Part 3

Every day. Every freaking day. Dominic ran out of his house and down the street. He didn’t stop running until he reached Anthea’s road, a couple of streets down. He stopped himself at the intersection and held his knees, struggling for breath. He felt a bit better, but his step father’s words were still ringing in his ear. “Damn kid can’t do anything right” “Where the hell did you get such clumsy fingers?” “If you drop another can I might just drop one on your head, you hear me?”

“Yes, dad.” Dominic stood up and ran his fingers through his hair. “Sure, dad.”

He looked down the street. He could see Anthea’s little blue house. Sure, it was only five o’ clock, and trick or treating didn’t start until six. She wouldn’t mind if he came over a bit early. Thank goodness he still had his costume on. His house was toxic. He wasn’t about to go back in there.

He trudged to her house and knocked on the door a couple of times. Mrs. Hayes answered the door. “Dominic?” She smiled. “Just can’t stay away, can you?”

Dominic feigned a smile. “Yeah, guess not.”

“Well, come in.”

Dominic gratefully came into the house. He was a little surprised to find Meredith already sitting at the kitchen table, in the middle of a chess game with Anthea. Only Meredith looked up as Dominic came into the room.

“Hey, Dom.” Meredith gave him a quick wave, then went back to concentrating on the board. She only had her king, knight, rook, and two pawns left scattered on the board. Dominic smirked. One of these times Anthea was going to lose. It was unnatural for someone to win that much.

“Hey, Anthea,” Dominic said loudly, tapping her on her back to get her attention. She jerked, and one of her pawns collapsed on the board. She whipped her head around.

“Don’t…don’t do that,” she snapped, putting one hand to her back and staring at Dominic. Dominic took a step back.

“Whoa, sorry. What’s wrong?”

Anthea relaxed and sighed. “Nothing, just a bit jumpy today. Probably since it’s Halloween.”

“Oh…Okay…” Dominic didn’t think that made much sense, but he didn’t question it.

Anthea took Meredith’s rook with one of her knights. “Check. Help yourself to some of the candy on the counter, Dominic. My mom bought way too much.”

“Thanks!” Dominic made his way over to the counter where a large bowl was sitting. He looked for anything chocolate and chose one at random.

“So what route are we taking?” he asked, popping the candy into his mouth.

“Same as last year, probably,” Meredith said. “We got a decent amount of candy.”

“Yeah, I remember that.”

“Okay I give up.” Meredith tipped her own king over. “Hey Dom, let’s go make sure our costumes are good.” Dominic followed her into the downstairs bathroom. They used the mirror in there to make minor adjustments to their capes and hats.

 

Anthea played with her black knight, staring after Dominic. She had never held a secret from him, should she…

She set the knight down. No. No one finds out. One person is enough.

 

Jason wandered through the streets of Toronto, searching for something to steal. His eyes rested on a family sitting by the fountain. He smiled and walked around the other side, passing by them. As he passed, he twiddled his fingers behind his back. He imagined his fingers were grabbing the wallet in the back pocket of the man…

The wallet twitched. Just as Jason walked by the family on the other side, the wallet flew out of the man’s pocket and landed in his hand. Jason quickly placed the wallet in his own pocket and walked on.

He smirked.

 

Meredith was helping her mom with Thanksgiving pies when her cell phone rang. After wiping flour off of her hands and excusing herself, she swiped her phone’s screen to answer it and went into the next room. “Anthea?”

“I have fuzz,” she said. Meredith’s phone reception was a bit spotty, so she wasn’t sure she heard that right.

“Sorry, you have…what?” Meredith plugged her left ear with her finger and brought the phone closer to her other ear.

“I…have…FUZZ.” Anthea’s voice sounded breathy, like she had just been running.

“I still don’t…fuzz?”

“Fuzz, Meredith. On my antennas.” It had been a few weeks since Anthea had shown Meredith her extra limbs, but Meredith immediately knew that’s what she was referring to.

“Okay, so you have fuzzy things growing out of your back. Seriously, Ani, you should get those things looked at. Maybe amputated or something.”

“But I think I know what they are now!”

Meredith huffed. “Antennas?”

“I just called them that because I knew you would know what I was talking about. But from now on I’ll be referring to them as wings.”

Meredith laughed. “Seriously? What, do you think you’re some kind of angel or something?”

“I’m dead serious!” Ani’s voice sounded even more forced now. “You haven’t seen them lately. They’re wings, I tell you!”

“All right, all right.” Meredith lowered her voice. “Do you want me to come over to your house or something?”

“At some point.”

“Well, thanks for being specific. I don’t know what you called me for then.”

“I couldn’t keep this to myself,” Ani whined.

“Yeah, well. Next time you have to tell me about your ‘wings,’ just fly on over here, won’t ya?” Meredith chuckled to herself.

“Fine.” Ani’s voice sounded hurt, and Meredith felt a pang of guilt. “But don’t complain when I wake you up in the middle of the night with a thump on your roof.”

