Alicia was sitting in class, a computer science class to be exact. It was probably one of the last topics a Psychology Major would be expected to take.
When Alicia graduated high school, all she knew was that she wanted to help people. So she decided on Psychology for her college major. But then, she was finding that she didn’t enjoy the topic as much as she thought she would. The classes were usually boring and there was a lot of reading and memorization involved. Overall, she felt that she wasn’t really learning anything.
Last spring she chose a basic computer science class as one of her electives. She decided to take it on a whim, not to mention that her only other choice was “Earth Soils & You”. To her surprise, she ended up loving the course and did very well in it. Now she’s taking another one and is putting serious consideration into changing majors when she transfers to Grandeur City University next year.
When class ended she gathered her things and started walking towards the parking lot to go drive to work. Shortly after she began walking, her cell phone rang. She stopped and looked at the screen seeing the name, “LEE KENTON”, in thick, black digital letters.
She flipped her phone open, “Hey!”
“Hey Alicia! I was just calling to see if you’ve heard from Max at all lately. He’s been acting strange all week.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, he sent me a text on Monday saying that he couldn’t meet up to run this week and never gave me a reason why. I’ve been trying to call him, but he hasn’t answered.”
“Maybe he’s still stressed about the fight he had with his dad on Sunday. We hung out a little that day, but he didn’t say too much about why they argued”.
Alicia decided not to tell Lee that she in fact did know the cause of the argument, but had a feeling Max wasn’t ready for others to know that just yet.
“What? Max and his dad never fight! I’m surprised he hasn’t said anything about it yet.”
Alicia shifted uncomfortably on her feet. “Well...you know how Max is sometimes. He just likes to have time to think things like this over by himself before he talks to anyone. I’m sure he’ll talk with you about it when he’s ready!”
“Yeah maybe you’re right...Well I have to get ready for work tonight. Thanks for the update, Alicia!”
“No problem”, she said before hanging up.
She put her phone away and sighed. She was still worried about Max.
The first week of school just officially ended and Kyra couldn’t have felt more proud of herself. She finally got her way and was now attending a public school.
Kyra was eight years old when she was sent away to Ashbury School for Girls. She wanted to stay with her aunt and uncle and couldn’t understand why she had to go. After all, their four kids all eventually got to go to public school with all their friends so why couldn’t she? Was she really that much of a burden?
“It’s what she would have wanted”, they always told her. Really? Did they always have to go there and use that as an excuse? Why couldn’t they have just told her the truth?
At boarding school, Kyra quickly figured out how she could take matters into her own hands. She acted out: She was rude to her teachers, stayed up past curfew, and purposely did bad on most of her schoolwork. It took her four years, but she was finally “asked to leave” after she pulled the fire alarm for the third time.
Then Kenneth and Alaina had to scramble around for yet another school and they enrolled Kyra at Chatham Academy. Kyra got herself out of there in a record three years. She thinks cussing out the Headmaster was what did the trick.
Finally, she was then attending Hyde Preparatory Academy. She ended up going there for five years because, hey, at least this time around it was a coed school. It was when her and a few friends snuck over to the boys’ dormitories and flooded the bathrooms by clogging the sinks and leaving them on, that the school had enough of her. Now no boarding school admissions office would even consider her. And here she was; attending a small public high school in the middle of nowhere. It was the principle of it all that mattered.
And not only that, but she already had a reputation before school even started. Word traveled fast about the Fire Chief’s niece who’s been expelled by three schools already. The other kids either whispered behind her back or walked right up to her wanting to know every detail. Some teachers treated her like some juvenile delinquent, while others thought that Kyra was just a troubled teen who needed a “caring role model”, such as themselves, to lead her in the right direction.
Kyra found it all to be quite amusing actually. People are so gullible and quick to pass judgement on others. It’s so typical of human nature.
When the final bell rang, Kyra felt the impulsive need for a bag of Skittles. And of course there was only one working snack machine in the school, so there was a long line of kids waiting who all apparently had the same idea.
Kyra listened to her music as she was waiting and saw a blond-haired girl walk past her.
The girl then turned to one of her friends and said, “I heard that at her last school, she would hit on all the male teachers to get good grades!”
Kyra immediately turned around and sarcastically responded, “I actually flunked out most of my classes, so I guess my flirtation skills just need some work.” She then boldly continued, “Maybe you should give me a few pointers some time. After all, I can see just how smitten Mr. Saxton is with you already! Why, with your low-cut shirts, your short skirts and those frequent trips you make to his desk to ask for ‘help’ in that sweet little preppy voice of yours - I think it’s a guarantee already that you’ll be passing Geometry this year!”
