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Here is something I was fooling around with. I decided not to go forth for reasons some will get and some won’t. It’s completely unedited, so please excuse all the errors


The sounds of battle echoed in the distance, but that didn’t concern the woman.  She would live, or she would die, but before she did, she had a mission to complete, and nothing was going to stop her.  She added her final thoughts to the metallic sheets that she used to record her message.  Laying the laser inscriber down, she picked up the sheets and began to read.

My Dearest Children,

3000 years ago, because of our arrogance, we were forced to flee our home on Earth.  A cataclysmic disaster destroyed our beloved land, Atlantis, and erased its existence.   Many of our ancestors ignored the warning and perished in the disaster, but those that didn’t were able to escape, and we made our way through space to a new home. We found a new home on this planet we called Gaia, after our home planet.

For thousands of years, we lived a peaceful existence on Gaia.  We formed alliances with those who inhabited the other planets in our star system.  It was indeed a golden age.  While we did not actively seek to fight with anybody, we did, on occasion have to fight to protect our world, but for the most part, ours was a peaceful nation.  I say was because we have recently come under attack from our friends the Gadori.  As you are aware, the Gadori’s home world was dying, our scientists, working in tandem with theirs were able to stabilize their ecosystem and save their world.  When we did so, they swore their fealty to us, and for a great many years, we lived in harmony. 

It was a golden time children, and our world flourished.  When my husband took his place as ruler, it was the beginning of the end, though we didn’t know it.  For our neighbors, the Gadori were planning, under the leadership of Prandor to take our world for their own.  But it wasn’t until you my beloved son Jayseth took the throne that Prandor put his plan in motion.  He staged a coup, a very bloody coup, and seized control.  Many lives were lost in battle.  Our world lost its ruler, but I lost so much more than that.  I lost my son and daughter, and my beloved niece and nephew. 

But all hope is not lost dear children, as before, there were those who saw the terrible times that were coming.  Before the battles began, you were subjected to a battery of tests and physicals from our physicians.  During that time, some blood and cells were taken from you.  You thought it was simply for testing, but it was a preventative measure.  We had some scientists who remained loyal to the royal family, and they regenerate you in your simplest form.   In short, you were recreated as embryonic cells.  However, all did not go well.  Two sets of cells were created in hopes of giving you the best chance of survival, but some scientists who were loyal to Prandor tried to destroy the embryonic cells.  They were stopped before they damaged all of the cloned cells, but we are unsure of how much damage the four they were able to get to had sustained.

We are sending the eight embryos in gestational pods, along with four guardians back to Earth.  Our land of Atlantis is gone, but there are other lands there.  Your guardians will find a safe place to hide your gestational pods, and will watch over you until you emerge.    When you do emerge, you will have no memories of your life here on Gaia,  but the Olim, will provide you with access to the sineedacy, and  with that, you  will have access to the memories of those who came before you, including your former selves. 

My dear children, I do not plan for you to return to Zareth, my only goal is to allow all of you to live again – to live the lives that were brutally cut short by Prandor and his army.  Jayseth and Katalia, my children.  Your father and I love you so much….

A banging door pulled her thoughts back to the present and she looked up.

“Your Majesty, we don’t have much time,” said Kelton.  “Are you almost ready?”

“Yes, Kelton, just a few more minutes please.  I am almost finished.  Are they pods ready?”

“Nearly, Kelton replied.  We have the damaged ones on one ship and the four intact ones on the other.  I am assuming you will put the Olim with the intact ones?”

“Correct,” she replied. “Prandor won’t like losing the Olim, but I can’t say that I care too much about that.  I know my own husband didn’t respect the power of the Olim, but I do.  Now please Kelton, go watch over the pods, I will be with you in a moment.

Kelton gave a slight bow,  “As you wish, Majesty.  Plash is here.  She has news for you.  Should I send her in?”  She nodded and waited as Kelton left and for her trusted friend to enter the room.

“Do you have it?” she asked.

“No,” Plash replied.  “I was too late.  I’m sorry I failed you.”

“You didn’t fail me,” she replied.  “We tried, it was all we could do,” she added hiding the regret she felt at the loss of the item.  “I still have one of them.  Now go, get yourself to safety.  I will join you later.”

Plash left the room, and she picked up the metal sheets and resumed reading. 

Jayseth and Katalia, my children.  Your father and I love you so much…. as we do you, Brendair and Iliana, my beloved nephew and niece.  Watch over each other, love and help one another, and know that we will continue to fight until our last breaths here on Zareth not only to free our world, but to make sure you remain safe on Earth.  Your father, aunt and uncle are missing.  I don’t know if they are dead or have gone underground. If I survive this battle, and am able to successfully get the two ships housing you launched, I too will go into hiding.    Know that we love you, dear ones, and will love you throughout time and through this existence and the next.

The woman looked up and scribed one final message.  She gathered up the metal sheets, as well as a small book and exited the small room, and quickly made her way to the launch chamber.  As she approached, she heard a noise in one of the ships, and dread quickly filled her. 

“Kelton?” she called softly.

“Yes Majesty,” Kelton replied exiting one of the two ships.

She said nothing, but sent him a questioning glance. 

“I was just checking to make sure all the gestational pods and the Olim were secure,” he said, “And they are.”

“Please go wait in the control room, ” she requested.  “I would like some privacy to make my goodbyes.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Kelton replied.  “The undamaged pods and the Olim are in the far ship,” he added. 

“Thank you Kelton,” the Queen answered, giving a regal nod of her head.  She waited unspeaking, until he exited before she climbed aboard the ship.  She was unable to quell the feeling of dread that filled her at the sight of Kelton exiting the ship.

The ship was dark, save for the illumination of the Olim, a glowing obelisk approximately ten feet in height.  She knelt before it and held the metallic sheets, and the parcel out before her.  The light intensified to a blinding intensity, and when it subsided, the both items were gone from her hands.  “You will find them when it is time,” she whispered.  The Olim will know to only give my words to you, my children.”

She made her way over to the gestational pods and placed a soft kiss on each one.   “May the Olim watch over and protect you dear ones,” she whispered.    Wiping a tear from her eye, she quickly exited the ship and made her way to the other and repeated her prayer.  When she was done, she joined Kelton in the control room, and gave him a sad smile.

“Thank you, my friend,” she said.  “Are the guardians ready?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.  If you will look, you can see they are just about to board. 

She watched as the four guardians circled their ships, ensuring all was ready for their long journey. 

“I worry about the damaged embryos,” she said, “But it can’t be helped.  We have to send them both back to Earth and give them both a chance to survive.  You are certain that the damaged ones are together and the whole ones are together?

“Yes, your Majesty,” Kelton replied.  “I put them on the ship myself.”

Lost in her fears, she didn’t notice the evil look on his face even as he reassured the queen. 

A large blast shook the building and the queen turned to Kelton.  “It’s Prandor’s men!” she cried.  “Launch the ships now.”

“Your Majesty, you must get to safety,” Kelton cried as his hands worked feverishly on the controls. 

“Kelton, hurry,” shouted the Queen.  “Launch the ships.”

“Just another minute,” Kelton bit out.   “I’m setting the coordinates now.”

“There’s no time,” the Queen cried as another blast racked the building.  She reached out and hit the launch button and watched at the ships launched out into the darkened sky.

“You bitch!” Kelton shouted whirling on her, his face a mask of rage.  “Prandor wanted those embryos!”

The queen’s heart sank as she realized that she had been duped, that Kelton, her trusted co-conspirator was actually a spy.  She gave him a mighty shove, and the unexpectedness of her movements caught him off guard and he fell backwards, banging his head on the control panel.  While he was down, she fled, making her way out of the control room.  She ran across the launch pad, and pressed a key pad on the wall.

“Destruct program activated,” a disembodied voice echoed throughout the room.  “Destruct program activated.”  “Destruct program acti….

The last of the words were lost as an explosion ripped across the building.

Chapter 1


The warm summer sun filtered through the trees, creating dappled shadows on the road, but the couple parked at the scenic overlook saw none of this.  Both were lost in their own thoughts, and ignored the beauty that played out before the.

“We have to talk about it, babe,” the man said.  “Ignoring it won’t make it go away.”

“But talking about it means it’s real, and I can’t do that.  I simply can’t,” his passenger cried. 

“Fine, we won’t talk about it, but don’t you think you should at least get out and take some pictures?  The Chamber of Commerce contracted with you for their new brochure, you need to get it finished if you want to honor the contract.”

She lifted tear filled eyes and stared at him,  “How can you even worry about that, Dan?  We just found out we’re never going to have children.  I’m never going to be a mother, and you’re worried about a crappy brochure for some podunk town in New Hampshire?  Fine, you want pictures, I’ll take pictures.”

Grabbing her camera, she climbed out of the car and slammed the door, it’s sharp echo reverberating across the valley.  She reached the edge of the overlook, and began to snap random photos.  She heard the car door behind her slam, and the crunch of footsteps on the gravel as her husband made his way to her.

“Patrice, baby, you know that’s not what I meant,” Dan said, coming up beside her.  “I just want you to try and focus on something else.  The doctors didn’t say we’d never have children, just that it could be difficult.  We’ve always known that.  It doesn’t matter.  I love you, not just your ability to have children.”

“It does matter,” Patrice cried, allowing the camera to fall to her chest.  “Dan, it really does matter, to me anyhow,” she added a bit resentfully.

“What matters to me,” Dan said, pulling her close, “is how upset you are.  I don’t really understand why.  You’ve known for years that the endometriosis would make it difficult.  It’s why we signed on to become foster parents.”  He stepped back from her slightly and brushed a strand of long dark hair from her face.

“I know, but I was so sure this time, so sure, and the home test said positive.  I wanted it to be true, I needed it to be true.  But when the doctor said it was just a false positive, I wanted to die.  I want to be a mother so badly, Dan.  I want to have children.  YOUR children.”

“Babe, if the good Lord sees fit to give us a child, I know well be wonderful parents, but children are meant to enrich our marriage.  They are not the sole reason for us to be married.  Besides, there are plenty of other ways for us to have children.  Like I said, we’re certified foster parents now, and we can look into adoption, or surrogacy.  Besides, the doctor said getting pregnant would be challenging, but NOT impossible.  Think of all the fun we’ll have trying,” he added, waggling his eyebrows at her and giving her a cheeky leer.

Laughing a bit, Patrice scrubbed at her face with her hands, trying to erase the damage the tears had caused to her face.  Watching her, Dan fell a little more in love with her. 

“You’re just a dirty old man in training,” she chuckled.  “And you’re right – about a lot of things.  The first one being these pictures.  I need to get them done.    She raised the viewfinder to her eyes and began to snap picture after picture. 

Several hours later, when Patrice was done taking photos, the two stopped for lunch at a small mom and pop place that catered to locals rather than the tourists the Chamber of Commerce was so desperate to bring in.  It had a rustic, almost shabby chic interior that had probably happened over time, rather than being a decorative statement.

While they waited for their food, Patrice scrolled through the shots on her digital camera while Dan held a one sided conversation about the sites they had seen.

“But I don’t think I could live here,” he concluded.  “I like our little piece of New Hampshire.  It’s rural enough, but only an hour from Boston when we need a little culture, or the bright lights of the big city.  Plus, it’s convenient for work. “

“Mmmm,” Patrice murmured absentmindedly as she stared intently at the small screen.

“Patrice?  Are you even listening to me?” Dan asked.  He looked up to smile his thanks as the waitress placed their meals on the table.  He grinned  with pleasure as he took a bite out of the juicy burger.  He loved his wife, but she was a health food nut, and he rarely had food like this at home.

“What? Huh?  Oh, sorry,” she said.  “But Dan, look at this.”  She passed the camera to him and motioned for him to look at the screen.

“What exactly am I looking at?” he asked.  “You zoomed in a lot here.”

Patrice slid out from her side of the table and slid into the booth next to Dan and took the camera from him.  “See, there, right there,” she said, pointing to a small white blur on the screen.   She advanced the picture, and then advanced again as Dan watched as first one, then two small naked children appeared on the screen before him.

* * *

A crowd gathered at the command center that had sprung up at the overlook where Patrice had snapped the photographs.  Police, forest department personnel, search and rescue, private citizens and the news media gathered as soon as word spread about the two children in the pictures.

“The photographs were taken at between 10:27 a.m. and 10:40 a.m. according to the time stamps,” the police chief said.  “We have no reports of missing children, at this time, but that doesn’t mean anything.  The parents may not even realize they are missing, or are searching themselves rather than contacting the authorities.  Brant Parker of search and rescue will be coordinating our search.  At this time, I’m going to turn this over to him.

The chief stepped back as Brant Parker addressed the crowd.  He walked over to where Dan and Patrice Stephens waited.  He didn’t quite believe the Stephens story – didn’t want to believe it was more accurate, and he wanted to go over their story one more time.

“Mrs. Stephens, can you tell me again, what you saw?” Chief Brody asked.  He leaned up against his cruiser and watched her expression.  He was a firm believer in listening to his gut.  His gut was telling him that this couple was on the level, but he wanted to be certain.

Dan blew out an exasperated sigh and ran his hands through his cropped blond curls.  “Why do we need to go over this again?” he demanded.  “I would think we’d be of more use searching.”

“Do you have any search and rescue experience?” the chief asked, calmly.

“No,” Dan muttered.

“Then the best thing you can do is stay here and stay safe.  If you go out there, that’s another potential person we’d be looking for.”

“Fine,” Dan grunted.  “Patrice was taking pictures,”

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to hear from Mrs. Stephens this time,” the chief said.

“Well, as you know, I contracted with your Chamber of Commerce to take pictures for a new tourism brochure.  We got here right around 10:00 a.m., I think.”  She looked over at her husband for confirmation and he nodded.

“You say you got here around 10:00, the chief asked, “Yet the first photograph from this location wasn’t taken until 10:27.  Mind telling me what you were doing for almost thirty minutes?”

Patrice flushed, but she looked the chief straight in the eye when she answered.  “We were having a fight.  I grabbed my camera and got out of the car, and Dan followed.  We finished up our discussion, and I started taking pictures.”

“Mind telling me what you were arguing about?” the chief asked.  He was curious because although he could tell the couple was deeply in love, there was a hint of underlying sadness about them.

“What does that have to do with the two kids Patrice shot pictures of?” Dan demanded.  “I don’t see how that’s germane to the situation.

The chief arched an eyebrow at Dan. “Are you by chance a lawyer, Mr. Stephens.”

“No, I’m an accountant.  Why?”

“Just wondering,” the chief said.  “You just sounded like a lawyer.” 

“Well, I may watch a bit too much Law and Order,” Dan admitted, with a small grin.”

“Some of these questions are personal, but you never know when you may say something that sparks a memory.  So what were you arguing about,” the chief prompted.

“Well, I was upset because there is very little chance that I will be able to get pregnant,” Patrice said.  “We were arguing about that, and I got out of the car and just started snapping.  I wasn’t really looking at what I was doing.  Dan came out behind me, and we talked some more, and I calmed down, and finished taking pictures. “

“You wrapped up a fight about such a big emotional issue, just like that?” the chief asked disbelievingly.

“Well, the thing is, I’ve always known that my having children was a long shot, Patrice said.  “But Dan reminded me that having children wasn’t why we got married, love was why we got married.  Having children would be great, but it’s not the end all and be all of our marriage.  We are.  Plus, there are always other options, there is adoption, and we were recently certified to be foster parents, and well, if it’s mean to be, it’s meant to be,” Patrice finished in a rush.

Just then, a shout came from the forest, and  people began to emerge; two of them carrying to very small, dirty, naked children.  Without thinking Patrice stepped away from Dan and the chief and toward the two children.  She reached out her arms and took one of the children from the ranger.  The child, a girl, gave a small cry and buried her head in Patrice’s shoulder, while the other child squirmed trying to remain in contact with the girl.  Without a word, Patrice opened her other arm and the other child, a boy clung to her and let out a wail.

Chapter 2

2003, Appleton, New Hampshire

The classroom echoed with the sound of 20 first graders and their parents.  It was the day before the first day of school.  The children milled around, exploring the classroom, while the parents stood together in small groups trying not to appear nervous.  Patrice Stephens watched nervously as her two children held hands tightly and stood off to one side of the room.

Fate had smiled down upon her and Dan on that fateful day in the mountains.  The two children she had inadvertently photographed had been abandoned.  She and Dan had petitioned to be their foster parents, and when Child and Family Services saw how deeply the children had bonded with the Stephens, they made short work of all the red tape and installed the children in the Stephens home.  As soon as they possibly could, they petitioned to adopt the children, and Jayson an Kaitlyn had become a part of their family.

She looked around the classroom, nodding in approval at the way the teacher had set up the room.  There were plenty of colorful pictures on the walls, all labeled with clear printing.  There was a reading area, with plump cushions, and a rocking chair, and instead of desks, there were round tables.

“Which one’s is yours?” asked a petite woman with a short cap of red curls.  She stood next to a striking woman with long black hair pulled into a no nonsense ponytail. 

Actually, those two are mine,” she said, pointing to Jayson and Kaitlyn.

“Oh twins?” asked the red head, “How fun, and how much work.”

“Actually Jaysea and Kaity are both pretty easy going,” she replied.  If you discounted the year and a half of nightmares after they came to live with us, she thought to herself.  “Which one is yours?”

“Well, mine is pretty easy to spot,” answered the red head.  “Sabrina is the little red head who hasn’t stopped asking the teacher how long it will be before she can read.  I’m Jess Patterson by the way, and my partner in crime over here is Angela McKenzie.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Angela.  “That’s my little cherub Marina over there, chatting up those two adorable little boys.

“Excuse me, parents,” the teacher called cheerfully over the din.  “Our practice first day ends in two hours.  Why don’t you all take the opportunity to grab a cup of coffee or run a few errands.  And don’t forget to stop by the PTO table in the lobby, and feel free to sign up for a volunteer slot here in the classroom.  Also, we’ll be looking for room parents this year if any of you are interested.”

The parents began a slow exodus out of the room as one parent spoke loudly making sure her voice carried.  “I’m going to be sure to sign up for everything,” said Pamela Thompson.  The name Thompson means something in this school, and my little Cissy is just so special.  I want to make sure I’m here as often as possible to make sure the teacher recognizes just how gifted she is.”

The three women walking behind her rolled their eyes and tried not to laugh out loud.  “Look, Angela and I were going to go to Dunkins and grab a cup of coffee.  Would you like to join us?”

Patrice gave one nervous glance back at  Jayson and Kaitlyn, and nodded.  “Sure, I’d love to.  I’m Patrice Stephens by the way.  The other two women shared a look, and Patrice knew what was coming, and she braced herself for the onslaught of questions that were about to follow.

“You’re the photographer, right?” Angela asked, surprising Patrice.  “The one who does all those great New England shots?”

“Well, I don’t know if they’re great, but yeah, those are mine,” said Patrice as the three exited the school.

“You thought we were going to ask you about the kids, didn’t you?” asked Jess.

“Well, yeah, I did,” admitted Patrice.  “You’d be surprised at the number of people who think they’re entitled to hear every detail of the kids coming into our lives.”

The three women walked across the blacktop parking lot.  The trees showed just the barest hint of color, and the weather was more reminiscent of a summer day than of back to school weather.  Walking three abreast, the crossed the somewhat busy street and made their way down the block toward the nearest Dunkin Donuts.  A honking car grabbed their attention and Nora and Angela waved as the driver sped by.

“That was my husband, Jonathan,” Nora said. “He was going to come today, but his closing got moved up and he had to be at that.”

“Oh is he a realtor,” asked Patrice.

“He has his broker’s license,” said Nora pulling open the door of the donut shop.  “But this closing is for a building he’s buying.  We’re going to renovate it and rent out the apartments.  He owns a couple more over by the college that he rents out to students, but this is his first time buying something in the business district.”

They chatted about inconsequential things as they placed their orders and then moved to a table by the window.  Angela twisted her coffee cup around for a minute, gathering her thoughts before she spoke.

“Look, if you ever want to tell us about the kids, great.  If you don’t, that’s great too.  It’s your business, not ours, but I do want to speak to you about business, if you don’t mind.”  Without giving Patrice time to respond, Angela continued.  “I own a small orchard and farm in town, and I want to start advertising in a big way and I, well, I…”

“You need some pictures?” Patrice asked.

“Yeah. No. What I mean is I need to know what you charge to do something like that?” asked Angela.

“For my new friend, nothing,” said Patrice.  “especially if you let me bring the kids with me to see the animals.”

“That sounds great, and I’ll bring Sabrina out too,” Nora chimed in.  “She and Marina are pretty much inseparable, anyhow.”

