Read The Gifted Ones: A Reader Online

Authors: Maria Elizabeth Romana

Tags: #Fiction

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BOOK: The Gifted Ones: A Reader
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Grace laughed. “El, I don’t care if you’re reading their minds, as long as you make the grades you need to get a college scholarship.”

Ellie rolled her eyes. “Nobody can read minds, Aunt Grace.” She stuck the straw in her mouth and sucked deeply for a moment, her face registering the pain of an icy overload. After she swallowed, she picked up the train of thought, “I don’t know why the other kids act like it’s so hard to figure out. People are easy to read.”

“They are, huh?”

“Sure. I mean, look at that lady over there.” Ellie inclined her head slightly to the left.

“The one with the red scarf? The one who keeps laughing?”

“Yeah. She totally hates that guy. She can’t wait to leave.”

Grace looked at her oddly. “What makes you say that? She looks like she’s having fun.”

“Are you serious? You’re buying that routine? Just look at her. I mean, she’s oozing superiority. She’s such a faker.”

Grace just shook her head. “If you say so.”

“I know so. And that cute guy standing in the corner? He’s so-o-o into you, Aunt Grace.”

“Okay, now I know you’re making things up.”

“I am not. He’s been watching you since we walked in here. Look how warm his face is. Like sunset at Hilton Head, ya know? Warm and peaceful and calming.” Ellie’s face took on a warm, peaceful glow as she thought about it. “If I wasn’t here, he would have totally moved in on you.”

“Ellie!” Grace shifted in seat, turning herself more towards the window, so the cute guy in the corner couldn’t see the warm glow on
her
face.

“You know, I could leave,” Ellie offered. “I can go back outside to the book stall, so you can talk to him.” Ellie started to get up.

Grace grabbed her arm, then lowered her voice, “Sit back down, Ellie. Nobody’s going anywhere. You’ve obviously been reading too many of those old romances lately. You’re starting to see things! And…my love life, or lack thereof, is nothing you need to worry about.”

Grace was always looking for clues to what Ellie’s Gift would turn out to be. On a day like today, she was pretty sure she knew—Ellie was clearly a Creator. Imagination beyond belief. She’d probably end up writing the next billion-seller kids’ fantasy series like that English woman, J. R. Bowling. All Grace had to do was keep her safe and happy and healthy long enough to let it happen.

“Aunt Grace.” Ellie laid a hand on top of Grace’s and spoke softly, “You think I’m just goofing around, but I’m not. I’m serious.”

Grace gave the girl her full attention. “I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to make light of what you were saying. It’s just—”

“I know. You don’t have time to date.” Ellie made air quotes around the remark. “Or so you’ve been saying for the last, how many years now?”

“Seven years.”

“Yeah, seven years. Mom and Dad have been gone for seven years, and in that time, you’ve done nothing but take care of me. Me, me, me. I’m okay now, really. I can make it for five minutes without you. You deserve to have a life, too.”

Grace shook her head. Such insights from a sixteen year old. “Sweetheart—”

“No. Listen to me. I’m gonna get one of those big scholarships and go off to college in a couple years, and your job with me will be finished, and then where will you be? You’re not getting any younger, you know. You’re gonna be, like, what this year? Thirty-five?”

Grace gave her lopsided smile. “Thirty-four,” she corrected. “I suppose I
should
start checking out those old folks homes…”

“You know what I mean. You’ve spent your primo dating years watching out for some stupid little kid—”

“Ellie, you’re not some stupid little kid. You’re my sister’s only child, and I adore you. You know how blessed I feel to have you in my life…” But she could see that Ellie was no longer listening.

“Uh-oh. Don’t look now, Aunt Grace, but Cutie Pie is getting his courage up. He’s heading this way. I’m running to the restroom.” Ellie bolted from the table before Grace could stop her.

“Excuse me, Miss?”

Grace felt her cheeks flush. She gathered her composure and looked up at a friendly, open face. Warm, just like Ellie said.

“Are those your gloves? I believe they fell on the floor.” The man squatted down right next to her, picked up the gloves, and offered them to her. “I didn’t want you to leave them behind.” He lingered longer than necessary in that position, locking eyes with Grace.

