For the next month, Lynna and I avoided one another. We played a game of friend tag, handing off our close-knit group between ourselves. If I was sitting with Ella and Drew at the tables for lunch, then Lynna stayed away until I retreated. I felt like we traded protective duty for Ella, but nothing was ever discussed between us. We didn’t even pass off civil friendly words in when we met each other in the halls but stayed silent and removed. Our friends had noticed the change. None of them wanted to jump in between our fight or try and fix things. This method continued for a long time until Ella approached me after school one day.
“Hey Garrett,” she greeted. “Do you think you could come over after school to help me with chemistry?”
I paused. Ella usually didn’t struggle in school. She may be popular, but she had her parent’s intellect.
“Please?” she begged me. “I don’t really understand the mol thing.”
I was uncomfortable going over to her house with Lynna there. Ella’s parents were gone again. “Can’t you just ask Lynna?”
Ella blushed slightly. “She’s not very good at science. I’ve been tutoring her. I don’t know who else to ask about this.”
I really didn’t want to disappoint her. I was Ella’s closest friend, and we had known each other for a long time. She apparently was embarrassed that people would find out she wasn’t good at this subject. “Alright,” I agreed.
She perked up instantly. “Thanks. Come over after dinner.”
I nodded and headed to the rink for practice.
Hockey distracted me enough that I stopped thinking about Ella and Lynna altogether, but once it was over my mind was drawn back into the topic once more. When I arrived at Ella’s house, Lynna sat in the living room watching TV. She didn’t turn around and greet me, but matched Ella’s actions of flipping through the channels.
I followed Ella upstairs to her bedroom and we started studying at once. I discussed the mol for about an hour. We did a couple of problems, and eventually she handed me a bottle of water when I asked her for a beverage. I don’t know why she was having trouble with this topic. She picked up everything that I described with ease, that I soon realized this invite wasn’t about studying. Maybe she just wanted a reason to spend some time with me without having to play friendship racquetball.
The doorbell rang around seven.
“That’s Drew,” Ella announced. “Lynna will get it.” She sighed aloud and stared at the floor upset once more that we weren’t on speaking terms.
Drew moved out of my house about a month ago. His father allowed him back into his old home now that he was eighteen, providing that he met certain requirements like maintaining the house’s cleanliness and attending school. My mother went over and checked on him periodically, plus she helped him clean the massive house. He still came over for dinner every night, but he’d neglected mentioning that he was hanging out with Ella today. He knew I’d be here after I told mom about where I was going after dinner.
I got up and headed into the bathroom, avoiding the scene that would follow. I knew Drew would give her a big hug, which she would return. And I would be left sitting in a chair like a third wheel.
I used the facilities for the heck of it and washed my hands while I overheard Drew talking to Ella through the door. As I reached up and dried my hands the guest bedroom door opened and Lynna stepped through it.
“Excuse me,” she apologized quickly. “I’m just passing through.” She crossed the large bathroom and tried opening the door to Ella’s room. It cracked slightly before halting against something massive that was in front of the door. It back on its own. She paused and pushed the door open again. At once it met the large piece of furniture that blocked it and closed back on itself.
I walked over to investigate. Lynna turned around and crossed back over the threshold to her door. She tried going back through the now closed door, but it was locked from the other side. She left the door alone and crossed her arms in frustration.
I sighed. “Ella!” I shouted knowing she could hear me. “Let us out!”
A familiar buzz of electricity filled the room and I knew she had turned something on. The speaker above our heads flared to life as Ella’s voice drifted out of it.
“I’m really sorry for trapping you both in here like this, but we’re tired of you guys fighting. Work it out, or you’re not leaving.” The speaker shut off after that.
I perched myself on the countertop. Lynna stared at the door. For several minutes neither of us moved.
“I can’t believe she did this,” she finally whispered, frustrated slightly and perturbed.
“She believes that we can work through our difficulty, even if she doesn’t know the real reason for our troubles,” I explained. Lynna hadn’t known Ella like I had over the years. I should’ve seen this coming. Now was as good as a time as any to ask what was on her mind. “Why have you been avoiding me?”
Lynna didn’t answer me at all. She stayed put at the door leading out of the room. I stared at her for a while until I noticed her arm shook slightly.
“Lynna,” I cautioned. She was trying to do something unnatural to that door, whatever power it was that she possessed with her unique abilities. Eventually someone else but me would notice that she wasn’t human, though I didn’t know what she really was. The thought of her not being a human didn’t scare me off and it never really had.
Her arm turned pale under the fluorescent lighting. “Lynna!” I stressed. I tried directing her attention away from the door, but she didn’t flinch. Both of her arms shook violently now, her body trembled as her skin shaded from pale to extremely white. I jumped off the counter and raced over.
