The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Jenna Fox Chronicles 1) - Page 9

we have ever

agreed upon.


‘We’re here.’

Lily’s voice is soft. Different. The landscape I wanted to memorize has ribboned away behind me, and I now find myself sitting in a parking lot that I don’t remember driving to.


That voice again. The soft one of Lily’s I barely recognize. How long have we been driving? How long have I been staring out the window and seeing nothing? It sinks in, like sharp teeth in my skin, just how much I still need to know. My fingers grip the seat. I need a word. Curious. Lost. Angry. Which one? Sick? Is that it? I grasp for a word that isn’t there.


Scared. The softness of Lily’s voice makes it surface. I am scared.

I turn my head to look at her face, wondering at this change in her. ‘Why do you hate me?’ I ask.

She doesn’t answer. She studies my face. Her chest rises, and her head tilts slightly. ‘I don’t hate you, Jenna,’ she finally says. ‘I simply don’t have room for you.’ Harsh words, but her voice is tender and the contradiction is a stony reminder that I am missing something vital. I know the old Jenna Fox would have understood. But the timbre of Lily’s voice calms me just the same. I nod, like I understand.

‘Come in with me,’ she says gently, and she gathers packages from the back seat. I follow her across an empty graveled lot.

A tall whitewashed building, blinding bright against a cold blue sky, appears to be our destination. My eyes ache from the glare. ‘What is this?’ I ask.

‘The mission. San Luis Rey. I’ve been in contact with Father Rico for years. We finally get to meet.’ We enter through a heavy wooden door in a long white wall. The entrance leads to a shady enclosed cemetery. ‘This way,’ Lily says, like she has been here before and knows the way. I look at wilted flowers, notes, and stuffed animals that lie on graves and tombstones and feel a brief moment of envy at the remembrances. I see one marker that dates back to 1823, the numbers almost weathered away. Over two hundred years later and still remembered.

I wonder how Lily knows a priest in an ancient mission so far from Boston. We reach the end of the cemetery and come to the great wall of the church which borders it. Lily pulls open yet another large wooden door, and this time we slip into cool blackness and the sweet smell of burning candles, mustiness, and age. My eyes adjust and I see a domed painted ceiling, and then a gilded crucified figure. Christ. Yes, Christ. I remember. Lily bends a knee as she crosses in front of the altar and lifts her hand to her forehead, her heart, and then each shoulder with movement that is so swift and natural it is over as soon as it begins. This I don’t remember.

I stop and stare at the gilded figure. My eyes travel to the altar and then the baptismal font. There should be a feeling, I think. The room itself demands it, but no feeling is in me. I close my eyes. I’m instantly caught up in a scene playing behind my lids, and I feel cool drops of water on my forehead. Lily’s unlined face looms, years younger, and then a man, smiling. He takes my whole body into his hands and kisses my cheek. I see my own hand wave before my face, as small as a butterfly, an infant’s hand. I open my eyes. My baptism. I remember it. How is that possible?

Lily waits across the room, poised at another door, expecting me to follow.

‘Did my grandfather have black hair?’ I ask.

‘Yes,’ Lily answers. ‘You probably saw him in the videos. He didn’t die until you were two.’

I never saw him in the videos. ‘How did he die?’

‘The Aureus epidemic. We had plenty of warnings that something like that could happen and it eventually did. It took him and twenty million people with him.’

‘And that was just in this country,’ I say.

Lily’s eyebrows raise. It is her first glimpse at the facts my brain chooses to hold on to. Her fingers tighten on the iron door handle. ‘By then most antibiotics were useless,’ she says. ‘Somewhere along the line, we took a giant step backward. When I was a child, there were only a handful of vaccines; now there’s a vaccine for nearly everything because we’ve engineered ourselves right into a corner. That’s progress?’ She looks at me, and a crease deepens between her brows. ‘Sometimes we just don’t know when we’ve gone too far.’ She opens the door to leave, and a shaft of light cuts across the floor.

‘Is that why you gave up being a doctor?’

She stops and turns.

‘Because you couldn’t save him?’ I add. I am only curious, but I see her transform instantly. If she was bitter before, she is stiffness and rage now.

‘And that would be none of your business,’ she answers.

‘They have laws now,’ I say.

One corner of Lily’s mouth turns up. It is not a smile. ‘Yes. They do. Entire acts passed by Congress. Scientists can’t burp without someone forming a committee to investigate them. Some even go to prison. That in your head, too?’


Tags: Mary E. Pearson Jenna Fox Chronicles Science Fiction
Source: Copyright 2016 - 2023