"You didn't have to do that. It wasn't a big deal." Thora tugged at the hem of her faded T-shirt. "Besides, Ava was right about my clothes."
"Just because she wasn't beating you up doesn't mean she wasn't trying to hurt you," said Jamie. "What you wear is none of Ava's business."
Thora didn't know what to say. She dressed the way she did for a reason. Dark, baggy clothes made her fade into the background, where girls like Ava couldn't see her. But Jamie saw Thora anyway, past her tattered armor. It was a kindness she barely knew.
"I saw you holding hands with that boy," said Tom. "Casey, right? Should I give him a talk about how I'll pound him if he breaks your heart?"
It was just what Tom would have said. He had always been protective of Jamie, though she'd never needed it. Now Tom was the one who needed Jamie's protection, and she couldn't tell him she was trying.
"My heart's tough," Jamie said. "Can't be broken. Not even by a boy."
It was a lie. Her heart had broken when she learned her brother was a slave. But she couldn't let anyone see.
"You look just like her," said Peter, for maybe the thousandth time, setting a photo of Eva back on the shelf.
Marisol put groceries in the fridge, silently. She wasn't her mother. She shouldn't be getting groceries at the 7-11 at night in this neighborhood. It wouldn't have been a problem for Eva. She had this way of walking that told everyone to back off. Marisol's only protection was her morphing. But Peter didn't know that.
"You look like a guy who didn't have dinner. Eat something," she said.
Marisol wasn't Eva. But for her dad, she had to be.
Thora could hear it from far off: the sound of a blade striking bark. She flew until she saw Ax in a fighting stance before a tree, readying herself to strike.
«What are you doing, Ax?» Thora asked.
«Striking exercises. My tailfighting instructor assigned them to me.»
«You're doing an assignment? I thought you were bored by school.»
«Yes. But I had to prove myself nonetheless. With the blade most of all.» She struck, scoring deep into the tree. «I am more than Elfangor's little sister.»
«I know that, Ax,» said Thora. «You never need to prove it to me.»
"Why aren't you scared of me?" said Ryan.
"What do you mean?" said Thora.
"You know what I mean! Even in school, I'll think about a battle, and I'll look up and realize the girls in the cafeteria are staring. I'm tall and I play sports. I could kill them if I wanted. Even when I'm not in morph. They can tell."
"You can't kill them." Thora took Ryan's hand and wrapped it around her throat. She looked up at him defiantly. "You can't."
"Not you." Ryan drew his hand back. "It's the rest of the world that scares me."