“Ryanne, honey,” her mother called, walking up the stairs. Mrs. Andrews knocked on the door.
“Ryanne?” Silence. “Is everything okay? Azumi just called for you. Did you guys have an argument?”
Frustrated now, Mrs. Andrews called again, this time attempting to open the door. “Ryanne!” Locked. And still no answer. “Ryanne open this door right now!”
“Go away!” Ryanne yelled suddenly.
“I will not!” Her mother yelled back, banging on the door with her fist. “Ryanne Andrews so help me, if you don’t open this door, I will take it off the hinges and you will be doorless for the rest of your life!”
“Please, Mom,” Ryanne pleaded, softly this time. “Stop knocking. It’s…too loud. You’re yelling is too loud, it’s all too loud!”
“What’s wrong, honey? I don’t understand! Please open the door–“ her mother yanked the doorknob.
“Brent!” Mrs. Andrews yelled for Ryanne’s dad.
Mr. Andrews heard his name from the garage and charged upstairs.
“Goodness, what’s wrong, Shell? Did the roof cave in or something?” He asked, looking confused.
“It’s Ryanne. Her door is locked, something is wrong, and she won’t let me in.”
“So she’s a teenager,” Ryanne’s father smirked, but then the corners of his mouth tightened. Both parents heard their girl whimpering and groaning from just behind the door.
“It’s too loud. It’s too loud,” came her muffled voice between gasps.
“Ryanne, honey, it’s Dad,” her father said as calmly as he could manage. “I need you to get away from the door, okay sweetheart? Dad’s coming in.”
Her father took two steps back and lunged shoulder first into her door, sending it flying wide open.
Ryanne was in the middle of the floor, curled in a ball, and rocking with her hands covering her ears.
“What’s wrong, Ryanne?” her dad said, rushing to her side, her mom trailing closely behind. When Ryanne didn’tanswer, he yanked her hands away from her ears in an effort to snap her out of it.
“Ryanne!” He pleaded, “I need you to tell me what’s wrong!”
Ryanne screamed in agony. “The noise! I can hear everything! It’s too loud, Dad,” she cried. “Please help me. Mom. Make it stop!”
“Shelly, go run some lukewarm bathwater,” Brent ordered, “right now.”
Shelly ran into Ryanne’s bathroom. Brent placed Ryanne’s hands back over her ears while the bath filled. He then picked her up like a baby and carried her to the bathroom. “Honey, you have to trust Daddy, okay? On the count of three, I need you to let go of your ears and hold your breath. Ryanne, do you understand me?”
Ryanne nodded yes.
“What are you going to do?” asked Shelly, frightened.
“Just trust me, honey. Okay, on the count of three. 1..2..” On three he laid Ryanne in the tub, allowing her head to sink underwater. Within a matter of seconds her agonized body relaxed. Her face became calm as the muffling properties of the water soothed her.
Ryanne drifted deeper under water instead of coming to.
“Brent! Do something!”
Ryanne seemed to pass out right before he yanked her from the water.
“Ryanne!” He shook her, trying not to yell in his panic. “Ryanne! Can you hear me?”
Her chest rose with one deep breath. “Dad,” she said.
“Are you okay?”
“It’s quiet now, Dad,” she whispered, falling asleep in his arms.
Brent wrapped a towel around his daughter and laid her in bed, gently closing the door behind him.
“What are we going to do, Brent?” his wife whispered, resting her head on his shoulder.
“I don’t know, Shelly,” he said
By lunchtime, the whole school had heard what had happened from someone or other. Azumi felt terrible, and Ryanne didn’t even show up to lunch. Grace was the last of the girls to reach the cafeteria, and she immediately rushed to Azumi’s side.
“Azumi, are you okay?” asked a concerned Grace.
“Is SHE okay?” interrupted Carmen. “I mean she all but super-slammed Ryanne into a locker, so uh, yea, I think she’s doing okay.”
“Come on Carmen, that’s no fai-“ Grace began
“Shut up, Carmen!” Azumi suddenly spoke up, “You know that’s not what happened, and I feel bad enough as it is, so why don’t you just be quiet and sit over there and eat your what–tenth meal of the day?”
“Whoa!” Gina chimed in. “Be easy, Azumi, you know Carmen just says things. She didn’t mean it.”
“Well, she needs to stop just saying things.”
All the girls sat in awkward silence before Carmen spoke up.
“You’re right, Zum, I’m sorry. I do just say things, and we all know you wouldn’t intentionally hurt Ryanne…but seriously, what really happened? Why wouldn’t you just let go of the necklace?”
“I tried,” Azumi said. She shifted a glance over to Grace, her eyes brimming with tears. “I really tried.”
“If she says she tried, then she tried,” said Grace protectively, “What’s most important is that we find Ryanne and make sure she’s okay.”
But none of the girls saw Ryanne for the remainder of the day. She wasn’t answering any texts, and their calls only produced endless ringing on the other end of the line.
Azumi and Grace decided to skip the limo ride with Carmen and Gina and walk home together. Grace had been waiting the whole day to speak with Azumi in private. She was anxious to know if Azumi’s new-found gift had anything to do with the incident in the hallway.
“Okay, spill it: what in the world happened?” asked Grace.
“I honestly don’t know, but I know I pushed her. I had to have. There is no way she could have flown back that far, that hard, on her own. The look on her face was horrible, Grace. Ryanne must hate me. How could she not?”
