Christmas Thanks and Happy New Year Cheer!

I’d just like to thank all the people who read and responded to my posts of The Way of the Seer. And on Wednesday I’ll upload the second writing piece: Methods for Writing.

So, until then keep safe, enjoy the rest of the Christmas season and Have a Prosperous New Year!

Chapter Three (Entire)

Chapter Three – Dreams and Other forms of Deja Vu

Something stirred in the room and Brandi turned her head to follow it. Her eyes opened. And with a ragged breath, she exhaled.

“It’s okay, honey. Mommy’s right here,” a voice nearby coaxed, as arms embraced her shoulders. Chest. Brandi struggled to sit up as the bedside lamp flickered on; and then she met familiar brown eyes and a mop of matching auburn hair.

Tears threatened to fall and she shut her eyes, hoping that it was all a dream.

“You’re safe now,” Brandi’s mother said. Her expression warm but steely. “Where did you get the pendant?”

Brandi’s voice croaked, as she observed her mother cautiously and tried to find something to say. But when their eyes met, she was overcome by a throbbing sensation and she became mute. It was real, she thought, as her fingers traveled under the covers to stroke a square bandage. She had been injured. Shifting slowly, she wondered how they had removed the arrow, before a muffled groan escaped her lips. And in the shadowy area near the window, she heard movement, and her head turned again.

“Who’s there?”

At her side now, her mother pulled away and offered Brandi something that looked like a bemused expression. “It’s only Nicholas,” she said, caressing her daughter’s palms. “He wanted to ensure that you were safe.”

Brandi yanked her hand back and pawed the covers. Frowning at the strangeness of her mother’s touch. They had never been close. Nicholas? she asked herself, looking up. Did she know a Nicholas? she pondered as an angular head jutted out from behind the darkness to scrutinize her. With upturned lips, she decided to do the same, starting with his clothes. A pair of flannel trousers and a grey overcoat that seemed doused with splotches of red. She shook her head. Had he been there? Was he the one who had saved her? Her eyelids fluttered. Open. Close. Open.

Coming up to the bed, he bowed at her, the way that Jenson had become accustomed to. She frowned, knowing that they were nothing like the British and French aristocrats that she had read about in history class.

“Please take a rest, you’ll be needing all your strength soon,” he commanded; his grey eyes surveying her face for something that she presumed to be pain. “We have already given you enough medicine.”

Brandi bit her lip, wondering if it was pertinent for her to thank him now, since she had already bled all over him and he had carried her to safety. But looking over at her mother, she decided against it, because her mother seemed more relaxed than she would have expected her to be. Pulling back the covers, in an attempt to check for blood, Brandi winced. Her fingers tightening around the folds of sheet as her features contorted. She counted to ten and then released her grip. Her downcast eyes following the display of flying daffodils that seemed to move across the sheet. But besides her mismatched pajama bottoms, nothing appeared to be amiss and she let out a relaxed sigh. They had done a good job of stitching her up, she thought, as her index finger passed lightly over the tape. She eased back down into the bed and tried to dismiss the thought of a needle going through her skin.

Watching Nicholas, she could see his mouth move but she couldn’t hear anything because her mind was processing everything that had happened to her since she had entered the diner. And little by little thoughts floated around her. She remembered entering the diner and the man who had gone in after her and then the confusing command to get down, before the first arrow had taken down her water glass and then how he had steered her towards the dumpster. She sighed, taking in the long black hair that reminded her of a roadie and the leather seats that could barely keep her down. Yes, Nicholas, she thought, remembering how his face had hovered above hers. He was a friend of her mother.

Lifting a hand up towards her neck, she tried to grab hold of the pendant but found only air. “What have you done with it?” she asked, lunging towards Nicholas.

“Brandi, relax,” Mrs. Daniels hissed, pointing towards the bureau. “It’s over there.” Almost incredulously, she watched as her daughter went in search of it, her movement frantic and jerky. At the bureau, Brandi braced herself by holding onto a drawer with her left hand, and passed her right over the countertop. Taking either giant summersaults or leaps of death lipsticks, eye pencils and earrings fell to the floor.

With quick feet, Nicholas approached and snatched the pendant away from her. “You need to tell us who gave this to you,” he said. His voice edged with something that Brandi couldn’t quite place. Perhaps, it was concern, she thought watching as his eyebrows arched. “The forces that you are meddling with, won’t let you go so easily.”

