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       Lost Girl, p.13

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  Soft scratching noises came from her door. Wendy listened until they stopped. She flung open her door, just as, across the hall, Tink’s shut with a thud. Confused, Wendy began to pull her door closed when she spotted a red, black, and white sign swinging gently back and forth on it.

  She couldn’t help but laugh at Tink. Somehow, the dig Tink sent her way made her feel accepted. Wendy adjusted the crooked DANGER! HAZARDOUS WASTE sign before closing her door with a gentle click.

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Loud pounding woke Wendy, and she rolled over to see the clock on her bedside table.

  Six a.m.? She found a robe to cover her pajamas before she answered the door.

  Jax stood there, an irritated look on his face. Up close, he was way more attractive than she’d originally given him credit for. Maybe it was the gold stud in his ear that made him look like a rebel. Or maybe she had been too preoccupied with Peter’s handsome face to notice. Jax’s black jumpsuit and his black hair accentuated his striking features, making him look even angrier than he was—she hoped.

  “You’re late,” he said.

  “For what?” Wendy tried to stifle a yawn but failed.

  “Training. Peter assigned me to instruct you, although I have no clue why. Be at the training gym in ten minutes.”

  Jax marched off.

  “Wait, I haven’t even showered. I’m not ready.”

  He paused and turned back. “No time. Bottom drawer. You’ll find everything you need. You now have nine minutes or you’ll find an empty gym.”

  She saw the back of his dark head and growled. She rushed back into her room and tugged open her bottom drawer. Sure enough, a gray training uniform lay folded in there. When was the last time she’d moved this fast? In less than a minute, she wore the suit, traced one of the white and black stripes on the sleeve. A glint of silver grabbed her attention—a bracelet. It took a second to find the button that opened it, but once it was around her wrist, it snapped shut with a hiss.

  She stepped into the hall and closed her bedroom door. This morning she wasn’t in the mood for the sign on her door. She spun and glared at Tink’s. What did her room say about her?

  Wendy drew closer and pulled the crime scene tape aside. A fairy. What? Tink seemed the complete opposite of a fairy. Weren’t fairies supposed to be sweet and grant wishes? Yeah, this must be her spare room. One of the others must belong to her.

  She didn’t have time to waste. Wendy jogged down the hall and back to the training gym, finding it after only one wrong turn. She shoved the doors open and stepped into a completely dark gym.

  The door closed behind her with a thud, encasing her in inky blackness.

  “Hello, Jax.” Wendy’s voice sounded odd to her as it bounced off the brick walls.

  “Lesson one,” Jax’s voice echoed around her. “Everyone is your enemy.”

  “I’m sorry…what?” Wendy turned in circles, trying to get a fix on his location. Something about what he said made her feel sick to her stomach. Where had she heard that before?

  “Rule two, remember rule one.” Something flared in the darkness, a glowing ball of light, which illuminated Jax’s right arm and the side of his angry face. “Rule three, if you break rule one, be prepared to pay the consequences.” His face became brighter as his fist rose and the ball came closer to his face, and then it darkened as the light rushed her.

  Wendy screamed and dropped to the mat just a second before the ball of light took off her head. Gasping for breath, she rolled to her back and watched it hit the wall and disappear.

  “What’s wrong with you!” Wendy got back to her feet and yelled at Jax. “You could have killed me.” Darkness once again enveloped her. Bright spots from staring at the ball invaded her vision.

  “Rule one!” Another flash of light and another attack.

  Wendy dodged the light ball by jumping to the side. Hoping to avoid more blinding spots, she closed her eyes. She waited for the ball to dissipate before opening her eyes and listening for Jax, this time, keeping her mouth shut.

  She heard just a whisper of sound.

  Turning slowly, she was able to make him out faintly in the darkness. Wendy crept along the ground until she could crouch behind one of the obstacle course pieces. Why was he trying to hurt her? She glanced toward the door and wondered if she should make a break for it.

  Too late.

  Jax rounded the barrier and his hand glowed again. A shot of light hit her square in the chest.

