She cleared her throat and looked at her hands. “No. Not one of my memories. Someone else’s.”
I sat up straighter. “What? No.” Addie may have thought I just Erased whenever the need arose, but I had my limits.
“I know you’ve done it before. I saw you kissing Patrick one day by the lockers. I asked him about it the next day, thinking you two were together, and he looked at me like I was crazy. He thought I had imagined it.”
“Well, that’s none of your business, is it? Those are memories of me I took back. I didn’t take out anything that belonged to him.”
“This would be a memory of me you’re taking. I swear.”
“Kalan, no, I can’t. I won’t. Sorry.” I stood and left her sitting by the wall alone with her mind pattern.
I continued to search, pausing at an open door. Someone in the room had caused everything, including the people, to float about an inch off the floor. That was impressive, even for a Telekinetic. I didn’t know many who could move more than one thing at a time, let alone an entire roomful. A guy in the center of the room, the only one not floating, caught my eye. I had no idea who he was, but as soon as he saw me looking, a big smile spread across his face, and everything fell with a bang.
“That was less than a minute,” someone called out.
“I was distracted,” he said, turning his smile back to me.
I gestured him over with my head, and he bounded over like an eager puppy.
“How’d you do that?”
He shrugged one shoulder and leaned close. His breath reeked of stale smoke. “I’m talented.”
“Who sold you the program?”
I sighed. “The one that helped you do that.”
The guy looked over my shoulder to someone behind me. “Great party.”
I turned to face the host. I didn’t recognize him—short, red hair—but he would have answers. “Hey.” I caught up with him as he continued to walk down the hall. “Where did you get these programs?”
“Whatever. They are not. I’m looking to buy some myself.”
The guy gave me a hard look, and by the way he studied me I wondered if he was a Discerner, like Addie’s dad, trying to find out if I was telling the truth.
He must’ve decided I was, because he said, “His name is Connor.”
“I think so.”
Huh. I vaguely knew Connor. We had shared a class or two over the years. He was cute in a scruffy, just-rolled-out-of-bed kind of way. I knew Connor sold minor Enhancers, which were discouraged but legal—a couple of weeks ago he had offered me a block enhancer at a party—but I had no idea he sold illegal ability patterns as well. Nice. Connor, like every other guy, would be easy to manipulate. I was one day away from answers.
Addie: Adult parties are even stupider than teen ones.
I sat in the bedroom my father had appointed for me in his new house. Aside from being plain, the room wasn’t bad. My feet were propped on the desk, while I painted my toenails two different colors—black and orange. More out of boredom than holiday spirit. I obviously had no friends in Dallas, my dad had no cable, and I had brought only two books, both of which I’d read—one on the drive over and the other yesterday. What had I been thinking? Two books for six weeks? Not smart. But despite my boredom, this trip was exactly what I needed—time to be alone, rest my ability from the strain of classes, and figure out how to move forward.
My dad poked his head in my room and said, “I have a pre-Thanksgiving party for work tonight. Did you want to come?”
Would I have to speak to people? was what I wanted to ask, but instead just shrugged.
“I think my boss has a daughter your age. Or maybe it’s a son. I don’t know, either way there will be a teenager in the vicinity.” He must’ve seen the hesitation on my face, because he clasped his hands together and said, “I’ll make you a deal.”
“What kind of deal?”
“If you come with me to this work thing, tomorrow morning I’ll take you to the most amazing bookstore you have ever seen in your life.”
Considering the only bookstore I’d ever seen was a small, one-room, secondhand dive, he knew it wouldn’t be hard to impress me. He also knew it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. He smiled before I could even respond, obviously using his ability of Discernment to read the feelings written all over my face.
“Do I have to dress up?”
He looked me up and down, lingering on the ratty cuffs of my jeans. “Maybe a little bit. Would a skirt be out of the question?”
“I can probably handle a skirt.”
“Okay, it sounds like we’ve come to an agreement then. Can you be ready to go in an hour?”
As we drove to the party, I began to wonder if my dad had invited me to meet friends and up his odds that I’d want to stay with him after Christmas. He’d hinted that he wanted me to stay longer, through the school year, but I figured I’d picked my mom’s house for a reason. There must’ve been something about this life I didn’t like. What would be the point in changing my mind now, after I’d gone through all the work of making the decision?
“What’s up, kid?” my dad asked, patting my knee.
“We don’t have to stay long, okay?”
He picked up on the wrong anxiety, but I appreciated his concern anyway. And not staying long sounded great. “Thanks.”
