Pyro

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Chapter 5

Modern Day; September 18th; Cleveland, Ohio; Melissa

What am I supposed to do now? There’s nothing I can do, really. At least, not until I know what’s wrong with me and why I’m acting this way.

I laid down on my bed and stared at the ceiling, feeling empty inside. I had been looking forward to tonight, but it had all been in vain. I should have known something would go wrong. I had always been unlucky when it came to relationships of any kind, so why would now be any different? Maybe I had friends now, but I was still me.

More than anything, I wanted to clear my mind and think about something different. Spaghetti or Robert Frost or basketball. Well… Probably not basketball. But all I could think about was Willow. Everything went back to him in the end. I rolled over and leaned towards my backpack, which was just within reach. I struggled to unzip it and pulled out my Calculus notebook just to flip through the notes. On some pages, he had helped me with my homework and I smiled fondly down at his handwriting, tracing the neat loops with my index finger.

“Stop it,” I said, slapping my notebook shut and flinging it back in my bag. “You’re going to make yourself sick with sadness if you keep thinking about him.”

I got up and paced my room with my arms folded and my eyebrows furrowed. This was a serious dilemma I had before me. I seemed to be infatuated, but I also seemed to be struggling with some kind of fiery energy. The more I tried to handle both, the more it looked like I was going to have to pick one or the other. Of course I wanted to pick Willow over the fire, but I could tell it wasn’t going to be that easy.

As I paced, something strange caught my eye. It was the small red rock with black specks that was sitting on my bookshelf.

Oh, yeah! I forgot to give that back to Willow. It’s definitely his. Where else would it have come from?

I picked it up and looked at it again. It was a funny little thing. I had never seen anything like it. The only thing I could figure was that it was from Iceland. I shrugged and turned it over in my palm.

Dammit. I’m thinking about Willow again. I swear, that boy is all I think about. He’s like a sickness.

I really wished I could go to him in that moment and apologize for having had to bail out on our date. I liked him more than words could express and I wanted to let him know that, but I didn’t know how. I also didn’t know how to talk about the fire thing, whatever that was.

I just want to see his face. I want him to touch my hand again.

Suddenly, I felt dizzy. It was like the whole world was spinning. I reached out to grab the bookshelf, afraid that an earthquake was happening. However, I had never experienced an earthquake like this before. Everything was losing focus and becoming hazy, as if a fog had drifted in through the walls to cloud up my vision.

“What the hell?”

My fingers tightened on the rock and I held onto myself when everything disappeared. I was there, all alone, standing in an abyss of white nothingness. It looked like I was the only thing in existence, but that couldn’t have been true. Maybe I was in a different dimension or something. Then there was something. Something in the distance that looked like it was becoming a line. Then it sharpened and became ridges. The haze lifted and I was suddenly standing on solid ground again. The ridges were mountains in the distance. My mouth fell open as I looked around me and found that I was no longer standing in my bedroom in Cleveland, Ohio. I was somewhere else entirely.

This is a dream. This has got to be a dream. Any minute now, I’ll wake up with my bed on fire again.

The ground I was standing on was firm and hard, but nearby there was verdant green grass and a patch of flowers. Behind that was a willow tree. It wasn’t an ordinary willow tree, though. I could see that just by looking at it. It was much larger than the one Willow and I sat under when we were going over Calculus. This tree was so large that its roots were probably hundreds of feet long underneath the ground. I walked towards it, growing more and more curious. I couldn’t help but think of Alice in Wonderland. This place was certainly something to wonder at. Part of me hoped that this wasn’t a dream, even though I was scared out of my mind. I was intrigued.

When I got closer to the tree, I saw that there was a set of stairs in the ground next to it leading down to God knows where. Before I could stop myself, I was descending into a hallway. I stopped at the bottom of the stairs and stared. Before me was a passageway of stone floors and walls that held flaming torches.

Have I wandered into a medieval castle? I wondered.