“Relax. She doesn’t hate you…But maybe we should tell the girls about, you know, your gift.”
“No, no, no, Grace, absolutely not. They will think we are making things up.”
“Right, like I’m really going to tell them I can move things with my hands without telling them you have magic eyeballs in the back of your head.”
The girls erupted into laughter–the first time in hours.
“Okay, since we can’t tell them we are freaks, then what are we going to do?” asked Azumi.
“I don’t know, but we will think of something,” said Grace.
Later that night…
“Hello! Grace, wake up! Grace, can you hear me?”
“Azumi? What–“ answered Grace groggily. “It’s one AM in the morning.”
“My power–it’s gone!”
“What do you mean, ‘it’s gone?’”
“Exactly what I said! I’ve been trying to move things all night and nothing!”
“Okay, just relax. Maybe you’re just stressed or something. Get some rest, and we will deal with it tomorrow.”
“Okay…But Grace, what if…”
“What if what, Zum?”
“What if I gave my power to Ryanne?”
“Okay now you’re just sounding crazy. Go back to–“
“No. I’m serious, Grace. Just think about it. When she flew back, energy was coming from somewhere. I mean, it’s a possibility right? That it transferred to her?”
“Get some sleep.”
“I’m freaking out.”
“There is nothing we can do about it tonight. We haven’t seen Ryanne since yesterday morning. Look, just get some rest. I promise everything will be okay, and we will figure it all out tomorrow.”
“Ugh, okay. But…”
“Don’t be. Goodnight.”
And even though Grace sounded sure, she was scared too.
“Well, look who woke up on the right side of the bed today,” snipped Carmen, popping a chip into her mouth.
“Chill, Carmen,” said Ryanne. “Everyone is entitled to their moods,” she said, placing a comforting hand on Grace’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry, guys. Really. I don’t know what was wrong with me. I guess it was just one of those days,” Grace said, casting a sideways glance to Azumi.
“Uh, yea,” Azumi chimed in, “Cut her some slack. Anyway, what’s for lunch? Or second lunch, for some of us,” Azumi said, staring at Carmen, who was plowing through her second bag of chips.
All of the girls turned and faced Carmen. Carmen stared back, stopped mid-chew and dropped a chip back into the bag.
“What?!” she snapped, clearly embarrassed. “I’m hungry.”
“Yea, we can see that,” said Gina, sliding the bag out of Carmen’s hands.
All of the girls erupted in laughter as the class bell rang.
“Hey, wait up, Ryanne!” yelled Azumi. “I forgot to tell you I found your necklace!”
“Are you serious?! I’ve been looking for it everywhere. Where did you find it?”
“You left it at my house last week. I’ve been meaning to give it back to you…I just forgot. Sorry about that.”
“It’s okay, I’m just happy to have it back.”
“I know it means a lot to you,” Azumi paused. “Anyway, here you go.”
Azumi put her hand out to give Ryanne the necklace, but when she took it, a slight tug o’ war began.
“Uh, thanks, Azumi. I got it. You can let go now.”
“I’m trying,” said Azumi, bewildered.
“What do you mean you’re trying?” growled Ryanne, “Just let it go!”
“It’s, like, stuck to my hand! I don’t–“
“That’s not funny, Azumi, you know my mom left this for me. Let. Go!”
“I am trying to LET GO!”
“No, you CLEARLY aren’t!”
The girls yelled back and forth, pulling the necklace taut between them, and a small crowd began to form.
Carmen poked her head out of her classroom to see what all the commotion was about and noticed her friends. She flew over to them.
“What are you guys doing? People are staring! You’re going to get in trouble!…Well, not really, because my dad is the dean, and seeing as how you guys are my besties, I could always just–“
“SHUT UP!” Both girls shouted in unison, still fighting over the necklace.
Azumi has had my necklace for over a week, and she won’t give it back!” cried Ryanne, breathlessly.
“That’s not true! I’m trying! It’s just stuck to my hand!”
“Yea right, Azumi! Just uncurl your stupid fingers, and let go of my mother’s necklace!”
“This is what’s stupid!” Carmen interrupted, “Just give me the necklace!” She grasped the necklace, sending Ryanne flying back into a locker with a hollow bang. Both girl and necklace crumbled to the floor.
“OMG, OMG, OMG!” screamed Carmen as she and Azumi rushed to Ryanne’s side.
“Are you okay? I am so sorry! I–I don’t know what happened.”
Ryanne sat up with a scowl on her face and said “I do. You let go while I was pulling. What a total jerk move, Zum.”
“I swear I didn’t, Ryanne. I would never–“
“Then how do you explain the tug of war and–you know what, just leave me alone. I’m already late for class,” Ryanne said as she pushed Azumi away and picked up her necklace and backpack off the floor.
Azumi knelt in the hallway, in shock.
“So what was that all about, Azumi?” hissed Carmen.
“You w-won’t understand,” stammered Azumi, turning away. “Just leave me alone!”
Carmen stood and waited awhile, debating on what to say to[LH1] before she headed back to class after the rest of the students. For the first time in forever, she was speechless.
Azumi, on the other hand, didn’t go to her next class. She walked out of the nearest exit and kept walking until the tears stopped falling.
The two girls sat in idle silence. It seemed like an eternity before Azumi spoke up, saying, “Can I ask you something?”
“Today when I reached for your book, did you drop it on the table?”
“What do you mean?” Grace asked.
Azumi searched for the words. “I mean, like, did you intentionally drop the book or did it kind of…fall out of your hands?”
