The summoning, p.19
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       The Summoning, p.19

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 19

 

  Twenty-six

  I DID USE THE JAR, as gross as it was. I'd already provided my “sample” for that day, so the next time I had to go, I did it in the upstairs bathroom, in the jar, hiding it behind the cleaning stuff under the sink. Cleaning the bathroom was one of our chores, so I hoped that meant the nurses never went under there.

  We didn't do much work in class that day. We tried, but Ms. Wang wasn't cooperating. It was Friday and she saw the weekend looming, so she just set us up with our assignments, then played solitaire on her laptop.

  Rae spent most of the morning in therapy, first with Dr. Gill, then in a special session with Dr. Davidoff, while Tori went for hers with Dr. Gill. That meant when Ms. Wang let us out early for lunch, I was left to pass the time with Simon and Derek, which was just fine by me. There was still so much I wanted to know. Asking wasn't nearly so easy, especially since it wasn't stuff we could discuss in the media room.

  Going outside would have been the obvious choice, but Miss Van Dop was working in the garden. So Simon offered to help me finish the laundry. Derek said he'd sneak down later.

  “So this is where our resident ghost lurks,” Simon said, circling the laundry room.

  “I think so but—”

  He held up a hand, then lowered himself to the floor and started sorting the last basket. “You don't need to tell me there might not be a ghost here, and I'm not going to make you try to contact it. When Derek comes down, he might. Don't let him push you around. ”

  “I don't push her anywhere. ” Derek's voice preceded him around the corner.

  “If I tell someone to do something and they do it?” Derek said, rounding the corner. “That's not my problem. All she has to do is say no. Her tongue works, doesn't it?”

  Great. The guy can manage to make me feel stupid even when he's telling me I don't have to let him make me feel stupid.

  “So if they decide to transfer you, what are you going to do about it?”

  Simon balled up a shirt. “For God's sake, Derek, they're not—”

  “They're thinking about it. She needs a plan. ”

  “Does she?” Simon pitched the shirt into the colored pile. “What about you, bro? If word comes down that you're next to go, do you have a plan?”

  They exchanged a look. I couldn't see Simon's face, but Derek's jaw set.

  I stood and gathered a load for the washer. “If they do, I don't see that I have a lot of options. I can't exactly refuse. ”

  “So you'll just give in? Go along like a good girl?”

  “Ease up, bro. ”

  Derek ignored him, scooped up the laundry I'd missed, and dropped it into the washer, moving beside me as he did. “They won't let you talk to Liz, will they?”

  “Huh—what?”

  “Tori asked this morning. I heard. Talbot told her no and said she'd told you the same thing when you asked last night. ” He grabbed the soap box from my hands, lifted the measuring cup from the shelf, and waggled it. “This helps. ”

  “They said I can call Liz on the weekend. ”

  “Still, seems a little odd. You barely knew the girl, and you're the first one wanting to call her?”

  “It's called being considerate. Maybe you've heard of it?”

  He batted my hand from the dials. “Darks, cold. Or you'll end up with the dye bleeding. ” A glance back at me. “See? I'm considerate. ”

  “Sure, when it's mostly your stuff in there. ”

  Behind us, Simon snorted a laugh.

  “As for Liz,” I continued, “I just wanted to be sure she was okay. ”

  “Why wouldn't she be?”

  He'd scoff at my stupidity, thinking Liz was dead, murdered. Oddly enough, that's exactly what I wanted. Reassurance that my head was stuffed too full of movie plots.

  I got as far as the part about waking to see Liz on the bed, chattering away.

  “So…” Derek cut in. “Liz returned from the great beyond to show you her really cool socks?”

  I told them about her “dream” and her attic appearance.