Brandi gazed at her mother, wondering what they were doing together, as her mother’s hand stopped over her heart. She held her breath, knowing the sign of disapproval all too well and swooned.

Nicholas put out a hand to catch her and with daft fingers Brandi retrieved the pendant and then tried to grasp the note.

But Nicholas stopped her, placing his fingers around her wrist.

She squirmed, releasing the note because she presumed that the pendant was the far greater prize. Shuffling back towards the bed, she paused and placed it into her pocket. “It was a birthday present from my father,” she said, looking absentmindedly at the space between them. “A man with red cap at school gave it to me.”

Nicholas’ mouth formed into an o. Before he turned to her mother and said, “Lucien.”

Brandi nodded, even though the man hadn’t given her a name. “He claimed to be a friend of my father,” she said, as Nicholas perused the note and then handed it over to her mother. “I thought I could trust him.”

Mrs. Daniels hung her head in disbelief because she thought she had warned Brandi enough times not to take things from strangers, but reading the note, she could tell that her daughter had been curious. Tempted even to want to know more. Her lips quivered. She would have to curb that, her eyes on Nicholas. Had it been her fault?

“No,” he assured her, moving forward to rub her shoulders. “You did what you thought was best.”

Brandi coughed, wondering why this was the first time she was meeting Nicholas as she observed their hands brush tentatively against each other. Were they really just friends? she mused, noticing a slight change in his features, because he appeared older.

Nicholas cleared his throat. Pulling away. But not before catching Brandi’s feint expression.

While Mrs. Daniels drew back the covers and ushered Brandi in.

She wanted to protest. Watching her mother. But instead she lowered her head and wrapped her fingers around the pendant, as if it was the last vestige of her independence. Then she closed her eyes and tried to imagine what her next mission would be, as her feet brushed against the side of the bed. Obediently, she dove under the covers and flexed her muscles as if readying herself for battle.

Her mother pulled up the covers and kissed her forehead. “Despite what you may think, you are still too young to handle that sort of power,” she said, shaking her head, “…and if Nicholas hadn’t been there to rescue you, I’m afraid about what would have happened.”

Brandi bit her lip and turned her head away. Watching the wall, she observed the shadows that their bodies created as the light flickered off and fought the urge to remind her mother that she was no longer ten. Certain that she could handle things. And too besides, Nicholas had been the one who had sent her aiming for the dumpster, she fumed. Buttoning and unbuttoning the top of her night shirt, her face deflected as her mother got up and strode towards the door.

At her mother’s side, Nicholas watched her supine figure and cleared his throat. “You thought, you were helping me,” he said, taking a step towards her bed. “But instead, you were putting yourself in danger and becoming a more visible mark.” His voice faltered as he stared at her, and she wondered if he was remembering something because his eyes had squeezed shut. He turned away then and his hands stopped at his hips.

When Brandi’s eyes fell upon him, she raised a hand to her lips to suppress a giggle and he cocked his head to one side and gave her a glassy stare.

She nodded sheepishly, thinking that he had grown obtuse, while her mother tore up the note and dumped it into the trash. Folding and unfolding the covers, Brandi wondered if he was interested in learning more, as her mother shoved the string with the instructions into a drawer.

Mrs. Daniels stretched out her hand to receive the pendant. But Brandi dove under the covers and licked her lips. She had no intention of giving it up. Her neck stiffened as she glanced at her mother and pleaded.

“I didn’t fall into a trap. That isn’t who I am or what I do.”

Her mother nodded and backed away.

“Have a good night,” she whispered, rubbing her sweaty palms into a soiled apron. “We’ll finish this discussion in the morning.”

The hinges on the door creaked and Brandi’s hands fell away from the pendant. Looking up, she saw that the door had been left ajar, and she could hear her mother and Nicholas as they continued along the landing, and down the stairs. Shifting her gaze, Brandi chose instead to focus on the image of the two dragons that were projected into her room from the Chinese restaurant across the street.

In the back of her mind, she wondered if there were things that they weren’t telling her, because as her mother had said, she was still too young. But she knew that maturity didn’t always come with age. She remembered how her cousin, Avery, who was now fifteen, had been forced to wise up a few years earlier when her father had been told that he had contracted AIDS. And Brandi hadn’t shied away from uncle Ken, the way that people did in movies. Or in real life when they discovered something that was foreign to them. She, meanwhile, had embraced him and they had gone Christmas tree-hunting and made bad egg-nog jokes that riled aunty Pam.

