Shimmering chaos, p.2
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       Shimmering Chaos, p.2
 

           Jessica Sorensen
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  Usually, I only see the mysterious stranger when we’re driving home from school. The first time I spotted him was a couple of months ago when I was walking home. Nina had been sick that day, and Gage had afterschool detention.

  The distance from my school to home is about five miles, and I had decided to trek on foot instead of suffering through a bus ride and dealing with the mess of emotions that comes with that. I don’t mind walking, but I’d worn uncomfortable shoes that day and was cursing my decision. But then I had spotted the mystery guy and was sort of glad I had opted to walk, even if my boots were dirty, evil bastards that made my feet bleed.

  As a fan of classic cars, his vehicle was what drew my attention first. But then he had climbed out of the car, and I immediately became distracted by him.

  Tall and lean with short, dark hair, he wore all black, a chain dangled from his belt loop, and he had a couple of tattoos inked on his arms. Even from afar, I could tell he was good-looking, but that wasn’t what made me keep watching him.

  It was the way he rounded to the back of his car, leaned against the trunk, and lowered his head into his hands, as if he was crying. I started to feel awful for him.

  I might have stuck around and struck up a conversation to see if he was okay, if Grey hadn’t driven by and shouted something foul at me.

  After that, I hightailed my ass home.

  I thought I’d never see the stranger again, but then, the next Friday, his car was parked at the auto body shop again.

  It became like clockwork after that. Every single Friday, his car is at the shop and sometimes he’s standing out by it. I don’t know who he is or why he goes there. While he looks around my age, he doesn’t go to my school, so he either graduated already, dropped out, or he lives somewhere else.

  “You need to throw up before you do this?” Nina asks as she shuts off the engine. “You look pale as shit.”

  “Shit’s not pale.” I grin nervously as I sit up straight in the seat and peer out the window at his car, trying to keep a grasp on my nervousness. He’s just a guy. Chill out, Sky. You’re never going to see him after this. “He’s not even out here.”

  Nina reaches for her phone. “So, we wait then.”

  “Doesn’t that seem sort of stalker-ish?” I flip down the visor and examine my reflection.

  My long, wavy brown hair is swept messily to the side and looks like I just ran a mile in a windstorm. My kohl eyeliner is smudged, and my lips are chapped. Where my makeup is minimal, my piercings stand out; a stud above my lip and a series of earrings trim my ears. My outfit consists of a leather jacket, a plaid shirt over a black shirt, and torn jeans tucked into a pair of clunky boots. Nothing that screams, hey, look how sexy I am. Then again, dressing up has never been my style. I like grungier, edgy clothes, and usually wear dark colors.

  “You look great,” Nina assures me. “You always do.”

  “I look like a hot mess, but thanks for saying that.” I flip up the visor and crinkle my nose as a thought occurs to me. “What if he’s short?” My long legs put me taller than the average guy, and since I prefer a guy taller than me, it makes finding one difficult. Not that I’ve tried. “I mean, I’ve seen him from a distance, and he seems like he’s not. But, what if I get out and he’s like only up to here?” I hold my hand flat below my chin.

  “Then I guess …” She trails off as her gaze drifts out the windshield. “Well, if that’s him, then I don’t think the short thing is going to be a problem.”

  I track her gaze to the mysterious guy I’ve been obsessed with for the last couple of months. He’s standing beside his car with his attention fixed on his phone, and when my eyes settle on him, the sky grumbles with thunder.

  Calm down. He’s just a guy.

  “That’s him, right?” Nina asks, glancing at me.

  I nod, my pulse accelerating. This is as close as I’ve been to him, and I realize he’s better looking than I thought. Too good looking.

  Way out of my league.

  Another boom of thunder that matches the quickening of my heart.

  Shit, this was a really bad idea. I need to get out of here.

  “I changed my mind.” I reach to refasten the seatbelt. “I can’t do this.”

  “Oh, come on, Sky,” Nina gripes. “We drove all the way over here.”

  “From two miles away,” I gulp as the auto body shop sign flashes on and off.

