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“Good afternoon class. Today we are going to study the American Revolution!” The students all groaned in unison but the teacher continued, “Now, if you’ll open your books to page one hundred and twenty-four we can begin.”
Avery de Luca opened her book and droned out the noise of the world as she stared out the window at the autumn leaves fluttering in the breeze. She imagined herself outside, wishing she could be there in the breeze instead of being one of the many victims of her History class. Why was it so important to know about what happened in the past? What ever happened to living in the present? That’s what she was trying to do regardless.
Avery de Luca did not have the easiest life. You could say her life sucked, actually. When she was a little baby, Avery’s mother had left her on the doorstep of Rachael Cummound: the next-door neighbor. Of course Avery couldn’t remember that far back, but Rachael had told Avery the story a million times; also adding a few superfluous comments about how lucky she was to have Rachael and how useless she was.
The truth was that Avery had to financially support them both. Rachael was never sober enough to even try to look for a job. And if she’d ever landed a job, she’d probably get fired in the first two hours. Avery could swear that Rachael only kept her for her income. So she was stuck in this life until she was eighteen and could go off to college. She had had it all planned out since she was a little girl. While most girls dreamt of far away lands with handsome knights and whimsical fairies where they ruled as the princess, Avery had always had a more realistic fantasy; she would graduate high school and she’d be off to a far away state to study art. Tuition wouldn‘t be much of a problem. She was smart and already had a few scholarships. Besides, there was lots of financial aid out there. She always had hope that there was something bigger just waiting for her in the horizon.
A little droplet of water dangled from a nearby branch. Avery’s mind closed in on the one droplet. After approximately thirteen seconds, she counted, the drop of water burst midair into vapor. She allowed a triumphant smile to spread across her face. She’d been practicing that trick for weeks!
Another thing about Avery was that she was different. Not the loner, misunderstood different. It was a different different. She could do things that people weren’t supposed to be able to do. That’s why she mostly kept to herself. No one else knew about her abilities and she intended to keep it that way. Sometimes she wondered if there were people out there like her; people with powers. Maybe one of her parents had powers too. Maybe, she thought, they left me because they thought I was a freak.
“Avery?” said Mrs. Haley, snapping her out of her train of thought. Avery looked up to see the older woman with graying hair and way too much blue eye shadow standing way too close for comfort in front of her, tapping her foot impatiently, waiting for the answer to a question of which she had not heard, her fowl breath wafting near he nose. She resisted the impulse to cover her nose and breathed through her mouth. Seems like someone forgot to brush this morning.
Avery quickly glimpsed into Mrs. Haley’s mind.
“1775 to 1783. The Eastern Seaboard, Northwest Territories, Central Canada, Hudson Bay. Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Gibraltar, Balearic Islands, Caribbean Sea, Central America… Oh, and the Indian Ocean,” she said with the utter confidence of an obnoxiously educated nerd.
Avery could also read minds. Though she could only hear whispers and the person had to be really close, it still came in handy a lot. But direct physical contact gave a person’s whole life story. She tried to avoid that.
Mrs. Haley grimaced but otherwise didn’t say anything. Avery smiled smugly then glanced at the clock. There were seven minutes until class was out. Way to long if you asked her. She stared intensely at the second hand on the clock and made it moves just a little faster. It wouldn’t be doing anyone much harm. Avery liked to think of it as a favor that would most likely would never be returned.
She gathered her things as the end-of-the-day bell sounded and followed the pouring crowd of her peers into the hallway. Mrs. Haley was trying to say something but no one was listening.
She stuck to the sidelines as she made her way to her locker, making herself small as possible and avoiding the shoving and the shoved bodies. It didn’t really matter where she walked though. People ignored her anyways. That was a good thing.
