I looked around me and made sure that no one had noticed anything had happened. It wasn’t the first time that I’d had to do something like this for Lisa, but it was still a worry whenever I used this gift in public. I never really knew what to expect when I used it – it slowed the world down and kept me at the same speed, but if I ever forgot to check one day then I could get into some serious trouble.
Lisa was still hyperventilating, though it looked really peculiar watching it happen in slow motion. Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut causing lines to form in the corners of her eyes, her nostrils kept flaring with every intake of breath that she took and her fingers were clenching and unclenching against the fabric of her jeans.
For roughly a year I had been able to do this little magic trick. I didn’t really understand where it came from or how I could do it, but it had proven to be a handy little tool over the short amount of time I had learnt to control it in.
You see, I had entered a void – a new dimension in which everything was the same but there was no colour, the speed was slower and no one could see me. It was fascinating wandering around in that state because I could watch people and observe how they behaved before stepping back into the coloured world and continuing as though nothing had ever happened. I’d be lying if I said that I never used the power to my advantage – like walking away from someone that was annoying me or pulling a prank on someone.
Really, it was only Nathan that I pulled pranks on and they were harmless. I would just slow down time and walk up behind him before speeding time up and saying ‘hi’. He always jumped so hard and spun around to look at me annoyed. It was satisfying on the days when he decided to act like a major cock. I never let anyone know about the power though because I didn’t know how they would react. I mean, I could always trust Lisa with anything but I hadn’t even told her about this. It just wasn’t something that I could bring up in a normal conversation and seem sane about – especially when it occurred around the time that Aaron…
Okay, before I well up typing this I should probably backtrack a little. For me to probably get you to understand what the heck is going on with me I need to take this chapter back a year and a half. I need to tell you about my brother.
I sat in my bedroom tucked up in bed. I was running a fever and had vomited twice that day. It was the middle of June, the twenty-ninth, only three days away from a major swimming competition I was entered in. I was trying my hardest to make a full recovery because I needed to be a part of the tourney…
Nothing was worse than being sick in June – the weather was getting warmer and sun was shining in through my window and heating my room even more. I hated it – Mum kept saying that I needed to sweat out the virus, but I wasn’t even sure that that was a viable medical option anymore… Had it ever been? I had no idea. Mum wouldn’t let me out from underneath the covers and had left me my PS3 controller, the TV remote and my phone right next to me on my bedside table so that I wouldn’t have to move. I was watching Scrubs on Netflix, only just managing to smile because I was so drowsy from flu medication and the dense heat.
I was angry with myself for getting sick so close to the tourney, especially when I needed to go for training before. That was meant to be that evening, but I was in no fit state to go anywhere which sucked. I could hear people talking out on the landing and grumbled to myself before looking at my door as it was slowly opened.
I forced a smile onto my face when my father poked his head through the gap he had just made and smiled at me, not letting me see any part of his body, just his head. His smile turned into a goofy grin and I couldn’t help but return it properly.
“Hi, Daddy,” I said, coughing slightly due to the roughness of my throat.
“Hi, Baby,” he replied, keeping behind the door. “You feeling better?”
“Nah, Floating Head,” I groaned. “No… My stomach keeps lurching and my head is spinning… I feel drowsy and withdrawn but I can’t get to sleep for the life of me… This sucks ass…”
Dad chuckled softly and walked into my room properly, sitting down on the edge of my bed and pressing his hand to my forehead lightly. “Wow, you are still very hot…” he said, his eyebrows furrowing in concentration. My Dad was a history teacher at one of the local high schools – thankfully, not the one that I went to or I would have had to kill him. He was funny and dorky, but he did worry about me a little more than I would have liked him to.
“I’m sure I’ll be fine before the tourney,” I said, yawning slightly. “I just feel like crap right now.”
