a girl, a boy, magic...what more could you want? this is a new and improved version
“Lele…Lele…Mommy says you have ta wake up now…she says you can’t waste the rest of summer sleepin’…LELE WAKE UP PLEASE!” I started awake, scrambling to get my bearings. I blinked like an owl and stared up at my six-year-old little brother, Keddy, who stood by my bed looking anxious, his bright blue eyes observing my tousled appearance. I smiled sleepily and then yawned widely, cracking my jaw. I sat up, stretching, and grabbed Keddy, cuddling him to me and plonking a big kiss on his forehead.
“Lele!” He complained, giggling and squirming. I let him go with a ruffle of his light brown hair and one more kiss, and he ran out, already babbling to Mom about eggs and bacon for breakfast. I smiled again and sighed. This was going to be a great summer, I could already tell, and we were only one week into vacation! I could go swimming, get a tan, go to amusement parks, hang out with friends-mostly my two best friends, Quinn and Charlie.
I stretched again and got out of bed, wrapping a bathrobe around me as I made my way to our bright kitchen. Sunlight shone through the wide French windows above our sink where plants sat on a wide windowsill, green and thriving. My mom sat at our wide white table, drinking her daily hazelnut cappuccino and reading the furniture magazine. I shook my head. How could she be entertained by anything so boring? It’s not like she ever bought anything.
She looked up when I walked in and tucked a lock of soft dark brown hair behind her ear.
“Good morning, honey.” She smiled at me softly, her blue eyes so much like Keddy‘s. I gave her a quick hug and smiled back.
Just then I heard wild yells as my dad and Keddy burst through the kitchen door. Laughing, I threw myself out of their way, and Dad barreled straight to the stove. He grabbed Keddy off of his shoulders and plopped him down on the counter, then leaned back next to him. I blinked at them, struck for a moment at how alike they looked, with their light brown hair and similar face shape, although their eyes were different colors. Keddy had my mom‘s blue eyes, while I had my dads gray ones.
“So what does everyone want for breakfast this fine morning?” He boomed, sweeping a calloused hand out and gesturing towards the window. Me, Mom, and Keddy all looked up and said,
“Eggs and bacon!”
Dad sighed. We never agreed on what we want, and usually poor abused Dad had to make three different meals.
He got to work, effortlessly producing three delicious meals. He may have been just a plain old carpenter, but Dad sure could cook like the best of them.
After breakfast, we all sat back in our chairs, patting our stomachs and chatting amiably. I was unusually quiet, breathing peacefully in and out as I listened to the relaxed talking going on. Keddy sat cross-legged in his chair, humming absentmindedly and tracing a finger over the wood grain patterns of the table. My mom and dad’s arms stretched across the table to hold hands as they discussed something in quiet voices. A small smile appeared on my face as I watched them.
My family was a good one. I never seemed to have the same problems with them that all my friends complained of. I never felt the need to sneak out or drink or any of the other things others in my school did. I rarely felt moody. I guess you could call me an optimist, and I felt that, in essence, my life was just about perfect. I loved it. I never ever wanted it to change. And I was sure it never would.
“Dear, what are you planning on doing today?” I looked up as my mom’s soft voice intruded in my thoughts. I shrugged.
“Nothing really. I’ll probably go to the park after a bit. It’s way too nice to stay inside on a day like this.” No need to mention that I wouldn’t be with Quinn and Charlie. I felt like being by myself today.
Mom nodded and went back to conversing with Dad while Keddy scooted off his chair and walked off, obviously bored with us. I smiled slightly and got up, heading to my room to get dressed.
I pulled on an orange tank top and some cut-off shorts, and then picked up my hairbrush.
I looked in my vanity mirror as I brushed my dark brown hair, watching the lines of my face. My gray eyes looked wary as they scoured my face, pausing on the high angry looking eyebrows and the full lips I inherited from my dad. The small birthmark shaped like an arrow on the crest of my cheekbone was a slightly darker shade than the rest of my skin, and I stroked it absent-mindedly. I used to hate that birthmark…but now it didn’t bother me.
I felt strange for a second, like I was looking at somebody else, watching through someone else’s eyes. Like maybe, I didn’t belong in this body. Maybe I didn’t belong in this world. But then I blinked, and the moment passed.
