Callie knew nothing with any certainty, but she was sure she was being followed. She had that sick, sticky feeling in the pit of her stomach that told her something just wasn’t quite right. The kind of feeling that sped up her heart rate and had her instincts screaming at her to run.
Her eyes flickered around the school hallway, looking for something that shouldn’t be there—something abnormal.
Students walked in every which direction, most late to class, and even more not caring. A few girls, with fresh lip gloss painted upon their lips, skipped out of the bathroom. A large boy, with a blue letterman jacket and a white W above his heart, yelled to another boy with the same jacket about some game that was going to take place later on that week. Freshman weaved through the crowds carrying several large textbooks, rushing to get to class on time.
Everything seemed normal.
She let out a curt laugh at the thought of her looking for something abnormal. She was the definition of abnormal. She may have looked normal on the outside with, black hair cut so short that it barely touched her shoulders and a pair of icy blue eyes that would make anyone but her seem cold and unloving, but on the inside there was something…off.
The obnoxious kid that owned the locker next to Callie’s slammed the door shut. The harsh, jarring sound of metal being pushed against metal startled her out of her thoughts. For a split second fear spiked up insider her. She quickly calmed herself down, remembering how dangerous it was to let her emotions run wild. Her eyes swept across the immediate area, looking for any damage that she may have caused. There was none. Silently she thanked nobody in particular, grabbed her chemistry book, and walked to class.
Callie had attended a number of schools over the years, but this one was nicer than most of the others she had been enrolled in. The school itself, Westley High, was fairly new, only around twelve years old. It wasn’t a large school; her sophomore class had only 107 students. The walls, made of brick, had gotten a fresh coat of white paint over the summer and the gym had gotten a new wooden floor. The lockers were a little beat up, but at least they all shut completely, which was an upgrade from most of the schools she had attended. She had only been there a few weeks, but she has come too really like it.
Taking a left at the water fountain landed Callie in a room with several large, black topped tables that all connected to a sink in the middle of the room. The chemistry room’s white walls were decorated with safety posters and printed off signs that had the school’s motto: Soaring with the Spirit of Excellence, in large letters. Hot plates and beakers were neatly and safely stacked on a shelf by the teacher’s desk.
Sighing Callie sat down at the table next to the window. The tables were too high up for regular chairs, so stools were used instead. She sat in the one that wobbled.
Students continued to wander in, none of them taking a seat next to Callie. She pretended not to notice, but she did. As a foster kid it was hard to make friends, most of the time she was never around long enough to learn the names of her classmates. And hardly anybody ever made an effort to get to know her.
It was difficult not having anybody to really talk too. Loneliness followed her around like a dark cloud, making the days seem even longer and more dreadful. The constant loneliness eventually led to depression. And the depression just got worse with every new foster home and new school.
Occasionally someone would come along and try to at least spark up a conversation with her. She appreciated the gesture, but she never felt comfortable enough to talk back. She knew from experience that once they found about her secret they would try to get away from her as quickly as they could. She didn’t blame them. She could lie to herself all she wanted, but she knew that if the roles were switched and she came across someone who could do the things she could, she would run just as quickly.
Ten minutes after the last student wandered in, the class began to get rowdy. The teacher still hadn’t arrived, and for most this meant a free class period. Trying to ignore her classmates, Callie pulled out her book and began to read. She barely got halfway through two pages when a man walked in.
He walked with purpose. He was short, but he stood tall. He was in his late forties, and had thinning brown hair and dark eyes. He had a tight scowl on his face. He was dressed nice, like most teachers he had a light blue button up shirt with a tie, and black pants along with shiny black shoes.
Callie accidentally locked eyes with the man.
His dark eyes bore into her with a judgmental look. Callie tried to read his expression, but he kept his face blank. He gave her a quick up down with his eyes. He must have decided that he liked her well enough, because the ends of his lips twitched upward.
He snapped his eyes away from her and turned around to face the marker board. He didn’t even bother to look around the classroom at the other students. “My name is Mr. Wexton,” he said writing it up on the board in big letters. “I will be you substitute teacher for the day.”
The room was quiet. Mr. Wexton whipped around to face the class. He carefully avoided meeting Callie’s eyes. “Find a partner.”
“But we are supposed to take a test today,” a girl with bright pink hair said.
