A blink. Just one. A single blink is all it takes, to take everything away from you. To destroy any life that is connected to another. One blink, and you miss everything God gave you. One blink, and everything changes. One blink. Just one. A blink.

Nolensville, Tennessee

Walking inside, I look at my surroundings. Another new town, another new me. Right? That’s how this works, isn’t it? Every new place they move us to, I’m given the chance to reinvent myself. My hair, my clothes, even my name. But that’s what Witness Protection is, right? That’s why they let us do it — reinvent ourselves, that is — to protect us? I don’t know why I think this time will be any different; it hasn’t been in the past. He’s always found us, and we’ve always had to leave.

This is my third home in two years. The first time, it only took him six months to find my mom and I. The second time, it was even more difficult for him, luckily. But he still managed to find us, like always.

“Avery, I need some help,” I hear my mom call. With all the running, we’ve gotten pretty good at packing all the essentials and moving fast. We’ve had to, since he never was convicted or sent to jail. We’ve always been careful, making a list after that first time of what we actually needed to take and what we didn’t.

“Coming, mom!” I yelled. I had walked through the entire house to get a look at it. It had three bedrooms, one of them being a master with a large closet and bathroom. I hope I get that one! I think to myself as I walk back to the front door. 

Mom had a large box, one of the five boxes we consider our “essentials”. Being only fifteen, you’d think I wouldn’t be this used to packing up and leaving friends, family, everything behind. This time, though, we’d managed to snag a couple of extra “non-essential” items to bring with us. I reached mom just in time to grab the other side of the box before it tumbled to the floor. 

“Ooof!” I heard her grumble. “Is that you, Avery? Or did I run into something again?” 

“No, it’s me. Where are we putting everything?” The house was furnished this time, for the most apart. Unlike our last place, which barely had anything at all. The WPP was definitely getting better, at least. When your father turns into a cold-blooded murderer and also tries to kill you, you don’t get to take all the furniture you want when you’re rushed out the door. 

“Let’s just set it in the living room for now. That should be around the corner, I believe, or so they told me.” We carried the box around the corner and set it down. “Alright, let’s get the next one!” She smiled at me as she headed back outside for the next box with me following close behind.

It only took us about an hour to get all of our belongings inside. Mom took a look around after we got everything inside, making the decision to take one of the other bedrooms and letting me have the master. I was able to bring a lot of my clothes with me this time, so I needed the space. I was lucky to have such an understanding and loving mother.

I set to work on unpacking my things in my new room. I’d love to be able to paint it and make it my own, but that was unlikely. We probably would be here more than a year, maybe two if I was truly lucky. After unpacking two boxes of clothes, I went in search of mom and found her in the living room, sitting on the couch. She looked exhausted; she’d just driven more than 20 hours to get here.

She looked up when I sat down in the chair opposite her. “What do you say I give you a tour? You’ll love it here, and hopefully we’ll be able to stay here for a while!” I forget sometimes that she lived here for a few years when she was younger, way before she met that psychopath known as my father.

“Sure, I’d like that. Let me get changed first, though; I feel disgusting after that long drive!” I got back up and made for my bedroom again. Looking through what I’ve unpacked, I realize it is all winter clothing. Orono was cold when we left, but I should have known that Tennessee would be warmer in March, even if by a little bit. Going back out to the living, I look for my spring/summer box of clothes.

Mom must have gone to her room, as she is not in the living room anymore. I pick up the box and make my way back to my new bedroom. Setting the box on the floor, I start sifting through it to find my favorite top and my crop black jeans. I throw both on the bed and make my way to my dresser, pulling out new underwear and a regular bra. I quickly change my previous wardrobe of sweats and a t-shirt and make my way to the bathroom. Looking at myself in the mirror, I decide to throw my hair up into a ponytail and put on some fresh makeup as well. There was no way I could be seen in public by anyone in this town without looking my absolute best.

Mom walks in as I finish putting on my mascara. Standing behind me, she puts her arms around me and lays her chin on my shoulder. “You are beautiful, sweetie. I hope you know that.” She squeezes me tight before letting go. “Are you ready? I can’t wait to show you around. There are some really cute places in this town that I just know you are going to love! And, you’ve always wanted to see where your old momma grew up, right?” She smiled at me. She may not have lived here long, but it made an impact on her. I’m sure it will make an impact on me, too.

We decided to leave the car and take an old-fashioned walk together around town. We haven’t gone for walks together in a long time, since before we left the first time. Mom always thought it would be too dangerous, thinking that he was going to be around every corner. She’s let loose of the hold she’s had on me in the last few months though, since I’m in high school now and wanted to be free to do my own thing.

As we walked, I snapped pictures of anything and everything. From homes, to gardens, and the fields and as people tended to them. Photographing was my out for a lot of things, especially when I move to a new town. I love taking pictures because it makes it easier for me to get to know a town and the people in it without having to put myself out there too much, at least not right away.

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