Lying there, she also thought of the boy who always sat next to her. Roger Barnes. And she wondered if any of the school’s gossip was true, that his parents had gone missing. How he was living with an aunt who didn’t seem to care enough to attend PTA meetings. Or see to it that he did all of his assignments. Yet, she knew that unlike her, he had never fooled around when it came to world English. Or baseball.

And it didn’t matter to her that he was two years older, and had been kept down because remedial students weren’t always the ones at fault. Sometimes it also mattered, how the teacher taught. She closed her eyes, wondering how she could have gotten so metaphorical all of a sudden. Maybe it had something to do with the drugs that Nicholas had said that they had given her, probably to ease the pain. Or maybe on some level, she cared, because in the eyes of the world, she also didn’t have a father.

But in her dreams, she would try to piece together the type of man that she assumed he would be. Someone who liked kids. Enjoyed going on adventures and was brave. Someone she could look up to and feel proud of because he would willingly give his life for the people he loved, as he had done with his home. Some part of her knew that it was cliched. A type of fantasy. But she indulged the thought anyway because without it, the idea of a superhero would have been lost on her.

In fact, her grandmother, Rose was the one who had seen to it that she had been filled with tales. Stories. Seeing as she was the only other woman, who had cared for Brandi, while they had lived in New York. But then she had gotten Alzheimer’s and had been placed into a home. Brandi closed her eyes, wanting to remember only the good times. The ones with them taking long walks in Central Park. Or at the movies. She touched the wound, knowing that somehow her grandmother would have understood, because she had always cradled different parts of her own head; as if trying to figure out which part was feeding her the wrong memories, and letting others escape.

And as the shadow fell lower down on her bedroom wall, she imagined herself in the hallway. Outside her room, she planted her feet on the top stairs as she heard the sound of her mother and Nicholas pacing downstairs in the study. Cautiously, she crept down the stairs. From the door, the scent of bourbon burned her nostrils and she wiped her nose in her sleeve, in an attempt to reduce the overpowering odor. Behind the door, her mother’s voice raised, for what appeared to be the end of an impassioned speech.

“They can’t ask me to give up another member of my family,” her mother said, slamming the glass down on the table. “After Van…”

“I know,” Nicholas said, moving to comfort her covered her eyes. “Nobody stands up to the foundation. We do what is asked and are happy to live.” She could hear the crack in her mother’s as she inhaled and debated whether or not to turn back as the sound of footsteps on the carpet halted and she was forced to look.

Nicholas cleared his throat and appraised her mother. “Besides which, they’re bigger than the both of us,” he said, gulping down the warm liquid. “And the fact that he gave her the pendant means that she’s his rightful heir.” From somewhere nearby, her mother sniffled.

“Even though, she’s more mine than his,” she said, choking back a sob.

Brandi heard the sound of clothes rustling and pushed the door open, just a crack. Looking up, she saw her mother wrapped up in Nicholas’s arms and she gasped, pulling away from the doorway, as they kissed. And she leaned back against the doorjamb, her breath erratic.

“She has to find her guardian,” he said, cradling her head.

Brandi frowned, as she heard them pull apart. Separate. Her eyes intent on Nicholas as he unwound a band from his arm and handed it to her mother. “She’s nothing like me,” he said, offering her a weak smile. “She can’t live her life in seclusion.”

In the room, the curtains rustled and Brandi felt herself being pulled backwards. And after a few minutes, she wasn’t downstairs anymore. Instead, she was fast asleep in her own bed.

Chapter Three Teaser (Next chapter uploaded this Friday!)

Chapter Three – Dreams and Other forms of Deja Vu

Something stirred in the room and Brandi turned her head to follow it. Her eyes opened. And with a ragged breath, she exhaled.

“It’s okay, honey. Mommy’s right here,” a voice nearby coaxed, as arms embraced her shoulders. Chest. Brandi struggled to sit up as the bedside lamp flickered on; and then she met familiar brown eyes and a mop of matching auburn hair.

Tears threatened to fall and she shut her eyes, hoping that it was all a dream.

