Madness is a Nuisance Chapter Twelve

"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted."
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Rue woke up disoriented and without any memory of actually falling asleep. She was curled into a ball, her spine pressed against the rough base of a tree that towered over her like a protective mother. A groan escaped her dry lips, and she wet them with a quick flick of her tongue, pushing herself into a sitting position with stiff arms.

She stretched like a cat, her back arching and then cracking, and looked about her, her head throbbing and her body aching as if she'd run for miles. She contemplated that thought, wondering just how far she had in fact run after fleeing the dark dungeon that was the caves. She remembered weeping the entire time, blindly pushing herself forward into the dark, uncaring of which direction she moved, just so long as she was moving at all. Her limbs ached where the wheeled girls had sunk their teeth into her flesh, but she ignored the pain, struggling to lift herself off the ground and to her feet.

Her legs trembled and she pressed her palms against her eyes, trying to focus on her breathing and nothing else, at least for the time being. Her lungs ached, as if they were still recovering from the grueling pace that she had set for herself. Inhale, she thought, feeling her chest expand as she pulled air into her body with a shaky breath. Exhale.

Sunlight streamed through the trees and illuminated her muddy and trembling form, casting light on her cheeks and warming them as she pulled her hands away from her face. She wondered just how long she had been asleep. Last that she remembered, it had still been night, the darkness seeming to chase her as she gasped and struggled forward. It was impossible to tell how long ago that had been.

Rue was cold though, and she realized that she was wet, her clothes soaked through. In fact, everything was wet; the leaves beneath her feet were slippery against her skin and water dripped onto her head from the foliage above. The realization that it had rained crept up on her, and Rue shivered, surprised. Weather was something that had wholly escaped her, and she was shocked that something so simple had been completely forgotten.

Rain. She shuddered, recalling the dream that she had awoken from before first finding herself in the caves. Rain water soaking through her shoes, a man's all-too-familiar lips crushing her own.

Panic shot through her veins and Rue recoiled, pressing her back against the sentinel tree behind her and pressing a hand to her suddenly pounding heart. The distinct feeling came to her that that memory was not simply a dream. She turned her back on it, unnerved by the dread that crept up her spine. Whatever that memory meant to her, she refused to acknowledge it yet.

Instead, she raised her arms to the sky, pulling her sopping dress over her head to wring it out onto the leaves. Seeing the water stream forth brought a heavy thirst to her tongue, and so she held the garment over her open mouth, catching the rainwater to let it wash down her burning throat. When it seemed she could procure no more from the dress, she laid it out on the leaves at her feet and proceeded to remove her leggings and to wring them out in the same matter.

She gave no real thought to exposing herself in this way, devoid of any feeling of shame. The forest was still, and the air lacked the tell-tale chill that warned of watching eyes. She took comfort in the breeze that caressed her bare skin and the feel of the sun warming her thighs and stomach.

When her leggings had been thoroughly drained, Rue turned her attention towards the wrappings of her bandages, determined to remove everything that blocked the dizzying warmth from her skin. They were ragged now, coming loose to hang limply from her body like moss from a tree. Or flesh from a cadaver.

She started, her stomach dropping and her heart lodging itself in her throat as her fleeting moment of solace ran from her like a rabbit from a pack of wolves.

She was just tired, she told herself, attempting to rid herself of the thought as she had chased away the memories of her nightmare, steadying herself against the tree at her back. However, as if in retaliation, the ghastly image only returned, and so Rue tore the bandages from her skin, a sick panic taking hold of her.

Her breathing quickly rising to an uneven gasp, the image of flesh hanging in the air receded only so that she could see the real grotesquery that was her own scarred flesh. Doubly horrified, Rue whimpered and closed her eyes, her back sliding down the tree until she was resting on the wet leaves again. She buried her hands in her hair, taking deep breaths and telling herself that it was okay, that she had no reason to feel so sick.

Tears built up in her eyes and she squeezed her lids shut tighter, turning her face into the tree as she struggled not to cry. The familiar ache of helplessness settled itself into her stomach and Rue fought not to let it weigh her down, fought not to sink completely into the dark waters of despair that threatened to swallow her. She took a deep breath and held it, telling herself to focus on that again. If she could just center her mind onto something simple, the panic would subside. She concentrated on the drum of her heart until her lungs screamed for air, and she let her breath out in a whoosh, relaxing her eyes and making herself as still as possible.

