October 12, 1982
Bette pulled the car into the parking stall. “This is it.”
“Are you sure?” Alice blinked at the building.
There were cars parked as far as the eye could see and a few people milling amongst them. The stonework of the building was almost the same shade as the over cast sky above.
“You said you were ready.” Bette slipped her seatbelt off. Her brunette hair was cute in a page boy and nearly blocked sight from her right eye.
“I know, but…” Alice brushed her straight red hair over her ear. “We could cut my hair at home.”
Bette shrugged and agreed, “We could, but we wouldn’t know if you can handle this.”
Alice’s body let out a long breath. Her tenth birthday was tomorrow and she had been so excited about this. Now, however, fear had a solid grip on her slim body. Even on a day that was rather warm she felt shivers under her pink sweater and jeans.
“Well, after a two hour drive I at least need a coffee. You can wait here, if you like.” Bette opened her door and pulled herself out.
Alice was out of the car like a bullet. “No coffee! Dad says I can’t let you have coffee!”
Bette laughed. “Okay, okay. A decaf then.”
“He said coffee isn’t good for the baby.”
Bette took Alice’s hand. “Not like this is my first, ya know.” She patted her round belly under her navy blue blouse.
Alice rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I know.”
Bette turned and grabbed Alice’s chin. “I’m teasing and you couldn’t sense it. See, you are ready.”
Alice shook her head. “I hear a lot of muffled but not sure I can do it.”
Bette pulled her along. “Let’s go in for a few. If you feel up to it, then we’ll see about that mop.”
They walked towards the doors under big red letters that screamed “Cinderella City”.
“Will this be the last?” Alice asked.
“Considering I’m over forty now, probably. Wait, you don’t think seven is enough?”
“We’re not Mormon, mom…and we don’t play baseball.”
Bette laughed and opened the door for them.
Alice was expecting a near avalanche when entering the mall, but nothing changed.
“Darling,” Bette leaned down and whispered. “You’re a telepath. Concrete walls don’t block thoughts.”
Alice’s mouth fell open. Of course she knew that, but until now she had not been convinced. The waves of people walking along the corridors between stores were more than she had ever been amongst in her near ten years.
For ten years she had been secluded in the town of Yukon which was a tiny community of fifty people about two hours drive into the mountains northwest of Denver. The town itself had a population of fifty…soon to be fifty-one. The fifty-first would mean that ten were living in her house. The other forty-one were all part of twelve families that were part of Pandora.
Certain advantage of protecting a telepath was that those protecting her could not lie or hide their real motives. Certain disadvantage was that those protecting her could keep nothing from her either.
Alice had learned to stop looking. She had her first brother, Jules, to thank for this. On his third birthday he had opened his gifts with such joy and surprise that almost knocked her over. Even though she was just five, she discovered that she wanted to experience joyful surprise…something a telepath with no control could not.
For the sake of her younger siblings, she had learned to fake looking surprise. May, June and Jules…all figured out what was going on. Augustus, Stephen and Octavia were too young yet to understand what Alice was.
Bette had her coffee and got Alice a hot chocolate. Picking a table in the food court, she sat with a wide smile. “I knew you could do it.”
Alice sipped her drink and swung her legs, accidentally kicking Bette.
“I didn’t know.”
“All comes with confidence, which you’re getting. I watched you pull a single thought from Mavis at the last town meeting. I am guessing it is like how we hear in that you will get stronger at blocking out the random and unneeded as well as focusing on what you need.”
They went to the hairstylist, as scheduled.
Alice’s head felt much lighter after having a full twelve inches cut off. Alice sat in the chair quietly, watching her hair fall to the floor in the mirror.
The stylist was a tiny woman who kept marveling over how pretty Alice was.
A stray thought from the woman did touch Alice, though. “I wish I was this pretty.” Having been touched, Alice was able to push a thought at the woman.
“Cute blonde hair, big blue eyes, I am beautiful.”
Bette would not have been pleased with Alice for doing it.
The stylist, however, had no idea that the thought was not her own. The thought brought a smile that, Alice sensed, had not happened in a very long time.
The sun poked through as Bette and Alice returned to the car. “One more stop and then we start for home. I promised Neville we’d bring Kentucky Fried Chicken home.”
Alice asked, “Chicken? It will be cold by the time we get home.”
The thought sensation that came back at Alice from Bette explained it better than any words. “You can have one piece when it is hot to taste. You’ll like it cold though.” Bette glanced at her in the rear view mirror. “But you already know that.”
Alice was licking off fingers as they got on the highway west towards the Rockies. “Mom, can I ask you a question.”
Bette seemed surprised by this request. “Of course, honey. You’re either learning etiquette or it might be something I can’t answer, but shoot.”
“What do you know about my mother?” Alice watched Bette squirm under her seat belt as the car rocketed along. Many times Alice had searched for this in Bette’s thoughts, but had never found a satisfactory answer.
Bette paused a moment before going into her answer. “She was homeless, that much I know.”
Alice’s shoulders slumped.
“She had red hair like yours. She also gave you those gorgeous green eyes. Her name was. Her name was Norma.”
Alice smiled a little. “You didn’t know the doctor was going to kill her, did you?”
Bette shook her head. “I had a feeling, but I did not know how he was going to do it. I also didn’t know how quick he was going to, either.”
Alice nodded. “I did. And my mother was a prostitute. Also a drug addict.”
The surprise from Bette’s thoughts showed she was not expecting this. “You knew that already?”
Alice continued. “She was getting cleaned up and had a man who treated her well. I don’t know for sure, but I think he is my father.”
Bette just listened.
“His name is Greg, I think. He was supposed to be with her at the hospital when I was born.”
Bette was about to ask a question, but Alice sent her a thought before she could. “Because I didn’t want to talk about this before.”
“You don’t know your father’s last name?”
Alice shook her head. “I don’t think mom even did.”
They drove in silence for a few minutes.
Passing a gas station and diner, Alice sensed something and snapped her head around. “What…?” Her hands went to her face.
Military vehicles were parked out front of the diner, but nothing else noticeable to Bette. Bette glanced back. “Are you okay? What’s the matter?”
“I recognized something…someone…”
“Do you need me to stop?”
Alice whispered a name that Bette had hoped to never hear again. The name caused her to push the accelerator of the car to the floor…