“You’re safe now,” Brandi’s mother said. Her expression warm but steely. “Where did you get the pendant?”

Brandi’s voice croaked, as she observed her mother cautiously and tried to find something to say. But when their eyes met, she was overcome by a throbbing sensation and she became mute. It was real, she thought, as her fingers traveled under the covers to stroke a square bandage. She had been injured. Shifting slowly, she wondered how they had removed the arrow, before a muffled groan escaped her lips. And in the shadowy area near the window, she heard movement, and her head turned again.

“Who’s there?”

Chapter Two – Little Brown Box

Before now, Brandi hadn’t taken the time to examine the box, because a cold wind was biting at her fingers. It also sent her hair flying to-and-fro. Pulling her jacket tighter around her broad shoulders, she made her way home by cutting through the park. At an intersection, she darted around the corner and bypassed the new Chinese restaurant that was owned by Mr. Chen. A stocky man who looked nothing like her austere grandfather. Nevertheless, she was comforted by the thought that at least Mr. Chen always offered them free fortune cookies and at nights when the restaurant’s neon sign and dragons blazed through her window, she would think about her life.

Brandi and her mother lived in a place called Forest Drive. It was a place where most of the people were either middle class or slightly wealthy. In an even lower income bracket, Brandi and her mother managed, mainly because her father had already paid off the mortgage. And even though Brandi liked a good challenge, she still hadn’t found a way to connect with the other kids, who unlike Teresa had remained aloof. So she was grateful for soccer tryouts at camp the previous summer, where they had been on the lookout for something to put her mother at ease. To show her that in school at least, she was being successful. But three games and six own goals later, Teresa and Brandi had to admit defeat, because even though the coach had wanted fresh players, Mrs. McGuire refused to lose any more of her reputation as the team’s stats plummeted. So Brandi used the rest of the summer to familiarize herself with their new home and her community.

They lived in an off-white townhouse whose furniture was outdated and stiff. Whenever Brandi and her mother had guests over they gravitated towards either the patio or the kitchen. The only two places that were homey. And even though Brandi’s blue and gray boom-box made their living room seem more contemporary, it wasn’t enough to encourage Brandi to stay for any length of time. It had been a gift from her mother who had hated sharing an ipod.

She handled the box with delicate fingers, as if she was trying to assure herself that it was real. She rubbed her palms together in a futile attempt to stay warm. But without gloves, she had to settle for a scarf and a ratty old hat.

“Jenson I’m home,” she yelled, slamming the front door before racing up the stairs to her room. But when nobody materialized, she remembered that he had chosen to retire early because her father’s parents had stopped paying his salary. Brandi dropped her bag on the floor, reminding herself that they were also entitled to a little happiness.

In her room, she extracted the box and laid it down on the bureau, near the only picture of her parents together that she possessed. Somehow over the years, her father had morphed into a guardian angel while her mother seemed too controlling.

But she had no idea about what had happened between them, because the one thing her mother had revealed was that it hadn’t worked out. And yet, when they had moved there a year ago – she couldn’t understand how any of it had been possible. How a guy with a strict family upbringing could leave a house – his family’s home – for a woman who was not yet his wife and child, if it hadn’t worked out. There had to be something there. She shrugged, trying to dismiss its implications, as her thoughts returned to the box.

And with her left hand, she picked it up, untied the string that contained the instructions. Using a magnifying glass, she perused them. In all, there were three rules. To the Seer of the Future it read, your future and your past are entwined. But these rules must never be broken. Firstly, you can see into the future but you can never go back. Secondly, the one who wears this pendant has powers that will be magnified. And thirdly, do not try to find out why you were chosen.

Taking her mind off the rules, she dropped the lid on the counter and observed the crest. A small note fell out. Opening it, she felt a tinge of apprehension as goosebumps prickled her arm. For my daughter on her fourteenth birthday, it read, may she accomplish more than I ever could, Elder van Hansen. Brandi smiled, remembering how strange that name had sounded to her when she had first encountered it, among the family portraits that littered the house.

Reading the inscription she had been fascinated by the genealogy that seemed to go back for centuries. Now, she imagined that it also brought luck and chance. Her father was here, she thought, pushing her to fulfill her destiny. She pulled the pendant to her chest and stroked the strange crest. There was a small bird, three ships and some palm trees. Had she seen them before? she wondered, a puzzled expression clouding her face. Maybe. But she couldn’t be certain. All she knew was that she had wanted an adventure; and now one was beginning.

