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Building a Life

Building a Life
By Emily Spahn

Description: Two years before the events of Pierside, Ezzy is confronted by the uncertainty of beginnings.

Ezzy heard the short knock on the door to the clinic house, followed by the sound of it opening and the clomp of boots behind her.

She didn’t bother looking up from the bed she was making, one of only two in the front room of the small town clinic. “Good morning, Maddy. Did you bring the rest of those strawberries? I was going to start on the pie as soon as I get this bed made.”

“Um, yeah, I got 'em in the truck. But I think that bed can wait a bit, Ez. I think you gotta sit down.”

The hesitation and uncertainty caught Ezzy off guard. Maddy West normally exuded confidence, with an imposing form, long red hair, and a preference for men’s clothing and mannerisms. Ezzy was her opposite in every way; a small woman with cropped black hair, compulsively dressed in simple black dresses, she did her best to never draw attention.

Despite their differences, Ezzy and Maddy knew each other better than anyone else in the world.

Ezzy turned around quickly. Maddy looked nervous, and she had something behind her back.

“Is something wrong?” Ezzy eyed her suspiciously. “You aren't engaged again, are you?”

Maddy grinned. “Not unless you got me a ring.”

Ezzy smiled and shook her head. “I wouldn’t hold your breath on that. So what is this I have to sit down for you to tell me?”

“Well I ain't gonna tell ya' till you're sittin'. I don't want ya' to faint.” She was still grinning, but bit her lip. “So hurry the hell up and get your ass in that chair.”

Ezzy raised her eyebrows and finished pulling the topsheet tight. “Alright, fine.” She walked over to the chairs on the other side of the room by the fireplace and sat on the edge of the seat, her back straight. “I'm sitting. I'm in no danger of fainting. Now what do you have to tell me?”

Maddy sat in a chair off to the side and threw her feet up on the coffee table. “Well now, I was headed up here, and I saw Lee headed to the station to get his mail, so I had a little walk with him. He was tellin' me 'bout the truck Mike's lookin' at buyin' and so on, and while we were at the station ol' Vaughn asked if I was comin' by here and could I bring the mail. I told him I surely was, and I thought I could handle a letter or two, so he handed it over to me.”

“So far, I don't feel the least bit faint,” Ezzy said, rolling her eyes.

“You sure? 'Cause the mail he gave me to bring was this here letter.” She pulled out an envelope. “And it's addressed to Miss Ezzy. And it's from the Clinic Order. And since it's been a few months since your test, I gotta say I got some butterflies and it ain't even for me.”

Ezzy’s face fell. “Now I feel faint. Is that it?”

Maddy shrugged. “Well, it ain't open, so I can't say for sure. But bein' as the Order don't usually write to find out how you're doin', I got my guesses.”

Calculating quickly, Ezzy determined that it had been two months and twenty one days since she took her two day final exam in Pierside. The Order had said it could take up to six months to find out the results, the test grades were only a part of the decision to issue a clinic worker's license and offer a clinic.

“Why is it here already? Does that mean I failed, and they didn't even need to consider Mrs. Jay's recommendation?” Ezzy started to hyperventilate, and she could feel the tightness of a panic attack starting in her back and chest.

“Maybe you did so good they didn't even have’ta talk 'bout it. You ain't gonna know 'til you take a deep breath and open it.” Maddy reached over and set the envelope in her hands.

Ezzy looked at it, reading her name on the address. She frowned at the slim packet. “It's too thin. I must have failed.”

“How thick's it gotta be for two pieces of paper? All you need is the license and a letter tellin' you where we're goin'.”

A fresh wave of panic hit Ezzy. Not only did whatever was in that envelope decide her own fate, it decided Maddy's as well. Maddy was counting on Ezzy becoming a clinic worker, so that she could give her a position as her assistant.

“Ez, breathe, for God’s sake. You're turnin' blue.”

Ezzy took a deep breath. “Maddy, I can't open it. You do it. Open it and tell me the news, good or bad.”

Maddy reached over and took it from her, and began to open it. Then she stared at it for a moment and set it on the table between them. “I can't, Ez. It's got your name on it, it's yours.”

Ezzy stared at her. “Maddy West, you know perfectly well you have no problem opening my mail. If that was a note from Vanessa you would have opened it before you got to the clinic.”

