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About the author:
Rebecca Lund Belliston is the bestselling author of the dystopian trilogy, CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND, and the LDS romantic suspense novels, SADIE and AUGUSTINA. She’s a sucker for a good romance, a good clean romance, and as such, her stories are layered with engaging romance and heart-pounding adventure. Rebecca is also the bestselling composer of religious piano and vocal music that has been performed around the world. When she’s not writing fiction or music, she loves to cuddle up with a good book. She and her husband live in beautiful Michigan with their five kids.
What inspired you to write your book?
I’ve loved delving into the world of Logan Pond, asking myself what if, what if, what if? Some of the answers are chilling, but some are also encouraging. I believe as Carrie does: The human spirit is resilient. People come through hard times better and stronger. And most importantly, love on every level can endure all.
Here is a short sample from the book:
The air was still. Quiet. Not a bird could be heard, not a single puff of air rustled the streets of Illinois as if the entire world was perched on tiptoes, waiting.
Carrie Ashworth huddled with her father in the newly-erected Aurora Municipality Hall, sharing one interest with the other hundred people. The television. The large screen wasn’t nearly large enough to make out the face of the President of the United States.
“…After the collapse of Ameribank, First Citizens Bank, and countless others,” President Rigsby said from his standard podium and blue curtain backdrop, “I assure you we have not forgotten you. Congress is working with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the FDIC. I have personally met with the Secretary of the Treasury, my Council of Economic Advisers, and the CEOs and CFOs of the above-mentioned banks to discuss the potential fallout. I am here to tell you that we are on the brink of solving this systemic banking crisis.”
“On the brink?” Carrie’s father repeated.
Twenty people shushed him.
Sufficiently grave, the President continued over them. “I have spent long hours with Presidents Borzakov, Huang, and Maalouf. I have met with Prime Ministers Toure, Abbassi and many other leaders of the nations of the earth. They have pledged their help and assistance. However…” The President said, staring into the camera, “it will be some time before they’re able to assist. Our country is not the only one suffering from this economic disaster. As such, we’ve instituted a state of emergency which will expedite our ability to help you, our citizens. It is imperative, however, that you remain calm and patient.”
Carrie’s father grunted. He didn’t sound calm or patient.
No one did.
“As for the banks…” President Rigsby gripped the podium, “I am confident the temporary suspension on withdrawals will be lifted soon.”
The crowd erupted, protesting this new information. A woman yelled in Carrie’s ear, making Carrie flinch. Carrie raised her voice, too, so she could be heard.
“I don’t understand, Dad,” she said. “Lifting the suspension on the banks sounds like a good thing.”
“It would be,” he said, “but that’s what he promised four weeks ago. Which means no money. Still.”
Carrie’s stomach twisted with emptiness.
“At that time,” President Rigsby continued, voice rising as if he could hear the protests himself, “I urge you, my fellow citizens, to use prudence, wisdom, and patience. Another run on the banks will set our country back two years, possibly more. Prudence…” he let the word hang, “will save this great country.
“Until then, your local governments will be passing out blue cards. These cards will be distributed through your local municipalities and will replace the former coupons. I’m confident this new system will streamline our ability to distribute goods. Therefore, starting Monday, October first, said blue cards will become your only access to food, clothing, and shelter. Each family is required to send one representative to the designated posts.”
The man behind Carrie swore at the screen. Another raised an angry fist, nearly knocking her over. Shouts and booing drowned out the broadcast as the crowd began to riot. People pressed toward the screen, yelling at the two-dimensional image of the president, shoving Carrie right along with them.
Panicked, Carrie pushed back. Her feet struggled to keep her upright. At seventeen, she was not only short and shy but suddenly claustrophobic. Her heart pounded. She thrust out her elbows. Someone shoved back, pushing her further away. In another minute, she’d be trampled.
Someone grabbed her arm and she screamed. Then she saw it was her dad.
“Let’s go!” he shouted.