 

When Meredith jerked awake in the middle of the night two weeks later, she thought Christmas had come early. She could have sworn she’d heard Santa’s reindeer on her roof in her dreamy haze. Fully awake now, she realized that was nonsense and that she should go back to sleep. But something had woken her up.

 

Anthea lay dazed on top of Meredith’s roof. She still felt like she was dreaming even though she felt sharp pain shooting up through her right foot. She must have sprained it when she landed.

She noticed that Meredith’s window was open, despite the cold. Crazy girl was probably going to get sick. But then she was always cold-blooded, preferred the cold anyway.

Anthea slid down the roof, careful not to put too much weight on her ankle, and slipped through the window.

 

Meredith glanced around her room, trying to spot anything that might have made a sound in the draft while she was sleeping. She nearly choked as something fell into her room from outside. The dark shape made a large thump onto her floor beneath her window and began to grow.

Meredith tried to yell to the shape to go away, but her scream felt like a knife slicing her throat. Her fingers fumbled for her lamp shade pull string next to her bed, and when they finally found it she yanked on it like it was her only source of tangible comfort. The light flooded the room, and Meredith was blinded for a second. When her eyes had adjusted, she stared in shock at her best friend standing in the corner of her room with only her pajamas on.

“Ani?” Meredith held her hand over her fluttering heart and blinked spots out of her eyes. “What the hell are you doing in my bedroom in the middle of the night?”

“To show you these.” Anthea limped towards Meredith’s bed, and something behind her rustled. Meredith stared in awe as bright blue feathered wings unfolded behind her. They filled up most of that side of the room, and they twitched and swayed like they wanted to be flying.

“What the…” Meredith sat up in her bed. “Can…can I touch it?”

Ani walked closer, and one of her wings stretched out to Meredith’s bed. “Sure, but be careful. They’re still fairly new.”

Meredith reached out her hand and tapped a feather with her finger. It felt smooth and strong. And very very real.

“Okay…” Meredith took a deep breath and looked at her friend. Her friend with wings. Ani has wings. She actually…has…wings.

“Meredith?” Ani tilted her head. “You’re not freaking out on me, are you?” Ani took Meredith’s stunned face in her hands. “I can’t afford to have you freak out on me. Not now.”

“No, no.” Meredith cleared her throat and swung her legs around her bed to rest on the floor. “I’m still here. I’m still sane. For now.”

“Thank goodness.” Ani folded her wings back up and sat down on the end of Meredith’s bed. “Because I’m not completely sure I’m sane.”

Meredith took her blanket and put it over her friend’s shoulders. “Yeah. Going out in the middle of the night, in December, with only your pajamas, and crashing into people’s houses unannounced. Yeah, you’re pretty cracked up.”

Anthea laughed. “You’re the one who left your window open.” Meredith realized that Anthea had red streaks down her face. Despite her joking and supposed calmness, she must have been crying.

“Hey,” Meredith said soothingly, wrapping her arm around Anthea’s shoulder. “We’ll figure this out.”

“Yeah, I know.” Anthea rested her head on Meredith’s shoulder and broke her strong facade. “I know.”

 

Sitting on an overturned dumpster and leaning against a brick wall, Jason thumbed through the day’s earnings. One hundred twenty one dollars and twenty six cents. Not bad.

He shifted position to flex his cramped wings. The puny things looked more like a plucked chicken than anything else, but he was hopeful they would become something more impressive soon. These chicken wings aren’t giving me any luck with the ladies, Jason thought with a chuckle. He thought he saw the edge of a blood red feather peeking out from among the gray fluff covering his wings, but maybe that was wishful thinking.

 

When Anthea woke up on stacks of pillows on the floor, it took her a few frightening seconds to realize she has spent the night in Meredith’s room.

She jerked up. “Meredith? What time is it?” Anthea heard a grumble from the bed next to her, then saw Meredith’s hand grab for her clock.

“Five in the morning. Why are you up so early?” Meredith set the clock back down and pulled the covers closer to her. Anthea wanted to go back to sleep too, but she had to get home before her mom noticed she was gone.

Anthea got up and stretched her aching back. “Remind me again why I’m sleeping on the floor?”

Meredith groaned and threw her covers back off, giving Anthea a dirty look. “Because your freaking wings would take up the whole bed. There was no way we could share. Now please let me go back to sleep.” Meredith covered her face with her covers and sighed.

Anthea grinned. “Fine, grumpy guts. You never were a morning person.” She set the pillows next to Meredith’s bed in a neat pile and went over to the still open window. Cold air blasted in and made her shiver, but it also filled her lungs and made her feel more awake, alert, energized.

“See you later,” Anthea said to the bed. An exaggerated snore answered her. She laughed and stepped out onto Meredith’s roof.

