Excerpt for Being Good by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Being Good

By Mollie Player



Copyright © 2017 by Mollie Player

Smashwords edition

ISBN: 9781370645435

All rights reserved



To contact the author, subscribe to her blog or discover your next great read, visit mollieplayer.com.



Also by Mollie Player:



You’re Getting Closer: One Year of Finding God and a Few Good Friends

The Power of Acceptance: One Year of Mindfulness and Meditation

The Emergency Diet: The Somewhat Hard, Very Controversial, Totally Unheard Of and Fastest Possible Way to Lose Weight

The Naked House: Five Principles for a More Peaceful Home

What I Learned from Jane

Unicorn

Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby





Chapter One: The People Want Electricity Now


The people want electricity now. That is what Father told me, anyway, and he is rarely wrong and never lies. It's funny, though: in a way, I wish he would have—just this once. And just a little—just enough to make me feel better about the whole thing.

Of course, I didn't tell him that. For one thing, I am not allowed to tell. For another, it wouldn’t have done any good.

In any case, Father did tell me the whole story—not the watered-down version, and not the abbreviated version, either. He explained to me in very precise detail what electricity is and what it does, and after he was done I felt like always, ever since I was born, a part of my brain has been missing and now, it isn’t missing anymore. It’s there.

Telephones. Computers. Automatic light. This is what the world is really like. This is what everyone else knows about and has—everyone, that is, but us.

In some ways, the rest of the world sounds nice. In other ways, it sounds truly horrible.

Father talked for a long time, but I have the feeling that I still don't understand most of what he said. I just know that it was important—hugely, incredibly important, more so than I could ever explain.

Even after discovering a whole new part of my brain.


It was so dark—so feelingly dark—with the only light moving pinpoints, like stars. These stars, of course, moved much faster, since they were moving on the ground. As I watched from my window they began to coalesce, to form a more meaningful shape. Then the sun came up, and the lights went out one by one, and once again everything seemed normal.

It was not normal—but it seemed to be. That is the way morning deceives you. Afternoon lies, too, but not as blatantly, and by evening the truth is getting obvious. Then night comes, and all at once, the people understand what's really going on. The bad stuff seems badder, and the good stuff seems better, and the once very pretty stuff is beautiful.

At least, that's how I felt then—and I suppose I still do. Which is why even as I watched the torches from above, I knew that nothing would change. The vote wouldn't reveal the truth of the situation, or resolve the bad feelings in the town. Instead, the people would come to the meeting, and do their duty, and listen with interest to the result. Then they'd return to life as usual, and continue to argue as before.

The vote should be held in the dark, I thought. Then the people would accept it.

I didn't say that, of course. I wasn't allowed to say anything. Instead, I stood at my window and watched, same as always, waiting to hear the rest of the story.

Soon, full light came, and in the places the torchlight had been, the townspeople were, like me, waiting. Their wait, though, was quite a bit shorter, lasting just long enough for the historians to emerge. They came from the schoolhouse and slowly made their way across the Square, ringing their bells and chanting.

The procession had begun.

Jack Albert, my father, led the little group, walking with self-conscious gravitas. Uncle Deb was next, and though he was properly old for his station, he wasn't properly grim. He grinned.

They arrived at the far end of the Square, then entered the amphitheater at the front. The townspeople followed and slowly took their seats. Then Anton walked onto the stage.

He was nervous, of course, and visibly so; even from my distance, I could see it. He knew most of the people didn't want him in Gallitia, much less serving, but he had his duty to carry out. And when he placed his hand over his heart to lead the Pledge, the townspeople did their duty, too, and followed suit.

"I am a citizen of Gallitia, and my values are the values we share. They are: simple living, faith in God, and contributing to the good of all."

The people sat. Anton gave an awkward introduction, then nodded to the historians, who stood as a group. Then the voting began.


After the vote, my father and Uncle Deb left the amphitheater, heading for their table in the Square. I saw two visitors, then was surprised by the third, who came as the people were returning for the reading. It was Deb, and as at the vote he was smiling, though this time in a more reserved manner.