“That sounds great,” Angela started to say, only to be distracted by a ruckus in the coffee line.

“Yes, Mrs. Thompson, I’m sure that’s 100 percent correct, the PTO is a very good organization,” said a tall, well-built man with a slight British accent.

“Oh it is,” Mr. Wallace, gushed Pamela Thompson.  “You have no idea.  Plus I think it would be a wonderful way for single parents such as ourselves…”

“Yoo hoo, Sweetie, over here,” Angela said, standing up.  “We’ve been waiting for you.”

Patrice shot Nora a questioning look, but her new friend just giggled and smiled.  “No, that’s not her husband,” she said, sotto voce.  “She’s just rescuing him from the evil grasp of Pamela Thompson.  Those two have a history that goes back to pre-school.

“There you are Darling,” the man said, his long legs making short work of the distance to their table.  “I’m sorry it took so long to get here.  I got held up.”  He placed a discreet kiss on Angela’s cheek and smiled.  “Thank you, whoever you are,” he said and the three women burst into laughter.

Chapter 3

“All right, boys and girls.  Our practice day is almost done.  Why don’t you all take a seat at one of the tables and draw a picture for your family?” 

Sabrina joined her friend Marina at a table with the two boys Marina had been playing with earlier.  Looking around, she saw another boy and girl standing to one side holding hands and looking afraid.  She got up and walked over to them and smiled.

“I’m Sabrina,” she said.  “Do you want to sit with us?  We’re coloring.”  She held out a hand to them, and the other girl reached out with a smile.

“Okay,” she said and the three walked over and joined the others at the round table.  The teacher watched and smiled, pleased to see the sense of community that was developing already.

At the table, the children colored and talked about the different things they liked about their new classroom.  Without warning, Sabrina gasped, and tears started to trickle down her cheeks.

“What’s the matter, Brina?” Marina asked, distressed to see her friend upset.

“I broke the green crayon,” Sabrina said, biting her lower lip nervously.   I don’t want the teacher to be mad at me cause I broke her crayon.

“Don’t be stupid,” said Sam, one of the other boys at the table.  “She’s not gonna care if you broke a crayon.  My dad’s a teacher and he says teachers don’t care about stuff like that.”

Don’t call her stupid, Sam,” said Colton, his twin brother.  “Daddy says we’re supposed to use nice words.”

“Shut up, Colt.  You’re not the boss of me.”

“Stop it!” whispered Kaitlyn.  You’re gonna make the teacher come over here.  She looked over at her brother hoping for him to stick up for her and instead she saw him doing something they had both promised never to do.  She continued to babble at the two squabbling boys while trying to listen to her brother.

“Don’t cry,” he said.  “I can fix your crayon.”

“No, you can’t,” Sabrina sniffed.  “I’ve tried lots of times with tape and it never works.”

“Shhh, watch,” he whispered.  He closed his hands around the crayon for a second and when he released it, it was whole again.

“You did it, you did it, you fixed it!” Sabrina clapped causing heads around the room to turn and look at her.

“Shhh!” Jayson said again, this time more urgently.  It has to be a secret.  Promise you’ll never tell.

“Tell what?” Marina asked.  “I wanna know!” 

“Yeah, tell us!” Sam and Colton cried in unison.  “We wanna know too!”

Kaitlyn alone remained silent, but the angry expression on her face spoke volumes.

“Don’t worry, Jayson, I won’t tell,” Sabrina said, crossing her heart and making a locking motion over her lips, and in that one motion a bond was forged between the two.

Chapter 3

Appleton, NH, 2005

The voices of the middle school students echoed in an endless cacophony in the school cafeteria.  Sabrina and Kaitlyn waited impatiently, holding their trays.  As they waited, their eyes scanned the crowded, noisy cafeteria, looking for a place to sit.  It didn’t matter what grade you were in, or how many friends you had.  Lunch on the first day of school was always traumatic.  As they waited, Cissy Thompson and her small band of devoted followers walked by the two girls.  As they passed, they stopped talking and then broke out in giggles. 

“Ignore them, Bree,” whispered Kaitlyn.  “She’s just a stupid old cow.

“I know,” Sabrina responded.  “It just that every time I look at her, I remember the horrible things she wrote about me in that slam book, and I  want to…”

“You want to what?  Wait, let me guess.  Judging from the look on her face, and the way she’s holding her lunch tray, there was just another Cissy encounter,” said Marina.

“Forget about it,” said Sabrina.  “I really need to forget about Cissy.  Come on, there’s an empty table over there,” she added, pointing to the far corner of the cafeteria. 

Ignoring Sabrina’s comment, Kaitlyn started moving in a different direction.  “No, I want to go sit over there,” she said.  She moved off in the opposite direction, looking neither right nor left, carrying herself with a confidence that was almost regal. 

“We should totally hate Kaitlyn,” Marina whispered as they trailed along behind.  “She’s lucky she’s so stinking nice. 

“I can so totally hear you,” Kaitlyn said, stopping abruptly in front of a round cafeteria table occupied by one boy.  She placed her tray carefully on the table  and motioned for the two girls to do the same.  “Hi I’m Kaitlyn.  That’s Sabrina, and that’s Marina.  We’re going to sit with you.”

The other two girls put their trays down, and sat down, along with Kaitlyn, and the three girls looked at the boy taking in every detail, as he did the same to them.  He had dirty blond hair that touched his shoulders, and he was dressed in black ripped jeans, and Harley Davidson shirt that had been washed so many times the logo was barely distinguishable.  Most noticeable was the fact that there was no food in front of him.

In a split second of unspoken communication, the kind that only comes from years of familiarity, the three girls began a rapid fire conversation over who would eat what, managing to put a small pile of food in front of the boy without him being completely aware that it happened.

“So, are you gonna tell us your name?” Marina asked.  “Like Kaity said, I’m Marina, which I totally hated until Bree’s mum told me that it meant from the sea, and that made total sense since I’m such a beach freak.  I LOVE the ocean.  Did you know we’re only about 30 miles from the ocean, which is really cool, cause we’re also like 50 miles from the mountains.  Do you like the mountains?  I love the mountains, but not as much as I love the ocean.  What’s your name?”

The boy just stared, his mouth opened slightly, overwhelmed by the amount of information that came from the girl’s mouth in such a short time.   “Uh, I’m uh,” he started, his voice cracking.  “I’m …”

“Greetings everyone.  Today’s word is Arachnoleptic fit.  Do I have any takers on a meaning?” Colton asked, dropping his tray on the table, sending droplets from his soup all over the table. 

“Please don’t encourage him” Sam added, squeezing in between Kaitlyn and Sabrina.  My brother is nothing if not weird.  Jayson said he’d be late, he needed to talk to Mr. Kellerman about something.  It was probably something important, but I wasn’t paying attention,” he added, shoveling a forkful of green beans into his mouth.  Who are you?” he asked, looking at the unknown boy sitting at the table.  I’m Sam by the way, and that incredibly lame dork over there is my brother Colton.”

The boy looked from Sam, to Marina, and to Colton, looking for a resemblance other than the ability to speak faster than the speed of light.  “Is she your sister?” he asked, pointing to Marina.

“She has a name, you know?” Marina snapped. 

“Arachnopleptic fit?  Anybody?  Bueller?” interjected Colton.

“We give up, Colt, what is an Arachnopelptic fit?” asked Sabrina between bites of her sandwich.

“An Arachnopleptic fit is the frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web, of course!”

 “Did Colt just ask you about the arachnopelptic fit,” said a voice behind them.  “Who are you,” the voice continued, growing cold.  “And why are you sitting here?”

“Geez, Jayson, chill why don’t you.  Everyone says I overreact, but maybe you’re the one who needs to be doing all that yoga crap my dad has me doing,” said Sam.  “Give the kid a chance to talk.”

Jayson put his stuff on the table and sat down next to Sabrina and continued to glower at the stranger.

“You’ll have to pardon my brother Jayson,” said Kaitlyn.  “He’s reverted back to his caveman origins.  Jayce, Sam is right, you need to relax.  The poor kid didn’t sit with us, we sat with him, and he was trying to tell us his name, and probably would have, if he hadn’t been interrupted by a bunch of blithering idiots masquerading as eight graders.”  She looked at him expectantly, and he found it impossible to resist.

“Oh uh, well I’m Jamison,” the blond boy said.  As he spoke, he tossed his hair, which had a habit of cascading over his eyes, back.  “Jamison Duffy.  Me and my dad just moved here over the weekend.

“I know you,” Sabrina said, softly, joining the conversation for the first time.  She was wary around new people and tended to observe rather than contribute.  She liked trying to figure out what made people tick, and she found it strange that Kaitlyn, who avoided most people like the plague zeroed in on the new kid.  He was cute, but not super cute, and he had an air of toughness around him, but Sabrina thought it was more to hide the pain he was feeling from others. 

 “You don’t know me,” he replied, sounding belligerent.  As he spoke, the table began to shake and the trays rattled on the surface, Sabrina could feel Jayson stiffen beside her and she surreptitiously laid her hand on his arm. She looked first at Jayson, and then at Kaitlyn.  Both their faces displayed shock.  She had never talked with them about the crayon incident in first grade.  Jayson’s plea that she not say anything struck a chord deep within her, and she kept that secret for eight years.  But she had never forgotten that she had seen it, and Kaitlyn and Jayson had never forgotten that she knew.  Taking a deep breath, she knew she had to do something to draw attention away from what had just happened.

“You’re right,” she said.  I don’t KNOW you, but I know of you.  Your dad took the building maintenance job my dad advertised.  That’s cool,” she smiled.  “If your dad took the apartment that comes with the job, we’ll probably be living in the same building.”

“Oh no, Bree, don’t tell me you guys are moving again?” Sam whined.  “Every time your dad buys a new building, he moves you in there, and we’re all stuck helping you move.”

“Shut up Sam,” Colt said, shoving his brother lightly.  “You know Mr. Patterson always pays us, and he springs for pizza and a movie after.  You’re just lazy.”

“I’m not lazy,” Colt said, shoving his brother back.  “You guys just give me the heavy stuff because I’m so much stronger than all of you.  But geez, the girl owns way too many books!”

The two boys began to scuffle back and forth as talk resumed around them, and Sabrina confirmed that her father had just bought another building in the downtown district and renovations were being done on it.  “But my dad promises this is the last time,” Sabrina said.  “And this time, instead of just pizza, he said we could have a party.”

“Cool, let’s have it out at the farm,” Marina interjected.  “My mom won’t care.  We can have a fire in the fire pit and then hang out in the barn.  Mom let me turn the old tack room into my own private place.  You should come too, Jamie.  If your dad is going to be working for Bree’s dad, you’re totally going to get roped into the moving too.  Might as well get roped into the party.

And with that casual invitation, the group that had been six for eight years expanded into seven.

Chapter 4

Appleton, NH 2007

The air was filled with a sense of excitement for Sabrina.  The start of a new school year always brought out those feelings.  The new clothes, the backpack filled with new notebooks, pens, and pencils.  For Sabrina, it was a more magical time than Christmas.   

She smoothed down the leaf brown camisole, and carefully layered the green V-necked T-shirt over it and smoothed it down over her jeans.  Brown leather sandals completed the look.  She slipped a silver necklace, and brushed a little powder over her face.  Slowly her hand paused, distracted by the myriad of photos that were taped around the edge of the mirror.  Pictures of Sabrina and Marina playing together as toddlers.  As the girls aged in the photos, so did their content, which stretched to expand Jayson and Kaitlyn, Sam, and Colt, and more recently, Jamison.  The seven of them had become a tight group over the years, which was good, because their parents had become equally as close.

Sabrina’s mother put her accounting degree to work, manning Dan Stephens accounting office, allowing him to expand and open another office down in Boston.   Mrs. Stephens continued her photography work, including updating the website that had been designed by Colton and Sam’s dad, Mr. Wallace who taught computers and math over at Appleton High.

“Sabrina, Jamison’s here.  You don’t want to be late on your first day.”  Her mother called out.  Sabrina grabbed her backpack and ran quickly down the stairs to find Jamison sitting at the table eating a stack of waffles.

“Did you save me any?” she asked, grabbing the orange juice from the fridge.  She poured two glasses and put one in front of Jamison before she put the juice away.

“I’m going to head out,” her mother said, dropping a kiss on first Sabrina’s head and then one on an embarrassed Jamison.  “Your dad left early to start the renovations on that house he bought over in Springvale.   Your father is there, too, Jamie.”  Jess Patterson turned her head to try and hide the feeling of disgust she had for Jamison’s father.  All of the parents had tried very hard to befriend him, but he was rude, belligerent and just plain unpleasant at every turn.  Their dislike of the senior Duffy did not extend to Jamison.  All of them loved the boy despite his rough manners, and his disreputable way of dressing.  They all realized that very little, if any money was every spent on Jamison, but the boy struggled to make sure what he had was always washed and cleaned. 

“Actually, we’re all going to dinner to celebrate tonight, ” Mrs. Patterson continued.  “Jamison, you’re coming too,” she added to forestall the argument she knew was coming.  “We invited your father, too, but he has other plans, but Jon made sure to let him know you’d be joining us.”

“Yeah, um, but” Jamison stammered, trying to find an excuse to miss the dinner.  He’d been doing more and more of his father’s work around the building, because his father was usually too drunk to get it done, and more than anything, Jamison didn’t want his father to lose this job.  Not only was it the longest place they’d ever stayed, but he, Jayson and Kaitlyn had so many plans to explore their connection.  Ever since that day, when they met, that day when his anger made the table shake, the three had formed their own sub-group within the group.  They tried to find a connection between them and figure out how they could do some of the things they were able to do.

“Sounds good, Mrs. P,” Jamison said, with a grin.  He kind of hated being called Jamie, and only responded to it for Mrs. Patterson and Marina.  He tolerated it from Mrs. P because, well, she was Mrs. P.  Why he tolerated it from Marina, he didn’t quite understand – yet.  “Are you ready, Bree?” he asked.  “We need to motor if we’re going to get to school on time.”

Sabrina downed her juice while Jamison quickly put the dishes in the dishwasher.   Sabrina grabbed her backpack, and two brown bag lunches off the counter and passed one to Jamison.  “It’s leftover from last night,” she whispered.

“Aren’t Jayson and Kaitlyn picking you up?” asked Mrs. Patterson as the three exited the apartment together.

“No,” Sabrina replied, locking the door behind them.  “Colt and Sam’s car isn’t out of the shop, and they didn’t want to ride to school with their dad, so Jayce and Kaity said they’d pick them up instead. “

“Sparing them from a fate worse than death,” laughed Mrs. Patterson.  “The dreaded curse of having a parent who is a teacher.  I probably shouldn’t even ask, but do you two want a ride to school?”

“Nah, we’ll walk,” Jamison replied, answering for both, but his answer was drowned.

 out by a loud honking. 

“Or maybe we’ll ride,” said Sabrina, looking at the truck that was roaring down the street.  “Isn’t that Marina in her mom’s truck?”

“I do believe it is.  You two have a good day at school and don’t forget dinner tonight,” said Mrs. Patterson, putting her briefcase in her car.  “Nothing too fancy,” she added.  “I think we’re just going to the Market Place.  Jamie, you will ride with us.”  She waved to Marina who had pulled up, and watched with a smile as the kids climbed into the cab of the truck and buckled their seat belts. 


“I can’t believe your mom let you take the truck,” Sabrina said, fastening her seatbelt.  “It’s harvest time, she’s got to be so busy.”

“She didn’t let me borrow it,” Marina squealed, bouncing in the driver’s seat, “she gave it to me!  She bought a new truck yesterday for the farm.   I can’t believe it.  I have a truck!”

“Great, can you use the truck to get us to school on time.  I don’t care if we’re late, but little Miss Sunshine over here,” Jamison said, elbowing Sabrina in the side, “will probably turn into a toadstool if she misses even one second of school.”

“Shut up you big jerk,” Sabrina joked, reaching out to pull Jamison’s long blond hair.  “Maybe if you paid a little more attention and school, and actually turned in your work now and then, you’d like it a little more.”

“Don’t make me pull this car over,” Marina joked as the other two scuffled beside her.  She rolled down the window and turned the radio up and began to sing along to Rhianna’s Umbrella.  The 3 of them laughed and began their journey to the first day of their junior year.

Chapter 5

The halls of Appleton Senior High teamed with students comparing schedules, greeting old friends, and in the case of freshmen, trying to find their classes.  Sabrina, Jamison, Marina, Colton, Sam, Jayson, and Kaitlyn weren’t freshmen.  They weren’t seniors yet, but they were close.  It was junior year.  The most important year if you believed everything their teacher’s and guidance counselors said.  It was the year of SATs, and college visits.  Sabrina tried to push down the feeling of excitement that was building up inside of her.  Maybe it was geeky of her, but she really did love school.  She loved everything about it.  She loved the excitement of learning new things, the clubs and activities, the sporting events.  She even loved the homework and tests, though she didn’t admit that to anyone.  She knew that someday, she was going to go to a fantastic college, and then, she was going to get her PhD in neurosciences.  Sabrina loved learning about people, trying to figure out what made them tick, and she loved figuring out how the brain worked.  She had read so many studies about the human brain and the things it was capable of.  Things like what Jayson did with her crayon on that long ago day in first grade.

They never ever talked about it, but she knew there was something special about Jayson and Kaitlyn, and probably about Jamison as well.  They had some sort of connection, and she wanted to know what it was.  She wanted to know how Jayson was able to do what he did, and how Jamison was able to make the table move on the day they met.  She was pretty sure Kaitlyn could do things too, though she’d never seen it.  There was just something about the three of them.  They were different from everybody else.   She knew it, but she didn’t know how, and she wanted to know.  The only thing she wanted even more was to have Jayson notice her as a girl, but it didn’t look like either of those two things were ever going to happen.

She sighed and leaned against her open locker and hung up her backpack.  She looked on the door and smiled at the collage of pictures that decorated the door.  She and her friends had worked hard, and played harder this past summer, on the McKenzie farm.  Marina’s mother had always found jobs for them on the farm, even before they were the legal age to work, but this year, because they were older, they were able to do a lot more, including driving some of the farm equipment, and driving the horses for the hay rides, as well as working in the farmers market and store that Mrs. McKenzie had opened a couple of summers ago.  She gently ran her finger over a picture of a shirtless Jayson sitting on a tractor and sighed.  She took a deep breath and pushed herself away from her locker.  Wishes didn’t get you anywhere, and right now, she needed to focus on school.

Hands covered her eyes and a deep voice whispered, “Guess who, beautiful?” and her heart skipped a beat.  Jayson!  Play it cool, she thought to herself.

“Um let me see.  Is it, Zac Efron?” she asked, naming teen heartthrob?  “No, wait, that can’t be right.  What would he be doing in Appleton.  Is it…. Drake Bell?  No, his voice isn’t that deep.  Oh wait, I know, it has to be that sexy hunk of manhood Jayson Stephens.”  Laughing, she peeled the hands off of her eyes and spun around to find Jayson, Kaitlyn, Colton and Sam all standing there.

“Kaitlyn, you look amazing,” Sabrina cried surveying her friend from head to toe.  Her dark brown hair flowed in waves down to the middle of her back.  Though most girls wore their hair straight, Kaitlyn never bowed to convention.  She wore a white eyelet sundress that just brushed her mid-thigh, with a sunshine yellow shrug and sandals that were the exact shade of yellow as her shrug.  “I can’t believe you found sandals to match that shrug,” she continued.  “But you look absolutely magnificent.”

“Um, if we’re done with the fashion critique,” Colt chimed in before Kaitlyn could utter a word.  “Can we move on to the more important business at hand?  First, how did you get here so quickly, we thought you were walking today, and second, do you have any idea what dinner tonight is about?”

Sabrina grabbed her things out of her locker and closed the door, and the five friends fell into step and started to walk down the hall to the cafeteria.   Her heart began to race when Jayson casually dropped his hand over her shoulder and pulled her into him.  “You look great today,” he said.  “I love seeing you in green.”

“Thanks,” she said, said softly, surprised her voice could be heard over the pounding of her heart.  “You’re not looking too shabby yourself,” She took in his faded jeans and his red polo shirt and thought he looked better than shabby.  He looked good enough to eat.

“Hello, Earth to Sabrina,” Sam said waving his hand in front of her face.  “Are you going to answer the questions or are you and Jayce going to start your own mutual admiration society?”

