Among the stars, p.9
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       Among the Stars, p.9

           Tiffany Allen
 
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  Chapter 8

  The next morning goes by quickly. I packed up some last minute things and called a few more people. Everything was all set except for one thing. I still hadn’t said goodbye to Stacy. I had sent her texts and called her a bunch of times but there was no reply. I called John and he said she was still in her room and hadn’t talked to any of them. I told him to tell her goodbye for me and he said he would.

  Finally, it was time to leave. My bags were in the car and all I had to do was go. I decided to walk through the house one more time. Canis padded along beside me as I went from room to room. Everything was all set but I felt like there was something I was missing. I saved my parents room for last. I had only been in here a handful of times since they died. Only if I absolutely had to, did I come into this room. I kept the door shut and things untouched the rest of the time.

  I open the door and walk in. The room smells stale with hints of mom’s perfume and dad’s cologne. I sit on the foot of the bed and take everything in. Family pictures plaster the walls. Books sit on the side tables with reading glasses on top of them. Dad’s briefcase is sitting on the chair in the corner. A picture of them in Ireland, where they met, sits on the dresser next to my mother’s jewelry box. I walk over and open it. Right on top is her locket and I pick it up. Inside are pictures of dad and me. She used to say everyone should have something that reminds them of what’s important, this was hers. I go over and get a ring box out of dad’s bedside table. A ring with mine and my mother’s names engraved on it sits inside. This was dad’s version of the locket. They would only wear them if they were going away. They said they didn’t need to if the real thing was right in front of them.

  I remove the ring and unclip the chain of the locket. I slide the ring on the chain before clipping it again. Locket and ring hang next to each other, reminders of the family I lost and what they held most dear.

  Canis sits looking intently around the room. He sees me looking at him and cocks his head in question.

  “It used to be my parents’ room,” I say to him. The explanation slips out on its own.

  Canis solemnly nods that he understands.

  I look at the ring and locket one more time before putting them in my pocket. I thought about wearing it but I wasn’t ready for that. I could barely look at it without having that suffocating feeling. Maybe one day I’ll be able to wear it and just be reminded of how much they love me but for now it will stay in my pocket until I can put it in my bag, out of sight.

  “I’m ready,” I tell myself and walk out of the room. I lock up the house and make my way to the car. I open the door and Canis hops in. I’m about to get in too when a car speeds into my driveway. Canis stiffens and sniffs the air before relaxing. It’s Stacy.

  She jumps out of her car and runs towards me. She flings her arms around me in a tight hug that I return.

  “I’m sorry,” she says.

  “Me too.”

  We let go of each other and we both have tears in our eyes.

  “You have to text me every day, okay?”

  “I will. And I’ll try and visit as much as I can.”

  “You better. I have to show you how we college kids party after all.”

  “Wouldn’t miss it.”

  Stacy stands there, weakly smiling.

  “I’ll be back, Stace, I promise.”

  She nods and hugs me again before walking to her car and backing out of my driveway. I start my car and back out. I wave to Stacy who’s watching me go from her car. She waves back and we wave goodbye until I turn the corner and she disappears from view.

  -------------------------------------------------

  As I pull up to the house, Orion comes out to meet us. I park and he opens the door for Canis while I get out. Canis jumps out and when he lands he’s back to being human.

  “Ugh, I haven’t been in fur that long in years. I think the last time was when we got separated at that music festival and they took me to the pound.” He shakes and stretches out his arms.

  “The pound?” I ask, intrigued.

  “It was a dark time in my life, Ailey. A dark time,” he says dramatically.

  “Oh please, you were there two days and that was because they wouldn’t let me have you until I proved you were licensed,” Orion says, rolling his eyes and looking at me. “He wasn’t by the way and I had to have Pictor forge documents for me.”

  “Why were you even at a music festival as a dog?” I ask Canis.

  “We only had one ticket.” He shrugs and acts like it’s the most normal thing in the world. “We ready to hit the road?”