  She squeezed her eyes shut and waited for the explosion of pain, but she felt nothing. Her hand searched for an injury, but her shirt wasn’t even damaged.

  Jax’s hand whipped out and bonked her on the back of her head. “Aaand you’re dead.” He pulled a remote out of his pocket and aimed it at the ceiling. A second later the overhead lights kicked on, bathing them in blinding light.

  Wendy blinked at him, confused. “I thought you were trying to kill me.”

  “Relax, a light blast is harmless to humans…if it’s on low.”

  Jax saw her look of confusion and grabbed her by the bracelet. He held up her wrist, palm facing her. A similar half-inch silver bracelet wrapped around his own wrist. “This is a light brace. With a flick of your wrist—” He flicked his wrist, and a small silver lever flipped down into his palm. A ball of light formed at the lever’s round wand tip. “Let the light orb form within the palm of your hand. The longer you hold it, the bigger and brighter it will become.”

  He let the ball fly toward a wall, and it dispersed in a burst of colors.

  “It’s just a specially altered form of light. Its reflective coating helps illuminate and keep the light in a shape as it flies—it’s nearly weightless.”

  Wendy studied the contraption on Jax’s arm and flicked her wrist, surprised when the rod on her brace slid into her palm. She gently ran her fingers over the tip and felt the small circle. “So kind of like a bubble wand but it captures and reflects light.”

  “Ridiculous. It’s nothing like…” he thought about it for a second and his face began to turn pink. “Okay, yeah. It’s a little like a bubble wand.” He formed another ball of light in his palm and, this time, very carefully cupped it in front of her.

  She reached out and felt the film that covered the ball. “How is the light generated?”

  Jax made the wand pop back into the bracelet and turned it over. “It uses your energy to power it, so it can wear you out. Excessive use will drain you. This is the first and easiest weapon to use against a shadow, but try to avoid it in public. Most people are unable to see the shadows, but a crazy person wielding light bombs, no matter how harmless, is bound to draw attention.”

  Wendy tried to create a ball of light and nothing happened. She looked up and saw Jax’s frown deepen. He gave her a searching look.

  She stepped back and flicked her wrist, trying to envision the glowing orb, but she barely felt a tingle in her fingertips.

  “Why doesn’t mine work?” she asked.

  He shook his head. “Because you’re not one of us. It’s a lost boy thing, something that only we can use. It’s part of our genetic code. See?”

  “Then why train me in something I can’t use?” she huffed.

  “Because it was a test. I thought for a second that you—” he trailed off, his teeth began to grind and she watched his jaw muscle tic. “Never mind, I was wrong.” He glared at her. “Lessons over for today. Don’t let yourself think it went well…it didn’t.” He strode toward the gym door, turning back at the last minute. “Don’t get settled in. You don’t belong here.”

  Wendy’s heart sank as she watched him retreat, the darkness of depression beginning to consume her. She pushed back those thoughts and tried to focus on her future. She unclipped the light brace, left it on the bench, and headed back to her room.

  Every part of her wanted to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over her head. Instead she combatted it by opening the curtains and letting as much light as she could in
to the room.

  She grabbed a clean set of clothes and headed out. Tink was just leaving her room.

  “Showers?”

  “Upstairs, second door to your right. There are towels in a laundry basket inside. They’re clean, just not folded.”

  Wendy walked up the stairs and found the bathroom easily. As soon as the shower steamed up the room, she peeled off her clothes and let them fall to the floor in a heap. She stayed under the hot streams for what felt like hours, hoping the water would wash away all of her restless emotions. She opened a new bar of generic hotel soap and scrubbed her body until the little bar was gone. Wendy washed her hair three times until the hot water ran out. Even then, Wendy didn’t want to get out. She just slid to the back of the shower and let the water beat against her skin. It had been forever since she felt truly clean, and she was enjoying the accommodations here at Neverwood, even if she did have to put up with people like Jax.

  Someone knocked on the door, but she didn’t answer. She thought she heard it open, but Wendy never looked up. The water stopped spraying and something soft landed on Wendy’s head—a towel.