“I don’t know. That’s a weird question to ask. I guess I dropped it. I don’t know. Why?”
Azumi took a deep breath, then spoke: “Okay, you know how you said you saw us sneaking up behind you?”
“Yeah,” Grace said. “Um, Ryanne was right. I heard you guys walking up.”
“But you couldn’t have. Then you said you saw us.”
“Well that can’t be right, Azumi, because I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. So I had to have heard you..”
“But-“ Azumi started, only to be cut off.
“No ‘buts,’ ok? I’m not some kind of freak,” Grace told her, her voice slowly rising. “I didn’t see you coming, and I hope the girls don’t think I did either.”
“Calm down, Grace. No one said you were a freak, I just-“
“You just what? You don’t want to be my friend anymore? Is it because I’m a know it all, because I caught you guys sneaking up on me? I mean you guys try and scare me every day. I could have been expecting it!”
Azumi steadied herself. “Grace, calm down, ok? We love you. You’re our best friend…why would we stop being your friend?”
Suddenly grace burst into tears, saying, “Because this is the first time I’ve ever had friends and I really don’t want to be alone again.”
“Grace,” Azumi told her, placing a tender hand on her shoulder, “You could never get rid of us, even if you tried. Even if you begged and pleaded we would never go anywhere. Our group wouldn’t be complete without you.”
Grace looked up, wiping the tears from her eyes. “Really?”
“Yes, you crazy girl.”
“So, no matter what I do, you guys will always be my friend?”
“Always!” Azumi assured.
“Okay, well then, I do I have a confession…”
Azumi perked up, waiting for Grace to continue.
“I did see you guys. And I don’t know how, and I can’t explain it, but I could see almost as if I did have eyes in the back of my head.”
“But you don’t…right?” Azumi asked, hesitating.
“What?” Grace laughed. “No! Of course not.”
“Just checking,” Azumi chuckled. “Okay, so what you’re saying is that you can see behind you.”
“Can you see to the sides of you?”
“I mean, no, not outside of my regular peripheral vision.”
“Let’s test it,” Azumi chirped, excited. “You turn around and I’ll stand behind you and tell me what I’m doing.”
Grace frowned. “I don’t know. It still kind of freaks me out a bit.”
“Oh, come on, this is so cool!” Azumi prodded.
“Fine,” Grace said, turning around and crossing her arms.
Once she was turned around fully, she heard Azumi ask, “Okay. What am I doing?”
“Holding up the peace sign.”
“Lucky guess. You know that’s my thing. How about n-” Azumi said, plucking a softball from the ground and tossing it towards Grace.
But before the words even left her mouth, Grace twirled around, and caught the ball. “Are you crazy?” she screamed.
“What?” Azumi shrugged.
“You could have hit me and knocked me out cold. What if my brain had malfunctioned or something? And I couldn’t have seen what you were getting ready to do!”
“But,” sung Azumi, “It didn’t. And grace - this is frickin’ awesome!”
“Whoa. Calm down,” Grace warned. “Before my mom hears us.” Then she opened the door and peeked into the hallway, making sure the coast was clear.
Azumi kept on: “Grace, this is amazing.”
“You think so?”
“Are you kidding me!?”
“But its weird…right?” Grace asked.
“Oh, yeah. Totally weird. But in a good way. I, uh…I have a confession, too.”
“I can move things,” Azumi said.
“I can move things. They don’t really move, but I guess I can sort of nudge things without touching them.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Grace said, incredulous.
“Just watch,” Azumi said, walking over to Grace’s dresser and pointing a finger towards a tiny jewelry box. Suddenly, the box jumped, moving a few inches to its left before stabilizing on the dresser. “See?”
“You totally touched that.”
“No, I didn’t. I swear,” Azumi protested.
“Okay,” Grace said. “Move something else.”
“Okay. Umm, how about this pen?”
“Not a pen,” Grace said. “I basically just admitted to having invisible eyes in the back of my head and you want to move a pen? Try harder.”
Azumi took a deep breath, scanning Grace’s room. Finally she spotted it – a lamp in the corner of a room. Slowly she extended her hand with a flat palm and waved it upwards, the lamp trembled but didnt move.
“Focus, zum!” yelled grace, clearly excited.
“Okay, okay,” said Azumi. She tried again, lifting her palms up and into the air. She squinted her eyes, straining herself when, suddenly, the lamp slowly lifted off the soft carpeting and into the air. It began to move across the room at a snail’s pace, Grace watching in amazement, when the cord affixing it to the wall was pulled taught.
“Whoa,” Grace proclaimed, walking over to the lamp and grabbing it from the air. She set it back on the ground as Azumi broke her concentration.
“Yeah,” Azumi said. “Tell me about it.”
“How long have you been able to do that?”
“I don’t know. It started off small. I would try to pick things up or grab things on the go and they were always just out of my reach. I thought I was just a clumso for a while, but then one day I intentionally paid attention to what I was doing. Things were moving away from me. Then today at the library with your book…I don’t know. “
Azumi sat down on Grace’s bed. “I didn’t want to say anything, but then you said you saw us from behind, and I knew that it couldn’t have been coincidence. Something is going on.”
“Do you think the others have noticed anything? Grace asked, taking a seat beside her.
“I don’t think so. But I think we should wait to tell the others. At least until we can get a better grip on what’s going on.”
Grace nodded, the two of them sharing a moment. But it didn’t last long.
