The events in this book are real.
Names and places have been changed to protect the lorien six, who remain in hiding.
Take this as your first warning.
Other civilizations do exist.
Some of them seek to destroy you.
I walk inside and lie on the bare mattress in my room. The morning has worn me out and I let my eyes close. When I reopen them the sun is lifted over the tops of the trees. I walk out of the room. Henri is at the kitchen table with his laptop open and I know he’s been scanning the news, as he always does, searching for information or stories that might tell us where the others are.
“Did you sleep?” I ask.
“Not much. We have internet now and I haven’t checked the news since Florida. It was gnawing at me.”
“Anything to report?” I ask.
He shrugs. “A fourteen-year-old in Africa fell from a fourth-story window and walked away without a scratch. There is a fifteen-year-old in Bangladesh claiming to be the Messiah.”
I laugh. “I know the fifteen-year-old isn’t us. Any chance of the other?”
“Nah. Surviving a four-story drop is no great feat, and besides, if it was one of us they wouldn’t have been that careless in the first place,” he says, and winks.
I smile and sit across from him. He closes his computer and places his hands on the table. His watch reads 11:36. We’ve been in Ohio for slightly over half a day and already this much has happened. I hold my palms up. They’ve dimmed since the last time I looked.
“Do you know what you have?” he asks.
“Lights in my hands.”
He chuckles. “It’s called Lumen. You’ll be able to control the light in time.”
“I sure hope so, because our cover is blown if they don’t turn off soon. I still don’t see what the point is, though.”
“There’s more to Lumen than mere lights. I promise you.”
“What’s the rest?”
He walks into his bedroom and returns with a lighter in his hand.
“Do you remember much of your grandparents?” he asks. Our grandparents are the ones who raise us.
We see little of our parents until we reach the age of twenty-five, when we have children of our own. The life expectancy for the Loric is around two hundred years, much longer than that of humans, and when children are born, between the parents’ ages of twenty-five and thirty-five, the elders are the ones who raise them while the parents continue honing their Legacies.
“A little. Why?”
“Because your grandfather had the same gift.”
“I don’t remember his hands ever glowing,” I say.
Henri shrugs. “He might never have had reason to use it.”
“Wonderful,” I say. “Sounds like a great gift to have, one I’ll never use.”
He shakes his head. “Give me your hand.”
I give him the right one and he flicks the lighter on, then moves it to touch the tip of my finger with the flame. I jerk my hand away.
“What are you doing?”
“Trust me,” he says.
I give my hand back to him. He takes hold of it and flicks the lighter on again. He looks into my eyes. Then he smiles. I look down and see that he is holding the flame over the tip of my middle finger. I don’t feel a thing. Instinct causes me to jerk my hand free anyway. I rub my finger. It feels no different than it did before.
“Did you feel that?” he asks.
“Give it back,” he says. “And tell me when you do feel something.”
He starts at my fingertip again, then moves the flame very slowly up the back of my hand. There is a slight tickle where the flame touches the skin, nothing more.
Only when the fi re reaches my wrist do I begin to sense the burn. I pull my arm free.
“Lumen,” he says. “You’re going to become resistant to fire and heat. Your hands come naturally, but we’ll have to train the rest of your body.”
A smile spreads across my face. “Resistant to fire and heat,” I say. “So I’ll never be burned again?”
“Not such a bad Legacy after all, huh?”
“Not bad at all,” I agree. “Now what about these lights? Are they ever going to turn off?”
“They will. Probably after a good night’s sleep, when your mind forgets they’re on,” he says. “But you’ll have to be careful not to get worked up for a while. An emotional imbalance will cause them to come right back on again, if you get overly nervous, or angry, or sad.”
“For how long?”
“Until you learn to control them.” He closes his eyes and rubs his face with his hands. “Anyway, I’m going to try to sleep again. We’ll talk about your training in a few hours.”
After he leaves I stay at the kitchen table, opening and closing my hands, taking deep breaths and trying to calm everything inside of me so the lights will dim. Of course it doesn’t work. Everything in the house is still a mess aside from the few things Henri did while I was at school. I can tell that he is leaning towards leaving, but not to the point that he couldn’t be persuaded to stay. Maybe if he wakes and finds the house clean and in order it’ll tip him in the right direction. I start with my room. I dust, wash the windows, sweep the floor. When everything is clean I throw sheets, pillows, and blankets on the bed, then hang and fold my clothes. The dresser is old and rickety, but I fill it and then place the few books I own on top of it. And just like that, a clean room, everything I own put away and in order. I move to the kitchen, putting away dishes and wiping down the counters. It gives me something to do and takes my mind off of my hands, even though while
cleaning I think about Mark James. For the first time in my life I stood up to somebody. I’ve always wanted to but never did because I wanted to heed Henri’s advice to keep a low profile. I’ve always tried to delay another move for as long as I could. But today was different. There was something very satisfying about being pushed by somebody and responding by pushing back. And then there’s the issue of my phone, which was stolen. Sure, we could easily get a new one, but where is the justice in that?