  “Get up, lazy bones,” Tink sassed. “Here are some normal clothes. You can thank me later, by not saying thanks.” Then the door slammed closed.

  Wendy pulled herself up and put on black stretchy pants, an oversize pink sweater that went past her hips, and fuzzy, warm socks. Tink had even been kind enough to include a comb. Wendy brushed out her long strawberry blonde hair and blew it dry. It fell in soft waves past her shoulders. She’d forgotten how pretty her hair was when it wasn’t covered with dirt.

  She headed downstairs to the main rec area. As she walked into the room, her skin prickled at the stares of all of the boys. Tink, obviously immune to it, headed back up to the loft to work on the computers.

  A skinny teen, wearing an oversized jersey and glasses, sat on the floor by the coffee table with Tootles. They were poring over school books—the older boy evidently tutoring the younger.

  The ping-pong twins sat on the other couch playing a PS4—some kind of racing game.

  “You’re here!” Tootles jumped up, knocking books off his lap, and ran to hug Wendy around the waist, his fists bunching in her shirt. “I have more riddles.”

  “I love riddles.” She really had missed him. The skinny tutor stood, pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, and watched her as if waiting for something. The twins stopped playing their game, and she saw a blur of motion as they merged into one person.

  “Whoa! What happened?” Wendy shook her head. “I thought there were two of you.” Was she hallucinating again?

  “Isn’t it the coolest?” Tootles climbed up the couch and jumped off the armrest. He landed on the boy’s back and held on like a wrestler trying to put a sleeper hold on him. The boy smirked, and in a second blur, there were once again two of him. One of them grabbed Tootles from the back and gently launched him into the air to land on the couch with a bounce.

  “Again, again!” Tootles yelled.

  The second twin tilted his head, cracked his knuckles, and feinted left at Tootles—the other boys laughed as they watched. Then with another blur of movement there was only one. He held out his hand to Wendy and gave her a wry smile.

  “We’ve never been introduced. I’m Ditto.”

  “Ditto?”

  “Yeah, it means to duplicate or repeat. And that’s what I can do. I can temporarily duplicate myself.”

  The skinny guy coughed and rubbed the back of his head. “We’ve been working on seeing how long he can control his other half—they actually work in conjunction pretty well.”

  Wendy did a double-take as she stared at the scrawny guy. Did she know him? When he started to move closer to her, she noticed his limp—Slightly!

  “Yeah, but it wasn’t always like that,” Ditto admitted. “It’s kind of disconcerting. Like dual tunnel vision, but I’ve gotten better at handling it.”

  “When I first came, and you were playing pool against yourself, you didn’t say much. I thought you were just upset,” Wendy said.

  Ditto’s face turned red. “I don’t like talking when I replicate. Not saying that I can’t. I just prefer not to.”

  Wendy stared at Ditto, and he backed away from her. Her discomfort must’ve made him feel awkward. She sat on the couch, and Tootles scooted close, gazing up at her.

  Wendy pointed her finger at Slightly. “And you…you change too. I’m not crazy. I’ve seen it.”

  Slightly bit his lip, and Ditto punched him in the arm.

  “Do it, Slightly. Shift to the Bulk.” Ditto turned and grabbed Slightly’s glasses and taunted. “Come on man. She’s seen you as the Brain and the Bulk, let her see you morph.”

  Slightly reached for his glasses, but Ditto split in two and the glasses appeared with him across the room. Back and forth, he tossed the glasses, and Slightly’s frustration level was on the rise. “Don’t break those. I need them, Ditto.” Slightly quivered with anger and then he grew taller and wider until he towered over Ditto and resembled the large linebacker she had first met.

  Slightly laughed and lifted Ditto, his feet kicking and knocking over a barstool. As he dragged Ditto across the coffee table, books and papers scattered.

  “Ah, put me down, Slightly.” Ditto’s voice came from both Dittos’ mouths simultaneously, creating an echo. Which explained his hesitance to speak.

