Read The Talents Online

Authors: Inara Scott

Tags: #Fiction - Young Adult

The Talents (10 page)

BOOK: The Talents
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“You're crazy, Esther,” I said, not wanting to think about the possibility, even though somewhere in my brain it was as if a rainbow had broken across the sky. “And you too, Hennie. He only said that because he likes the two of you. Esther totally made him laugh just now. And, Hennie, you're a hundred times prettier than I am. He could not stop staring at you. Did you see that?”

“Yeah, right,” Hennie said. “He was staring at me because I practically threw up on myself, I was so nervous.”

That made me laugh. “I guess he is pretty cute, huh?”

“No, not pretty cute,” Hennie said. “Try drop-dead gorgeous.”

“And so not interested in either of us, Dancia,” Esther said. “Seriously, what do I have to do to convince you that he was totally checking you out? And he must have been asking about you to his buddy Trevor. Which is definitely a good thing.”

“This is all crazy. Honestly, I wouldn't know what to do if he
was
interested. I've never even had a boyfriend.” I don't know what possessed me to say that, but the words exploded out of me. It was like I'd been hiding a dirty secret and had finally come clean and told the truth.

My words provoked a sympathetic sigh from Hennie. “Me neither. My parents won't let me. Don't worry, though. Esther's had lots of boyfriends. She can give you advice.”

Esther actually blushed. “It's just that I've got lots of friends who are boys,” she explained. “And for some reason they always end up liking me. But it's not cool at all because then when I have to break up with them, I lose a friend
and
a boyfriend.”

Hennie rolled her eyes. “I feel sooo sorry for you.”

I elbowed her and mimicked playing a violin, so relieved that they weren't making fun of me for being such a dork that I felt a little giddy. “Yeah, poor, poor Esther.”

“I swear, Hennie, it's just like we're back at camp,” Esther said. “Except, of course, that we've got Dancia now. So there are two of you to make fun of me.”

Hennie saluted. “The two musketeers, reporting for duty, sir.”

At that moment, Mr. Yerkinly held up a clipboard and blew his whistle. “Anyone here for cross-country?”

Esther stumbled backward theatrically. “Get the cell phones ready! Alert the helicopter! Esther Racowitz is ready to start running.”

She started at a slow jog toward Mr. Yerkinly. Hennie and I grinned at each other and followed a few paces behind.

ABOUT HALF
the freshmen at Delcroix were from California, and they kept asking those of us from Washington and Oregon when it would start raining. They had heard stories, of course, about how it rains all the time, so they had been amazed that the month of September was dry and hot, with just a few days of rain here and there to break up the sunshine. I tried to tell them to relax and enjoy the warm weather, because the rain would be here soon enough.

And right around October fifth, it came.

I actually like the rain. I know people complain about it, but I think it's soothing. I like to run in it because it keeps my face cool, and I like to hear the slap of mud and wet pavement under my feet. I like to watch the clouds moving across the sky. I like listening to the rain on the roof at night, and seeing the drops slide across windows while I'm at school. People don't understand that here in Washington it doesn't just rain all the time. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it drizzles, and sometimes it pours. There's a big difference between those things.

Really.

Anyway, once the rain started, it seemed like the teachers got really serious about homework. It was as if they decided we weren't outside anyway, so we might as well be studying. I barely had time to breathe between cross-country practice and all the algebra and English homework. And don't get me started on chemistry. I completely failed to see the value in memorizing the stupid periodic table of elements.

They also mixed up our afternoon focus periods. I ended my public speaking workshop (which had been a nightmare—I will never, ever pursue a career as a politician) and started a pottery class.

Why pottery? I have no idea. They told me where to go, and I went.

The pottery class was a mix of people like me, who had little or no artistic talent, and people like Cara. Cara had thick glasses, a round face, and short dark hair with bangs. She was in my English class. She spoke with a heavy accent; English was apparently not her first language. I would sit and watch her at the pottery wheel, trying not to gawk as she effortlessly spun the wheel with her foot, dipped her fingers into a plastic container of water, and coaxed a perfect vase to form from a lump of clay.

My lump usually remained pretty much like it started—a lump.

Later, after our masterpieces had been fired, my “mug” looked like something a kindergartner would have made for her mom in art class, whereas Cara's vase looked like something you'd sell for thousands of dollars in an art gallery.

