Authors: Laura Langston
Tags: #JUV000000, #book
“I'm not.” I wanted her help figuring this thing out, but it was so strange and so unbelievable I knew I had to start small. “When I held that towel over Alan's thumb and when I touched Lexi's nose, I feltâ¦” I hesitated. “I dunno. Something big and powerful.”
Her eyes widened. She leaned forward. “What was it?”
I picked at my sandwich crust. “I think it's healing ability.”
“Only God does that. Through the Holy Spirit.”
“Didn't Jesus heal people?”
Marie stared at me for a minute. She picked up her spoon, dunked it in her soup. “Jesus was the son of God.”
Marie said nothing. She just kept staring and stirring.
“What about the rest of us?” I demanded. “You told me once we're all sons and daughters of God.”
She glanced around the cafeteria before looking back at me. “That's different,” she murmured quietly.
“It just is.”
I was angry at how easily she dismissed me, fur ious wi th my parents for not giving me any kind of church education. “The Bible is full of miracles,” I said. “Maybe that's what this is. A miracle.” Bounce's recovery was a miracle. For sure. But there was no way I was bringing the cat up.
Marie paled and glanced away again. The nearby tables were full, but nobody was paying us any attention. “Only Jesus can perform miracles,” she whispered. “Are you saying Jesus is working through you?”
I started to tell her more about the presence, but I stopped. How could I explain something I didn't understand? One thing I did know, though, the presence was bigger than any one person. “No,” I said.
The color drained from her face. “If it's not from Jesus, it's evil. It's of the devil.”
I didn't believe in the devil. And how could a presence that was so love-filled be evil?
Marie began loading her food back on her tray: soup, cracker wrapper, milk, cookie. “You've been weird since Logan died, Hannah. But you're really losing it now.”
“I am not!” A part of me worried that she was right. Another part of me knew I was normal.
“You need help,” Marie added.
My stomach clenched. How
she? “And you're two-faced.”
Her eyes widened. “Excuse me?”
It amazed me sometimes how Marie juggled two completely different sets of friendsâthe school/party crowd and the youth group/church crowd. “You sit there judging me and talking about Jesus, and yet you're out every weekend partying and drinking. You have this so-called church life, but I don't see you living it.”
“God doesn't mind if we have a good time.”
“So it's okay to get pissed, but it's not okay to heal someone?” I snorted. “Either that's a convenient excuse, or God has screwed-up priorities.”
Poppy red spots of color flared in her cheeks. “And either you're playing with evil, or you're imagining things.” She stood and picked up her tray. “I just hope it's your imagination.” And without a backward glance, she walked away.
I faked the sniffles. Since my colds often turned into chest infections, it was easy convincing Mom to let me stay home for a couple of days. I snuck to the library and checked out more booksâone on healing and another on psychic stuffâbut mostly I surfed the Net. Okay, mostly I worried.
I shouldn't have told Marie anything. I should have cracked a joke and brushed her off. I just hoped she'd keep her mouth shut.
Accepting the fact that I couldn't spend the rest of my life in my bedroom, I went back to school the day of our theme dinner.
When I walked into foods, the ovens were preheating and the room smelled faintly of cinnamon. The spicy warmth made the place feel cozy. Lexi stood in the middle of the room, surrounded by people. Scratch cozy. Clutching my bag of groceries, I headed for our cooking station.
“Hey, can you believe it?” Lexi called out as I walked past.
Oh no. Had Marie told what I'd said?
I kept on going. “Believe what?”
“Mandy Kloss is pregnant.”
I was grateful that they weren't talking about me, and also grateful that I was the first of our group to arrive. At least I had two things to be grateful for, I thought as I unpacked my groceries. Because I sure wasn't looking forward to working with Tom. And seeing Marie wouldn't be a thrillfest either.
Speak of the devil. Or should I say, the saint? Marie even looked the part this morning in her pale pink sweater. “Hey,” I answered. She was staring at me with the strangest expression on her face.
