Authors: M. Lathan
Tags: #Young Adult, #Romance
“Am I in your range?” I asked.
“At times. You have a strong shield, so it’s difficult. We need to keep tabs on your future for your safety, so we try every day to break through it. I can see long-range things like what you might be doing when you’re thirty, and Sophia is better at the day to day of your life. Which makes her a little more useful right now.”
“You can make predictions about my day?” I asked, turning around in my chair to see Sophia. She nodded. “How do you do it?”
“I guess I could show you,” Sophia said. “I haven’t done it today.”
Lydia tapped my hand. It was my turn. I guessed her move and looked back to Sophia. She closed her eyes, and her hands filled with yellow roses.
“Magic is so dramatic,” Lydia mumbled. I chuckled at her tone.
“Stop complaining and help me,” Sophia said.
Fire, from Lydia, I guessed, swirled around the roses and slowly caught the ends of the petals. The gentle burning sent whiffs of smoke into the air. Sophia stared at the forming cloud, like she could see something inside of it. She hummed and blew into the smoke. It swirled faster, and she leaned her face into the cloud.
“You’re not in danger tonight, but something will happen. I don’t know what it is.” She blew over the roses and scattered embers into the smoke. “It involves Nathan.” She gasped and snapped. The roses and the smoke vanished, and she pointed her finger at me. “You better not be planning on sleeping with him tonight!”
I felt myself melting out of the chair, but I hadn’t moved. I was too embarrassed to do anything. It was one thing for Sophia to freak out about sex when we were alone. But in front of Lydia Shaw! I could’ve died.
“Oh my God!” I said. “Is that really what you see in there?”
“No. I see something changing about your relationship, and I just assumed it would be that.” She gasped like something else had occurred to her. “Christine, I forbid it. If you accidentally have a child, I will lose my mind. I’d have to watch you around the clock so you don’t give them powers.”
“Enough, Sophia,” Lydia said. “Go in the other room and relax. Put your head between your legs or something. You are going nuts for no reason. Isn’t she, Christine?”
I babbled for a moment, looking guilty and confused and unsure of how Sophia had jumped to the topic of psychic children. “Nate and I haven’t …”
Lydia held up her hand, cutting off what was sure to be an awkward declaration of my virginity.
“You having children is not something we need to worry about. She’s jumping to conclusions as usual. Especially since I know you understand why you two need to be careful.”
She nodded her head slowly, instructing me to do the same.
A hunter was after me, and my children could have powers
magic. I more than understood why we needed to be careful. It would be seventeen years ago all over again, with Kamon playing the role of Julian and me playing the role of my mother.
“I haven’t seen much of your future, but I do know one thing. One part of your life is set because you’re sure of it. It seems like Nathan Reece will always be in your life. And I have seen that you will have children with names that begin with the letter N.”
I screamed and covered my mouth to muffle the rest of my celebration. It was exactly the future I wanted. I hadn’t thought about kids much, but I wanted to be with Nate forever and a family would come with that.
“I’m glad you’re happy, but remember there is a time for everything. And now is the time to be …what?”
“Careful,” I said.
And just like that, I’d had an impromptu sex talk with Lydia Shaw. It felt strangely appropriate for her to be the one to warn me. I guessed my kids would be her problem too if I gave them powers, needing to be watched and shown the way, and maybe even bound by her treaty.
It took a while for Sophia to relax, but when she did, she apologized for yelling at me. I thought my mother had caused her preoccupation with my nonexistent sex life, but now that I knew she was worried about me having shifting copies, I could forgive her for being a lunatic. I assured them again, as our chess game continued, that Nate and I would be careful … when we had a reason to be.
My lip shot out as I predicted what had to be Lydia’s final move. I saw her smirking in my head as she trapped my king. “Aw! I lose?”
She nodded and motioned me to move her winning piece. “Good. You’re a surprisingly fast learner. That should’ve taken us much longer.” I hunched my shoulders. We both knew why I was such a fast learner, but I wouldn’t dare call myself a copy again. “I guess it’s time for a pop quiz. Try the bird.”
I hopped to my feet, and her eyes told me to simmer down. I found my seat slowly.
“Make a fist,” she said. I did and held it out to her. “You need a firm thought and a vivid picture.”
I imagined the
in my hand, how hot it would be, the colors that would compose it.
I opened my hand and the bird fluttered out of it.
