As I stare at myself in the mirror, I curse myself for letting Kody talk me into this because it was a bad idea from the start. But she had lured me in with those big puppy-dog eyes that get me every time she wants something. She may be my best friend, but she's also quite devious despite her innocent features.
I look nothing like myself now. Kody has covered my eyes in eyeliner, mascara, and eye shadow, my pale cheeks are now rosy-pink and my lips are bright red. I'm not used to wearing makeup because it bothers me, and I think people should judge you based on how you really look, not how well you can do your makeup. I know Kody is standing in the door frame of the bathroom, waiting for my response, and I am so tempted to grab the towel next to the sink and wipe it all off, but I don't, because she looks so proud of her work.
"What do you think?" she asks. Here come the puppy dog eyes again.
"I..I like it."
"Sarah, you look awesome!" She comes all the way into the room and stands behind me, looking at our reflections in the mirror. "Don't worry about anything, Boo," she says, calling me by my nickname. She's been calling me that since the seventh grade. You'd think that since we are now twenty years old, she would have matured and actually called me by my name, but no. She refuses to call me anything else. "Tonight, we are gonna have so much fun, you'll forget what you look like. It's just about you and me."
Of course I can't say no to her. She's been away at college all year, and this is a big deal for her because she's been away from Chicago for so long. There was one point when I almost considered changing her mind, but I never could bring myself to do that, not once in the time we've known each other.
I have this…ability…it lets me get into people's minds and plant ideas. It's not mind control because I can't force them to do anything they don't want to do, but I can make them think things that they normally wouldn't. For instance, I could tell Kody to change her mind about going out, make her think it would be better to stay in, but like I said, I've never used my ability on her, and probably never will. I don't know how it works, but I've been able to do it ever since I could remember. No one knows about it, not Kody, not even my parents. I guess I've just been too scared to say anything to anyone.
I smile at her to assure her that I'm excited about going out. I think she knows I'm still hesitant, but she's determined. You don't know until you try it, right?
Because my apartment is half an hour outside of the city, we take the train downtown and then grab a cab to take us to the restaurant. I don't live with my parents because it proved too stressful for me when I decided not to go to college. It really pissed them off, and I haven't had the greatest relationship with them since. They're probably better off being without their freakish daughter so they can focus on my brother, who graduated from medical school at the top of his class and is now engaged to be married in the fall. Not that I'm bitter; I'm really proud of him. But he's normal, and I've always been the weird one.
The restaurant is a tiny place with tables and a bar, which is now loaded with people who also had the great idea of going out on a Friday night. The reason Kody picked it is because they have great vegetarian food, and she has been an avid vegetarian since our senior year in high school. We take a seat toward the back, where it's less crowded, and start looking at the menus. We haven't even ordered our drinks yet, and Kody gets this smug look on her face, like she knows something that I don't.
"What?" I ask.
"There's a guy at the bar that keeps looking over here." I glance over to the bar and see who she's talking about. He's not unattractive, and I suppose he's handsome in a kind of rugged cowboy sort of way, but not my type. My type is pretty much no one. Not because of my high standards, but because I tend to push people away.
"He's probably looking at you," I say.
"No, my back is to him. I'll bet you anything he's staring at you."
I look back at the guy, and this time we make eye contact, and his are narrowed as he stares, his face showing…hunger. It's an odd type of hunger, like when a panther suddenly comes across his dinner when he was all ready to give up on eating for the night. It sends a shiver down my spine.
"I've got a bad feeling about that one," I say, half under my breath. I guess Kody heard me because she shrugs and buries her nose in her menu. After a while, I look back at the bar, and the guy leaves, not looking back at me. I can still feel the chill that he left me with, but now I feel better without him boring his eyes into me.
Kody is her regular, bubbly self, starting most of the conversation, talking about college, her friends there, how there's this guy in her psychology class who's drop-dead gorgeous and she thinks he might be in to her. I take in the information, being the good listener that I usually am. Something inside me wishes that I could talk about something with her, about guys that I like or all my other friends, but truthfully, I've always been an introvert, and I really don't have any other friends. I don't count my coworkers at the diner I work at because none of them seem truly interesting to me, and because I just don't like any of them. Kody has been my friend since middle school, and she accepted me and all my weirdness when no one else had. I've just stuck to her ever since.
