Enlightened a light tamer novel (the light tamer)

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Enlightened

 

A Light Tamer Novel

 

By: Devyn Dawson

 

To my Mom

 

Published by Devyn Dawson

 

©Copyright 2012

License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

 

This is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.  The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work offiction, which have been used without permission.  The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

Chapter 1.  First Day - Alchemy             7

Chapter 2.  Mildly Interesting             19

Chapter 3.  Bonds Broken             25

Chapter 4.  Filii Nocte             28

Chapter 5.  YOURNIGHTMARE2010             35

Chapter 6.  Secrets             39

Chapter 7.  Drill             42

Chapter 8.  Box of Secrets             49

Chapter 9.  Dream             53

Chapter 10.  Guardian’s Call             60

Chapter 11.  Killing Amber             66

Chapter 12.  Jealousy is Ugly             73

Chapter 13.  Grandma             79

Chapter 14.  Raine             89

Chapter 15.  Party             96

Chapter16.  Sex             104

Chapter17.  Horseplay             106

Chapter18.  Your Highness             113

Chapter19.  Grandma Confesses             123

Chapter20.  Truth             127

Chapter21.  Muddy             139

Chapter22.  Something Old.             145

Chapter23.  Equinox             157

Acknowledgements             161

 

Chapter1. First Day -Alchemy

 

 

“The sooner everyone takes their seat, the sooner I can start our morning.  You’ll notice your name is on the desk, and yes, that meansit’san assigned seat.”  The Hispanic woman says as everyonelooks around to findtheirdesk.  I double-check my class schedule to figure out her name. SonyaRaineAlvarez, oh, I bet she is grandma’s friend Raine. 

“Looks like you’re stuck with me kid, no escapingthe Amber.”  Amber says from the chair directly behind me. Let the fun begin.I think to myself.

Fromoutside, the school isplainasvanilla, redbricks, one story in a U surroundinga courtyard.  There is a smaller version of the school next door. It houses the kids from preschool through sixth grade.All classrooms start to look the same after ten years of school, regardless where you live. There were many fluorescent lights andtackyinspirational posters taped to the walls.Twenty four chairs, divided by four rows, twenty-three occupied.  The empty seat is right next to me.  I lean over to read the name on the paper, Thorne Woodson.  The second bell rings and like magic, everyone sits quietly, not moving a muscle. What are they growing here, Stepford Students?  Private school is much differentfromthe public schools I’ve been to.

“I amMissRaineand welcome to Alchemy1. With a showof hands, who has been taught theintricatearts of alchemyby their family?”MissRaine’s tan makes hereyesfreakishly bright.  One of my friends back in New York haswaist length wavy black hairlike hers, the guys loved it. 

Approximately half the class raisestheir hand, including my partner in crime Amber. Of course,she has,she’ssneaky.  The door opensandin walkstheUni-bomber’s son. He strolled across the room, his black polobarelytucked into his pants,andbarely makingdress-code.  I’m not so sure about the black leather belt with spikes and agiant metal skull buckle though.  His Doc Martens are so looselytied;he has to shuffleas he walksto keepthem on his feet. It’s seventeen thousand degrees outside,andhewears ajacket, what a wacko.  Everyone watches as he pulls the hood down andMissRainemotions for the ear buds to be pulled out of his ears.  His auburn hair, thick and unruly, gives him the urban skater kid edge.

“Thorne?”MissRaineasks.

Helifts his head in a reverse nod like an arrogant too-cool-for-school thug.  He pulls the ear buds out, walks over to the only emptyseat…theone next to me, and sits down.  His chair makes an obnoxious sound as he shiftsit aroundand leans over torummagethrough his backpack.

Ambertakesin a breath andmuttersto me “ooolala”.  She would think he’s hot.  “Shhhh,” I reply.

“In the futureMrWoodson, you’re to be in your seat when the second bell rings.  Beingit’sthe first day of class, andyou arenew to the school, I’ll let it slide….today.  Don’t test my generosity, you’ll lose.  Understand?”MissRainesays with annoyance in her voice. Thorne gives another reverse nod, in agreement.  She leans over her desk and picks up a folder.  “The following students need to come to the front of the class.  Amber Edwards, Derrick Douglas, Cecelia Judiarti,CarmenRodriguez, Damian Shock, Thorne Woodsonand JessieLucente.  Pack up your things, as you will not be returning to this classroomtoday.”

We all gather our things and line up by the door. Theother people in classarewhispering to each other.  My heart is pounding,andmy brain isthinking a thousand and one thoughts at the same time.  I turn to Amber andsay softly, “Do you know what’s going on?”

She shrugs her shoulders at me and stares at the back of Thorne’s hoodie.Fabulous, a distracted Amber. 

“Students, I’ll be back in fiveminutes…tryto control yourselves. The rest of you; follow me.”  She turns on her heel and goes to the back of the room and leads usintoa storage closet.

They must expect to have an overflow of stuff, for aclosetthis size.  All of us look around curiously, waiting for her to explain why we’re in here.Thestenchof dirty bleach water and moth ballsarestarting to make melight-headed.  Shelves are lining the walls to the ceiling, all glass jars of colorfulelixirs. Most are bright, whileothers look as if they were filled with human organs.  I’m not even going to guess what they are.

“What the hell?  Between the musty smell and Jessie’s Victoria’s Secret perfume, I’m going to barf,” Amber announces.

“My body spray makes you want to barf?  Wow, things you can learn from your friends when you’re in a closet,” I say and grin at Amber.

MissRainetaps her toe on the ground.  “Ladies, are you finished complaining?”  She takes her hand and sweeps it through her hair, exposing alittletattoo on her wrist.  “Thorne, turn off the overhead light.  There is a string directlyabove you.”

“Hey, it will be dark,he can’t do that,” the guy I think is Damien says.

“You trying to off some Tamers or something?”Thorne’s voice is huskywith a slight raspy quality.  It made me think of the guys on the cover ofbodiceripperbooks (my grandma secretly reads them).  His rebel side showing for the second time in five minutes.


Page 2

MissRainesighs in exasperation.  “YouLight Tamersare all the same.  Do you have any idea how many times I’veexplained this?  Trustme;you won’t be disturbed by anyDark Onesin here.  This room is enchanted, andif they’d tell you at a younger age, you’dknow better.  Butno, you think the alchemistis an idiot.  Now,MrWoodson,pleaseturn out the light.”

Amber takes her fingers in the shape of a gun and fake shootsMissRainein the back.  We stifle giggles only to be shot rightback…withMissRaine’sstink eye.  Thorne reaches up and pulls the string.  Amber and I are armed with our fancy pink flashlights Calebinsisted we carry with us. The teachershakes herhead in disbelief at us. Looking up, we gasp at the never ending supply of potions.  Many of the jarsareglowing as if filled with a thousandlightningbugs.

“What’s up with the jars?” I ask.

“Why are we still standing in a closet, is what I want to know,” Ambersays as she gnaws on her cuticle.

“Weare about to leave the closetMissEdwards.” MissRainerepliesand slides a piece of paper in her white linen pants pocket.  Amber shiftsto faceme andsmiles with her teeth gritted and eyes bugging out.  “Any time you’re at school,everyone isprotected from the Dark Ones. By the time this class is over, you’ll know how to create the same enchantment for protection.”

“You realize working with chemicals is hazardous to my nails.  This is bunk.” Carmen says as she tucks her short curly hair behind her ear. Her perfectFrench manicureis highlighted by her dark tan.

I watch as Amber watches Thorne watching Carmen and feel the dread of a love triangle brewing.

“She looks like a tan version of Selena Gomezwithout extensions, doesn’t she?” I whisper to Amber.

Sherolls her eyes so far back in her head,andfor asplit second,she looked like a zombie.  “I guess maybe a little, except for the blue eyes.  How much do you want to bet she wears colored contacts?”

“You always think everyone has colored contacts on.”

“How many Hispanics do you know that have light-colored eyes?  I mean,please…giveme a break.”

“Ladies, as compelling of a conversation you’re having,we need to get going.  Derrick, pull the handle on the mop bucket.” MissRainereaches in her pocket and pulls out a smallvial and tosses it at the bucket as he pulls the handle.

Instantly the wall with allthe jars rotates around, exposing an entry to a secret passage. Where’sScooby Doo? All we need now is a ghost and some Scooby Snacks. Jinkies!  Zoinks, how creepy is that! 

“Come on kids, I need to get back to my classroom.”

Weall walk into a stairwell,down a flight of stairs,througha hallway,and past two doors on either side of the hall. We approach the end, it splits into a T.  Turning right, we takethe first door on the left.  The classroom is an exact duplicate ofMissRaine’s room. Takingitin,I seetwo kids sitting at their desk and a rather peculiar looking man in a monk’s robe standing ata podium.

Theround baldheadedman announces we can take a seat wherever we want.  His accent sounds Britishmixed witha Southern drawl, an interesting combination. MissRaineleaves, notbeforetellingshe’ll be back in exactly one hour and thirty minutes.

“Chop, chop, we won’t learn anything if everyone is toobusy gawking at me in my habit.”  Hesays andwipes his forehead with a handkerchief. He clearshisthroat, which sounds like a cat coughing up a hairball.“I’mMrJesse James and no, I am not related to your American outlaworto a biker.”  His head tilts to the side as he talks.  “This is Enhanced Alchemy.  What is it, you might ask yourself?  This is an intensemethodicalformof the art in alchemy.  Yes, art. Although your young brain might be thinking science, and I agree;however,it’san art of precision.  I’m not going to bore you to death over the details, you’ll understandas the school year progresses. In your desk,you’ll find a journal and a textbook.  Please pull them out and personalize them.  They are yours to keep.” 

The sound of books slapping the desk fills the room.  “Excuse meMrJames,I thought all of our books areelectronic textbooks for our I-pads. We have to lug around this giant book?”  I ask while clicking the end of my ink-pen over and over nervously.

Hegivesme an annoyed look.“Yes,MissLucente, you have tocarrya schoolbook, just like the old days,” he says sharply.  “Everyone, openyourbook,andI want you to read the first chapter.  You have five minutes to read it and then you’ll take a test.”We allmakeasound ofaggravation.

“Can you believe this guy?  What adouchebag, that was totally rude of him,” Amber says.  She picked the seat behind me soI can hear hercommentary about the class.

“Less talking and more readingMissEdwards.”

“Like I said, douche,” she whispers to the back of my head.  I mentally pray he didn’t hear her. I hunch over my book trying to let my hair fall into a curtain soMrJames won’t talk to me again. 

Alchemy(al-kuh-mee)

Noun, plural alchemies

A form of chemistry practiced in Renaissance time.  The art of transmuting baser metals into gold. 

The use of chemicals for magical elements.  The art of mixing compounds into potions for healing.

The chapterisfour pages long,butpromisesby the end of the book, we’d be able to identify and create potions.I’ll be lucky not to cause an explosionby the end of the book.  I look over andnoteThorne never opened his book.  I wonder ifMrJames will say anything.

“MissLucente, take one and passthem on,”Igrab the stackand giveitto Amber.  IseeThorne is smirking in my direction.  I shift quickly and stare down at my test.  Imiss the announcement tostart. 

Five minutes laterI get up to handmy work to the teacher.AsIturn to go back to my desk,Irun smack intoThorne. Good going grace.  “Sorry, I have a clumsy gene.”

“No sweat,” he repliesand winks at me. Did he just wink? No, it’s my imagination.  Maybe I know him through my grandma. I’d remember him…wouldn’t I?  His rugged look works for him.  Amber’s going to have a field day with his eyes once she seesthey’regray.  Deep andcrystal clearwithlongblack eyelashes. Why do guys always havegreateyelashes and girls get stuck with wimpy flimsyones? He is staring back at me,andfor a moment,I forget what I’m doing.I bet he’saterrifickisserwith his perfect lips.  Oops, why did I saythat…thinkthat? 

Derrick is the last to turn in his test.  I hate being last; I alwaysfeel everyone thinks I’m stupid.  Mom would say,someone has to be last. True, but it doesn’t makeme feelbetter.

“I am pleased to inform everyone that all of you passed the test with a 100. Fora reward, I’m going give you four chapters to read tonight instead of two.”

“What the hell?”  Amber mutters. 

“Oh noMissEdwards, hell is college,”saysMrJames. “I’m going to teach you how to make a protection potion.  It won’t be hard, and I’ll give you the ingredients totakehome.  You will be given a pop quizlaterweek. I’llgrade you on both finesse and speed. MrWoodson, it will behoove you to practice and actuallyreadthe chapters. Form a single fileline by the backdoor. We’re going to the lab.”

“Hey, I need your help,” Amber says.

This can’t begood.  “With what?”

“I’m going to make out with Thorne today.”

Breathe in. “Wow, that’s ambitious.”

“I’m freakin’ serious.  Look at him, he’s all sexified in hishoodieand I think it’ll make a statement.”

“Statement?”

“I’ve never talked to anyone at this school other than Caleb.  Now you’re here, I don’t want people to think I went soft over the summer.  You know, hanging out with the gorgeous new girl takes away my edge.  He’ll prove to everyone that I’m still bad-ass.”

“You think I’m gorgeous, ah that’s sweet?  I don’t believe the bad-ass for one minuteMissEdwards. Are you planning on kissing him at school?” I study her face andsee she isintenton her quest.


Page 3

Amber shrugs her shouldersandpops her gum.  “Idon’t have a plan, but itwillhappen,” she whispers to me.  “You only live once right?”

This ought to be good.

MrJames opens the door tothescience lab.  The difference betweenthis laband the lab at my school in the Bronx, everything isnew andfancy looking.

“Thorne, you want to sit with me?” Amber and I turn in timeto see Carmen.  She isslithering around him like a snake to its prey.

Oh crap!  Amber is going flip out.I glanceover ather, sheis seethingwithvenom from every pore in her body.

“She better learn her protection spell, because she’s going to need it,”Amber says through gritted teeth.

“Do you have A lunch or B lunch?” Carmen asks Thorne.  “If you haveBlunch you can sit with me, I’ll introduce you toeveryone…ifyou want.”

I nudge Amber with my knee as we sit side by side at our lab table.  She is drawing little stick people and what looks like torture devices on her paper. 

“I’m inAlunch,I’m already sitting with someone, but thanks.”

I look down and see Amber drawing a bubble over one of the stick people anda giant‘Yay!’ writteninside. 

“If everyone has figured out their lunch schedule, wecan starton our protection spell.” MrJames says.  “I’m going to give all of you something else to carry around,just for youMissLucente.” 

I close my eyes and mentally breathe in to keep my face from turning crimson. He holds upa cardboard box with a girlholding an umbrella on it. Oh yay, my favoritecondiment…salt. 

“What you might consider ordinary table salt, is simply untrue. It’sused in many spells and potions. At one time, saltwas once believed to open the entrance to heaven.  I haven’t any proofeither way.”  His quirky accent makes everything he says sound exotic.“MissEdwards, your brother was in my class two years ago, did he share his wisdom of saltwithyou.”

Amber goesrigid at the mention of herbrother;I brace myself for the verbal lashingI’m sure willcommence.

“No, he didn’t,” Amber replied softer than usual.

“I’m always impressed when former students abide by the rules.  Everything we discuss in this classroom is confidential.  Don’t forget,”MrJames taps his finger on his chin before continuing with his lecture.  “Salt alone can protect you from manyelements…butour main concern isthe DarkOnes.”

Carmen raises her hand to ask a question.  “MrJames,” she purrs.  “Why are they called Dark Ones,it isn’t creative?  Honestly, it sounds stupid.”