If there hadn’t been a woman between them, she would have flung herself at him. Instead, she clutched his hand and followed as he pushed his way through the mob. They caught the tail end of President Rigsby’s speech.
“Many of you are hungry,” the president boomed, using the same dramatic voice that won him the election. “Many have been evicted from your homes, but I am here to assure you that the government has not forgotten you, the nations of the world have not forgotten you, nor have I. Goodnight, and may—”
Carrie and her father broke out into a brisk September evening. She stopped and bent in half to gather deep breaths of people-less air. The cold evening cooled her skin and calmed her pulse, and she was glad her two siblings had stayed at the apartment. Unlike her, they were too young to understand the magnitude of tonight—of the last six months.
At least, she thought she understood.
“What does this mean, Dad?”
He stared at the municipality hall with a grave, aged look. “It means the government’s done helping us. This is it. This is our life now.”
“But I thought you said—”
“I was wrong!” He ran a hand over his thinning hair. “We all were.”
A lump formed in her throat. Her dad wasn’t a shouter—or he didn’t use to be. Not that she blamed him. An hour ago, she traced the protruding lines of Zach’s eight-year-old ribs before tucking him into his bedroll. With a kiss on the forehead, she promised they were heading to the municipality for good news. The government would have a solution to this financial crisis.
“You mean we can go home?” Zach had asked.
Silly her. She said yes.
Carrie thought about the cold, dark apartment that had become their temporary shelter since they were evicted from their home in Shelton. Surely the government couldn’t expect them to stay in that apartment forever, crammed into a brown, smelly place with three other families, fifteen strangers sharing one kitchen and one bathroom. Carrie’s family had their own bedroom. That was something at least. Which meant the Ashworths had one nine-by-ten foot room to call their own, the last place on earth. The conditions were tolerable when she thought they were temporary, just until the banks were up and running and they could get their savings back. But now…
This is it.
Her father’s words rang in her ears, sinking her. Her chin dropped and her eyes started to burn.
He pulled her into his arms. “I’m sorry, pumpkin. It’s just…I don’t know what to do anymore. I thought they’d have a solution by now, but I should have known.”
She looked up. His hair had turned gray overnight, his blue eyes looked even grayer than his hair, and his mouth that used to wear a perpetual smile, now wore a perpetual grimace. Seeing him so forlorn was more painful than the emptiness in her stomach, more painful than never seeing their sprawling, two-story home again. Painful enough she forced herself to smile.
“We’ll be okay, Dad. The banks will give us our money back, and then…and then…” She shrugged. “We’ll be okay.”
He stroked her cold cheek. “I love my little girl. You keep that pretty smile on your face, and I’ll be okay. Now,” he glanced over his shoulder, “let’s get back to Mom before there’s trouble.”
They took off, their feet whispers in the night. They raced down the long street, through a dark alley, and up the black steps to their third-floor apartment.
As requested, Carrie tried to smile when they walked through the door, but her mom stood next to the others with desperate hope in her eyes, bringing tears to Carrie’s. They weren’t going home. She couldn’t bear to break the news, nor could she bear to hear it. She rushed past them into the last bedroom. Stepping over Amber and Zach’s sleeping forms, she unrolled her thin blanket and laid down, jeans, jacket, and all.
Sleep didn’t come easily. The furnace hadn’t kicked on—if there were even furnaces in the hastily-erected apartments—and she scrunched into a ball to keep warm. Knowing there were colder nights ahead made it worse. So when her parents stumbled into the pitch-black room an hour later, they were unaware Carrie lay wide awake a few feet away.
“I think Ron’s right,” her mom whispered. “We should leave before they mandate those blue cards. Otherwise, they’ll have the blockades up.”
“We can’t go back, babe,” her dad said, equally quiet and urgent. “We have nowhere to go. They repossessed our home. They’re losing control of the country, and we can’t risk it while they get it back.”
“Then we take up May and CJ’s offer,” she said. “They’ll take us in. You know they will.”
“With how many others?” he whispered. “Fifteen? Twenty? Shoved in their house like sardines until who knows when?”