“Azumi! Your mom is here!” screamed Mrs. Mitchell from the bottom of the steps, snapping the girls back to reality once more.
“Coming!” Azumi said, hopping to her feet and heading to the door, then turning back. “This is just between us, right?”
“Yeah,” Grace smiled. “Just between me and you.”
The girls were becoming close in ways that they couldn’t initially understand. They were closer than friends - they were becoming sisters.
Over the remainder of the school year the girls did everything together. The only times they weren’t together was when they were training or during class times, as they all had different classes tailored to their specific gifts. But at the end of the day during homeroom, they were altogether once more.
On one particular day, all the girls were looking for Grace - who was, of course, in the library (you could always find grace in the library or somewhere with her head buried in a book). All of the girls tiptoed past the bookshelves hoping to startle grace. You’d think she would have caught on by now, but she was always startled, and it never became old to the other girls.
Ryanne spotted Grace, huddled in a corner, and motioned all of the girls over. But before the girls were even within 2 feet of Grace’s back she called out…
“I see you. So don’t even try it.”
“No, you didn’t,” said Ryanne. “You heard us.”
“No, I saw you…I think. Look, I’m reading right now so can we catch up later?”
“What’s wrong with you?” Azumi asked. Shocked by Grace’s tone.
“Nothing,” Grace chimed, annoyed. “I’m just busy.”
“Well, what are you reading?” Azumi asked, plopping down beside Grace and reaching for the book.
“Right, because ‘I’m busy’ means ask more questions,” Grace huffed, as the book dropped to the table.
“What the heck, grace?” Ryanne said. “She was just asking.”
Grace looked up at the others wearily, shoving books into her backpack. “You guys act like if we don’t spend every waking second together the world will explode.”
“Hey! Seriously. Grace, is everything ok? You sound really upset,” Gina told her.
“I said I’m fine,” Grace yelled, drawing the attention of several quiet readers. “What does a girl have to do to get some quiet reading time?” And with that, she stormed out.
“Geez, Carmen sighed. “What was up with that? She was acting toats cray cray.”
“I don’t know, but something is clearly not okay,” said Ryanne. “What was she reading about? She left her book.”
“I don’t know. Something about peripheral vision…nerd stuff,” Carmen said flippantly.
The girls each took a seat at the now-empty table, Azumi placing her face in her hands.
“Cut her some slack, Carmen. You know grace doesn’t act this way. Something must really be wrong,” Ryanne piped up, then turned to Azumi. “Are you okay, Zum?”
“Yeah,” came the reply. “I just…she seemed different, you know? Like, kind of scared or unsure or something.”
“Well, we’ll see her tomorrow. Maybe she’ll wake up on the right side of that twin bed…seriously I don’t get how you guys do it…,” Carmen said as she grabbed her purse.
“Chill Carmen” Said Ryanne
“I was just saying!..anyway adios girls!” Carmen said walking out of the library
“Wait up, Carmen!” Gina called, following up with: “Carmen’s giving me a ride home today. See you guys tomorrow.”
“See ‘ya,” Ryanne and Azumi said simultaneously, but Gina was already hurrying down an adjacent hallway.
“You sure you’re ok, Zum? You know she didn’t mean it,” Ryanne said.
“No. Yeah, I’m good. Look, I’ll catch up with you later. I have some work to catch up on.”
“I’m good, Azumi told her, looking her in the eyes. “I promise! I’ll talk you later.”
Azumi gathered her things and started away but something compelled her to turn back, reaching for the book Grace was reading. Before her fingertips could even graze its cover, the book moved. It was a slight movement – like the nudge of an invisible hand – but it had definitely moved. Azumi left the library without it.
“Hey, hun. You’ve been quiet since you got home,” Mrs Tran said.
“Really? I hadn’t noticed,” Azumi said, only half paying attention. “I had a lot of homework.”
“Is everything ok?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine mom. Do you mind if I eat dinner at Grace’s house tonight?”
“Sure, Mrs. Tran replied. “I don’t mind. Have you asked grace’s parents? You girls practically live in each other’s homes, but I don’t want to inconvenience them.”
“It’s fine, mom,” groaned Azumi. “Do the girls bother you?”
“Of course not.”
Mrs. Tran leaned over a kitchen island and said, “Okay, smarty pants. Well, do you want a ride?”
“No. I’ll take my bike.”
“Well, you better leave soon. I don’t want you riding your bike at night. I’ll pick you up around 8:30, okay?”
“Yeah, that’s fine,” Azumi said, opening the door. “See you later.”
As Azumi rode her bike to Grace’s house, her mind raced – debating what she should say or do. Should she even mention it? She completely understood how grace felt in the library that day, because she’d been feeling the same way - something was going haywire with her body and she had no clue what it was.
“Hey, Azumi. What a nice surprise!” grace’s mom said as she opened the door.
“Hey, Mrs. Mitchell, Sorry to stop by unannounced, but I was wondering if grace was home.”
“Of course,” she replied. “Come on in. She’s upstairs in her room. She’s been a little preoccupied lately, so I’m glad to see you. Maybe you can snap her out of it.”
“I’ll try, said Azumi, as she scaled the stairs. When she reached the top, she made her way down the hall to Grace’s room, stopping in front of the door and calling out: “Uh, Grace?”
The door opened quickly, and the two stood face to face. “What are you doing here?” Grace asked.
“I just wanted to see if everything was ok. You were pretty upset today at school.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. I’ve been pretty distracted lately.”
