Things were pretty miserable around the house again, as Duncan moped and Mom did his best not to let the rest of us see how depressed he was. I didn’t dare tell’m that I knew what had happened. I doubted it would make things any nicer if my daddies knew I knew what they told Duncan…
And what Duncan wanted, I thought with a sigh as I tried to work on some schoolwork. How on EARTH was I supposed to find his–whatever it is his other parent was? It gnawed at me, though. I wished I could do somethin‘ but there was nothin‘. The whole birth certificate thing wasn’t even gonna pan out since I realized that Mom’s name was probably the other name on there. Not that Duncan had even approached him to ask since he and I talked. He just moped.
Not that I can really blame him, I thought with a sigh as I idly doodled flowers on the paper that was meant for an essay. I wished I could help him but I couldn’t. Just like I couldn’t help Henri. Least I could’ve gotten some useful powers.
I winced when that thought seeped into my mind. Stop thinkin’ like that! I told myself. After all, it was cause of what I could do that I helped find Mom. You can do things that hardly anyone else can do. Just because you can’t do what you want to do with them, like help Henri an’ Duncan… doesn’t mean you’re weak.
I slumped down and blew an angry breath on my essay paper, sendin’ the eraser rubble flyin’ off. Not that there’s much I can really do with my powers.
“Sennnnn!” Henri wailed. “I think I should stop! I’m feeling seasick.”
“On a horse?” I laughed. “Stop whining.”
“Okay, okay! I’m feeling horse-sick!”
We were at the stables as Henri had finally agreed to get on a horse, and was very bad at it. His eyes looked ready to pop out of his head and he was clutchin’ the reigns real hard as he moaned in worry. I was on Ducky, he was on a very gentle mare that was used for first-timers. It was all I could do not to laugh.
“You’re doing fine,” I assured him, wheelin’ Ducky around to trot up next to Henri. I reached over and patted his arm and he stuck his tongue out at me.
“Show off!” he complained, but with a smile. “I don’t see how you can stand being on these things for very long.”
“Mmm, they’re beautiful that’s why.” I leaned forward to hug Ducky’s neck. She whinnied and began prancin’ a bit. “Yes I’m talking about you, you silly girl.”
“C-can we take a break? I feel dizzy,” Henri muttered.
I rolled my eyes but dismounted Ducky and went over to help Henri dismount, which made him go all red and mutter that he could’ve done it on his own. “I know,” I said. “But I like holding your hand.” He went redder at that, and I grinned. “But really, if you’re not having any fun we can do something else.”
“No, this is fine.” He reached back to pat the horse’s side. “I know you like riding horses. It’s about time I learn too, eh? I just… need to learn to… um… bounce around like a rubber ball when I’m in that saddle.”
I stepped up next to him and pat the horse as well. She shook her head and Henri jumped slightly, a little flash of fear. “You need to trust the horse,” I said, still patting her neck. “Horses are very smart. They’re very aware of you. And if you act scared, the horse will be scared. So act confident. And also get into the rhythm.” I began picking a few bits of stuff out of the horse’s man, bits of leaves and stuff. “Bouncing isn’t exactly the wrong way to go about it, you know, but you need to rock with the natural rocking of the horse walking.”
“Rocking,” he echoed, reaching over and plucking a leaf from my helmet. “And bouncing. Sounds… kinky.”
“Hen!” I smacked his arm and laughed. Though it was kinda nice when he got this way, cause sometimes he really acted too mature for his age. When he got all pervy it made me happy to see him actin’ like a normal teenaged boy. I didn’t really like it too much but it was a lot nicer than the reserved sadness he sometimes got. Just because he was going to–…. going to, didn’t mean he needed to act all grown up all the time.
“Sen!” he laughed back, using his special nickname he now called me (as I called him Hen. Hen and Sen. And I really didn’t care how grossly cutesy it was). “You know we’re quite a ways from the stable and your dad…” His fingers were on my waist and he leaned in close, eyebrows wriggling.
I put my arms around his neck and kissed him hard. Ducky snorted and took a few steps away as if to say ‘whatever’. It almost made me giggle which was real awkward since I was kissin’ Henri.
“Whaaat?” He pulled back, pouting. “You’re giggling.”
“I was not!” I tried to insist but it was hard to be convincin’, since I was giggling.
“Oh! I see how it is. My kisses make you giggle. Well, I’ll give you something to giggle about!”
“NO! HENNNN!” He began tickling me and I shrieked with laughter, tryin’ to dance out of his reach but he pounced at me, wrappin’ an arm around me while ticklin’ my sides with his other hand. I shrieked with laughter, kicking and wrigglin’. Then we both tumbled over onto the ground in the classic, cliche manner and then we were about to start kissin’ when he sprang up off of me.
I sat up quickly, thinkin’ maybe my mom was comin’ over but we were real far from the stables. “Did you see that?” Henri demanded.
I stood up, brushin’ the grass off my clothes. “See what? I don’t see anything.”
