Read The Talents Online

Authors: Inara Scott

Tags: #Fiction - Young Adult

The Talents (8 page)

BOOK: The Talents
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Even as the questions shot through my brain, something amazing happened: the air under me suddenly felt solid. I pushed against it and was able to shift my hold on Yashir's shoe to grab his ankle, and then his calf. One more push against that wall of air and I threw my other hand up, where Alessandro caught it. He hauled me up with a one-handed death grip I will never forget, and I was there, stomach on the top of the wall, ready to throw myself onto that platform on the other side.

Our team went crazy. Yashir shouted for Emma and Alessandro to get down so we could jump onto the platform, and they did. Everyone whistling and shouting like we had just won the lottery. Yashir tumbled onto the platform and practically hauled me the rest of the way over. When my nerves and shaking hands calmed down enough to move, I stood and looked over the wall, an enormous smile decorating my face.

The team smiled and cheered, but it was Jack's gaze that caught mine. He shrugged as he looked around our group, as if to say, “What a bunch of idiots.”

Then he winked at me.

My smile dissolved. Had Jack helped me over the wall? Was that what his nod had meant?

But I knew that when I'd looked down he hadn't been touching me. Anyway, the rules were clear—once you went over, you couldn't help except to spot. If Jack had pushed against my foot, everyone would have noticed, and Trevor would have busted him for sure. But there had been something solid under me, I couldn't deny that.

Could it be that somehow, without touching me, Jack had given me a push?

I went down the ladder in a daze, my euphoria quickly evaporating. When I reached the ground, Allie ran over to give me a hug. I wasn't trying to be rude, but I didn't really hug her back. I just couldn't look into the eyes of Perfect Girl and pretend I was happy. Not with a lead weight suddenly hanging on my shoulders. Allie didn't seem to notice, bouncing away a second later and high-fiving Hector, then linking arms with Emma.

“Congratulations,” Trevor said, motioning for us to circle around him. “I didn't think you were going to do it. I saw some excellent teamwork out there. I was impressed.”

Jack stood next to me, and I could feel waves of something—satisfaction? pleasure?—radiating from him. He alternated between a bored stare at Trevor and a sideways glance at me. I had to restrain myself from grabbing his shirt and spinning him around and demanding to know what he had done.

Was it possible? I could hardly dare to voice the thought in my head. The signs seemed to point to one conclusion, but I refused to believe it could be true. Because if it was, Jack had special powers just like me. And unlike me, he wasn't scared to use them.

THE REST
of the week went by in a blur. We started classes and settled into the school routine. Everyone seemed excited about different subjects—the dancers hung out in the studios, the science kids were practically drooling over the lab, and Yashir and his friends were always sitting around in the commons, drawing.

Everyone, of course, but me, who had no subject to look forward to, and nothing to excel at. I swear, I was the only kid, other than Jack, of course, who was in all the remedial classes.

I saw Cam a bunch of times during the week, but it was only for a second or two between activities. He wasn't a team leader, like Trevor, so he didn't eat in the cafeteria with the freshmen. Usually I saw him walking the halls with Mr. Judan or one of the other teachers. He always waved to me and smiled. Sometimes he'd even stop and say hello, or ask how my day was going. He said he was working for Mr. Judan, doing boring office stuff. I could barely pull myself together enough to speak to him. I think the problem was that it took me about ten minutes to become accustomed to his gorgeousness, so the quick stops in the hall always left me incoherent.

I passed Hennie once, speaking to a girl in Chinese, and then another time with a boy speaking Spanish. Both times she tried to get me to stay and talk, but I said I had to get to class. Every time I saw Esther, she was hanging out with a different group of boys and laughing that big laugh of hers. Kids always looked happy when they were with Esther. She did these imitations of people—teachers, even Principal Solom—that were hilarious. She could somehow make herself completely change to fit whoever she was impersonating. I swear, when she would do Principal Solom, she would actually shrink.

I tried to duck and hide whenever I saw Hennie and Esther, but it was hard. It wasn't that I didn't like them. It was that I liked them too much. I was generally able to avoid them during the day without being rude—for this first week, they had us doing activities each afternoon with our teams, and sitting with them at meals—but at night, after study hours, it was impossible to avoid them completely. We just fit together so well, the three of us. Like we were meant to be friends.

