I rush out the door without any second thoughts. I take a mental note to figure out what happened after I get back from school.
While rushing down the street, I glance down at my phone. “Shit! It’s already 7:38,” I exclaim to myself once I see the time. I start running, but I slow down when it dawns on me that, no matter how fast I run, I’ll never get there on time. I resume my leisurely pace.
A car speeds past me on the otherwise quiet roadway. Once the car passes me, the driver slams on the brakes then reverses next to me. I let out a scoff when I recognize the blue-eyed jock that is my ex-boyfriend. “What the hell do you want, Barry?”
The brunette leans against the open car window and gives me a smirk. “What? No hi, Barry? No how have you been? It’s been a year, Em! I missed you!”
I let out a sharp exhale before saying, “Oh, fuck off!” I venture down the sidewalk, but Barry matches pace with me. I angrily turn to face him. “Okay, what?”
He raises his hands as if he were surrendering to a police officer. “Chill! I just wanted to know if you wanted a ride. We both know you’ll be late if you keep walking.” When I hesitate to answer, he adds, “You know, it looks bad to be late the first day.” He gives me a small smile that almost makes me forget how much I hate him. Almost.
I glance between the sidewalk and his car a few times, trying to decide if not being late is worth being stuck with him in such tight quarters. I groan then defeatedly climb into the passenger seat.
He smiles at me and says, “This reminds me of old times.”
I roll my eyes. “Oh, yeah? Like that time you made fun of me in front of the entire school mere seconds after you told me you loved me for the first time? Or did you mean that time you didn’t say anything when your friends were bullying me? It’s hard to tell - there’s so many.”
The car slams to a stop, then Barry turns to me. “Look, I won’t deny that I made a lot of mistakes, but I did love you. I regret the things I did to you every day.”
“You had a crappy way of showing it.” It’s silent for a while. He wordlessly continues driving.
After a few minutes of silence, Barry asks, “Why did you move away? Was it because of me?”
“I moved away because it was the only way I could end our relationship,” I snap.
"You’re the one who asked me out,” he yells, “But you act like I’m the one to blame.”
“That’s a lie! You sought me out!”
Barry half turns towards me but keeps his eyes on the road. “No, I didn’t! I may have dropped some hints, but you came to me. Not the other way around.”
“I seriously doubt that,” I say while rolling my eyes.
“It’s as true as you freaking out at that party.”
Barry strokes my cheek, and I push him away. “I don’t know. I kinda liked seeing a side of you I hadn’t seen before. The crazy, unhinged side.”
As soon as I arrived at Barry’s party, I grabbed one of the many bottles lovingly laid out. Everyone knows that the only reason I could stand these parties was if I was so drunk out of my mind that I didn’t even recall the night.
I flipped off the top and drank a huge swig of whatever warm beer they bought this time. The burn that is caused when it went down my throat caused a smile to go across my face.
From across the room, I noticed Lee and Parker awkwardly standing by the wall looking miserable. Well, that makes three of us, I thought to myself.
They looked up and must have noticed me because Parker lifted his hand to wave, but he quickly lowered it when he saw the drink tightly clasped in my hand. He gave me a disappointed look and started to walk over when I was suddenly yanked by my left arm, causing my beer to slightly splash onto the floor.
The person who yanked me pulled me close by their side. “Boys,” Barry said, “I’d like you to meet my girlfriend, Emily.” The boys all looked at me like a piece of meat. I took a huge gulp of my drink.
The boy to my right stroked my arm; it took all my strength to not punch him then and there. “She’s not bad.” He glances around at the group. “Maybe you should let me take her upstairs and see how she rides.” The boys snickered to themselves, but I wasn’t laughing.
Barry pulled me closer towards him, but it wasn’t out of protection. “I don’t know. She may still be tired after last night.” The forming crowd whooped as if he just won the fucking Olympics. “It was pretty great, though. Let me tell you boys, the sex is mind-blowing. This girl can do things I didn’t even think was possible. She did this one thing-” I harshly pulled away from his tight grasp before he could finish. He mockingly asked, “Yes, Emily?”
Parker shook his head furiously at me from the crowd, warning me not to do anything stupid. I took a deep breath before I said, “No, it wasn’t fucking amazing! You finished before I was even aroused! Guess what? I faked it!” The boy next to Barry started to laugh, but Barry elbowed him in the side.
