I crossed my arms over my chest and huffed, staring out the window. Silence filled the car as my brother pulled into the school parking lot. Rows of busses piled up on one side while he idled in a separate section, one meant for drop-offs. I’d been spared of chatter up until that point, but as my heart raced, pounding against my ribs, I couldn’t take it anymore. “I still don’t think this is a good idea, Tyler.”
“Duly noted, and disregarded.”
“I’m serious. What if something happens?”
“It’s only your first day with this . . . change. You’ll be fine.” Tyler patted my shoulder but I shrugged him off.
“Speak for yourself!” I cried, flinging my arms up. “You’re not the one lying to everyone.”
My brother’s grip tightened on the steering wheel as he sighed, gaze straight ahead. “We’ve been over this, Dialla. It’s to protect them. You’re—”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m special. Did it ever occur to you that I’d rather be normal?”
Tyler blinked once and turned toward me, his expression somber. “Normal is boring.”
“Whatever.” Heaving a dramatic sigh, I unbuckled my seat and opened the car door.
“Hey, hold up.” Tyler pulled me back into what I thought was a loving embrace—only for it to be a ruse so he could give me a noogie. His knuckle burned into my scalp and I yelped, squirming.
“Let go, Tyler! Quit it!” I struggled out of his grip and worked to smooth out my hair.
“Happy birthday, kiddo!” Tyler laughed and I stomped my way into the building.
Students flocked into the halls of Palm Valley high school. Home of approximately one thousand students, it was just large enough that not everyone knew everyone, but rumors could spread like wildfire. An odd sense of nostalgia filled me then as I glanced at the faces, some I knew, some I didn’t. While I had been spared up until this point of any vicious chatter, my luck was bound to run out sooner or later.
I aimed for the nearest bathroom by the front office, currently free on any other girls adjusting their hair or makeup for once. It wouldn’t last though. I had to be fast. My blonde locks stretched down to the middle of my back. I tossed it over one shoulder and pulled out my phone to serve as a second mirror. With the nape of my neck visible, I swore.
“Damn it,” I murmured. “It’s still there.”
A design had appeared on the back of my neck earlier this week, much to my dismay. A lone flame in the shape of a hook, it flashed bright red and orange like fire. With it came the same burning sensation and I flinched. After a moment, the light faded, returning the hook to its dormant state, a deep obsidian color. Tenderly, I traced my fingertip against the image, feeling its heat. Pins-and-needles crept into my fingers and I removed them, flexing my hand. I chewed on my lip and groaned. My forehead fell against the mirror, comforting my hot skin. Grey discoloration beneath my eyelids poorly complimented my brown eyes. My skin looked paler than usual. I closed my eyes.
My first thought had been that it was just an oddly shaped bruise. However, when it lit up, that demolished my only theory. With that in mind, I had planned to cover it up with generous amounts of foundation, only to discover that I was fresh out. There went my plan B. Running out of time that morning, I ended up wearing my hair down, successfully obscuring the mark. A cluster of girls entered from the hallway and I obscured the mark with my hair, running my fingers through it nonchalantly. After washing my hands, I took off down the hall. After looping around a corner, I arrived at my homeroom.
I plopped in my seat before slipping in some earbuds for distracting music to drown out the idle conversation of approximately twenty-six students. Yet whether it was rap, country or screaming metal, no sound worked effectively to clear the heavy thoughts from my mind. Red irises flashed and with them came that same sensation I’d felt yesterday. A cape of ice draped around my shoulders. My neck throbbed and burned. Each breath made my chest struggle and ache. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think.
A hand fell on my shoulder and I wrenched away, gasping.
Tracy Robinson jumped back with her own yelp. “Whoa! Sorry, Dialla. I didn’t mean to scare you. What’s wrong?”
Nearby classmates looked over at the commotion. Some returned to their own discussions not even a second later. Others had lingering looks, low voices. Heat accumulated at my cheeks this time and I rubbed my face. Great. Just what I needed.
