Florida, USA – Saturday, the 18th of May 2011. 02:38 PM.
“Emily! Get away from the water!”
Mom’s voice drifted across the pool with a pitch that startled people and dolphins alike. She was standing beside the souvenir shop in her garish yellow spring outfit, waving her arms as if her shout hadn’t been loud enough. The floppy-brimmed straw hat she used to ward off sunburns overshadowed most of her face, and her long auburn locks spilled from beneath to blow in the wind.
Emily rolled her eyes. She was used to her mother’s overprotectiveness by now, but being exposed to it in public was more than a little embarrassing.
I’m not a baby, Mom. Geeze. I’m eight, she thought disdainfully as she wiggled her toes in the pool’s turquoise water.
“It’s too deep!” her mother went on. “What if you fall in?”
Some of the other kids turned their heads to flash Emily knowing looks. Fortunately, most kept their attention on the dolphin trainer, eager to hear everything about a dolphin’s diet.
She turned her head to shoot a pleading look towards her father, who was a picture of relaxation as he lounged on a nearby bench in a sleeveless shirt with his sunglasses perched on his head. Her dad, at least, trusted her to know the difference between shallow and deep water. When he met her gaze, he waved.
Taking a cue from her his relaxed attitude, Emily inched forward to let her more of her legs dangle into the water. One of the dolphins nudged her knee with his long nose. His beady black eyes peered up at her as if to ask if she’d like to dive in.
“I can’t swim, Skippy,” Emily explained. “I tried to learn, but all I do is sink. I’m weird, I guess.”
The dolphin bobbed his head up and down, then plunged his nose into the pool to send up a wave of spray that sprinkled Emily with water. She wiped her face, laughing.
Some of the other kids were staring again, but she didn’t care. She didn’t have to be friends with those dumb kids, or listen to the trainer’s dumb presentation. She already knew everything the woman was talking about. Besides, she was more comfortable here, sitting at the edge of the pool and doing her own thing. Talking to her own dolphin.
“You understand me, don’t you?” she asked him. “You’re way smarter than any fish.”
The dolphin nudged her submerged foot with his nose and Emily laughed again. It tickled something fierce.
“I’ve got a cat, but he’s not as smart as you,” Emily continued, pulling her foot away. “He’s fat and lazy, and he can’t swim either. Maybe that’s why I like him.”
She glanced over to her dad on the bench. His arm was stretched out over the backrest and his face was tilted towards the sun. Kinda like Mr. Tibbs when he’s sunbathing. She couldn’t help but grin.
As if he had overheard the thought, her father opened his eyes and met her gaze. He gave her a broad smile and a thumbs-up, prompting her to flick her thumb up in return. When she turned her attention back to the pool, the dolphin was bobbing his head at her.
“You know what thumbs-up means?” Emily asked with a giggle, repeating the gesture for the dolphin’s benefit.
Just then, a rush of dizziness hit her like a tidal wave. She’d experienced something similar in the car during the drive to Florida, but this was way more intense. Suddenly her entire sense of perception was shifting, surging like a tsunami to break through her bobbing thoughts.
The air lost its odor of fish and the hum of voices morphed into something different, expressing moods rather than words. All sense of direction and her own position magnified. She was acutely aware of not just the world around her, but also above and below.
Her hands felt strangely misplaced on the ends of her arms. Such useless, scrawny things. Where were her fins? And what was she doing out of the water? She shouldn’t be here. She belonged with her kin.
Their collective sadness permeated her consciousness, interspersed by memories of her lost pod in the great blue ocean. She remembered the sound of all the name signatures she hadn’t heard since her world had shrunk to the size of a puddle. She recalled the desperation that had turned to boredom, occasionally interrupted by thoughtless interactions with the slow, clumsy land dwellers.