  “Yeah? So? It was still out of our way.” She turns to me with a stern look on her face. “You’ve been obsessed with this guy for months now, and this might be your last chance to talk to him.”

  “You act like I’m never coming back to Honeyton.” I swallow down a shaky breath. “This move … it’s only temporary. As soon as my parents are found, I’m coming back. And I plan on visiting you guys, and I was hoping you’d visit me. I don’t—can’t lose you two. Not with everything going on …” Tears burn my eyes, but I suck them back.

  Chill out. Breathe.

  Her expression softens. “I know.” She grips the steering wheel. “Fuck, I’m the shittiest friend ever.”

  “No, you’re not,” I assure her. “In fact, you might be one of the best.”

  She slightly relaxes. “Yeah?”

  I nod. “Yeah.”

  “I’m trying not to feel left out here,” Gage remarks from the back seat, “but what about me?”

  I smile at him. “You’re pretty awesome, too.”

  He smiles but then frowns. “You know we’re going to visit you, right? We won’t let you go through this alone.”

  “Plus, you have all the good shoes, so I’ll have to visit at least to borrow them,” Nina jokes, but her eyes start to tear up. “I’m really going to miss your jokes and shitty pep talks.”

  “And I’m really going to miss your bitchiness and dirty jokes.” Tears flood my eyes, and even though I try to fight them back, a few escape down my cheeks.

  When rain begins drizzling from the sky, I curse my ability. Seriously, it’s bad enough just to have a strange, supernatural ability, let alone one that’s like a surprise grab bag. I never know what’s going to happen with it, whether my tears will cause floods, rainstorms, fires, or electricity to go haywire. If I could just figure out why I have the ability to begin with, perhaps it wouldn’t be too terrible. But I’ve tried countless times to find info on it with absolutely zero results.

  As rain trickles from the clouds, the mysterious stranger glances up at the sky. His brows knit before he goes back to staring at his phone, letting the rain drip down on him.

  Nina traces her fingers underneath her watery eyes. “I don’t want to say goodbye.”

  “Me neither.” I blink back the tears and exhale slowly. And just like that, the rain stops.

  The moment is pretty heavy for Nina and I—like me, she keeps emotions bottled up a lot—so when Gage sniffles in the back seat, we both seize the distraction.

  “Aw, look, we broke Gage,” Nina teases with a wicked grin.

  He turns his head, discreetly wiping his eyes. “You didn’t break me. I have something in my eye.”

  She snorts a laugh. “Okay.” But her laughter fades as she looks back at me. “Look, if you don’t want to talk to this guy, then say the word and I’ll leave, okay? But I just have to say one final thing first.” She holds up a finger. “You’ve been scared of guys forever, but this can be your chance to get over that fear.” She nods at the guy. “You’re probably never going to see him again. Whatever happens, good or bad, is going to end here. He won’t be able to pull a Grey on you. He’s not going to humiliate you at school.” Her hand falls to her lap. “You’re never going to get good at talking to guys until you start actually talking to them. That’s generally how things work in life.”

  I let her words sink. She has a point. This issue I have with guys—with people in general—is always going to remain unless I rip off the Band-Aid and learn how to keep my shit together while I’m around others. I’ve done it with Nina and Gage for years
now. Perhaps it’s time to branch out. And what better way to start than to strike up a conversation with a guy who I’ll never see again? It can be like practice.

  “You know, for someone who can’t make up their mind about anything, you’re awfully good at helping others do it.” Blowing out a breath, I reach for the door handle.

  She perks up. “So, you’re gonna do it?”

  My palms are so fucking sweaty. “Yeah, I’m going to do it.”

  Grinning, she reaches for her pack of cigarettes. “Damn, I’m good. I really should start charging an advice fee or something.”

  Rolling my eyes, I push open the door, then pause. “Wait. What should I say to him?”

  She shrugs as she lights up. “Just tell him he has a nice ass or something.”

  Gage rolls his eyes. “So much for giving good advice.”

  Nina narrows her eyes at him. “If you’re so smart, then what’s your advice?”

