Author's Note: I wanted to take a moment to explain my intentions with this story: "television-style." I'm not writing it as a script, but each chapter is going to play out like an episode of a TV show. Each chapter will have its own story that is completed by the end of the chapter (unless it's a two-parter) but as a whole the story will have the same cast of characters and a few large arcs.

As I said before, each chapter will be written in ordinary prose, and not as a script. However, each chapter will be approximately the same length. The story will be 22 chapters long (to correspond to 22 episodes in a season.) I don't have any plans to write a sequel, so don't worry, I won't leave you with a cliff-hanger ending.

Now that I've taken a moment to explain what I'm doing in this story, I hope you can enjoy it. Thank you for taking the time to read this note.

………………………………...

A young couple giggled as the tall blonde boy clutched the beautiful girl's hand and led her through his kitchen, up a flight of stairs, and into his bedroom. For a moment, when they reached the top of the stairs, they paused to gaze at one another, then continued their journey.

The girl, Ashley, felt a little bit nervous about going into Ronald's room, but she brushed her fears away as she pushed her long dark hair behind her ear, and allowed him to steer her toward his waiting room.

Once inside, she panted a bit and gazed at the posters of Jimmy Hendrix and bikini-clad models that decorated Ronald's room. She'd been in his room before, of course, but this was the first time she'd dared to venture into his private space while his parents were gone. Ashley bit her lip in anticipation, then turned around to see that Ronald was sitting on his bed.

With a coy smile, Ronald patted the red bedspread and said, "There's plenty of room for two."

Ashley smiled flirtatiously, and sauntered over to the bed. She sat lightly, suddenly nervous, and turned to Ronald. She reminded herself that he was sixteen, and two years older than her, then rested her head on his shoulder. "This is nice," she murmured.

"Yeah," Ronald breathed, and his gentle fingertips ran along her jawbone. When he reached her chin, he tilted her head back, and sighed, "You're so beautiful," before kissing her.

Ashley's heart began to beat a little bit faster. This wasn't her first kiss, by any means, and even at her young age she'd lost all naiveté about the wonders of young love, but still, she couldn't deny the tiny electric thrill that coursed down her spine whenever Ronald touched her.

He was still touching her. His right hand rubbed her back while his left stroked her hair. He leaned into the kiss, and Ashley slipped her arms around him. Still, he leaned forward, pushing her back against the bed. She broke off the kiss to giggle and say, "Here, let me up."

Ronald smiled crookedly in a way that was both charming and slightly threatening. "I don't think so," he growled, climbing on top of her.

Suddenly, all the romance was gone. Ronald pinned her arms down and continued to kiss Ashley, shoving his tongue down her throat. Ashley gasped and kicked, desperate for him to let her go. This couldn't be happening; he'd been so sweet and so romantic, and she'd actually believed he'd liked her for her personality. He couldn't be a rapist!

In a moment of panic, she squeezed her eyes closed and wished as hard as she could that Ronald would just get off her. She couldn't push him away because her arms were pinned under his grasp, and she couldn't kick because he straddled her legs. She had no weapon but her mind, but Ashley knew how to use it.

The sound of an explosion echoed through the room as Ronald flew off the bed. He hit the opposite wall and knocked a framed school picture from its nail. A small trickle of blood trickled from a tiny cut on the back of his head, but Ashley had no intentions of getting close enough to see if he was all right.

She still panted, but now she did so from fear rather than from excitement. Sitting up, Ashley adjusted her shirt, and touched her hair to feel how disheveled it was. She didn't think Ronald had actually hurt her yet, but she had to look frightening.

She knew that Ronald wouldn't be getting up for a while, but Ashley didn't want to spend a moment longer in the house than she had to. Taking the stairs two at a time, Ashley flew toward the front door and escape. She thought of going to her own room to get some stuff, but she didn't own much and none of it had any sentimental value. All of her possessions were new clothes or school supplies- some of her foster parents had tried to demonstrate some sort of love by offering to buy more personal items, but Ashley had never been the sort to indulge in material goods. A long life of constant travel had taught her to rely on herself and nothing more.

