The following is an excerpt from the novel Haven. In this story, letters like this one are interspersed throughout the chapters; these letters were the basis for the story. The story is about the strength of sisterhood, the hope of creativity and how, when thrown into intense fires, we are often saved by the least likely of resources.

Every excerpt of this book could potentially be a trigger for anyone who has ever suffered abuse of any kind. I’d rather my readers be safe than read. Please make sure you are in a safe spot–emotionally, physically and spiritually–before reading. That being said, ultimately, the book is about hope. Where it comes from, what it looks like and how it soaks our every day lives.

You’re welcome to share this post, but please do not steal my copyrighted works. These writings truly matter to me.

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It hurt more than I thought it would.

I think part of me always knew that that was The Plan. For only one of us to go. I think it’s why I was never really excited about it, why it took me so long to gather up the food. Why I kept putting off the date for it to happen. Part of me always knew that The Plan was always about getting you out, getting you to safety. Not me. Even if there were room beneath the swim ladder for both of us… I couldn’t get past the questions. What if he found us? If he found us, both of us would get in trouble.

I couldn’t let that happen.

You see…

Maybe you were younger than me but, the truth is, you were the person I wanted to be. When you did cartwheels across the grass, I wished I had that much coordination. When you had friends come over to play with you, I cried. Not because I was jealous, but because I was happy that you had friends. We were so close, two bodies with one mind, and yet we were so different, too. You lived in a world I’d never know.

Even if I got away.

Cause, the thing is, getting away wouldn’t erase the nightmares I woke up with every night. It wouldn’t make the ants stop crawling in my skin. Getting away wouldn’t make me you. But staying might make you me. All it would take was one time. Just one time feeling yourself unable to move, whether you were sitting on his lap or he was on top of you, would be enough to make you change.

I didn’t know how you’d change, only that you would. And I couldn’t stand that thought. You were perfect the way you were. Brave, fearless and perfect. You fought for hope even when you knew better. You laughed and made up silly games even when I didn’t feel like playing.

Sometimes I’d watch you, watch you sleeping. You could sleep through anything. You did sleep through everything. I’d watch you and wonder how someone could sleep so deeply. Were your dreams that good? What did you dream about? When you did wake up, how were you happy, wearing the same things to school and coming home to a quiet house that didn’t have electricity?

You were magical.

You spent all your energy trying to save birds. “Birds sing and birds fly. They don’t hurt anything – except worms – and they don’t give up. When they fall down cause they don’t know how to fly, they keep on trying.” Sometimes you’d stare at Miracle and whistle. Miracle would whistle back at you. Back and forth the two of you would go, whistling at each other. “What are they talking about?” I was convinced that you were talking, and that you had a special gift of understanding what she was saying.

I didn’t have any special gift.

Except for telling stories. Sometimes, when there was loud fighting or when there was a violent storm outside our window, you couldn’t fall asleep.

“Tell me a story,” you’d ask.

I told you the story of Rapunzel a million times, but you liked the story of Ariel the best. But you didn’t ask for a princess story mostly. The story you asked for mostly was about the blind man and the rainbow.

It was a story Ash told me, the little boy I sometimes see when Daddy is hurting me. He told me the story and, one night, I don’t know why, I told it to you instead of a princess story. You loved it.

“Tell me the story of the blind man,” you’d say.

“Once upon a time, there was a man who was color blind. He could see shades of white and black, and sometimes he could see grey, but he couldn’t see color. He heard people talking about how sharp red was, but he didn’t know how it could make an apple look like a picture. He’d heard people talking about the softness of pink, but he couldn’t understand how a color could be soft because he’d never seen a pink rose. He didn’t know how the color yellow could make people happy – he only knew that people said it did.”

I was the colorblind man.

You were the one telling me how bright the world was, how fun it could be. You were the one telling me to take risks, like saving Miracle even after we lost Song. It felt like I was watching a movie sometimes, watching you live every day. When you laughed, your eyes crinkled and I could tell that you were really happy. When I laughed… did I ever laugh? If I did, it was quietly, because I was afraid of being too loud.

You were never afraid of being too loud.

“One day, the man heard a story about how rainbows are magic. A pot of gold sits at the end of the rainbow, just waiting for anyone who can find it. Most people don’t know this but the pot of gold isn’t the only magical thing about rainbows. Rainbows are made up of all the colors in the world. They are powerful, so powerful they arch across the sky, high enough that everyone can see them after a violent storm. The colors of a rainbow… they’re alive. If you can get to the bow and step onto the arch, the colors will seep inside of you. You’ll see things you’ve never seen before.

The man was very excited. All he had to do was find a rainbow. He listened to the radio, waited for the perfect spot. Soon, he found it. There was going to be a huge storm not too far from where he was. He packed all of his belongings into a small suitcase, hurried across the land. All he could see were shades of grey, black and white. The flowers were black. The grass was grey. The sky was a dark white. Before long, he reached the town where the storm was to happen the next night. He got a motel room and waited.

