A few nights later behind the house, shifting lessons, as I call them, are getting better. I’ve managed to turn into an owl, a tabby cat, and a fish. Let’s just say the last one was terrifying because I was gasping for breath. By the time I figured out I needed to change back, Evan was laughing at me. His parents had stern looks on their faces though. “I just don’t get what I am doing wrong.” I sigh and sit on the soft grass.
Avery sits beside me and puts her hand on my shoulder then says, “Don’t worry it will get easier. Can you believe the first time I shifted it was into an earthworm? All the others around me thought it was so funny. The only thing I could taste after was dirt.” She has a warm smile on her face and her eyes have flecks of light blue. She is understanding of my situation, at least someone is. As she tells me her earthworm story Alexandar has a small grin on his face, like he is remembering the story. “Don’t mind them. They are just show offs.” She says with a smile and nods her head in their direction.
“Riley, why don’t you try again? This time think of a bigger animal maybe?” Evan suggests to me.
I sigh and say “That’s my problem, I don’t think I can.”
“Maybe the problem isn’t you. Maybe she just isn’t feeling threatened right now.” Avery says hopeful.
Alexandar grunts “We should stop.” Avery just nods, gives me a smile, then goes to join her husband.
“I don’t know Riley. We’ll keep working on it. I know you can do it.” Evan says to me as he helps me up. His hands are soft in mine, which are a little sweaty. Right after I am up, his thumb glides over my hands, then he lets go of them. They drop hard to my side, like they are full of lead. As we walk towards the house he asks, “So have you heard from Oliver?”
Thinking of the last time I talked to him, he texted me saying he asked his dad about knowing about us, but he didn’t want to talk about it. “Not really, no.” I sigh, missing my best friend. I stop walking “Hey, how come you or your parents don’t ever change? I mean you just stand there and watch me struggle.”
“I don’t know, we are just trying to help you? I actually haven’t thought about it.” He says looking confused, then his face turns grave “Do you think you’ll be ready? We only have one more full day before we go.”
Trying not to sound too deflated “I think I can do this. You never did tell me who the pixie is…”
He sighs “Mil...”
Interrupting I start yelling, “WHAT?! How on earth do you think that is a good idea? She hates me! She cannot go. No I won’t allow it.” I cross my arms at that and stand with my hip to one side.
He looks at me, “Riley we don’t have a choice. Mila was one of the pixies who went in and got out. She was the only one who wanted to help me, I mean all of us. I’ve known her for a long time. I trust her.”
“Well I don’t.” I walk away putting force into my movements and soon I’m running. Before I know it I’m at the house. I’m not even tired. All I see is everyone’s face when I round the corner. In my head I hear Alexandar say “Well done Riley.” Confused I look down and notice spots. Oh great, I’ve turned into a cheetah without even trying!
Once I change back into myself I let a deep sigh go and say, “I wasn’t even trying to change that time, I don’t think it counts.”
Looking displeased Alexandar says, “At least it wasn’t a goldfish again.”
Avery on the other hand looks very happy with me. She hurries over to give me a big hug. Evan though doesn’t say anything, but goes to leave. His mom gives me a look, then gives me one last hug, “Don’t worry Riley.” She whispers in my ear.
A few hours after that, Oliver texts me asking if I want to go to a movie. I decline wanting to stay in bed. Why don’t I know when I’ve changed? I wasn’t even thinking about cheetahs when I changed, I just wanted to get away from Evan as fast as possible. Changing into a cheetah though would come in handy on Sunday. I have a bad feeling about this, not just the fact that it is Mila that is leading us. Just a bad feeling in general, like something is going to happen that we won’t be able to control.
“Yeah, come in.”
William opens the door a little, pokes his head in and asks, “May I speak with you for a moment?” I nod. He walks over and sits on the chair at the desk. He clears his throat and says, “Well I saw you from the window, very impressive, but we need to be careful. Jennifer could have seen, and I don’t think she would have been okay with seeing a cheetah running around on our property.” He gives me a sympathetic look.
I nod in agreement and say, “I’m sorry. I really had no idea. I mean, I didn’t even mean to.”
“I know, you are still working on it. It would be a lot easier if Emma and I just told Jennifer what was going on. You might get lucky and a talent may show up soon and then you’ll be in the clear.” He starts laughing and asks, “Did you really turn into a goldfish?”
I smack the right side of my face with my hand, “Yeah. It was so embarrassing. I can only imagine what it looked like. Me flopping around gasping for air.”
“Don’t worry Riley, you’ll figure it out soon enough. Thanks for the little talk.” He gets up and walks to the door and turns around. “Before I say goodnight, be careful.” Before I can ask what he means he shuts the door.