“Its ok,” Azumi said, entering the room. “I figured you were stressed about something.”….
TO BE CONTINUED…
Dinner was so fab! Diary, you just don’t understand. We went for pizza, but rich people pizza. They gave us knives and forks! Can you believe it?! For pizza! We drank soda out of crystal glasses and everything was so nice but totally unnecessary, because, I mean, you should just eat pizza with your hands - but I had so much fun. We all talked and laughed - except Gina. She stayed pretty quiet. Carmen spent most of the time talking about herself, but that was cool, too.
The limo was awesome - you could fit like 20 people in there (and comfortably). There were TVs and refrigerators…even a sun roof. I had a great time. If this is any indication of what the rest of the school year will be like, it’s going to be a great year! And I have friends now! Well, I think so…
“Last stop on the limo train,” Mario said, pulling up the driveway. “We’re here.”
Gina looked up at the house tepidly. “I know,” she said. “I’m just watching my mom peek through the window, and I am not in the mood to play 21 questions.”
“You mean your mom is waiting to ask you about your day? Carmen asked.
“Yeah. It’s so annoying. She’s like this every day.”
“Oh,” Carmen replied, glancing towards her feet. “I mean, yeah, so annoying. I hate when parents do that. My mom’s totally the same way.”
“Yeah, well, thanks for the pizza,” Gina said, exiting the limo. “See ya’!”
Minutes later, Gina sat at the kitchen table fielding a barrage of questions, her backpack slung over a chair. “We went out for pizza, mom. That’s all.”
“But this is great, though! You’re making friends and actually getting out for the first time this year.”
“Mom, they aren’t my friends, they were assigned to me. They just invited me as a courtesy,” Gina responded.
“Whatever,” her mom replied, playfully sticking her tongue out. “You have friends. You have friends and they like you…ha!”
“I can’t believe I’m being teased about actually making friends.”
“Feels good, huh?” her mom chuckled.
Gina sighed, saying: “I’m going to my room to do homework.”
“Ok,” her mom said, watching her begin up the stairs. “But I know it feels good!”
Ok, Gina told herself, it does feel good and I did have a good time. And even though doing the happy feet shuffle was completely out of character for her, its exactly what she found herself doing – standing atop her bed.
“Hey, everything ok in here?” her mom asked, poking a head through the doorway. “I heard a loud noise.”
“Yeah, mom. I’m good…just practicing some kicks and stuff,” Gina responded.
A quizzical look swept over her mother’s face. “Kicks and stuff?”
“Yep. Kicks… and stuff…”
“Uh huh,” her mom said as she closed the door, grinning widely.
No sooner than her mother left, Gina plopped down on the bed and opened her math book, starting to pour over homework, her mind still distracted.
I have friends…I think, she thought once more.
“Whew. Finally, that’s over,” sighed Carmen, sitting on the edge of her bed and lying at the ceiling.
Mario, standing in the doorway, spoke up. “Come on, Carmen. You know it wasn’t that bad. I’d even venture to say you enjoyed yourself.”
“Fine Mario,” she said. “I’ll admit it wasn’t that bad. And it was nice to have someone to eat with…no offense.”
“None taken,” Mario shrugged. “You really should be surrounded by girls your age.”
“I know, right? And can you believe Gina’s mom? Crazy, right? I mean, totally harassing her about her day- just waiting to talk to her - that’s crazy…right?”
“Maybe,” Mario said.
“Well, I’m just saying, whose parents have time for that? It was weird, that’s all.”
“Who knows? Gina might invite you over one day.”
Carmen looked up, scoffing. “Why would I want to go over to her house?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Mario said. “To meet her parents? To see how crazy it actually is. You could act as the good friend and take some of those 21 questions off of her hands - just to help her out.”
Gina thought about this for a moment. “Well, maybe. If she asks and if I’m not too busy, obviously.”
“Mmhmm,” Mario hummed. “I’m sure you’ll find the time.”
The next day, at lunch time, we all had the same thing on our mind - where would we sit in the cafeteria. Would we have to sit alone, or ask someone to sit at their table? Gina was always the first one in the cafeteria because, if she wasn’t eating with her brothers or using that time to train, she ate alone. She ate as quickly as possible and then left right away. But today, right as she was finishing her sandwich, Ryanne and Azumi plopped down beside her…
“Ugh. I’m starved!” Zum said, sidling over to Gina.
“Yeah, me too. What did you get, Gina?” Ryanne asked.
Zum waved a hand in front of Gina’s face. “Gina? Hello? What did you get? It must have been tasty, because you completely destroyed whatever was on your tray.”
Gina snapped out of her gaze, saying: “Oh, me? I had the ham and cheese sub. It was alright. Are you guys going to sit with, I mean, eat here?”
“Uh, yeah, where else would we eat?” Ryanne replied. “I’m going to text grace and let her know where we are sitting.”
“Carmen has arrived,” announced Carmen, ordering the others to scoot down the table. They each shifted to the left, one by one.
“Hey guys!” said grace as she approached the table carrying a small, plastic container. “I baked cupcakes last night for you guys.”
“You baked us…cupcakes?” Carmen asked incredulously.
“Well, yeah. I mean, you don’t have to eat them. Like I said, it’s just a hobby. I mean-“
“Sweet!” Zum proclaimed, cutting her off. “I love cupcakes.”
Ryanne watched with anticipation as Grace lifted the lid of the container. “I hope there’s chocolate,” she said.