She was almost to the front door, but she already saw the knob turning. Feeling as though she was in a dream, logic departed from Ashley's mind as she lengthened each stride, imagining that if she just reached the door in time, she could escape before those outside knew what was happening.

Of course, such flights of fancy were not meant to be. Just as she reached the bottom of the stairs, the door opened and Ronald's parents, Ashley's latest foster parents, entered their home. They saw Ashley, immediately noticed her disheveled state and the look of fear in her eyes, and knew something was wrong.

………………………………...

"Hey, Fred, how are you?" Christie purred, twirling a strand of blue hair around her fingers.

When Fred had been younger, he'd never understood why girls dyed their hair. He'd always thought one hair color was just as good as another, and had particularly wondered what purpose was served in dying hair a color so outrageous that no one would ever believe it was real.

Of course, since he'd grown up a little bit and had gotten to know Christie a bit better, he'd come to realize just how intriguing a wild color could be. First, he had to confess that Christie came across as very fun and confident because she'd had the guts to do something that would make her stand out so much. Besides, when he knew for a fact that her hair was died, he was aloud to use as much creativity as he wanted when he tried to imagine her natural hair color.

"I'm all right," he declared, closing his locker and adopting a stride as he escorted her to her next class. "How about you?"

"I'm a little bit tired," Christie admitted, her slightly flirtatious tone waning. For a moment, she frowned, and Fred noticed the dark circles under her eyes, but Christie cheered a few seconds later as she announced, "Well, tomorrow is Friday, though, so I'll have all weekend to catch up on my sleep."

"Sleep?" Fred repeated. "Nobody sleeps on the weekends! Come on, let me take you out Friday night, and we'll do something wild."

"Really," Christie sighed, raising an eyebrow while intrigue dripped from her tone. "What wild thing are you thinking about doing Friday night?"

She stopped walking, and faced him. The hall was crowded enough that Fred felt like their conversation was somewhat anonymous, but suddenly he felt as though everyone was listening while he stammered and desperately tried to think of an answer. He'd only been bluffing when he'd declared that he'd do something wild; Fred wasn't even sure of what he should say."

"Dinner and a movie?" he hazarded.

"That's your idea of wild?" Christie asked, disappointment and a slightest hint of mockery combining to create a particularly delightful tone that only Christie could pull off. "Sorry, I'm not buying it. Maybe you can think of something better for next week."

With a flip of her hair, Christie turned and strode away, shaking her hips as she walked into a classroom. Fred stood entranced, up until the moment his best friend, Paul, slapped a hand on his shoulder and squealed, "Going after a junior? Man, you're brave."

"What?" Fred grasped before he could totally concentrate on the world outside Christie's classroom. "Oh, yeah. Hey, I'm not the only freshman who's ever dated an upper classman."

"You're not dating her," Paul reminded him. "Face it, Fred, you don't stand a chance with a girl like that. Your best bet is to forget about her and go after someone in your own league. I suggest that you start meeting girls online and pretend to be an attractive millionaire."

"Very funny," Fred drawled while Paul chuckled at his own joke. "Yeah, laugh it up now, but you just wait. Once Christie comes around and realizes what a great guy I am, every guy in school is going to wish he was me."

"Dream on," Paul replied. "Oh, hey, by the way, some of the guys and I were going to hang out at Joe's Hamburger Stand after school. Did you want to come with?"

Fred groaned before replying, "Oh, I can't. There's a new foster girl moving in today, and my parents want me to meet her right after school."

"Ouch, sorry," Paul breathed. "I thought your parents weren't going to take in foster children any more, after what happened with Piraya."

"They say this one is the last one," Fred assured Paul. "I guess her name is Ashley, and the Department of Human Services is desperate for a reliable family to take her in. She hasn't lived at home for the past two years, and she hasn't been with a family for longer than two months yet."

