Read Broken Online

Authors: Susan Jane Bigelow

Tags: #Fiction

Broken (8 page)

During the meal, Michael did his best to keep the distressing images of
fire
out of his mind. He focused on Janeane, just because her possibilities were so impossibly
calm
.

He had never met anyone who had nothing of sorrow in their future. Just an endless ocean…bobbing peacefully…then nothing. All her paths led there—in fact, they started there, too. It was as if she had no paths at all...or Michael simply couldn’t read her. But that was impossible. He had never met anyone who was unreadable.

When dinner ended, he retreated to his room, remembering to thank Lydia for the meal before he went. He lay down on his bed and found himself dozing off.

 

—Fire…

—The house burned around them. He could hear Andrew shouting, panicked, as he searched for Lydia. Shawn banged on a door, only to find it barred shut from outside. The mob chanted, only barely audible over the roar of the flames. Monica sat on the floor with Jane in her arms as they waited for death. "My fault!" Jane wailed.

 

—Janeane floated on the ocean, far, far away…

Far away…

Bob up and down, the water cool and refreshing…

A brilliant blue sky… no clouds, no worries… far away… her family was dying. But Janeane was safe. Janeane would always be safe. She carried them in her heart, though she couldn't carry them with her. She carried them safe to shore.

 

A knock on the door. Michael sprang awake. The house still stood.

"Michael?" It was Janeane. Of course. He opened the door and let her in. "Well. I like what you’ve done with the place," she said.

"I haven’t done anything," Michael protested.

"That’s what I like. Mind if I sit?"

"Go ahead."

She pulled the chair away from the beat-up desk, and sat down in it. The beauty and peace of her possibilities overwhelmed Michael. Janeane smiled lightly, her soft features blending into the endless sea of her future…

"You were staring at me during dinner," she said, her voice like shimmering, sun-soaked water. "Kind of like you’re staring at me now."

"Oh? Uh." Michael shook his head. "Sorry. It isn’t what you think." Or was it? She was beautiful. He hadn’t ever met a woman he found
really
beautiful, not in this way.

"It isn’t? That’s too bad. Although you’re a little young. How old are you?"

"F-fourteen," he stammered, forgetting to lie.

"Thought so. Andrew said you were older." Her grin sparkled against her dark cheek. "So what’s your story?"

"I…" he began. "I… uh… I’m an artist…"
She laughed. It was the most remarkable sound he’d ever heard, the sound of crashing waves and delicate windchimes in the ocean breeze. "Sure you are. Tell me true. Where are you, a bum, and a baby who doesn’t belong to either of you going? Why are you on the run from the bully boys?"

He leveled his gaze at her. "Janeane… tell me about the sea."

"You first," she admonished him lightly.

Flustered, he looked at the floor. "You won’t believe it. But…"

"Yes?" She waited expectantly, like a goddess perched on the throne of eternity.

"I see people’s futures. Things that could possibly happen to them."

She arched an eyebrow. "A fortune teller?"
"No!" he laughed. "Well, not really. What I see is real."

Janeane shrugged. "My aunt Clara was a fortune teller. She saw all kinds of stuff. Some of it came true, some of it almost came true. You know? Are you like her?
Special
?" The word  dripped with meaning.
Michael nodded. He was sweating. Time seemed to be slowing to a crawl all around him. He thought of lies and evasions, but none of them made it to his lips. "Yes. Like that."

"So what did you see, fortune teller? Or would you rather I call you ‘prophet?'"

He reddened. "I… uh. Ian. The baby. I saw something about him."

"Where’d he come from?"

"A woman—his mother—she gave him to me. In a subway station. She just handed him to me." He took a deep breath. "I’d been... waiting for him. He’s also, um. Special. But in a different way."

"What happened to his mom?" Janeane asked.

"Train got her." Janeane arched that eyebrow again, but said nothing. "He…he could be either a great man of peace, bringing everyone together…leading billions to freedom. Or…he could be a terrible monster."

"And you want to make him into a saint." Janeane said softly. The sea swirled all around her.

"No," Michael said. "I’m taking him off planet, to Valen. Someone else will do the rest. I just have to get him there."

He was telling her everything. She could tell anyone; she could turn him in, destroy him. But somehow he wasn’t afraid.

"What’s on Valen?"

"Someone who will make him into a saint," Michael said. "I don’t know any more than that."

"And Jane’s friend?"

"I need her. She...she was in every vision of success. I don’t know why…not really."

They regarded one another for a long moment.

"So, the sea," Janeane said smoothly, voice like a rushing wave. "The sea...I’ve always seen the ocean. I love the ocean."

"That’s all I see for you. Everyone else has death, fear, hope, despair…horrible things. Wonderful things. It’s…so strong, sometimes. But you!" Michael desperately wanted to take one of her slender hands in his. "You are so calm. Nothing but the ocean. Peace. It’s beautiful."

She smiled knowingly.

"I could look at you all day! You’re so beautiful!" Michael said, feeling a dam threaten to break inside him. "It— I—"

He regained his control. "Sorry."

She planted a cool kiss on his forehead. He almost fainted, but looked up into her deep brown eyes instead. Miles and miles of calm, placid sea reflected back at him. She placed a single finger on his heart. "When you need me, I’ll be here."

She let herself out of the room. Michael shuddered. He was drenched in his own sweat.

The tide ebbed; the ocean receded. He felt cold and alone.