“I’ve been calling you for a while now,” Tracy continued, sitting down beside me. “Maybe you would have heard me if you took these out.”
She tugged on the dangling cord and the earbud tumbled out. Her brown eyes watched me, eyebrows furrowed. “Are you okay?”
“I, uh . . . yeah.” I swallowed hard, my throat dry. “Just tired.”
“Not catching a cold, are you? It’s bad luck to be sick on your birthday.”
I adjusted the shoulder straps on my backpack, giving her a look. “That’s not a thing.”
“Of course, it is,” Tracy laughed. Four bells rang in a Westminster chime, the signal for the start of the day. Tracy and I stood up, soon disappearing into the crowd as we moved to our first class. “Time for yet another wonderful day of endless school. Let’s get going.”
Receiving the grade for my last geometry test wasn’t a good start. While not my worst subject, I loathed taking it at eight in the morning. Mrs. Combs handed out my grade without a single word and I hesitated before sneaking a peak.
“Ouch. Seriously?” I groaned. The red numbers reading 50 seemed to burn into the page.
Even after Tracy helping me study, I still failed. My heart sank. Mom was gonna kill me. Well, if she was even home that night. I gritted my teeth and pounded my fist into the smooth surface of the desk. The lights flickered, which I ignored. When it increased sporadically, I glanced up. Tracy, who had claimed the seat behind me, looked up as well.
“What’s with these lights today?” I wondered.
“Well, it is an old building,” Tracy reminded me. “Maybe some of the bulbs are going out.”
A pop echoed throughout the room before the light faded. The lone sound had been enough to make a few unsuspecting students squeak in surprise. A second later, the rest of the bulbs popped. Windows brought in sunlight from outside, allowing for adequate lighting. Several students had pulled out their phones to remain occupied. Mrs. Combs shushed the class before calling for maintenance. Murmurs and whispers spread across the room, particularly from two girls seated beside me.
“Did you see that?” A brunette with glasses asked.
“Weird. Maybe they overloaded?” her friend suggested
“Wouldn’t be surprised. This place needs new updates—badly.”
Well, the girls weren’t wrong. The school had been around for decades and was falling apart. Maybe this would prompt some renovations. Just when the commotion began to settle down, my neck burned, and I grimaced.
Tracy arched a brow. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I just slept wrong,” I replied, the heat fading. “I’m fine.”
By the time lunch rolled around, the gossip of the breaking bulbs hadn’t gotten around as much as I thought. The maintenance woman had deduced that they had overloaded, but the fact that they occurred in only one room at the time had her stumped. While it made for an exciting morning, I hoped the afternoon classes would be peaceful.
“So, what’s your plan for today, birthday girl?” asked Tracy as she sat down with her lunch.
“Nothing.” I chomped on my pepperoni pizza.
“But it’s your sweet sixteen!” Tracy’s cry nearly made me choke but she remained oblivious. “How can you not have something planned?”
“Mom has to work late,” I replied. “She works the night evening shift, remember? There’s not a lot of things to do after midnight.”
“Well, what about the weekend?”
I shrugged. “I mean, I’m sure we’ll do something and when we do, yes, you will get the phone call.”
“Damn right I will.” She picked at her salad before snatching off a piece of my crust. Stringy cheese oozed from it as she popped it into her mouth, and I gaped.
“Wha—get your own!” I pulled my plate toward me for protection. When she reached further, I jabbed at her hand with my plastic fork.
She pulled away at the last second with a pout. “But I only have a salad,” Tracy pointed out.
“Well, who’s fault was that?”
Tracy batted her eyes at me with a smirk and I shook my head, unable to stop the smile at my lips.
After enjoying lunch with Tracy, we went our separate ways. As I walked to my next class, an eerie chill ran up my spine. Stopping in my tracks, I glanced around. Was someone watching me? Students cluttered the hallway, some giving me odd looks when I came to a stop. The chill increased and with it came a pressure in my chest. I tense and bolted around a corner, eager to escape that feeling. A taller boy came into view and I collided into him.
