Chapter One


I sit on a chair beside the window with the curtains drawn. A small crack lets me peer through it, but for the past two weeks I look at the emptiness of the space outside. We're in this shabby motel room with two beds and a couch. Marina and Ella take up one bed while I insisted Crayton to take the other bed, given his size and also because I can't stop the nightmares from entering my mind when I close my eyes. The TV in front of the couch is turned on, though no one ever watches. Marina is watching Ella sketch on the legal-sized notepad that Crayton gave her about a week ago. I concentrate my telekinetic energy on the TV and shut it off. Marina doesn't look up when the voice of the female reporter from the TV faded. Ella looks up swiftly, then scribbles some more on her notebook. Ella never lets anyone see her pictures except for Marina, who claims she has painted John's and my face in a cave wall back in Spain. The thought of the Mogadorian HQ comes to my mind, with John and Sam contained, gagged, shackled to the wall in the same room where they killed Katarina, with all those razor sharp blades. Those images flutter behind my eyelids, awake or asleep. A gentle finger prods my shoulder, awakening me in my stupor. I turn around and see Ella holding a black and white picture drawn by her smudged hands. I mutter thanks and she walks away, putting the pencil back in her hand.

I look at the drawing she gave me, which was a portrait of me in black and white, staring blankly at the window with my legs crossed, extended before me. My hair looks tousled. I never really cared much about since the war, letting it fall flat on my face whenever I felt like it. I put loose strands of hair behind my ear, sighing deeply. I stand up for the first time in three hours, my joints creaking and popping. With Ella's picture still in my hand, I walk to the closet and find my backpack, which contained three quarters of the clothes I own, my knife vest and now, Ella's drawing. I zip the bag shut and turn around, only to find myself faced by Marina and Ella in her eleven-year-old self. They haul me to the bed, where a set of rubber bands and a comb awaits. I mutter in protest but they heard it with deaf ears. I slump on the floor and feel Ella's little fingers weave in and out of my hair, which is impossible even for me to comb. Marina hands her rubber bands to secure the creases she's made with my hair. After about twenty minutes, I hear the last piece of rubber band snap. "There, you look prettier," says Ella, pushing me to the mirror with her own strength. My hair is in an elaborate single braid that runs down to the middle of my back. My electric blue irises are encased in a purple circle due to sleepless nights. My face no longer contained the smile John adored, but was replaced by a face with a mixture of sadness and a little hope. My shoulders are slightly falling forward. I thank them then I return to my position at my chair. Crayton has gone out to buy a car. Its mid-afternoon and a sliver of sunlight as wide as my pinkie enter the crack between the curtains. That's the hope I have left, and little by little the light begins to fade away.

Marina and Ella try unsuccessfully to coax me into talking, but my heart wasn't in it. So instead I reply halfheartedly to them, asking every question they bombard me. Little by little we began a conversation. Then they start to ask me questions that I most wanted to avoid like how I got out of that wretched cave four years ago, how I found John, what I like about Sam, what it felt like when I kissed John before heading for Spain. At some points they change the subject when their questions were ended with silence. They tell me that they feel free to talk whenever Crayton's not around, who Ella describes as "a strict father".

I end up on my chair again, waiting for John and Sam to appear on the doormat. I was unaware that I fell asleep with my head on the windowsill, my forehead leaning on the curtain. Dreams erupt here and there; the walk with John, Sam embracing me in the freight train, the way John's lips are pressed against mine, but they are replaced by Katarina, chained to the wall hanging limply, with the light drained from her eyes, blood oozing from the wound on her chest. Beside her, also shackled to the wall, are John and Sam. I try desperately to reach them, but my body won't respond. John is still awake and holding on, while Sam has a gunshot on his forehead, blood trickling down his face. John stirs, writhing and grunting, the wall behind him bloody, suggesting he was whipped. He looks at me, his blue eyes growing darker. He whispers, "Six," very faintly. I move my mouth, but no words come out. "Six," he says and looks contentedly at my face, savoring every little detail he might find in it. Suddenly whatever strength remains in John fades. His eyes slowly close, and when they do, I wake up from screaming for the fifth time in a row today. Marina has a firm grip on both of my shoulders. While thrashing around I somehow remain on my chair. I look outside. It's dark. Ella is behind Crayton, whose eyes are filled with concern. I break down into tears, clutching my face in my hands. Ella tentatively hugs me, rubbing a portion of tenseness on my back. I cross some line into hysteria, desperately needing the night air. I thrash around, throwing Ella and Marina into shock. I pound the door with my strength until cracks appear. A needle is jammed in my arm, a sedative. I face Crayton as he pushes the plunger down. I instantly feel drowsy. With her telekinesis, Marina prevents me from falling face-first on the floor. She floats me to my couch, where I lose consciousness.