“Jerk,” she replied, giving him a friendly shove.  “We formed that society a long time ago.  Notice how you were not invited to join?  We got here early because Marina drove.  Mrs. McKenzie bought a new farm truck and gave Marina the other one.  She came and picked up Jamison and I this morning, and as far as dinner, I don’t have a clue.”

“Damn, I figured you’d know for sure since your dad was the one that called our dad this morning before school,” said Sam.

The sat down at their usual table and continued their cheerful banter back and forth until Kaitlyn caught their attention.  “Does anybody know where Marina and Jamison are?” she demanded.  “I want to find out if she’s trying out for the play this year.”

“I don’t know where they are,” Sabrina said, looking around.  “When we got here, Marina said there was a problem with her schedule and she said she’d find us later.  Don’t we all have third lunch?   What’s the play this year anyhow?”

“They’re doing Grease,” Kaitlyn answered.  “I can totally see Marina as Sandy.”

“She would be perfect,” Sabrina agreed.  “How about you, are you going to try out?  As a rule, they all tried to participate in the same activities.  But last spring, Sabrina branched out and ran for student council and was elected.  Jayson, Sam and Jamison all played football, but Colton, with his tall, rangy build ran cross country.  Marina and Kaitlyn were both page editors for the yearbook, and this year, Marina had mentioned possibly trying out for the drama club.

“Don’t hate me,” Kaitlyn said, “But I heard there was a vacancy on the cheering squad.  Elizabeth Simpson’s dad got transferred to New York or something, and they moved, so there’s an opening.

“I could never hate you!” Sabrina cried.  “Unless you became friends with Cissy Thompson.”  She watched as the statuesque blond walked across the cafeteria, a bevy of Cissy wannabes tagging along in her wake.

“No chance of that happening,” said Kaitlyn as the first bell rang.  They gathered up their belongings and followed the stream of students out of the cafeteria doors.   As they walked, Jayson put his hand on Sabrina’s shoulder and pulled her out of the flow of traffic.  “Can I walk you to your first class?” he asked.

“Um Jayce, it’s your first class too,” she laughed, her heart pounding.

“Yeah, I know that, but still, can I walk you to class?” 

“No,” she said, shocking both of them.   “How about if I walk you to class instead?”

“Deal!” he said and they both laughed and walked out of the cafeteria, not noticing the raven-haired beauty that watched their every move.

Chapter 6

The Marketplace restaurant was the restaurant in town.  It’s where families went to celebrate couples went on ‘date night,’ and it was where the Pattersons, the Wallaces and the Stephens gathered for all of their celebrations.  It was housed in what used to be the Appleton general store, and was decorated in an old country/colonial motif.  Even though it was short notice, Jon Patterson was able to reserve  the small banquet room that had been added on to the restaurant several years ago.  “I suppose you’re all wondering why I called you here,”  joked Jon.

“Hey, Mr. P,” Jamison interrupted.  “They set too many places.  We’re all here, but there are two extra places.”

“Way to go, Jamison,” quipped Sam.  “Good to know all that education hasn’t been wasted.  You can count to fifteen.”

“Shut up, Samuel,” Jamison said.  “Remember, I know all your secrets.”

“Everyone here knows all my secrets,” laughed Sam.  “I’m pretty much an open book.”

“As long as that book is Green Eggs and Ham,” said Jamison, “or you wouldn’t be able to read it.”

“Boys!” said Angela McKenzie, Patrice Stephens and Jess Patterson in unison, and the room erupted in laughter.

“I know they said it takes a village,” said Marina, “But I think they’re wrong.  All it takes is our moms!”

They were all laughing when a distinguished man walked into the room.  He had dark hair, touched with silver, and even though all the dads were wearing suits, it was even to see that his suit was incredibly expensive.  “I see the party started without us,” said the man.  He smiled, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. 

“Nonsense,” said Jon, jumping out of his seat.  “The kids were just being their usual crazy selves.  Everybody, I’d like to introduce Eric Harrison, and…” he paused as he saw the shadowy figure standing behind Harrison.

“And this is my daughter, Lana,” continued Mr. Harrison, pulling the girl into the room. 

“We’re so glad you could join us,” said Jon.  “Why don’t the two of you sit right down, and we’ll make the introductions.”

Mr. Harrison pulled out a chair and Lana sat down gracefully and smiled at the table.  “I was so excited when Daddy said we were meeting all of you tonight.  School was so lonely today because I haven’t met anybody yet.”

Sabrina, Kaitlyn, and Marina all exchanged glances.   There was no way this girl was in high school.  The short tight electric blue dress hugged her figure and looked like it cost a fortune.  Her hair was done in a casual windswept style that actually took hours to achieve and her jewelry looked like real diamonds.

“Everybody, as you heard, this is Mr. Eric Harrison, and his daughter Lana.  Eric purchased the piece of land that Angela had on the market for years.  He’s planning on building a home on it,” explained Jon.  “The closing happened last Friday.  Eric wanted to move here because he heard about our wonderful school system, but he was concerned that it would hard for Lana to make friends in a small town like ours where everybody has known one another for years.   So I suggested we all get together for dinner to give you kids a chance to get to know one another, and to welcome the Harrison’s to the community.”

“Thank you, Jon for putting all of this together,” said Mr. Harrison.  “I know you, of course, and the lovely Angela McKenzie, who was kind enough to  sell us that wonderful parcel of land, but who else has joined us tonight.”

Angela McKenzie smiled briefly at Harrison, she didn’t like the man, but she certainly liked the money he paid for that useless piece of land that abutted her farm, and Jon got her an amazing deal, so she would make nice.  “This is my daughter, Marina,” she said, motioning to her daughter.  Marina, like all the others, is a junior at Appleton High.”

“Hi,” Marina said, giving a half-hearted wave.

” Over here, you have Dan and Patrice Stephens.  Dan owns an accounting firm with offices here, and down in Boston, and Patrice is a well know photographer,” said Jon.  “And Kaitlyn and Jayson are their two kids.”

“Hi,” purred Lana, eyeing Jayson like he was a lollipop and she couldn’t wait to take a lick.  “I’m really glad to meet you.”

This is Charles Wallace,” continued Jon.  “He teaches computers over at the high school, and those are his boys Colton and Sam, and this is my wonderful wife, Jess.  She’s an accountant too.  She manages Dan’s office here, and she recently opened a yoga studio,” he beamed proudly at his wife.  And these two amazing kids here, are Sabrina and Jamison.”

“Hi,” Lana said, looking confused.  “Are you twins or something?” she asked looking at Sabrina

“No, only Colton and Sam are twins,” Sabrina replied, deliberately misunderstanding the other girl’s question.  “Jayson and Kaitlyn aren’t twins and neither are Jamison and I, but we’re all juniors at Appleton.  What year are you?”

“Isn’t that funny, I’m a junior too,” said Lana, and Sabrina felt her heart sink.  She had a bad feeling about this girl, and she just couldn’t shake it. 

Talk ebbed and flowed over the hors d’oeuvres.  After they placed their orders, Mr. Harrison looked around the banquet room.  “Well this is certainly very…quaint,” he said, his tone indicating he thought it was anything but.  “We certainly will be living a very different life here in the country.”

“Yes, we certainly are rather rustic here,” said Mr. Wallace in his clipped British accent didn’t mask the annoyance he felt at Mr. Harrison’s attitude.

“Do I detect a hint of  England in that accent?” asked Mr. Harrison?

“Yes.  I met my wife when she was doing a semester abroad at Oxford,” explained Mr. Wallace.  “When she left, I followed her here and swept her off her feet.”

“Wasn’t she able to join us?” asked Lana.   “I want to study abroad when I go to college.  I’d love to hear about her experiences.”

“She passed away right after the boys were born,” Mr. Wallace said, quietly. 

Sabrina quickly spoke up, trying to deflect attention away from the Lana’s questions.  “Lana, what kind of activities did you participate in at your last school?”

“Oh, I didn’t go to school,” said Lana.  “We traveled so much for Daddy’s work, that he hired tutors for me.  According to my test scores, I could probably just skip high school and go straight on to college, but Daddy felt it was important for me to experience the typical high school experience.”

“Oh,” Sabrina said softly.  Not only was Lana beautiful, but she was smart as well.  And she couldn’t seem to keep her eyes off of Jayson either.  “Well,” she said, trying to keep the conversational ball rolling, “What type of activities do you think you might like to try?”

“I’m not sure,” said Lana.  “Maybe cheerleading, but I bet the squad has already been chosen.”

“Well, there is an open position,” interjected Kaitlyn.  “One of the girls had to move away over the summer, so they’ll be holding tryouts this week.  Um, if you want,” she added, obeying her mother’s unspoken request, “I can go over the cheers with you tomorrow.”

“Oh, are you a cheerleader?” exclaimed Lana.  “I’m sure you are, you look like you’d be a cheerleader.”  She glanced at Marina and Sabrina and quickly looked away as if to say there was no way either one of them could be cheerleaders.

“Well, no, I’m not,” said Kaitlyn, flattered by the other girl’s assumption, but annoyed at the way her look seemed to discredit her two best friends.  “But I am trying out.” 

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll totally get it,” Lana responded.  “I probably shouldn’t even bother.”

“No, you should, you should,” interjected Sam.  “Having you cheering on the sidelines will give the Appleton Raiders an incentive to fight even harder.

“I think Kaitlyn would be incentive enough,” said Colt, glaring at his brother. 

“Cain, Abel, cut the crap,” said Marina.  “There are like fifteen girls trying out, and while Kaitlyn is obviously the best choice,  no offence,” she added, looking at Lana.  “They’re going to pick the person who fits in best with the squad.

“Cain and Abel?” Lana asked puzzled. “I thought their names were Colt and Sam.”

The adults at the table began to laugh, not unkindly, while Mr. Wallace explained the reference, and Sabrina eyed the girl questioningly.  For someone who was supposedly so smart, and grew up with private tutors, how could she not know who Cain and Abel were.  Shaking her head, she tried to quell the jealous feelings that raged up in her as she watched Lana trying to capture Jayson’s attention.  Finally she couldn’t stand it any longer, and she interrupted the conversation that had grown up around her.

“I was just named the head of the Homecoming committee,” she said.  “If you’re interested, we’re looking for plenty of volunteers to help with the parade and the dance and the Homecoming Court.  It’s the biggest event  we have this fall, and it will be a great way to meet new people.

Cries of congratulations  erupted from the table, and Jayson got up and walked around the table to give her a hug.  “Does this mean you’ll be too busy to go to the dance with me,” he whispered.  Her cheeks turned a fiery shade of red, but she smiled and whispered, “For you, I’ll make the time.”  He hugged her again quickly and returned to his seat.

“Sabrina, that is so generous of you,” Mr. Harrison said.  “Don’t you think so, Lana?”  He surreptitiously nudged the girl under the table.  “Lana, don’t you have something to say to Sabrina about her generous offer?”

“I would love to work with you on your committee,” she responded, her pleasant smile disguised the rage that boiled up inside of her.

Chapter 7

The September days quickly passed in a haze of activity.  Between school, homework, and their all-important social lives, the seven friends were extremely busy.  The one bone of contention between them was Lana.  Sabrina didn’t like her, and by default, Marina didn’t like her either.  Kaitlyn was reserved at first, but decided that she felt a bond with the new girl, especially when they both made the cheerleading squad.  The day after their dinner, Cissy Thompson slipped in the cafeteria, broke her leg, and shattered her enormous ego in the process.  The boys were ambivalent about Lana, with the exception of Sam,  who stopped just short of following her around like a  puppy dog. Mrs. McKenzie had offered the girl a job at the farm, along with the rest of the group, but  declined disdainfully, as if farm work were beneath her, earning her Angela McKenzie’s dislike.  And because Lana had taken Sabrina up on her offer to join the Homecoming Committee, work became her only escape from the new girl.  Work, and her dates with Jayson.

Sabrina sighed as she got ready for school, she couldn’t believe she was dating Jayson Stephens.  He’d been her secret crush since forever, and now, he was her boyfriend.  Sabrina straightened her hair as she continued to think about Jayson.  As always, her thoughts drifted back to that day in first grade, but she never found right way to bring up the subject of what he did, and what she saw.  Giving herself a mental shake to banish the thoughts, she tried to focus on the day ahead.  It was another busy one.  The cast list for Grease was being posted, and Marina was positive she would get the role of Sandy.  Sabrina hadn’t tried out for a role, but she did sign up to work on the stage crew to show support for her best friend.  They had yearbook photos today for all the clubs and fall teams, and after school she had a meeting with the Homecoming committee to finalize plans for Welcome Home et Bienvenue au Paris, making the theme a play on the welcome to New Hampshire signs that were in both English and French.   She wasn’t crazy about the theme, but the committee wanted to do something with an exotic locale.  Then there was the football game tonight, and thankfully, tomorrow was Saturday, and all of them were scheduled to work on the farm.

Sabrina grabbed the leaf brown shirt that she’d picked out for the day and slipped it on and tucked it into her jeans.  She dusted a light coating of blush across her cheeks, swiped on some lip gloss and ran down the stairs to the main floor of her family’s apartment.  When her father had rehabbed this particular building, he took part of two floors for their apartment.  Sabrina particularly enjoyed the  fact that off of her room was access to their patio and small rooftop garden.  There was also access from the kitchen, via a small flight of stairs, and her family and friends often used the  space for cookouts and to watch parades down  the town’s main street. 

“Morning Mom,” she called as she rushed into the kitchen.  “Where’s Jamison?”

“Jamison’s right here,” replied Jamison from underneath the sink.  “I’m just installing the new garbage disposal for your mom.

“Now, before school?  Jamison, it’s picture day!” Sabrina cried.

“Yeah? Like I care about picture day,” the teen said as he slid out from underneath the sink.  He stood up and walked over to the utility panel and flipped the breaker for the disposal.  He turned on the water and flipped on the switch and listened with pleasure as the unit hummed.  “All set, Mrs. P,” he shouted as he poured coffee for himself.  “Want a cup?” he asked lifting his mug toward Sabrina who shuddered.  Her loathing of coffee was well known among her friends. 

“No thank you,” she said, reaching into the refrigerator for the orange juice.  She poured herself a glass while she observed Jamison out of the corner of her eye.  He was dressed in threadbare jeans, and a faded red tee-shirt, and her heart sunk.  Her friend was so handsome, but few girls saw past the scruffy exterior, and the gruff nature to the sweetheart underneath.  An idea popped into her head, and she ran out of the room, calling out, “Wait here!” as she ran.

She sprinted up the steps to her room and rummaged around in her closet, and pulled out a gift wrapped package and ran back down the stairs.  She flew into the kitchen and skidded to a stop in front Jamison who just leaned against the counter, drinking his coffee.  “Happy Birthday,” she gasped.

“Uh, thanks, Bree, but my birthday isn’t until Saturday, remember?  We’re having a party out at the farm?”

“I know that,” Sabrina said impatiently, shoving the box at him.  “But I want to give you your gift, early.  Please Jamison, promise me you’ll wear it today.”

Jamison stared at her over the rim of his cup.  He was screwed.  He couldn’t deny Sabrina anything.  She was like a pesky little sister, but he hated feeling like he was a charity case, no matter who was giving the gift.

“Jamison, don’t,” she pleased.  “It’s not charity, and I don’t feel sorry for you. I saw this at the mall weeks ago, and it’s been sitting in my closet since then.  What does it matter if I give it to you today, or on Sunday?  Besides, it’s picture day!” She bounced excitedly in front of him and he bit back a groan, put the mug on the counter, and grabbed the box out of her hand.   He carefully peeled back the tape, trying not to rip the paper.  Receiving gifts was still enough of a novelty in his life that he wanted to prolong the experience.

Sabrina,  well aware of the reason behind his care in opening his gift struggled to control her impatience.  He finally slid the box out of the wrapping paper, lifted off the lid, and peeled back the tissue paper.  “I don’t have your card yet,” she said, “But I will in time for your party, I promise!” 

He lifted out the shirt and vest and looked at Sabrina questioningly.   “Really?” he asked.

“Come on, try it on, just trust me,” she said, pushing him toward the bathroom. 

“I look ridiculous,” he shouted from behind the close door.

“Jamison, come on, just come out,”  begged.  She held her breath as the bathroom door opened and Jamison walked out, and she clapped her hands together like a small child.  “Okay, just a few  little changes,” she said.  She reached out and unbuttoned the cuffs of the shirt and rolled them up, and then reached out and unbuttoned one more button at the neck.  “There, you look perfect,” she said.  “You’re going to be beating the girls off with a stick today!”

“Thank you, Bree,” he said the words brusquely, but she could read the sincerity in his words in his eyes.

She just smiled at him and then pushed him toward the door.  “Come on, we’re going to be late.  Marina should be here any second.

Chapter 8

Saturday dawned bright and clear, with just a hint of a bite in the air.  It was a quintessential New England day, drawing crowds to the farm.  The girls worked in the farmer’s market and the pick your own stand, while the boys worked, harvesting  pumpkins, and apples from non-public areas of the farm.   As they worked, the boys reviewed their  football victory of the night before, and Colton’s personal record in the cross country race, and Marina’s exuberance over winning the role of Sandy in their school production of Grease. 

“Do you guys want to take a break at the end of this row?” Sam asked, lugging a pumpkin to the wooden bin at the end of the row.

“Sounds good,” Jamison said as he passed  him on his way to get another pumpkin.  “Marina dropped of a cooler with fresh snacks and drinks while you were doing apples.

“Let’s motor, then,” said Jayson.  “I’m dying of thirst.”

“I don’t know why,” said Colton as he hefted a pumpkin.  “You spend more time mooning about Bree than you do working.

“Right, like you haven’t spent just as much time day-dreaming about my sister of all people,” Jayson responded with mock disgust. 

Jamison kept working, not joining in their banter.  It was all well and good for the three boys to dream about girls.  He was nothing, a nobody, and he didn’t have anything to offer anybody.  Plus with what he found out yesterday, there was no way he could even think about ever getting serious with anybody.    Just then a crackling noise in the nearby woods alerted them that somebody was nearby.  It was usually just someone from the u-pick section that had gotten lost and wandered into a different section.

“Well don’t all of you just look so strong and manly,” a voice called out and Lana made her way out of the woods.

“Hi, Lana,”  Sam said, pushing past Colton and Jamison.  “What brings you out here?”

“I was over with Daddy, looking at the progress that was made on our house,” she said, barely glancing hat him.   “Daddy pointed out the trail and said he thought you were working over here, so I thought I’d come by and see you.”  She addressed all the boys, but she only had eyes for Jayson. 

“Well you can’t be here,” Jayson said, abruptly.  “Mrs. McKenzie is really adamant about that.  Her insurance doesn’t cover non-employees being in this section.  He didn’t mean to sound rude, but there was something disquieting about her.  Something that wasn’t quite right.  But she looked so smoking hot, standing there in that short skirt and tight tank top.  Jayson blinked his eyes  and shook his head.  Where did that thought come from, anyhow?

“Sorry,” said Lana, sounding anything but.  “I’ll be on my way then, but Jayce, could I talk to you for a minute.  Privately,” she tacked on the last word laced with meaning.

“Uh, yeah, I guess,” he said, looking back helplessly at Sam.  He knew his friend was hung up on Lana, and he didn’t want to do anything to ruin their friendship.  Sam just shrugged and gave an imperceptible nod.  He knew that Jayson was hung up on Sabrina and he hadn’t done anything to attract Lana.

Jayson motioned to Lana and the two started walking toward the trail  from which Lana had emerged only minutes before.  They walked in silence for several minutes before Jayson finally broke the silence.

“So what did you want?” he asked finally, when it became apparent she wasn’t going to say anything.

Lana stopped, and looked up at Jayson, and place her hand on his arm.  “Jayce, don’t you feel it? she asked.  “Don’t you feel that connection we share?  We belong together,” the girl said softly, caressing his arm as she spoke.

“No we don’t,” he said, stepping back, pulling his arm away.  “I’m with Sabrina, Lana.  You know that.  I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to give you the wrong idea, but there isn’t any chance of that.  Bree and I belong together.”

“Look inside yourself Jayson,” Lana said softly, almost seductively.  “Can’t you feel it?  It’s like we’re being pulled together,”

Jayson unwillingly took a step closer to her, and she stepped into his arms.  A shout in the distance caught his attention, and he stepped back.  He paused and heard Jamison calling him.

“I gotta go,” he said, not mentioning the discussion the two of them had just shared.  “You can find your way back from here?”

“Yeah, thanks for walking me back Jayson, and thanks for clearing up that Chemistry assignment for me,” she added.

“No problem, ” he replied.  “Like I said, it’s the even number problems at the end of chapter 7.” He gave a brief wave and jogged off through the woods, back to the farm. 

