In a perfect world, I’d have three things: a lifetime supply of Skittles, a part-time job that didn’t include extra-terrestrials, and an unbroken heart.
But I never expected perfect. I did wish for life closer to normal.
I crossed my arms and listened to my friend Arizona. He could charm me into anything and today he wanted me to accompany him to the woods. He’d come alone and that had been a good move. There were things I could handle and things I couldn’t. I could handle Arizona’s current modus operandi: train, capture, and train.
I couldn’t handle facing our team leader, Regulus. The guy had owned my heart once. Then, he’d returned it—fractured in a zillion pieces of bittersweet memories.
“I’ve made a decision,” I said. “I think you need to replace me. I don’t plan on leaving you guys without an option. If my brother and I were born with synesthesia, that’s two of us in Whispering Woods. Two from the same family. High percentage. There has to be more. Statistically, I’m positive that there are more people who have it. I’ll find someone else who can be your portal gatekeeper.”
He cocked his head to one side, presenting me with his sad-puppy face.
“Oh, come on.” I resisted the urge to add ‘pretty please.’ Begging was not my style.
Arizona had the audacity to give me his heart-melting grin. “Now Mia. You can’t be replaced. It’s rare to find a synesthete who can sense portals.” He reached over and placed an arm around my shoulder. “You’re special.” He crushed me in a side hug.
By special, he had to mean that I didn’t have a backbone and could be coerced into this life that had gone from passably comfortable, to life-as-an-extreme-sport.
“Stop with the hugging. I’ll go.” We stood on the front porch. Winter hadn’t made up its mind if it wanted to let fall hang around, or not. My hoodie would be a little warm for Arizona’s favorite class, Torture Mia 101. “I need to put on a T-shirt. I’ll be back in a minute.”
Inside, I grumbled as I went up the stairs to my room. I understood the whole “Slips can be dangerous” and “This is serious business” and “You are more than a dowsing rod for portals” mentality that Arizona kept throwing at me. But I just wanted it to stop. Teens were supposed to say no to drugs. Why couldn’t I just say no to him?
Wait a minute. I had said no.