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Chapter Three: Diana

The first day of twelfth grade was going to be boring, as usual. I dragged myself out of bed and got dressed in ten minutes flat, a personal record. I threw my hair up into a casual bun to keep my long, brown hair out of my way. I needed to be prepared if I had to fight off any attacker, human or Telepath. I ran down the hallway, snatching up my distressed backpack before leaving my house to walk toward the mismatched school building.

My parents hadn’t been home for over three months now. We lost all our money and most of our valuable possessions during a robbery in the spring. My parents tried to make up for what we lost with more shifts at their job, but the bills kept stacking up.

Right before summer began, they made the difficult decision to become drones for a very wealthy Telepath they refused to talk about; they said it was safer this way. Every month, they sent me the money they made. It was triple what they made in two months at their old jobs.

I lived alone in a little house in some neighborhood that’d been abandoned long ago. I knew of only two other families that occupied the neighborhood, but I doubted they knew about me. I tried to stay hidden from the world. It was the only way I was going to survive on my own.

The teenagers always walked to school together without worrying about being kidnapped at any moment, or at least that was the vibe I got from them. I stuck to the shadows right behind them, fearing for my life. I wasn’t going to risk being some Telepath’s pet like them. Not now.

I arrived at school to see the two of them split off at the front door. The guy entered the school while the girl snuck off to the corner of the building. Curiosity would’ve gotten the best of me if there were places to hide by the corner of the school, however it was too exposed. I would be spotted in an instant. Instead, I headed inside and made my way to my locker very slowly. I hoped the girl would catch up with me and spill some details about her detour to one of her friends.

I made it to my locker without spotting the girl and was disappointed. I sighed as I continued to open my locker slowly as a last ditch effort. I wanted some juicy gossip to tell Stella. She always had something to share, but I never had anything interesting.

Suddenly, the girl from my neighborhood, I think her name was Natalia, appeared next to me. I slowly dragged my lunch box out of my backpack, Natalia on the other hand shoved hers quickly into her locker. She looked pissed.

Natalia was easily the most beautiful and captivating girl in school. She had the shiniest auburn hair I’d ever seen. Her eyes always had this eerie brightness to them that seemed to come from the green hidden within the brown. Her figure was a perfect hourglass as if she’d been sculpted by an artist. I envied her and I knew every other human and half-telepath girl did too.

A guy walked up to the locker beside Natalia’s to do the exact same thing we were doing. He had shaggy blonde hair that ended just above his eyes and rested on the tips of his ears. His eyes were a clear gray, making them look like glass. Freckles littered his nose, providing him a boyish look. He was cute, but the confidence he held in his body language made me believe he was a Telepath. He was off limits.

“What are you looking at?” I averted my eyes in hopes he wasn’t talking to me.

“I was admiring your pin. Are you an officer?” Natalia never ceased to amaze me. I would never have the courage to talk to a Telepath.

The Telepath opened his locker. “Not yet. Training begins next year.”

He closed his locker just as quickly as he had opened it before he focused all of his attention on Natalia. I was lucky he had no interest in me. In fact, it seemed he hadn’t noticed me eavesdropping on their conversation. “You’re cute for a human.” It seemed even the Telepaths recognized her unique beauty.

“Thank you,” said Natalia. I couldn’t see her facial features and I didn’t dare attempt to see them.

I was frozen at my locker. I desperately wanted to hear the direction of this conversation, but I’d easily overstayed my welcome. If the Telepath realized I was standing there eavesdropping, I was done for.

The Telepath did a semicircle around Natalia, stopping inches from me. I kept my eyes on his shoes in case he noticed me. This submissive pose would protect me a little from his anger. “If only you were a Telepath,” he stated.

This wasn’t surprising. Natalia had suitors lined up, waiting for their chance to claim her as their own. She was a girl who could never meld into a crowd and disappear. She caught the attention of all guys and definitely some of the girls. It was a curse for this world. I, on the other hand, could easily blend in even if I was the only other person there, like this situation. I was a fly on the wall and it helped me survive.

“If only I was interested.” I watched her lean toward him. “I wouldn’t be caught dead with you now or in the fantasy world you just created in your head.”

The Telepath and I were stunned as we stood beside each other. No sane human or half-telepath would talk back to a Telepath, ever. They could easily strike our kind down with a single thought I was convinced, in this moment, that Natalia had a death wish. It was the only logical explanation.

I finally closed my locker door quietly and headed out to the trailer where my biology class was located. I had no desire to be in the middle of a fight involving a Telepath. Abandoning my survivor instinct now would only result in my injury or death. Instead, I kept my head down the entire walk to the trailer. I located my seat on the left side of the classroom as soon as I was inside. I was safe.