“Wonderful,” Lydia said. “Enlarge it. Remember to breathe, four seconds in, five seconds out. If I see a single drop of blood come out of your nose, you will run. Understand?”
I pouted, and she chuckled. I wanted to pout again so I could make
Lydia Shaw laugh again.
I inhaled slowly like she’d taught me. I imagined the flaming bird expanding. It obeyed me in a moment, stretching its wings over my head and changing from a humming bird to an eagle in the blink of an eye.
Sophia applauded, and Lydia told me to stand. She took my wrist and raised my right arm. “Pointing helps with control,” she said. She guided my hand in a circle, and we moved the bird around the gym. It soared faster and faster, a continuous streak of fire over our heads.
Then slower, calmer, beautiful and controlled.
Like my powers could be if I let them.
If I listened to her.
“We’ll do more of this tomorrow. And chess too,” Lydia said, still holding my wrist. For the oddest moment, I didn’t want her to let go.
Sophia pulled me into a hug and away from Lydia. She snapped and turned my eagle into smoke.
“Do you guys think … never mind,” I said.
“What?” Lydia said. I shook my head. I’d gotten too comfortable. I almost embarrassed myself. “Say what’s on your mind. I can’t read it and I’m curious.”
Interesting. I was faster than her, out of her range,
she couldn’t hear my thoughts. It made me wonder about my mother, what she would have become if she hadn’t quit or died. If I was born with her powers, it seemed like she would’ve been stronger than Lydia.
The thought of that curled my stomach and burned my chest. It didn’t set well; it felt … off and wrong and …
Lydia cleared her throat and pointed at the track. “Lost in our thoughts, are we?”
I shook my head frantically, desperate not to have to run again, and brought my attention back to my statement.
I bit my lip and eased my words out. “I was just wondering if … people who are dead could be proud of you,” I said.
“Without a doubt,” Lydia said, like she believed it with all of her heart, like she had a reason to.
I couldn’t stop rambling about Lydia at dinner. And I wasn’t finished, even after our plates were empty.
“So she just sat there, staring at me, waiting for me to make her next move,” I said.
“And you guessed it right every time?” Nate asked, humoring me.
“Yes, she did. And Lydia won,” Paul said.
I laughed. I’d come to that part of the story three times already.
“I’m glad you had a great day, Chris,” Emma said. She yawned and Paul’s head bobbed for the fifth time. “Sounds way better than cleaning a ballroom by hand. There were humans nearby and Devin wanted to be cautious.” That explained the pungent smell of bleach in the dining room.
“Our job is throwing a ball to kick off our trip. It’s in New York the night before we leave,” Nate said. “We sort of have to go. Devin asked if you wanted to come with us, but I said no. I’m sure Sophia and Lydia wouldn’t like that.”
"Of course not," I said. “But it was nice to be invited.”
I smiled, trying to show him that I was fine with him going to the ball without me. I’d be alone that night and sixty more after it … and that would be okay. It had to be. I would do my best not to lose myself and start any fires or kill any famous women.
“Em, did you get my mom’s message?” Paul asked. Pain flashed across her face, and she nodded slowly.
“The one about the hairpin I borrowed for my sixteenth birthday that she’s never asked about until now? Yes, I got that message.” Her voice was barely above a whisper.
“Sorry. Annabelle saw a picture of it and really wants to wear it to the ball. If you don’t mind.”
“Why would I mind? Tell her I’ll send it to her as soon as I find it.”
Em looked like she wanted to die.
“Thanks,” Paul said. “Are you bringing Louis?” She shook her head.
“He’s busy. Chris, can I borrow Nate?”
“Of course. Don’t kiss him too much.” She chuckled and winked at me. “Did I tell you guys about the birds?”
“Twice,” Paul said.
They laughed, and Nate put his arm around me. “You can tell me about the fire-eagle or whatever it was again, baby. Take a walk with me.”
We left Emma and Paul, and I hid
one of my hats as he opened the door. The setting sun turned the world a soothing orange. In perfect harmony with the beautiful sky, Nate grabbed my hand and held my palm to his mouth.
“Is it safe to assume you’ll be using your powers now?” he asked, when we made it to the sidewalk.
“Yeah. She thinks I should. She wants me to come back every day to practice with her to make sure I don’t zone out anymore. And I think … I think we’ll be friends.”
He hummed like that had impressed him.