The wind buffeted Anthea, making a whistling noise through her feathers. She crouched and turned her head towards her house. Though it was still dark, she could still see the outline of her house because of the porch lights they left on every night. Anthea got up, took a deep breath, and let the tilt of the roof pull her down towards the edge of the house. Just as her right foot kicked off from the edge, she unfurled her wings and held her breath. She felt gravity pull her towards the bushed in Meredith’s yard, and her whole body jerked as the air caught her wings and slowed her descent. She glided for a second or two before beating the air with her wings to gain height. Only then did Anthea let herself breath. That part will take a lot of getting used to. Good thing I’m not afraid of heights.

Her landing was a lot smoother than her first one. She shimmied down to her own open window and popped into her room.

She quickly jumped into bed, tucked her wings underneath her, and pulled her covers up over her. Despite her quickly beating heart, it only took her a few minutes to drift into sleep.

 

Midnight, or some time around there. Perfect time to practice.

Jason sat cross legged on one side of the dark alley. There were a dozen empty Vernors cans lined up in a row about four meters away from him. Jason took a deep breath and flicked his finger upward towards the can farthest to the left. It jumped off the ground and floated up for a meter before pausing in midair. Jason kept that one there as he lifted the other cans in the same way. When they were all stationary in a neat line, Jason twisted both hands and envisioned them stacking on top of each other. The light-weight cans easily shifted position with his movement and made a vertical line.

Jason relaxed his hand, and the cans dropped back to the ground with a clatter. He turned his attention to the unopened paint cans lying behind the now unorganized pile of soda cans. Each weighed at least four kilograms. Raising both hands in front of him, one palm up to lift them and one palm out to steady them, Jason slowly lifted the cans, higher than he had lifted the soda cans. Despite the brisk wind whipping through his tank top, a warmth spread through his body, radiating from the base of his neck and creating a solitary bead of sweat on his forehead. Once he was satisfied with the height the paint cans had gained, he lowered his steadying hand and jerked his other to the left. The cans smashed against the brick wall, breaking open and splattering dark paint over the bricks.

Finally, Jason leapt to his feet and walked down the alleyway until he was standing next to a broken down Mini Cooper. In an effort to not completely melt his brain, Jason placed his hands on the rusting metal. He found out early on that direct contact made telekinesis a lot easier.

Jason put his right foot slightly back and closed his eyes. Three breaths should do it. One…two…three…

As he exhaled his third breath, Jason lifted his hands. The car creaked after him and reluctantly let go of the cold ground. He slid one hand off of the car and held it there for a few seconds before dropping his other hand. The car quivered in the air, then dropped with a crash to the ground. Jason leapt back as a hubcap clattered next to his feet.

Well. Not bad.

Jason left the dripping walls and wrecked car behind him as he walked out of the alley.

The police are going to have one hell of a time trying to figure out what happened here.

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Part 2

Halloween this year is on a Thursday. Who makes Halloween on a Thursday? Dominic quickly brushed his teeth, making sure no water got on his black costume.

The high school didn’t allow hats or masks, but Dominic put his king piece hat on anyway. He had spent enough time making it, for God’s sake; he should be allowed to wear it.

He made his way carefully downstairs, making sure not to trip over his billowing cloak. His black backpack—look at that, it matches!—sat by the front door waiting for him. He slung it over one shoulder and went out the door. He didn’t want to be late for school on Halloween, not when there were so many costumes to observe.

There were probably half a dozen batmans—batmen?—just in the first ten minutes passing through the front doors of the high school. Meredith’s eyes flicked past the zombies, devils, and fairies in search of two all-black figures. She felt out of place with her white costume, leaning against the track showcase, but she knew she would feel much better once Anthea and Dominic showed up.

Finally, she spotted them strolling through the doors together. Both of them were wearing their paper mâché hats. Technically against the rules…

Meredith sighed and took hers out of her backpack. She was just putting it on her head as her friends walked up.

“What’s up, gloomy gums?” Anthea had one hand in the pocket of her black dress pants and the other on Dominic’s elbow. Not for the first time, Meredith wondered if Ani and Dom ever realized how much of a couple they looked like. All the time.

“Who says I’m gloomy?” Meredith pushed her queen’s hat back a bit and stuck her tongue out.

“You were slouching. And your cape is crooked and you didn’t even fix it.” Anthea tugged on the edge of the shimmering fabric to straighten it out.

Meredith smiled. “All right, Sherlock. I’m gloomy because you’re going to get in trouble again.”

“For what?” Anthea stroked the side of her mask. It was a full horse’s face down to the nose. “Wearing a mask in school? It’s a stupid rule. Plus, it’s Halloween.” She and Dom started heading off to their first hour. Meredith rolled her eyes up to the ceiling, silently praying the hallway monitors would be lenient today, and walked in the other direction to her own first hour.

Anthea broke another rule in her English class. She had her mask off because the teacher had yelled at her twice for it, and it was sitting on her lap with her phone inside of it. Scrolling through Wikipedia pages seemed a lot more fun than discussing the meter and rhyme scheme of the Shakespeare sonnet they had just read in class.

