Lacey was asked to come down to Harrisonburg to hang out with Bug for the day at 9 pm the night before by her grandmother. That request sparked a stern talk about why spending time with Bug was a very bad idea from her mother, directed at both her and her grandma. This stern talk turned into an argument between her and her mother which then led to an argument between her mom and her dad. Lacey could hear the argument, as her parents made no attempt to keep it quiet. Her father was for Lacey going to Harrisonburg to spend time with Bug, whereas her mother was completely against it. A few other things were said between the two as they moved to another room, which was confusing for Lacey, as she didn’t understand what the fuss was about. Her grandmother had told everyone that the Agency had placed Bug with her for the time being until a foster family could be found.
Her grandmother had also told them that Bug was a refugee, although she didn’t tell them which European or Asian country Bug was from, and during the attempt to flee, Bug’s family was killed and the girl herself suffered a severe head injury that rendered her amnesiac. This would lead to some awkward situations, such as the one between Lacey’s mother and Bug during Thanksgiving. Now, when Lacey could no longer hear the argument between her parents, she used her ability to spy. A while ago, Lacey had figured out a trick with her telepathic ability. She could use it to mentally hear an argument since all words said, or in this cause, yelled, are first formed within the mind. It, so far, had a limit of a twenty-five-foot radius, but in her home, that was more than enough to listen in on the argument. By that time, it was basically over. Her father won out; Lacey was going to Harrisonburg to spend time with Bug.
So, at 10 am the following morning, Lacey stood next to the bed that held a sleeping Bug, who still had a hoodie on. Her grandmother had told her that she and Bug had had a falling out the night before and she didn’t think it would be a good idea for her to wake up the teenager, so she had asked Lacey to do it. It was simple enough. What could possibly go wrong? This was Bug.
“Wake up, Bug,” she said. Bug didn’t stir. Hmm... alright, again.. “Come on Bug, time to get up.” This time Bug stirred a bit, but she didn’t get up nor wake up. “AHHH!!!” Lacey screamed while shaking Bug. Lacey now understood how much of a heavy sleeper Bug was, but no one, not even those in a coma, could sleep through the piercing scream; Lacey was sure it shattered windows a mile away.
Well, Bug didn’t get up, but she did wake up. Lacey knew this because Bug raised her fist and punched Lacey right smack in her cheek with enough force to send her crashing down on her ass.
I woke to someone calling my name. I was still a bit groggy and the voice was quiet, making it difficult for me to figure out who was waking me. But I knew that it was the old lady, who I was still angry with. Who else could it be? It was just me and her in this godforsaken house. So I refused to get up. I refused to even let the old lady know I was awake. But, again, she called my name, trying to wake me. I moved a bit, but I did not get up. Sure I was hungry, but my hunger wasn’t strong enough to make me get out of this bed.
But the old lady wasn’t done. She put her hand on my back and started screaming and shaking me, hard. That’s it. I’ve had enough of this shit. When she stopped screaming and shaking me, I took my hand, clenched it into a fist, and punched the old lady in the face. I heard the thump as she hit the ground and her exclaiming “Ouch!”
Wait a second, that voice didn’t belong to the old lady. It was a young, sweet voice, kind, but frustrated about getting punched in the face. Who did it belong to… “HOLY FUCK, LACEY?” I screamed as I shot up. My eyes came to rest on Lacey flat on her ass rubbing her cheek. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry.”
“You punched me,” Lacey said quietly.
“I’m sorry. I really am. I thought you were your grandmother,” I apologized again.
“You punched me,” Lacey said again. She seemed to be in shock. Then she started laughing. “You fucking punched me!”
This caught me by surprise. “Uh… what?”
“That was awesome, Bug. A solid punch. I mean, you’re tiny, but that had a shit ton of force behind it.” She got to her feet. “And the fact it was meant for my grandma is even better. Geez, Bug, you are going to give those boys a run for their money. The second they go against you, you can knock them dead.”
“Dead?” I asked. I didn’t want to kill anybody.
“Oh, right. It's an expression, Bug. It doesn’t mean what it says.” Lacey rubbed her cheek. “Hurry up and get dressed, we got a big day,” she said. I gave her a questioning look. “My granny gave me permission to take you into town and hang. If we hurry, we can beat the line at the Chinese stand and I get more time to stare at that hot college guy that works there.”
“Aren’t you a college student?” I asked.
“Exactly… hey, you dyed your hair again! Such a punk look, Bug. It suits you.” Again? I pulled a strand that I could still see and was dismayed to find that overnight, the pink had gotten brighter and more defined. Fucking wonderful.