“Hmm…” he said, smoothing my fringe out of my eyes. “We need to keep you hydrated though or you won’t get better fast…” He stood up and picked up my empty glass from my bedside table, giving me a once over before heading out of the room and downstairs. I sighed softly and flopped back, rubbing my hands over my face and groaning into them. I hated being sick… I wasn’t ill often but when it did hit me I was knocked for six…
Dad came back pretty quickly and set the glass down on the table again. I hadn’t taken my hands away from my face so that only added to his worry. “Amie, are you sure you’re okay? If we need to get you to a doctor then say…”
“I’m fine, Dad,” I said, finally pulling my hands away from my face so that my voice wasn’t muffled. I gave him a weak grin and sat up a little to drink my water. He watched me to make sure I wasn’t about to throw up or pass out or both, then nodded and kissed the top of my head. “Aaron’s still going to training tonight?”
“Yeah,” he said, stretching. “Mum decided to stay home with you though so you’ll have some company. Aaron just… he really wants this tourney under his belt, you know?”
“I know…” I replied, refraining from rolling my eyes. “I’m entered in the female category, remember…”
“Baby, I know,” he said. “But…”
“No buts,” I sighed. It was always like this when it came to any kind of competition or desire Aaron and I had – my parents always supported Aaron before they supported me. I was used to it by now but that it didn’t mean that it didn’t still hurt when they took his dreams more seriously than mine. He only got into swimming because I loved going so much and he wanted to see what all the fuss was about! Mum let him tag along one day and he didn’t stop! But I couldn’t be rude to them no matter how much I wanted to, so I looked up at him and smiled as best I could. “Look, Dad, don’t sweat it… Just get him to the centre and come back okay. I’ll show you that cool trick I learnt with Photoshop tomorrow if you want.”
He knew what I was trying to do so patted my arm and kissed my head. “I’ll see you in the morning, Baby,” he said, standing up and walking over to my door. He glanced over his shoulder at me as he opened it, smiling at me as I settled back down in my covers. Dad left quietly but he was soon replaced by Aaron who sauntered in with that always-bright smile of his and happy air.
Aaron was my twin brother, but he was older than me by twenty minutes and he never let me forget it. He was tall and blonde, the same shade as me and Mum, and his eyes were the same shade of blue as mine and Dad’s. He was fairly muscular due to all the swimming he did and he had his backpack slung over his shoulder casually as he leant on the doorframe and looked at me.
“You alright, Sis?” he asked me gently. I never could stay mad at Aaron – not even when I was feeling jealous or angry or anything else. He always had this way of making me feel okay; it wasn’t his fault our parents never really took an interested in my dreams so why should I take it out on him? I wasn’t that vindictive.
“Not really but there’s not much I can do about it,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. He walked further into the room and sat down on the end of the bed, looking at my TV and laughing at one of JD’s daydreams. I chuckled too, rubbing my head and laying back a little more. “Don’t forget to focus on the breast stroke tonight. That’s your weakest style and you know you’ll get tested on it.”
“I won’t forget,” Aaron said, turning around so that he could look at me properly. “Thanks though… And you just focus on getting better! I want to be stood next to you with gold medals around both our necks on Sunday.”
“I’ll do my best, Chief,” I chuckled, giving him a salute. Aaron rolled his eyes fondly and shoved my shoulder lightly.
“You’re a dumbass sometimes,” he chuckled, shaking his head. “But I guess that comes with the territory of being the younger sibling.”
“Only by twenty minutes!” I said, pouting. “I’m sure you held me back and used me as leverage to get out first. It has to be the only way!”
Aaron laughed. “You really are a dumbass.”
“You love me for it,” I smiled.
“I do, Sis,” Aaron chuckled, ruffling my hair. He looked at the time and got up. “Well, I’ll see you later! Oh! And I haven’t been able to text Lisa back yet… Would you be able to if you get the chance…?”
“Do I wanna know what it was about?”
“Eh… Maybe not…” Aaron said, rubbing the back of his neck and grinning bashfully.
