Coffee’s rumble draws me awake. I can hear it beyond the door, waiting, steaming and fresh, for eager cups. I stretch my arms, blink in the sun. It is morning now—morning, when mercies are new. Even as a little girl, I need new mercy like mommy needs her coffee.
Although I don’t know what it is, exactly, I think about it sometimes when I run down the hill, run away to my sanctuary. It nestles, my nook under the trees, cozy and waiting, warm and soft from summer. It’s important to have a place when you’re little, you know, a spot all your own where you can curl up and let the forest murmur against your cheeks. A place where you can think about things—deep things, the mysteries of life and pain—while the zephyr wraps you up in sheets and the sun tucks you in.
They say mercies are new in the morning. I don’t know about that. I don’t know mercy but I do know hell, and it lurks in the shadows of dawn and noon and night. It haunts me when I’m seven and seventeen and twenty-seven, clutching at my heels, waiting for me to fall. It pricks me when I fail, a thousand times, to be the gentle sister, the pleasing daughter, the loving woman God wants me to be. It suffocates me as I plan my death, and I can see it, see hell waiting, and I stay alive and afraid for another morning. A thousand haunted mornings . . .