Oh my, wasn’t he a handsome devil? The kind of guy you’d see on TV or in the movies, like that Cloomey fellow. For a brief second, Grace’s mind ran off on its own, imagining herself walking with him, laughing with him, being held in his arms. Then she shook it off. She gave him a brief smile and accepted the gloves, standing, as she did so. Her voice was flat, “Thanks. ’Preciate it. Well, I’ve got to run. Gotta get my niece home.” She pushed past him and moved toward the restroom without looking back.

Ellie met her halfway there. “Aunt Grace,” she whined. “Why’d you do that? I saw the whole thing. You broke his little heart. Mr. Sunset turned into Mr. Cloudy Skies right before my eyes. You could’ve at least talked to the poor guy for a few minutes. You probably crushed his confidence forever. He’ll never approach another woman. He’s going to live in a monastery.”

Grace started laughing. “Oh, the drama! El, you are so funny. C’mon, I think he’ll survive. Let’s get home.”

The two women stopped at their table to pick up their abandoned cups. Grace grabbed hers and turned to walk out, but Ellie didn’t move. Grace turned back around. “Ellie? What is it? What’s wrong?”

The girl was staring out the window. She pointed toward the street outside. “That man…”

Grace tried to follow her direction. “Which man? The Cutie Pie?”

“No, not him. Another guy. Watching us. Closely. He’s gone now.” Her eyes were still fixed outside the window.

“Another warm-as-sunset face?” Grace grinned at her niece.

Ellie turned toward her, but she wasn’t smiling. “No, not warm at all. Cold as ice.”

 

# # #

 

“You didn’t see
anything
? You followed them for eight hours and saw none of the things we told you to look for?” Archer Orucov sounded incredulous as he dropped back into the soft leather sofa.

Kumika Asano, seated beside him, was not so easily frustrated. She remained upright, her long legs tucked under her, and narrowed her eyes at the tall man in the chair opposite them. Her tone was brusque, “I gave you a list, Wyatt. Surely, you saw something. She’s sixteen; her Gift must be manifesting by now. Come now, think! Was she friendly or snotty? Outgoing or awkward? Who did she talk to? What did they do all day?”

Wyatt bristled under her rapid fire questioning. “I told you, they shopped—street vendors, mostly. Vintage clothes, starving artists, an antique bookseller, stuff like that. Then they went for coffee. The aunt talked to one guy in the coffee shop for like, ten seconds. End of story. The kid did nothing out of the ordinary. Seems like a totally normal teenager to me.”

Archer grunted. “Like you have any idea what a normal teenager does.”

Kumika ignored his input and continued probing, “Well, what kind of art did they look at? Which books? Fiction? Non-fiction? Bestsellers? Did they end up buying anything?”

Wyatt dug into his rear pocket and pulled out his phone. He scrolled through a few pages. “Uh, they spent a long time talking to a lady who makes earrings out of scrap metal, and…” He thumbed his phone a couple times. “The kid was drooling over some books in a locked case. Somebody Brantee? Bruntay?” He looked up at them and shrugged.

Kumika rolled her eyes. “Brönte. Emily Brönte. Or Charlotte or Anne.”

Wyatt wrinkled up his nose. “Who?”

“Oh, dear God, do you even
know
how to read?”

Wyatt started to rise in his chair. “Hey look, you little—”

Archer sat forward and spread his hands out between them. “Children! Cool it. This is getting us nowhere.” He gave Kumika a sidelong glance and spoke under his breath, “Not everyone has had the benefit of a classical education.” Then he looked back at Wyatt. “Did they actually buy anything? Jillian can get us the details.”

“Sorry, Arch.” Wyatt sat back down, pushed his bangs out of his eyes, and consulted his device again. “Yeah, they bought one book, paperback. His sign said Harlan’s Books, somewhere on Twenty-ninth.”

All eyes shifted to a short, curvy woman sitting cross-legged on the floor. She was typing rapidly into one of several devices she had arranged in front of her on the coffee table. She spoke without looking up, “Harlan’s Fine Books and Antiquities, 342 West Twenty-ninth Street in Little Five Points.”

