“Jack,” Maya’s voice whispers on the other side of the door.
Jack springs out of bed and carefully opens his door so the bolt doesn’t make a loud noise.
“Hey, what’s up,” he says, glancing down at her pajamas: a baggy T-shirt, short sweat pants and bare feet.
“Were you asleep?”
“Not at all,” he says, quite honestly.
He looks back at the clock by his bed. It’s two-something.
He rubs his hand across his head, realizing his hair is pretty messy, but he doesn’t care. He marvels at Maya’s hair looking so beautiful and bushy. It’s a force of nature—rich, full, and bursting with life.
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“Come on in,” Jack opens the door wider, squinting from the bright hall light.
She remains in the hall. “Wait, I was thinking about something, and it was making me a little crazy. I had to talk to you guys about it.”
“Guys? I’m one guy.” Jack wasn’t sure where she was going with this.
Maya lets out a nervous laugh, but Jack sees that she’s anxious. He tries to calm her.
“I mean, I didn’t mean that. What’s on your mind? Let’s talk about it.”
“Let’s go get Chris,” she says with a tilt of her head.
Jack likes the excitement of Maya coming to his door in the middle of the night. Not that he expected anything to happen, but it was out of the ordinary, and a little thrill for that reason alone. However, the idea of bringing Chris into it was a buzzkill.
Nevertheless, he knows the best course is to be supportive, and see where she wants to take this.
“Yeah, sure. I’m practically naked. Let me grab . . .” he looks down at his gym shorts, and then reaches in his room to pull his shirt off the floor.
He tries to find some double meaning in her words, but it doesn’t seem to be there.
He’s warm enough, so he forgoes the shirt. He grabs his room key, puts it in the pocket of his shorts, and then steps barefoot into the carpeted hallway with her. They almost hold hands as they walk the two doors down to Chris’s room. Their fingers lightly brush against each other. Jack feels a rush from the contact. Maya shoots him a fleeting smile.
“Feels like we’re doing something wrong,” Jack whispers. “Sneaking around in the night.”
“I know, right?” Maya lets out a soft titter. As she does she leans into him and puts her hand on his bare chest, and then quickly pulls it away with an awkward “oh, sorry,” and a nervous giggle.
Jack only wants more.
They get to Chris’s door and Maya raises her hand to knock. Before she does, the door opens.
“What’s going on out here?”
“Oh, sorry, Chris. Were you up?”
“Well, I heard all this giggling. Am I missing a party?” He sports a big smile.
“No, no. Can you come with us?”
“Yeah, sure.” He grabs his key. He’s wearing a tight white T-shirt, which makes Jack feels slightly more self-conscious shirtless.
They slip into the exercise room and Maya turns on the harsh fluorescents. “This is good.”
Jack checks out the cameras in the upper corners. “A good place to give security something to peep at.”
“They see everything, you know,” Chris says. “You can’t escape.”
“Ugh. I hate even thinking about that,” Maya says. “Let’s just pretend we’re alone in here, okay?”
She closes the door behind them.
“How are you guys feeling? Are you as worked up about this as I am?”
“Yeah, I was sitting in bed totally wired,” Jack says. “I’m not sure what to make of it. Any of it, really.”
“Yeah, same here,” Chris says. “It’s serious shit. Do you think Sabine used some kind of power? That she, you know, ‘saw’ something?” His pause hangs in the air. “It’s definitely weird, no question.”
“What have you been thinking, Maya?” Jack asks. “You said you had some ideas?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.”
She playfully chews on her finger. Jack’s noticed she does this when she’s got something important to say. He continues, “Do you think Sabine did something, you know, with her mind?”
Chris sits on the bench press bench. It suits him, with his muscles bursting out of his shirt. “I don’t know, man. Who can say?”
“I’ve been thinking she did,” Jack says. “I mean, I can’t be sure, but I was looking right at her. It was intense, like she was in a trance.”
“Yeah, you were holding onto her, right?” Maya asks.
“Yeah, and what she did was,” he gropes for a word, “unbelievable. It was like she wasn’t scared or anything. Totally not her. She was scared at first, but then something hit her and it was like she changed. She got this incredible focus.”
“Come on, guys,” Chris says. “Seriously. What did she do? Prevent the walls from crashing down on us? Put up a force field? I mean, what are we trying to say here?”
“I don’t know,” Maya says, having none Chris’s skepticism.
“There’s no evidence. Look, you’ve heard their spiel about all this. It’s an experimental program. There’s nobody here who can do anything special.” He wiggles his fingers and makes bug eyes mockingly. “Or do things with their mind. There’s never been an ‘event,’ or whatever they call it, under, you know, laboratory conditions. We’re part of a secret government program now, if there were people like that, we’d know about it. You two aren’t bending spoons, are you?”
They shake their heads.
