Maybelle slowly returned to the world from her deep sleep at 5:30 am. Her mind woke fully before she was interested in opening her eyes to see what the day was going to look like. She could smell the coffee in the air coming from downstairs where her mom and three aunts would be sitting together. A darkness hat set in inside of Maybelle and she wasn’t able to get up early in the morning like she used to. Her mother called it becoming an adult, Maybelle called it enlightenment. She rolled herself over to face the edge of the bed and finally opened her eyes to see her black cat Moon staring back at her. The cat made a very soft noise and walked closer to Maybelle’s face to rub her little cat nose against hers. Maybelle gave in and smiled at the cat before getting to her feet finally. Ever since the world had become this painful and strange place they had taken in many new animals, mostly stray dogs and cats left behind by people who had attempted to escape, but there was a few bunnies running around as well. Moon had been Maybelle’s since before the world changed. She had a birth defect which had stunted her growth, so she was too small for her age, but Maybelle thought the goddesses had sent Moon to her as a companion.
The sink made a loud squeal as Maybelle turned the tap on to splash some water on her face. Her right hand stretched out to grab the towel hanging next to the sink and she buried her face before retuning to face herself in the mirror. She studied her face wondering if the dark circles under her eyes would ever go away. Maybelle sighed and turned away from the mirror to pick up a pair of shorts and an oversized t-shirt laying on the dresser on the opposite side of the bathroom. Moon followed every step she took as they started making their way downstairs to see her family. She could hear the news on the TV and the soft murmur of her aunts and mom talking. Moon ran ahead of Maybelle but had to wait for her human to open the swinging door to the kitchen. The women were all sitting around the kitchen table staring at the TV but as Maybelle walked in, they all lifted their heads to smile at her.
“Good morning” They all said in perfect unison.
Maybelle nodded her head back at them, she wasn’t much of a talker in the morning. She walked over to the coffee in the corner and poured herself a cup full. Her mom got up from the table and walked over to the stove where one of her aunts had made her usual omelet.
“You hungry baby?” Her mother asked.
“Not really” Maybelle answered.
“Well have some omelet” Her mother said.
Her mother would do this every single morning. It was their little routine. Maybelle only wanted the coffee but the omelet was very tasty so she would end up eating every last little piece left in the pan. Her mother placed her palm on Maybelle’s cheek. The hand was warm and comforting like a mother’s touch usually was. Maybelle saw the same look of concern in her mother’s eyes every morning, but her mother would never admit to it. Her mother took her seat around the table again as Maybelle shoved a large piece of omelet into her mouth.
“What’s going on?” Maybelle asked, mouth full.
“There’s a girl in subcity four who’s being targeted” Aunt Rickie answered.
“What she do?” Maybelle asked.
“They say she attacked one of the civil service patrollers” Aunt Lory said.
Maybelle continued to shove omelet into her mouth as she joined the other women around the table to watch the news. There was a sketch of a girl on the screen while reporters talked about how she had supposedly moved through the back allies of her town. There were many towns like that now. Maybelle and her family had been fortunate enough to find sanctuary in one of the few towns where they were less strict. They were still divided up separating family units from single people but in their town, there were several definitions of family. Maybelle, her mother and her aunts had registered as a family. They had formed an organization to help people who were targeted in other subcities, but lately it had become much harder because of an increase of security. Their town was also starting to become targeted by civil service companies in other subcities to force them to increase regulations.
“We should help her” Aunt Pixie said.
“It’s not an option Pix, the civil service is after her” Bebe, Maybelle’s mother said.
“That’s why we should do it” Aunt Pixie said.
Aunt Lory got up from the table to grab more coffee. She took the pot and went around the table to fill all her sister’s cups. Maybelle watched the looks between her aunts and her mother. She knew they would be spending some time discussing if they should help the girl on the news or not. Lory sat back down with her sisters.
“It’s too dangerous. If she attacked a patroller, they would stop at nothing. They would kill us” Aunt Lory said.
Maybelle got up from the table with her coffee cup and silently walked back up to her room. She had been part of an online underground group for months that her mom and aunts knew nothing about. If there was one place, she knew she could get some more information about this girl it would be there. Online activity was highly monitored but they had found a channel where they could help each other across the entire nation. Maybelle got her laptop out from under her bed and flipped it open. Moon came running through her slightly open bedroom door and jumped up on the bed purring. The cat rubbed her body against Maybelle’s legs before slamming her body down on the bed to stretch out. Moon ended on her back exposing her stomach to the room, paws clawing towards the ceiling. Maybelle’s fingers started typing on the keyboard, each letter she hit making a clicking noise.
