I was in a lot of trouble the next day, but I didn’t care. I had wound up stayin’ up with Henri most the night, sittin’ outside on his back porch steps and not really talking. I didn’t ask him anything ’bout his sickness, and he didn’t offer anything–I knew I would find out more when the time was right.
In any case, I wound up falling asleep and ended up on the couch in their living room. Not sure how I got there–I didn’t think Henri was strong enough so that meant his dad carried me, which kinda freaked me out probably more than it should. He also must’ve called my parents cause when I woke up, they were there. They were both feelin’ pretty sad so I knew at once they were told ’bout Henri.
“You are welcome to stay for breakfast,” Mr. Laroche offered. He didn’t feel as arrogant as he usually did but there was a hint of it which really made me all curious as to why he felt arrogant in the first place if he went through all that.
“No, thank you,” Mom said. “I appreciate it. But I think we just need to get Serenity home. Come on.”
When we got home, all hell broke loose like I figured it would. There was tons of yelling, and both my dads were just so upset it was makin’ me feel even more upset. I kept apologizing and didn’t really have much of an answer as ta why I just ran off like that.
“I had to see him! I had to let him know I still felt the same way after he told me!” I cried.
“Couldn’t it wait?” Dad demanded and I just shook my head, cryin’ harder. “Sweetie…”
“LIFE IS SO UNFAIR!” I screamed. “WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS?! HENRI–DOESN’T–DESERVE THIS!” Then I launched myself against Dad, sobbin’ some more as he tried to calm me down. That’s when it happened.
“It’s not fair, it’s just not fair,” I cried. “If I could have powers why couldn’t it be healing abilities or something–something for him…” I sniffled real loud into Dad’s shirt and then pulled back as they both were staring at me. Then I realized what I said, but I just didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care ’bout anything, except for Henri.
“I can read emotions!” I was still sobbin’ so it came out all weird. “Just like my biological father, I’m a monster like him and can’t do anything damn worth anything!” It was out now and nothin’ to change it. I waited, cringing, for my parents to react.
“Oh, sweetheart, you’re not a monster!” Mom’s arms went tightly around me. “Why do you think that?”
“My–father–was!” I wailed into his chest. “And I’m like him, I’ve been like him and I c-c-c-couldn’t tell you because I was so scared!”
Mom pulled back and lifted my chin, to look into my eyes. “Sweetie, what you can do doesn’t make you a monster, it’s what you do with them. Like your father…” Here he indicated my daddy. “He is strong. But he doesn’t go around beating people up. And you…” He tweaked my chin again. “You don’t go around using your different kind of strength to abuse people.”
I shook my head very slowly. It’s what I do with them. “Wait, you knew? Ab-b-bout me being able to d-do this?” I sniffled loudly.
“Since your mom went missing and you left the note,” Dad said and I colored beet red.
“If you knew why d-d-didn’t you tell me?” I whimpered.
“Because we were waiting for you to tell us,” he answered, leaning in to kiss my forehead.
So that was it, my big secret I was so scared of sayin’, and they knew all along. I felt kinda hurt and angry ’bout it but was more sad for Henri, so it didn’t bother me as much as it might have if I found out earlier. In any case, they still grounded me for a week. It probably would have been a lot longer if not for my reason for runnin’ off: to go see Henri. I think both of’m were a bit taken aback about him being… about him.
After all that, I went up to my room and sat on my bed, hugging my knees. My eyes kinda burned from all the crying and I felt tired from not getting much sleep. But I knew if I curled up, I would just stay awake. Henri…
It was sinkin’ in now, really sinking in deep. I was aware of my decision and did not regret it. I–I cared for Henri, even if I wasn’t sure ’bout love yet. Just because I would lose him eventually didn’t mean I wanted to lose him now. Abandoning him would make it all the much worse when he–when he–… well, when he.
I looked over as the door opened. Kaylee tiptoed over to me, blue eyes huge. “Where were you last night?” she whispered, climbing up onto my bed. “Everyone was panicking and so scared, you were just missing.” She sniffled a bit loudly. “Like–mom–“
I chewed at my bottom lip, feeling plain awful. “I’m sorry,” I replied truthfully. “I just–I needed to see Henri. He told me something yesterday and… well, when we parted he didn’t know if I wanted to stay his friend and last night I just… had to go to him.” I hugged my knees tighter. The door opened again and in came River. There wasn’t much room, but she climbed up anyway. Kaylee and I scooted around a bit so there’d be room.
