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Twenty-six-year-old Mia Baker lives a normal life: a quaint apartment overlooking Central Park, cherished friends, and Pirate, her one-eyed cat. To most ...
Twenty-six-year-old Mia Baker lives a normal life: a quaint apartment overlooking Central Park, cherished friends, and Pirate, her one-eyed cat. To most people, Mia's life seems perfect; but to Mia, that couldn't be further from the truth-especially when her disturbing past comes back to haunt her.
When Detective Mancini bangs on Mia's front door, he has no idea he will soon unravel some disturbing truths about himself, and the woman in front of him. One chance encounter can destroy the very fabric of their woven lives when Carlo realizes reality is not always black and white...
... Especially when secrets are involved.
Mia buried her head deep into her pillow, trying to muffle her sobs. Just like a hurricane, her world came crashing down around her, when her parents asked that she pack her bags; she would be getting married in the morning. Devastated by the sudden news, Mia felt her heart drop and the pit of her stomach churn. How could my parents let this happen? She wondered.
Her soon-to-be husband was three times her age. Not only was James the leader of The Church of Biblical Truth and self-proclaimed prophet, he was a short, pudgy man with nine wives. Mia shuddered at the grotesque thought of his physical appearance. She wondered what an old man wanted from a sixteen-year-old girl. That thought alone caused her to cry harder.
"He's a stupid old man," she whispered into the fabric of her pillowcase, careful not to let anyone hear her speak such treachery against the cult leader.
She reached over, grabbed a tissue from a box at the side of her bed, and blew her nose. Mia felt betrayed by her parents. She could feel her emotions shutting down, her heart stealing itself from the overwhelming conflict and confusion. The betrayal, the abandonment, the craziness of the situation was too much; without making a conscious decision, she was hardening her heart to protect herself. With each tear she shed, her heart shut down even further. All she wanted was the freedom to choose whom she fell in love with and eventually married ... a hopeless fantasy, she now realized would never come true. She did not want to think what the future might hold.
She walked to the window and gently moved the orange curtain to one side. Leaning her forehead against the glass, she gazed past the Compound and above the hundred-foot, cinder-brick wall.
The pale blue sky was an open highway to creatures with wings. "If I could fly, I would leave this wretched place and know what it's like to be free," she whispered, her warm breath fogging the dirty window inches from her face.
A light tap on Mia's bedroom door startled her. Quickly wiping tears from her swollen eyes, she walked over and reluctantly opened the door. Her seven-year-old brother, Kyle, stood in front of her with a bleak look on his boyish face. When he spoke, his voice quivered with concern. "I don't want you to cry, Mia."
She picked him up and placed him on her lap, cuddling him close. His brown hair, still damp from his shower, smelled like fresh daisies on a warm summer day. She brushed his hair away from his face and kissed his button-like nose.
"I'm exhausted, Kyle," she whispered. "Tomorrow will be a new day." Mia set him down on the bed and walked over to her dresser. She reached into her top drawer, and beneath neatly folded clothes, she pulled out a small, square book.
"I want you to have this," she handed him a black photo album. "But, you must promise me that you will keep this a secret. I'm giving it to you so that you can use these pictures when you dream."
When Kyle took the photo album from her hands, Mia walked back over to the window and gazed out at the Compound. Her lips twitched when he opened the album; she recognized the crackling sound it made when he turned each page. There were many nights, over the years, when Mia would lie on her bed and create her own stories surrounding each photo.
Kyle turned the pages slowly, anticipating the next picture. She watched him from the window where she stood. His wide-eyed expressions made her smile, giving her a few moments away from her own desperate situation. She loved him for that.
"Mia, what's this?"
"The Brooklyn Bridge, I believe."
"I wanna see the Brooklyn Bridge. Can we go?" His eyes lit up.
"Maybe we will go there someday," she lied. Mia knew they would never see the Brooklyn Bridge, at least not while they remained behind the compound walls. The world outside the Compound was a forbidden place that James, in his wisdom, deemed pure evil. She snickered at the thought.
"Do people like us live there?" he inquisitively asked.
"I don't know." She walked over to him and ran her fingers through his hair.
Kyle's questions sounded like hers, the first time she saw the photos. A friend at school found the photo album in his parent's drawer and, in confidence, showed it to her. Mesmerized, Mia asked if she could have the photos, even though she knew James would never approve of such worldly possessions.
But today, Mia shared with her brother what she knew about the outside world. She told Kyle of the stories she collected from her classmates when they would secretly talk about a world of freedom and choices. She shared with him her dreams and desires of leaving the Compound in search of the life she wanted for herself. He listened closely as they talked for hours about each photo.
When it was time for dinner, Kyle quickly hid the album in his bedroom. The family sat around the kitchen table picking at their meals in silence; the air was thick with feelings of despair. Mia was desperate to understand her parent's decision regarding her marriage to James. She knew her parents were anxious to see her embrace this new life, but she could not help but feel like it was better for them than it was for her.