She then put on a jeering smile and turned back around, as the embarrassed girl gave her a dirty look.
‘Just because I have Lady Gaga playing in my ears, doesn’t mean I can’t hear you, Princess.’
After getting her candy, Kyra rushed towards the bus loop only to get there just in time to see her bus pulling away.
“Ah damn”, she said to herself. She was a little annoyed that she would have to walk all the way home now. But at least she had her bag of Skittles and her pride intact.
Max was out that afternoon running errands. He was currently finishing with loading the back of his truck with newly bought lumber. Of course, he was careful not to go too fast. He didn’t want to make it obvious that lifting each piece of lumber was like tossing a stick across the yard for him.
It’s been five days since Max found out about where he really came from. He had told his father that he needed more time and wasn’t ready to finish their conversation just yet. All week, Max and Jackson have been going about their daily routines with an unspoken tension between them and limited their conversations to idle small talk.
Max was still letting it all sink in. He still hasn’t watched that videotape his biological mother recorded for him, but he looks at his “birth certificate” at least once a day. Maybe if he looked at those strange symbols long enough something would start to make sense.
He already had his two shifts at the fire station this week and was extra careful to keep his newfound abilities in check. Though he had to be honest with himself. Ever since the anxiety over not knowing the cause of his bizarre new talents had gone away, Max was finding himself somewhat enjoying getting to exercise them. He had to learn about these abilities somehow and what better way than actually using them?
He discovered that his invulnerable skin was strong enough to painlessly withstand the four-hundred degree heat of an oven and the sharp blades of a wood saw running at full power. He could sprint to Creekville faster than he could drive there, and he could spend hours and hours running here, there, and everywhere without perspiring so much as one drop of sweat. And doing chores was a breeze (and a little more fun), when you had the strength of fifteen men.
Maybe he should just go and finish that conversation with his father. He would have to do it eventually, right? But something was still holding him back.
Max finished loading and was about to get back into his truck, when he heard a familiar voice shouting behind him.
“Hey! It’s Mr. EMT!”
He tensed up in automatic response to Kyra Hadley’s loud voice and turned around to face her.
“So guess what - I missed my bus! And now I get to walk all the way home in this lovely, humid, blazing summer day we’re having. That is unless some kind gentleman such as yourself would give me a ride. You don’t mind right?”
Before Max had a chance to answer, Kyra was already making her way towards the passenger door of his truck.
“Thanks a bunch! I’m assuming you already know where I live because of the whole ‘my uncle being your boss’ thing.”
Max stood for a moment in dismayed silence.
‘Did she really just do that?’
Kyra, a hater of uncomfortable silences, had been spending the whole ride so far rambling on about whatever popped into her head at the moment.
“So what’s up with the high school mascot? The ‘Red Foxes’? Yeah like that’s going to leave the rival team shaking in their boots! And what’s with the school colors? Green and yellow? Why call yourselves the Red Foxes and not even pick red as one of your team colors? Were the people who got to decide all this just really high at the time?”
Max remained silent, just as he had for pretty much the whole trip so far.
‘Good Lord, it’s like talking to a brick wall with this guy!’, Kyra thought to herself in slight agitation. Would showing just at a little bit of emotion every once in a while kill him?
Kyra looked around the cab of the truck briefly then nonchalantly said, “You know, I once made-out with a guy in a truck just like this. Of course, it was a little cramped but I prefer to think of it as ‘cozy’! Wouldn’t you agree?”
Max turned his head with a blank expression toward the brazen teenaged girl sitting next to him, as she put on an amused smile.
“You like drawing attention to yourself, don’t you Miss Hadley?”
“Oh look! He talks!”
Max was beginning to lose his patience with this girl. He didn’t mind giving her a ride home, but she didn’t have to be so rude about how she “asked” him. And now she’s saying obnoxious things just to get attention. People like that usually got on his last nerve.
“You know. When someone’s talking to you, it’s usually customary to talk back. It’s kind of rude to let the other person ramble on like a crazy person”, Kyra explained sarcastically.
They pulled up to a stoplight.
Max sighed with frustration and turned to her, “Miss Hadley, I’m already going out of my way by giving you a ride home after you pretty much just invited yourself into my truck. So you’ll have to just excuse me for not being as talkative as you would like me to be!”