There were always four types of people in high school; this came as a general, unwritten rule. There was the popular clique, which consisted of jocks, cheerleaders, and the student council. Then the wanna-be popular clique that looked at the popular clique as if they held the answers to the world when all they held was daddy’s credit card. Next were the regulars; the people who got picked on by the popular kids and their wanna-be followers. Finally, there were the loners. The loners consisted of four groups: the emos, whom Avery thought had really awesome hair and were kind of cool, the Goths, the weirdoes, and the Avery.
Sure she could be popular if she wanted. She was athletic, or could be if she wanted to, and had an unusual beauty. But if people started to actually notice her, they might start noticing some other things about her too. It’s amazing how people pay attention to you when you’re popular.
Avery sat on the wooden stool in front of her easel, capturing the image in her mind onto the canvas. Her steady hand stroked the brush in fluid movements, never missing a beat. Some of her classmates stopped what they were doing and stared at her unfinished painting in incredulity, whispers making their way from ear to ear, but she didn’t even notice. It was like she was in a different world of her own when she created her art pieces. It was just her and the canvas. That’s why Art was her favorite class.
The image had been stuck in her head since first hour and she’d just been itching to pick up a paintbrush or pencil.
She dipped the brush into the orange and mixed it with a little bit of yellow, finishing off the dawning sunrise above her city. She completed the last touches, dabbing little bits of color here and there with a finer brush, getting the image just right, and leaned back a little to examine her work when she was finally satisfied.
She wiped her hands on her smock, still looking at the painting. It captivated her attention in a mesmerizing way. The tall, green grassy field was filled with little patches of blue jingly flowers and the city in the background seemed familiar as odd as it was. Especially the messy brown haired male who stood in the center with his arms outstretched, his head titled towards the sky. Somehow she thought he had deep brown eyes. But something was wrong. There should be a tire swing on the large oak tree.
She picked up the brush again and was about to immerse it in the bowl of water she had next to her to clean off the orange paint when a hand landed on her shoulder, making her jump and almost spill the water.
“Sorry,” apologized Mr. Tegan, the art teacher. “I’ve been trying to get your attention but you seemed to be lost in your own little world,” he said with a little smile.
Avery’s face turned red as she mumbled, “Sorry.”
“Oh, that’s okay. It’s hard not to get lost with art,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Anyways, this is my friend Mathew Davis.”
Avery glanced toward the man that stood next to Mr. Tegan admiring her painting. Her heart stopped then started to beat erratically against her rib cage at double speed. She’d seen him before. Well, a picture of him. There’d been an article about this man in the American Art Review a few weeks ago. He was a major art collector whose family owned dozens of art galleries around the United States and a few in Vancouver. And he knew Mr. Tegan.
“Mathew is looking for new talent to go in his galleries. And I showed him a few of your paintings and drawing and he thinks you might fit the cut,” he declared proudly, obvious exuberance from the fact that one of his students had been chosen for their art to be displayed in galleries across the country and part of Canada.
“Yes,” Mr. Davis said, extending a hand. She took it and shook his hand. “Firm hand shake; that’s good. I’m looking for new, young talent. Mr. Tegan here has shown me some of you paintings and I’m wondering if you’d like to maybe have them displayed in our galleries. Of course you will be paid if you choose to sell.” He looking admirably at the painting she’d just finished.
She suddenly felt vary light-headed and tried to remember if she’d woken up with morning. Yep, she had.
Mr. Davis took a step closer. “Here,” he reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card. “I have other appointments but I’ll be in touch.” With that, he shook hands with Avery and Mr. Tegan again, appraised her art one more time and left.
Avery stared at the card in her hand blankly.
“Good job kiddo,” Mr. Tegan said, clapping her on the back. “You’re gonna make it big in this world.”
Avery nodded, unable to speak.
The bell rang and she put her art supplies in the closet. As she walked down the school steps she finally got over her initial shock and the news sunk in. Someone wanted to buy her art. Not just anyone, but Mathew Davis.
A grin spread across her face and she did a victory dance worthy of an NFL playback.
