Authors: Laura Langston
Tags: #JUV000000, #book
Tom smirked. “Glad I've got you on my team, Hannah Banana. I know you're good with a towel. But are you any good with a knife?”
Being in Tom's group was bad enough. Being paired with him would never work. “I'm going to talk to her.” I slid from my stool.
“And whatcha gonna tell her?” Tom taunted. “That you'd rather partner with Logan?” He snorted. “Well, lucky for Logan, he's dead and he doesn't have to deal with any of this shit anymore.”
I whirled around. “That's a disgusting thing to say. If you hadn't dared him to race, Logan would still be alive.” I grabbed Marie's arm. “Come on. Let's go talk to Drummond.”
Drummond wouldn't budge. I had to work with Tom Shields. “The past is past,” she said when I reminded her about Logan's accident. “It's time to move on.”
Friday we did our dry run. I let Tom do the guacamole because I figured he couldn't mess it up. Wrong. He turned it purple. And he burned the enchiladas when I wasn't looking too. I had to test everything again at home that night.
Saturday I worked a full shift at Bartell's. Late in the day, a woman called and said she'd found a St. Christopher medallion nearby. Bentley let me leave early. I raced to her house, only to find the medallion was round. Logan's was oval.
My disappointment burned.
Sunday, the day of the car wash, dawned clear and warm. As we pulled into the Shell on Thirtieth, I thought of Logan. We'd gassed up here a month or so before he died. It had been sunny and warm that day too.
“We'll come back later to get the car washed,” Mom said as she helped me unload the signs and flags. We weren't starting until ten, but half a dozen kids were already there. Not Tom though.
Figures, I thought.
After the manager of the car wash told us where to set up, I took over, dividing people into teams: a lather-and-scrub team, a rinse team, a publicity team. The publicity people took the flags and poster boards and headed for the corner. The rest of us began assembling supplies and filling buckets.
Tom didn't show up until 10:30. By then, we had a lineup six deep, including an
so dirty I wondered how the driver could see out the windshield. Tom was in his chair today. Good excuse not to do much, I thought, watching him wheel through the sudsy puddles. Unkind, yeah, but I was wet, cranky and tired of watching Tom play the victim. Logan was the real victim.
“Brad has his brother's car, and he's taking a bunch of us to Alki Beach later,” Marie said when I brought a fresh bucket of water to the lather-and-scrub side. She was using her dad's fancy handheld scrubbing wand. “We don't have many nice days left. Why don't you come?”
Because Alki Beach meant booze, and I wasn't interested.
“I haveâ¦” I hesitated. “Plans.”
Marie knew I was lying. “Come on, Hannah, don't be such a wuss!” She whirled around fast, wand in hand, hitting Lexi right in the face. Hard.
“Ow!” Lexi yelped. She fell to her knees and cradled her face.
I knelt beside her, put my hands around her shoulders. “Are you okay? Let's see.”
White-faced, Marie crouched on her other side. “I'm sorry, Lex. I didn't know you were there.”
Lexi's nose had taken the worst of it, I realized. It was red and swollen, starting to bleed. Automatically, I reached out to wipe the blood away.
As soon as I touched her nose, it happened. The presence swept through me like a tidal wave, filling and stretching me until I couldn't tell where I stopped and it started. A car door slammed in the distance. Light glinted, diamond-bright, off the chrome of a motorcycle. I hardly noticed.
Time slid sideways. I grew softer, warmer. My hands began to burn.
I couldn't do this again. I wouldn't. I dropped my hands so suddenly Lexi almost fell sideways.
And that's when I heard the voice.
It was my turn to almost fall over. I was hearing voices now? Oh no. No, no,
“I'll get the first-aid kit.” I mumbled.
Marie glared as I walked away. It didn't matter. Nothing did. Because I wasn't cheddar-cheese normal anymore. And I had to leave before anybody else found out.
I went to see M.C. I'd dropped a prescription in her mailbox once on my way home, so I knew where she lived. And since she'd told me about the power in the first place, I figured she could tell me how to get rid of it.