We turned onto a street where large houses loomed out of the darkness. Birds I couldn’t see squawked in a noisy chorus from treetops. What kind of birds were so active in darkness?
The circular drive was full of cars when we pulled up. My palms were already sweating from the thought of the small talk that was about to ensue. I repeated my cover story in my mind as we exited the car. The taller-than-necessary front door stood partially ajar, and the noise of the party flowed down the walkway. We let ourselves in, and my dad greeted several clusters of people as we made our way into the heart of the home.
“Ah! Coleman!” a broad-shouldered, gray-haired man called from across the room.
My dad waved and closed the distance between them. “Jenson. Thanks for having us. This is my daughter, Addie.”
“Hi, Addie.” He pumped my hand several times and then looked around. “Hmm, mine is roaming around here somewhere and would be much better company than us old folks.” The longer he searched the room, the more irritated he became. “Give me a minute.” He pulled out his phone and dialed a number. “Are you upstairs?”
My dad and I exchanged a look, and I tried not to laugh.
“Could you please come down? I want you to meet someone.”
Great, I was forcing someone to attend a party against their will. Perfect start to a friendship.
He hung up the phone. “While we’re waiting, why don’t you get some food? Here, let me show you the good stuff.” He led the way to a table set up with food, and soon I had a heaping plateful in one hand and a soda in the other. So I had no free hands when his daughter joined us downstairs and we were introduced. She was really pretty, taller than me, with dark eyes and hair and a perfectly put-together outfit.
“Stephanie, I want you to meet Addie. Her father and I work together. Why don’t you show her around?”
“Sure.” She gestured for me to follow, and I did. When we were far enough away from our fathers, she said under her breath, “Okay, this food is nasty. My dad is a vegetarian and thinks tofu should be in everything. Believe me, you don’t want anything to do with it.” I followed her into the kitchen, and she dumped the whole plate into the garbage. “If you’re hungry, I can find you something real.”
“No, I’m good.”
She smiled a perfect white smile. “So this is the kitchen.” She pointed through an arched opening. “And that’s the living room . . . and . . . did you really want the grand tour, or was that my dad’s idea?”
“It was your dad’s idea.”
“That’s what I thought. Come on, I’ll show you the most important room. Mine.”
Stephanie’s room was like a yearbook of her life—pictures everywhere. And where there weren’t pictures, there were pom-poms and cheer trophies. A large football poster hung on the wall, a heart drawn around one of the players. I walked closer and looked at the guy, surprised when I recognized him. Trevor. Dark wavy hair, high cheekbones, amazing eyes. He was just like I remembered him from the football game a couple of weeks ago . . . and from my weird vision or hallucination or whatever it was I had in the hospital. I was trying not to dwell on it. With his poster image staring me right in the face, my heart racing to life, it was hard not to think about it.
Why had I had such a realistic vision of someone I’d barely met? Because your stupid ability is acting odd, I told myself.
My fingers brushed the smooth surface of the poster, running down his face and then tracing the red heart drawn there once, then twice. “Is this your boyfriend?”
“Trevor? No. My ex. We were off and on for a while, but he has issues, and I’m tired of dealing with them.”
“Issues?” I dropped my hand and shook it out, looking back at Stephanie.
“He got hurt last year and can’t get past it.”
Now my heart was thumping against my ribs for different reasons as I remembered exactly why and how Trevor had gotten hurt. I turned away from her so she wouldn’t see my face redden with a surge of anger toward Duke.
“I was so supportive for the longest time, even threw him a big party to help him get over his fears.” She shook her head like she wasn’t going to continue.
I cleared my throat, pushing my emotions down. “What happened?”
“I don’t know. He shut me out after that.”
“I know. I’m just done with guys for a while.”
Especially football players, I thought about adding, but instead said, “Me too.”
“You want to know the worst part? We have the same friends, so I’m constantly running into him.”
“I hate that.” Running into arrogant ex-boyfriends was not high on my list of things I enjoyed doing either. I continued around her room, looking at more pictures. “Oh hey, that’s Rowan, I know him.”
She curled her lip. “You know Rowan?”
“Well, I don’t know him very well, but my friend Laila knows him.” Or at least is well acquainted with his mouth.
“Hmm.” She shook her head. “Never heard of her.” She grabbed a laptop from her desk and plopped onto her bed with it. “So are you going to Carter High now? I haven’t seen you before.”
“No, I’m just visiting my dad for the holidays.”
“Your parents are divorced?”
“I guess it’s not official or anything, but yeah.”