"Didn’t want to hear it," he said as he sat down. "Kind of a downer, don’t you think? No matter how it turns out, it won’t make a difference; they’ll keeping trying to get their way. It’s nonsense, and besides, I have more important things to deal with. I have to tell you what happened with your friend, Peter."

I knew it, I thought. I knew he was going to say something. He just can't help himself, can he?

"Don't worry, Francie. I'm not going to lecture you. I know that you know the rules. But I’d be neglecting my duty if I didn’t tell you about our conversation. Besides, it was kind of … cute.”

I smiled, then bowed my head, and when I looked up, Deb looked up, too, and continued.

“This morning after the meeting, he came to our table. Just walked right up, no excuse given. He nodded but didn’t say anything—not even hello—then waited for us to notice. That boy does have his own style."

I nodded, then ducked my head.

"We greeted him, and since he glanced at my glass of water I offered it to him—though of course I didn't expect him to take it. He surprised me, though: he picked it up just like that. And then he drank every drop.

“You should have seen the look on Jack's face. Raised eyebrows—you know the one. Then he put down the glass—and this was the best part—he just looked at me, still without smiling, and said thanks.

“After that, I invited him to sit down a while, and as soon as he did, Jack started in. He asked why he wasn’t at the meeting this morning, and Peter said he'd rather not be a part of it.

“I said, ‘Good for you. Keeping it close, and all that.’ And Jack said I was the only one who thought that way. Said I’m ‘far too intrigued by neutrality for my own good—after all, decisions have to be made.’ I said I don’t like neutrality. I just like individuality. And he said I like everything and everyone.

“What do you think, Francie? Do I like everyone? I don’t think so. But I do like the variety.

“Anyway. We went on like that for a while; you know how I like arguing with your father. But then Jack got back to it—asked Peter some more questions, and Peter just kept avoiding them. Until Jack brought up the rumors about Peter—him being involved in the dam, and all that. He asked if Peter had anything to say about it, but Peter said, ‘Only that I didn’t come to Gallitia to talk about electricity.’ Jack said, ‘What did you come here for, then?’ And Peter said, ‘I came to pay my respects to my parents. And I also came here for Francie.’”

At this, my breath caught. Then I brought it in. Slowly in, then slowly out. Deb looked at me a moment. Then he stood up. He went to the candle to light his pipe, then sat down again.

“Jack kept it together. He didn’t say anything for a while. Just stared at Peter very evenly. I told Peter we’re sure that he’ll do the right thing—do what he feels is right, anyway.

“Peter said, ‘Yes. But that’s usually the case with people, don’t you think? They usually do what they believe is right.’ And Jack said, ‘No, I don’t think they do.’

“Soon after that, just before Peter left the table, Jack said something like, ‘It's a good place we have here, Peter, and there are a great many good people in it.’ Peter said, ‘Sir, you may be right. But I don't believe in being good. I believe in being the person that you are.’

“After that, he stood up and nodded to each of us. Then he walked away.”

Deb stood up again and crossed my room to the window. When he looked back at me, he was smiling.

“And just like that, exeunt. Like I said before: That boy sure does have style.

“I’m not so dramatic. But I appreciate it when I see it. Strange, I know, but I can’t help liking the kid. Gallitia could use a few more oddballs like him—mysterious, defiant. Then again, maybe I do just like everyone.

“In any case. He brings us an interesting situation. I’m sure you’ll hear what to do about it.”

He bowed, then walked to the door.

“It really is a good place we have here, Francie. But you of all people know that.”

He opened the door. “And with that, exeunt. Anyway, I’m working on it.”


Chapter Two: Two Isn’t Such a Small Number


Sometimes, all the things you thought would never happen to you—never ever, not even by the time you're eighty—all at once, all of a sudden, happen.

This is one of those times.

One month ago, I learned what electricity is, and that was enough intrigue to last me quite a while. But then today, I learned about something else, too, namely: I have an admirer.

And for me, that’s as unusual as electricity.

For other people, of course, it’s just as ordinary. A man, a dam, a light switch. I don’t covet their worldliness, though. The worry—it’s a lot to handle. Though in a way, the excitement makes the worry worth it.

I know, I know—I’m not supposed to say stuff like that. I’m not supposed to feel excited about things that shouldn’t happen. But it’s my journal, and I have to be honest, don’t I? Otherwise, why write at all?

