Looking up at the twins, I had the opportunity to get my first really good look at them. Yeah, I admitted after a good, long look, they were all sorts of gorgeous, but, like all the other guys I’d met, neither really stirred my libido. That allowed me to relax a bit, and to straighten things out, I asked, “I guess our school is a bust for you, no shifter girls.”
Alex was all smiles, “That’s fine, because you’re there. It’ll be fun finding out what you are.”
No way was that a good idea. I could see my tranquil school life spiraling downhill to crash and burn in a dangerous and painful pyrotechnic display. “Look, boys, I like my life. I do my thing, which I enjoy, and it makes me happy.” I stood, grabbing my book bag, and their attention. “The very last thing I need is for you two to not get girlfriends, and to still hang around me. Think about it. All the girls at school will think I’m stopping them from getting close to you, and would make my life hell.”
Without waiting for a reply, I clumped upstairs to my room, locked the door, and dug out my homework. I definitely did not need to brood, and I wasn’t prepared to think about what they had told me. That could be done after a good night’s sleep.
The good night’s sleep didn’t turn out to be very good, and by the time Ken stopped outside the twin’s house to take them to school, I was totally weirded out, and could hardly think. This time it was Alex who leaned in from the back seat, and removed my headphones. I guessed it was going to happen, so I didn’t bitch at him, but let him speak. “We’re sorry about yesterday,” he began, “it must have been a lot to lay on you, but we figured you had to have known.”
How to reply? I thought for a while, and the boys seemed to expect it. Eventually I managed, “Considering my dad’s a total bigot when it come to the not exactly human, it couldn’t have been worse. For god’s sake please don’t tell him you’re shifters, or you’ll lose your lift to school.” Wow! I seem to have accepted them, and even been nice. What had happened, and more to the point, did that mean I believed what they had said about me?
“Please forgive us,” Shaun asked. “Our kind doesn’t do so well in big cities, but dad got a really good job here, and we sort of had to go with him. We had basically given up on there being any supernatural kids to hang with before we smelled Ken, so we were really excited to meet you.”
Whoopee, that keyword ‘supernatural’ really banged its way into my brain. That shut my mouth for another minute or so, until I asked, “Okay, so what do you shift into?”
Alex answered that one, but not to my satisfaction. “When we know what you are, we’ll tell you what we are.” Hard to argue with that one, I reasoned, so I told them, “Once I find out what I am – if I’m anything – then I’ll let you know first.”
One twin tried to reassure me, but I couldn’t tell which one. “Don’t worry, Janice, you’re definitely something different.”
Sensing that I was going to put my headphones back on, and shut the world out, Ken turned the radio on, and, as always, it was tuned to his favourite oldies station. The song playing was one I didn’t recognize, but felt I should. That was why I listened to it for a few bars. Suddenly, the world faded out, and then back in. We were pulling away from the light Ken had stopped at yesterday to pull off my headphones. I saw a battered old green truck run the red light and crash into our car, and then everything faded back to what I hoped was normal. “Whoa!” I screeched, banging my hands on the dash. We were coming up to stop at the same light, which had just turned red, leaving us in front.
“What happened?” a voice asked from behind me.
“No idea,” I replied, because I had none. Twenty seconds worth of gut wrenching fear of the unknown ended as the light changed. Grabbing Ken’s arm, I shouted, “Wait a moment.” In the few seconds that Ken took to digest my out of character, and forceful command, the battered old green truck streaked across the intersection in front of us, and nailed the rear of another truck, turning it around, amidst an orchestra of sounds that were painful to hear.
Ken mussed my hair, and said, “Thanks.” I didn’t object, as I knew he had the need to touch someone.
Arms came from the back seat, and grabbed my shoulders, giving them a soft massage. “Now do you believe you might be a little but super?”
Again, I endured a few more seconds of stunned silence, until the car behind us honked its horn. Ken pulled off slowly, while the other backseat voice suggested, “Let’s get to school. There are plenty of other witnesses for the police to question, and your little sister will be better able to recover away from here.” I was totally gone, and all I could do was sit numbly for the rest of the trip. In fact I wa so lost that I didn’t even have enough oomph in me to open the car door myself, until Shaun opened it for me. That woke me up. The last thing I needed was for others to see what could be interpreted as a romantic gesture.
Of course I didn’t get lucky. As I detatched myself from the guys, Dottie rushed up, grabbed me by the arm, and asked. “He opened the door for you, I think it’s time for you to spill.”
“Okay, so he opened the door,” A little fib. “It was stuck. No, he didn’t kiss me, or lay an adoring hand on my arm, or even offer to carry my book bag. Nothing’s going on, anyway neither are my type.”
Dottie smiled a wide expressive one, saying, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Was I starting to overthink all this?
Somehow I managed to make the day into a normal day. I kept my usual low profile, avoided the twins and the only time I saw my brother was when I threw my book bag, now bulging with my school clothes, at him at the end of the day, shouting, “I’m going for a run to clear my head. See you at home.”
It’s about three miles from the school to my house, through what is mostly leafy suburbia. We live in a nice safe district, which was relatively upmarket, and I had done this run too many times to count. I’m a pretty good runner, but what I like most about it is that it lets me think. Long ago I found the trick of putting my body on autopilot, while freeing my brain to mull over whatever was bugging me. Once I was fully in the zone, things started to clear themselves up. It was all linked to music. First the tune on the radio this morning, and yesterday the time another one made me flake out completely. Beyond that I had no idea.
