I’ve always had a pretty normal life. Well, except for maybe the fact that my emotions tend to cause … strange things to happen. Despite that, my life hasn’t been too terrible. Is it perfect? No, not at all. But, is anything really perfect?
Still, imperfections and all, saying goodbye to the life I lived for the last seventeen years hasn’t been easy. I’m not ready to let go yet, not ready to accept what everyone keeps telling me. That my parents are gone. That no one has a clue as to where they disappeared. That they might not come back.
I’ve heard rumors around town that they could be dead. That maybe they got into trouble with the wrong people and were murdered. That they overdosed on drugs. I refuse to accept any of those theories, even though my parents did have a knack for getting in trouble.
They’ll be fine. I know they will.
I’m not going to say goodbye yet.
This is only temporary. Your parents will either be found or come back. Don’t freak out, Sky.
Just stay calm.
Reach a state of Zen.
If you don’t, bad things will happen.
Unfortunately, my friends are freaking out, which is complicating my attempt at reaching a state of Zen.
We’re parked at the town park with the windows rolled down, although the temperature is pushing below freezing. But it’s either freeze our asses off or let Nina, my best friend since grade school, get grounded for stinking up her mom’s car with cigarette smoke. Again.
“This fucking sucks.” Nina takes a drag off her cigarette. Wisps of her short, blonde hair blow in her face as she balances the cigarette between her lips while zipping up her jacket. “Can’t you just keep living in your house or something? You’re a senior in high school, for fuck’s sake—you’re old enough to take care of yourself.”
Gage, my other BFF, rolls his eyes then tugs his beanie lower onto his head. “That’s not how it works, hon. They have laws and shit.” He leans over the console and steals the cigarette from her.
Gage doesn’t consider himself a smoker because he never lights up or buys packs, always bumming off half-lit ones from other people. But if he actually took the time to add up all those half cigarettes he inhales, it’d probably tally up to more than Nina’s half a pack a day. Telling him that is a moot point, though.
Gage thinks what he thinks, and there’s no changing his mind. I like that about him. He does what he wants, speaks his opinions, and doesn’t care what other people think. Part of me wishes I could be like him—more outspoken, bolder, less self-conscious. Unfortunately, I don’t usually speak up when I’m surrounded by more than a couple of people. I blame this partly on being an only child. I never really learned how to deal with large groups and the chaos that comes with it. Then again, Nina is an only child, too, and she’s about as blunt as they come, so maybe it’s just me.
Or maybe it’s the fact that being surrounded by people means I have less control over my emotions, which can lead to very bad things.
Very, very bad things.
“Maybe if you talk to a lawyer, you can figure out a way to get guardianship of yourself,” Nina suggests while restlessly flicking her lighter on and off.
“It’s called emancipation.” Gage relaxes back in the seat with the cigarette between his fingers. “And Sky might’ve been able to do that if her parents didn’t have a will that gave guardianship over her to someone else. But they do, so …” He frowns.
The two of them have been bummed out for a few days now, ever since I announced the news that I had to move to another town to live with some family that my dad was apparently close to, although I’ve never met them.
I’m not thrilled about the relocation, but the lawyer in charge of my parents’ will made it pretty clear that I don’t have a choice. Even if I did, I can’t afford the rent to keep living at my parents’ house. So, not only am I moving, but I have to pack up the house and put everything in a storage unit. The real shitty part is my parents have only been missing for a couple of weeks, and I’m supposed to just what? Pack up and move to a town over three hours away? How can I keep searching for them if I’m not here in Honeyton? Plus, this is where I grew up. Honeyton is all I know and leaving it behind is freaking me out. But, in typical Skylin fashion, I’ve kept a lot of my worry bottled up.
My mom used to tell me, if I didn’t stop doing that, one day I was going to have a panic attack. I wanted to tell her that, if I ever did have one, the whole town might ignite in to flames. But, since she isn’t aware of my supernatural ability that is attached to my emotions, I’ve always kept my lips zipped.
“Her parents haven’t even been found dead yet,” Nina grumbles as she reaches for her pack of cigarettes on the dashboard. Then she suddenly pauses, her worried gaze flicking to me. “Sky, I’m so fucking sorry. That was totally insensitive.”