So, as it turns out, I enjoy having an admirer. I enjoy it not in the way that you usually enjoy things, but in some different way that I can't properly explain.

In other words: I enjoy it way too much.

And there's something else I enjoy, too, that before I didn't think I cared about at all: I enjoy knowing more about the world.

The admirer issue I can deal with fairly easily; it's not like I want to anything to happen, and I definitely haven't given Peter the impression that I do. Besides, I’m not a child. I know these are just feelings, and that the feelings will pass. This electricity, though, is truly important—as important as Father says or even more. It could take our little town, Gallitia—our perfect little town that my father helped build and that we love, and make it like everywhere else.

Now, I know what you're thinking: nothing bad has even happened yet; as far as I know, it's all just talk. But you know as well as I do, don't you, that that’s where everything gets its start?

Everything in the world starts by just talking.

In any case. All these things are happening, all at once, or that’s what it feels like, even if all the things are just two. But as you can see, sometimes two isn’t such a small number.

Sometimes, it's a pretty big one.


The first time that Peter came to my room, he didn't say a single word. Instead, he sat and stared at me thoughtfully, and I just closed my eyes and prayed. At the time, I didn't suspect anything out of the ordinary—just another customer, if a strange one. But when it happened again, then a third time, I started getting suspicious. I mean, who goes to a listener, spends half an hour with her, but never tells her what to pray for? Besides, there was a certain way he looked at me, a way that is without question what you suspect it to be—and then you question it anyway.

It wasn't long, though, before that question was answered—and replaced by a good many more.

One week before the vote, also on a Wednesday afternoon, Peter came to see me a fourth time. His knock was soft, and hearing it I got nervous, even though I knew I shouldn’t have been.

It's fine, I told myself, shaking my head. I really hated being nervous.

That day, I wore the usual thing: a short-sleeved button-down shirt, light brown, and short, loose drawstring pants. My brown hair was pulled into two long braids. I wasn't feminine, and I didn’t look it; I was tough. But that day I was little worried, too.

I opened the door. Peter wore long pants and a T-shirt. No shoes. No bandana. Not even a hat. Like the rest of the Northerners, his hair was short. It was very red, and combed straight down on both sides.

He entered and sat, and let me pray for a while. Then, for the first time in my room, he spoke.

"You are beautiful," he said. But I wasn’t. I’ve never been. Then: "You are not young." But I was eighteen.

"I know what you're thinking. And you're right. I don't believe in listeners, and I am not here for prayer. When I come here I just want to talk, to tell you about the place I live now, until it's time for me to go back. And I know that you can't talk back, but that's okay with me; if you just listen, I'll be grateful."

And then, for over an hour, he did just that. He talked, and he talked, and he talked.

And that's how, for the first time, I learned about the North. Really learned about it—not just what they taught us in school. He told me about engines, and uncountable books, and cars and boats and those flying planes. Machines that wash clothes and machines that act like people, and if he'd stayed longer he probably would've said more.

I wanted him to stay longer. I really, really did.

I wanted him to say more.

As it turned out, I got my wish—partly, anyway. The following week—the day of the vote—he came again. He arrived at my door just as Deb was leaving to hear the results. Deb hesitated a moment, then let him pass. After he bowed and sat, I prayed, then looked up, hoping he’d tell me another good story. But he didn’t. He told me a scary one.

"It was three years ago, when I was twenty-eight. It was spring, and I was here visiting my parents. One afternoon when I was heading back to our house through the Square, I noticed a girl sitting cross-legged on a hammock. She was talking to her father about something she'd read, and her voice was deep and intelligent, and caught my attention. I noticed the way she sat: curved shoulders. Comfortable. No scarf—nothing to hide her short hair. But she was young, and so, maybe because of that, or maybe for some other reason that at the time I didn't understand, I didn't say anything to her. Later, whenever I saw her—on the hammock, or somewhere in town—I came as close as I could without her noticing. I listened to her voice, and watched the way she was with people—a little shy, but somehow confident, too. Once I heard her father tell her he was glad they could talk like that, since soon they wouldn't be able to anymore. Soon after that I went back home.

