The summoning, p.27
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       The Summoning, p.27

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 27

 

  “Last night, I woke up and you were gone. I went downstairs just as you and Derek were sneaking in and I caught enough to know you weren't taking a moonlight stroll. ”

  “Derek isn't running away. ” Which was true, if not exactly what she meant.

  She eased back against the wall again, drawing her knees up. “What if I met the club requirement? Would that snag me an invite?”

  “What?”

  “Your club. The special kids. The ones with superpowers. ”

  I let out a laugh that sounded more like the yip of a startled poodle. “Superp-?powers? I wish. My powers aren't winning me a slot on the Cartoon Network anytime soon… except as comic relief. Ghost Whisperer Junior. Or Ghost Screamer, more like. Tune in, every week, as Chloe Saunders runs screaming from yet another ghost looking for her help. ”

  “Okay, superpower might be pushing it. But what if you could shove a kid out of your way with a flick of your fingers? Bet that would come in handy. ”

  I swung out of bed and walked to the dresser. “Sure, but that's not what Derek did. He grabbed me. Believe me, I felt physical contact. ”

  “I'm not talking about Derek. A few days before Brady got shipped out, he and Derek got into it. Or Brady was trying to. Derek wasn't having any of it, so Brady kept razzing him, trying to get a rise, and when he got in Derek's face, Simon flicked his fingers and, wham, Brady flew into the wall. I was there. Derek and Simon never touched him. That's why I wanted to see Simon's file. ”

  “Well, as you saw, Simon doesn't have a file. He's here because of Derek. Their dad disappeared and Derek was sent here because of his problem, so they put Simon in the same place. ”

  “How'd their dad disappear?”

  I shrugged and pulled out a shirt. “They haven't said much about it. I don't want to push. "

  A thump. When I looked over my shoulder, Rae had thudded back onto the bed.

  “You're too nice, girl,” she said. “I'd have been all over them for that story. ”

  I shook my head. “I think I hear Mrs. Talbot—”

  “You don't. It's Saturday. We can sleep in, and you aren't getting off that easily. I know Simon's got some magic power, like you. And I'm pretty sure Derek does. That's why they're so tight. That's why Simon's dad took Derek in, I bet. ”

  I looked in the mirror and ran the brush through my hair.

  “What makes me so sure of all this?” Rae continued. “Remember when I told you about my diagnosis? How it didn't fit? I didn't tell you the whole story. You didn't read my file, did you?”

  I slowly turned, brush still raised.

  She went on. “According to the report, I got into a fight with my mom and burned her with a lighter. Only I wasn't holding a lighter. I just grabbed her arm and gave her first-?degree burns. ”

  “Why didn't you—?”

  “Tell you?” she cut in. “I was waiting until I knew you better. Until you'd believe me. But then you figured out you were seeing ghosts and I knew how it would sound. Like a little kid jealous 'cause his friend's going to Disney World—gotta show that he's special, too. And my power isn't like yours. I can't make it happen. It just does, when I get mad. ”

  “Like with Tori. You did burn her, didn't you?”

  She hugged my pillow to her chest. “I think so. But where's the proof? She felt like she'd been burned and there was a red mark, but it wasn't like I set her shirt on fire. ” She grinned. “As fun as that might be. So with my mom I lied and said I had been playing with a lighter and, when I went at her, I forgot I was still holding it. No one cared that there wasn't a lighter. They see what they want to see. Stick a label on it; medicate it; and, if you're lucky, it'll just go away. Only what we've got doesn't go away. ”

  My brain struggled to take it all in. I knew I should say something, but what? Admit? Deny?

  Rae rolled off the bed to her feet, twisted her long curls back, and held out her hand. When I didn't move, she said, “Elastics? Behind you?”

  “Right. ”

  I tossed her one. She wrapped it around her ponytail and headed for the door.

  “Wait,” I said.

  She shook her head. “You gotta talk to the guys first. ”

  “I don't—”

  She turned to face me. “Yes, you do. You should. Would you want them blabbing your secrets before checking with you? Talk to them. Then get back to me. Not like I'm going anywhere. ”

  Thirty-seven

  I ATE BREAKFAST WITH Tori. I'm sure, yesterday, she'd been hoping to see me carried from the house, tied to a stretcher, ranting, driven mad after hours bound and gagged in the dark. Yet this morning, she just sat there and ate, eyes forward, expression empty, like she'd given up.