It certainly looked like I had, except that it was underground. I moved forward and my shuffling echoed through the hallway. I was suddenly frightened at the prospect of seeing a person in that passageway. Clearly, this place had been crafted by people, so I didn’t expect to be alone for long.

Sure enough, at that very moment, a boy who could not have been that much older than me stepped into the hallway and stared at me. He was dressed in black leather pants, a black T-shirt, and small silver hoops in his ears. His hair was spiked and I couldn’t help but stare.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” he asked me, slowly coming closer.

“Um. My name is Melissa. I have no idea what I’m doing here or even where here is. I don’t exactly know how I got here either.”

He frowned and walked all the way up to me so that I could see the color of his eyes – they were electric blue.

“Melissa. That doesn’t ring a bell, but it seems to me that you’re lost and confused.”

“Yep. That’s about right. Who are you?”

“My name is Felix and I am –” He stopped and squinted at me. “Where are you from? It doesn’t sound like you’re –”

“I’m from Cleveland. Ohio. United States. Earth.”

“Well, that’s very specific.”

“I’m not exactly sure how specific to be, since I don’t have any idea where I am right now. Perhaps you could enlighten me.”

He raised his eyebrows at my sass and I resisted the urge to smirk.

“Cleveland, Ohio? Do you happen to know Willow?”

For God’s sake. I can’t escape.

“Yeah, I do! Do you?”

“Yeah! Let me go get him for you.”

“… He’s here?” I said quietly, but Felix had already left the hallway.

Great, I thought to myself. Now, once again, I’m all alone in a strange place. The one person I want to see right now will be here soon, but I’m not even sure what to say to him. I feel like a fool.

I heard footsteps on the stairs behind me and turned to see a tall boy who had broad shoulders, well-defined muscles, and a hard jaw. He was wearing a black Nike shirt with track pants. At first glance, I thought he looked rather familiar, and then I realized that he reminded me of Felix.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” he said, glaring at me harshly, which contrasted Felix’s reaction and made me question my suspicions.

“I’m Melissa and I don’t know what I’m doing here,” I said, trying not to sound too startled.

“A likely story.” He came over and grabbed my right forearm. “Why do I find that hard to believe?”

“I don’t kno—Oh!”

I gasped as his grip on my arm tightened. I was starting to lose circulation and I felt a bit of fear when I realized that this stranger was hurting me. I wailed in pain as I heard an odd cracking noise.

“Scott!” Felix was back and he was running towards us. “What are you doing?! She’s our guest!”

“Well, how was I supposed to know?!” Scott replied, releasing me. I fell back against the wall in relief, cradling my useless arm. “She was acting suspicious! And you know I can’t always control my abilities, so don’t yell at me for that.”

“I know, I know… You just need to learn to control your temper.” Felix turned to me with sympathy in his eyes. “Here, let me see your arm. I can help you. Trust me.”

For some reason, I did trust him. He had that kind of voice and his eyes had so much kindness in them. He took my forearm in his warm hands. I looked up at his face for a minute and was surprised when I began to feel the pain leaving. Immediately, I looked back down at my arm and my heart leapt up into my throat in alarm when I saw that a strange blue light was emanating from his hands.

“What are you doing?!” I looked over at Scott. “What is he doing?!”

“He’s healing you,” Scott said matter-of-factly.

I repeated his words in a whisper, “… Healing me?”

Then I noticed that Felix’s face was indeed creased with concentration. His eyes were closed tightly. The last bit of pain went away and I could feel that my arm was back to normal. Felix opened his eyes and let go of my arm before taking a step back.

“There you go. How does that feel?”

“Much better! How did you do that?”

“Well…”

“Melissa?!” I jumped a little bit when Willow came out of nowhere and ran over to me. He grabbed my hands and looked me in the eyes. “Is everything alright? You don’t look so good. Maybe we should talk about this. I wanted you to come here eventually, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen tonight. I have a lot to tell you about myself.”