And she couldn’t wait. She removed the pendant, placed it around her neck and let it fell on top of her blue shirt. They complimented each other. Brandi smiled. And then, shrieked. As a scene flashed before her eyes. There was a guy with a brown jacket seated at a diner whom Brandi was almost certain was about to be shot. She didn’t know how she knew; but she felt compelled to save him. Watching the scene, she saw an arrow pass through an open window and pierce his heart. She gasped, as though she was the one who had been shot, and the man’s body slumped forward. She had seen similar scenes on television, but this one seemed more real.

She grabbed her tweed jacket and raced for the door, because although everything that she wanted was happening, she still felt slightly apprehensive. At the bottom of the stairs, she fingered the pendant, wondering if it was all real. And as the scene played again, she held her breath as if understanding what her powers entailed.

Now though, the scenes came in flashes. Chief’s diner. That was the sign above the door. And she looked around for more distinguishable features and closed her eyes. Wanting to get the full picture. Bailey’s and 45th Street. She could see the blue signposts reflecting on the wall. She nodded, grabbing her keys and then locked the door. Her bicycle lay on the front stoop. She picked it up, taking a moment to get her bearings. Before jumping on, because someone else’s life depended on it.

She remembered those streets from one of her many forays into the city. It was at least ten blocks away. At the intersection, she peddled across the street and remembered a number. 7:15. That was the time, he would be shot. She took a deep breath and stopped, glancing down at her watch. It was 7:03. If she hurried, she told herself, maybe then she could arrive on time. Turning left, she barreled down the sidewalk for five tedious blocks. Almost crashing into an elderly woman, who was struggling with two huge grocery bags and a mammoth-looking purse.

Brandi rang her bell. Hoping that the woman would move. But instead, she turned to appraise her. When Brandi swerved, the tail end of her bike hit the woman’s left knee and the bag in her left hand fell. Carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes tumbled out of the bag. Along with cookie dough, eggs and a tub of ice cream. The woman lifted her arm in protest and Brandi yelled a hasty, ‘sorry’ and then sped off. In her wake, she saw a group of middle schoolers rush across the street to offer the woman some assistance.

She was about to smile, amazed at their fortitude when she remembered the man in the diner who needed her help. So she turned right on Bailey, hoping to capture the strained glass exterior, that reminded her of a church. On her arm, her wristwatch beeped, alerting her to the time. It was already 7:10. She had five minutes. She pumped her legs, already feeling tired. Weary. She wiped the sweat from her forehead, and cursed herself for not taking anything to drink. She could do with a tall glass of water, she thought, seeing the 47th Street sign up ahead. She took another deep breath. She was almost there.

The restaurant was only a few paces away. She coasted to the door and jumped off her bike, wondering if it had an AC because she could also do with some warmth. Then the image came again. Of a figure slumped over on a counter. Brandi burst through the door and motioned to the waiter.

“Water, please.”

He nodded and moved on, while she surveyed the interior. First looking for the jacket. But there was no one there with a brown jacket. Or at least anyone that she could see. Brandi fumed under her breath, trying to remember the guy’s features as her watch beeped again. The waiter motioned her over to the counter to collect her drink.

“Thanks,” Brandi said, her body leaning against the jade counter, as a nondescript guy hustled through the door behind her.

She fingered the pendant, wondering if what she had seen was wrong. As the air grew hot and thick. She swallowed the water, as the scene played yet again. This time though, she was the one at the counter as the arrow raced for her heart.

Brandi shrieked. Dropping the glass of water. The guy near the entrance yelled for her to get down. She turned and saw the arrow’s tail jut out of the wall above her seat. She had been wrong. Her feet buckled and she felt a pair of hands rope around her waist.

“So I guess you don’t mind dying. Or just have shitty luck,” the man said. His face becoming more familiar and his features a little more pronounced, especially his dark bushy eyebrows.

Brandi shook her head.

“Follow me,” he commanded, yanking at her arm.

Brandi proceeded. Her body in a crouched position, as some of the other patrons screamed and rushed out of the diner. Was she there to save him? Or was it the other way around? she wondered, looking down at her jacket, that in the faint light now appeared brown. Brandi gasped. Wondering how she could have been so stupid.