“The following year when I returned to Gallitia someone told me there was a new listener—and even before they said your name, I knew it was you. I was glad I didn’t talk to you the year before. Somehow, I’d known it wasn't the right time.

“A few days later I saw you out on your night walk. You looked happy—but a little sad, too. Other than that look, though, you were the same, and all the feelings I had the year before came back. I remembered your voice, the way you moved. I remembered the way your hands opened and closed as you talked. I remembered how your eyebrows went down in the middle sometimes, and I remembered your careful, quick walk. In that moment, I realized something. I realized that I wanted to know you.

“Last time I came here, I said lots of things, but I didn’t even really begin. The North—it’s not the things we have there that make it different. It’s the way we are; you know? No pledge. No Ordnung. Nothing has to be approved. Which is nice. But there are many dangers, too. The ones you learned about—the anarchy, the starvation. The lack of protection from harm. The governments can’t help everyone. They’re not big enough yet. The people have to look out for each other. The war made it happen, but in a way, I’m glad it did. It’s difficult, but it’s also … free.

“I was sixteen when I went to Anteberg, and I’ve never regretted my decision. Though I do love this place, too, you know. It’s beautiful and peaceful, and it does me good to visit. And now that my parents are gone, I’ll miss it.

“So it's not so much that I prefer the North over Gallitia. It's just that for me, there’s no real choice. If I tried to live here again, I’d have to escape.

“I’m just not cut out for a Utopia.

"Does this make sense? Maybe it doesn’t. But either way, I have to tell you something. I’ve waited three years, and that’s long enough. It’s time to tell you that I love you.”

My reaction was swift: I stood and went to the door. I opened it, and Peter stood, too, and walked through. I shut the door behind him, and listened to his footsteps on the stairs. Then I went to my table and got my notebook. I wrote the date, September 9, 2081, and after that, I wrote a whole lot more.

I wrote about the electricity. I wrote about Peter. I wrote about everything I'd learned and heard over the past month. It felt good to say something instead of just listening all the time. Or more precisely: it felt good to have something to say.

When I was done, I remembered the vote. It had been read, and I’d missed it. I went to the window to observe. Even though it’d been an hour since the meeting had ended, the theater was still crowded, and so was the Square. As I watched, my father approached the other historians, then took something out of his knapsack. It was a large paper roll, and as he unwound it, the group around him grew. Several minutes later, the reaction came: raised arms. Pointing, leaning in. The group began to move together toward the river. Walking, then running.

Pandemonium.


Chapter Three: I Used to Be a Storybook Girl


When I was growing up, I had beautiful curly hair—storybook hair, and I was a storybook girl. These days, my hair is still curly, but it isn't beautiful, and I’m not special anymore, either. I’m just normal. I suppose that happens when you grow up. So here’s my question: Why did Peter lie?

Why did he tell me that I am?

It’s only been a week since he told me he loved me, and yet, a lot has changed since then. Though I didn’t think it was possible—is it possible? I’m still not sure—there’s a chance that I love him, too.

Was it his lie that brought on this problem? I’m not quite sure about that either. But whatever the reason, today when he came to see me, a feeling came that I can’t seem to shake. It started when he was talking and got stronger when he was stopped. The feeling just kept saying, “Don’t leave.” And this was the weird part: When finally he did leave, it was like part of me left with him. It clung to him, like a child on her father’s back, all the way out the door and down the stairs.

I was sick. I was euphoric. I cried. And then it hit me: This might be what love feels like.

It feels like part of you goes away.

Of course, that's all it is: it’s just a feeling. It isn't something I can or will act on. I'm a listener. I listen. That is what I do. And that is what I'm trying to remember. Still, I can’t help but think that every woman should have this feeling at least once in their life. Even if that woman is me.

Anyway, there is one thing I know for sure about all of this: Peter is not what they say he is. I saw it in his eyes on that very first day, and every day since: No matter what he does or doesn't believe, I know that Peter is good.

In any case, now I have to make a decision about continuing to see Peter, the only person besides Deb that doesn't treat me like a child. And I have to think about what it would mean to me if he was gone.



“They’ve started,” said Father when he came to see me the following Wednesday, one week after the vote. In his eyes there was fear, which I wasn’t used to seeing there. But what disturbed me most was the doubt.

