Shimmering chaos, p.14
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       Shimmering Chaos, p.14

           Jessica Sorensen
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  “Parents being”—I shrug—“strict, I guess.”

  “So, your parents just let you get high?” Max asks with his brows puckered.

  I nod, and he trades a glance with Easton and Foster. All of their expressions may be unreadable, but I have a pretty good gist of what they’re thinking.

  “My parents were—are decent parents,” I protest. “They’re just… chill. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

  They share another glance, and then Easton blows out a sigh.

  “Well, chill or not,” he says to me, “you’re still going to have to sober up a bit before we get home or they’re going to be even more upset than they already are.”

  “She’s going to have to get rid of her bloodshot eyes, too.” Max splashes his boots through puddles as we step onto the sidewalk in front of Nina’s house. Cars are parked along the curb and in the driveway, evidence of a party, yet it’s the kind of neighborhood where no one really cares. “Fost, you still have those eye drops in your glove box?”

  Foster nods, stuffing his hands in his pockets. He’s been really quiet since we exited the house, and I’m not sure why. Just like I’m not sure why I even care if he’s quiet or why I’m aware of it.

  I really need to stop fixating on him.

  “Why do you have eye drops in your car? Do you smoke, too?” I ask as Foster, Easton, and Max slow to a stop beside a car.

  I halt with them, realizing they drove Foster’s Chevelle. Memories of the last time I was near it flash through my mind, and I internally grimace. Well, sort of. I honestly feel a bit dazed from the few hits I took.

  Foster gives me a funny look as he glances at my face. “No … They’re not human eye drops we’re talking about.”

  “So, they’re magical eye drops?” It sounds so funny talking about magic aloud.

  I’m uncertain what sort of face I pull, but Foster smashes his lips together, biting back an amused smile. “Yeah, they are.”

  “What do they do?” My eyelashes flutter as the rain picks up and raindrops splatter across my face.

  “They change the color of my eyes.” He digs out his car keys, unlocks the passenger door, then steps back and lets Max climb into the back.

  “Why do you need to change your eye color?” I shield my eyes from the rain with my hand.

  He scuffs the tip of his boot against the wet concrete, his gaze lowering to the ground. “To hide what I am when I need to.”

  My lips form an O. “So, does that mean I’m going to have to use the eye drops, too?”

  He lifts his gaze to mine and nods. “Whatever eye color you choose is the only power you’ll pretend to have, which means you’ll only be able to use that power when you’re around others.”

  I pretend like I understand but, deep down, I’m still so confused. “What power do you pretend to only have?”

  He nods at Easton. “I went with silver—water—like Easton, since we’re twins.”

  “But I can pick whatever one I want, right?” Because if I can, I’m not choosing water.

  “I guess so … But …” He doesn’t finish, trading another look with Easton.

  Tired of their secret looks, I move to get in the back with Max, when Easton jumps in front of me.

  “You can sit up front.” He ducks his head to get in.

  Out of the three of them, Max has been the nicest to me, so …

  “I’m cool with sitting in the back,” I say then move to swing around him and get in, but he sidesteps, blocking my path.

  His gaze briefly strays to Foster before returning to me. “Just sit in the front, okay?”

  I’m pretty sure my lip juts out, which elicits chuckles from Easton and Foster.

  “I promise I don’t bite,” Foster says, stepping closer to me and lightly tracing his finger along the inside of my wrist.

  Light sparks tickle across my skin, a streak of blue zaps across the sky, and the rain picks up even more.

  Rolling his eyes, Easton slides into the back seat with Max. “His flirting skills suck,” he whispers to Max. “I think we really might need to give him some lessons.”

  Foster lets out an exhausted sigh.

  I step to the side, putting some space between us then meet his intense gaze. “I don’t trust you,” I feel the need to say. “At all.”

  He forcefully smashes his lips together, and lightning blazes across the sky. “I know I said you weren’t safe with us and we wouldn’t protect you, but I was lying. We—I won’t ever hurt you.”