Once I was past our yellow back door and out in the spring sunshine, I wondered what had been wrong with me. Of course I belonged here. I’d been here my entire life. I laughed at my own absurdity, looking up at the blue sky and the blazing sun. A soft breeze blew past me, bringing the delicious smell of flowers and rain and hot, hot sun.
I walked jauntily towards my favorite spot in the whole world-a park that no one used anymore. It was wonderful, like my own little secret garden. I hummed and breathed in deeply, then threw myself down into the thick, sweet smelling grass. I gazed dreamily up at the clear azure expanse above me, with not a cloud in the sky. I stretched one long comfortable stretch and slumped back to the ground, feeling my eyelids slowly flutter closed, the little eddies of wind plucking at strands of hair and tickling my nose. My awareness of the world around me slowly faded away, not knowing that close by…there was a boy…
I felt hunger claw the lining of my stomach, tasted the salt of tears and sweat on my lips and the sting of many angry red scratches running down my arms, legs, and face as I forced myself to keep walking, step by painful step. I held my six year old sister in my arms, where she hung limp and unresponsive. I had to find a doctor, and soon. Someone that could help me. I was low on energy and strength, which meant my powers were nothing but a slight trickle. I could heal maybe one scratch, which would be useless anyways.
I looked down at Claire’s sweet little face, her blond curls dirty and her face covered in scratches like mine. I moaned quietly, feeling about as miserable as a body could feel. Why was this happening to us? Instantly my brothers face popped into my head, and a fresh flow of hot tears ran down my cheeks and stung the scratches on my face. Jared. He was gone gone gone and I was all by myself, with a sister who looked closer to death with each passing minute. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Death was waiting in the wings, watching with an evil grin.
I stopped short as I suddenly saw my brother as if he were standing before me, tall and strong and proud, with his white smile and sparkling brown eyes. Images of him flashed in front of my eyes, blinding me, torturing. How could we survive without him? How could…how…he…he had been our protector, the only sure thing in this goddamn forsaken world! And now…he had been taken away, sacrificed himself for us. He was gone. Maybe even….dead.
At the thought, I let out an anguished cry and fell to my knees, cradling my sister to my chest, sobbing for the only two people I cared about in the world. Hadn’t I lost enough of my family? My mom, my dad, now my brother? I couldn’t take any more. I let my tortured mind sink into numb blackness, let my body fall limp into the grass, with Claire still in my arms, stopped caring about anything as my world spiraled away.
A sharp cry broke through the silence like a shard of light pierces pitch blackness, and I sat up abruptly, at first annoyed at having been woken, but then startled beyond measure by the pained, tortured sobs issuing from the small copse of trees behind the swing set. My pulse thundered in my ears as I jumped to my feet and ran over, not giving a thought to my own safety. All I wanted was to soothe that horrible keening of someone anguished beyond rational thought. Besides, I wasn’t worried too much about myself. I had a black belt in karate, and behind my slim frame there lurked a lot of power.
Just inside the line of trees, I found the noise, and I stopped short and stared.
It was a boy. A boy about my age, I’d guess. He was pretty normal looking, pale skin, tall, white-blond hair . I couldn’t see what color his eyes were, because they were squeezed tightly shut. But overall, your average guy.
Except for the obvious.
Deep, red, bleeding scratches covered his entire visible body, his clothes were ripped and filthy, his hair dirty and streaked with brown.
And his face…oh, God, his face. My breath came a little quicker. There was a huge gash across his cheek, but that wasn’t the worst of it. He had the most painful, anguished look I had ever seen, like something was tearing him apart from the inside out, ripping and clawing. He was twitching and still crying, although he wasn’t conscious. There was something terribly degrading about the way he cringed into the ground, and I wondered what in the world could have caused a person to be like this.
Just then I saw who he held, wrapped in his arms and held protectively against his chest.
A little girl, maybe five or six, blond curls lank and dirty, covered in scratches too, looking pale and sickly. She was very tiny, with skinny little arms and legs. Fragile looking.
I should have been terrified, or disgusted. I should have ran and never came back. I should have realized that nothing but trouble could come from two kids, lost and dirty and alone.