Neither Meredith nor Dominic was in this class, so Anthea had to keep all the information she was learning to herself. In the hour of the class, she had migrated from the quantum mechanics page to the Higgs Boson –why do they call it the “God particle,” anyway?—to the quarks. She was in the midst of reading about anti colors when the bell rang. She quickly shut her phone off and flipped the mask back onto her head. She was extra careful putting the strap of her side bag across her shoulder, because the movement rubbed against her shoulder growths and threatened to send spasms through her body again.

Art class. Surprisingly stressful, yet fun. Anthea slunk into the room and shuffled to her table. She suddenly wished Dominic and Meredith were there so they could show Ms. Whitney their matching costumes. Both of them took choir as their fine arts class, however. Anthea was one of the only seniors in her introductory art class, but she didn’t care because it was fun anyway.

She reached under her part of the table and pulled out a large drawer that held her works in progress. Her pieces of construction paper lay scattered like lost sheep. She pulled them out and spread them over her desk. The class was learning about motifs in art, or repeated elements that supported a theme in the work. They were trying to base their work off of some blind artist named Matisse. Matisse’s motifs. Motifs by Matisse. Well, this motif is by Anthea, she thought, and it stinks.

She was using apples as her motif. Lots and lots of apples. She needed to cut more out. Anthea grabbed a pair of scissors that were waiting for her under the table and took one of her red pieces of construction paper. The apple had to be incredibly small, so she held the paper close and took little snips to try to make the pinched circle shape.

“Are you a werewolf?” a voice said an inch away from Anthea’s ear. She yelped and turned to smack the rude voice in the face.

“Benny!” Anthea growled, holding her hand up and trying not to punch him. “You made me cut my apple in half!”

“And your hand…” Benny grabbed Anthea’s fist and uncurled it. Blood was pooling in her palm, warm and sticky.

“Oh, thanks.” Anthea yanked her hand back. “And I’m not a werewolf. It’s obviously a horse’s face. I’m a knight. You know, from chess?” She was nearly screaming by the end of her rant. Her hand was throbbing way more than it should have been, and way more than she would like to admit. She stalked off to the classroom sink, ignoring the looks a few of the kids were giving her. Let them believe I’m crazy. I don’t care.

Anthea set her left hand under the faucet and let the cool water run over it. She rubbed it with her other hand to get the blood off and to try to find the cut. After a few seconds, she turned the water off and held her dripping hand up. She stared at it in disbelief.

“Do you need a Band Aid?”  Ms. Whitney asked, walking behind her.

“Look at her hand!” Benny said. He peeked over her shoulder. “There isn’t a cut there. What was that red stuff, then? Paint?”

Anthea forced herself to take a deep breath and let her hand drop. “It was a little cut,” she lied. “It’s fine now.” She didn’t even let her mind try to wrap itself around what just happened.

Meredith tapped her pencil on her desk. Math was boring today. It was a work day, and some of the junior boys in her class were waging an eraser war. Off each eraser went from their fingertips, landing on desks and heads. They let off a cheer whenever someone beat the record for longest fling.

Head on her desk and arm wrapped around her neck, Meredith gave a sideways grimace at the boys before turning her eyes down to the blank paper on her desk. They were learning about implicit differentiation, and Meredith really wasn’t comprehending it. She would probably just ask Anthea for help, even though that lazy bum was in regular calculus instead of advanced.

Well, the regular class is probably getting more accomplished, anyway. Meredith clicked her tongue and looked around the room again.

Boring. Everything is boring. She stretched her legs under her desk. The one kid in the classroom who actually likes school, and I’m bored. Even Anthea hates school. The crown on Meredith’s head was getting itchy, so she took it off and placed it on her desk.

When the bell rang, Meredith threw her notebooks in her backpack and rushed out of the classroom in relief. She had History next, with Anthea.

Anthea was slouching in her seat when Meredith walked into the classroom. She had her black knight out on her desk and was twiddling it between her fingers. Meredith noticed that her mask was on the floor between her legs.

“Did a hall monitor yell at you for wearing your mask?” Meredith teased as she sat down.

“No. I just don’t feel like wearing it,” she answered without looking up, a bit forcefully. Meredith blinked in surprise.

“What? Why not?”

Anthea set the knight piece down and turned over her left hand, palm up. She traced the lines with her finger, but didn’t answer Meredith.

“Anthea? Anthea Elisabeth Hayes, if you don’t tell me what’s wrong I may just have to force it out of you.”

Finally, a smile! The corners of Anthea’s lips turned up and she glanced up at Meredith, her eyes twinkling a little.

Mr. Brechen started scribbling things on the board, a sure sign he was about to start a lecture. “Tell you later,” Anthea whispered, then opened up her history notebook.

So close.

After school, Meredith didn’t even bother going home. She called her mom and told her she was going over to Anthea’s to do some homework.