Affronted by the hard plaster of the pool’s edge beneath her bottom, Emily tilted her head back and released a series of clicking noises in an attempt to find her bearings. But she could barely interpret the echoes that bounced back to her useless ears. Had she gone partially deaf?
Some of the other dolphins picked up on her mood and clicked distressed replies. She struggled to interpret them until finally it dawned on her.
Come, they were saying. Join us. It will be better.
She threw her head back to release another series of clicks. Yes, I will join you.
And with that thought, the Emily-dolphin let herself glide into the water. But as the water surrounded her she realized just how sick and twisted her body was. Her air hole was in the wrong place. Worse, she couldn’t breathe.
I’m coming, she thought as her deformed limbs oscillated through the water. But her graceless flailing brought her no closer towards the others.
Up above, the sound of land dwellers in distress was loud enough to be heard beneath the water’s surface. Down below, her dolphin family gathered around her, clicking questions of confused concern. Now that she was among them, they suddenly wanted her gone. She didn’t understand why.
Up, one of them signaled with a wag of his tailfin. Two of her kin sliced through the water to her side and tried to push her back up to the surface.
I belong here, she replied. But even as she clicked the message, her air-breathing lungs were filled with water and her throat constricted.
Then she heard a loud splash, followed by a blur of bubbles. The next thing she knew, she was being dragged up through the water by a pair of rough land-dweller hands.
But I don’t want to go, she thought. Then there was nothing.
Emily came to with a painful heave that emptied the contents of her stomach onto the paved ground surrounding the dolphin pool. A distressed buzz of voices filled her ears. Even though they sounded familiar, it took her a moment to place them.
“Emily! Wake up! Oh god, someone call an ambulance!”
Emily opened her eyes to the over-bright sunshine and found herself face to face with her dad. He wasn’t so relaxed now, even though he struggled to compose himself for her benefit.
She made an effort to speak and coughed up more water instead. Someone grabbed her shoulders and rolled her onto her side, causing her stomach to turn upside down again.
“Please calm down. Our emergency team is on the way.” This time, it was a stranger’s voice that assaulted Emily’s ears. He was crouching at her side, but quickly stood to address a spattering of onlookers. “The worst is over, everyone. She’s breathing on her own now. Please, go back to watching the show. There’s nothing more to see here.”
The crowd’s collective curiosity scattered like a swarm of bees, drifting on to other matters.
This stranger was mad at her, Emily knew. She sensed it somehow. She’d made a big boo-boo— something that could have gotten him into a world of trouble. Caused him to lose his job. She wanted to apologize, but her words came out as a cough.
“Emily, can you hear me?” It was her father’s voice again. His love surrounded her like a warm blanket. It felt good, almost as good as being underwater.
“Hey, Dad,” she managed. Words, not dolphin noise.
“Emily! Thank god! How many times did I tell you to get away from the water?” her mother fussed, bending over her and blocking out the sun.
Emily closed her eyes in an attempt to shut out her mother’s anxiety, which was assailing her like blows from a hammer. She shrank away, closer to her father’s love.
“Em?” her father urged over the noise of her mother’s angst. “What just happened? Did you pass out?”
Emily’s lips quivered. She was slowly beginning to understand what had happened, but she didn’t want to tell. If she did, the uniformed dudes she’d seen on TV would come to take her away. She’d have to answer all sorts of questions and might never be allowed to go home again.
And, worst of all, Mom and Dad would have one more thing to argue about.
“I … I slipped,” she finally said. “I’m really sorry, Dad. Can we go home now?”
She could feel him soak up her explanation without a hint of doubt. He radiated unwavering fatherly love like a miniature sun.
I love you too, Daddy. Emily wrapped her wet arms about him, feeling the warmth of sunlight on the skin of his neck and arms.
“Alright,” Dad said. “Let’s get you checked out and then I’ll bring the car around.”
Atlanta, USA – Friday, the 2th of September, 2011. 05:53 PM.
