I couldn’t help but be thrilled when the fragile old wife smiled and showed us the small opening through their hedge. The stout door in the stone fence beyond looked well maintained even for it's age. The the fence looked just as sturdy. It helped make me feel more secure to see it. “We’ve been waiting all these years to be able to put it to good use. So sad to see it wasted like that.” A curious look winked across her face but I only caught a glimpse of it as she led the way, the soft wisps of white hair around her ears moving as gently as her smiling voice.
The trail had been well worn at one time but it would take a trained eye to find it now. I turned back to their house to see my husband and hers crossing their lawn. His step was happy and more relaxed than I had seen it in a long time. Sam moved to his wife’s side and softly put his hand on her elbow. “Why don’t we show them the other way?”
“Why, of course!” she gave a quick laugh and gestured to move us back to the house. I waved a hand to have our kids join us. They broke off from chasing a white moth and fell in panting beside us, my oldest looping her arm around Drew. It is amazing what clean air and fresh grass will do to make kids be kids. After weeks of dodging pursuit, they had become grim little soldiers before we had collapsed in the brush a few miles from here. Luckily it was Marione that had found us on her way to the store. On cue, the heavy bundle strapped to my chest let out a squawk and I shifted the blanket to peak at his wee face. Such a fighter this one. His olive skin and straight black hair strange to me but even though it had over 4 years since I had nursed a baby, his demands made my body respond just as it was pre-programmed to do. He scrunched up his eyes and opened his mouth turning to find my skin, his hand balled up in my shirt. Marione smiled listening to him “uh uh uh” his immediate need. “Hang on, Tiger, lets get inside.”
Down in their cellar, we crossed behind shelves of canning and tools. There was a door. Turned around, I wasn’t sure if was in the same direction as that door in the fence or not. Sam’s eye’s were mischievous as he opened the door. Our feet and breath seemed exaggerated in the closed space. The baby was quiet, just as he had been every other time we were quiet and listening. A trait that had kept us all alive so far.
Sure enough we reached another door. Sam hesitated only a second before opening the door. “Don’t want to scare the rats.” He winked to the kids. Drew and I exchanged looks but followed trustingly. Inside the other root cellar was dark besides our lights we carried. I held Oliver’s small hand in mine, none the less. Brave, always, I knew he did it for my sake, so we said.
Upstairs the light shone through the dusty windows and I felt my soul rise. The kitchen was practical and built back when people used to cook, a lot. “It’s off the grid, so they’ll never see the power increase.” Sam said proudly. As he and Drew got into the nuts and bolts of the place, I found a large rocking chair with cushioned arms in the living room and nursed our orphaned babe. Marion got me a glass of water that glinted in the afternoon light and I sat and quietly cried while she showed the kids the beds that were to be theirs.