The summoning, p.13
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       The Summoning, p.13

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 13

 

  “Rae burned me. She has matches or something. Look, look…” Tori pulled down the collar of her T-?shirt.

  “Leave your clothes on, Tori,” Simon said, raising his hands to his eyes. “Please. ”

  Derek let out a low rumble that sounded suspiciously like a laugh.

  Rae held up her hands. “No matches. No lighters. Nothing up my sleeve…”

  “I see a very faint red mark, Tori, from being pushed,” Ms. Wang said.

  “She burned me! I felt it! She's hiding matches again. Search her. Do something. ”

  “How about you do something, Tori?” Simon said as he brushed past us. “Like get a life. ”

  She wheeled—not on him but on Rae—lunging at her before being grabbed by Ms. Wang. The nurses came running.

  Yep, Tori was back.

  Seventeen

  I'D SPENT THAT FIRST class braced for Miss Van Dop or Dr. Gill to stride in and yank Derek out for a “conference. ” I should have trusted my aunt. When we'd come back from breakfast, she'd quietly taken Mrs. Talbot aside, saying only that she wanted to discuss my progress. No one thought anything of it. And no one had burst into the class and dragged Derek out.

  Tori's episode was the only bump in an otherwise quiet morning. Derek attended classes and ignored me. He went to his session with Dr. Gill before lunch. When he came out, I was in the hall, waiting to use the bathroom. Simon was inside, as he always was before a meal. I'd never known a guy to be so conscientious about washing up before eating.

  I was considering running upstairs to the girls' bathroom when Dr. Gill's door opened, and Derek's dark form filled it. I braced myself. He stepped out and looked at me. My heart pounded so hard I was sure he could hear it, just as sure as I was that he'd just gotten bawled out. Our eyes met. He nodded, grunted something that sounded like “hi,” and was about to brush past me when the bathroom door opened.

  Simon walked out, head down. He saw me and shoved something into his back pocket. “Whoops. Guess I'm hogging the bathroom again, causing lines. ”

  “Just Chloe. ” Derek pushed open the door for me. He didn't seem angry at all. Nicer than normal, even. My aunt must have handled it fine. I should have known she would.

  As I went inside, Simon said to Derek, “Hey, lunch is this way. ”

  “Start without me. I gotta get something from our room. ”

  A pause. Then “Hold up,” and Simon's footsteps followed Derek's up the stairs.

  * * *

  After lunch, it was my turn to take out the trash. Life experience, I kept telling myself as I wheeled the wagon to the shed, swatting away flies buzzing in for a closer look. All life experience. You never know when I'd need a critical scene with the protagonist hauling trash.

  My laugh fluttered across the yard. The sun was shining, heat beating down on my face, tree and daffodils blossoming, the faint smell of newly cut grass almost masking the stink of rotting garbage.

  A pretty good start to my afternoon. Better than I'd expected—

  I stopped. There, in the yard behind ours, was a ghost, A little girl, no more than four.

  She had to be a ghost. She was alone in the yard, playing outside in a frilly dress—a wedding cake confection of bows and ribbons, with more ribbons wound in her corkscrew curls and more bows on her shiny patent leather shoes. She looked like Shirley Temple off an old movie poster.

  I tossed the bags into the shed, where they'd be safe from marauding raccoons and skunks. The bags thumped as they hit the wooden floor, but the girl, only twenty feet away, didn't look up. I closed the shed, walked behind it to the fence, and crouched, getting closer to her level.

  “Hello,” I said.

  She frowned, as if wondering who I was talking to.

  I smiled. “Yes, I can see you. That's a pretty dress. I had one like that when I was about your age. ”

  One last hesitant glance over her shoulder, then she sidled closer. “Mommy bought it for me. ”

  “My mom bought mine, too. Do you like it?”

  She nodded, her smile lighting up her dark eyes.

  “I bet you do. I loved mine. Do—?”

  “Amanda!”

  The girl jumped back, landing on her rear and letting out a wail. A woman in slacks and a leather coat broke into a run, keys jangling in her hand, the back door whooshing shut behind her.