“And here comes Ranger Rick, or is that Dudley Do Right,” shouted Sam, when Jayson jogged out from the trail.  “Nice of you to show are neighbor back home!”

“Shut up, she just had a question about our Chemistry homework,” Jayson said.  “That’s all, now come on, let’s finish this up, I’m about ready for a break.”

The boys were just finishing their section, when Marina, Kaitlyn and Sabrina drove into view in the farm truck.  The girls climbed out of the cab, and walked over to join the boys.  “We heard somebody here was just about to take a break,” said Marina, “And no break is complete without us!”

“You hear?” Jamison asked as his eyes drank in the view in front of him.  “How the heck did you just ‘hear’ something like that?”

“Well maybe Colt texted me and said something about you guys getting ready to take a break,” said Kaitlyn, holding up her cell phone. 

“Mom said you guys have probably done enough for the day, and if one of you can drive the tractor back, we can all call it quits for today,” said Marina.  “Well after your break, of course.”

They all laughed and sat under the shade of an oak tree at the edge of the orchard and Kaitlyn made short work of passing out the drinks and snacks from the cooler.  The group laughed and talked about their day, and their plans for the evening, celebrating Jamison’s birthday.  When they were done, they cleaned up the area, and tossed the cooler in the bed of the truck.

“I’ll bring the tractor back,” said Sabrina.  “I gave hay rides most of the day, the rest of you worked way harder than me.”

“We’ll give you a head start, ” said Marina.  “The tractor is slower than slow.”  She started the truck, cranked the CD player, climbed up on the bed of the truck and began to sing along with the Grease soundtrack that had been her constant companion since the musical had been announced. 

Sabrina smiled and climbed up on the tractor and started, the beast, as it was affectionately called.  She shifted it into gear and took off,  racing away at the speed of a turtle.  Without warning, the tractor began to pick up speed, and she panicked, pushing in the clutch and the brake, trying to slow it  down, but it just kept speeding up.  The tractor gave a lurch, and she felt it begin to tip, and she screamed.  Across the field Jayson and the others looked up at the sound of her scream, and watched as the tractor lurched and began to roll over, crushing Sabrina beneath it.

“Oh my God, Bree!” Marina shouted.  She jumped off the bed and began running before the others were even aware of what happened.  The boys quickly overtook her and ran across the field to the overturned tractor. 

“Bree, baby, are you okay?” shouted Jayson, skidding to a stop in the overturned dirt next to where Sabrina lay, pinned under the tractor.

“Of course, she’s not ok, you idiot.  Help me get this thing off of her,”  demanded Colton, pushing ineffectually at the truck.

Kaitlyn and Marina came running up, both of them gasping for air.  “Oh God, Kaitlyn, call 9-1-1, ” Marina cried.  “My phone is back in the truck.  She dropped to the ground beside Sabrina and began to push the hair back from her face.  “Hang on Bree, hang on.  We’re getting help, just hang on, okay sweetie?” 

“Kaitlyn, put the phone down,” Jayson ordered.  “We’re going to push the tractor, and when we do, I want you and Marina to pull Sabrina out.”  His face was white with tension, but he spoke calmly and quietly.  Sam, I want you and Colt on the ends, and Jamison and I will be on either side of Sabrina.  Okay everyone?”  He looked at everyone.  “Jamison, are you with me on this?” he asked pointedly.

“Yeah man, whatever it takes,” he replied.

“Okay everyone, on three.  1 – 2 – 3!”  The four boys pushed against the tractor and it lifted up about six inches, and Marina and Kaitlyn pulled with all their might, freeing Sabrina from the wreckage. 

Sabrina let out a piercing scream as her body was dragged out from underneath the tractor.  Blood poured from the wound in her abdomen, and her complexion went from pale to grey.  Marina knelt down before her and looked for something to staunch the flow of blood.   Jayson knelt down on the other side of her and began to examine her wounds.

“Jayce,” Sabrina whispered.  “Hurts. Help me.  Please help me.”

“I’m trying Sabrina, I’m trying.” He pressed his hand over the wound and focused, but the damage was too much.

“Jayce,” she gasped. “Purple cray – on.” The words came out haltingly as the life left her body.

“I’m trying, Bree, oh God, I’m trying,” the boy cried as he watched the girl he loved slowly die.  Kaitlyn knelt down beside him, and put her hand on top of his, and Jamison knelt down  next to Marina and put his hand on top of Kaitlyn’s.  The three teens focused their energy, seeing the damage in their mind’s eye, and used that energy to repair the damage.  Slowly, the bleeding eased , and the wound began to heal.  Marina, Colt and Sam watched, first in horror, then in amazement  as the color crept back into Sabrina’s face. 

As one, the three fell away from Sabrina, gasping as if they’d just run a marathon, and Sabrina slowly sat up.

“What the hell?” asked Sam as Colton exclaimed at the same time, “Can somebody tell me what just happened here?”

“Thank you Jayson,” Sabrina said softly, hugging him.  “Jamison, Kaitlyn, thank you.  I- thank you.”

“If somebody doesn’t start explaining what the hell just happened here, and fast, I’m going to start screaming!” Marina said, her voice shaking.  What? You? How?”

“Rina, stop,” Sabrina whispered.  “She pulled her friend into a hug.  “They saved me, isn’t that all that matters.”

“Of course it matters,” Marina said, “But how?”

“Look, this is going to take some explaining,” said Jayson,  “But you need to know something. We’re still us.  We’re your friends, you’re our friends.  We’ve been friends since forever, and that’s never going to change.  But right now, we need to get Bree cleaned up and get all that blood off of her.  Please, just trust us for right now, that’s all I ask.”

Colt, Sam and Marina looked at each other, and at their three friends who had suddenly become strangers.  They didn’t know what to do – what to say. Everything was all of a sudden so different. Things had changed irrevocably and there was no going back.

“Fine,” said Colt, “But you have to promise to tell us everything.  “No more secrets.  If you want us to trust you, you have to trust us.”

Jayson looked at Jamison and Kaitlyn and then back at the others.  “Agreed.”

From the woods two people watched as the scene unfolded before them.

“You were right, they are here,” said one.

“I knew two of them were, but I had my doubts about the third,” said the other.  “But now we know.”

“I can’t believe they saved her,” said the first voice.  “Why?  What’s so special about her?  I thought for sure if she died, it would break them all apart, and we could move in and get control of them.”

“Don’t worry Lana,” said Mr. Harrison.  “They saved her once, but they won’t always be there.  You’ll get another chance, but remember, she doesn’t have to die, we just have to get the three of them on our side. ” 

Mr. Harrison and Lana watched as the seven friends made their way slowly across the field away from the overturned tractor.

Chapter 9

It was a somber crowd that gathered in the renovated tack room.  Marina, Kaitlyn and Sabrina had decorated earlier in the day, and the balloons and streamers, which seemed so festive earlier now hung incongruously from the rafters.   Jayson, Kaitlyn and Jamison stood on one side of the room, while Marina, Sam and Colton stood on the other, and Sabrina stood helplessly in the middle trying to find a way to help her friends bridge this gap that had sprung up between them. 

“Guys, this is stupid,” she said finally.  “Why is this turning into an us vs. them type of thing?  Marina, they saved my life.  I’d be dead if it wasn’t for them.  Doesn’t that mean anything to any of you? Doesn’t that matter?”

“Well yeah,” said Colt.  “Of course, that matters. But what also matters is that the three of them, the four of you,” he amended, “had this secret.  A big secret.”

“Huge,” interjected Sam.”

“Huge,” continued Colton without missing a beat.  “This huge, life changing secret, and you didn’t tell us.  We’re your best friends.”

“It wasn’t my secret to tell,” said Sabrina, simply. 

“Okay, fine, I can get that,” said Colt.  “But it was their secret, and they didn’t let us in on it.”

“How could we let you in on it when we don’t even know what it is?” shouted Kaitlyn.  “We can do these things, and we don’t know how, and we don’t know why.  We don’t know anything, and it’s killing me.”  She turned her back on them and her shoulders began to shake.  Jayson shot Colt a dirty look and moved to comfort his sister.

“Let me,” said Colton.  “This was my fault. I need to fix it.”  He walked slowly over to Kaitlyn and took her hand in his and led her out of the barn, and the two began to walk toward the orchard.  “I’m sorry Kaity,” he said.  “I was wrong.”

“You were wrong, Colt, but so were we.  For so long, Jayson and I have kept this secret between us, and then when Jamison moved here, we, well I,” she amended, recalling the first time Jayson met Jamison, “felt drawn to him.  We found out by accident that he could do some of the stuff we can do.”

“What can you do?” asked Colton. 

“Honestly, I’m not sure,” Kaitlyn responded.  “We try not to ever do anything.  When we were really little, we couldn’t help it, but as we got older we figured we should do our best just to blend in.  All we want is to have normal lives, and be like everybody else, and we can’t.  We can’t ever be like everybody else because we don’t know who we are.  We don’t know what we are!”  Her voice grew louder and louder, and there was a small bang as a section of wall that had been standing since colonial times, suddenly imploded.

“Damn,” she said, stopping suddenly.  She focused her breathing, and relaxed, allowing the tension to slowly seep out of her body.

“So I guess whatever you can do is tied to your emotions?”

“Ya thinks?” she said.  “I’m sorry, that was just slightly bitchy.  We figured that out a long time ago.  I actually got mom to enroll me in one of Mrs. Patterson’s yoga classes, and Jayson does Ti Chi to help him remain calm.”

“What about Jamison, what does he do?” asked Colton, thinking whatever it was, it didn’t work because there wasn’t a more volatile person on the face of this earth than Jamison.

“Right,” Kaitlyn gave a bitter laugh.  “Can you imagine Mr. Duffy paying for anything for Jamison?”  I’ve taught him some of what I’ve learned, and Jayson’s done the same, but nothing really works for him.  I guess he just needs to find his own thing.”

“How did Sabrina find out?” Colt asked.  “She has obviously known for a long time.” He watched as a small smile grew on Kaitlyn’s face. 

“Do you remember, the first time we ever met?” she asked.

“Yeah, in first grade,” said Colt.

“We were all coloring, and Sabrina broke her purple crayon, and she was so upset and worried that,”

“,that the teacher was going to be angry,” continued Colton, laughing.  “I remember.  We should have realized right then and there what a freakazoid Bree was going to be about school.  Wait, holy shit, Jayson fixed the crayon,” he said as the memory returned.        “She’s known since then?”

“Yeah, but we never ever talked about it,” said Kaitlyn.  “Jayson made her promise never to tell, never to say anything, and she hasn’t.  Jayson and I decided that night that we couldn’t trust anyone with this secret.  We couldn’t ever get that close to someone, get involved with anyone.  It could potentially be too dangerous for us, and them.”

“That’s why you never dated anyone, seriously,” said Colton, feeling elated.  He’d always harbored a secret crush on Kaitlyn but just assumed she wasn’t interested.

“Right,” admitted Kaitlyn.  “I’ll go out with guys I don’t care about, but the one, the ones,” she hastily corrected herself, “I do care about, I don’t go out with.  It wouldn’t be fair to him or me.”

“And that’s why Jayson could go out with Bree,” Colt concluded. “Because she already knew.”

“Yeah,” she agreed.  “Come on, we should go back inside.”

As they walked back slowly toward the barn, Colt reached out and squeezed her hand gently, “You’re not alone anymore.”

Inside the barn, the remaining five friends talked about what happened yesterday, and about the abilities that Jamison, Jayson and Kaitlyn had.  Marina and Sam were both upset that they had been kept out of the loop, but when they calmed down, they were able to admit they understood why. 

“So what’s the connection between the three of you?” Marina asked. 

“We don’t know,” Jayson admitted.  “But we know there has to be one.  You guys know about Kaitlyn and I, how we were found wandering around in the woods, right?”  The others nodded and he continued, “But Jamison has, parents, well had, he amended, remembering his friend no longer had a mother.

“He’s not my dad,” Jamison said quietly.

Chapter 10

Shock and amazement greeted Jamison’s announcement.  “What?” the other four exclaimed.  “Of course, he is,” said Jayson.

“No, he’s not.  I always thought he was, but the other day, I was looking for my birth certificate, but the funny thing is, I don’t have one.”

“You have to have one,” said Sabrina.  “You couldn’t have registered for school without one.”

“You’re right,” Jamison agreed.  “ I have one, but it’s a copy of a duplicate, and it’s smudged and faded and really hard to read, so I called the hospital where it said I was born and asked about how I could get a duplicate.  From there I called the town clerk and she said they don’t have any record of my being born.”

“No freaking way,” said Sam.  “This is like too amazing for words.  Dude, do you realize what this means?  You’re probably their brother, or something.”

“I don’t know,” Jamison said.  “Anything is possible.  It’s not like I can ask my dad, or non-dad about it, ya know?”

“Where exactly are you from?” asked Jayson.  “I know you moved around a lot, and the last place you lived before this was out on the coast, but where were you from, originally.”

“Up around Greenville Notch

“You do know that’s where we were found, don’t you?” asked Jayson.

“Yeah.  I do, but you guys gotta believe me, I just found out about this the other night.  I was gonna tell you about it, I was just trying to figure out what I wanted to say,” Jamison paced worriedly.

“Tell us what?” Kaitlyn asked as she and Colt rejoined the others.

Jamison retold his story, and the group began to toss out different ideas and theories, each one getting crazier than the first until Sabrina finally spoke up.

“We need to go up there, to where they found you,” she said.  “And we need to look around.”

“Come on, Bree, get real,” said Sam.  “What do you think a bunch of kids are going to find that a hoard of search and rescue people couldn’t find.”

“Probably nothing,” admitted Sabrina.  “But the human mind is an amazing thing.  Maybe Jayson or Kaitlyn, or even Jamison’s subconscious will recognize something once we’re up there.”

“And how exactly do you propose we do this?” asked Jayson.  “Our parents are all pretty cool, and they’re really great about letting us spend so much time together, but really can you see them letting us all go on a road trip up north to go exploring in the woods?”

“Well, ” hedged Bree, “I don’t think they’d let us go if we were going to explore in the woods…”

“Jayson, Jayson, Jayson, my sweet and innocent friend,” said Marina.  She was starting to figure out where Sabrina was going with her little plan.  “I want you to think really hard about else is up there, besides forest that is.”

“Oohhh,” said Sam as he realized what Marina was getting at.  “You know, I would really love a chance to visit places like Santa’s Workshop and Fairytale Land, wouldn’t you?”  Sam named a couple of popular tourist destinations that dotted the area.  “You know they’d love the idea of us going up for a day to visit places like that.”

“It might work,” Kaitlyn said, looking at Colt to get his take on the idea.

“Especially if we tell them that we want to take Jamison because he never got the chance to go see any of that stuff.”

Jamison flushed a dull red, embarrassed by his less than wonderful upbringing.  It was pitiful, and depressing but if they could use it to their advantage, he wasn’t going to say no.  He pulled away from the group slightly on the pretense of getting a soda.  He opened a Pepsi, and stood, surveying the array of food the others had provided.  .  He opened a Pepsi, and stood, surveying the array of food the others had provided. 

“He’s not your family,” Marina said, coming to stand next to him. “Your dad I mean.”

“Yeah, he’s not my family,” said Jamison.  “He sure as hell doesn’t want me around, and it looks like my real parents didn’t want me either.  There must be something really wrong with me.”

“Yeah well, I guess that means there’s something wrong with Jayce and Kaity, too.  Remember them, the two kids found wandering around the woods, naked?  Jeez Jamie, sometimes you need to get over yourself.  You’re so busy feeling sorry for yourself and your miserable circumstances that you’re overlooking all the things you do have.

“Yeah?” Jamison snapped.  “Just what the hell do I have, Marina.  “Tell me one damn thing I have that’s so damn great.”  He pulled away and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

“Me,” she said softly, to the empty space beside her.  “You have me.”

“Can someone please tell me what the hell is going on here?” demanded Sam.  “Why is everybody flipping out so much?  And honestly, if anybody gets to be flipping, it should be me, Marina and Colt.  We’re the ones who are coming late to this whole stupid party.  But do you see us flipping out?  Do you see us losing control, or storming out of the room,” his voice grew louder.  “No, no you don’t!  Why? Because we get it, you had this big, huge secret that you didn’t think you could share with us.  Fine, we get it, so why the hell is Jamison, of all people storming out of here?”

By the time he finished his little rant, he was shouting, and everyone was staring at him, including Jamison who had re-entered the barn when he heard the shouting.

“Uh Sam?” Colton asked.  “If you’re okay with everything, why are you having such a major freak fest?”

“Well, I guess maybe I was a little more upset than I realized,” said Sam.  “Seriously, I don’t know what just happened, but all of a sudden, I had all these feelings of rage going through my body, and I couldn’t control it.  I felt like you betrayed us by not telling us, which is stupid, cause I get why you didn’t say anything.  It’s like there was this little voice in my head, whispering to me saying all those things, kind of winding me up, and I couldn’t stop it.

“Well, if you’re done,” said Jamison.  “I only came in to tell you that Lana just showed up.  Her Dad came over to talk to Marina’s mom about something, and she saw the lights and wanted to know if she could join the party.  I told her sure, but asked her to run up to the house to grab some more chips first so I could give you guys the heads up.”

Jamison’s news was met with varying degrees of warmth, but nobody save Kaitlyn  was happy with the news, but they pasted on smiles and welcomed the girl when she walked in, her hands filled with bags of chips. 

“Hey guys, thanks for letting me crash,” she said.  “Daddy and I were at loose ends, when he remembered he had something he needed to talk with Mrs. McKenzie about.  I was happier than happy when I saw you all were hanging out here.   So, what’s the occasion?”

“No occasion, really,” said Jamison.  “Just hanging out after a hard day at work.”

“You boys did look mighty fine working up a sweat today,” the new girl responded.  “And Jayce, thank you so much for walking me back home today, and for the chemistry help too,” she added, her voice laced with innuendo.

“My name is Jayson,” he replied.  “And it was no big deal.”  As he spoke, he squeezed Sabrina’s hand as if to reassure her.

“Well, I have to say this isn’t very exciting,” Lana complained.

“You can always leave,” said Marina.  “We’re pretty happy with the way things are, but far be it from us to force you to stay with people that bore you.”

“Now Marina, don’t get all upset,” Lana said, backpedalling. “I wasn’t criticizing, really.  I was merely saying that this isn’t quite like the nightlife I’m used to, but it’s nice.  Just hanging out with friends, I’m not really used to that.  I didn’t get a chance to make a lot of friends being home schooled all these years.

“No worries,” said Colton, always the peacemaker.  “Why don’t we play apples to apples? Have you ever played, Lana?”

Jamison dug out the game, and they explained the rules to Lana.  Their evening hadn’t turned out the way anybody had planned, but they had a plan, and a place to start to start solving the mystery that was Jayson, Kaitlyn and Jamison.

.  Chapter 11

October was a busy for all of them with their myriad of activities.  The boys had practice every day after school, Kaitlyn had cheerleading, Marina had play practice.  Added to that, Jayson, Kaitlyn and Jamison worked whenever they could to learn what abilities they had, and to hone them and make them stronger.  Despite their extra activities,  Sabrina was busiest of all as homecoming drew near.  Two weeks before the event, she called all the vendors, and confirmed with them, making checkmarks on her many lists.

“Okay,” she said during their daily committee meeting.  “Mr. Wallace had to go to a faculty meeting, but he told us to get started without him, and he’d escape as soon as he could.”  the group laughed, knowing full well that the computer teacher hated the weekly staff meetings he had to attend.  “The decorations with the Paris theme are all ordered, we have the mock Paris skyline to use as a photo prop almost finished.  Cissy, where are we on the refreshments?”  It killed Sabrina to have Cissy on the committee, but she was heartbroken after she had to withdraw from cheerleading due to her broken leg, and if the truth be told, they really did need the help.

“Everything is good,” said Cissy, not acting like her usual snobby self.  “Here is a list of all the places in town, and what types of food they agreed to donate.”  She passed the list to Sabrina who glanced at it quickly, trying hard not to grimace at all the i’s with hearts instead of dots.

“This looks great Cissy,” she said.  “You really went above and beyond.  I had no idea that so many places offered French foods.”

“Well they don’t, really,” admitted Cissy, “but you’d be surprised at how many of the stores, restaurants, and not to mention the bakery that were willing to expand their repertoire for homecoming.  It seems like two thirds of the town are Appleton High graduates.”

They hammered out a few last details, and made arrangements to meet the next day to finish working on the decorations.  The committee filed out of the room, one by one, but Cissy hung back to talk with Sabrina.