I wake before the alarm. the house is cool and silent. I lift my hands from under the covers. They are normal, no lights, no glow. I lumber out of bed and into the living room. Henri is at the kitchen table reading the local paper and drinking coffee.
“Good morning,” he says. “How do you feel?”
“Like a million bucks,” I say.
I pour myself a bowl of cereal and sit across from him.
“What are you going to do today?” I ask.
“Errands mostly. We’re getting low on money. I’m thinking of putting in a transfer at the bank.”
Lorien is (or was, depending on how you look at it) a planet rich with natural resources. Some of those resources were precious gems and metals. When we left, each Cêpan was given a sack full of diamonds, emeralds and rubies to sell when we arrived on Earth. Henri did, and then deposited the money into an overseas bank account. I don’t know how much there is and I never ask. But I know it’s enough to last us ten lifetimes, if not more. Henri makes withdrawals from it once a year, give or take.
“I don’t know, though,” he continues. “I don’t want to stray too far in case something else happens today.”
Not wanting to make a big deal of yesterday, I wave the notion away. “I’ll be fine. Go get paid.”
I look out the window. Dawn is breaking, casting a pale light over everything. The truck is covered with dew. It’s been a while since we’ve been through a winter. I don’t even own a jacket and have outgrown most of my sweaters.
“It looks cold out,” I say. “Maybe we can go clothes shopping soon.”
He nods. “I was thinking about that last night, which is why I need to go to the bank.”
“Then go,” I say. “Nothing is going to happen today.”
I finish the bowl of cereal, drop the dirty dish into the sink, and jump into the shower. Ten minutes later I’m dressed in a pair of jeans and a black thermal shirt, the sleeves pulled to my elbows. I look in the mirror, and down at my hands. I feel calm. I need to stay that way.
On the way to school Henri hands me a pair of gloves. “Make sure you keep these with you at all times. You never know.”
I tuck them into my back pocket. “I shouldn’t need them. I feel pretty good.”
At the school, buses are lined up in front. Henri pulls up to the side of the building.
“I don’t like you not having a phone,” he says. “Any number of things could go wrong.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll have it back soon.”
He sighs and shakes his head. “Don’t do anything stupid. I’ll be right here at the end of the day.”
“I won’t,” I say, and get out of the truck. He pulls away.
Inside, the halls are bustling with activity, students loitering at lockers, talking, laughing. A few look at me and whisper. I don’t know whether it’s because of the confrontation or because of the darkroom. It’s likely that they are whispering about both. It is a small school, and in small schools there is little that isn’t readily known by everyone else.
When I reach the main entrance, I turn right and find my locker. It’s empty. I have fifteen minutes before sophomore composition begins. I walk by the classroom just to make sure I know where it is and then head to the office. The secretary smiles when I enter.
“Hi,” I say. “I lost my phone yesterday and I was wondering if anyone turned it in to lost and found?”
She shakes her head. “No, I’m afraid no phone’s been turned in.”
“Thank you,” I say.
Out in the hallway I don’t see Mark anywhere. I pick a direction and begin walking. People still stare and whisper, but that doesn’t bother me. I see him fifty feet ahead of me. All at once the thrill of adrenaline kicks in. I look down at my hands. They’re normal. I’m worried about them turning on, and that worry might just be the thing that does it.
Mark’s leaning against a locker with his arms crossed, in the middle of a group, five guys and two girls, all of them talking and laughing. Sarah is sitting on a windowsill about fifteen feet away. She looks radiant again today with her blond hair pulled into a ponytail, wearing a skirt and a gray sweater. She’s reading a book, but looks up as I walk towards them. I stop just outside of the group, stare at Mark, and wait. He notices me after about five seconds.
“What do you want?” he asks.
“You know what I want.”
Our eyes stay locked. The crowd around us swells to ten people, then twenty. Sarah stands and walks to the edge of the crowd. Mark is wearing his letterman jacket, and his black hair is carefully styled to look like he rolled straight out of bed and into his clothes.
