“Well, it made me feel better.”

I laughed.


“Kidding. But admitting your nerves is the first step to getting over them.” She smiled. “And you’re not a freak. You’re gifted.”

“There’s a difference?”

Her smile turned into a full-on grin. “I’ll admit. It’s slight, but there is a difference.” She put her arm around my shoulders, and I leaned into her. “You’re going to do great. People here are nice, more down to earth.”

“So you’ve said.” But I wasn’t holding my breath. I was a freak to the core, and even if the people were “down to earth,” chances were they wouldn’t be down with me.

“And now your cousins are only an hour away. Once we get more settled, we’ll have them over for dinner. They’ll understand you, even if the other kids don’t.”

She had me there. If they were “gifted” too, then maybe I could finally figure out how to have a normal life. “Sounds like a solid plan.”

“Have you eaten anything?”

I thought for a second. “Zone Bar?” I might have forgotten to eat again. When an organizational task was put in front of me, I was a girl on a mission. Puny matters like eating faded away.

“A woman cannot live on Zone Bars alone.” She gave me another squeeze before getting up. “Don’t worry so much. It’s all going to work out. Your dad and I are leaving for dinner. Date night, remember?”

-- Advertisement --

I nodded. Every Sunday, rain or shine, Mom and Dad had a date. It was cute. I kind of envied them, but I had time to figure the whole boyfriend thing out. One day I’d find a way to be a regular girl with a totally awesome guy by my side.

Okay, so I’d take an average one. I’d even settle for a mediocre one at this point. The blame wasn’t on them; it was totally me. No one needed to be inside the head of a teenage boy when you’re the object of their thoughts. Because seriously, eew. Which defeated the purpose entirely.

“There are frozen pizzas in the freezer, and we’ll leave money in case you and your brother want to go somewhere. Eat. It’s an order.”

“Got it. Starvation-chic is not my look.” I grabbed an old Nora Roberts book and settled down in my window bench to escape for a bit. The predictability of her books drew me in quickly. There was nothing more certain in life than the ending of a good romance novel.

A few chapters in, Mom yelled that they were leaving. I watched them get into the car and disappear around the curve in the road.

Alone at last. I’d been feeling antsy since we got here, and it’d only gotten worse. For me there were only two things that would quiet my mind, dancing and running. I’d already gone for my morning jog, and had been waiting for a chance to blast some music.

I clicked on last week’s BBC One Essential Mix, turned the volume up as loud as I could stand it, and started dancing around my room.

Axel walked in without knocking and turned off the music. “Are you trying to make everyone in the state deaf?”

Or not. “Who said you could come in here?”

“I did. We’re parentless!” He hammed it up with some cheering, and then collapsed on my bed.

“That’s hardly cause for celebration.” I rolled my eyes. “Come on. I’ve been listening to what everyone else wants to for days now. Can I just—”


I kicked his shin.

“Ow. Don’t be so violent.” He rubbed his shin. “It’s your last night before starting a brand new school year.”

I groaned. “Not you too. Can we please drop the whole ‘school starts tomorrow’ talk? I’d like to live in denial for a little while longer.”

“One thing, try not to bite the head off of the first friendly person you meet. Promise me.”

I crossed my arms and gave him my best tough-girl look. “Dude. I’m not a bitch. I’ll be as friendly as people are to me.”

“Riiiiight.” I went to kick his shin again, but he hopped out of the way. “Let’s go for a drive. We can scout out a pizza place.”

“Fine, but I get to pick the toppings.”

“No way. You picked last time.”

I grabbed a pair of gloves and my flip-flops. “Yeah, but you like to experiment with nasty combinations. The fact that you actually picked pineapple and anchovy means that you should be banned for life in the topping-picking department.”

“I still think the combo of sweet and salty could’ve been a good thing. It was nearly genius.”

-- Advertisement --