“There was someone over there…” He took a few steps and shielded his eyes, lookin’ over at some trees. “I could’ve sworn I saw someone and I know I’ve seen them before.”
I leaned against him, restin’ my chin on his shoulder, lookin’ in the direction he was. Nothing but trees. “There isn’t anyone over there. Maybe it was just shadows of the leaves or something, maybe?”
“It looked like someone in a trench and a big hat and sunglasses.” Henri turned to face me, screwin’ his face up. “I swear I saw someone!”
“I think you’ve been watching too many spy movies,” I said, slippin’ an arm around his waist and pullin’ him back over to the horses. “Come on, let’s head back up to the stables.”
We got mounted on our horses and began slowly walkin’ back. Henri was feelin’ all confused and I wanted to say he wasn’t crazy but I also didn’t wanna tell him that I had seen someone following us sometimes too. In a trench, big hat, and sunglasses.
Everythin’ was fine for two weeks. Henri didn’t mention the woman again, and Duncan seemed to start calmin’ down. We got news that Mom’s book would be comin’ out soon which of course we celebrated happily, we were all so excited–and nervous. Well, us older ones were nervous. The twins and Mal didn’t pick up on the fact the rest of us were feelin’ anxious about this.
Then a Saturday came that changed my relationship with Henri a bit. It seemed like it was gonna be a normal Saturday. I trudged downstairs to find everythin’ in chaos as always. Kaylee and Mal fightin’ over the video games. Simon and Duncan fightin’ over the waffles. River tryin’ to read her book in peace while Mom was fixin’ more waffles and Dad was tryin’ to stop the fighting.
I just grabbed some toast and tuned everyone out, thinkin’ about how nice it was to be able to see Henri later. We were supposed to meet up at the park like always and then go see the new horror movie that just came out that I was not tellin’ my daddies I was going to see since it was rated PG13 but I was fourteen so it should be fine! I… just wasn’t going to mention it…
In the late morning, Duncan drove me down to the park and complained the entire time about how noisy our house was and how much he wanted to just get away sometimes. “Where would you go?” I asked, rollin’ down the window and lettin’ the air hit me.
“I dunno,” he mumbled, and then turned the radio on so loud it hurt my ears. Obviously he didn’t want to talk about it. Even though he was the one to brought it up.
Boys are so weird, I thought when we got to the park. I went over to where Henri was waitin’ for me. I jogged over to him and gave him a hug and he hugged back, though not as tight as he usually did. “Hey Hen,” I said, kissing his cheek. “Whatcha wanna do before the movie starts? We have…” I pulled out my phone and pushed a button. “Thirty-eight minutes to kill.”
“Why don’t we take a walk?” he asked after a few seconds of thinking. He offered his hand and I took it, startin’ to get a bit worried about him. He felt… a bit off. Like, his emotions. He was happy and content as soon as I showed up but there was somethin’ underneath it all, and not just his usual sadness.
“You feeling okay?” I asked as we began walking slowly to the other side of the park. Henri just nodded, not sayin’ anything. “Hen… are you okay?”
“I said yes,” he said softly.
“You said nothing, you just nodded,” I complained.
“A nod’s a yes, isn’t it?” he asked, squeezin’ my hand a bit.
I kicked at a pebble, sending it tumblin’ off. “I suppose. I guess I’m just worried. You don’t–” Well, I couldn’t exactly say he didn’t feel right since I kinda hadn’t told him all about my powers yet. “You seem a bit tired or something.”
“Nope, I’m fine,” he said and I stopped walkin’ as what he just said was an out-and-out lie. “What?” he asked, turning to look at me.
“Are you really fine?” I asked, poutin’ in the way he usually did.
“Other than the whole I’m-going-to-die-someday… yep, I’m fine.” He pulled my hand up to his lips to kiss my knuckles.
I yanked my hand away quickly and his eyes got real big. “You–you’re not fine, you just lied to me!” I exclaimed. “Hen, you know I can sense when people lie and you just lied!”
He got a real guilty look on his face which just proved it even more that he was lyin’. “I’m feeling well enough, Sen, I promise.” He reached for my hand again but I stepped back. “Serenity! Come on, what’s wrong?”
“If you’re not feeling well you should go home and rest,” I mumbled, not sure if I believed the whole ‘well enough’ thing. I didn’t know how sick he was, I didn’t know anything about his illness.
Henri was shakin’ his head. “I’d rather go and watch the movie with you.”
“But if you’re sick you should rest!” I snapped, stomping my foot. “Let’s call your dad to come and–“
“No!” he wailed. “I don’t want to! I want to watch the movie with you and it won’t matter if I’m at the theater or at home, I’ll be feeling this way either way and I’d feel better if I was with YOU!”
I would have given into that if he didn’t start coughin’ real hard after yelling that last bit, doublin’ over and hacking into his hand. I just froze up, not knowin’ what to do as he coughed. Should I get him a drink of water or something…?
