chapter four:


I awoke in my own bed. That was surprising, considering the last thing I remembered from last night was sitting on the roof. Thelma must've moved me inside.

I groaned as I stretch in bed, peering around the room. The sun was shining through my curtains and when I glanced at the floor, Thelma's sleeping bag was empty.

I sat up quickly; too quickly. The blood rushed to my head and I felt a sudden feeling of dizziness. I took a couple deep breaths and steadied myself before I got up and left the room.

I could smell bacon from the top of the stairs and I took the steps two at a time. When I arrived in the kitchen, I found my mom and dad at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper; Thelma was standing over a frying pan, its contents sizzling.

My mother looked up and smiled. "Good morning Sleeping Beauty!"

"Morning" I mumbled.

I shuffled over to the counter and picked off a bit of bacon that was soaking on a paper towel. Thelma swatted my hand away.

"Hey! This is for later!"

I grinned and pulled out a chair, slumping over and burying my head under my arms.

"Late night?" my father said sarcastically. Little did he know that was exactly the cause for my lethargy.

"I want to come with you" I pleaded to my sister, sitting on my bed. She was folding laundry in the living room. My parents had surprisingly migrated upstairs to give us some privacy.

"I know you do. But you can't Liv. I could be getting myself into some bad situations and I wouldn't want you there with me. This isn't meant for you. Besides, what would Mom and Dad say? They'd think I was taking you to get boozed up and laid in college!"

I suddenly visualized my father rolling his eyes and my mother becoming beat red, shock and anger washed over her face. I grimaced.

"Well we should at least try! It's summertime Thelm, Mom and Dad should be happy to get me out of the house."

"Liv, I told you. Even if they did say it was okay, I wouldn't allow it! It's just too dangerous" she said, folding a t-shirt and pushing into a duffel bag.

I sighed. It was no use; I would not be able to convince Thelma, let alone Mom and Dad. I would just have to face the facts that it would be another couple years until I saw my sister again.

"Well…," my sister pulled the straps on the duffel bag, closing the opening, "I better go."

We got up and walked through the kitchen into the foyer. Thelma slung her bag over her shoulder and I sat on the stairs, chin cupped in my hands.

"Mom! Dad! I'm leaving!" she yelled up the stairs. In a matter of seconds, my mother appeared and was hurrying down the stairs, followed by my father. Once again, he seemed indifferent to what was going on around him.

"Oh I hate how you have to go Thelma" my mother whined, her big blue eyes widening.

"I know. But I'll be back sooner this time. I've only got finals and then I'll be home again, I promise."

My mother's eyes glistened and I saw the tears ready to spill over the brim.

"Please, Mom! Don't cry" Thelma said, laughing but at the same time I could hear the sadness in her voice. She hugged my mother and then turned to my dad. He put his hands in his pockets and stepped forward awkwardly.

"Now be safe Thelma. There's some real creeps out there so be smart."

"I love you Dad" she said, smiling somberly. They embraced in a hug and then she turned to me. There was a pause before I blurted out what I'd been planning since we walked into the foyer.

"Thelma, please just ask Mom and Dad!"

Thelma's eyes widened and her brow furrowed. "Olivia, what are you talking about?"

"The festival Thelma! Come on, it's supposed to be a very educational experience. I'm sure Mom and Dad would be fine with letting you take me there with you."

My sister stammered, speechless.

"What festival honey?" The question was directed towards Thelma but I quickly answered for her.

"Oh, there's this culinary festival near Thelma's college that she won't take me to and I really want to go! There's supposed to be a whole bunch of great chef's cooking and a bunch of culinary schools will be there, giving out college information. And you know how I've recently taken an interest in becoming a chef…"

My mother glanced at my father. "I do?"

I widened my eyes, exaggerating my despair. "Well of course you wouldn't know Mom because I've been cooped up in this house all summer. But I just can't pretend that that's not my dream anymore! Mom, Dad: I want to be a professional chef. And this festival will be just perfect! I'll be able to see what opportunities I have out there, and I can get ahead on college searching, Dad. And Mom…I could even buy a couple of recipe books for me and you…" I said, grinning.

There was a moment of silence, in which everyone appeared to be completely dumbstruck by my tangent I had just gone on. My father looked slightly confused and my mother blinked hard a couple of times.


"Oh honey that's wonderful!" my mother squealed. I resisted the urge to grimace and simply nodded enthusiastically.



My mother looked at my Dad and Thelma as if she had just come out of a daze.

"What? Scott don't look at me like that, you know this is just perfect for Olivia!"

"But Mom—"

"Thelma you and your sister need to spend some time together anyways. You can't expect her to be happy with seeing you for less than a day after all this time."

"But Mom, you—"

"I don't want to hear it. You will take your sister with you and you will take care of her for the time being. And when this…festival is over with, you two can come home again."

I became consciences of my dropped jaw and quickly closed it.

