Molly stared wistfully for a second at her "Female Health Assistant" professional certificate.
She quickly packed it away, shaking off momentary sadness. Now was not the time for daydreaming. There was still too much to do, and Guides waited on no one.
Annie popped her head in the door with an offer of help, then flitted away, buzzing with excitement. Ever since the date for their departure was set, the change in her daughter was palpable. She was going to see her Danny again, after two agonizing years apart, finally get married and start a family. Molly smiled at the thought as she grabbed another suitcase, her mind drifting to the memories or her own youth. She had so many plans back then, so many dreams. Some of them even came true.
In 2013, Molly was in middle school and only vaguely aware of a new health care law and of some young Senator making a big stink about it. For years since, she has wondered: if she paid attention to politics from a younger age, would she have picked a different career? Probably not. Delivering babies was all she ever wanted to do. Besides, she never would have met Jake, let alone married him, if not for her choice of profession.
Jake Harrison looked around his now nearly empty workshop. Most of it was packed away in two large duffle bags. One contained his tools, the other, an assortment of weapons. The Guide would be armed, but Jake preferred to bring his own protection for the road. Now for one last thing...
The wedding picture, dated July 2030, showed Jake and Molly on the steps of a small church. When Jake dropped off his younger sister Becky at Molly's house with a vague request for "help," he just wanted a quick solution to his sister's accidental pregnancy. Molly turned out to be strictly a delivery specialist, but help she did, in her own way.
A week later, Jake found himself at Molly's doorstep once again, this time with flowers and a dinner invitation. She was seven years older and mostly immune to his usual charms. That only made her more intriguing. Determined to prove himself, Jake quit the party scene and got a job at the car repair shop. Six months later, Molly surprised Jake by accepting his marriage proposal. Becky, by then comically huge with a twin pregnancy, was Molly's matron of honor.
Jake took the picture off the wall and packed it carefully into his bag. This one was a keeper.
Molly sighed in frustration. She meant to have the large newspaper clipping laminated for easy packing, but didn't get to it. As it was now, in heavy wooden frame, she would have a hard time fitting it in.
It was a front page of a local newspaper from 2035, announcing the Grand Re-Opening of Hillsdale Car Repairs, now under the ownership of Mr. Jacob Harrison. Molly considered the picture of Jake in front of the shop, beaming at the camera with pride, and took out her winter boots to make space. She could use a new pair anyway. Decision made, Molly -finally!- closed up the last suitcase.
"Hey, baby, all done?"
Molly turned around to see Jake smile at her from the doorway. The dashing, impulsive young man she married against her better judgment all those years ago has proven more than worthy of her love. For years, Jake has sheltered her from the world that was getting smaller and darker by the day. Molly kept her delivery-only specialization even when federal health care coverage for childbirth was cut off. She was happy running her small home practice and spending quality time with Annie. Jake, always supportive, was putting in longer hours at the shop, and for a while all was well.
Their precarious equilibrium was shattered suddenly in the spring of 2040. Jake's shop was raided one evening by a group of teens looking to steal some parts they could trade for, of all things, fresh strawberries. With suburban food stores now selling only Bloomberg Nutrition bars, fresh produce was a black-market luxury. Jake caught the teens in the act and thought he could chase them away. He was wrong.
The next morning, stitched up, bandaged and high on pain killers, Jake has persuaded his normally stubborn wife to move the family to Pennsylvania's Lancaster County. As the government was dismantling the suburbs and herding everyone into planned cities, the Amish community threw enough money at the politicians to designate their lands a private historical park. It became a refuge for many, including the Harrisons.
Molly was grateful to Jake for insisting on the move. Fresh air, natural food, friendly people- the fifteen years they spent here were peaceful and fulfilling. However, it was time to move on. Annie deserved her chance at love, and in truth, Molly and Jake were ready to take on the world once again.
"You KNOW, the Guide will not be here for another hour at least," Jake said, giving Molly that smile she just couldn't resist. "Why not," Molly thought. "It will be weeks before we get any privacy again." She took the pin out of her hair and moved closer to Jake, who wasted no time unzipping her dress.
Annie closed her laptop, reluctantly ending her live chat with Danny. The Guide would be arriving soon, and she wanted to take one last look around, maybe even snap some pictures of the neighborhood that Danny could use as inspiration for his paintings.
Danny's art, dismissed by American critics, was selling well enough in Canada to make him serious money. Canada was fast becoming one of the leading art centers of the world. People there had hope again, borne of fantastic economic growth, and they were looking for art that inspired. Danny was lucky to catch the wave. He claimed Annie was his muse, but she knew the talent was all his, as was the determination to make it on his own terms.
By the time Annie came of age, the exact reason for Canada's revival was partly lost to history. The textbooks were vague, and Annie always got an impression that her grandparents were somehow ashamed to talk about it. Over the last few years, she finally pieced together some information from the Internet archives.
In 2013, a lone politician went to the floor of the Senate to implore his fellow Americans to stand up for freedom. The leaders of both parties did not appreciate the challenge and united to make sure the culprit was not re-elected. His election night concession speech was interrupted by hecklers chanting "Go back to Canada!" referring to the country of his birth.
Canadians were not amused at their country being used as a political punch line. They publicly invited the controversial politician to come across the border as a government reform consultant. To everyone's surprise, he accepted, galvanizing Canada's growing small-government movement. A few elections and many reforms later, Canada became an economic powerhouse.
What started as a trickle of U.S.-Canada migration became a flood. All skilled workers were welcome. The only difficulty was getting there. Most Americans no longer had cars, and the U.S. government was in no hurry to lay railroad tracks to help its citizens leave. And so, old-fashioned wagon trains were formed, going from the Northern part of the country across the Canadian border. Led by expert Guides, these were known as Cruz Lines. Most people assumed the name was a bastardized version of the word "cruise," a term used long ago for leisure boat trips. Annie knew they were mistaken.
Annie saw Mom and Dad coming out of the house with the last suitcase. She could hear the hoof beats of the Guide's horse, very close now. Annie felt uneasy at a sudden thought. Would this happen again someday? Were they, and people like them, fated to be chasing freedom to wherever it was to be found at a moment in history? Probably so. For now, freedom, opportunity and love awaited in Canada, and it was time to go. She climbed up eagerly into the wagon. This was going to be one hell of a ride.