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Chapter 3

Modern Day; September 12th; Cleveland, Ohio; Melissa

The glorious thing about weekends was that I could sleep in as long as I wanted to. The unfortunate thing was that I oftentimes got up at eight o’clock, regardless of this fact. Amber smiled up at me from her crossword puzzle when I entered the kitchen.

“Good morning, Miss Early Riser,” she said.

“Ugh!” I replied. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

I took a seat across the table from her and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. Amber sipped at her coffee while looking at me thoughtfully.

“Some people just can’t sleep all day and I guess you’re one of those people.” I shrugged. “However… I do think there’s something on your mind. Or, should I say, someone.”

“Oh, Amber! Don’t start that again!”

I rolled my eyes and launched myself towards the coffee maker, which had already brewed half a pot. I picked a mug with the Beatles on it and watched impatiently as the coffee trickled into the pot.

“What? It’s true! You admitted it!”

“Amber! He and Cierra are coming over today and I don’t want you embarrassing me.”

“That’s right!” She added a word to her puzzle with a look of satisfaction. “Are you guys going to be studying?”

I grabbed the coffee pot and hurriedly poured into my mug before too much coffee could spill out of the coffee maker.

“No, actually. We’re going to hang out, whatever that means.” Amber abruptly got up and crossed the kitchen in her bathrobe to give me a tight hug. “What was that for?”

“I’m just so glad that you’re finally making friends, Melissa. I was worried about you.”

“Worried? But I’ve always been fine.”

“It’s hard to know sometimes.”

“You don’t have to worry about me. Now, do you want me to make us some breakfast? I’m starving.”

“That’s my girl.”

She patted my back and then returned to her crossword. I hummed a song by Cheap Trick and proceeded to crack some eggs into a pan and put the pan on a burner. I had just reached the chorus of the song and was prodding the slightly hardened eggs with a spatula when I felt a strange sensation in my hands. It was like they were slowly becoming warm from my wrist to my fingertips. I was starting to think something strange was happening when the eggs suddenly caught fire in the pan. In a panic, I picked the pan off the stove, but it didn’t do any good. It didn’t seem like the burners had made the eggs catch on fire. I tried to blow out the flames, which were growing higher, but it didn’t do any good.

“Melissa!”

I didn’t have to turn around to know that Amber had jumped up from her seat. Both of us were clearly panicking, but I tried not to think of that as I struggled to put out the fire.

Oh God, it’s my fault, isn’t it? I did it, somehow. Just like I did it last month in my room.

“What did you do?!”

Please make it stop. Oh, please. Please make it stop.

And then, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. I breathed a slow sigh of relief as I stared down at the smoldering black mass of what had once been a possible meal.

What was that?”

“I… I don’t know,” I said honestly.

When I turned around with the wilting spatula in my hand, Amber saw the fear on my face and came over to hug me.

“Oh, Sweetie. Are you going through something again? Does this have to do with your telepathy? I thought we had finished with all that…”

“So did I…”

But something told me this was different. Amber decided to make breakfast (“If you didn’t do that on purpose, then it could accidentally happen again.”), and then I went upstairs to take a shower and make myself look nice. The “nicest” things I could find were a pair of jeans and a Back to the Future T-shirt. For the next couple of hours, I tried to focus on homework to distract me from the fact that Willow would soon be in my house and then, inside my room.

However, when it came close to the time they told me they would be arriving, I ended up pacing my room, occasionally stopping to shift my desk lamp or push in the books on my bookshelf. I wanted everything to be perfect for when Cierra and Willow showed up – especially Willow. If I didn’t make a good impression, I didn’t know what I would do.

“Melissa! The door!” Amber called when the doorbell rang.

I jumped up and ran from the room. It was a struggle trying to calm myself down as I descended the stairs. I felt like I was having a heart attack. After opening the door, their smiling faces instantly filled me with happiness and I eagerly ushered them inside.

“Hey, guys!” I said.

“Hey, Melissa,” said Willow, making me feel warm inside.

I was probably blushing, but there was no way to prevent that. It was a curse that I had to put up with – albeit, not as bad as accidentally setting things on fire, which was apparently the new weird thing in my life.

“Hi, Melissa. Your house is beautiful,” Cierra said.

“Thanks!” I turned around as Amber entered the room, smoothing her skirt and smiling. “I’d like you both to meet my mother.”

Willow stepped forward to shake her hand, which surprised me so much that I forgot to finish the introductions.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Mrs. Curran. I’m Willow.”

“It’s great to meet you too. Melissa’s told me a lot about you.” I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “And you must be Cierra.”

Cierra beamed at me.

“We must be famous!”

“Well, you know…” I shrugged. “You guys are cool.”

“And so are you,” Willow said nicely.

Now I was definitely blushing.

“Come on upstairs. I want to show you guys my room.”

