I waited by my locker for Annabeth. She had to finish her math test before we could walk home. She was late, which wasn’t unusual, but I had to get home to watch my sisters.
“Lexy!” She exclaimed after what seemed like forever.
I didn’t see her till she was right in front of me though, there were too many people in the halls still for me to take out my headphones.
I nodded at her and moved toward her locker that was only three away from me.
She then slipped something in my hand, and I nonchalantly opened it up. It wasn’t unusual for us to pass notes. But usually they were of some importance of things we couldn’t say out loud, in fear that if someone knew our secrets’ we would never live normal lives again.
I opened the letter, my back against the locker as was our protocol.
We might have trouble coming. Keep your mouth shut till we get home. Earphones out. Listen to what’s around us.
I folded the letter and put it in my pocket. I wondered what she was talking about, but I knew better than to talk about it here. My studies had shown me that people who are different, are always in danger. And as much as I hated it, fitting in was our best chance of survival.
“Hurry up,” I said, trying to sound normal as I took my headphones off. “I have to be home before my sisters. I told my parents I would watch them.”
Annie looked up at me and nodded, but her face looked worried.
I knew better than to ask about it at school. Her note literally told me to be quiet. But if my headphones were off, with this many people still around, I needed to focus on something.
It was weird though. I had survived many years with no headphones and school. When I was younger, I’d get these awful headaches that I didn’t know how to handle because to me, the world was very loud. I knew from an early age that I was different. I had survived many years being the only person I knew that was different. I often didn’t wear headphones because I liked the voices sometimes, if I was in the mood for it. But today, I was surrounded by the same people as always, but the sound was different. And there was a low humming noise droning on in the background that I had never heard before.
The second I noticed it, I didn’t want to hear it anymore, but I fought the urge to just shove my headphones back in and drown it out.
“How was your last class?” Annie asked as we started to walk out of the building.
I furrowed my eyebrows. I could hear her unasked question in my head as if she asked it out loud.
“It was fine. Completely normal.” I answered, choosing my words carefully.
As we were walking, I noticed 2 guys walking behind us. One of them being the one who had spilled spaghetti all over Annie earlier today.
Annie looked back too, but when she realized who was behind us, she sped up.
“They won’t hurt us,” I whispered. “They aren’t a threat.”
“Keep your voice down.” She answered in a hushed tone. “Hurry up.”
“Do you wanna run?” I asked. I didn’t really want to, but it wasn’t unusual for us to run home. When we were younger, we used to race, and occasionally, we still did.
“No.” She stated shortly. “Tell me something funny.”
I let out a chuckle. “Well let’s see, today was a fairly normal day at school, until my best friend got spaghetti dumped on her, and turned into a total lunatic.” I teased.
“Not funny, Lex.” She said through gritted teeth.
“I think it’s hilarious. Because that boy is following us home, and we’ve not once seen him before on this route.”
“What if he’s some creepy stalker?” She whispered.
I laughed; I couldn’t help it. “I’m the one with the crazy theories, remember? Besides, it would be weirder if he was like a new kid who you were being pulled to. He’s been at this school with us all year, I don’t think there’s anything to be afraid of.”
This time she smiled.
“Come on, crazy lady. Those clouds don’t look promising.”
Her smile then fully stretched across her face just before she took off running.
“No fair!” I yelled after her, as I started to run too. “You got a head start!”
Neither of us slowed down till we reached my house. I don’t know what I was expecting, but part of me was surprised to see it still in one piece. I had no reason to think otherwise, but still, I felt a little surprised when I walked in.
“Mom? Dad?” I called out, but I wasn’t actually expecting an answer. Neither of them was supposed to be home. Mom was doing some volunteer activity today and my dad was at work. It was just a typical Tuesday.
As soon as we knew the coast was clear, we ran up the stairs to my room, and Annabeth immediately raided my closet for the clothes she left over here for days when she didn’t expect to spend the night, or on days like she got spaghetti dumped on her by random boys. Things like this happened more frequently to us than one might think.
“Okay,” I started as I plopped down on my bed. “So what’s the big thing that’s actually wrong?”
“I didn’t say anything was wrong.” Annie answered trying to sound nonchalant.
