Young Adult - Christine L. Arnold
I ogled the beads of condensation rolling down the window. My hands itched to reach out to them. I stretched my fingers and rubbed my palms across my jeans. I can’t give in.
At least, not in the living room. Mom would kill me.
The glass was cool and clammy as I pressed my forehead to it. I stared past the drops and into the yard. Everything was wet, soaked with dew.
The woods that circled our house were glistening in the bright sunlight. I peeled my face off the glass and looked away.
This is what I get for rushing my shower this morning. How many days has it been? Three? Four? Too many, and now I’m paying for it. I knew I should’ve taken a few extra minutes and given into it in the shower.
A heavy dew wouldn’t be half so tempting if I had.
A fat droplet caught my eye. It oozed down the window, shedding a thin, wet trail. It gorged on the smaller beads and ballooned.
Any minute now, it would burst.
I gripped the window frame. A sweat broke across my back. I ached with anticipation.
There was a place in my chest, just below the ribcage that hummed whenever I was near water. Most of the time, I wasn’t conscious of it.
But now it swelled to a throb.
I licked my lips. Another bead and the droplet was too heavy. It peeled away from the glass. A shudder raked my spine. The drop spattered. I felt the jolt deep in my gut.
I sighed; a sound so low it was almost a moan.
My shoulders tensed. Forcing a smile, I spun and looked at Mom.
She didn’t see, did she?
I studied her expression. It wasn’t the eye-bulging gape she always gave me when she caught me playing with water where someone could see.
Though, I never knew who she thought would be around to see. We lived in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, for Christ’s sake. Once the Summer-Homers left, the population dwindled to about ten.
No, she hadn’t seen anything. And I wasn’t about to give myself away.
“Why would I be nervous?”
“First day of your Junior year? Seems like a pretty good reason to me.”
Oh, that. I shrugged. “Maybe a little.”
“You better get going or you’ll miss the bus.”
The back of my neck prickled. It was normal to feel jumpy when you almost get caught doing something you know shouldn’t. But this was something else.
I looked outside. I tried but couldn’t shake the feeling. The feeling I was being watched. I guess Mom’s warnings were starting to get to me. “Do I have to go?”
She crossed her arms and gave me that look. I call it the Oh-For-Heaven’s-Sake-Jemma-Eleanor-Stone.
I sighed. “I’m going, I’m going.”
I stepped outside and shivered. Even though it was late August, I felt a dull chill creeping through the early morning air.
I followed the tire tracks, kicking at the dewy clumps of wildflowers and weeds sprouting up in the middle of the dirt road. Droplets bungeed off the petals and splattered across my shoes.
I sighed and glared down at the little beads of water.
You hear stories about people with superpowers. And by stories, I mean the ones in comic-books and fairytales. Real people don’t have superpowers. Except for me. But I imagine that what happens when someone discovers the hero’s secret in those stories isn’t so far from what would actually happen.
Mom and Dad never say what they’re so afraid of. But I know. Because I worry about getting locked away in some secret government bunker and becoming a science experiment too.
But they don’t understand what it’s like. These urges – they don’t have them. They aren’t like me.
I stared at the beads of water stuck to the top of my shoes. Would it really be so bad to give into it, just for a minute? I’m in the middle of the woods. No one’s around to see. And if I don’t do it here, I can tell I’m going to have to find somewhere to do it at school. Like a bathroom stall. And toilet water’s gross.
I took a deep breath and released it slowly while I looked around. It was safe.
My chest felt tight. I hadn’t realized how much the pressure had built. I tried to release it slowly. After all, my house was just around the bend. If I did anything too big, Mom could see. And the repercussions for that would be worse than if some stranger saw me.
But the pressure didn’t want to be released slowly. I clutched my chest, trying to keep it in. Like that’d ever worked.
I doubled over and squeezed my eyelids together. This was a bad idea.
But it was too late. I couldn’t stop now. I could already feel every single droplet of water soaking the leaves, the grass, even the ones hiding in the air. They called to me.
The treetops rustled as if a violent wind raked through their branches. But it wasn’t wind. It was the dew drops diving off the leaves, lunging to greet me.
I threw my hands up and they froze, both in the air and into ice. I cracked an eyelid stole a glance around me. Thousands of droplets hovered in the air, glistening in the places where the sun broke through the leaves’ thick canopy.
They looked like tiny crystal ornaments, or other-worldly wind-chimes hung from the treetops by invisible strings. But of course they weren’t.
I took another breath and released them. They fell, shattering against each other as they ricochet across the ground. The sound echoed through the trees, whispered falls followed by the chinks of a thousand landings.
That would hold me, at least for the day. I’d have to remember to make time in the shower tomorrow though, as the pressure wasn’t gone completely.
I glanced around and strained to listen. The sound of them falling hadn’t exactly been natural. At least, not for this time of year. I half-expected to see Mom marching up the drive to chase me back into the house. I was a little disappointed when she didn’t. If she caught me, it would delay me going to school.
I dusted the tiny chips of ice from my hair and nudged a pile of them with the toe of my sneaker. They were freckle-sized, perfectly round, and already melting into the ground. They crunched underfoot as I continued up the road.
I reached the end of the drive and leaned on the row of rusting mailboxes. The air was getting stickier, heavier as the thick dew evaporated.
I sniffed the air. The wet brought out the scent of the long grass, decaying fireflies, and pungent, late summer leaves. I even caught of whiff of pine from the tree farm down the road.
And there was something else, something that didn’t belong. Roses, heavy and perfumy accosted my nostrils. My eyes watered, preparing for a sneeze. The scent grew stronger.
I searched the ground for the bush. We never planted roses. Dad and I were allergic. But there was no mistaking that smell.
Spotting something in the road, I clawed the wet from my eyes, not trusting my sight through the sneeze-tears. But I didn’t mistake it.
Three thorn-covered rose vines slithered up the path toward me. Roses bloomed, withered, and blackened in rapid succession as the tendrils grew and stretched.
I kneaded my knuckles into my eyes. It has to be a dream. It can’t be real. Roses don’t grow like that.
But when I removed my knuckles and the dark spots stopped popping across my vision, the roses were still there.
The thorns bristling down the vines were larger than they should’ve been; each about the length and width of my pinky. The roses were ominous too, and not just because they kept blackening and falling off the vine. Their petals were ragged and the wrong shade of red. The leaves curled under and worked like feet as the vine scuttled toward me like a giant centipede.