“True enough," Maddy admitted with a shrug and a smile. Then she nodded at the letter. "But that's yours, really yours. You did all the work for it, and pass or fail you gotta see what happened. It ain't right for me to know first if it all paid off, and I-” she stopped and looked away, “I can't be the one to say it if somethin' went wrong.”

“I failed. I know I did.” Ezzy closed her eyes to try to stop the sting of tears. “I'm so sorry, Maddy. I let you down, and I let Mrs. Jay down.”

“God damn it, girl, you don't know you failed. That letter ain't open yet. And if you did, I won't worry a bit, I promise. We'll get by, together.”

Ezzy looked at her. Maddy was smiling with pity in her eyes.

“You think I'm mad,” Ezzay noted with a sigh.

Maddy raised her eyebrows. “Oh, I know you're crazy. But yeah, you're actin' it right now, and I figure you ain't gonna stop ‘til you know for sure.”

“I am mad. I'm mad enough to think that maybe there's a tiny chance that I might have passed, that I might actually have made a place for myself in the world. But knowing that I failed. . . I can't stand to destroy that little bit of hope. It's all I've had since I joined the Order,” Ezzy said, staring at the letter on the table.

“This is the place,” the man said as we approached a large gray stone building.

I was too scared to speak. The building towered above us, it would have been the largest building I had ever seen in my life were it not for the other towering buildings of Pierside, many of which were even taller. This one was white stone with columns; a different style from the box-like structures around it. Stairs led from the sidewalk up to three large sets of doors next to one another, and over the doors was a carved image of fruits and flowers. In the center of that was a star, which was also carved into each of the doors.

The man set his hand on my shoulder and led me to one side of the stairs. He sat down and motioned for me to sit next to him. I followed his example, and stared at the cars and buses battling in the street in front of the building.

“You'll go inside and answer a few questions. They'll ask you for a name. Be careful what you tell them, but they won't press you. Whatever you tell them will be your name.”

I nodded, and looked at him and bit my lip. He was a middle aged man, old enough to be my father, with black hair and sad brown eyes much like my own. In days to come I would sometimes pretend that he was my father, but right then I was nervously wondering what name I should tell them. I wanted nothing to connect me to my past.

“Then they'll tell you what to do. Do everything they say, and they'll train you to be a clinic worker.”

“What if I can't do it?” I whispered. I had spent the better part of my life thus far failing to live up to people’s expectations of me, and being punished for it. He read this fear easily on my face.

“All of that’s behind you. Here they'll ask you to learn to care for the sick and injured. And if you can't...” He looked worried and trailed off.

After a long pause, he looked over his shoulder at the building. “The Clinic Order is the last refuge of the hopeless. It's all I can offer you, I have to go. If you can't be trained as a clinic worker, you'll be sent out into the world to find your own life. It's a scary thought, but even that's better than where you were."

I nodded again, and looked down at my shoes. We sat there quietly for a long time, neither of us knowing what to say to the other.

Finally, he shook his head. “The path isn't getting any easier.”

I stood and looked up at the imposing doors. I felt his hand on mine. “Good luck, and God bless you.”

“Thank you. For everything,” I whispered, and I walked up to the doors, pulled one open and stepped inside.

Before me was a huge lobby, with marble walls and floors. On the back wall were doors, the first elevators I’d seen, and to the left was a hallway. To the right a woman sat behind a dark wood counter. I looked around, with no idea what to do.

“Can I help you?” the woman called out, and it echoed through the room. I nearly jumped out of my skin, but after gathering myself I cautiously walked over to her.

“I'm here to join the Clinic Order,” I said in a small, thin voice.

She just smiled and nodded. “I thought so. Here, write down your name and age.”

She handed me a clipboard and a pen, and I stared at it for a moment. I took the pen, and wrote my age first, fourteen years old. I would be fifteen in two months. I smiled, thinking that I might know it this time when my birthday came. In that moment, I realized that I was free. I shut my eyes for a moment, enjoying the feeling, when a memory came to mind... my eyes snapped open and I was once again in the lobby of the Order House, but the smile had vanished from my face.

I stared at the paper a little while longer, until the woman said, “Can you write your name, dear?”

I nodded, embarrassed, and wrote “Ezzy.” I don’t know where it came from, a number of places, and no place at all. I handed the clipboard back to her quickly.

“Ezzy? That's one I've never heard. No last name?”

“No, ma'am.”

