Authors: M. Lathan
Tags: #Young Adult, #Romance
, I replied.
How was she?
Nice, charming, excellent potato scooping skills.
She sounds like a skank! I’ll hate her with you.
We laughed and the boys looked over their seats to us. The light moment seemed to give everyone a license to enjoy the night. I did my best to shake out of the fog, but I went in and out.
The restaurant was mostly empty, Lydia’s doing. I finished half of my spicy buffalo burger and tried to keep up with the conversation that never seemed to move away from their boss, Devin, and how great he was.
I couldn’t stop thinking about my involuntary meeting.
“Sophia will be there,” Nate whispered to me. He took a bite out of his green olive burger as I stared at him, waiting for him to expound upon that. “Sophia will probably be at the meeting with you tomorrow. I’m sure it will be fine. You’ll discuss whatever it is she wants to discuss and go home.”
His tone was more hopeful than certain.
“What if she wants to talk about the fact that my powers are dangerous and unstable?” I asked.
He didn’t answer. He just stared at me without blinking until our waitress brought out a cake that Sophia had obviously set up beforehand. We sang to him, and he blew out his eighteen candles with a huge smile on his face.
“I wished for you to come on the trip with me,” Nate said.
“I could try, but I wouldn’t get very far.” I chuckled, imagining Sophia catching up to the bus and dragging me off of it. “She treats me like a psychotic baby that might hurt itself or someone else.”
I’d meant that as a joke, but it was too true to be funny. His body stiffened next to me, and he took another bite out of his burger like nothing was wrong. That was what stressed looked like for Nathan, too still, purposefully calm.
At home, I presented him with a better birthday gift – the two paintings I’d finished and managed to not ruin in my tirade. He leaned one against the wall by his little kitchen and the other by his bed. He walked away, then back to it, and adjusted it in its temporary spot like it mattered. I laughed. Over the past three months, I’d also noticed that Nate was a tiny bit
. He wasn’t excessively clean, but he liked things to stay in a weird order and exactly where he put them.
He thanked me with a sweet kiss, and went into his kitchen. He came back with a tiny vial of green liquid and sat it on his nightstand.
“Just in case,” he said.
We lay in each other’s arms without uttering a word or mentioning the obvious – that I needed Sophia’s version of kryptonite to sleep in the bed with my boyfriend, and that Lydia Shaw probably wanted to discuss that very thing in the morning.
At 6:30, I crawled out of his arms and turned off the
alarm – my signal to go to my room before she got here and freaked out about us being in bed together.
I was close to passing out as I stared into my closet. What do you wear to a meeting with a famous assassin?
I went with a light blue dress with a lace collar. I was going for innocent.
I couldn’t imagine what the house smelled like to Nate over breakfast. Everyone was on edge. Paul didn’t say a single joke, and Emma had nervously brought up her sister. She always blurted out something about Edith when she was in a panic.
“Technically, Lydia Shaw didn’t kill my sister. She left the decision up to the magical council, and
killed my sister.”
“Not that this situation has anything to do with that,” Nate said, shaking his head at her. “It’s just a meeting. My girlfriend is not a murderer.”
I cleared my throat. “Just attempted,” I said, thinking of my darkest moment in the first floor bathroom at St. Catalina. Their eyes looked like they could’ve fallen out and rolled onto the table. “That was supposed to be funny.”
They all faked chuckles, which made the moment even tenser than it was before.
Sophia blew in like a fresh summer breeze, smiling and kissing everyone, twice on both cheeks.
“Have a wonderful day, loves,” she said to them while pulling my chair away from the table. Nate stood and clutched me in a long hug.
“It’ll be fine,” he whispered into my ear before Sophia snapped us out of the room.
We landed in a hallway with shiny silver walls and black tile. In a way, it reminded me of Lydia’s apartment – elegant and so neat that I’d be too afraid to spill something and cause the one strand of chaos in the rigid order.
“Nervous?” she asked, as calm, mundane music hummed in the hall.
“Don’t be, love.”
She pressed her hand against a sensor on the wall. A green light flashed, and a door opened in front of us.
“Sophia, there’s annoying construction outside. Will you do something about it, please?” Lydia said, over the speakers.
“Can she see us?” I asked.
“No. The scanner tells her who opened the door.”
We walked into an empty waiting area decorated with the flags of different countries. I had assumed Lydia worked in Paris since she lived there. I looked out of the window and saw the unmistakable landscape of New York City.