“Au contraire,mapetitechou. YourHistoriography teacherwillexplain the history behind the name.  What an exciting year you’reembarking on,” he says and rubs his chunky hands together.  “WithMissLucentein our midst,it’ssure to be a galvanizing year.  Eventhough,you may disagree with the chosen slang for the formerLight Tamers,the simplicity of the name fits. I must continueto show you how to make a protection spell.  I’d like everyone to open up your silver spout on top ofthe saltand pour some in your hand.”

I clinch my teeth as the spout squeals against the cardboard.  Saltreminds meof my visits to North Carolina as a child.  No one warned me not to drink the ocean water the first time I wentswimming.Atoweringwave knocked me backwards,andI endedupwith a mouth full of water.  After choking and gagging Ithrew-up until I had nothing else in me.  I shudder at the memory.

“B, oh for cripes sake, you can’t go one class without thinking ofhim?Caleb, oh I miss you…Ican notmake it without you by my side.  Caleb, my love, my heart, my everything, I will die if I can’t shove my tongue down your throat in the next five minutes,” Amber said dramatically.

Iprod her with my finger.  “Shut-up, for your information, I wasn’t thinking about him.  I was thinking aboutthe ocean.  So….there!” 

“Yeah, whatever.”

MrJames clears his throat loudly as he holds his salt up in the air.  “Salt is a mineral, from the earth and sea. It’sfreely available and affordable.  I want you to stand up next to your table and arm length away from your lab partner.” We all stood up and spread out our arms.  “Good, beforeyou do anything, I want you topour a circle of salt all around youand chant this spell. Salt of the earth, protect me in this sacred circle.”

“Do we saythe wordsout loud?”  I ask. After a minute,of clarification fromMrJames,Iholdmy arm out andspin in place, pouring salt.  I whisper the incantationandcross my fingers. I don’t feel any different. 

“MrWoodson, I want you to stand perfectly still.  No matter what you do, and this goes for all ofyou…don’tstep out of the circle.” MrJamesholdsup a small amber bottle, we all turn to face Thorne standing perfectly still in his circle.  In the next moment, the bottle whizzed through the airdirectly at him.  Before Ihavea chance to think about whatI’mdoing, Ifling myhands into the air.

Everything blurred as the vile halted inches from Thorne’s circle. Oh crap!I chazzled, whaton earthdo I do?  My danger vibekicked-in,andnow I’m going to be busted. Shit…shit…shit.  Let it go, don’t do anything… let it fly.  No, takethevialand put it back inMrJames’ hand.  I’m so going to die. I jump up andput thevialback in his hand, then scamper backback into my spot.Time caught up and as if it never happened,MrJames looked at thevialin his hand curiously and then over to me. Don’t call me out.Icrossmy fingersprayinghe didn’t notice the hiccup in time.

MrJames pulled back as ifhe’sabout to pitch a fastball at Thorne.  Before Ihavetime to think, heflings thevialat me.  I hearablood curdling scream, and realizeI’m the screaming maniac.Icower downon the floor in a squat, my armsareshielding my face. I lookaround when nothing happens,suddenly realizingI’d successfully made my invisible shield.  I didn’tactuallysee that part, but Amber and the rest of the class were yelling things likewicked awesome.  

“MissLucente, are youokay?”

“You sure have a lot of faith in us.  What if I hadn’t done my shieldproperly?You could have put my eye out with that pitch.”

His robe rustled as hewalksover to me.  “I believein everything you kids do.  I’d like a minute with you in the classroom.  Everyone else, I want you to practice your speed in making a circle.  Dust Bustersare up infrontof the room, they are for salt only.  Suck up the salt and pour it inthetub on my table, we recycle salt.  MissRainewill be here in about ten minutes and don’t leave a mess.  She does not likedilly dallying.”

I better not get in trouble for screaming, he tried to kill me withthedamn bottle.

“Do you have a clue how dangerouschazzlingisin a room full of Tamers? Itwas incredibly thoughtless on your part.” MrJames crosseshis arms in a huff. 

Busted. “I’m sorry, it happened so fast, I didn’t even think aboutwhat was happening.  I’m sorry.  Please don’t tell anyone.  I heard that if people find out, I’llbe in danger.”  I’ve already screwed up,andit’sonlymy first day.My‘thissucks’ list will be updated as soon as I get home. 

“You’re going to be nothing but trouble for this school and your friends, if you don’tthink before you react.”  He looks at my face andthe hard linesbegin tosoften.“Jessie, I’m not trying to be mean.”

Swallowing the lump in my throat and taking a mental breath, I look up to face him.  “I understand, but how did you know?”

“Within thehidden school,there is little we don’t know.  That isn’t to say that there aren’t studentswithabilities we don’t know about, but they know not to use them.  I’ll report the incident, butit’sonly listed as a time breech.  We don’t list the exact ability unless it becomes an ongoing issue.”

WhatdidMrs.Wardsay?  ‘The beginning to a smashingschoolyear.”  Something will besmashed;I’m not sure what. The dooropens;MissRainelooks at us curiously. ShegivesMrJamesan intense stare down before shegathersthe rest of the students.

We followMissRainein a single file line, up the stairs and back to her class.  Amberissuspiciously quiet, and when it comes toquiet…youdon’t think Amber. 


Page 4

“Studentswhohadalchemy labtoday,you’llgo to labas deemed necessary.  Have abrilliantfirst day.  Fate has a way of bringing us all together, and I for one am grateful to be your teacher.”She tilts her head with a fake smileplasteredon her face.

The bellringsits melodic tone, not the shrill sounds like we had in my old inner city school.  Amber jumps up, throws her backpack over her shoulderandhurries to the door. 

“Catch you at lunchB, later tater.” Amber says as she practically knocks everyone over to get out of the room. 

Later tater?Her nickname for me isB, for Bronx.  Onlycoolpeople get a nickname from her, so she says.I navigate to the door, paying attention not to let anyone touch me.  Without looking up, I sensehim…Caleb.

“Hey beautiful, how was your first class?  I saw Amber charge out with her old chip on her shoulder.  I thought we curedher…guessnot,” Caleb says and takes my hand.  The now familiar current runs throughmyveins.

“It was enlightening,to say the least.  You haveAlchemynext don’t you?”  He nods at me and leads me two doors down fromMissRaine’s room.

“This is where I drop you off,” he says and gently backs me up against the wall. Leaningdownhewhispers in my ear, sending my hormones through the roof.  “I’ll be here after class to walk you to lunch.”

My heart skips two beats and a chill runs up my spine.“Why can’t I think to you?  I tried,butI could tell it wasn’t working.   Did you hear me?”

“They’reprobably jamming our frequency.  You know they have all of their so-called charms. After this summer, nothing surprises me.”  He leans in and gives me a quick kiss.

“P D A,” someonewholooks no older than twelve shouts out.  I feel my face flush with embarrassment. It’sone thing to have Amber tease us relentlessly, but having a pimply-facedkiddo it, istotally different.

I shimmy pasthim and promise to meet after class.  Honors English, mybestsubject.

Chapter 2.  Mildly Interesting

 

“Takea seat at any of the pods, think wisely, as it will be your seat all semester,” the teacher says.  Pod?  I look around and see that small groups of four desks placed facing each other around the room.  A few of the faces look familiar from the night at Caleb’s house. The night that almost put an end to Caleb and I.The night that changed my life forever.

“Jessie, come over here and sit with us,” Carmen coos. The other two at ourpod, Caitlyn and Rob,aren’t impressed with Carmen’s charms.  It’s apparent,by the waythey roll their eyes every time she speaks.

This mayjollywell be the dumbest decision of my life to sit here with the three of them.

“Is it natural or from a bottle,”Rob asks. 

“Huh?  Are you talking to me?”

Robcluckshis tongue and presseshis lips together. “Your hair…is it naturally dirty blond or do you chemically alter it?”

“Ahhh,natural, although it gets lighter in the summer from the sun.”Ireply, trying not to sound like an idiot.

“Oh, so tres chic.”  By the look on his face, I’m convinced he’s considering touching my hair.

“You scored Caleb Baldwin I hear.  How did you get so lucky?”  Caitlyn asks as she continues drawing Japanese anime pictures of our classroom.  Her longravenhair and straight cut bangswithblack eyelinermakeher look as though she’sstraight from her drawing.  “Not that a guy like him would be interested in someone like me, but he is a feast for the eyes.”

“Stop Caitlyn, you’re beautiful and a little bad-ass.  If you were my kind of thing, I’d so go for you,” Rob saysand flicks a Life Savor on her desk.  “Jessie, I’m kinda known around here to pass out Life Savors when I think you need a smile,” he tosses a yellow one to me.

I laugh asCaitlyn and Robbanter until the teacherMrs. Jonesdecides to quit texting long enough to calltheroll. The wayCarmen keeps her purse in her lap,and the occasional look down, sheistexting too.  Thankfully sheismore interested in the conversation going on inside of her purse than grilling me. One hundred and ten minutes seem like a lifetime, forone single class.  Sadly, being new to the school and the teacher preoccupied, Isit silently with nothing but my thoughts.

“Hey zombie girl, the bell rang,” Rob says as he slaps his hand on my desk.

I stifled a yelp and look up at his laughing eyes.  “That was mean.”

“I never claimed to be nice.  You headed to lunch?  I’ll walk you to the cafeteria if so.”

Picking up my handouts of classroom rules and shove them in a folder.  “Oh, thank you, butit’s notnecessary.  Caleb’swaiting for me.”

Rob fake stabs himself in the heart.  “The first girl I ask to eat lunch withmeshoots me down like a wild turkey. All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”

I raise my eyebrows at him, and give him a sideways glance. “You’re quoting Poe, because I won’t walk with you to lunch?  Nice.”

He claps his hands quickly and squeals in delight.  “Oh, yay!  Another Poe fan.  Girl, we are going to get along fabulously,” he saysas heprancesaway.

As promised, Caleb is standing in the doorway waiting for me. “I see you met Rob. He has an endless supply of candy.  If sugar is an addiction, he has one.”

“That’s priceless.  Yeah, he clued me in aboutLife Savors.”  Hereaches formy hand,andwe walk to the cafeteria. Itwas only three months agowhenI was walking the halls of Madison High School with my best friend Jersey.  Neither one of us had a boyfriend,weplayed it off by makingfun of the lovey-dovey couples holding hands. HereI am,being a hypocrite. 

The cafeteria looks nothing like the kind we had in the Bronx.  The smell offresh-bakedbread and chocolate chip cookiesmake my stomach growl. Spread across the roomaredifferent food stations, everything your heart desires.

“Where do you want to start?  I like the saladbar;it has everything you can think of to put on a salad.  If you’re not in the mood forrabbit food, we can get steak or chicken, whatever.I’m not picky.  I’d avoid the Brusselssprouts though, there’s nothing that screams hot like a butt smelling vegetable.”  Caleb says and smiles and brushes his shoulder with mine.

I fill my plate with cantaloupe, grapes and a hardboiled egg.  “Where’s Amber sit?” Iaskand balancemy plate of food. Scanning the dining tables I finally see her at a table in the corner of the room.  She spots me as I walktowardsher.  “Hey, we can sit here right?” 

“Sit already. For gawd’s sake,it isn’tlike I own the table or anything,”Amber says.  “This is Shawn, she’s a junior too.”

Shawn flashesmeasmile anda half wave.  If I were African-American, I’d wear my hair just like hers.  Her giant afro, with caramel colored highlights, bounced up and down as she moved.  “Hi Shawn, I’m Jessie.”

“Yeah, everyone’s talking about you.  I wouldn’t have guessed you to be friends with Amber.”  Her deep southern drawlmatchedher bouncy hair.  “Not that there’s any problem being friends with her.”

Amber rolls her eyes,bored with the conversation. “Hell-O, I’m right here.  Tell me how youtrulyfeel,” Amber snaps.  She pockets a handful of saltineslike a kleptomaniac, stuffing them in the side pocket of her backpack.

“Oh, whatever Amber.  Jessie here is one of those classy hippie types.  She doesn’t strike me as the neglected angst-filled teenager.”

“Hi ladies, look how lucky I am.  I’m able to sit with the prettiest girl in school,” Calebwinks at me, “and thecoolkids.”  His plate of salad was barely recognizable with his pile of ranch dressing smothering it.  “You’re not too good for me to sit with again this year are you Amber?”

“Touché,”Amber says as she grabs an imaginary sword from her chest.

“How’s operation Thorne going?”  I watched as Amber chewed on a carrot nervously.

Caleb swallowed hishulkingbite of salad before asking us what we are talking about.

“Wait, you’ll see,” Amber said and grinned at us.  She pulled the wrapper from a giant cupcake decorated in confetti and streamers.  “Wanta tastebefore I take a bite?”

“Thanks, I’mgood.”  I grabmy hardboiled egg and salt it evenly before biting into it.  Ambertakesa carrot andrunsit through her frosting before poppingitinto her mouth. 

“Ewww,”we all said in unison.

“Everything tastes better with frosting.  Do you want some for your egg?”

The vibe at the table suddenly changed as Shawn and Amber stare at somethingor rather someonewhowas headed our direction.I jumped as a hand grabbed the chair on the other side of me.  I recognize the black hoodie before I even see hisface…Thorne.  He sets his plate of macaroni and cheese and corn down on the table,and thenhe takes a butter knife and separates the food.  Once his food is void of touching, he takes a napkin and folds it just so.  Amber watches him like a catafter a mouse, ready to pounce.  Without a word, Thorne starts eating his foodlike itwere his last before battle.


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“Dude, slow down.  You’re giving me indigestion just looking at you. Food should be savored, not swallowed whole,” Shawn said.  “My mama wouldswatyour hand.”

“Good thing your mama isn’t here then, huh?” Thorne shot back.  “I’m sorry, that was uncalled for. At my old school,you had only fifteen minutes for the entire lunch.  You learn to eat fast.  Plus their food was gross, not worth savoring.”

“What school was that?”  Amberaskedcuriously.  If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought her eyes turned to slits like a cat.

“Just aschool in a different lifetime,” Thorne replieddemurely. 

Shawn and I watched Amber as shesitsstunned that he didn’t answer her. Caleb, obviously amused with Amber’s lack of comeback,happily ate his salad.  We chatted quietly about nothing in particular and Thorne finished his mac-n-cheese and ignored our chatter.  I watched in amazement as he pulled out a copy ofTheLightningThiefand started reading.

“Thorne, I don’t mean to bother you while you’re engrossed in your children’s book, but I have to,” Amber says sugary sweet. “Listen, there were things that happened this summer and for whatever reason I got stuck with these two.”  She pointed at Caleb andmeaccusingly.  “I have a reputation to uphold, and you my dear are my solution.”

His right eyebrow lifted,andhis face broke out in a grin.  “That sounds mildly interesting.”

“Mildlyinteresting?  I’ll show youmildlyinteresting.  I’m sorry, but this has to be done,” shestandsup abruptlyand walksover to where heis sitting.  Hestayedsilent, probably curious about the crazy girl with the wild hair.  She pushedthe tableout of her way. He was sitting with his legs stretched out,and feet crossed at his ankles. If I didn’t watch herwith my own eyes, I’d neverbelievesheissobold. She put one leg over his lap and both hands over his shoulders as she straddled him.  Without warning, she leansforward andkissedhim.  The bookfallssilently to the floor as he putsboth hands on her waist.  People in the lunchroom started to take notice of our table and cat calls began to be chanted.  I scootcloser to Caleb, he put his arm over my shoulder andnudgeshis chair until wearehip to hip.  Shawn’smouth fallsopen,andI’m pretty sure sheisn’tbreathing.