“I really wanted to thank you for giving me a chance to help,” the girl said, unexpectedly.  “I know we’ve never been the best of friends, and you didn’t have any reason to let me join.”

“It’s no big deal, Cissy.  I mean yeah, we’ve never been the best of friends, but I felt really bad when you broke your leg and had to drop off the squad.   How’d it happens, anyhow?  You never really said.”  As she spoke, she gathered up her notes and put them in a folder and dropped them on Mr. Wallace’s desk. 

“It was the weirdest thing,” Cissy said, as Sabrina gathered up both their backpacks.  “We were showing all the new girls the tryout routine.  I mean, I don’t know why, it was practically a given that Kaitlyn was going to get the position.  Anyway, she was standing there with Lana watching as I did the flying basket toss, and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground screaming.  Sabrina, I’ve done that move a thousand times, and we have so many spotters.  Nobody can figure out how it happened.”

“Well I’m glad you weren’t hurt worse,” said Sabrina, meaning it. 

“Thanks,” said Cissy, as the two made their way into the hallway.  “Where was Lana today anyhow.  I mean this close to Homecoming, shouldn’t it be all hands on deck?”

“Yeah, but her dad had to go out of the country,” said Sabrina, recalling the note she’d found in Student Council mailbox.  “She went with him.”

“Nice life, if you can get it,” joked Cissy.

“I know, right?” agreed Sabrina.  “Oh look, there’s Mr. Wallace,” she added, pointing to the teacher rushing down the hallway.

“I’m sorry girls, I tried to get out of that blasted faculty meeting as quick as I could,” said the out of breath teacher. 

“No worries, Mr. Wallace,” said Sabrina.  “Everything looks good.  I left the folder with all the notes on your desk.  You should see the amazing food donations Cissy was able to round up.”

“Oh good.  I’ll go take a look at it, then I need to head home.  It’s Sam’s turn to cook and that never turns out well,” the teacher joked.  “Do either of you girls need a ride home or anything?”

“My mom’s meeting me out front,” said Cissy.  She reached out and took her backpack from Sabrina and slipped it on, while balancing precariously on one leg.  “She’s probably out there now, so I should get going.  Sabrina, did you want a ride?”

“No, I’m good,” said the other girl.  “I need to head to the library for a little while, but thanks.  Night Mr. Wallace, and good luck with dinner tonight.”

Sabrina made her way to the library, and Mr. Wallace went into his classroom and picked up the file that Sabrina had left.  He looked over all their plans, grimacing at Cissy’s I’s dotted with hearts.  She and Sam had dated occasionally, and he remembered seeing them on the notes she’d left his son.  He dropped the folder on his desk, and picked up the work he needed to bring home and slipped it into his briefcase.   He shut out the lights, and carefully locked the door behind him and headed home to find out what disaster was waiting for him in the form of dinner.


“What the hell are you looking at, punk?” said the man sitting in the recliner.

“Nothing, Dad,” Jamison replied.  “I was just coming to see if you wanted anything for dinner.”

“No, I don’t want anything for dinner,” he mimicked in a sing song voice.  “What I want is another beer, now go get me one.”

Sighing, Jamison went out to the kitchen and grabbed another beer out of the refrigerator and brought it to his father, well the man he thought of as his father.  He was hoping for an opportunity to talk to him about his origins, but tonight, like every night, didn’t look like a good time.  He handed his father the beer and turned to walk back to the kitchen to try and find something for dinner.  Not that there was much.  Most of the money his father made went to beer.

“Hey, kid!” shouted Mr. Duffy.  “What the hell were you doin’ goin’ through my stuff?”

“What are you talking about, Dad?  I wasn’t going through your stuff,” Jamison responded, walking back into the room. 

“Don’t give me that bull shit,” his father responded.  “You was goin through the papers in my room.”

“You’re right, I was,” Jamison admitted.  “I forgot.  We’re doing a genealogy project in English, I didn’t want to bother you, so I went looking for my birth certificate.  That’s all.”

“That’s all,” his father parroted.  “Why the hell do you care about that shit, anyhow?”

“I don’t,” said Jamison.  “It’s for school, that’s all.  The, uh, copy I found was really hard to read,” he continued, hoping to get some information from the man sitting in front of him.

“Yeah well, who cares,” said his father.  “I doubt you’re mine, anyhow.  You don’t look a thing like me.  Your bitch of a mother just showed up with you one day when you were about three years old.  Then she up and left me and saddled me with you.  What the hell was I supposed to do with you?  Worthless piece of shit.  Ain’t even mine,” his voice drifted off as he took a deep drink from his bottle of beer and continued to mutter to himself.  Jamison turned away, trying to hide the hurt expression he was sure was on his face.  He knew his father wasn’t really his father, but it still hurt to hear the man’s opinion of him. 

A knock on the door distracted him from his pain and he crossed the litter strewn room to open the door.

“Sabrina, what are you doing down here?” he asked, throwing a panicked glance back at his father drinking in the recliner. 

“Hey Jimmy boy, let your friend in, why dontcha?”  “How come you never have any friends over anyhow?

“No, she can’t stay, really,” said Jamison, shooting a warning glance at Sabrina.

“Listen up, Junior, I SAID to let your little friend in,” his father said, struggling to haul his drunken body out of the recliner.

Reluctantly, Jamison stepped away from the door to reveal Sabrina, who shrank back from the man who stumbled drunkenly through the door.  “Whoo wee, look at you.  Itty bitty Sabrina is all grown up.  Did you come to have a drink with big Jim?”

Jamison stepped between his father and Sabrina and tried to push her out the door.  “She was just leaving, weren’t you, Bree?”

“Um, yeah, I was,” she answered.  “My, uh, my mom just sent me down to see if you and Jamison wanted to join us for dinner, Mr. Duffy.  She, um, well, she made too much stew and stuff.”

“We don’t take no charity,” slurred Jim Duffy as he reached out to grab Sabrina.  “Now you can go and tell your mother that, after you have a drink with me.”  He stumbled as he lurched across the room, and fell on the floor in a stupor.

“Sabrina, go, get out of here,” said Jamison. 

“You need to come with me,” she said, pulling at him.  “Jamison, you can’t stay here.”

“I have to, Bree, like it or not, he’s all I’ve got.  He’s the only tie to my past, and I have to get answers from him.”  He looked down at the unconscious man, and made a disgusted face.  “He actually told me something tonight,” he said.  “My mother showed up with me when I was about three years old.  I bet she found me, like the Stephens’ found Jayson and Kaity, only instead of going to the authorities, she just took me to him, and said I was his.”

“Okay, so now you know, but Jamison, you can’t stay here with him like this.  Come on, come upstairs and eat dinner with us.” She tugged at his arm, trying to pull him out of the apartment.

“No,” he said, pulling away gently.  “I’m going to search the apartment while he’s passed out to see if I can find anything else.”

“Then I’m going to search with you,” she said.

“No,” Jamison said, pushing her gently toward the door.  “You’re going to go upstairs and tell your mom we already ate, do your homework and I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Jamison,” she pleaded.

“Just go Bree, please?”

Sabrina nodded reluctantly, and started to leave, but turned quickly, and hugged Jamison tightly.  “You’re wrong about one thing,” she said, hugging him.  “You have all of us Jamison Duffy, and don’t you forget it.”

Chapter 12

The next day, the teens had a reprieve from their afterschool activities in the form  a torrential rainstorm that knocked out power to the school.  Not ones to look a gift horse, or a free afternoon, in the mouth, they quickly made plans to assemble in the tack room out at the farm.   They quickly raided the old refrigerator they kept stocked with drinks and sat down to decompress.  For a brief time, they talked of school but after a short while, talk moved on their plan to explore the woods where Kaitlyn and Jayson had been found.

Slowly, the carefree chatter dwindled and they all stared at one another, waiting for someone to break the now uncomfortable silence.  As they sat, Sabrina looked around the room and noticed that somehow, their unofficial seats had all changed.  She sat next to Jayson, with Sam perched on the arm of the dilapidated sofa next to her.  Kaitlyn and Colton were side by side on the equally as decrepit loveseat, while Marina and Jamison sat side by side on the giant Love Sac they had commandeered from Marina’s bedroom.

“Fine, I’ll start,” Kaitlyn said with exasperation.  I know it’s not much, but look what I can do.”  She touched her finger to the ugly brown in the plaid pattern of the loveseat and touched her jeans, and they transformed to match the upholstery. 

“That is so cool!” Marina shouted.  “Do you realize the wardrobe problems you can solve with that?  And oh. My. God!  Can you do it with nail polish.  Please say you can do it with nail polish?”

“Glad to see you’re focusing on what’s important,” said Colton from across the room, and the group dissolved into laughter, and all at once, the tension lifted and the mood became lighter. 

“There is nothing more important than matching accessories,” Marina said self-righteously as the group continued to laugh.

“Well I have to be honest, “ Kaitlyn admitted.  “I learned how to do that a long time ago, but I’ve been working on other things as well, watch.”  She focused intently and the unopened bag of chips on the table across the room floated over to her.

“Awesome, Kaitlyn.  If we’re ever attacked, it’s good to know you can fight back by floating a bag of chips at them,” said Jamison. “We need to focus on defense and attack strategies.  In times of war…” his voice trailed off and everyone stared at him.

“Where the hell did that come from, Jamie?”  Marina asked.  “You sounded like some general or something.  Who do you think we’re going to be under attack from?”

“I don’t know,” Jamison said in a shocked voice.  “I have no idea, but it just felt, right or something.” 

“Yes, sir,” said Sam, throwing a mock salute at Jamison.  “The day I follow Duffy in to battle will be a cold day in hell,” he added laughing as he threw a pillow across the room. Without thinking, Jamison threw up his hand, and the pillow exploded in a pile of fluff, and silence fell across the room.

“Jamison killed the pillow,” Colton said, incredulously.  “Did you see that?  Jamison killed the pillow.”

Jamison began to shake, unable to process what had just happened, what he had just done.  Thoughts began to flash through his mind at an exponentially increasing rate.  What if he had hurt one of his friends?  How did he do it?  How could he control it?  Could he do it again?”

“Jamie!  Jamie!  Earth to Jamie,” Marina yelled shaking him.  “Snap out of it General, and come back to Earth.”

“I- I’m sorry,” he stammered.  “I’ll replace the pillow.  I need to go, I need to get…” his voice drifted off.

“Jamison, stop it,” said Jayson, leaving the couch to kneel next to his friend.  “This is a good thing.  We figured out, well I’m not sure what, exactly, but it’s important.  Did you see what you just did?  It’s good Jamison.  It’s another piece to the puzzle that is us.  What you need to do is relax, and try and think about what you did.”

“I don’t know what I did!” he shouted in agitation.  In that instant, several cans of soda tipped over, and the lights flashed intermittently for a minute.

“Jamie, look at me,” Marina said, taking his face between her hands.  “Look at me.  Relax, breathe.  It’s okay, Jamie, it’s okay.”  Marina kept talking, and slowly Jamison’s breathing began to slow, and his body began to relax.

“Obviously, whatever you guys can do seems to be tied to your emotions,” said Sabrina, her voice shaky.  Kaitlyn’s turning her jeans different colors was one thing, but this – this was on a whole different level.

“We knew that” admitted Jayson.  “It’s why I study tai chi, and Kaitlyn does yoga.”

“I’ve tried,” admitted Jamison.  Tai Chi doesn’t work for me.  I keep wanting to fight, not relax, and yoga, well no offense or anything, but that’s kind of girly, don’t you think?”

“I do it,” said Sam, and as one, all attention was removed from Jamison and focused on Sam.  “Do you remember all those fights I was getting into in middle school?” He continued as the group nodded.  “Well the doctor told Dad I needed to find something to channel my negative energy.  Dad offered to take me to some of Mrs. P’s classes, but uh no way was I doing that.  Anyhow, he got me some books and videos on yoga and meditation, and it’s really helped a lot.”

The room was silent as the image of Sam doing the sun salutation and downward dog filled their minds, and then the laughter began.  “It’s okay, laugh it up,” said Sam, complacently.   “I know it sounds really stupid, but it really helps.”

“As the victim of many of his rage attacks, I can attest to that,” added Colton.

“Yeah, maybe I can try that,” said Jamison, “But the thing is, I don’t get really angry or anything.”  I can’t, he thought to himself.  Otherwise, my dad would probably beat the shit out of me.

“Well there is a difference between dealing with your emotions and acknowledging them, and forcing them down and ignoring them,” said Sam as the room looked at him with amazement.   “What, I can’t have deep thoughts?” he asked.

“Not usually,” said Kaitlyn, and they all laughed and again the tension that had begun to fill the room began to dissipate.

By unspoken agreement, the tabled all discussion of their abilities and began to talk of far more important things.  The homecoming dance, who was going with whom, and for the girls, who was wearing what.

“Does anybody want to ride with Bree and I?” asked Jamison.  He waited for Kaitlyn to claim a seat in the car, but she just shook her head. 

“Uh, maybe Marina and I could ride with you,” Jamison asked, looking at Marina questioningly. 

“You mean, like a date?” she asked softly.

“Yeah, I mean, if you wanna,” he said.  He had a few bucks stashed away that his dad didn’t know about, and he’d get Sabrina to help him figure out what he needed to get.

“That would be very cool,” said Marina, working to squelch a smile.  “Thanks Jamie.”

“Well, uh, Kaitlyn and I are going together,” said Colt, turning various shades of red.  “Sam, do you want to ride with us?”

“Yeah, I guess I’m going stag.  I was going to ask Lana, but she seems to have disappeared,” said the other boy.  “There isn’t anybody else I’m really interested in taking.”

“I’m sorry, I just don’t like her,” said Sabrina.  “There’s just something about her that sets me on edge.”

“Well, I like her,” said Kaitlyn, “but I have to admit, it sucks that she took off on this little jaunt with her dad so close to Homecoming.  We really need her.”

“Well maybe she’ll be back,” Sam said excitedly.  “Maybe she’ll still want to go to the dance.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Sabrina said to nobody in particular.

Wednesday morning dawned bright and clear, with the sun sparkling off the raindrops left behind by the storm.  Sabrina walked down the halls of Appleton High, happy with the world, and her place in it.  Life could not be any better, and she couldn’t be happier than she was at that very second.  Plans for Homecoming were on track, she had a date with the cutest boy in school, and the best dress in the world, courtesy of her mom.  The day just flew by, as good days were wont to do.  When the final bell rang, Sabrina exited her American History class,  and made her way to the office to grab the mail from the student council box. 

There was an unexpectedly large pile waiting for her, and she grabbed it and made her way to Mr. Wallace’s room for to meet with the decoration committee to finish up the decorations for the night.    She arrived before everyone else, dropped her things down on her customary desk and began to open the mail.  She opened the first letter, read it, and read it again with a mounting sense of fear.  She opened the next and read it, and the third, fourth and fifth.  All the letters said the same thing.  They were letters agreeing to terminate services for the Homecoming dance, and in some cases a deposit refund. She began to shake uncontrollably, her breath coming in shorter and faster gasps.  The room began to darken and spin as Sabrina passed out.

On the football field, Jayson stopped short, and Jamison plowed into him, knocking him to the ground.  “Stephens, what the hell?” the coach shouted as Jamison looked at him.  “Do you feel that?” he asked at the same time.”

“Something’s wrong,” Jayson whispered.  He looked across the field where the cheerleaders were practicing, and Kaitlyn was staring back at him, her face a mask of confusion.   “Stephens, are you okay?” the coach asked, kneeling in front of him.  “Look at me.”  He looked at Jayson’s eyes and looked over to the trainer that had joined them. “What do you think?” he asked.

“I don’t think it’s a concussion, but he seems kind of dazed.  He’d better head in,” said the trainer.

“I’ll take him,” said Jamison.  “It was my fault anyhow.”  He reached a hand down, and pulled Jayson into a standing position, and the two began to walk toward the school without waiting for the coach’s response.  Jamison looked over toward the cheerleaders and saw Kaitlyn running toward them.

“Something’s not right,” she gasped when she ran up beside him. “Something doesn’t feel right.” 

“I know, he responded. ““but I can’t figure out what it is.”

“It’s Bree,” said Jayson, his face grey.  “Something’s wrong with Bree.”

As soon as they were out of sight of the field, they began running, reaching the school in record time.  “She had a meeting today,” said Kaitlyn.  “She should be in Mr. Wallace’s room.”  They ran down the hall, avoiding students that lingered by their lockers and rushed to the computer teacher’s room to find Sabrina slumped half in and half out of the chair.

Chapter 13

“We need to get the nurse,” said Kaitlyn, poised to run out the door.

“Kaity, we can’t,” said Jamison as Jayson rushed over and eased Sabrina out of the chair and onto the floor.  “We don’t know if this is because of what we did to her.”

“What who did to whom?” questioned Mr. Wallace.  “Dear Lord, what happened?” he asked rushing into the room. 

“We don’t know, we just found her like that,” said Kaitlyn.  We uh, came in to ask her something about the homecoming game, and we found her like this.  She was half on the floor, so Jayson moved her.   We were uh, just arguing about moving her when you came in.  I didn’t think we should, because it might hurt her more…”

“Kaitlyn, enough!” shouted Mr. Wallace.  “She appears to be coming around.  Sabrina, can you hear me?  What happened?”

“I, I, what am I doing on the floor?” she asked, clearly befuddled.  She shook her head trying to clear it, when everything came rushing back.  “Oh no!” she cried.  “The letters.  It’s ruined, Mr. Wallace. What are we going to do?”

“Sabrina, calm down this instant,” said the confused teacher.  “You’re going to make yourself sick.  Now tell me what’s going on, or I’m going to call the nurse and have her check you out.  In fact, I should probably do just that.”

“No!” cried Kaitlyn and Jamison, while Jayson whispered to Sabrina.  “No nurse, Bree.  What if this is our fault.”

“What? Oh God, no,” she said and struggled to her feet.  “I’m sorry I freaked everybody out,” she said.  “It’s just that, that…” she shook her head and grabbed the paperwork and passed it to Mr. Wallace.  “Somebody cancelled everything for homecoming.  The DJ, the decorations, the photographer, the food,  everything.  What am I going to do?”

“Let me see those,” said the teacher, holding his hand out for the letters.  He skimmed them, looking for any information, but the all essentially said the same thing.  The contracts had been cancelled. “Before we start to panic too much, he said.  “Let’s get the others up here.  They went down to the art room to get the decorations we were making here.  Kaity, can you stop down there on your way back to practice and ask them to come up here.  Please don’t say anything else.  You boys had best get back to practice.  I don’t think I want to know why all of you were in here unsupervised.”

“Mr. Wallace, it was totally innocent,” Jayson tried to explain.  “I got hurt at practice…”

“And I was bringing him in,” Jamison continued.

“And I saw him get hit,” added Kaitlyn.

“Never mind,” Mr. Wallace said, rolling his eyes.  Don’t bother.  Just get back to where you belong.  Sabrina, do you need to see the nurse?” he asked, looking at her intently.

“N-no sir,” she said.  “It’s just that when I read all those cancellation letters, I started panicking, and breathing faster and faster, until,”

“Until you hyperventilated and passed out,” finished Mr. Wallace.  “Well in any event, I’m going to call your mother, and have her come pick you up.  I don’t want any discussion,” he added, forestalling the argument he knew was forthcoming.  He pulled out his cell phone and punched in a number had a brief conversation with Sabrina’s mother.  “I’ve convinced her that you’re not dead, nor are you in any danger of dying.  After I explained the situation, she was willing to let you stay, but says if anything happens, my “ass is grass,” is the expression she used.  “I’ve been in this country for almost 20 years, and I am still amazed by some of the expressions I hear.”

“Thanks Mr. Wallace,” said Sabrina.  “I’m fine, really, it was just the shock is all.  What are we going to do?”

“Right now, we’re going to talk with the other committee members and see what we can find out.  I’m also going to call all of these people and find out how they received the cancellations; by phone, email or mail.  If it’s mail, I’ll have them fax us copies of the letters, and if it’s email, well that’s a little trickier, but I’ll have them forward me the emails and see if I can find anything.”

While Mr. Wallace made his phone calls, Sabrina waited and worried, Homecoming was in three days.  if everything really was cancelled, there was no way they could reorganize things for the weekend.  Her heart sank when her committee members came in up in arms because all the decorations they’d worked on at school had been vandalized. 

