The first time Amory attempted to leave The Church was about a year after her mother dropped her off at the day care. Amory knew what her mom told her—she could leave if she wanted to. One day, Riley and Amory decided to tell a nanny that they were going to leave and live with their grandmother. She would want them and wouldn’t abandon them. The girls found one of the nannies, and told her the truth.
The nanny didn’t understand at first. She asked them how long they wanted to be gone. When her question was met with blank faces, she finally understood. They didn’t want to be gone for an hour or a day. They wanted to leave, leave. The nanny hurried off and returned moments later with Miles.
“What’s this I hear about you girls wanting to leave?” Miles asked them, surprised by the request. Amory and Riley were always so good and did everything they were asked. What had they done wrong? Where would they go? He thought that it must be a mistake, a passing phase the girls were going through. They couldn’t really want to leave The Church. He remained calm and tried to steer the girls back to their usual, obedient, selves.
The girls responded, “Our mom told us we can go if we want. We want to go now.”
“Well, why don’t you sleep on it tonight? We can talk about this again tomorrow.” Miles led the girls back to their rooms. It was before dinnertime, but he thought it was best to leave them in their rooms, alone, tonight. He didn’t want them talking to the other children in the state that they were in. They may encourage suppressive thoughts or actions in the others, and he couldn’t have that.
The next morning, as the girls were finishing breakfast, Miles pulled them into his office. He told them that someone was there to talk to them.
Amory and Riley followed Miles without hesitation. His office was always a safe place for them. They were lucky that Miles was their guardian. Whenever they would tease or taunt one of the other children, they could just run into Miles’ office and hide under his desk. The other children were not allowed to do that because he wasn’t their guardian. But Amory and Riley could. They were protected from anything in there.
As soon as they were seated, the biggest man they had ever seen entered the office. He seemed to fill the entire doorway as he walked through it. “Girls, this is James,” Miles told them. “He is from OSA. He wants to speak with you for a few minutes.” With that, Miles left the room. The girls stared in awe of this enormous man as he walked around the desk and took a seat in Miles’ chair.
“We heard that you would like to leave The Church,” he said, staring at them coldly. “That’s fine. But before you do, we’re going to need you to make a list of your overts and withholds against The Church so we know why. People only want to leave when they’ve done something bad.” He looked up and saw the girls sitting in confusion. He clarified, “These are the kinds of things that would be an overt—stealing change from your parents, killing cockroaches, those kinds of things.”
Amory stared at the blank page awaiting her list. She knew that an overt meant that you did something wrong. She searched and searched her brain, trying to think of all the evil things she had done, but she was having a hard time. She always tried to be good and do what Miles and the nannies told her to do.
“I stole some change from my parents,” Amory offered.
“When?” Riley asked. “When was the last time you even saw Mom and Dad?” She had a point. The girls had not seen either of their parents since their mother left them at the day care a year ago.
“I don’t know,” Amory responded, hanging her head.
“Ok, good … thank you.” In his notes, James wrote: Stole change from parents. He asked, “What else? Did you ever kill a cockroach?”
The girls thought about all of the cockroaches that crawled around the day care. They tried to kill them all the time. They even made a game of it with the other children. Riley piped up, “Of course I’ve killed cockroaches.”
“Me too! They’re everywhere!” Amory added. “Why is that bad?” she asked.
“Ok, good. That’s two.” James added to his list. “What else?”
Amory paused, trying to think of other things, but her mind was blank. She just stared at him in confusion.
James would not accept that as an answer. He persisted, “You must have more. You want to leave. You must have done something wrong.”
The girls insisted that they hadn’t done anything else wrong. Still, he was not satisfied. “Well, you have to come up with something.”
James pushed the paper over to the girls and stood up from his chair. Amory stared down at it. Her two overts were listed, just one big mess of indistinguishable letters. She didn’t know what any of it meant.
If she wanted to go, she must have done something wrong. James kept saying that there was no other reason. She also knew that from Miles and the nannies and everyone else in her life. But she had no idea what she had done. She always tried to be good so that her mother would come back and get her. It didn’t make sense to Amory. She wanted to leave because she just didn’t like being there, away from her family. But that wasn’t acceptable. They had taken her reasons away and left her with two overts, one of which she did not even commit.
“Well? What else have you done?” He said, now hovering behind them. His massive figure cast a dark shadow over the girls and caused them to tremble.
The girls protested, but he would not listen. “Well, then, you shouldn’t want to leave,” he insisted.
The girls had no choice but to give up since they could not answer his questions. “Okay, I want to stay,” Riley submitted.
Amory followed her sister’s lead. “Yeah, I’m good now.”
“Okay, you don’t have to write anymore.” James collected the paper and left the office.