I zip up my leather jacket and prop my boots up on the dash, remaining calm. Because calm is easier than actually feeling what I feel. “You’re fine.” I hug my arms around myself as the winter air seeps into my bones. “My parents aren’t dead, just missing. I tried to point that out to the lawyer, but he said I didn’t have a choice. My parents have a will, and that will states that, until I’m eighteen, if anything should happen to them, I have to go live with these Everettson people.” I rest my head against the headrest and take a deep breath to steady my heart rate. “What I don’t get is why they put these people on the will when I’ve never even met them before.”
Gage inhales from the cigarette. “Aren’t you related to them?”
I shake my head. “No. The father is supposedly my dad’s best friend. But, how can they be that great of friends if I’ve never even heard of him?”
It’s been bugging me since the lawyer told me. Why would my parents decide to leave me with people I don’t know? Then again, the only remaining relative still alive is my mom’s sister, who I haven’t ever met. From what I understand, she currently lives at some mountain retreat with a bunch of middle-aged, free-spirited people who believe in a simplistic lifestyle. When my mom told me this, I stated that it sounded an awful lot like a cult. She only laughed and patted my head, saying, “One day, you’ll understand why not everyone wants to live in this modern day, technology-driven world.” Maybe she was right, but right now, I can’t even imagine parting with my cell phone or laptop.
“Don’t you have someone you’re related to that you can go live with?” Gage asks, flicking the cigarette out the window.
I shut my eyes, the chilly air burning my lungs, but inside, I feel a hot spark in the center of my chest.
Calm the fuck down, Sky.
I gradually exhale. “Just my aunt. But I… I don’t even know how to get a hold of her or I would’ve tried already.” I would’ve tried the day I realized my parents weren’t coming back from the bar.
They had told me they were going to go out for a while to get a couple of drinks at the bar a few blocks down from our neighborhood. That was nothing new. My parents usually spent Saturday nights drinking there with their friends.
They left around nine o’clock at night, and I fell asleep around midnight. When I woke up around ten the next morning, their bed was empty and still made, which I thought was odd but not completely out of the ordinary. There had been a couple of times when they’d gotten too drunk and passed out at a friend’s house. And sometimes they’d take off for a few days to go on road trips, but they usually checked in when they did that.
Around three o’clock on Monday, after two days of not hearing from them, I started making calls to everyone I could think of. No one had seen them since early Saturday morning. Not even at the bar.
When I realized they’d never made it to the bar, I panicked, which led to a fire erupting in the middle of the living room. After I put it out, I took a few shots of vodka to calm the hell down. Then I called the police.
It was another twenty-four hours, three exploding light bulbs, and two small fires before I could fill out a police report. My emotions had been all over the place that night, along with my ability. In fact, I hadn’t felt so out of control since I was six years old and discovered my emotions set off elemental-related reactions—fire, wind, water, ice, etc.
No one knows about my ability, not even my friends. If someone did find out, I might end up becoming a lab rat for scientific experiments or be put into a psych ward, which is part of the reason I’m so worried about moving in with a strange family. The change might disrupt my emotions too much … and my ability right along with it.
But the only way I can get out of moving in with them is if my parents just simply return home or the police find them. The latter seems unlikely since, so far, the police have only asked around town and did a quick search through the house. None of the evidence they found indicated any signs of foul play.
I overheard an officer telling another officer that he thought my parents had just bailed on me. When I told him he was wrong, he looked at me with pity and said, “Kid, as much as I hate to say this, you might not know your parents as well as you think you do. A lot of kids don’t.”
I got what he was saying, but that doesn’t mean I believe him. Sure, I live on the other side of the railroad tracks, the lower-class area of Honeyton where the drug and crime rates are higher, but that doesn’t mean my parents would just bail on me.
They’re decent enough parents. They have jobs. They put a roof over my head and food on the table. And yeah, they aren’t home a lot, but they’d never just leave me.
Knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better, though, because it means something bad has more than likely happened to them.
I suck in a breath as tears sting my eyes and ice begins to spiderweb across the windshield.
Crap. I need to calm down.
Calm down, Sky. Calm down now!
I inhale another deep breath, then another, and the ice crackling finally ceases.
“Earth to Sky.” Gage waves his hand in front of my face.
I tense, worried he noticed the ice on the windshield. “Yeah?”
“You seriously spaced out for, like, five minutes straight.”
“Sorry,” I apologize, breathing in relief. “I was just thinking about stuff.”
Gage and Nina trade a concerned look, and then Nina’s gaze zeroes in on me. “You know what I think we need?”