“Lynna?” I queried her face. She strained over some arduous task. Eventually she calmed down and bent over for air. She was so weak now that she wobbled on her feet. I gently directed her onto the floor where she could rest. “What did you do?” I asked her when she opened her eyes.
She sighed and rubbed her forehead. “Sorry, but with both of us trapped in here, and neither of us able to protect Ella from within this room, I placed a stasis shield on the house,” she explained.
“What’s a stasis shield?”
“It will protect the occupants inside, and alert me to any activity within the limits of the shield. Basically, I could detect one of my people from up to a mile away if they came close enough.”
I mulled that over. “And what if the next person to get near Ella is actually a human? Will they be harmed?”
She shook her head. “The stasis field acts like a time cell, though not as stable as a time capsule. Time moves forward, but it’s suspended in intervals of five minutes or the equivalent of two to three hours for us.”
Most of her information about the event in question went right over my head. How could Lynna not be a science girl when all she did was talk about time manipulation, space travel, and ratios? But my brain worked quicker than my thought process and I blurted out the answer to my questions in the form of another question just for verification. “You’re saying that for every couple of hours we spend in the stasis shield, about five minutes pass on earth?”
Lynna studied my face. “Something like that.”
I sat down on the carpet beside her. “Geeze.”
She eyed me. “Your observations are more astute than normal. Are you feeling alright?” She seemed curious for once about how I was feeling and not how I was coping.
We both sat on the ground, staring into the faces of one another. Finally, after what seemed like an hour or two, I broke the silence. “How goes the effort to help me remember?”
Lynna switched her gaze to the carpet at once. “I haven’t been able to contact my father since then.”
All this time had passed, and I still couldn’t understand what the hold up was. “Can’t you just call home like we can?”
She shook her head. “Our forms of communication are more sophisticated and time saving than yours are, but if I were to contact him now I could jeopardize our family’s safety. We must be careful, and there are very few places where we can contact each other without any of our kind knowing.”
“Who are you truly hiding from?” I prodded her.
“I can’t…” She stopped and bit her bottom lip. “If you ever remember, just know that I never meant for any of this to happen. I don’t know why I interfered with your life. Everything that has happened since that day is because of what I did to you. I was selfish and foolish. It ended badly; not only for you but for Ella and Drew and the rest of your friends. There are no words to describe how I feel about them being involved in this mess. And it is all because of me. You could be hanging out with Jacelyn, and Ella, and they would still be friends.”
“No,” I interjected, halting her thought progress on that account. “Ella and Jacelyn are better off not friends. They were never close to each other like Ella and I are. Jacelyn’s friendship circle is built around enemies and people she can manipulate. Their fragile camaraderie was crumbling long before you came along. And though I can’t remember what you did or what exactly happened that day, I know that you did it out of love. I know you don’t show it much, but you’ve been happier since you were in the beginning. You have friends who like you, who enjoy your company and go to such lengths to make sure that we’re all happy.” A new idea sparked into my mind. “Is this why you’ve been avoiding me lately? Do you feel ashamed for what happened?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Why?” I didn’t understand why she felt such guilt surrounding her well being.
She didn’t respond.
“Is it because it happened to me?” I suggested.
She shook her head. “No, it’s because I’ve altered your lives. You may realize it, but I know for sure Ella doesn’t. I’ve made myself known to you, whereas before I was only a shadow and a mere memory of your imaginations. Once I was gone, no one would weep over my absence.”
I laughed aloud. “Lynna, though I never showed it or talked to you, I would’ve noticed your departure from our lives. You weren’t a mere memory or a figment of my imagination. You were real and are a part of my everyday thoughts. You always have been.”
She frowned, clearly shocked by my confession. “That’s why you waited for me that day?”
“Somewhat,” I admitted.
“I should’ve made myself less conspicuous. If you were paying attention, then who knows who else was. There would’ve been more people involved, more could’ve gotten hurt…” Her hands and body language were flustered as she babbled on.
And there it was. She was truly afraid of something. I gently took her hand. “Stop fretting on what could be. No one else was involved in this, just me. Stop worrying.”
A tear escaped her eyes.
“I can’t believe that you’re this upset over how you involved me into your life.”
“It’s not just what happened, but it’s what I did that irks me,” she whispered.
I frowned. “What did you do?” All this time I had never asked her why she viewed this situation as her fault. I thought it was my fault for getting in the way and trying to save her. But she blamed herself and not me, while I blamed myself and not her. She didn’t have to answer her reiterating responses for me to understand that I already knew the answer to my question. Deep within myself, even though I had yet to remember the details of that day, I knew exactly why she blamed herself and why I had become so involved since then. There was only one way for that to happen. This new realization stunned me. “You saved my life,” I stated with heartfelt awe.