“Em, are you sure your parents are gonna be okay with this?” her friend’s excited voice came over the phone line just as Emily began to walk up her driveway after school. “Didn’t you say your mom freaks out whenever you mention sleeping over?”
Emily soaked up her friend’s mood over the phone connection until she was as giddy and excited as Maria was. She could just imagine the look on her new best friend’s face: Maria would be nibbling on her bottom lip, squinting down at her little Hello Kitty day planner. There would be a note about tomorrow night’s pajama party at the bottom of the page, surrounded by cute drawings and colorful question marks.
“That was a couple months ago.” Emily lied with practiced ease as she approached the front steps. “Mom’s gotten better since her and Dad stopped fighting so much. But I’ll double-check and call you back, okay?”
“Okay!” Maria chimed through the phone. “I really hope she says yes! Steph’s already said she’s coming, and Jodie’s gonna ask her parents tonight.”
“Sounds fun,” Emily said, truthfully this time. This whole having friends thing was still new to her, but she liked it. Making friends was much easier now than it had been a few months before.
“Yeah, it will be!” Maria enthused. “But I gotta go take the dog for a walk. Ask your parents and then call me back, okay Emmy?”
“Okay, I will. Later,” Emily said before hanging up her cellphone.
After tucking the phone into her pocket and setting her backpack down on the doorstep, Emily raised her hands to adjust the Mickey Mouse hairpins over her pigtails. She hated pigtails, and she hated the Mickey Mouse hairpins even more. They made her look like a baby. But her mom thought they were cute, and Emily needed maximum cuteness to obtain parental approval for her request. She dropped her arms when she heard the angry and all-too-familiar buzz of shouting through the kitchen window.
Not again. Emily puffed her cheeks out in exasperation. You agreed to be nice to each other and even try going on a date tonight, remember?
Why couldn’t her parents just get along and stop making her head hurt? She wondered they were fighting about now. She didn’t pick up any emotions just yet, so she knew her parents must be in the kitchen or on the back porch, beyond her range. They hadn’t seen her come home yet.
For a moment she considered turning around and heading over to Jodie or Stephanie’s house. Trying to fix adults was getting old fast. Especially now that she’d figured how they always fell back into the same old patterns when she wasn’t around.
You’re going on that date together, Emily decided. She’d been looking forward to some alone time all day. Movies, potato chips, and no adult emo poop whatsoever. She’d have to watch in her room, though. Her parents’ fighting had polluted the rest of the house with too many negative feelings.
The muffled sound of their angry voices accompanied her all the way to the kitchen. They fell silent at the sound of the kitchen door opening, however. Emily armed herself with an ubercute thousand-watt smile.
“I’m hooooooome!” she called into the kitchen, dropping her schoolbag on the floor.
A second later, her mom returned an all too cheerful greeting. It would have been a good act, except for the buzz of latent anger and frustration ringing through the foyer like static on a broken television set.
A quick peek through the kitchen doorway revealed that Emily’s dad was standing next to the kitchen counter, his shoulders tense. Her mom was sitting at the kitchen table, fussing with her wedding ring. Mr. Tibbs looked on warily from next to his food bowl.
Emily took a deep breath and slipped through the doorway.
“Sneaky pouncing tiger attack!” Emily shouted, throwing her arms around her mother’s sitting form.
Her mom gave a startled laugh. As expected, the bad feelings drained away from the kitchen until they were reduced to bearable background static. Emily tilted her head back and flashed a wide-eyed puppy dog face before burying her face in the folds of her mother’s dress.
At least she’s already dressed up in a nice date-worthy outfit, Emily noted. It was a start.
“What about me, Sweetpea?” her dad asked with a laugh.
Emily dropped her arms from around her mom’s waist and rushed over to him.
“Hi, Daddy!” she squealed, leaping eagerly into his outstretched arms. She nuzzled her face into her father’s neck and giggled. When the last of the bad feelings had dissolved from the room, she wriggled free from his grasp.