I wake up in the middle of the night, Marina at the dining table with a laptop in front of her. In her hand is a mug of coffee, but her eyes say that she's yearning for sleep. I sit up slowly, massaging the part where Crayton injected the sedative. "How long was I out?" I ask, standing up and making my way to Marina. She takes a sip from her coffee and says, "Five hours. You didn't thrash around, thank God, but you kept mumbling 'John' in your sleep."

Ella is asleep on one bed with her leg sticking out the blanket. Crayton is asleep on his side, and by the way he sleeps, he looks ten years younger. I spread the blanket over Ella's exposed leg, and she stirs, rolling on her side like Crayton. "You go to sleep. You deserve it. I'll wake you up if something happens," I say, half-guiding, half-carrying Marina to her bed, her arm draped over my shoulders. She must've been sleepier than I thought. Just as she was lying down, she drifts off without pulling the blanket up. I do it for her, and she mumbles thanks in her sleep. I smile in the dark and turn off her laptop. As usual, she was searching for news, just like Crayton. I walk to the bedside drawer and extinguish the light of the lampshade. Now, our only light source is the slice of moonlight across the floor from the curtain. I reposition myself on my chair, wrapping an extra blanket around me. I take sips from Marina's unfinished coffee. From where I sit, I see portion of the parking lot, and half of the full moon. I risk opening the crack even wider just to see Lorien, a little, pale blue star here in the Earth's night sky. "John, where are you?" I whisper, resulting in making gusts of wind in our direction, hoping that they know it is me. Somehow, my feelings for John become stronger than that of Sam. Well, yeah sure he's Loric and plus, he's the son of my parents' best friends. But he also makes me feel normal and special at the same time. With Sam, it's different. It's like having a little brother who's a nerd and was obsessed with aliens. I wonder if this is what love does to you. Well, I'm not sure because I've never been in love before. John has, and I wonder if this is how they both felt when they were together, Sarah and John. I also feel guilt and confusion that runs back around to guilt over and over again. Guilt because I feel like John's cheating on Sarah because of me, not like there's anything going on between them since Ohio. Confusion because I don't know who to choose; Sam. John. Sam John. Their faces pop here and there, Sam wearing hatred and John smiling with joy then vice versa. Over and over again. I try to run my fingers through my hair, but finally notice that I'm still wearing Ella's braid. I undo it and give my hair a casual flick. I continue looking out the window, the little ray of hope I have left slowly fading into blackness.

Tears fill my eyes, but I let none of them escape. Not again. I might end up setting this room on fire. I desperately need some air. I think about going outside, wanting the cool night air to bring the familiar goose bumps on my skin like the night in California, the night John and I almost kissed. My chest weighs a ton. I'm not just gasping for air; I'm in need of attention. It's about time I had one of those girl talks Katarina and I used to have, at home, on a walk, during training, on the way to someplace else. But who am I going to tell? Certainly not Crayton. And I can't keep secrets from Ella. That leaves Marina. She's been in love with a boy who died trying to save her. Surely she can help me, right? But I'll have to wait until morning, when Crayton ventures out once more to find a car. I let my mind wander while absentmindedly staring at the doormat, waiting as if John and/or Sam will appear on it out of thin air. I will the wind to bend its way here; thereby making the trees that surrounds the motel bow. Sam, who's some sort of logic genius, can figure out that the wind is sending them here, safe with me. My fingers trace my lips, rendering the warmth of John's lips, his blond hair, his fluttering eyelashes that were so blond you'd have to be so close just to see them and his smile, a sly crooked smile that shows his dazzling white teeth. I let the picture of him flash behind my eyelids, and drift off to an uneasy sleep.

I wake up two hours after being petrified with terror of my latest dream, seeing John bleeding beside me. My face is glued to the window. I flinch when I see a woman staring at me with bloodshot eyes, but relax when I realize it's my reflection. I was sweating and was short of breath, but it didn't wake any of the others. I recompose myself and breathe through the nose, counting six seconds before I exhale. It calms me down a little, but what I really need is to go outside. Slowly, and very gently, I unlock the door with telekinesis. While being invisible, I slip outside. I close the door quietly behind me and take my first breath of fresh oxygen. The cold air bites my exposed skin, but I didn't care. In fact I loved it. Soon my teeth were chattering, and every time I exhale, a puff of smoke erupts from my mouth. I close my eyes and let my mind replay the best night of my life, the night we walked the streets of a town near Lake George. John's hand was locked with mine, his thumb resting over mine. I remember how our upper lips brushed mine before the explosion. A creek of a door sends a jolt through my body. I realize it's our neighbor, a man with curly hair and a goatee. He has a cigarette in his hand, and my nose picks up a strong smell of smoke and tobacco. I wait for the man to return to his room. He doesn't and he just keeps smoking, burning my eyes and making me want to cough. Now what?

