Authors: M. Lathan
Tags: #Young Adult, #Romance
I’d slept most of the day away and missed two meals. I made another sandwich after devouring the one Sophia left. After stealing an oatmeal pie from a box clearly labeled with Paul’s name, I made the huge mistake of looking out of the window.
“What am I going to do with that thing?” I said, rolling my eyes at the car. I sort of knew before I asked. Finding the keys for
new car and throwing on a hat, I went outside. I hopped in the driver’s seat and stared at the key, wondering where the hell I was supposed to stick it. “
,” I said, pressing the obvious START button, but nothing happened.
I opened the manual and read up on my new car. It didn’t really instruct me on how to drive it … but how hard could it be? I pressed the brake and started the engine. I fiddled with the shift, testing the different directions and pretending I was shifting gears in a
. With the tips of my toes, I barely tapped the gas, and the car flew backwards out of my driveway and into the yard across the street. I banged into something and slammed on the brake.
“Hey!” I tugged my hat down over my eyes and pressed the window button. “You okay?” The older man squatted so that he was at eye level with me.
“Did I kill anyone?”
He laughed. “Yeah … my trashcan.” When I calmed down, I heard his thoughts, human and open to me with no effort. It felt odd hearing thoughts again; my house was silent and the bowling alleys and arcades we’d gone to had been mostly emptied out for my safety. Thankfully, he didn’t recognize me from the news. In his thoughts, I heard that his daughter had done the same thing when she was my age. He wondered if poor driving was a curse of young girls in expensive cars.
“Let me guess. Your parents just got you this and you have no clue what you’re doing.” I nodded, lying. “Okay. I’ll get you back across the street until they get home. I haven’t met them. I’m always gone on business. I hope they don’t think I’m antisocial.”
“No. It’s fine. They don’t think that. They … uh … work too.” I didn’t know why I didn’t just tell him they were dead. That wasn’t a secret. It was public knowledge, actually. I guessed I just wanted to pretend they were alive for a while.
“Tell them you need driving lessons, okay?”
I watched him pick up his dented trashcan through the side mirror.
“Okay, honey,” he said, back at the window. “Put it in drive.” It took me two tries and a few chuckles from him to get there. “Ease slowly off of the break.”
“I don’t know about that…”
“Trust me. Lift your foot slowly.” I did, and the car rolled forward, less like an uncontrollable bull this time. “Good. Now give the gas a tiny, tiny tap.” I squealed and nudged the gas. He walked with my slow-moving car until I made it safely to my driveway. “Now park it until you get driving lessons. My daughter said it is better to go with your dad than your mom. We tend to nag less.”
“Thanks. I’ll go with my dad.” I waved, and he ran back to his house. “No, I won’t.”
I punched the steering wheel, suddenly pissed about hunters ruining my life and killing everyone who would’ve been important to me. Given how hard CC and Raymond loved each other, I would have grown up smothered with it.
I’d bet Nate would have made his way to New Orleans, where I would’ve been raised, led there by his soul that was destined to find mine.
I wouldn’t be hiding from Kamon or waking up in hospitals or planning séances to speak with my own parents.
I locked the car and went back into the house. My heart pounded hard enough to drown out the world. I didn’t know if my vision was blurry from tears or the sudden rage fuming inside of me.
“I hate him,” I said, slamming the front door behind me, like Kamon was my only problem. I guessed he was the only person I could be upset with. Julian was dead and Remi was brainwashed.
I headed for the stairs but landed in my studio, accidentally shifting my surroundings with a thought.
Trying to calm myself and get a grip on the powers I didn’t want to use, I grabbed paintbrushes from the supply shelf that were cleaner than I’d left them yesterday.
I thought of things to paint – flowers, trees, anything calming – but Kamon’s face wouldn’t leave my mind. My chest went up in flames as I remembered his voice, from the chapel and from my dream last night. The hateful side of me wanted him dead.
Then it would be over, and I would be free to go where I wanted, be what I wanted, without fearing someone would capture me, copy me, or make me fulfill a destiny I didn’t want.
I shivered and threw the paintbrushes to the floor, pissed at myself for wasting murderous energy on silly little girls. I would give anything for Kamon to meet Leah. His bones wouldn’t be safe. His home wouldn’t be safe. They’d all be ash if she had her way.
“Chris!” Nate yelled.
I opened my eyes, but I couldn’t see a thing. Thick smoke poured into my lungs and clouded my vision. I coughed violently. My chest was heavy like I’d been breathing tainted air for a while.
I didn’t remember sitting, but I was on the floor.
“Ouch,” I said, as I scraped my hand on what felt like shattered glass.
Nate picked me up and carried me to my room. He sat on my bed with me in his lap.
” he yelled.
“Why are you home?” I asked.
“It’s 4:30. What happened?”
I hadn’t felt those hours pass.
“We put the fire out,” Paul said.
Fire? I ran across the hall to my studio. Smoke flooded out of the door and the new hole in the wall where three huge windows used to be. The sand-colored floorboards were charred, especially along the left wall. I held my breath as I brought my eyes up to my mother’s paintings. They still hung on the walls, untouched but surrounded by the clearing smoke. I crept towards the opening and peered into our backyard. The shattered glass covering the bushes and grass gleaned in the light.
I turned back to my friends. The three of them were huddled in the corner, around a pool of red paint.
Red footprints led away from it and to the window where I stood. I lifted my foot. The bottom was covered in paint. So were my hands. I didn’t remember touching paint today.
“Chris,” Emma said. “What happened?” I hunched my shoulders. I really had no clue, but it was frighteningly obvious that I’d smashed the windows and started the fire. I had been thinking about hurting Kamon, breaking his bones and burning his chapel down, and had accidentally broken and burned things in my studio, painfully close to my mother’s artwork. “You could’ve hurt yourself,” Emma said. “What if we hadn’t come home?”