  When I finished, Simon sat there, staring, a shirt dangling from his hands. “That sure sounds like a ghost. ”

  “Just because she's a ghost doesn't mean she was murdered,” Derek said. “She could have had a completely unrelated accident on the way to the hospital. If that happened, they wouldn't want to tell us right away. ”

  “Or maybe she's not dead at all,” I said. “Could she be astral projecting? Shamans do that, right? It might also explain how she was moving stuff around. It wasn't a poltergeist spirit—it was her spirit or however it works. You said our powers kick in around puberty, right? If we don't know what we are when that happens, this is just the kind of place we'd end up. A home for teens with weird problems. ”

  He shrugged. But he didn't argue.

  “Would being a shaman explain what she was doing? Throwing stuff around? Could she have been popping out of her body without knowing it?”

  “I… don't know. ” The admission came slowly, reluctantly. “Let me think about it. ”

  * * *

  We were halfway through dessert when Mrs. Talbot reappeared.

  “I know you kids have free time after lunch, and I hate to interfere with that, but I'm going to have to ask you to spend it in this end of the house, and give Victoria and her mother some privacy. Please stay out of the classroom until it's time for classes, and don't play in the media room. You can go outside or in the living room. ”

  Now, last week, if anyone told me to give someone privacy, I'd make sure I stayed away. That was only polite. After a few days at Lyle House, though, when someone said “Don't go there,” I didn't say “okay,” but “why?”… and decided to find out. In this house, knowledge was power, and I was a quick learner.

  The question was: How to get close enough to Dr. Gill's office to overhear Tori and her mom, and learn why we had to give them privacy for a friendly mother-?daughter chat. I could ask the guy with the supercharged hearing, but didn't want to owe Derek any favors.

  Mrs. Talbot said the girls were allowed upstairs, but not the boys, because getting to their rooms meant passing Dr. Gill's office. That gave me an idea. I went upstairs, crept into Mrs. Talbot's room, through the adjoining door into Miss Van Dop's, then down the boys' hall to the stairs.

  My daring move was rewarded the moment I crouched on the stairs.

  “I cannot believe you did this to me, Tori. Do you have any idea how much you've embarrassed me? You overheard what the nurses said about Chloe Saunders when I was here Sunday, and you couldn't wait to tell the other kids. ”

  It took me a moment to realize what Tori's mom was talking about. So much had happened this week. Then it hit—Tori telling the others I thought I saw ghosts. Rae had said Tori's mom had some business connection with Lyle House, so when she'd dropped off that new shirt for Tori on Sunday, the nurses must have mentioned the new girl and her “hallucinations. ” Tori had been eavesdropping.

  “If that wasn't enough, they tell me you've been sulking over that girl's transfer. ”

  “Liz,” Tori whispered. “Her name is Liz. ”

  “I know her name. What I don't know is why it would send you off the deep end. ”

  “Deep end?”

  “Sulking in your room. Bickering with Rachelle. Gloating over that new girl's setback yesterday. Is your medication not working right, Victoria? I told you, if that new prescription doesn't help, you're to let me know—”

  “It is helping, Mom. ” Tori's voice was thick, muffled, like she'd been crying.

  “Are you still taking them?”

  “I always take them. You know that. ”

  “All I know is that if you're taking them, you should be getting better and this week proves you aren't. ”

  “But that doesn't have anything to do with my problem. It's—it's the new girl. She's driving me nuts. Little Miss Goody Two-?
shoes. Always trying to show me up. Always trying to prove she's better. ” She switched to a bitter falsetto. “Oh, Chloe's such a good girl. Oh, Chloe's going to be out of here in no time. Oh, Chloe's trying so hard. ” She switched back to her normal voice. “I'm trying hard. Way harder than her. But Dr. Davidoff already came to visit her. ”

  “Marcel only wants to motivate you kids. ”

  “I am motivated. Do you think I like being stuck here with these losers and freaks? But I don't just want to get out—I want to get better. Chloe doesn't care about that. She lied, telling everyone she doesn't think she sees ghosts. Chloe Saunders is a two-?faced little bi—” She swallowed the rest of word and said, “—witch. ”

  I'd never been called anything like that, probably not even behind my back.

  But I had lied. I'd said one thing while believing another. That was the definition of two-?faced, wasn't it?

