A Thousand Ways to Pay a Price

After escaping nearly being kidnapped, Teresa and Maya are on the run. Not knowing why they are being chased or who's following them, their only hope is to find the mysterious organization known as Infinity.

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5. Teresa/Maya

Teresa Maya Both

The stone floor is so hard! It's not even cold enough to be of help in this overwhelming heat. Teresa storms in looking irritated as always, "I'm sick of this! I'm sick of eating only fruits and berries, because neither of us can fish to save our lives. Literally. Let's go in to town and grab some food. I haven't seen another human being other than you for a week now and I'm going insane! No offense," she adds as an afterthought. 

"B- B- But!" I stutter and bite my lip, "There are those people chasing us! The Underworld! They're looking for us!"

"No, not for me, just you. They don't know who I am," Teresa interjects, "And I can use my credit card since they won't be looking for me, buy food and meet you outside of town."

"But I don't know any towns around here..." I mumble.

"You don't have to," Teresa says very slowly, as if speaking to a child, "you can take us there even if it's on the other side of the world! Not that there's a guarantee I'd be able to speak the local language..."

"Oh," I say, feeling stupid.

And that was the end of it.

I am so fed up with this! With everything! I just- I don't know if I can deal with this anymore...

Maya drops me off outside the town and I tell her to wait for me there. If I'm not back in two hours, she should leave without me, stay on the run, keep away from cities and find Shadow. He had left after we first arrived in the forest and only came back once in a while for food or to stare at me accusingly as if to say: "I can't believe you can't catch a fish. Even I can do that."

Over the past week, I've been helping Maya develop her...unique skill. She's gotten much better at opening doors and can do it in less time. For fun she tried opening a door to Paris (she's never been there before) and it worked! Guess those romantic movies are more accurate than I give them credit for. 

But that's not what's bothering me. 

I don't know how to feel about what's going on. I don't know how I'm supposed to feel about what's going on. 

I feel jealous and sorry for Maya at the same time. I mean, I want to have powers and feel the kind of wonder I see in her eyes every time she opens a door... But on the other hand, I don't want to bear the responsibility of having such a... gift. Is it a gift? Or is it really a curse in disguise? 

I arrive in town and head to the nearest sports equipment store. As I enter, the feel of air conditioning on my face makes me feel instant relief. After being outside in the scorching heat for so long, the cool air is like a blessing from God.

I pick up 2 backpacks, some clothes and some other equipment I think we'll need. I try to buy the least amount of things possible, to reduce the quantity of what we'll have to carry and to make sure I can fit it all in the backpacks. 

I'm the only one in the store, so there's no line up at the checkout. After giving me a long stare and a few glances afterwards to top it off, the lady at the cash very rudely asks me in the most grating and annoying way possible, if I can pay for all this.

In response, I flash her a fake grin and take out my shiny credit card. 

Her response: "Did you steal that?"

Really? How rude can you get? Well, I can't really blame her, I must look like a homeless vandal. Still, it isn't nice to treat people this way! (Even if they might, maybe deserve it.)

"Look, Lindsey," I say reading her name off the tag plastered to her shirt and giving it an exaggerated sneer, "I was nearly kidnapped by the government," well it's not completely untrue, "and have been on the run for a week now. You see, my father is the head of a worldwide mafia, and they wanted to use me as bait in luring him in. He's REALLY overprotective, you see and hates it when people don't give me what I want. My brother's currently on his way here right now to pick me up. I gave him a call on the pay phone outside just a minute ago, and he isn't very happy right now. You can even say he's angry. He's even more overprotective than my father. So, why don't you be a dear and ring this up for me, so I can go and meet him outside, without him having to come in here and see what's going on?" 

Did I mention I'm an incredible liar? I'm actually astonished she believed such a farfetched story. She bought my performance hook, line and sinker. I walked out of there with a smirk on my face and leaving a terrified Linsey behind on the verge of calling the police. Maybe I took it a little too far... Never mind, you can never take things too far. Anyways, what's done is done. 

Next on my list is the grocery store, I have to hurry up. The police might be on my tail by now. Sometimes I'm a bit too paranoid and others, I'm not paranoid enough.

I pass by the aisle carrying berries and nuts and scowl in distaste. Someone gives me a funny look. I hope I don't smell bad as I feel. I must look pretty awful after sleeping in the woods for a week. 

I pass by the fish section and make a point of selecting some fresh, fancy, fatty tuna to rub in that smug cat's face. 

Next I see the candy and chip section. My mouth waters in jealousy. "Oily, salty, sugary goodness," I unintentionally groan, this creates more stares. I hope no one calls the police. Again.

I can imagine how that conversation would go: "Hello, officer? I have a wild girl buying food in the grocery store. YES, this is urgent! Send the whole squad! Send everyone!" 

I check to see if I'm drooling. Wow, I'm SO fat! Then I put my foot down (not literally), I can't buy anything with that little nutritional value. I need to buy nonperishables that are healthy and provide lots of energy.

I make a list in my head: apples (they last forever), instant coffee (incase we can't find a safe place to sleep), canned food (BPA free of course, that stuff is evil), a can opener (duh), reusable water bottles with built in purifiers, cereal, some soup in tetropacks and some assorted veggies.

Deciding it was time to stop the stares, I run into a public bathroom, try and fail to fix my hair, clean quite a bit of dirt off using the soap next to the sink and get changed into some of the clothes I bought. The new clothes feel clean, fresh and so much more comfy than my old ones. I drop my old clothes (minus my wallet) into the trash as I start walking out. Won't be needing those anymore. 