Thorne wasincontestably notobjecting to Amber.  As uncomfortable it’smaking me, Ican’t quitwatching. 

Caleb whispersin my ear that Major Yukmouthison her way.

“Yukmouth?”

“She retired from the Air Force as a Major, and herlastname is Yukkamoth.She isdisgruntled from not being a real police officer.”

A teacherwearingsmartshoes and a perfectly starched white shirt and khaki pantsmarched over(literally)and cleared her voice loudly,causing the two to come up for air.  “That is unacceptable behavior, both of you should be ashamed of yourselves.  The two of you practically having sex on the lunchroom floor isthereasonfor detention.  I’ll meet you both here after school to scrub all of the tables and chairs.”  Her fingeriswagglingso hard that her cheeks jiggle. As she walksaway, she yells outfor us tomindourown business or everyonewillbe here after school. Asthougha giant mute button was pushed,silence filled the room.

“How was THAT formildlyinteresting?”Amberasks as she wipesher mouth with the back of her hand.

“I don’t know,can I get an instant replay?”  He replied coolly. Without missing a beat, he pickedup his book and startedreading again.

Shawn and Istruggle tocontainourlaughter.  We laughuntil tearsarestreaming down our faces. Every table that was within eyewitnessshotwas laughing hysterically. What a way to start our first day of school.  Between our early morning meeting inMissWards office to Amber randomly kissing a stranger.  Grandma Gayle is going to die when I tell her about today.

Chapter 3.  Bonds Broken

 

 

My next class The Artsisbroken up in different segments throughout the school year.  It starts with art history for a week,and thenitgoes into sketching. Several girls asked me about Caleb and what it was like to live in New York.  Onegirltried her best to sound like a New Yorker but failed miserably.  I took public speech classes since the ninth grade to learn how to hide my accent.  I thought it worked,but realized it couldn’t hide the fact I don’t have a southern hitch. Maybe,this won’t be so bad. It’d be so much better if fourth period would get here already.  I’m the only dork on earth that wishesHistoriographyclass would hurry up and arrive.  I bet girls are hitting on Caleb.  I wouldn’t put it past that Carmen girl to trytobreak us up.  She’s crafty that way.  I have a sixth sense about stuff like that. Is the bell ever going to ring?  I wonder where the bathrooms are. The more I thought about the bathroom, the more I fidgeted.  I wiggled until my bladder screamed at me that we needed to go and when it saysgoit means it.  My hand shot up into the air.

“MissLucente, can I help you with something?”  The copper-hair teacher asked.  She wore a copper colorednametagthat matched her hair perfectly.

“May I go to the restroom?”  In that moment, I realized, no one has askedto go the bathroomsall day.

“Let me find out if I can get an escort for you, it’sabouttime for the bell to ring.  You can’t wait another fifteen minutes?”

I turned 77 shades of red.  “Eh, hem, no ma’am, I need to go now.” 

“Of course you do. Jasmine will you escortMissLucenteto the bathroom.”  I turned quickly to my left to see who she is talking to and almost peed myself when I saw her.  Beautiful long black hair,bigbrown eyes,and skin so bronze that she’d make a perfect suntan lotionmodel.  She is also the ex-girlfriend to Clark, the guy that was bonded to her, but I fell and he caught me, breaking their bond. By the look on her face, sheisnone too happy abouttaking me to the bathroom.

Why in the hell does my life have to suck today? Great, now I’ll have to worry about her beating the crap out of me in the bathroom.  I know a few Puerto Ricangirls from Harlem that put the f in fear.

Jasmine turns to me.  “Someone told me that you and Caleb arere-boundtogether.  How did you do it?”  She flips her long hair over her shoulder.  “I have to get Clark back.  He and I were perfect together, untilyouand that weird Underworld guyruined it.  He’ll be 18 soon, and instead of trying to bond to me, he is out making out with every hoochiehe can find.”

Iknow the pain she is in.  It’sjust like when Caleb and I kissed and I felt the pain of us beingunbound.  “I honestly don’t know how we reconnected.  Have you tried to kiss him?”  I followed her as we walked to the other end of the hall.  “Fairytales say that true love’s kiss will break any spell.  Have you tried that?”

Jasmine stopsand pushes me into a locker pinning my back to it.  I feel the lock embedded in my back.  “You’re freakin’ kidding me,right?  This isn’tanF N fairytale,you idiot.  We’reLight Tamers, youknow…thegoodguys.  I’m in jeopardy oflosingeverything I’ve ever trained for and you’re over here saying stupid things liketrue love’s kiss. I knew better than to ask you.  You’re no better than anyone else in this school.  I don’t know why they’re making such abigdeal out of you.  Freakin’faerie-ass.”  Sheisso close that weareboob to boob. Awkward.  She abruptly stepped back and pointed to a light blue door thatsaysGIRLS.  “Go…remember, you had to pee sobadyou were doing the pee pee dance in your seat.”

She has some nerve, ‘fairy-ass’, what the hell?  So much for the sweet girl I thought she was. I didn’t bother replying to her outburst and straightened my shirt as I walked into the bathroom.    My handstremblesohard, I barely get the toilet paper off of the roll. Don’t cry, don’t cry.  No tears, please don’t cry.The mirror threatened to betray me as I lookinit.  “Shit, is that the bell?”  Iturn and runout the door, bumping into a girlwhowas comingin.

Thankfully,Jasmine was nowhere to be seen. She probably left as soon as I walked into the bathroom.  Iwonder ifCalebwillditchHistoriography. Like magic I look up and Caleb is standingin front of mewith my backpack.

By thelook of concern on his face, he knows something is wrong.  “Jess, are you okay?”  He pulls me to him and wraps his arms around me. It is moments like these, the world stops spinning on its axis and begins revolving around us. 

I shake my head up and down.  “I’m okay, especially now.  What are the chances that we can ditchour next class?”

“Hmmm, since I’ve never heard of anyone ditching this school, I’m guessing we can’t.  Come on, at least we have it together. Do you want to go to the library after school?  Amber said she’d meet us there after she is finished with detention,” Caleb asked. We walked around the corner and down the math hall. 

“Yeah, that sounds good.  I have to be home by 5:30 for dinner. Goodgawd, this class is huge.”  We crossed the room and took the two back chairs farthest from the door.  I pulloutapaper and a pen out of my backpack.  I watch as the now familiar hooded figure walks into class. I wonder why he keeps that hoodie on. Amber said it felt like he is interrificshape, but she didn’t get enough time to explore completely. Oh, I did NOT just think that!


Page 6

Chapter 4. Filii Nocte 

 

 

The name on the desk readMrRalph Wolfshadow, Teacher Extraordinaire. Hisportlybuild fit his last name to a T.  His round face hid behind a mask of hair, otherwise known as a beard.  He must have it professionally carved and trimmed, or maybe years of practice made it perfectly outlined. He masked his age well, his eyes sparkled with youth, but his leathery nose aged him.

“You aren’t paying any attention to me are you?”  Caleb says as he flicks a folded up piece of paper to me.

Thorne takesa seatin the front row,next to a heavy-set guy andagirl from Caleb’s house. Unable to quit watching, like a voyeur I watch the girl flirt with him.  Touching hisarm, andgiggling,finally I turn away.  Oddly, I feel dirty, I want to washawaythe seductive way she acted.

MrWolfshadowdoesn’t strike me as abigcuddly kind of guy, if I were to judge by looks alone.  Hisbigbulbous noseisenormouscompared to his little close together eyes.  He rustled some papers on his desk until he obviously findsthe onethat he’s looking for.  He stood up in front of the room and before saying anything, heclears histhroat.  When I say he cleared his throat, I mean he tried to cough a horse out of his lungs.  He pulls outa red handkerchiefand covershis mouth with it.  I try withall ofmy might not to look at Caleb, as I’msurewe will die laughing. I sense he’s about to laugh, if he does, I’ll fall over.

The classroom of possibly fifty studentsis shifting around in their seats uncomfortably.  I’m thoroughly convinced thatMrWolfshadowis giving us some type of endurance test.  I can’t prove it, but I’m sure of it.

“Eh, hem, sorry about that kids.  My allergies kick up when I’m around so manyTamers.Your dander is unbearable to someone like me.  Never mind, that sounds harsher than Iintend.”He wads his handkerchief up and shoves it into his pants pocket.  My eyes directly go to the bulge he has put in his pants,andI’mconfidentI’m officially grossed out.  “How many of you grew up with the knowledge ofLight Tamers?”He finally asks.

Caleb and I look around the room and notice no more than five hands go up.

“Okay, how many of you learned aboutTamersafter starting going to this school?”  I look around,andhalf of the class raised their hands.  “Interesting,” he says and scratches his beard.  “How many of you learned aboutTamerstoday or the very minimum, this summer?”

The rest of the class, including Thorne and I, raise our hands.

MrWolfshadowflings his arms out wide and starts laughing, and not a littlechuckle…hepractically falls to the ground in hysteria.  Caleb senses how uncomfortable I’m feeling.  I know this because he reaches over and puts his hand on mine.

He finally finishes laughing andcomposes himself.  “I have my work cut out for me.  I’d like to beginbytelling you that I am not aLight Tamer, but I am an expert about your species.”  He says as if we’redogs. He seriously said we have dander, wth?  “Don’tget me wrong, I’mserious when I say that the mythology about your kind isparticularlyinteresting.  By the time you’re finished with this semester, you’ll be armed with knowledge.  As you know, that is the best weapon on earth.  If you can outwit your opponent, you can win.  There are a lot of misconceptions out there.  Many of you that grew up with the knowledge might be even more at risk than those that didn’t know.  You see, many truths have been uncovered in the last decade.  That means that what your parents have learnediswrong.  With a show of hands, how many know theVow of the Tamed?”

Two girls that are sitting next to each other raise their hand.

“That is reassuring,to say the least,”MrWolfshadowcontinued.  “At the end ofthe course, you will takeavowof silence, next year you’ll take the Vow of the Tamed.This class will be mostly lectures, so get your pretty little pampered hands ready to take notes.  It would behoove you to start taking thosenotes…now.”

I pull out a spiral notebook with butterflies on it.  I look over at Caleb’s and seeitsplaingreen, but he has drawn hieroglyphics all over it. 

“Light Tamers are peoplewhohave the ability to absorb light from many light sources.  Who can name a light source they cannot absorb?”

Caleb raises his hand.  “Light emitting diode, or L.E.D. lights.”

“VerygoodMrBaldwin.  When aLight Tameris ingoodhealthand well balanced, they can stay in a room with light, without draining it.  You’re known as aTamerbecause your body has learned how to be balanced.  It will change your mind about mythical stories and the way you see the world.  Not all of you areequal;a few of you will never be able to harness your light.”  At that moment, no one made a sound. “This is life,you ninny’s.  Look at Zeus and Dionysus, his son and a god too.  He invented wine, which makes him a better god than Zeus, in my book.”  He chuckles at his own admission.“Dionysus had a mortal mother, this is the first recorded mixed race.  His father a god’s god,and Dionysus merely the god ofvine.  Do you understand?  In the future, you will be able to harness your light and use it forgood things.  Let’s just say, hypothetically that you are a parent one day,andthat child becomes sick, you can heal it.  You will simply place your hands on that child, and your light will emit from your hands.  Simple right?”  Yeah whatever.  “I bet you’re asking yourself why you had chicken pox, or had a cold.  Not all of you have a parent that is aTamer.  You have to learn how to heal yourself and that comes with building up your immunity.  Although, we’d lovefor youto have the power to heal everyone, and every animal, it simply can’t be done.  The world is full of balance,andwe must learn how to make sure it stays balanced.  It may seem to you that there are a lot of you out there, there isn’t. You’ve had the rare chance to go to a school that is tailored to you.  This school is for the paranormally gifted.”

What theH did he say?I’m so not going to ask.  Nope, not going to do it.  Why is my freakin’ hand in the air? 

“Yes,MissLucente?”

“What do you mean paranormally gifted?  Are you saying that everyone in this school has a power?”

“Of course not.  Everyone in this school is gifted, not powered.  There are somewhohave the ability to read minds, or control insects.  Some of the kids have much stronger abilities, but their secret is theirs alone.  The younger children are being monitored to make sure they were born with the suspected ability of their family.  The school is sectioned out,andyou won’t know whatthe othershave.  You may share some classes together, but you coexist in harmony.  The faculty is aware ofmostof your gifts, and we’re equipped to train you and protect you.  Tamers that are juniors will take two classes that will consist of Tamers only.  You’ll take Alchemy, it has other students, but the Tamers are sent to theirspecialclass and this class. There are various types of Tamers.  Scientists have identified differentbloodlines and maybe one day, they’ll expose the truth.  I can’t tell you exactly what they’ve uncovered.”

The Bronx issoundingmore and more like heaven.  If I couldkidnapCaleb and Amber, we could run to New York. 

A buzzing sound came from the room speaker.  “MrWolfshadow, I have a new student for you. I’m sending her your way, so please don’t go all paranoid when someone tries to open the door,”said thenasally female voice.  We all stifle a giggle. 

“Of course, Mrs. Pricer.”  He opens a drawer in his desk and produces another handkerchief to wipe his brow.  He takes a silver thermos out of his lunch bag and pours just enough to fit in the little cup attached to the top of it.  We turn our heads to the tapping noise on the door. MrWolfshadowhustles overand lets the student in. “Pass please,” he holds out his hand to receive the note from the office.

“Oh, just what we need,smartassAmber,” a girl two isles over says.

I look up in time to see Amber strutting across the room.  She eyeball’dthe empty seat in front of me and winked. Let thegoodtimes roll.

“Hey chickadee, I changed my schedule so I can be in here with youlovebirds.  You can pay me back with chocolate covered raisins.”  Shejogglesaround until she finally settled in for the lecture.  “I hear this guyknows a lot aboutTamers.”

“I doMissEdwards, if you’ll take out a pen and paper, you can start writing notes.”

“How did he hear you?” I whisper to the back of her head.

Amber shrugs her shoulders.

The teacher walks over to the grease-board and starts writing frantically.

FACT OR FICTION

1.  Tamers are protectedonlyif they have two parents.

2.  All Tamers must bond to another Tamerbefore they are 18.

3.  Tamers that don’t bond aredestinedto be a Dark One.

4.  All Light Tamers aregood.

5. If the bond is broken,they can neverbe bound again?

 

“To the lovely young lady in the second row, third chair; answer number one.”MrWolfshadowsays as he uses his laser pointer.

The buxom blonde with hot pink lip gloss looks around the class before she answers the question.  “I don’t know, I just found out about Tamers this summer.”

“The gentleman on the back row next toMissLucente, can you answer the question?”

Caleb takes a deep breath before answering.  “In my opinion, yes we are better protected when two parents are around.”  I look over at him and give him areassuring look.

“The answer to the question isactuallyambiguous.  The protection doesn’t matter ifit’syour parents.  You’re protected by adults, Tamer or not. Young children don’t typically have enough light in them for the Dark Ones to bother them.  The threat of Dark Ones isn’t overly obvious until puberty.  Many kids are surrounded by adults all of the time.  Instinct kicks in and kids throw fits about being scared of the dark.Mommy and Daddygiveyou a nightlight, problem solved.  I can bet that none of you hung out in dark closets.”  The room nodded in agreement. “Think about it,sadlyso, there are a lot of broken homes. Studies have proven that two non-Tamer parents are as effective as one non-Tamer or Tamer parent.  Puberty is when you become taller, stronger,andall of those hormones make your light irresistible.”