He pushes away from the locker and walks towards me. When he is inches away he stops. Our chests nearly touch and the spicy scent of his cologne fills my nostrils. He is probably six one, a couple inches taller than I am. We have the same build. Little does he know that what is inside of me is not what is inside of him. I am quicker than he is and far stronger. The thought brings a confident grin to my face.
“You think you can stay in school a little longer today? Or are you going to run off again like a little bitch?”
Snickers spread through the crowd.
“I guess we’ll see, won’t we?”
“Yeah, I guess we will,” he says, and moves even closer.
“I want my phone back,” I say.
“I don’t have your phone.”
I shake my head at him. “There are two people who saw you take it,” I lie.
By the way his brows crinkle I know I have guessed correctly.
“Yeah, and what if it was me? What are you going to do?”
There are probably thirty people around us now. I have no doubt that the entire school will know what has happened within ten minutes of the start of first period.
“You’ve been warned,” I say. “You have till the end of the day.”
I turn and leave.
“Or what?” he yells behind me. I don’t acknowledge it. Let him dwell on the answer.
My fists have been clenched and I realize I had mistaken adrenaline for nerves. Why was I so nervous? The unpredictability? The fact that this is the first time I’ve confronted somebody? The possibility of my hands glowing? Probably all three.
I go to the bathroom, enter an empty stall, and latch the door behind me. I open my hands. A slight glow in the right one. I close my eyes and sigh, focus on breathing slowly. A minute later the glow is still there. I shake my head. I didn’t think the Legacy would be that sensitive. I stay in the stall. A thin layer of sweat covers my forehead; both of my hands are warm, but thankfully the left is still normal. People filter in and out of the bathroom and I stay in the stall, waiting. The light stays on. Finally the first-period bell rings and the bathroom is empty.
I shake my head in disgust and accept the inevitable. I don’t have my phone and Henri is on his way to the bank. I’m alone with my own stupidity and I have no one to blame but myself. I pull the gloves from my back pocket and slip them on. Leather gardening gloves. I couldn’t look more foolish if I were wearing clown shoes with yellow pants. So much for blending in. I realize I have to stop with Mark. He wins. He can keep my phone; Henri and I will get a new one tonight.
I leave the bathroom and walk the empty hallway to my classroom. Everybody stares at me when I enter, then at the gloves. There is no point trying to hide them. I look like a fool. I am an alien, I have extraordinary powers, with more to come, and I can do things that no human would dream of, but I still look like a fool.
I sit in the center of the room. Nobody says anything to me and I’m too flustered to hear what the teacher says. When the bell rings I gather my things, drop them into my bag, and pull the straps over my shoulder. I’m still wearing the gloves. When I exit the room I lift the cuff of the right one and peek at my palm. It’s still glowing.
I walk the hall at a steady pace. Slow breathing. I try to clear my mind but it isn’t working. When I enter the classroom Mark is sitting in the same spot as the day before, Sarah beside him. He sneers at me. Trying to act cool, he doesn’t notice the gloves.
“What’s up, runner? I heard the cross-country team is looking for new members.”
“Don’t be such a dick,” Sarah says to him. I look at her as I pass, into her blue eyes that make me feel shy and self-conscious, that make my cheeks warm. The seat I sat in the day before is occupied, so I head to the very back. The class fills and the kid from yesterday, the one who warned me about Mark, sits next to me. He’s wearing another black T-shirt with a NASA logo in the center, army pants, and a pair of Nike tennis shoes. He has disheveled, sandy blond hair, and his hazel eyes are magnified by his glasses. He pulls out a notepad filled with diagrams of constellations and planets. He looks at me and doesn’t try to hide the fact that he is staring.
“How goes it?” I ask.
He shrugs. “Why are you wearing gloves?”
I open my mouth to answer, but Mrs. Burton starts the class. During most of it the guy beside me draws pictures that seem to be his interpretation of what Martians look like. Small bodies; big heads, hands, and eyes. The same stereotypical representations that are
usually shown in movies. At the bottom of every drawing he writes his name in small letters: SAM GOODE. He notices me watching, and I look away.
As Mrs. Burton lectures on Saturn’s sixty-one moons, I look at the back of Mark’s head. He’s hunched over his desk, writing. Then he sits up and passes a note to Sarah. She flicks it back at him without reading it. It makes me smile. Mrs. Burton turns off the lights and starts a video. The rotating planets being projected on the screen at the front of the class make me think of Lorien. It is one of the eighteen life-sustaining planets in the universe. Earth is another. Mogadore, unfortunately, is another.