She walked to rest of the way to her job, almost skipping. She was going to make it. Nothing could ruin this for her. Not today.
“Two Mochas and one Decaf.”
Avery went to the coffee machines in the back, prepared the order and placed the coffee cups on the counter. The customers took their coffees leaving a five-dollar tip for her. She put it into the pocket of her apron and got back to work. It was busy at the café today. Orders had been coming in without a pause, one after another. She pushed up her sleeves and got back to work.
She was supposed to have gotten off work twenty minutes ago, but Melanie, the girl who was supposed to be working right now, was no where to be seen. That girl is going to get fired one day, Avery thought.
As if on cue, someone shouted “Hey Avery!” from the other side of the counter. Melanie.
She walked around to the back of the counter, her ponytail swinging in sync with each step, pulling on her forest green apron with the café’s logo. “I’m so sorry. I swear, you can have all of my tips for a week.” Not that she actually ever got many. That’s why they didn’t pool tips anymore.
Avery took her tips out of the apron pocket and put them in her wallet. It was raining. Great. Just her luck.
She was pulling on her jacket when she had that paranoid feeling you get when you know you’re being watched. Like spiders running down between her shoulder blades. Slowly, she turned in a full circle, surveying the crowd in the dim lit area. No one seemed to be particularly paying attention to her. She shivered and not because she was cold and continued toward the exit when her eyes landed on a man staring directly at her. He didn’t look away when she caught him staring at her.
Immediately, her mind began to asses him, deciding if he was a threat or not. The man seemed to be in his early thirties with cropped sandy hair and a crisp white button down shirt matched with pressed black pants and expensive looking loafers.
Though he looked young, But his eyes said otherwise. They seemed to say that he’d seen and done it and to a much further extent. But that wasn’t what made her gasp. It was the color of his wise, upward slanted eyes: Indigo rimmed with a ring of shocking green and flecked with gold as if paint had splattered on his eyes. Eyes that she only saw when she looked in the mirror. Eyes that had gotten her odd glances while growing up.
She stood there in the center of the floor, completely transfixed. Minutes that seemed like hours to Avery passed, people walking by her without her noticing or them noticing her. Neither looked away.
Finally, someone tapped her on the shoulder making her jump.
“Sorry,” Melanie apologized. “You left your umbrella behind the counter,” she said, handing her the see-through umbrella.
She muttered thanks and looked back to where the man was. Or had been.
She bit her lip. So what if he had they had the same color eyes as her? It wasn’t impossible. It’s not like he could be related to you, she thought, smacking for forehead for being so stupid. He looked too young anyways.
“Hey,” Melanie said, starring at Avery’s arm. The other girl grabbed it before she could push her sleeve back down to cover the mark. “Where’d you get that bruise?” Melanie slid the sleeve up higher and gasped. “Oh my God, Avery! What happened to you? Where’d all these scars come from? What the hell happened to you?”
She snatched her arm back briskly, covering the gruesome marks that not only scarred her arm, but her entire body. She’d used makeup to cover the ones on her face. Thank God she only had a few there.
She quickly walked away, avoiding Melanie’s questions and probing eyes.
She knew Melanie probably meant well and she should be grateful that someone actually cared but…still.
She pulled up her hood then opened her umbrella and stepped into the chilling rain.
Avery rummaged through the clutter of her canvas bag, searching for her keys, her mind still in turmoil over the events of the day going from good, more than good, to tiring then outright mind turning. Hopefully, it wouldn’t get to terrible.
“Aha!“ she said holding up her key in triumph. Mentally, she make a note to organize her bag later. The door was midway open when she froze at the sound of voices on the other side. She recognized one of them as Rachael’s, but the deep tired sounding male voice was an enigma. Great. Rachel had one of her friends over. Just what she needed. The rain was getting heavier, the wind whipping her dark hair against her neck, but she couldn‘t bring herself to step inside and shut the door. Instead, she listened: “How long have you been her”-Avery presumed that “her” was herself- “guardian?”