“Sexting my best friend…” I said, shaking my head in mock disappointment.
“She usually initiates it.”
“I’m not actually surprised by that,” I laughed. “Mind you, she sends me dirty texts occasionally so you better watch out~.”
Barking out one more laugh, Aaron shook his head and walked out my room. I leant my head back as the door closed behind him with a soft click and closed my eyes.
Mum shook me awake after what felt like minutes of sleeping. In actuality, when I looked at my clock, it had been five hours. I coughed and looked up at her in shock, worrying spreading from my chest through to the very tips of my being as I saw her eyes wide with anguish.
All thoughts of my illness had flown out of both of our minds as I sat up and looked at her more closely. Her eyes were damp and blood shot, her whole body was shaking as she tried to keep her tears in, and her hair was slightly messy from how she was dragging her fingers through it.
“Mum?” I asked, panicking. “What’s going on?”
“I’m so… so sorry, Honey…” she said. “You have to get dressed quick… You’re uncle, Alex, is coming to get us with Jane, Mattie and Maddy to take us to the hospital…”
“There was an accident…” Mum said. She started sobbing. “A drunk moron collided with your father’s car… It went spiralling out of control… They’re both in hospital…”
“No…” I breathed.
Mum helped me out of bed and grabbed some clothes for me, letting me get dressed and brush my teeth before we hurried downstairs and waited outside for Uncle Alex to show up. Uncle Alex was Dad’s older brother and he and his wife Jane had had Mattie and Maddy only a few days before Mum and Dad had me and Aaron – it was weird but apparently twins run in our family…
I kept my arms wrapped around myself securely, not because I was cold but because I was so anxious on top of the illness I thought I was going to throw up. I couldn’t though. Just looking at Mum made me feel the need to be strong, to keep calm for the both of us. Only one of us could lose our minds at that moment and Mum was already breaking. I couldn’t allow myself to break too.
Uncle Alex pulled up in our driveway quickly, his headlights almost blinding me when I made the mistake of looking directly at them. Mum all but pulled me towards the car and helped me get inside so I was practically sat on Madeline’s lap. She looked at me sadly and awkwardly and I tried my hardest not to cough on her though she could see how pale I was and how much weight I’d already lost from being sick. The car was way too small for all of us, but we made do.
“Have you heard anymore?” Uncle Alex said, not even glancing at either of us or saying hello as he reversed out of the driveway and headed towards the hospital.
“Not yet,” Mum said, shaking her head. She kept her eyes trained out of the window, every flash of a headlight going by making her flinch – it was unsurprising really, having just heard that a great chunk of her family had been involved in a car accident.
“I’m sure they’re both fine,” Aunt Jane said, though she didn’t sound entirely sure of herself. I frowned a little but made sure no one saw me.
Focus, Amie, focus…
It was a short drive to the hospital all things considered and we were soon making our way into the reception, Uncle Alex and Mum hurrying over to the desk whilst Aunt Jane made Matthew, Madeline and me sit in the waiting room. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone so was thankful that Aunt Jane always focused on her own kids. I played with the hem of my t-shirt and watched as Mum and Uncle Alex paced around by the desk before sitting down with us.
A full hour passed before a doctor came over to us. His ID name tag said his name was Doctor Richard MacDonald. He looked friendly and approachable but something in his eyes showed sadness that I didn’t want to find out about. Mum stood up quickly and looked at him pleadingly.
“Are you the family of George and Aaron Lane?” he asked, looking at his clipboard for a split second.
“We are,” Uncle Alex said.
“Where are my husband and son?” Mum asked. “Are they okay?”
“I have… mixed news,” Doctor MacDonald said, toying with the metal board in his hands.
“What do you mean mixed?” Aunt Jane said.