Yeah, you do,” Scott said.

“Wait, what is he talking about?” I asked Willow.

“I have to talk to you about something,” he said slowly. “Come with me.”

He pulled me around the corner into an identical hallway and then into a smaller room with couches and armchairs grouped around a coffee table and a TV.

“What’s going on?” I asked. “What is this place?”

“It’s my home. I was going to tell you all of this eventually, I swear. I just didn’t know how.”

“Tell me what?”

“I – I’m sorry…” We sat down on one of the couches. “My mind is going in circles right now. Let me tell you, my brain is a strange place to wander. The roads don’t go in straight lines. I’m kind of all over the place right now.”

“I just want to know where we are. It’s not supposed to be a hard question.”

“It shouldn’t be. You’re right. It’s just that I’m afraid of how you will react. Melissa… I’m not positive about how you got here, but I have a hunch.”

“I’m pretty sure it was because of that rock you left in my room. At least, I’m pretty sure it was yours. It was red with black specks.”

“Yeah, that’s mine.” He looked around the room guiltily. “I kind of left it there for you to find. I didn’t think you would find it that soon, though.”

“But I did. And somehow it transported me here?”

“Parcia,” he said sadly. “That’s where we are.”

I frowned at him.

“What is Parcia? Is that the name of your neighborhood?”

“Does that sound like the name of a neighborhood, Melissa? Seriously. No, it’s a country.”

I started laughing. Did he think I was an idiot?

“No, it’s not! I’ve been in school for twelve years. You can’t fool me.”

“Parcia isn’t talked about in schools. For the most part, it’s a secret.”

He sounded so serious that I was starting to be concerned about his sanity. HadHave I fallen in love with a lunatic?

“Why?”

“I was afraid you were going to ask that. My answer is going to be a lot longer than you would expect.” I sat down next to him and nodded for him to continue. “You know how Scott was so strong that he accidentally broke your arm? And how Felix healed it?”

“Yeah. I have no idea how to explain that.”

“You wouldn’t. You wouldn’t because you don’t know what they are. They aren’t humans, Melissa. None of us are.”

“What?” A shiver went down my spine. “You can’t be serious.”

I must have misheard him. Either that or this is all a dream. Probably the latter.

“I’m dead serious. We’re elves.”

“What do you mean?”

“Exactly what I said. We’re elves. We are a different species. I know it’s shocking, but… It’s the truth.”

“But… When you say that you’re an elf, what exactly do you mean? Your ears aren’t pointed and you’re taller than I am! Or are you the kind that helps Santa?”

His lips twitched into a smile.

“No, we’re not. Height doesn’t have anything to do with it, either. To be honest, though, we used to have pointed ears. However, as we evolved over the years, they became rounded like human ears.”

I stared at him.

“You really aren’t kidding, are you? All of this is real for you.”

“Yes, it is. I want it to be real for you, too, but I can tell that you don’t believe me. I know it seems hard to believe… After living a normal human life, this is a lot for you to take in.”

Oh, he has no idea, I thought. My life has been far from normal. First the random mind reading and then the thing where I sometimes spontaneously combust… He’s going to be shocked when he finds out that I’m not as normal as he thinks I am.

That was when it hit me.

Wait a minute. Now that he’s told me this and I know that he is aware of supernatural things, I can tell him about the fire. The only thing is… What if he’s joking? What if all of this is one huge joke to him? Then telling him would make him think that I’m crazy. Maybe I am crazy…

“My life is not that normal, believe me. But this is shocking. You seem so normal. I mean, European. But not abnormal.”

He laughed, which made me smile. I loved making him laugh. It filled me with a strange joy inside.

“I was trying not to let my abilities show in case you got suspicious.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, what abilities? And what about Cierra? Does she have abilities too? Where is she? Does she live here too? Of course she does. She’s your sister.”

“Calm down, Melissa. It’s nothing major.” He took my hand and I felt that same jolt of energy run through my body. In alarm, I jumped up from the couch. “Are you okay? Did I do something? Do you not like to be touched?”