Well, wasn't this awkward? I turned back to the counter, rearranged the chicken and peppers, the tortilla wraps, the cheese.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
The tone in her voice got to me, like, I don't know, chalk on the board, a needle in my skin, an insult. Obviously she thought I was crazy.
I whirled around. “I'm
Tom and Alan walked into the class and stopped to talk to Lexi. Knowing I only had a minute, I asked, “Who did you tell? About what I said the other day?”
She turned fifty shades of red.
Oh God. So much for Mandy Kloss. “Who?” I demanded.
“My pastor,” she whispered. “He wants to see you.”
And let someone else tell me I was the Devil's BFF? No thanks. “Anybody else?” I pressed.
It suddenly occurred to me that if Marie had told, the whole religion thing would have come up, and that was a subject she usually avoided. In fact, I think the only people at school who knew about her church life were me and Kristen. Plus, Marie didn't gossip. Not usually.
“Pastor Rick is a really good guy,” she added.
I didn't need her pastor judging me or making me more afraid than I already was. I needed help figuring out what was happening. And what I could do about it.
She pressed a slip of paper into my hand. “Call him.”
I stared into Marie's warm brown eyes. She was just trying to help. Even if it wasn't the kind of help I needed. I shoved the paper into my pocket. “Thanks.”
Alan swaggered into the cooking station and plopped his bag onto the counter. Bottles clunked. “I've got everything we need for the sangria,” he said.
Tom's crutches thudded softly against the floor as he hobbled to Alan's side. “For the
sangria,” he said. The two of them broke out laughing and started shoving each other sideways to get at the bag.
If Alan and Tom brought booze, I was going straight to Drummond. I glanced at Marie. She was chewing her lip; she knew how I felt. Barely breathing, I watched them unload the ingredients: purple grape juice, apple and lemon juices, club soda, some oranges. No booze in sight. I started breathing again.
Smirking, Tom leaned against the counter. “So, Hannah Banana, what can I do for you today?”
The suggestive tone in his voice set my teeth on edge. But if we started arguing, we'd lose marks, and there was no way I'd let that happen. Ninety minutes, I repeated to myself. Ninety minutes and I'm free.
I grabbed an onion, slapped it down in front of him, along with a cutting board and knife. “Peel and cut,” I ordered. If he was going to be an ass, I'd give him the nasty jobs.
“I'll peel your onion any day.”
Pretending not to hear, I reached under the counter for the grater. “I'll grate the cheese.”
“Cheese, please,” Alan said. The two guys laughed like they were watching a special on the Comedy Network.
I had the cheese grated in less than a minute. I set it aside, oiled a pan and glanced over at Tom. I wanted to brown the onion along with the green pepper and chicken. But the way he was goofing off with Alan, he was going to be a while. He'd put his crutches down, and he was having trouble standing. “Why don't you sit at the table and cut,” I suggested, surprised by the jolt of pity I felt.
He glanced at me. There was an odd, pinched look on his face. “Sitting is for wusses,” he said.
Whatever. I washed and chopped the pepper, opened the package of tortilla wraps, greased the casserole dish.
“Your onion,” Tom said when he set the cutting board on the counter beside me a few minutes later. He was bobbing all over the place like a sailboat in a storm.
What a hack job, I thought. The pieces were way too big; I was going to have to cut them again.
“Problem?” Tom asked.
I glanced up, prepared to lie, and that's when I smelled it. Booze. Something must have shown on my face, because Tom's smirk deepened. “Have another job for me, Hannah Banana?”
“You've been drinking.”
“Sssh.” Tom shot a look to the front of the room, where Drummond was talking to a couple of other kids.
Startled, Marie looked up from the flan crust she was rolling. Alan bolted to my side.
“It's not even
in the morning,” I said.
“You got a problem with that?” he asked.
“I've got a problem with
.” My anger boiled up, dark and heavy, choking my air, erasing all thoughts but one: Tom's drinking had killed Logan. How dare he walk in here drunk and remind me of that?