“I’ll start with Aaron…” Doctor MacDonald said. “He suffered severe bruising, tearing of muscles… and various fractures across his body including his left arm and base of his spine…”
“His spine…? He’s… He’s not…”
“He also had some internal bleeding that our surgeons were able to pick up on in time, unfortunately… Unfortunately he’s slipped into a coma… We’ve taken him to the ICU to be monitored but as of this moment we don’t know when he will wake up… if there’s any lasting mental damage… and it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be able to walk again… I wish I could give you more accurate details but things are still touch and go with him at the moment… He may be able to walk again with rehabilitation; he may be paralysed completely or just from the waist down...”
“What’s your honest opinion, Doctor?” Mum said quietly. “Will my son be okay? Will he walk? Will he even wake up…?”
“There are signs of brain activity so there is a high chance he’ll wake up…” Doctor MacDonald said, glancing at his board again. “As for walking… It’s most likely for him to be paralysed from the waist down but there is no stopping him from attempting rehabilitation.”
Mum nodded, fighting back her tears. “What about George…?”
Doctor MacDonald looked solemn, closing his eyes for a moment and swallowing. I didn’t like it. “I’m… I’m truly sorry to tell you this, Mrs Lane, but… but your husband was dead on arrival…”
“No,” I said too loudly. “No…”
“Paramedics tried to revive him in the ambulance but he wasn’t responding… We did all we could… but unfortunately your husband passed away from his injuries almost instantly…”
“No,” Mum cried, turning and hiding against Uncle Alex who looked on the brink of tears himself. “No. No. NO!”
“I hate to do this… but he needs formal identification… When you… If you could come this way…?”
Uncle Alex walked away with Mum as she sobbed. Matthew turned to me and wrapped his arms around me. I’d been so focused on my mother and the doctor that I hadn’t realised I was crying too. He held me close and I broke.
My brother was in a coma and may never be able to walk again and my father was gone… They’d been practically wiped from existence and the short time I’d fallen asleep…
Mum and I sat in Aaron’s room playing some of his favourite music to him quickly from a CD player hoping that he would be able to hear it. We wanted him to feel comfortable and safe. Neither of us had really slept in the week that followed the accident and Mum couldn’t even begin to think of things like Dad’s funeral, court proceedings that had to happen when the drunk driver was out of hospital too. I’d been given compassionate leave from school – I hated having to tell Lisa that her boyfriend was in a coma but instead of breaking down like I thought she would, she hugged me tightly and made sure I was okay. That was the amazing thing about Lisa; she had a right to cry too but she made sure I was okay first before we cried.
I was feeling better. I hadn’t been well enough to compete, not that I wanted to anymore. I couldn’t help but imagine all the things that could have happened if I had been well… Would I be dead too? Would I be in a coma? Would we have been hit in the first place? All of these thoughts had been plaguing me and I could tell similar thoughts were eating away at Mum too…
Uncle Alex had decided to take over the funeral preparations, consulting Mum every so often but she had basically become catatonic. She sat beside Aaron’s bed and stared at him, holding his unbroken hand and holding it to her lips. I remained curled up in my seat on the other side of the bed not knowing what to say or do to make it better. Mum ignored me when I tried so I stopped…
The day of Dad’s funeral. Two and a half weeks after the accident. Aaron was the same. No signs of improvement. Mum was sat in front of her mirror sorting her makeup. I was sat on the stairs watching through her open door, dressed entirely in black and feeling like I wanted to crawl under my bed and hide away.
I heard the doorbell ring so went downstairs and let everyone in one by one. My routine for the day. Open the door. Greet people. Make small talk. Listen to people talk about my father. Get asked about my brother. Where is my mother?
I felt abandoned. Mum didn’t come down until the time came for everyone to leave our home and head to the crematorium…
The ceremony was beautiful. Uncle Alex had done a wonderful job. I cried. Maddy stayed with me the entire time and held my hand, handing me tissues when I needed them. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the coffin that held my father’s body at the front of the room and when the curtains closed…
“No…” I sobbed. “Come back…”
“Come on, Amie…” Maddy said. “We’ve gotta go lay flowers down on the plot…”
“Why won’t he come back?” I asked, not realising she was steering me out of the building. “Why won’t he come back?!”