Lorien. I close my eyes and allow myself to remember. An old planet, a hundred times older than Earth. Every problem that Earth now has—pollution, overpopulation, global warming, food shortages—Lorien also had. At one point, twenty-five thousand years ago, the planet began to die. This was long before the ability to travel through the universe, and the people of Lorien had to do something in order to survive. Slowly but surely they made a commitment to ensure that the planet would forever remain self-sustaining by changing their way of life, doing away with everything harmful—guns and bombs, poisonous chemicals, pollutants—and over time the damage began to reverse itself. With the benefit of evolution, over thousands of years, certain citizens— the Garde developed powers in order to protect the planet, and to help it. It was as though Lorien rewarded my ancestors for their foresight, for their respect.
Mrs. Burton fl icks the lights on. I open my eyes and look at the clock. Class is almost over. I feel calm again, and had completely forgotten about my hands. I take a deep breath and flip open the cuff of the right glove. The light is off! I smile and remove both gloves. Back to normal. I have six periods left in the day. I have to remain at peace through all of them.
The first half of the day passes without incident. I remain calm, and likewise have no further encounters with Mark. At lunch I fill my tray with the basics, then find an empty table at the back of the room. When I’m halfway through a slice of pizza, Sam Goode, the kid from astronomy class, sits across from me.
“Are you really fighting Mark after school?” he asks.
I shake my head. “No.”
“That’s what people are saying.”
He shrugs, keeps eating. A minute later he asks, “Where’d your gloves go?”
“I took them off. My hands aren’t cold anymore.”
He opens his mouth to respond but a giant meatball that I’m sure is aimed for me comes out of nowhere and hits him in the back of the head. His hair and shoulders are covered with bits of meat and spaghetti sauce. Some of it has splattered onto me. While I start cleaning myself off a second meatball flies through the air and hits me square on the cheek. Oohs filter throughout the cafeteria.
I stand and wipe the side of my face with a napkin, anger coursing through me. In that instant I don’t care about my hands. They can shine as brightly as the sun, and Henri and I can leave this afternoon if that’s what it comes to. But there isn’t a chance in hell I’m letting this slide. It was over after this morning . . . but not now.
“Don’t,” Sam says. “If you fight then they’ll never leave you alone.”
I start walking. A hush falls over the cafeteria. A hundred sets of eyes focus on me. My face twists into a scowl. Seven people are sitting at Mark James’s table, all guys. All seven of them stand as I approach.
“You got a problem?” one of them asks me. He is big, built like an offensive lineman. Patches of reddish hair grow on his cheeks and chin as though he’s trying to grow a beard. It makes his face look dirty. Like the rest of them he’s wearing a letterman jacket. He crosses his arms and stands in my way.
“This doesn’t concern you,” I say.
“You’ll have to go through me to get to him.”
“I will if you don’t get out of my way.”
“I don’t think you can,” he says.
I bring my knee straight up into his crotch. His breath catches in his throat, and he doubles over. The whole lunchroom gasps.
“I warned you,” I say, and I step over him and walk straight for Mark. Just as I reach him I’m grabbed from behind. I turn with my hands clenched into fists, ready to swing, but at the last second I realize it’s the lunchroom attendant.
“That’ll be enough, boys.”
“Look what he just did to Kevin, Mr. Johnson,” Mark says. Kevin is still on the ground holding himself. His face is beet red. “Send him to the principal!”
“Shut up, James. All four of you are going. Don’t think I didn’t see you throw those meatballs,” he says, and looks at Kevin still on the floor. “Get up.”
Sam appears from nowhere. He has tried to wipe the mess from his hair and shoulders. The big pieces are gone, but the sauce has only smeared. I’m not sure why he’s here. I look down at my hands, ready to flee at the first hint of light, but to my surprise they’re off. Was it because of the urgency of the situation, allowing me to approach without pre-emptive nerves? I don’t know. Kevin stands and looks at me. He is shaky, still having
trouble breathing. He grips the shoulder of the guy beside him for support.
“You’ll get yours,” he says.
“I doubt it,” I say. I’m still scowling, still covered in food. To hell with wiping it away.
The four of us walk to the principal’s office. Mr. Harris is sitting behind his desk eating a microwavable lunch, a napkin tucked into the neck of his shirt.
“Sorry to interrupt. We just had a slight disruption during lunch. I’m sure these boys will be happy to explain,” the lunchroom attendant says. Mr. Harris sighs, pulls the napkin from his shirt, and throws it in the trash. He pushes his lunch to the side of his desk with the back of his hand.