There was a long silence followed by the sound of breaking glass.
“Whoops!” That was Rachael.
“Let me get that for you,” said the mystery man.
“Uh… How old is that girl?” Rachael pondered for a moment. “Fifteen! I’d had her since she was one year old. Now she’s… sixteen?” Avery made a face. How could anyone be so dumb as to not know the age of a child that’s been living with you practically her whole life? She wanted to shout; I’m seventeen, you worthless piece of shit! Her birthday had been almost six months ago. An event celebrated with her and a muffin with a candle stuck in it; like it had since she was old enough to realize that she was supposed to have a birthday. Though the real date of her birth was unknown, just like the identity of her birth parents.
“I’ll be here to collect her tomorrow. I believe you’ll have everything in order?”
Avery tensed. What was he talking about “collect her”? They’d stopped talking so Avery opened the door. Two sets of eyes instantly turned to her and the room was dead silent, The only sound their individual breathes and the water dripping from the leaking faucet. When she’d walked up the porch less than a minute ago, her mind was set on keeping her head down and just getting to her room. But those plans where put on hold when she saw who Rachel was speaking with.
Avery’s mind was screaming, “Stalker!”
Their gazes locked for an incommodious second before the man she’d previously encountered at the café ducked his head and headed towards the door. But his shoulder brushed hers on his way out and random memories invaded her, momentarily taking her vision.
She braced her hand against the wall, waiting for the bombard of his past to stop, waiting for her sight to return. They bared themselves to her, flashing at a speed her mind had a hard time keeping up with, not that she was trying to keep up. But there was one that caught her attention. It was him, when he was younger, in a field with stones floating around him. He pushed his hands out and the rocks pelted in the direction. He was levitating the rocks. Controlling them with his mind. And just like that, it was gone.
Avery swiftly swiveled on her right foot, not even waiting for the black spots in front of her eyes to clear away. “Wait!” she called. But the man was already gone.
Avery fell to her knees. Her only chance of understanding what she was, gone.
On an impulse decision, she got to her feet and started towards the door. Maybe she could still catch him. Avery was just about to reach for the door handle when Rachael got in her way.
“Where do you think you’re going, you little ungrateful piece of shit?” she demanded. Avery didn’t have time to put up with this, especially not from Rachael. She could smell the foul stench of alcohol rolling off her mouth with every word. That just made her angrier.
“Rachael, move! I don’t have time for this,” Avery said through clenched teeth. Anyone in his or her right mind would have done what she said. But Rachael obviously wasn’t. Avery glared at Rachael. If looks could kill, Rachael would have been six feet under a long time ago. Rachael’s hand shot out and she smacked Avery. Her cheek stung and turned red. Avery tasted something salty and metallic inside of her mouth. Blood. The taste of her own blood set something off inside of her. Something that wasn’t her and that she couldn’t control.
The tips of her fingers glowed and sparked with a sort of blue electricity. It built inside of her until she gave a wild cry as sparking light erupted from her hands like electricity, traveling in random, uncontrollable waves. She saw the look of utter horror on Rachel’s face then she was consumed by the light.
The light died down, and Rachel’s body was left slumped against the coffee table. Avery stumbled back, her eyes wide, staring at the unmoving Rachel in disbelief. She looked back from her hands to Rachel.
No she mouthed, not able to get the one syllable out. Rachel couldn’t be dead. She couldn’t have killed her. “This can’t be happening.” But it was.
Avery didn’t think. She just went to her small, closet-like room and threw a bunch of random clothes, all of her money, and anything else she might need into a duffle bag and out the door. Before she left, she pressed two fingers to Rachel’s neck. There was still a pulse. She hadn’t killed Rachel. That should have given her some reassurance, but it didn’t.
She didn’t know where she was going, but she knew she couldn’t stay there. After what had happened, she knew she couldn’t be near anyone. She was too dangerous. A monster.