“Yeah,” Samson, a boy with a hard jaw line and high cheek bones, agreed. “I even studied.”
Mr. Wexton’s eyes snapped shut in frustration. Slowly he opened them again and pretended to think, putting on a show. “Well then Mr.?” He raised his eyebrows, waiting for Samson to answer.
“Andrews. Samson Andrews.”
“Well then Mr. Andrews, since you studied and all, why don’t you go take the test in the office? Hmm?”
Samson was about to argue, but Mr. Wexton had already grabbed the test off the teacher’s desk and shoved it towards him. Samson rolled his eyes ready to fire off insults, but Mr. Wexton gave him a cold look. Samson quickly grabbed his pen and left the classroom. He didn’t even look back to see his friends snickering at his expense.
Mr. Wexton’s eyes scanned over the class once more, this time meeting Callie’s. “Find a partner,” he said again. Taking a seat behind the cottonwood desk, he never broke eye contact with Callie.
The sick, sticky feeling in her stomach was back. She was the one to break the eye contact. She swiftly looked down at the floor as the loud, jarring noise of the student’s getting up and moving around filled the classroom. After a few painful long minutes almost everyone had a partner. Almost everyone.
Callie looked up from the floor; she knew that with Samson gone there would be an even number, some poor unfortunate soul would be stuck with her. And she would be stuck with someone that nobody else wanted. It was a lose-lose situation all around.
A girl with straight blonde hair and wide eyes came and sat down in the stool next to Callie’s. “I’m Brittany. We have English together,” she said setting her book down.
“Yeah, I know. You wrote the short story about a spider having a conversation with a flea.” Callie gave her a soft smile.
It was no secret that Brittany was different from the rest of the students. She had a fascination with bugs and even though she was a sweet, intelligent girl, people couldn’t see past the bug obsession.
Brittany looked embarrassed, “It wasn’t my best work.”
Callie had to agree with her, the story was long and boring with virtually no plot, but she knew just how far a few kind words could go. “I thought it was great,” she said as she opened her book.
It wasn’t much, those five little words; but when a lonely person gets a compliment, even one as small as that one, it can make a big difference.
Brittany was about to say something when Mr. Wexton bought over a petri dish with water in it, setting it down closer to Callie. “Turn to page 456 and follow the instructions,” he said in a monotone voice.
Callie watched as he turned and walked away trying to decide if he was a threat or if she was just being paranoid. He didn’t look like a threat, but like a normal middle aged man, but something deep in the pit of Callie’s stomach told her that he wasn’t who he claimed to be.
“So should we get started?” A soft, high pitched voice brought Callie out of her thoughts. She shook her head clear and smiled over at Brittany once more.
Callie started to read from her textbook. “Step one put eight drops of food coloring in the water.” Callie looked up. “Okay,” she said, “Where is the food coloring?”
Brittany looked around but Callie was the first to spot it. “There,” she pointed in the direction of a bottle of red food coloring.
“I’ll get it,” Brittany said skipping over the counter in the corner next to the window, her long hair flowing behind her.
Callie watched till she was half way there, and then went back to reading the directions in the book. She was lost in the information she was reading, not noticing Mr. Wexton picking up an old text book from the shelf, raising it high above his head and then slamming against an empty desk.
Bam the sound rang out.
She jumped, fear spiking through her. Her breath quickened and beads of sweat appeared on her forehead. Her heart raced, her face flushed, and she started to shake. But it wasn’t because of the book; no it was because the water in the petri dish had become frozen.
Panic washed over her as she reached out with a shaky hand, trying to hide the evidence. Unfortatnly it was too late, Brittany had already returned.
“What the hell?” she nearly screamed.
“I…it’s…really,” Callie stuttered out trying to avoid whatever horror was about to break loose, but this only stressed her out even more and within seconds of the first word being sputtered out of her mouth the sink exploded.
Water shot six feet into the air, hitting the ceiling with a force that almost knocked the cheap tile out of place. The pipes creaked and groaned with the gallons of water flooding through them. Three students who were standing too close were completely soaked. Like a fountain the water didn’t stop, but the force eventually died down to a point that the water only reached a foot into the air.
Callie took in several deep breaths, but it was futile. The new water fountain would not die. Brittany looked over at her with a terrified look and started to back away slowly.