Barry turned to the crowd with a fake smile. “She’s only joking.” He turned back to me and harshly whispered, “You should really learn when to stop with the jokes, Em. How about you lay off the alcohol, okay?” He forcibly grabbed the bottle out of my hands, but all it succeeded in doing was making me madder. He turns back to his friends with his same fake smile. “Girlfriends. Am I right?”
My anger boiled up inside of me like a tea kettle. “No! I don’t even want to fucking be here! You force me to be at these stupid parties with people who could care less about me if it doesn’t have to do with my ass! You drag me around and show me off like I’m some prize you won at the fair!” I shake my head. “I’m done! I don’t fucking need a boyfriend because I deserve better than you.” I turned away and grabbed my jacket from the couch. “I’m going home. Enjoy your fucking party.”
Barry sighed, “Baby, come on.” He tried to grab my arm, but I shook him off.
“No,” I yelled, “You never fucking listen to me! I didn’t even want to come to this party! Everyone here only cares about their popularity and how much they’ll get by hanging out with other people!”
Barry awkwardly glanced around at the people watching rather intently. “Em, let’s go talk about this somewhere else.”
“No, we’re doing it right here! All other aspects of our relationship were very public, so why not this? You told everyone almost everything private I confided in you with! You even tried to leak my nudes after you begged for them for weeks! Weeks!” I threw off my sweatshirt and angrily chucked it to the floor. “You, somehow, failed to do so, but why not show everyone now, huh? I mean what else do I have to lose? You already took my virginity and dignity!” I pulled off my shirt and some of Barry’s friends cheered like they’re in a strip club.
Parker pushed through the crowd and wrapped his jacket around me. Barry yelled while he was doing so, “Em, calm down.”
I turned to him with an incredulous look. “Calm down? Calm down?! Do you really think I should calm down, Barry?” I scoff. “I could care less what you think! I only started dating you because I hoped it would get the attention of my mother. I hoped that maybe she would finally pay attention to me, but guess what? She didn’t even seem to care! Our relationship was just me being utterly miserable for no reason!”
Barry moved to touch me as he said, “Em...”
I pulled away. “Don’t fucking touch me! You’re the second biggest asshole I’ve ever met.” I turn to address the crowd that is laughing. “Oh, did he ever tell all of you about my mother? Every single time I go home, she tortures my brother and me.” The room went deathly quiet. I turned back to Barry. “See, Barry? Now you have nothing to hold over me.”
He turned to the crowd with a sad smile. “I’m so sorry everyone for this disruption. She’s drunk. She says crazy stuff like this when she’s intoxicated.”
“I may have had something to drink, but I know exactly what I’m doing,” I said while holding my head up higher.
Parker gently pulled my arm as he whispered, “Watson, we should go.”
“Fuck you, Barry! Fuck you,” I scream.
“You already did,” he says cockily.
My body heats up as my anger builds. “Shut up.”
“How does it feel knowing that I’m the only one that has seen you naked?” He glances down at my breasts. “I bet-”
I look down at my palm to find it glowing red. “I swear to god! You better fucking shut up right now!”
He laughs. “Why should I? You have nothing to hold against me?”
We pull up to the school. I open the door and get out while screaming at him, “At least I’m not the one with the small private parts!”
He gets out and screams at me from over the top of the car, “I thought you said you weren’t going to say anything!”
“That changed when you told everyone about the birthmark on my ass!”
“Those things aren’t even remotely equal,” Barry screams back. I slam his car door shut and start to walk away. “I know you didn’t just slam that door. There better not be a scratch” I storm off with him yelling about billing me.
Parker and Lee materialize at my side. Parker nervously asks me, “Are you okay?”
I let out a breath. “Yeah, I’m fine. I can’t believe I thought that he’d change. Apparently, he will always be a dick.” I look up to see people staring at me. I let out a sigh. “Come on. Let’s just go.”
“So, what all has happened here since I left,” I ask. Parker refuses to meet my gaze, looking more like a guilty puppy than a teenaged boy.
Lee looks over at Parker and whispers, “Parker took Elizabeth to Winter Formal.”
My heart sinks. “Oh?”
“But it turned out her dad was working pretty high up in The Hive, so he got sent to a high-security prison. She ended up moving away.”
I feel strangely relieved. “Ah.”
Lee shoves a bite of subpar cafeteria food into his mouth then says with his full mouth, “So what all did you do last year?”
“Not all that much. It was pretty uneventful,” I say while staring down at my tray of food and poking the potatoes.
Parker takes the silence to exclaim, “I got a job working for The Heroes Society!”
“Really?” I turn my head at him. “How’d you score that? I didn’t even know they offered jobs. I thought they were too secretive for that.”