She gave a shrug. “Alright, then. Do you need a bed to sleep in until they find a place for you, Ezzy?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“Through the doors behind me there's a room with some tables. We'll serve breakfast and dinner there, and there are some boxes along the wall with clothing, feel free to take whatever you like. There are textbooks on the bookshelf, those are what you'll be studying in case you wanted a head start. Can you read?”

I nodded.

“Good. Don't worry if you have trouble with the textbook, your clinic worker will help you. Now, towards the back of that room are doors marked “men” and “women,” and behind the women's door you'll find some cots and a bathroom. We lock the front door here at 6 PM, and we open it at 6 AM. Feel free to come and go, but be in the dining room at 10 AM every day, that's when we hand out assignments. And don't forget, it's Ezzy.”

“Thank you,” I said. I hesitated a moment, and she watched me as I walked behind the counter and into the room.

Maddy smiled at Ezzy, her voice breaking the silence, “Girl, you don't need the Clinic Order to make somethin' of your life. You've made it. You got folks that care about you, and you're smart and good, and you been takin' good care of folks around here for ten years now. There is nothin' in that letter that's gonna change any of that. And hell, that puts you about three steps ahead of me as far as makin' somethin' of your life.”

“Be that as it may, if that letter says that I've failed, you still have a place to live and work, out on the farm. I have nothing.” Ezzy couldn’t take her eyes off the letter on the table. Never before had an envelope seemed so threatening.

Maddy shook her head. “You can not tell me with a straight face that ya' think Mrs. Jay would kick you out. I bet she'd even offer to pay you as an assistant if you wanted. And if you didn't want, you know you're always welcome out on the farm. Or if you didn't wanna stay round here, you could get a job in the city. I hear folks sometimes hire clinic trainees who didn't make it as nurses for sick or old folks, since they'll work cheaper than someone with a license or a real nurse but they got all the same trainin’.”

“Really?” Ezzy said daring to peek up from the letter.

“If ya got a good letter from Mrs. Jay, no one wants all them years of trainin' to go to waste. Everyone knows that test is damn hard,” Maddy pointed out. “You said yourself that there were kids in there from the college ‘cause they'd get credit if they passed it, and they're goin' to be real doctors.”

Ezzy hesitated. “I've just worked for this for so long. I can't stand the thought of failing.” Then she heard the back door open, and movement in the kitchen. Ezzy’s eyes lit up and she snatched the letter from the table, then smiled at Maddy as she stood up. “I'll ask Mrs. Jay to read it for me.”

Maddy shrugged and followed her into the kitchen.

Ezzy smiled as she spotted Mrs. Jay. The plump older woman was standing in the bright white-washed room in a faded flowered housedress. She poured a cup of coffee from a enamel coffeepot as they walked in, then glanced over.

“Morning, Maddy. Ezzy, I thought you were making a pie today?”

“I am, as soon as I finish with this,” Ezzy said, handing her the envelope. “Mrs. Jay, will you read that and tell me what it says?”

Mrs. Jay looked at the envelope, then smiled at Ezzy. “I'm sorry, but you know you have to be able to read to be a clinic worker.”

“It ain't her fault, Mrs. Jay. Seems Ez caught a blindin' case of bein' chicken shit.” Maddy said with a grin, as she poked Ezzy in the shoulder.

“It's not unusual.” Mrs. Jay chuckled. “I looked at my envelope for three days before I opened it. It is a scary letter to read. I heard of one girl who couldn't read it at all, she eventually threw it in the fire and ran off to become a bookkeeper. But, I survived it in the end, and so did the people who didn't pass. You know, I've never heard of one of these letters killing someone yet.”

Ezzy frowned. “Oh I know it won't kill me. It will only decide the entire direction of my life, and Maddy's as well. I'm sorry if that terrifies me.”

“It's a silly thing to be afraid of, Ezzy. I've found that if you keep on living it, a life can survive the even the hardest blows. It's bad at first. But time goes on, and it doesn't kill you, and one day you find yourself laughing with friends or watching children play or baking a pie, and you realize you weren't even thinking about how awful life is.”

Ezzy stared at her. She considered the thoughts that lurked in the back of her mind of the time before she came to Tan, but she didn’t dwell on them. She rarely did anymore, for all her black dresses reminded her they were there. She had more pressing matters to attend to; changing the bedclothes, baking a pie, and sitting with Maddy for the afternoon.