  “All set.” Orion takes my bags and puts them into his jeep. We’re leaving my car at their house and taking his jeep since it’s easier to take one car and I don’t know where we’re going. Canis tries to take the front seat but Orion stops him. “Nope, Ailey gets the front.”

  Canis grumbles but gets in the back. I look at Orion appreciatively and he nods you’re welcome. When everyone is buckled in we take off.

  “Where are we heading?” I ask after a while. It had been pretty much silent since we left and it was getting a bit awkward.

  “L.A.,” Orion answers. “We’re going to see the Zodiacs.”

  “The Zodiacs?”

  “Yeah. They all run a club down there. We’ll be able to ask if they’ve heard anything about Alexander and they can tell us where we can find some of the other Constellations. They might even have an idea about what’s happening to my arm.”

  “Will it be okay for me to be there?”

  “Of course. It’s a human club and even if it wasn’t, you’re with me and that’s all they’d need to know.”

  The way he says if makes me wonder again if he’s a high ranking Constellation.

  “So, Ailey,” Canis pipes up from the backseat, “I noticed you didn’t have any goodbyes for a boyfriend.”

  “What’s that supposed to mean?” I retort, turning to look at him.

  “I was just wondering if there was anyone special in your life.” He leans forward and puts his arms on the back of the seat.

  “No, I don’t have a boyfriend.” I blush slightly and I turn to look out the window.

  “Any candidates?” He inquires casually.

  “Why are you asking me this?” These are not the kind of questions I want to be asked, especially with Orion sitting right there.

  “Just making conversation is all,” he says with a shrug. He removes his arms and sits back again. “Maybe you’ll get one on this trip. I’m open for anything.”

  “What?” I exclaim. I can’t help but blush even more.

  “Leave her alone, Canis,” Orion says, glaring at him in the rearview mirror.

  “What? She’s nice, pretty, and knows all about us. Anyone would be lucky to have her affections.”

  “Don’t you already have a girlfriend?” I accuse, remembering the blonde from the party.

  “Definitely not,” he scoffs.

  “So that girl at the party?”

  “Just a friend.”

  “Uh huh, a friend,” I say, making quotation marks when I say friend.

  “Maybe I just haven’t found the right one yet,” he stares out the window and doesn’t say anymore.

  This is the first time I’ve seen hints of the Canis I met the night of the party and I’m surprised. He’d been so nice up until now.

  We drive on in silence. Miles pass quickly by with the radio the only sound in the car. I think about reading the book I brought but it’s in my bag in the back. I turn to ask Canis if he’ll hand it to me but he’s fast asleep. I turn back around and continue to watch the passing landscape.

  “Sorry about him,” Orion says suddenly.

  “Huh?” I turn to look at him.

  “Canis. He can be a bit of a dog sometimes.” Orion looks at me expectantly.

  “Is that supposed to be a joke?” I laugh.

  “It was terrible, I know.” He laughs too
and I feel more at ease.

  “Why is he? Like that I mean.” I hope I’m not crossing a line by asking.

  “Long ago someone broke his heart. She was one of us. He loved her a lot but he caught her cheating on him with a human. After that he vowed to not get attached to someone like that again. He acts the way he does to keep people away.”

  “What was the girl at the party then?”

  “Someone not looking for attachments either. You may think he’s a shallow guy but truly he’s not. He wants someone to love him but he’s afraid to get hurt again.”

  “Do hookups really make him feel better?”

  “No but it distracts him from the pain in his heart. I think he could find someone who would love him completely if he just stopped putting walls around himself.”

  I look at Canis sleeping in the back. His face is peaceful. I think back to how kind he was the night I was attacked and I know Orion is right. That’s the real Canis, not the one from a little while ago. I hope one day he can open his heart again. He deserves to be loved.

  “Thank you for telling me.”

  He nods his head in acknowledgement and we go back to driving in silence. After a while I ask the question that’s been swimming around my head.

  “Orion?”

  “Yeah?”

  “What is Alex?”

  Orion goes quiet. I watch the trees blur past the window. Minutes go by before he starts to explain.

