Author’s Note: I decided to let the story that was the most demanding try and clear some of the fog out of my brain. This scene was more or less clear in my head, and getting it out “on paper” as it were seemed to bring coherency back to me as I wrote.
Now, here’s hoping I can use that for other projects.
In the meantime… a bit of interaction from a unique childhood.
“It should rain today.”
“Dangerous thing to say around this place.”
She looked up, annoyed that she wasn’t as annoyed by him as she should be. She didn’t want to be affected by his presence, even if she wasn’t happy to see him. He was everywhere, somehow, and he didn’t need to be in her business, too. She didn’t want him controlling her. That was what he did, even if he said he didn’t. He made them all just a bit cooler, a bit calmer, and she wanted to be angry because she was supposed to be alone right now. She didn’t want him here.
She couldn’t ever stay angry around him.
She hated that about Cress.
“Why are you here?”
“Trying to find a place to be alone.”
She snorted. “Says the boy who hangs out with the normals. How does it feel to be the king of the losers, anyway?”
He grunted. He’d been elected class president last week, and it was still fun to tease him about it. He never got mad, but he did pout, in his way. He stared out into space, his lips thinned, and his nose would wrinkle in the funniest way. “No one asked me if I wanted them around. It’s what I am. I don’t have a choice.”
“Could be worse.”
“You mean I could be like you?”
She shoved him. “Go away, Cress. Go find your sister and bug her. I don’t want to talk to you. I want to be alone.”
He put a hand on her shoulder, and she closed her eyes, feeling his ability wash over her as it always did, cleansing her and rinsing away the day. She could fall asleep right here, sitting up, lulled by little more than his touch.
“Don’t you ever get tired of helping everyone else?”
“You don’t look at mirrors.”
She lifted her head, not sure when she’d slumped over on him. She frowned. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“You know how thin the barriers are.”
One broken glass. She knew, and she was terrified of it. She tensed, but he had her back half-asleep before she could pull away from him.
“You don’t have to fear them, not like I do.”
“No, I don’t.”
She stared at him, the awareness that struck her almost as bad as catching a glimpse of the monster in the mirror. “You can’t stop it, can you? You can’t shut it off, and one day… it’s going to kill you, isn’t it?”
He shrugged. “Maybe.”
“Why do you think I wanted to be alone?”
She closed her eyes, biting her lip and trying to shut it out, all of it. She didn’t want to think about what would happen to him, didn’t want to care. Cress was everyone’s friend, no one could lose him. She didn’t know that she had any right to call him that—friend—but that didn’t mean she knew how to cope with what she’d learned.
He might be one of the best at using his gift, at pulling and manipulating what was beyond the barrier, but he paid a price for it, didn’t he?
“I’m going home.”
She rose and started down the street, past the vacant houses that others had abandoned and no one had claimed, down to her own. She looked up when she felt the first drop of rain, shaking her head even as she fought a smile.
It was the perfect day for rain.