MAIN STREET | MERIDIA FALLS
What the hell just happened? It’s all a blur, a blur of memories — memories that were not mine. Logan’s memories. They spread like wildfire, zipping through my mind at a hundred miles an hour. I felt them. Each and every one of them. Was it real?
I lean against the window of the Celebration card store, sheltering from the light rain. The store canopy does little to protect me from the icy wind and the stinging drops. I watch the raindrops on the window as they zig-zag down the glass.
His eyes. They sparkled orange, like exploding fireworks. I stare at my reflection in the window and trace an invisible line under my eye. Mine sparkled too.
I can feel my pulse quickening. I need to speak to Cross. He knew something would happen when I met Logan. I gently touch my other eye, watching my own perplexed expression stare back.
“Penny Summers! Why are you not in school?”
Damn it. Mom. I watch her rigid reflection shimmer across the glass next to mine. The all too familiar scowl spreads across her face.
“I felt sick after the vaccination at school,” I say.
Mom tilts her head the way she does when she suspects that I’m lying. She lifts her arm and checks her heavy, gold watch. “The Board of Governors better not rain fire down on me again, little lady.” She grabs my shoulder and spins me around. Pulling off her leather glove, she presses her hand to my forehead.
The second her skin touches mine, time freezes around me. Each drop of rain hangs in the air, like they’re suspended on invisible strings, dangling in space.
Her eyes. They’re sparkling green, just like Logan’s glowed orange. I’m drawn towards them — I can’t stop myself. Then, without warning, I’m whooshing down a tunnel of images, memories — my mom’s memories.
I’m in her mind, in her body, looking at myself through her eyes. I can feel my skin through her hand. Then I fall back into a tunnel of memories.
My vision clears and I’m in Principal Dawson’s office, seeing it through Mom’s eyes. It’s last semester, after Dawson caught me breaking into his office after hours. Mom’s hand reaches out and slides a sheet of paper across his desk. Her mind is ablaze with anger. Anger at me, anger at him. She points her finger at the paper in front of Dawson. I can feel her perfectly manicured nail tapping the desk as if it was my own finger. “The Transfer Contract.” The words echo through her mind.
In a flash of bright light, I’m back in my own mind. The suspended rain begins to fall again, as if someone just flicked a switch and turned time back to normal speed.
Seemingly oblivious to what just happened, Mom pulls her hand away. “You don’t even have a high temperature.” She slips on her glove and shoves her finger too close to my face. “Look, little lady. As you now have a spare hour, you can clean out your junk from the cinema. I told you that I’ve accepted an offer on the place, so you need to find somewhere else to live.” She holds up a finger. “And don’t think you can come crawling back home. That door is closed, for good.”
I hold up my hands. “Okay, Mom,” I say. “Grandad would be so proud of you.”
She looks at her reflection in the window and straightens her fur hat. “That old fool was no relation of mine. Your grandfather was an idiot, just like your father.” She turns and stares at me. “Don’t make the same mistakes they did.” She narrows her eyes and smirks. “Oh, but I guess it’s too late on that score.” She shakes her head. “You’ve always been a disappointment, Penny. Ever since the day you arrived.” The corner of her mouth curls into the tiniest of evil grins as she turns around. She just can’t help herself.
I watch her walk down Main Street. Hate is a strong word. But after what she did to Dad, then to Grandad, and now to me, I truly do hate her.
Anger ripples through my body, and I feel like I’m on fire. If I had a rock in my hand, I’d throw it. Transfer Contract. The memory pops into my head.
“Hey, Mom!” I shout. “What about the Transfer Contract?”
Mom stops so abruptly that she looks like a stone statue on the sidewalk. Her leather-clad legs stand rigid. She looks like she’s teetering on the edge of an abyss, unable to move. Raindrops splash on the sidewalk around her. Finally, she turns. Her face is white. It’s like all her makeup has melted away, revealing her true face underneath. A face of pure evil.
She stomps forward with wide open eyes. Grabbing my arm, she forces me into the card store doorway and presses her face close to mine.
“What did you say?” She spits out the words from her poison tongue. “What did you say?”
I jerk my arm free of her grasp. “I said, when are you signing the contract for the cinema?”
The color instantly returns to her face and her shoulders relax. “The buyer is flying in anytime now, so I guess you’ve got until the end of the week to clear out your junk.” She straightens and smooths her fur lined coat. “If you’re not out by Friday, I’ll have you and all your crap evicted.” She grins. “Call it a birthday present.”
I watch Mom saunter down the sidewalk, and a smile spreads over my face. She thinks she won that encounter. But whatever this Transfer Contract is, it got to her. Got to her big time. That was the first time I’ve ever seen her panic. I’ll have to look into the contract, along with everything else on my ever-growing list. I may need Teddy to pull a few more strings for me, if he can.
Someone rushes past me and into the card store. It’s Carol Horton, Ellie’s Mom. The memory of Ellie’s last day at school flashes across my mind. I can still hear her screaming about ghosts. “They’re here, all around me. Ghosts. I can see them.” Poor Ellie.
A happy birthday banner drapes over the store door as it slowly closes. Logan. The sudden urge to get him a birthday card overwhelms me. That and the desire to escape the pounding rain. I push open the door and walk inside the warm store.
The birthday card section is to the right. I scan over the rack of brightly colored cards and see the one I got Grandad last year — a card full of balloons lifting a huge cake. His loving smile fills my mind. I miss you, Grandad.
My eyes fall on a card with two cute bears holding hands. I’m drawn to this card for some reason. I’ve already decided which one is me and which one is Logan. I pluck the card from the rack; it’s blank on the inside, no inscription. I like this — a chance to write exactly how I feel, although I get the feeling Logan already knows how I feel.