Paul whistled to indicate his surprise at this piece of information. "Sounds like you got yourself a little brat," he declared. "What is she, some ten-year-old who throws tantrums every time she doesn't get her way?"

Fred smirked a bit as he remembered some of the particularly monstrous foster-children his parents had taken in before. His grin widened as he realized how shocked Paul would be at his next revelation. "Actually, she's a high school student," he announced.

Paul stepped dead in his tracks. "What?" he gasped. For a moment, neither he nor Fred said anything, then Paul's eyes began to dance as he asked, "Do you mean to tell me you have a troubled, possibly sexually-active teenage girl living in the same house with you? Man, you should have mentioned that fact sooner."

Fred sighed. "Paul, don't be a dick," he complained. "She's my foster sister, not my foster girlfriend. Besides. . . Listen, this is confidential, so don't tell anyone, but the reason Ashley left her last foster home is because her foster brother tried to rape her."

"Oh, man," Paul gasped.

"Yeah," Fred agreed. "So, despite whatever sick little fantasies you might have, this girl is off-limits." He sighed as he emerged from the school building beside his friend. Warm sunlight fell upon his face, and Fred tilted his head back to enjoy the feeling. In a few short weeks, autumn's chilliness would dissolve all of the remaining sweet warmth of summer.

"Besides, you probably wouldn't' want to date Ashley anyway," Fred continued. "Look at her history- she's probably some needy, troubled, angsty brat with weird mental disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder or compulsive lying or something."

"Wow. Your past experience with foster children hasn't jaded you at all, has it?" Paul joked.

Fred grimaced, but didn't reply. His parents had taken in too many trouble makers for Fred to feel any sort of idealism about the child-care services system. "Trust me," he assured his best friend. "The next month or so is going to be Hell."

………………………………...

Ashley unpacked her last pair of jeans, and added them to the small stack of clothing on her bed. All of her worldly possessions had fit into one suitcase; she had ten shirts, two pairs of sweat pants and two pairs of jeans, one sundress a foster parent had insisted on buying her for formal occasions that never arrived, several pairs of white socks, bras, underwear, a stick of deodorant, a toothbrush, and a science textbook she'd forgotten to turn in at school back in seventh grade. Ashley wasn't sure why she kept the book- she supposed that despite her best efforts not to be materialistic, she felt an innate need to cling to the few possessions she had.

"Is that everything?" Heather asked. Heather was Ashley's latest foster mom, and Ashley was sure she was just one of a very long string of foster parents. Ashley had been traveling from house to house for two years, and had lost track of the number of "new Moms and Dads" she'd met and left during that time.

"Yep. Everything," Ashley replied.

Heather looked at the dismal pile on Ashley's bed. The teenager could already tell what her foster mother wanted to say, and Heather fulfilled the mental prophecy a few minutes later. "Listen, we ought to go shopping together this weekend," she announced. "DHS gave me some money to cover new clothes and things for you."

Ashley would have been amused by her own ability to read Heather so well if she wasn't so weary of the constant travels. She forced a smile that wouldn't fool anyone who knew her, but would certainly placate the stranger who now posed as her mother. "I'm all right," she said. "I don't need a whole lot of stuff."

"If you say so," Heather mused predictably and uncertainly. She looked around the room, as if searching for something to talk about, when Ashley heard the sound of a door opening and closing. "That must be Fred," Heather announced.

Ashley followed her foster mother out of the bedroom and through the kitchen to the door, where two attractive young men dropped their book bags and kicked their shoes off, obviously newly home from school. For a moment, confusion and embarrassment flushed Ashley's cheeks. She'd known she was going to have a foster brother; she hadn't known she would have two.

Paul glanced at his friend, and at the beautiful young woman who would be staying in Fred's home for the next few weeks. He'd heard horror stories about past foster children in Fred's household, but his friend had to be crazy not to recognize a gift when he saw it.

Stepping past Fred, Paul extended a hand to the woman and said, "Hello, Amber, is it?"

"Ashley," she corrected him.

Paul smiled to hide a grimace, and said, "Ashley, yes. I'm Paul, one of Fred's friends."