She ran after Anthea onto her school bus. “Hey, Ani,” she said, swinging herself up the stairs. Her friend turned around and smiled when she saw Meredith.

“Need help with math again?” she asked.

“Yeah. I was thinking I could just hang out at your place until trick or treating starts anyway.”

“Perfect.” Anthea sat down and scooted to the window. Meredith plopped herself down next to her. “There’s something I wanted to show you anyway.”

“Does it have anything to do with how down you seemed today? You’re always so perky on Halloween!”

“Yeah, it does.”

Ani was silent the rest of the bus ride home.

“Wait here.”

“What for?” Meredith twitched on Ani’s couch as her friend disappeared into the kitchen.

“I just have to test it out first, to see if it happens again. So I don’t make myself look like an idiot.”

Meredith waited for a minute or so, listening to Ani’s footsteps in the next room. At one point she heard the faucet turn on. When Ani came back, she was holding a kitchen knife in her right hand and was holding her left hand up like it was delicate.

“Look! Look at this!” Ani thrust her left hand in Meredith’s face.

“What?” Meredith pushed the hand away. “It’s your hand…”

“Without any marks, right?” Or cuts? Here,” Ani grabbed Meredith’s hand and pulled her off the couch.

“What? What are we doing?” Meredith confusedly followed Ani to the kitchen. Ani thumped to the kitchen sink.

“Okay. Just…promise you won’t freak out, all right?” Ani looked at Meredith expectantly.

“Yeah, okay…” Meredith was already starting to freak out. What was she up to?

Ani took a deep breath and placed the knife across her left palm. Meredith widened her eyes and jerked her head up to Ani’s face. “What in God’s name—”

“I’ll be fine. Watch.” Ani slowly drew the knife across her skin. Meredith winced at the large gash it left on her palm.

“Ani, what the hell are you doing?” She wasn’t sure whether she should grab the knife from Ani’s hand or not, but thankfully Ani set the knife down on the counter.

“Okay, you need to do something about that,” Meredith said, pointing to Ani’s bloodstained hand. Ani, apparently oblivious to her friend, stuck her hand in the sink and turned it on. Meredith screamed in exasperation and went to the medicine cabinet, grabbing all the ace bandages she could get her hands on. When she set them back down, she was greeted by another hand in her face.

“What the…” Meredith grabbed onto Ani’s hand and pulled it back so she could see it better. It looked like…a normal hand. “What is this for?”

“This is the one I cut.”

“What?” Meredith looked at it again. It was definitely the left hand, the one she had seen the gash on. Then, she smiled. “Ohhh…is this some magic trick?”

“What?” Ani drew her hand back. “No, it’s not. Look at the knife!”

Meredith looked at the knife sitting on the counter. It was still covered in blood. “That’s not fake blood?” Meredith asked dubiously.

“No, it’s not! This is real, all real!” Meredith looked at Ani’s face. She definitely doesn’t look like she’s lying.

“Okay…so if this is real…and you really did just cut yourself and scare the bejesus out of me…how is your hand completely fine?”

Ani shrugged. “I’m not sure. But I think it’s because of this.” She pointed to her shoulder.

“Your shoulder?” Meredith queried. “What does that have to do with your hand?”

Ani glanced suspiciously at the window, then grabbed Meredith’s hands and dragged her to the hallway leading to her downstairs bathroom and computer room. She paused in the middle where there were no windows.

“What now?” Meredith huffed. Ani wriggled in her shirt and worked it over her head. She chucked it at the floor and smoothed down her white undershirt.

“This.” Ani turned around so that her back faced Meredith.

Meredith gaped at her. Near the base of Ani’s neck, just above each shoulder blade, sprouted twin twitching antenna-like limbs. They were each about a foot long and came to a point. They rested down Ani’s back and swayed back and forth as she brushed her curly hair out of the way. “So?” she tentatively asked, turning her head so she could see Meredith out of the corner of her eye. “What do you think?”

“I think…uh…I’m…I still don’t see what this has to do with your hand,” Meredith stammered. Ani turned back around.

“So you’re not freaked out I have extra limbs growing out of my shoulders?”

“No, I’m very freaked out about your antenna things. And I’m more freaked out about your magic healing powers. But I still don’t see the correlation.”

“Hyper cell division.” Ani brushed her hair over her back, glancing at the light streaming through the window into the kitchen and tiptoeing back into that room. “I don’t want the neighbors to see my freakiness,” she explained, “but it feels good to let them breathe. Plus I want an apple.”

“Hypo…what?” Meredith followed her back into the kitchen.

“Hyper cell division. I have no idea if it’s a real thing or not, but it sounds about right.” Anthea grabbed three apples from a basket on the counter and took a gigantic bite out of one of them. “I think my cells are in hyper drive and are multiplying like crazy. Kind of like cancer. Hopefully it’s not harmful…something seems to be hard wired into my cells to fix my cuts at a much faster rate. Oh, and to make the weird growths on my back.” Anthea took another bite from the apple. “It hurts like heck, and it gives me one heck of an appetite.”