A few arrows whisked past her, above her head. She stooped over. Thinking only of a place to escape. Then the door ahead of them, that led into the alleyway, banged open. She eyeballed the guy who had just saved her as he beckoned for her to come closer. Why was he so determined? she mused, as something in her chest clenched. She was overcome by a nervous anxiety. She was the one being targeted. The one who was in danger.

She scooted closer.

“Try to see if you can make it to the dumpster,” he said, sticking his head out and veering right and then left. Nothing she presumed, as he indicated that it was okay for her to go. “It’s at the other end of the alleyway but I I need you to get to it.” He looked at her, his features gravely serious. “My car’s parked near the curb.”

“Alright,” Brandi said, as if she had done it a million times before. As if it was easy. The water in her mouth evaporated. She had wanted a mission and here it was, she thought, taking a deep breath. She counted from one to ten, and then darted from the safety of the door to the dumpster.

Midway, her feet caught and something knocked the wind from inside her chest. Looking down, her eyes connected with another arrow. This time though, it was sticking out of her abdomen.

She muttered something under her breath, that resembled a curse, and then looked back at the guy who had come to save her. She motioned towards the arrow. His eyes widened.

“Wait there. I’m coming,” he said, struggling to get her to her feet after he had crawled closer. He gave her a rag. Pressed it to her wound and told her to bite down on the collar of her jacket. Then he helped her to his car.

“Do I know you?” she asked, her knuckles against his chest, as she fought to hide the pain. “What’s your name?”

“Nicholas,” he said, unclenching her fingers, as he touched her arm. “I went to school with your mother. And now, I’m taking you home.” He gave her hand a light squeeze, before depositing her on the back seat and shutting the door.

Only then, did Brandi close her eyes, wondering how in her haste she could have forgotten about her own jacket. Her mind crowded with thoughts of some man she had been certain needed to be rescued, as she shoved the pendant below her vest. And blacked out. The idea of a savior nothing more than a dream, she had dreamt so many times before.

Chapter Two – Little Brown Box

Before now, Brandi hadn’t taken the time to examine the box, because a cold wind was biting at her fingers. It also sent her hair flying to-and-fro. Pulling her jacket tighter around her broad shoulders, she made her way home by cutting through the park. At an intersection, she darted around the corner and bypassed the new Chinese restaurant that was owned by Mr. Chen. A stocky man who looked nothing like her austere grandfather. Brandi was comforted at least by the free fortune cookies that he would offer her, whenever she went over. She also reflected on other things, like life, at night when the restaurant’s neon sign and enormous dragons, blazed through her window.

More to come on Friday

The Way of the Seer (Chapter One)

Chapter One

It had been a while since Brandi had been able to see into the future. Right now, her powers, if you wanted to call them that, were limited to ordering her next desert and the fire in the restaurant kitchen. And although it hadn’t been much; it was passed down from her grandfather to her father, to her. They seemed insignificant when compared with the abilities of the great superheroes like Batman and Superman, who could stop crime and battle criminals. Which would be great, because she would be able to stop some awesome crime. Or meet a famous person and rescue them from some significant villain.

“Earth to Brandi. Earth to Brandi,” a voice from nearby called, turning she saw her best friend, Teresa Stone give her one of those glazed over looks that usually meant trouble. And Brandi didn’t have to wait too long, to figure out why.

“Where were you this time, Miss Daniels?” Mrs. Jenkins, her fifth grade world literature teacher barked, her horn rimmed glasses slipping down her petite nose. But she kept them in place with a bony index finger and edged closer. “Or off in the Himalayan mountains rescuing the Dalai Lama?”

Roger Barnes, the tall athletic boy next to Brandi snickered, shoving a baseball comic under his desk. Brandi sighed and lowered her head, wondering why Mrs. Jenkins always seemed to be on her case.

Sitting there, she decided that resignation was the least that she could do, since literature wasn’t her favorite subject. Especially when her teacher demanded to know more than just the right answer. But the reasons that made it so. And she thought about Soujourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman then and wondered, if anyone would write anything fitting that would prove just how difficult it was to be a teenager; her eyes appraising Mrs. Jenkins’ solemn face.

“I was right here,” she said, pointing to the faded photograph with its mini biography beneath it.

“That’s rather ambitious, indeed.” Pulling the book aside, the teacher turned a few pages down to an excerpt from Jamaica Kincaid’s Mr. Potter. “Except, we’re here now.”