  I lift a brow. “You mean hurt me again?” The moment the words leave my lips, I instantly regret them.

  A crease forms between his brows. “When did I hurt you?”

  Can he seriously not remember? Or maybe he thinks his rejection didn’t affect me? If that’s the case, maybe I should just play this off before I end up embarrassing myself.

  “Nothing. Never mind.” I move to get in the car, but he enfolds his fingers around my arm.

  “No, seriously, I want to know,” he says, steering me back toward him.

  Great. Why did I have to open my mouth?

  Probably because I’m high and not thinking very clearly.

  Maybe that’s why I say, “When I approached you at the auto shop, you were a dick and it hurt my feelings. And you’ve been a dick pretty much every time you’re around me, up until you found out what I am. So, I know the only reason you’re being civil to me right now is because I’m the only person—creature—whatever the heck I am—you can be in a relationship with. At least, I think that’s what’s going on … I didn’t hear the entire conversation.” I bite down on my tongue as Foster’s eyes widen.

  “You heard that?” he whispers, horrified.

  I lift a shoulder. “It’s kind of why I took off.”

  His lips curve downward. “You shouldn’t have found out that way.”

  “Well, I did, so …” I swallow hard. “Is that why Grey passed out when he kissed me?”

  Foster gives a slight nod, his gaze relentlessly dissecting me.

  My heart rate quickens, and so does the intensity of the rain. “Will that happen every time someone tries to kiss me?”

  He nods again, remorse and anguish flashing across his face as lightning illuminates in the sky. “And if you get too close to someone, your powers will end up killing them.” His throat muscles work as he swallows hard. “It’s the curse of being an elemental enchanter.”

  While I had my suspicions before, hearing him say it aloud makes my mind dizzy and my stomach churn.

  “So, what? We just spend our existence alone?” I whisper, my voice getting drowned out by the rain. Still, he somehow manages to hear me. Perhaps because, in a way, we’re part of the rain.

  “Not necessarily …” Heavy reluctance seeps from his tone.

  I shake my head, backing away. “Nope. I’m not just going to be with you because you’re the only person I can be with.”

  Thunder booms, the street starts to flood, and lampposts flicker as the wind howls.

  Great. My emotions are all over the place. If I’m not careful, a storm is going to blow through and rip the town apart.

  Taking a deep breath, I steady my voice. “I’m not going to be with someone who treated me like shit and who only decided to like me because I’m the only person he can be with. I’d rather be alone.”

  He blinks fiercely against the rain as he shuffles toward me, his breath fogging out from his lips. His nearness makes something shift inside me, and the heat in my veins decreases.

  “I’m sorry I treated you like shit, but I never didn’t not like you.” His voice is soft despite the rising and crashing of his chest as he breathes raggedly. Around us, the rain morphs into light, fluffy snowflakes, and the water covering the street freezes, making the area one big ice skating rink. But Foster seems oblivious to the fact that either him or me—maybe both—have turned the entire town into a winter wonderland. “I just had to act that way … with almost everyone.”

p; Realization crackles through me like the icicles forming on the lampposts. “You have to keep your distance from people so you don’t end up hurting them, don’t you?” When he nods, the churning in my stomach increases. “I think I’m going to be sick.” As my throat burns with vomit, I stumble away from him and toward the frosted bushes that border Nina’s property, away from the light trickling from the porch and the moon, to puke my guts out in privacy.

  When I’m positive I’m out of sight from everyone, I drop to my knees and start heaving out the contents inside my stomach.

  How can this be? I mean, I was never Miss Social, and it’s not like guys were lining up to date me, but the idea that I’ll never have anyone, that I’ll be entirely alone in this life, is frightening.

  In the middle of my puking and sobbing and full-on pity party, I feel fingers brush against my back. I’d worry who it is, except the light sparks his touch brings gives it away.