Standing up quickly, Callie didn’t even bother to grab her books as she ran out the door; her sight was blurred from tears that threatened to fall. She stumbled out into the hallway, almost falling. She looked around for the closest door. She needed to get out of there before someone could figure out it was her that has caused the trouble.
The one by the gym, she thought. Nobody will be there.
Callie started to run again, but stopped when she heard a voice call out. “Callie wait! I can help you.”
She stopped dead.
“I can help you,” the voice said again, this time softer.
Nobody can help me. I’m not human, she thought, but turned around anyway. Her eyes locked with Mr. Wexton’s. He stood about four feet across from her. She took a step back, ready to run.
“How?” Callie asked in a voice that was almost pleading. “How can you help someone like me?”
Mr. Wexton took a small step toward her, “My name is Alder.” Alder kept walking towards her with small, tip-toed steps till he was only a foot away. “You can do things can’t you?”
Callie nodded, her eyes were wide and cautious. “You said you can help me. Nobody can help me.”
“What makes you so sure?” the man inquired.
“I’m different.” This was not a conversation she wanted to have with a complete stranger.
“When you get scared or angry or even excited the water around you reacts in a certain way doesn’t it?” Alder’s voice was gentle, understanding. “I know this because the same thing happens to me.”
“What?” Callie gasped and resisted the urge to cry. For the first time in her life she didn’t feel like an outcast.
Alder nodded. “It’s true. Only it’s the earth that reacts and not water. I can move dirt and rocks. I can make trees grow. I can make the leaves fall off in the dead of summer and make them grow in the middle of winter.”
Callie’s eyes made contact with Alder’s again. This time it was intense, almost like it was a stare down. She looked deep into his dark eyes looking for the truth, waiting for him to back down and admit he was lying. But instead he reached for her hand.
“Let me show you,” he said. He released her hand and walk past her without another word.
Letting him walk past her, Callie didn’t move. “There are others,” she whispered to herself. She whipped her head around just in time to see Alder turning the corner. Hesitating for only a few seconds, Callie ran after him.
Soon she caught up with him, but not before she was scolded by one the math teachers for running. Following him through the hallways, Callie quickly glanced at him and shook her head. Callie prided herself as a clever girl, not one to jump to conclusions nor was she gullible. Then why, she had to ask herself was she following him? She had no proof he could do the things he claimed, yet here she was following him around like an obedient dog.
It was hope, she figured. Hope that what he was saying was truly true. Hope that she could maybe belong somewhere. Hope that there were others. Hope. It was a stupid four letter word that bred internal misery. Callie has always hated hope, so many times hope had gotten her spirits up and then reality came around and smashed them. Then hope would come around and she would pick up the pieces, then once again reality would come back around. After a while she just gave up on hope.
But even though it had been years since she had allowed herself to frolic in the perfect scenarios that hope brought, Callie thought her herself, Maybe, just maybe, he’s telling the truth. Maybe, just maybe I’m not alone.
They walked past the trophy cases and took a short cut through the library. Callie knew where they were going. The school had a greenhouse attached to the agricultural room. When they arrived Callie wasn’t surprised to find the room completely empty. It was Mrs. Corr’s free period. She only knew this because once after she had accidently blown up Samson’s water bottle, Mrs. Corr had to come in and cover the class because Mr. Raskk had run from the room thinking he had gone insane. Last she had heard, Mr. Raskk had checked into an intuition.
Alder, who was a few steps ahead of her, had beaten her to the door. He held it open and swung his right arm across his chest as if presenting a treasured jewel to an audience. “Ladies first,” he said.
Never having been in the greenhouse before, Callie was astonished by the many flowers and plants that grew there. The room was nearly full with old, wooden tables. The only way to walk through was by a single, graveled walkway that was a foot wide. The walkway wrapped around the tables, making a circle around the tomato plants. Red, pink, and yellow roses hung down from the ceiling in black, plastic pots. Purple daisies that had barely blossomed were aligned on the edge of a table closest to Callie. The daisies eventually merged in with the pink and yellow tulips. The garden of tulips then ended and marigold took the stage. Callie continued to walk through the greenhouse looking at all the flowers, each one more beautiful then the next.