Ashley felt a bit of relief surge through her as she realized she hadn't misunderstood the living situation. "Oh, a friend," she replied. "So, you don't live here?"

Ashley hadn't intended the comment to be suggestive, but Paul had his mind on other matters and answered, "No, but if you ever need anything, you can always give me a call."

Ashley immediately looked less than entertained, and Paul recognized that he'd gone too far. He backed away from Ashley, and found himself standing uncomfortably close to Fred's mother. "Good morning, Mrs. Flynn," he said. "Er, I guess it's not morning. Um, well, I've got a lot of homework to do, so I'd better get going. I'll see you tomorrow, Fred."

Fred grinned, then demonstrated what an ass he could sometimes be by replying, "I thought we were going to study together, Paul. What's changed? Why are you leaving? It doesn't have anything to do with Ashley, does it?"

Paul could feel himself blushing as he replied, "I just remembered something I have going on, Fred. I have to go now. Bye."

He glanced back, and saw that Ashley glared at him with disgust. Feeling the warmth in his cheeks spread down his neck, Paul stepped around Fred, darted toward the door, and escaped from the house, promising himself to think through his pick-up lines the next time he tried to pick up a girl.

After Fred's departure, Ashley, Paul, and Heather were all left alone together in the kitchen. Ashley looked Paul up and down, wondering if he was going to try to hit on her, too. She'd been willing to try the dating thing with Ronald in her last foster home, and she hadn't been the least bit pleased with the way that experiment had turned out.

Deciding that she never wanted to see another male again, Ashley nodded once to Paul, then said, "Pleased to meet you, Paul. I need to put some things away in my room; I'll see you later." Without waiting for a reply, she turned on her heel and marched away.

………………………………...

He'd searched each and every bedroom in the house, the basement, the garage, and had even climbed up into the attic, and Fred still couldn't find Ashley. At least his parents didn't seem concerned; Ashley had no record of running away, and they trusted that she was just tucked away in some nook somewhere, and that she'd be found shortly.

In fact, Fred felt as though he was the only person who was really making an effort to even find Ashley. His mother put the last finishing touches on dinner while his father read the newspaper, and Fred frantically visited each and every room in the house, searching for his lost foster sister.

Finally, he found her outside, sitting under a tree and reading The Great Gatsby. She was visible through the kitchen window, but Fred hadn't noticed her before because he'd been convinced that she wouldn't leave the house.

He approached her, searching for some piece of small talk by which he could start a conversation. He wished he'd read The Great Gatsby; a teacher had given him the book the year before, but Fred had never gotten past page twenty.

Ashley's hair whipped around her face in the sharp breeze. The day had grown considerably chillier since school had let out. Fred wondered how Ashley could stand the cold as she clenched the book to keep the pages from flapping in the wind. He cleared his throat, and when Ashley looked up, Fred said, "You know, I have that book."

"I know," Ashley replied, noting the page that she was on and closing the book. "I took it out of your room."

Ashley had always loved to read, and no matter where she lived she always considered the library a second home of sorts. Her wallet was stuffed with library cards from the various libraries she'd attended in the past few months, and when she'd walked past Fred's bedroom and had seen the book sitting on his desk, she hadn't been able to keep herself from stealing it and slipping away to read.

Fred noted that Ashley had already read more than he, then explained, "I just wanted to come tell you that dinner's just about ready."

Ashley nodded, then rose to her feet. Fred, eager to make a better start than he had earlier that day, blurted, "Listen, I wanted to apologize about Paul. He's not really as big a jerk as he must have seemed today. He's just a little bit impulsive, and doesn't always think things through."

"Hey, no big," Ashley replied. She kept her eyes downcast. Fred seemed like a nice guy, and he was extremely cute, but Ashley didn't want to get close to him, even as a friend. She'd trusted Ronald, and that had been a mistake, just like it had been a mistake for her to trust any of her foster families for the past two years. Things always turned out poorly, and she always ended up hurt.