It was like that in all my classes. There were always one or two kids who were geniuses at the subject, and as the year progressed, you got to know what each person was amazing at: Hennie with her languages, Esther with her acting, Catherine with her math, and Cara with her pots. There was this kid Amir who ran for freshman class president, and no one even bothered to run against him. He was like Cam—everyone just seemed to believe he'd be the best one for the job.

Nothing much changed for me in the boy department. Esther still thought Jack and I might end up together, in that friends-blending-into-more sort of thing that happened to her all the time. On alternate days, though, she thought Cam and I were meant to be.

I was just thrilled for any scrap of attention Cam gave me. Which happened fairly regularly, but not regularly enough to justify any fairy-tale fantasies. He and I had developed a pretty decent friendship—nothing more than that.

Jack and I, meanwhile, had gotten closer. There was no one else at Delcroix—not even Hennie or Esther—who understood me like Jack. But we were friends.

Only friends.

At this point in the year, cliques had formed, but they were still pretty fluid. People started by hanging out with people from their teams, and then with their roommates. Now they were starting to gravitate toward people who had their same focus. But that was harder to figure out, and there just weren't enough people to limit yourself to only the other actors, or dancers, or musicians, or whatever.

I, of course, remained the girl without a focus. I tried not to think about it, and brushed aside the casual questions that people started to ask. They clearly wanted to know why I was there, but were too polite to ask me outright. It was midway through October when the weirdness came to a head. We were in pottery class, and I was sitting at a table with Cara, Marika, Allie, and Catherine. We were painting our latest creations, and they were raving about how much they loved Delcroix and how great it was to finally feel like they fit in somewhere. Even Catherine, who never smiled, looked less angry than usual.

“This is so nice, you know?” Marika said. “I never really had a chance to make very many friends before, because I was always in the advanced classes. The older kids ignored me, and the kids my age thought I was a total freak.”

Catherine nodded. “I started reading when I was three, so they put me with the second graders when I was in kindergarten. Even at my boarding school I had to have special tutors. How was I supposed to make friends that way?”

You probably had to start by not being such a creep, I thought to myself.

Catherine had her own little clique of Button-downs, who, like her, had recycled their school uniforms to wear at Delcroix, and insisted on ironing their white shirts and navy bottoms before they went to class each morning. I liked to think they were the least popular kids in the school. The truth was, everyone at Delcroix seemed to have some friends, and the team thing had actually worked to get everyone hooked in with a group.

Still, it was nice to imagine that everyone at Delcroix disliked Catherine as much as I did.

“I never had time to make friends,” Allie said. “I had cheerleading or gymnastics practice every day after school, and I was taking advanced classes on top of that, so I couldn't hang out like other kids. Then they thought I was stuck-up, but it wasn't that. I was just busy.”

Marika looked at me. “Dancia, didn't you go to school here in Danville? What was it like?”

“What was Danville Middle like?” I paused and searched for something interesting to share. Nothing came to mind. “It was okay, I guess. The usual sorts of things—annoying teachers, cliques…” I trailed off, not sure what else to add.

“Did they pull you out for gifted classes? That's what they did at my school, which sucked because then everyone would make fun of you,” Cara said.

I cleared my throat. “Not really. I mean, no.”

“They didn't pull you out?” Cara asked.

“No, I wasn't gifted.”

Cara's mouth dropped open. Slowly, her face turned bright red. “I didn't mean…I'm sorry…”

“What does that mean anyway, that they say you're gifted?” Allie rushed in, obviously trying to save me from looking like an idiot. “Those programs are so stupid. There were tons of smart kids at my school that weren't in our classes. I don't know how they selected people for it. It must have been totally random.”

Everyone looked uncomfortable. Catherine gave me a withering look.

“So, what did you…er…
do
at your school?” asked Cara.

She was obviously trying to be nice and give me a chance to tell them what I
was
gifted at. I guess she just assumed if I was at Delcroix, I must be amazing at something. But I wasn't. Truth was, I didn't
do
anything, except occasionally crash cars and drop branches on people.

I groped around for an excuse. “I wasn't able to participate in a lot of activities. I live with my grandma, and she needed me at home.”

Allie nodded with relief. “Of course. That was really nice of you.”

“It wasn't a big deal.” There was another uncomfortable pause, and I looked down at my pitiful excuse for a bowl, and then at the paint tray in front of me. “Wow, I need a lot more paint if I'm going to make this look decent.” I backed away from the table. “I better go refill the red.”