“It’s not that… It’s not you at all. I’ll tell you later. You were going to tell me about your ability?”

“Yes. As you know, I’m very good at maths.”

“Ha! I knew it! I knew no one could be that good at math.”

He laughed and said, “It’s not just that I’m good at maths. It’s that I’m good at problem-solving.”

“Huh. Really? That’s kind of cool.”

“Yeah. I think so too. Cierra has heightened senses, so that’s pretty cool too. She has to stay away from really spicy foods or she basically has the equivalent of a panic attack. I remember it happened once when we were eleven and it was the scariest thing to witness.”

“I bet!” I said with wide eyes. “This is a lot to process. And I’m guessing that one guy has super strength and the other one can heal.”

“Scott and Felix, yeah. They’re brothers.”

“I can tell. So why do you all live together? Why can’t you live in other places? In modern society?”

“This is modern society.”

“It sure doesn’t look like it,” I said, gesturing towards the hallway, where there were torches lining the walls.

“But…” He gestured at the TV and I shrugged. “Not all elves live in Parcia. But only elves live in Parcia. There aren’t any humans here.”

“Except me.”

“Except you.”

“What makes me so special that I’m allowed to be here?”

I didn’t expect a lot from his answer, so his words shocked me.

“You’re very important to me. Ever since I met you, I knew I wanted to get to know you better and spend a lot of time with you. I didn’t know what I was feeling until recently because I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.”

“… What way?”

I could tell that something important was happening, but I didn’t know exactly what. All of this still felt very surreal to me and I was still half convinced that it was all a dream.

“I like you. I really like you a lot. We always have such a good time together. At the coffee shop earlier, I was so afraid that I had overstepped a boundary and offended you somehow. I thought we were on the same page, but I don’t think we are… The way you shy away from me makes that obvious. I don’t want things to be awkward between us, so I’m okay with just being friends if you want. I just want to spend time with you.”

I stared at him. That was all I could do because I was so shocked at his words. I had no idea that he felt so strongly about me. It sounded like he felt for me almost as much as I felt for him.

“Wow. Just wow. I wasn’t expecting that.”

My heart was beating a mile a minute.

“I know… I was afraid to tell you, but I actually feel better now.” He looked away and I noticed that his cheeks were actually a little pink. “I hope I didn’t weird you out.”

“Oh, Willow. Don’t be so stupid.”

And before either of us could stop me, I had sat back down next to him and grabbed him by the collar to pull his lips against mine. His were soft and warm. My arms were around his neck as he encircled my waist and I could feel heat radiating through me. It wasn’t the same as how I had felt when we had touched hands or when I had accidentally set breakfast on fire that one day. It was something entirely unique. I had never experienced anything like it before. All I knew was that I liked it. I liked it very much.

When a reasonable amount of time had gone by, I figured it would be right to pull away, so I did. Willow looked thunderstruck and his face was definitely pink now.

“You like me too,” he said quietly, in disbelief.

That’s an understatement.

“Yes. And I thought I was being obvious.”

“I was afraid I was being obvious. Wow. I had no idea this would happen. I really thought after the date that things weren’t going to work out.”

“You thought wrong,” I said.

I was suffering from a more positive version of posttraumatic stress from the kiss. It was so wonderful and so unexpected – even though I had instigated it – and I thought I had never been happier in my entire life.

“Wow.”

This time he leaned towards me and I was more than willing to acquiesce. This kiss was twice as long as the previous one, but just as wonderful. I never wanted to stop kissing him, but I realized that would be inappropriate.

“This has been the craziest night of my life,” I admitted as we pulled away from each other.

“Same here. So, why did you pull away before?”

I looked down at the floor, gathering up the courage to tell him.

“You really want to know?”

“Of course I do. I told you everything.”