“Yes, you did.” I responded. “You told me to keep my earphones out, and that means you were worried about something. What has you freaked out?”
“I ran into Jake again.” She blurted out after a moment.
“Who?” I questioned, not following.
“Jake. Jake Graening. The kid who spilled the spaghetti all over me. The kid who followed us home.”
“Okay… I’m not following…” I replied slowly.
“I can’t explain it,” She answered sounding flustered. “Both times, I don’t think I should have run into him. It was like we were being pulled into each other or something. And when we touched…”
“When you touched, what happened?” I questioned, sitting up.
I could feel that she didn’t want to tell me. I could feel her trying to decide if she should. If I wanted to, I could have just read her mind, and been done with it, but I respected her privacy. I rarely ever read her mind. And sometimes when you’re close to someone it’s harder to read them.
“I saw something that scared me.” She finally answered.
“Okay, you lost me again.” I replied, leaning back again.
“I saw you, and I saw him, in a bad situation.”
“How bad?” I asked, remembering the weird noise I had heard at school.
Anna didn’t answer… She just ignored the question.
“Annabeth Layne Hawkins, tell me right now what you saw.”
She still didn’t want to tell me, but the urge to tell someone was overwhelming so finally she blurted out, “I saw you and Jake both in handcuffs and chains on a dirt floor looking pretty beaten up…”
“Oh.” I responded.
“Look, I don’t know what that means. It’s just weird. It could be one of those things that have a different meaning or something.” She tried.
“Annie, we both know you don’t have those very often. It must be a warning. We can probably prevent it.” I didn’t feel confident with that answer, but it seemed to make her feel better.
“Lexy!” My little sister, Calynn shouted as she walked in the door. “We’re home!”
“Okay!” I yelled back. “I’ll be down in a minute!”
“So, what do we do now?” Annabeth asked.
“Now, we go give the children a snack, and we forget about everything for the time being.” I replied simply. “There’s no use worrying about something that may or may not happen.”
She nodded and we headed downstairs.
It was Tuesday so that meant I had to cook dinner tonight. Sometimes, I made a real meal, but more often than not, I put in frozen food like a chicken cordon bleu and made some instant mash potatoes in a pot with some microwave corn and called it a day. Annabeth, being a vegetarian, kept her own supply of food at our house, so she would make some fake meat food from our freezer.
Dinner was in the oven, and we were all doing our homework by time my parents came home. It was nothing out of the ordinary, for which I was grateful.
“Mommy!” Sari, my youngest sister exclaimed when they walked in.
“Sari!” My mom wrapped my sister up in a hug as my dad walked in behind them.
“What? No hug for me, Sara-Bear?” He teased.
Sari made some very odd noise, sounding a little bit like a pterodactyl, before letting go of mom and jumping into Dad.
“How was your day, girls?” Mom asked as she put her stuff down and walked over to the table.
“It was good.” I answered, and there was a round of echoes of about the same thing from around the table.
“And your presentation, honey, how did that go?”
“Eh,” I answered, writing down the answer to the math problem. “It could have gone better.”
“What? The people didn’t like your presentation on uh what is it, the supernatural appeal to teens?”
“More like I stuttered and stumbled and made it about as unappealing as I could have.” I told her with a sigh.
“I told you, you just gotta sing a happy song when you’re stressed. It works like a charm every time.” My dad responded. “You listen to enough music, I’m sure you have a good song for things like that.”
“Dad… It never works that way for me,” I stated annoyed.
“You don’t know it till you try it.” He reminded me.
I sighed and closed my math book and moved to take dinner out of the oven.
“I have tried, dad.” I responded. “But it doesn’t work for me.”
Annabeth rolled her eyes at me but didn’t say anything.
“Annabeth, how did her presentation really go?” My mom questioned.
“You know, she did her best,” Anna stuttered, nearly choking on the glass of orange juice she had just gotten. We only kept orange juice in our house because she like it.
“That’s my girl,” My dad hugged me as I was walking dinner to the table.
“Careful, it’s hot!” I exclaimed.
And just like every other night we sat down around the table and had dinner. The way we had every night for as long as I could remember. And the thought of something bad happening, disappeared in the contentness of the night