After dinner, Kyle cleared the dinner table while Mia started washing the dishes. She tried not to dwell on her marriage in the morning; she knew, for her sake and her family, she would have to be strong. She wondered how she could find the strength to embrace a marriage to a man three times her age. Why did he need another wife if he already had nine? Her mind spun with questions that she needed answered.
Mia's mother, Angela, discreetly entered the kitchen with a glass of red wine in her hand. She watched, with a persistent ache in her chest, as her daughter washed the dinner dishes.
Tonight would be the last night that Mia would sleep under their roof. Angela shivered at that single thought. She loved her daughter and wanted, more than anything, for her to be happy. Even she questioned Mia's marriage to James, but she would never let her daughter see her uncertainty—she had to remain steadfast. They did not have a choice.
Angela could see her daughters defeated mannerisms while she washed the dinner dishes. Her pixy-short, brown hair was a mess from hours of crying, and her slumped shoulders were the result of the news she received about her future. Angela hesitated before she interrupted her, wanting nothing more than to clear the air with her daughter.
"Mia, darling, can we talk?"
Mia tensed, but did not speak; she continued to rinse off the sudsy dishes, and put them on a towel to dry. When her almond-shaped, brown eyes began to water, she refused to cry—she had cried enough. She refused to allow her parents the luxury of witnessing one more tear slip from her eyes.
Angela sighed. "I'm sure this will be a one-sided conversation. Just listen to what I have to say." Angela ran her hand down her daughters arm.
Mia pulled away.
"I know this arranged marriage doesn't feel right, but James will give you a good life."
Mia remained quiet, her eyes fixated on the bottom of the white porcelain sink.
"We have raised you and your brother in a safe environment. We should be grateful to James for the protection he has given us from the outside world."
Mia had heard enough. She laid down the dish in her hand, and looked directly at her mother. "Was the outside world really that bad?"
"I can tell you there are things outside the walls which make no sense; random killings, car accidents, drugs, peer pressure, and children having babies."
"And freedom of choice, right?"
"It's that freedom of choice the devil navigates, darling."
Mia cringed. Her mother sounded exactly like James. He preached to children, from infancy, about the evil that lurked outside the walls, putting fear in their hearts and stifling their natural curiosity. Mia lived with that fear until she touched her teenage years. When she was old enough to question his logic and connect the stories she heard together, only then did her curiosity flourish.
"Yes, but Mom, for seventeen years you had freedom of choice. You fell in love and chose your husband. Why can't I have the same choices?" Mia asked, wholeheartedly.
Angela studied her daughter's distraught face. Mia's eyebrows were drawn together, her lips in a straight line and finally she crossed her arms over her chest waiting for her mother to answer her question.
Mia was right, in her youth, Angela did have freedoms that people behind the walls did not have. Differences were an act of individualism—and James did not want people to start thinking as individuals. He said it was for their own good, for their salvation. Members, like Angela, sometimes longed for their individuality, but would immediately put the thought out of their minds, lest the Devil take them over. James refused to allow girls to wear makeup or grow their hair. He even monitored everyone's reading material and entertainment choices.
Angela realized some of her fondest memories were those outside the Compound. Whether pleasant or unpleasant memories, she, and Daniel would lie in bed at night and talk about the things they did when they were teenagers.
Angela finally found compassion and ran her hand down her daughter's soft cheek. "We only want what is best for you, to protect you."
"Do you think you're protecting me by keeping me locked up and taking away my choices? You are sending me to a fifty-year-old man to marry, Mother. How is that protecting me? It feels as if you're feeding me to a wolf!" Mia shook her head and looked away when she felt tears begin to well up in her eyes.
Angela took a sip of her wine, trying to buy herself some time to find the words that would comfort her daughter. She had none. She did not know what to say to make Mia feel better. Speechless, she stared at the fine details of her lovely face, admiring her strength and independence to speak her mind.
Mia realized she would never win this battle. "Mom, I don't want to share a man with other women. I want a man who is my peer, one that I have fallen in love with, like you and dad," she pleaded.
"I'm sorry Mia. Please, lighten your heart and let go of your resentment. Your marriage will put us in good graces with the Lord."
Mia's bottom lip began to quiver. She leaned in and hugged her mother. Without another word, she turned and left the kitchen, leaving the unfinished dishes in the sink.
She would not stand there and beg for her life only to know that her mother was abandoning her. She had no choice; she would be the loving, subordinate wife that James demanded—and then, she would wither and die.
When Mia walked into her room, she threw her body on her bed, face down. She hopelessly cried, wishing there were a way out—out of the marriage and away from the Compound. She was stuck in a nightmare of life-altering changes, alone and abandoned.