She was right when she said the food at this restaurant is really good because my salad is awesome, as far as salad goes. I've never been one to eat much.
When I excuse myself to go to the bathroom, Kody smiles, having presently taken a big bite of her veggie burger. I've been holding it for a while, and now that I'm finished eating, I decide to finally go. The room is empty, and I'm surprised at how clean it is. I usually hate public restrooms, because they gross me out, but I guess this one is okay.
While I wash my hands, I sense someone come in. It's not just that I heard or saw them, but I felt their mind as they were coming. I dry my hands and look up, but it's not a woman who has come into the bathroom.
It's the guy from the bar.
He crosses his arms over his chest and gets that smirk on his face again, the one that gave me the chills. Only now, I know something's up, and I can feel my heart begin to beat faster, and my blood boils. This is not right.
"It's Sarah, right?"
"Sarah Barnes, 317 Gladwell Drive, apartment ten?"
"How do you know…"
"We know a lot of things." The way he says "we" makes me even more nervous, and as he takes a step toward me, I step back, wishing I had the courage to scream, but my throat is dry and my voice is barely a whisper. "You've become a person of interest to us."
"I don't…I don't know what you're talking about…"
"Why don't you make me tell you what I'm talking about?"
That's it. He knows what I can do. I'm panicking now, and my face is getting hot, and I struggle to figure out what to do. He's a big guy, but I bet I'm quicker than he is. If there was a way I could run past him…but he probably knows that's what I'm thinking, because he doesn't move from the door. I notice a strange looking badge on his jacket, red with a big black scorpion.
"I'll tell you what, Sarah," he says, "Why don't you come without a fuss, and I won't have to go get my friends who are waiting outside and make a scene." He pauses, and lifts up the side of his jacket where I can see a shoulder-holster strapped to him, and there's a gun in it. An actual gun. "Oh, and I won't have to bring your friend into this either."
Now he has threatened Kody. The feeling starts coming back to my limbs, and my heart slow to a steady pulse, and I can feel the ability taking over me now, and I reach out into his mind.
He wasn't expecting this. I can't exactly read his mind, but I can sense what he's feeling, and he's surprised when I enter his head. His hand stops around his gun, like he's readying himself to pull it out and use it, and I wish that he would just stop breathing so that I could get out of here.
Just then, I know what I've done, without even meaning to. His hand moves from his gun to his neck, and I pull out of his mind fast because I know what will come next. His eyes start to widen and he tries for breath, but he is silent, and he staggers forward. I watch, horrified, as he grips the counter, slowly suffocating. I want to go back in, try to reverse it, but when I try, all I can feel is his screaming in my own head, and it hurts. The pain is too much and I pull out. Finally, he drops to his knees, his face twisted in pain, and falls face-first onto the tile floor, unconscious. At first, I don't know what to do, but then I run out of the bathroom and back into the restaurant. Kody has now finished her burger and pays the bill as I come back.
"We have to go," I say, "now."
"But-" I don't let her finish, only grab her arm and pull her out of the building while she babbles about getting the change back from the waiter.
"They can keep the change," I shout, then stop myself because the man had said that he had friends waiting outside. I look around, wondering if he was bluffing, or if he was telling the truth. I don't see anyone suspicious, so I hail a cab and throw Kody in, taking another quick sweep before I follow her.
"What's going on?" she asks.
"Something happened, and something bad, otherwise you wouldn't be so freaked out."
"Not now," I repeat.
"Sarah Barnes, you tell me right now!"
It's the first time she's called me by my actual name in years. I ignore her and tell the cabdriver to take us to Union Station. "I can't tell you now," I say. "When we get back to my place."
Kody is silent for the whole ride, but I can't help looking behind us every five seconds to make sure no one is following us. I can feel her fuming next to me, but I don't care. I'll make it up to her later, but I don't know how I can possibly explain what happened. I don't know who the man was, or who "they" are that he was talking about. I only know he knew my address and that scares me. I wonder if we should even go back to my apartment. Maybe it would be better if we found a place more off the grid.
Who am I, Jason Bourne? This is crazy. I tell myself not to freak out too much, but my heart is still pounding.
We get to Union Station, and I practically throw the money at the cabdriver before jumping out onto the sidewalk. Kody must've sensed my urgency because her fuming has now simmered down to an annoyed acceptance that she's not getting an explanation just yet.
