Bound by duty, p.6
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       Bound by Duty, p.6

           Stormy Smith
 

  Chapter 5

  Bethany and I only shared one class, a class Micah was also in given the googly-eyes I watched her make at him for an hour and fifty minutes twice a week. Humanities was also the third class I shared with Aidan. I smiled a little when I walked in. He was at least sitting next to my normal back row seat, instead of in it, which had been his M.O. lately.

  “I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss me this time, doll, so I saved your seat.” His mouth turned up as he tried not to smile.

  “Well, aren’t you a gentleman,” I said as I rolled my eyes and scooted around him, “and I’m not your doll. I’m not anyone’s doll.” As I tossed my bag in the seat to my right, I saw a small, white daisy sitting on the built-in desk portion of my seat. I couldn’t move, I just stood there awkwardly staring at the dainty, beautiful flower. The whole flower head was maybe the size of a golf ball, it was no dozen roses, but it was the first time anyone had ever given me flowers… or one flower. Ever.

  Aidan reacted instantly to my stricken face, his hopeful look disappearing as he misjudged my emotion for disdain. He stood and tried to grab for the stem, but I simultaneously leapt for it, yelling, “No!” As skin met skin and our hands collided, I heard a crack like lightning hitting the ground and I flew backward, catapulting a few rows of seats below us.

  As I came to, the first voice I heard wasn’t one I expected. But, I knew that formal tone and squinted, my eyes opening to confirm Micah’s scowling face inches from mine. “Amelia, we do not have much time before Aidan and Bethany get back with a nurse. You’ve got to get some control. I have no idea why you would expose yourself like you just did, especially to a human, but reign yourself back in. And for goodness sakes, change your eyes back!”

  Through my foggy state I watched Micah’s eyes blaze red for a split-second before they reverted back to blue. As what he’d just said and done sunk in and I realized what that meant, I couldn’t stop myself — I fainted.

   

   

  “Ame, come back to me, honey.” I heard Bethany’s soft southern lilt as something cool was placed on my forehead. I struggled to open my eyes and then snapped them shut again, remembering Micah’s warning. Doing my best to shove the power pulsing through me back into the little corner it hated, I hoped my eyes were back to their normal color. As I slowly opened them again, I first saw Bethany hovering over me with a relieved smile as her eyes connected with mine, and then Micah and Aidan in the background.

  We were in the hallway outside the lecture hall and I was lying on the same bench Aidan had been occupying yesterday. Bethany was holding my hand. “Cheese and rice, girl, you had me worried. One second I’m laughing at Micah and the next you’re flying into the back of our seats. I know you’re a klutz, but how in the heck did you manage that?” Her accent was more prominent when she got upset, and the words came out as one hurried sentence.

  Before I even had a chance to respond, Aidan spoke. My head was still throbbing and I was afraid to even attempt to heal myself given what had just happened. I tried to look toward him, but couldn’t focus between the slices of pain that accompanied every breath.

  “Apparently she doesn’t like daisies.” I could hear his sarcasm, but what I felt was something else altogether. I could see the angry red aura pulsing around him, but his hurt and embarrassment radiated just as strongly. Before I could argue and explain, Micah stepped toward Aidan and put one hand on his chest, pushing him backward. “Montgomery, do you really think that’s what she needs right now? Do you think the best plan is to further insult a girl who went so far as to do herself harm to get away from you? Maybe you should just take the hint.”

  I had to squint to focus through the pulsing pain but I saw Aidan’s face transform. He looked down at Micah’s hand and then slowly back up to his face. He stepped toward Micah, simultaneously wrapping his hand around Micah’s wrist. Each movement slow and deliberate. Then, he shoved Micah backward, pushing at him with his own arm.

  His voice was menacing and the threat in his words was palpable in the air. “You don’t touch me. Ever. And—”

  “Why don’t you just get out of here, Aidan?” Micah interrupted, stepping back into Aidan’s face. “What good are you really doing?” Micah gestured back toward me at the same moment I winced from the loudness of their exchange.

  I watched Aidan start to speak, opening and then closing his mouth as he looked from me to Micah and back again. His posture stiffened, his fists clenched, and I saw exactly when he decided it wasn’t worth the fight. That I wasn’t worth the fight. Without another sound, he turned on his heel and stalked away.

  I wanted to stop him, to explain somehow, even knowing I couldn’t. But, Bethany put one hand on my chest as I made a pathetic attempt to sit up, effectively stopping any movement.

  “Nuh-uh, sister. You let him have his snit. You’re going home,” she commanded.