She reached over, puttin’ her hand on mine. “Are you okay, Serenity?” she asked, her voice not much above a whisper, but full of love and concern; River was the most lovin’ person I had ever met in my life and was a comfort. When she wasn’t annoying.
I shrugged slightly, not really wantin’ to tell them everything. It was up to Henri. Kaylee eyed me when I shrugged and I knew she knew there was somethin’ big going on, but with River right there she wasn’t gonna ask. We loved out little sister but she was just eight. There were some things she wasn’t part of. But… this time there was something Kaylee wouldn’t be part of.
I looked over at my two sisters and felt miserably sad. I felt worlds older than them, and I had always been pretty close to them. Even after I spent a lotta time with Henri, Kaylee was still the person I was closest to. Now–now it fell like we were slowly driftin’ apart. The secrets I had that she didn’t know were getting more and more.
Was this part of growing up? Things changing between the people you love the most? And things would just keep changing as I got older and older. Something… something I always was afraid of. But something I was coming face-to-face with at an alarmin’ rate.
Over the week I was grounded, there were some decisions made. My daddies and I talked about my powers, me kinda haltingly at first cause I was still scared, but eventually I told them why I used to black out all the time: tryin’ to block the abilities.
“So… you can’t not feel what others are feeling?” Mom asked and I shook my head. “How–I mean, how does it work…? On a large scale? Just in the room?”
“I–I dunno,” I muttered. “It depends on how strong the emotions are. Generally I can feel like, a certain space regardless of walls in the way. But the more distant I am, the fainter it gets. But if the person is feeling something really strongly, then I can feel it for an even longer distance. And–and I can make my range go wider.” I looked up at my daddies and suddenly decided not to tell them I could always tell what my maternal one was feelin’. That… would cause an awkward moment.
“Also, the closer I am the someone personally, the more likely I am to feel them. Like, say this room is my range. You’re here, and Kaylee is just, like, ten feet outside the range along with someone I’ve never met. I could feel Kaylee without widening my range but… I’d need to widen my range to feel the other person.” I scratched my head. I had never really thought much about this part of my powers so it was weird talking about it.
“Can you always sense your siblings?” Dad asked.
“No, there’s–” I hesitated then decided the awkward moment would just have to happen. “There’s only two people I can always, um, sense–and I can’t ever block them. When I was putting up a barrier, no matter how much I tried I couldn’t b-block two people.”
There was a flash of… of something, from Mom. It was kinda like… understandin’, maybe? A bit of confusion. Then, interest. “Would those two people happen to be me and your grandmother?” he asked.
I gasped, and nodded. “Yeah! How did you know?”
Mom hesitated a bit and then said, “He mentioned that he also felt a strange connection to… to my mother, in addition to me, and… I don’t know what it means.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “But you saying you feel more connected to us proves that there is something… special.”
I looked up at him and felt a mixture of things that I worked out to mean that whatever it was about him and my grandma, there was somethin’ about me, too. “And me?” I asked.
“You–” He tried to mask his surprise. “Yes,” he sighed. “And you. How did you know?”
“I… I’ve gotten pretty decent at reading emotions and… and figuring out what they mean,” I admitted, going real red. “The more a person feels… I mean, the more emotions a person feels, the easier it is to read cause–um, because it can be easier to, um, pinpoint or figure out.” I thought a moment then added, “Lies are usually easy, too.”
“So you can practically read minds,” Dad said, feelin’ a bit amused by that. “Not truly, but in a way.” After he said that, his face slowly fell. “I am so sorry you’ve had to go through this, sweetie.”
Both of them hugged me tightly and it seemed my being able to sense my maternal daddy was slightly forgotten, and the fact I could sense… when they… was not thought of. But then when we started talkin’ about what I should do now, I asked them if I could not go to public school anymore.
“I can’t stand it there!” I told them. “Kids my age feel a lot. It’s so much, it’s so overwhelming and I can’t block them!” They exchanged looks and I hit home with what I knew would convince them to get me outta there. I took in a deep breath and widened my eyes into the best baby girl eyes I could muster and, in the most innocent voice I could manage, asked, “Do you have any idea what thirteen- and fourteen-year-old boys feel most the time?”