“So did I.” He picks up his fork and waves it around while saying, “I got lucky, I guess.”
“Did you go to them, or did they come to you,” I ask, “What did you do to get their attention?” Parker and Lee give each other a nervous look. “What? Is it a secret?” Parker nods.
We eat in silence for a while. I swirl my fork around, not quite knowing if I have the strength to eat the food.
Lee clears his throat. “How was it in Philly?”
“Oh, it was fine.” I shrug. “I mainly just hung out with Harrison.” Parker raises an eyebrow at me but stays silent.
“How is your twin,” Lee asks with a mouthful of bread.
“Harrison’s good,” I say while handing Lee a napkin, which he gratefully accepts. “He’s upset I left, but he understands that it’s better for me here.” I grab a forkful of potatoes and force it into my mouth, trying my best not to gag when it hits my tongue.
Parker looks up at me and blurts out, “How’s your mother?”
I choke on my potatoes but hide it with a cough. “She’s...fine.”
“You can say that.”
Lee seems to pick up on my discomfort. “What class do you have next?”
“Um.” I glance down at my schedule. “Chem.”
Parker and Lee smile. “We do too,” they say in an almost rehearsed unison.
We sit in silence again for a while when Parker suddenly becomes fixated with something on my arm.
He gently grabs my wrist and turns my arm towards him. “What is that?”
I look at the place he is fixated on and notice the gash on my upper arm has gotten worse. I pull my arm out of his grasp and pull my sleeve back over it. “It’s nothing.”
“That’s not nothing. It looks bad.”
Lee tried to move away from this as he can feel my discomfort, but Parker keeps pushing it. “Every time you come back from your parents’ house, you come back with more marks on you. Is everything ok?”
“I don’t wanna talk about it.”
He tries to meet my gaze, but I look down at my tray. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”
I look up at him with tears in my eyes. “Please, just leave it alone.”
“Em,” Parker starts with a look of pity. Luckily, he is unable to finish because the bell signaling that lunch is over rings.
I stand and quickly grab my backpack and trash. “I’ll see you two in class, okay?”
“Em-,” Parker starts.
“Bye.” I walk away from the table before Parker can try to make it all better.
As soon as I walk into the overcrowded classroom, the balding male at the front of the room yells, “Everyone, please find your seats based on the seating chart on the board.”
I shuffle over and notice I’m sitting next to Parker. I let out a sigh and give him an awkward wave when he finally walks in.
When he sits, he opens his mouth to say something, but I cut him off. “I’m sorry. Let’s just forget about it, okay?” Parker hesitantly nods. “Okay.”
Lee, however, wasn’t as lucky as the two of us. After he checks the chart, he goes to sit next to Barry with a scowl on his face.
“Good afternoon! I’m Mr. Peterson.” He clasps his hands together as if he is trying to catch a fly. “I know we don’t usually do this the first day, but I got special permission from the principal. Today we are doing a lab!” A few groans fill the classroom. “Don’t worry, it’s not too hard. It’s just to see what level you guys are at.” He passes out the papers and tells us to begin.
Parker quickly looks it over then turns to me with a mischievous look on his face. “You’re lucky you have me, Em. Otherwise, you might fail.”
I laugh at him. “Sure. If failing now means passing.”
Parker grabs the Bunsen burner from the corner of the table and brings it closer. “It looks like we’re doing something called Reconstituting Stearic Acid. We’re gonna place the Stearic Acid in a boiling test tube, fill a beaker partly with water, hold the test tube in the beaker, heat it with the Bunsen burner, place a thermometer in the tube, and record the temperature every minute until it reaches 70 Celsius. Got it?”
“Yeah.” I go and grab the acid while Parker starts boiling the water in a test tube. When that’s done, he puts the acid into the test tube while I partially fill a beaker with water. We carefully put the test tube into the beaker and start heating it.
My head starts throbbing like when I get a massive migraine. I put my head on my hands, hoping it’ll pass soon.
Parker tentatively places a hand on my arm. “Hey, are you ok?”
My head feels like it’s about to split open. Faintly I hear Parker call for the teacher, but I can feel him sitting right beside me.
The floor disappears beneath me, and I fall into utter darkness.
I find myself in a pitch-black room. I try walking around, but I do not see an end.
“Hello? Is anybody there?” My voice echos even though I haven’t come across anything that would cause it.
I squint to see if I can make anything out. I wave my hand in front of my face, but I can barely see its outline.
In the distance, there’s a pinprick of light. When I approach, I can make out a figure standing with their back to me.