“You' re looking al l hot and bothered,” M.C. said after she opened the door. I followed her down the hall. My legs felt like they weighed a million pounds. I was afraid if I sat down, I'd be too tired get back up. “What's gotten under your skin?”
“Something happened at the car wash today.” Kitty dog pranced ahead of usâand I mean pranced. The thought that I was somehow responsible for the dog's rebirth did not make my heart sing.
I stared around her kitchen. The place was cluttered with books and papers, bowls of fruit, dirty dishes. I moved some newspapers and sank onto the chair. I told her about Alan, about Bounce, about Lexi. About the rush of power, the presence, the way time stretched every time I touched someone who was hurting.
“It sounds pretty normal to me.” M.C. said as she filled the kettle. “Considering.”
Considering that I was a complete freak. Nice.
M.C. threw two tea bags into a cracked floral teapot and sat down. Her uni-boob rested on the table. I tried hard not to look. “How do I know it's real?” I still couldn't bring myself to use the word
“What makes you think it's not?”
“Maybe I'm imagining it.” I stifled a yawn. It was like I hadn't slept in a thousand years. “I can't see it or prove it.”
“The wind is real, but we can't see it. We only see it moving the leaves on the trees. Maybe this is God's way of moving the leaves for you.”
God moving my leaves? Yeah, right. “I'm not five years old here, M.C.” I wanted to lash out, to tell her this whole thing was stupid. That
was stupid. She'd been there from the beginning. She'd told me I was a healer. I wanted to make this her problem, not mine. Except it wasn't. I stuffed my anger down and said, “A bee sting and now I'm a healer? It doesn't make sense.”
“There are a million things in the world that don't make sense, a million things we don't understand. That doesn't make them any less real.”
The kettle whistled. M.C. got up to make the tea.
“The doctor says I'm stressed. It could be that.”
“Maybe,” M.C. said as she plopped the floral pot on the table between us. “And maybe it's a gift.”
“A gift?” At the sound of my raised voice, Kitty dog growled and bared her teeth. “This isn't a
. It's a curse.” M.C. selected two ivory cups from the counter and wiped them with the sleeve of her caftan. “That's a little dramatic, don't you think?”
Her matter-of-fact tone pissed me off. “Easy for you to say.” Heat crept up my neck. “Your life hasn't suddenly gone sideways.” Kitty growled at my tone again. “Seriously, just tell me how to get rid of it. Or do I have to spend the rest of my life not touching anyone?”
She poured the tea. “You're asking the wrong question.”
“What do you mean?”
“Instead of asking how to get rid of it, you should be asking what it is you're supposed to do with it. How you're supposed to use it.”
“I don't want to use it.”
M.C.'s pale blue eyes sharpened. “Most people aren't in the habit of handing back gifts.”
I was silent.
“You know what your problem is?” M.C. didn't wait for me to answer. “You're too rigid. You won't bend. You need to learn to roll with life's punches, take the good with the bad. You need to accept things as they come.” She stared hard at me. “And let things go when it's time.”
I knew she was talking about Logan and his medallion as much as she was talking about the healing thing. And I so didn't need it. “I have to go.” I was too tired for this. Coming here hadn't made me feel better; it made me feel worse. Maybe I should go back to Fernandez. Or talk to Mom.
Or maybe I should keep my mouth shut and my hands to myself for the rest of my life.
“We don't always get what we want,” M.C. said as she walked me down the hall to the door. “Sometimes we get what we need.”
All my life I'd hated being different, I'd hated standing out. Now I was freakoid different. If there was any doubt in my mind, it flew out the window when I got home after my talk with M.C.
Bounce had caught a robin. It was fluttering around the drapes when I stopped in the doorway of the dining room.
“Get the broom,” Mom ordered as the bird flew into the wall. She grabbed a chair, kicked off her heels and went into chase mode.
Eventually we got the bird out the window. Bounce, who sat in the corner watching while we chased it, was on the windowsill meowing the minute we set it free.
“You stay inside!” Mom scolded as she set the broom in the corner. She collapsed into a chair, straightened her skirt and wiped her forehead. “I'll need to touch up my makeup.” She wore her best sweater set, and there was a wrapped bouquet of daisies on the table. My parents were obviously going out.
