The following is an excerpt from my book-in-progress.

North Wales, Pennsylvania. Spring, 2008.

The sun warms my face as I step off the train and a mild breeze moves to cool it. Above me, the Saturday sky stretches wide with golden-blue air.

I see red trees and slumbering brick houses with windows dark and still. A squirrel scurries in the branches. A waking bird chirrups.

Down the road, a neighbor fetches the morning paper: a gentle yawn, thud, click. Heels scuffing against the peeling sage porch and creaking down the steps onto gruff asphalt.

Behind me, the train starts to chug and hiss, and I turn to watch as it pulls farther out of the city, its bold whistle piercing the air. The town sighs, turns over in its bed, and falls back asleep.

My body knows it’s awake, nerves peeling the insides of my stomach. The muscles in my neck are tight, wondering if they belong in this mellow suburban morning. My eyes and skin take in the calm and grow bewildered--my senses can’t make sense of it. The apprehension in my core persists, confusing all my meanings.

I know something will happen today, but I don’t know what. There will be a vision, but whether the spectacle that meets me is a beauty or a horror, I don’t know. This blank canvas is its own terror.

James is there on the platform to meet me. He bends to give me a hug. He is a good eight inches taller than me, a fact I’ve never grudged him because he’s older, too.

Older brother, taller brother. These patterns of association make sense to the child’s mind, and though I am almost twenty-one, I am still a little girl. Old, big, strong. Young, small, weak.

But these categories are starting to fall apart. I know what James cannot protect me, that this is too big for both of us. Sometimes there are no shields, only healers to tend the wounds.