The wind picked up, and the branches of the oak tree above began to shake. Undeterred by Ashley's coldness, Fred continued, "Anyway, Paul is a really nice guy, and I think you'll like him a lot once you get to know him. I can introduce you to more people at school tomorrow."

"Sounds great," Ashley responded, although she really didn't care about meeting guys. Above, the branches continued to thrash in the wind, until with a snap, one began to fall toward the couple.

As one, Fred and Ashley looked up to see the plummeting branch. The massive chunk of wood could easily crush them both, and it threatened to land squarely on their heads. While Fred clenched his hands in fear and began to back away, Ashley reacted on instinct.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she focused on pushing upward with her mind. She imagined some sort of force exploding upward from her mind and flinging the branch far away. When she opened her eyes, she saw the branch change its course, and abruptly sail to the right, landing harmlessly in Fred's open back yard.

Pleased with her effort but worried that she'd betrayed herself to her foster brother, Ashley looked to Fred, who had gone pale with fear but stared at her in surprise. "How. ." he began, then trailed off.

"That was weird, wasn't it?" Ashley bluffed. "For a second there, it looked like that branch was going to fall on us."

Fred continued to gape at Ashley. He blinked four times, then asked, "You did that somehow, didn't you?"

Ashley met his gaze for nearly a full second, then forced a bark of a laugh. "Did what?" she asked as she stepped around him. "I didn't even touch that branch. Come on, let's get some dinner before it gets cold."

………………………………...

After a dinner consisting of roast beef, mashed potatoes, buttery asparagus, and chocolate-chip cookies, Ashley sat in the living room with her new foster parents to watch the news. She wasn't very interested in the television reports, but she feared to see Fred alone.

Very few people knew the truth of Ashley's powers. Her biological mother had known- Ashley had begun to exhibit her telekinesis when she was eleven years old. Five months later, her mother had abandoned her.

Ashley had confided her secret to the first foster parents who had taken her in. Those parents had responded by having her see a psychiatrist three times a week before having her transferred to another foster family. Ashley learned quickly, and she soon made the association between telling people her secret and being driven away from those she loved.

Ashley wasn't particularly concerned about driving Fred away. He was just another foster brother; she was sure that in a few weeks, she'd be on her way to another foster home, just as soon as she lost control one day and shattered a window or tipped over a table.

However, she didn't want him to know her secret. Too few people knew, and he could try to use the information against her. Unwilling to think of a lie that night, Ashley remained with Fred's parents, confident that he wouldn't bring up her abilities before them.

She was right. Fred brought some homework into the kitchen and cast occasional glances at Ashley, but she pretended not to notice his silent pleas for her to talk to him alone. After watching television for a few hours, Heather rose from her seat to do laundry, and Frank Sr. mumbled something about being too old to stay up too late, and Ashley was left alone.

Mere moments after his parents had departed, Fred deposited himself on the couch beside Ashley. She glanced toward the laundry room, where Heather was too caught up in her laundry to pay attention to the conversation.

"What do you want?" Ashley sneered.

Fred, too, glanced at his mother before whispering his comment to Ashley. "I saw what you did. Deny it all you want, but I know you made that branch move so it wouldn't hit us."

"You're insane," Ashley complained, rising from her seat and stepping around him to shut herself in her room. Fred followed.

"All right, you want to keep it a secret," Fred called after her. Ashley tried to escape into her room, but Fred was a mere step behind her. "I don't really know why you'd want to hide something this cool, but listen, if you want me to keep quiet, your secret will die with me."

Sick of listening to his talk, Ashley spun around. "I know it'll die with you," she hissed. "I have powers. OK, I've admitted it. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

"I just. . ." Fred trailed off as he realized he wasn't sure what he wanted to get from the conversation.

"You're going to keep your mouth shut," Ashley continued. "One thing I've learned from traveling from foster home to foster home is how to protect myself when need be. You don't want to piss me off, Fred."

"All right," Fred replied. There was a tension in the air he'd never felt before, as if static electricity was waiting to pop. He turned around to leave, and found a chair floating above his head. If it were to drop, he wouldn't wake for a few hours.

