Chapter One

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Grace sped down the sidewalk toward East Tennessee State's Basler Center for Physical Activity. Ignoring the colorful chalk invitations for back-to-school events, she stepped carefully over the cracks, the childhood litany of "break your mother's back" repeating in her head. Silly superstition. But one of a million rules that governed her life.

She pulled the glass door open and scanned the lobby for her best friend. The eighteen-year-old sat by the window, her brunette hair pulled tight into a pony tail. The late morning sun angled across the open journal in Jessica's lap and surrounded her with golden sunshine. She jumped to her feet and wrapped Grace in a hug. The summer apart had seemed like forever, but Grace couldn't wait to hear about her mission trip to Kenya.

Grace's rules for life also included always being prepared for an impromptu selfie. She leaned toward Jess and snapped a picture of the two of them to share with the world. Jessica's zeal for life was the perfect foil to her own control-freak, type-A perfectionism. Her friend's beauty shone without a hint of makeup, while Grace's make-up rivaled a cover girl's. Her athletic shorts and t-shirt contrasted with Grace's signature pink sportswear. Grace wore pearls while Jess wore her own unique designs, styled from whatever she had on hand when the creative urge struck.

They made the perfect duo.

"Tell me all about it, Jess. What was it like?"

"Amazing. You would not believe how beautiful it is. And how wild. There are animals everywhere. We had to stop in traffic because there were baboons in the road!" Jess laughed, and the sound echoed against the glass walls.

"You would not believe how good it is to hear you laugh. Texting LOL is not the same." Grace squeezed her sister-friend's hand.

"There was even a monkey that came right in to the place where we met for worship and climbed across my lap while I was waiting to sing with the choir." Her blue eyes took on a faraway look. "I can hardly believe that less than forty-eight hours ago, I was in Mombasa." She blinked several times and stared down at her journal. Her hand smoothed the blue page covered in bright pink ink, and a sigh escaped as if she'd held her breath the whole way home. For a split second, envy nudged Grace's heart.

"But I don't want to tell you everything. Some things you have to experience for yourself." Jessica wore that familiar, mysterious smile.

"What are you plotting? I can tell when you are up to something. Like that time you planned a surprise sixteenth birthday party for me? Seriously. When am I ever going to go to Mombasa?"

There was that mysterious smile again.

Grace folded her arms. "I can outlast you, ya' know." The two girls locked eye contact.

After thirty seconds of silence, Grace arched her eyebrow and gave Jess her best, no-nonsense, you-better-answer-me look, but when Jessica wrinkled her nose in response they both dissolved into giggles.

"Anywho..." Her friend's code word for a change of subject. "What have you done all summer?"

"Spent it working as a temp in Asheville. But it was so boring." It was Grace who wrinkled her nose this time. "Believe me, you do not want to hear about my summer." She rolled her eyes.

The monotony of filing and answering phones contrasted sharply with the excitement of wild animals, exotic food, and living every day as a missionary.

Anxiety made Grace's heart race. She hated the fear that held her prisoner. Her captor for as long as she could recall, it had kept her feet on the ground as she watched Jess dance through the tree tops on the ropes course at camp, had kept her safe on the beach while her friend dove into the waves, and had kept her filing and shuffling papers instead of having a monkey scamper across her lap in Africa.

KenyaQuest by Felicia Bridges (Chapter One Only)Where stories live. Discover now