Page 7

“Irresistible, like chocolate and peanut-butter,” Amber whispers to me in her vampire voice.  “Followme youlittle Light Tamer, with your irresistible pheromones.”

“What in the hell is wrong with youMissEdwards,” the teacher shouts, making me jump.  “Can you keep your comments to yourself until class is over?”  Ambermoves her headup and down and straightens up in her seat.  “If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not an easy teacher.  I will bust your balls if needed.”  No one makes a sound even though the teacher just said balls.  “I don’t care ifyou’rerich, or pretty, or themayor’sdaughter.  I don’t care who you think you are.  I care about your safety. Shakespeare wrote about people just like you. If I don’t teach you about yourspecies, than I have failed.  I. AM. NOT. A. FAILURE.”  His annunciation of each wordmakesspittlefling from his mouth. 

One girl at the front of the classslammed her pen down on her desk as she jumped up with her backpack.  “I’m going to seeMissWard about you.  Howdareyou talk like that to the class!”

“Sit your ass down, you littleprimadonna.  Your principal doesn’t give two flips if I say BALLS to you. She wants you to be safe, for what reason?  I don’t know.  I don’t care.  Well, I do care a little.  I don’t care if you come from a little house, with a little veil of goody-goody, and I don’t care what you think.  I’m trying to get you to the point that you understand  how to protect yourself.”  We all turned to face the front of the room, giving the girl the chancebe humiliated solely.

I’d be on the verge of tears if someone yelled at me in front of everyone. I wonder who she is. I wonder if that girlfretsabout herbigboobs too?  It’sprobablyalousyidea to go up to her and ask her how she feels about her boobs. 

“…and that is how you were protected as a child.” MrWolfshadowsaid.  “Moving forward, who can tell me whatfiliinoctemeans?” No one raises their hand.  “You’re killing me here. Obviously none of youhastaken Latin.  It means, Children of Night,it’salso the real name for theDark Ones.  The termDark Onescame into play in themid 1800’s.  There isarecordof a soldier in the Civil War writing letters about theDark Ones.  He was a medic and talked about one of the young soldiers turning dark.  How is that for a little history?  Rarely is the Latin name used.”  He looks down at his watch, thankfully the day is almost over. “Okay, the bell is about to ring.  I want everyone to write a thousand word essay about your experiences as aLight Tamer. It’sdue next Tuesday.”

Before anyone has a chance to moan about the assignment, the bell rings.

“Check on my baby before you leave.  Make sure he doesn’t miss me too much.”  Amber says as we walk out of class.

“Baby?” Caleb and I say in unison.

“Myjeep…mybaby…mylove…”

Ishake my head and reachover for Caleb’s hand.  “Gotcha, have fun in detention. I’ll see you later,right?  I’m sure yourBabyisfine, I’ll text you though.”

“Later?  Oh yeah, I’ll be there.”

Chapter 5.  YOURNIGHTMARE2010

 

 

It wasdelightfulto drive out of the parking lot of school.  I hadn’t realized how tense I was all day, not until I sat on the hot leather seat and it feltfantastic.  I told Caleb about Jasmine and how she flipped out on me earlier.  He told me about howMissRaineseemed frazzled by the time she had him in class.  We laughed about Amber’s public display ofaffection and we practically drove off the road when we talked about Thorne’s reaction.

We stopped for an ice-cream on our way to the library, by the length of theline;we weren’t original in our idea. Can you hear me?

Nope.  Inudgedhis arm for teasing me. Did I tell you how cute you look in your uniform?

You did, but you can again.

Our ability to hear one another’s thoughts is something that took getting used to at first.  Originally he could hear mine, and I couldn’t hear him until we kissed,and only when we kissed.  We’ve been working on blocking our thoughts from each other. It’s notthat we have secrets, but sometimes our thoughts should be private.  At leastthat’show I feel about it. We bonded a few summers ago when I almost drowned at Emerald Isle.  Caleb jumped in to pull me out of the ocean,andwhen he did;his hands started to glow.  What he didn’t know then,was he and I wereLight Tamersandhe healed me,andwe bonded.  He was a little scrawny boy and wasa bit obsessed with me.  He was always trying to touch me,andI was always trying to keep my distance. No one knew what happened,but Caleb figured it out after his mom died of cancer. Two months ago, my mom and I moved to North Carolina to live with my grandma Gayle.  New Bern isn’t what you’d call the most exciting town to live in if you’re underfifty…orso I thought.  I’d never had so many crazy things to happen to me in the Bronx, as a matter of fact,nothing ever happened.  True, unless youcountmy dad’s OCD and his problem with alcohol. I’d always thought that if I loved him enough, he wouldchange…hedidn’t.  I learned the truth about his alcoholism once we moved here.

My dad confessed to me that he is aDark Oneand I’m part of the originalTamers, making me irresistible to the Dark. To keep him from stealing my light, he would drink.  I love my dad, but I think he could have found another way.  He’s sober now that he left my mom,and he spends his time trying to track others like him.A little more than a week ago, my bond with Caleb was threatened by Erebus, the god of darkness.  He tricked Jasmine’s boyfriend Clark into catching me as I fell. Since we’re all under 18,our bond can be broken if another bound tamer touchesus.  I don’t understand how 18 is such a magical numberother thanit’swhen we’re considered an adult.  I’m not even 16 yet; my birthday is at the end of August.  I have two years to keep anyone from breaking our bond.

Today only added to my confusion about what it all means to be a Tamer. We looked at books on mythology to learn more about Nyx.  Amber showed up after detention and told us that Thorne never showed up.  It only fueled her attraction to him with thebadboy act. 

I told grandma about school before mom got home from work.  Mom spent six months applying for jobs in New York and only had two interviews.  Wewerehere onlya week,before shelandeda nursing job at a cancer doctor’s office. After dinner, I grabbed the dust buster and practiced making a protection circle as fast as possible. How oftenI’llhave a bottle of salt with me,is beyond me.  I do what the teacher wants.  I don’t ask questions because lately I’m afraid of the answer.

An instant message popped up on my laptop.  It was fromSURFERGRLAMB.

SURFERGRLAMB:“Whatcha doing?”

BRONXLUVRALWAYS:  “Pouring salt all over the floor”

SURFERGRLAMB:  “Oh me too!  I think the teacher is mental.”

BRONXLUVRALWAYS:  “You think he’s mental?  What aboutMrWolfshadow?  He’s nuts!”

SURFERGRLAMB:  “I don’t think so, I think he’s intense.”

BRONXLUVRALWAYS:  “Are you running a fever?  LOL!”

SURFERGRLAMB:  “Ha, ha.  Do you want to ride with me tomorrow?”

BRONXLUVRALWAYS:  “Sure, I’ll let Caleb know.”

As I typed out my text, a friend request fromYournightmare2010popped up.

BRONXLUVRALWAYS:  “Who is this?”

YOURNIGHTMARE2010:  “Your nightmare.”

BRONXLUVRALWAYS:  “Okay nightmare, I’m hitting the ignore button.”

YOURNIGHTMARE2010:  “Thorne, from school.”

Thorne, as in unibomber Thorne?  No way, how would he get myscreenname?  It’s someone else trying to be funny.

BRONXLUVRALWAYS:  “Yeah, right.”

YOURNIGHTMARE2010:  “Seriously, it’s me.  I don’t know how to prove it.  Here, I’ll send you a picture of me.”

BRONXLUVRALWAYS:  “No, send me one of your backpack.  That will prove it’s you.”

I see the flashing message from Amber wanting to know where I’m at.  I send her one tellingher I’ll BRB.

The picture Thorne sent was of his shoes and backpack. 

BRONXLURALWAYS: “Okay, I’mconvinced.  You know I have a boyfriend right?”

YOURNIGHTMARE2010:  “That was pretty clear since you two are connected at the hip.  I wanted to know your friend Amber’s phone number orscreennameMissConceited.”

I blushed thirty shades of red for saying it and then him shooting me down.

BRONXLURALWAYS:  “OIC - I’ll give you her SN.  SURFERGRLAMB.  How did you get mine?”

YOURNIGHTMARE2010:  “I have my ways.  I’llttyl, I want to talk to her before she goes to bed.  Do you know if she’s online?  Can you send her a text and tell her to get online?”

Okaaaaay.  Weird.  He’s so not living up to thebadboy image I have of him.  I send her a quick IM and tell her that he’ll befriendingher.

Chapter 6.  Secrets

 

 

Mom and Iwereup early to go eat breakfast together since she will be working at the ER tonight.  Amber pulls into the drivewayat the same time we do.

“Good morningMissTabitha,” Amber shouts over the rumbling of her Jeep.   Today the doors are offthe Jeep making me feel exposed.“Where did you two come from?  You smell like syrup, did you have pancakes?”

“Guilty as charged.  I brought you a sausagebiscuit…twoactually,” I hold up the brown paper bag.

“Genius!  You’re the best B, no matter what the other kids say.”

“What?”

She pulls out of the neighborhood like we were in a getaway car.  I check my backpack to make sureit’swedged under the back seat. “You’re so gullible; no one has said anything about you.  That isn’ttotallytrue.  I heard some girls talking about your hair, wondering if you have extensions. It’syour hair right?  If not, I look like a total ass.  NotthatI’m not an ass, but you know what I mean…”


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“Yes, I’mfullyaware of your ass gene. Sooooooo, did you talk to him last night?”

“Oh that, yeah, we talked.  We’re picking him up on the way to school.”  Amber grins but keeps her head facing forward. We pull into a neighborhoodwith adiscreet sign that simply readsKings Row.We take thesecond street on our right,itsvastfront yards and tall pine trees remindsme why I don’t like cookie cutter houses.  They never get the character captured within their walls, not the way agoodold-fashioned ranch house.  The GPS announces‘YOUHAVE REACHED YOUR DESTINATION’ just as we pull up toasimplebrick house. 

He isstanding on the porch with his backpack over his shoulder and impatient expression on his face.  Inotice he doesn’t have hishoodieon today.His Polo fitshim snug, showing off his lack of body fat.

“Hey, thanks girls.  I’ll jump in the back, you don’t have to move Jessie,” he saysandclimbs into the backseat.

Amber tosses the paper bag to Thorne, “we got you some breakfast.” 

I look over at her,andshe gives me one of her famous Amber smirks.  She did not just give her breakfast to him. It’s moments like these that I wish I had telepathy with her.  I am,however, thankful that I don’t have a ticket to her thoughts.  Ishiver…scarythought.

Caleb is getting out of his car as we pull into a parking slot. Okay, I did not see that coming. Caleb thinks to me as he approaches my side of the Jeep.

Me either.  I didn’t find out until we were on our way to his house. “Can you help me with my locker?  I keep messing up with the combination I guess.  Icouldn’t ever get it opened up yesterday, remember.”

Thorne told Amber thank youas heheaded off towards the side of the building.  Caleb took my hand and led me to my locker.  We walked past a girlwholooked familiar,butI couldn’t place the face.  “Was that girlat your dad’s house?”

“The girl we just walked past? No, that’s Darla, the girl from Union Point.  She’s the preacher’s daughter.”

Funny how people look so different whenthey’rewearing a uniform.  Gone is her look of superiority, replaced by a look of shyness.  “Oh, right.  She didn’t have anything to say to us today, now didshe? That was a strange day, that owl and thelights…toocreepy.”  It was the first time that I tried to put out such apowerfullight by draining it.  I knew that there were nine more lights, so we’d be safe.  Instead of putting out one light, all of them went out and Ifainted.   I’ve never had a problem with fainting before this summer, now I do it about once a week.

Down the hall, and walking our direction is Mrs. Ward.  Her starched white shirt tucked into her black pencil skirt enhanced her thinness.  She could pull off the sexy librarian if she’d pull her hair up in a bun and wore some black framed glasses.  A couple of weeks ago, I went to her house for lunch. It was there that she told me she is one of the three Fates.  I wouldn’t have believed her if she didn’tshowme how she is Fate.  What is explained off as coincidence is nothing more than Fate stepping into your life’s path and changing it to fulfill another path. 

“How was your first full day of classes?  I find it fun to watch the eleventh graders finding out about the alternative classes.  Your group is my favorite.  I love the healers. Especially your breed of healer. This world needs more of your kind.” 

“I find it hard to believe that all of this was going on right under my nose,andI never suspected it.  Teens aren’tverygoodat keeping secrets,and this one isepic,” Caleb says.

“Ohthat…it’s easy, you take a vow,andit clears up that messy gossiping.  Where isMissEdwards this morning?”

Every time she talks, it’s as if she has asinister plan.  WetellherAmber went to class;sheturnson her heeland walksaway. 

“What do you think she wants with Amber?  I bet she is ticked off about the lunchroom incident,” Isayto Caleb.

He shrugs his shouldersand walks me to class. Another morning in my secret class,was exactly the same as the day before. 

We passed our salt test and were fitted for custom flashlight holsters.  That cracked me up, thinking next we’d be fitted with light vests.  The second day in the lunch room was uneventful.  Thorne didn’t sit with us, as a matter offact;I didn’t see him at lunch.  Amber said she hadn’t heard from Mrs. Ward but she’d stop by the principal’s office after lunch.

Chapter 7.  Drill

 

 

The tardy bell rings andMrWolfshadowcloses the door to the room. “Pens and papers out and ready to take notes.”   I hadn’t noticed his limp yesterday,buthe limped to his desk.  He doesn’t look likehe’sin pain so I’m guessingit’san old injury.  “MissLucente, did you hear me?”

I look up, caughtutterlyoff guard by the calling of my name.  It’s annoying that none of the teacherscallme by my first name.  “No sir, I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I asked you what the second question was yesterday.  Youknowthose little questions that I wrote on the board for you?”  He said sarcastically.

I flip my notebook to the page I’d written it down on.  “Do Light Tamers have to bond before they are 18?”

“What do you think the answer to that question is?”

“I think the answer to that question is yes, we do have to bond.”

“Are you certain?  You andMrBaldwin have bonded, but something happened to you didn’t it?  Some type of hiccup and you were bound to another student here.”

Why is he doing this to me?  I’m going to be the freak because I’mbound…thissucks.  I’m updating my list tonight.  “Yes, I’mcertain…well, mostly.”

“Mostly?  Write this down and store the information inside of your brain. I don’t know where, when,or how,the rumors started you have to be bound by your 18 birthday.  That is ridiculous.  The correct answer to the question is you will be astrongerTamerif you have bonded.  What is true is the fact that you can bond to someone of the same-sex. (Someonein the back row made a sound when he said sex.)  Yes,MrFranks I said sex.  You’re a junior in aparticularlyelite private school,and you still act like you’re 12when the word sex is said.  Give me a break.  On with the lecture.” He throws his arms around dramatically making me think of a Kung Fu movie I saw with Caleb. “Studentsthat are bound will have the option to go to the Hidden School of Understanding next year.  You have to apply just as you would at any university.  I’m getting way ahead of myself.  Right now, there is a study that is figuring out the chemistry that exists for those that are bound together.  They are using DNA teststhatcan bring people togetherand a few other things.  You don’t have to worry your little heads about it though.  It’sactuallyquite fascinating.”  He stopped and poured himself something to drink out of his thermos.   He pulled a small box out of his file cabinet and handed it toaguy that was texting in his lap. “Walk around and hand out one kit to every person in the class with the exception ofMissLucenteandMr.Baldwin.  Each kit comes witha small ink pad, one strip and an area to write your name.  You will put your thumbprint in the area that saysthumbprint.  Write your student I.D. number instead of your name in the area that saysname.   Once you have done that, take the strip and lick it.  You donotneedtoslobber all over it, just lick it.”  The guy in the back that laughed when he said sex, was now holding his hand over his mouth snickering. Boys can be so obnoxious.  “Young man, if you cannot control your puerile self, you will be asked to leave and go to see Mrs. Ward.  Nowifyou don’t mind, I’d like to get through today’s lesson before class is over.”