  “Oh, Amanda, you got your pretty dress all dirty. I'm going to have to reschedule your special photos. ” The woman shot me a glare, scooping up the little girl and carrying her toward the house. “I told you not to go near that fence, Amanda. Never talk to the kids over there. Never, do you hear me?”

  Don't talk to the crazy kids. I longed to shout back that we weren't crazy. I'd mistaken her kid for a ghost, that's all.

  I wondered whether they had books about this sort of thing. Fifty Ways to Tell the Living from the Dead Before You Wind Up in a Padded Room. Yep, I'm sure the library carried that one.

  I couldn't be the only person in the world who saw ghosts. Was it something I'd inherited, like blue eyes? Or was it something I'd contracted, like a virus?

  There had to be others. How would I find them? Could I? Should I?

  The thump of footsteps told me someone was coming. A living person. That was one lesson I'd already learned: ghosts can yell, cry, and talk, but they don't make any noise when they move.

  I was still behind the shed, hidden from view. Like being in the basement, only here, no one would hear me scream for help.

  I dashed forward just as a shadow rounded the shed. Simon.

  He strode toward me, his face dark with anger. I stiffened, but stood my ground.

  “What did you say?” His words came slow, deliberate, as if struggling to keep his voice steady.

  “Say?”

  “To the nurses. About my brother. You accused him of something. ”

  “I didn't tell the nurses any—”

  “Your aunt did, then. ” His fingers drummed against the shed. “You know what I'm talking about. You told her, she told the nurses, then Dr. Gill took Derek into a special conference before lunch and warned him not to bother you. If he does, they're sending him away. ”

  “Wh-?what?”

  “A word from you, and he's gone. Transferred. ” A vein in his neck throbbed. “He's been perfect since he got here. Now, all of a sudden, after, one problem with you, he's put on notice. If he so much as looks at you funny, he's gone. ”

  “I—I—I—”

  “Something happened with you two last night, didn't it? Derek came upstairs completely freaked out. Said he was talking to you and screwed up. That's all he'd tell me. ”

  I considered the truth—that I hadn't meant to tattle on Derek. I'd been quiet at breakfast and my aunt had figured out I was upset. But that might sound as if I'd been sulking, wanting her to drag it out of me.

  And Simon's attitude pissed me off. He'd all but accused me of making up stories, unfairly targeting his poor, misunderstood brother.

  “It was hot at the restaurant,” I said. “So I rolled up my sleeves. ”

  “What?”

  I pushed my left one up, showing four bruises, dark as ink spots. Simon paled.

  “My aunt wanted to know what happened. When I wouldn't tell her, she tricked me into admitting it was a boy. She met Derek this morning and he was rude, so she decided it had to be him. I never confirmed it. If he's in trouble, it is not my fault. I had every right to tell someone and I didn't. ”

  “Okay, okay. ” He rubbed his mouth, still staring at my arm. “So he grabbed your arm. That's what it looks like. Right? He just grabbed harder than he thought. ”

  “He threw me across the room. ”

  Simon's eyes widened, then he lowered his lids to hide his surprise. “But he didn't mean to. If you saw how freaked out he was last night, you'd know that. ”

  “So that makes it okay? If I lose
my temper and smack you, it's all right, because I didn't mean to, didn't plan to. ”

  “You don't understand. He just—”

  “She's right. ” Derek's voice preceded him around the corner.

  I shrank back. I couldn't help it. As I did, a look passed through Derek's eyes. Remorse? Guilt? He blinked it away.

  He stopped behind Simon's shoulder, at least five feet from me.

  “I wanted to talk to you last night. When you tried to leave, I pulled you back and . . . ” He trailed off, gaze shunting to the side.

  “You threw me across the room. ”

  “I didn't—Yeah, you're right. Like I said. No excuse, Simon? Let's go. ”

  Simon shook his head. “She doesn't understand. See, Chloe, it's not Derek's fault. He's superstrong and—”

  “And you weren't wearing your kryptonite necklace,” Derek said. His mouth twisted in a bitter smile. “Yeah, I'm big. I got big fast. Maybe I don't know my own strength yet. ”

  “That's not—” Simon began.