But instead I felt my heart go out to them, and I immediately dropped to my knees and touched the boys wet face, hoping to comfort him in some way. But he recoiled from me, letting out an odd sort of whimper. I drew back, wincing at his pain and realizing I couldn’t do anything for him at the moment, and turned my attention to the little girl, pulling her out of the boys embrace and cuddling her to me. She had a sickly sweet smell to her that made me wrinkle my nose, and her skin felt ice cold and clammy.. The blood drained out of my face as I hurriedly checked to see if she was even still alive. I sighed in relief when I saw her chest rising and falling, and felt the blood pulsing weakly in her wrist, but she was breathing very shallowly, and it seemed she wasn’t far from death. I had to get her somewhere, immediately. But where should I go? What would my parents say if I turned up with two abandoned, injured kids? Would they help or turn them out?
I sat, almost frozen in a state of indecision, holding the girl and staring at the boys face, wincing every time he let out another pain-filled cry. Suddenly he started muttering, just a slight trembling of his lips, so quickly I couldn’t catch any of his words. I furrowed my brow and leaned in closer, trying to understand. I could only get one word, one he said over and over. It sounded like a name. Jerry? Jed? Jared, maybe? It sounded more like Jared. I wondered if maybe this Jared person was the reason for this boys pain. I felt a flare of anger. How dare this Jared cause so much pain to someone so innocent looking? How could he? I clenched my fists, feeling a sudden hate for this unknown person. What had he done to these kids?
Why did I feel this much anger? It was none of my business what was going on in this boy’s life, but I couldn’t help but be curious, angry, and sympathetic. I thought it over as my eyes followed a slow trickle of blood, flowing from the cut on his face. Obviously, these two had no where to go, and I couldn’t just leave them here. Who knows what could happen to them? It was my responsibility to make sure they were safe and got taken care of…Ok, so maybe it wasn’t. But I wanted to make them safe. There was something about the boys face, his thin blond eyebrows crumpled with a slight crease in the middle of them, the full shell pink mouth pulled down in a grimace, and the girls sweet innocence and curls, that made me want to protect them.
Without a second thought, I was up and running, with the girl in my arms, glancing back once to make sure the boy was still there before he was out of sight. I pumped my muscles, feeling the smoothness of my run and the weight of the little girl. I was a natural born athlete, a fast, efficient runner and fighter. My breath came out in short, even bursts.
When my house came into sight, I didn’t even slow as I burst in the back door, throwing it open, ignoring it when it slammed into the wall. My mom, dad, and Keddy came running, all looking alarmed. The girl didn’t even twitch in my arms.
“Mom, Dad,” I gasped, “Hurry. I was at the park and then I found these kids and there’s something wrong with them, and this little girl is so sick, I-I think she needs to go to the hospital. Could you please take her, Mom? And Dad, there’s a boy back at the park, he’s hurt too. Come with me!“ I transferred the limp little girl to my mother’s very capable arms, then turned and started running again, hearing one of them started to follow. I looked back to see my dad, running to catch up with me. He looked confused, a little bit suspicious, and a lot concerned.
“Come on, Dad! Hurry!”
One minute later, we skidded to a stop. I prayed the boy was still there, and he was, looking just as terrible as before. My dad stared for about five seconds, then stooped and picked up the boy with no questions asked.
The boy twitched and cried out agonizingly when my dad touched him, and started jerking around in his arms, but my dad just ignored his movements and started walking quickly back to our house, me trotting to keep up.
I woke up slowly, groggily, trying to get my bearings. I didn’t open my eyes, not knowing where I was or who was there. I sensed that I was in an open, breezy room. I could felt the wind softly stirring my hair and stroking my face. I was lying in a warm, soft bed with cotton sheets and a light cover thrown on top of me. I could feel my many cuts stinging, the deep one on my cheek throbbing dully. Some of my powers had come back, I could feel them buzzing and whirring in the back of my head. I knew my sister was not with me. I could hear distant voices, and a slight humming very close, maybe a few feet away. As soon as I heard that, I went into defense mode. I tensed my muscles and deepened my breathing, still pretending I was asleep, and readied myself to open my eyes and attack if necessary. Then the humming stopped.