Then, I see it.
Lurking behind me.
It gleams as the light catches it's edge.
It's-
It's-
It's-
Not a knife-
It's-
"A toilet," the words come out as a whisper.

I'm so happy nobody else is in the bathroom.

"911? We have a psycho girl in the bathroom! YES, this is urgent! Send the whole squad! Send everyone!" 

Is probably how that phone call would go.

I sit on the ground to wait for Teresa. Picking up a stick, I start drawing figures in the dirt. 

I can't believe Teresa, why does she have to treat me like a punching bag she uses to let out her pent up frustration and worry? I can understand that she's stressed, but why does she have to channel it towards me? I'm stressed as well, you know. 

What will my family do when they see my destroyed house, but don't see me? Teresa's an only child and her parents are barely ever home. They won't notice she's gone for a while. 

I have been Teresa's friend for as long as I can remember and can tell that she's lonely. Why doesn't she talk it out with me? Communication is key! Her defensive walls protected by cannons loaded with sarcasm aren't necessary while talking to me. Why can't she be more open with her feelings?

But then again, I can hedge a guess at what she's feeling right now. Does she feel jealous? I don't see why she would be. This power isn't something I'm happy to have. It's like a burden weighing down on my mind. I feel like I'm turning into some freak of nature. I absentmindedly rub at the intricate closed gateway that appeared on my right collarbone. It might have been fun doing what I can do, if there were no strings attached. Being targeted and having your home destroyed isn't on everybody's wish list. She's always hated it when someone could do something she couldn't.

I look back at the dirt I was idly carving pictures into. A stick figure family holding hands under a rainbow greets me.

My eyes tear up.

No! I can't cry! I have to keep my pride, despite the fact that I'm all alone.

 

My next stop is the drugstore, again I thank God/whoever is in charge up there to have made the store manager have the good sense to turn on the A/C. This store is less packed, and I'm thankful for that, because less people = less stares (and lowers the probability of somebody calling the police). 

I pick up: sunscreen, aloe vera, a first aid kit, shampoo, soap and conditioner (all biodegradable), some hats, a hair brush (God knows I need one), some hair ties, bobby pins and hair clips.

I finish cashing out and rearrange everything so it fits more space efficiently in the backpacks. Running around buying things has kept my mind off my darker thoughts, but the walk back to where Maya is waiting for me gives me some unwanted time to think.

I smudge the picture out. I can't think about the past right now, I have to look to the future. Hopefully I'll have a chance to return to my old life, but right now, that isn't an option. 

My gloomy thoughts drag my feet down and slow my steps. Am I jealous? Am I scared? Goosebumps run up and down my arms.

I feel like I'm being watched.

I turn around and see a tall, looming man wearing a black trench coat following me down my Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

I start to run.

 

I feel like it's my duty to open these doors. As if I'm relied upon to. As if she relies on me to do it. How would we move from place to place unnoticed, without them? If I suddenly can't do it would she be disappointed in me? Would we get caught?

Is Teresa caught now and I just don't know it?

 

I lose him after a few blocks. He didn't follow me, so I assume he's just a random guy wearing a black trench coat, when it's like, a million degrease outside. Mafia? 

I laugh at the irony.

 

Teresa is so bossy sometimes. I can look after myself, I'm not made of china, prone to shattering if you give me a sharp glance (although she gives me loads of them herself). It's funny, because she beats me down with words, but keeps my body intact. 

Sometimes she flaunts her money, though I know she doesn't mean to do it. She's not that kind of person. She is the type of person who acts without thinking, causing people to get hurt physically and/or mentally. She doesn't mean it though. I know that.

And speaking of all that money, I wonder how Teresa feels living alone most of the time, since her parents are almost never there. They seem to grow their wealth quickly, in large quantities. With her parent's disappearances and money, if I didn't know any better, I would have assumed they were part of the Mafia.

For the first time in my life, I'm able to do something special. Although having these powers is more of a burden than a blessing, it's helping us, Teresa and I. For once, I feel useful. It's nice knowing I can do something she can't. I'm better than her at this. 

She doesn't even have her power yet. It's always been Teresa who is the better one. The perfect one. Say, Teresa and I work on a project together and we do an excellent job, she'll receive all the praise. Not me. Teresa this, Teresa that. The golden child. 

Never anything nice to say about Maya. The loyal friend who has stood with her all these years. Who's been with her when she's needed it. Who's had had her back and never let her down. Who she can count on. Her constant companion lurking in her shadow.

Does Teresa even want to have a power? 

What is it about Maya's gift that makes me so jealous and resentful of her? Is is that she has something I don't have? Is it because she's a freak? But that makes me a freak too. I guess we're both freaks. Freaks together. Freaks of nature.

This is like one of those X-men movies. Half the people see them as freaks and half accept them as who they are. Is that what we are? Mutants?

Or monsters?

I don't want to hate her, but at the same time I do. She's my friend, and I'd never abandon her. I don't don't want to lose our friendship. How have I come to this? How can I even contemplate these things? Especially about Maya. I'm an awful human being. If I can even call myself that anymore.

Is it natural for me to have these powers? I feel like a freak. This is the kind of stuff you read about, not experience. 

Would people look at me differently? Would they see me as a monster? Would I scare them? Could I hurt them?

Up to this point, I haven't even considered what she must be going through. Does she think she's a freak? I haven't exactly been the nicest person to be around this past week. I've been pretty awful to her. I'm disgusted with myself.

I'm a freak.

I'm a monster.

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