  Gage lifts his shoulders. “Just talk to him about his car.”

  I raise my brows. “His car?”

  Gage shrugs again then steals Nina’s cigarette. “He drives a Chevelle and spends a hell of a lot of time at an auto body shop. Clearly, he’s into them.”

  “But I’m not a car expert,” I point out as I lower my feet onto the puddled asphalt.

  “Yeah, but you like classic cars, enough to know a little bit about them, right?” A cloud of smoke circles his face as he exhales a drag from the cigarette.

  So much for not stinking up Nina’s mom’s car.

  “I guess.” I peek up at the sky and the sign to make sure everything seems calm at the moment. When no rainstorms, electrical shortages, or random flames are evident, I climb out.

  As I make my way toward him, he doesn’t look up from his phone, so he doesn’t notice me coming. Probably a good thing since I can barely keep a rein on my nerves.

  Just breathe. You got this.

  I take an uneven inhale as I reach him. “Nice car.”

  He looks up and his gaze scrolls across my body and face. He has these crazy blue eyes. Mine are blue too, but his shade of blue is more vibrant, almost otherworldly, and reminds me of a cloudless sky.

  “Thanks.” He reverts his attention to his phone.

  As impending rejection begins to sting, the puddles below me ripple. I inhale and exhale, then press on for God knows what reason. Probably sheer stupidity.

  “What year is it?” I ask, even though I know the answer.

  He sighs, clearly annoyed. “A ’68.”

  I open my mouth to ask questions about the engine, but he cuts me off.

  “Look, whatever you think is going to happen here, isn’t. I’m not interested. And I’m not going to be interested, no matter what you say. So, quit wasting my time and yours.” He stuffs his phone into his pocket then hops into his car.

  Humiliation burns underneath my skin and ripples through my body, powerful, potent, sharp. While I’m use to the feeling, of rejection, his hurts worse, the sting potently piercing—

  A lightning bolt snaps down from the sky and zaps the auto body shop sign, sending sparks shooting everywhere.

  The guy glances up with his brows crinkling, glancing from the sign to me. My eyes widen then I reel around and jog back to the car without so much as glancing back.

  “Holy shit, did you see that?” Gage’s wide-eyed gaze is fixed on the low, lightless sign.

  I nod, shutting the door. “The damn rainstorms here are crazy sometimes.” I play it off the best I can, but holy crap, this is bad.

  “Fuck the lightning.” Nina stares at me worriedly. “What happened with him?”

  I shrug, sinking lower into the seat, forcing myself to stay composed and refusing to look over at the mysterious stranger. No more losing control. “Nothing, other than what I thought would.”

  “Sky …” Nina says with pity.

  “Can we just go?” I beg as I buckle my seatbelt. “It’s our last night to hang out together, and I’d rather do something fun than obsess about that asshole. Plus, the storm’s getting pretty intense.”

  As if responding to my words, the wind kicks up, sending leaves scurrying through the air.

  Nina glances up at the greying sky then drives forward onto the street.

  The three of us remain silent for the next few minutes until Gage finally breaks the silence.

  “Sky, you’re a beautiful girl, whether you believe so or not.” He places a hand on my shoulder. “Guys are just assholes sometimes.”

  I force a tiny smile. “Thanks for not falling into your gender stereotype.”

  “And just remember, you never have to see that jerk again,” Nina adds in an attempt to cheer me up.

  The reminder does make me feel better. Unlike with Grey, the embarrassing encounter will never get thrown in my face again. I can just move on.

  Move on, Sky, move on.

  If only things were that easy. But moving on is never easy. Life isn’t easy. And the rain pouring from the darkening sky reminds me of that.

  Not wanting to be a downer, I do what I’ve been doing for the last two weeks. I plaster on a fake, shiny smile and pretend everything is okay. Maybe if I keep pretending long enough, I’ll start believing it myself, and then the rain, fires, and electricity will finally go away.

  Chapter 3

  Darkness circles me, wrapping around me like snakes. I can’t breathe. Can’t think. I need to get free, need to protect myself.

  I dig deep inside me, for the first time ever, begging for my powers to manifest.