Natalia scurried into the classroom a few minutes after me. I chanced a glance in her direction to see she was unharmed. If anything, she looked more pissed off than she did by the lockers. She needed to get that under control if she was going to survive the school day.

The Telepath wasn’t far behind. He strode over to Natalia with a smile on his face. He stared at the occupied desk next to her. The girl sitting there was a human with long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. She kept her head down, but I could see her clench her eyes shut. She could feel the Telepath’s presence behind her.

“Take my seat up front.” The girl quickly grabbed her things from beside her desk and headed to his seat without looking up from the floor. The Telepath sat down in the girl’s seat as he smiled at Natalia. “Looks like we’ll be spending some time together.”

Natalia kept her head facing forward along with her eyes like any other human would in her situation. Her death wish seemed to have disappeared during her walk to the trailer. “Yes.”

The Telepath nudged her. “Come on. Where’s that spunk I saw a few moments ago?”

Natalia blinked longer than usual. I hoped, for her sake, that she was compartmentalizing the anger written on her face. “I’m sorry for being rude earlier. I had a bad morning. It won’t happen again, sir.”

The Telepath nudged her again. It looked like he added some extra force. “Liar. I see how tempted you are to put me in my place. Go ahead, human.”

The rest of the class abandoned their survival instinct. We were all now staring at Natalia and the Telepath beside her. This was history in the making for our kind. There was no way we were passing up the opportunity to watch it unfold.

Finally, Natalia made eye contact with the Telepath. “What you see is the work of nerves.” We all knew that was a blatant lie. All of us wanted to put a Telepath in their place.

The Telepath’s smile grew across his face, stretching from ear to ear. “Do I make you nervous?”

“If I say yes, will you leave me alone?”

The Telepath shook his head. “No. I want you to say what’s on your mind. You were clearly fine doing so in the hallway.”

Natalia flipped her legs over her chair and into the aisle between her and the Telepath. She was closing the space between them. I wasn’t sure if it was a stupid move or a brilliant strategy. It was too hard for me to determine her current plan. “Just remember, you asked for it.” She paused for a moment. “Do you mind if I hold your hand?”

The Telepath didn’t refuse her. My curiosity began to rise up once more. I could tell she was toying with him the way a cat toys with a mouse before killing it. She knew more about him than he thought she did. It was clear in her body language. Things are about to get interesting.

“This facade you project here at school is to cover up the scared little boy you truly are.” I watched as the Telepath tried to pull away from Natalia before he was stopped by Natalia’s vice grip.

“Your mom tries to protect you from your father, but she can never dull the harsh reality of your daily life. You’re a disappointment to him.” Natalia paused. All of us were on the edge of our seats, waiting for her to continue. “He’s the reason you’re in this hell hole with us. He doesn’t want you to be a burden to the teachers at the Telepath prep school where the rest of your little Telepath friends are.”

The Telepath’s jaw dropped open, but Natalia didn’t stop there. “Most likely you live in the shadow of an older sibling with much more potential than you. A brother maybe? Sadly, you’ll never surpass him in your father’s eyes even if the world sees you succeed in doing so.” Natalia patted the Telepath’s hand before sliding her feet back under her desk.

The Telepath pushed his desk to the right, causing it to smack into the desk right next door. Whoever was supposed to be sitting there was lucky they were late. The Telepath stood over Natalia with his shoulders raised. His hands were clenched into fists as if he was going to punch her square in the jaw. For a moment, I thought he would.

“How dare you speak to me like that?”

Natalia kept her eyes down, but I saw her mouth twitch as she tried to hide her smile. She was enjoying this. “Was I wrong?” The Telepath huffed and puffed beside her like a kid ready to throw a temper tantrum. “Didn’t think so.” The Telepath marched out of the room.

The rest of the class continued to stare at Natalia and that ghostly smile left on her lips. I had the urge to get up and scream at her, however my classmates clearly didn’t feel the same way. I could sense the rest of the class wanted to congratulate her for doing something they’d only dreamed. Her eyes stayed down on her desk at the teacher entered the room, keeping all of us in our seats.

After class ended, Natalia calmly picked up her things and exited the trailer to go back to the main building. I followed her out, looking for the Telepath, but he was nowhere to be seen. I was a little disappointed. I entered the school to find Stella waiting for me by the lockers.

Stella was my one and only friend in this crazy, depressing world. She had unruly, fiery hair that somehow managed to fall down her back in beautiful waves. Her eyes were dark and muddy like a mud puddle after a torrential downpour. Her skin was pale like milk with freckles covering almost every inch of her cheeks. She was gorgeous in a different way from Natalia but with all the same perks.

“How was biology?” she asked.

I couldn’t hold in my excitement and awe any longer. “Natalia put a Telepath in his place before first period,” I blurted out in one breath.