“Yeah, that sounds like it.”

She typed a few more strokes, scanned the results on her screen, and reported back to them, “He’s got 2,312 antique books in the store right now, and 10,845 inexpensive, used books. He also has a very valuable first edition collection of the Brönte sisters, as well as twenty-seven individual first editions—ten from Emily Brönte, two from Anne—”

“Jill!” Kumika interrupted her diatribe. “Just get to the freakin’ point! What book did they buy yesterday?”

Jillian shriveled a bit, then spoke quietly, still staring at her screen, “One sale for six dollars and thirty-four cents at one ten PM on March twenty-third. It was a 2007 printing of
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
by William Shakespeare, published by Anthem House, and with complete annotations by Dr. Mary—”

Archer waved a hand at her, cutting her off. “Thank you, my dear. That is sufficient. Oh, and when you get a chance, find out what he wants for that Brönte Collection. Then offer him thirty percent less, in cash.” Kumika gave him an odd look, so he shrugged. “I thought it might make a nice birthday present.”

Kumika made the wise choice not to respond, and instead addressed the group, “Okay, so she bought the Shakespeare book for school. So we’re back where we started—which is nowhere.” Speaking almost to herself, she added, “Are we
absolutely
sure this kid’s got the gene? No baby-switching at the hospital or anything?”

Archer turned toward her with an amused look on his face. “Baby-switching, seriously? Aside from the Coke-bottle glasses, that young lady is the spitting image of her beautiful mother, with only the slightest hint of Daddy’s eyes. She
has
the gene.” He reached toward the table for his scotch and took a healthy swallow, then continued, “The only question is, how many copies? One…or two?”

Jillian piped up, finally lifting her eyes to face them, “Statistically speaking, Dr. Orucov, the child has a fifty percent chance of—”

Archer gave her a patronizing smile. “Yes, Jill, I am well aware that she is equally likely to be a One or a Two.”

“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”

Kumika stifled her annoyance. She had little patience for Archer’s charity and diplomacy, particularly with that well-fed techno-fiend or the brain-dead muscle man. Still, she had to admit, the little chubbette was Gifted. No question about it. Talking to Jill was like talking to a lamp, but the girl could make any database give up its secrets. Kumika supposed she would tolerate Jill as long as the little twit never forgot her place.

Archer looked up into his head, then focused on Jillian again. “Jill, you’ve been keeping up with Ellie’s school records, right?”

“Yes, sir. I check on her progress weekly, even daily sometimes.”

“Good, good. Are you seeing any patterns? Any signs of a preference or particular ease with a subject? Math? History? The Sciences? I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she turned out to be another Marie Curie.” He grinned as he tossed back more scotch. There was a note of pride in his voice.

Jillian grabbed a tablet off the tabletop and ran her finger down the screen. She read the information off without looking up. “As you know, she’s a very good student, Dr. Orucov. She makes good marks in all her classes and belongs to a variety of clubs. She also recently took part in the school play.”

“The play? Really? Was she any good?”

“Mmmmm…” Jillian returned to the computer, her fingers flying across the keyboard. After a moment, she summarized, “Apparently not. She had a small part in the chorus, and at the third and final performance, she tripped over a footlight and fell off the stage.”

Kumika started laughing out loud but stopped herself when Archer mumbled, “Creatives…useless Gift anyway.”

Wyatt, who had been quiet for several minutes, made a suggestion. “What about sports? That’s where I found my Gift—football, baseball, fishing—”

Kumika gave him a look of disgust. “Fishing is
not
a sport. It’s a pastime for old men.”

Wyatt spat back, “It is so a sport! Have you ever seen—”

“Enough!” Archer commanded their attention. “Kumi, just because you have a Gift for communication doesn’t mean you always have to use it.”

Kumika set her chin, folded her arms across her chest, and shot daggers at Wyatt with her eyes.

“Anyway,” Archer continued, “we’ve already covered the sports issue. The kid tried tennis, swimming, and golf. It’s just not her thing. So…she’s not physically Gifted, and she’s not creatively inclined. Maybe she’s a Healer or a Nurturer.”

BOOK: The Gifted Ones: A Reader
5.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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