“I’m going to go see what I can do about the noise that’s bothering her. Go through that door. I’ll be in in a minute.”
Sophia took an elevator down, instead of using magic. The humans who believed witches were extinct would probably die if she popped in out of nowhere.
I knocked on Lydia’s door, my heart thumping in my throat.
“Come in,” she said. I pulled on the handle and stepped inside. She turned around in her chair with a phone to her ear. If her voice made me frantic, I didn’t have a word for what seeing her in person did.
She looked up at me for a second then back to her desk. “Prime Minister, I am confident in our abilities to stop the attacks. What happened in Guatemala and Cuba will not happen again.” Attack
? Cuba? “We are well on our way to ending this. I would love to chat more, but I apologize, something just came up. I will have to call you back. Thank you.” She groaned, pressed a button on the phone on her desk, and leaned back in her chair. “Sophia, are you out there? If you can hear me, come in here. I need you.”
“She went outside,” I said. “I think she did, anyway.” Lydia sighed and looked up, but not exactly at me.
Through me, actually.
“Something happened in Cuba?”
She didn’t answer me.
“Door opened. Sophia Ewing,” a feminine, robotic voice said.
“Sophia,” Lydia said, on the speaker again. “I’m having a headache.
A special one.
Make me something for it.”
Sophia flashed into the room and placed a bottle of water in front of Lydia. She stared at it like it wasn’t what she wanted. “Christine, would you like some water before you two talk?” she asked.
I shook my head.
Lydia finally looked at me, and the delicate features of her face lifted. “Is today … Thursday?” she asked.
“Wednesday. You asked me to bring her here today,” Sophia said.
“I’m sorry. I can come back tomorrow if you’re busy,” I said.
Lydia smiled. “No. I have time. I was just … confused for a moment. I told Sophia to bring you tomorrow, but she must have not realized it was Wednesday for me already when I said that.”
“My apologies,” Sophia said.
Lydia stood and brushed the creases sitting had caused on her figure-hugging, calf length, black dress. She towered over me in her pumps, forcing me to look up at her and idolize her even more.
“Reschedule my next three appointments for tomorrow morning starting at eight,” she said, still smiling at me. I had to smile back. “Make sure you get the day right this time.”
Sophia rolled her eyes and kissed my cheek. She walked to the door, and I panicked.
“You’re leaving me?” I asked.
“Yes, dear. Just for a moment. I have friends coming in from Cuba to stay with me. I need to drop in to say hi. I will be back in a few minutes. I promise.”
People Sophia knew, probably magical kind, were leaving Cuba. Something had obviously happened there, like Guatemala.
Lydia smiled harder when Sophia left, yanking my attention from the attacks to her beautiful teeth. I didn’t think I was ever going to get used to seeing her this way. Not all stern and serious like she was portrayed in my history books. I hoped that smile would stay there throughout this meeting.
She walked over to a sitting area in the corner of her office. I took the chair across from her, nervous and slightly giddy.
“I invited you here months ago. Why haven’t you taken me up on my offer?”
“I thought you needed time to help Remi,” I said. “How is she, by the way?”
She sighed, and I didn’t dare look at her, fearing the sting of her disapproving expression.
“We had a deal. And I didn’t ask you to come here to talk about a girl you only knew for a few days before she almost had you killed.” I looked at my feet, hearing how stupid I sounded to care about Remi so much. “I want to talk about
. Something’s going on with your powers, and I feel like it’s my job to stop it.”
My heart pounded in my throat, and I had to force myself to breathe. My lungs refused to move on their own.
A book flew from her shelf and hovered over her hand. It rotated on its spine, its pages fanning back and forth with the motion. “Do you understand how this works?” she asked, nodding to the twirling book.
I shook my head. I didn’t know anything about psychic powers other than the horror stories Nate had told me.
“It’s simple. There’s nothing more powerful than the human brain. Not weapons. Not magic. It is capable of so much more than most humans use it for. Blue monkey.”
“Huh?” I asked, wondering if I’d missed something she’d said.
“I said, ‘blue monkey’. What are you thinking of?”
“A blue monkey, actually.” It was hopping around in my head. I could even hear it shrieking.
“All humans can imagine things, like being at the beach when they are really at work. But imagination is only a fraction of what the brain can do. When you move yourself from one place to another, you are doing the same thing all humans do when they imagine themselves somewhere different. And it’s the same with all of your powers. It starts with a thought, and your brain handles the rest.” The book closed
on its own
and flew back to the shelf. She extended her arm and held her palm open in the space between us. “What do you see?”
