BOOK 2 // FIVE: Unconventional Hero

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            It was easy to slip into a routine. Almost too easy.

Wake up. Lace up my boots. Stare into space for a minute to try to get my head around this new reality. Head for a two-minute shower because water wasn't to be wasted. Wish I could head straight for breakfast, but force my feet instead in the direction of the church, on Nova's orders.

For the first few days, Jace and I were granted the luxury of skipping out. It didn't last long. I'd since lost track of the days of the week, unable to tell whether it was Tuesday or Friday anymore, but somewhere about four days in, Nova dropped it into our schedules.

"Prayer?" I'd said when she first told me, unable to resist wrinkling my nose. "Really?"

"Yes, really."

"Look, Nova," I said, "no offence, but you know I've never been into that kind of thing. In fact, you're the only person I know that is. I'm going to have to politely say no."

"Politely or otherwise, you don't get to say no." She'd folded her arms defensively, and that was when I knew the matter was serious. "It's my thing, every morning. You'll get used to it – just like everyone else did. And, you never know, you might actually grow to appreciate the time to think."

I doubted it, but with everyone else roped in too, I couldn't really say no. It soon became obvious that Art was the only one who managed to get out of it and stay alive. I was dying to know how. If I decided to skip out, my absence would definitely be noticed, and the extra twenty minutes to myself wouldn't be worth getting hunted down by my sister.

It wasn't torture – just tedious. Perched on the pews at the front of the church, I tried to focus on Nova, but her words simply blended into one another. The verses, taken from the battered copy of the Bible she'd recovered from here months ago, were clearly supposed to be inspiring, but I only caught words here and there. Something about redemption, something about our souls being saved, something about God's almighty power.

The sentiment was nice, I supposed. But at the same time, I found myself wondering whether Nova actually believed this stuff, or whether it was more of a fairy tale comfort.

Jace, at least, seemed equally disenchanted. Each time I'd sneaked a sideways glance at him, there'd been no trace of emotion on his face. In fact, he looked miles away – which was something I'd noticed a lot about him lately.

I wanted to talk to him. It hadn't gone well before, but that didn't stop me wanting to check he was okay. He clearly wasn't. The pain in his eyes hadn't been there before, and though I didn't know how to make it go away, I at least wanted to try.

But when the session ended, and Nova stopped talking, he was up and out of his seat before I could get the chance.

And when I saw where he was headed, my heart sunk.

When he reached Nova, her head ducked, and she leaned in to listen to something he was saying. I was too far away to hear, and the gentle buzz of the room obscured everything else. My insides lurched. The sight of them, stood so closely together, sharing a moment not to be intruded upon in such a public space, made me feel sick to my stomach. I could hardly stand to watch.

The right thing to do would've been to tear my eyes away, but the masochistic side to me kept them glued there.

The way he looked at her was different. Different to how he looked at me – which of course made sense, but in reality was a whole lot harder to handle. It felt like a stab in the gut, a physical impact that had me doubling over. The sadness in his eyes I'd so desperately wanted to erase looked like it had started disappearing – but it was my sister's doing rather than mine.

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