After a buffet-like breakfast and a nice ride in Lacey’s car to Harrisonburg, we stood in front of a high class appearing clothes store. “I get to take you to the mall, but in return, I’ve got to take you to get a uniform for this school.” Lacey had explained a bit about the school during breakfast, that it was a school for superhumans, that it was run by the Agency, and it required its students to wear uniforms. Just wonderful. The store itself was located in a small, separate building next to the mall but not connected. It was called Genesis Variety, which I found to be a very strange name. “Genesis was the name of a former superhuman team during the Cold War,” Lacey informed me as we walked in. “The owner is the daughter of a former member of that team.”
We were immediately greeted by yet another old lady. “Lacey, it’s good to see you again. How's your grandmother been?”
Lacey shrugged, but her face became uneasy and worrisome. “Oh, I see. Anyways, what brings you tiny things here today?” the new old lady inquired. I frowned. I didn’t like to reminded of my size. My weight as of this morning was 90 pounds and I was still five foot two. Lacey was slightly taller than me, but we were both tiny.
“Well,” Lacey started, putting her hand on my shoulder, “Bu… Claire is starting at Providence Meadows tomorrow as a middle school student and my grandmother, who is her guardian, would like you to get her set up with a uniform.”
“Alright then.” The new old lady smiled. “Let's get you suited up.”
It was at this point that I should've realized that my best course of action was to run out the door, because fifteen minutes later, I stood in front of a mirror in the back room with Lacey and the new old lady wearing my first skirt since I woke up and a blouse with a bow tied around my collar. I recalled Lacey telling me that the middle school students wore Catholic school-like uniforms, while the high school students wore more military-like uniforms to signify their rank, their age, experience, maturity, and power. Just wonderful.
“I don’t like it,” I said after a bit of studying. I was still wearing the beanie I’d stuck on before I left, but it didn’t change that the bow made me look silly, the blouse broadcasted to the world that I wasn’t outstanding in any way, and the skirt made me feel exposed.
“You look like a young lady. A little makeup -- perfection,” the new old lady commented. “But you could do less with one thing,” she said and came over, reached down, and yanked my beanie off, showing my now visible color-changing hair. I quickly yanked it back down on my head, covering my hair. “Uh, yeah, just a tiny bit of makeup,” she said, acknowledging my reason for wearing it.
“You look cute.” Lacey gave me a thumbs up.
“I don’t like it, especially this skirt,” I pouted. The skirt was quite long, reaching to my knees, but it still made me feel exposed.
“You’ll get used to it. I did and I enjoy them more than pants,” Lacey said as she smoothed out her own skirt to make a point.
“Maybe,” I said, doubting Lacey. But it did bring up a thought. I turned away from Lacey and rolled up my sleeves a bit. The blouse had long sleeves that covered the scars, which had yet to heal, but now it made me wonder something. What if I loved wearing skirts before this? I clenched my fists at the thought. “Can I change back into my dull clothing?” I asked, ready to put those thoughts out of my mind. I didn’t want to be reminded of how depressing my situation was on this special day.
“Go on ahead. I need to get some measurements for gym clothes, but I don’t need you in that uniform to do that,” the new old lady said as she looked through several boxes. I felt relieved when I changed back into my nice, dull clothes. I felt like me, a pinkish haired, amnesiac teenage girl who had no place in this world.
The new old lady took the measurements, and bingo, we were done. The stuff that I had to get seemed expensive, and I didn’t know how we were going to pay for it. I brought this up, but the new old lady put her hand up and told me that it was on the house.
“Why?” I asked Lacey after we were outside.
Lacey shrugged. “I don’t know and I wasn’t about to pick through Mrs. Beatrice or my grandma’s minds to find out.” Lacey actually shuddered at that. At least, though, I now knew that the new old lady was called Mrs. Beatrice. “Now that’s done, let's go have fun!” Lacey grabbed my arm and pulled me toward her car, nearly tripping me with the bags I was carrying.
The first store Lacey wanted to go once we were inside the mall was a clothes store. Go figure. As we headed to the entrance, I discovered that it was a modest clothing store, which made me believe I was the reason we were here. “Let’s get you into something more comfortable and stylish,” Lacey said. As much as I was enjoying hanging out with Lacey, I didn’t really want to style just yet.
But something caught my eye. A poster on the wall. A poster that showed a family. A mother and a father and their two kids, a boy and a girl. They were at the beach, having fun as a family. I took a deep breath and turned away, trying to shake the doubting and depressing thoughts creeping back into my mind. But I saw another poster of another family. And another and another. I stepped back, my thoughts drifting back to my situation, Lacey failing to notice. My eyes fell on actual families that were here, mothers and fathers and children. I rolled up my sleeves a bit, seeing the constant reminder of what I was. This store was a family friendly store: everything, the clothing lines, the products, posters, the families shopping here, even the employees, was all geared to family. Something that I didn’t have. Something that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t remember whether or not I had what was shown in the poster. I recalled the argument from the night before. These posters, the scars on my arm, this store: all served to remind me of my place in this world. I had no place, I had no memories of who or what I was, I had nothing. In anguish over this, I ran out of the store, away from the reminders, away from Lacey.