“Sorry,” I murmured, absent-mindedly collecting my belongings. Looking around more, I sighed in relief. The pressure had faded but that chill still lingered, weaker now. When I looked back to apologize once more, the student had left already. I blinked, like cold water had been dumped on me, and found the hallway to be nearly empty.
The warning bell rang, and I cursed, scrambling back to my feet rushed to the chemistry lab two doors down.
Rows of black tables served as our desk and workstation. Inactive Bunsen burners were attached to each one. I claimed my seat in the middle of the room and stretched. At least the day was nearly over now. Midway through our experiments, a vibration rocked in my pocket. The teacher, Mr. Wetmore, was currently occupied with another student’s question, so I snuck a peek. An incoming message from Tyler lit up the screen.
Mom had an emergency at work. She won’t be home tonight.
And there went my mood. I ground my teeth together, hands shaking. Of all days for her to not be home, of all days that I really needed her, and she couldn’t even bother to make it? I mean, I got it, she worked long hours as a nurse—or, so I had thought— to not even come home on my own birthday? Hot tears filled my eyes and I bit my lip, blinking hard. I gripped my igniter so hard my knuckles turned white. Nostrils flaring, I clicked it to get a spark going at my station.
The heat stirred at my neck before the whoosh occurred. My burner roared to life higher than the ones nearby, nearly scorching the ceiling. A boy next to me marveled at the display, while the girl on my left scooted as far away as possible. The excessive warmth nipped my skin and I flinched.
“The gas, Dialla!” yelled Mr. Wetmore. “Shut off the gas!”
His shout prompted me into action and I immediately cut off the source. Without fuel, the fire died off immediately. Mr. Wetmore strode over, and I happily moved out of the way for him to inspect the issue. Due to the silence of the room, I picked up more whispers.
“That was awesome!” one boy chirped. Easy for him to say, since it wasn’t his station.
“Will mine do that?” a girl whispered, moving away from her table. “I don’t want to find out.”
I ran a hand through my hair with a sigh, twitching when my neck burned again. Ugh. On and off, on and off, this pain was frustrating. Mixing in with these sensations, a similar chill tickled my back once more. I stiffened and glanced around. Like something peering into me from every angle. I rubbed my eyes. What a day this was turning out to be.
The man with the red eyes appeared just as school ended. He still wore that red cloak, unperturbed by the heat and humidity. Students and teachers maneuvering through the parking lot were oblivious to his presence. Couldn’t they see him? My breathing came out shallow and rapid, a tightness developing in my chest. I sat on the bus, hands trembling, when my neck pained me once more. It pulsed like a heartbeat and mixed with heat to irritate my skin. If it weren’t for my hair obscuring it, I was sure that little hook was glowing just like before. But I couldn’t be bothered with my neck right now. If I wasn’t already sitting, my legs wouldn’t have been able to support me. They fell flaccid, sliding further and further until one foot blocked the aisle.
A girl stumbled and fell into me. The jostle shattered whatever hold the cloaked man had over me. Others stopped and stared. Gasping out an apology, I tucked my legs into my chest, nuzzling into the window of the seat. Now that the pressure was gone, I worked to regain my composure, slowly but surely. I gulped in more air before sneaking a peek out the window once more. The hooded man was nowhere to be seen. Jaw agape, I was so busy scanning the parking lot that I didn’t notice Tracy until she plopped beside me.
“Man, I hate having English at the end of the day,” she groaned, while I readjusted my position. “Shakespeare is the worst!”
When my grunt of a response didn’t satiate her, she poked at my cheek repeatedly. “Dee-all-ah! Are you listening?”
“Yeah, sorry. I just. . .” My voice trailed off, eyes casting back towards the window again.
Tracy’s chin fell on my shoulder. Her brown hair was tied into a braid, and stray strands tickled my cheek.
“What are you looking at?” She squinted.
“There was a weird guy over there,” I pointed. “Didn’t you see him?”