  If I'd told the doctors what she'd done, she'd have been booted out, no matter how important her mom was. Maybe, when I came out of the crawl space and didn't tattle, she'd realized how close she'd been to getting transferred. Maybe she'd realized her stunt could have been fatal.

  Maybe she even felt bad about it. That was probably too much to hope for, but from the look on her face this morning, any feud between us was over. She'd gotten it out of her system and seen how close she'd come to making a very big mistake. As hard as it was for me to be near her, thinking of what she'd put me through, I wasn't giving her any satisfaction. So I sat down and struggled to eat like nothing was wrong.

  Every mouthful of oatmeal I forced down sank to the pit of my stomach and congealed into a lump of cement. Not only did I have to eat with someone who could have gotten me killed but also now I had to figure out what to do about Rae. How would I tell the guys? Derek would blame me for sure.

  I was so wrapped up in my thoughts that it wasn't until I was coming back down after my shower and heard the weekend nurse, Ms. Abdo, talking about a “door” and a “new lock” that I remembered our dry run the night before. Had we been caught?

  “Dr. Davidoff wants a deadbolt,” Mrs. Talbot replied. “I don't know whether they make them for interior doors, but if you can't find one at the hardware store, we'll call Rob to replace the door. After yesterday, Dr. Davidoff doesn't want the kids getting into that crawl space. ”

  The basement door. I breathed a sigh of relief and continued down. I reached the bottom just as Simon peeked from the dining room.

  “Thought I heard you. Catch. ” He tossed me an apple. “I know you like the green ones. Derek's been hoarding them. ” He beckoned me in. “Sit and eat with us. You'll need your energy. It's Saturday and around here, that means all chores, all the time. ”

  As I passed, he leaned down to whisper. “You okay?”

  I nodded. He closed the door. I looked at the empty table.

  “How's Derek?” I asked, keeping my voice low.

  “He's in the kitchen, loading up. I hear you guys had a little adventure last night. ”

  Derek had insisted on telling Simon that contacting the zombie ghosts had been his idea, so if Simon was put out by being excluded, the blame would fall on him. I thought he'd been trying to grab the glory—pretend he'd figured out what my ghost wanted. But Simon's expression told me he felt he had missed out on something. So I was kind of glad he didn't think I'd been the one who left him sleeping.

  As I settled at the table, Derek came in, glass of milk in one hand, juice in the other. Simon reached out for one, but Derek set them both down at his plate with a grunted, “Get your own. ” Simon pushed to his feet, slapped Derek's back, and sauntered into the kitchen.

  “Are you okay?” I whispered.

  Derek's gaze shot to the closing kitchen door. He didn't want Simon knowing he'd been sick. I wasn't sure I liked that, and we locked glares, but the set of his jaw told me it wasn't open for discussion.

  “I'm fine,” he rumbled after a moment. “Tylenol finally kicked it. ”

  His eyes were underscored with dark circles and were faintly bloodshot, but so were mine. He was pale,
his acne redder than normal. Tired, but recovering. There was no fever in his eyes and by the way he attacked his oatmeal, he hadn't lost his appetite.

  “Do I pass, Dr. Saunders?” he murmured under his breath.

  “I guess so. ”

  A grunt as he spooned more brown sugar into his bowl. “Some kind of reaction, like I said. ” He ate three heaping spoonfuls of porridge. Then, gaze still on his breakfast, he said, “What's wrong?”

  “I didn't say a word. ”

  “Something's up. What is it?”

  “Nothing. ”

  His head turned, gaze going to mine. “Yeah?”

  “Yes. ”

  A snort and he returned to his bowl as Simon came back.

  “Anyone see the chore list for this morning?” he said, handing me a glass of orange juice. He sat down and reached for the sugar bowl. Derek took it from him, paused, then spooned more onto his oatmeal. A look passed between them. Simon gulped his orange juice and said, “We're on leaf-?raking duty. Van Dop wants the dead leaves from last fall cleared…”

  As he talked, Derek's gaze lifted to mine again, studying. I glanced away and bit into my apple.