“Ok fine! I was just trying to have a friendly conversation before and I wanted to take advantage of this small-town hospitality you people are always bragging about!”, she scoffed.
The light turned green and Max turned his gaze back to the road. They spent the rest of the drive in annoyed silence with one another.
Kyra was in her room that evening - well it was her older cousin Isabelle’s room, who was currently away at college. She’s lying on the bed listening to her music again, but instead of Kelly Clarkson or The Black Eyed Peas right now, Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria is being played instead. The beautiful melody can be heard flowing past Kyra’s lips as she softly hums along to herself.
That was one thing she liked about the boarding schools she attended. They all had wonderful fine arts programs that really nurtured Kyra’s natural talents. Music and singing would always remain her first love. There was something liberating about having the ability to capture an audience through singing. She also had a fine appreciation for musical literature - a fact most people didn’t know about her. She figured she had to have at least a little bit of mystery to her.
Humbleton High’s chorus program left something to be desired, especially compared to what she was used to. She didn’t bother join the high school’s chorus, even though it probably would have been better than nothing. But she just couldn’t bring herself to be in a program that prided itself on singing 90’s pop hits instead of Palestrina or Handel.
She heard a knock at her door, so she pulled the headphones out of her ears and got up to answer. She opened the door just a nudge and found her uncle standing there.
“Hey Kyra! We were all just getting ready to pop in a movie downstairs and I was wondering if you’d like to come join us?”, Kenneth kindly invited.
Kyra sighed to herself and gave the answer she always did, “No thanks... I’m just gonna hang out here in my room for the rest of the night.”
She was about to close the door when Kenneth gently put his hand on the doorframe.
“Actually, Kyra, is it alright if I come in and talk with you for a minute?”
Kyra groaned inwardly. Why couldn’t her family just leave her alone? They already did a good job of that for the past eleven years.
“Sure”, she said tightly as she stepped away to let her uncle in. She took a seat on the edge of the bed, while Kenneth closed the door and sat down on a chair across from her.
“Kyra, I understand that you didn’t like being in boarding school for all those years and it’s probably not your first choice to be cooped up in a small town like this”, he said softly. “But, I’d really like for us to catch up on all those years we missed as a family while you were away at school. And I want you to know, that if there’s anything you ever need to talk-”
“Look Uncle Ken”, she interrupted, “I understand that you’re trying to do the right thing and all that, and I appreciate you and Aunt Alaina letting me stay in your house, but there’s nothing more that I need from you. I just want to finish my senior year, then move on with my life.”
Kenneth could only look back at her like a father who was slowly realizing that his child had grown up and drifted completely away from him.
He put on a faint smile. “OK, Kyra. Have a good night.”
“Night”, she said putting the headphones back on, as her uncle left the room with a heavy heart.
Max was lying down on his bed thinking about the past week. His first week of knowing that he wasn’t human. It felt so surreal at first, but with each passing day reality began to really sink in. It was almost like grieving the sudden death of someone you love. At first you don’t believe that they’re actually gone, but when you wake up each day and they’re not there, you slowly start to realize it’s true.
He knew there was still even more to learn about where he came from, but he was afraid to take that next step. He was afraid of losing himself and his humanity by fully accepting his alien origins. Life as he knew it would never be the same, but where does he go from here?
He sat up on his bed and noticed a photo of his mother sitting on his desk. He then had an old memory come back to him.
Eleven Years Ago
Max came home from school that day, all distressed. Eve came from the kitchen to greet her son, but saw the discontented look on his face.
“Sweetie, what’s wrong?”
Max looked up at her with those big blue eyes of his.
“Today during geography, we learned about different countries and how our families came from them a long time ago. Then the teacher told us to stand by the country our families are from, but I couldn’t do it because I don’t know where I came from!”
Eve smiled softly and knelt down to Max’s eye level.
“Max, it’s true that you didn’t come from Dad and I. But that doesn’t mean you’re not part of our family.”
She looked at him, as if there was something so much more to say, but couldn’t be spoken.
She hugged him tightly, “Max just remember that no matter what, you will always be my son.”
“You will always be my son.”
Those words never meant more to Max than they did right now. His mother was right; biologically he wasn’t human, but he was still Maxwell Trenton. He was still Jackson and Eve Trenton’s son, he was still Abby’s older brother, he was still Alicia and Lee’s best friend, he was still a fireman, he was still everything he was before he learned about who he really was. And nothing would ever change that.
Tomorrow morning, Max was going to go finish that conversation with his father.