“If you tell me that I shouldn’t worry, then I won’t. I guess this is best … since we’re … you know.”
“Less than two weeks,” I said.
We walked past our neighbor’s home, the farthest I’d ever been down our street. I finished telling him about Lydia for maybe the fourth time as we circled the
de sac, including informing him about our two future children who I’d named Naomi and Noah already.
“Is that it, Mrs. Reece? Sure you don’t want to tell me again?” he asked. I shook my head and laughed. “If you’re done, I want to talk about something. Devin needs me to get IDs for the trip. He said it’s safer if we get stopped by hunters.”
“We know Lydia. You’ll be fine.”
He hunched his shoulders and stopped walking. “I don’t know about that,” he said. “The hunters have never been this vicious before. Devin said ten thousand of our kind died today in Cuba. I don’t want to give them a reason to take me anywhere for questioning. They do that when you don’t have IDs. I might not make it back.”
I frowned and hugged him. I didn’t know if I should apologize on behalf of humans like me who made him and his people live in fear, especially in the last few days.
“Lydia said she’s going to stop it. It’s Kamon. She said not to worry.”
He shivered, but not in fear. His jaw tightened and anger flashed in his deep green eyes. This was not the Nate I knew. “I didn’t know it was Kamon.” And I didn’t know if that was privileged information or not. “I’m glad. If I see him on this trip, I’m going to-”
“Nate! No!” I pulled him closer by his collar. “You can’t fight Kamon. Last time…”
“Last time, I was weak. This time, I’d kill him. You’d be safe. My people would be safe.”
“Please,” I begged. It wasn’t that I didn’t think Nathan was strong. He was the strongest person in the world to me. But it was a different kind of strength. The strength it takes to pull a shattered girl together and teach her how to live and love, not the kind of strength to end Kamon. “I can’t let you go on this trip if you don’t promise me you’ll stay away from him if you see him.” He twisted his mouth and cut his eyes away from mine. “I’m not kidding, Nate!”
The moment grew too serious for us, like we were standing in uncharted lands without a map. Like I knew he would, he smiled and made a joke to bring us back to the familiar comfort of our lighthearted relationship.
“Sheesh, one day with Lydia Shaw and all of a sudden you’re bossy as hell!” I smiled and playfully punched his arm. “Okay. No fighting. I promise,” he whispered.
“One more heavy thing,” he said. I groaned. I’d had enough heavy for today. “The IDs. You know I hate asking for things, but since you’re going to be using powers now, I thought I’d ask for a favor.”
“Anything,” I said, looking down at our tangled hands, loving the look of them together.
He paused and traced circles on my palm, observing the moment with me. It was crazy how he always knew what to do and exactly when to do it.
He pecked my lips and continued.
“I want to visit John and Theresa. I could ask them for the truth and get my birth certificate. Anyway … I wanted to know if you would ask Sophia and Lydia if you could go with me.
For support and because they wouldn’t be able to lie to you.
Maybe not tonight, but some time before I leave.”
I squeezed his hand. He must’ve really needed this if he’d asked. He never asked me for anything. And he wanted to visit the parents he never mentioned. Hell was probably frozen solid underneath us.
“Of course,” I said. I pulled my phone from my back pocket and called Sophia right then. As per usual, she answered before the first ring ended.
“Sophia, can you ask Lydia if-”
“Hold on, love. She’s right here.”
Apparently, I knew her well enough to ask her things for myself now.
“Hi, Christine,” Lydia said.
“Hi. Um … can I meet Nathan’s parents? Tonight or … tomorrow?”
She hummed and clicked her tongue in the speaker, audibly thinking.
“Sure. I guess this is what Sophia saw in the smoke. Go tonight. Don’t call first. It will give them time to call the media if they wanted to. Just show up, and go straight there and back,” she said. “Remember what you learned today. If you use your powers, don’t strain. I’m not in the mood to go to the hospital tonight.” We both chuckled, and I heard Sophia’s phlegmy laugh in the background. “Call if you need me,” she said.
“I will. Bye.” Nate winced like he hadn’t expected the call to go that well. “Ready?” I asked him.
He groaned. “Taking my girl to meet the people who can’t be my real parents?” He sighed. “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”
He distracted himself with talk of horsepower and fuel efficiency during the
drive to his old house. It was about half the size of ours, but quaint, like a nice family lived inside. A black truck was parked in the front behind a white fence surrounding the neat lawn. The only odd
KEEP OFF THE GRASS
. One seemed like enough to get the point across.
