The four of them are sitting two-thirds of the way up an old live oak, passing around a canteen of tinny water and talking about magic.
Em wants it more than anyone. The rest of them all think she should be a psion, but she wants to be a mage, wants to paint the sky with fireworks and make clean energy and maybe become an astronaut and figure out a way to avoid the rocket equation.
Reuben, whose upcoming eclipse in March started the whole conversation, says he doesn't want powers at all and if he gets any he'll have them shut down. He wants to be a priest when he grows up, which the rest of them all agree is objectively way lamer than either mage or psion.
Faith, like any sane person, is hoping she'll eclipse, but she doesn't want it with Em's desperate hunger. If she doesn't get cool magic powers, she'll find something else awesome to do with her life. Right now she's thinking she wants to discover a new element (or maybe a new planet, she hasn't decided) and get it named after her. Fides, from the Latin for her name.
In the end, it's Jay who gets powers from his eclipse, and that doesn't work out so well for him.
The three of them are huddled together at Jay's funeral, Reuben in the stark cassock and surplice of an altar server, Em staring up at the sky like she's willing it to open up and rain fire and vengeance. Or at least rain.
The sky stays stubbornly blue. "My eclipse is in February," Faith says blankly, looking up at the moon and she sun in the sky together, so she doesn't look down at her friend's coffin instead. "Maybe I'll be the one who figures out how to bring back the dead. Maybe I can still fix everything."
"Faith, no," Reuben says, softly. "You can't think that way. You have to let him go. I hope -- I hope you don't eclipse, I couldn't bear if--"
"I don't have to do anything I don't want to," Faith retorts. "Just because you're scared--"
"Don't," Em says. "Not now. Just don't."
Faith eclipses anyway. She doesn't actually get a choice.
Virtuality is incredibly lame. She can't actually do anything, not for real. But she comes out of it with her new powers, and it's the most amazing thing that's ever happened to Faith. She can get people's attention, make them listen instead of laughing because she's young or female or a sub, and it's not easy but it's right, like catching a pitched ball perfectly and feeling it slam into your hand. People throw their attention all over the place, and she can fix that, help them pay attention to important things.
Like what she has to say.
School is boring, so Faith tells her parents she wants to be homeschooled, and what do you know, they listen. (She doesn't make them agree, of course. Even if she could, that would be horrible. She just helps them really sit down and listen to her, and understand how important this is and how carefully she's thought about it.) When she's ready she applies to the local college, and her resume is okay but the interviewer thinks she really stands out.
College is way better than high school. Class discussions are fun! Her favorite are classes with participation grades. She always gets A's in those.
They're standing by the grave when the two of them turn on her.
They tell her all the things she's been hearing her whole life, things she'd thought her friends would never say to her. They tell her that she shouts too loud, dreams too big, talks too much, that she acts before thinking, that she needs to stop. They want her to stop using her powers, to make herself less, to make herself normal.
Faith just stands there, too devastated to speak, and she cries, and when they're done she tells them that they're right, that she understands, that she's going to transfer colleges and stay with her mother's cousin and make a new start, meet new people whose minds she's never touched.
They let her go.
They were supposed to be her friends.
Faith doesn't know her aunt all that well, but of course Aunt Kelly is happy to have her niece stay with her for college. Faith's transfer application gets processed with perfect efficiency once she shows up to the office of the registrar and helpfully lets them know she really does need it dealt with soon. Kansas is no Texas, but it's okay, it'll do.
Her first class is apparently history of philosophy, which sounds unbearably boring, but it's a core requirement, so while Faith's advisor agrees that she should clearly be allowed to take something more interesting instead, no one actually seems to have the authority to make that happen. So: ancient philosophy it is.
Faith arrives early and sits in the front. After all, she'll surely have helpful insights to contribute!