“You can stop pretending you’re asleep, you know. I can see your eyes moving under your eyelids.”
I cursed myself briefly. That was a basic mistake.
Then my eyes flew open and I shot out of bed, landing in a crouch on the floor, where I sprang up and stared wildly around, ready to defend myself. A girl stared at me from a white armchair right in front of the bed I had been lying in. I stopped in my tracks, sucking in a breath. All I could see were her wide silvery gray eyes, molten and intense, locking with mine. I couldn’t seem to look away, not with those eyes hypnotizing me.
Then she blinked.
And the spell was broken.
“Where am I?” I whispered. My eyes wheeled around as I looked for any sign of danger in the bright room. I noted the angle of the sun through the window, deducing it was close to dusk. When I saw nothing out of the ordinary, I relaxed my stance and looked back at the girl, observing silently. Thick, shiny dark brown hair, smooth brown skin, a funny birthmark shaped like an arrow on her cheek. And those eyes…
“You’re in my house. I found you…” She trailed off awkwardly, and looked at me fleetingly. “In the woods.”
I blanched, starting to remember…
No. I shook myself mentally. I had to concentrate on the situation at hand. I ignored the girl momentarily and looked around the room, searching carefully for any sign of a hidden threat. White walls, white door, with colorful pictures on the wall. White bed, cream floors, blue rug. A very fresh, clean looking room. Then I examined myself.
My cuts were all scabbed over, although a few of them had cracked and bled when I jumped up. Ouch. They stung. Especially the one on my face. But of course I could heal those once my powers returned in full.
I was clean, my hair washed and my body scrubbed. I was wearing unfamiliar pajama pants and no shirt, which I had not been aware of until now. I looked up to see the girl staring at me again, and we both blushed a little. I backed up against the bed and sat down.
“What’s your name?” I asked, trying to ignore the slight warmth spread across my cheeks. Questions flooded my mind. Why was I here? Who was this girl? Where was I? Where was Claire? Was this some kind of trap?
The girls’ voice interrupted my wonderings.
“Allele Dwyer. What’s yours?”
I stared at her. “Jasper.”
She smiled slightly. “Jasper…” She murmured.
“What?” I demanded.
She shrugged. “I’m just glad I finally know your name.”
I looked at her, hard. “Why? How long have I been here, anyway? Where‘s Claire?”
She ignored my first question. “About two days. You’ve been sleeping the entire time. And Claire…that’s the little girl, right? She’s at the hospital. She had the flu, which doesn’t sound so bad, but she’s so little and young that it was pretty serious for her. But she’s okay now. She’s recovering. We can bring her back here in a few days. Now, I bet you’re hungry. Do you want something to eat?”
Relieved that my sister was okay, I sighed and rubbed a hand over my face. Thank God. I had thought for a moment…I squeezed my eyes shut, trying not to let the hot tears of relief trickle out. A moment later I composed myself and looked up at her. Now that she mentioned it, I was starving. I nodded hesitantly and started to get up, but Allele jumped up and pushed me back down. Her warm hands burned against my bare chest, and she immediately yanked them back, blushing darker than ever. However, she recovered herself quickly, while my heart was still beating a hundred miles an hour. No matter how different our brains were, I was still just a sixteen year old hormone-riddled human.
“You stay in bed,” She ordered sternly, “I’ll bring you something up.”
I rolled my eyes but stayed put as she ran out of the room. I laid back against the pillows, letting out a quiet sigh as my scabbed skin broke in several places from my movement. I would have to check the food before I ate it. Who knew what kind of poison there could be in it? I still didn’t know anything about where I was.
I could hear her shouting joyously to whoever was in the house.
“He’s awake! Guys, he’s awake! And he’s hungry! Can we make, like, pancakes or something?” I heard her voice fade away as she moved to another part of the house, and I felt a smile quirk my lips, my first since Jared…
Immediately, my face crumpled, and hot, fat tears started rolling down my cheeks. I dropped my head onto my knees and knotted my fingers in my hair, trying to block out the terrible memories shoving their way to the front of my mind.