  * * *

  Saturday was indeed chore day. Normally, I'd have been groaning at the thought—and wishing for school instead—but today it worked out perfectly. With Dr. Gill, Ms. Wang, and Miss Van Dop gone, Ms. Abdo out running errands, and Mrs. Talbot doing paperwork, we had the run of the house and I had an excuse for getting Simon outside alone, by offering to help him with the raking while Derek was upstairs changing the bedding.

  * * *

  “You're having second thoughts,” Simon said when we were far enough from the house to not be overheard.

  “What?”

  He bent and retied his sneakers, face down. “About running away. You're afraid to tell Derek because he'll give you a hassle, get up in your face. ”

  “That's not—”

  “No, that's okay. I was surprised you offered in the first place. Surprised in a good way but—If you've changed your mind, that's totally cool and I don't blame you. ”

  I continued toward the shed. “I am coming… unless you're having second thoughts about taking me. ”

  He swung open the shed door and motioned for me to stay as he vanished in its dark depths, dirt and dust swirling in his wake. “I should probably say I don't need any help. But honestly?” His words were punctuated by rattles and clanks as he hunted for the rakes. “Though I don't expect trouble, a second pair of eyes would really come in handy if I'm on the run. ”

  “I'd rather be that second set of eyes than sit here waiting for rescue,” I said as he emerged holding two rakes.

  “Like Derek you mean?”

  “No, that wasn't a slam. ” I shut the shed door and fastened the latch. “Last night he told me why he was staying. Because of what he did. Which I already knew about because I kind of—”

  “Read his file?”

  “I—I was—”

  “Checking up on him after he grabbed you in the basement. That's what he figured. Smart move. ” He motioned for us to start in the farthest corner, where a layer of decomposing leaves from last year blanketed the ground. “Don't let him razz you about it. He read yours. ”

  I shrugged. “Fair is fair, I guess. ”

  “He read yours before you read his. Bet he didn't mention that when you confessed. ”

  “No, he didn't. ”

  We started raking. For at least a minute, Simon said nothing, then he glanced over at me. “I bet he didn't mention how it happened either. The fight, that is. ”

  I shook my head. “He just said the guy didn't pull a gun on him. He wouldn't discuss it. ”

  “It happened last fall. We'd moved to some hick town outside Albany. No offense to small towns, I'm sure they're very nice places to live… for some people. Hotbeds of multiculturalism, they are not. But my dad hooked a job in Albany and this was the only place he could snag a sublet before the school year started. ”

  He raked his leaves into the pile I'd started. “I was hanging out behind the school, waiting for Derek to finish talking to the math teacher. They were trying to come up with a special curriculum for him. Small school; not used to guys like Derek. Or, like me, as it turned out. ”

  A mouse scampered from under a tree root, and Simon crouched to squint into the hole, making sure there weren't any more coming out before he raked around it. “I was shooting hoops when these three senior guys came strolling over. They're wearing Docs and beaters, and they're sauntering my way and I smell redneck trouble. I'm not going to bolt, but if they want the hoop, I'll get out of their way, you know?”

  A blast of wind scattered the top layer of our pile. He sighed, shoulders slumping. I motioned for him to continue while I tidied it up.

  “Only they didn't want the court. They wanted me. Seems one guy's mom worked at this 7-Eleven before it was bought by a Vietnamese family who gave her the boot. This was, like, a year before but, naturally, I must be related to them, right? I pointed out that, shockingly, not all Asians are related and we don't all own convenience stores. ”

  He stopped raking. “When I say I'm not Vietnamese, one guy asks what I am. I say American, but eventually I give them what they want, and say my grandfather came from South Korea. Well, wouldn't you know it, one guy's uncle was killed in the Korean War. If this guy ever took a history class, he slept through it. He thought Koreans declared war on Americans. So I set him straight. And, yeah, I was a bit of a smart-?ass about it. My dad always says if I can't learn to keep my mouth shut, I'd better work on my defensive spells. And that day—” he resumed raking, voice dropping "—that day, he was right.
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