“Touché,” I said. “So, this thing has been happening to me ever since the first day of school. I know it’s only been a couple of weeks, but it feels like a really long time to me because I have been accidentally setting things on fire and it has been really stressing me out.”

“Whoa. How has that been happening?”

“I have no idea. I just get this really warm sensation in my body and suddenly things catch on fire. It’s like a mental thing, I think. Anyways, when you held my hand at the coffee shop, I got one of those feelings. I didn’t want to hurt you or anyone in the place, so I got out of there. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, but I didn’t know how to tell you at the time. Like I said, I thought you were normal.”

“That’s really messed up. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were dealing with anything… Supernatural.”

It felt good to tell him about the fire, but for some reason I didn’t feel ready yet to tell him about the mind reading. I hadn’t read his mind yet, but I didn’t want him to think that he couldn’t act normally around me. When Amber had first discovered that I had the mind reading ability, she was really paranoid and tried to censor her thoughts around me. It didn’t work, of course. All it did was make both of us uncomfortable.

“It’s been so hard. Between having feelings for you and having this weird fire thing, I haven’t known what to do with myself. A normal high school student shouldn’t have to deal with this.”

“You’re absolutely right. I don’t know what to tell you about the fire. All I can say is that next time you get one of those feelings, take note of what’s making you feel that way. Maybe it will help you to figure things out.”

We sat in silence for a minute and I thought about the different episodes I had had. The first time, I had woken up to my bed being on fire. The second time, I had burned the eggs in the kitchen. That showed me that I had the ability to summon fire that consumed things and fire that didn’t consume things, I realized. Then there were the feelings I had whenever Willow took my hand. But what could that possibly mean?

“Maybe. So, are you going to show me around Parcia, or not?”

“Of course I am. This room here is where we go to hang out. It’s sort of like a common room. Sometimes we play cards, sometimes we watch TV –”

“Wait a minute. Who is ‘we’? Surely not all of the elves in Parcia live underground.”

“No. Parcia is an elfin country where all elves have their roots.”

“Sort of like Asgard.”

“I guess so. This place where we are now is called the Underground. There is a community of us that live here together. You could say that the rest of Parcia is like the ‘modern society’ you are talking about. It’s a fairly normal country, except that everyone has abilities. The Underground is like the capital of Parcia. Lord Darylis, my father, is the Leader of the Underground. He’s in charge of everything, along with my mother, Lady Catherine. I despise both of them.”

“That’s kind of harsh.”

“But it’s true. Neither of them give a rat’s ass about me. Just wait until you meet them. That will be a pleasant experience.”

He looked up at the ceiling.

“Are there elves in other places?”

“Of course. They’re everywhere. It’s just that everyone can be traced back to Parcia. My ancestors were Parcian, even though my father is from Iceland and my mother is from Sweden.”

“So there could be other elves at our high school? American elves?”

“There probably are.”

“That’s incredible!”

Suddenly, life was even more interesting. Elves were real. Suddenly, there was another species and I knew for a fact that they existed and lived among humans. It was daunting to think about.

“I know. Let me take you around and show you some other places in the Underground.”

I followed him from the room, almost shaking with excitement. I was terrified, but I felt safe because I was with Willow. The next room we entered was a spacious one with long wooden tables. A hole in the wall made a little window into a smaller room where cooks were preparing food.

“Is this where you eat all your meals?”

“Yes. It’s called Ruoka Hall. Ruoka means food in Icelandic.”

“How creative.”

He chuckled.

“Now let me take you to see Margrét. She’s a really fascinating person and she’s like a mother to me. She basically raised Cierra and me.”

“I’d love to meet her.”

“Wait a minute,” he said. “I just realized… I don’t know exactly how to introduce you to her.”

“My name is Melissa,” I said with a frown.

“That’s not what I mean,” he said, shaking his head. “You know, you and I…”

“Oh! Oh… I… I like you and you like me…”

“So… You want to do this?”

“Yes.”

Then he took my hand and pulled me down the hall with him.

Did that really just happen?

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