Chapter 3

Scribe Yearling could identify with Ender's Game. How the protagonist was always alone and had to fight for himself. He fought to win, to stop them from coming back. How strange, she thought, that she would come to this conclusion long before she had read that book.

She could still remember the times with her Mummy and Daddy when she was little. She was too little to know how bad things were. It was all she had ever known. She thought everyone had always lived like this, day-to-day, hand-to-mouth, always scaving, always hungry. But she felt cared for, protected, and loved. That was all a little girl needed.

There had been many good times, good memories. Riding on her Daddy's shoulders to the market to trade and barter for items. He had taught her how to scavenge and get a fare price in caps for their finds. On one of their trips, he noticed a flower growing near some debris. He walked over and sat her down next to it.

"It's called a flower," he said. "isn't it beautiful?"

"Yes, it's yellow, beautiful."

"Touch these parts," he said. Pointing at its pedals. "See how soft and delicate they are?"

"It's like Fairy wings. From the book Mummy reads." she said, looking up at him for his opinion.

"Yes, that's right." he said, and stopped to consider the new viewpoint. "It is like Fairy wings."

"My Grand Mummy used to tell me that flowers used to grow everywhere in big fields. The stores would sell them in all different colors and scents. This is the first one I've seen in a long time. It must be very special and rare to grow here, all by itself."

Tanya sat, squatting on her heels, as only a child can and squinted up at her Daddy in the bright daylight. She understood it was rare and beautiful, but asked, "Can we take it to Mummy?"

He had smiled at her in a way that said, 'I love you.'

Then he took her hand, and together they looked until they found an empty can. They put some dirt in it and carefully transferred the flower to the can. They even put a little of their purified water on it.

Those had been good days. But they didn't last. Her Daddy had to look further and further away in the ruined buildings and it got dangerous. She could feel the tension and see the worry in her Mummy's eyes. After a while he stopped taking her. One day, he didn't come back. Tanya saw some of his friends talking to her Mummy, and then her Mummy hid her hands in her face and cried. Then she held Tanya and rocked her in her arms.

Tanya used to cry and ask her Mummy if Daddy was coming home tomorrow. Always the answer was a sad "no." She had once cried and told her Mummy, "I can't remember what Daddy looks like any more." Her mother just held her and kissed her forehead they way her Daddy used to. Eventually, Tanya didn't ask anymore.

She started working harder to find things to sell. She remembered all the tricks her Daddy had shown her and she was pretty good. It wasn't as much or as good as her Daddy used to bring home, but it was enough.

Two years later a new man started calling on her Mummy. He was nice at first, but soon, he started taking their things to trade for whiskey. He got violent when he would drink and hit her Mummy. He frightened Tanya, and would look at her strangely when he was drunk. Sometimes she would close her eyes and imagine her Daddy coming back and chasing him away. Other times, she would take her books to the top of a destroyed building to read her stories far away from Jerry.

He used to hurt her Mummy quietly behind their closed door, but one day he got mad and abused her in front of the villagers. They all surrounded them and made it clear they weren't going to tolerate it. When they got home Jerry blamed her Mummy and slapped her around. Then he went back to the bar for more whiskey. Her Mummy sobbed quietly behind her door.

Tanya cried too. She knew if her Daddy was here, he would never have let anyone hurt them. She sniffled and thought, 'Someday Jerry's going to get what he deserves.'

Then she dried her tears and thought of her Mummy crying in the next room.

"That day is today." Tanya said. She looked around her room and picked up a sock and quietly stepped out into the night. She ran on the front of her feet in the direction of the bar, and soon saw Jerry staggering towards the entrance. She stepped into the shadows across the street and waited in the darkness.

It didn't take long. There was a lot of yelling and the sound of breaking wood and glass. Then two guys dragged Jerry out of the bar and threw him into the alley. Bottles clinked away and tin cans clattered on the broken pavement as they dumped him, unconscious, amidst the garbage. Then they headed back to the bar, laughing as the door closed behind them. Some hearty cheers broke out, and she knew they were done. Tanya stepped forward, her face emerging from the darkness. She walked across the street to the alley and looked down at the sorry excuse of a man. She said, "Tonight, my Dad's here." She bent down and picked up a stone and dropped it into the sock, then another. Her eyes burned with intensity as she stared at him, her mouth tightened and she gritted her teeth. In the shadows of the alley, a small, dark figure raised something into the air. Then swung it down, over and over. It impacted with a dull thud and the sound of breaking rib bones.

No one knew who beat up Jerry that night, but they did a real job on him. Rumor was the villagers were fed up with him. It could have been anyone; no one admitted it, but he never looked the villagers in the eye after that, and he never hit her Mom again. After her Mom got him back on his feet, Jerry quietly disappeared.

Tanya could see the worry in her Mom's eyes again, but Tanya knew her Mom didn't have to worry about them anymore; she was old enough to help her family now.

"We're going to be okay now Mom." she said, as she brushed the hair away from her Mom's face and kissed her forehead.

Scribe Yearling's attention focused on her notes again. She had stopped writing. She glanced over at the Sentries but they hadn't seemed to notice. She reached down and pulled a book from her backpack. It was one book she took with her everywhere. It was her favorite book and she had saved it from when she was little. It was full of wonderful stories. She opened it and felt the worn, brown, and curled pages. She turned the pages, one after another, the words now just illegible smears and stains. It was the one her mother used to pretend to read to her.