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Authors: Lisa McMann

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BOOK: Going Wild
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CHAPTER 18
A Mind of Its Own

T
he entire Wilde family planned to get up early the next day so they could tackle the boxes in the garage. Charlie set her phone alarm for 7:00 a.m. and was in a deep sleep when it went off. The music blasted at top volume, and Charlie almost jumped out of bed. She lunged blindly for the phone to silence it, and then she collapsed into her pillow again and rested there for a moment, catching her breath. When she got over the shock and remembered who she was and what day it was, she turned on her bedside lamp and looked at her phone. The screen was cracked.

Charlie gasped. “Oh no!” Her wrist was warm under the bracelet. Her strength had returned. But her phone! Luckily it hadn't shattered, and it still worked. But she'd have some explaining to do when her parents found out. She'd only had the phone since the beginning of sixth grade, and her parents had warned her that if she lost it or broke it, they wouldn't replace it, so she'd better be careful. She'd done so well with it—until now. That stupid bracelet was going to make her look really irresponsible if she wasn't careful. She had to find the tools today so she could get the thing off.

Until then she would have to be very careful not to break anything else. From that point on, Charlie tiptoed around the house trying not to touch anything, which was very hard to do, and also made her look weird. She cringed when she pictured herself trying to handle anything fragile. Today was about to get interesting.

After breakfast Charlie and Andy headed out to the garage while their parents cleaned up the dishes.

“I'll start with my stuff,” Charlie said, thinking that if she broke anything, nobody else would have to know about it. When Andy opened the door, Charlie darted around him. Apparently her speed had returned, too.

“What the—” Andy said. “Um,
excuse me
.”

“You're excused,” Charlie replied with a smug grin. She forced herself to walk carefully through the aisles to the back where her boxes were. A few sat open from when she'd searched for her soccer equipment, and the empty package that had held the bracelet was there, too. Charlie picked it up and examined it for a second time. It was just as she remembered. No return address. And no other clues.

Charlie pulled the note from inside, reread it, and tried to figure out whose handwriting it could be. She had to admit that none of her friends wrote like that—all loopy and old-fashioned—but maybe they had their parents send it or something. She pulled out her phone and texted Amari carefully so she wouldn't crack the screen further. “Hi! I miss you!”

“Ack!” came the reply. “At the Laundromat with my dad. Pipes froze, and the one connected to the washer exploded and flooded the basement—you shoulda seen it.”

“Yikes!” wrote Charlie.

“Yeah, it's a mess—check my photos online. How are you?”

“Better. I was wondering if anybody from the team might have said something to you about that bracelet I mentioned.”

“Nope. But why don't you just group text?”

“Okay, yeah. Good idea.”

Charlie started a group message with all her friends from her old school, which kept her phone buzzing with replies for the next several minutes. It was fun to hear from everybody, but they fired lots of questions at her about how she was liking the new school.

“Ahem!” Andy called from the opposite corner of the garage. “You're not getting much done over there.”

Charlie abandoned the flurry of responses and questions, and put her phone and the note that had accompanied the bracelet into her pocket. “Worry about your own junk.” She discarded the packaging and gingerly lifted the top box from one of her stacks. It was filled with outdoor things: jump rope, skateboard, sidewalk chalk from when she was five—stuff like that. She moved the box to the corner since it would stay out here.

She peeked at the next two and found clothing in them. Keeping them stacked, she carried them both into the house. Andy passed her in the kitchen on his way back to get another load.

“Must be full of feathers,” Andy said, pointing to her load.

“Like your head,” replied Charlie.

Andy made a face and skirted around her. “Why are you walking so weird?”

“Why are you even allowed in the house?” Charlie said, and then they both cracked up. Andy was annoying sometimes, but he could take an insult as easily as he could give it, and that was cool.

Charlie continued on methodically, worried about bumping into things for fear of breaking something. She saw her parents coming down the stairs to get more boxes and let them pass before she went up to her room.

“That's the way,” her mom said approvingly. “We'll have this done by lunch if you keep that up.”

“If we get pizza again, I'll pass,” Charlie muttered. She never thought she'd be tired of fast food, but after a week of mainly eating takeout, Charlie longed for her dad's special recipes. Maybe he'd be able to cook something now that it was the weekend.

In her room she emptied the boxes of clothes into her dresser drawers, broke down the cardboard, and went back to the garage.