Even if she failed there would be more pressing matters sooner or later. And those matters would become her life.

“Where were the two of you hoping to go, if you get a clinic?” Mrs. Jay asked, pulling Ezzy from her thoughts.

Ezzy didn’t have to consider, she’d thought the question through dozens of times. “Someplace close to home. I'd be happiest if a spot had opened up in Hilton, to be honest.”

Mrs. Jay smiled. “Maddy? Does that go for you, too?”

Maddy thought about it for a moment, then smiled at Ezzy. “To tell the truth, it don't matter one goddamn bit. Wherever Ez is happy.”

“Then here's my advice, for both of you,” Mrs. Jay said as she picked up her coffee and headed towards the back porch. “It doesn't matter what that letter says. Go on and bake that pie, then take the letter someplace quiet and open it together. You'll have all evening to talk about what's in it. Whatever it says you'll have plans to make and things to figure out. But I know that both of you have faced worse than this, and this time you're doing it together.”

She walked outside, and Ezzy turned and looked at Maddy.

Maddy grinned at Ezzy. “Now that is one smart damn woman. I'll go get those strawberries.”

Ezzy nodded and started pulling out ingredients, the task at hand distracting her from the letter on the counter.

The room in the Order House was plain, white walls and a black and white tiled floor, and it had two long tables and the boxes and bookshelves as the woman behind the front desk had described.

A woman in her twenties was seated at one of the tables, reading a textbook. I looked into the boxes, and poked through them some. The gray dress I was wearing was the only clothing I owned, and I realized I would need to change it sometime. I pulled out a black dress, a little too big for me.

“Mourning,” the woman said out of nowhere. “A lot of kids your age join if their parents die, to avoid going to whoever is supposed to get them.”

I snatched the dress to myself and stared at her.

“You can have it. It's there for you to take.”

I nodded, and took a book off of the bookshelf. I sat down at the other end of her table and opened the book.

While it was true I could read, I was certainly not widely read, and the textbook was different from anything in my experience: a dry explanatory work that started off with basic anatomy, using term after term that I would have to find the meaning of. I bit my lip and nearly started to cry, feeling that this was going to be impossible.

“You can read?” The woman said.

“Yes, ma'am.”

“Then take it one word at a time, honey. One word at a time, and one day at a time. That's the only way to build a life.”

I looked at her. She was wearing a shabby dress, and her face looked older than she sounded. In her eyes, I recognized the same desperation and guilt that I was feeling. But she smiled at me, and said, “We'll get there.”

I gave a wan smile back.

“What's your name, honey?”

I thought for a moment. “Ezzy.”

She laughed a little. “How about if I call you Ezzy a lot, and you call me Mary a lot, and maybe we'll remember them when people ask?”

I blushed a little, but I had to smile at the logic. “Thank you, Mary.”

“You're welcome, Ezzy. If you need help with words, let me know. I can't figure out all of them, but I'm happy to share the ones I have.”

Mary and I didn't talk much, there wasn't much to say. Neither of us wanted to speak about where we had come from or what we had done. So we read our textbooks until it was time to go to sleep. The next day she was given her assignment, to a town south of Summerville called Reedsboro, which I had never heard of at the time. She left that afternoon, and I continued to try to understand the textbook.

As days passed, the room was usually quiet, except for the mornings when breakfast was served and people got their assignments. For the three days I was there, there were usually four or five other people sleeping and eating in the building and waiting to be told their fate. Most of them left during the day to see the city, or say goodbye to friends, but I was terrified of the city and knew no one, so I read my book.

On the morning of my third day there, the man came to announce assignments. The room grew quiet as he stood with his clipboard, and read off the names. “Veronica Desmond, 18th Street clinic, Pierside. John Smith, Walnut Street clinic, Herrton. Ezzy, Cross Street clinic, Tan.”

I gathered my things: the textbook and the gray dress I hadn't put on since I changed into my black one on the second morning. I liked the black dress, it made it easier to close my eyes without seeing horrors, or if I did see them it made it easier to keep breathing.

I stood back until the other two trainees had finished, and then I walked up to the man.

“I'm Ezzy,” I said, looking down.

He looked at his clipboard, then at me. He smiled, I had noticed that he usually did when he was talking to the younger trainees. “I have your train ticket right here. Your worker will be Mrs. Elizabeth Jay, and she'll meet you at the station in Tan. Do you have any questions?”