“I… I don’t know,” she replied, tearing up too. We looked at each other and she hugged me. I clung to her and pressed my face into her shoulder. I looked up as I heard high heels clacking on the pavement in front of me and saw Mum walking away towards the car. I couldn’t cope. “Amie? Do you want to let the attendants set the flowers down and go home? We can come by another day and lay down our own flowers then…”
Mum had locked herself in her room the minute we got home. Everyone was still there but she had left me to it once again. I wanted to scream at her but there was nothing I could do… I mingled with everyone and made sure they had food and drink, got talked to by relatives I’d never seen before and put up with comments about the accident and how it was a shame all of this had happened.
When talks turned to Aaron, I hurried out of the room and into the back garden. I walked to the very back and sat on a porch alone, looking at the Koi pond Dad had installed when I was two-years-old. I loved that pond and the fishes… So did Dad…
I was so angry and frustrated, scared and confused, upset and broken… I couldn’t find all the pieces that had broken away from me and nothing made sense. I rubbed my hands together, mingling my fingers and groaning as I tried not to cry. I clicked my fingers in frustration and that was when it first happened.
I was so startled that I fell off the bench. Everything turned black and white and the world slowed down. I screamed. I thought I’d hit my head and damaged my eyes. But no one came running. I looked back towards the house and blinked as I saw all the glittering colours, watching as Uncle Alex stepped outside by himself and walked over to the Koi pond.
That’s when I saw it.
At that moment, I had no clue what it was. Now I call them Shards. I walked over to him and looked at the Shard closely. He was crying, the first time I’d seen him do so since the accident. Curious, I took it away. It was pinned to his lapel, broken and pale lilac. I stepped back, looking at it in my hands, turning it over as I tried to figure out why this one the only thing in colour. I looked back at Uncle Alex and blinked.
He’d stopped crying.
I moved back to my bench and sighed, deciding to click my fingers again to see what would happen. I was surprised when the colour melted back into the world and everything returned to a normal speed. I looked at my hands and saw the Shard was gone.
He jumped and looked round. “Amelia…” he breathed. “Hey… I… I didn’t see you there…”
“Sorry… I’ve been here the whole time though…”
“Sorry,” he muttered.
“I, um… Were you crying?”
He blinked. “Oh, um. Yeah… Yeah, I was,” he sighed.
“Are you okay?”
“You know what,” he said, a small smile forming on his face. “I am okay… I think everything’s going to be okay.”
From that point on, I kept on practicing with this new found gift of mine and learnt just what it was I could do. When the world was black and white I was in a new place that I could manipulate. I could cause changes in the real world and help whenever I wanted. The pieces of glass that I found that I called Shards were all tied to negative emotions.
When I took away my uncle’s Shard, I took away the depression he was feeling at that second. He felt okay, could see clearly. I tried it on other people to test – when Mum came downstairs I took away a blue shard as she was about to cry; I took away a red Shard from Lisa when someone made a comment about Aaron; and they weren’t the only people. As I took note of what Shard meant what emotion, I learnt when to take it away and when to leave it. When fear pushed someone to do something great, I was glad I left it in place – sometimes people just need the right shove.
So, back to Lisa and the panic attack in the hallway.
Aaron was still in his coma – he had small signs of improving but he was still out for the count. Mum was… Mum was a very unhappy woman… And I was living every day differently.
Carefully I pulled the teal Shard off of her headband and put it into my bag. I kept the Shards for personal reasons I’ll reveal later on. I could see her calming down slowly so remained crouched and clicked my fingers, watching as she took one more deep breath and looked up at him.
“God, I hate when that happens,” she said. I helped her to her feet and chuckled. “Sorry, Amie. What were we doing?”
I smiled. “Let’s just go get a drink from a vending machine, yeah?”