  “I know this is hard to take in,” Foster says, holding my damp and now frozen locks of hair away from my face, “but I promise it’ll get easier with time.”

  Wiping my lips with the back of my hand, I tilt my head to the side and meet his gaze. He’s kneeling in the snow beside me.

  “Did time make it easier for you?” My breath puffs out in a cloud of smoke.

  He gives a wavering nod. “It kind of did.”

  I assess him, debating whether he’s lying or not. But I don’t know him well enough to be able to tell.

  “I’m not lying.” He tosses a nervous glance over his shoulder, then looks back at me, his jittery nerves still evident. “I can prove it to you, too.”

  “Really?” I ask, and he nods. “Is it dangerous or something? Because you seem really squirrely.”

  “Squirrely?” he questions amusedly.

  I shrug. “It’s a word.”

  His amused smile breaks through, then he sticks out his hand toward me. When my hands remain at my sides, he sighs. “If you want to see if I’m lying, you have to take my hand.”

  Part of me doesn’t want to, wants to hold a grudge against him for being such a jerk. But the other part of me is curious, so I place my palm in his.

  Heat singes through my veins, making my heart rate accelerate, along with the snows downward trek.

  “Are we doing that?” I whisper, glancing up at the frostbitten sky.

  “Yeah … I’m usually better at controlling my powers, but I think being this close to another elemental enchanter is making me a bit … off.” His cheeks are flushed, probably from the cold.

  “How does it even work? I mean, our powers … We get them from the elements, right? But how exactly? What makes us different from humans? And why do you have other powers as well? And do we live longer or do we have the same lifespan as humans? Are we human at all? Are we …?” I drift off as he stares at me with wide eyes. “Sorry, that was a lot of questions all at once. I’m just … curiously confused.”

  “Curiously confused,” he mumbles with a trace of an amused smile.

  Why he finds my verbiage so amusing is beyond me.

  “Why are you smiling like that?” I wipe a few snowflakes off my head with the sleeve of my shirt. “I wasn’t trying to be funny.”

  “I know … You’re just … You’re cute.” He hastily clears his throat then encloses his hand around mine. “But to answer your questions; we’re different from humans and can control elements because our bloodlines are connected to element gods and goddesses. There’s a really long story behind it that I don’t have time to get into right now, but I’m sure you’ll learn about in history class. As for living longer, most elemental protectors live about twice as long as a human. As for us …” He pales a bit. “Elemental enchanters have a much shorter lifespan, mostly because we’re hunted.”

  “Oh.” A shiver rolls up my spine, and not from the cold. “I guess that makes sense since we’re the only two left.” My voice sounds so hollow, numb, but inside, my heart is racing.

  Shorter lifespan? Gods and goddesses? How is this my life now?

  “That we know of,” he corrects. When even more puzzlement sweeps through me, he adds, “There may be a chance that there are more around, but they’ve gone into hiding. Not that we have proof or anything. It’s all just speculation.”

  “Have you ever thought about going into hiding?”

  “A couple of times, and sometimes I think my parents would prefer I did. But going into hiding means either being away from my family or forcing them to leave their lives and hide with me. Neither of those are what I want to do right now. But I also have a family that has a good balance of different elements.” He threads his fingers through mine. “Most families usually have the same elemental powers amongst everyone, and as far as I known, none have an elemental enchanter, so the fact that we have two fires, one wind, two ices, and two waters makes us very powerful when we’re together.”

  “How did you guys end up with so many different types of elemental powers if it’s not that common?”

  “Most elemental protectors like to stick to their own kind. My family didn’t, so we ended up with a bunch of different elements in our bloodlines. Our bloodlines can also be tracked back directly to not only the goddess of ice but also the god of water.”

  My eyes are nearly bulging out of my head. “I don’t …” I rub my forehead with the heel of my free hand. “This is a lot to take in.”