Catherine came in pretty handy in all this. She shut the door to our room at exactly ten o'clock, and didn't allow visitors. And I wasn't lying when I told Esther and Hennie that I needed all my free time to study. Our teachers had actually assigned homework for the first day of class, and then once classes started, I was swamped. I wasn't even taking hard classes. Some of the others were taking higher-level stuff, like calculus and physics. They were doing review work until the upperclassmen arrived on Monday. I was just reading books and doing basic math problems, and I was still overwhelmed. Let's just say Danville Middle hadn't exactly prepared me for Delcroix.

Meanwhile, Jack had become my constant companion, dropping notes over my shoulder in class and making snide comments in my ear when Trevor led us through another group activity. There was no repeat of what had happened at the wall, and the further away from it we got, the more I started to doubt my own conclusions about what had happened. Maybe I was stronger than I thought. Maybe I had just imagined that cushion of air suddenly supporting my weight. Maybe Jack was nothing more than a clever cheater who had somehow managed to escape Trevor's eagle eye.

Besides, I was missing Grandma. I was also trying as hard as I could not to bond with the two nicest people I'd ever met, and I was living with a psychotic dictator who had measured the space in our closet and marked the halfway point with masking tape to make sure I didn't cross the line. So I guess I just wasn't tough enough to push Jack away too. Before I knew it we were trading music and talking about our old schools. He figured out right away how horrible Catherine was, and he endlessly made fun of her for being so in love with Delcroix and sucking up to all the teachers. He even came up with the perfect nickname for her: Button-down, because she always wore white button-down shirts and navy pants or skirts. They were probably part of her old school uniform. Even though I knew I shouldn't, I couldn't help but laugh every time he said it.

It wasn't until Friday afternoon, when we were waiting for the Silver Bullet to take us back to the parking lot to go home for the weekend, that I realized the Dancia Lewis way was going to have to change. We were outside the Main Hall, dragging bags of dirty laundry and backpacks full of homework. Everyone was excited to see their parents, though there were some drama queens who were already complaining about how much they'd miss their friends.

Esther gave me a back-cracking hug. “Dancia, I've barely seen you all week,” she wailed. “Where have you been? I mean, you've been in your room, of course, studying, which is good, and I can't really blame you. After all, my dad will kill me—and I mean kill me—if I don't keep my grades up. But we missed you last night. We were in my room listening to music. You should have come down.”

I hung my head. “It's algebra. You start mixing letters and numbers, and my eyes cross. And you wouldn't believe the essay I've got to write for English. I figured I had to get a start on it before I went home.”

Hennie gave me a gentle squeeze and a deep assessing look. “Everything okay?” she asked. “How's your team? Are you getting along with everyone?”

“I guess so.” I shifted from foot to foot. “I mean, well, Jack and I have been hanging out a lot.”

“Jack? You mean the guy with the tattoo?” Hennie grinned. “Are you sure you're just friends?”

“Definitely.” I nodded vigorously. “Just friends.”

Esther snorted. “That's how it starts, Dancia. Trust me, it always starts that way. Then when you least expect it, everything changes.”

“Not us.” I took a quick look around to make sure Jack wasn't right behind me. “No way.”

Esther cleared her throat and adjusted a pair of imaginary glasses on her forehead, just like our World Civ teacher, Mrs. Paskett. “Yes of course, dear, of course. You're right, of course. How could I ever doubt you.” Her voice rose two octaves and quavered, just like Mrs. Paskett's. Hennie and I burst out laughing.

When I could speak again, I elbowed Hennie in the ribs. “So when are you going to talk to Yashir, Hennie? He's on my team, you know. He seems really nice.”

Hennie threw her hands in the air. “As if I could talk to him! He's in my Spanish class, but he hardly says anything. Tell me more about him. I need details!”

I thought back, relieved I'd managed to change the subject. “He's usually one of the leaders of our group. Not too bossy, but everyone seems to listen to him. He loves to draw and paint, of course. He's from California, and his mom does all his piercings.” I was surprised by how much I already knew about him. I guess some of the “get to know you” games Trevor had made us play had actually worked.

“He's perfect for you, Hennie,” Esther said. “And if you're feeling shy, Dancia can help.”

Hennie bit her lip. “I don't know, Esther. You know my dad. He won't like the piercings.”

“We're at
boarding school
, silly. Your dad won't even know.”

“But I've barely talked to him,” I said. “What makes you think I can help Hennie?”

Esther patted my hand. “Don't worry. Boys are simple creatures. I can teach you both what you need to know.”