  Lightning flashes above me and fizzles across my skin, as the wind kicks up, sending darkness swirling through the air. A fire ignites from somewhere. Ice crackles. And then the mysterious stranger appears in the center of the chaos—

  Knock. Knock. Knock.

  KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK.

  The obnoxious noise pulls me from my trippy dream.

  “Oh, my God, what the hell is that?” Gage groans from beside my feet.

  After the whole disaster with the mysterious stranger yesterday, we decided to spend the night at my house and have one final hurrah before my new guardian shows up to drag me away. I was nervous for half the night as the wind continued to howl and rain flooded the streets, but then Nina got a bottle of whiskey out from my parents’ stash and one thing led to another, and then … Well, let’s just say I passed out right about when Gage started throwing up.

  KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK.

  I try to force my eyelids open, but my entire body feels heavy. “I have no idea what that noise is,” I mutter. “But maybe, if we ignore it, it’ll self-destruct.”

  “If it doesn’t self-destruct soon, I’m going to destroy it myself,” Nina grumbles. “It’s making my fucking head hurt.”

  “You should stop talking. It’ll help with the noise a bit.” Gage rolls onto his side and accidentally kicks me in the shoulder.

  Why his feet are so close to my face is beyond me. Then again, I’m unsure what room we’re even in. Or house. For all I know, I could be lying in a car right now.

  “Shut the fuck up, Gage,” Nina growls.

  “Make me,” Gage quips through a yawn.

  “Guys, I’m too tired and hungover to listen to you two bitch,” I intervene before their fight escalates.

  KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK.

  “For the love of all sanity,” Nina whines, “Sky, please make that noise stop.”

  Sighing, I pry my eyelids open and take in my surroundings. Relief washes over me that I’m not in the car but lying on the sofa in my living room. Gage is curled up at my feet like a cat with one leg stretched out across me, and Nina is sprawled out on the floor with a mountain of throw pillows surrounding her, along with a half-empty bottle of whiskey and several boxes. The place is a mess, but at least we went out with a bang.

  I smile a little at that. But it’s a bittersweet smile.

  KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK.

  My gaze darts to the door where the annoying noise is coming from the
re.

  I pick up my phone from off the table to check the time.

  “Shit. That’s probably that Mr. Everettson dude,” I mumble as I stumble to my feet.

  Combing my hair out of my face, I trip around the mess of pillows, pizza boxes, and the empty beer bottles that I don’t even remember drinking and throw open the door. Then I instantly cringe.

  Standing on the other side is a tall, middle-aged man with short brown hair, a scruffy beard, and crazy silver eyes. He has on a T-shirt, worn jeans, and worker boots, looking as though he’s about to go to work at a construction site. But that’s not what has me cringing.

  The front yard is covered with fallen tree branches and the grass is so soaked it looks like a swamp. The street isn’t any better. Tree branches and large puddles cover the asphalt.

  Lovely, Sky. You destroyed every tree within a mile radius.

  “Skylin?” the guy asks with hesitancy.

  Tearing my gaze away from the street, I blink at him. “Yeah.”

  A smile breaks out across his face. “I’m Gabe Everettson. It’s so nice to finally meet you.” His smile slightly fades. “Although, I wish it were under better circumstances.”

  A beat of silence passes. My head pounds, and my throat is as dry as my frizzy hair. I want to tell him to leave, that I’m fine living here on my own. That I’m fine.

  Fine. Fine. Fine.

  Maybe if I repeat the word in my head enough times, it’ll actually come true.

  The sky grumbles as if warning me that I need to at least pretend to be fine.

  He studies me with his lips pressed together. “Look, we don’t know each other, and I can only guess how hard this must be for you, but I promise my family and I are going to do everything in our power to make sure you feel comfortable living with us.” He massages the back of his neck while muttering, “I owe your father that much. Maybe even more.”

  My brows dip. “Owe him for what?”

  He drops his hand to his side as a drop of worry flickers in his expression. “For saving my life once.”

  My brows rise toward my hairline. “My dad saved your life?”

 
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