Stella glanced behind her looking for Natalia among the crowd, but she was probably in her next class. “No way. No one’s that suicidal.”

We walked to our English class at a leisurely place. We were in no rush to start the next portion of twelfth grade torture. “I’m telling you it happened. My entire class witnessed it. Natalia was a total badass.” We entered our English class.

Natalia was seated next to the Telepath once more. Stella and I walked to the front of the class where our names were placed beside each other like they were every year. Stella, being a half-telepath, pushed her way easily into my mind without resistance from me. She slowly watched the ordeal from this morning.

“What got into her?”

I placed my backpack next to my leg, lacing my foot around the shoulder strap as a precautionary measure. “I don’t know. The only explanation for the courage she possessed is that she herself is a Telepath. Any human or half-telepath would be a drone or killed by now.”

Stella sighed. “I’ve already checked her out after your last rant about how the green in her eyes is unnatural for a human. She isn’t a Telepath or a half-telepath. She’s a human like you.” Our teacher walked in.

I shot a quick glance at Natalia. From just looking at her, I knew she had a secret she was hiding form the rest of us. I was going to get to the bottom of it even if it meant putting my life at risk. I couldn’t let her put the rest of us in danger for some experiment the Telepaths were running. She was an undercover TW officer and I was going to find proof.

I went through the rest of the day without seeing Natalia or the Telepath in any of my classes or even in the hallway; I was majorly disappointed. I wanted to hear all of their conversations. It was possible the stunt in biology was a ploy to discover rogue Telepaths still lingering in the school.

I walked out of the school at the end of the day when I spotted Natalia; my heart fluttered at the sight of her. She was much tenser than she was this morning, probably from being harassed all day by the Telepath. Her friend from our neighborhood innocently walked up to her only to have a fist almost give him a matching shiner for the one he received sometime during the day.

“Sorry. I thought you were someone else.”

“Who did you think he was?” The Telepath had snuck up on her left side while she was dealing with her friend. “You run really fast.”

Natalia was my main focus, but I couldn’t stop myself from wondering why a telepath would be pursuing a human this hard, if she was in fact a human. Telepaths could literally have anyone they wanted. I wanted to know what was stopping him from taking what he desired. It was more proof she was probably a TWA officer.

“Aren’t you taking a cloud or tornado back home?” asked Natalia.

“My mom’s coming to pick me up,” replied the smiling Telepath.

Her friend tapped Natalia on her arm again, but more cautiously this time. “Can I get a ride home? My mom called and said the car was back in the shop.”

“Of course,” Natalia said with a genuine smile.

That was another thing I envied about Natalia. She still had her family and a working car along with them. She was so privileged. I wondered if she ever knew how lucky she was.

The Telepath spun Natalia in a little tornado so she was facing him. “Are you busy Friday? I was invited to Anthony’s party and I want you to be my plus one.”

Anthony was a Molecular Telepath, who was about to head into training along with all of his friends. He threw a party almost every week, which I was thankful for. I worked his parties for some extra cash and the chance to listen to music. The guests were beyond rude, but it was an escape from the awful reality of the world I lived in.

“Can’t,” stated Natalia.

“Great. I’ll be by to pick you up at six. Wear something sexy.” The Telepath took off for his car.

“He’s really into you,” said Natalia’s friend. You’d think by now I would’ve learned his name.

Natalia brushed her hand over her head. "It’s my fault. I provoked him.” She paused for a second. "My mom's here."

Her friend followed directly behind her to the beat up van that belonged to Natalia's family. They both hopped in and drove off toward our neighborhood. I wanted to know what was being said in that car. There was no way her mom was thrilled about her new Telepath beau...unless they were all TWA officers.

"Diana, what are you still doing here?" asked Stella from behind me.

I put on my best, genuine smile and turned around slowly. Stella was with her fairly new boyfriend Jake. He was a tall, blonde haired boy. His eyes were hazel and changed in the different lighting but there wasn't anything else intriguing about him. To this day, I still had no clue what brought the two of them together and was keeping them that way. Jake wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, which wasn't Stella's type.

“I was just about to leave.”

Stella dropped Jake's hand and wrapped her arms around my neck. "Do you want me to come over? I know you get lonely at your house."

I hugged her back half-heartedly like I always did when she got too clingy for my liking. "I wish you could, but I have a ton of work to do. I have a pile of homework calling my name and a uniform that needs to be pristine for Anthony's party on Friday."

Stella pulled back and took up Jake's hand once more. "Come live with me. My parents really want you to stay with us. They worry about you home alone."

I started walking home. "I'm fine. Seriously. Tell your parents to stop worrying about me." Stella frowned. She knew I was lying to her face.

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