“QUIET!” shouted Mr. Wallace, hanging up his phone.  “It appears someone has played a terrible prank on us.  Sarah, I want you and William to run up to Mr. Collins’ office and see if he’s available.  If he is, bring him down here, right away.  Sabrina, I want you to fill everybody in on what’s going on.  I need to go to the computer office to see if that information has been faxed.”  He left the classroom to the sound of  dozen teens clamoring for information.  Once he was out earshot, he opened his phone and began to make some calls.

“Guys, quiet down!” Sabrina shouted over the din.  She waited until the room fell silent and she quickly explained what had transpired.  “To sum it up, somebody cancelled all our contracts with our vendors.  I don’t know who, and I don’t know how, Mr. Wallace is looking in to that, but all I do know is that we have the biggest school wide event scheduled for this weekend, and as of now, we have nothing planned.

At that moment, Mr. Wallace walked back into the room, carrying a sheaf of papers.  “Well kids,” he addressed the room.  “Somebody did, in effect, cancel all our vendor contracts.  I tried explaining that we didn’t do it, but it’s too late.  The DJ and the photographer have been rebooked.  We can place a new order for the decorations, but there isn’t any guarantee that they’ll arrive in time.  We ordered all the food from local vendors, and they’re more willing to help out in any way they can, but even they won’ have enough time to complete all the items we ordered.”

“That’s it, we’re ruined,” shouted Dave, one of the committee members.  “This is insane.  I bet Springvale did it,” he added, naming their arch rivals and the school they were going up against for homecoming.

“Dave, relax,” said Mr. Wallace.  That’s why Sarah and William went to go get Mr. Collins.  If Springvale is involved in this, we want to notify administration  right away.  I don’t think it’s them, however.  In fact, I hope it’s not.  In years past, the rivalry between the two schools has been heated, to say the least, but I hate to think that they’d do something this low.”

“What’s the problem?” asked the principal, Mr. Collins as he walked in the room, escorted by a very confused and flustered Sarah and William.  “It seems you are having some difficulties?”

Mr. Wallace gave Mr. Collins a brief overview of what had happened, and showed him the copies of the cancellation requests that the vendor had faxed over.    When he was done, Mr. Collins, a retired Marine said, I’ll get on the horn right away, but I don’t think it was anybody over in Springvale.  Their new principal runs a pretty tight ship.” He gave them a small smile which the somber group tried to return.  It was no secret that the new principal of Springvale High Mr. Collins’ wife.

After he left, the kids brainstormed for a while, but came up empty handed.  Mr. Wallace stood in front of them and addressed the group.  “I want all of you to go home,” he said.  “Don’t say anything to anybody about what happened.  I promise you, we’ll have a plan for tomorrow.  If need be, you’ll all be excused from classes for the rest of the week to make this right.  Cissy, Sabrina, can you stay back for a minute.”

When the room cleared, he handed the faxes to Sabrina to read.  As she read, the color drained from her face, and she passed the papers to Cissy whose face turned white, and then red.  “Me?” she shouted.  “You think I did this?  Do you really think I’d work so hard on this thing only to sabotage it?”

“Actually,” said Mr. Wallace “I think somebody went to a great deal of work to make it look like you did do it.  The hand written notes with the I’s dotted with the little hearts.  It screams Cissy.”

“I didn’t do it Mr. Wallace, I swear, the other girl said. 

“Cissy, will you stop thinking about yourself for one freaking second,” Sabrina snapped.  “He’s saying he doesn’t think you did it.  Honestly, we don’t even have time to figure out who did.  We need to figure out what to do about Homecoming first.  That has to be our priority.”

“Maybe it’s a priority for you, Sabrina Patterson, but I need to think about how to clear my good name.  It’s just like you not to worry about anybody else!”

Sabrina drew in a deep breath and tried to employ some of the relaxation techniques her mom taught in her yoga studio.  “Cissy, I apologize,” she said.  “Right now, nobody but you, Mr. Wallace and I know about this frame up.  He’s not going to say anything, and I’m sure not going to say anything.  I know it’s very selfish of me to want to pull off a successful  Homecoming, but can we please focus on that, and once it’s done we’ll figure out who is trying to make you look bad.”

Mr. Wallace disguised his burst of laughter with a cough and winked at Sabrina.  “I, uh, I think Ms. Patterson is right Ms. Thompson.  A young lady as mature as yourself will see the wisdom  in trying to get homecoming to go on as smoothly as possible may lull the, um perpetrator of this crime into a state false security and they very well tip their hand.  I’m going to urge you to go home now, and remember, don’t say a word to anyone, not even your parents.  We’ll reconvene here tomorrow before school. In fact, if you could take it upon yourself to call the other committee members to inform them of our plans, that would be most helpful.”

Cissy agreed, and swung out of the classroom on her crutches as fast as she could.  As soon as she was out of earshot, both Mr. Wallace and Sabrina started to laugh.  They tried to control themselves, but the more they tried, the harder they laughed.  Sabrina laughed so hard; tears began to stream down her face.  They were still laughing when Jayson, Jamison, Sam and Kaitlyn came in from the football field.

“What’s so funny?” Sam asked, smiling.

“N-n-nothing,” Sabrina gasped.  “Homecoming is ruined, that’s all.”  She burst out laughing again while the others just stared at her in shock.  Marina and Colt drifted in and stared at the scene in front of them.

“What’s going on?” Marina asked, her voice tinged with caution.

“Apparently, my dad and Bree here have lost their ever lovin minds,” said Sam.

“No, no,” said Mr. Wallace.  “Sabrina is right, we do have a problem on our hands, but we’re not going to into hit here,” he continued.  “We’re all meeting at the Patterson’s for a brainstorming session.  Gather up your things, and let’s get going.” 

He ushered the others out of the classroom and closed the door, and they all trooped down the hall together, never noticing the figure that hovered in the shadows, watching everything.

Chapter 14

Seven teenagers and six adults crowded into the Patterson’s living room, eating pizza and talking.  Mr. Wallace and Sabrina filled the others in on what had happened, leaving out the details about Cissy.

“I still don’t understand why you were laughing so hard when we walked in,” said Sam, helping himself to another slice of pizza.  “This is serious, Homecoming is a huge thing, and it’s ruined, and the two of you were laughing like idiots.”

“Well it’s just that the more he talked, the more British your dad got,” said Sabrina, chuckling again.  “He reminded me of Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I almost expected him to take off his glasses and start polishing them on his sweater or something.  But the fact remains that we have a problem, and next to no time to solve it.  Our theme was Welcome Home et Bienvenue au Paris.  We had a DJ from one of the radio stations in Boston.  We had ordered French type foods from the stores and restaurants here in town, we had a photographer and we were using a Parisian skyline for a photo op.  We also had a bunch more decorations that got destroyed.  I think it’s hopeless.  All our contracts have been cancelled.  The only thing we do have going for us is the local stores and restaurants will do whatever they can to help us.  All the other stuff is gone.”

“I’m sorry girlfriend,” said Marina.  “I think you’re right, it’s hopeless.”

“Maybe not,” said Jayson.  “Maybe we can come up with something else.”

“Shouldn’t we be trying to figure out who did it?” asked Colt.  “I mean school rivalry is one thing, but this is going too far.  It has Springvale written all over it.”

“We don’t think it was Springvale,” said Mr. Wallace.  “And we will find out who was behind it, but right now, we need to focus on a new plan.  Jayson is right, we can and will come up with something else.”

Dan Stephens leaned over and whispered to Jonathan Patterson for a few minutes.  He pulled out his cell phone and punched in a number and walked out of the room talking.   He returned a few minutes later and nodded cryptically to Jon and Charles Wallace.  The noise level increased as the teens tossed ideas back and forth until finally Mr. Wallace let out a piercing whistle and the room quickly settled down.  He nodded to Dan Patterson who began to speak.

“Sabrina if you trust us,” he began.  “We have music for you.  They’re not professional, just a group of friends who get together and play for fun.  Like I said, they’re not professional, but they are good.  They play many different kinds of music from oldies, to top forty and a heavy country influence.  They’re available for Saturday night and best of all, they’ll play for free.”

“Mr. P, that’s excellent news!” Sabrina cried.  “Wait? You’ve heard them play?”

“Yes, I’ve heard them play, and like I said, they are heavily influenced by country music, but they said that they can work in a lot of other things, and when they take breaks, you can use their sound system to hook up one of your MP3 players with some of the more current stuff they may not be too familiar with.”

“That’s fantastic, Daddy!” Kaitlyn cried.  “We can work with this Sabrina.  “Oldies to top 40 how about a Through the Years theme?”

“That may work,” said Angela McKenzie, scribbling the theme down on a pad of paper.  “What else.”

They tossed ideas back and forth, keeping some, laughing at the absurdity of others.  The funniest of them all was Sam’s suggestion of Mozart to Motown with all of them wearing fashions from the 1800’s.  They had settled tentatively on Through the Years when Marina smiled.  “I have it,” she said, with a smile that lit up the room.  “How about Welcome Home Hoe Down?”  We can decorate using bales of hay from the farm, and corn stalks, and some of the old saddles and bridles and stuff, and we can bring in the small wagon, you know the one, as a prop for pictures.”

“That’s perfect,” Kaitlyn said.

 “It is, but the photographer got cancelled too, remember,” said Sabrina.

“Um, not to blow my own horn,” said Patrice Stephens, but I’ve been told I take a pretty decent picture.”

Everyone laughed at this, and Sabrina’s faced turned as red as her hair.  “Oh, yeah.  I’m sorry Mrs. Stephens.  I don’t think of you as an award winning photographer.  Your just, you know,  Jayson and Kaity’s mom.”

“And that’s the most wonderful thing anyone could ever say to me,” said Patrice.  “But I can also take pictures, and I’m willing to donate my services as well.”

“The dance is at the community center, right?” asked Jamison.  When he spoke up, the room fell silent, for the reticent boy seldom spoke in front of the adults, and never voluntarily initiated conversation.

“Yeah, it is,” said Sabrina.  “Why?”

“Well, I was thinking that the band will probably be up on the stage, right?  Well, maybe we could make like a fake barn front to put up behind them so it looked like a barnyard or something.”  he stopped talking as abruptly as he started and stared at the floor.

“Jamison, that’s fantastic idea,” said Mrs. McKenzie.  “We actually have that lumber from those old sheds that got dismantled this summer.  We can use that.  We’ll just need to get some red paint.”

“We’ll spring for the paint,” said Mr. Patterson, “And any extra lumber and tools you might need. “

“Now we just need to focus on food, and the rest of the decorations,” said Jess Patterson.  “Sabrina, why are you crying?”

“Be-because you guys are all being so great, and you came up with all this stuff, and I think it’s actually going to work,” Sabrina cried.  “It’s not going to be ruined.”

“Don’t worry, Bree,” Jayson said, squeezing her hand.  “The seven of us are a team.  We have your back.”

“The seven of you?” teased Mr. Stephens

“Yeah, the seven of us are a team and the six of you are a team and when you put us together, we’re unbeatable,” said Jayson. 

“Well I suggest these two teams call it a night,” said Mr. Wallace.  “Tomorrow is going to come pretty quick, and we all have a lot to accomplish.”

“Thanks again everyone,” Sabrina said as she and the others began to gather up the empty pizza boxes, soda cans and plates.  “Oh wait, Mr. Patterson, what’s the name of the band.  I’m going to need to draft an announcement tomorrow about the change.  Oh and I think we should probably offer refunds to everyone who bought their tickets in advance.  Just to be fair.”

“That’s good thinking Bree,” said Mr. Wallace.  He looked at Jon Patterson and Dan Stephens and unspoken messages flashed between the three friends.  After a wait that was in actuality only a couple of seconds but seemed to stretch on to infinity Dan finally answered. 

“The band – well their name is The Rodeo Outlaws,” he said.  “And well there gimmick is they wear masks, kind of like real outlaws.”

“The Rodeo Outlaws,” said Sabrina.  “I like it. I like it a lot.”

Chapter 15

Early the next morning, Jayson picked up Jamison and they drove out to the McKenzie farm to meet Colt and Sam.  All four boys had late arrival notes in their backpacks, Jamison’s courtesy of Mrs. Patterson.  Jayson cut the lights on his beat up Buick as he pulled into the yard, not wanting to disturb the McKenzie’s, but it was too late.  Mrs. McKenzie was walking from the house to the barn carrying a jumbo thermos jug and a beach tote.

“Coffee, and breakfast,” she said, lifting the bag up slightly.  Jamison jumped out of the car and raced over to meet her, taking the parcels from her.  “I rounded up all the tools, and put them in the barn already.  Colt and Sam are bringing in the lumber.  Do you boys have a clue how to do this?” she asked.

“Well I googled building a barn façade, but that got me nowhere, so I called Mr. Patterson last night and he gave me some ideas, and emailed me a rough plan for us to follow.   We’ll figure it out.”

“Good luck boys,” she said, turning to head back to the house.    As she walked away, Jayson and Jamison made their way to the barn to find Colt and Sam.    They drank their coffee and looked over the plan from Mr. Patterson.

“Too bad you guys just couldn’t hocus pocus this thing,” said Sam.

“I don’t know if that’s even possible,” began Jayson.  “We have no clue how this stuff even works.”

“Why don’t you try,” asked Colt.  “I mean what’s the worst that can happen?”

“Oh I don’t know,” began Jayson, “We hurt ourselves, or one of you, or we blow the place up.”

“Well let’s hope nothing explodes,” said Jamison as he pointed his hand toward a pile of lumber.  Slowly one of the pieces lifted up and began to move toward the sawhorses Sam and Colt had set up before they arrived.   The other three boys began to applaud and whistle as Marina walked into the barn.

“Thanks guys,” she said taking a bow. “I love the show of appreciation, but um, why?”

Instead of answering, Jamison pointed his hand toward the lumber and focused and the large pile lifted several inches off the ground before crashing downward with a resounding bang.

“Impressive,” said Marina, clearly anything but.  “Next time I have to move a stack of lumber, I know who to call.  Mom sent me down to see if you got enough to eat.”  She looked toward the now empty bag, and the thermos lying empty on its side and said, I guess not.  I’ll go bring down some more food.”

“Don’t bother,” Jamison said, brusquely, upset by her dismissal of his performance.

“It’s no bother, and I think you should come help me,” she said, dragging him out of the barn.  In the yard, she stopped and turned and glared at him as the sun peeked over the horizon.  Hints of sun slivered across the yard, highlighting Jamison’s blond hair.  Marina reached out and gently tugged a strand.  “You’re kind of amazing,” she said.  “But right now, you’re all pissed because I didn’t react the way you wanted over your little abracadabra thing, aren’t you?”

“Geez, Marina,” he said indignantly.  “Didn’t you see that?  I did that.  Me!  I moved all that lumber with my freaking mind, or whatever.”

“Yeah, you did,” Marina replied.  “But let me ask you a question Jamie.  Do you like me because I got the role of Sandy in the play?”  Jamison shook his head, looking confused.  “Good, because playing Sandy is something I can do, and I guess I can do it pretty well, but it’s not who I am.  I don’t want you to think I like you cause you can do something like that.” She waved her hand, motioning toward the barn. “ I like you, not your ability or whatever you want to call it.  You, Jamie.  I.  Like.  You.”

He stared at her for a second, shocked to think that somebody – anybody really cared about him.  He put his hands on her shoulder and leaned down and kissed her, gently at first, then with more passion as his confidence and comfort grew.  Just as suddenly as it began, it ended, and he pulled away and the two stared at each other, their breath coming in gasps. 

“Wow, well, uh, I have to um, go get,” Marina said, pointing toward the house, dazed expression on her face.

“Yeah, me too,” said Jamison.  He turned to walk back toward the barn, turned around again, grabbed Marina and kissed her again, released her just as abruptly and walked back to the barn.

Her hand reached up and touched her lips, gently.  “Wow,” she said, watching him walk back to the barn.

Lana watched from the woods, her angry frown marring her beautiful face.  She was doing everything she could to separate Jayson, Jamison and Kaitlyn from the others, but they just seemed to be getting closer and closer.


The boys arrived late to school and stopped by Mr. Wallace’s room to let him know how much progress they’d made on the barn facade.  What they saw in his classroom amazed them.  The room was filled with student council members, art club members, football players and cheerleaders all working on decorations and posters.  Jayson maneuvered his way through the crowded room to where Sabrina worked creating  a scarecrow.

“What’s going on here?  I mean besides the obvious.  How did you organize all of this?” He asked gesturing around the room.

“I didn’t do it,” she said, smiling happily.  “They were here when I got here, waiting to work.  Mr. Collins excused everyone from morning classes, as long as we promised to make up the work we missed.  It’s so cool!” she spun around in excitement, knocking over the scarecrow she’d been stuffing minutes before.  Laughing she picked the scarecrow and started to dance around the room. 

“Watch it Stephens,” one of the football players yelled.  “You’re getting stood up for a scarecrow!”

Lana stood outside the door listening to the sounds of laughter emanating from the classroom.  ‘I can’t believe this,’ she thought to herself.  ‘I thought for sure if I screwed up this stupid Homecoming thing, Sabrina would crawl away with her tail between her legs.  Instead, the entire freaking school bands together to help her and she comes out smelling like a rose.   I have got to find some way to break them apart.’  She pasted on a smile and pushed open the door. “Looks like Sabrina found a date that’s just her speed,” she called out.  “Don’t worry  Jayson, I’m always available for you.”  She laughed, as if she were just kidding around, and everyone laughed with her.  Jayson glared at her and pulled Sabrina close to him and then smiled.  “Sabrina, don’t leave me,” he said dropping down onto one knee before her.  “I know the scarecrow has all the brains, but you – you have my heart!”

All the girls in the room sighed, and Sabrina dropped the scarecrow and held out her hands to Jayson.  “My very own tin woodsman,” she said.  “You better watch out, if you keep making pretty speeches like that I may cry and you know what happens when the tin woodsman gets wet.”

They teens worked diligently for the morning pausing only when the principal came over the intercom to announce the Homecoming court.  The room erupted with cheers when Kaitlyn Patterson was announced Homecoming Queen.  Sabrina rushed over to hug her friend and they both squealed with joy.  Around them the students, with the exception of Lana, celebrated Kaitlyn’s win.  After a final congratulatory hug, Sabrina made her way back to the scarecrow she had propped up in the corner.  As she got closer, the scarecrow fell toward Sabrina almost if it were propelled.  Nobody in the busy room saw it happen except Sabrina, who looked at the scarecrow curiously, and Kaitlyn, who noticed Lana stare at the scarecrow and make a surreptitious movement with her hand right before the scarecrow fell.

Chapter 16

The day of Homecoming dawned bright and clear, with just a hint chill in the air.  Sabrina wrapped a comforter around her and slipped out on to her rooftop patio and watched the sunrise over Appleton.  She was so happy, and life couldn’t be any better.  Everyone had worked together and saved the Homecoming dance, and as far as she was concerned, the Welcome Home Hoedown beat the Paris theme hands down.    She turned to walk in when she heard her name being called softly from the street.  She looked down to find Jayson standing on the street.  “Good Morning,” he called out softly.

“Morning, Jayce,” she replied smiling down at him.

“Do you have time to go for breakfast before the parade?” he asked. 

She thought about everything she had to accomplish, but it paled when compared to breakfast with Jayson.  “Yeah, give me ten minutes and I’ll be right down.”  She climbed back into her room and made short work of dressing.  She brushed her hair quickly and put it up the now trendy sloppy bun, and brushed her teeth.  Scribbling a not to her parents, she left it on the coffee maker, grabbed her keys, ran downstairs and quickly exited the building. 

“That was fast,” said Jayson, sliding off the hood of his Buick.  He crossed the sidewalk to stand in front of her.  “I didn’t really expect you to be….well, I thought I’d have more time,” he paused.

“More time for what? Jayson, what’s wrong?” Sabrina asked.  She felt a sharp pain in her head and raised her hands to her temples and tried to soothe away the pain. 

“Well, it’s just that I – wow, I didn’t think it would be this hard,” he said  “Sabrina, I don’t think we – “ the ringing of her cell phone interrupted them.  She glanced down at the display and saw Jayson’s name.  Puzzled she looked at him and said “I’m sorry, it’s Homecoming stuff.  I have to take it.”  She stepped several feet away and answered.  “Hi Cissy, I’m so glad you called.  No of course it’s not too early.  Actually Jayson just showed up to take me to breakfast.”