With the wind responding to me, I extinguish the flame, hoping that he left his lighter in his room. He throws the cigarette away, scowling and walks back in his compartment, cursing about the wind. I cough softly then retreat back to our room. With a last breath of air, I close and bolt the door. I sit on my chair, watching Ella move in the dark. She murmurs something I don't quite catch. Then silence. I wrap my blanket more tightly around me, and then I stand up, shut the curtains close and sleep on my couch.

When I wake up in the morning, Crayton has gone. He left us some food on the table which contained two high-powered computers. Ella hands me a Styrofoam box and when I open it, the smell of fried chicken fills my nostrils. I eat my food one spoonful at a tie, until finally I finish the entire chicken. I look at the mirror hanging on the wall, and see that a girl with dark circles under her eyes is staring back. I slowly trace the light purple circles under my eyes and sigh. Marina takes notice of this. She stands up and places her fingers under my eyes. Iciness floods from her fingers through my entire body, and once Marina's satisfied, she hefts me up from my couch and brings me to the mirror. The purple circles under my eyes are completely gone. I'm almost myself now, but there's still sadness and longing in my eyes that looks out of place in my otherwise bright face. "Thanks," I say. Marina nods then sits on the bed, watching Ella sketch another picture. I take a bath and dry my hair, and now that Crayton's not here, I can talk to Marina and Ella freely. With my hair dry, a smile plays around Ella's lips. I sit on the floor and let her braid my hair again. "Marina? What's it like, you know, being in love?" I ask. Marina hands Ella a piece of rubber band before answering. "It's a strange and complicated thing. I guess it's different for everyone. For me, you can love someone as drunk as Héctor as long as he has heart. He was never angry. He was always a person to bring smiles to your face. I guess love makes me feel normal and human. Just me."

"What if you fell in love with two people at the same time?" I ask. To my surprise, it's Ella who answers. "I think you should choose who you think you can't survive without," she says, locking my braid in place by the rubber band. Who can't I survive without? Right now, I can't live without both of them. I'm confused. I yearn for Katarina, which I haven't done in years. I exhale and let more wind blowing this way. I think I'm confusing my feelings for both of them. I like Sam, but not as much as I like John. After hours of thinking on the floor I retreat to my chair, opening the crack in the curtains. "Ella," I say, and her head snaps up in anticipation. "How many times have I had a nightmare about John?"

"All the time," she says. She stands and hands me another picture, the one when I stood in front of the mirror before Marina washed my eye bags away. "What about Sam?" I ask. The confusion in my head is finally clear. Ella says, "Not that I know of. Marina?" Marina shakes her head. Finally, the feelings for John and Sam inside me arrange themselves. Sam falls under "friend". John falls under "lover". For the first time in two and a half weeks, I smile. And with Sarah gone, though I'm not sure they're over, my path to John is clear. He's mine. I am his. No one stands in my way.

It's nearly six in the afternoon when Crayton comes back with the second batch of food. He says he's found a nice pickup truck. Crayton sits on the chair in front of the dining table, his laptops turned on. The light of the screens reflect on the pair of glasses he uses whenever he uses the computers. Ella, Marina and I eat silently on their bed. "I think it's time we go. We have to find the Chimæras in time for the war. Setrákus Ra won't even know what hit him," Crayton says without looking up. I choke and cough, sending bits of food in every direction. Marina picks them up with telekinesis and throws them in the trash bin. I swallow hard, solid bits of food like needles pushed down my throat. "No. We stay here and wait for John and Sam," I say. Crayton shakes his head, his mustache twitching. "We have to leave immediately. If we want an element of surprise in this war, we leave now."

"No!" I yell, standing up and balling my fists, my knuckles white and my nails biting in my palm. "It took me three years to find John! And just in a nick of time too! If we separate we could lose them! It'll take us ten times longer to find them again! And you expect to find the Chimæras while we lose another Garde!" I try to calm myself down for Ella's sake, because if I lose it, I might burn Crayton to ashes. Crayton considers what I said. Ella holds my fist in her little hand, which was far littler than I thought. I glance at Ella in her younger age, her eyes wide with a pleading look. I exhale, learning that I have held my breath for so long. I notice that Marina's sucking on her chicken leg bone. I dump my half finished leg on her box and say, "I'm not very hungry." She accepts the leg and starts eating. Crayton sighs and accepts defeat. I take my place on my chair and announce that I will take first watch, the edge in voice from the argument minutes ago evident. Crayton shuts both laptops and whispers good night to all of us before extinguishing the lights. I watch the parking lot, and see the pickup truck Crayton was telling us about. Headlights enter the entrance of the parking lot, and as far as I can tell, it's a black SUV. In fact, if I squinted, it looks like the black SUV we own. I stop breathing. On the dashboard, past the dark tinted glass where only my eyes can see, sits pair of black glasses with thick lenses.

So, What do you think? Review please!