Andy made a few more obnoxious remarks while she continued unpacking. Her phone buzzed continuously with responses from her friends, all saying they didn't know anything about the bracelet and asking even more questions, so she kept having to stop to answer. As much as she liked hearing from them, she wished she had picked a different time to text everyone. She let the phone
vibrate while she took another trip up the stairs.

Every time she passed Andy, he made another remark about the way she was opening doors or moving boxes. It had been funny the first few times, but now it was starting to get annoying. He didn't know when to quit.

Once Charlie finished with her unpacking, she started on the containers marked Linen Closet, figuring there wasn't much in them she could break. As their parents began carting some furniture inside, Andy returned to the garage. “Oooh, you moved all the feathers one at a time, and now you've graduated to washcloths. Congratulations!”

Charlie sighed impatiently as she opened a large plastic storage container of throw pillows. “Seriously, Andy. Shut it.” Her phone continued to vibrate like crazy in her pocket, so she stopped and yanked out the phone, remembering at the last moment to be gentle turning it off so she wouldn't destroy it. It was growing increasingly frustrating to be so careful with every move.

“My mistake,” Andy said sarcastically. “Not washcloths. Pillows. Don't break your back lifting too many of those—”

“Enough already!” Charlie impulsively grabbed a pillow and launched it at him. It whizzed through the air and struck Andy in the stomach, sending him soaring into a stack of boxes.

“Oof!” said Andy. The boxes were heavy. The top one slid and teetered, then fell off the pile. Files spilled out over the garage floor.

Charlie's hand flew to her mouth, but she soon relaxed when she realized Andy wasn't hurt.

Andy lay there for a minute, dazed, and then sat up and stared at her. “Sorry. Gosh.”

Charlie gaped and went over to him as heat pulsed around her wrist. And then a small smile tugged at her lips. “I warned you, ya little butt squeak,” she said. Holding back a laugh, she thought about throwing another pillow, but instead she carefully gathered up the files, straightened their contents, and put them back.

Talos Global—Charles's Study, she read on the side of the box. Her dad's old work stuff. She lifted the box and set it back on the stack. When everything was neatly put away again, she went back to the container of pillows and carried it—very delicately—into the house.

Maybe this bracelet was worth keeping after all.

CHAPTER 19
A Broken Promise

A
s mysteriously as the powers had come, they were gone. By Sunday Charlie was pretty sure that the bracelet was functioning only when it turned her arm warm, but she still didn't know how to trigger it.

Andy had acquired a sudden new respect for his older sister, which was an added bonus because he stopped bugging her when he was bored. Charlie's group text messages with her friends back in Chicago eventually lessened, and once Charlie had time to reply she had a lot of fun catching up with everyone. Chatting with them made her a little homesick, but it was nice to be able to tell them a little bit about where she lived now. Once she'd learned that none of them had sent the bracelet, Charlie called her grandma to see how she was doing, and ask if she had dropped the bracelet off.

But Grandma hadn't done it either.

Charlie called Maria to update her. “Still no idea who gave this to me,” Charlie said, talking softly in her room so nobody would overhear.

“That's so weird,” said Maria.

“Yeah,” said Charlie. “I found the garden toolboxes, so I'm
going to try to cut the thing off this morning.” She nibbled at her bottom lip, wondering if her new friend wanted to get together but not quite daring to ask outright. “So, do you have a lot of stuff going on later?”

“We always have a big family lunch on Sundays,” said Maria. “My stepbrothers are here until three, then they go to their mom's. I'm free after that. Want me to text you? Maybe we can hang out.”

“That would be great,” said Charlie happily.

“Cool, I'll check in with you later!”

They hung up.

Charlie slunk around the house to see where everybody was. Andy was working on an old Lord of the Rings Lego set that he'd unearthed during the unpacking, which would keep him busy in his room for hours. Mom was at the hospital for who knew how long. And Dad was holed up in his study with the door closed, working on lesson plans for the coming week. Charlie finally had a chance to open the toolboxes and dig around to try to find something that would cut through the bracelet.

She found a wire cutter, but it barely left a scratch. In the crate of yard tools there was a branch cutter, but it didn't do anything either. The stronger, more elaborate cutting tools she found were too big or too heavy to give Charlie a decent grip on their handles since she could only use one hand. Not to mention the blade points were sharp enough that they made her think twice about pressing them against her skin. She didn't care how quickly she could
heal—those suckers could really hurt if her grip slipped!

