Addie: Meet me at my house later. If I’m not already dead.
My car sat on the far side of the parking lot, and I couldn’t get to it fast enough. The day had been horrible, matching perfectly with the rest of my first week back to school since the whole Duke’s-a-huge-jerk-who-had-been-using-me revelation. I could almost handle conversations stopping dead when I entered a room. But the looks of pity had me seething. I did not need pity. If luck were on my side, the winter holiday that began as soon as I exited the parking lot would make people forget. If it didn’t, maybe Laila could zap the whole school with amnesia. Ah, schoolwide amnesia, the first happy thought of my day.
I stepped off the curb and realized too late that I hadn’t looked first. Tires screeched across asphalt and my hands instinctively flew up, bracing for the impact. The impact that didn’t come. At least not yet. The motorcycle skidded my way in slow motion. So slow that I easily stepped out of its way as it moved past. Connor, the driver, let the bike drop to the pavement as he crawled his way off it. Pieces of glass from the shattered side mirror floated by my head. I reached out and touched one with my index finger. It dropped like a brick to the asphalt, where it rocked back and forth—the fastest-moving piece of the world around me—until it stopped.
Back at the bike, Connor slowly ripped his helmet from his head and turned a full circle, searching the ground. His movements gradually picked up speed until he no longer appeared as though underwater. When our eyes finally met, relief washed over his face.
“Addie, I thought I hit you. I was going to hit you.”
“I’m fine.” At least physically. I had no idea what was happening to me mentally. My ability had always been the same—I could see both outcomes of a choice. In essence, I could see the future. Two futures, really. There had never been any variation to that. It was predictable.
Now my ability was acting up. At certain moments, time slowed down around me. The same thing had happened at Bobby’s house last week, and I wrote it off as an isolated incident—a fluke that had come out of the extreme stress of the situation. He’d said something about extreme emotions. And it wasn’t every day that someone tried to kill you. Everything that day had been weird—the time slowing down, the Search-like vision of Trevor at the hospital. But now I could no longer blame it on that day. I hadn’t been almost killed today. I glanced at the motorcycle lying on its side. Well, maybe I had.
A pain shot up the back of my neck and then radiated through my head. I tried not to wince and pressed my palms against my temples, scanning through a pain-relief mind pattern. It didn’t help.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Connor asked. “Because you look like you’re going to puke.”
“I’m fine. Sorry about your . . .” I was about to say bike, but then saw Duke, coming toward the scene at a jog.
I spun on my heel and walked as fast as my throbbing head would allow in the direction of my car.
“What happened?” I heard him ask Connor behind me.
“I almost hit her. I should’ve hit her. One second she was there, the next she was gone.”
Just thirty more steps and I’d be at my car. I positioned my thumb, ready to unlock the door, so there would be no delays when I reached it. My head had finally calmed, so I walked even faster. But then his voice was right behind me.
“No.” It was a lame response, but the only one my lips would allow passage to.
“Did you get hurt?”
The many answers I could’ve given to that question flooded my brain: Not nearly as much as you hurt me. Not nearly as much as I will hurt you if you come any closer. Why do you care? Were you hoping to be the sole provider of painful experiences in my life?
Of course I didn’t say any of those things. I led him to believe he hadn’t hurt me. That I had never liked him at all. That when he stopped manipulating my emotions with his ability, everything I ever felt for him vanished. And that was the story I would stick to no matter what. That story let me hold on to a shred of dignity.
“No.” I reached my car and pressed the pad, unlocking it. I opened the door and let it act as a barrier between us when I turned to face him. “I’m good.” I threw in a smile as proof of the statement.
“The rumors were brutal today. Sorry. They’ll die down soon.” His ever-present smile made his words seem like the setup to a joke. Unfortunately, I was probably the punch line he’d tell his buddies later: And then she fell for me again. Ba-dum-bum.
He ran a hand through his tousled blond hair, pushing it off his forehead and making his blue eyes stand out more. “You still haven’t told anyone, right?”
And there it was, the reason he was still coming around. I knew something that could ruin him—he was a Mood Controller. Everyone still thought Duke Rivers, football star, was Telekinetic, which was what he wanted everyone to think so he could play. More specifically, so he could play quarterback, a position the coach would only fill with a Telekinetic. It made all the pity looks even worse this week, because they probably just assumed I was the poor girl with no willpower to resist Duke’s charm. If only they knew I had no choice. “I made you a deal. Get your buddies to stop injuring the Norm players and I’ll keep your secret. Is that still the arrangement?”
He nodded. “But you think I should tell either way.”
Yes! “I could not care any less.” I climbed in and pulled the door shut behind me. Don’t look at him, Addie, just start the car and drive away. I turned my whole body away so I could look over my right shoulder to back up. If I backed over his toes, that was all on him. When I straightened out the steering wheel, I managed not to check and see if he still stood there. I just drove away. Maybe now that Duke Rivers knew I wouldn’t spill his secret, he’d leave me alone.