Her mind opened and her heart slowed as she lie still, fixing herself to the task of creating a statue of herself. The panic slowly flowed from her lungs with each steady breath she took until her tried and true blanket of apathy wrapped tightly around her. Rue bathed in it, knowing this despondence was her safety, her escape from the horror of everything around her and her own winding imagination.

Breathe, she told herself, closing her eyes with each inhale only to open them as she released the breath from her lungs. Breathe. You are strong.

She uncurled herself and rose to her feet again, rubbing her eyes and tilting her head back to look up at the bright flame of the sun. She focused on its warmth, and then sighed, wondering how many more times she would have to perform this ritual of panic, and then despondence. At least the process was going quicker now, her coping methods rising sooner and her anxiety dulling quicker.

She pulled on her dress again, choosing to leave her leggings draped across the leaves, and rubbed her skin, feeling the rough scar tissue and telling herself that it was okay. She would get used to it. This was her skin; she mustn't panic at the sight of it. She needed to control her raging anxiety.

It was then, lost in thought over the disfigured thing that she had become, that Rue heard it again. The sound came first as a whisper, blowing past her ear and tickling the lids of her eyes. But then it seemed to grow in volume, filling Rue's head until she knew exactly what it was.

She was hearing the sound of a woman's voice. And it was calling her name.

Her mind raced immediately backwards to the voice that had lured her from Ander's little enclave, the voice that had landed her in the den of those twisted, contorted women who had scarred her skin with the bile from their throats. It was because of that voice that she was so disfigured, and that she had become separated from Ander to fall into the hands of Eden and Logi. The voice was the cause of her current hopeless situation.

And yet Rue strained towards it, her heart picking up its pace yet again and her core tingling with unnamed emotions. Buried thoughts of a mother resurfaced again, and Rue visibly trembled. Whatever misfortunes this voice had caused her, she still ached for it, ached to know to whom it belonged. But most of all, she ached for answers.

Just as she had the first time, Rue threw herself into the trees after it, resolved to find this woman before she lost her again. The thought that this was stupid, that she was blindly repeating a mistake that she regretted, rose quickly to mind, but she shut it out. Logic had nothing to do with her need to pursue these feminine tones and so she would not allow it to dissuade her from running forward, plummeting into the unknown.

However, unlike the last time, instead of the voice growing fainter, it grew louder as Rue pushed towards it. Her heart swelled and she would have cried out for joy if her lungs did not scream in retaliation at the thought. She pushed herself faster still, forcing words up her throat in answer to the woman's plea of her name.

"I'm here!" she cried through her panting, her voice hoarse and broken. "I'm coming, stay where you are! I'm coming!"

The voice grew louder, as if the woman could hear her, and Rue sobbed, a harsh, ragged sound, attempting to move herself faster though her legs burned beneath her. A sick feeling attempted to raise its head, telling her that this was too good, that it was too sudden to really be happening, but she shoved the pessimism down, snuffing it with her heels as they pounded against the earth. The voice was louder, it was closer; she would not let go of this hope she felt opening like some sacred flower within her. She would not be let down. This was for real.

And then suddenly, Rue broke through the trees.

Her feet skidded in the dirt, a scream bursting from her throat as she shielded her eyes against the onslaught of light. She thought she was falling, but when she pulled her hands from her face, she remained upright. Undiluted by the thick net of trees, the sun blinded her, and Rue felt so suddenly exposed that it made her nauseous.

Land opened out before her. She was outside of the forest, standing at its edge, and the air smelled bitter, like smoke. Instinctively, she back away from the exposure of the open landscape, sinking into the comfortable shadows of the trees to peer anxiously out into the light. Her heart thundered in her chest as her eyes drank in the infinite stretch of bare earth laid out before her. It seemed naked without trees to fill its space, occupied only by knee-high grasses and the occasional shrub. The sky seemed endless, undiluted by the reaching arms of trees smothering the blue. She was breathless, simultaneously amazed and horrified at the sight.

But her mind struggled to regain its track of previous thought, and she raked the open expanse before her for the body of the voice that she had followed. There was no one, however, and Rue scratched at her arm in confusion, swallowing her rising unease. The voice had sounded so near, as if it were only feet away. And yet here she had miles before her, and no one in sight.

Perhaps she had run too far, Rue thought, immediately turning to comb the trees with her eyes for signs of movement. But there was no one. Rue was as alone as ever, and she rubbed her arms, suddenly cold as she turned her eyes back towards the land beyond the forest. There was no noxious, purple mist here as there had been in the place that she had initially woken to, and Rue was grateful for that. In truth, when she thought back on it, she had come to think that perhaps the air was polluted in this way everywhere outside of the forest.