At the risk of stating the obvious I said, “Your hand.”
She chuckled. “No, it’s the start of human powers. Palmistry. Or really, the curiosity that led to it. When people began to wonder about things outside of the present, the natural power to predict the future and read the past emerged. The brain is incredible.
It is constantly organizing all of the things you are sensing and putting them in a logical order for you to understand. For example, it is how you are aware that I have blonde hair. It can also decode less obvious things about me … or anyone … if you pushed it to.”
I remembered my old life at St. Catalina and how I could stare at any of the girls and just
things, both random and important.
“The most ambitious of the humans who had harnessed their natural powers tested the limits of them and discovered they could command things to move and manifest things from nothing but a thought. At first, the powers were used for trivial things, food and travel, then eventually to battle magical kind. Unfortunately, when the wrong people started to train, mental powers took on a more sinister purpose.”
And I wasn’t sure where I stood. On the trivial side or the sinister one. I wished I could blame last night’s incident on the emotional issues I was striving to overcome, but it clearly had nothing to do with that kind of instability. It was a psychic thing, a copy thing. Given more time alone, I could’ve ruined much more. It was the kind of destruction a hunter might cause, like they’d done to those poor creatures in Sololá.
I stared at the store-bought paintings on her walls of putrid green seascapes with frothy waves, working overtime to push my next words out.
“How would someone know if they are sinister or not?” I asked.
“That someone would need to know who she is. And trust that.” I brought my eyes back to hers. “Sophia said you were doing better with this issue.”
“I am. It’s just that … something feels wrong. Really wrong.”
As soon as the words left my lips, my skin buzzed all over. It felt like someone had turned up the volume on it, like it had been there all along, just humming in the background. I closed my eyes and saw children running through dirty streets around toppled houses. I was overwhelmingly sure that I was seeing Sololá. I’d thought the eerie feeling in my chest was about me, about something being wrong with me, but my powers weren’t interested in being selfish right now.
My vision switched to burning buildings. Cuba. I knew it without a doubt.
“Find my voice and open your eyes.” Lydia’s voice was an echo. “Open your eyes. Open your eyes.”
I forced my eyelids to obey her.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “These attacks. What are the hunters doing? Is it Kamon?”
“Yes, but that would classify as my business. Wouldn’t it?”
I disagreed. Kamon felt like my business, my problem. I desperately wanted to stay with the buzzing and let it lead me to the answer.
I remembered the hooded people on their knees in Kamon’s chapel. If he was attacking magical kind, he wasn’t doing it alone. He’d built an army of desperate, brainwashed souls like Remi.
Lydia cleared her throat, and I let the power drain from my veins, thoroughly afraid of disobeying her in her face.
“Do you have questions about things that are your business?” she asked.
Actually, I had a question about questions.
“How can I know
things, but at other times, I can ask all of the questions I want, and nothing will happen?” I asked.
She smiled and nodded, approving of the topic change.
“Most humans recognize natural intuition. They call it a
. Pursuing that feeling can lead you to remarkable insights if you let the brain function like it is meant to. But with anything, there are limits. There are things that are far too complicated for the brain to decipher as quickly as you want it to.”
I nodded. That made sense. I guessed Kamon and his entire sick operation was complicated. He experimented on magical kind – purging their powers scientifically. Then I guessed he turned them into hunters, only to attack more magical creatures. What was the point of that? What did he want? Of course, my brain couldn’t answer that complicated question, especially as I sat in front of her.
“So does that mean Nathan is complicated?” I asked.
“Yes. Most magical beings have a shield … and some humans. Just knowing that someone can read your thoughts could prompt a natural one. But Nathan is different. His shield is too strong to be natural. I’m not really sure what to make of it.”
Since we were talking about my boyfriend, I decided to use him to ease into a harder conversation.
“Nathan told me when powers are passed to babies, it messes them up. Like drugs. Is that true?” I asked, wincing. I was talking to Lydia Shaw about being a copy. I couldn’t stop my heart from racing.
“Actually, it would be the exact opposite of that. Babies affected by drugs and
developmentally delayed and have learning and memory problems. If
are underdeveloped, you could say that babies affected by mental powers are overdeveloped.
Well before they are born, they learn how to do things, most
they learn what is possible and what is not. Like not having to touch something to move it, or walk everywhere. It becomes normal and natural to them.”