“What!” Jayson shouted so loudly Sabrina winced.  She didn’t want whoever was standing in front of her to realize Jayce was on the phone.  “Yeah, I know, it’s so romantic,” Sabrina continued.  “He showed up to surprise me by going to breakfast. “

“Don’t go anywhere with them,” he said.  “I’ll be there in five minutes,”

“That’s a good idea, Cissy,” Sabrina said.  “Bandanas and cowboy hats will be so cool to toss from the parade float.  I’m so glad you thought of it.  All right, then, I’ll see you at the parade set up.”  She hung up the phone and slid it into her pocket.  “Sorry about that, just a few last minute details to see to before everything starts,” she said.  “Now what did you want to say? It sounded really important.”

“Yeah, well I don’t think we should see each other any longer,” said the false Jayson.  “I mean, I’ll still take you to the dance tonight, cause I’m not a total ass, but really I’m just not into you anymore. “

“Oh, okay,” Sabrina said, shocked.  She knew it wasn’t really Jayson in front of her, but that didn’t make the words any less painful.  “I guess if that’s what you want,” her voice trailed off.

“It is, I’ve moved on, and you should too.  Now I have to get going. I have stuff to do.”

“Jayce, can’t we,” she began but he cut her off abruptly.  “I mean it,” he said.  “It’s over.”  He spun on his heel and walked away.  Sabrina buried her face in her hands, and when she looked up both he and his car were gone. 

She stood on the sidewalk alone, tears coursing down her cheeks, and watched as Jayson ran down the street toward her.

“Who was that?” he asked, pulling her into his arms.

“For all intents and purposes, it was you,” Sabrina answered.  “It looked like you, it sounded like you, and Jayce, it was you!”

“No, it wasn’t Bree.  Look at me, I’m right here, I just got here.  That was not me!”  He hugged her tighter and wiped away the tears on her cheeks.  “Bree, I don’t know who or what that was, but I promise you, it wasn’t me.  Come on, we need to get away from here and talk about this.” He took her by the hand, and the two of them began to walk.  In a matter of minutes, they were at the new pancake house that had just opened.  Jayson led them to a table, ordered coffee and pancakes for both of them.  They waited in silence until the waitress returned with their food. 

The waitress placed their plates in front of them and topped off their coffee.  He waited several more minutes but Sabrina wouldn’t break the silence.  Finally, he asked.  “What exactly happened?  Tell me everything and don’t leave out any detail.  We need to figure this out.”

Sabrina took a deep breath and told him everything from the moment she saw him on the street, to the moment that she stepped outside.  “Bree, what happened next,” he said.  “I think I need to hear everything.” 

She took a deep breath. “Fine.  You told me you didn’t want to see me any longer, that you had moved on, and I should too.  You would still take me to the dance tonight, but after that, we were done.  Jayson, it was horrible.  I knew it wasn’t you, but it still hurt so badly.  I wanted to curl up in a ball and die. “

“Sabrina, look at me,” he commanded.  “He reached across the table and took her hands in his.  “This isn’t quite the setting I had planned to say this, but I don’t think that matters.   Sabrina, I love you.  I think I’ve loved you from the first day of first grade.  I can’t imagine my life without you in it.  I know we’re way too young to even be thinking about things like this, but when I think about the rest of my life, all I see in it is you.”

“Oh Jayson,” Sabrina whispered.  “I feel the same way. “

“I promise you I am not done, it’s not over, and I have not and will not be moving on.  Do you understand that?

“I do,” she said, feeling relieved.  “But Jayce, who was that and how do they look so much like you?”

“I don’t know,” he said.  “We have a lot we have to figure out.  We need to get up north and start looking around up there.”

“I know,” agreed Bree.  “I was thinking that with us having a 3 day weekend because of that teacher workshop, it would be a good time to head up and look around.”

“That’s a great idea,” said Jayson, shoveling pancakes into his mouth.  “Not to change the subject or anything, but these are really great.”

“Here, have mine,” she laughed, and pushed her plate across the table toward him.

“No, I’ll take one,” he said, sliding one of the cakes from his plate to hers and liberally loading it up with syrup.  “But you need to eat.  You have a big day, ahead of you, and an even bigger night,” he added with a wink.

She pulled the plate back with a laugh and began to cut into the cakes.   “Jayce, why did you call so early?  You hate mornings.”

“I don’t know,” he admitted.  “I woke up with this really uneasy feeling about you.  It’s like you were calling me, that you were hurt.  It was kind of like – holy shit, I never told you, did I?”

Never told me what?” asked Sabrina. 

“The other day, the day you fainted.  All of us, me, Jamison and Kaitlyn all knew something was wrong with you.  We felt it.  That’s why we didn’t want the nurse involved.  God Bree, what if we did something to you.”

“What if you did?” she asked, taking a sip from her coffee.  “Jayson, if it wasn’t for you guys, I’d be dead, right?”

“Well, yeah, I guess,” he said.

“There’s no guess about it,” she said.  I would be dead.  You saved me.  I could feel it.  I could feel the power coming from you, and then when Jamison and Kaitlyn helped you, I could feel that too, but it was you Jayson.  You saved my life. “

“You felt it?” he asked.  “What did it – what was it like?”

“Jayson, I promise, I’ll tell you everything.  I think we all need to sit down and talk some more.  But right now, I have a ton of stuff to get done, and you have the game this afternoon, and we have the dance tonight. “

“Maybe we can do an after dance party at Marina’s,” he suggested.

“Yeah, maybe,” she said.  “But for now, I need to get home and get ready to get to school.”

_ _ _

The parade was a huge success.  The band sounded great, and the floats were a big hit, but none was as well received as the student council homecoming float.  It was decorated with corn stalks, pumpkins, scarecrows, and hay bales.   An enterprising art student managed to create a throne for the homecoming queen out of bales of hay, and her court sat on smaller bales of hay waving to the crowd.  The queen’s crown was a cowboy hat decorated with flowers, and the court wore garlands made of flowers on their head.  The team fought valiantly against Springvale and managed to squeak out a victory over their rivals.

The dance was a sellout, and not one student asked for a refund because the theme changed.  The decorations were perfect, and the kids loved the photo opportunity with the wagon, and having their pictures taken by an award winning photographer.  Sabrina was a bit worried about the band, The Rodeo Outlaws.  Nobody had ever heard of them, and she knew she was taking a risk, but she had faith in Mr. Patterson.  When the band took the stage, and Sabrina laughed.  They were dressed up as cowboys, and all of them were wearing masks to hide their identities.

“I guess they’re carrying the outlaw theme a bit far,” Marina said as they band played their first song.  Sabrina breathed a sigh of relief when she heard  the music.  It was pretty decent.  But school dances can be terrifying and nobody wants to be the first one on the dance floor.  She was about to suck of the courage to be the first one on the floor when the music came to a resounding halt and the lead singer started to speak.

“Hey, we’re The Rodeo Outlaws, and we’re here to entertain you tonight, but you have to do your part too, and do some dancing.   How many of you here are Appleton High students or alumni?” he asked and nearly every hand went up.  “Great, I want you to think back to fourth grade gym class,” he said.  “Now do I have to go call Mr. Cataldo, Ms. Bateman and Mr. Morrissey,” he said naming the three elementary school gym teacher s that had been there forever, “And have them help you revisit the terror that was fourth grade square dancing?”  The crowd began to laugh and call out no.  “Alrighty then, I guess I’ll have to take their place.  Are you ready?”  Sabrina cringed, thinking he was really going to start calling out square dancing calls when the band broke into the Cotton Eyed Joe and girls began to rush to the floor to do the popular line dance. 

From there on, it was smooth sailing.  Sabrina was so busy dashing here and there answering questions and handling the small dilemmas that tend to pop up at events that she didn’t have much free time to spend with Jayson, which worked out well, considering that someone went to such great lengths to break them up.  Kaitlyn slipped her a note from Jayson during the game outlining his plan for them to act like they weren’t on the best of terms, and she knew it was the right thing to do.  But it was hard, she wanted to be in his arms and dance to the music. 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the lead singer after they finished up a set that included classics like Rock Around the Clock to Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer.  “It seems to me we have a queen to crown.  May I have the Homecoming Court down in front please.”  A path cleared and Kaitlyn and the rest of the girls walked to the front, and Mr. Collins the principal placed the Homecoming crown on Kaitlyn’s head.  “Now the queen and her date are going to start the next dance, and then the rest of the court can join in,” said the singer.  And after that the rest of you can join in.  After that, we’ll be taking a break, but don’t you worry, the student council has worked up quite the dancing playlist so you don’t have to rest.  But right now, we have one more surprise for you.  I heard that your drama club is putting on Grease this year.  We’d like to have “Sandy” come up and join us for a song.”

The room erupted in cheers as people began to push Marina to the front of the stage.  She climbed up and took the mike and waited nervously as the opening chords to Hopelessly Devoted to You began to play.  ‘I can do this,’ she whispered to herself.  She looked out into the audience and her eyes locked on Jamison’s and almost of its own volition, the song poured from her lips.

Kaitlyn looked around, unsure of what to do.  She didn’t see Colt anywhere, and she didn’t know what to do.  Without warning, he appeared from the crowd and held out his hand.  She took it gratefully and they began to dance as Marina’s haunting voice sang about unrequited love.  The rest of the Homecoming court joined them, followed by the rest of the students.  Jayson looked around and found Sabrina.  He crossed the crowded dance floor and grabbed her hand and pulled her outside.

Once they were free of the crush, he wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly.  “I don’t know if I can do this,” he whispered.  “I don’t know if I can stay away from you, Bree.  We belong together.  I feel you inside of me.  I don’t know if it’s because I healed you or what, but when I’m not with you , I feel like part of me is missing.

“I feel the same way Jayson,” Sabrina said.  “But what about this morning?  What are we going to do?

“For now,  we’re going to back inside, and we’re going to pretend we’ve broken up, and tonight, we’re going to figure out how we’re going to get up to the notch.  After that, I have no clue.”

Chapter 17

After a successful dance, and quick clean up, the group retired to the McKenzie farm to hang out.  From years of working there, and hanging out, all of them had a variety of clothing, and they were all able to change out of their dress clothes into something more casual and comfortable.  They were sitting around the refurbished tack room, rehashing the dance when the door opened. 

“Just how stupid do you kids think we are?” began Angela McKenzie.  “And all of us,” she pointed to the Pattersons, the Stephens and Mr. Wallace are pretty angry at what you tried to put over on us.”

“Exactly,” continued Mr. Wallace, picking up where Angela left off.  “We’re all pretty angry right now.”

“And hurt,” continued Jess Patterson. 

“Why you kids felt you couldn’t trust us is beyond us,” finished Dan Stephens.

“Um, does anybody want to tell us what you all are talking about?” asked Marina.  “Because we’re all here.  Nobody snuck off to a party, there’s no drugs or alcohol, and as you can see, we haven’t progressed to the orgy portion of our program.”

Marina’s outrageous comment caused all the adults to burst into laughter and the seven teens relaxed thinking that their parents were just joking around.  Sabrina was the first to notice that they were wearing western style shirts, jeans and cowboy hats.  “Oh no!” she shouted.  “Tell me that you guys aren’t,”

“The Rodeo Outlaws?,” said her father.  “Darn tootin we are.” 

A cacophony of questions filled the room as the kids’ asked questions and the parents tried to explain, with each of them talking over one another.  A piercing whistle filled the room followed by silence.

“That’s better,” said Charles Wallace.  “Now, one at a time please.”

“You guys were the band tonight?” Sabrina asked as their parents took up seats around the room.  Kaitlyn jumped up and grabbed sodas out of the fridge and passed them out to the parents as they  listened to their explanation. 

“We’ve been playing together for years, for fun,” said Dan Stephens.  “Well us, and a couple of other guys in town.   When you said you needed music, I figured we could do it – and we did!”

“You did, you guys were amazing!” Sabrina cried.  “All of you did so much to help us.  I don’t get kids who complain about their parents,”  she added.  “All of us are so lucky.”

“Well, if you’re so lucky, why did you feel the need to lie to us?” asked her mother.  “You don’t believe for a second we fell for your story about wanting to go visit all those tourist traps up north, did you?”

A silence fell over the room while the kids digested what Mrs. Patterson had said.

“Mom, Dad, it’s not what you think,” began Kaitlyn.

“No, Kaity, it’s exactly what we think,” her mother responded.  “We know you must be curious about where we found you.”

“No, Mom, Dad, it’s not,” Kaitlyn tried again.

“Of course, it is, sweetheart.  That’s perfectly natural and normal,” her father said.  “And we think it’s great that all of you,” he looked at the other five teens, “Want to be there to support them, but why did you feel the need to lie to us.”

“Dad, we didn’t want to lie, we didn’t think about it as lying,” Jayson improvised.  “We, well we didn’t want you to think that we weren’t happy or anything like that.  We kind of just wanted to look around.”

“Jayson, baby, it’s not like you’re going to find anything,” his mother said.  “We wish to God there was, but the police, went over that area with a fine toothed comb, and there wasn’t anything out there then. What makes you think there’d be anything now.”

“Oh no, Mom!” Kaitlyn cried.  “We’re not, looking for clues or anything like that.  God no, how could you ever think that?  We were just, I don’t know, curious or something.”

“Closure,” said Colt.  “When we talked about it, the best word we could come up with was closure.  Kaity and Jayce just want to go back, and then that part of their life is done.”

“Mom, Dad, you have to believe us,” said Sabrina.  If one of us were doing something dangerous or something that was going to hurt them, we’d tell you.  But this, well this wasn’t hurtful or dangerous, and we couldn’t,”

“We know, you couldn’t betray a confidence,” said Jon Patterson.  “But that doesn’t mean we’re going to let the seven of you traipse off on your own for a weekend.  That just isn’t happening.  We love you, and we trust you, but no.”

“Mom!” Sabrina cried as Sam and Colt said, “Dad!”

“No boys,” said Mr. Wallace.  “I’m afraid I agree.  It’s not that we don’t trust you, but Appleton High, and the town itself.  There would be talk about the girls.  Did any of you think of that?”

“Why would anybody talk about the – oh never mind,”  said Sam. 

“Exactly,” said Mr. Stephens.  “Now we do have a proposition for you.  Patrice is going up north to do some foliage shots.  We’ll take you up there with us, and you can look around, but no overnight, is that clear?”

They nodded their agreement, knowing that it was better than nothing when Jamison spoke up.  “Um well, the thing is, we were kind of really going to go to Santa’s Workshop and Fairytale Land too,” he said.  “I know it’s really stupid and everything, but  well you my dad never did anything like that and I know it’s stupid, but I really just wanted to…” his voice trailed  off and his cheeks flushed.

“Oh Jamie,” cried Mrs. Patterson.  She looked around at the other parents and the all nodded their approval.

“How about if we stay one night,” Mr. Stephens conceded.  “That way you can do a whirlwind tour of both places and do some of the exploring you wanted to do?”

“Oh Daddy, that would be great,” said Kaitlyn.  “You and mom are the best.  “We promise we’ll pay for hotel so you don’t have to go to any expense.”

“Kaity, I think we can handle it,” her father laughed.  “Now we’ll leave you kids to your post dance party.  But don’t forget, you do have a curfew.”

They called out their goodbyes and left the teens to their own devices.  Once they were sure the parents were out of earshot Marina squealed and threw her arms around Jamison.  “That was perfect,” she said.  “I can’t believe you did that, Jamison. “

“Yeah, well,” he said brusquely.  “I did what I had to do.  Just drop it, okay?”  Marina turned away, hurt while the rest of the teens made their plans for the weekend.


The week dragged, moving at the pace of a snail, but Friday finally arrived, and the Stephens arrived at the Patterson’s to pick up Sabrina and Jamison.  Bree laughed as she climbed into the borrowed Chevy Suburban that Mr. Patterson was driving.  “Couldn’t find a charter bus?” she laughed as she made her way to the back, climbing over Sam, Colt and Kaitlyn  to get to where Jayson was sitting.  Jamison climbed in behind her, grunting a hello to the occupants of the vehicle.

“It was either this, or well, nothing,” said Mr. Patterson.  “We’re going to head out to the farm, grab Marina and head out.  We should get up there between 7:30 and 8:00, and we’ll grab some breakfast before we drop you off. ”  Dan Patterson pulled away from the curb and made the quick drive to the McKenzie farm to pick up Marina. 

Once everyone was loaded, they made their way north.  The closer they arrived to Greenville Notch, the quieter the teens became.  Within an hour, they pulled into the diner where the Stephens had eaten all those years before.  Once they were seated, and the waitress had filled their coffee cups, they began to fine tune their plans. 

“I think, before you do anything, we should see if Chief Brody is still the police chief,” said Dan Patterson, taking a welcome sip of coffee.  “I don’t want you just roaming around without a plan.  “Plus I don’t even know if it’s okay for you to be traipsing around these woods.”

“Dad, we’re not going to be traipsing,” said Jayson.  We have maps, we have GPSr’s, and we have backpacks with extra clothing, and an emergency shelter.  We’ll be okay,”

Dan and Patrice Stephens laughed as two waitresses arrived with their orders.  Their waitress put the various orders in front of them, and asked “Is there anything else I can get you?” she asked .

“Actually, we’d love some information, Agnes” Dan said, glancing at her name tag.  “Does Chief Brody still work here in town?” he asked. 

“He sure does,” said the waitress.  “In fact, he’s over there at the counter,” she added pointing to the other room.  “Hey Frank!” she shouted across the dining room.  “Got some folks here looking for you.”

They watched as Chief Frank Brody ambled from  the counter where he’d been sitting across the dining area, coffee cup in hand.  “What can I do for you folks?” he asked.  “Well I’ll be,” he said when  he reached the table.  “Dan and Patrice Stephens.  How are you folks doing, and what brings you back to Greenville Notch?”

“Well Chief, Patrice here needs to get some foliage shots for a calendar contract she has, and the kids, well the kids were a bit curious,” she paused.

“That’s not a surprise.  But woo eee, you sure do have a passel of kids now, don’t you?”

Everyone laughed at the Chief’s pronouncement and the Stephens were quick to assure them that only Jayson and Kaitlyn were theirs.  Introductions were made,  and the Chief smiled at the teens, giving Jamison a sharp look when he heard his name.  “I’ll tell you what,” he said.  “When you all are done eating, come meet me at the station, and I’ll drive you out to the area where we found you.   Does that work for you?” he asked, looking at Dan and Patrice.

“Well the thing is, Mom needs the car to go to her different locations,” Kaitlyn said.  “So I don’t think that will work.”

“Well now, let me see,” he said, rubbing his chin.  “How about if you two,” ne nodded again at Dan and Patrice, “Use my car today.  I’m on duty all week, and just meet me back at the station round about five o’clock or so. “

“Chief Brody, really, you’re going above and beyond,” said Dan.  “Why would you want to help us out this way?”

“It seems to me, that I remember two people who wouldn’t stop pushing me to believe them.  They kept insisting that there were two kids lost in the woods, even though we didn’t have any other reports.  See, they just wouldn’t take no for an answer.  And then, when we did find those kids, the lady, she fought like a mama bear protecting her cubs to make sure that those kids were safe and loved.  I just think that if there are two people in this crazy world who would fight so hard to do the right thing, well they deserve a little bit of help from me.  Especially when I gave them such a hard time to begin with.”

“Thank you, Chief,”  said Patrice, her eyes glistening with tears.  “We would love to take you up on your offer.  Jayce, are you okay with driving that land ark we’re driving?”

“Yeah, I think we’ll be okay.  Thank you sir, we really appreciate this.” 

They quickly finished their meal and followed Chief Brody to the police station where he handed Dan and Patrice the keys to his Jeep.  After making sure they were all set with where they were going,  he asked the kids to come into the station before they set out on their adventure.  He checked over all their supplies and was happily surprised to see that they were well prepared for their hike.  He spread out a map and showed them where they were, and  the area where they were found.  He also gave them a quick overview of the terrain they would be exploring and explained that as it was state forest, they shouldn’t be in danger from  hunters either.  He led them back out to their car and watched with approval as they climbed in and buckled their seatbelts.  Brody pulled out onto the road and led the kids to the scenic parking area where Patrice had first photographed them.

Once they were all out of the car, he told them,” Near as we can figure, your mom was looking out over in this area when she snapped those pictures.  Even after we found you, we searched and searched looking for any clues about you, but we never found anything.”

“We don’t really expect to find anything either, Chief Brody, I guess we’re just curious is all,” said Jayson.  We have the best parents in the world, and we’re not trying to take anything away from them.  We kind of just need to see for ourselves.

“I guess I can understand that,” the Chief agreed.  “I’m going to head out, but I’ll swing back this way a couple of times to make sure you’re ok.  When you’re done, head back to the station, okay?”

They agreed, and waited until the chief pulled away.  Once he was gone, they climbed over the guardrail and began their hike into the woods.