“Yes, sir. Where is Tan?”

He laughed. “You know, I wasn't sure myself, but the ticket is for the Windy Lake line, so I guess it's west of Hilton. You're a lucky girl, small town clinics are nice places to train, and I've heard those mountains out there are awfully pretty.”

I nodded, and whispered, “Thank you sir, I am lucky.”

He raised his eyebrows at that, and his smile turned sad. “I'll be taking you and Veronica to the train station as soon as she's packed. And don't worry, I'll make sure you get on the right train.”

He did as he said he would, and I was glad. I had never seen a train before, and while I had seen trucks, the trains looked at least twenty times bigger. At the main station in Pierside there were dozens of them, coming and going in all directions. After an hour he pointed one out to me, and I climbed on and showed the conductor my ticket, and found a seat.

As the train left Pierside, it traveled through flat farmland that reminded me uncomfortably of where I’d come from. It made me panic, thinking that perhaps I had gotten on the wrong train, and I was traveling back, where they would certainly find me and punish me more horribly than I could imagine. I realized that there was nothing I could do to make the train stop, and so I cried quietly until I noticed the scenery change.

Hills began to rise up from the farmland, and I relaxed as I realized that I was nowhere near the past, because I had never seen hills like these. They became larger and larger, until we passed Hilton and they gave way to the mountains.

I watched out the window as the giant hills of trees, interrupted here and there by a craggy rock, flew past. We crossed rivers and passed through valleys, until I saw it there, across a large gulch spanned by a bridge. I knew at once that the little town nestled in the mountains, guarded by miles of trees, was Tan. And I also knew at once that I loved it.

It seemed to come from another world, different than every place I had ever been, which admittedly was not a lot of places. It felt safe, as though maybe in this world my past never existed. As the train crossed the bridge and neared the station, the conductor called for the stop at Tan. I gathered my things and when the train stopped at the station, a single building that couldn't have been more than two rooms, I stepped out onto the platform. I was still terribly nervous, and I stared at the dirt street that ran next to the station and the shops and houses that lined it until I heard a voice next to me.

“Ezzy?” she said.

I turned to look at the woman, average height and a little plump, with gray hair pulled back in a loose bun and the kindest face I've ever seen. She was dressed neatly, in a serviceable green dress, and she held out her hand to me. I shook it as she introduced herself, “I'm Mrs. Jay, I'll be training you. Come along, dear. You must be starved.”

“I had breakfast,” I said, softly.

“And nothing since then, I suppose. You look as if you're used to that, but I can promise you that won't be the case at my clinic. You'll have three meals a day from now on, and we'll see if you don't grow into that dress. What's your favorite thing to eat?”

I'd barely eaten in years, even when food was offered I had no appetite. But when I was a girl, I remembered liking the strawberries very much, so I whispered, “Strawberries.”

She smiled, “I have some in the pantry, fresh picked yesterday. When we get home you can have them with cream. That should hold you until supper.”

I nodded, and she motioned for me to follow her as she started walking down the street. I tried to take it all in as she led me through town, pointing out the general store and the drug store, the courthouse and the school. It was only a few minutes before she said, “And here we are, the clinic house.”

I stopped and stared at it. The squat stone house with the big front porch was right at home in the little town, looking no different from the other houses around it. It was a place where a person lived, a kind old woman who took care of the people in this town. And it was the place where I was to live, and work and be taken care of for the first time in years. I started to cry again, this time for the beauty and warmth I'd done nothing to deserve.

Mrs. Jay noticed my tears, and wrapped an arm around me, “Come inside, and let's get you those strawberries.”

When the pie was finished and cooling, Ezzy picked up the letter and followed Maddy out to the beat up red truck. They drove up the mountain, then walked the rest of the way to a spot they knew well; a peak that looked out over the valley Tan was nestled in. From there they could see the town and the Allen's house, and part of the Billings' farm, as well as the railroad bridge and the highway.

As they sat down, Maddy was smiling at Ezzy, and she couldn't help but smile back. “Are you amused by my insanity?”

Maddy shook her head and leaned back on her elbows. “Nah, I'm used to that. I was just thinkin' about somethin’ you said.”

“What was that?”

“You said you were hopin' for a spot in Hilton so you'd be close to home.” She looked from Ezzy to the town below them. “I just think it's kinda nice, for a girl from who-knows-where to find home way out here. And it is home, Ez, don't think I'm sayin' it ain't. You got friends, and family, and people who'd take care’a you no matter what. If that ain't home, I dunno what is.”