Others online were already talking about the girl on the news. Some were saying she was already killed by the civil service, but others said she hadn’t been discovered yet. It was hard because the stricter subcities controlled all the news coming out from their town boarders. Finding out exactly what had happened or where someone was could be almost impossible in some cases. Maybelle placed her headset over her ears and pulled down the microphone putting it in front of her lips. One of Maybelle’s friends from the online community called her through their chat.
“Mia! How are you?” Maybelle asked.
“Doing good Belle. How is everything with you?” Mia said through the headset.
“Alright, I guess. What have you heard about this girl?” Maybelle asked.
“She released a video earlier this morning on the network. She said she still safe for now but she’s planning something, she’s reaching out to anyone who could help. Do you think your family can do something?” Mia responded.
“I’m not sure my mom and aunts are discussing it now” Maybelle said.
“Let me send you the video link” Mia answered.
Maybelle clicked the link Mia had sent her in their chat box. An image of Cora appeared on the screen and Maybelle listened intensely as Cora talked about her plans to take down the civil service leaders.
“Is she insane? She’ll get herself killed” Maybelle said.
“Just listen to it” Mia urged.
There was nothing about Cora’s location that could be revealed from the video. Behind her was a black canvas, most likely a curtain set up to not show any clues in case the civil service got ahold of the footage. Maybelle kept watching at Cora explained she needed help from anyone who would see the footage. She shared the location where the leaders would be and what kind of horrible acts they committed there. Maybelle wanted to throw up from what Cora shared on the video. She felt her anger build up as her face became more and more red.
“This is disgusting” Maybelle said into the headset microphone.
“We have to help” Mia said.
Maybelle set the laptop on the bed and got up before walking over to one of her bookshelves where she took out a large rolled up map. She rolled out the map on her bed and studied it closely.
“She’s talking about the factory buildings between subcity four and subcity five” Maybelle said.
“How far away from you is that?” Mia asked.
“Far” Maybelle responded.
Maybelle grabbed a pen from her nightstand next to her bed and marked the factory buildings. She drew a long line all the way down the map to where she lived.
“But we could do it” Maybelle added.
“Excellent. I gotta run Belle. Talk to your family and I’ll call you tomorrow, same time” Mia said, before hanging up.
Maybelle took off the headset and threw it on her bed. She rolled the map up again, closed her laptop which she put back under the bed, and headed downstairs to her family. Her legs ran down the stairs, this time without Moon following because she had fallen asleep on Maybelle’s bed. As she came charging back into the kitchen her mom and her aunts were still in the middle of a heated discussion.
“I’m telling you Pix, if you bring that incident up again so help me” Aunt Lory said in an angry tone.
“I’m not the one who insisted on using daddy’s blow torch Lor” Aunt Pixie snapped back.
The women were so busy arguing they hadn’t even seen Maybelle come into the kitchen with her giant map under her arm. Maybelle grabbed the coffee and poured herself a cup while still listening to her family arguing. She couldn’t understand exactly what they were so upset about, but she could bet it had nothing to do with what the conversation started with. These women had special talents when it came to talking about one subject and then ending up arguing about something completely different. Usually what would happen was Rickie saying something that set Maybelle’s mother off, which caused her to say something to upset Pixie, and then Pixie would always drag Lory into it. Sometimes Maybelle would wonder how they hadn’t killed each other yet. She was also kind of happy her mother never had more children, even though her childhood had been lonely in terms of not having other kids her same age to play with. Of course, having all these women around had always been a blessing in Maybelle’s mind, but every once in a while, she had hoped one of them would have some kids just so Maybelle could have someone to share looks with when they all argued.
“Guys” Maybelle said.
The women continued arguing without even acknowledging Maybelle. She took a sip of coffee from her cup and decided to put another pot of coffee on while the women argued. Maybelle placed her rolled up map on the counter and grabbed the coffee pot. She walked over to the sink and rinsed the pot out before filling it up all the way to the top and walked back to the coffee maker where she poured all the coffee into the water cylinder. Maybelle then opened the cabinet above the coffee maker and grabbed a big metal contained where they kept the ground coffee. She scooped coffee into the already placed filter and pushed the on button.
“That is so typical of you Bebe, you always act so special because you are the only one of us who has given birth” Rickie said.
“Hey guys” Maybell tried again.
“Well, giving birth is kind of a big deal. It’s one of those things you can’t really know until you experience it” Bebe said.
