouth tugging upward as if he thought this was funny. It wasn’t funny!

I said, “Pretty odd name, if the baby’s a girl. And I’m not an angel, no worries. It’s just a name.” Now, my face was as hot as my back.

“Gabrielle,” she said. “Sean, we’re naming her Gabrielle. If she’s all right. She has to be all right. He saved us. That has to mean something.”

Her husband looked even more miserable. In fact, he was nearly crying. Here he was, thinking he’d nearly killed his wife and baby, and she wanted to name the baby after another bloke? Yeh, not too good. I didn’t know much about naming babies—the Prophet did that, as I’ve mentioned—but I had a feeling this wasn’t the best way. I said, “You’ll want to name her after your husband, surely. What’s your name, mate?”

“Sean,” he said. “You’re not getting a girl’s name out of that. Her name’s supposed to be Scarlett.”

“Fire-wise,” Drew said, “possibly problematic.”

“What?” Sean stared at him. “And, yes, we’re American. We should’ve gotten a better car. I had an airbag, but why wasn’t there one on the passenger side? Who’d rent out a car without a passenger airbag? How is that even legal?”

Drew said, “My wife’s American, as it happens. She says it terrified her, learning to drive on the left. Where are you from, in the States?” Keeping them talking, keeping them calm, and possibly changing the subject. Good idea.

I said, “I’m going to check the other car.” I didn’t even know if anybody’d done that, and I didn’t want to hear any more about this poor bloke having his baby named after me.

I jogged down the road, the sting on my back increasing, and found him. The bonnet was smashed and steam was coming out of the radiator, but the man, barely more than a boy, was sitting in the driver’s seat, his hands still on the wheel, staring straight ahead as if he were about to drive it out of there. Shock, that would be. I crouched beside the window and asked, “All right, mate?”

He stared at me, his pupils dilated so far that his eyes looked black, and said, “Why the hell were they stopping in the road? What were they playing at? I couldn’t stop fast enough, by the time I realized.” The kind of bloke who hasn’t seen enough things go wrong, who still didn’t believe it had happened to him.

“American,” I said. “Pulled into the wrong lane.”

“Bloody Americans, Are they …” He stared at the two of them, sitting on the verge. “She isn’t pregnant, is she?”

“Yeh,” I said. “Got any water?”

“What? No. Oh, my God. Is she all right?”

“I think so,” I said. “Sit there until somebody comes, I guess.”

A voice from behind me. “Do you realize that your shirt’s scorched in back? And that half of it’s burned away?”

“What?” I asked, turning.

It was a woman. Older, wearing jeans, her hair close-cropped. It was hard for me even to register her, and harder to categorize her. Women out here just looked so … different. They spoke to you, for one thing, and stared at you. She said, “You’ve burned yourself. Hang on. I’m getting water.”

They gave you orders, too.

Up ahead, Drew had the woman passenger leaning back against the grassy bank and had taken off his jacket to put over her, even though the car was still merrily burning away, heating the morning air and giving off the stink of burning metal. Shock again, making her cold. I thought, We should put them into Drew’s car, and was about to go suggest it when the woman came back with a huge plastic bottle of water and said, “Take off your shirt.”

I gaped at her. I couldn’t comprehend this request. I said, “They need that water over there. That couple.”

“Already took them a bottle. Unbutton your shirt and take it off. We need some cloth to cool those burns, and if we don’t use your shirt, we’ll have to use mine. I don’t mind, but it might startle the animals and small children, eh. Come on, then. I don’t have all day.” She smiled cheerfully, and it was all, more and more, seeming like a dream.

I could never have imagined unbuttoning my shirt in front of a crowd, because there was a crowd here now, but I did it. I stripped off, and realized that it did indeed have some holes in it, or more like one big hole where the back had used to be, and that the singlet underneath was nothing but a rag. I watched the woman soak the pieces with the water from the bottle, after which she laid them over my back and tucked the edges under my braces. She said, “Good thing it was cotton. A synthetic would’ve melted, and you don’t want that. You need to be sitting down with that on you, though. Or lying down, even better. Which one’s your car? Let’s get you into it, unless it’s the burnt one.”