Doubt started to creep in. Who would she tell? Who was listening? Joe had always told him to play his cards close to his chest. Don't reveal what you don't absolutely have to, never ever tell someone the truth of what you are and what you can do. Now he’d all but given his entire hand to a woman he’d only just met.

He collapsed on his bed. There was nothing for it, now. He rummaged in his pack and held the mirror up to his face.

 

—Terror, death, fire,
victory
.

 

Janeane would not betray him. Not that he could see. He breathed a sigh of relief, and went to find Broken.

 

 

 

 

[CHAPTER 8]

 

 

 

B
roken opened the door at the knock. Her silver hair was disheveled, and she tasted nothing but beer in her mouth. It was kind of the previous occupant of the roo  to hide alcohol everywhere.

"Can I come in?" he asked. She shrugged and stood aside.

"How are you?" Michael asked.

Again she shrugged.

"Did you sleep well?" Shrug. "Did anyone come to see you?"

"Andrew did. Three times."

Michael nodded, seeming to think that was significant. "How about Jane?"

Broken felt a little pang. "Nope."

"She’s probably busy with Ian. So you knew her before?"
Broken nodded, struggling to keep herself lucid. "She was Doc’s assistant. We called her ‘Lucky.’ Because she was."

"That was her, um, ability?"

"Good for a doctor."

"So why isn’t she there anymore?"

Broken shrugged again. "Luck went bad."

Michael digested that. "You mean, she used to have really good luck and now she has really bad luck?" Broken nodded. "Wow. That’s awful."

Worse, Jane was like a walking curse now. But Broken thought better of mentioning that.

"Maybe…maybe we ought to get out of here soon," Michael suggested.

"Safe for now," Broken said. "I want to sleep. Jane gave me some clothes."

"That’s good. But we shouldn’t stay here too long, okay?"

Broken nodded and turned her back to him. She wanted to be alone. He got the message and left.

Broken lay on the bed and thought about Jane.

* * *

"Hey, Doctor Lucky Jane!" Silverwyng waved jauntily to Lucky, who was filling out some forms at her desk.

"Hey, Sil," Lucky replied. "Back so soon?"

"Yeah." Silverwyng plopped down in Lucky’s spare chair. "Boring patrol, no one out there."

 
Lucky lowered her voice. "Did it happen again?"

 
A shadow passed over Silverwyng’s normally happy features. "No. Not this time. Hey, did… did Sky Ranger say anything? About me? He was in here earlier."

  
"How do you know that?"
 Silverwyng grinned sheepishly. "Stole a look at your schedule."

 
Lucky sighed. "You should stay out of there. Doc will kill you, and me." She reached out a cupped hand next to the table, just as Silverwyng knocked a pencil holder off it. Lucky caught it deftly in her waiting palm. "No. He didn’t say anything. Should he have? What’s going on with you two?"

Silverwyng looked like she was about to cry. "Nothing," she managed before flying out of the room.

* * *

"Hey, Sil," said a familiar voice at the door.

Broken’s face cracked into a grin. "Hey, Doctor Lucky Jane."

"So." Jane came and sat on Broken’s bed. "What are you calling yourself now, ‘Broken?' What’s happened to you these past ten years?"

"Long story," Broken said. "You know how it started."

"Yeah. You couldn’t fly. I remember." Jane sighed. "I’m sorry, Sil. We tried so hard to fix it."

"I know."

"I left not long after. My luck… it went away. It turned on me, bad enough that I became a danger. Bad enough that they didn't chase me when I left, even with the rules. So I know how you feel."

"Yeah." Broken and Unlucky stared at one another for a long, long moment.

"How’s Ian?" Broken asked.

"Better," Jane said.

"Good."

"This is terrible," Jane said. "I’ve really missed you. Why didn’t you come see me before? You obviously knew where I was."

Broken shook her head. "Sorry."

"Have you really been living on the streets?"

"Yeah."

"Sil, that’s no way to live. You should have come here. We’d have taken you in."

Broken shrugged.

Jane stood, suddenly angry. "You could have come here! I didn’t fall apart completely after my powers went! Even though everything I touch goes bad, I still kept
living!
You can’t fly, so you’re
normal
, but you go to pieces! I don’t understand you, Sil. Why didn’t you come to me?"
"I couldn’t," was all Broken could say, long after Jane had stormed out of the room. "I’m sorry."

* * *

Silverwyng and Sky Ranger sliced through the air.

"What makes us special," Sky Ranger said, "Is this."

"It would be awful to be just normal," agreed Silverwyng.

* * *

That night, as he tried to sleep, fire scorched through Michael’s dreams. He tried to escape, but found no way out. All the exits were blocked.

And then, his dream burbled and gulped, and he was on a quiet seashore. Birds called overhead, the waves rushed at the sand, the sun shone lazily on his upward-tilted face.

Janeane sat on the bed next to him, slid in beside him. Peace enveloped Michael as her lips pressed against his. The sea roared, the waves crashed.

He could not remember such utterly calm happiness, even as their bodies started to move together.

 She stayed with him that night, and the next, and the next….

***

Michael pushed Ian and Delmarva out of his mind. He forgot about fire. Janeane filled him with calm and peace.

 They stayed at the house longer than they’d planned. They stayed until cold 2106 bled into colder 2107. Being near Janeane, Michael had lost his sense of urgency. All he wanted to do was be near her. She was so peaceful. He had never known peace like hers.

* * *

Broken flitted around the house like a demented ghost for a week straight, then stopped. She still wasn’t speaking with Jane. Whenever Jane came near, Broken hid.

From time to time, Michael stood near her door and listened to her weep quietly.

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