When the walkway finally ended and Callie found her standing next to Alder, she couldn’t help but feel a tad bit disappointed. As she walked through the greenhouse she had seen almost every kind of flower she knew of and even a few she hadn’t heard of before, but as she walked along the rocky trail, she didn’t come across the flower she loved the most; a lily.
Alder picked up on the disappointed look Callie let creep across her face as her self- guided tour ended. “Is there a particular flower that you would like to that isn’t here?” he asked her as a knowing smirk danced across his face.
Callie brushed a strand of stray hair behind her ear. “A lily,” she whispered.
“A lily, huh? I thought you might say that. Grab that old pot sitting in the corner over there, will you?” Alder watched as Callie picked up the pot. Brushing the cobwebs out of it, she handed it back to him.
Noticing his eyes sweeping over the room looking for something, Callie was about to ask if he needed anything else, but before she could get the words out Alder had grabbed a pot off one of the tables. He wrapped his long, slim fingers around the stems of three purple daises and tugged. Without much effort he pulled the flowers out, roots and everything. He carelessly tossed the dying flowers to the side, dirt flying off the uprooted roots in the process. He then dumped the soil that once gave nutrients to the daisies into the pot Callie had handed to him.
Callie scrunched her eyebrows together in confusion. “If you needed a pot of dirt, wouldn’t it have been easier to just rip out the flowers and use that pot?” She asked casually.
“I like this pot,” was the only answer he provided.
“It has a crack at the bottom.”
“You know,” he mocked, “I don’t recall asking you for your opinion.”
Callie rolled her eyes. “Are you going to plant me a lily or what?”
Alder reached deep into his pocket and pulled out a small pouch of lily seeds. “I will do you one better,” he said. “I will grow you a lily.”
Before she had a chance to ask what the difference was, Alder had ripped open the pouch with his teeth and pushed a single seed deep into the soil. With a quick side glance in Callie’s direction, he twisted his middle finger around his index finger and bent his pinky down. Within moments a small, green bud popped out of the soil. The green bud then sprouted into a stem that grew longer and longer until leafs began to form. Then four, beautiful, white lily petals blossomed out of the stem forming a perfect lily.
Callie’s eyes were wide and her mouth had dropped open a bit. This was just not possible. She knew she was a freak of nature, but for there to be another was almost impossible to believe. She was a fluke, a mistake, a mutant, yet here she was staring at a flower that this man just grew within a matter of seconds.
“I have come here to get you,” Alder whispered, “I want you to come with me. I can take you to a place where there are other people like you, teenagers like you. You don’t belong here.”
“But…,” Callie let the refusal die out on her lips when she realized she didn’t have any reason not to go.
“But what? Do you have any loyalties here?” Alder asked as he petted the petals of the flower.
“No,” she said slowly.
“Then what is the problem?”
Callie stared at him blankly for a few moments. “What’s the problem?” She asked bewildered at his stupidity. “I just met you.”
“And?” The confusion in his voice was clear.
Callie fought off a smile. “And what if you kill me? How do I know you’re not some psycho murder, rapist, or something along those lines?”
The expression on Alder’s face made it obvious to Callie that he hadn’t thought that. His eyes widened a bit then his eyebrows scrunched together. His mouth opened as if he was going to say something, then it snapped shut again.
“What if I promise not to kill you?” He finally asked after few moments of silence, putting epenthesis on the word not.
“You’re kidding right?”
He laughed, “Yeah, I didn’t think that would work.” His fingers gently rubbed the white petals of the lily he was holding. “Callie,” he said in a voice that was nearly a whisper, “I didn’t come here by accident.”
“I’m beginning to see that,” she said, looking at the ground.
Alder’s voice got a little sharper as he explained the predicament one last time. “Being here is dangerous,” he said. “Every moment I’m here, every moment I’m away from my home, the risk of getting caught or injured rises. I will not risk the lives of my friends and family for you. You have two choices Callie; come with me and live among others like you, or stay here, where you will be an outcast the rest of your life. The choice is yours. When I’m finished, I will walk out this door and if you do not follow, I can promise you, I will never come looking for you again.”
When Alder finished his last sentence, he reached out his hand and held the lily out for Callie to take. The moment her fingers wrapped around the stem, he turned and walked out the door, keeping his promise.
Looking upon the flower, Callie didn’t know what to do. But within seconds she made up her mind. Throwing the lily to the side, she ran after Alder for the second time that day.
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