  “I understand you don't care for this girl—”

  “I hate her. She moves in, gets my best friend here kicked out, shows me up with the nurses and doctors, steals my guy—” She stopped short, then mumbled. “Anyway, she deserved it. ”

  “What's this about a boy?” Her mother's words came sharp, brittle.

  “Nothing. ”

  “Are you involved with one of the boys here, Tori?”

  “No, Mom, I'm not involved with anyone. ”

  “Don't take that tone with me. And blow your nose. I can barely understand you through all that blubbering. ” A pause. “I'm only going to ask you one more time. What's this about a boy?”

  “I just—” Tori inhaled loudly enough for me to hear. “I like one of the guys here, and Chloe knows that, so she's been chasing him to show me up. ”

  Chasing him?

  “Which boy is it?” Her mother's voice was so low I had to strain to hear it.

  “Oh, Mom, it doesn't matter. It's just—”

  “Don't you 'oh, Mom' me. I think I have the right to be concerned—” Her voice dropped another notch. “Don't tell me it's Simon, Tori. Don't you dare tell me it's Simon. I warned you to stay away from that boy—”

  “Why? He's fine. He doesn't even take meds. I like him and—Ow! Mom! What are you doing?”

  “Getting your attention. I told you to stay away from him and I expect to be obeyed. You already have a boyfriend. More than one if I recall. Perfectly nice boys who are waiting for you to get out of here. ”

  “Yeah, like that's going to happen anytime soon. ”

  “It will happen when you decide to make it happen. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is for a member of the board to have her own daughter sent to this place? Well, let me tell you, Miss Victoria, it's nothing compared to the humiliation of having her still here almost two months later. ”

  "You've already told me that. And told me. And told me.

  “Not often enough or you'd be doing something about it. Like trying to get better. ”

  “I am trying. ” Tori's voice rose in a wail of frustration.

  “It's your father's fault—he spoils you rotten. You've never fought for anything in your life. Never known what it was to want anything. ”

  “Mom, I'm trying—”

  “You don't know what trying is. ” The venom in her mother's voice made my skin creep. “You're spoiled and lazy and selfish and you don't care how much you're hurting me, making me look like a lousy mother, damaging my professional reputation…”

  Tori's only answer was a gut-?wrenching sob. I hugged my knees, rubbing my arms.

  “You don't worry about Chloe Saunders. ” Her mother's voice lowered to a hiss. “She's not getting out nearly as fast she thinks she is. You worry about Victoria Enright and about me. Make me proud, Tori. That's all I ask. ”

  “I'm try—” She stopped. “I will. ”

  “Ignore Chloe Saunders and ignore Simon Bae. They aren't worth your attention. ”

  “But Simon—”

  “Did you hear me? I don't want you near that boy. He's trouble—him and his brother. If I hear of you two ever being seen together, alone, he's gone. I'll have him transferred. ”

  * * *

  Life experience. I can talk it up, vow to broaden my horizons, but I'm still limited to the experiences within my life.

  How can a person understand an experience that lies completely outside her own? She can see it, feel it, imagine what it would be like to live it, but it's no different from seeing it on a movie screen and saying “Thank God that's not me. ”

  After listening to Tori's mother, I vowed never to bad-?mouth Aunt Lauren again. I was lucky to have a “parent” whose biggest fault was that she cared about me too much. Even when she was disappointed in me, she'd come to my defense. To accuse me of embarrassing her would never enter my aunt's mind.

  Calling me lazy for not trying hard enough? Threatening to send away a boy I liked?

  I shivered.

  Tori was trying to get better. Rae had called her the queen of meds. Now I could see why. I could only imagine what life was like for Tori, and even my imagination wasn't good enough to stretch that far.

  How could a parent blame her child for not overcoming a mental illness? It wasn't like pushing a reluctant student to get a passing grade. It was like blaming one with a learning disorder for not getting As. Whatever Tori's “condition” was, it was like schizophrenia—not her fault and not entirely within her control.
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