“Did you get your history test back?” he asked as he set her back down on the ground. Emily felt some mild concern emanating from him. Standard parental worry-type stuff.
“Yep! And the teacher gave me a smiley face sticker on it and everything!” She said, pretending to be proud.
Her father beamed back the feeling, only his pride was genuine. She tried to ignore the twinge of guilt that was tugging at her consciousness.
“Are you guys excited for your date?” she asked. “If you don’t get going, you’ll be late for your dinner reservation and then you’ll miss the movie!”
“I’m ready to leave,” Emily’s father said, then turned to his wife. “Are you?”
Mom didn’t respond. She was looking down at her wedding ring, tracing it absently with her thumb.
Emily tapped her fingers in a practiced rhythm against her thigh. Three short taps to focus and submerge. A pause to conjure up a tiny spark of her mother’s consciousness within herself and let it blossom. Then a press of her thumb to her hip snapped her out of it before she absorbed too much and forgot who Emily was. The series of taps revealed the emotional struggle her mother was going through at the moment.
Broken promises. Lack of appreciation.
“You promised me you guys would go and have a fun time, remember?” Emily said with her best sad face. “And besides, Daddy tried really hard to get reservations at that restaurant. He wants to see you happy, right?”
Cue the big puppy dog eyes directed towards her father.
Her dad nodded, and in an instant her mother’s mood shifted like a kite rising with the wind. Woosh.
“You’re right, Sweetpea,” Mom said. She even smiled a little, sweetening the moment. “Honey, do you have the car keys?”
Dad pulled the keys from his pocket and let them dangle from his index finger. “Ready when you are,” he said.
Emily flashed Mr. Tibbs a victory sign behind her back. I fixed it! Perfect mood.
“Hey, Mom, before you go,” Emily began, feigning casualness. “Can I stay at Maria’s place tomorrow night for a sleepover? Her parents are doing a barbecue party.” She scooped Mr. Tibbs up into her arms and held him against her chest; two pairs of kitty-cat eyes looked up at her mom. “Mrs. Myers is going to be there, and Reverend Mitchell too. Maybe he’ll let me join his bible study group if I ask real nice?”
Emily felt chords of approval being struck at the mention of the names and the bible study group.
“Alright, sweetie,” her mom said, getting up from the table and checking her wristwatch. “Your dinner is in the oven and the babysitter should be over in twenty minutes. Don’t forget to do your homework, okay?”
“You promised to do your homework, remember?” Dad added with a playful smirk.
“Okay,” Emily agreed. She grabbed one of Mr. Tibbs’ paws and waggled it in her parents’ direction. “Now have fun, you guys!”
“See you soon, Sweetpea,” her dad replied. He was gently pulling Mom towards the foyer.
Emily set the cat back down on the floor and watched them from the kitchen doorway. Just as her parents left the house, she heard her dad say something about how amazed he was at what a social butterfly Emily had become lately.
She kept her smile until the door thumped closed behind him. Maybe I’ve been cheating just a teensy bit, she admitted, but only to herself. Her parents would be so mad if they ever found out about the powers she still hadn’t told anyone about.
After she heard the car engine start, Emily picked up the home phone and pulled a crumpled piece of paper from her back pocket. She smoothed it out against her pant leg, then dialed the phone number that was written on it and held her breath, her eyes peeled on the front door.
Let’s hope the babysitter doesn’t show up early.
As Emily listened to the ringtone echo half a dozen times, her fingertips began tapping out their rhythm against her leg. The pattern was more elaborate this time, complex enough to let her absorb her father’s voice and speech mannerisms without losing herself. She was just about to hang up when the call connected over the telephone line with a click.
“Romero,” a familiar male voice answered.
“Good evening, Mr. Romero. This is David Bell calling,” Emily said with her father’s voice. “You know, Emily’s father? I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time.”
