Chapter 3

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A mound of blue-raspberry formed in the distance.

Coal turned and tapped his lips with greater emphasis when his children began to murmur at the misplacement of color along the grasses and sands. He smiled, watching Ebony cover her mouth and bounce lightly in place.

Ivory turned toward the upward pull of her sister's hand. She gazed into the darkness behind Coal's sash, thickly layered over closed eyelids. With her sight restricted, she focused her attention to sound and touch. Coal's strong, steady step thudded against the ground ahead.

A rustle from her left dragged more than the other footsteps around her.

When the footsteps ceased, she was pulled to a stop, and felt the cloth lifting from her eyes.

She squinted a moment, then blinked, taking in the jet from nose to tail. Her lips dropped open at the span of its wings. At home, she owned a shelf full of miniature jets that she carefully packed and unpacked each time Aboreal's military assigned Coal to a new station. They were playthings, and they did not fly; yet, she loved them, anyway.

But this jet was real.

Ivory fell to her knees, unable to hold back the sobs that convulsed her chest.

"Thank you," she hiccupped between sobs.

Ebony placed a hand on her shoulder.

After inhaling a deep breath, Ivory lifted herself up and smashed her hands across her cheeks, eliminating trails of tears she hadn't intended her brothers and sister to see.

She ran to her father and wrapped her arms around him. Her eyes and nose peeked out from behind the folds of his coat. Light reflected off fresh tears in her eyes.

A smile formed across Pearl's lips. "Go on, take a look."

Ivory stepped away from her father and squared her shoulders, then stepped forward to further inspect her gift. Her jet. She climbed the staircase built into its open door and brushed a hand across its blue-raspberry exterior.

Wan's pale fingers curled into a fist that no one noticed.

*

Ivory's stomach hadn't settled by the time her mother served the ices and cake. She sat with her siblings in the shade of shadows cast by her parents' gift. Her hands cradled a bowl of purple ice that had already begun to melt.

"Where will you fly first?" said Slate.

Ivory narrowed her eyes, then smiled. There was no hint of jealousy in her eldest brother's expression, even though he'd never received a gift like hers for his year of life celebrations.

"I don't know," she said. "I'll need to learn how to fly it. Then, well...I want to go everywhere, and everywhen."

Wan snorted. "I'll be impressed if you can get the jet to lift off the ground let alone travel through time."

"It's a certified TSTA vehicle, even though it hasn't been commissionedby the travel agency,"  said Coal. His son's eyes dropped at the tone in his voice. "Ivory's lessons will begin once we're finished."

"Do you think she'll become a military Chauffeur like you, Father?"

Ivory's head spun back and forth between Ebony, who'd spoken, and her father, whose words still lingered.

"That has yet to be seen," said Coal.

Wan swallowed.

Ivory shoved a spoonful of purple ice into her mouth. Everything she'd dreamed of was coming true, earlier than expected. She wasn't sure she was ready. Her father was a third-generation military Chauffeur. She'd wanted to be the fourth—a hope she thought she'd kept secret even though her love for flying machines was obvious.

Was her hope shared by her father? If she failed, would she be letting him down?

She gulped spoonful after spoonful of purple ice until her head ached.



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