But here, it was not so. Other than the sweet scent of smoke burning her nostrils, the air was fresh, clean, perhaps more so than in the forest. She could see for miles, the horizon a distant, blurred line, and there in the distance she could see the source of the smell wafting towards her on the soft wind blowing at the fabric of her dress.

She was standing at the top of a large incline, a hill of sorts that seemed to stretch towards the horizon itself. A plateau, she thought, the word rising to her lips. She was on something akin to a short plateau. And ahead of her, rising above the obscured edge, was a thin trail of smoke, reaching out to her and promising life. Smoke meant fire, and fire, hopefully, meant people.

Swallowing, Rue stepped out of the shade of the trees and into the tall grasses that licked at her exposed legs. She stared at that smoke, attempting to calculate the distance between it and herself, her bare feet digging into the earth. Her shoes, she realized, had been left behind her at the caves. Going barefoot had not been a problem in the woods, where the only thing underfoot had been slightly damp leaves. Here, however, Rue worried about what may lay hidden beneath those swaying, green grasses. There could be sticks, briers, or sharp rocks. She curled her fingers into her dress, squinting her eyes into the sun.

After being burned, bitten, and beaten, she doubted anything natural she could step on would really affect her too badly.

Resolutely, she stepped forwards, moving first at a steady walk, and then a fixed jog, her dress whipping behind her and the sound of the grass crunching beneath her feet in her ears. It was wet here too, and the water from the stalks of greenery all around her, brushing past her knees, chilled her. Still, she moved on, feeling a sort of freedom that was entirely novel to her as she moved to a controlled sprint.

Rue realized that for the first time, she was running towards something rather of away from it. It was liberating, and for a moment she stretched her arms wide, as if she might suddenly take flight into the air and away from all this madness. However, she remained grounded, enjoying her moment of abandon as she dashed through the open, verdant grasses until she found herself at the edge of the plateau.

The breath left her lungs as a smile curled onto her lips, her knees hitting the ground with a soft thud. Her eyes drank in the miracle that awaited her past the sharp face of the precipice, and she forgot all about the voice that had led her out past the trees. She hadn't expected her joy at running to be superseded by an even greater elation.

Stretched out before her were buildings, mix-matched in design but plain in face, which squatted on the cleared land. Each was of a single story, almost crudely crafted of the black wood from the forest surrounding the stranded establishment. Makeshift dirt roads ran in crooked lines through the structures, interconnecting so that they all led to the single building that stood out from the others. There was a church, painted white over the charred wood, and the road widened when it reached the holy edifice. It was also the tallest structure in the dirty little town, its sharp steeple reaching towards the sky as if it intended to gain entry to Heaven simply by pulling itself up.

It was a slightly awkward smudge of a town, and there was no sign of people, but it was civilization. Rue was quick to her feet. She let herself view it from her high perch a moment longer, as if afraid it were but a cruel illusion, and then turned and searched frantically for a way down. Her eyes were gifted with a mild slope not too far to her left that curved perfectly towards the wooden metropolis.

A whisper of paranoia told her that this was too good to be true, that it was too easy, and that she should be afraid. But just as she had done before, Rue snuffed the impending mania and plummeted forward with tripping feet at the graceful decline. She laughed at herself for ever thinking it unwise to follow the mysterious woman's voice through the trees. Doing so may have led her horribly astray before, but now that enigmatic, feminine voice had led her to the ecstasy of promised society.

She nearly fell, her breath ragged and tearing in her throat as she flew down the hill, her feet slipping in the wet grass. She could feel the foreign, painful stretch of her cheeks as an unstoppable smile simply grew and grew upon her face. She was choking on the air that filled her lungs, but she loved every minute of it.

At last, she reached the bottom of the slope, heaving with great gasps of air and supporting herself with shaking arms connected to shaking hands that pushed against her shaking knees. Rue was hunched, and she peered forward through her hair, impatient with her inability to catch her breath.

Finally, she moved forward, as if in a dream, the buildings moving closer with each step she took. She soon found herself standing directly beside one of the structures, and she stared at the shining glass of the low window that was cut into the side. She could see her reflection past the glare of the sun, but it was not the sight of herself that moved her to tears now. Beyond the opaque glass, Rue could vaguely make out the blurred outline of furniture. There was a chair and a squat table, both fashioned of the same brackish wood as the building, and pushed against the wall was a bookcase overflowing with books. Set into the wall was a fireplace filled with near-dead embers that still clung hopelessly to the faint light they yet emitted.

