Aiden woke up with the sun glaring in his eyes. The brightness blinded his vision as he struggled to get up. He checked the time, it was just past half three. The aching in his body reminded him to never nap on a park bench again.
He got up and stretched, loosening out every bone in his body. Checking his phone, he saw no messages from Michael or Alison.
Aiden sighed as the energy burst through his body. The contest was tomorrow, and the bills for his dad were definitely not going to be paid with newspaper coupons. He shook his head, knowing what he had to do.
The local newsagents were a two-minute walk, and a lot of students would be in trying to get their caffeine before heading home. No one would know if he got out of there without a second to lose. It wouldn’t be enough, but it would be a start. At least none of the other students had superpowers.
Clenching his fists and taking deep breaths, he walked slowly down the alley and slid into the store, walking briskly to the back. A few more students walked in, so he kept his face down.
Within the corner of his eye, he spotted the shopkeeper reading the newspaper in the corner. A million thoughts went through his mind, but he blocked them all out with one.
I don’t have a choice.
He had to distract everyone else somehow; maybe a mask would have worked in this situation. He turned to see a camera staring down at him. He looked up, sighing as he did.
“No loitering!” the shopkeeper yelled out. Aiden jumped, and the rest of the students all looked at the shopkeeper in disgust.
As he jumped back, he landed against something hard and metallic, hurting his back. As he turned round, he saw a fuse box. It was slightly smaller than the one that had given him his powers. He smiled when he realized what he had to do.
Clicking his fingers, he slowly opened the box, peering over his shoulder as he brought his hand up. As the blue spark crackled against the switches, the light bulb in the store shattered, dimming the entire place. Aiden closed it quickly and made his way towards the register as the shopkeeper leapt up.
Keeping his hood up, he aimed his hand toward the register and sent out a small bolt, blasting it open. He saw a lot of money. Stacks of fives, tens, twenty’s were just waiting for him.
His hand froze as he reached out for them. His stomach tightened more than it ever had. This wasn’t going to be nearly enough to pay for his dad’s bills. And how would he explain how he’d gotten the money?
Shut up, conscience.
He slowly moved his hand towards the register, keeping his mind on the end result. Desperate times called for desperate measures. A photo frame in the corner caught his eye. It showed the shopkeeper smiling with his family, a young girl with flowing blonde hair and a wife with her arm around him and the girl. This money was probably going to be their rent.
Squinting and closing his eyes, he moved closer. He could feel the touch of the notes caressing his palm. As he heard footsteps, he opened his eyes and backed away quickly, keeping focus on the drink section. A hand touched his shoulder.
It was Michael. His grip was unnaturally tight. Aiden said nothing as he looked up at him. “Come with me, now.” he said, frowning.
Aiden slowly followed him out of the store, keeping his hands in his pockets and his mouth zipped. Michael opened the car door and stood, waiting for him to get in. Aiden skulked into the back seat. The door slammed, slightly missing his hand.
Michael got inside and locked the door. His loud sighing interrupted the sound of silence. He glared back at him, clenching his teeth. “So, this is how it is?”
Aiden looked down.
“Answer me, Aiden.”
“It wasn’t what you think.”
Michael slammed his hand on the dashboard. “What the hell were you thinking? Do you have any idea the kind of trouble you could get in?”
“I know.” Aiden replied.
“You know? Do you know how much it would break Alison’s heart if she had to see you behind bars? Or your dad? Or me?”
“I’m sorry, okay.”
Michael nodded. “Yeah, you’re just lucky it was me who caught you and not some cop.”
He started up the car and drove along slowly. “Mike, I didn’t have a choice.”
Michael sighed. “About what?”
“The money. I don’t come from a rich family like you. I need to save my dad.”
“I’m pretty sure your dad wouldn’t want you to become a thief.”
Aiden looked out the window as the rain came pouring down. “In that case, he wouldn’t want me to cheat either, would he?”
Michael looked up at the mirror. “What do you mean?”
Aiden looked down and clicked both his fingers, lighting up the back of the car. Michael instantly stopped as he flickers of electricity moved up Aiden’s arm.
“Let’s just say I’m not the kid I was anymore.”
Michael’s mouth dropped. He stammered, turning his head.
“I can’t do the contest.” Aiden said.
“Yeah…is there any way you can explain that?”
Aiden smirked. “Which part?”
“Well, at least now I know I didn’t dream sparks between you and Alison. I’m guessing she knows too.”
Aiden nodded. “It seems whatever happened to me, it’s upgraded my ability to control energy. It’s why I could run faster, make those leaps…”
“That’s why you changed your mind.”
“Yeah. I’m changing it back now. I can’t go on knowing that I’m cheating. Not when it gets my friends hurt.”
Michael sighed. “Well, I can’t make up your mind for you.”
“I’m sorry, man. You guys mean more to me than some contest.”
“So that’s why you wanted the prize money? To help your dad.”
“It was the perfect opportunity.” Aiden said. “And beating Chad was a bonus.”
Michael smiled. “Thanks for telling me. We should get to the hospital now.”