"Get out," Ashley recommended.

Fred ran.

………………………………...

Fred climbed into the backseat of the car, for the front seat had been taken by Paul and Christie.

Tricia, an attractive junior on the cheerleading team, smiled as Fred's hand brushed against her hip in his attempt to buckle his seatbelt. "Is your foster sister sure she doesn't want to come along?" Paul called. "Sure, she doesn't have a date, but maybe she can meet a nice boy at the party."

"She doesn't want to come," Fred replied. He actually hadn't asked Ashley if she'd wanted to come to the party; he'd been afraid to speak to her since the incident in her bedroom.

"What a shame," Paul sighed. He then coughed, and amended, "Not that we're not going to have plenty of time with these beautiful women. Right, ladies?"

Christie laughed, then proclaimed, "I can't believe I let you drag me to this party. I could have been doing something cool with people my own age."

"Well, I don't mind hanging out with under-classmen," Tricia declared as she snuggled a little closer to Fred. "The guys in your class are so nice," she sighed.

Fred tried to search for a smooth reply. Tricia was very pretty and everything, but he had a crush on Christie, who was right in the front seat and would hear anything flirtatious he might try. Fred was saved from having to say anything, however, when Paul shouted a curse word.

A deer had wondered into the road. Paul didn't think, but simply honked his horn, and of course, the deer didn't move. At the last minute, he swerved, and hit a telephone pole. Sparks flew, the pole cracked, and crashed down onto the car. Fred heard a woman screaming, then passed out.

………………………………...

When he awoke, Fred's first thought was to wonder what was sticky and wet and touching his hand. He opened his eyes, and saw something wet, red , and sticky very close to his face. Fred started, and impulsively pushed it away.

Tricia's limp body fell against the side of the car, and open, glassy eyes stared at him.

Fred screamed, and abruptly stopped himself. "Paul?" he called, fighting panic. "Christie? Are you guys OK? Guys?"

Panic washed over Fred, and he hugged his arms to himself, feeling as though he'd invaded a crime scene. He was afraid to move, afraid to even breathe, but when he looked out his window, he saw the way sparks danced outside the still running car, and knew that if he stayed still much longer, he'd almost certainly die.

With shaking hands, Fred unbuckled his seatbelt and frantically pulled it off his shoulder. He backed away from Paul's totaled car, unable to believe what he saw, then spun around to assess his surroundings. Fred had driven down the country road countless times, but he'd never really seen it before that night.

Lights shown in the distance, and Fred knew the nearest house was maybe half a mile away. He began to run.

………………………………...

Although Fred ran the whole way, and couldn't have taken more than eight or nine minutes, he felt as though he'd wasted painful hours in his travel. He reached the front door, panting, and began to pound on it. "Mr. Mitchell? Mrs. Mitchell?" he called. "Are you home? Please let me in!"

When it became apparent that no one would let him in, Fred sagged against the door. Just as it seemed that he would have to admit defeat, he noticed that the Mitchells had left a window open.

Five minutes later, he fell to their kitchen floor. Feeling like a criminal, he crept through the darkened house, calling, "Mr. Mitchell? It's me, Fred, from down the road. Anybody home?" His gaze fell on the telephone on the wall.

………………………………...

Ashley sat at the kitchen table, scribbling at her homework when she heard the phone ring. She looked up, and considered answering, then decided against it. Even though she was living with the Flynns for the time being, she wasn't part of the family.

"Heather?" she called, aware that her foster father had been called in to work on a late-night emergency. "Phone!"

"Could you get it, Ashley?" Heather replied, stepping through the kitchen with arm-fulls of laundry. "Tell whoever it is that I'll be with him in a second."

"All right," Ashley chirped before flying across the room to answer the phone. It was already on its seventh ring- she hoped the caller wouldn't hang up. "Hello?" she gasped when she finally lifted the receiver.

"Mom?" gasped an all-too-familiar voice.