Maybelle rolled her eyes. Her mom would always pull the birth card no matter what the argument was about. It was the one thing she had over her sisters because none of them had kids. The funny thing was Maybelle already knew her mom didn’t really want kids at all, she had gotten pregnant after an affair with an inappropriately older man and only kept Maybelle because it would piss her parents off. The man paid Bebe to keep it quiet and they had never seen him again. Her sister had been nice enough to gather around her when no one else did, so Maybelle never understood how her mom felt like she could somehow get on her high horse with them. Maybelle thought about it as if she had four mothers, all equally as hard working and important to her. The only thing setting her mother apart was the actual giving birth part. She didn’t care so much when they started arguing and brought her into it, but she always tried to defend her aunts against her mom. Then by the end they would all have to admit giving birth is a magical and powerful experience which truly was something you had to feel on your own body before being able to understand it. For a few seconds her mom would feel like she won, and then Maybelle and her aunts would break out in laughter about the fact that they never wanted to feel it on their own bodies. As much as they liked to fight, they all truly loved each other more than life itself, and all jokes aside they admired any woman willing to make the sacrifice of childbirth.
“GUYS” Maybelle yelled.
Suddenly all the women went silent and looked at Maybelle standing by the coffee maker. They all had the same look of surprise on their faces, as if Maybelle hadn’t heard this fight one hundred times before.
“Sorry baby we didn’t see you” Bebe said.
“I don’t care, I have something to show you guys” Maybelle said dismissively.
She grabbed her map off the counter and spread it out on the kitchen table in front of the women.
“The woman they are after, she’s headed here” Maybelle said, pointing to her pen marking.
Her mom and aunts leaned closer to the map looking at the place where Maybelle had marked it with the pen.
“Okay, what’s you angel here toots?” Pixie asked, looking at Maybelle.
“We could help her” Maybelle said.
A few seconds went by without any words being spoken. The women looked at each other while Maybelle looked at all of them at once.
“That’s easier said than done sweets” Bebe said.
Maybelle pulled a chair out and seated herself between them.
“Look, I know it’s a stretch, but we could help her. She released a video earlier; you guys wouldn’t even believe what she said these men do. They need to be stopped” Maybelle said.
“How do you even know all this” Lory asked.
“She released a video, I just told you that” Maybelle snapped back.
Another few moments went by without so much as a movement from the ladies. All that could be heard was the sound of the coffee maker gurgling away behind them. Maybelle’s mother drew a big breath and grabbed ahold of her daughter’s hand.
“We would love to help this girl. But this is too dangerous” Bebe said.
“Not if we are smart about it. They are planning a big event at the turn of the moon, that’s only a few weeks away” Maybelle insisted.
“I think we should do it” Aunt Pixie said.
Maybelle smiled at her aunt Pixie who winked back at her. Bebe gave a look to Pixie which spoke volumes around the table.
“You guys are insane. This girl is on a suicide mission” Aunt Lory said.
“She is doing something rather than sitting around a god damned kitchen table arguing about childbirth” Maybelle said.
“Maybelle!” Bebe said sternly.
“I’m with your daughter on this one Bebe” Aunt Rickie chimed in.
Bebe got up from the table while shaking her head. She headed over to the coffee pot and made her way around the table filling everyone’s cups.
“We may have been able to help one or two runaways but this? This is way beyond what we can do” Bebe said, while pouring the coffee.
“Mom, this is what we have been preparing for. Don’t you get it, if we make this happen, if we save this girl, we could end all of it” Maybelle said, pleadingly.
Maybelle looked at her aunts who were all also looking at each other. Bebe walked back to put the coffee pot in its place and stayed with her back turned to the table for a few seconds. She turned back around to see the rest of the women all facing her. Aunt Lory looked scared while the rest of them had looks of determination. Bebe rolled her eyes while simultaneously shaking her head. She let out a loud sigh of frustration.
“I guess I’m out voted” Bebe said, walking back to her seat around the table.
Bebe looked over at her daughter who smiled back at her. Maybelle nodded in her mother’s direction and felt a sense of achievement coming over her. This was it; this was her moment; this was when she would prove her worth to her family.
“Okay, we have a lot of work to do, so let’s get started” Maybelle said.
Maybelle started telling her aunts and her mother about the horrible crimes the leaders of the nation were committing right under everyone’s noses. They all flinched as Maybelle told them what the leaders of the nation had been doing, and for each word she said their wish to put an end to it grew. They all studied the map as they listened to Maybelle go on. The energy in the room had changed and all the women were in agreement that the situation needed to be solved. They had little to no clue how much more complex this case was, which might have been a good thing at that point, because if they had known they would have never dared to set out on this journey.
End of chapter four.