She glanced up at me and nodded. “I broke the number rule of my kind,” she breathed out.
I smiled at her. She was so scared of what she did that she needed a perk up and be content with her decision rather than mope over this. “What did you do? Interfere with the mortal world? Do things the unnatural way?” I teased.
She didn’t look happy, but she was no longer sad. “Something like that.”
“Are we friends again?” I asked her.
“We were always friends,” she responded.
I looked at her with meaning. “You know what I mean.”
I stood up and held out my arm. She grabbed it and pulled herself up, still wobbling from before. I steadied her upright. “Do you need to lie down?”
“No,” she whispered, straightening suddenly. “My stasis field has been warped. Someone’s approaching the house.”
A few minutes later the doorbell rang downstairs.
“Crap,” I cursed.
Lynna pointed her arm at the locked door. She twisted her wrist and the door swung open. We both raced down the hallway, our footsteps light and making no sound. I glanced down the terraced entry way and witnessed Ella open the door.
“Can I help you?” she asked the stranger.
I couldn’t see the man now that we’d hit the main landing of the stairwell. I heard footsteps enter the hall, but whoever it was remained hidden by the oak door.
Lynna pointed to the wall by the doorway near the landing. We both concealed ourselves out of sight where the balcony curved around the entryway of the hall. “Drew,” she mouthed and pointed down through the floor.
I understood at once that he was the one standing below us in the foyer; he was the one I heard move into the area.
“Sorry to bother you,” the boy at the door began. “But we’re doing a fundraiser for our hockey team, the Westbrook Wolves. We’re in the playoffs this season and thought you might like to help us out.”
“And what are you selling for this fundraiser?” Ella asked, clearly not interested in what the kid had to say.
“Tickets to enter a drawing, but it will depend on how many goals we score. The lucky girl chosen will receive a kiss from the teammates.”
“And what if you’re a guy?” Only Drew would ask that question.
“We don’t sell the tickets to the guys. This is a girl only contest. Last year we sold over a hundred tickets and scored two goals.”
“Ah,” Drew grunted. “I bet the gay boys are jealous.”
I resisted the urge to laugh. But I caught Lynna’s facial expression and all sense of laughter died away quickly. She didn’t look happy about this conversation. And when I thought about it, it was an odd fundraiser to begin with, though ingenious at whoever came up with it. The one thing that really made me pause was the guy’s voice; it sounded vaguely familiar though I couldn’t place where I’d heard him before.
“So how about it, Miss…” the boy fished for Ella’s name.
Ella huffed. “Well, there’s only one team I’d let kiss me. And that’s Drew’s team, the Pendleton Penguins. You need to leave before I call gate security.”
Drew’s footsteps padded closer to the door before Ella shut it. She didn’t wait for a response.
Lynna crept over to the window that faced the front yard. I followed her. Her face was a mask of frustration. The guys didn’t look familiar as they climbed back into their SUV’s.
Ella and Drew started climbing the stairs. Their footsteps were hurried as they giggled at the same time or at least Ella giggled. “Now, where were we?” Drew mused at the top of the landing.
Both Lynna and I turned around as they stumbled into the hallway wall kissing each other passionately, though once Ella spotted us she jumped apart as if she was electrocuted. She blushed deeply red while Drew scratched his head and stared up at the ceiling. The two of them had been caught.
“So,” Ella began, like the scene from two seconds ago didn’t happen. “Did you two work things out?”
Neither of us responded.
“How did you get out of the bathroom?” she asked me.
Lynna pulled out a hairpin from behind her back. “Garrett picked the lock,” she lied.
Ella stared at the pin in contemplation. “Well, are you two going to fight again?”
“We’re not fighting now,” I answered her.
She raised an eyebrow at me. “You know what I mean.”
“We’re good,” Lynna said for her benefit, conveying nothing of what we discussed earlier. The less she knew the better.
“And everything’s settled between you two?” Drew was the one who didn’t look convinced but that was probably from Lynna’s short answers.
“Yep,” I responded, making sure I caught his gaze. “Who was that at the door?”
Ella resumed giggling. “No one really.”
Drew shrugged. “Some team we’ll beat in the playoffs.” He glanced down at Ella in thought. “You know, we should do their fundraiser,” he suggested suddenly.
Ella’s smile grew wider. “You really should. Jacelyn will buy all the tickets. It will wipe out her jackpot. And you guys can have fundraiser money for once.”
“Kyle will be so jealous!” he mused.
I smiled at the pair of them. This would be an interesting fundraiser, one of which I wanted no part of. But it looked promising for raising money.