“Bounce isn't limping anymore,” I said. “She's jumping onto my bed again. She's hunting. She's acting like a kitten.”
I heard Dad banging around upstairs. In a few minutes he'd come down and say it was time to leave. “Do you think it's possible for people to heal animals?”
“Anything's possible.” Mom reached for the flowers, straightened the bow. “Why?”
“Bounce has been sleeping on my ankles since I got stung by that bee. Maybe I healed her.”
“Oh, sweetheart.” A wistful expression turned her face soft. “Bounce is seventeen. She's old. I know you don't want to face it, but she's not going to be around for many more years.”
I jumped in with both feet. “M.C. thinks I'm a healer.”
Mom looked startled. “What?”
The sound of Dad's voice floated down the stairs. “Hey, Barb, have you seen my brown sweater?”
“Hanging behind the bedroom door,” Mom called. She turned back to me, an indulgent smile on her face. “M.C. is a funny old woman.”
Funny wasn't the half of it. “Seriously. I told you. Something happened to me when I got stung by that bee. I went somewhere. I talked to someone. M.C. thinks I have healing powers now.”
“You heard the doctor in emergency. Your reaction was severe. You were imagining things.”
“But what if I wasn't? What if it's real?”
Worry turned her blue eyes stormy. She looked down at her shoes, slid them on. When she glanced back up, her eyes were calm. She gave me her fake “everything's fine” smile. “Then Bounce is one lucky cat, isn't she?”
I wasn't sure who to talk to next. Dad maybe? Mom again? To make matters worse, Sunday I had another nightmare. I didn't burst into flames or float away, but Logan was there, insisting I had something to do. Only his voice was so garbled, I couldn't understand a single word. Obviously helping with the car wash wasn't it.
“We need to talk,” Marie said in homeroom Monday morning. “Meet me at lunch.”
I could tell she was upset. Probably because I'd bailed halfway through the car wash. I dozed through English, struggled through geography, and by the time I met Marie in the cafeteria at noon, I had my story down: I'd left early because of cramps.
Marie made small talk about her science project as we loaded up our trays and headed to a table by the window. Nobody joined us. Marie had obviously warned them off.
She popped the lid on her tomato soup. “Why did you run off on Sunday?”
“Cramps.” I unwrapped my ham-and-cheese sandwich. “Really bad ones,” I added for the extra sympathy factor.
She rolled her cracker packet between her fingers, ripped it open and tipped the crumbs into the soup. “Lexi said she felt a jolt when you touched her.”
A lump of bread and ham lodged itself into the back of my throat, a perfect plug for my airwaves. It was almost a minute before my coughing stopped. “What's she talking about?” I upended my bottle of water and chugged.
“She felt something weird,” Marie said as she studied me. “An electrical current or something.”
Heat warmed my cheeks. I felt self-conscious, like everybody in the cafeteria was staring. “Of course she felt something. She'd just had her nose bashed in by a heavy-duty steel wand.” My hand was shaking as I picked up my sandwich. “How is she anyway?”
“She'll be okay,” Marie said. “She's lucky her nose wasn't broken.”
I didn't respond.
“Lexi said when you stopped touching her, the jolt went away.” Marie scooped up some soup. “It totally freaked her out.”
I could have cracked a joke or laughed it off. And if M.C. had been more helpful, or if my mother had been more understanding, maybe I would have. But I was confused. I didn't know who else to talk to. Marie believed in God. She believed in the power of Jesus and his love. That presenceâwhatever it wasâwas a powerful kind of love.
I dipped my toe in the pond of truth. “Maybe it was...I don't know...healing power in my hands or something.”
Marie started to laugh. “You're kidding, right?”
made Lexi better?”
“Why not?” I felt my heart race. “Healing is real. Lots of churches believe in it.” I repeated what I'd learned on Wikipedia.
“Don't be such a tool.”
I wanted her to believe me. “Alan, remember?”
“Yeah, right.” She laughed a second time. When I didn't say anything, a look of discomfort flitted across her face. “Quit goofing around.”