Lacey found me a half hour later. I hadn’t made any attempt to leave the mall or hide in a bathroom. I’d just found a comfortable chair on the far end of the mall where there were very few people, curled myself up, my legs against my chest, my arms around my legs, and started crying.
“Bug, what happened back there? You just took off… hey, are you crying?” she asked when she saw the tears. I looked up at her, my eyes red and teary. Lacey’s face took on a concerned, mothering look. “Oh god, what’s wrong, Bug?”
Rubbing my eyes, I said: “That store. It… it…” I couldn’t get the words out. “It reminds me too much,” I finally said.
“Reminds you of what?” she asked, still concerned.
Instead of answering, I did something I should’ve done when I first met her. I was tired of hiding, so I pulled my sleeves up, revealing the scars that decorated my arms. Lacey became wide-eyed. I started talking, this time with a purpose, to tell the truth to Lacey. “I don’t know what the old lady told you, but all I know is that I woke up on a farm a few weeks ago. I woke with bruises and scars, and nothing else. Claire? That isn’t my real name. And Bug? I picked that name because I got annoyed at a police officer who wouldn’t shut up. Truth is, I know absolutely nothing about who or what I am. And the posters and that family in that store reminded me that I fear that I have… nothing,” I said slowly. I’d finally acknowledged it. It wasn’t a depressing thought. It was something that I was truly afraid of. That I had nothing to go back to, that I truly was never part of this world.
Lacey took in all that I said, then, to my surprise, gave me a big hug. “Bug, you have something. I’m your friend. And my grandma? Don’t worry, she may seem distant, but my conversation with her last night made me realize that she does truly care for you, regardless of how she acts.” Lacey took both my hands. “I was told that you were a refugee, but that doesn’t matter. Why you have these scars doesn’t matter either. You may think that you may have been nothing before; what matters is that you are someone now, and more importantly, you are someone to me. You are my sister, Bug.” Lacey hugged me again. “I got the message, no more clothes store for a while. But I see that I need to get you a new pair of boots.” She pointed down at my feet. Studying the boot, I discovered that the boot was nearly ready to fall apart. “After that, we can head over and grab some lunch, then off to the bookstore!” Lacey pulled me out of the chair and onto my feet, ready to move.
I felt relieved, happy. Lacey was honest, I could sense it. I was getting a lot better at controlling my mind reading ability, but I didn’t need it to know that Lacey was telling the truth. Sure, Lacey wasn’t blood-related, but certainly though, in such a short period of time, Lacey considered me part of her family. It felt good to finally belong to something.
We went into a small shoe store. I was pretty stubborn about what I wanted, which was basically what I already had, small black boots. I ended up getting boots that looked exactly like the ones I had. They were called Double Platinum Combat Boots, but Lacey called them SWAG boots, whatever that meant. They were actually very cheap and I was happy to have something to call my own, even if they were shoes.
True to her word, we got Chinese food from a vendor in the mall. “This vendor is owned by the Fortune House, a popular restaurant in this area and the same place my grandma bought food from yesterday. Problem is, that hot guy that works here isn’t here today. So I don’t get a show today and the food isn’t going to taste as good,” Lacey explained as we stood in line. I guess if I liked the food here, then I wouldn’t mind eating the leftovers tonight with the old lady, who I was considering forgiving after today. I was still angry at her, but I didn’t want to be angry. “Oh! I’ve been meaning to tell you…” Lacey suddenly declared, “Grandma told me that you spent the whole day asleep in the bathroom yesterday, and I figure you are probably wondering why.” Hmm… yeah, I was wondering why. The argument last night caused me to forget about it, but now that I was reminded of it, I really did want to know.
“Yeah, I am,” I said as we grabbed our food and sat down.
“You had an oversleep,” Lacey said as she began to dig into her food.
“An over what?”
“Your body’s tolerance of the use of your ability grows over time, as do the energy resources needed to actually use the ability. When you use your abilities past your body’s limit and deplete that reserve, you have an Overuse Sleep, oversleep, which is where your body attempts to refill that reserve and build more tolerance. I would personally have terrible migraines when my ability first emerged.” Lacey cringed.
“Must’ve been painful.”
“Oh, they were.” Lacey gave a small smile. It was nice to know why I’d fallen asleep in the bathroom of the library, but it also drove me to want to use my abilities even more. Speaking of which,
“Lacey, what can you tell me about this school?” I asked, curious as to what I would face tomorrow.
Lacey shrugged. “I have no idea. I never attended. I was sent to a private school near Northern Virginia, one that avoided the very mention of superhumans. I guess my parents wanted to avoid telling people that their daughter was a telepath.”