“Thank you, Mr. Johnson.”
Mr. Johnson leaves, closing the office door behind him, and the four of us sit.
“So who wants to start?” the principal asks, irritation in his voice. I stay silent. The muscles in Mr. Harris’s jaw are flexed. I look down at my hands. Still off. I place them
palms down on my jeans just in case. After ten seconds of silence, Mark starts. “Somebody hit him with a meatball. He thinks it was me, so he kneed Kevin in the balls.”
“Watch your language,” Mr. Harris says, and then turns to Kevin. “You okay?”
Kevin, whose face is still red, nods.
“So who threw the meatball?” Mr. Harris asks me. I say nothing, still seething, irritated at the whole scene. I take a deep breath to try to calm myself.
“I don’t know,” I say. My anger has reached new levels. I don’t want to have to deal with Mark through Mr. Harris, and would rather take care of the situation myself, away from the principal’s office. Sam looks at me in surprise.
Mr. Harris throws his hands up in frustration. “Well then, why in the hell are
you boys here?”
“That’s a good question,” says Mark. “We were simply eating our lunch.”
Sam speaks. “Mark threw it. I saw him and so did Mr. Johnson.”
I look over at Sam. I know he didn’t see it because his back was turned the first time, and the second time he was busy cleaning himself off. But I’m impressed at him saying so, for his taking my side knowing it will put him in danger with Mark and his friends. Mark
scowls at him.
“Come on, Mr. Harris,” Mark pleads. “I have the interview with the Gazette tomorrow, and the game on Friday. I don’t have time to worry about crap like this. I’m being accused of something I didn’t do. It’s hard to stay focused with this shit going on.”
“Watch your mouth!” Mr. Harris yells.
“I believe you,” the principal says, and sighs very heavily. He looks at Kevin, who’s still struggling to catch his breath. “Do you need to go to the nurse?”
“I’ll be fine,” Kevin says.
Mr. Harris nods. “You two forget about the lunchroom incident, and Mark, get your mind straight. We’ve been trying to get this article for a while now. They might even put us on the front page. Imagine that, the front page of the Gazette,” he says, and smiles.
“Thank you,” Mark says. “I’m excited about it.”
“Good. Now, you two can leave.”
They go, and Mr. Harris gives a hard look at Sam.
Sam holds his gaze.
“Tell me, Sam. And I want the truth. Did you see Mark throw the meatball?”
Sam’s eyes narrow. He doesn’t look away.
The principal shakes his head. “I don’t believe you, Sam. And because of that, here is what we are going to do.” He looks at me. “So a meatball was thrown—”
“Two,” Sam interjects.
“What?!” Mr. Harris asks, again glowering at Sam.
“There were two meatballs thrown, not one.”
Mr. Harris slams his fist on the desk. “Who cares how many there were! John, you assaulted Kevin. An eye for an eye. We’ll let it go at that. Do you understand
me?” His face is red and I know it’s pointless to argue.
“Yep,” I say.
“I don’t want to see you two in here again,” he says.
“You’re both dismissed.”
We leave his office.
“Why didn’t you tell him about your phone?” Sam asks.
“Because he doesn’t care. He just wanted to go back to his lunch,” I say. “And be careful,” I tell him. “You’ll be on Mark’s radar now.”
I have home economics after lunch—not because I necessarily care about cooking, but because it was either that or choir. And while I have many strengths and powers that are considered exceptional on Earth, singing is not one of them. So I walk into home ec and take a seat. It is a small room, and just before the bell rings Sarah walks in and sits beside me.
“Hi,” she says.
Blood rushes to my face and my shoulders stiffen. I grab a pencil and begin to twirl it in my right hand while my left bends back the corners of my notepad. My heart is pounding. Please don’t let my hands be glowing. I peek at my palm and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s still normal. Stay calm, I think. She’s just a girl. Sarah is looking at me. Everything inside of me feels as though it is turning to mush. She may be the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.
“I’m sorry Mark is being a jerk to you,” she says.
I shrug. “It’s not your fault.”
“You guys aren’t really going to fight, are you?”
“I don’t want to,” I say.
She nods. “He can be a real dick. He always tries to show he’s boss.”
“It’s a sign of insecurity,” I say.
“He’s not insecure. Just a dick.”
Sure he is. But I don’t want to argue with Sarah. Besides, she speaks with such certainty that I almost doubt myself. She looks at the spots of spaghetti sauce that have dried on my shirt, then reaches over and pulls a hardened piece from my hair.