Carmen reached into the container hesitantly before daintily unwrapping her pastry and taking a small bite, chewing. The others watch in anticipation of her review.
“Grace,” she said, finally. “These cupcakes are literally the best thing that I’ve ever tasted.”
The others laughed at her serious demeanor.
“No, seriously, guys. I feel like I can taste the milk, the eggs, and each and every individual chocolate chip melted into this thing. I can almost taste the cow and the chicken the milk and eggs came from,” Carmen said between bites, hastily wolfing the cupcake down.
“Umm, Thanks Carmen,” Grace replied.
“Delish, Grace. Absolutely delish,” replied Carmen, brushing some crumbs from the table in a grad gesture.
The girls chatted idly the remainder of lunch, with Gina staying with them and munching on a cupcake - despite finishing her meal early.
Right before the last lunch bell rang, Gina spoke up, saying, “I know my mom volunteered me to be your guide or escort or whatever, but you don’t have to eat with me if you didn’t want to. I mean, don’t feel obligated or-”
“Gina, what are you talking about?” Carmen interrupted, a tone of annoyance creeping into her voice. “Obviously we’re all best friends now.”
“Just like that? Gina asked.
“Uh, yeah. How else does it work? Anyways, ladies,” Carmen said, standing and picking up her tray, “I’m off to class and I cannot be late - being the dean’s daughter and all. You know how it is. Text me. Adios!”
The girls sat in shock, letting their new “best friend” status fully sink in. All of them except Grace, that is, who didn’t seem fazed. “I’ve got class, too,” she announced. “See ya’, besties.”
Ryanne and Zum laughed at this, grabbing their backpacks and preparing to leave.
“You coming, Gina?” Zum asked.
“Yeah, yeah,” Gina replied, grabbing her backpack and grinning ever so slightly. “I’m coming.”
After that day, the girls’ friendships only grew faster. And, after a short while, they were virtually inseparable.
The Kinesthetic Learning Youth Private School, also known as The KLYPS, was among the most prestigious private schools in the world. You couldn’t apply. You could only be accepted.
The students who attended The KLYPS were some of the best and brightest in the world. My job was quite simple: I was a homeroom teacher, affectionately known to my students as Mrs. Major. I’ve taught at The KLYPS for over 30 years now, and I’ve seen many students come and go. Each year brings a new opportunity for me to enrich lives, but I have to admit, the most exciting time of my teaching career was the year I taught the fabulous 5, which is why I’m telling you this story.
I’m here to tell the story of the Klyptonites - five of the brightest, most talented, strangest and beautiful group of friends I’ve ever witnessed in all my years of teaching. Now, let me explain something to you: all the students at The KLYPS have extraordinary abilities, amazing mental, learning, or musical ability. They were all special in some way, but never before had I witnessed magic, actual magic… if you could even call it that. But I’m jumping ahead. Let me start from the beginning…
"Class, I would like to introduce you to four new students today, which is quite extraordinary because we rarely get new students in the middle of the school year - let alone 4. But I am very excited for you all to meet to your new classmates, so please give a warm KLYPS welcome to Azumi, Carmen, Ryanne and Grace,” Mrs. Major told the class.
The rest of the class gave a half-hearted welcome, mumbling and squirming in their seats.
“Since class is almost over, I am going to give each girl the opportunity to introduce themselves,” she continued. “So ladies, please let us know where you are from, what your gift is, and one of your hobbies. Who would like to begin?”
Silence overtook the room.
“No one? Well, no need to be shy, ladies. How about you Carmen?”
Carmen’s ears perked up at the mention of her name. Then she rose, saying, “Not that I require much of an introduction, because I’m sure everyone knows by now that my father is the new dean of students,” she said. “Not that I couldn’t attend this school on my own aptitude. I’m a trained ballerina and as for hobbies…well, ballet, obviously, and shopping. “
“Thank you Carmen, Mrs. Major said. “Um, how about you, Azumi?”
“Hey. I’m Azumi, but I prefer just zum for short. My family is from japan and I’m a musical prodigy. I can probably play almost any instrument but my specialties are the bass guitar, piano, clarinet, drums, violin, saxophone and harmonica. As for hobbies, I love music so I spend most of my time composing it, but I also like to deejay.”
“Deejay,” Mrs. Major repeated. “Well, how cool is that? Maybe you could help with some of the music for our sporting events, or even dances.”
“Yeah. Maybe,” Zum told her hesitantly.
“Okay. Well, Ryanne, what about you?”
“I’m adopted and from Hawaii and I’m genius. I like to read,” she told the class before sitting down promptly.
Mrs. Major furled her brow, pressing her: “Care to expand?”
“Not really. I mean, it’s all pretty self-explanatory. My family is from Hawaii and I’m a genius, meaning I display exceptional intellectual ability. My intelligence quotient is one hundred and ninety-eight - that’s two points away from being considered an immeasurable genius. And as for my hobbies, I like to read…books.”
“Well, thank you for that explanation Ryanne. And last, but not least, how about you, Grace?”
Grace stood, surveying her classmates before speaking.
“Hi, everyone. I’m from California, and my gift is eidetic memory, which basically means I have the ability to recall images, sounds or objects with great precision. As for hobbies, I like to cook. I cook really well…probably because I remember every recipe I’ve ever read. But I really enjoy cooking,” she said.
As she finished, the bell erupted, sending the students – except one - clamoring away. Mrs. Major waved the new additions closer to her.