  “I can imagine.” He squeezes my hand. “Do you want me to prove to you now that it’ll get easier?”

  I rub my chilled lips together as I lower my hand. “It’s not going to hurt or make me pass out like I did in the living room, right?”

  He shakes his snowflakes-covered head. “That was my fault … I wasn’t expecting so much power to flow between us, and I …” He sinks his teeth into his bottom lip and takes a deep breath. “I won’t let it happen again.”

  “Okay.” Talking about me blacking out reminds me of something. “When I blacked out in the living room … I saw … or, well, more like heard darkness speaking to me, telling me it wanted me to be its queen …” I expect him to flip out and call me a freak, but he just offers me an understanding look.

  “It happens sometimes with our kind,” he explains solemnly. “Because we have darkness inside us, it calls out, mostly in times of weakness …” He releases a fog-laced exhale. “I’ll teach you how to block it if you want me to. It’s kind of complicated, but”—he scratches his cheek, his flush deepening—“if darkness is already speaking to you, you should probably learn soon. There’s been some elemental enchanters over the course of our history who allowed the darkness to get to them and went insane.”

  I gulp. “There aren’t any elemental protectors of darkness at this academy I’m going to, are there …?” I trail off when his expression says all I need to know. “Will I be safe there?”

  He nods without missing a beat. “Easton and I will make sure nothing happens to you. And after some time, when you learn how to control your powers better, you’ll be able to protect yourself pretty damn well.” He gives a short, considering pause. “But it’s always best to stay away from the darkness elemental protectors as much as possible.”

  “What about humans? It’s cool if I hang out with them, right? I’m assuming so since they go to your—our—school, but they also don’t know you guys exist, so … And you guys acted so weird toward me living with you when you thought I was human, so …” I waver my head from side to side. “I’m a little confused by how that works. Not that I’d ever give up Nina and Gage, just an FYI. They’re my best friends. Always have been.”

  He hesitates. “Most of our kind don’t hang out with humans because hiding our powers from them can get complicated. As for the school, there’re two buildings at the academy—one for human-related classes and one for element-related classes. So, for the most part, except for the standard classes, we aren’t around humans very much.”

  “But, wouldn’t it be easier to have a separate school?
Or go attend school in your world?”

  “Our world is also very overly populated, so a lot of us were sort of forced to come live here.” He rubs a hand across his head, causing the snowflakes in his hair to melt. “As for going to separate schools, it’d probably be easier, but the council thinks it’s better if we attend with humans, not only so we can practice keeping our powers a secret, which is very important, but it also helps us learn to live in the human world.”

  I sit back in the snow, the chilled air not bothering me as much as it probably should. “Isn’t it going to be weird for me to start in the middle of the semester? I’m assuming there’s going to be classes related to our powers, yet I know nothing about them.”

  “We’re going to have to explain your situation—that you didn’t know what you were until recently. Well, that you didn’t know you were an elemental protector, which does happen sometimes, mostly when one of our kind puts up someone for adoption. And as for classes, you’ll probably just stick to most of the same class you were already taking at your old school, but I think we might want to get you into a couple of basic element related classes so you can start learning about our world more.” He shifts, sitting down in the snow in front of me without releasing his hold on my hand. “But no matter what happens, we can’t let anyone know you’re an elemental enchanter, so you’re going to have to decide on which element you want to be before tomorrow so you can pretend to be that when you’re around other elemental protectors.”

  His words make my stomach churn again. I want to pull away from him, curl up in a ball, and melt into the snow just so I don’t have to deal with this, but the idea of letting go of his hand … my fingers won’t budge.

  “Do you think …? Do you guys think I was put up for adoption?” I utter quietly.

  Pity floods his eyes. “I don’t know, but we’ll find out. In fact, I’m sure my parents are already digging into your history.”

  “It’d help if we could just find my parents,” I mutter, tucking my free hand into the pocket of my jacket. “But I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon since the police are pretty much putting zero effort into it.”

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