"Fred?" Ashley asked in surprise. "I thought you were on your way to a movie."

"I am. . I was," Fred panted. "Listen, there was a car accident. Everyone is hurt pretty badly. We hit an electric pole, and there are sparks everywhere. If we don't move the car, it's going to explode."

Ashley gasped. "Should I call an ambulance?" she demanded. "Wait, I'll get your mom."

"Ashley, no!" Fred called. He paused, wondering why he'd asked her to stop. He must have had a concussion or something, he didn't even know why he behaved as he did. "Listen, I don't want Mom to worry," he lied, "and I called an ambulance right before I called you, but I don't think they'll get here in time. The nearest town with a hospital is a half-hour away. I need to move the car now, though. I'm afraid to drag my friends out into the street, because they might have neck injuries or something. I need someone to move the car without actually driving it."

Ashley immediately recognized what he was asking her to do. "Where are you?" she asked.

"Just about two miles down the road from home," Fred answered.

"Even if I jog, it'll easily be almost an hour before I get there," Ashley complained.

"Then drive," Fred responded. "My mom keeps her car keys on the counter next to her purse. She's not going anywhere tonight, just tell her you'll be in your room doing homework, then leave. She'll never know."

Ashley's nerves made her stomach clench. She'd never stolen a car before, and she knew that if she got caught, she'd be moved into another foster home before the week was out. Of course, she hadn't really expected to stay with the Flynns anyway, and she couldn't let her own fear keep her from possibly saving lives.

"Give me directions to where you are," she said.

………………………………...

After hanging up the phone, Fred jogged back to the wreck. He looked around, but could see no headlights. Where was Ashley?

He heard a sound, started, and looked toward the car. Paul was awake, and looking at Fred. Fred ran to the side of the car, but didn't open Paul's door for fear that he would jar something. Instead, he shouted so that he could be heard through the closed window.

"Listen, buddy, we're going to be all right," he hollered. "Just hang tight, an ambulance will get here soon and get you taken care of."

Paul broke off when headlights painted the landscape. He turned, and saw his mother's car approaching. He ran into the road to meet it.

The car barely stopped before it crushed him, but after a second Ashley popped out the driver's side door. Her hands shook and she was nervous- she'd seen adults driving often enough that she'd thought the process looked simple enough, but the last five minutes had been some of the scariest of her life. She'd constantly been frightened that she was going to drive off the road, or get pulled over without her license.

As she stepped out of her car, she quickly assessed the situation. Things looked worse than she'd anticipated. A downed pole pinned Paul's car in place while flying sparks electrified the road around. It would take a great deal of concentration for Ashley to move the car without bringing the deadly pole along with it.

She observed her surroundings, then said, "I think I'll move it over there." She pointed toward an empty spot down the road. "That way, you'll be out of danger, but still close enough that you can say you hit the pole and skidded."

Fred nodded, then cupped his hands over his mouth to cry, "You're going to be all right, understand?" He doubted his friends could hear him, but he felt that he needed to say something."

"Quiet," Ashley muttered, concentrating too hard to care if she sounded brusque. "I need to concentrate."

She closed her eyes and pictured the wreck just as she'd seen it when she'd first arrived. She pictured the way the sparks had danced before her vision, and imagined a giant hand lifting the pole and the sparks and everything. A solid breeze held the danger aloft while another force pushed the car to safety. Sweat broke out on Ashley's forehead, but she continued her work, mindless of the effort she expended.

Finally, she was finished. Exhausted, she let the pole crash down rather than set it gently to the ground. Fred whooped with relief, and ran to the car, where Paul gaped at Ashley. Far away, the distant sound of ambulance sirens could be heard.

"Listen, I'm going to get out of here," Ashley called, starting toward Heather's car. "It would be too weird for me to try to explain why I'm here, and nobody can know that I'm driving a car I don't own without a license. Go ahead and call home once you get to the hospital. I'll pretend to be surprised."

"Ashley, wait," Fred called as his foster sister climbed into the car, but she didn't pause. Within a minute, she was gone.