We enter the station and I am thankful that we got weekend train passes because I don't want to stop before hopping the train back home. I check the schedule, but the next train going our way doesn't leave for another fifteen minutes. Kody still hasn't said a word. We pick a spot in the most crowded spot in the station to wait before she finally speaks to me.
"Okay, Sarah, when are you gonna tell me what happened back at the restaurant? What spooked you so bad?"
Maybe I should tell her now, I think, and I look around for anyone that looks like they could be associated with creepy guy, or for that scorpion badge he had on his jacket. I don't see anyone, so I lower my voice as I say, "You probably won't believe me anyways."
"Girl, I am your best friend. I will believe you."
I take a deep breath. "Well, I've always been…weird."
"Yeah, but what does that have to do with-"
"Just let me finish." I feel bad for snapping at her when she sinks back in her chair with her puppy-dog face again, but this time it was like I had kicked her. I shake it off as I continue, "There's something about me that you don't know. And that guy at the bar knew. He knew what I could do."
Kody looks skeptical. "What do you mean by that? What can you do? And who was that guy?"
"That's the hard thing to explain. I don't know who he was, but he said he had friends, that he wanted me to come with him, and he had a gun that he-"
"Woah, wait, he had a gun?"
"Yeah, but that's beside the point."
"How is that beside the point? He had a gun!"
"Sshh! Keep your voice down!"
"We need to call the police."
"No, we can't."
"Because…I think I may have killed him."
Kody doesn't say a word, only stares back at me, trying to wrap her head around what I've just told her.
"What do you mean you killed him?"
I hesitate as the reality of my words strikes me. I could have killed a man. Thinking back, I realize he could be alive; I didn't actually check, but the pain I had felt in his head was unbearable. I open my mouth to tell her just what I can do, tell her about everything, but I glance over her shoulder and see the scorpion badge on the jacket of a man coming up the escalator. It isn't the man from the restaurant, but I'd bet he is one of the friends he mentioned.
"We should go," I say, but so as not to freak Kody out any more than she already is, I add, "The train will be leaving soon."
"Look, Sarah, you're really scaring me."
"I know, and I'm sorry, but you have to trust me. We need to go now."
She doesn't reply, but she stands without any objections and we make our way to the trains. I don't think the man spotted me because he has his back to us as he walks in the opposite direction, but we move quickly nonetheless. We find the right train without any trouble, but as we get on, I see the guy from the escalator. He's seen me now, and he's walking right toward us. I weigh my options. I could run, or I could get on the train and try to find a place to hide. I look at Kody, who's looking back at me from the top of the steps leading onto the train, expecting me to follow. At this point, I have to make my decision, fast, so I say, "You go ahead, I'll find you in a second."
"Remember what I said about trusting me?" She nods. "Now would be a good time." I watch Kody head into the train, and I turn to run.
"Hey, watch, it."
When I spin around, I accidentally run into someone trying to get on the train. "Sorry," I say quickly, then keep going.
"I wouldn't go that way." The guy I ran into shouts after me and I realize he has an Irish accent. I hesitate, then see that the scorpion badge guy is running now, and getting close.
There's an empty track next to the train, and the Irishman jumps across them to the other side, then motions for me to follow. I don't know whether I should trust him, or keep running, but I need to decide fast because scorpion man is closing the distance much too quickly. I make a snap decision and follow the Irishman, jumping across the empty tracks and we both start running back to the main block of the station.
Unfortunately, scorpion man is just as agile as we are, and he hops across after us. We run toward the escalators, pushing people out of the way, and go downstairs. When I look behind me, I see that scorpion man has been joined by two more friends, and they aren't far behind. The Irishman leads me into the bookstore downstairs, to the back, and stops in front of another stranger who looks like a young Tom Cruise, but with curly black hair and huge, gray eyes. Apparently they know each other because Tom Cruise looks up from the shelf he is browsing, and says, "Who's this?"
"We've got Scorpius on our tail."
The Irishman didn't answer the question, but Tom Cruise doesn't seem fazed by this detail because the three guys have entered the bookstore.
"C'mon, this way." He leads us to the very back wall of the store and takes the Irishman's hand, who then holds his other one out to take mine. I hesitate.
"It's them or us, love."
I take his hand.