Dancing flames and moving shadows, black figures jump about and overwhelm me and Jared. Horrible laughing and shouts as they realize that Jared is weaker than usual, that they can now beat him. I run to our little cabin and grab Claire from her bed, get ready to escape, gather our bags and some food. Coming out the door, I shout Jared’s name just as three of THEM attack me simultaneously. I stand protectively with Claire behind me, trapped against the cabin wall. Immediately one of them slashes at my face with one of their lethal weapons. I feel a searing pain rip across my cheek, and I lash out furiously with chopping hands and kicking feet, calling upon every fighting lesson I have ever learned. Bursts of blinding light flash from my fingertips, mowing them down, cutting a scything path between them. I am good at this life. Skilled. But for every one I send away wailing or knock to the ground and kill, three more replace them. I’m overwhelmed by fear as I realize that there are too many…too many. Then one lands a blow on my temple, and the ground slowly moves up to meet me as the world slowly fades to black. The last thing I hear is Jared, yelling my name desperately, before his voice suddenly cuts off.
“Jasper?” A voice whispered softly. I barely registered the sound, still lost in tortured memories. I felt a give in the mattress beside me. Warm, smooth arms slowly came around me, pulling me into a soft comforting body. Hands stroked through my hair, and a soothing melody hummed from a throat close to my ear. I listened to the melody, and slowly, the horrible recollections trickled away, to be replaced with a warm, comforting feeling, like a mothers touch or the ticking of an old clock when you had nowhere to go, telling me that everything would be okay, as long as I opened my eyes.
My eyelids slowly fluttered open, and reality slowly returned. I caught a glimpse of coffee skin and felt the soothing warmth surrounding me, and all I wanted to do was sleep forever and a day. My eyes grew heavy, and before I knew it I was fast asleep, a sleep with no dreams or disturbing memories.
I gazed down at the boy fast asleep in my arms, long eyelashes resting against his creamy cheeks. Jasper. I leaned back against the head board of the bed with Jasper wrapped in my arms and his head sitting on my shoulder. His bare skin was hot against mine, and I could feel every muscle underneath his skin, feel the warm skin of his back touching the length of my arm. He had a slight smile on his face, and his whole body was blessedly relaxed against me. One of his arms was thrown lightly over my stomach-the other curled against his chest.
I felt a warmth blossom in my heart, glad that I had been the one to comfort him like this, to make his pain go away and let him sleep with no torture marring his face.
I remembered his electric blue eyes, the deepest, brightest blue I had ever seen, strange in the paleness of him, his white-blond hair and creamy skin. I remembered how he’d stared at me, following my every move, I doing the same to him.
I blushed as I remembered how his chest had burned under my hands, how I had felt his heart speed up under my palms. How smooth and silky his creamy skin was, and how goose bumps had raised up all over his shirtless body. There was just something about this boy. I had dated guys before, of course. Some were sweet and some were jerks and some were funny. But this one…Jasper. He was different. I could see scars from many long ago injuries, and the long, cordy muscles underneath his cream skin. The still bright red slice on his cheek from who knows what. The callousness on his hands. He was a fighter- something different, not really connected to this world. And so was his sister. How did my family not see it?
I started as Jasper stirred a bit, shivering slightly in the cool breeze coming in through the open window. Realizing he must be pretty chilly with no shirt on, I eased myself out from under him, making sure not to move him too much, and gently let his body fall back onto the bed, resting his head on the pillow. I drew the covers back over him and brushed the hair out of his face. Then I methodically dragged the chair over to the side of his bed, and snapped off the light. I closed the window and curtains, then curled up in the chair with a blanket and stared at his peaceful face in the dimness of the setting sun.
I thought Jasper might be embarrassed when he woke up, to have cried, first of all, and then for me having comforted him in the way I had. After all, we had only just officially met. Maybe he would be annoyed when he woke up.
I shrugged mentally. No point crying about it now. I would stay right here, just in case.
I thought about the little girl, Jaspers sister, Claire. She had woken up yesterday, the day after I found her and her brother. She was weak and couldn’t talk much, but she was really sweet. She seemed to like me a lot, always wanting me to hold her hand when we visited.(We visited three times a day.) I smiled. I already loved Claire. She was the cutest little girl I had ever seen, especially now with all the dirt washed from her. She had springy light blond ringlets and eyes just like her brothers, the brightest blue I had ever seen on a human being. Her skin was creamy and smooth too, and she had perfect little white teeth. Her smile was addictive. And she talked about Jasper constantly. I tried not to think about her eerily wise eyes, eyes that looked like they had seen to much in her short life. I tried not to think about the funny way she always seemed to know what you were thinking, or feeling.