“It’s quite alright, Mr. Bell. How can I help you?”
“I’m calling about Emily’s homework assignment. That long division worksheet that’s supposed to be handed in on Monday? I’m holding it right here in my hand, or perhaps I should say scraps of it. I’m afraid the cat got it.”
“The cat?” Mr. Romero laughed. “Usually it’s the dog that eats the homework.”
Emily faked her dad’s hardiest chuckle. “That’s why I wanted to call you myself. Otherwise, I knew you’d never believe it.”
Mr. Romero echoed fake Dad’s laugh. “The truth is stranger than fiction, I often say.”
“Well, from what I could tell, she would have done well on it. But I’ll see to it that she does it again— that is, if I could meet you at the school to pick up an extra copy of the question sheet?”
Emily felt her math teacher’s apathy over the phone. The first week back at school after summer break had been exhausting for him, and the last thing he wanted to do was think about his students over the weekend.
“No, that’s fine,” Mr. Romero replied. “If you say she understands the material, I’ll take your word for it. But thank you for letting me know, Mr. Bell. That’s one for the books!”
Emily belted out her dad’s laugh again. “Yes, I suppose it is. Thank you for your understanding. Have a good weekend, Mr. Romero. You’ve earned it!”
Emily heard a mewing sound as she hung up and glanced to the window. Mr. Tibbs was perched on the window sill, his orange tail twitching in disapproval.
“Don’t give me the evil cat-eye,” she said. “Besides, who’s got time for stupid math homework when there’s a sleepover to go to?”
Forty minutes and a plate of lasagna later, Emily lounged on her red-wood sleigh bed, wielding the TV remote in one hand and a packet of chips in the other. Somehow, the evening didn’t turn out as exciting as she’d imagined it. Her lasagna-filled belly refused to consider the crunchy goodness in the still sealed packet. The only shows on TV were boring adult stuff or cartoons for babies, and the homework on her desk even put a dampener on that. The babysitter was most likely on the phone, talking to her boyfriend as usual.
As if to defy Emily, Mr. Tibbs looked as smug and satisfied as only a cat could. He had rolled against the bend of her left arm, eyes half-lidded and ears twitching in contentment. Emily could feel his purr as a faint quiver against her skin. It intensified as she put the chips packet down to stroke his orange fur.
It was kind of unfair. She’d worked so hard to get one evening all to herself, and the cat got the most out of it. Her parents would have shooed him from her room the instant they realized he’d padded up to the first floor.
“You’re like the cat in Alice in Wonderland,” Emily said. “You grin all the time. Think I could make my parents grin like that so they stop leaving bad feels all over the house?”
Mr. Tibbs didn’t respond; his only reaction consisted of a twitch of his pointy ears.
“You don’t have to tell me. I can find out myself.”
Emily put the remote down on her pillow and pulled her feet onto the bed. She turned to face away from the cat and curl up like he had, touching her forehead to her knees. She felt the tap of her fingers on her pant leg as her mind began to submerge into the cat’s consciousness. Three short taps to focus, a pause to soak up the cattiness. Thumb to stay afloat. Another pause to adjust and find happiness within the surge of cat memories. Thumb, to remember her own body.
When Emily found the cat’s contentment, it was too awesome to not absorb it fully. She let herself drift away to enjoy the warmth, softness and the understanding that the world was a wonderful playground. A perpetual purr filled her throat to join into the other one beside her.
The other one stopped, curious. They explored each other’s scent and realized they were different, but friendly. Familiar. The other didn’t mind sharing his territory with her.
A voice drifted up from lower ground with an inquisitive pitch. Friendly, but not a Feeder. The cat couldn’t identify with the pattern of sounds and decided to ignore them, to keep enjoying the rare softness of the forbidden place.
When the voice came again, it had a sharper clang to it. The cat lifted her head, pondering whether she had been spotted in the forbidden place. When she heard the distinctive thuds of Hairless approaching, she leapt off the cushy warmth with a clumsiness that startled her. She voiced her dismay with a short mewl and padded towards the hole in the wall, keeping her head low.