I poked him with my finger. “You're an asshole, Tom Shields. A selfish prick. You don't think of anyone but yourself. Ever. You only do what you want. Party hearty, that's your motto, right? Well, that motto killed Logan, and if you keep it up, it's going to kill you.” There was a blank, unreadable look on his face, and it inflamed me. I poked him again, harder this time.
“Don't touch me,” he snarled. His face filled with color. “You have no right.”
“And you have no right to walk in here drunk and ruin it for the rest of us. Now get out of my way.” I shoved past him harder than I needed to.
He pitched sideways. Automatically, I reached out and grabbed his arm to stop the fall. As soon as I touched him, it happened. My anger surged, bringing the power with it. It rose and filled me, stretching me beyond the class, beyond the school, back to the size I'd been after the bee sting. I felt Logan. I felt the presence. I felt the hum.
And I knew what I was supposed to do. I knew why the weirdness was happening, and I knew what Logan wanted. I knew my purpose.
I was supposed to heal Tom Shields.
No freakin' way.
I dropped my hand, let him go. The heat and power and fullness raced out of me so fast I felt cold and empty and small.
And when Tom fell to the floor, I turned and walked away.
Cruel? I don't think so.
The guy was drunk. I didn't want to help him. Besides, as far as I could tell, the only help Tom needed was somebody to tie his hands behind his back so he wouldn't drink so much.
I didn't realize until later how sick he was.
“Apparently the pain in his leg has been getting worse for weeks, and he's been self-medicating with booze,” Marie said when she called that night. I was sitting in my window seat with Bounce on my lap and the radio playing softly in the background. “His mom kept trying to get him to the doctor, but he wouldn't go. Turns out he's got some kind of raging infection around the steel pins. They've got him on iv antibiotics. According to his sister's MySpace page, he could lose his leg.”
“That sucks.” It did. I was still choked that Tom had come to foods drunk, and I'd never forgive him for daring Logan to race, but losing a leg was ugly. Shame wormed through me.
I shouldn't have shoved him.
Logan was inside my head.
“I wonder if I should go see him.”
I didn't want to. I still had trouble believing that I could heal people, that healing existed at all. And for sure I didn't want to heal Tom Shields.
“Me and Lexi might go see him tomorrow afternoon but, um, I think his family would, you know, rather it was just the two of us.”
There was an awkward pause. Marie didn't want me there.
didn't want me there.
She changed the subject. “I'm praying for him,” she said. “You can too. Anybody can do that.”
Even me. Somebody who didn't go to church. Somebody who heard voices, who felt a presence, who thought her dead boyfriend was sending her messages.
“Did you call Pastor Rick?”
Another awkward pause. Then Marie said, “By the way, Drummond says we can do the meal over next week, just the three of us.” I heard a familiar song drift out from the radio. “And we won't lose any marks,” she added.
It was Van Morrison singing “I'll Be Your Lover Too.” I stopped breathing. How random was that?
“For sure,” Marie said. “It's one thing to be grateful for in this whole mess.”
Grateful. I clicked off and tossed the phone down beside me. The familiar lyrics filled my bedroom
. “I comeâ¦to
be the oneâ¦who's always standing next
My eyes blurred; a lump the size of Manhattan closed my throat.
It was our song. Logan's and mine. We hadn't picked it (trust me, we would have picked something better), it picked us. It followed us around and kept popping up everywhere we went. The only reason we noticed was that our fathers both loved Van Morrison.
I buried my face in the pillow and began to weep. “
Yes, I will
,” Van Morrison sang. “
Yes, I will
“No, I won't!” I lifted my head and yelled at the wall. “I
How dare Logan ask me to help the guy who had raced with him?
I wouldn't. I couldn't. And I would go to the hospital and prove it.
I didn't want to go during visiting hours and risk running into Marie or Lexi, so I went about 10:30 the next morning.
Hospital routines were predictable. There was always a lull after 10:00, once breakfast was over and the doctors had done their rounds. Get in, prove a point, get out. That was my plan.