“A time machine so I can fast-forward six months into the future to when I turn eighteen?” I crack a joke.
She cranks up the defroster. “Nope. Although, that’d be awesome.”
“Yes, it would.” I straighten in the seat and lower my feet to the floorboard, watching the ice on the windshield melt away. “So, what do we need?”
She gives me a sly smile. “What’s the one thing that you’ve been wanting to do but have never had the balls to go through with?”
As I figure out what she means, I hastily shake my head. “Nope, not going to do it.”
“Aw, come on, Sky.” She taps the steering wheel with her palm. “This might be your last chance.”
“Yeah, the last chance to humiliate myself.” The last thing I need right now is to set off my emotions.
She steers onto the icy road and toward the center of town. “You won’t know that until you try.”
“I may not know how it’ll go down, but I have a pretty good idea of how it’ll end.” I roll up my window and recline back in my seat. “With me talking to him and then looking like a loser when he laughs in my face.”
She pops the end of a cigarette into her mouth and signals for me to light it for her. “Dude, Grey so messed up your head.”
I pick up the lighter and flick it on. “This isn’t about Grey.” That might be a lie.
Truthfully, I’m not sure if I’m just shy around guys or if Grey’s overdramatic rejection of my dance invite—Nina’s idea, not mine—in eighth grade permanently dented my self-esteem. And when I say overdramatic rejection, I mean he turned me down for the dance by standing up on the lunchroom table in front of the entire eighth grade and announced it to everyone. Even worse, I reacted by crying, which resulted in the pipes bursting and the entire school flooding.
Yeah, thanks for that, Grey.
Still, I can’t blame my lack of a dating life completely on him.
Dating sometimes leads to falling for someone, which can lead to heartbreak which, in my case, can then lead to what I can only guess would be flashfloods and wildfires. I mean, look at what happened with Grey. I barely knew him at the time and his rejection caused my ability to flood the entire school.
Of course, it doesn’t help that after Grey turned me down, he’s spent years relentlessly tormenting me, along with his friends. While I try to avoid him as much as possible and he generally doesn’t bother me when I’m around Nina and Gage, there have been a couple of incidents where he’s tormented me to the point where I’ve lost control over my ability and disaster soon followed.
As for the guy Nina wants me to talk to right now, I’m unsure if he’s an asshole or a nice guy, since I know nothing about him, not even his name or if he even lives in Honeyton. The only thing I do know is he visits the auto shop on the corner of Main Center Street and Winter Mourning Road every Friday evening around four o’clock, right when I’m heading home from school. I’m not certain what he does there or how long he stays there, just that he goes there. That’s it. Well, that and he’s extremely good-looking and mysterious, but the latter might only be because of my lack of information on him.
“You know Grey’s a jerk, right? He’s a cocky, arrogant douchebag who loves to humiliate women.” She inhales then exhales a cloud of smoke. “Do you know how many times I’ve heard him putting down a girl or slut-shaming them? He’s probably done it to at least half the girls in our school.”
I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. “I already told you this isn’t about Grey.”
She removes the cigarette from her lips and gives me a disbelieving look. “Do you understand, though, that Grey’s just an ass? Because, if you did understand that, I think you’d be more willing to do this.”
Gage squeezes my shoulder. “Don’t listen to her. If you don’t want to do it, don’t.” He reclines back in the seat. “Don’t let her use her peer pressure bullshit on you.”
She throws him a glare from over her shoulder. “I’m not trying to peer pressure her. I just think talking to this guy might be easier for her if she understands that she’ll never have to see him again. And it might help her get over her fear of rejection.” She looks at me. “But, if you don’t want to, just tell me to shut the fuck up.”
“Shut the fuck up,” I say with a small smile. Deep down, I know she has a point.
Ever since the fiasco with Grey, I’ve been afraid and have never dated anyone. I’ve never even kissed a guy.
Besides, I could use the distraction from the constant worrying of where the hell my parents are. And the emotions attached to that worry. As long as I don’t panic while talking to this guy, everything should be okay. What would I even have to panic about? Nina is right. I’ll never see him again.
“You know what? Let’s do it.” I glance at the clock. “If we leave now, we should get there right as he’s showing up.”
“Really?” Nina perks up.
I nod. “Yeah, really.”
“Awesome.” Grinning, she steers the car toward the shop.
I grin back, but my stomach kickflips. God, I really hope I can keep my shit together for this.