Tracy followed my gaze, eyes searching. “I mean, I see Matt Hutchinson devouring his girlfriend’s face.” Her nose wrinkled. “I thought you were over him?”
“I am, he’s not who I— ” I sighed. “Never mind.”
She shrugged. “So, for the weekend, we should do dinner or something!”
I smiled and the sentiment, though doubts were heavy in my mind. “Yeah. Maybe.”
The bus lurched forward, ready to pull out of the parking lot. Various conversations blurred with one another. Tracy took the liberty to rehash her afternoon once we separated. Evidently, she didn’t have nearly as exciting a day as I had. Theories had already developed and started circulating the school, though it didn’t seem like they had reached her ears yet. I decided to keep my mouth shut for the time being. As scary as the day had been, no one had gotten hurt. More theories had developed throughout the day, but they were ridiculous and impractical. I paid little attention to Tracy as she rambled. Instead, my mind was still stuck on the mysterious man. No one had seemed to notice him. Yet, when he and I locked eyes, it was real. It had to be. And the sensation that came with it, the frigid cold, and that intense pressure—I couldn’t have imagined it. Could I?
Tracy stood up after a while, slinging her bag over her shoulder. “Hey, Dialla, it’s our stop.” When I remained sitting, she shook me. “Come on.”
I blinked and jumped to my feet, nearly forgetting my backpack. Tracy sauntered off the bus. I followed suit, and she started to walk off but stopped abruptly. “Oh, hey, can you help me with the history homework? I get all the Greek gods and goddesses mixed up.”
She grinned in relief. “Awesome. I’ll come over after I take Mikey for a walk.”
Perfect. Mikey, the adorable pit bull mix, loved to go for long walks, giving me time to prepare. Tracy turned and entered her house, conveniently located across the street. Once her door closed, I turned and took off down the hill where my house sat. Palm trees rustled in the breeze. Leaves cluttered the cement and crunched under my feet. A neighborhood cat sprawled out on top of its owner’s car, bathing in the golden warmth from the sun. Once home, I unlocked the door only to find it still stuck. The knob turned freely but something blocked against it from inside.
With a hard push, I shoved inside, discovering a tsunami of balloons and streamers Mom had set up. Or Tyler, perhaps. I nearly destroyed after getting Tyler’s text, but decided against it and settled for yanking enough down to clear the entryway. Once free, I roamed into the living room. I plopped onto the black sofa pressed against the wall, sighing wearily. A matching loveseat sat off to the left with an ottoman. The mahogany square table in the center of the room completed the look and also served as a nice spot for me to place my bag. Mom hated stuff on the floor but didn’t say anything about the table.
Absently, my fingers went to my neck, tracing the new design. The pain vanished, but heat still remained, like remnants of sunburn. If Tracy had picked up on my bizarre behavior today, she didn’t mention it. Now that I was home for the weekend, I could ponder in solitude. At least until Tyler came home.
“Hellooooo, birthday girl!” he shouted, and I covered my face with a pillow.
“Shut up!” I groaned. “You’re so loud.”
“That’s the plan, kiddo.” Tyler’s approached me, dressed in a wrinkly white shirt and cargo short. He kicked off his sneakers before plopping down on my legs, despite my protest. I had trouble adjusting to his lack of tanned skin, not totally surprising given that he lived in Seattle for the majority of the year. Brown locks were styled messily, and his blue eyes flashed, and he grinned, resting his chin in his hands. “How was your day?”
I glared at him. “How do you think?”
“Fabulous?” he guessed.
“Oh, totally,” I scoffed. “I got to spend my last day with my best friend, only to be disappearing without a word and I can’t even tell her why.”
“It`s to protect her,” Tyler urged, exasperated and I rolled my eyes. “Hey. This is serious.”
I shoved him off and sat up straight. “Fine, then show me.”
“Show you what?” Tyler feigned innocence, readjusting his position on the sofa.
“Show me your mark again.”