When the rain started coming down, the man grew very excited. When the thunder crashed and the lightning tore through the town, he laughed. He opened the motel door and stood outside, waving his arms like a maniac. It stormed all night.

The next morning, when the rain stopped, he could see an arch across the sky. It was shaded in white and grey, but it was an arch. He knew that that was the rainbow. So, he set off. He walked for a very long time. The journey was very hard. Sometimes he fell, stumbling over rocks and uneven spaces on the ground. Sometimes he grew very tired and had to sit down. Other times, he almost quit because he didn’t think he was getting any closer to the rainbow than he had been when he started out.

But he wanted to see color.

He wanted to be alive, to be like everyone else.

So he kept going. When he got tired, he kept going. When he got hungry, he kept going. When he stumbled and fell, he kept going. Soon, he could see it right ahead of him! It still looked grey and white… and he didn’t see a pot of gold. He figured he must be on the wrong side of the arch for that. But he took a deep breath…”

Here, you’d always gasp, like you were expecting something awful to happen, even though you’d heard the story a hundred times and knew the ending. Your eyes would be wide as saucers. You gave me the joy I needed to keep telling the story.

“… and he stepped very cautiously onto the arch. At first, he didn’t feel anything. Until… suddenly… a giant bolt of burning pain shot through his feet, up his legs and through his arms. He screamed, the pain was really awful. He felt himself swirling around, caught in what felt like a tornado. He could see clouds of grey and black and white swirling all around him, making him dizzy. Just when he didn’t think he could take the pain anymore, he noticed that the swirling was slowing down. Just as quickly as it started, it was over. He found himself lying on the ground, thrown off the rainbow.

When he sat up and opened his eyes, the first thing he noticed was the grass. It was…vibrant! It was green. He started laughing and then crying as he looked all around him. The sky – that’s what blue looked like! The bird that just flew in front of him — that was red!”

You usually interrupted here and the end of the story changed every time I told it. Sometimes, the man ran home and told his family and friends; they celebrated with ice cream (strawberry). Sometimes, he raced back onto the arch – it wasn’t painful anymore because the colors had seeped into his skin already – ran across to the other side and found the pot of gold waiting for him. Sometimes, the story ended with him sitting in the grass, laughing and crying happy tears because he could see, because he felt normal.

I was the colorblind man.

But you were the man who could see.

There isn’t really a magical rainbow. Running away wouldn’t really help me any because I was already colorblind, I was already broken. Running away could keep you free, though, it could help you find all the magical rainbows. And I knew you would find them. Because you’re special. You’ve got what it takes. You could find the rainbows and you could be something. All I could be was your shadow.

I didn’t tell you at first, that day when I realized for sure that you were the only one who would make the trip on the Morning Glory. I didn’t tell you because I was afraid you’d talk me out of it.

I was the older sister, I knew best.

At least I thought I did.

I just didn’t know how much it was going to hurt.

Sometimes people say words like, “I love you” but they don’t ever have to find out whether they do or not. They think they love the other person, but they never have to find out for sure. And then there are the people like me and you. Me and you, we didn’t say those words much at all. You were never one for big shows of affection. When it came time to put one of us on the boat, though, there was never any question for me who that one would be.

I was scared for you.

The colorblind man stumbled, almost quit and then, when he thought he’d reached his destination, there was a lot of pain for him in the swirling vortex of the colors. I didn’t know what you’d face by yourself. And you were so little. There were lots of bad things that could happen to you. I was scared because I wouldn’t be there to make them better, you’d have to do that on your own.

The truth, though…

The truth is that you never really needed me. And you wouldn’t need me now. You were smart, much smarter than me, and I knew you’d be able to figure pretty much anything out on your own. The colorblind man didn’t give up or collapse or any of those terrible things. He kept going and he found what he wanted.

I knew you didn’t really know what you wanted. I only knew what you didn’t want, and that was enough to make me send you away. I thought maybe you’d grow up to be a dancer (you always liked to dance) or maybe you’d be a doctor (you were very good with broken wings). Maybe you’d grow up to be a teacher (you’d taught me more than I even knew) or maybe you’d grow up to tell your own stories, happy ones (I’d always be watching for them). Maybe you’d end up like Grey with a boat of your own, sailing across the oceans.

Whatever you ended up being, you wouldn’t be scared, like me (I’m the one who had to sleep with the flashlight on). Whatever you ended up being, you wouldn’t be shy because you’d know you’d stowed away like a pirate in a book, you’d conquered the seas so you could conquer anything (whereas I… I couldn’t even put my shoes on the right feet half the time). Whatever you ended up being, you wouldn’t walk around with your hands clenched into fists, waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Whatever you ended up doing, you wouldn’t feel guilty for breathing. Whatever you ended up doing, you’d be free.

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