The sound of sobbing comes from behind the next rack of cards. It’s Carol Horton. She’s holding a “Get Well Soon” card in her hand. She wipes her cheek with her sleeve.
“Are you okay?” I ask, handing her a tissue from my pocket. “Is it Ellie? Is she okay?”
She dabs at her eyes and nods. “I’ve just been to see her at Clearwater.”
Clearwater. The name attacks my mind like a swarm of locusts.
Carol sniffs. “They had her in a straitjacket, in a padded cell. She’s no better. If anything, she’s worse. She kept repeating the same thing over and over.”
Carol forces a smile and hands back my tissue. Her fingers brush my hand.
Time freezes again, and suddenly I’m back at Clearwater, looking out through Carol’s eyes. My heart is beating fast, in my — in her chest.
She stares through a tiny glass window. I see a padded cell with Ellie inside. She flings herself across the room, banging her head against the wall.
The doctor standing next to me — next to Carol — presses a button under the door handle, and a speaker hisses into life. “Two worlds. Two worlds. Two worlds.” Ellie’s voice shrieks through the speaker. She turns and charges at the window, banging her head against the glass. “Felicia is the key.” Her eyes lock onto her mother. “Felicia is the key.”
I stagger back as time starts moving again, slowly at first, like someone has taken their hand from a spinning record. I can’t breathe. A hand slaps hard between my shoulders.
“Are you okay, honey?” Carol asks as she rubs my back. “It was like you were choking.”
I cough and catch my breath. “Thank you,” I say. “I think I swallowed the wrong way or something.”
Carol smiles. “Well, if you’re alright, I’d better pay for this and get back to work.”
What was all that about? Poor Ellie. I can’t shake the vision of her head banging against the glass. Is that what I looked like when I was held in that place? I wish I could remember.
I take a deep breath. I need to get in contact with Cross. I need to know what this mind connection thing is before I meet up with Logan tonight.
The thought of Logan immediately calms me. I close my eyes and picture his face; my heart flutters.
And that’s when it hits me — I think I’m falling in love.
I exhale and cross the road to my soon-to-be-vacated home. I stare up at the Meridian Cinema sign, the only place I’ve ever felt truly safe. I guess most of that was down to my grandad, but it still feels safe, like his spirit is there, watching over me. I press my hand to the poster display case on the wall. The poster for It’s a Wonderful Life, his favorite movie hangs behind the glass.
Mom’s words suddenly slide through my mind like a venomous snake, poisoning all my memories: “He didn’t leave a will, but you can have his rust bucket of a car.” Grandad said this place would be mine. She took it away. I bang my fist on the wall. “Thanks, Mom!”
Only now do I notice the security trellis door isn’t locked. It’s drawn across, open. Damn it! She’s been inside. My files. I unlock the door handle and step into the lobby. A stack of cardboard boxes stands in the corner, leaning against a display case. A note sits on top of them.
Use these for your trash!
She’s definitely been in. I pull the trellis door across and lock it tight. I run my hand down the frame and then pull the doors closed. Damn it! I need to fit a new lock or something to stop her getting back in.
I lock the door and then sprint through the restaurant. A dust cloud follows me, making me cough as I climb the stairs. The corridor door is wide open. Damn, she came up here too. My heart is racing so fast that I can feel it pounding against my cardigan. She can’t have, can she?
My apartment door is closed, still locked. A note dangles half way up, hanging by a piece of tape.
I want you out by FRIDAY!
And I want ALL the keys!
I let out a long breath and rip the note from the door. I listen for a second, making sure Mom hasn’t followed me inside, then I unlock the door and head into my apartment. Into safety. Then it hits me again. He hits me again. Butterflies race through my stomach. Logan!
I run to the computer and login. Cross’s chat window is still open; no new messages though. Nothing from him. I quickly type out a new message.
BNB>I met Logan today. Something weird happened!
The computer dings, making me jump. Cross is online — that was quick. His question mark avatar flashes up on the screen. My heart pounds in my chest as he types a message.
BNB>We both had a vaccination at school. Straight after it, something weird happened. Our minds connected. I could see his memories. It was like they were my own.
CROSS>Did his eyes light up? Did they flash?
BNB>Yes. What does it mean?
CROSS>What color? Tell me the color!
BNB>Orange. Like fire.
CROSS>Has anything else happened?
BNB>Yes. The same thing happened with someone else.
CROSS>You experienced memories of someone else, NOT Logan?
CROSS>Listen to me. You are both in serious danger.
BNB>What do you mean? Danger?!
CROSS>Things are escalating faster than I thought.
CROSS>Trust no one.
BNB>I trust Logan.
CROSS>Look, do nothing until I get there.
BNB>You’re coming here? To Meridia Falls?
CROSS>One more thing, Miss Summers.
CROSS>Think over this question while until I arrive.
CROSS>Do you believe in magic?
Cross logs off. I scan through the conversation, right up to the end. My lips tingle as I read his last message: “Do you believe in magic?” Logan’s wonderful, sparkling eyes flash through my mind.
I grab my makeup mirror from my bag and examine my own eyes. “I guess I do believe.”
The photocopy of the Polaroid I gave Logan catches my attention on the desk. I pin it to the notice board; the hand-written GPS coordinates scream out at me underneath. I sit down at the desk and grab the file next to the monitor — Logan’s file. I scan through for his cell number and shake my head at Cross’s warning on the screen: “Do nothing until I get there.”
Yep, right. “You don’t know me very well, Mr. Cross.”