Tyler studied me for a moment before tucking his hair behind his left ear, revealing what was hidden. A tiny black triangle embedded into his skin, barely the size of a dime. As much as my brother loved tattoos, he would never have gotten one as stupid as that. Tyler grabbed my hand and pressed it against the design. I flinched at the sudden tingle, but the warmth spread through me so rapidly I couldn’t move away. The sensation spread all the way down to my toes and made it difficult to think clearly. I also felt . . . calm. Calm and happy. My heart swelled at the pressure. A goofy grin spread across my lips.
“Hi, guys!” Tracy chirped from the kitchen.
Tyler shoved me away so abruptly I nearly fell off the couch and immediately brushed his hair back to normal. He glowered at me. “What is she doing here?” he hissed, his voice low.
“Sorry, we have homework to do,” I murmured, standing up and storming past him.
Tyler caught my wrist. “That’s irrelevant. You’re leaving tonight.”
I glared back at him. “She doesn’t know that.” I yanked my hand free and went to greet Tracy. She’d helped herself to some brownies Mom had made the other day, dark crumbs clinging to her lips. When my brother finally made his way to the kitchen, she froze.
“Tyler!” she squeaked, coughing on some unfinished brownie, and turned away while she recovered. I wondered if she still had that crush on him. “I didn’t know you’d be home.”
“It’s only natural I come home for my little sister’s birthday, isn’t it?” He smiled cheerily. “It’s been a while, Trace. How’ve you been?”
“Good. Fine. How are you?” she stammered, cheeks burning, eyes glancing about furiously Yep. Tracy still liked him.
“I’ve been well.”
“This has been fun but, we’ve got homework to do,” I interjected and tugged on Tracy’s sleeve, mostly eager to focus on what little time I had left with my best friend. Tyler’s brows raised as we bolted past Tyler. His mouth fell open but whatever words he said were muffled as I slammed my door shut.
Upstairs in my room, I sprawled across one side of my bed, sifting through some teen magazine, while Tracy nibbled on the end of her pen, perplexed. I watched her absentmindedly, wondering if and when that pen would burst in her mouth. Surprisingly, it didn’t, and she finally looked up at me, unsure.
“The god who popped out of the dude’s head . . .” she mused. “that was Ares, right?”
I shook my head. “Athena.”
She groaned. “Damn it. How do you tell them apart?”
“Well, for starters, Athena was the goddess of wisdom, right?”
I tapped my forehead. “Wisdom is knowledge, so think of the head.”
Tracy blinked. “Wow. That’s actually pretty smart.”
“Why so surprised?”
“Well, it’s you, after all, that’s all.”
While I threw a pillow at her cheeky comeback, a soft thud sounded just outside my room. I’d recognize my brother’s heavy tread anywhere. I hesitated for half a second before crawling off my bed and striding over to my door and yanking it open.
Sure enough, Tyler had been crouching just outside the mahogany wood that separated us. He looked up, unabashed, and even had the audacity to crack a smirk.
“Hey, there,” he said.
“What are you doing?” I demanded.
“Just making sure you were . . . doing homework.” He fixed a stern glare at me and I scowled.
I glared, resting my hands on my hips. “We’re just fine, Tyler. You can go now.”
His blue eyes held my gaze, unwavering for a moment before finally he stood up, swiftly capturing me in yet another brutal noogie. I yelped and squirmed, struggling with all my might. Tyler leaned in close, his lips at my ear.
“Not a word to her.”
With that threat, he released me. I immediately scrambled away, fixing my messy hair, and straightened up.
“Can’t you just go away already?” I begged, closing the door. “We have homework to do.”
“In a bit,” Tyler wedged his foot in the way of my retreat, gesturing with his chin for me to follow him. “Come meet my friend, Dialla.”
“Didn’t know you had any.”
Tyler flicked my forehead before retreating downstairs. I sighed and glanced back at Tracy. “I’ll be right back.”
Tracy waved me on, nose buried in the textbook. “No worries.”