Perhaps they had read on without her, Brandi surmised, bowing her head even lower as she reflected on her current track record. She had screwed up again. But hopefully her mother wouldn’t have to be called in, and miss another night’s work at the diner, just to see her being chided by Mrs. Jenkins. She bit her lip.

“See me after class, Miss Daniels.”

Brandi looked up and nodded as the teacher returned to the front of the classroom, doing her best to dismiss the added stares.

After a few minutes the bell rang and the other students packed their belongings quickly and then left. Brandi followed them with her eyes as the door banged shut.

Across the room, Mrs. Jenkins raised her head and looked in Brandi’s direction. “Miss Daniels?” she said in that introspective way that was customary for teachers when dealing with delinquents.

“Yes, ma’am.” Brandi gulped, looking down at her tan loafers which should have been white, but recently she had gotten accustomed to taking detours on her way home.

“This is your fifth infraction for the week,” the teacher said sternly, causing the hair on the back of Brandi’s neck to stand at attention. She folded and unfolded her arms, beads of sweat dropped off her brow like ants following the orders of a strict drill sergeant. Mrs. Jenkins thumped through the book in search of demerits.

While Brandi nodded; because what she wanted most was to be far away from this building with its sparse foliage. Gazing out the window, she was struck by a feeling of separateness; it was almost as if they existed in a separate time zone. But what she wished for was to be out on an adventure, like Jason and the Argonauts. Or Hercules.

It seemed as though, ever since Grandma rose had hinted that great feats could be accomplished by ordinary people, Brandi had felt compelled to do something. And yet here she was doing the ins and outs of attending school. And going through the motions, because that was what you did before you were discovered. Or at least your life became a little less-ordinary.

“Are you listening to me?”

“Yes, Mrs. Jenkins.” Brandi raised a hand to her head, as if deep in thought and then continued. “I have been delinquent. But I’m trying.”

Mrs. Jenkins waved her excuses away. “Well then, try harder because evening classes with Mr. Perkins will be the next step.”

Brandi braced herself, holding onto the desk for support, as the teacher diverted her attention and stuffed papers into an open drawer. A thin smile reached the corners of her upturned lips before disappearing.

“Of course, ma’am,” Brandi said, backing away. She had heard enough about Mr. Perkins to know that night classes wasn’t something to be enjoyed. In fact, Teresa had been sent there two weeks earlier after getting into a scuffle with a girl during volleyball. And she had warned Brandi about his exacting nature and need for silence. Neither of which made any sense to Brandi because detention wasn’t supposed to be anything like gym class.

Mrs. Jenkins cleared her throat. “You may go now.”

Brandi mouthed a silent okay, before grabbing her things and bolting through the door. Outside in the hallway she adjusted her backpack and went in search of her locker, oblivious to the muffled sound of sneakers that seemed to be fading into the background, just as her eyes met the orange glow of 721.

“Another round of the third degree?” Teresa said, emerging from the girl’s bathroom, which was adjacent to Brandi’s locker. She swiveled around, dropped some of her books and glared, as an amused expression crossed Teresa’s face.

“It went well, thanks.” Brand moved forward, shoving her friend out of Mrs. Jenkins’ line of view, because the last thing she wanted was another run-in with the Loch Nest Monster. Besides, things had been hairy enough without having to contend with a heart attack, she thought, remembering how Mr. Shueman, their biology teacher had keeled over the previous semester while teaching them about the respiratory system. Something which was almost as unfortunate as another lesson they had also bypassed – mouth to mouth resuscitation.

“So, are you walking or waiting for a lift?” Teresa asked, tugging at her arm.

“Walking.” Brandi scooped up her books. “You?”

“The same.” Teresa adjusted the multicolored bracelet on her wrist. They had exchanged them over the summer at camp. She watched as Brandi opened her locker and re-arranged the messy pile as if it was nothing more than a storage unit.

Brandi’s gaze shifted to her friend’s wrist and she suddenly felt alone without her Rasta colored bracelet that reminded her of Bob Marley, the reggae singer she had heard about from one of the boys at camp who had recently emigrated from Jamaica.

“Well, I’m glad you waited,” she said, hefting the heavy literature text and slamming the locker door shut. Judiciously, she eyed her friend while flexing her wrist. “Only next time, send me a warning much sooner because I hate having to do battle almost every day.” She closed the combination lock.

