October 17, 1972, almost 3am
Alice snored quietly on the back seat.
“So you remember it?”
Neville rolled his eyes. “Yes, my love. I’ve got it.”
“Don’t make light of this.” She reached over and stroked his shoulder. She was certain they were being watched.
The snow had started, the first snowfall of the year, as Bette had navigated the white Datsun along the QEW and around the Golden Horseshoe at Hamilton. Now, as they idled second in line at the border crossing that would take them into Niagara Falls, New York, the snow began to accumulate on the ground.
Bette’s brunette hair was let down from the bun she had started in and fell down her back. She had stopped at a coffee shop in Grimsby in order to fix her hair, change their clothes, as well as change and feed Alice. Under the circumstances, she would have like to have changed cars as well but she did not have the money to fund that.
The light went green and Bette allowed the Datsun to roll forward.
“Nationality?” The customs guard was a large man sitting on a small wooden stool. Very little hair showed under his hat and he seemed to have more in his mustache. His eyes were small and dark. He yawned as he looked over the little vehicle. His booth was metal framed with bus shelter style glass. His name tag claimed his moniker to be Wayne Peterson.
Bette smiled at him. “Canadian.”
“Where are you headed?”
“Raleigh, North Carolina.”
The officer’s eyebrows raised. “I bet it’s warmer there.”
“That’s why I got my golf clubs,” Neville said from the passenger seat.
Bette held her smile though she wanted to hit Neville for improvising. With no golf clubs in the vehicle, this could get awkward if the officer did not believe them.
“Reason for your visit?”
Bette allowed herself to improvise in the hope of keeping consistent, “Well, he’s golfing, but I am visiting my aunt and uncle.”
“Not bringing any fruits or firearms with you?””
Neville spoke up again. “Other than the baby and her exploding diapers, no.”
Bette felt her heart jump into her throat, but hoped it did not show on her face.
The guard’s eyes widened and his mouth thinned as a puff of white breath snorted from his nose. He had not seen the child. He stood up and showed just how round he was. He was not very tall, so did not have to bend to peer in the back window. “How old is she?”
“Three months,l” Bette answered. “We just got her to sleep.”
Alice shifted and cooed lightly.
Wayne’s concern look evaporated at the sound. “I wish my monsters had stayed that age. She’s gorgeous.”
Bette felt the relief hit her. “Luckily, she got Neville’s looks.”
Wayne looked closer at the couple. He locked eyes with Neville and said, “You’ll forgive me for saying, sir, that your wife is selling herself short here.”
Neville grabbed Bette’s hand and smiled. “She always does.”
“Have a nice trip, folks!”.
As they accelerated away, Bette pointed out, “You realize he had not even seen her, right?”
The next three hours were spent in silence.
Bette piloted the car into a gas station just inside the city limits of Erie, Pennsylvania. “Would you mind?”
Neville got out and filled the car. He pulled the passenger door open and waited as Bette completed a big yawn. “Can I get you anything.”
She grinned and shook her head. “We have a safe house here. We’ll get some rest and food there.”
Neville nodded and went inside to pay.
The last of their journey took twenty minutes. Bette pulled into the driveway of a small brick bungalow where the empty garage lay open waiting for them. Bette shut off the engine, got out and shut the garage door.
A small white haired woman appeared at the door. “Bette? You made good time. No problems?”
Bette grinned at Neville. “No problems. Neville, this is Mrs. Caruthers.”
Neville shook the woman’s hand.
“Welcome, Neville, and it’s Mavis.” Her eyes looked at the car. “The child?”
Bette opened the back door and pulled the still sleeping child out. “Alice was a star.”
Mavis took the basket and a bright smile formed. “Alice? Welcome to Wonderland.”
She led them into the house. The decor was all Mavis’ family pictures covering near every inch of wall space.
Neville felt his mouth start to water at the smell of bacon frying.
“Bette, you know your room. Neville, bottom of the stairs, first bedroom on the right. Bathroom is straight across the hall. Breakfast will be in twenty minutes.”
“Thank you, Mavis.” Neville took two steps down before stopping. “Bette?”
“We leave tomorrow morning, so relax,” Bette anticipated his question.
Mavis smiled and smacked his shoulder playfully. “Alice is mine until you go. You two get some rest.”
Twenty minutes later, Neville sat at the table ready to devour the plate of bacon, sunny-side up eggs and white toast. He groaned in pleasure with the first bite of bacon. “Mavis, this is perfect.”
Mavis stood, leaning back on the white kitchen counter with matching white cupboards. Alice was cuddled in Mavis’ arms and drank from the bottle of formula Mavis held. “You are an angel,” Mavis whispered to the baby.
“She woke a couple of times during the drive, but was perfect otherwise.” Neville offered between mouthfuls.
“She knows Bette and you are helping her, she will be good for you.”
Mavis’ eyes met his. “Bette hasn’t told you, has she?”
Neville answered by taking a bite of toast.
Mavis grinned at him. “Alice knows, believe me.”
Neville shrugged. “Bette told me that Alice has evolved. I hope someone tells me what that means before I’m walking her down the aisle at her wedding.”
“Alice is the first one of the evolved that we have saved.”
Neville blinked and sipped his orange juice.
“Are you a Christian?”
Neville shook his head.
“Of course not, Bette would not have chosen a believer. What do you know of Darwin?”
Neville shrugged. “We came from the sea.”
“In essence, okay. Alice is the next step.”
“How would we know if she is the first?”
Mavis shook her head. “I did not say she was the first. I said she is the first we have saved.”
“Oh, I see.” Neville slipped another piece of bacon into his mouth.
“My husband, Vince, had medical records that can track the appearance of the evolved back to around 1890. He was a doctor for the birth of three before he realized what was happening.”
Neville continued eating and listening.
Alice, bottle finished, cooed and grabbed onto Mavis’ fingers.
“The children were being taken and their parents were all killed almost immediately.”
“How do you know the child has evolved.”
Mavis smiled at the baby. “I do not know. Vince was able to pass on the information to some colleagues before they killed him. The colleagues started up a group that they called Pandora, which Bette and I…and I guess you now are part of.”
The shower in the downstairs bathroom turned on answering the question as to where Bette was.
“Wow, I didn’t know.”
“How old are you, Neville?”
Another sip of orange and bite of egg. “Twenty-three.”
“Let me guess, Bette seduced you into this, didn’t she?”
He nodded. “Maybe I am not…”
“No, you are the right person. Bette saw something in you that she trusts. I just hope you can forgive her if she does not feel for you as you would like.”
Neville thought for a moment, chewing on his next bite. “A challenge.”
Mavis looked down at Alice again. “What’s that.”
“She’s given me a challenge.”
Mavis smiled and cooed at Alice herself before saying, “That she has.”
Neville finished his plate and stood. He lay his cutlery on the plate.
“You go get some rest. I’ll take care of that.”
“Thank you, Mavis.” He turned to leave the kitchen. “One last thing, how has she evolved.”
Mavis chuckled. “You’ll know more about that than I do soon, believe me.”