  “After the war, we weren’t the same people. We were disconnected and we didn’t have the spirit to fight and protect anymore. Instead of banding together and working to protect you we split up and started living our own lives. Some of us built industries and made a living for ourselves. Some of us, like me, roamed from place to place, living on the money we had saved for thousands of years. We would save someone if we happened upon them but besides that we kept to ourselves. This went on for a while until a group of Singulars started killing humans. They said if they couldn’t rule you then they’d just kill you. We realized that something had to be done or we would always be fighting each other. The war made us reluctant to kill them but they also couldn’t be left to kill as they pleased. So we had Draco figure out a way to take away their powers. We didn’t know what would happen when we did though. It wasn’t like we could test it out; it just had to be done.”

  “Who do you mean when you say “we”,” I ask when he pauses.

  “Mostly I mean just us in general, the Constellations and Singulars because there were and still are good Singulars but the Constellations were never reckless enough to try anything like the Singulars. I think it’s because they were weaker than us and resented us for it. The decision to take away powers as punishment was made by the Elite though.”

  “The Elite?”

  “They are the 13 most powerful Constellations. They act as our leaders you could say. Any major decisions go through them. I’m one of them, so is Canis.”

  “Really?” I knew they had to be important people among the Constellations.

  He nods.

  “We’ve been through a lot together. Like I was saying, we the Elite, made the decision to take away the powers of those who purposely harmed humans. The Elite was also in charge of determining guilt and we sentenced this group to lose their powers. We didn’t really understand what that meant though. We thought it would just make them human. Draco thought that if we used pieces of a special comet; we could overload their power and use it all before it had time to recharge. That’s not what happened though. When we tried to do it the process ripped their souls and turned them into something else. It turned them into Black Holes. It is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. They scream as their soul tears and their star explodes. Their star becomes a black hole and their appearance changes. Their hair turns black and so do their eyes. The only power that remains is their immortality. Although if they get hurt they can no longer heal so they have to be careful. Needless to say it’s a punishment few thought harming humans was worth. After word spread the killings stopped and over the years it’s only had to be done a couple dozen times. Mostly to those who thought they could hide and get away with it.”

  “So Alex is one of these Black Holes? Why does he have the power to Travel?” The black hair and eyes, attacking me, he fits the description perfectly.

  “Yes he is and I have no idea. The last time I saw him he was completely powerless.”

  His eyes are sad when he says this. I remember what Alex said that day at the café.

  “You were friends, weren’t you?” It’s more of a statement than a question. It all makes sense. Alex talking about how they went way back, how sad Orion looked when they were fighting, they were friends before Alex was turned into a Black Hole.

  “We were. Very close friends just like Canis and I are. In the war he chose our side and we fought alongside each other. “

  “So what happened?”

  “He came home one day and found his wife and little girl murdered in their kitchen.”

  “That’s horrible,” I whisper and Orion nods his head.

  “I saw it. It was truly horrible,” he continues. “Alexander found the man responsible and killed him the next day.”

  “He was different though.” Orion turns and stares at me. “Yeah he should have let the police handle it but it wasn’t like he was killing humans for fun.” He continues to stare at me and I worry I offended him but then he gives a small smile.

  “That’s exactly what I thought. He broke the rules but under the circumstances and the fact that he had always been on our side, I was able to convince the Elite to give him a second chance. I think everyone knew they would have done the same thing if it had happened to them.”

  “So then how did he end up a Black Hole?”

  “Something broke in Alexander when he found his family. I saw him that night and when I looked into his eyes, it wasn’t Alexander looking back. After the Elite let him go he disappeared. I couldn’t find him anywhere. Then one day there was a knock on my door. It was Canis. They had found Alexander in a warehouse filled with dead bodies. When they questioned him, he admitted to killing every single one. When they asked why, he would just say: “I needed to figure it out.” There was nothing I could do. The Elite found him guilty and he was turned into a Black Hole.”

  “I’m so sorry Orion. I can’t imagine what that must have been like.”

