Pyro

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Chapter 21

Modern Day; January 14th; Germany; Lady Catherine

I groaned in satisfaction as I closed my eyes and pretended that Hans was Darylis. I imagined him with his dark hair tousled and his brow slick with sweat from our sex. I pictured the sideways smile he would give me after we were done and the twinkle in his eyes whenever he wanted to begin again. Then I would open my eyes and it would all disappear and it would just be me on top of Hans, a German man I hadn’t known for very long and didn’t feel any strong connection with.

“Wie gehts?” he asked me when he looked into my eyes and saw the sadness that was probably there.

“For goodness sake! I know you lose your English a little bit when you’re drunk, but that complicates things for me!” I hissed as I bucked against him.

He moaned, looking surprised at my sudden aggression. He smiled and moved as if to shift on top of me, but I laid my hands flat against his chest and pushed him back into the pillows. I liked to be on top. I liked to be in control and I was never willing to rescind that power. I moved faster and harder until we were both gasping and falling over each other in the aftermath of our climaxes.

I leaned down and kissed his chest with my eyes closed and then he said, “What is wrong, Catherine?”

“Nothing that you need to concern yourself with.”

“You can tell me anything, Catherine,” he said with a frown. “You may be excellent in bed, but that’s not the only thing I like about you.”

“I was just thinking about someone from my past, that’s all. I consider them to be the root of all of my problems, even though they aren’t. It’s just nice to have someone to blame.”

“I know what you mean. Tell me… What is it that you plan to do to seek your revenge on the elves of the Underground?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. It seemed ridiculous that this idiotic drunken German man who was naked beside me was asking me about my plans.

“I’m not going to tell you my long-term plans, but I will tell you this: there is a girl that I need to get rid of.”

“Get rid of? Why?”

It was ironic because Hans looked like a hard-core, belligerent man who was capable of being a serial killer, when he was actually kind and generous and reminded me of a stuffed bear. He probably didn’t believe in murder. I could tell from the concern in his voice. But sometimes murder was necessary. I had come to realize that.

“Because she is an abominable creature that has no right to be in existence.”

“Wow. Is she a monster or something?”

I glared up at the ceiling, thinking of how despicable her parents were to even consider having a daughter who might inherit the plague of being an elf.

“Yes. Exactly like a monster. The world deserves to be rid of her.”

“How do you plan to get rid of her, then?”

“I’m going to go to Ohio, where she lives, and I’m going to kill her myself. I want to be sure that she’s gone because as long as my son has interest in her, there is a risk that her race could be continued.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little drastic? Murder? I mean… It is illegal and immoral.”

I laughed again and shook my head at him.

“Oh, Hans. When something needs to be done, something needs to be done.”

Hans’s frown deepened and he sat up. The bedsheets fell down to reveal his hairy chest. My eyes traveled down his body lazily.

“Murder is a crime, Catherine. There is no excuse for it. It is punishable by death.”

“Well I won’t let that happen. I won’t let myself be caught. And I certainly won’t let people like you catch me.”

I winked at him and when he opened his mouth to say something against me, I closed his mouth with mine. He forgot his anger and fear and kissed me back. When I pulled away from him, he had a silly, incapacitated look on his face and I knew the magic had worked, as it always did. I knew before he spoke that he would be amenable to any of my suggestions now. All it took was one simple kiss and anything I did could be approved by the most powerful person.

Cleveland, Ohio; Beth

Everything was wonderful. Ever since the new year had started, I had been feeling like I understood a lot more about myself. There were still some things that I found kind of confusing, but there were other things I couldn’t stop thinking about…

Throwing up leaves had been the strangest thing that had ever happened to me, but in a way it made sense. My mother was an elf and I was too. I already could control water. It wasn’t completely unexpected for weird things to happen to me. Ever since that night, I had noticed something different that I hadn’t noticed before.

Now I was more aware of nature and everything that surrounded me. Everything seemed more vibrant and vulnerable to danger. The trees caught my eye more easily as I walked to school every day. I was more aware of the hardness of the ground beneath my feet. As I breathed in the air, I could smell the moss growing on tree trunks and the heavy, artificial smell of fertilizer. At first I didn’t know what the reason for this was, but then it began to dawn on me. This is how it had begun with my water ability. I become supersensitive to everything that had to do with water. It felt like another person was inside of my head. Now my brain felt crowded because it was like there were two other people inside.

When I walked past the biology labs at school, the plants on the windowsill plucked themselves up in hope and stretched towards the sun. They grew taller and greener. It was like magic. It was magic.

The only ones who knew were Amber, Adam, Melissa, and Felix. Willow didn’t even know. We decided to keep it on the down low, just in case Lady Catherine saw me as a threat. Since we didn’t know exactly what she wanted or didn’t want, we decided it would be best not to risk anything for a while.