Out of options, she gave up. The bracelet would have to stay. Despite its disasters, Charlie had also seen some of its benefits, like keeping Andy in check. So she wasn't totally disappointed about it. Maybe it could help her in other ways, too, if she could ever figure out how it worked.

With no homework to do and Maria busy for at least another hour, Charlie grabbed her soccer ball and went to the vacant football stadium near school to run drills and to see if she could activate the bracelet. But no matter how hard she tried to get her speed ability to turn on, it wasn't happening.

After a while Charlie's cell phone vibrated. It was a text from Maria. “Come to my house! Let's do some research.” A second text gave Maria's address and directions on how to get there.

Charlie studied the directions, oriented herself, and realized she was almost halfway there already.
Research, huh?
she wondered. She wasn't sure what Maria had in mind, but she was curious to find out.

She dribbled the soccer ball to the path, texting her dad as she went along to let him know where she'd be. When he gave the okay, Charlie picked up her pace and soon found herself in a neighborhood on the other side of the school, walking up the driveway to Maria's house.

She rang the doorbell. There was a series of thumps coming from inside, and then an intense amount of barking. Maria opened
the door and commanded two large dogs to sit. They obeyed, unlike Jessie, who didn't bark much but always jumped on people. Charlie wasn't positive what kind they were, but she thought the brown-and-black one looked like it was part German shepherd, and the other had the distinct red coat and floppy ears of an Irish setter.

“Come on in!” Maria said. In a softer voice she asked, “Are you doing okay? Anything horrible happen since I saw you last?”

Charlie put a fist out for the dogs to sniff and showed Maria her cell phone. “You could say that.”

“Yikes,” Maria said. “How'd you do that?”

Charlie grimaced. “Turning off my alarm yesterday morning.”

“You broke your screen just touching it?” Maria asked. “No luck cutting the bracelet off, I see.”

“Nope.” Charlie looked around Maria's house. It was cozy and warm, painted in a palette of browns and tans, and furnished with the kind of traditional Southwest design that Charlie was still trying to get used to: horseshoes and cowboy hat throw pillows, brown leather furniture, small potted cacti. As Maria led Charlie through the house, she could hear the clatter of pots and pans. The warm scent of spices lingered in the air. They entered the kitchen, where three adults were cleaning up on the other side of a large island.

“Mamá,” said Maria with a hint of an accent. “This is my new friend, Charlie, I told you about.” She straightened and pushed in
the bar stools as she talked. “Charlie, this is my mom, Maytée; my stepdad, Ken; and my grandmother, Yolanda.”

The older woman said something to Maria that Charlie couldn't understand.


Si,
Abuela,” said Maria. She turned to Charlie. “Grandma's visiting from Puerto Rico.”

“We're so pleased to meet you,” said Maria's mother, who was very pretty and looked like a grown-up Maria. Her hair was black and silky, and hung straight down to the middle of her back.

“Pleased to meet you,” echoed Maria's equally striking grandmother with a bright smile and a heavy accent. She waved her dish towel in greeting.

“Welcome,” said Ken warmly. “Are you hungry? We have leftovers—unless Mac ate them all.”

“Oh,” said Charlie, pleased and a little overwhelmed by how friendly Maria's family was. “Thank you! I already ate lunch. It's nice to meet you too.”

“Come on,” said Maria. “I'll show you my room.” She ushered Charlie through the dining room and down a hallway to the last door on the left, and hesitated in front of it. She touched the handle but didn't open it. “Um . . . there's something I should probably tell you. I hope you don't mind,” she said, looking guilty.

“Mind what?” asked Charlie.

Maria pushed open the door, and Charlie looked inside. Mac was sitting at Maria's desk, holding an iPad.

Charlie was confused. Why would Maria think she'd mind Mac being there? But then her lips parted, and a wave of dread came over her. She gripped the doorframe and turned to Maria, fire in her eyes. “Did you tell him?” she whispered. She could feel the wood starting to give way under her fingertips.

Maria bit her lip and nodded. “Yes. I'm sorry. I hope you're not too mad.”

Mac turned around in the chair. “Hey, Charlie,” he said.

Mad? Charlie was absolutely furious. Betrayed by the only person who knew the truth—her friend who said she could keep a secret, not tell the whole world! The bracelet grew hot on her forearm as a jumble of emotions built up inside her. She closed her eyes and, with effort, loosened her grip on the cracking doorframe and clenched her fists at her sides. She couldn't destroy anything else. Not even the house of a traitor.

BOOK: Going Wild
10.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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