“I just don’t buy it,” Chris continues. “If we ever do anything, I bet it’s like microscopic, like quantum-level.”
“You’re a real scientist, aren’t you?” Maya smiles.
“It’s just the way I think. I think you have to look at how likely it is, you know. There’s nobody with special powers. It just doesn’t happen.”
Jack can tell Maya has more on her mind.
Chris gets to her first. “But Maya, tell us what you were thinking. I mean, don’t listen to me on this. I just don’t see any evidence, but what do I know?”
Maya does her finger-biting thing again. “I just was wondering if maybe because she was so scared, maybe that triggered something.”
“Like, just the emotional situation?” Jack supposes.
“Yeah,” Maya jumps on the thought. “Like they’ve been having us play these brain games and focusing so much on intellect. What if it’s brought out under pressure, like under duress?”
Chris throws up a hand. “You mean, like, those stories you hear when a mom suddenly gets super strong when her baby is trapped under a car or something, and she can lift the car?”
“Right. That’s what I’m saying.”
“Ok, yeah,” Jack says.
They sit in silence for a moment.
“How can we test that?” Jack says.
Chris lowers his head to think. “Hm. That’s a rough one. You don’t want to put anyone in danger . . .”
“Or, maybe it doesn’t have to be something dangerous. Maybe any kind of emotion,” Maya says.
Chris dismisses her quickly. “No way. If that was true, then we probably already would have had some kind of psychic experience or whatever, like what you’re saying Sabine did.”
“Not necessarily,” Jack says. “I mean, they’ve been training us super hard. Maybe that training gets us there, or got Sabine to where she’s at. Maybe she would have never been able to tap a power to do whatever she did if she hadn’t done all this work.”
“I know what we can do,” Maya says quietly.
The guys look to her.
“Okay, this might be a little weird, but . . .” She bends down from the hips, and then whips her mop of hair up, smiling like she’s embarrassed. “Okay, so, I think you guys are really cool, right? Like, I like you guys. Both of you.”
“Okaay,” Chris says with a bit of a smile, glancing at Jack.
Jack shuffles his feet, hoping he’s not blushing.
“Jack, I feel something really special for you.”
Warmth erupts from the soles of Jack’s feet. He can’t hide his embarrassed smile, but with Chris here, he’s not sure how to act.
Maya continues. “And Chris, you are annoying. I mean, you’re such a hot guy, but you drive me a little insane.”
“Thank you?” Chris says. “I think. Not really?” He waves it off. “Hey, it’s cool, I know. We’re like oil and water.”
“You’re just not my type. I’m sure a lot of girls go for that alpha thing, the muscles . . .”
“Well . . .” Chris smiles.
“One the one hand, it’s just not my thing,” she says. “But, I can see falling for it, like, in a fling sort-of way.”
Jack’s head is spinning.
“So, what if,” she says, “what if we put me in some kind of a situation with both of you, or one of you, and I concentrate, like they make us do in the training. And see what happens?”
“Okay, so, whatever you’re talking about,” Chris says, “and it makes no sense just yet, but whatever it is, it’s definitely a little intriguing.”
Jack decides the only way to snuff out his feelings of exposure and embarrassment is to step up to her and take her hand. She surrenders to his sudden confidence.
“I think I know what you’re talking about,” he says. “Let’s try this.” Keeping her hand in his, he leads her in front of Chris, standing just a few inches from him.
She covers her mouth and laughs nervously. “Oh my god I can’t believe we’re doing this.”
Chris reaches for her other hand.
“Chris, wait,” Jack says. “I have an idea.” He looks at Maya. They’re inches apart now. “Maya, concentrate on those weights behind Chris, just like they make us do, staring at those inanimate objects. Focus.”
“And Chris,” he leans in close to Chris and whispers something Maya won’t hear.
Jack smiles reassuringly. “You can bet the security guys are riveted now.”
Maya chortles loudly and makes a little yelp, dropping her whole body down for a moment, and then quickly popping back up.
“Okay, concentrating,” she says, trying to be serious.
They stand statue still. Physical electricity builds between them.
Jack squeezes her hand, and then reaches up and moves her hair slowly back, exposing her ear. He moves in even more slowly to kiss her neck just below where it meets her ear. As he does, he feels her breathing deepen.
On the other side of her, Chris moves in to kiss her just above her exposed collarbone.
Chris’s hand suddenly flies back.
“Whoa!” Chris says.
Maya screams. “I was concentrating on the weights. I was sort of waiting to hear that metal jiggling sound. But then, I felt something.”
“My arm moved. That was you?” Chris looks astonished. “No way!”
“It was . . .” Maya begins, suddenly furrowing her brow and grabbing her head.
“Maya, what’s wrong?” Jack asks.
She collapses to the floor. The boys scramble to catch her.