“Which is so much worse than here?” her mom shot back.
Carrie held her breath to catch every word.
She saw her dad’s dark form unroll his blankets. “At least we have food here. You can’t expect May and CJ to feed that many people. CJ’s lost all his retirement money and—”
“We don’t have food here! They didn’t deliver anything tonight, Tom. Not a single scrap of moldy bread.”
“Nothing?” he said at the same time Carrie mouthed it. “Not even the water?”
The only sound in the room was the Jepson’s baby down the hallway, protesting the emptiness in her tiny belly. Carrie grabbed her own hollow stomach, praying for a swift end to this nightmare. It would be at least a day before the next delivery of food—if there was a next delivery.
“If we go back to Shelton,” her dad whispered, “we’ll starve and freeze.”
“If we stay, we’ll starve and freeze,” her mom hissed.
“Yes, but at least I can find work here. Or maybe I’ll head to Chicago.”
“No, Tom. No! Not with the riots. You promised we’d stay together, for better or worse. You promised,” her mom whispered, losing control of her voice. “I just want to go home.”
Carrie shut her eyes, feeling the same way. She didn’t know May and CJ Trenton past the fact that they were old, retired, and had lived three houses down from Carrie’s family for as long as Carrie could remember. The Trentons were among the lucky few who owned their home free and clear before the financial crash, which meant they hadn’t foreclosed. They still had a home.
Carrie envisioned her tree-lined street and their view of Logan Pond. Even if they had to squish into Trenton’s with twenty other neighbors, her family belonged in Shelton, not in a nine-by-ten, smelly apartment in Aurora’s Third Municipality—or whatever they called it now.
Her dad sighed. “Just give me time to find work, babe. Long enough the government—”
“—will be digging mass graves instead of individual ones,” her mom cut in. “There are nine hundred applicants for every position. I’m not waiting.”
“Come on.” A smile crept into his voice. “With these ruggedly handsome, God-given looks, people will line up to hire me.”
Carrie waited for her mom to break, to giggle, or give some quick-witted retort. That was how their marriage worked. But her mom didn’t laugh. Not a bit. And that frightened Carrie more than anything she’d heard all night.
“One family got food tonight,” her mom whispered.
“The Gorskis. A patrolman sneaked in a bundle after everyone left for the broadcast.”
Carrie knew the Gorskis because they were staying in an apartment below them and had a seventeen-year-old girl like her. Like Carrie, Rachel Gorski was the oldest child. And like Carrie, Rachel Gorski was petrified of the future.
“Why them?” her dad asked. “Why no one else?”
“You’ve seen their daughter, Rachel. Can’t you guess?”
Carrie couldn’t. Her stomach hurt so bad it didn’t feel like hunger anymore. Her clothes hung on her body. Same with her family’s. There wasn’t a single reason which justified a patrolman giving food to one family while passing fifty others.
The sudden sound of sniffling brought Carrie’s head off her pillow. Her mom was crying? She’d seen her mom cry twice in her life, both times at funerals. Whose funeral was this?
When her mom spoke again, her voice was strained with emotion. “What kind of world is it, when your choice is to sell your children or watch them starve? We can’t stay. For Carrie’s sake as much as the others.”
Carrie jerked up. My sake? Amber and Zach were the helpless kids. Not her. She could fend for herself just fine. She almost challenged her mom, but then her dad said the words she’d been waiting to hear all night.
“You’re right. We’ll leave for Shelton first thing.”
And suddenly Carrie didn’t care why they were leaving, only that they were.
She snuggled in, forgetting all thoughts of empty stomachs or damp bedrolls. They were going home—or to the Trentons. Close enough. Her eyes closed in pure joy.
Three months later, on a colder, darker evening, Carrie wondered how she ever fell asleep that night. She wondered how she ever deluded herself into thinking life would be better in Shelton. If she’d only known then what it would cost her to leave Aurora’s Third Municipality, she would have begged her parents to stay. Because before the first snows hit the fields of Shelton, Illinois, both of her parents were lying in cold, dark graves.