I remembered how intensely relieved Jasper had looked when I told him that Claire was okay. His eyes had shone with relief and gratitude, until he had hidden his feelings behind a wall. But I could tell he really loved his sister, and was happy that she was alright.
I yawned hugely. Maybe I would take a little nap…I hadn’t gotten much sleep the past few days, what with being at Jasper’s bedside every chance I could get, wanting to be there when he woke up, or at the hospital with Claire.
My eyelids drooped, just as Jaspers had, my head fell against the chair, and soon I too was fast asleep, dreaming of fairytale lands and flying.
This time I came awake quickly, my eyelids fluttering open within a few seconds. The first thing I saw was a sweet, asleep face. The first thing I felt was a comforting warmth. Then reality kicked in, memories from earlier came back, and shock made my eyes go wide. My body reacted instinctively to my sudden horror, tensing into battle mode.
Allele was the one to comfort me last night? The one to witness my suffering? The one to rescue me from my memories? The one to fall asleep watching over me? The one I had only just met yesterday.
Wow, I mouthed silently. I felt a little embarrassment, a little warmth, and a large amount of disapproval-at myself. How could I let this happen? I couldn’t let myself feel anything for this girl, and yet already I liked watching her sleep. I liked her gray eyes and dark hair and fragile nature. But I shouldn’t. She would only get hurt if I stayed around her. And yet…
I watched her face as I lay very still under the covers, balled up in a warm cocoon. I could just barely see the profile of Allele’s face, the full curve of her lips and her petite little nose. Her long black eyelashes rested against her cheeks, flaring out a bit and curling up slightly.
As I lay there watching her, an uncomfortable sensation started up in my lower stomach area, and I wiggled uneasily, realizing that I had not gone to the bathroom in a LONG time. I tried to put it off, not wanting to wake Allele, but after a few minutes passed I really couldn’t take it anymore. I sat up quietly, pushing the covers down and slipping off the bed. I shivered in the cool night air and tiptoed past Allele’s sleeping figure as quietly as I could, my feet making soft brushing noises against the hardwood floor. I noticed vaguely that a lot of my scratches were gone, just a few of the major ones left. They must’ve healed while I slept. I hoped no one would notice….that’d be hard to explain…
The door stood slightly ajar, and I gratefully opened it further and slipped into the dark hallway. I blinked a few times until my eyes adjusted, then tentatively opened another door and peeked in. Loud snoring issued from the room, and I frantically shut the door and tiptoed to another one.
I sighed in relief when I saw moonlight shining in through a window, gleaming off the tile and porcelain that could only belong in a bathroom. I walked in and shut the door behind me.
I stood washing my hands at the white sink, staring at myself in the mirror, at the almost healed gash on my face and the for once perfectly clean hair, shining silver in the moonlight. I blinked at myself once, slowly, before turning and walking out.
Back in the room I was staying in, Allele was still fast asleep, draped over the chair, her blanket slipping and her dark hair splayed all over the place. I grabbed the blanket and threw it over her, knowing she would get cold in her thin shirt and shorts. I felt strangely…tender…as I looked at her.
No. Tender was NOT allowed. I shook my head.
I turned and tried to walk over to the bed, but as luck would have it, my foot caught under the lip of a fuzzy white rug, sending me crashing to the ground. I landed on my hip and elbow, wincing in pain and anticipation as the loud “ka-thump!” vibrated through the floor. Having stupid powers did NOT make me any less clumsy.
Allele jolted awake, her silvery-gray eyes blinking rapidly as they came into focus. She sat up quickly and looked around, immediately catching sight of me, planted on my butt, rubbing my elbow and grimacing at her.
“I fell.” I admitted sheepishly. One of her eyebrows rose, and a slight smile appeared on her still sleepy face.
“What in the world were you doing?” She yawned, stretching and scratching the birthmark on her cheek.
