Why: My New Favorite Word
“This is not good,” I say, slipping Ri’s sleeve over her tattoo, a circle with a snowflake inside it. She’s shaking now.
“They could kill us for this,” she whispers, her voice cracking. Why Ri of all people?
I know that I have to protect her at all costs. She’s been there for me, and now I need to be here for her.
“Hey, calm down. It’s going to be okay.” I put a firmness into my voice, trying to put on an air of confidence that I don’t really feel. I squeeze her shoulders, attempting to give her some comfort. Ri nods, sucking in deep breaths.
“No one’s going to kill us, because no one is going to find out.” I smile at her. Ri nods again, with tears glistening in her wide grey eyes. “We are going to keep this a secret and if need be, we will leave.” Ri hiccups. Students walk past us, eyeing us.
“Y-you mean le-leaving our families?” I nod, slowly.
“If it comes to that,” I say hesitantly. “Stop crying, I’m going to take care of you, okay?”
“I know that,” Ri says, her breath catching as she attempts to take deep breaths.
“Now, what I’m going to tell you is very secret.” I turn to look at Chase, who grins awkwardly. Ri frowns at the blonde boy, shuffling his feet.
“Okay,” she says. “I trust you.”
“Alright, see that boy over there?” I jerk my head towards Chase, who is trying to look at us without being obvious.
“Yes,” she says, eyeing Chase nervously.
“Well, he had the same thing happen to him. And we’re a team now, you, him, and I.” Ri nods. I keep the firmness in my voice. “Anyone else could have had it happen to them so we have to keep our heads down. It’s just going to be us three in this together.”
“But how do we know we can trust him?” Ri asks, eyeing Chase.
“You trust me right?”
“Yes, I do,” she says, smiling.
“And I trust him. I won’t let anything happen to you,” I reassure her again.
Ri nods. “Okay, El.”
She glances at the other high schoolers walking up and down the hall. She and I were probably thinking the same thing.
No one could be trusted.
“Let’s go talk to Chase.” I drag Ri back over to Chase. He raises an eyebrow at Ri’s puffy red eyes.
“What’d you do to hurt Blondie’s feelings?” he asks, patting Ri’s back.
“It’s not what you think, but we need to focus.” I glance at Ri and she nods, giving me permission to tell him. “Ri got the needle yesterday too, which probably means other kids in the school got it as well.” For once Chase is at a loss for words. He glances at me, to Ri, then around him.
“I take it you don’t want to befriend any of them?” he asks, running a hand through his hair.
“No, I definitely do not. We have to keep it secret and only trust each other.” I look directly at each of them, giving them my brightest smile.
Ri nods. Chase says, “Got it.”
“I’m going to get us through this,” I say confidently.
“You’ve always had it in you,” Ri says. Chase gives two thumbs up. I don’t know what to say to this so I stare at my feet, uncertain of the next step.
Silence stretches between us.
“I know this sounds mental, but I kind of want to try it out,” Chase says.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” I say. “Why not? We might as well do something with what we have.” I glance at them. “We’ll just have to be careful.”
“Well, duh, it wouldn’t be very smart to yell ‘Hey look over here while I blast this thing apart with a tidal wave that I just summoned!’” Chase whisper yells. I put my head in my hands, shaking my head.
“Yes, that’s true.” Chase and I both look at Ri, who is as pale as the white walls around her. Ri is still in a state of shock.
“Let’s do it,” she says hesitantly. “But I’m just wondering why this is happening. And to us of all people?”
Chase makes an offended noise. “You don’t think I’m special?” he asks, with a wink. Ri shakes her head.
“Maybe it is a disease?” I suggest. They raise suspicious eyebrows at me, like the implication was crazy. “Nevermind….”
“Beats me,” Chase replies with a lift of his shoulder. Ri glances between us, then shakes her head. We are getting nowhere.
The first warning bell rumbles through the hall. Five minutes till class starts. And we’ve discovered nothing.
“When should we try… whatever we are going to call this?” Ri asks, grabbing her books from her locker.
“I really don’t know.”
“I’m new here, so I shouldn’t be calling any shots,” Chase says with a smile.
“After school? Or whenever we can find time that will not be obvious,” Ri suggests. Chase and I glance at each other before nodding. We can not go off disappearing during classes. That would draw attention that we don’t need.
“Well then, we could use one of the labs. They’re always vacant after school, and I could freeze the door shut once we got in,” Ri offers.
“That sounds good to me,” I say, smiling at her.
“Oooh, you have ice powers?” Chase says. I totally forgot to ask what Ri could do. Ri nods, trying not to laugh at Chase’s enthusiasm.
“What about you two?” she asks, leaning in an excited smile on her face.
“I have telepathy, but I’m learning to control it.” Ri scrunches her nose.
“I’m sorry, that must be loud,” she says and Chase nods. I smile at them, glad that they are coming to terms with their new reality.
“I can manipulate water,” I say. “And we should go, class is starting soon.” I grab my backpack, which is full of books and swing it over my shoulder.
Ri gives me a quick hug and says, “See you at lunch. I’m glad I’m not alone in this.” I nod at her and she joins the stream of kids. Chase and I step into the throng of students as we head to our first class.
“This is all so weird,” Chase whispers to me as we walk quickly through the halls. Talk about an understatement. I just nod, and keep walking. But I totally agree with him. Someone out there is controlling us. Moving us around like chess pieces. Not caring if we get hurt.
Right before we enter class Chase stops me. “You okay?”