I lay perfectly still as the music flooded my bedroom, attempting to drown out all thoughts. I stared at the words on my ceiling, pretending the answer to what I should do with my life was written somewhere among the quotes painted there over the years. After an hour of staring, my eyes tricked me into thinking some stood out bolder than others, so I read the darker words. Life. Other. Sometimes. Eat.
Not helpful at all.
My door flew open and Laila walked in. “Is this Journey? Are you grieving to Journey?” The lights illuminated. I hadn’t realized they had turned off with my lack of motion, but my now stinging eyes proved otherwise. “There are bands of this era that are perfectly acceptable to cry to.”
I rubbed my eyes. Was it that obvious I had been bawling all afternoon? “Nobody can sing a love song like Journey.” My down comforter puffed up around me, as if slowly trying to swallow me whole. I hadn’t put up much of a fight.
There were things I should’ve been doing: laundry, a half hour of meditation, packing for my dad’s house, and then there was the hair appointment my mom had scheduled for me. That was in five minutes. And just like the first three items on the list, I was ready to forgo that one as well. I found the blue strip of hair and twirled it over and over again around my finger. It had faded a lot, but I wasn’t ready to give up all the blue quite yet.
Laila stood at my wall monitor, probably searching for the right background music for my suffering. I waited to hear her pick when the room went completely silent. She sat down at my desk and riffled through my drawers.
With every noise, I sensed my desk becoming more and more disorganized. “What do you need?”
She pulled out a clean sheet, and before she could ask, I said, “Pens are in the center drawer.”
“Perfect. Time to start a list.” She leaned back in the chair, propped her feet, clad in red heels, on the desk, and put the paper on her knees. “It’s entitled ‘Revenge.’ Subtitled ‘How to pay Duke back for using not only his ability but his exceptionally good looks against two unsuspecting, perfectly innocent girls.’”
Before I had a chance to object to this pointless exercise, she said, “Number one, figure out a way to make the whole school think he’s turned ugly. You know that would kill him. Ooh, I bet we can get a Perceptive to help us. They can just alter everyone’s perception of him. It will be awesome. Okay, your turn. Number two.”
I smiled. Maybe this would be a good healing ritual after all—just imagining Duke ugly made me a little happier. “How about we get a Persuasive to talk him into doing something really stupid in front of everyone?”
“Kalan would totally do that.” She wrote it down and then tapped the pen on her teeth. “What else . . . ?” She stood and walked to my bookcase, tilted her head sideways, and started reading the titles. “Don’t you have any books in here about somebody plotting revenge?”
“I’m sure there are revenge subplots in one of them.”
She turned to face me and leaned back against my bookcase. “How about we sneak into his room at night and put lipstick on him?”
“How would we get in?”
“A Mass Manipulator can walk through the wall and unlock the front door for us.”
“You don’t think their security system covers that possibility?”
“We’ll find a way.”
“Why? I’m sure he showers in the morning. What would putting lipstick on him do?”
“It would let him know we were there, always watching, able to get in whenever we want. Plus I’ve always kind of wanted to put lipstick on him. He has amazing lips.” After she said it, she realized she shouldn’t have and dropped her gaze.
I finally sat up and scooted back against the headboard. “What did you two do anyway?” I asked quietly, not sure I wanted to know the answer. “I guess you kissed?”
“Do we really have to talk about this? He tricked us both, right?”
“He betrayed me and then made you betray me.”
“He made you do things too.”
I started to nod but then wondered what he had ever made me do, aside from like him. He gave me the feelings, but I was pretty sure I was the one who acted on them. Stop, I told myself. I had lost Duke; I wasn’t going to let him take away my best friend with his betrayal too. I had to let it go.
“We’re not going to do these, are we?” she asked, holding up the revenge list.
“No. But it was fun imagining them. Thanks.”
She gave a long sigh, then slid the paper into the slot on the recycle bin. She glanced at her purse on the desk and then started playing with the zipper. “If I had something important to tell you, something that might stress you out, would you want me to tell you now or when you got back from your dad’s?”
She probably wanted to go into detail about her and Duke. Get it off her conscience and put it onto mine. I sighed, the slight pressure behind my eyes reminding me that things weren’t quite right. My life was a huge mess. “I just need a break right now, from everything. Can we talk about it when I get back?”
She dropped the zipper on her purse, seeming relieved, and turned to face me. “Yes. So what are you packing for your dad’s house? Six weeks is a long time.”
Laila: You’re anal. In case you didn’t know.
Addie stacked her clothes by color. On purpose. Her shirts, folded in neat squares, sat in separate piles on her bed. One with shades of red, another greens and blues, and finally neutrals. She gripped a pink-and-brown-striped shirt in her hands, and her eyes flashed back and forth between two piles. It wouldn’t surprise me if she imploded from the dilemma of a shirt that fit into two piles. I had an intense urge to grab the stacks and throw them in the air, letting her world of organization rain chaos on us.
“The fate of the universe lies in which pile that shirt belongs to, Addie. Don’t screw it up.”