  He’s quiet for another minute.

  “That was the last I saw of him until the other day.”

  “Do you think your arm has anything to do with what he needed to figure out?”

  “I think so but I just can’t figure out how.”

  “We’ll figure it out, I know we will.”

  Orion smiles at me. “We?”

  “Yes, we. I’m part of Team Constellation now and I’m just as invested in getting you better as Canis. I don’t want you to think I’m just using you guys. I know you only brought me along because you feel you have to protect me but I want to help. I’m going to do all I can to make sure you get better.”

  I make sure he sees the determination in my eyes. I’m a part of this now and I want to see it through no matter what. I may not have their powers but I’m determined to help.

  “I didn’t bring you because I had to,” he says. He returns my gaze for a moment before turning back to the road, too quick for me to decipher the look on his face.

  After a while Orion pulls off the highway and takes us to a diner.

  “Thought we could use some food,” he says, smiling at me. He turns and shakes Canis awake.

  “Mmm,” Canis sniffs the air. “Something smells good.”

  We all make our way into the diner where an older lady sits us at a booth in the back. She hands us menus and takes our drink orders before leaving us to look over the menus. The bacon cheeseburger sounds really good so I decide on that. Orion gets one too and Canis orders the chicken strips. We talk while we wait for our food.

  “Did you h
ave a nice nap?” I ask Canis.

  “Yeah I was pretty tired.”

  “Did you not sleep well last night?”

  “I didn’t sleep. I was on guard duty remember?”

  “Oh.” I didn’t realize he hadn’t slept.

  “Don’t worry. I don’t need much sleep.” He smiles reassuringly at me but I still feel bad for being the reason he didn’t get any sleep.

  “I’m assuming there were no problems,” Orion puts in.

  “Nope. Smooth sailing all the way,” Canis winks at me.

  “That’s good,” Orion says.

  “How long will it take us to get to L.A.?” I ask.

  “We’ll stop for the night and get there tomorrow. We won’t get there until late but the Club doesn’t open until late anyway so it works out.”

  “Sounds good to me,” Canis says. Orion looks at me for my opinion.

  “Sounds good to me too,” I agree. I know whatever decision they make will be the best one. After all, this is their world we’re dealing with and I trust them.

  Our food comes and we stop talking. It’s actually pretty good and I quickly finish it. Canis grumbles at his chicken strips.

  “I make them better,” he says quietly.

  “Not everyone can achieve your level of greatness,” Orion says sarcastically.

  Canis glares at him and I crack up laughing. They are both sitting across from me in the booth. Orion just ignores Canis and keeps eating while Canis gives him the evil eye. Sometimes they act like siblings and it makes me smile. Sometimes I wish I had a sibling, someone to bicker with but know that they still have my back.

  When we’re all done we pay and go back to the car. Canis tries to cut me off but I beat him to the front seat which makes Orion laugh. Soon we’re back on the road to L.A.

  “There’s no room back here,” Canis complains.

  “You can have the front tomorrow,” I tell him.

  “Fine,” he whines.

  We drive until it gets dark. Orion takes us to a nice hotel that he had booked rooms at yesterday. We check in and Orion hands out the keys. He booked three rooms all next to each other and they give me the one in the middle. How he managed to get three rooms in a row is beyond me but I don’t complain. I’m happy to have my own room. With how protective they are I was worried I’d have to share a room with them. Orion tells me I can order anything from room service and if I need anything to just call. I tell him I will and we all separate for some much needed alone time.

  I decide to take a shower and then order something to eat. It feels good to wash off the day’s travels. I quickly dry off and change into shorts and a t-shirt. I order some soup and watch TV until it comes. I check the peephole before opening the door. A man brings in my food and I tip him before he leaves. I don’t want to risk spilling the soup on the sheets so I eat it at the table. It’s not as good as the soup Canis made but it’s better than anything I could make. I take the cart to the hallway when I’m done and crawl into bed. I watch some more TV until I start to feel tired. I set my alarm for the morning and doze off.

 
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