As they followed me up the stairs, I said a little prayer in hope that I wouldn’t catch anything on fire in front of them. That would be hard to explain. I couldn’t even explain it to myself.

“I like it,” Cierra said, thirty seconds after setting foot in my bedroom.

“Thanks.” I looked over at Willow because I wanted to know his opinion, but instead of saying anything, he just walked around, looking at things with a little smile on his face. “I spend most of my time in here.”

“You have a lot of books,” Willow finally said as he kneeled down in front of my bookcase. “Bradbury… Tolkien…”

“Yes! Tolkien!” Cierra said and we exchanged grins.

“Lovecraft… Wells… Shakespeare…”

“I like to read,” I said, but it was unnecessary. They could see for themselves. I sat down on the floor next to Willow. “So, what do you guys want to do?”

“Oh, whatever,” Cierra said, plopping down on the edge of my bed.

“This is a beautiful collection,” Willow said, tracing his finger down the spine of my book of Shakespeare plays. “Can I look at it?”

“Go for it! Personally, Much Ado About Nothing is my favorite. I’m really excited that we’re studying Hamlet this year.”

“Classic…” He began flipping through the text and then he suddenly read aloud,

“’Nay, do not think I flatter;
For what advancement may I hope from thee
That no revenue hast but thy good spirits,
To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flatter’d?
No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp,
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee
Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath seal’d thee for herself; for thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing,
A man that fortune’s buffets and rewards
Hast ta’en with equal thanks: and blest are those
Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled,
That they are not a pipe for fortune’s finger
To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee.’”

As he finished, he looked up at me and our eyes met. He held my gaze for so long that I felt that the butterflies in my stomach would make me vomit.

“Shakespeare is the best,” Cierra said, breaking Willow and I from our locked gaze.

“Yeah,” said Willow as he returned the book to its spot on the shelf. “You have to admit, there was definitely something more than friendship between Hamlet and Horatio.”

I shrugged and said, “This will be my first time reading it, so…”

“It’s a work of art.” Willow laid back on the carpet with his knees bent and stared up at the ceiling. “Literature is wonderful. It really makes you ask the big questions.”

“Like ‘to be or not to be’?” Cierra said with a snigger.

“Exactly. For instance, the first time I read Hamlet, I could totally see where he was coming from. He was mad at his uncle, who had replaced his father as king and married his mother. I’ve been mad at my father for a very long time. I can understand the anger and frustration. I mean, your parents are supposed to be people who you can talk to about things.”

Before I could stop myself, I reached over and patted Willow’s shoulder sympathetically. His eyes moved from the ceiling to my face and he gave me a sad smile.

“You’re going to make me sad, Willow,” said Cierra, looking down at the carpet.

“Sorry,” he said to his sister. Then he said to me, “What kind of big questions do you want to answer in your lifetime, Melissa? What do you want to do with your life?”

It was a daunting thing to ask someone and he gave me pause for a minute. I had to stare off into space and think for a minute before I responded.

“I don’t know what I want to do with my life yet, but I guess I want to know… Why does fire burn?”

How is it that sometimes fire doesn’t burn?

“Interesting. So I take it that you like science?”

“Yeah, I do. And you like math?”

“He loves math,” Cierra said, rolling her eyes. “He always has. It’s because he’s pretty good at solving problems.”

She winked at him and he laughed. I took that to mean that there was some inside joke being shared between them.

And Cierra loves to ride horses.”

“You do?” I said, turning to look at her in interest. “Where do you ride horses?”

“Oh, back in… Iceland. I think horses are beautiful.”

“Who doesn’t? I’ve always thought it would be cool to ride a horse, but I think I would be too afraid.”

“Why?” said Willow.

“I don’t know. I guess I’ve never been a very adventurous person.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that. I respect that. But it’s good to leave your comfort zone every once in a while.” He closed his eyes and put his arms under his head. “You learn a lot that way.”

“I guess so.” I looked between them. “Do you guys want to watch a movie or something?”

“Sure,” said Willow as he opened his eyes, while Cierra nodded. “What movie?”

“I don’t know. We have tons. Pretty much every chick flick ever made, every fantasy movie ever made…”

Willow sat up.

“Well, what do you want to watch? I’m flexible.”

I turned to Cierra and said, “Do you have a preference?”

“Anything, as long as no one’s face gets cut in half,” she said with a shrug.

Willow laughed.

“She hates violence.”

In the end, we decided on The Princess Bride, which had a tolerable amount of violence and satisfied everyone’s wants. During the movie, I sat on the couch between Willow and Cierra, to my delight. It was a small enough couch that every once in a while, my arm would brush up against Willow’s and I would lose the ability to breathe for a minute. I felt ridiculous, but I also felt wonderful. I was figuring out that that was what it was like to like someone in that special way. Amber came into the living room at one point and brought us two bags of popcorn to set between us. Willow and I ended up reaching into the same bag, so Cierra had the other bag all to herself. She didn’t seem to mind. I didn’t mind sharing because every other time I reached for popcorn, my hand would touch Willow’s. The first time it happened, he apologized, but every time after that he just gave me a shy smile.