It was the lamest excuse ever, and I'm sure they all knew it, but they smiled and continued talking, as if they hadn't just exposed my complete and utter failure as a Delcroix student. Sometimes I wished I could use my power, just once, and show them all that I wasn't just a pitiful lump of clay, a badly formed bowl that wouldn't even hold water. But what good would that do? I'd use my power and something horrible would happen. Marika would end up in the hospital, or Catherine would lose a limb.

That wouldn't be so bad, though. I squirted a bottleful of red paint into my tray and imagined the scene. Catherine didn't need both her arms. She was just a big old brain in a grumpy body anyway.

I suffered through the end of the class, gathered my backpack, and ran out the door the second the bell rang. I didn't have cross-country for an hour, but figured I might as well get started early. I needed the run. I had gotten halfway to the Res when I remembered that I'd forgotten to wash out my paintbrushes. Our teacher was an absolute fanatic about her brushes, and had threatened to drop our grade by a full letter if we didn't clean them up after class. So I turned around and ran back to the art room.

I was a few feet away when I heard Catherine's voice, still inside the room. I hesitated, hoping she might be coming out so I could avoid talking to her, but then I heard her speak my name.

“Why
is
Dancia here, anyway?” she said.

I pressed myself against the wall, heart beating fast. Catherine had been harsh to my face, but I hadn't imagined she would say things behind my back too.

“What do you mean?” It sounded like Marika.

“I mean she's just a poor kid from Danville,” Catherine said. “What possible reason could they have for accepting her?”

“Everyone here is different,” Allie said. “Maybe she's got something going on we don't know about.”

“Right.” Catherine snorted.

I recoiled at the disgust in her voice.

“I mean, come on. You heard her yourself. She doesn't do anything,” Catherine continued. “You should try living with her. It's ridiculous. I knew girls in fifth grade who were smarter than that. I keep expecting her to bring back some papier-mâché art project, like a kindergartner.” There were rounds of giggles after that. “They probably needed to accept a kid from Danville to keep the town happy, and she was the smartest one they had. Which isn't saying much for Danville, let me tell you.”

She went on, but I couldn't listen to any more. Dirty paintbrushes or not, I turned around and ran down the stairs to the Res.

The common room was empty when I got there, so I went right to the phone and dialed home. It rang fifteen times before I hung up, scowling. My throat was tight and my eyes were prickling. I had to keep swallowing hard and telling myself not to cry. How stupid to cry about someone like Catherine, who I already knew was a jerk. Besides, it wasn't like she hadn't said anything I didn't already know. I didn't belong at Delcroix. It was that simple.

“Everything okay?”

I spun around, not surprised to see Jack sitting at one of the tables, his chemistry book open in front of him. He always seemed to appear when I needed him. I rubbed my hand across my eyes. “I suppose.”

“Let me guess—Button-down giving you a hard time?”

I laughed shakily. “How did you know?”

“She's a soulless nightmare, a robot who can't think for herself except to attack other people, because in the end, she's horribly jealous that they have the capacity for free will.”

Jack's rages against Catherine always made me feel better. We shared a smile. I could feel the tension slipping out of my body.

“Were you trying to call Grandma?” he asked.

“Yeah, but she must have her hearing aid turned off. She does that sometimes in the afternoon.” I indicated his book. “You doing homework already? We've got three hours before study time. I'm not sure that's allowed.”

“Yashir's got a bunch of other guys in our room listening to music. It's pretty loud. I needed some space.”

Yashir and Jack were roommates. They didn't hate each other, like Catherine and I did, but they weren't exactly best friends. For one, Yashir liked to play music all the time, and it drove Jack crazy. Then again, having a roommate at all drove Jack crazy. He didn't like to have people around when he slept. He said he missed his privacy at night more than anything.

“You always need space. They could build you your own separate house out back and you'd still complain that you needed more space.”

Jack grinned and tipped his chair onto its back legs. “Hey, I found two spots in my room today that would be perfect for a hidden camera. Did you check yours?”

I laughed. We had a little game we played, where we pretended we were under surveillance and looked for ways the school could be watching us. Jack had started it when Trevor began watching him every day at lunch. He would bring it up every time we had to use our ID badges to get in or out of a building, and whenever we keyed a code into a lock on a door. Naturally, he also brought up the fact that the windows in the Res didn't open, while they did in the Main Hall and the Bly. And then there were the gates. Jack hated the gates. He didn't believe there was any good reason to keep us locked up behind giant iron bars.

BOOK: The Talents
6.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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