- A Serialized Novel -

This isn't a superpower. It's a curse.

My vow of being a positive, better me lasted all of a day.

Actually, less than one.

Well, here’s the thing. April and I were getting along. That should have been a warning sign. It should have warned me that something bad was due to happen. I hadn’t thought much of it, though. I’d already done my random shift, the tentacle was gone, and I was in a good mood. I didn’t think about how that never lasted with me because I was determined to make it last.

So, of course, that’s when something went wrong.

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“You still have another use of the booth,” Clayton said, pulling on his coat and then buttoning it up as he looked over at April. He was still in a good mood, surprisingly enough, and that was something he wanted to hold onto for as long as possible. He was going to buy some gummy bears before he went home.

April smiled, wrapping her scarf around her neck and reaching for her hat. “That’s awful generous of you, Clayton. You really are trying to change, right? Because you know, if you’re trying to make a move on me, that’s just not going to happen.”

“Why does everyone immediately assume—never mind. No, I was being nice, but if you don’t want that, I’ll just—”

“No, I want the booth. It used to be the booth I came to with my family,” she interrupted quickly, and he frowned. She nodded. “Yeah, used to being the key word. I didn’t put up that much of a fuss just because I’m stubborn or you’re… The thing is, we’d always sit back in this little corner. It was a joke, my dad said, see if they can find us. They did, eventually, and the manager knew us well enough to expect it. I miss that, those times…”

“I didn’t realize it had sentimental value for you,” Clayton began awkwardly. Was now the part where he admitted that he’d never known his family, or did he try and say he was sorry? At least one of her parents was gone in some way or other, and he should be sympathetic to that—well, he was. He didn’t know what to say now, though. “It was… It is important to me, too, April. I know you don’t believe that I need the booth, but I do. Let’s share it, okay? I mean, clearly we’re capable of getting along with each other for a meal, so we can do this. We can share it if we’re here at the same time and then if we have someone… er, with us, we can let the other know. That’s simple, right?”

“You really have changed. Maybe you need more of those horrible experiments,” she teased, and he gave her a dark look. “I’m kidding. I don’t think it’s right for Larabee to experiment on you even if you are broke and desperate. You do look better, though, today, and that’s good.”

“Thank you.” He smiled at her, and they were in another awkward moment, one where he felt like he should do something, but he didn’t know what it was.

“Rekindled your romance, have you?”

Clayton blinked and looked over at April’s ex. He turned back to her, about to ask the question, and she seemed a bit uncomfortable as she moved over to greet the other man. “You’re late, you know. I thought you wanted to meet me for coffee two hours ago. To talk.”

“I did.”

“Well, you didn’t show, I came here, I ran into Clayton, again, and we’ve reassessed the booth custody thing, not that—you could have called, Brady. What’s with the no calling?”

“Stuck in a meeting, couldn’t call. I’m sorry. Can we still have the coffee?”

April bit her lip, thinking about it. Clayton shook his head. “I’m going to go now. I’ve got a few things to do before tomorrow.”

“Nice seeing you again, Clayton.”

“Right,” Clayton muttered, moving past Brady. That man bothered him, and he didn’t know what he was going to about that because he was starting to think that Larabee wasn’t wrong about the whole April thing. He shook his head. This was a lousy time to figure that out, and he didn’t want to—he was still convinced that swearing off dating was the best thing for everyone. He shook his head, going out of the diner’s doors. He looked around the street, at the cars in the parking lot and under the lights. He still had to walk home.

“Clayton, wait!” April called, running up to him. He looked back at her, frowning. “The—I—you… I didn’t think—I mean, Brady just wanted to talk, and I got nostalgic, and—”

“You don’t have to explain, April. You were expecting to have the booth alone, and I was there. It happens. No worries.”

“Yeah, but I…” she started again, shaking her head. “I just wanted to say… thank you. For the shared custody of the booth. Yeah, thank you.”

Clayton nodded. “You’re welcome. We shouldn’t have fought about it in the first place.”

“No, I guess not.”



She turned around to face Brady, and Clayton turned to face Larabee. The scientist looked sheepish. “Hey, I’m sorry, I know I tried to tell you before, but the side effects…”

“What side effects, Larabee? What did you do this time?”

“Relax, there won’t be a tentacle this time,” Larabee said, pulling him away. “It’s just a bit of… Well, I figured it out. It heightened emotions. That’s why you reacted the way you did, getting all mad. Didn’t you notice that you were… well… with April just now?”

“You think that was just this latest drug you gave me? Because you were always convinced that I felt something for her and her for me before, so why would you change your mind now? This had better not be a scheme to get me to stay. I’m not going to—I feel woozy again.”

Larabee winced as he caught Clayton’s arm, holding him up. “Yeah, that would be you coming down from the high you’ve been on. Let’s get you back home, buddy. If you still feel like it, you can move out tomorrow.”

“Wait,” Clayton said, looking back at April, seeing her smile at something Brady said. “Does it transfer? Is it contagious?”

“I don’t think so. Why?” Larabee asked, and then he saw what Clay did, and he sighed. “It shouldn’t. I doubt it does. It just hurts you more because of the side effect.”

“Sure,” Clay agreed, but he had a hard time believing that as he watched Brady brush some of April’s hair out of her face. She blushed, and Clay looked away. Maybe it was just the drug that Larabee had used to get rid of the tentacle. Maybe not. If it wasn’t, then it would seem that love was yet another thing that Clayton was cursed in.

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