"We have nearly an hour before the Prophet comes by," Laura says. "Not that I was listening to your private conversation." Laura grins at me. Our trailer is so small we can hear one another's thoughts.
"I"ll be back when you call," I say, and my mother nods, then sinks onto the sofa and closes her eyes.
I make my way out to the Russian Olive trees that line the back of the Compound.
We"re lucky. Our trailer is closest to these trees and I love them. I love the way they smell sweet in the spring, and I love the silverish-green color of their leaves. I love that, in summer, the leaves are thick and can hide me. I love that I can be alone here. I've cut off the pokey thorns from all the lower branches on one tree.
When I did that, Mother said, "Kyra Leigh Carlson! Why in the world did you use my best Cutco knives to trim a tree? You"re old enough to know better than that."
"Healthier than getting stabbed," I had said. And she clucked her tongue like a hen in the chicken coop.
What I couldn't say was, "I needed a place to breathe by myself, that's why I did it." I couldn't say, "Mother, I am almost fourteen and I haven't had one minute alone except when I'm sitting on the toilet and even then Carolina tries to get in with me and I have to hold the door shut with my foot "cause the lock's been broken I don't know how long." I couldn't say, "Some days I need to be alone." Instead, I just shrugged.
I climb up into the leaves now and settle onto my highest branch. My dress tugs at my knees till I loosen it some.
"Thank you, Jesus," I say. And I mean those words, I do.
This visit from the Prophet has excited the family. Everyone is thrilled he's coming.
"No one's mixed up," I say. "No one but me."
There's not a mother or child in my family that doesn't honor the Prophet.
"I do, too," I say. "Sometimes."
But life is changing for me. I"m learning new things. I"m "getting out," I say into the evening air. I"m sure I"m the only Chosen One who has wished the Prophet dead and his body picked away by termites.
I look past the crisscrossy branches of the Rus sian Olive toward our settlement. I can see most everything here, if I part the leaves. The lawns of the Prophet and Apostles, the store, the Temple and the Fellowship Hall where we meet for school and Wednesday evening activities. I see it all. And nobody can see me.
"Mmm," I say, breathing deep and closing my eyes. It smells so good to be by myself here.
After a moment of resting, I open my eyes and look toward my own home, seeing some of it in my head "cause it's too dark to make out all the details: the sparse grass and red desert dirt; the shadows of my two youngest sisters in their bedroom window. From where I sit I can see the three of Father's trailers where all my mothers live. Some nights when I sit here I can pick Father out just from his shape in front of a curtain and I know who he's staying with for that week.
This spot in this tree is mine alone. I've very nearly rubbed a bottom-shaped mark on this limb I've been up here so many times. And I've not shared my hiding place with anyone. Not even with Laura, my closest sister. This is where I can think without a baby to pat or a sick person to tend or a worry to bother. It's where I can plan and dream and hope.
"I love being here," I say. "I love being able to see it all and having no one see me."
A breeze rushes over the desert, rustling the leaves. It"s like the tree wants me here, even though I did attack it with the Cutco.
The Temple shines like a beacon. At the Prophet's house (that place takes up more space than a whole line of trailers), lights glow at the windows. I can see some people moving there. The moon slips from behind the mountains, drowning out some of the stars.
Excerpted from The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. Copyright © 2009 by Carol Lynch Williams. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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