After dinner, Ella dragged Jared to her room while Mom and Dad left to go to a debate on the other side of the kingdom, so I was left alone with Luke. "Go home." I ordered, grabbing a bowl of popcorn and flopping onto a couch especially made for me- flame retardant. "Come on! I was just messing around!"
"Leave Luke. I don't want you here. And if you are going to refuse to leave, at least go bother someone else. Maybe Ella." I shot him daggers out of my eyes when I said her name and watched him tense up. "Yeah, exactly." I turned back to the television and turned it on to my favorite show. "Babe, come on. Please don't do this." He came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me, thinking that it would spark some emotion in me. I sat there, concentration so violently on controlling my flames that my head hurt, but it worked. They didn't do anything. Not even a single spark. Nothing. Luke took his hands off me and walked around the couch to sit next to me. "What happened? Did something happen? I can normally cheer you up after you get annoyed with me. Did something happen I don't know about?" I smirked and looked at him. "Yeah, I decided to stop letting you use my emotions against me and learned how to control them. I hope you weren't planning on keeping that leverage, because it is gone now. Now shove off." I threw a few pieces of popcorn at his shocked face and watched as he got up and walked up the stairs, looking at me like an irritated cat that could pounce on its owner at any second.
After eating three bowls of popcorn and raiding the candy cabinet, I cuddled up on the couch with a thick blanket and fell asleep. When I woke up, it was morning and the whole family was rushing around, making breakfast. "Jules! Come on! Help us! We could use another pair of hands!" I sat up, rubbing my eyes and suddenly found Jared's face right in front of mine. I screeched and fell off the couch backwards, tangling my legs in the blanket. "Clumsy. Come on, we're going to go practice." He grabbed my hand and I noticed how soft the gloves were that he made so he could finally touch me without risk of burns. "Practice what?" I asked, already being dragged outside. He suddenly turned towards me and raised my hands to my face. "Controlling your powers, silly." With that, he tapped my nose and kept walking outside. "You touch my nose again and your loose a finger."
"First step, work on your self esteem. If you tell yourself you can, then you are already halfway there. Here, let's do this: write five things you like about yourself on this paper." He handed me a piece and a pen but, before I even got one word down, they both burst into flames. "Shit." I said, dropping them on the ground and stomping out the flames. Jared snickered. "You have to practice on keeping them at bay. C'mon, you can do it." He handed me another piece and I concentrated really hard, but failed. We tried three more times before Jared just decided to stop.
"Let's try another approach." he said as he locked eyes with me and slowly slid off his gloves. "Jared, what are you doing?" I backed away from him, frightened by the look in his eyes. "I'm going to touch you, without the gloves, and you are going to try your hardest not to burn me." He reached out for me but I dodged him. "Jared, no. I can't. I'll hurt you! No! Don't!" As I was backing up, I didn't realize there was a fence behind me. My back pressed against it and I froze, trapped. Jared, whose mind must have escaped him, just kept coming closer to me. "Justin, no! I can't! Please stop!" Before I knew it, we was standing so close to me that I could feel cold air radiating from him. "You can do it. I trust you not to hurt me." He then slowly reached his hand up and rested it on my cheek. I couldn't even reminisce in the feeling on skin to skin contact with him because I was focusing too hard on not bursting into flames. I squeezed my eyes shut, unable to concentrate with those big blue eyes staring at me. "Shhhh, you are doing good." he whispered, obviously not wanting to scare me. "Now keep concentrating. Don't stop." His hand disappeared from my cheek but I could still feel a cold spot where his hand was. I liked it. Then, his arms wrapped around me and pulled me into a hug. Hugs were a foreign concept for me since no one in my family had the same powers as me and they all lacked a death wish. Obviously, Jared did not. "As you get more in control, hug me back. That is how I will know how stable you are." His breath caressed my ear and made goosebumps run down my spine.
I took a deep breath and continued to concentrate, focusing on how Jared's arms felt around me. I focused on how I wanted my father to be able to hug me like this too, but that would never happen if I couldn't control it. Then, I could feel the powers build up inside me, almost overflowing and wanting to bust out. I tensed, and Jared noticed it, but I kept my composure. I imagined physically pushing them back down until they were gone, seeping into the ground through my feet. Then, it became easier. It became so easy that I allowed myself to hug Jared back and then, before I knew it, we were in a solid embrace with no space between us. "You did it." he whispered, a smile creeping onto his face.