A fire had burned there and a person had lit the fire.

Still, the house gave off the distinct aura of emptiness, everything within silent, as if not a thing had been touched there for days. This she knew to be untrue, for a fire would have died over that span, but Rue moved on, wiping away her tears. She stopped at the next house to peer into the window only to receive the same effect. She could make out furniture past the barrier of glass, but the house felt uninhabited, though it showed distinct signs of having contained life not so long ago.

She moved from house to house in this manner, wondering if perhaps she ought to call out. But then a distinct notion came to her mind. Slowly, she directed her eyes towards the church that crouched against the land, poised as any priest who might preside over it. She felt her skin prickle and took a deep breath. Somehow, she knew that was where the town's inhabitants were gathered.

With suddenly sluggish movements, Rue turned towards the building, staring at the white façade with barely containable excitement. She could feel herself trembling and a faint hum filled her ears, as if they were stuffed with cotton. She could hardly believe this was happening. Slowly, she lifted her feet from the ground and moved them forward, propelling herself at a measured pace towards the leaning church.

As she had learned to do, Rue concentrated on her breathing to keep herself from becoming hysteric. Breathe, she told herself, every inch of her body urging her to run forward rather than to move at this unbearable crawl. Still, she continued on in this almost lazy way, determined not to become away with herself. She needed to concentrate, and so she simply breathed, moving one foot in front of the other in her deliberate manner.

Breathe, she repeated, the holy edifice growing nearer and nearer. Just breathe.

Her fingers met the surface of the door and she gave a gentle push, as if the thing would simply collapse away from her like a cardboard illusion. However, it did not, and she placed her ear against the wood, listening. Inside, the faint hum of life was audible, paired with the quiet rumble of a single voice. Rue could barely contain herself. She closed her eyes, urging herself once more to simply breathe, and then pushed her body's weight against the door. She felt it give way, and suddenly, she was inside.

The sweet smoke of incense wrapped around her, and Rue inhaled it, her eyes closed tightly against the contents of the large, open chamber. The noise she had heard through the door had completely stopped now, and the stillness was prickling her fingers. She could feel eyes on her, raising goose bumps all along her exposed and scarred skin. And yet still, she did not open her eyes.

Then, suddenly, the room erupted into noise. Voices filled the chamber and the clamber of bodies moving quickly to reach her made Rue back up, pushing her hands over her face. And still, she would not open her eyes.

Her back found the door and she pressed against it, sinking as she felt the presence of shapes crowding her, moving closer, the sound of their breath and the rustling of garments coming close, bending over her, washing her and terrifying her. She could feel that the floor on which she curled against was made of wood, polished and smooth, and she could feel the reverberations of their feet thumping against it.

Countless voices were all speaking at her, some whispering, some shouting, and Rue only curled further into the tight ball of her own body, her hands braced over her head as if anticipating some blow. Terror seized her, though she could understand perfectly the words that left the numerous mouths gathered about her. And yet, at the same time, she understood not at all. There was only this noise roaring in her ears, growing louder and louder, smothering her, and still, she would not open her eyes.

She screamed, her voice breaking through the chorus of foreign tongues and voices and crashing against the acoustics of the chamber, deafening her. It became silent again, and the only sound Rue could hear was the thundering rhythm of her own labored breathing. Her entire body was trembling.

And then a single voice broke through.

"Child," it whispered, its rough, tenor cadences wrapping around her. "Be not afraid. You are in the house of God."

Rue was nauseous, her throat burning, her lungs on fire. She felt as if the world were spinning around her, and her previous sense of elation was completely gone, replaced only by this sickening fear.

"Be not afraid?" she repeated, her hushed voice strained as she slowly opened her eyes to peer past her fingers at the one who had spoken to her. It seemed the most ludicrous thing to say. And yet here, meeting her eyes was an angel.

He seemed too handsome to be a priest, or so her mind told her. His sculpted face was surrounded by a halo of slightly unkempt blond hair and he watched her with kindly gray eyes that seemed oddly boyish for his stoic robes. Light blond stubble peppered his face, as if to combat his large, thick-lashed eyes, and when he smiled, he revealed perfectly straight teeth. However, a thin scar ran from the corner of his mouth to his jaw, giving him the effect of a slight, perpetual grimace.