  Tootles laughed and threw the couch cushions at the closest Ditto. Then he disappeared and reappeared on the other side, grabbing more throw pillows and tossing them. Okay. Tootles can teleport. Within minutes, the boys destroyed the room, and a larger than normal fox had appeared out of nowhere and was running among the furniture and yipping in excitement.

  Wendy looked up to the booth.

  Tink watched her from the balcony.

  “You’re…You’re all…” Wendy stood to survey all the boys and turned around without looking. She bumped into the coffee table and lost her balance, falling into the hard wooden surface. As quick as she could, she jumped up and tried not to act like she’d just made a fool of herself from her surprise.

  “Awesome!” Tootles chimed in from across the room. In a flash he was by her side holding her hand, interrupting Wendy’s thoughts. That was probably for the best.

  Because awesome was definitely not the word she would have chosen.

  “H-how?” she squeaked out.

  “It’s in our genetic makeup,” Peter’s familiar voice drifted over her shoulder. “There’s something special about each of us.

  “Us?” Wendy turned to look at Peter and waited for him to sprout a tail.

  “Yes, them…you…although I’m not sure why you yet.”

  Wendy shook her head. “No, you’re wrong. I-I…I’m not like you. I’m normal. I just have bad dreams.” She began to pace like a caged animal.

  In this moment, she wanted to believe Jax—not Peter. She didn’t want to belong here. This was her worst fears come to life—that she was different. She looked to Tink for backup, but the girl just shrugged at her.

  “I don’t think so,” Peter said slowly. “You can see the shadows, which makes you special.”

  “You just haven’t realized your potential yet,” Slightly added. He had de-bulked and was standing before her once again in his oversize jersey and spectacles.

  “I bet it will be amazing,” Tootles piped up.

  “She doesn’t belong here,” Jax said as he entered the room. “Tink was right. She’s not one of us. She’ll just slow us down.” He walked over to the mini fridge, grabbed a glass bottle of ginger ale, and used the counter to pop the top.

  Something in her rebelled. One thing was sure: she didn’t just want Tink and Jax to dismiss her. She wanted answers, wanted to know why she’d been able to see the shadows all her life. But she’d believed for so long that she was just crazy. And now, she was causing dissension between Jax and Peter.

  Wendy shook her head. “I think you made a mistake bringin
g me here.” She felt the cushion sink next to her as Peter sat down. She whispered under her breath so only he could hear. “I think I’m causing more problems just by my presence.” She hated being the center of an argument.

  “I admit, I make a lot of mistakes, but bringing you here—Wendy, that’s not one of them. I believe in you. Now you need to believe in yourself.”

  Her heart fluttered at his acceptance of her, but she still had doubts. “This is getting increasingly difficult to swallow. My whole life, doctors have told me everything I see is fake, but here you say it’s real. It’s hard to believe what I’m seeing with the boys too. It doesn’t seem humanly possible.”

  “That’s because they’re not.” Jax took a final swig of the pop and tossed the bottle in the receptacle. “They’re not human.”

  She snapped her head up. He’d said “them.” Was he not like them either? She wanted to question him, but Tink’s voice called down over the wall. “We’ve got active dead zones popping up in Washington County.”

  Peter jumped up from the couch, and the boys in the room looked to him for direction. “Ditto, Jax, Slightly, you’re with me on this one.”

  “What does that mean?” Wendy asked.

  Ditto, more pale-faced than she’d seen him, put on a light brace. “It means shadows are congregating—and where they congregate, a morphling appears. It’s a race to see who can get there first. Hook and his Red Skulls or us.” He looked resigned, prepared to step into battle.

  She briefly wondered which was worse—meeting a Red Skull or a morphling?

  “Tink, I need you to stay here with Wendy,” Peter ordered.

  “I’m not a freakin’ babysitter!” she screeched. Tink charged down the stairs, shouldering her bag. “I’m going and that’s it.” Her censor band began to have a field day.

  “I’m fine by myself.” Wendy said. No one seemed to hear her over their rush to get armed and out the door.

  “Tink,” Peter gave her a pleading look.

 
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