“Yes sir.”  The boy replied sheepishly. 

“In case,any of you aren’t sure what end to lick, it’s the one that says saliva.  As soon as you’re finished, make sure to put the strip back inside the test tube it came from. MissEdwards, I need you andMrCho to take the box of strips to Mrs. Ward.  You will be given 4 minutes to complete the task.”

I can almost guess what Amber wants to say right now.  I bet she iscussingsome serious foul languagein her head.  I turned to see Caleb’s face andcantell he is thinking the same thing I am. 

During the four minuteswe all talked to each other.  Caleb and the guy in front of him were talking about going to the gym and lifting weights. That reminded me that I’msupposedto go to the athletic department and sign up for the weight lifting class.  Caleb was on it last year and wants me to join this year.  It’sagoodidea sinceI haven’t signed up for tennis.

A loud boomgoesoff, and the roomis covered in darkness. A cacophony of shrills and panic spreadinstantly.  It couldn’t have been morethanfifteen seconds and half the classhad their flashlights out and shining.  One girl up front startscrying and chanting a spell or a prayer.  Caleb reachesoverto hold my hand, assuring me everything isfine. 

“I wonder if Amber is in the hallway?”  I look over at Caleb,andhe’sworriedfor hertoo.

“Everyone, settle down.  The emergency system is being activated.  Do not move from your seats,”MrWolfshadowdemands. 

As hetalks, a light in each corner of the room came on. Theyblinkedlike a strobe light on slow motion.  If thereweremore lights,it would have felt likea1980’s disco. They did have disco in the 80’s didn’t they? 


Page 9

The doorfliesopen,anda frazzled Amber comes in.  She rushes over to sit down,andI can seeshe’supset.

“What happened?”  Caleb asks.

“I’ve no idea.  We were walking down the hall,andthe next thing youknow;it was pitch black in the hall.  I had my flashlight,buthe didn’t,and he was freaking the freak out.”  Amber’s hand was trembling as she heldupher flashlight.  “I was trying to keep him calm and get us back in here.”

Ilook around the room and see some kidshave their flashlight app ontheirphone turned on.  Oddly enough,MrWolfshadowiscoolas a cucumber.  My grandma always uses that saying.  “Caleb, look at him, he isn’t doing anything.  Do you think this is a drill?”

“Everyone, you need to calm down.  As you can see, our back-up generators are on,andthe lights are working properly.  I’vereceived amessage that an announcement will be coming soon.  Stay seated, and keep your flashlights accessible.” 

Thorne turnsaround andgivesAmber a thumbs up sign.

“You don’t have anything to do with this do you Amb?”  I whisper to her.

“Hellno, you’re a turd for even asking me.”  We all jump when wehearahullabaloo outside of our door. 

The door swings open,anda tallman in a red suitstumblesin.  He’sprobablythe same age as mygrandma;he would look younger if he didn’t haveacomb overhairdo.  “Jesus!  Can it be more chaotic?  Where is the control panel?  Where?” He isundeniablyfrom New Jersey by his accent.

“The control panel is in the next room.”

“To hell it is, this is 26 Band the panelisin here.”  He walks across the room towards Caleb and me.  I do my best to slink down in my chair and blend in with thedesk.  He pulls out a piece of chalk and draws a square on the wall.  Before my brain can actually process whatI’mseeing, a door appears.  The door is no bigger than a medicine cabinet, but the jumble of wires looks never-ending.

Everyone in the class is watching with curiosityas he plugs and unplugs wires until the room suddenly haspower. 

“ATTENTION STUDENTS, THIS WAS A TEST OF THE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT TEAM HERE AT PARCA.  HAD THIS BEEN A REAL EMERGENCY-YOUR TEACHER WOULD HAVETAKEN YOUTO AN OUTDOOR GATHERING PLACE. HAVE A GOOD AFTERNOON AND REMEMBER A SMILE CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE IN SOMEONE’S LIFE.  KEEPSMILIN’.”  The school secretaryannouncedin her deep country twang.

“You really did think I did something didn’t you?” Amberaskedaccusingly to me.

“Notreally, but when I saw Thorne give you a thumbs up, I couldn’t help but wonder.”

“It didn’t mean anything.  What if it did mean something?  Do you think he meant something?”

“Class, if I can get your attention. I am pleased with your reaction to the live experiment.  We test our Tamers to make sure they know how to handle the pressure of darkness. A few of you were a little timid and daunt, but that is to be expected.  It is only your second day of class. MrWoodson, what was number three on the list I gave out yesterday?”

“Tamers that haven’t bonded willturn into a Dark One,” Thorne reads out loud.  By the expression on his face, he isn’t happy aboutbeing called.

“What do you thinkMrWoodson?”

“I don’t know.  It seems a little silly to me to think everyone can find their partner, even sillier to think they have to turn dark if they don’t.”He scoots hisbuttas far forward he can without falling out of his chair.

“FACT. You arenotdestined to be dark if you don’t find your partner.  Youwon’t beasstrongto avoid the temptationsthe dark provides.  Some turn dark by accident.  How many of you know one certain way of turning you dark?”

I raise my hand and mentally pray Iwon’tregret it.“Can’t you lose your light if you absorb another Light Tamer’s light by accident?”

“Yes,and noMissLucente. If the dying Tamer’s light is young and vibrant and their mate absorbs their light, they can and probably will become a Dark One. There’s a hitch, a simple loophole to that rule.  You won’t turn dark if the Tamer that dies is at the end of theirlifecycle. When you’re at the end of your life cycle, yourlight isn’t as strong, therefore, nothing happens.” A buzz of voices interruptsthe teacher’s lecture.  “It is easier togaugeif the Tamer is old, but many younger ones that die areat the end of their life.” 

“What about those of us that don’t bond before we’re 18?”  A boy across the room blurts out.

“You won’t be as strong as a pair that are,pureandsimple.  ThereareplentyofTamersfinding their mate as an adult.  One of the teachers here found her partner after she started teaching. We’re hoping that with the experiment, they find the compatible matetohelpMother Nature.  She can be so temperamental.”

Mother Nature is a real being too?  Oh, Mylanta.

“Is itreallyplain and simple, or is that what you want us to believe?”  Thorne asks suspiciously.

Amber snorted trying to containalaugh.

“Yes, why wouldn’t itMrWoodson?” 

“No reason, just curious if anything in this world isplainand simple.”

MrWolfshadowrubs his chin in frustration.  I can hear Amber’s thumbs clicking as she madly taps out a text message. I duck my head to check my lap for messages. 

Amber:  HE’S SO HOT

Me: MrWolfshadow?

Amber: HA! HA!

I’ve lost track what they’re talking about and start willing time to go faster.  I send a text to Jersey, my best friend in New York about her Facebook status. She went from single to ‘in a relationship’ last night.  I’ve decided for my birthday, I want a ticket for her to visit. 

“You daydreaming about me again?”  I look up to see Caleb standing next to my desk and smiling down at me.

 

I’ve learned quickly that the schoolparking lot is not the safest place.  One girlin a red Prius practically backsup into us.  Prius driver’s have a different type of road rage. They’rejealous of cars that have more power.  Caleb tugson my skirtmotioningmeto follow him to his car.Above the noiseI hear Amber yelling at someone to watch where they’re going.  Thorne’swalking with her, but notactually. He wasn’t talking to her, and he didn’t seem to mind the parking lot bumper car session. They hop into her jeep,andI notice another guy climbinwiththem.  Caleb eases his BMW out of hisspotandwe get in linebehind a tricked out black car.  I click the button on the stereo and turn upGold on the Ceilingby El Camino.

“What had you so deep in thought?  You seemed lost inside of your head.”

“Oh, I was thinking about Jersey.  I was wondering if my mom would buy her a plane ticket.  We have a 3 day weekend over Labor Day.”

“My dad has tons of frequent flyermiles;he is always wanting to run off on a short trip to use them up.  I’m sure he can spare some miles to fly her here.”

I reach over andmovehis handfromthe gear shifter.  Our fingers entwine together,perfect…minusthe fact I’m in desperate need of a manicure.  “You are the perfect boyfriend.  That would be incredible,ifyour dadagrees.”

He takes my hand and pulls it up to his mouth and kissesit.  “Oh,I’ve been meaning to tell you about the dance.  I bet we can get permission to bring Jerseywith us.  The fall equinox is in September,andwe get two extra days out of school.  This year the dance is on September twenty-second.”

“They celebrate the fall equinox?  Do youactuallythinkthe school will letJerseyinto the dance?”

“I don’t see why not.  They don’t technically call it the fall equinox, it’s the fall semi-formal.  We get fall break earlier than other schools.  It will still be hot, but not nearly asbad. MissLucente, will youplease be my date to the dance?”

Squeeeeee!  I’ve never been to a dance before.  Mom is going to go crazy for dress shopping. “So, that’san official invitation,” I say and bat my eyes at him.  Luckily we’re at a stop light so he can get the full effect.

“Oh it’s official baby,itsofficial.”

“I’d love to go!”

Chapter 8.  Box of Secrets

 

 

I haven’t heard from my dad in a few days.  Earlierin thesummer he told mom he was going to Greece to study underhis mentor Yiannis Melanitis.  Originally that was what I was told too.  He took mom’s emergency credit card to pay for his flight.  Mom had finished up her masters in nursing and waslookingfor a job when our landlord said we had to move.  Without dads income, we couldn’t find another place to live.  We moved in with my mom’s mom,Grandma Gayle, orMissGayle as she likes to be called.

My dad showed up at our house one night and told me the reason he is an alcoholic is because he is a Dark One.  My dad, myDADis one ofthem.Hesaid,we come from the original family ofTamers.   My own father is thebadguy. He toldCaleb andIabout the girl he had been bound too. She diedin front of him, and to keep the other Dark Ones from draining her light, he didithimself.  He said it was something so natural to do,andit didn’t feel wrong.  It awakened a thirst for light, one he couldn’t fight without the help of a bottle of booze.  


Page 10

Oh, mom might have a dress I can wear to the dance.  I’m taller than she is, but maybe. When times weregood, mom and dad would dress up and go to art premiers.  She sold a few of the dresses to consignment shopswhen we were short of cash.

Itiptoeto her room on the other side of the house. The plush carpet masks the sound of my shoes.  It comes in handy when Amber and I sneak to the kitchen for a midnight raidor when I try to borrow a fancy dress without permission.

I’ve never been a kid that does a lot of snooping, I’ve never had to.  I don’t typically go through my mom’s drawers, not after I found a slinky see-through nightie last year.  It was hard to look her in the face for almost a week afterwards. Thefour-poster bed oncebelonged to mygrandmaandgrandpawhen hewas still alive. When I was younger, I’d sit in the bed and pretend I was a princess.  

Mom’s walk in closet lookedbarewithout my dad’s clothes.  Herscrubswere separated by color and hung neatly up front.I reach up to pull the string to turn on the light.  The dresses are towards the back and still in their dry-cleaning bag.  One of my dad’s suits is haphazardly hanging on a wooden hanger.  I take the sleeve and hold it to my nose trying to get a whiff of him.  “Daddy, please come back,” I whisper out loud.How many nights I would watchmomget dressed for an art gala and wish I could gowith her.  I tried to convince my baby sitter to drive us by the gallerytowatch the people on the red-carpet.She never would. 

Behind all the ordinary dressesisone I’ve never seen her wear. It’sagorgeousblack floor lengthgown.Oh, if she still has thosegold strappy heelsthey’ll go perfectly with the dress, I think to myself.Her shoes are stored neatly in their box on the top shelf of the closet. I pull overplastic storage bin,andattempt to pulldown two boxes of shoes.  As I do, I leanovertoo far and start to fall.  In typical Jessie fashion,I knock down every box on the right side of the closet. 

I rush to pick up the shoes and match them up with their correlating box.  Sitting on the floor putting everything together, I notice a box onthe floor of the closet.  It’sawoodenbox witha weirdly shaped keyhole.  After checking both her nightstand and jewelry box, I give up looking for the key.The chimes go off letting me know a door has opened.  For whatever reason, I hurry and put the boxback and slide it into the closet. 

“Mom, I’m in your room!”  I yell out. 

Mom is suddenly in the doorway.“Why are you in my room?”  Her tone is slightly annoyed sounding. 

“Trying to find all your secrets,” I say, trying tobechipper.  I hold up the black dress.  “What do you think this would look like on me?”

“What’s this about?” She throws her purse on her bed and starts pulling her top over her head.  I can’t help but admire the black lacey bra sheis wearing. 

I wonder if they have anything cute in my size.  I’m sure it is too expensive for someonewhoseems to grow a cup size every year.  “They’re having asemi-formalnext month.  Fall break is the weekend of the twenty-second;we getoffFriday and Monday.  Caleb thinks his dad will give us his frequentflierpoints to get Beth a flight to visit us.”  I used Jersey’s real name because mom thinks it’s a silly nickname.  I hold my breath, hoping she’ll agree.

She takes off her scrub bottoms, revealing the matching panties. I avert my gaze, embarrassed to have her see me watchingher.  “Jess, I’m okay with it, but you need to make sure grandmadoesn’t have anything planned.  Try it on,” she says and points at the dress I’m still holding.

The dress slips over my head easy enough.  The black chiffon sleeves have a dainty silk cuff that should end at the wrist.  On me, the sleeves are too short.  I wiggle around until I get everything adjusted.  I look in the mirror and try to keep from crying. 

“Black is such a pretty color on you.  Your dirty blondehairlooks so pretty against the black.  Even with your tan, the black is set off your hair and your eyes.”

I let out the breath I’d been holding, still trying to keep my composure.  “I can’t wear this.  Look at the sleeves,they’retoo short.  I’m sure it’s because I have this giant uniboob in the front.” I fumble around with the side zipper and take it off.

“Baby, the dress is too small.  We’ll go shopping this weekend.”

“I don’t want you to spend all your money on me.  Maybe we can find something cheap at a thrift store.”

“I want to dress shop with you, my love. You’re looking at a newly promoted supervisor,andI was given a sign on bonus.  When I applied, they were offering an incentive that if I stay at least sixtydays;I’dget a three thousand dollar bonus.  If that doesn’t make you happy, your dad sold some of his artwork and sent some money for you.”  She says as she puts on herbooty’ jeans and a black tank top. 

“That’sawesomemom!  I need a job that does a sign on bonus like that!”

“Go to nursing school.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I could empty abedpan.  Why did dad send money for me?” 

“He’s your dad, and he should send money for you.  With that said, howabout Saturday morning,we take a drive to Greenville and look at dresses?”

“Sounds like a plan.” I throw my uniform on haphazardly so I can run and call Jersey.  “You want to do just you and I, or invite grandma and Amber?”

“I’mhappywhichever way you want.”

“Okay, I’ll ask grandma tonight.” She won’t say no, I know her too well.  I better check with Caleb and see if he has asked his dad yet.  I don’t think my feet even hit the floor as I ran into my room.

 

Chapter 9.  Dream

 

 

The river is so beautiful in my secret hiding spot. In the past, I’ve become so entranced with the beauty of the river, I’ve almost dropped my journal in the water.The bees dance and hum in the trees behind the bench. I keepmydistance, hoping that if I don’t bother them, they won’t bother me.  My reaction to a bee getting too close ends with me flailing around and throwing whatever is in my hand at it.