I barely paid any attention to the movie. The whole time, my thoughts were racing and I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that Willow was in my house and he was sitting so close to me. Everything about it felt surreal.

Please, God, don’t let me accidentally set something on fire.

When the end credits were rolling, Willow left the room to use the bathroom and Cierra turned to me expectantly, crossing her legs and raising her eyebrows at me.

“Okay, tell me the truth, Melissa,” she said.

“What?”

“Do you like my brother?” This caught me off guard and I was so startled that I could only gape at her. “It’s not exactly hard to see, you know.”

“You don’t think he knows, do you?”

She smiled at my indirect admission.

“I have no idea, but you two would be so cute together.”

“We have to stop talking about this because it’s making me blush and I don’t want him wondering why when he comes back in the room.”

“Oh, Melissa…”

“What?!”

I didn’t want her making fun of me and I felt like that was what she was about to do.

“I just never thought about anyone getting all flustered about Willow. I mean, to me, he’s just… Willow. It’s just weird to think about it – about him being more than that to somebody.”

“All I know is I’ve never felt this way before,” I said. After hearing those words come out my mouth, I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at myself. “It sounds so cheesy, but I’m not even kidding.”

“I know exactly how you feel. I’m in love right now.”

“Really?” I said. “I mean… I’m not in love with Willow. I haven’t even known you guys for a month yet. But who’s the guy?”

“His name is Scott.” I could see by the way her face instantly lit up at the thought of him that she really was in love. “He’s tall and blonde and muscular and he’s three years older and he’s wonderful.”

“How did you meet him?”

“He’s… A family friend. We’ve known each other for a long time and we’ve gotten closer and closer as the years have gone by. He told me once that he fell in love with me the first time he met me.”

“That’s so romantic!”

Normally, I wasn’t the sappy type – Amber was always the sappy one. However, I couldn’t help but be happy that Cierra had found someone. She was so nice and she definitely deserved to be happy. Didn’t I deserve that too?

Willow walked back into the room then and my heart jumped into my throat at the sight of him.

“What are you guys talking about?” he asked, sitting next to me again.

“She, uh, was just telling me about Scott.”

“Oh yeah, Scott! What a great guy. Yeah, you would like him. His brother, too – Felix. But that’s a story for another time.” He and Cierra made eye contact and then they stood up at the same time. “Well… This has been really fun, Melissa. Thank you so much for having us.”

“We had a really nice time.”

“Are you guys leaving already?” I jumped up. “I had a great time too. Thanks for coming.”

“You were in desperate need of ‘hanging out,’” Willow said, using air quotes.

All three of us laughed. Then I walked them to the front porch.

I was afraid they were going to leave before I could get another magical hug from Willow, but then he said, “Want a goodbye hug?”

“Yeah,” I said, managing to make myself sound nonchalant.

He pulled me into his arms and I closed my eyes for a minute, breathing in his scent and savoring the moment when I disappeared in his warm embrace. Like usual, it didn’t last as long as I wanted it to – because I wanted it to last forever. Cierra got her turn and then the three of us waved goodbye. When I didn’t see a car in the driveway, Cierra said that they were going to catch a bus. I waved at them until they had walked outside. Then I went back inside and found Amber standing in the doorway of the kitchen with her arms crossed across her chest and a satisfied smile on her face.

“It certainly seems like you had a nice time. At least, judging from the smile on your face right now.”

“I did,” I said, sinking into the couch with a sigh.

“I think that boy really likes you.”

“Really, Amber, how could you possibly think that? You only saw us together a couple times.”

“I could see it in the way he looks at you. He genuinely admires you.”

“Well, I certainly hope so. I’m going to get some homework done now.”

“Okay, Sweetie. I’m going to get ready for work.”

She kissed my cheek and then I went upstairs and closed the door to my room behind me. I leaned against the door with my eyes closed for a minute. A lot had happened and I needed to soak it all up.

Everything has been going so well lately. I didn’t even set anything on fire while they were here. I don’t know what I would have done if I had…

I knelt down to get my books out of my book bag and saw a strange rock sitting on my bookshelf. It was red with black specks. I picked it up and held it in my hand, examining it closely. It was fairly light and was roughly the size of a golf ball.

Where did this come from? I don’t remember ever seeing this before.

I rolled it around in my hand and then replaced it on the shelf with a shrug.

Maybe it’s Willow’s. A lucky charm or something. I can give it back to him later. It will give me an excuse to talk to him.

When I fell asleep that night, I fell asleep thinking about the rock. I was already looking forward to seeing Willow again on Monday and sleep was a good way to get me there faster.

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