“Er…I had to go the bathroom.” I blushed. Allele stared at me for a moment, at my awkward position on the floor, at the embarrassed look on my face, before a grin tugged at the corners of her lips.
“You can laugh if you want,” I sighed, “It is kind of funny.” I could tell she wanted to, but she shook her head.
“No,’ she said in a slightly choked voice. “It wouldn’t be very…nice…of me…” The rest of her sentence was lost as she dissolved into giggles. I rolled my eyes and stood up awkwardly, wincing as my hip flared in pain. I had fallen pretty hard on it. I laid one hand against it, letting a little stream of energy flow from my fingertips, and in less than ten seconds I was good as new.
I sat on the edge of the bed and watched Allele with a sheepish smile on my face, watched the way she threw her head back over the arm of the chair and laughed helplessly, one hand over her mouth as she visibly tried to contain herself.
After a moment, she calmed down and grinned at me.
“Sorry. That was mean.” She tried to look apologetic.
She grinned again.
My stomach grumbled long and loud, and we both stared at it for a second before I looked up and caught sight of a tray filled with food that was probably meant to be my breakfast. It was overflowing with all kinds of snacks and fruits and pancakes that were most likely cold and soggy, but at that moment I didn’t care.
I tried not to salivate, but I think Allele noticed, because she quickly got up and brought the tray over to the bed. She set it on my lap and sat beside me, and I immediately started to devour the food, making involuntary noises of pleasure.
“Mmmm…oh,” I said, noticing Allele’s sidelong glance of longing, “Do you want some?”
Five minutes later we were both sitting companionably side by side with an empty tray across our knees, shoulders touching. There was a long silence while we both sat, thinking our own thoughts.
“So,” Allele murmured suddenly. I looked at her in surprise. “Why…I mean…could you maybe tell me…what…why you were like that last night?”
The mood changed instantly, became tense. It felt like the room was holding its breath. I closed my eyes and leaned my head back, trying not to remember. “I…would rather not….talk about it. If I think about it…what happened last night will happen again…and I’d like to avoid that.” I offered an apologetic smile, opening my eyes and looking at her. She looked back calmly.
I wondered vaguely why I was such a wuss. Hadn’t I lost my parents once, and without all the theatrics that time? I didn’t fall to the floor sobbing whenever I thought of them. Maybe time had just numbed me. I hoped the same thing would happen with my brother…I couldn’t take this stupid pain much longer.
“It’s completely okay. I don’t want…you to be in pain again. That was a bad thing to see.” She looked down. “But do you think that it will ever get better?”
I shrugged. “Maybe someday. I don’t know. It’s not something a person can easily get over.” I could tell she was dying of curiosity, but she said nothing, and for that I was grateful.
As I looked at her, scrutinizing her silver eyes and thick wealth of hair, a blush stained her cheeks, and she averted her eyes.
“What?” I asked curiously.
She bit her lip and looked back up at me. “I was just wondering…”
Allele took a deep breath, opened her mouth, looked up into my eyes. A quick emotion flickered across her face before she stopped short and bit her lip, looking away.
I eyed her hands, nervously twisting in her lap.
“Are you sure?”
She nodded. I let it go and changed the subject abruptly.
“So are you sure Claire’s okay? When are we going to see her?” I asked anxiously. I was starting to get twitchy. I needed to see my sister, make sure with my own two eyes that she was really okay, feel her alive and well in my arms.
“Yeah, she’s recovering really well. We can go pick her up on Wednesday. She’s going to be fine, Jasper.” She said softly, looking at me with knowing eyes. I looked away from her, wondering how in the world she knew how much I was worrying. I started when she laid a hand on mine, copper skin against cream. My eyes met hers, and for a second I leaned in all too close, pulled in by her magnetic silvery eyes.
But then I remembered who I was, and I stood up quickly, breaking the contact. I went and stood at the window, gazing out at the twinkling stars and the faint hint of the sun rising in the distance. I felt the unspoken hurt in the air, but I hardened my heart against it. I realized what was going on here, how I was starting to feel about Allele, and it wasn’t good or healthy for her. She could never be safe around me, so I would not let an attachment form. Simple as that.
For a moment, I paused to wonder at how fast this was progressing. I’d known her mere hours, and already I felt…no. I didn’t feel anything. I couldn’t. One-ILLEGAL. Two-DANGEROUS. Therefore, no feelings allowed.