“Jessie?”

I jump at the sound of my name.  “Mrs. Ward?” Her dress looks out of place, being that we’re on a canoe dock.

“I need to warn you about Nyx.  I put out some feelers and came back with a positive sighting.  As I’ve said before, I don’t have any influence over Underworld escapees.”

“Can you explain to me, why all of thisis happening?  I don’t know what my role is,and what makes me sounique.”  I pull my hairaway frommy sweaty neck.

“Do you mind if I sit with you?”  I nod my head.  “Jessie, you’reuniquebecause of your bloodline. There’s asense of power that radiates off ofyou.  I knowit’s allnew, and this is abigsurprise…itis what it is. Your power, the light that you have in youispowerful Jessie.  It is like no other in the last five centuries.  You and Caleb togetherareastonishing.  As soon as you both know how to control your inner light, yourlight absorption will be needed less frequently.”

“Sinceyou’reFate, why can’t you control my path?”  I close my journal and turn sideways on the bench, tucking one leg under me.

“I can guide you; I can’t weave your life though.  I may cause a distraction or add a person that will show you the path to take.  It’s much like writing astory…youcan control the scenario, but your mind and freewillchoosesthe words.”Her voice soft-spoken, but her power radiates through her words.

“So whatdoI do?”  I ask.  I look at her, taking in the beauty of her face, how her pale blue eyes sparkle, so beautiful and regal, yet she emotes power.  “I don’t know how to make potions or martial arts to fight her.  Caleb has shown mesomemoves, but nothing that I’d feel comfortable using on another person.”

“That is where you’re wrong JessieLucente, Nyx is not another person, she is a deity.  I’m going to arm you with the human skills you’ll need. When the time comes, you’ll be called upon to join forces with others…you mustchoosewisely. There will be enemies who will fight on the same side as you.  There will be a time when the only person you can trust is yourself.  That isn’t to say Caleb will betray you, but the potential will arise.  Someday, light will bend to your will and power will attempt to sway you to the dark.  Keep your wits about you JessieLucente, the queen ofyour land. This will hurt a little bit,” she says and takes my hand into hers. 

That doesn’t soundgood, I think to myself.

Fear,then anguish ripped through me like a forest fire, burning, searing, through every pore and muscle in my body.   My head fell back in pain, tears slipping from my eyes, it’s too intense to scream.  Internally my brain is screaking in misery.

“Jessie,wake up!”  Mom yelled as sheshakes my shoulders.

I look around the room and realize I’m on the couch, the television is tuned to Wizards of Waverly Place,andthere isn’t any sign of Mrs. Ward.  “I must have fallen asleep, I’m sorry.  Give me five minutes and I’ll be ready for dinner.”  I touch my arms and legs, the pain is gone,butI feel different somehow.

“You were screaming in pain, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’mfine.  I was dreaming about school, nothing major.”  I check my phone to see what time it is.  “It’s 6:45,fiveminutes, okay?”

She leans in and hugs me.  “Maybe you’ll tell me about it at dinner.  I’ll see you in a fewminutes.”

My room is bright,the sun is peeking through the blinds leaving striped shadowson the wall. I grab a tie-dyesundress, it’s the least wrinkled quick thing I have to wear.  I’d already taken off most of my uniform, everything except my shirt. I pull it off,and for reasonsI can’t begin to explain, standing there in only my bra and panties, I kick my leg straight up. Standingthere, in a perfect split,with incredible balance, I gasp.  Without stumbling,Ishift andrelax my leg to stand upright. It reminds me of one of Caleb’s memories that I got from one of our first kisses. I’ve seen a picture of Caleb in his Gi doing the same pose when he got his black-belt.He wasembarrassedthat his mom put it up on the fireplace mantlefor the world to see.


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I’m athletic, but I’m not limber.  Well, I wasn’t limber, not until now. I wonder what else I can do. 

“TWO MINUTES!” Mom yells from the other side of the house.

I send a quick text to Caleb asking if he can come over in an hour or so.

 

8:15 p.m.

Like clockwork, the doorbell rings.  Caleb is the most punctual person I’ve ever known. Growing up, my dadhada ritual hedid every time he left the house.HisOCDwasalways an issue with my mom.  We were late to almost everything, especially things that made him nervous.  If his art was up at a gallery and he wasdoingashow, thatwas the worst.  He’d triple check everything, every lock, every light, the oven and his keys.  We traveled mostly bysubway, which does run on time. 

“It’s for me!” I yell out. 

As I open the door, I get waft of hiscologne,it’s spicy with a hint of musk.  I always thinkcrispwhen I smell it.  “Hey gorgeous, are you ready to play?”

I love the way his eyebrow goes up when he grins at me.  “You stole my line.  I’m ready to play,butareyouready tolose?”

“Oh no you didn’t.  Come onMissToughguy, let’s rumble,” he says. 

I lean in and give him a quick kiss on the lips.  He lets out a small groan. “Can wego to the park, the Frisbee park?”

“We can go anywhere you want.  What’s yourcurfew?” He holds the car door open for me.

I wait to answer until he gets in the car.  “Mom said I have to be home at ten.We don’t have to stop and get sodas; I brought usdrinks in my backpack.”

“You know the kids around here don’t call it a backpack.  It’s abookbag.  Your purse is a pocketbook.  You’re in the South little lady,” Caleb teases me. 

I sit back,andhe cranks up his Beastie BoysLicense to IllCD.  Oddly enough, my dad always played the CD too, so I know all the words.  Our favorite song to sing together isBrass Monkey.  I’ve no idea what that is, but it’s funny.

The park is desolate of people.  A few squirrels are mid-climb on a tree, tails twitching, waiting to move, probably thinking they are blended in with the tree.  I always wonder if their brain works the way they move,arbitrarily. 

We take thegiantblue checkered blanket,his portabledvdplayer,andgoset up to watch a movie.  The firsttime we did this, it was so romantic...well, semi-romantic.  We watcheda scary movie, it scared the crap out of me. The trees were casting shadows all around us, my imagination got the best of me and scared me to death. Now, it’s our secret place to be together.  The weather has been too hot for parents to bring their kids out to playso weareusually the only oneshere. 

“This is going to sound crazy, I need you to trust me though.  Do I have your word?”  I ask.

“I trust you, so yes, you have my word.”

“I want you to attack me, with everything in you.”

“When you say, attackme…doyou mean in a boyfriend makes out with his hot girlfriend?  Or do you mean, you’re abadguy and I’m taking you down?”

“You think I’m hot?”  I grin from ear to ear.  I love it when he says I’m hot. Eeep,my inner voice squeals.

He puts his hand on my waist and pulls me in until we’re chest to chest.  “Blazing." His cinnamon gum breath,teases my nose.

I rub my hands on his biceps, loving the way they’re defined.  “Take me down,”I whisper seductively.

His eyebrow arches at my boldness.

“Not likethatlover-boy…likethis,” I say as I whip my leg around, knocking him to the ground. 

“You’ve been holding out on me.”  He springs up to standing.  Hetakesmy arm and pulls it up behind me.  His chin on my shoulder as he stands behind me.  “Like this?”  He whispers in my ear.

I smile to myself before saying, “Exactly like this.” 

“You want to play dirty, do you, we’llsee how that works out for you.  I am a black-belt afterall,” Caleb says.

“Who me?  Never,” Isay between breaths.  He tries to do some type of sweep with his leg and knock me off my feet.  Itdoesn’t work.

We go back and forthbantering and play fight. He loses his concentration as I press my body closer to him, and I knock us both to the ground.  He is on his back,andI’m sitting on his abdomen, I lean forward and kiss him.  He puts his arms around my back and flips me over onto my back.

“You’ve been holding out on meMissLucente.”  Caleb says.

“No, I’d never do that,” Iflirt back.  “If you’ll let me get up, I’ll tell you about it.”

“You’re not going to try and go all ninja on me again,are you?  You know I’m a black belt.”

“I cross my heart.”

“That’s a beautiful heart.” He says andholds out his hand to help me up. 

I taketwo Dixie-cupsout of my bagandfill them with lemonade.  Caleb turns on two battery powered lanterns and leans back on one arm. 

“Did the ninja-faerie stop by after school and pump you up with ninja skills?”  His eyes bore through me, giving megoosebumpsall over.

“Sooooo, after school, I fell asleepon the couch.I had a crazy dream about Mrs. Ward.  She told me aboutNyx being spotted and how we have to be careful.  She said her usual stuff about not having any control of the Underworld escapees.  The only help sheofferedis giving me the knowledge that I can physically take her on. She did herhocuspocus thing and gaveme the ability to fight.”

“Did she saywehave to fight her literally?” He flicks a beetle off the blanket before my brain registers it’s a bug.  “We’ll go to her tomorrow and have her send us to that school she told us about.I can’t risk you getting hurt Jess.”

The concern in his voice causes myheart toskip a beat.  “I’m not running.  I don’t want anyone else to get hurt because of me. If we left the only family we have,and run off to another school, we’ll be wondering when it will happen until we’re crazy.  Literally crazy.  I don’t think we cantrulyhide from something like this anyway.  Erebus found us without a problem.  How do we know he won’t be by her side and fight ustoo? No, we have to be smart and absorb the lessons from school and practice.”

Caleb leans forwardandsays,“I’ll love you until my last breath.”  Heinches closer and my heartstartsto beat so loud in my ears, it’s like asymphony of drums. Restinghis hand on the curve of mywaist;I put my arm around him.  The anticipation of his kiss is killing me.

After seventy seven beats of my heart, his lips touch mine.  His tongue is soft and silky as our mouths explore each other. He pulls away and in the glow of the lamp I can’t distinguish the brown of his eyes, from his pupils. 

“You don’t need to be scared Jess, we’ll figure this all out.”

“I know, but it’s hard when three months ago, my life was semi-normal.  Yes, I miss having my dad around, but it isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.I can tell my mom is happier since we’ve moved to North Carolina.  She’s made friends,and she’s not down my throat everyfive minuteslike she was in New York.  At first,I didn’t want to live in a boring town,” I laugh at the thought.  “I’ve learned to be carefulaboutwhat I wish for.   New Bern is anything but boring.”

“I’m glad you’re here andsooooon…Jerseywill be here to.”

“What?  You’re dad is going toget the ticket?  I can’t wait to tell her.  Awesome!” I kiss him so fastthat ourteethsmacktogether.  Itdoesn’tdivert us from carrying on with our kiss.  I lean back, “I almost forgot to tell you something.  I was in my mom’s closet today,andI found an oldboxI’ve never seen before. It’sbigenough to hold a book. I tried to open it,but it’s locked. She came home so I didn’t get aproperchance to pick it.”

“I thought your mom didn’t know anything about us.”

I shrug my shoulders.  “Caleb, at this point, I don’t know who knows what.  I’m not trying to be ugly,but how would my momnotknow. How can two people thatloveeach other have such anenormoussecret between them?Maybe my dad was lying.  Ugh, I’m so confused. You and your dad,figured out what you are, in a fairly short amount of time.  My mom was around it for fifteen years.”

Caleb tucks a piece of hair behind my ear.  “Those are valid points.  Maybe your mom does know more. The next time you see the box take a picture and text it to me.  I’ll see if I canfind someinformation on how to pick the lock.”

“You’regood.  I didn’t even think to do that.  I’m thinking I’ll keep you,” I snuggle closer to him.

“As much as I’d liketo stay here, it’s dark,andyou have to be home soon.  We have enough time to go to Sonic for ice-cream.”

Chapter 10.  Guardian’s Call

 

 

“Good to see you’ve made it home safe and sound,” Grandma says as I walk in five minutes late.

“I’m sorry, we stopped to get some ice-cream,andthey took forever.”  I lean over and hand her one of her favorite treats of all time.

“A mocha-java drink?  I’m easily bribable,” she says smiling at me.  Grandma looks ten or more years younger than she is.  Living in the south, we call everyone Miss or Mister plus their first name.  Grandma insists that I call her Miss Gayle, as she’s in denial that she can be old enough to fit the title of grandma.  We’ve always had a unique bond, either from me coming to North Carolina every summer or because we’re a lot alike. “Let’s go in my room, your mom conked out on the couch.  She has been working so much, she is missing out on living.”


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The hall to grandma’s room is filled with pictures of my mom when she was young, and pictures of me.  There were photos of grandma and grandpa’s wedding and family I’ve never met.  I don’t have any memories of my grandfather; I was young when he died.  He was thrown from a horse and another horse stomped on him.  His internal injuries were too severe,andhe died two weeks later.  Grandma still has a hard time talking about him; she tears up and leaves the room until she composes herself.  Mom always said they had the perfect marriage,andshe wants the same for me one day.  Caleb and I’ll be that way…I hope.

Her room screams Hollywood drama with its crystal chandeliers and white furniture that pop against the powder blue walls.   I kick off my sandals and hop up on her king sized bed.  We’ve always watched TV via the comfort of her bed.  DuringThe Wizard of Oz,I’d huddle up under the comforter, any time the witch was on.  She and I’d eat popcorn and talk about plants and recipes.  I love our time together.

“MrGabe said he’d let Jersey use his frequent flyer miles to come visit over fall break.  Would it be okay with you if she stayed here?”

“Of course, have you said anything to your mom?”

“Yeah, Isaidsomething to her before we went to dinner.  Tell me, does my mom know about Tamers?”

“I don’t think so, why?”  She leaned over and flicked her DVR on to some dancing reality show she watches.

“No reason,” I lied.  “It’s hard for me to believe she lived with my dad all of those years and never suspected anything.  Notthatshe would guess that he is a Tamer, but youknow…something.”

“I’ve thought about that before.  Every family has secrets. Usually they have reasons behind their decisions not to say anything to the family.  I honestly don’t know.  Tell me, how was your date with Caleb tonight?”

“It was fun, we didn’t do much, but we always have fun together.  You know that guy I told you Amber attacked in the lunchroom?  She and I stopped to give him a ride to school this morning.  Not only that, but she gave himandanother guy a ride home.  I hope it isn’t another Erebus situation.”  I scooted to the edge of the bed.  “I have some homework I need to finish before school.  Good night, I love you.”  I leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

Before I start on my homework, I put on my “20 Minute Abs” DVD.  If I’m wearing a slinky dress for the dance, I better get rid of my flab. Okay, maybe I don’t have a lot of flab, but I’m not toned like I was when I played tennis.It takes a while but I finally start on my essay. 

A tapping on my window sends me flying off my bed.  It could be a Dark One.  Do they knock before they drain your light?   I run over to peek through the blinds…I gasp and cover mouth, holdingbacka scream.  A face is on the other side. 

“Thorne, what the hell?” 

“Jessie, I need to talk to you.”  His brown eyes and beautiful face leave me with no other choice.

“Give me a minute; I’ll meet you on the porch.”  I scramble to put on a bra and some clothes.  What could he possibly want from me? 

I tell grandma I’m going outside for a few minutes; she doesn’t question me, which isgood. Thankfully I don’t have to come up with an excuse.

“Thorne, you know you could get shot, showing up at some girl’s window in themiddleof the night.”  His face is so serious; I feel stress vibrating from him in waves.  “How did you know where I live?  And more importantly, where my room is?”

He sticks his hands in his pockets and tilts his head back before talking.  “Middle of the night?  It’s 10:00.  Look, I know you don’t know me, but I need you to trust me.”

Conversations are nevergoodwhen they start withtrust me. “Huh?  Why should I trust you?”

“Can we sit?”