He raised a hand to her face, and when his skin met hers, it was rough, the flesh made coarse by numerous calluses healed and grown over. The pad of his thumb caressed her cheek just below her bruised eye and he leaned close to her. Gently, she felt his other hand push her frayed hair from her face, and then his lips brushed her forehead. Strangely, however, she did not recoil from the kiss.

"Yes, Rue, be not afraid. You are safe."

She stared at him a moment longer, perhaps in shock, before her eyes darted past him again, taking in the faces crowding around her crouched form. Strangers dressed in rough, mismatched, and patchwork clothes stared at her with wide eyes and moving lips, whispering to each other while others appeared to be whispering directly to her. A broad-shouldered man with thick brows was nodding his head at Rue while a sharp-faced woman smoothed her skirt with wrinkled hands, glancing nervously in Rue's direction. Instead of being comforted by human faces, Rue still felt alien and frightened as she slowly and shakily rose to her feet. The priest who had kissed her forehead watched her with a smile, pushing himself to a stand as well.

She looked up at him, her lips trembling, and slowly lowered her hands from her face only to wrap her arms securely around herself, as if protecting herself from the people who pushed to get closer. She was still breathing hard and her eyes burned with the promise of tears.

The priest turned, opening his arms to his flock, and spoke with the gentle, but firm authority of one regularly obeyed.

"Please, make room. She needs a bed and something to drink. Please, make room. Yes, thank you. Michael, will you continue mass in my absence?" he said, wrapping an arm securely around Rue's birdlike frame to guide her through the web of bodies that parted like the sea. Rue kept her arms pressed to her chest, glancing around her nervously and flinching away from the people who continued to stare and whisper at her. The priest's fingers pressed into her shoulder with gentle command and she moved obediently as he guided her through a door behind the altar.

She soon found herself in a small room, and the noise of the congregation immediately dimmed. The priest's robes were rough against her skin, and he turned her in his hands, shifting her body so that she faced him. Warily, Rue's eyes darted around the room before they could really settle on his face again, her toes curling against the smooth wood flooring. He smiled warmly at her, though one corner of his lips only managed to rise slightly, hindered by the scar trailing down his jaw, in comparison to the other. The effect reminded her much of a smirk and she averted her gaze as he raised a hand to touch her hair again.

Suddenly feeling threatened, Rue pulled away, backing away to the wall like a frightened animal. He watched her with patient, smiling eyes, and Rue recoiled all the more for it. A creeping panic curled up her spine, and she moved to the other side of the room, pressing herself into a corner in an attempt to get as far from him as possible. She had not expected her reunion with human society to feel so dangerous.

"Child, be calm. You have nothing to fear here," the priest cooed, the low rumble of his voice reaching out for her while he remained stationary. Rue rubbed at her face, then her arms, trying to calm herself. It unnerved her to have him watching her that way, and she pushed herself closer to the wall, as if she could pass through it and escape.

"How do you know my name?" she demanded, the feel of his skin against hers lingering everywhere they had touched. He paused a moment before sighing and turning his eyes downwards, his hands brushing over his crisp pant legs. She continued to watch him, fiercely wary of every move he made. When he didn't answer, she continued.

"Before, back there, you said my name. Do I know you? Who are you?" she pressed, near to desperation, a nervous tremor flowing through her. When he raised his head again, he was smiling the same complacent, near smirk. Rue's hands twisted in the fabric of her dress, stained with her own blood.

"You should rest," the man began, but Rue interrupted impatiently. "Who are you?" she cried, darting quickly away when he moved a step towards her, his hand extended. His smile faltered, as if for a moment he was at a loss, and he did not attempt to close the distance between them again. Rue cowered beside a short table, gripping its edge with her dirty fingers. Her panic clung to her and she clung back.

"My name," he sighed again, pulling a pair of spectacles from his pocket and polishing them on his sleeve, "is Arthur." He paused then, placing the small, circular framed glasses on his nose and blinking at her from behind the glass. They immediately made him look older. He seemed resigned now, devoid of his previous, intimate familiarity. Rue was fine with that; she was disturbed at how every person she met seemed to want to touch her.

"Arthur," she repeated warily, her nails grating against the wood end table that she clung to. "How do you know my name, Arthur," she said slowly, carefully enunciating each word so that no meaning could be lost or misinterpreted. The priest smiled again, though this time a bit ruefully, and looked away from her, instead focusing on the crucifix hanging on the wall behind her.

"Because, Rue, I know you. And so do those people out there."