“Hello?” I walk up to them while trying to see if I can make out anything else. “Excuse me? Can you tell me where I am?”
I circle them only to come face to face with Parker. He’s staring blankly into the darkness in front of him. “Parker? What’s going on?”
His eyes snap to meet mine. He stares at me for a moment before continuing his stare into the void. A chill goes down my spine.
I try to look at whatever he is looking at, but am unable to make anything out other than complete darkness.
“If this is some sick joke, it’s not funny. You had your fun.” He doesn’t seem to even hear me. His blank stare into the distance is unwavering. He’s looking at what? At nothing?
I look down at his hands and notice something clasped in them. I gently pry them open to see a small, dying orb of light. “What the fuck?”
Something touches my shoulder, and I jump. I turn to see Harrison with the same glazed over look in his eyes.
He moves robotically around me before placing his hands over Parkers. “What are you doing?”
He moves his hand away. The light slowly, but surely, begins to brighten until it gets so bright that I have to close my eyes.
When I open them again, Parker and Harrison have disappeared.
I wake up to bright lights over me. I grab my head. Sadly, with my luck, it’s still throbbing. “Ow.” My line of vision is suddenly blocked with Lee and Parker’s heads. “What happened?”
Lee looks at me with a worried look on his face. “We were in Chem when, all of a sudden, you grabbed your head in pain. Parker called the teacher over but, as soon as he said it, you fainted. Luckily, Parker caught you, or else it would be a lot worse.”
“In that case, thank you.” Parker nods in my direction but seems distracted. “Hey, Lee? Can you give us a sec?”
Lee looks over at Parker and notices the same thing I do. “Sure. I’ll be right outside.” He gets up and leaves, shutting the door behind him.
“What is going on with you?” He shakes his head. I get up and stand next to him while putting my hand on his shoulder. “Hey, you can tell me anything.” He turns towards me.
“You were saying stuff while you were unconscious, and one of the things you said was my name. You also cussed a few times, but that’s not important.”
I sigh and grab both of his shoulders tougher than I should. “Look, all that happened is that I basically had a dream. You were there, and so was Harrison. I don’t know why I got such a bad headache or why I passed out. All I know is that it happened and I don’t know why. It was just some stupid migraine that caused me to pass out, which sometimes happens to people.”
He nods. “You’re right.”
“Now, let’s get back to class. I bet Lee’s tired of standing outside like a creep.”
I sit down on the couch and grab my laptop next to me. I log onto the website that allows young scientists to talk to each other about their designs and get advice.
“Please be online. Please be online,” I mutter while it loads.
My laptop dings, indicating that my friend is online. “Yes!”
That_Watt: I didn’t expect you to be on
That_Watt: Isn’t it 1 am over there?
ItsGemma: I’m working on something
ItsGemma: Pulling an all-nighter. What’s up?
That_Watt: Today was my first day back in Manhattan.
That_Watt: Something weird happened.
ItsGemma: Wanna share
That_Watt: As long as you don’t think I’m going crazy.
ItsGemma: No promises
That_Watt: I got this migraine in class
That_Watt: My friend called for the teacher but
That_Watt: Then it was like I was no longer there
ItsGemma: What do u mean
That_Watt: It was like a dream but I wasn’t sleeping
That_Watt: I saw my friend holding a ray of light
That_Watt: Then my brother came out of nowhere, touched it, and it got brighter
That_Watt: It was brighter than the sun
ItsGemma: That’s weird
That_Watt: Something even stranger happened
That_Watt: Idk if this website is secure enough to discuss it.
ItsGemma: One sec
ItsGemma: Ok it’s secure
That_Watt: Did you hack into the website?
ItsGemma: Yeah. It was too easy
ItsGemma: What happened?
That_Watt: This morning my arm started feeling like it was on fire
That_Watt: Then it burst into flames
ItsGemma: lol good one
That_Watt: I’m serious!
That_Watt: My arm was on fire but it didn’t hurt me!
That_Watt: I think I did it somehow
ItsGemma: I’m so sorry
ItsGemma: I gotta go
ItsGemma: Keep me updated
That_Watt: Ok. Bye
She signs off, and I’m left staring at a blank screen. “Nice going, Em.” I get up to make some dinner.
Loud, persistent pounding comes from the door. I pause, confused. The pounding starts getting more desperate.
“I’m coming,” I yell when it does not let up.
I open the door to see Harrison, my twin brother, with big, terrified eyes. “We need to talk,” he blurts out with a terrified look on his face.