“Henri?” I whispered, stepping closer.
“I’m fine,” he croaked out, still doubled over. “I’m fine, I promise.”
He’s lyin’ again, I thought angrily. “Come on, Hen, let’s call your dad–“
“No!” he shouted and then he began coughing again. Once this bout was done he straightened up and tried to smile through the sheen of sweat that was on his face. “No,” he said again, this time a hoarse whisper. “I’m fine. I’m fine.”
I reached over and grabbed his wrist, yanking his hand up. The hand he coughed in. The hand that had blood on it. “This is FINE?!” I yelled and he flinched. “You are NOT fine and you’re LYING to me about it! I am calling your dad right now!” I let go of his wrist and pulled my phone out of my pocket.
“No, don’t call him!” Henri begged, reaching for my phone with his non-bloody hand. “Don’t call him! He doesn’t–” He stopped and wiped the sweat from his forehead. “He’s busy.”
“Then I’ll call Duncan or my dads and have them take you to your house!” I said, jumping back away form his reach. “You’re coughing up blood!”
“I’ve coughed up blood before, I’m fine now, really, I promise!”
“Why are you so determined to make yourself worse?!” I demanded.
Henri narrowed his eyes. “Well why are you so determined to make me go home?”
I grabbed his arms, tryin’ not to shake him. “You’re sick, Hen. You need to rest.”
“I’ve been sick all my life!” he growled, trying to twist away from me. “It doesn’t matter where I am! Here, home, France–I’m sick and that’s not changing! I just want to spend time with you! Why can’t I do that?”
I rubbed my forehead, tryin’ not to get annoyed. “I was going to go back with you and maybe we could play some board games or something–“
“I don’t want to.” Henri took a few more steps back, scowlin’ at me. He also felt real upset. “I want to be a normal boy! I want to go to the movies with my girlfriend! I don’t want to be stuck on some couch, resting, resting, always resting! I’m SICK of resting and besides if my dad knew I wasn’t feeling well he wouldn’t let you stay, he’s really protective of me when I have a ‘down’ day. That’s why I didn’t tell him I was so tired this morning, because I wanted to see you, and spend time with you, and–I’m sick–of being treated–like an invalid just because I’m DYING!”
This time when he began coughin’ he doubled over and then slumped to his knees, his body shakin’ with each cough. I reached over for him but he fell back away from me, blood dripping out of his mouth and tears drippin’ down from his eyes.
“I just want to be a normal boy, Sen! I just want to be a normal boy!” he sobbed out, covering his face. “When I’m with you, I just want to do things like a normal kid does. I want–I want to run around, go to the movies, ride horses with you–I want to go swimming! We’re fourteen, I want to be fourteen!” He looked up, his face a total mess from the blood and tears. “I want to be normal with you!”
I just stared at him, heart poundin’ real hard. I remembered the day after we went horseback ridin’, he sounded real tired on the phone and didn’t talk much. Had that done somethin’ to him? Had I…?
“Henri,” I gulped, slowly gettin’ down to his level, “when we hang out does it make you… worse?”
He just made sniffling sounds, not answerin’. But the guilt was more than clear to me. It was like a knife into me. I made him worse. I made him worse!
“S-S-Sen,” he sniffled as I stood up and took a few steps back. “Noo, you–y-you d-don’t, you m-make me f-feel b-better…”
“No I don’t!” I cried, stumblin’ back. “I make you worse!”
He shakily stood, wipin’ some of the blood off onto his sleeve. “I don’t feel worse!” he yelled back at me. “I f-feel better!”
“You’re lying!” I pointed a finger at him, a finger as shaky as his legs. ImakehimworseImakehimworse, it was runnin’ through my head like some sort of weird chant bent on making me cry. “I know you’re lying! I just make you worse!”
“Just–tired–when we w-walk a lot or whatever!” Henri said, wiping his face some more. “It’s n-nothing bad, just t-tired sometimes–Sen–please–“
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know, I didn’t know!” I stammered. “I–I won’t anymore–“
“–I can’t do that to you anymore, I d-don’t want you to get worse because of me!” I stared wide-eyed at him as he stared teary-eyed back. “I won’t do this anymore, Henri! I want you to live the best you can with what you have and if I’m making you worse then–then–goodbye!”
What did I just say?
I began running, as he called after me. His shout was broken off by coughs and I wanted to go back to him but I knew I shouldn’t if I just made him worse all the time. I’m sorry, Henri, I never knew, I didn’t know, I’m sorry!
I went to the nearest store and went to the girl’s bathroom, knowing I was safe here. Did I just break up with him? I collapsed in a stall but before I let the tears start, I pulled out my phone and sent a text to Dr. Laroche’s phone saying that Henri was coughing up blood. Henri, I’m sorry, I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have pushed you to go horseback riding with me if I knew. I wouldn’t have played tag or taken those walks or anything, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.
I slid down to the dirty ground and began crying.