“Do your parents know?” Meredith took Anthea’s other two apples and washed them in the sink.

“Heck no.” Ani widened her eyes. “Just you. And you better not tell anyone. Not my parents. Not Dominic. Promise?”

“Cross my heart.” Meredith handed the apples back to Ani, and she grabbed them ravenously. Meredith watched as she tried to take a bite out of both apples at once. “I’m not sure if that’s funny or disturbing.”

Ani shrugged. “Both, I suppose.”

Both of their heads snapped around as the sound of tires on concrete came through the walls. “Crap!” Ani dropped the apples and bolted towards the hallway, picking up her shirt as she went. Meredith watched her run with amusement, but turned around again at the sound of the front door opening.

“Meredith!” Mrs. Hayes set a plastic bag of groceries down on a counter.

“Hey, Mrs. Hayes. Need any help?”

“Yes, please.” She beckoned outside. “I’ve got more groceries in my car.”

Meredith hurried out the door, glancing back at the hallway. Ani had probably disappeared into a bathroom.

There were bags and bags of groceries in Mrs. Hayes’s trunk. Meredith spotted a couple of bags full of Halloween candy. She looked at the Reese’s cups with longing, then took the bags inside.

Later.

Part 1

Fatigue.

Nausea.

Splitting headaches.

These all came weeks before Anthea’s night in her upstairs bathroom, staring at the mirror and wondering what the heck she was going to tell her parents.

Clutching the edges of the stark white sink, Anthea begged the lump in her stomach to dissolve, like the pill she had taken three hours earlier. Unfortunately, the lump only grew heavier, and with it the weight of the past few weeks.

Headaches.

“Ani, how much sleep did you get last night?” Meredith asked worriedly after the first headache rose up behind Anthea’s eyes during European History. Anthea shrugged, pinching the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger.

“Maybe six hours? Not bad, considering I had a crapload of physics homework last night.” Anthea squeezed her eyes shut, forcing the pain back.

“Did you eat any chocolate before you went to sleep? I heard that chocolate can give you headaches.” Meredith glanced over at Mr. Brechen, who was currently scribbling unintelligible names on the whiteboard.

Anthea sighed. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine. Plus, one of us needs to get these notes on the first world war or we’re screwed for the test on Friday.”

Meredith smirked. “Well, all right.” She gave Anthea one more sympathetic look and turned back to the board.

Fatigue.

The second hand on Anthea’s watch seemed to be malfunctioning. Anthea held it up to her ear. Its tiny beat seemed stronger, slower, like the heartbeat of a giant cat preparing to pounce.

“Anthea!” She blinked up at the unexpected sound. The noise of her watch disappeared as she lowered it to see coach J walking up to her. “Come on, move it!” It took her a couple of slow seconds to notice the absence of the other cross country members. They must already be on the track outside, warming up. Anthea muttered an apology to her coach and grabbed her sling bag, heading out the gym doors to the track. She nearly stumbled as the heavy bag swung across her back. She took a deep breath and followed the coach around the track to where the team was already running their second lap around. Watching them jog around the corner, their shoes thudding on the ground like heavy rain, Anthea wanted nothing more than to sink into the warm rubber and sleep for the rest of the season.

Nausea.

“Honey, are you all right up there?” Mrs. Hayes’s tinkling voice was barely audible through the bathroom door. Anthea leaned over her toilet, monitoring her breaths. Any sudden movement or change in breathing pattern would tip her over the edge like a cup filled to the brim, she was sure. Even her heart rate seemed to threaten her equilibrium. Thinking was hard, as each thought that poured into her head added to the cup. No, better not think at all. Better stay right here, just like this, for however long it takes.

Anthea ignored the soft knocking on the door.

The mirror glared back at Anthea in the dark. She had a candle burning next to the sink, but the lights were off and only the stars shone through the window. Her mint green shirt and camisole lay crumpled on the floor by her feet. The flickering candlelight made strange shadows on her pale skin, turning her reflection into a ghastly apparition. Anthea brushed a dark brown curl away from her left shoulder, and stared once more at the source of her newest pain. She forgot about the rock in her stomach as she stared at the small nub appearing just behind her shoulder. She had to turn a little and strain her neck to the side to see it properly, but it was there. A one inch ball of bone protruding from her shoulder blade like a large knuckle.

There was an identical one on her right shoulder, but Anthea let her hair drop back down over her back, covering the nubs. How long had she been in the bathroom? Anthea glanced down at her watch. It was hard to read in the dark, but she thought it said 12:18. Happy Friday morning to me, she thought. My senior year of high school barely one month in, and I’m already confused, positively crazy, and turning into some kind of six limbed freak. Great.

Anthea grabbed her shirt from the floor and shrugged it back on. She reached her arm back to feel where the bump was and relaxed a little when she realized it was small enough to not be very visible. Unless you were looking for it, that is.

