Since I’ve abandoned the car, my first priority is suplies. As our country falls into chaos, more places like convenience stores are left open and abandoned; generally they are devoid of people.
I find one after nearly an hour of alternating walking and jogging. The lights are dark, which is a good sign. That most likely means that it is empty. I start forwards, working my way towards the door. I move warily, trying to avoid being seen by anyone, if anyone is even watching for me.
I reach the door, and slowly feel the handle. It’s locked. Which is expected. I look around, to make sure that no one is watching, then hold my hand out. Staring at it, I see that my hand is trembling. I stare at it, surprised. Fear. Not something I’ve felt for a long time. But it’s there, always in my mind, somewhere in the back- somewhere in the dark places that I don’t dare go.
Then again, why shouldn’t I be afraid? This thing.. This ability is deadly. I can kill with it. I have killed with it. This thing is deadly and dangerous. I shouldn’t have it. I don’t deserve it. No one should have so much deadly power at their fingertips. No one should have to fear killing someone every time they make a mistake or get angry. I don’t deserve this, but neither does anybody else.
But it is what I have. Thanks to this curse, it is my own cross to bear. I have no choice but to learn how to control it- or I have the potential to ruin thousands of lives.
I grit my teeth, wishing I didn’t feel so strongly about the ability. Why did I have to both love it and hate it?
Slowly, I force all emotion out of my mind, giving myself the cold, hard focus that I need to stay in control. I let myself become the demon that I am.
A small flame, terrible and beautiful, lights up my palm. For a moment I hesitate, letting it dance over my fingers. Then I reach out, placing my hand against the door.
Thank goodness for concrete buildings. In a wooden building, my power is disastrous.
Screaming. High and sharp. Almost physically painful to my ears. Fire around me, that somehow didn’t hurt. Why did it have to be me? And what had I done?
I burn through the lock with a small, focused flame. The door swings open. Slowly, with extreme caution, still emotionless, I dismiss the flame. It’s so easy now. Now, after all the innocent people that I killed because of mistakes. Because of my lack of control. But I’ll never lose myself like that again.
I walk into the convenience store.
Luckily, there is still food on the shelves. I find myself a bag near the front, and begin to fill it with food.
I find several packs of gum, and am about to pass over them, when I look back. Chamberly loved gum. She had always been excited when we could get it.
I snatch several packs, even as I tell myself that I am being ridiculous. Mentally, I respond to myself that it is just this once. But I cannot lie to myself- this is for her, as if I will see her tomorrow, and give this gift to her.
I turn to keep gathering food, when I hear a voice. I freeze, preparing myself for combat. Blood rushes to my ears, almost blocking out the words. But when I hear them- and the voice speaking them- I relax, slowly steadying my breath. Because if this is who I think it is, then I have nothing to fear.
As the rushing blood fades from my ears, I listen closely to the voice, and slowly begin to smile, my expression bemused. As hard as I try, I can never lose that girl. It seems that she has the same idea as me. Or maybe she doesn’t. I begin to frown. Is she talking to herself?
“Oh, will you look at you!” her voice coos. “You are beautiful! I didn’t I’d see you again! Can I just say hello?” She keeps going. “Oh, did I ever miss you!”
Confusion builds in me. Who is she talking to?
“And you!” her voice rises into an eager squeal. “You are perfect! What would I do without you?! C’mere you. All of you. I’ll take good care of this group, don’t you worry.”
I round the corner of the isle, to see her walking along a row of hair dyes in bright colors. She reaches out with a cheerful coo, sweeping the brightest dyes into a bag.
“Kia?” I ask.
She whirls, her hand thrusting out towards me. An unseen force instantly grabs me my the back of my jacket, and throws me back across the room. Before I can recover, the same force whips me upwards. I hit the ceiling with a loud crack. The air goes out of my lungs, and I gasp in pain. Before I can regain my breath, the force releases me, and I drop back to the ground, landing hard on my chest, driving what little air I’d regained out of my lungs a second time.
“Oh my gosh, I am so sorry!”
I look up, to see Kia standing above me. Her eyes are wide with shock, and her hands rise to her mouth as she realizes that she just threw me around, not a skip tracer or soldier.
“No… no hard feelings or anything,” I groan. “What.. what was that?” even as I speak, I feel the same force again, lifting me to my feet with surprising ease.”
“I said I was sorry,” Kia insists. She really does look apologetic, so I try not to be too angry. She keeps going. “And well… I’m a Blue.”
I consider that statement for a second. It’s not a surprise- not after I’ve witnessed her abilities firsthand. In a rather painful manner. “That was… impressive.”
She blushes. “Thank you!”
For the moment, we are safe, Kia and I. We stand face to face, studying each other, each of us considering. She is most likely considering asking me if she can stay again. And I am considering whether or not to let her.
“Seems like I can’t lose you,” I shake my head with a bemused smile.
She tentatively smiles back. “I… guess not?”
“What were you doing?” I ask, glancing at her bag. Like mine, it’s full of food. However, I spot shiny wrappers of a few chocolate bars, and hair dye as well.
“Supplies,” she mutters, pulling the bag closer to her protectively.
“Just because our world’s been ruined, it doesn’t mean we can’t still keep part of ourselves,” she points out.
I am silent for a moment. Part of ourselves. I have kept nothing of myself. Nothing of the foolish boy that I was. But she just smiles, and moves towards the door.
“I should be going.”
I hesitate, and suddenly, something strange happens. Kia passes through a shaded section, and just for a moment, her eyes turn turquoise. And in that instant, I see something that shocks me.
This is who Chamberly would be if she hadn’t been taken. Of course. Everything seems to fit together. The cheery attitude. Caring about the small things. The happy-go-lucky attitude. This girl is my sister by another name. She is so much like her.
Now that I think that, I cannot let her go. I reach out, placing a hand on her shoulder, and she turns back.
“You asked me if you could stay before,” I say carefully. “Do you still-”
I get no farther. Her eyes light up with joy.
“You really mean it?”
I nod, slowly and surely.
Delight spreads across her face, and she runs to me, throwing her arms around me. Her head barely brushes against my chin as she hugs me tightly. To my surprise, she is crying. Crying. As if she really thinks I’ve done her a massive favor.
Slowly, almost tentatively, I put my arm around her. “You were scared, weren’t you?” I ask.
She nods slightly, with only the slightest motion of her head. “I… I was.”
“Well it’s alright,” I promise. “I won’t leave you behind on your own, you hear me?”
The smile on her face reminds me painfully of Chamberly. “Thank you-”
“Tam,” she repeats, the smile growing. “I- thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” I reply. And slowly, I realize that I mean it. I am happy for her to stay. I want her to be here, with me. It means something to me. Somehow, she means something to me. She is no longer the obnoxious little girl who has been following me. She is my sister by a different name. She is a scared little girl. She is something I can hold onto- something to protect. Something to care about. And that means the world to me.
Silently, I reach into my bag, and take one of the packs of gum out. When she isn’t looking, I slip it into her bag. Moments later, she finds it there, and lets out a soft squeal of pleasure. She takes one piece for herself, and offers me one. I accept it with a smile. A promise has been made. She’s part of my family now.