Author’s Note: So I thought about not sharing this, I’m not sure it’s staying in the story, and its subject matter is a bit off-putting, and I don’t know why Cress and Oceana’s parents turned out the way they did. They were supposed to be different.
Right now, I’ve got it stuck after Cress passes out in the car, not a bad place for a flashback, but I’m not sure I’ll leave it there.
Anyway, this seemed to go a long way toward explaining why Cress was the way he was and did what he did.
“We need to talk.”
“I’m meeting Hannah in a few minutes, so it had better be quick,” Cress said, ignoring his mother as he started toward his room. The blast of cold hit him first, and he stopped against his will. Damn it, he hated when she did this. He felt as helpless as he had when that rogue had him, and he still had nightmares about that guy coming back even though his parents said he was not a threat.
Not a threat. Funny way of saying “dead,” wasn’t it?
Nothing was ever as direct as it should be around here. If he wanted answers, he had to find them for himself, and when he got them, he didn’t like them.
“You will stay as long as you need to stay.”
“Okay, I know I didn’t do anything that I should be in trouble for,” Cress began, using everything he had to force the freeze off, letting it dissipate instead of going back on his mother or his father. “Why are you ganging up on me? This isn’t about my grades. They’re fine. I’m going to graduate on schedule, and I haven’t done anything crazy with the water at school. Well… I did, but that was just to filter out the nastiness. I swear that’s it. No major crisis.”
“Stop trying to use your abilities to calm us.”
“I… You know I can’t control that.” He was doing it for himself, anyway. They had him worried now, and he didn’t like the feeling he got from them. “What is it? I’m going to be late meeting Hannah, and I don’t—”
“You’re not going to see her again.”
“What?” He frowned. “Look, if this is one of those too young conversations, should only be dating if I intend to make a real commitment, I don’t need it. I figure our lives are short enough for me to get married right after high school. Hannah and I have even talked about it a little.”
“You cannot marry a normal.”
Cress looked at each of his parents in turn. “You’re kidding, right? It has to happen all the time. Not all of us are purebreds, that would just be… wrong.”
“A normal will never understand you, never balance you. You will be forced apart by your abilities.”
He shook his head. “Hannah knows what I can do. Everyone at that school does. They still talk about what I did to the bullies in the bathroom. It’s not an issue.”
“It is. You’re too young to see it now, but you would understand later. Still, you don’t have time to wait for later. You will not marry a normal. You have to marry an elemental.”
He leaned back against the wall, unable to believe this. “What about all that talk about us being free to do incredible things? That we had talents and should use them? I told you I didn’t want this damn water thing, and now you’re going to tell me because of something I didn’t even want in the first place, I have to give up everything I want and planned on?”
“You’ll get over this normal girl.”
“Right. So now I get to pick between Moira, Terra, and Enya?” He didn’t understand that. He’d always been a bit too close to one of them, and his parents hadn’t liked that, either. “I think you know who I’d pick, but you hate her, so why would you—”
“You are marrying a girl attuned to water. It is already arranged. We’re taking you to meet her tomorrow.”
Cress stared at them. “No. You can’t do this—you can’t make me do this. I won’t. I’m not going with you, and I’m not marrying anyone. Or getting engaged. I don’t even want to meet that girl. I have a girlfriend. Hannah loves me and I—”
“You will not see her again.”
He looked behind him to see the door frozen shut, and he knew all the windows were as well. He wouldn’t be getting out of there any time soon. He still wasn’t very good with frozen things. For some reason, that still eluded him. He’d used up what control he had over that getting himself free, and it would be hours before he could manage a window, and a door was out of the question.
“Go to your room and do your homework. We’ll be gone all weekend.”
Cress nodded, walking down to his door, shutting it behind him with relief. He didn’t understand. Sometimes his parents were the best in the world, and other times, he couldn’t help thinking that the rest of it was an act, that they were somehow faking the love and care so that they could get him and Occie to do what they wanted.
“I guess we’re lucky it would be too inbred for them to do that to us. You know, pair you and me up and create the next generation.”
“Occie, please, I don’t want to think about that. I might hurl all over you.”
She nodded, lying back on his bed. She was quiet while he dumped his bag on the floor and kicked it, unwilling to take his books out and do what they’d ordered him to do. He looked back at her when she spoke. “I assume they have someone for me to meet there.”
“Run. Go elope with Stone while you still have the chance. I’ll be here; I can distract them.”
“Funny. We’re seventeen, remember? Even if I loved him like he says he loves me, we couldn’t do that. We’re still too young to marry without our parents’ consent, and you know Mom and Dad won’t give it.”
“You have to go find Enya. I swear she was about to kill herself at school today.”
Oceana sat up, rising and coming over to his side. “You may have held her for a week after her family died, and you kept her calm, but even you can’t take away the guilt. Everyone says she set that fire on purpose and killed her whole family. The school can’t stop whispering about it. I think Terra sees her as a monster, and I’m not sure she’s alone in that. Even Sherwin’s avoiding her, and you know him.”
Cress grimaced. “Even if she was the one who started it, she didn’t do it to hurt anyone. She can’t control it. She’s never been able to.”
“Yeah. Go tell her that again. She’ll listen to you. I’ll defrost the window and cover for you. Just don’t let them catch you.”
He sighed. “Enya needs to get out of here. This is going to destroy her.”
“As long as our parents are in charge, that won’t happen.”
“Then maybe they shouldn’t be in charge.”
Occie shook her head. “Don’t. You and I both know you could overcome them if you wanted to, you’ve got more talent and more control, but don’t you dare give in to that darkness. You’re not a killer, Cress. I don’t care how easy it would be for you to use the water and free us all from them, how tempting it might be with this trip they’ve got planned. Don’t.”
“I’d better go see Enya.”
“Yeah,” Occie said, touching a hand to the window and pulling away the ice. “Try not to be out too late. You miss this trip, and they’ll kill you.”
“The sad part is, that last part’s not an exaggeration.”