I’ll just wear my coat over it, just in case, Anthea told herself. Good thing the weather’s getting colder.

Despite her temporary relief, Anthea’s reflection stared sullenly back out at her.

“Stop pouting,” Anthea whispered at it. “At least the headaches are gone for now.” Anthea took one last look at the sad image in the mirror and walked out of the bathroom, determined to get some much needed sleep.

October 26th was a crazy day in the Hayes household. Anthea had Meredith and Dominic over to make Halloween costumes, a tradition they had upheld since elementary school.

“How about two witches and a warlock?” Anthea suggested.

“What the hell does a warlock wear?” Dominic asked. “Do I need a pointy hat too? And a broomstick?”

“We could be the three blind mice,” Meredith cut in. Dominic and Anthea let that sink in, then burst out into raucous laughter. “What? What’s so funny about being mice?”

“We are NOT being the three blind mice.” Dominic chortled. He grabbed a pair of scissors from the coffee table and playfully snipped them in Meredith’s direction.

Mrs. Hayes stepped into the family room just as a two on one war was about to start. “Careful with those,” she warned, eyeing the open scissors still in Dominic’s hand. The mother dumped white, black, green, and gold clothes and costumes on the table, knocking over a glue bottle in the process. “These are the only fabrics I could find. There may be more, but if you want to look yourselves, be my guest. I need to go make dinner.”

“Thanks mom!” Anthea called at her as she hustled out of the family room to the kitchen. Dominic put the scissors back on the table and grabbed a long thin piece of gold cloth.

“Look, I’m an angel!” he said in falsetto, twirling the cloth into a halo and placing it on his head.

Anthea giggled and snatched it off. “We are NOT being angels either.”

“Then what are we going to do?” Meredith grabbed a white shirt with one hand and a black felt fabric with the other. “Make chess pieces out of this stuff?”

Anthea dropped the gold strip. “YES! Why didn’t I think of that?” She grabbed a black pair of pants. “I get to be the black knight!”

“How did I know you were going to say that?” Dominic grinned and put a black bowler hat on her head.

“Umm…maybe because you’ve seen the black knight piece in her purse?” Meredith put a white feather mask up to her face. “Should I be the white queen?”

“It’s a side bag, not a purse,” corrected Anthea, “and yes, you should be. Dominic here is going to be my king, right?” She nudged the teen in question in the ribs.

“Huh? Wha’? Sure.” Dominic rubbed his side gingerly and feigned a hurt face at Meredith. Ow, he mouthed.

Meredith smirked. “Since when have you had this mask, anyway, Ani?” She had tried on the white feather mask to find that it fit nearly perfectly.

“On, I don’t know. It probably was used for some fairy costume at some point in time.”

“Whoa, check it out!” Dominic pulled something large and white out of the pile. He pulled it up and held it over his chest, and Anthea saw that it was a pair of fluffy white wings. Dominic was grinning. “Eh? Eh? You like?”

Anthea smacked him on the shoulder with the stack of black clothes she was accumulating. “Black chess piece, not white angel, you idiot. CHESS PIECE!”

“Ow ow ow ow !” Dominic threw up his arms against the assault of soft fabrics. “My queen is abusing me! Help!”

“Your KNIGHT is abusing you, oh king!” Anthea corrected.

“Oh, yes. My brave knight of solitude. Oh brave, brave, wondrous night, vanquished by day…”

Anthea gave him one more smack for good measure.

Mrs. Hayes had barely set the macaroni and cheese on the table when the three famished teenagers barged into the kitchen.

“Aww man, the famous Hayes Mac and Cheese!” Dominic pulled out a chair and plunked himself down, leaning forward to let the awesome cheesiness fill his nostrils.

Mrs. Hayes plucked a piece of tape out of his unruly blond hair and put a stack of yellow dinner plates next to him. “You know the rules. Help us before you help yourself.”

Dominic dutifully got up and distributed the six plates around the table. Anthea and Meredith grabbed forks and napkins and followed Dominic around.

“So our costumes are almost done, mom,” Anthea said. “Guess what we are?”

“Chess pieces.” Mrs. Hayes put steamed broccoli next to the macaroni dish. “I heard you three talking about it.”

“Aw, mom! That ruins the surprise!” Anthea put down the last fork and pretended to pout. Her over exaggerated look slowly turned into one of confusion and discomfort. She rubbed her shoulder slowly.

“Hon? What’s wrong?” Mrs. Hayes started walking around the table. Anthea, hand still on her shoulder, shook her head frantically at her mom.

“No, I’m fine. I’ll be right back.” Anthea rushed out of the kitchen, bumping into Meredith on the way out.

“What’s come over her?” Dominic queried after her pattering footsteps had disappeared down the hallway.

“Another headache?” Meredith shrugged. “She’s been getting a lot of those lately.”

“She was holding her shoulder,” Dominic countered.