“Thanks,” I say.
She sighs. “I’m sorry that happened.” She looks me
in the eye. “We’re not together, you know?”
She shakes her head. I’m intrigued that she felt the need to make that clear to me. After ten minutes of instruction on how to make pancakes—none of which I actually hear—the teacher, Mrs. Benshoff, pairs Sarah and me together. We enter a door at the back of the room that leads to the kitchen, which is about three times the size of the actual classroom. It contains ten different kitchen units, complete with refrigerators, cabinets, sinks, ovens. Sarah walks into one, grabs an apron from a drawer, and puts it on.
“Will you tie this for me?” she asks.
I pull too much on the bow and have to tie it again. I can feel the contours of her lower back beneath my fingers. When hers is tied I put mine on and start to tie it myself.
“Here, silly,” she says, and then takes the straps and does it for me.
I try cracking the first egg but do it too hard, and none of the egg actually makes it into the bowl. Sarah laughs. She places a new egg in my hand and takes my hand in hers and shows me how to crack it on the rim of the bowl. She leaves her hand on mine for a second longer than is necessary. She looks at me and smiles.
She mixes the batter and strands of hair fall into her face while she works. I desperately want to reach over and tuck the loose strands behind her ear, but I don’t. Mrs. Benshoff comes into our kitchen to check our progress. So far so good, which is all thanks to Sarah, since I have no idea what I’m doing.
“How do you like Ohio so far?” Sarah asks.
“It’s okay. I could have used a better first day of school.”
She smiles. “What happened, anyway? I was worried about you.”
“Would you believe it if I told you I was an alien?”
“Shut up,” she says playfully. “What really happened?”
I laugh. “I have really bad asthma. For some reason I had an attack yesterday,” I say, and feel regret at having to lie. I don’t want her to see weakness within me, especially weak-ness that is untrue.
“Well, I’m glad you feel better.”
We make four pancakes. Sarah stacks all of them onto one plate. She dumps an absurd amount of maple syrup over them and hands me a fork. I look at the other students. Most are eating off of two plates. I reach over and cut a bite.
“Not bad,” I say while chewing.
I’m not hungry in the least, but I help her eat all of them. We alternate bites until the plate is empty. I have a stomachache when we finish. After, she cleans the dishes and I dry them. When the bell rings, we walk out of the room together.
“You know, you’re not so bad for a sophomore,” she says, and nudges me. “I don’t care what they say.”
“Thanks, and you’re not so bad yourself for a— whatever you are.”
“I’m a junior.”
We walk in silence for a few steps.
“You’re not really going to fight Mark at the end of the day, are you?
“I need my phone back. Besides, look at me,” I say, and motion to my shirt. She shrugs. I stop at my locker. She takes note of the number.
“Well, you shouldn’t,” she says.
“I don’t want to.”
She rolls her eyes. “Boys and their fights. Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Have a good rest of the day,” I say.
After my ninth-period class, American history, I take slow steps to my locker. I think of just leaving the school quietly, without looking for Mark. But then I realize I will forever be labeled a coward. I get to my locker and empty my bag of the books I don’t need. Then I just stand there and feel the nervousness that begins to course through me. My hands are still normal. I think of throwing the gloves on as a precaution, but I don’t. I take a deep breath and close the locker door.
“Hi,” I hear, the voice startling me. It’s Sarah. She glances behind her, and looks back at me. “I have something for you.”
“It’s not more pancakes, is it? I still feel like I’m about to burst.”
She laughs nervously.
“It’s not pancakes. But if I give it to you, you have to promise me you won’t fight.”
“Okay,” I say.
She looks behind her again and quickly reaches into the front pocket of her bag. She pulls out my phone and gives it to me.
“How did you get this?”
“Does Mark know?”
“Nope. So are you still going to be a tough guy?” she asks.
“I guess not.”
“Thank you,” I say. I can’t believe she went to such lengths to help me—she barely knows me. But I’m not complaining.
“You’re welcome,” she says, then turns and rushes down the hall. I watch her the whole way, unable to stop smiling. When I head out, Mark James and eight of his friends meet me in the lobby.
“Well, well, well,” Mark says. “Actually made it through the day, huh?”
“Sure did. And look what I found,” I say, holding my phone up for him to see. His jaw drops. I pass by him, head down the hall and walk out of the building.
Tomorrow I’ll be posting the last of the chapters I have for you, Chapter 8. 🙂 Until then,