The first few days after we left Sumner were warm, like summer, even though the world was slowly drifting into autumn. Our tiny car braved the ever-winding country roads alone, often for hours at a time, without even the distant glimpse of headlights to remind us that humanity still lurked nearby.
We were all nearly silent during the trip, perhaps each thinking of what lay ahead in the unknown world. For Papa, this journey was like one taken by our Gypsy ancestors, wandering different lands in search of a new home. His dark brow was creased with age and worry, as it had been for the last many weeks. I could scarcely remember a time when he had always been the first to smile and crack jokes; it seemed like an eternity ago.
My brothers, too, were more somber than usual. A curtain of sadness fell over our family, making the serene countryside around us seem lonely and distant. Axel and Nathaniel, like Papa, appeared to have long forgotten the joys of the world, and they stared motionless out the window at the passing scenery. Canaan, who was too young to understand the passage of events that had preceeded this, seemed only perplexed and a little disturbed by the unusual behavior of his older male relatives. He nestled against me in silence, and I felt his little chest heave with discomfort and confusion as he slept fitfully.
Me, I had always been one to look on the brighter side of things. In Sumner, it had always been I who had comforted and reassured, and had been looked up to as a second mother by Canaan, especially now. As the only girl left in our recently reduced family, I felt it was my duty to care for him.
So as every minute of travel took us closer to our destination, which loomed ahead like a uncertain shadow, I held my little brother tighter and whispered repeatedly in his ear, "Everything will be all right."
But the words felt like serpents as they coiled off my tongue because, as much as I wanted to believe them myself, I couldn't. I, nor any of us for that matter, had any idea what would happen now.
Absolutely no idea at all.