Hennie straightened her already perfectly straight skirt and sighed. “It's true. Esther's like a walking encyclopedia on the male species.”

Esther nodded sagely. “You know what I always say: they're just like girls, only different. Now, Dancia, he's on your team, so aren't you friends already?”

“Well, I guess…I mean, I can talk to him. It's not like we're strangers. But I wouldn't say we're friends either.”

Esther waved aside my protest. “By Thanksgiving you'll be best friends with everyone at this school. It's just a matter of time.”

On that chilling note, I changed the subject to our classes. The only ones we had together were World Civ and chemistry. All of the freshmen had to take an ethics class, but Esther and Hennie were in the other section. My ethics class was taught by this goofy little guy named Mr. Fritz. He had a puff of long white hair on top of his head, and really big ears, which made him resemble something between Albert Einstein and a troll doll. We all had math, but different levels—I was in algebra, the ninth grade course at my high school. Esther and Hennie were already starting calculus.

In the afternoons I had a two-hour block of classes that my adviser, Mrs. Dade, said would change throughout the year. I was starting with a self-defense class and a public speaking workshop. Mrs. Dade didn't tell me why they'd put me in these classes, just said every student had concentrated “focus time” after lunch.

The only problem was, unlike everyone else at Delcroix, I had no focus. Esther was really into theater; for her focus periods she had an acting class and a famous playwrights class, where they were studying Shakespeare and some Greek guys I'd never heard of. Hennie was taking all sorts of different languages—Hindi-Urdu, Chinese, and French literature instead of English.

“You're taking Spanish too? What are you, some kind of genius with languages?” I asked.

Hennie lowered her eyes. “I speak five now, but my dad speaks ten. I want to know at least that many someday so I can work for the UN. My dad knows two ambassadors who went to Delcroix, and they said it was an amazing place for languages.”

It wasn't hard to see what her “focus” was.

“Someday I'd like to learn Spanish,” I said wistfully. They used to have real Spanish classes at our middle school, but they'd cut them when I was still in elementary school. Something about budget problems. By the time I started there, they just had this video they played once a week. It was ridiculous. I knew my colors and how to count to ten. That was about it.

“I can teach you,” Hennie said.

“Really?”

“It's easy. You just have to practice speaking with someone. We'll do it at night. Just a few minutes a day.” Hennie gave me one of her gentle smiles, and I had to turn away because I thought for a second I might cry.

The bell sounded, and we started up the steps onto the Silver Bullet. I passed Catherine, who glared at me through narrowed eyes. Then I walked by Jack. He had on his headphones, and his eyes were closed. I wasn't surprised. Jack tuned out whenever he got in a crowd. He hated crowds. He wasn't much of a people person in general—he hadn't made many friends since we'd started school—but he really hated crowds.

I thought about how certain I'd been, just five days ago, that he was trouble and to be avoided at all costs, and then how I'd just told Hennie that we'd been hanging out all week.

I slipped past him and headed for the back of the bus. Hennie and Esther had saved me room beside them. Esther patted the edge of the seat and grinned. I stole a look back toward Jack, and then Catherine, before I fell into the seat. There wasn't quite room for three, so I balanced on the edge with my feet in the aisle.

“You'll have to give me your phone number,” Esther said. “So we can talk this weekend.”

Hennie pulled her backpack onto her lap. “Give me your number. We can have a three-way call.”

The bus started abruptly just as Hennie was pulling on the zipper, and her fingers slipped. She knocked herself in the nose, and Esther giggled. Hennie glared at Esther and then laughed when, a second later, the bus jerked again and I fell into the aisle. The bus driver hollered at me to get back in my seat, and I did, practically hoisting myself onto Esther's lap.

It was then, laughing as the bus pulled away from the Main Hall, with the green lawns of Delcroix stretched out on either side of us, and all the other freshman shouting and calling to each other, that something inside of me unwound.

I had friends. Esther and Hennie were my friends. Jack, troublemaker or not, was my friend. And, as hard as it was to believe, even Cam was becoming a friend. No one knew better than me how dangerous this state of affairs could be, but it seemed silly to keep fighting the inevitable. I'd have to make myself into a jerk or a pariah to keep it from happening, and I just didn't have it in me to do either of those things.

Life was changing. I wasn't sure where it was taking me, but I had a feeling things would never be the same.

BOOK: The Talents
4.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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