I supposed I would’ve sat there in a trance while my house burned down.
“I thought we had a deal,” Nate said. “I thought you weren’t going to scare me anymore.” He pulled me to his chest, and I whispered an apology into his shirt. “What’s going on with your powers? You were fine until yesterday.”
“I don’t know. I was upset, but I don’t remember doing this.”
I took another glance at my mother’s paintings, wondering how I’d managed to miss them. The marks on the floor looked like a fireball had started in the right corner of the room by the supply shelf and fanned out before smashing through the wall.
“I feel like scum for going on the trip now,” Nate said. “First, the seizure. Now this.”
“Me, too,” Emma said.
“Me, three,” Paul said.
felt like scum. They were going to make thousands on the mission trip. It wasn’t a lot of money to me, but to them, it was everything, and now I was complicating it for them.
“I’m fine. Don’t worry,” I said.
Nate carried me to my bathroom and started the shower. I passed the mirror and cringed at the red paint splattered all over my face and hair. I looked wild and unstable. I couldn’t tune out my own intrusive thoughts. If I could smash three windows and set a fire without realizing it, could I also take a life and not remember a thing after? If I weren’t cognizant of it, it didn’t matter how much I liked Lydia. I wouldn’t be in control of myself.
“Nate, the dream…”
“It was just a dream,” he said. “You know you would smell weird to me if you were capable of killing Lydia Shaw or anyone. Please don’t worry.”
He was right. Even if I couldn’t trust what I thought I knew about myself, I could trust his nose. He could detect the slightest change in my mood. He knew me. He’d know if there was a murderer lurking inside of me.
I heard Nate just outside of the door when I stepped out of the shower. It felt like he was afraid to leave me unsupervised. He’d put a pair of sweats and a t-shirt on the counter for me. I left them there, wrapped myself in a towel, and changed into real clothes in the closet.
“It’s your birthday,” I said. “We’re going out for dinner.”
“I’m not in the mood,” he said.
“I’m not ruining this day more than I already have. Please. Get dressed.”
Like I was two years old, he pulled me by my wrist, walked me to Emma’s room, and left me with my next sitter. She was sifting through the pile of laundry on her bed.
“I called Sophie,” she said.
“I figured you would.”
“She’s on her way.”
“I figured she would be.”
She threw on a navy blazer with her jeans and adorned it with a pink scarf. I must’ve looked plain, because she tossed me a yellow one to put on over my white shirt,
carefully clasped a silver bracelet around my wrist without touching my skin once.
My eyebrows yanked together when Emma passed in front of her television. She usually watched MTV or VH1, but her channel was set on CNN. Maybe working for the Peace Group was to blame. I guessed being in the middle of extreme poverty all day would force you to grow up. Or maybe it was because the boy she usually played mind games with had left the court and joined another team, leaving a more adult, news-watching Emma in the place of the old one.
She misted herself with fruity perfume and tossed it to me to do the same.
“That’s so gross,” she said, pointing to the screen I was still watching. The image was of a bloody mess in the ocean off of the Gulf coast of Florida. “It’s been there for days. The fish have gone crazy. Your
news guy said they’re killing each other.”
She was referring to Ken, the primary reporter during my disappearance. I cringed at the close-up of the water. She was right … those fish were out of their minds. Their dismembered pieces floated and slushed in the waves. The headline had a different theory –
the contagion that swept through Sololá was now in the water.
“Good thing there’s not really a virus, right?” I said. She chuckled and nodded. “And since when do you watch the news?”
“Since everyone at work is an expert on current events. I don’t want to look like the idiot who can only discuss what happened on
The Real World
I chuckled, and Sophia announced herself in song, high-pitched and slightly off key. “My love?” She’d walked into the wrong room.
“In here,” I said.
She smiled and came over to Emma’s bed and gave me a silver cup, the size of a shot glass. Green liquid slushed inside.
“Drink this. It’ll turn your powers down. Not off like last night, but enough for you to enjoy yourself and not worry about anything happening.” I tossed the warm potion back, wondering if I could drink it every day, all day, to stop myself from burning my house down or worse. “I put a license plate on your car and got you insurance, for when you learn.” I hadn’t even talked to her about the car. Maybe Emma had or … she’d used her powers to stay a step ahead of us as usual. “Paul has the keys. He’ll drive tonight. The restaurant is in town.”
“Yes!” he said at the door. “Slowly but surely, that car will be mine.”
Sophia chuckled and kissed my forehead. “I’ll clean up in there, okay? You are not to worry. Have fun with your friends.” Nathan stepped into the room, and Sophia walked to him with open arms. “Happy Birthday, sweet boy. Don’t stay out too late. You all have work tomorrow, and Christine…” She released Nate from her rocking hug and turned to me. “You have a meeting tomorrow morning.”
“With?” I asked.
My heart sank. Usually, hearing that name would
me, but after the dream and losing my mind in my studio, I couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying than Lydia wanting to meet with me.
“Why does she have to see her?” Nate asked, probably sensing my silent panic.
“She wants to talk about some things,” Sophia said.
“What if she doesn’t want to go?” he asked.
Sophia cleared her throat. “It isn’t exactly voluntary.” Not voluntary? So Lydia Shaw didn’t
to talk to me. She was demanding to. That was much worse. “Now get going. I want everyone in bed by midnight.” She shooed us out of Emma’s room. “In your
beds by midnight,” she added as we headed down the stairs.
During the drive to the restaurant, Emma texted me while she sat a foot away. Her new crisis, which she couldn’t discuss in her room for fear of Paul overhearing, distracted me from my eventful evening. His new girlfriend, Annabelle, had joined the Peace Group today so she wouldn’t have to spend two months away from him.