  I refused to let Micah carry me, shoving his hand away and glaring at him with all the contempt I could muster through my throbbing skull. Instead, I leaned heavily on Bethany as she led me out to the car. I laid down in the back seat, willing us to be home so I could stop my head from pounding and the nausea rolling through my system. Closing my eyes against the pain, I thought, Why would Micah care about me? Before I could ponder that question, the darkness that had been threatening to pull me under since I had awoken finally won, and I passed out again.

   

   

  Later that night, after I had been able to lock myself in my room and heal my physical ailments, I stared at the computer screen trying to do homework. It was pointless. All I saw was Aidan’s face as Micah basically told him this was all his fault and I wasn’t interested. I replayed each second in my mind as he decided that Micah was right; he didn’t even ask me, didn’t even confirm what I thought. Why hadn’t I just spoken up? Shoved Bethany aside and forced my way between them? I was pissed off and my heart hurt — too bad I couldn’t fix that pain.

  I wanted to call Aidan, but I didn’t have his number. I thought about emailing him, but explaining that I wanted him more than I had ever let on didn’t seem like something I should do over email. Frustrated, I slammed my hand down on my desk and watched the violet streaks shoot out like sparks, burning the wood.

  I was so confused. I wanted Aidan. I didn’t want to want him, but was it so bad that I did? I mean, why couldn’t I want him? Why couldn’t I have anything of my own? I’d never had a boyfriend; I’d never even really had friends until now. Everyone in my life had either walked out on me or constantly reminded me of my failings. What about me was so terrible? Why did everyone feel so entitled to tell me how I needed to live? And, who in the hell just offers their daughter’s future to a queen everyone hates and her devil spawn?

  “Dammit. Just DAMMIT! What about what I want?” I couldn’t stop myself from yelling the words. Bethany was at the library and, without truly thinking about it, I had given my power license to run rampant through my veins. I could feel the buzzing build from the ends of my hair to the tips of my toes as it flooded my system, going full throttle.

  I needed a release. I stared down as the wisps of violet floated around my fingertips, curling around each digit and waiting to be sent somewhere. This was not going to be a night where I could shove it back down. I had never let my power loose of my own accord, but in that moment, I decided tonight was the night.

  I grabbed an old sweatshirt, pulled my purse over and across my body, and let the front door slam behind me. The pent-up emotion I shouldn’t be letting get the best of me demanded loud and dramatic acts. I stomped down the stairs, my tennis shoes making a distinct thud on each step and echoing as I strode down the hall and toward the back door with purpose. Without even caring who saw me, I shot a blast and sent the door flying open. I allowed a wry smile as I walked through the door and saw the charred section where I’d struck. I was just getting started.

  I walked the trails behind our complex, feeling as if I were floatin
g. The dry dirt barely responded to my footfalls and the brush seemed to bend away from me. The release I needed would cause a scene and I needed some privacy. But, with every step I took, every second longer my power was off its leash, it seemed to double and triple in intensity, growing well past my ability to stop its trajectory.

  I was aware, but I wasn’t. I made conscious decisions but then chose trails without knowing why. Thoughts continued to spin and swirl in my mind. Those, meshed with the emotions I couldn’t control and power I’d never felt, were a dangerous combination.

  Aidan’s eyes flashed in my mind.

  I want him. I want to know him. I want him to kiss me.

  My hair was floating as if static electricity coursed through every strand, creating a popping cacophony as it danced around my head.

  This is my life. I’m eighteen. Why can’t I want him?

  I began to walk faster and the muscles in my legs started to burn. The ache was welcome, it brought me back to myself for a brief moment.

  He doesn’t know or care what I am, and he still wants me.

  I found myself pushing into the trees and off the formal trail — looking for what; I wasn’t sure — but knowing I was going where I needed to.

  I heard my father’s voice in my mind. You can’t have him. The decision’s been made.

  I let a scream of frustration out into the night, hearing the anguish echo softly back to me in the light breeze. Allowing my fingers to graze the solid tree trunks, I tried to let the sounds of the night overtake me. Soothe me. Calm me.

  The choice isn’t yours. It never has been. It never will be.

  I bit the inside of my lip, attempting to focus on the salty iron-tasting liquid and not my raging mind. I failed miserably.

  Why? Why isn’t it mine? Why is no decision mine to make? Why isn’t he allowed to choose me?

  I swallowed back the tears forcing themselves to the surface. I walked and walked, finding myself on the rocky ledge overlooking the water. I had no idea how far I’d gone but the walk had only increased my fury, not dampened it as I’d hoped.

  But, he wants me. He’s choosing me.