Teresa hunched her shoulders and gave her friend a pat on the back. “Then stay focused. Because I’d hate to be burned because you’re my best friend.”

Brandi stopped, swallowed hard. “I said I was sorry.”

“You’re sorry but it’s almost as if trouble is your middle name.” She linked arms with her best friend as they entered the lobby. “So what was today’s reprimand?”

Brandi looked down at her feet, wondering if they could find their own way home, without her.  She made a face. “An evening class with Mr. Perkins.”

Teresa shook her head as if re-imagining scenes of horror. “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” she said, swallowing hard, suddenly captivated as a man with a red cap entered the grounds.

“A good thing too, because I know I’m destined for greatness and the signal will arrive shortly.”

Not wanting to start another disagreement, Teresa kept her mouth shut, because it was pointless to argue. People like Brandi and Teresa’s mother, Sue didn’t follow reason. And the countless times that they had had this discussion, nothing had changed. So, she unhooked her arm and took a deep breath because she had had her fill of destiny to last her a lifetime.

“Brandi, you need to outgrow this,” she said, shaking her head and pointing to the man on the playground. “And next you’ll be telling me that the man with the red cap has some mysterious package for you that will reveal things about your future.”

Brandi shrugged, knowing that her friend was waiting for her to contradict her, as she stepped forward.

Stopping her in her tracks, Teresa raised a hand. “Nobody has powers that can stop things from happening,” she said, raising her eyebrows. “And all those comic books and fairy tales that your grandmother told you about are just that…tales. Things that people made up. Things that we wish would happen, but can’t.” Her hand idled on Brandi’s shoulder, before she adjusted her lengthy strap and dashed off.

Dabbing a stray tear that threatened to fall, Brandi watched her. Letting her go. As the sound of the entrance opened and then closed ahead of her; reminding her that she was alone and would remain so unless she did something. Took action.

She wiped her eyes, and stooped towards the floor, wondering how her friend could be so cruel as to dismiss her protests. If the shoe was on the other foot, she knew that she would have acquiesced. No matter how she felt or what she thought. But right now, the words stung and even if her friend had only been trying to make her see reason, she would have preferred it if she had just indulged her fantasy. Even if it was only for a little while.

So almost certain that her friend’s allegations were false, Brandi grabbed her bag and raced through the outer doors as if she were being chased by Cerberus. But outside a strong wind shook her and she lost her balance. Tipping over, she extended a hand to grab the guardrail, but nothing could stop gravity. And when she hit the bottom steps, she howled and then tried to get up.

Just then, the guy with the red baseball cap rushed over and helped Brandi to prop herself up.

“I guess your powers aren’t up to speed as yet, otherwise you would have seen that.”

She cringed, sitting up and observed her right arm which was slightly bruised. Powers? How had he known?

The messenger smiled, removing his cap. “I’m a friend of your father,” he assured her, giving her a handkerchief which he used to bandage the wound.

Brandi leaned into him and said, “Thanks.” And without looking up, he picked up her bag and deposited it next to her. Then he extracted something from his shirt pocket and presented it to her.

Brandi gushed, wondering if she should take it.

“Yes. He sent this for you.” He bowed, handing her a little brown box. “Maybe it will be of some use to you. But you should only open it when you get home.”

Brandi nodded, feeling a slight sense of apprehension as the box touched her open palm. Her father? What was there to say now? she wondered, taking it. Thank you? Then feeling uneasy, she looked around expecting Teresa to jump out from behind the bushes.

The man shook his head. “And read the instructions first.”

Of course, Brandi thought, wondering what sort of a moron he mistook her for. And yet she needed to say something. So, she turned. But he was gone. She was the only person on the stairs. She sighed, her fingers closing in around the box. A present from her father.

Above her head, the school’s outside lights flickered on and Brandi decided to go home. She would figure something out on the way, she thought, stuffing the box into the inside pocket of her jacket.

Excited about the prospect of finding out something new about her father and her powers, she lengthened her stride. Ignoring the pain in her shoulder and the bruised skin on her arm. Hopefully, she would heal soon and be able to uncover something new about herself and her future, she thought. Things that she had never been allowed to do in this crummy neighborhood, that she feared was holding her back.