What’s that about? I wondered as he entered. But he didn’t tell me right away. First he gave me my lunch tray, and I prayed, then started eating. Then he gave me the news.

“As far as we can tell, they have all their supplies already. I don’t know how they managed it. One or two of our traders must be involved—they’d have to be. So now we have to decide what to do.

“The historians have discussed it every night since the discovery. Some of them want to do something drastic. I don’t know what I think. I want to make the right decision. But Deb and I aren’t sure there is one.”

Here Father paused, cleared his throat and straightened his sleeves. When he continued, he didn’t look at me, but toward the window.

“Deb is against it, of course. And so are several other historians. The rest of them think we have no choice. Either way, we’re going to hold another vote, this time about destroying the dam.”

It wasn’t what I expected. I mean, I didn’t know what I expected. But it certainly wasn’t this. Destroy it? Why?

“It’s ugly. I know. But if the Northerners get their way, everything we’ve worked for would be gone. It’s not just electric lights. It’s huge. It affects everything. It’s a little thing that’s actually quite big.

“Speaking of which, Peter spoke with me last week. He told Deb and I of his intentions. We suspected it, I suppose—his family never was big on listeners—but to hear it from him—well, it took us by surprise. It’s his honesty that gets me. He’s serious about this. And he’s leaving soon, and he’ll want to …”

Father shook his head, then continued.

“I know it's not your fault. It happens to all the listeners eventually, and now it's happening to you. Most of the time they don’t give in, and I have no reason to think you will, either. Still, you’re young, and feelings … well, they’re interesting. They have a way of coming up on you. Slowly. Then, before you know it, the whole way you're thinking is different. Does that make sense?

“After Peter's gone, the people will forget the gossip—if you don't give them reason to remember. And though I know you won't, I should tell you one more thing. The town Peter lives in now in the North—Anteberg—is where Anton is from, too."

Father leaned toward me and took my hand and I stared at his beautiful face. There was the doubt still, and still a bit of fear. But mostly what I saw was love.


Chapter Four: How Do You Know That It’s Right?


When I was in training, there was a question people always asked me: “How do you know that it’s right?” People still ask the question, only not about me. Now, they ask it about themselves.

"How do I know I'm supposed to work there? Go there? Marry so-and-so? Move to that plot?" The answer I gave in training is the answer I’d still give if I could: “You know it’s right when you no longer need to ask the question.”

And that's how I feel about my calling as a listener: there’s rarely a doubt in my mind. I love my work. I love the prayer. I love the people. I love knowing what I do is important.

I don't even need to ask the question.

At least, I never did before. But then one month ago, Peter told me about his feelings. And sometime after that, something in me started to change. Where there was only certainty, now there's a bit of confusion. And confusion is a terrible feeling.

I've been questioning my calling, but not only my calling—a whole lot of other stuff, too. The Pledge. The Ordnung. The electricity. Definitely Peter. There's almost nothing I know for sure anymore. I’ve been thinking about what it’d be like to speak again, to live below. Maybe even someday get married.

Of course, when I talk about marriage I’m not talking about Peter. He doesn’t live here, and I could never leave. But I could get married to someone, someday. Work a regular job, pray like normal people. Be normal.

Maybe the feeling will pass. I hope it will pass. It's only been a few weeks, after all. Either way, there it is. There's my confession.

Part of me would like to be normal.


The location was the same. The order of events. The procession. The gathering. The introduction. The Pledge, of course, varied not the slightest. So why did it sound so different this time?

"I am a citizen of Gallitia, and my values are the values we share. They are: simple living, faith in God, and contributing to the good of all."

And it wasn't just me that felt the alteration; a lot of other people did, too. How could they not, considering what they were deciding?

How could they pretend it was okay?

Some of them tried. They forced smiles, small talk. But I didn’t hear their words—I saw their bodies. And that is what gave it away.

They were leaning forward, instead of leaning back. The groups that they formed were smaller. Then there were the looks they gave each other across the aisles.

They were not pleasant looks.

I’m not sure why—maybe the Voices, maybe those looks—but when I saw the people I knew how the vote would turn out. I could be wrong, I said to myself.

