Shelter of Leaves

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Published by: She Writes Press
Release Date: August 9, 2016
ISBN13: 978-1631521010


On Memorial Day, a series of bomb explosions shuts down major cities across the US. Her apartment in ruins, Sabine flees Washington DC and begins a grueling journey on foot that brings her to West Virginia, where she finds safety at an abandoned farmhouse with other refugees.

For Sabine, family is a vague memory—she can’t even remember her last name. Without an identity, she hides—although thirty-five, she pretends to be twenty-eight, even to the refugee she falls in love with. But Sabine wants to recover her identity. Despite gangs, bombings, riots, and spreading disease, she longs to return to a family she has begun to recall—parents and brothers. Are they alive, surviving, in hiding as she is? Do they await news, and hope to reconcile? Even in harrowing times, Sabine’s desires to belong and to be loved pull her away from shelter.

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Memorial Day.

The last thing Sabine remembered was a flash coming through the window and a shudder like colliding subway cars. She woke sprawled on the floor, unsure where she was. She stumbled to the window. Buildings across the street swayed and her apartment building shook. She ran from room to room, avoiding flying glass, yelling. “Go, go, get out before the building collapses!

At her bedroom door she froze. A backpack hung on the doorknob. As if from a great distance, she watched her hand pick up the backpack, toss in some clothes, then stash notebooks, cell phone, and wallet into the pack’s side pockets. She grabbed her jacket and favorite shawl from the closet and sprinted down the hall past the elevators. She lurched for the stairway exit, took the stairs two at a time, and burst out the front door. Against the building she caught her breath; her head pounded and her legs wobbled.

A body splayed across the bottom step. Shreds of green cloth came into focus, hanging from a charred leg. Half of the man’s cranium was missing. The mess of skull, pink matter, and blood made Sabine turn away. A dark green uniform with gold braiding: it was the doorman’s. Samuel. Yesterday he’d told her all about taking his aging dog to the vet and they’d reminisced about pets they’d owned as children. Samuel.

She moved closer to his body and searched for something to hold on to, besides his kindness—always smiling, and opening and closing doors for others. She found it in his curled hands. Good-bye, Samuel.

Crumbling buildings. An assault of smoke and sirens. Burnt bodies sprawled on the sidewalk. A white van burned and rocked furiously, a dance of smoke and flames. Across the street a young woman leaned against a building, clutching her entrails, sliding sideways. Sabine staggered through a maze of scorched cars spewing the stench of oil and coolant, the poisoned air of batteries and tires. The reek of gasoline.

She stayed in the street to avoid falling debris. Drowned in panic, she wanted to move fast but couldn’t think with the screams of ambulances and fire engines. West could be the safer direction. East might mean people squeezing onto a margin of coastal land, the beach and the ocean thick with drowned people, sluggish waves rolling corpses onto fetid sand. Please don’t let me be the sole person left alive. Samuel’s gone. What a nice man. She would never know what happened to his dog, his only family. She wondered about her family. Did she have a family?