The Hairless blocked the way. Their size was wrong, different from what the cat remembered. They made more inquisitive sounds with increasing disapproval. The cat rubbed herself against the Hairless legs and purred, knowing it would elicit a pattern of approval. Perhaps even petting.
To her confusion and dismay, the Hairless recoiled with a scream.
San Francisco, USA – Monday, the 28th of May 2012. 11:03 AM.
Emily sat quietly on her chair, eyeing the girl in the grey hoodie on the closed-circuit television screen. Mr. Turner and some other government officials were discussing the teenaged detainee as if she was someone they knew personally. She wasn’t, though. Emily knew the reports as well as any of the adults in the room did. Those reports contained hundreds of pages of assumptions about what Christina Chung might or might not do in the future.
People were more complex than that. Emily knew this better than anyone.
Athena stayed out of the discussion for the most part, just listening and occasionally making notes on her laptop. She didn’t argue or make any judgments. She assumed nothing.
That, among other things, was why Emily liked the Covenant heroine better than all the rest of the government people in the room combined. She didn’t radiate any of that holier-than-thou attitude that was polluting the office and threatening to make Emily gag.
“You don’t need to do this if you don’t want to,” a voice said, breaking Emily out of her thoughts.
Emily looked up to see that Mrs. Clarence, the Wardens therapist, had scooted her chair next to hers. The rest of the decision-makers continued to swarm Mr. Turner’s desk, tossing circuitous arguments around.
“I’ll be fine,” Emily assured her. “Just spiffy. Don’t worry, Mrs. Clarence. I can do it!”
“Are you sure?” Mr. Clarence asked, radiating enough concern to compensate for all those nameless government suits who didn’t give two hoots about her.
Mr. Turner cared, sort of. And Athena did, too. In fact, Athena was nearly as worried about this whole situation as Mrs. Clarence was, though for different reasons.
Athena thinks we need this antisocial girl because she’s a Guardian and the world is going to end.
Emily looked up at Mrs. Clarence and put on her best smile. Emily had spent hours upon hours practicing it in front of a mirror. She’d named it ‘Kidtastic Sunrise’ because when she got it just right, it improved the mood of anyone who saw it.
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Clarence,” Emily repeated, assembling her words with the same amount of care that she’d applied to her facial expression. “Everything’s going to be fun-tastic.” She wasn’t a baby, but she’d discovered early on that teens and adults responded positively to little bits and pieces of baby talk.
As expected, Mrs. Clarence rewarded her with a smile.
“Besides, it’s nice when I can do my hero thing to help someone out,” Emily added for good measure.
“Is Emily ready?” Mr. Turner asked from his desk.
On cue, all the government big-wigs turned their heads to look at her, like sparrows on a windowsill.
Emily gave the therapist’s hand a reassuring squeeze.
“Yes, I suppose she is,” Mrs. Clarence replied. “But I can and will put an end to this if I get the slightest idea that the child is uncomfortable.”
“Do we have approval from the Bell family?” one of the boss-men standing beside the desk wanted to know. He radiated concern about bad press and some additional documents everyone else didn’t know about.
I know you’re all just using me, Emily thought. But it’s for a good cause, right?
“Yes, I have Mr. and Mrs. Bell’s signatures right here,” Mrs. Clarence said, holding up a briefcase.
“Alright, then.” Mr. Turner turned to look at Emily for the first time all morning. “Emily, we need your help to determine whether this young woman might be dangerous, or if it would be safe to introduce her to the Wardens.” His voice was sickly sweet.
“Okay,” Emily said, hiding her distaste behind a Kidtastic Sunrise.
“You ready?” Mrs. Clarence asked.