I said it many, many times.

During the break I saw several visitors. Then the reading was held. When it was done Deb came to give me the news, then just before he left, he said something sort of strange. It wasn’t goodbye, exactly—he never used that word. But what he said felt the same.

“We sheltered you,” he said. “We know we did. You and all the other kids. We thought we were doing what was right, but maybe Peter’s right: Maybe you don’t have to protect people so much.

“Maybe people are good—good without trying.

“In any case, I am done hiding things from you, Francie. I voted with the majority. And your father did, too.”

Deb looked at the door, then back at me.

"The Northerners are leaving. Some of them, anyway. The rest—well, we’ll see what they do. Peter won’t fight. That much we know. So it looks like you have a decision to make."

At this I shook my head, but Deb ignored it.

"You think you've decided, Francie, but you may not have. And there’s something I want you to know: No matter what happens, I understand. And I trust you completely."

After Deb left, Peter came as usual. Only this time wasn't usual at all. He didn’t sit. I didn’t pray. He stood in the doorway, holding a knapsack and just staring. Then I thought I saw a wince, and he spoke.

“I wanted to wait longer before telling you this. But everything happened so quickly. I’ll be leaving tonight, right after the funeral, so this is probably my last chance. Just know that what I’m telling you now is the worst. Other than this there’s nothing you don’t know.

"Last spring, just before I left to come here, I made a new acquaintance—actually, a friend. He came to my shop and started asking questions, and we ended up talking for several hours. He asked about my work, about projects I've done. Eventually he told me his plan.

"The man was interesting. I liked him. He was different. He didn't want to just complain about things; he wanted to do something. His plan was to build a place far away from the Center where intervention wouldn't be likely, even if the Reconsolidationists win.

"In other words: He wanted another Gallitia.

"Which is why when I heard his idea I made an obvious mistake: I told him about this place.

"Almost immediately, I regretted what I'd said, which actually wasn't much. Just that it was a lot like what he'd been describing and that I was going to visit soon. The way he looked at me after I said it, though ... it was greed but not exactly greed. He was too curious.

"After that we met a few more times and he tried to find out more, but I told him I'd already said enough. Later I found out that he'd asked around about me. Found an accurate map somewhere—probably paid a lot of money. Not an impossible thing."

Peter paused, then continued.

"I got here before he did, but not by much, and shortly after that the problem started. So you see, Francie, don't you, why all of this happened here lately?

"It happened because I am an electrician."


Chapter Five: It’s Harder When Your Feelings Are Involved


Most of the time, when I need help, I look for it in my prayers. The Voices and my calling are what I turn to when things are hard, and that is as it should be.

Tonight, however, the Voices didn't come; my prayers and questions went unanswered. There were no words, no pictures, no inspiration—only silence, and not the good kind.

Earlier today Peter told me something I didn’t expect: What he did, what role he played. And just before that, my town made a mistake that is irreparable, and the two people I love most were responsible.

All though my training, and in the three years since, no one told me how unfair this job can be. Sometimes, praying doesn’t work. Sometimes, nothing I can do can make a difference; the people do what they do, and that’s that. Listeners are useless at times like these. So is supplication. So is prayer. But what makes a bad situation truly terrible is the unhearing. The silence.

No one admits that there are times like this. Times when even the comfort doesn’t come. No one talks about how much it is to hear the Voices when your feelings are involved.

And of course, right now my feelings are definitely involved; to deny it would be to lie. I feel alone. I feel afraid. Even angry. Why did all this happen? Why did God allow it? And why didn’t Peter tell me the truth sooner?

For that matter, why didn’t anyone tell me the truth—about the North, about electricity and … everything? If the way the rest of the world lives is something we want to avoid, shouldn’t we know more about it? Even if we are young. Even if we don’t understand. Even if we are sheltered.

We should know.


An hour after Peter's visit, the funeral march began. It started in the Square and moved south. Peter was in front, holding the urns, and not just Southerners, but a few Northerners, too, followed. Father was there. So was Uncle Deb. At first I was surprised that anyone went at all, but then I wasn’t.