“Right on time! Well wonderful,” came the reply. “We’re happy to have you all here, and we’re excited to help expand and grow your gifts. The Klyps welcomes you. Now, I’ve paired you girls up with one of our resident students. Her name is Gina and she will be your guide for the remainder of the week. Gina, could you come here for a moment?”
Gina, still seated in the front row, rose and walked to the front of the room, nodding to the others.
“Girls, this is Gina. She’s a martial artist, trained in many forms of combat. Her mother and father run the cities’ best bakery, and I can’t think of anyone better to get you acclimated with the KLYPs and this new and exciting place you’ll call home. Anyway, get acquainted, ladies, and I will see you all tomorrow.”
The girls walked out the front entrance in silence to wait on their parents. No one spoke a word until Grace broke the static, saying: “So, your family owns a bakery?”
“Yep,” said Gina responded curtly.
“Well, there’s my limo,” Carmen said, as a gargantuan stretch pulled to the curb. “Bye!”
limo! screamed Grace
“I’ve never been in a limo before,” Grace said, watching Carmen skip to the vehicle.
Carmen stopped, turning and casting a sideways glance at the others. “So…what are you saying, exactly?”
“Can we go for a ride in your limo?”
“Well, today may not be the best day,” Carmen said. “I have tons of things to get to and…”
“Carmen! Carmen!” Mario called, scrambling from the driver’s seat and around the front of the car. “Introduce me to your new friends.”
“This is Mario, our butler,” Carmen sighed. “Mario, this is Ryanne, Grace, Azumi, and Gina.” She opened the door to the back and began sliding into the seat. “See you tomorrow,” she called back.
“Not so fast,” Mario said, placing a hand on the door to keep it from closing. “What’s the rush? Ladies, we are on our way to grab something to eat. Would you like to join us?”
“I’m sure they have things to do Mario,” Carmen growled from the limo.
“Nope. I’m free,” Ryanne said.
“Yeah, me too,” Azumi chimed in. “Let me just call my mom and let her know.”
“Me three!” said Grace, pushing Carmen over in her seat with a squeal.
“Okay, ladies. Are you ready? Mario asked.
The rest of the girls nodded enthusiastically…except Gina.
“Gina,” Grace asked, “Aren’t you coming, too?”
Gina pointed an index finger towards herself. “Me?”
“Uh yea, “ Grace giggled. “You’re the only one named Gina. Are you coming, too?”
The rest of the girls waved her forward from inside the vehicle. “Aww, come on,” they cheered.
“Uh, yeah. Sure,” she said, climbing into the back of the limousine. “I’ll come.”
As they pulled away from the curb, Gina looked back towards the KLYPS briefly, then faced forward as they made their way into town.
I knew this would be our last battle, or at least my last battle. Things were changing and I couldn’t keep fighting in my condition. I knew it the second we lined up side by side - that each of our powers were now in what we thought were their final, advanced stages. I hadn’t told the girls yet, but I planned to.
We always started our battles the same way. Pilar moved first. She struck a match on the bridge of her tongue and a fireball the size of a fist formed instantly in her mouth, our cue that the battle had begun. She had the amazing gift of taste. Anything Pilar put in her mouth could be enhanced in some way, shape or form; she could learn a language by licking a foreign dictionary or turn a piece of ice into a snowball…the possibilities were endless.
My job was on the sidelines. I listened to our enemies’ thoughts, and I could change them, too. Like a coach, I plotted our next moves and anticipated our foes’, doing my best to keep us from harm. My gift was that of sound. I could hear the smallest of patters from miles away, right down to a whispered thought, and I always knew when the enemy was coming.
It wasn’t always the easiest gift to control, Sometimes you heard things you wish you hadn’t, and I always had to concentrate to stay out of the other girls’ thoughts. This was partially out of respect, of course, but also because sometimes all the thoughts - all the sounds swirling around in my head simultaneously - were overwhelming. But I learned quickly.
Ronnie had the gift of touch; she could move people or objects with the wave of her hand. She could cripple someone with a mere tap to a shoulder, or produce immense pleasure. It was all at her discretion.
Then there was Jane. She could see everything. Literally - she could even see behind her while, looking forward, her peripheral was expanded exponentially. Her sight covered unimaginable distances and was finely tuned to make out minute details. But the best part of her power was imitation. She could make anyone see what she wanted them to - the caveat being that the vision only lasted a short while.
Finally, there was Quinn. She had an enhanced sense of smell (I liked to call it “enhanced inhalation.”) I still believe she could inhale the soul right out of a person if she tried, but she never did. Honestly, she rarely used her power.
Quinn was a fighter, trained in 6 forms of martial arts and a master in several forms of weaponry. I don’t know if she really appreciated her gift as much as we did, but she should have, because she was also a healer. Quinn could suck the illness from your lungs (or anything else, really) and heal you without bringing any harm to herself. But it was a difficult gift to control, and there was always the fear that she would take too much from someone. I don’t think she liked the idea of having such a fatal power. We all did, in a way, but to be able to sniff out someone’s soul - the very essence of their being – was a heavy cross to bear..
When we fought, we fought hard. We were unstoppable. Our gifts, used in succession with one another, couldn’t be stopped until that day - the day we stopped ourselves.
This gift that we were given, these powers that we were entrusted with, consumed our lives. I thought I was the only one who was tired of the responsibility, but I wasn’t. We all were. That night we decided to go our separate ways, and even though I had already planned on telling them I was out, it hurt to know everyone had made plans for their own exits as well.