I pressed my hand to the cold glass of the window.
“I’m sorry, Allele. I just…I mean…I…I…” I didn’t really know how to talk to her about this. I didn’t know how to talk to girls, period. How could I explain it to her without revealing the truth? I sighed in frustration and balled up my fist, almost wanting to punch the window as hard as I could, to watch it shatter and hear the sound of breaking glass. But I didn’t.
I heard quiet footsteps behind me, and I glanced to the side to see Allele standing beside me, also gazing out at the lightening sky.
“Whatever it is that’s holding you back…because I know you feel something…I don’t care. I can see in your eyes, when you look at me. At least, I think that’s what I see.” She shot a quick glance at me, brow furrowed. I wasn’t expecting it-I hadn’t been guarding my expression, and I was sure she’d seen the emotion on my face. “And I know you’re not normal. I’m not stupid, after all. I can see how different you are. But I…” She turned her head again to stare at me with pleading eyes. “I don’t understand. What you are. Where in the world you came from, or how you ended up here. Why do you act so strange? Who are you? Why do you act like you’re about to…I don’t know…spring into battle at any given time? Why are you so guarded? What secrets are you hiding that you can’t tell anybody?
“And why are you acting like you don’t like me at all? Yeah, it’s been like two hours since you met me, we don’t know anything about each other, and yet you like me and I like you. Why can’t you just admit it?” She crossed her arms and glared out the window. I thought she was finished, and I prepared myself to cut her down, to make sure she stayed far, far away from me, and all the things chasing me. Even though I knew she was right, even though she deserved to know the truth after she’d saved me and Claire, she would only get hurt. Killed, even. I already couldn’t stand the thought of that. How could I live with her death on my conscience? Or her family’s? Because of course if THEY found out about Allele, they would kill her and everyone dear to her. I couldn’t let that happen. I wouldn’t. So I opened my mouth and inhaled, ready to deliver a crushing blow.
But she wasn’t done asking questions.
“And who is Jared?” She whispered.
I felt my mind fracture into pieces, felt my frame crumple as I bent double, clutching the windowsill so I wouldn’t fall and cursing her for bringing this up now, for causing me this damnable pain as I replayed over and over again, how I could have saved him, how we could have gotten away…if only I hadn’t been so weak. It was all my fault.
I squeezed my eyes shut, clenching my teeth and concentrating on my breathing. Slowly, the pain started to trickle away as I fought back all the memories and tortured thoughts attacking my brain. I compressed them into a tiny ball and shoved them into a forgotten crevice in the corner of my mind.
I slowly moved, eyes still closed, until I was standing perfectly upright. Then I opened my eyes and looked at Allele. She had a hand over her mouth, and her eyes were huge and stricken. A softly spoken phrase issued from between her cupped fingers.
“I’m sorry,” She whispered anxiously. “I didn’t know that would happen.”
“You think you want to know about me. Trust me, you don’t. You don’t want the nightmares that come with it.” My voice was cold as I glared at her. How dare she inquire about things that weren’t any of her business? My previous feeling that she deserved to know had deserted me in the face of that one, simple question.
“Just stay away from me.” I knew I had to hurt her feelings, make her hate me, or we’d get closer, whether I wanted to or not. She was right. There was something there. But she would be hurt, and I just couldn’t let that happen.
I kept my expression carefully controlled as the hurt and shock filled her silver eyes. I let no feeling escape me, and my face was blank when she spoke, her eyes shiny, like she was on the verge of crying.
“If that’s how you want it.” Her voice trembled. I turned away, my face calm, to look back out the window, even though I felt anguished and beyond guilty about how I was treating her.
I heard quick footsteps as Allele exited the room, and the door closed softly behind her. Only then did I let my face contort, my mouth twisting into a grimace as I was filled with remorse. Allele’s hurt face seemed imprinted on my eyes, even as I blinked over and over again.
I stood, staring outside for who knows how long. Allele was probably asleep by now.
Abruptly, I shoved the window open and jumped out, landing gracefully in her empty, spacious backyard. I glanced back once-the rising sun reflecting off the windows-and then started running.