“Yeah, follow me, we’ll goto the back porch. Be quiet, my mom fell asleep on the couch.”  Something about him was so enigmatic, yet he didn’t send anybadvibes.  He didn’t make a sound as he followed me to the back porch.  He reaches for the door and pulls it open for me. “Thank you,” I whisper, as soon as we’re outside.  The lights on the patio are bright enough that I can see that he needs to shave.

“I know it’s strange for me to show up like this.  I need to talk to you.”

“Okay, obviously, or you wouldn’t be here.”

He breaths in deeply, and exhales slowly.  “Jessie, look, this is so out of protocol what I’m about to tell you.  The powers that be have sent me.  It wasn’t my idea to reveal myself to you, but after the last couple of weeks, it’s been decided that I must tell you who I am.”

My heart is pounding so loud, I’m sure my shirt is moving with every beat.  “Who you are?  Please, don’t tellme you’re another Underworld escapee.  Seriously don’t tell me that.  I will faint, right here, right now.  I’ll fall straight over.  Me and the ground are like one these days.  Spit it out.”

“Don’t faint, please don’t do that. No…I’m not from the Underworld.”

“Good, where are you from?  Idaho?”

He looks at me quizzically.  “Idaho?  Why Idaho?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never known anyone from Idaho. You’re all mysterious, so I picked a random state.  No worries.”

“No, I’m not from Idaho.  I know you’ve had to absorb a lot of information lately.  I know that you recently found out about your gift,andI know that you’ve bonded with Caleb.  I like him, which isgood, since I’m going to be around more often.  I also know who Mrs. Wardis…Fate. I’m your protector Jessie.  I’m assigned to keep an eye on you.  I’ve been following you since you arrived in New Bern.”

I think I’ve stopped breathing, and the pain in my chest isn’t anxiety, it is my impending death.  One more crazy magical crap thing to put up with.  Exactly what I wanted to learn about tonight.  I was going to write my essay and curl up in my bed with Caleb’s kiss on my mind. No, I can’t have a normal night like that, no, I have to learn one more INSANE piece of my intricate puzzle.    “So, you’re stalking me?  Are you some kind of creep?”

“No, Jessie, I’m not a creep.  Stalker, maybe, but not a creep.  I’m your protector, your own guardian.”

“I don’t even know you.I’ve never seenyou before.  I might be distracted lately, but I’d have recognized you.  I don’t.”

“Listen, I’m not accustomed to revealing myself to my charge. The deal is, I’m your guardian, which means I’m guarding you against all the trouble you seem to find.  I personally think you’re in more harm from yourself than you are from Nyx.”

The entire time he’s talking, I’m asking myself if I’ve ever seen him before.  “What does a guardian do?”

“Good question.  First off, we’re rarer than you Tamers are.  We are assigned to various supernaturals for many different reasons.  Some supers feel overwhelmed and go over the deep end, doing stupid things.  It’s frowned upon to hurt yourself, and we try to put a stop to it.  As a guardian, I will appear to you in different forms.  I can be assimpleas a butterfly floating by, or as charming as an owl on its nightly hunt.  A lot of foster children are supernaturals, sometimes I’m a foster child in a home to watch over them, and make sure they find the help they’ll need.  Some of the gifted aren’t allowed to procreate with a human.  They’ll hide their pregnancy and then give the child up for adoption.  Those children have afiftyfifty shot of inheriting their parent’s gifts.  Not that all gifted kids have powers that aregood.  Sometimes their powers need to be bound so they won’t be a risk to themselves or anyone else.  That is where I come in.  I become a mentor to them,andI teach them how to protect themselves.  I’ve never had a Tamer before; they usually don’t have other Supers trying to find them. Their danger is from their counterparts, I think you call them Dark One.  Youon the other hand, are in danger from everything.  As your guardian, I will put my life on the line for you.  You’re my only concern.  I won’t interfere in a battle that doesn’t threaten you.”  He wipes the sweat off the bottle of water I gave him from the patio bar.

“You’re telling me that you’re a butterfly? Riiiiight.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with being a butterfly?  No, I don’t turn into a butterfly.   I’m your guardian, not your fairy godmother.”

Can someone tell me why my life is so damned confusing? “Explain how you can protect me as a butterfly?  While you’re at it, can you explain how you’re going to protect me at all?  You’re just going to be some voyeur that follows me?”

“Look Miss Skeptical, I’m doing what my superiors tell me to do.  I have to keep you alive.  Your destiny is tooimportantto ignore.  Sadly, you and your friends have become targets for the Underworld gods and goddesses.  You couldn’t upset something that Fate could help control, no, you upset the total psychos.  Yes, you have a destiny and NO, I’m not telling you what it is.”

“Is this like a North Carolina thing?  Because when I lived in New York, the only crazy was my dad.”  I try to hide how annoyed he is making me.  At this point, I’m not sure if Ireallycare.

“Tomorrow, we’ll talk about this more. Amber said you’re riding with her in the morning, so I’ll see you bright and early.”

“You’re just going to come in here, tellme you’re my guardian angel and a butterfly and leave?  How absurd is that!”

“Oh, honey, don’t flatter yourself, I’m no angel.  You think that’s absurd, you’ll love this next part...youcan’t tell anyone.  Don’t look at me like that.  I’m sorry, but the rules are the rules.  I know you and your friends like to bend the rules, but not this time.  To assure that you won’t tell anyone, there is a Dark One onstand-byto knock off your new BFF,” he says cockily. 

“You’ll have my friend killed if I tell anyone?  What the hell?”

He looks at me and cocks his head to the side.  “It makes a difference doesn’t it?  It isn’t a North Carolina thing either toots.  This could have happened at any super school you went to.  I have some homework to tend to.  Be sure to arm the alarm when I leave, I don’t want anybadguys to get you while you’re sleeping.”

Ugh,what a despicable ass.  This is a guardian?  “How am I supposed to keep this from Caleb?  He hears my thoughts.  Huh?  You’re going to kill my friend because I can’t help thinking?”

“You ask a lot of questions.  Don’t worry about thinking it, somehow it’s jumbled.  I don’t know how it works, but it isn’t possible to spread the word via thoughts,” he says as he stands up.  “Good-night my little charge.”

I try as hard as possible not to scream.  Silently we walked through the house and without a word he left.  I punch in the code to the alarm and head back to my room.  My phone has only been on the charger for an hour, long enough to give Caleb agood-nightcall.

“Hey beautiful,” Caleb says as he answers the phone.

I try to keep myself composed so he doesn’t realize I’m on the verge of tears.  “Hi you.  I wanted to call and saygoodnight.”

“Is everything okay?”

No, everything isn’t okay.  “Yeah, I just wanted to hear your voice.”

“Are you missing your dad?”

I do miss him, daily.  “Yeah, a little.  I can’treallytalk; I still have a little more homework to do. Good night.” I close my eyes and envision him with me.

“Good night, I’ll see you in the morning.  I love you”

“Love you, too.”

Chapter 11. Killing Amber

 

 

Amber’s Jeep screeches its tires as we pull into the school parking lot.  When we picked Thorne up, the jackass winked at me as he climbed into the back seat.  After sitting up half the night trying to figure out what to do, I finally decided to go see Mrs. Ward first thing.  After all, she is the one that seems to have made each obstacle for me.  I told Amber to go on without me, and I’d see her in class.

As I lifted my hand to knock on her door, Mrs. Ward pulled it open. 

“Good morning, Jessie.  How are you enjoying your new school,” she asked with a smile?

She motioned for me to sit down.  “You know why I’m here.  What I don’t understand is why you trickle information to me.”


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“Trickle?  Young lady, I assure you, I don’t trickle.  This isn’t a ordinary little game we’re playing.  You’re back on my radar, so something is going right.  Thorne and I discussed it for hours; before we decided you should know who he actually is.  Your friend Amber, she is a loose cannon that girl.  She is such a spurt of the moment person, it makes my job harder.  She flits in and out of her path so much, it makes me dizzy.”

“How on earth can you keep up with everyone in the world and their path?”  It isn’t a dumb question.  “What do you mean about her in and out of her path?  Is she teetering on being a Dark One?”  I say, trying my best to keep my tone down and my temper in check.

“It’s not for you to worry about.  Your focus should solely be on your Light Tamer skills. Your path is changing, and I see a lot of good.  I also see a dark time, despair, and fear.  Your future depends on your strength.”

“Where does Thorne fit into the picture?  He said he is my guardian and if I tell anyone he’ll kill Amber.  What kind of guardian angel is that?  He willkillher.  It isn’t like he will poke her with a needle, or whack her in the knee.  He will kill her.”  I emphasize my words with my New York accent.

“He’s a guardian, not an angel.  He can’t kill her.  Killing an innocent is against the rules.  He is just scaring you.  He’s so used to dealing with rogues and unloveables.  I’ll have a talk with him about his scare tactics.  As for the rest, you’re going to have to deal with him.  With the Nyx situation hovering over us, especially now that she’s been seen, we have to bump up security.”

“Fine, I’ll deal with it, but I’m telling Amber and Caleb about him.”

She clucked her tongue and says, “No, you won’t.  I didn’t say he can’t relocate her to Alaska.  I’m pretty sure the surfing is chilly there.  You need to keep the secret.  I’d suggest you figure out a way to deal with it.”  She looks down at her watch. “The bell is about to ring.  Have a lovely day MissLucente.”

Nothing but a bunch of drama. What fabulous piece of insanity will happen today? . 

The hallway is crowded as I weave my way through the accumulation of kids.  I bump into a heavy-set guy, he’s bigger than me, and he bumps me back, and I went flying into a clique of preppy girls.  The kind that have hair extensions and carry designer backpacks, the kind that I’m not.  One girl fusses and tells me to watch where I’m going.  I scramble away from them before I do something stupid.

A tap on my right shoulder has me fall for the game boys’ play, the one where I look right, and they are on my left.  I turn expecting to see Caleb, to my chagrin, it’s Thorne.

“I saw you leaving Mrs. Ward’s office.  How is the lovely Fate this morning?” 

“I learned you can’t kill my friends,” I say with a smirk.

The first bell chimes through the halls.  “Details, don’t get hung-up on the small little wee details.”  He holds his fingers up an inch apart, to show me small.  I’d like to snatch that smug look off of his face.

I feel hands on my waist from behind me, and instantly feel comforted.  “Have fun in first hour beautiful.” 

I give him a quick peck on the lips.  “You too.  I have the paper signed for the weight lifting class.  I didn’t think she was going to agree to it, but she did and that’s all that matters.  See you in a bit.”  I say and Caleb turns to get to class before the tardy bell.

“Funny how things work out,” Thorne says as he holds up his permission slip for the weight lifting class. 

I growl and walk away to class.

Miss Raine escorted us to our secret classroom and then announced that she is staying with us. MrJames smiled and left to teach the other class, I guessed. Miss Raine pranced around the room in her tie-dyed sun dress talking about the changes in the weather will affect our ability to pull light to us.  Watch the weather.  Keep your eye on the barometric pressure.  Do this, do that, it was all overload. 

“Are you paying attention MissLucente?”

No.“Uh, well, not exactly,” I say, voice shaky with nerves.

“As I was saying class, our fall break will be in September.  The fall equinox happens that weekend.  Now you’re aware of Tamers, your body and instincts will go into hyper-mode.  You’ll be able to spot other Tamers, and some of you will have the ability to spot small children that are a Tamer too.  Anything to do with spells, incantations, fire, earth, spirit, will be easy to retain.   It will be the beginning of our daylight hours being shortened.  Obviously, Tamers are able to get through winter months with little complications.  You might find this interesting.  During the shortened days, the Dark Ones do a semi-hibernation through winter.  It’s obvious that they survive and thrive from the light.  It’s hypothesized that like a squirrel they store up during the warmer, brighter months.  Not that you’ll be altogether safe, so you should always carry your flashlights.  Everyone has been given their flashlight holsters.  Carry them in your backpacks, and keep a flashlight in your locker.  Batteries are free to you for your flashlights; you can stop by the secretary’s office before and after school to stock up.”

I feel a slight buzz from my pocket.  I discreetly pull it out to see who texted me.  Amber of course. 

Amber:  Did you smell his cologne???  Deee Lightful!

Me:  No

Amber:  Your sniffer must be broken.

Me:  I guess

Yes, I smelled his cologne.  He smells like Jimmy Johnson from my old school.  I wasn’t about to tell her that, or she’d have a cow.

“MissLucente, is your lap talking to you?”  Miss Raine asks.   She tucks a piece of hair behind her ear, and I notice her tattoo on her wrist is glowing.

“My lap is fine, I was checking if I had some change for the soda machine.  I’m sorry.” 

From the corner of my eye, I see Thorne shake his head.

“Do you have something to sayMrWoodson?”

“Yes ma’am,” Thorne replies.  “I do have a question.  When did you find out about Light Tamers, if you’re not one?”

She tilts her head to the side, as though she is carefully deciding what she would say.  “A darned good question.  We’ll be going into this in the next segment of this class, but I’ll tell you a little about it.  I’m a member of a branch that is affiliated with the Rosicrucian Order.  It is a society for the spiritually gifted.  My gifts are also of the healing kind, and my chapter of the Order is extremely small.  There are about fifty of us throughout the world.  I’ve always known about Light Tamers, there’s never been a time I didn’t.  My father was highly involved with the Order, so I grew up with it around me.  Your chapter is much larger, but, not the largest group. My father and the head of the Tamers charter are close friends.  We had family vacations and we trained together, that is how I know about you.”  Someone asked if she is a witch.  “Ah, no, I’m not a witch.  Our group doesn’t have a fancy name.  We’re just known as the healer. My gift as a healer is purely physical.  I heal wounds and sometimes I can heal an illness.”

Carmen raises her hand.  “If you’re able to heal, why do you need the potions?”

“Sometimes you need a healing unguent, or a potion to help speed things up.  My power can be drained very quickly; I’m not God, I can’t heal everyone.  You’ll understand this even more as you become a healer. Okay, on to more information about the equinox weekend.  We’ll be having a dance for juniors and seniors on that Saturday.  It will be held downtown at the convention center.  There are sign-up sheets for decorating committee and chaperones in the main office.  Please don’t pass up this time, you’re not too cool to join in the fun.  You’ll only be teens for a few more years, enjoy it while you can.  There will be extra credit for those students that help out.  Okay, on to another exciting thing. Next week we will have a guest speaker.  Her name is Chrissy, and she is an animal healer, she can speak to animals too.  She and I’ve been in training all summer, and I’m excited for all of you to hear her story.”

I wonder if Caleb would be interested in helping out.  I can only imagine the four letter words Amber will say when I ask her.  Oh, that’s right, she isn’t saying them, she’s making up words to use in place of the super bad words.  When I asked her to take weight lifting class with me; she almost fell over laughing. 

“…respect the earth.  We’re not endorsing witchcraft, we’re endorsing the love and energy the earth, sun, and moon provide us.  In alchemy we will use such things as crystals, essential oils and items you can probably find in your own cupboards.  These items will serve as a catalyst for you to heal.  Many of you in this classroom will be a doctor of some sort.”  A spurt of laughter broke the lecture up for a second.  “Two out of three Tamerswillgo forth as a doctor.  There are all types of doctors.  A doctorate can be given to scholars, physicians, engineers.  Your positive energy is needed in all of those fields.  The otheroneTamer will usually be a stay at home healer.”  Miss Raine went over to a cabinet and pulled out what looks like a tissue box from where I was sitting.  She handed the box to Carmen, telling her to take a crystal and pass it on.”

Amber turns around to me.  “You have to be kidding me, we’re going to play with rocks?  I think she’s got a few rocks loose in her head, if you know what I mean.”