Either way, we had to be separated. We needed millions of miles between us just to get our powers to begin to fade. As much as we loved one another as friends - and as warriors - we needed to disband.
We needed our own lives, a chance to grow up. And, most importantly, we needed to be normal again. That day, 15 years ago, we walked away from one another and never spoke again. The only parts of each other we held onto were our clips. Soon after our separation, my hearing fully returned to normal and eventually…I just moved on.
I don’t know how anyone else’s life turned out; I’m assuming their senses returned to normal, as well. I mean, that was the point of separating in the first place: to be normal. And even though I’m a different person now, sometimes I wonder what could have been; sometimes I even wish we still were….
"You know Gina, all I’ve ever wanted…" Gina’s mother said, holding a red dress in front of her with two hands.
"I know, I know - A little girl who was sweet and blah blah blah. But I’m just not putting that dress on," Gina responded apathetically.
"Because I don’t wear dresses, mom. Because I can’t kick or punch in a dress. I can’t squat, crawl, or run, either."
"Exactly,” came the response. “And are you trying to horrify me? Squat? Really?"
"Mom, I know you don’t want me to be a tomboy, but I-" I started.
"Honestly, its not that. I love the fact that you’re a martial artist. It’s just that you’re always with your brothers and you don’t have any girl friends,” she told me. “You always wear baggy stuff to school and I just think you might make more friends if you, I don’t know, put on some lip gloss, maybe, and took out that French braid you always wear."
"Mom! Just, please, stop!" I said, annoyed.
It always hurt my feelings for her to bring up my lack of friends. Mom wanted me to be a normal girl so badly, but I always wished she was happier with the fact that I like who I am.
"I’m a championship fighter, trained in 8 forms of martial arts A 3rd degree black belt,” I shot back, raising 3 fingers to emphasize my point “Mom, you and I are just different. I know you hate that about me, but can you please cut me some slack today because I’m just not going to wear the dress. Not to mention I’ve been dressing myself since I was, like, 6. I think I’ve gotten the hang of it.”
"I know you can dress yourself. And I don’t hate those things about you, dear. I love those things about you. I love everything about you,” she said. “Believe it or not, but I just wish for once it felt like I had 3 boys and a girl instead of 4 boys. And you know, Gina, I fought a little, too, when I was your age.”
"Stop right there, mom. I get what you’re trying to do, but fighting off the bee that you swore was following you at the farmers market absolutely does not count.”
"Very funny,” she chuckled. “But I’m serious! I could fight. Also, who signed you up for your first karate class?"
"Yeah, yeah. Mom, I can’t even picture you swatting a fly, but I appreciate you trying to connect with me. Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to get ready for school."
"Okay. But since you won’t wear the dress, how do you feel about jewelry?"
She produced a long gold chain with an antique medallion attached from behind her back and dangled it in front of her face.
"Ugh. Mom, can you please go bother dad, or James, or Brayden & Bryan? Please?”
"Nope. Dad’s already at the bakery and your brothers have left for school."
"Fine,” I surrendered. “If jewelry will get you to leave me alone, I will wear the stupid jewelry. Just leave it on the dresser."
"Thank you, and don’t forget there are some new students that will be in your homeroom today, and since you aren’t a new student I told Mrs. Major that you wouldn’t mind being friendly and possibly showing the new girls around."
"Yes, Gina. Friendly. As in, smile and wave…you know, introduce yourself.”
"Why?" I whined, exasperated at the thought.
"You’re Welcome,” she said. “Now, let’s go before you’re late.
Today is my first day of school in this new place, and I’m really excited. I wonder who my new friends will be or if there are any cute boys. I really hope I make friends here, because it’s been me and you, diary, for a long time. I just hope these new girls are nicer than the girls at my last school. I mean, I know I can be a little annoying sometimes but I can’t help it. I do remember everything….
"Grace! Are you ready? Did you remember to pack your lunch?" she cried out.
"Really? You’re asking me if I remembered to pack my own lunch?"
"I’m sorry, honey. It’s a parent thing. I know you remembered."
"Yep, and to answer your question, exactly 47 hours and 23 minutes ago you were standing in the kitchen to the left of the stove. You had your cell phone between your left shoulder and ear and you were talking to gran, who you were reminding to take her medication. The kitchen smelled like burning oil because you were getting ready to fry chicken, and you were doing more talking than cooking,” I said smugly. Mom raised her hand, indicating she got it, but I continued.
“You were shaking the chicken bag when it ripped and two of the six pieces fell, landing on the floor. Then Jem ate one, and you screamed for me to get my dog out of the kitchen - emphasis on the my - out of frustration with yourself and the lost chicken. When I asked you if there was there anything I could do to help, you said, and I quote ‘Just make sure you have your lunch packed for Monday’.”
"You have a beautiful mind, sweetheart."
"Thanks,” I said. “A beautiful mind doesn’t make friends, though."
"Grace, I don’t want you to be worried about whether or not you’ll make friends because I know you will. I promise."
"But kids think I’m annoying and a know it all.”
“Sweetie that fact that you have eidetic memory is pretty cool. Not very many people can remember everything, and most wish they could. I certainly do. Be proud of your gifts. Hug?” she asked.
"Yeah. Hug," I told her, folding myself into her arms. I loved my mom’s hugs.
"Now,” she said, “Lets go before you’re late. And don’t worry. Everything will be fine.”