Getting close to home, I passed a parked car with its window open and radio blaring. The tune was another of those vaguely familiar ones my brother liked, and I caught a snatch of the lyrics. They were, “Run like the wind.” Crap! Suddenly it was as if someone had stuffed a rocket up my backside. I was going so fast that the scenery was blurring, and when I tried to slow down, I couldn’t. Seconds later, my foot caught a root, and I went flying. Luckily I landed on a grassy bit, and my limited gymnastic ability allowed me to do a couple of forward rolls before I introduced myself to a wooden fence. Ouch.
I sat, stupefied for about a minute, unwilling to move, or check out what hurt. Before I managed more than straightening my legs, a shadow fell across them, while an all too familiar voice asked, “Janice, do you have to run so fast to get away from me?”
Remember I said that it was more than just my brother who teased me? Well, here was the other cuprit. Harry Lawler, known to one and all as Lawless Harry, towered over me with a silly grin on his face. I hadn’t seen him for a few days as he had been home sick, but now, clearly he was better. He had his hand out, to help me up.
I had known him virtually all my life, as he was one of Ken’s closest friends, and hung around our place a lot. In fact it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that he was the bane of my existence. He was yet another of those great looking guys who did nothing for me. Thank god! Today though, I could use the help, so I grasped his proffered hand, and hoped that getting back vertical wouldn’t be too painful.
It wasn’t. “Jani,” he asked, using the diminutive that I allowed for my friends but not for him, “That was awesome.”
“What?” I replied, ready for sarcasm at the very least. “Did I only get a nine for the fall?”
“No, no, you were just so fast, I don’t think even an Olympic sprinter could have caught you.” That was when I noticed he was still holding my hand. Since I didn’t want to be rude, as he had been helpful, I took my hand back slowly, rather than snatching it, and finally had a good look at him. He was different.
“Harry, you’re different.” I mumbled.
“Yes, I guess I lost a couple of pounds with the flu.”
That wasn’t it. He seemed rather magnetic, almost dreamy, and his smile was more than intriguing. What the hell? Getting a crush on a guy I had virtually loathed all my life was something I needed like another hole in the head. Of all people not him. I stuttered my thanks and said, “I have to get going, see you,” and got on my toes, finding that I moved at a thankfully normal speed.
Arriving home, I rushed straight to the shower, and only got out when the water turned cold. What was happening? Once dressed, I had to get my bag from Ken, not that I wanted to face him either. What a shitty day! He greeted me with a salutation I didn’t want. “The girl of the moment. How are you feeling?”
Sounding as rude as I could, I answered, “Lousy. It’s been a diabolical day, and I don’t know what’s going on. All I really want to do is curl up and sleep, hoping tomorrow will be sane. What the hell did you expect?”
“Run a bit of a bummer then, too,” he asked, in a soft voice.
“Damn you, yes. That as well. A total disaster.” I was almost screeching.
“Tell me about it, and perhaps that will help.” God, now he was way out of character too. This was distressing, even though I somehow noticed that he was trying to help me. It was yet another step away from what was usual and therefore comforting. Teasing would have been infinitely preferable. I sat down with a thud.
Not catching my brother’s eye, I said, “I heard a tune coming from a parked car, and suddenly found myself going so fast that the scenery was a blur, and I couldn’t even slow myself down. Anyway I tripped on a tree root and ended up smashing into a fence. There is just too much weirdnes for me to handle.” I would not cry. I don’t cry, and I forced myself not to bury my head in my hands, but to at last meet his gaze.
“Perhaps I can cheer you up a bit. The twins are having a party on Friday. It’s mostly a way for them to meet the other seniors. but you’ve been invited, and you can bring your friends too.”
I sprawled back in the chair. Even the good intentions were bad. “Thanks, but no thanks.” Seeing Harry at a party I did not need.
“If you don’t come, you can’t bring your friends.” Crap! Now it was blackmail. They were bound to find out, and they were pretty much the only friends I had.
“Bastards, the lot of you!” I cried out, jumping up, and wailing. He could see I was very flustered, and I definitely didn’t want him to find out why. “Look,” I tried, “I have no interest in either Alex or Shaun, in fact I still can’t tell them apart, and as I’m not a shifter, they can’t be interested in me. All this is just too much, too fast.” I sat back, hoping he would at last shut up. Then his cell rang.
I could hear half a conversation. “Yeah… She seems fine to me… More than a little bit out of it… How fast?… Holy shit!” He had to be talking about me. Who was it? OMG not Harry! “You all recovered?… Okay, see you.” He turned to me. “Harry was worried about you, seems you had a spectacular tumble.”
“Told you that.”
“You didn’t say you had seen Harry. Aanyway, he felt bad, because he should have seen you home after such a bad fall, so he’s coming to check on you.”
“No.” It left my mouth before I had a chance to think.
“Did Harry upset you?”
I froze, and Ken could see it. “No, actually he was kind, sweet and helpful. It was such a surprise!” I could feel my face go bright pink. Oh, shit!
Ken pounced. “Don’t tell me you have at last noticed that Harry is a very nice good guy, and, is according to quite a few girls I know, put together rather well?” I couldn’t speak. “You know why those girls told me that? They asked me if he was gay as he hadn’t dated anyone yet.” He started giggling like a maniac
I started to lose it. “Bloody hell, what is it with you? I shouted, going to pull his hair.
Fending me off, and still gurgling like a demented sink, he spat, “Give Harry a break, the poor guy’s been crushing on you for ever, and hasn’t even considered dating anyone else. I have to be happy for him.”
Now the dam really broke. They must have heard me all the way down the street.”Then why does he goddam tease me so much, and why hasn’t he asked me out?” Wow, even my own eardrums hurt.
“Shy I guess, I never asked him. Perhaps he thought you were way out of his league, and he didn’t want to face rejection.”
“Say anything to him, and you’re dead.” This was too much. The doorbell rang, and I scurried up the stairs to the sound of Ken laughing fit to burst.