“Crystal’s are thought to have the strongest healing powers from the earth,” Thorne says.  We all turn around to face him as he speaks.

“Oh, no, I didn’t mean anything derogatory about it.  She’s just so intense,” Amber says timidly (totally out of character for her).

The box of crystals made it to our end of the room.  The one I pick is small and jagged but clear and pretty.  The stone feels cold as ice in the palm of my head.

“Can anyone tell me what the metaphysical aspect of a quartz crystal is?”  Miss Raine asks and opened up a small notebook and wrote something in it.

Carmen is the only one that raises her hand.  “Crystals amplify the mind, body and spirit.  They will absorb energy from the earth, moon and sun.  I know when my grandma’s arthritis is acting up, she says her crystals help the pain.  Before anyone gets the gumption to say she is a witch, I’d highly suggest you keep your thoughts to yourself.”

At the end of class, we each have a quartz crystal and an amethyst cluster, which is said to help calm the spirit.  Miss Raine said that it helps with attention deficit disorder, and if we keep one in our pocket it will help us focus.   The bell rang, I barely made it to the door and Caleb is standing there waiting for me.  He hands me a folded up piece of paper, and he tells me not to open it until I’m alone.

Rob and Caitlyn are already at our pod when I sit down.  Rob is holding up a Hello Kitty mirror and checking his teeth, and Caitlyn is doodling as usual.

“So, tell me.  Are you and Caleb in love?  Please tell me you are,” Rob asks dramatically.

I pull out a spiral notebook and slip my note inside so I can read it when things settle down in class.  Rob is leaning across his desk waiting for me to answer his question.  “You don’t beat around the bush do you?”

“No, so tell me…are you?”

One beat, two beats, three beats…breathe in, breathe out.  “I think so.” I say, but inwardly I wish he’d leave me alone.

“He has perfect lips, I bet he kisses wonderfully.”  He looks at me for a moment, before his attention is taken to the front of the class.

Mrs. Jones starts tapping her foot in annoyance.  “As you can see on the work table, I have 32 copies of The Innocent Man.  I want everyone to come up and take one.  Silently, I want you to read the first three chapters.  When you have finished, I want you to return the book and then I want you to write down how youfeelabout the story. Two pages, single spaced.  When you’re done, come up and get the book and continue reading.”

Someone asks why we can’t keep the book; instead of returning it and going back to get it again.

“This is an exercise on how well you remember the characters, the plot, and the way you felt as you read it.  I don’t want anyone to thumb through the book to remember, I want you to work from your gut.  Our life is filled with people telling us stories; it will be up to us, what we remember, how we felt, and if it’s truth or fiction.”  Looking around the room, she smiles.  “Has anyone in here read anything byMrJohn Grisham before?”

He’s one of my favorite authors, and I’ve read all of his books, including this one.  I don’t raise my hand, in my attempt at blending in.  No one admits to reading his books.

Rob wouldn’t shut up so I never had a chance to take a look at my note.

Chapter 12. Jealousy is Ugly

 

For once, I’m in the hallway waiting on Caleb.  I stood outside of his classroom and can barely see him, but I finally do.  He is there, and a girl with bright green barrettes and curly red hair is talking to him.  She keeps touching his arm and throwing her head back in laughter as if he’s the funniest person on earth.  My teeth clench and my blood feels like it’s on fire.  I’ve never experienced anything like this…jealousy.  I’m seriously jealous of some girl because she is paying attention to my boyfriend.  Get a grip, I tell myself.


Page 14

Caleb looks up and sees I’m standing in the hallway.  She follows his gaze and gives me a fake smile.  They say a quick goodbye and he comes over to walk with me to the cafeteria.  “Hey beautiful, how was class?”

I try to pretend it didn’t bother me, but it did.  I hated her hand on him, and I hated the way she laughed.  I hated that he didn’t tell her to stop touching him.  I hate the way I feel.

“What was all of that about?”  My eyes meet his, and he knows I’m jealous.

“That was nothing, trust me, you ready for lunch,” he asks.

“Why was she touching you?  It isn’t like she can’t keep her hands to herself.”  I feel the New Yorker in me rearing its ugly head.  “Why didn’t you stop her?”

“Jessie, you’re being stupid.”

I refuse to take his hand as we walked towards the cafeteria.  “Stupid?  You think I’m being stupid?  You can’t answer a simple question, and you’re callingmestupid.  You can eat lunch alone.”  I storm off to get in line.

“Women!”  I hear Caleb say loud enough for me to hear him.

Amber runs over and grabs a tray, getting in line behind me.  “Where’s Caleb?”

“I don’t know, and right now, I don’t care.”  I grab a slice of lemon cream pie and a sweet tea as I slide my tray to the register.

“You’re going to have some type of sugar induced coma if you eat all of that.  Suicide by lemon pie is a sticky way to go.” She grabs a chocolate brownie and some chocolate milk.  “Mine has milk, that’s healthy.  Why are you mad at Mr Charming?”

“I don’t know.  Some girl kept touching him, and he didn’t try to brush her off or anything.  My mom would say I have the green eye monster in me.”

We walk to the table we’ve sat at all week.  Thorne is sitting there with a bag from a fast food restaurant and eating fries.

“Hello ladies,” Thorne says.

Amber practically throws her food on the table and nonchalantly scooted her chair closer to him.  “Hey…Miss Perfect is fuming over a fight with Caleb.”

“I’m not fuming, I’m just a little pissed off.”

“Sorry, she isn’t fuming…pissed off is a totally different category.”  Amber shoves a massive bite of brownie in her mouth. 

“This girl had her paws all over him, and he didn’t do anything about it.  I know that sounds dumb, but there was something about the way she looked at him.”

“Yeah, that is dumb.  Was he pawing back?  Did he act like he has something to hide?  Or did you forget to wear your big girl panties today?”  Thorne asks.  Amber practically shot chocolate milk out of her nose as she choked on what he said.

“Whatever.”  I know they’re right.  We’ve never had a fight before, what if he breaks up with me?  What if he decides it would be better being with another girl and just being friends with me?

“Where’s the tramp at?  Do you know who it was?”  Amber asks as she looks around the room.

“I don’t know her name.  I’ve never seen her before.  Her hair is red and curly, she has green barrettes holding it back. Before you ask, yes she’s pretty.  Not as much pretty as she is cute.  She’d probably look better without her braces.

Amber clamps her hand to her mouth and moans out an “ohhhhhh.”

“Do you know who it is?  What does ohhhhhh mean?”

Thorne shrugs his shoulders.  “I’m new here; I don’t know any of the girls other than you two.”

“It sounds like Meredith, you better hope not.  She’s a hoe like no hoe you know.”

“What do you mean hoe?”

“Don’t tell me you didn’t have hoes in your old school.  She likes sex, she tells everyone who will listen, about her desire to sleep with every guy in our class.  Guys love her, why wouldn’t they…”

I stop her before she had a chance to finish the sentence.  “I’m not worried aboutthat,Caleb wouldn’t go mess around with anyone.”

Thorne laughs out loud.  “He’s not a saint.  Any guy that has it flung in his face non-stop is bound to give in eventually.”

“Caleb isn’t like that, he’s a good guy.”

“Caleb might be a good guy, but he’s not blind.  I’m just sayin’ you shouldn’t push him away.  You might be pushing him into the wrong hands.”  Thorne said skeptically.  “I’d find out more about this girl and figure out what her motive is.  If her quest is the entire class, he might just be a notch in her bedpost.”

“Ewwww, that’s horrible Thorne.”

“Are you listening to me?  He isn’t that way,” I said.

Thorne set his cup of tea down on the table and leaned back in his chair.  “I didn’t think he woud, I was trying to make you think about what kind of guy he is. Give him a break.  As a matter of fact, here’s your chance.”

Caleb approaches the table, and I see the hurt on his face.  “I’m sorry, that was dumb of me.”  I say trying my best not to show how pathetic I feel.

He pulls me in and kisses my forehead.  “Are you okay?  You seemed really on edge earlier.”

I let out the breath I’d been holding.  “I’m fine.  I feel terrible you didn’t sit with us for lunch.”

“It wasn’t that bad.  I had a chance to sit with Brad and Michael, they’re twins and don’t have many friends here at the school.” 

Amber shoots me a thumbs up.

“I need to turn in my permission slip.  Can we go see the weight lifting coach?”

Caleb shakes his head yes, and we turn to leave when we hear Thorne.

“Hey, slow up, I need to turn in my slip too.”

“He’s taking weight lifting?” Caleb whispers to me, I whisper yes back to him.

A chair squeals across the floor behind us.  “Oh for cripes sake, I guess I’m going to take weight lifting too.  I feel so damned left out.  If I get hurt, it’s all on you!”

Caleb and I laugh as Amber joins us in the hallway.

“Some kids had asked me when we’ll be getting together again to practice what we did at my house.  I was thinking tomorrow night would be good.  I sent a text to my dad, and he said it was OK with him.  He’s going to text your grandma and have her to come over and help.  We can go see a late movie when everyone leaves.”

“I think that would be perfect.”

“What’s going on?  Are you having a party or something?”  Thorne smiles and smoothes chapstick on his lips.

I avoid his gaze, knowing that if I don’t, I’ll blush and give away our secret.  I can not imagine Amber liking Alaska.

Caleb gave him a short overview of what happened at his house two weeks ago.  We all agreed that it would be beneficial to have a refresher, and now that we know more Tamers, we can have more people show up. 

“Let’s give the lovebirds a few minutes alone, they’re practically conjoined twins.”  Amber waved as she happily walked away with Thorne.

The coach for the Weight Lifting class wasn’t there, but we all left our permission slips in the clear box on the door. 

“C’mere,” Caleb pushed on the door, and it opened to the weight room.  He pulled on my hand and I followed him into the locker room.  The smell of sweat and the sound of water trickling from the showers gave it the Stephen King bogeyman feel.  Across the room was another door.  “I want to show you something.”  I giggled as we ran through the room; my reaction is to laugh when I’m scared.  The door opened easily, the smell of chlorine practically knocked me off my feet.

“Wow, a pool?  I didn’t know we had a swim team.” 

“I don’t think we do, that’s what’s strange.  They use the pool for scuba diving lessons and survival skills.  Look how deep it is.  I’ve never seen a pool that deep before.  There isn’t a shallow end either.”

We stopped for a second, and he turned me to face him.  “Jess, why were you so mad?”

Because some crazed hoe was trying to make moves on my man. “I don’t know, instinct I guess.” Because she’s pretty and has that cute bouncy red hair.  Ugh!

He drapes his arms over my shoulders and puts his forehead to mine.  “You’re all that matters to me, you’re the most significant reason for my life.  This is for real, not something I’d screw things up to be with the school hoe.”

I laugh nervously.  “So you know she’s a hoe?”

“I know, but not first hand or anything.”  He pulls me into a hug.  “Jess, when I said I love you…I meant it.”

Before I can respond, his lips are on mine.  Chlorine wafted all around us, but we were somewhere else.  We were in our reality.  His tongue, silky smooth in my mouth.  My heart is beating faster than a marathon runner.  His hands, strong and gentle, stroking my lower back.  A moan escapes my throat, I pull back and look into his eyes, and I see my reflection.  He leans in and kisses my neck, and I melt into him.  The memory exchange from him to me…was him seeing me in my school uniform.  He’d felt happy and proud that I’m his girlfriend.  He has access to most of my memories, we don’t know why I only receive his memories when we kiss.  Sometimes it would be of him and his mom and sometimes it was things like picking out underwear to wear for the day.  I’ve never shared that bit of trivia with him.

“Eh, hem.  Students aren’t allowed in here without a teacher.  The way you two are pawing at each other, I’m making a logical guess you’re unsupervised.  You should be ashamed of yourselves, practically making a baby at school.  That’s what’s wrong with kids today, they think it won’t happen to them.  Before you know it, you’ll be a statistic and be an unwed mother.  You need to think with your brains.”

“Thank you for the pep talk, we’ll leave.  Sorry to disturb your work day.  Just for your information, I know two teenaged moms, and they are devoted parents and exceptional students.  Just because some people make the wrong decision doesn’t mean they’ve ruined their life.  I’d never make that decision, but you’re acting as if they’re serial killers, and they’re not.”  I tug on Caleb’s hand.  “Let’s go, we’ll be late.”

We run to the locker room, the guy is yelling behind us that we’re going to slip and fall.  “That must be the maintenance man that everyone was talking about last year.  His wife went off the deep end and stabbed the neighbor in the front yard.  She is in the loony bin, and he takes his frustrations out on the students.”

“As long as he doesn’t know who we are and doesn’t report us, he can be grumpy.”

Chapter 13.  Grandma

 

“Jessie!  Come on, we’re going to the Wal Marts for refreshments for your friends.”

Grandma is standing in the living room with her Seven jeans, red stilettos, and red v-neck t-shirt, not a man on this planet would call her grandma.  She may not resemble a grandma, and she might even be sexy, but she is all grandma on the inside.

“Stilettos for Wal Mart?  Are you trolling for a husband?”  I snag my purse, and we head out to her BMW.  She bought a SUV last month, but she said it makes her feel old.  The bad thing about taking her car is the size.  We can only pack a few bags in the trunk of her two-seater.

“Do you honestly believe I’d run off with someone I met in a discount store?”  We both broke out in laughter.

“Not really.  Have you ever thought ofMrGabe?  He’s pretty good looking, for a dad.”

“Really?  I haven’t noticed…okay, so what if I did?  I don’t think he’d want to go out with an old fool like me.”

“You’re not old, and he isn’t a kid.  He’s in his late forties, and you’re in your mid fifties.  It takes a ten year span to call you a cougar.”

“You’re sweet.  He’s still mourning the loss of his wife.  I remember what I was like when your grandpa died.  It took me years before I could even talk about him.”

I lean over and change the station.  “I get it.  I wouldn’t rule him out though.  You two have a lot of fun when you’re together.  Both of you know what it’s like to lose someone you love so much.”

The drive is approximately five minutes away, depending on the stop light pattern. Grandma is known for her lead foot and cheeky mouth.  I love her the way she is, because she isn’t like everyone else.  We made it in four minutes flat.

We’re barely in the store and here comes Thorne from the nutrition isle. “Hey Jess, fancy meeting you in such a common place.”

Grandma nudges me, “Who’s the hot tamale?”

“I’ll tell you in a bit.”  I study Thorne’s face for some sign he was here for himself and not stalking me.  “Thorne, this is my grand….Miss Gayle.  What are you getting on the nutrition isle?”

“I figure if we’re gonna take the weight lifting class, I might as well bulk up.  They carry the protein powder; it’ll make me get some guns like you’re boyfriend.”

Grandma takes the cart and heads over to the produce section.

“Did you follow me here?”

“I suppose I did.”  He smiles and runs his hand through his hair.  “Although, I beat you into the store.”

I bet his hair is soft and full.  Aghhhhh!  I did not just think that!   “The bad guys are searching for me in here?  Give me a break.”

“They’re searching for your kind everywhere.  When they find out New Bern is crawling with them, all of you will be in danger.  You have me, who do they have?”

I turn and head to electronics.  I’ve been thinking about getting another e-reader, or possibly a  tablet.  My sixteenth birthday is coming up next week, and I’m sure I’ll get some money from my dad.  He hasn’t called me all week.  I hope he’s okay.  I’m probably the only kid my age who doesn’t want a car.  I’m afraid of being responsible for other people.  My nerves get the better of me when I’m behind the wheel.  My palms sweat, my heart pounds, my legs shake and I hyperventilate before I ever pull out of the parking spot.  I’ll leave the driving to the people that can handle the inner chaos.

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