Meredith opened her mouth, perhaps to offer a retort, when the front door of the Hayes’s house opened.

“I’m home! What’s for dinner?” a cheery voice called down the corridor. Mrs. Hayes quickly left the kitchen to greet her husband, leaving Meredith and Dominic to stare after Anthea in confusion.

By the time Anthea returned from wherever she had disappeared to, her father and her little sister Kim were already seated around the dinner table. Meredith was munching on a roll, and Dominic was showing Kim how to fold a napkin into a frog. Mrs. Hayes was the first to notice the large, ill-fitting gray sweater Anthea had thrown on over her other clothes.

“Are you cold, dear?” she asked. She got up and placed her hand on Anthea’s forehead, much to her daughter’s obvious discomfort. “You don’t have a fever, do you?”

Anthea ducked and lowered her eyes. “I’m fine, mom. Really.”

Meredith cleared her throat. “These rolls are great, Mrs. Hayes. Where did you get them?”

Anthea glanced thankfully in Meredith’s direction as her mom turned and started talking about how she had found them for such a cheap price that it really would have been a sin not to buy them. Anthea slipped next to her sister and grabbed a roll to put on her plate.

“Why were you gone so long?” Kim whispered to her, her eyes sparkling with curiosity.

Anthea shook her head. “Not now, pumpkin nose.”

Kim grumbled and folded her arms. “You’re a pumpkin nose.”

Anthea laughed and scooped a large helping of macaroni and cheese onto her plate. “It’s just…growing pains.”

“Growing pains?” Dominic raised one eyebrow. “You stopped growing in seventh grade.”

“Hey, don’t make fun of my shortness.” Anthea sat up a little taller in her chair.

Mrs. Hayes pushed the bowl of broccoli a little closer to her daughter. “Do you need any medicine, hon?”

“No thanks, mom.” Anthea eyed the broccoli like it was a large mold growing out of the table. Meredith plucked a piece of broccoli from the bowl and popped it in her mouth.

“So. All we have to do to our costumes is make the headpieces.”

“The hardest part,” added Dominic. He was scooping macaroni into his mouth like it might run away from him at any moment.

“What are we going to make them out of?” Meredith grabbed another piece of broccoli and chewed thoughtfully. “We could use helmets, I suppose.”

“What about paper mâché?” Anthea nudged the broccoli towards Meredith gingerly. “I’ve made a ton of stuff out of paper mâché.”

“That might work.” Meredith grabbed the bowl of broccoli and dumped the rest of the vegetables onto her plate.

“You need water and flour to make paper mâché, right?” Dominic asked.

Anthea took one bite of her macaroni, grabbed the plate, and got up out of her chair. “Yeah, I think so. I’ve got a whole bag of flour in the kitchen.”

The three kids got up with a clatter. They paused when Mrs. Hayes cleared her throat. “What do you say?” she said, raising her eyebrows.

“May we be excused?” they mumbled at different speeds. Mrs. Hayes nodded, and the teens resumed their rush to the kitchen.

Mrs. Hayes shook her head and smiled. “Remember when we had that much energy?” she said to her husband.

“Nope.” Mr. Hayes scooped a large portion of macaroni into his mouth. “Delicious, as always.”

“Thank you, dear.” Mrs. Hayes glanced at the kitchen doorway. “Growing pains…”

Anthea was trying not to walk funny. Strange how pain in your shoulders can affect the way you walk…

“Hey, you guys get the flour, I’ll be right back.” Anthea opened a cabinet that held the flour and stiffly started limping out of the room.

“Wait, where are you disappearing to this time?” Meredith asked.

“I’ll be right back,” Anthea repeated. She went out the opposite door so she wouldn’t have to go past her parents and sister.

By the time she reached the bathroom, the pain had wrapped itself around her body. After she closed and locked the door, she shed her shirt quickly. The little nubs on her shoulders had grown. Anthea gingerly touched one of them. It was tender to the touch, like a newly healed patch of skin, or a bruise.

She took a shaky breath. It’s getting worse. If it got any worse, she decided, she would have to tell her mom and dad, Meredith, Dominic, somebody. She had heard about people who had supposedly been born with extra limbs. What about people who grew extra limbs? All Anthea could think of as she stared at the two extra knobs was Stitch from Lilo and Stitch growing his third pair of arms. That almost made her smile, but then another spasm racked her whole upper body. She squeezed her eyes shut and bit her top lip to keep from screaming. The pain radiated from her shoulder down her back and around her sides. She was nearly on the floor when the pain suddenly subsided. She straightened back up, breathing heavily. Was it her imagination, or did they grow another half inch?

Knocking at the door.

“Ani? You all right?”

“Do you need any assistance?”

“Shut up, Dom!”

A smack, probably Meredith hitting Dominic. I can’t believe he takes our abuse, Anthea thought, smiling. She threw her shirt and sweater over her head. She straightened them out and called, “Be right out.”