Rue narrowed her eyes at him, heat collecting on her tongue. She was furiously tired of people being so disgustingly vague every time she asked a question of any importance whatsoever. In fact, Rue was tired of most things. She was on her last nerve, and that nerve was twisting violently.

"Don't fuck around," she barked, though she was surprising herself once more with her foul tongue. "For the love of God, just tell me who the hell you are! Do you know me? Tell me!"

The priest stared at her, his focus startled back to her bruised and dirty face by the sharpness of her voice. He blinked, and then removed the glasses from his nose to wipe them on his robes again, though there seemed little need to do so. His hands trembled slightly.

"Please, Child, before you speak of God's love, pray remember where you are and to whom you speak with. Watch your tongue whilst in the house of God," he spoke softly, his eyes wide behind his spectacles. Rue stood, taking a bold step from the wall.

"You should remember too. I don't think God smiles upon your vagueness."

His brows pulled downwards, and for the first time, she saw him truly frown. The scar trailing down his cheek only deepened the expression, and for a moment, he almost seemed familiar.

"You really don't remember, do you? You have no idea who I am," he trailed, looking away from her to the wooden crucifix behind her again. He pulled his spectacles from his face to pinch the bridge of his nose between his fingertips, and Rue watched him, her anger momentarily nullified by confusion. She waited, her eyes fixed on the sharp features of his face.

"When Ander came, he said that you'd completely-"
"Wait, you've seen Ander? You know him?" Rue cut in, taking another step towards the priest. He raised his eyes to meet her, and the stormy irises appeared troubled.

"Yes, yes I know him."

Rue tilted her head back, knotting her fingers in her hair and letting out a rush of breath. Of course! She could see Ander's face in her mind, the deep set brown eyes that appeared almost black, the strong cheekbones, the long, copper colored hair. Though she'd only known him for a short period of time, he'd left an incredible impression of unease and confusion that she was still attempting to work out.

"So he's from here," Rue said, nodding her head and pacing to the left. The priest watched her, unsettled by the quick, erratic movements she made and the quiet ferocity of her voice. She seemed animal-like to him.

"No," he said, his words hanging in the air, as if reluctant to leave his tongue. "He wasn't born here…He came a little over a year ago. A ranger of sorts. He took an instant liking to you."

Again, his words faded, his voice growing quiet, and Rue's gaze shot to his face. In two quick steps she had crossed the distance between them and was standing directly before him, her eyes wildly searching his as he stared at her in surprise.

"Wait, what?" Rue demanded, watching him blink, something bordering fear pushing at the edges of his expression. It seemed odd to her that she should frighten this fully grown man.

"Rue," he said slowly, deliberately, raising a careful hand to rest on her thin shoulder. "Rue, you were born and raised in this town. This is your home. I've known you since you were but a babe in the crib."

Rue stared at him, her mind slowing. She noticed another tiny scar, previously overlooked, that hooked from the corner of his left eye, on the same side of his face that was pulled slightly downwards by the trailing discoloration reaching from the corner of his lip to just below his jaw. She wondered suddenly how he had received the wounds, her mind choosing to focus on that rather than what he had just told her.

His other hand came up to grasp the opposite shoulder, his grip firm but gentle. As if sensing that her thoughts were elsewhere, he repeated himself.

"Rue, you were born here. This is your home."

Rue blinked, her eyes refocusing, her attention immediately regained. The word "home" rung through her brain, and slowly, she could feel a lump forming in her throat, the beginnings of tears burning at the corners of her eyes. Home. This was what she had been searching for all along.

Her knees trembled, and the world seemed to sway for a moment. The priest caught her in his able arms, cradling her as she attempted to concentrate. This was pivotal. She had so many questions to ask him, so many things she needed to know; and yet suddenly she felt so tired. It was as if her body were giving out, surrendering to the rest it so desperately needed at the abating knowledge that she was home.

"Home?" she whispered, her voice breaking. She almost laughed. For some reason, Eden and Logi's faces rose to her mind. She closed her eyes.

Alright. I must regretfully inform you that this story is being terminated. Well, sort of. You see, this story is a mess. And I mean, a MESS. So, I'm going to stab it in the heart, twist the knife, and then do some major reconstructive surgery. I honestly and sincerely apologize to any of you who are still out there and have kept reading. Thank you so, so much for sticking around and for all your wonderful reviews and support. I will be re-posting this sometime in the future. Don't hold your breath though.
Again, thank you all so much. I love you guys!

Much, much love and appreciation,