When it was over, Father came to see me. He brought my dinner early without explanation. After he sat, I prayed and started eating. Then he did what Deb had done: He said goodbye.

"I suppose you know everything. Deb doesn’t keep his mouth shut. And for once I’m glad that he didn’t. I was too afraid to tell you. Cowardly, really. Maybe that should’ve clued me in that it was wrong.

“Can’t take it back now. Just have to admit it. What’s going to happen will happen. I think it’s worth mentioning, though, that Peter finally said something. In the theater, right before the vote, he said, 'Don't do this.'

“That’s all he said, and not even loudly, but I’d be surprised if there was a person present that didn’t hear. But we didn’t listen. Just went right ahead. I don’t think it’s too soon to say I am sorry.

“I was scared. Am scared. I don’t want it to change here. But this afternoon I thought it over, started remembering things. Things about your mother. So good. So kind. She couldn't stand seeing all the suffering.

“I never told you this, but she was the one who first convinced me to come. Probably Deb, too—he would’ve done anything for her. Then she died and the rest of us just kept right on going, even though we hardly knew why.

“After she was gone, I was angry for a while. I blamed her for taking us somewhere without hospitals. I blamed myself, too, for not doing what I really wanted, which at the time was staying in the North.

“I don’t feel angry anymore, don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any regrets. But sometimes I wonder what I gave up to be here—not just your mother. My career.

“In the North, I was a scientist. I told you that already. But I wasn't the kind who grows food. I was the kind who looks at the sky with big tools for viewing stars and planets. And more than that—all kinds of research—some practical, some just for fun. Some of my teachers at the adult school I went to made some real discoveries, and I always felt that I would do the same someday.

“It's a hard world out there, you must know that. Everything we've told you is true. But there are a few things that they have that we don’t. Like choices. They can do anything, go anywhere.

“Some people are meant to live like we do here—quiet and peaceful and easy. For them, Gallitia is just right. As the years have gone by I've become one of these people, too. But I didn't start out that way.

“I don't know which kind you are, Francie. But I wouldn't be surprised either way. You are your mother's daughter—a listener like her—but you're your father's, too.”


Chapter Six: Suddenly, There Was No Choice


Tonight was the night I made my decision. And the way I did it was sort of strange. Before the moment arrived, I had no idea what would happen; the question looped through my head like a song. But as soon as I saw him the question just disintegrated.

Suddenly, there was no choice at all.

Peter was right. This place is beautiful. But only when you believe in it. After that, it’s still beautiful—a Utopia, like he said—but it's not quite the same.

I've been good for so long. Being good is good. But I’m not all good, all the time. I’m just normal.


The torches are what I remember most about that night. That, and Peter's face underneath one of them. He stood under my window and looked up at me. No motion. No expression. He just stared.

Uncle Deb was wrong, I thought as I stared back at Peter. I didn't need to make a decision. The decision had been made for me, without my ever realizing it.

It had been made a long time ago.

I picked up my sack. I walked to the door. Then I opened it and started down the stairs. I didn’t know what would happen when I got to the bottom of those stairs—but I knew the way it felt to be on them: it felt right. And for the first time in my life, that was all that mattered.

All that mattered was what felt right.

The staircase was long, and with each step that I took, I felt a little more free.


So, What Did You Think?


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Also by Mollie Player


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The Emergency Diet: The Somewhat Hard, Very Controversial, Totally Unheard of and Fastest Possible Way to Lose Weight

The Naked House: Five Principles for a More Peaceful Home

What I Learned from Jane

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About the Author


Mollie Player is just a regular person. But that doesn't mean she can't at least attempt feats of great strength. Like overcoming depression. Getting skinny. Never arguing again. And, of course, finding inner peace.

Her spiritual memoirs include You're Getting Closer: One Year of Finding God and a Few Good Friends, The Power of Acceptance: One Year of Mindfulness and Meditation, and What I Learned from Jane.

Her self-help books include The Emergency Diet: The Somewhat Hard, Very Controversial, Totally Unheard of and Fastest Possible Way to Lose Weight and The Naked House: Five Principles for a More Peaceful Home.

In her blog, The Ordinary Mystic, Player writes about the best spiritual practices to overcome depression. Subscribe at mollieplayer.com.










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