I stepped back and jumped up and down, screaming, "I did it! I did it! I did it! I actually did it!" Instinctively, I lunged into Jared's arms and he held me up, looking up at me with that cute little face of his. "Congratulations Princess. You are doing it right now too, even with all that excitement. I knew you could." We continued to look at each other and smile before Jared slowly put me down. I was about seven inches shorter than him, so he had to look down at me to not break eye contact. Then, without thinking, I snaked my arm around his neck and kissed him. He rested one hand on my hip and the other one played with a strand of my hair. He didn't jerk away like I thought he would. For what reason, I couldn't tell, but I was happy enough that he didn't flat out reject me that I didn't care. I noticed the softness and chill of his lips, how gentle he was, and how I didn't feel awkward or embarrassed kissing him, the complete opposite of Luke. That also might be because I knew that the instant we pulled away, he would never speak of it and it would never happen again. He might have been hanging out with me a lot, but he was very loyal to Ella. He knew how hurt she would be if she knew we did this. Unlike me, he thought she was sweet and caring.
I was the one to pull away, for lack of breath. I had never had a kiss that lasted longer than three seconds, so having one that lasted a minute really left me winded. He just stood there, his blonde hair looking as majestic as ever. "Well Jules, I can say I was thoroughly surprised by that." Panic suddenly surged through me. "Surprised by what?"
"That you are such a good kisser." I sighed in relief and punched him in the arm. He pretended like it actually hurt but then turned serious. "Now, just because you did it this once doesn't mean you are a master at muffing your powers. You need to keep practicing, but I wouldn't recommend doing it on your sister."
"Oh, why not?"
"Because you'd probably scorch her on purpose and then say that it was just a fatal accident. When you bat those pretty eyelashes and smile, people believe whatever you say."
I mimicked that, batting my eyes and smiling, and replied, "I have no idea what you are talking about." He rolled his eyes and smirked, grabbing my hand. "Come on, let's go see what Ella is up to."
We walked, hand in hand, but no one questioned it. We have hung out together since we were three, so physical contact wasn't out of the question. But what was, was physical contact without something between us. My mother just stared, wide eyed, at our two naked hands touching. "How...? What...? Um..." I laughed and went up to her, holding out my hand. She took it cautiously and relaxed after hers didn't burst into flames. "Jules, how did you do that?" I nodded towards Jared and smiled, nodding a polite thank you to him. After that, I went and did the same thing with my dad, who jumped up and down and squealed like a little girl.
Afterwards, Jared and I proceeded up the stairs where we turned left down the long corridor and towards Ella's room. "So...um...about what happened outside..."
"I know. I want say anything to Ella and won't ever try to do it again. I know how much she means to you." He rubbed the back of his neck and laughed. "Oh, yeah...right." We got to her door and opened it, only to find that Jared wasn't the only one who had been kissing the wrong twin. Ella and Justin we going at it viciously and it didn't seem to be stopping any time soon. I panicked and looked over at Jared and met an expression of humor, not sadness- like I had expected. He suddenly started laughing, so hard he almost started crying. "Here I was, scared of how I was going to tell you I was breaking up with you because I kissed Jules and I find you like this. Oh my, this is just too ironic." Ella and Luke jumped to opposite sides of the bed like he burned her and stared at us with bewildered eyes. "Goodbye Ella and good riddance." He waved sarcastically and turned to me, holding out his hand. "Let's go Jules." I took his hand and Ella gasped when she noticed that we were touching our bare hands. I looked back at Luke, blew a kiss at him, and winked. "Oh, by the way- Luke, you need to step up your make out game if you are going to compete with Jared." His eyes snapped to Ella, looking for reassurance that Jared wasn't as good as I was implying, and she gave him none.
Jared and I ran to my room laughing and sat down on my bed. After finally catching my breath, I looked over at him curiously. "Hey, so were you really going to break up with Ella because of me?" He smirked and wagged his finger in my face. "Self esteem. You need to work on it. Your reaction should have been: 'He made the right choice picking me. I am so much better than her.'"
"Ha! That is an egotistical narcissistic reaction. That's a 'you' reaction."
"Are you saying I am egotistical and narcissistic?"
"No, I'm just saying that you are excessively confident."
"Why shouldn't I be? The girl I have been secretly making out with in my head for two years finally kissed me back and appreciated my skills."
"Aw, see- you were very confident that I wouldn't find that creepy."
"Well, do you?"
"Not in the slightest."