  “No excuse, like you said. You want me to stay away from you? Wish granted. ” “Derek, tell her—”

  “Drop it, okay? She's not interested. She's made that very, very clear. Now let's go before someone catches me with her and I get stomped again. ”

  “Chloe!” Mrs. Talbot's voice rang through yard.

  “Perfect timing,” Derek muttered. “Must have ESP. ”

  “Just a second,” I called back, moving sideways so she could see me.

  “Go on,” Derek said when the back door banged shut. “You don't want to be late for your meds. ”

  I glowered, then turned away, circling wide around them as I started for the door. Simon murmured something under his breath, as if to Derek.

  Smoke rose in my path. I stumbled back. It hovered over the ground, like a low patch of fog.

  “Simon!” Derek hissed.

  I turned, pointing at the fog. “What is that?”

  “What's what?” Derek followed my finger. “Huh. Must be a ghost. No, wait, you don't see ghosts. You hallucinate. Guess it's a hallucination then. ”

  “That's not—”

  “It's nothing, Chloe. ” He pushed his hands in his pockets, rocking back on his heels. “Just your imagination, like everything else. Now run along and take your meds and be a good girl. Don't worry, I'll stay out of your way from now on. Seems I made a mistake. A big mistake. ”

  He meant he misjudged me. That I wasn't worthy of his interest. My fists clenched.

  “Watch it, Chloe. You wouldn't want to hit me. Then I'd have to tattle on you. ”

  Simon stepped forward. “Cut it out, Derek. She didn't tattle—”

  “He knows that,” I cut in, holding Derek's gaze. “He's baiting me. He's a jerk and a bully and whatever 'secrets' he's taunting me with, he can keep them. He's right. I'm not interested. ”

  I wheeled, strode to the wagon, and grabbed the handle.

  “Here,” Simon called. “I'll take that—”

  “She's got it. ”

  I turned to see Derek's hand on Simon's shoulder.

  Simon shrugged his brother off. “Chloe—”

  I wheeled the wagon back to the house.

  Eighteen

  WHEN I CAME IN THE back door, I almost mowed down Tori.

  “Have fun putting out the trash?” she asked.

  I glanced back through the frilly curtains to see Simon near the shed. I could have said he'd been helping or, better yet, point out that Derek was there, too, if she looked closer. But I didn't much see the point.

  Derek blamed me for getting him into trouble. Simon blamed me for getting Derek into trouble.

  If Tori was going to blame me for poaching her non-?boyfriend, so be it. I couldn't work up the energy to care.

  * * *

  Rae was quiet all afternoon. Tori's comments about her parents not visiting seemed to have brought her down. At break, we got permission to go upstairs before classes and move the rest of her photos to our room.

  “Thanks for helping with this,“ she said. ”I know, I don't have to clear out right now, but if I leave one of these, Tori's liable to toss it out and say she thought I didn't want it anymore. "

  I looked at the top photo, one of a blond girl about three years old and a slightly older boy, who looked Native American. “Cute. Friends? Kids you babysit?”

  “No, my little brother and sister. ”

  I'm sure my face turned bright red as I stammered an apology.

  Rae laughed. “No need to be sorry. I'm adopted. My mother was from Jamaica. Or so I'm told. She was just a kid when she had me, so she had to give me up. That—” she pointed to a photo of a Caucasian couple on the beach “—is my mom and dad. And that—” she pointed to a Hispanic girl mugging for the camera with Donald Duck “—is my sister, Jess. She's twelve. That—” She waved to a solemn-?faced boy with red hair “—is my brother, Mike. He's eight. A very multicultural family, as you can tell. ”

  “Five kids? Wow. ”

  “Jess and I were adopted. The others are fosters. Mom likes kids. ” She paused. “Well, in theory anyway. ”

  We walked to my room. She took the stack of photos from me and put them on her new dresser.

  As she moved her Nintendo DS aside, her fingers tapped the scratched plastic. “You know how some kids are when they get a new gizmo? For weeks or even months, it's the coolest, best, most interesting whatsit they've ever owned and they can't stop talking about it. They carry it everywhere. Then, one day, they're all hyped up over some new gadget. There's nothing wrong with the old one. It just isn't cool and new anymore. Well, that's how my mom is. ” She turned and walked to the bed. “Only with her, it isn't gadgets. It's kids. ”
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