It was a bit of an exaggeration cause, well, the girls in my class could be jut as pervvy as the boys but it was the final straw for them, and they decided that they would homeschool me and any of my siblings that wanted to. I wasn’t pleased at the thought of being around one or more of my siblings all day long, but it was much better than school.
Another decision made that week was by me, and ’bout Henri. We talked a bunch on the phone but didn’t get to see each other till the week was up.
Dr. Laroche brought him over so after lunch, Henri and I hung out on the swings in our backyard and chatted. After a bit things got kinda quiet and I could sense what the problem was. Not his sickness, but the kissin’. Me running to him in the middle of the night and just smooching him like that didn’t ‘xactly reinforce my not wanting to be romantic with him.
I kinda did, really, but kinda didn’t. Not cause of him being sick but because of our age. I wasn’t stupid. I knew that two people stickin’ together as teenagers and living happily ever after was just a gimmick in movies, with a few exceptions. Course… no matter what, Henri and I wouldn’t have a happily ever after. But that didn’t mean I just wanted to jump right into dating when I wasn’t even fourteen!
Only, truly, part of me wanted to be his girlfriend. I wanted to kiss him. So what did I say? Yes? No? Maybe?
“So… umm…” This was it, I could tell by the way he was feelin’ he was going to ask. “I really like you, Serenity…”
“I really like you too,” I said, pushing at the ground a bit, not able to really look at him. I could make him feel like it’s not the right time to ask me. I’d never do that though. I couldn’t help but read emotions, I wasn’t gonna purposely do the other thing.
“Will you be my girlfriend?” he squeaked out. “IfnotItotallyunderstand!” He sounded so panicked, it was kinda cute. “I… would really understand if you didn’t want to be.”
Well, kids usually learn that honesty is the best policy. “I dunno how to answer because I do care so much about you.” I twisted my fingers around the chain and looked over at him. “I mean, a lot. But we are just thirteen, well you’ll be fourteen real soon. I just kinda think it’s a bit young to be dating. BUT!” I added quickly because he looked very sad very quickly. “I want to.”
“You do?” His eyes lifted and he felt all hopeful.
Eargh, bad wording. “I do,” I muttered. “Just not right now. Not yet. Maybe in a couple months. After we’re both fourteen but not yet. Maybe–maybe we can be engaged to be dating. Like, I will date you. Just… in a few months?”
“Well–what’s the difference between now and then?” he asked, sticking his lower lip out in a pout. Why did he have to be so cute?
I threw out a net over my house real quick. Nobody was close enough to any windows so I grabbed the chain of Henri’s swing and pulled him close, putting my lips against his. Our third kiss. Not as awkward as our first, not as emotional as our second… but it was so nice.
“Are you willing to wait a couple months?” I asked, letting of of his chain so he swung back and I couldn’t help but giggle at the shocked look on his face from that sudden kiss.
“Y-yes, I c-can… w-wait…” he stammered and then began blushing. I had really sent his hormones out of control. “You… d-don’t mind… that I’m sick?”
I smiled at him. “If I minded, I wouldn’t be saying it. And I’m not just saying it because you’re sick, either.” I had the feelin’ he was worried about that and the cringe of guilt I felt proved he had been thinkin’ it. “If I didn’t truly like you, I don’t think I could handle pretending to, knowing you… were…” I hesitated.
“That I’m going to die?” he asked bluntly. I nodded, wondering if I’d ever be brave enough to just say it like that. “I was so scared to tell you all this time but I’m glad I did. It just shows how amazing you are, willing to stick with me.”
I pushed my swing over closer to him and offered my hand. “You’re my best friend, Henri. No matter what. I’ll always be there for you.”
He reached over and took my hand, squeezin’ tightly. “I’ll always be there for you too, Serenity.” Our eyes met and it was like time had stopped which I really didn’t think could really happen, having that feeling. “And I always will be, too.” He paused and groaned. “I–I already said that, really.”
I squeezed his hand back once more before letting go and giggling. “It’s okay, Henri. I don’t mind you saying it as often as you want.”
“Can I say something else?” he asked and I nervously nodded. Was he going… to express somethin’ a bit more than like? “Race you around the house?”
My face broke into a huge grin. “You’re on!”