I kept the secret inside and it burned a hole in me. I could control plants of every kind. I could control the earth with my mind and it was wonderful and fantastic and terrifying all at the same time. I made flowers grow, even though it was January, just because they made me smile.

This was good, but then there was the dancing. Ever since I had danced with Felix, I had been trying to relive that night in my head over and over. Not the vomiting part, of course. That was scarring. But dancing was a kind of magic that was even more extraordinary than being able to control two of the elements. I felt wild. I felt crazy. I felt free for the first time in my life.

“Ms. Curran, would you care to answer the question?”

I looked up at my teacher with a blank expression. Like usual, I hadn’t been expecting to be called out. Teachers hardly ever called on me because I hardly ever had the correct answer. What was the point in even trying if I wasn’t going to? I hated school. I always had. But now, at least, there was something I did enjoy. In my mind, I was on the dance floor again, shining like a star in Felix’s arms. Occasionally he would kiss me as we danced, but that was less important. I wasn’t the kind of girl who daydreamed about kissing. But dancing… That was something else.

“Oh, I, sorry. I don’t know the answer.”

“Have you been listening at all?”

“… No.”

What was the point in lying? They would figure it out eventually.

“I will come back to you. If you don’t know the answer next time, I’m going to have to send you to the principal’s office. Maybe you will be able to pay attention then.”

He sighed exasperatedly and continued with his lecture. I forced myself out of my thoughts and tried to focus on what he was saying. I managed to give a half assed answer to his question that satisfied him enough. Then I was gone again in my mind. Daydreaming was so much better than the alternative.

I was thinking about flowers when I left school. As I walked down the sidewalk, it occurred to me that I had enough time to visit the Underground before going to work in the diner with Amber and Melissa. I needed the teleportic Icelandic volcanic rock in order to do so, however. I changed into my uniform in the bathroom of the diner after walking there and did my homework in one of the booths while I waited for Melissa to show up. The minute that she walked through the door, I slammed my textbook shut and stood up eagerly.

“Hey, Beth, what’s up?” she said to me casually.

“Can I borrow your rock? I want to go to you know where before my shift starts.”

“Why?” She frowned. “You only have like thirty minutes.”

“Because I want to. That’s why.”

“There’s no need to get snappy with me. Here you go.”

She walked over and dropped the rock into my hand. I mumbled my thanks and then teleported. The diner was empty besides the other employees, who were in the kitchen, so the coast was clear.

I found him right away. He wasn’t on guard duty yet, but was sitting on his bed in his room. He had his ear buds in and was nodding his head with his eyes closed. His laptop was open in front of him, but he was clearly more absorbed in what he was listening to than what he was looking at. I walked over and put my hands on his shoulders. He almost fell off the bed.

“Beth!” he said. “You scared me!”

He stared up at me and took his ear buds out, twining them neatly around his fingers. I sat down next to him.

“I’m sorry. I should have knocked or something. What are you listening to?”

“Fort Minor. They’re not as popular anymore, but I love their stuff. What’s up? Don’t you have work right now?”

“Soon, but not yet. I just wanted to show you something. I’ve been working on my new ability. You know… The one I discovered on New Year’s Eve?”

“Yeah!”

He crossed his legs excitedly and looked at me in anticipation.

“Look.”

I opened my palm in front of me and stared at it with intense focus. I focused all of my strength on the center of my palm and reached out to that place in my brain where the third person was now. First there was a green stem that grew out of nothing and twined around my wrist. Then a pink flower bloomed from one end. Its pedals were large and moist looking, as if they had been plucked fresh from a dew coated field.

Felix stared at me in pure amazement.

“Wow. That’s so beautiful, Beth. How did you do that?” I gave him a look and he continued, “Right. That’s basically impossible to explain. I’m so proud of you for working so hard. I know how hard it is to develop a second ability.”

“It was really difficult. I spent a lot of time holed up in my room. I think Amber thought I was doing drugs or something. Actually, Amber probably didn’t even notice I was gone. She’s been spending so much with Adam. I know he is the first thing on her mind right now. She’s been in love with him for so long and now she finally has him again. I don’t understand, but I know it’s a thing people tend to focus on.”

“What, love?”

We both stared off into space and I was suddenly aware of how close we were sitting to each other. I stood up.

“You know, I really should go to work now.”

“Right. Well, I hope you have a good rest of your day. Can I get a hug?”

I nodded and he got up to put his arms around me. We had become very good friends, but there was still a level of awkwardness between us. I walked out of his room and almost collided with an old man who was just outside the door.

“Excuse me! I’m sorry!”

“No, I’m sorry,” he said. He narrowed his eyes as he looked at me. “Are you a friend of Melissa’s?”

“I’m actually her sister now. Her mother adopted me. Are you… A guard?”

“Yes, I am. Jibril.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Jibril. I’m Beth.”

“It’s very nice to meet you, too.”

We shook hands. As I walked away, I could feel him watching me. I couldn’t explain exactly why, but I was filled with uneasiness.

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