"Well then…I guess I better grab some clothes" I said, getting up from the stairs quickly. I took the stairs, two at a time and hurried into my room, throwing a duffel bag in the middle of the floor. I began to comb through my drawers and closet, grabbing only the necessary things: underwear, a couple t-shirts, shorts, a pair of jeans, bras. I then hurried to the bathroom, grabbing my toothbrush, razor and brush.

As I was shoving all these contents hurriedly into my bag, I envisioned my sister and I, driving along the west coast, and then in a big city, and then in the countryside. A feeling of excitement was bubbling inside of me. I could not believe that this was happening.

When I had finished packing, I grabbed my cell phone and charger and then bolted out of my room, hurrying through the hallway, and then down the stairs. My parents and sister were just as I had left them, except Thelma looked furious.

"I think I have everything" I said, breathing heavily. "I have my cell, so I'll call you tonight."

"Please make smart choices" my mother said, embracing me in a hug. She kissed the top of my head and then I moved towards my dad.

"Have fun, let us know if you need anything" he mumbled as I reached up to give him a kiss goodbye.

I pulled away and glanced expectantly at Thelma. She looked as if she wanted to say something. I cringed and hoped she wouldn't.

"Bye Mom. Bye Dad."

"Let us know how the festival goes!" my mother said as we opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch with our bags. "Have fun!"

"We will!" I called after them as Thelma and I walked down the driveway, avoiding puddles. I opened the passenger door and threw my bag by my feet. I looked up at my parents who stood in the doorway, waving, and I waved back. Thelma threw her bag in the back seat and slammed her door shut, and then peered out the rearview mirror as she back out of the driveway.

When my sister got mad, it was epic. Generally, Thelma was an easy-going person, always cracking jokes and trying to keep the peace in the house. But sometimes, she'd get mad and when that would happen, it was similar to apocalypse. This time, I could feel the heat emanating off of her…literally. Her fingers were clenched on the steering wheel, her knuckles white, and her lips were set in a firm, straight line. Smoke furled softly around her and her eyes were wild.

I hesitated to break the silence. I recognized the possibility of becoming a roast if I said the wrong thing, so I held my tongue for a bit. Eventually however, the silence became excruciating and I was now nearly sweating from the heat coming off of her.

"Well…this is going to be…fun" I said in a small voice that was barely audible. I stole a glance at her hands on the steering while and saw her grip tighten. I suddenly caught a whiff of burning leather.

"Fun?" Her voice was fierce, a whisper on the trail of hysteria.

I gulped nervously. But then, I wondered why I was acting like this. This was my sister that I had suddenly become so deathly afraid of. I had spent my entire life with her, nearly, getting on her nerve and taking pride in myself when I could find what pushed her buttons. Now, just because I find out about her flame-throwing abilities I suddenly feel like I'm instigating a stranger.

I sat up straighter, feeling more confident all of a sudden and I pursed my lips.

"You can't be mad at me" I said, looking at her profile. "You can't blame me for wanting to come along with you Thelma. I haven't seen you in forever and now you're mad at me because I actually want to spend time with you!"

"That's not the point Olivia!"

"Well what is the point Thelma?"

"I already told you this. This whole thing is dangerous for me, let alone you! I can't be worrying about where you are all the time."

"Thelma I'm fifteen years old. It's not like your dealing with a freaking toddler here."

"I know," she said, sounding defeated, "But if anything ever happened to you because of me…"

Thelma trailed off and sorrowfully looked out the windshield. Her anger was wearing off; she wasn't beat red anymore and nor was there any smoke coming off of her.

"I didn't mean to make this hard," I said softly, "And I recognize how dangerous this is and I don't want to be…a burden. But you have to realize where I've been all this time: at home, in my room on the computer, doing nothing. I've missed you. And I don't want to miss something like this. I won't be a problem, I swear. And I can even help you, like, keep records or something, I don't know."

Thelma rolled her eyes at my last remark, but was smiling slightly.

"I won't be in the way. I'll be quiet until you need me, just taking my notes."

She was nodding, as if she knew all this already.

"You can't tell anyone Olivia, what we're doing that is. I am unaware of anybody that knows what people like me can do. And we have to keep it that way. If anybody finds out…well they'll tell the world. And then I'll end up in some laboratory like a test rat."

I bit my bottom lip, imagining Thelma strapped to a table with people poking and prodding her. "I won't, I promise."

"Alright. I think that keeping records would actually be a good idea, so we can keep in touch with these people."

I nodded enthusiastically and then turned to look out the window. We had gotten onto the thruway at some point and we were now speeding alongside cars and trucks. When people would speed by, I'd peer into their windows and glance at them, wondering if they too were like Thelma. I saw mothers and fathers and teens and cranky old people. But they all looked pretty normal to me, like they wouldn't be hiding the same secret my sister was. But then again, if I was driving by Thelma and didn't know about her secret and I just caught a glance at her, she would look pretty normal to me, too. I shivered thinking how many times I may've unknowingly walked by somebody that could produce fire with a flick of their fingers.

"Cold?" Thelma asked and reached to turn up the heat dial.

I sighed and turned to the window again.