Emily nodded and accepted the envelope that Mr. Turner was holding out to her. Inside were various school pictures of the Guardian girl, as well as snapshots of her room in the Chung family residence. The look of the room surprised Emily. It was neat and orderly, without any of the boy band posters that teenaged girls usually plastered their walls with. The only art on the white walls was a single picture of an ocean coastline illuminated by a rising sun. She doesn’t like spending much time at home, Emily realized.
By now, the process of submerging into another mind had become almost as easy as slipping on a glove. Emily’s fingers drummed against her leg without thought or effort. She knew how to pace herself, having learned how to withdraw just in time to keep from losing herself in the target consciousness.
But Christina Chung proved to be a new kind of challenge. The girl’s mind felt as unyielding and defiant as a wall of moody bricks. Emily recoiled, the drumming rhythm of her fingers interrupted.
“Wow,” she said as she sank back into her chair. “That’s weird. She’s all walled in.”
“Does this make you uncomfortable, Emily?” Mrs. Clarence asked in comforting tones. “You don’t need to keep trying if it’s too hard.”
Mr. Turner radiated annoyance. “Do you think she noticed something and is deliberately shutting you out?” he asked.
“No, that’s not what it feels like,” Emily said. “It’s like all her thoughts and feelings are inside a bottle, and she’s not letting them out.” She glanced over at Athena, whose frown had deepened at Emily’s words.
“I can try again, though,” Emily offered brightly, knowing all too well what they’d brought her here for. She didn’t want to disappoint. If the world really was ending, then this was important.
Mr. Turner surprised her. “Don’t worry about it. You’ve already been a big help.”
“What are you going to do with her?” Emily asked. Now it was her turn to frown. “You’re not gonna kill her, are you?”
“No,” Athena said. “Unlike some other Evolved, we believe that she can be confined, and she may be able to save lives. Although I would prefer if we knew we could trust her.”
Emily knew she could trust Athena’s words. But even if they weren’t planning on killing the girl, keeping her locked up in that little cell for so long had to be pretty horrible, too.
Determined to help, Emily looked down at the pictures of Christina Chung that were scattered across her lap. In all the snapshots, the girl was looking off into the distance, away from the camera’s lens. It was like she thought that no one understood her.
“I’m trying again,” Emily declared earnestly.
This time, she forced herself to sink deeper and deeper, letting the ocean of Christina’s negative emotions engulf her. The deeper she went, the more tangible those emotions were. But just when she thought the sadness and isolation were going to choke her, she broke through the wall. Everything that came afterward was a blur.
Emily remembered the bad words, though. There were a lot of them, and they were coming out of her own mouth. There was a moment of near brightness and clarity when someone grabbed at her and yelled her name, over and over again.
“Emily. Emily. Emily!”
When she came to, pain was pulsing through her right hand. She opened her eyes to find herself in a brightly lit room with pretty flowers on a windowsill. Her cheeks felt raw and wet, as if she’d been crying. Understanding bloomed in her mind as she remembered the sadness she’d felt in Christina’s mind.
Though fading fast, fragments of Christina’s memories were still drifting through her consciousness. The strict father who was so different from her own. The guys at school who didn’t know the first thing about her, and who didn’t care to find out because she was so weird. How she’d drifted away from her sister over the years, being unable to keep up no matter how fast she ran.
And then the most painful memory of all: her inability to do anything to prevent her sister’s death, just like she’d failed to save her baby brother. And the look on her only real friend’s face when he’d finally begun to understand it all.
I’ll be your friend, Christina, Emily decided. Her eyes were already tearing up again.
“She hates being trapped in that tiny cell,” she murmured weakly.
“Emily? Emily! You’re awake!” her dad was shouting from somewhere in the room.
“Hi, Daddy,” she managed. Emily brought her hand up from the bed and gave him a little wave. Her knuckles still hurt a bit, but she was okay. She struggled to sit up.
She had a friend to make, and she knew exactly how to pull that off.