Nate pulled up behind the truck. We sat in the car in silence for a while.
“Babe,” he finally said. “I should warn you. Theresa is kind of nuts.”
“Crazier than me?” I chuckled. He kept his eyes on the steering wheel and nodded. Not in the mood to joke.
I took my hat off and straightened my hair in the mirror, ready to greet his painful past. I held his trembling hand on the way to the door. He rang the bell, and the curtain pulled back in the window.
John opened the door, and I glued my arms to my side. I hated him instantly. It grew stronger as he looked Nate over and cleared his throat. “What do you want?” he asked. It was exactly what he was thinking, no filter used like most people.
He was about my height, a baby compared to Nate, with cold, dark eyes and gray hair. He was in no way the father of the love of my life. “I need to talk to you and Theresa,” Nate said.
If he thinks he’s moving back in, he has another thought coming
, John thought.
He sighed and opened the door to let us in. A chill crept over me as we stepped into their living room. Not a ghost.
An eerie feeling of unease.
Fear, maybe. Theresa walked into the room with an apron clinging to her bones, and my heart stopped.
She was frighteningly thin. Her collarbone jutted out of the neckline of her blue dress. She was barely there, barely living.
“Nathan? Hi.” She smiled, a genuine one, at both of us.
My God. He’s home
, she thought.
John’s not going to like this
“This is my girlfriend Christine,” Nate said.
“The one from TV. We know,” John said, plopping down in a leather chair. “Theresa made me watch you on the news. You’re a hotshot now, driving up in that fancy car.”
Again, he said the first thought that came to his mind.
Theresa held her emaciated hand out for me to shake. I took a deep breath, praying that I would control my powers, not the other way around.
He looks nice. Handsome and happy
, she thought.
I bet they live a nice life.
Her thoughts were happy, but that feeling hovering in the air, that fear, was
. I had the urge to stand up straight, enunciate my words, and be on my very best behavior.
“Nice to meet you,” I said. I dropped Theresa’s hand before her gloom pulled me under. I slouched my shoulders just because I could. It didn’t feel like she had the same luxury.
“I have some questions for you two,” Nate said.
Theresa tucked her thinning, dark hair behind her ear.
I gazed around the room. The pictures on the walls and shelves were of John. Just John.
John with a huge fish in his hands.
John at the Grand Canyon.
John reading in the same leather chair he was sitting in now.
Theresa offered us a seat on their yellow and brown plaid sofa. She sat on the small floral chair next to her husband who my powers revealed to be sixty-three, an accountant, from Maryland, the oldest of three siblings he never speaks to, and although he wasn’t much of a looker, he had two other women besides Theresa – Harriet and Veronica.
I moved my eyes to his wife to read her. She was the youngest of seven children and wasn’t allowed to speak to any of her family members. It had been two decades since her family had given up on her ever leaving John and coming around.
Most importantly, the biggest pain in her heart was that she was never able to have children.
“I’ll just get right to it,” Nate said. “Are you my biological parents?”
Nope, I could have answered that already.
John opened the newspaper on his lap, ignoring us. Theresa toyed with the apron she hadn’t taken off.
“Why would you question that?” she asked, in her frail voice.
“Oh … could it be that I left a year ago and you have never reported me missing
“Oh, Mr. Hotshot has come to yell at us,” John said, without dropping his newspaper. I wedged my hand behind Nate’s back, trying to calm him down. “He’s here, Theresa, you might as well tell him what you did so he can get out of my house for good.”
She looked over to her husband. It felt like she’d do anything to change his tone. Like she’d been trying to for years. I closed my eyes, letting myself float where my powers wanted to take me.
I saw Theresa in a different time.
A healthier one.
She stood at a kitchen counter wearing spiky heels with straps pressing painfully into her skin, meticulously cutting carrots. After each slice, she held it up to the light to inspect it. She threw away a few that didn’t measure up. John walked in and leaned over her shoulder. She froze, and he inspected her work.
I think you’re finally learning how to be a wife. Three years to train you, not bad
,” he said, laughing, but it didn’t sound like a joke. She smiled and finally took a breath.
?” she whispered. He stopped at the door and looked over his shoulder. “
Have you given any thought to what I asked? About us trying to have a baby