She sat up, wiped her eyes, and blew her nose. Slowly, Mia pulled out a green duffle bag, set it on her bed, and tried to focus on packing her life into the flimsy nylon carrier. She placed each article of clothing neatly in her bag, stacking one item on top of the other. With a saddened heart, she sobbed at the turn her life had taken, and the senseless way in which her parents were allowing a man to take her away. She wished she understood, but she didn't.
When she pulled a t-shirt from her drawer, it unfolded, and something hard fell to the ground at her bare toes. She stared at it a moment, finally realizing it was a miniature statue, she had found, and hid years earlier; she bent down and picked it up.
Mia stared at the statue in her hand and without a second thought; she sat down on her bed. Her finger traced over the miniature Statue of Liberty—her fine details, the confidence in which she stood, holding a torch high above her head—Mia was spellbound. In the eyes of that statue, was the heart of freedom, the story of the Declaration of Independence—and although she had never learned about either, she had friends that shared forbidden stories with her.
Mia decided, at that moment, that she was not ready to give up her dreams and marry an old, crazy man that claimed to be a prophet from God. After all, she believed that God spoke directly to her and not through James.
In a quick second, Mia changed her plans. Her mind was racing. She had to move quickly. She knew she was taking a chance, with the ideas of leaving The Church of Biblical Truth. It was a chance she was ready to take. She took a deep, cleansing breath before she started to make the changes that would alter her fate. She packed her school backpack with essentials, wrote her parents a goodbye letter, and mapped out her escape plan. Not sure if she would actually make it past the brick wall, she knew she had to try.
After her bags were packed, she sat on her bed perfectly still and waited for the early morning hours when she could safely make it to the compound gates without the chance of someone seeing her. She thought about her family and friends, and leaving behind everything and everyone, she knew. It did not matter, once she was married to James, her life, as she knew it, would be different anyway—or so she figured.
It was time to say goodbye to her family, time to trade in the only life she knew for an attempt at the unknown. Mia trembled at the thought of being alone in a world she was not sure existed, but she shuddered from fear, far greater, when she thought of being married to their sadistically, controlling leader. She decided to follow the lesser of two evils, and try to escape if she could.
She stood over Kyle's bed and watched him sleep. He lay there like a sleeping angel, his breathing pleasant and easy. She hated waking him from his sound sleep, but she would not leave until she told him of her plan.
"Kyle, honey, wake up."
"Is it morning, sissy?" he groggily asked, as he sat up in bed, running the back of his hand over his eyes.
"No sweetheart, I need you to listen to me." She pulled him close and took a deep breath. "I'm going away for a little while, but I'm going to come back for you, okay?"
"When will you be back?"
"I don't know, but I promise you, I will be back. Just be a good boy and don't get in any trouble." She forced a smile.
"Okay, Mia." Kyle hugged his sister and fell back into bed letting his head hit the pillow. He immediately slipped back into a deep sleep, breathing easy again.
Mia stared at his perfect face, trying to memorize every detail about him. She had no photos of him or her family to take with her because James prohibited cameras on the compound grounds. Unfortunately, she would have to rely on her memory.
After a few moments, she started to leave Kyle's room, lingering in the doorway, her back toward him. She wanted to turn around and run back to his bedside, and hug him one last time, but she refused to turn around. She stepped outside the front door and started on her journey alone.
The grounds felt deserted at such an early hour. With no streetlights to help her navigate, she had to rely on the moon and stars to give her light. Unfortunately, they were hiding behind a thin layer of clouds. While she ran through the dirt roads, across the green fields, and zigzagged between tall trees, she wondered if evil really did lurk beyond the walls, if the world was exactly as James had preached—or if she would confirm her suspicions that he was a liar.
The closer she got to the cinder-brick wall, the more anxious she became. Her heart pounded fast, her breathing shallow; she was close enough to smell freedom. One man-made wall was the barrier between her and a life with choices.
A weathered, wooden guard shack sat alone near the inside compound gate. An appointed guard leaned back in a chair with his feet propped up on a shelf. In his hands, he held a compound-approved novel, which he read by candlelight.
Mia slowed her pace, careful not to make a noise. Her eyes had adjusted to the dark, making it easier for her to see through the night. Each step brought her closer to freedom—closer to a world she had never seen. She narrowed her eyes, watching the guard closely as she tiptoed through the dirt and grass.
Excerpted from I.O.U. by April M. Reign Copyright © 2011 by April M. Reign. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted March 14, 2013
The Mancini Saga IOU- Well Carlo is set in his own mind on honesty, and lies, but meeting Mia who is a run away from a cult who lied, stole food, and left IOU”S became the IOU Bandit, but kept a journal and repaid everyone. All that was left was a urn. HIS URN for his father. Talk about–forgiveness. Love overcomes all in the end.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 22, 2012