“No, I’m not. None of this makes sense.” I twist my fingers. I feel tears rising in my eyes. I know that nothing is going to be okay till we understand what is happening. “How are you feeling?”
“I feel like it’s going to be alright.” He smiles reassuringly. “And no matter what happens, I sense something in you that screams ‘heroine’ so you’re going to be alright. Me on the other hand.” He makes an explosion bomb noise with his mouth. I laugh and shake my head.
“You’ll be fine as well, Chase.” I bump his shoulder playfully. He laughs. I step into the classroom and say over my shoulder, “Let’s hope nothing happens that I have to put that ‘heroine’ thing to work.”
Our morning classes are as boring as usual. And all I can think of is the power hidden inside me, the tattoo on my wrist, and the blonde boy behind me who shares the same worries and questions.
I also make a point to avoid the bathrooms and water fountains.
Lunch is the usual. Mediocre food, which lies grey and untouched on my plate. The noise of the cafeteria clatters in my ears.
“We should do it now, y’all,” Chase leans in and whispers. Ri nods, twisting her long blonde hair.
“Fine, we have to leave one at a time, to not bring attention to ourselves.” I glance at some teachers lining the walls. “I’ll go first.”
“Wait,” Chase catches my wrist and pulls me back down. “I can monitor the teacher’s thoughts to make sure no one is suspicious.”
“Won’t that give you a killer headache?” Ri asks and I nod along with her.
“I’ll be fine,” he says, smiling reassuringly. Chase closes his eyes. A moment passes then his brow furrows and his hands clench.
“Go. Now,” he grits out. I give him a nervous look, squeeze Ri’s shoulder then stand up, walking briskly away. I check around, making sure no one is watching, before flashing my I.D. card to exit. As soon as I am out of eyesight I take off into a sprint.
I try to shut down the elated feeling of doing something fun and important as I screech around the white halls.
Finally, I arrive at the door that leads to the chemistry lab, sliding my I.D. across the lock. The black door slides open silently.
Sitting down on a stool, I twist my fingers, rubbing away some of the stress. This is all too crazy. Were we really about to do this? Experiment on what we could do with this strange new thing that is happening to us. What if I hurt someone? I couldn’t live with myself knowing that this had been partly my idea. I stand up and pace as I wait, questions circling my head. What if the others didn’t make it? And they were already found out.
I slide my fingers along the vials of green steaming liquids. The contents move away from my fingers.
Suddenly the door slides open, the noise making me jump. Ri and Chase enter, Ri clinging to Chase’s arm.
“Were you followed?” I ask and hurry over to them.
“I don’t think so,” Chase says and peeks through the window in the door. He looks a little pale. Probably from listening to other peoples’ thoughts.
“Ri, do you mind sealing the door shut?” Ri nods and begins running her hand along the seam of the door. Ice creeps out of her fingers, crawling along the metal. Her fingers shake and the ice comes unsteadily.
“How’re we going to do this?” she asks, her voice quiet.
“That’s what I’m wondering,” Chase says with a sigh. “I mean, who wants to volunteer to let me read their mind?” Ri keeps her hands lowered and mouth shut.
“I’ll do it, I guess,” I mutter. It would not be fair to leave him out of all of this. Chase gives a grateful smile. “Let’s move to different corners of the room to practice. Wouldn’t want to get caught in the crossfire.” Chase and I stay where we are, watching Ri move away. Chase steps up to me and smiles apologetically.
“Sorry about this, I promise you can spray me in the face or something.”
“It’s okay, I mean, you have to try it eventually” I sit down again on the stool and grab the side of the desk, my knuckles turning white. “Just get it over with,” I whisper and Chase laughs.
“Jeez, El, it’s not like I’m performing heart surgery.”
“That’s true, please hurry though.”
“Okay, okay, bossy pants.” He does not say anymore as he steps forward and places his fingers on my temples. I raise an eyebrow at him. “What? It’s what they do in the movies.”
He shuts his eyes and the room goes silent, other than the small sounds of shattering ice coming from the corner where Ri is practicing.
Chase begins to shake and quickly takes his fingers away. “Whoa, your mind is intense.” He shakes his head, like he is trying to clear a fog.
“Uh, thanks, how kind of y-.” My retort is lost as the room begins to shake violently. Vials rattle on their shelves, some of them dropping to the concrete ground and shattering. There is another noise, like metal snapping and twigs cracking. My head whips up to find a dark haired boy standing in the doorway, roots surrounding him. The door broken off its hinges. His bright blue eyes go wide as they meet mine.
A crack begins to run along the floor, Chase and I jump back. He grabs for my hand but misses as I tip backwards. The windows shatter. The glass crashes to the floor. Glass scrapes along the metal, screeching.
I spot Ri under the shattered windows, her hands over her head. Her mouth is open in a silent scream.
“Ri!” I yell. Ri cries for me but her shriek is cut short. She’s gone. Literally. She’s disappeared.
I turn back to blast the boy with a geyser but he’s gone too. The only trace that he was ever there are the roots and the broken door.
“Chase, what’s happening?” I run to him but slip on the chemicals that have spilled all over the floor and fall. The green chemicals burn my fingers.
I reach for Chase, trying to find something to steady me. He tries to grab my hand, terror written all over his face, but something whips him away.
I’m left alone in the chaos. What is happening? Where did they all go?
I lie in a pool of green chemicals, bracing for whatever is going to happen. Glass shatters, I feel shards prick my hands as I shield my face. Shelves fall, the ground rumbles more violently. I close my eyes, gritting my teeth. And then everything disappears in a flash of light.