Chapter 3

Jia woke with the dawn.

She lay in bed for a minute, swathed in blankets against the cooler Florida night air. Blinking sleep out of her golden eyes, she just listened for a moment. The hum of the house's central air provided a faint but pleasant white noise. Beneath its quiet drone, she heard Julie breathing in the almost-snoring way she had the first semester last year when they'd been roommates.

It felt right. This felt right. Jia smiled, feeling for the first time since the Major arrived that things might work out.

She rolled out from beneath her blankets and stopped only to make her bed. Then she fetched her Bible and found her slippers. Quietly, she padded out of her bedroom.

The hallway was quiet and clear. Finn's door was closed but she could hear him snoring softly through the thin wood. Nate slept with his door open for some reason. She gazed at his sleeping form and smiled a little. She didn't know much about why everyone was so afraid of him but he'd never seemed happier than last night. Even now, asleep, it almost looked like he was smiling. Like a baby.

Her chest spasmed, like her heart squeezing tightly. Jia grimaced, closed her eyes against the pain. Then she breathed through it. Jake was better off in her parent's hands for now. At least they could afford to hire a nanny to raise a child, like she'd been.

Alley's door was closed but she wasn't inside from what Jia could hear. Interesting. She briefly wondered if the other girl had gone to the shop after all.

Each step of the stairs creaked a little, which Jia took note of for the future. The living room was quiet and faintly lit by the rising sun. Whoever built the house faced the living room towards the sun and the bedrooms towards the sunset. Jia liked it and wondered if she'd continue to have her morning privacy.

Someone had left the TV on, though. Perpugilliam, Nate's cat, lay curled up on one of the couches, giving every appearance of watching it. Jia found the remote and shut it off, lingering only to scold the Siamese cat for its poor taste.

Since the climate was still mild enough, Jia opened the front door and walked out onto the porch in her slippers. She found the porch swing and took a seat in it, curling her legs beneath her. Resting her Bible next to her, Jia looked around.

The woods were filled with all the wonderful noises of nature. Jia had never been camping beyond last year's Spring Break but she loved the sight of it, the sound and smell of it. Out here, she felt close to God.

Across the driveway, Jia saw a light was on in the shop. Alley must be in there. She considered peeking but decided to respect her new roommate's privacy. Instead, she flipped open the Bible to the Book of Genesis and picked up in Chapter 10 where she'd left off.


"Good book?"

Jia was startled into dropping her Bible. Alley bent and caught it in one deft motion. Straightening, the taller blonde handed the text back. "NIV?" Jia nodded. "Thought so."

"You're a Bible reader too?" Jia asked.

"Me?" Alley laughed, stretching both arms over her head. The other girl's limber body flexed as she reached for the sky all the way up to her tiptoes before settling down. "Nah. I mean, I read it when I was, like, fifteen. I wanted to know what it said. I don't really buy it, though."

"Oh." Jia felt her initial elation smolder into the ash of disappointment. "Well, I do."

"I kinda figured," Alley said, sliding into the spot on the swinging bench next to her. "Why else would you be reading it?"

"For the moment...insight." Jia looked down at the closed Bible in her hands. "I'm reading about Abram right now."

"Ahhh, Abraham. Let me guess." Alley squinted slightly. "You're actually reading about Sarai, right? How she followed her husband out of Ur across hundreds of miles, endured the reproach of childlessness and was blessed for her patience by a child from God even though she was, like, in her sixties?"

"You do know your Bible," Jia said, nodding in approval. "But no. I really am reading about Abram. I...well, I can relate to him better. Ur was one of the most prosperous cities in Mesopotamia in its day. Abram's whole family was there including his father, his brother and many relatives. And yet he left the city on the word of God alone. He didn't even get any explanation for why until he reached Haran, a city six hundred miles away."

"I thought his father Terah was the one who led the way," Alley said, looking slightly surprised. "And didn't God talk to him in Haran first, not in Ur?"

Both of Jia's eyebrows went right up. "You know the scriptures better than many Christians do," she admitted. "But you need to look in the book of Acts for context. In Acts 7:2, it shows that God told Abram to leave Ur but only said to leave his land behind and go to the land God would show him. He knew nothing about what that land would be or why. It wasn't for six hundred miles in Haran that he was told he'd make a great nation. He went all that way on faith with no explanation."

Alley held up a hand. "I don't mean to be a buzzkill, Sunrise, but I'm not seeing the point."

"These abilities of mine came from somewhere," Jia said. "Maybe they came from God, maybe they're just a genetic quirk. But I have them."

"I get it now," Alley said. "The HCP is the six hundred mile journey to Haran. It's a long way to go and you don't know why you're doing it. All you can do is have faith that there'll be an explanation at the end."

"Exactly," Jia said, eyes widening. "That's...that's what I've been trying to figure out. You put it perfectly. How did you know that? I thought you said you weren't a telepath."

"Oh, I'm way better than a telepath, Sunrise," Alley said, grinning. "Now, how about you bring your Bible into the kitchen while I make us some breakfast? You get to finish your study, I get the company and we both get fed. Fair?"

Jia nodded and followed her surprising roommate inside.


The boys joined them by the tail end of breakfast. Finn was the first to arrive and he begged for breakfast with such eager panache that Alley finally laughed and gave in. Julie and Nate came down the stairs at the same time but both opted for cereal.

Jia started on her dishes and, after a moment's consideration, volunteered to do Alley's since the blonde cooked. For a few minutes, everyone in the house was in the same area. The boys ate at the counter, Julie by the door and the other two girls by the sink. Perpugilliam circled Nate's ankles until he set down his cereal bowl and its remaining milk.

"So, Nate, what can you do?" Alley asked, breaking the morning silence.

A pin drop could have been heard in the silence that followed. Then the red-head ducked his head and mumbled something. Alley just nodded as if hearing what she expected. No one else had the guts to ask Nate to repeat himself.

"What about you, English?" Alley turned her attention to the Lambert Acres' resident black Brit.

"Who me?"

Finn held up his hand. Abruptly, a kitchen cabinet flew open. A glass soared into the air. The refrigerator door opened next, heralding a pitcher of orange juice. Both objects mingled, the juice pouring out into the glass. Then the cabinet door swept shut, the pitcher went back into the fridge and the glass settled in Finn's hand.

"Nothing much," he finished, taking a swallow of the orange juice.

"That's...amazing," Julie said, staring in fascination. "Your control is incredible!"

"I have my moments."

"How about you, Sunrise?"

Alley's question didn't surprise Jia given how they'd made the rounds. Finn's display made her want to show off a little too. Modesty forbid it. Still, Alley's gaze was expectant, even eager. The blonde soldier had shown interest in her Bible reading, even though Alley didn't believe in it. Jia owed her something in return for the consideration.

"In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said faith the size of a mustard seed could move a mountain."

"You're a telekinetic too?" Nate asked, awe coloring his pale face.


Jia crouched, then sped out of the house. The screen door flung open as she hit it with an open palm. Sprinting across the lawn, Jia arced away from the house until she ran parallel with the thick forest surrounding Lambert Acres. Her hand flashed out once as she lapped the entire house and sped back inside, stopping where she left.

The screen door slammed shut from her original exit a second later. Then, behind her out the window, Jia knew a tree fell over from where she'd cut it in half with her hand. She could see it on the shocked faces of her roommates.

"And that's why she was first in our class last year," Julie said, sighing.

"Really now." Alley's blue eyes gleamed in the early morning sun pouring in through the kitchen window. "Finally, I have something to look forward to."