I said, “I’m all right. Those others …” I gestured at the couple up ahead, with Drew. “They’re the ones hurt. The woman, especially.”

“Looks like they’ve got somebody caring for them,” she said. “Show me your car, because you’re getting into it. Seems you were a hero, because I saw that happen. Time to sit down and let somebody else take a turn to be the hero for a while, and here I am, volunteering, if only with water. Besides, you’re going to draw a crowd of your own if we let you stand about here half-naked, looking like that. Like a film star, aren’t you.” And smiled again.

I breathed easier once the doctor turned up. He was the one who’d taken Raphael and Radiance, so there I was, with my brother again. Raphael looked bloody shocked to see me with my shirt off, as if I’d walked through the gates of Mount Zion and immediately descended into nakedness and sin, and for another confused moment, I wanted to laugh. My brain didn’t know what direction to go here, and that was the truth.

The doctor told us that the pregnant woman seemed OK, so that was the worst thing set to rights. He smeared some stuff on my back and put dressings on, and the sting lessened. Pity I still didn’t have a shirt, that people were still staring at me, and that I had to speak to the police like that when they arrived.  

Eventually, the ambos came, and they put Susannah on a stretcher. She took my hand and kissed it when I said goodbye, which was possibly the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to me, but then the ambulance doors closed behind her and the husband, the towies got to work on the wrecks, and it was over.

And Drew and I drove on to Dunedin.

So, you see, I left Mount Zion, and I burned.

The wages of sin, possibly.

* * *


It was late afternoon by the time we drove back to Dunedin. Honor, Gray’s mum, had wanted us to spend the night, but Frankie had said, “I can’t be this close to Mount Zion right now. I have to get out.” Her eyes looked sunken in her bruised face, and she was moving stiffly, because she’d been whipped with Gilead’s belt, so much harder than our dad did even in the worst of his anger. I’d seen the raised red wheals on her buttocks, her thighs, and they were awful.

I’d learnt things today that I’d never wanted to know, and I’d thought I knew all about Mount Zion. Maybe it was seeing it again after the contrast of being Outside all these weeks. Maybe it was seeing my dad again, the rage and contempt on his face, or, worse, seeing my mum, seeming to have shrunk even further into the tiny frame that declared her Indian heritage, all the expression wiped from her face, standing so small, holding Dove’s hand. Dove, who was the youngest of us, who got scared sometimes like me, and who was years away from being able to leave.

Or maybe it was seeing our sister Prudence, halfway to the gate, standing straight, her arms at her sides, watching Frankie go. Not even fifteen, which meant more than a year before she’d be able to walk through the gates herself, and she had to know she’d be punished tonight. She’d got Frankie out when she’d been locked into Gilead’s room, interfering between a husband and wife, and she’d pay the price for that. In the Punishment Hut, and worse.

Leaving them behind felt so bad.

I shivered, sitting in the warmth of the big ute behind Daisy and Gray, holding Frankie’s hand. She was asleep, her head on a pillow squashed against the side window, and wearing clothes Daisy had brought for her from Dunedin, because this time, we hadn’t burnt her cap and apron in Gray’s firepit. We’d burnt her dress.

The clothes were soft things, because she hurt. She’d been given pain tablets in hospital, and she said they helped, but I wasn’t sure what you did about the pain in your heart.

I wasn’t tough, not like my sisters. Would I have risked what Prudence had to get Frankie out? I longed to think the answer was yes, but I wasn’t one bit sure it was true.

A person could change, though, couldn’t she? I’d left Mount Zion, and if I’d thought sometimes, in the dark hours before dawn when I couldn’t sleep, that it would be easier just to go back there, not to have to make all these terrifying adjustments—well, today had shown me why that wasn’t possible. What had happened to Frankie, and to Daisy before her, with Gilead—that was evil. The Prophet said evil was Outside, but I thought it was in that room where Gilead had locked Frankie, where he’d hurt her. In the dark, cold, stinking Punishment Hut, where both Daisy and Frankie had spent too many days and nights.

It couldn’t be right to be treated like that just for wanting to be a person, and it couldn’t be right to hurt the person you’d promised to love and cherish, either.

And my name wasn’t Obedience anymore.


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