Ezzy was quiet a moment, then she said slowly, “I thought that you thought I was from Pierside.”

Maddy laughed a little. “Not since I took you for your first test. I couldn't stop lookin' up at all them buildin's, and lookin' everywhere else at everythin' goin' on. The folks that lived there were just goin' around like nothin' was strange, but you were lookin' everywhere right along with me. I knew then that you weren't from no city any more than I was.” She paused a moment. “I ain't askin'. You're from Tan, girl, right outta these hills along with me. And you can tell that to anyone who asks.”

Ezzy smiled. “If they know anything about the place, I think they might know I wasn't raised here when I say something.”

“Who the hell cares what they think?” Maddy grinned. “The folks round here know you're from Tan, and that's all that really matters.”

They were quiet for a few moments as Ezzy looked down at the town. There was a small part of her that wished she didn’t have to leave. She knew she had to, whether she passed or not; this place had given her everything, and staying here she would have nothing to offer in return. If she could get a clinic, she could be useful in her new home, and help Maddy as well.

Finally, she said to Maddy, “Where do you want to go, really?”

“Really?” Maddy didn’t look over, but she get a small smile on her face.

Ezzy nodded. “Really.”

“One’a them clinics out in the jungles, where they take care of the native folks.”

“You're mad,” Ezzy said, her eyes growing wide.

Maddy laughed. “Yeah, you knew that already. But it'd be fun, bein' someplace like nothin' I ever known.”

“You've never lived anywhere else in your life. Anything would be like nothing you've ever known,” Ezzy pointed out.

“That's true ‘nough,” Maddy admitted with a nod. “But I meant what I said to Mrs. Jay, I don't really care when it comes down to it, long as you're happy. Hell, I don't even care if you pass as long as you're happy. Mountains or jungles or cities or stayin’ right here, as long as I can be there with you it's all just as good.”

Ezzy bit her lip, glancing at Maddy out of the corner of her eye. “You'll go where I do, even if I don't have a clinic for you to work at?”

“Damn straight. A body can find work anywhere if they're willin'.” She smiled, reaching over to take Ezzy’s hand in hers. “And I'd surely be willin', long as we can be together. I can't imagine a life without you.”

Ezzy didn’t respond, but a small smile crossed her lips and she squeezed Maddy’s hand.

Maddy’s smile grew and she squeezed back. “Ya know, Ez, whatever is in that letter, the important things ain't gonna change. This is still gonna be home, and we're still gonna be together, wherever we go.”

Looking down at their clasped hands, Ezzy nodded. “You're right. And that does make it better. It makes it less like a judgment, and more like a glimpse of what the future might hold. And Mrs. Jay was right, too. Whatever it says, we'll have times of happiness and heartbreak, and we'll live through both.”

She let go of Maddy’s hand and picked up the envelope. As she opened it, Mary's words came back to her from all those years ago. One word at a time, one day at a time, she had built a life. And she could do it again, if she had to. Ezzy unfolded the letter and read it carefully, not wanting to mistake anything about it. Then she reread the whole thing.

“Ez, what's it say?” Maddy asked, sitting up, her face full of concern.

Ezzy looked up at her and smiled. “How does Waters Street, in Pierside sound?”

She grinned. “You passed. I knew it, girl! You are the smartest damn person in the world, I knew you were worryin' for nothin'.”

“That worry was practice, Maddy.” Ezzy’s smile fell into a nervous line. “This is a single worker clinic, and they think that I'm going to be that worker. By myself, running a whole clinic. What if I don't know enough? What if I make a mistake? What if

“What if we don't worry 'bout all that now, and we just be happy you passed for a while?” Maddy said, chuckling and rolling her eyes. “Everyethin' you said a minute ago still holds. This ain't the future, just a direction to head in. If you cant l do it, we'll do somethin' else. But this is all the stuff you trained for, and the Clinic Order and Mrs. Jay think wyou can do this, so you might as well give it a shot, right?”

Ezzy nodded. After a few seconds, she reached over and took Maddy’s hand again with a nervous smile. “I suppose I could try enjoying this, if you insist.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon there, above the town, making plans and talking through details. Even then, they both knew that whatever they decided couldn't possibly prepare them for what lay ahead in Pierside.  

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