  As I stood on that ledge, I closed my eyes and let the waves of energy thrum through my system. I heard each heartbeat whoosh in my ears and was more alert and alive than I had ever been. Yet, I felt nothing like myself. The tingles in my fingertips told me it was time to let it loose. Energy pushed from the inside out and I expected my skin to stretch and bulge from the pressure trying to force its way from me. In that moment, I allowed myself not to care. For just one minute, I decided to do what felt right. As my hair floated in a dark cloud around me and the breeze whipped around my body, I simply let go. I allowed every wall I had built, every fence I had erected to come crashing down. I pulled from the darkest recesses of my soul and gathered each molecule of power I had denied.

  No one was watching. No one was judging. There was no one on this deserted stretch of rock but me. I opened my eyes to see violet streams pouring from my palms. White slashes shot through the purple blast, blending with the current connecting to the rocks below me. They shattered. Boulders the size of beach balls were obliterated into clouds of dust that disappeared as each wave hit and dragged the bits and pieces back out into the black water.

  I couldn’t help but laugh as I moved my hands and directed the bursts. The beach slowly grew larger as the rock piles disappeared. I had created my own symphony of light as I tried to vary the intensity and destruction of each blast. The sky was lit in violet and glowing white. The clarity and crispness I saw in everything around me was breathtaking. I held my hands in front of me and saw the shifting violet smoke weave its way up my arms and around my torso.

  I’d never known this feeling. The only releases I’d ever experienced were the ones I failed to stop and those were wrought with shame and fear of the consequences.

  Tonight, though — tonight was mine. I stood on those cliffs for as long as my body would let me blow the rocks below to smithereens. Shooting blasts out into the water and watching it erupt as if it were the Bellagio water show. Violet bursts of light flew from my palms, growing and shrinking in tandem with the mental commands I was giving. I couldn’t believe how freeing it was to push all of that energy out of me. To allow it to freely move within me and around me, guiding my thoughts and actions. In the same moment, I saw through my own eyes and those of an outsider peering back at me. I felt whole and powerful. While I wanted to continue on forever, I knew I had to stop. Reigning my ecstatic power back in, I felt satisfied.

  I regretted the act, but it was necessary to pull the strands back toward my core, escorting them back to the safety of their little corner inside me. I could feel the frustration, how much it hated being tied down and not allowed to accompany me in the way we just had, but I was tired.

  Feeling the last rogue bits of energy resign to their corner, my body became solely my own once again and I was suddenly overtaken with fatigue. I slowly dropped to the ground. Folding in half and then falling to my knees, each one of my muscles seemed to give way at the same time. I tried to reach out and steady myself on a nearby tree but my vision wobbled, zooming in and out. My arm and hand appeared as one, then four, then two, and back to one again. As I tried to find my balance and push myself up, the dark veil of exhaustion reached up and took hold, collapsing me into the dirt.

  I awoke hours later. The sun was starting to come up and as the light hit the water, the sky bloomed in oranges and pinks, the water reflecting the start of a new day. I struggled to open my eyes and felt the grit of the sand on my cheek. My arm was still outstretched and every muscle in my body moaned as I struggled to sit up. I managed to pull myself to a seated position and sat with my knees drawn and my arms folded on top of them. I stared out at the sea. I was dirty and tired but actually at peace.

  I thought back on my rage and what I was able to do with my power. The night seemed like it had happened to someone else, like I was seeing my memories playing on someone else’s TV. And, though the catalyst was Aidan, the real source of my angst rested with my father. It was laced in our every interaction, in every moment I failed to maintain control and he withheld the only thing I needed from him because of it. He had walked away from me again and again, leaving me to fend for myself; to close myself off and distance myself from the power that sat at the core of who I was. After tonight, I knew for certain that I had no idea who I truly was.

  I was an Elder. The only female Elder, apparently. My destiny was set, based on power I barely understood. Power that could be used to cause more harm to our people. Maybe I could stop the queen; maybe nights like tonight were just the beginning. I hadn’t chosen this, but it had chosen me.

  With a sigh, I pushed myself to stand, knowing that what I wanted still didn’t matter. Just like I always had, I would make the choices I’d been told to make. Realizing I would have to push Aidan away caused a deep ache to pulse inside of me, my gut clenching in physical response. Our game couldn’t continue. Soon, I wouldn’t be strong enough to walk away. It wasn’t an option to stay.

  I snuck back in to the apartment and was, thankfully, able to drop onto my bed just before Bethany’s alarm went off in the next room. I was exhausted but knew what needed to happen. My father was on my mind, so I shot Rynna a quick text asking for an update. I wanted to not care, but I’d been bound by duty for too long.

 
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