Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.
But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?
After dinner service, the members of the Flock drained out the dining hall doors as I collected the breadbaskets from the long tables. I spotted Mama slipping outside.
“Mama,” I called. I placed the stack of bread baskets on the gray cart and ran out the door after her. “Mama, wait.”
With a sigh, Mama turned. Her hair, a few shades darker brown than mine, hung in a braid that flipped over her shoulder. Ever since I was little, people told me I looked like her; same wide hazel eyes, same rosebud mouth, same golden complexion. But the stiff gray of her uniform dress sallowed her skin in the evening sun. At her hip, Max held her hand and grinned at me.
“Yes, Mia?” she said.
Her cottage-mate Jin Sang stopped as well. Bae John, her son, stood with his back up against her legs. Her arms were crossed over his chest protectively. She said nothing, but I saw the wariness in her almond-shaped eyes. She’d heard me argue with Mama the last few weeks, although I hoped she didn’t hear what we argued about.
“Can we talk later?” I asked Mama. “I’ll come by?”
She glanced over at Jin Sang. “Will you take the boys back to our cottage?” she asked her.
Jin Sang took Max’s hand. “Of course,” she said in her tiny voice.
Max waved good-bye to me with a curl of his fingers.
Mama glanced around before chucking her chin to the outside corner of the dining hall. We walked behind a hibiscus bush studded with red blossoms. The perennial battalion of insects—mostly mosquitos—swirled in the evening air.
“You need to stop this, Mia,” Mama said to me quietly.
“All I want is to talk about it. Calmly and rationally. We don’t have to argue about it. Just discuss our options.”
The lines in Mama’s forehead deepened. “No. This conversation is over. And whatever you do, don’t talk about it to anyone, understand?”
She thrust her finger in my face and dropped her voice to a harsh whisper. “Look, you’re not the only one here who remembers life before Edenton.”
“I’m the only one of my friends.”
“It’s a life we left behind,” she said.
“A life you left behind! I was ten, what choice did I have?”
“What has come over you lately?”
What had come over me? I was finally doing what Papá had always told me to do before he left us all those years ago. Before he couldn’t deal with her anymore. I was thinking. Questioning. Something no one did in Edenton. I placed my hands on my hips and stared her down.
“Good God, Mia,” she said. “Stop it. Edenton is our home. This is where we belong. Bring this up one more time and I’ll—“
“You’ll what?” I said “Turn me into the Reverend because I want to leave?”
“Shhh!” she said, and took a step back away from me. “Get back to work before Agatha starts looking for you."
I spun away from her, slammed through the dining hall doors, and wheeled the cart with the breadbaskets back to the kitchen. I spent the next two hours during dinner clean-up simmering about Mama and her close-mindedness. I wasn’t asking for the moon tied up in a perfect red ribbon. All I’d wanted to do was discuss options. Options that would lead me on the path out of Edenton. Maybe I’d have to find another way, without Mama’s help. Without her knowledge.
About the Author
Hi. I’m Elisa. I like cheese and reading and TV show marathons. Writing is scary, but not as scary as, say, Civil War amputations. I’m an Aquarius. Uh… let’s see… I’m not very good at writing my own biography. Or autobiography. I guess this is reading more like a slightly incoherent personal ad.