“We can’t do it,” Liz whispers to her family sitting around her. Eva listens intently for the first time in her life.
“You can’t do what?” their mother asks kindly.
“We can’t leave it behind. We’ve tried for years, but we can’t leave it behind,” Jackie explains.
“You left, didn’t you?” Eva asks. “You quit, you walked out, Liz kicked a man in the crotch. You came back to us. And now you tell us that you can’t move on? Don’t you think that’s a little…I don’t know…late?”
Liz shoots Eva a look. “You know what? You spend nearly nine months in a cult like that, then tell me how easy it is for you to forget it.”
Eva rolls her eyes, but doesn’t argue.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” their mother asks.
“You all think it’s so easy for us to leave these memories behind, but it’s not. The memories hurt, but they won’t go away. And some part of me doesn’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget the pain, because if I do…” Liz trails off.
“You’re afraid that if you do, you’ll get sucked in to some other cult,” Andi finishes.
“That won’t happen,” Dani says.
“We won’t let it happen,” Tom adds. “We won’t lose our sisters again.”
A silence descends for several moments, broken only by Eva. “I have an idea.”
The next day, the last day of their family reunion, finds the whole group out in the backyard around a large hole the guys dug hours earlier. They’ve explained to the kids all they need to know right now—that Jackie and Liz need to finally let go of a piece of their pasts. The kids know what the Children of the Rose is, but they don’t understand it. They won’t understand it until they’re older and the two girls feel comfortable explaining the more gritty details.
“Whenever you’re ready,” Eric says. Liz sighs and opens the box in her hands, dumping the contents into the hole and throwing the box in after it. Jackie follows suit.
Greg holds the lighter, and on Liz’s cue, he touches the flame to one of the pieces of paper. It catches quickly and they all watch as the memories crackle and burn. As the blaze continues, Jackie slips her Rose ring off her finger and tosses it into the fire. Liz slips hers off as well, but stares at it in her fingers to read the inscription one last time—Child of the Rose. Jackie gives Liz’s hand a gentle squeeze and nods, giving her sister the strength to toss away her ring too.
Liz’s hand feels strangely light as she watches the silver start to melt and the ring lose its shape. She watches it turn darker and the green gem fall out. The smoke starts to make her eyes water, but she keeps her gaze on her ring. It distorts. It no longer looks like her ring anymore. It no longer looks like the memories she’s been carrying all these years.
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,” Liz whispers. “Philippians, chapter one, verse three.”
The whole group gives Liz a confused look, but none look more confused than Jackie and Morgan.
Liz doesn’t even wait for the questions. “Even though remembering hurts, every time I do I realize how I got here. I realize how Morgan became my best friend and how I became a little stronger. I remember why I’ll never let myself fall into that situation again. I realize how far I’ve come. I realize how much I need this place.”
The group stays in the circle, watching the fire until it burns itself out. Nothing remains anymore but a pile of ashes, some melted silver, and two green gems. Briefly, Liz wonders what’s going on in the colony right now. She wonders if there’s some youth meeting going on, if those visitors they saw at the restaurant a couple of days ago are being baptized. She wonders if Pastor Simon ever gave Benjamin another wife, if she was able to bear that evil man a child, if he hurt her as much as he hurt Liz. She wonders if all the other wives are still there, doing their husbands’ biddings. She wonders if Ruth, the baby she saw born on that day she quit, is doing okay—if she’s a devoted Rose or if she was able to escape to the dreaded outside world too. Liz shakes her head, forcing herself to stop wondering. It doesn’t matter anymore. That hasn’t been her world for so long and she never wants it to be her world again.
She doesn’t want to remember anymore.
Liz has had enough remembering for a while.