Now I needed to know. “Why are telepaths hated so much?” Lacey mentioned that telepaths won’t held in high regard, and reading people’s minds was basically equal to raping someone. Instead of answering me, Lacey shrugged again.
“It's really complicated,” Lacey offered, then she snapped her fingers. “You will need to know the different levels.”
I gave Lacey a look that basically translated into ‘I have no idea what you are talking about’. Lacey quickly understood this and set her food down.
“Alright, so there are four levels used to describe superhuman powers. It's really simple. There are levels one, two, three, and four. Level ones are the most common and level fours are the rarest. I’m personally a level three, and far as I’m aware of all or most of the superhumans that attend this school is between levels one and two. Most of the superhumans who still live in the United States are between those two levels. It’s not very often you find a level three like me around, and it's virtually unheard of in recent days to find a level four.”
“What level do you think I am?” I asked Lacey, curious for her opinion.
“Probably a three.” Lacey thought for a second, then give me a really wide smile. “Who knows though. You could even be a four!” I shrugged, but I was doubtful. “Keep your head down and don’t piss off anybody and you will be fine. All I really know is that my grandma signed you up for the three-day test run that the school does every year right before Christmas.” Speaking of the old lady.
“Quick question, Lacey. Where is your grandma today?” I inquired.
“She went to Washington today. Her daughter, Jerri, is in a coma. Granny wanted to see her one more time before she… um… before Christmas.” Lacey stuttered on the last part and I was beginning to get suspicious of the old lady’s health. “Speaking of Christmas, what do you want most?
“Uh… I don’t know.” And I meant it. I remembered very little about Christmas.
“I’m sorry, Bug, I didn’t mean to remind you of your situation,” she said apologetically. Out of nowhere, someone ran up, took Lacey’s purse, dumped its contents on the floor, dropped the purse onto the floor, winked at me, and then ran off, laughing. “Asshole,” Lacey yelled out, then leaned down to pick up everything.
“Who was that?” I asked as leaned down to help her pick up the stuff dropped on the floor.
“An asshole that was once my boyfriend,” Lacey grumbled, “Every time he sees me, he always does that. It's so annoying.”
As I was picking up the stuff, I came across a photo. In it was a young girl, maybe five years old, and an older boy. It took me a second to realize that the girl appeared to be a very young Lacey, and the boy looked very similar to her, indicating that he was her brother. Problem was, I had met all of Lacey’s siblings and this boy wasn’t one of them. Heck, this boy wasn’t even in any of the photos at her house. I flipped the photo over and written on the back was ‘Jared and Lacey, 2001. “Who's Jared?” I asked Lacey.
Lacey looked at the photo and froze. Her mouth tried to form words, but nothing came out. Her face became depressed and upset, and she sniffed, almost like she was trying to hold back tears. Eventually, she slumped her shoulders in defeat. “Nobody anymore,” Lacey finally said.
I didn’t press it, but then I sensed something from Lacey. She had a lot of mental warding, which made it very difficult for me to read her mind, which I was grateful for. But, now, it fell for a brief moment, and I picked up two words. ‘He’s dead’.
At least now I knew why Margaret was such a bitch to me when I accidentally read her mind, but I couldn’t help but wonder why Jared was never talked about or even mentioned in Lacey’s family. Something bad must’ve happened to him for him to be dead, but as to what happened, that was a secret that I knew Lacey wasn’t going to tell me anytime soon. At the same time, I had to wonder what secrets were locked up in my mind as well.
It was dark by the time Lacey drove me back to the old lady’s house. Not surprising, the old lady beat us back. Despite the day, I was still uneasy about facing the old lady. So I glared at her when we came through the side door into the kitchen, where the old lady was sitting at the table drinking something.
“Hello, Grandma.” Lacey walked over and hugged her.
“Hello, sweetheart, did you enjoy today?”
“Yes, Granny!” Lacey hugged her again. Clearly, they had a strong relationship.
The old lady turned to face me. I turned away. “ Bug…” she started. Great, here we go again. “I’m sorry,” she finished.
“Wait, what?” I was taken aback by the apology.
“I’m sorry for everything. I understand that you are a teenager and I have been handling everything wrong when trying to care for you,” the old lady admitted. “From now on, I’ll try harder to understand, and I promise I will listen to you and quell any fears you have.” To top it off, she actually hugged me. When I looked over towards Lacey, she silently encouraged me to return the hug, and after a few moments of hesitation and consideration, I did…
Only to be joined by Lacey, who screamed, “Group hug!”
“Alright, ladies, I’ve got plenty of food left over from yesterday,” The old lady broke off the hug. “So let’s eat.” Finally, the old lady acknowledged my frustrations and my fears. But I couldn’t help but feel that the old lady was still lying about something. That there was something she was holding back, something that she wasn’t telling me.
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