I followed Tyler into the kitchen, my gaze lifting up to the tall figure tucked in the corner. Nearly as tall as Tyler, he towered over me by several inches. Then again, Tyler had reached six foot while still in high school. Unlike my brother’s messy hair, the mystery man had his hair cut short, but styled in a neat, mature way. Being a few shades lighter, it suited him perfectly. He wore a red T-shirt and black shorts. I detected a speck of a tattoo on his bicep that was mostly covered by his attire. Would touching that mark give me the same euphoria Tyler’s had?
Physical characteristics aside, pressure radiated from him and encircled my body. An intense, powerful vibration so palpable that my hands trembled. My breathing remained unaffected, which was nice, but it was the same feeling as that guy from school. What if that was him?
It wasn’t until Tyler nudged me that I found my voice. “Hi,” I breathed.
“This is my friend, Dimitri. Dimitri, this is Dialla, my little sister.”
With a small smile, Dimitri extended his hand. I hesitated before slowly shaking it. No increase in the pressure, thankfully.
“Nice to meet you.”
“Yeah, you too,” I replied, half-heartedly.
Now that introductions were out of the way, Tyler escorted the two of us back to the living room. I curled up on the loveseat, bringing my knees up to my chest, while the boys settled on the couch.
I cast a glance at the stairwell briefly before turning to Tyler. “Does he have one too?” I asked, voice low. “A mark, I mean.”
“Each one is unique and individualistic, but yes.” I’d directed my question at Tyler, but Dimitri answered instead. He even rolled up the sleeve of his shirt, revealing the full design. A seaweed green flame covered his entire well-built bicep. My fingers twitched and my mouth opened, ready to ask if I could touch it, but I quickly closed it. My cheeks grew hot and I shook my head. Not real. Not real.
“Dimitri is here just to help with any issues with your . . . transitioning,” Tyler articulated.
“You mean kidnapping,” I clarified, crossing my arms over my chest.
“It’s not kidnapping, Dialla. This can’t be helped, and the sooner we leave, the better. Tracy will be safe.”
“I just don’t see why I can’t stay here. You and Mom can teach me everything I need to know, right?”
Tyler arched a skeptical brow. “You really want Mom as your teacher? Remember how well she did teaching you algebra?”
I nearly shuddered at the thought. That had led to one of our biggest fights. I shook my head. “I don’t want to leave.”
“It’s the best thing for you right now until you have control of your powers. There are more resources in Seattle to ensure that happens.”
Seattle. There it was. The word was like an ax to my heart. Why couldn’t it have been Georgia? Or even one of the Carolinas? At least those were in the same time zone. And warmer. Leaving Florida to go all the way across the country sounded incredibly displeasing. I’d heard Seattle was similar to living in a cloud. Grey skies and rain nearly every day. My summer-loving body did not enjoy the cold. Sure, I had been to New Hampshire before for winter break, but that was short-term. Seattle was permanent. Tyler droned on, the more my heart raced. Tears welled in my eyes and my breathing increased. This couldn’t be real. Tyler was just playing a joke on me, right? It wouldn’t have been the first time, and he easily could have coerced his friend into helping.
And yet. . .
As my mind flickered back to recent events—this mark on my neck, the lightbulbs, the burners, and that arcane man—something wasn’t adding up. To make matters worse, that pressure from Dimitri still surrounded me in a vice grip. Sweat accumulated on my hands and scattered thoughts bounced around my mind. A jolt pulsed into me, heat stirring at my nape. I squeezed my eyes shut.
Tyler picked up on my reaction. “Are you even listening, Dialla?”
“Can I have more time with Tracy?” I blurted.
He hesitated and exchanged a glance with Dimitri. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“Please, Tyler?” I begged, clinging to his arm. “You’re already ripping everything from me with this whole mark thing. Now you expect me to leave my best friend without a word? I can’t do that to her. Let me say goodbye to her properly. She wants to do dinner with me for my birthday. We can do dinner, make up some story, and then I can leave tomorrow instead. Please?”
Tyler remained silent for several long moments, closing his eyes as he pondered my request. My pounding heart reverberated in my ears. I held my breath and worked to keep my hands from trembling.
I started to jump for joy until he continued.
“But on two conditions.”
I stopped, puzzled. “Um, okay?”
Tyler held up a finger. “One, we are leaving first thing tomorrow morning. No complaints.”
Getting up at the crack of dawn was almost less pleasant than leaving Florida in general, but if it meant having more time with Tracy, I’d take it. I nodded.
“And then the next one?” I asked.
“Dimitri and I are coming with you for dinner tonight.”
“Well, yeah, it’s your treat.” His lips twitched like he wanted to smile, and I found myself grinning. “Speaking of, did you happen to get me a gift for this wondrous occasion?”
“I might have picked something up while you were at school today.” Tyler left the room and returned a minute later with a colorful bag he handed to me.
I delved into the gift and produced a fluffy teddy bear with a red bow. I stared at him, nonplussed.
Tyler arched a brow, affronted. “What? It’s cute.”
“I’m sixteen, not six.”
“Press its paw.”
I rolled my eyes before obliging. The bear chirped, “I love you!”
Tyler chuckled and I took the liberty to stand up. “Well, I suppose it’s the thought that counts, but I’m going to go finish my homework with Tracy.”
Tyler never understood how or why it took me over an hour to get ready, but then again, he was a guy. The most he had to do was shower and shave, which given that he actually preferred to be clean-shaven instead of a bushy beard, was no real issue. After a shower, hair, and makeup, I sat on my bed, watching Tracy rummage through my closet.
“Remind me again why you need to borrow my clothes?” I asked, picking at my fingernails.
Tracy whirled, gaping at me like I’d summoned Satan. “Hello-o! There’s two hot as hell guys down there! I can’t go out in public with them looking like this.”
“Well, one is my brother, so that doesn’t count. And, also, ew.” She wasn’t wrong about Dimitri, though.
Tracy rolled her eyes at me and resumed digging around. I sighed and stood up.
“I’ll be downstairs, then.”
I stepped out of my room and retreated into the living room, sitting on the loveseat. Tyler had taken up the entire sofa, and Dimitri entertained himself with a book from a nearby bookshelf. As soon as I introduced her to Dimitri, I think Tracy forgot about her crush on Tyler entirely. While I waited, my knee bounced erratically, and a nervous sweat broke out on my palms. My fingernails drew close to my lips, ready to be nibbled on.
Tyler bopped me lightly on the head. “Take it easy, kiddo.”
“How can I? Tyler, what am I supposed to say to her?” I demanded. “Do you really think she’ll just believe that I’m up and leaving all of a sudden? What if she gets suspicious?”
“She’ll believe you because you’re her best friend,” he assured me. “With a little help from Dimitri and I, everything will be fine.”
The shrewd tone he used rubbed me the wrong way, and I frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I gripped his arm out of fear. “You aren’t going to, like, wipe her memories or anything, will you?”
“Not if I don’t have to.” I glared at that response. “Don’t look at me like that, Dialla. This is serious. Naturals cannot know about us. It never ends well for those that do.”
I bit my lip to quell any tears and instead focused on the new bit of information I just learned. “What’s a Natural?”
“A regular human.” His eyes flicked up as light footsteps made their way downstairs. “We’ll talk more later.”
The maroon shirt Tracy selected exposed her cleavage considerably with two strings cutting across in an X fashion. It paired well with my black skirt and heels but seeing just how well it fit her left me feeling surprisingly jealous. I did a double-take of my own outfit—jeans and a simple floral top—before glancing back at hers. I frowned. I had always thought we had been pretty close in bra size. Did Tracy’s boobs get bigger?
Tracy’s eyes jumped from Tyler and Dimitri, beaming, as if expecting a compliment. Polite as ever, Tyler nodded approvingly and patted Dimitri on the back lightly. “Okay, let’s get going. Last thing we need is two hungry teenagers. Dimitri and I may not survive.”