Chapter 18

They searched for several hours finding nothing.  Even though it was what they expected, they couldn’t help but be disappointed.   At the base of an incline, they took a break to drink some water, eat some food, and figure out their next step.  Jayson, Jamison and Kaitlyn were particularly short tempered and snapped at every suggestion made by Colt, Sam and Marina.  Sabrina sat to one side, and observed her friends and the imaginary line that seemed to divide them once again.   As their bickering grew more severe, she became more and more tense until finally, she couldn’t stand it any longer.

“Stop it, all of you!” she shouted.  As she shouted a tree branch in a nearby tree snapped an fell. 

“Check it out,” joked Sam, trying to calm everyone down.  “Bree broke a tree with her voice.”

“Ha ha, very funny,” said Jayson, smiling finally.  “It must have been rotten or something. Bree, baby, what’s wrong?” he asked.

“You,” she said.  “The three of you are so tense, it’s practically radiating off of you in waves, and it’s driving me crazy.  I can’t handle it.”

“Sabrina, I’m sorry, I, ” Jayson began.

“Forget it,” Sabrina snapped.  “Let’s just get moving.  We only have a couple of hours left before we need to get back to the car.”  She grabbed her backpack and began walking, up the steep path.  The others gathered up their belongings and began to follow after her, but she ignored them.  Finally she stopped out of breath and looked around.  Jayson, Kaitlyn, and Jamison were coming up to where she waited, while Sam, Colt and Marina were further down the hill.

“What the hell was that about?” Jayson demanded. 

“I just can’t be around you guys right now,” Sabrina said.  “You guys are hurting me right now.”

“Bree, that doesn’t make any sense, we’re not touching you,” Jayson said. 

“I know, but you are, and I can’t stand it.  My head wants to explode from the pressure.”

“Jayce,” Kaitlyn said.

“Not now Katie, I’m trying to deal with Bree,” he snapped.

“I don’t need you to deal with me Jayson Stephens,” Sabrina shouted.  “I don’t need anything from you.  In fact,”

“Jayson!” Kaitlyn shouted again.

“Kaitlyn, not now!” Jayson shouted right back.

“Damn it Jayson, will you listen to her,” Sabrina snapped, holding her head.

“Jayson, I’ve been here before,” Kaitlyn said.

“What?” asked Jayson, finally paying attention to his sister.

“I’ve been here before.  These rocks, I know them.”

He looked to where she was pointing, there were two large boulders that looked like they’d been deposited there by glaciers eons ago,  that abutted a sheer granite cliff.  “What do you mean, ‘you’ve been here before’?” he asked.

“I mean I’ve been here before.  I know this place, Jayson.”  Sabrina looked at Kaitlyn and saw her friend was pale and shaking uncontrollably.  She was one step away from  passing out.  Sabrina pushed past Jayson and took Kaitlyn’s hands in hers. 

“Focus Kaity,” she said.  “Look inward, and find something to focus on.”  She turned and looked and found the others watching her.  “Sam, come here,” she said quietly.  “Help her.  Those mediations your dad found for you.  Take her over there and talk her through one.  Help her calm down.”

Without a word Sam pulled Kaitlyn away while a nervous Colt followed after them.  Marina slipped her hand into Jamison’s and whispered, “I’m still mad at you, but are you okay?”

“I don’t think I am,” he responded squeezing her hand tightly.  “Marina, Kaity’s right.  I know this place.  I’ve been here before.”  He walked up to the rocks and began examining them, looking for something, but he didn’t know what.  Jayson watched him for several seconds and then closed his eyes, trying to remember that day so long ago when he and Kaitlyn were found in the woods.

“Jamison, wait!” he shouted.  “Kaity, come here.”  He waited while Sam and Colt walked Kaitlyn back up the clearing where they stood.  When the three stood together Jayson spoke. “We were here,” he said.  “All of us, together.  There was a noise, and Jamison, you ran away.  Do you remember?”

“It was a voice,” said Jamison, “I couldn’t understand it, but it scared me, and I ran.”

Jayson took each one of them by the hand and walked over to the granite outcropping.  He looked at it, and then turned around and looked into the clearing and back down the hill.  Sabrina, Marina, Colt and Sam watched, puzzled, unsure of what they were seeing.  Jayson walked to the far right and began to run his hands up and down the rocks.  He stepped back and looked at the sheer granite wall again.  A shadow caught his eye and he looked closer and noticed a slight indentation at his chest level.  He pushed it slightly, and the rock face disappeared revealing a door.  Jayson jumped back into Jamison and the two boys fell to the ground.  The scrambled  to get up as a figure stepped out from the newly revealed doorway.

“Finally,” said Eric Harrison.  I didn’t think you’d ever find it.”

“M- Mr. Harrison, what are you doing here?” Jayson asked. 

“My  name is Har’tan,” said Mr. Harrison.  “We’ve been waiting for you.”

“We, what the hell are you talking about?” demanded Jayson.

“Please if the three of you will come with me, I can explain everything,” said Mr. Harrison.

With that, Sabrina, Marina, Colt, and Sam stepped up and joined the others.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Harrison, but they’re not going anywhere with you,” said Colt. “I don’t what kind of freak show game you’re playing, but there is no way in hell any of them are going in there.”

“Colton, you are not a part of this,” said Mr. Harrison.  “Now the four of you should just go back to where you came from.  They’ll be fine.”

“The hell we will!” said Sam, his famous temper beginning to show. “Come on guys, we need to get out of here.”

“Enough,” said a female voice behind Mr. Harrison.  “Har’tan, let them all in.  You know they’ll just go running and tell them everything anyhow.”  The owner of the voice came in to view and they all gaped, unable to comprehend what they saw in front of them. 

“Lana?” Sabrina asked, incredulously.

“As you wish, Your Majesty,” said Mr. Harrison bowing slightly.

“Your Majesty?” Sabrina mouthed to Marina who shot her a puzzled glance in return. 

“We can’t ask you to go in there with us,” said Jayson, looking at them.  “But we have to.”

“We’re not letting you go in there alone, man,” said Colt.  “We’re a team, remember?”

“Marina?  I can’t ask you to do this,” said Jamison. 

“You’re not asking,” she said.  “But if you’re going in there, I’m going in there.”

“Us too,” added Sam and Sabrina.

Jayson looked back at his friends and smiled, and the love he felt for them shone in his eyes.  No matter what they found out, he knew where he belonged and it was with the people that stood beside him.

Chapter 20

“What is this place?” Jayson asked.

“Please, we shouldn’t be standing out here,” said Mr. Harrison.  “Follow us, and we’ll explain everything.”

Jayson looked at the others and shrugged and he followed Mr. Harrison and Lana through the door.  Once they were all inside, the door closed behind them, and Marina gave a soft scream.  Lana shot her a disgusted look, and they continued to walk.  The corridor they were in widened out to reveal a cavern of sorts, lit by some indiscernible light source.  Sabrina looked around, trying to take in everything, but the pain in her head grew stronger.  She felt as if there were a steel band tightening around her head ever so slowly. 

Mr. Harrison crossed the cavern  to what looked to be four glass tubes,  which had been broken open.  “These,” he said  “are the gestational pods that housed you as you travelled from your home world of Gaia.  “I was instructed to watch over you, and to give this to you when you emerged on your eighteenth birthday, Ja’seth.”  He handed Jayson some metal sheets.  Jayson took them and looked at them and looked back at Mr. Harrison.

“What do you want me to do with this?” he asked.

“Read it,” said Mr. Harrison.

Jayson looked at the man as if he were crazy.  “I would, if it were in English,” he said.  “I don’t read,” he looked down at the sheets again, “whatever this is.”

“You can’t read it?” he asked.  “Strange, you were supposed to be retain all your knowledge.  Perhaps it has to do something with your emerging early from the gestational pods.

“Okay, look, this is getting too weird for words,” said Kaitlyn.  “Look Mr. Harrison, I don’t know what you’re getting at, but none of this is making any sense.”

Lana snatched the sheets out Jayson’s hand.  “I’ll do it,” she snapped. 

“You can read that?” asked Jayson.

“Yes, Har’tan made sure I could read Gaian.

“Let me see that,” said Kaitlyn and she grabbed the metallic sheets from Lana.  As she did, they fell to the ground.   Jamison, and Jayson bent down to help Kaitlyn pick them up and Lana tried again to grab them.  When all four of them touched the sheets, they began to glow.  Lights danced around the room bouncing off the walls.  The continued to bounce for several minutes quickly at first, and then slower, coming together to form one giant glowing ball of light.  From that light, a voice began to speak.

“You are the royal four of Gaia, King Ja’seth, and his beloved wife Queen Iliana.  Ja’seth’s sister Princess Katalia, and her husband and general of King Ja’seth, Lord General Brendair.  There was a terrible uprising on our planet.  You fought valiantly King Ja’seth but you were betrayed by someone close to you.  You died in battle, but two sets of your clones were sent to this planet in the hopes that someday you’d come back and free us.  Do not fail us your Majesty.”

The lights faded and they were left, trying to see in the dimmer light and trying to comprehend what they had just heard.

“What the hell was that?” demanded Jamison. 

“Please, let me explain,” said Mr. Harrison.  “The message leaves out so many details.  There was a terrible civil war on our planet.  King Ja’seth, you had so many ideas and plans, and you tried to implement them so quickly, and the people weren’t ready for it.  They rebelled.  Millions of people died.  I was charged, along with one other, to transport you here and watch over you, and when the time was right, bring you back to Gaia.”

“Wait, just stop,” said Jayson.  “You expect me to believe that we’re some sort of, I don’t know, aliens or something?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Harrison.  “Exactly.  And I was charged with bringing you here, to safety.  There were two sets of gestational pods.  We hid four here, and four in another place, hoping that you would emerge on what would have been your 18th birthday, fully aware of who you were.”

“You said we?” said Jayson.  “Where is this other person?”

“Not person, protector,” said Mr. Harrison.  “We are not human.  He was killed when we landed the second time.”

“Second time?” asked Kaitlyn. 

“Yes, we hid the first set of gestational pods, and then we came here to hide yours, and there were some problems with the landing, and he died.   I believe that is why you emerged from your gestational pods early,” he continued.  “I think perhaps you were damaged in the landing.”

“This is just getting more and more confusing,” said Colt.

“It’s not for you to understand,” said Lana, looking at him contemptuously.

Kaitlyn started to say something, but Colt laid a hand on her shoulder gently and shook his head. They needed to hear everything that Mr. Harrison or Har’tan had to say. 

“This isn’t right,” said Jamison.  “We’re not royal.”

“You’re not,” spat Lana.  “Didn’t you listen?  You were a general, just an ordinary soldier who, through dumb luck, was able to advance up the ranks.  He’s royal, she’s royal, and I’m royal,” she added pointing at Jayson and Kaitlyn.  “Next time, pay attention.”

“Look bitch, I don’t care what the hell you are,” said Marina slapping the other girl across the face. “Around here, we don’t talk to our friends like that.” 

Lana raised her hand and Marina flew across the cavern room and landed in a heap with a whoosh.  The others began to shout and Jayson, copying Mr. Wallace’s trick gave a piercing whistle which quickly settled everyone down.  “What the hell was that?” he demanded.  “Look, according to you, I’m supposed to be the king, right?” he asked Lana.  When she nodded, he continued.  “Well in that case, consider this my first royal proclamation.  If you ever hurt one of my friends again, I will find a way to hurt you right back.  Is that clear?”

“Yes,” said Lana, dropping her eyes.  “Marina, I’m sorry.  It’s just that we’ve waited so long for this, and it’s not going the way I thought, I’m sorry.  You’ve been nothing but nice to me, and this is how I reacted.  I don’t blame you if you never forgive me.”

“Forget it,” Marina said, struggling to sit up.  “I suppose there’s been a time or two where I wished I could throw somebody across the room,” she added, but nobody who knew her was fooled by her apparent reconciliatory attitude. 

“Look we have tons of questions, and it looks like you have tons of answers,” said Jayson, stalling for time.  “But we need to get back to town, our parents are expecting us.”

“I understand,” said Har’tan.  “For right now, you are still tied to the trappings of this place.  You’ll shed them soon enough when we return to Gaia, and you take your proper place as King.  We will meet back in Appleton later and discuss our plans.  I would advise you not to come back here,” it could be dangerous.  We have no way of knowing if your enemies have also come to Earth in an effort to destroy you.”

“Fine,” said Jayson, crisply.  “We’ll head out.”  He bent down and grabbed the metal sheets that had fallen to the ground.

“Oh, I’ll take those, Jayson,”  Har’tan said. 

“No, it’s okay, I’ll keep them,” Jayson replied, stuffing them into his backpack.  “I want to look at them.  Maybe they’ll jog my memory.”  He motioned to his friends and they walked back down the corridor to the door.  A quick examination located the locking mechanism, and he opened the door and they walked out into the forest, followed by Har’tan and Lana.

“We’ll see you back in town,” he said to them, and they waited and watched at the two began to walk out of the woods.

Once they were out of earshot and they began their own journey back to the road.  They were silent for a while, until Jamison finally broke the silence.  “King, huh?”

“Don’t tell me you believe that,” said Jayson.  “I’m nobody’s king.  I’m just me.”

“But Jayson, we know who we are now,” said Kaitlyn.  “We have a past, and a history.  It’s not just a blank slate.”

“Kaity, we have nothing,” said Jayson.  “We have what they told us.  Now I can maybe believe that we came from somewhere else, but I don’t, in any way shape or form, believe that I’m a king, and that anybody is waiting for me to come back and save some world we know nothing about.  That’s just crazy.”

“I don’t know,” said Sam.  “It kind of makes sense, don’t you think.  Well not the part about you being a king, or Jamison here being some great general.  Dude, you couldn’t rule your way out of a paper bag, but you’re not like us.  I don’t want to say you’re not normal, cause honestly, what’s so great about normal, but you are different.  That shit you can do is definitely not normal.”

While the others talked, Sabrina allowed herself to fall slightly behind, and tried to stem the flow of tears that fell from her eyes.  Jayson and Lana.  They were supposed to be together.  He wasn’t supposed to be with her.  She had to give him up, and she didn’t know how she was going to do that. 

It was several minutes before Jayson became aware of the fact that Sabrina had fallen behind.  He stopped walking and waited until she caught up to him, and was amazed when she blew right past him and kept walking.

“Bree, wait up,” he called.  He jogged up to her and grabbed her arm, trying to stop her.  She pulled away and turned on him.  “I’m not one of your subjects, Your Majesty.  Don’t expect me to do your bidding.”

“No, but you are my girlfriend,” he said.  “And I don’t expect you to do my bidding, Bree, but I do expect you to talk to me when something’s bothering you.”

“Jayson, did you hear that back there?”  she spoke.  “You’re a king, and you have,” she struggled to hold back a flood of tears, “You have a wife.”

“No, I have you, and that’s all I want,” he said.  He pulled her into his arms and held her tightly trying to get her to feel how much he loved her.  “Sabrina, I love you,” he said.  “You are my life, and my world, and some day, when we’re older, I hope you’ll be my wife.  You, not anybody else, and especially not Lana.  Don’t you get it, Bree?  It’s love.  Love changes everything.  In another lifetime, I may have loved some other person, but in this lifetime, I love you, and nothing is going to change that, ever.“   He kissed her deeply, his tongue teasing her.  “Only you,” he whispered against her lips.

“I love you too, Jayce,” she said.  “It was just so hard, hearing that voice say those things about you.  It didn’t make any sense.  I just can’t wrap my mind around it, and,” she pulled away a little and rubbed her head.  “All day, I’ve had this incredible headache.  I felt like there was a steel band squeezing my head tighter and tighter every second.”

“Look, let’s get you back to the car and get you to town.  Maybe you need to eat or something,” he said to her.

“Yeah, maybe,” she answered as they began to walk.  “Jayson,” she said, stopping suddenly.  “Why did you keep those metal sheet things.  Do you think you’ll be able to read them?”

“I don’t have a clue,” he said, “but something kept telling me not to let them have them.  There was like a voice whispering in my head, and I couldn’t ignore it.  So, I took them.  Come on, let’s get you back to the car.”

He took her hand and they continued to walk, hurrying a little to catch up with their friends.  Off in the distance, Lana and Har’ten watched and she ground her teeth together in frustration.  “Did you see that?” she demanded.  “He’s still fawning all over that little bitch.  I told him I was his queen, and he still goes right back to Sabrina Patterson.  What kind of hold does that bitch have over him?”

“Relax, Iliana, it’s early yet.  They’ve barely had time to absorb the news.  I’ve no doubt you’ll be able to make him see you in a new light,” said Har’ten.

Lana looked at him and laughed.  “I can make him see whatever I want, after all, when he looks at you, he sees a human and not a Gadorian warrior.  It may take a bit of work, but I’m pretty sure I can come up with a way to drive them apart.  Maybe I need to focus my efforts on Sabrina instead.

Chapter 21

The suburban was filled with spirited discussion on their way back to town.  The one thing they all agreed on was that they could not tell the Stephens anything about what they found.  They also couldn’t believe how incredibly hungry they all were.  They were also incredibly shocked to find that they’d only been in the woods for about 4 hours, and it was now barely 1:00 pm.  Jayson pulled the Suburban into the police department parking lot, and they all climbed out and went inside, filling the small waiting area to capacity. 

“Can I help you kids?” asked the officer at the front desk.

“Um, yeah,” said Jayson.  “We were out hiking in the woods, and we told Chief Brody we’d check in when we got back.”

“That’s right,” the officer said.  “Look, he wanted to talk to you, so he told me to give him a call when you got back.  Why don’t you head down to the diner and grab some food, and he’ll meet you there.”

Jayson looked at the others, a sense of dread growing in his stomach.  “Um, sure, officer,” he said.  “Um, we didn’t do anything wrong, did we?”

“No, no,” laughed the jovial police officer.  “Nothing like that.  He just remembered something he wanted to tell you.”

“Oh, okay,” Jayson said, a sense of relief coursing through him.  Maybe the chief remembered some detail about the day he and Kaity had been found that he thought might help them.  “One more thing, Officer.  Would it be possible to leave my parent’s car here?  It’s a huge suburban, and I really don’t think I can parallel park it on Main Street. “

The officer laughed as if that was the funniest think he’d ever heard.  “I wish more people respected their limitations,” he chuckled.  “No go, get some food, and I’ll let Chief Brody know you’re back in town.”

They said their goodbyes and left the police station.  Jayson ran back to the car and grabbed his backpack, checking to make sure the metal sheets were still inside.  Once he reassured himself that they were, he slipped a strap over one shoulder, grabbed Sabrina’s hand and they made their way to the diner where they’d had breakfast hours before. 

The smell of burgers sizzling on the grill greeted them when they walked in, and they felt their hunger grow exponentially.  Agnes, the waitress they had in the morning greeted them with “Grab a seat anywhere.  My afternoon waitress and busboy decided to elope last night, and things are kind of crazy around her.  They looked around the crowded diner and as one, swung into action.  The boys began to clear tables, while the girls grabbed rags and began to wipe them down.  Kaitlyn grabbed napkins and silverware and began to set the newly cleaned tables, while Marina poured glasses of water and brought them to tables that had customers waiting.  Sabrina grabbed an order pad and began to take orders.  Jamison and Colt grabbed meals from the pickup window and went from table to table, until the found the recipients of each meal.

“Well I’ll be damned,” said Agnes as Sam pushed her down gently into a seat while Jayson got her some coffee.  “We’re not as good as you,” he said.  “But take a few minutes and rest and we’ll do the best we can.  Agnes had just finished her much needed coffee when Claire her weekend waitress came running in. 

“I just heard about Sarah,” she said.  “You must be going,” she stopped short and looked around the diner filled with happy customers, and Agnes sitting with her feet up. “Or not going crazy,” she said.  “I guess you don’t need me.”

“Come on in, Claire,” Agnes said getting to her feet.  “I do need you since that halfwit Sarah decided to elope with Jeremy.  Damn fool kids.  Now these kids,” she said pointing to the group.  “Are anything but fools.  They came in and saw me running ragged and pitched in to help without a word.  Kids, grab yourself some seats and order whatever you want.  Your meal is on the house.”

Sabrina quickly took their orders and turned in the ticket while Jamison grabbed drinks for them all and they sat down to relax.  Claire finished taking orders and delivering meals to the other hungry patrons while Agnes waylaid Chief Brody as he entered the diner and told him what happened.  He looked at the seven teens who joked and laughed with one another.  Fortune had certainly smiled down on two of them when Patrice Stephens caught their images on her camera.  Even the Duffy boy had turned out well, considering who his father was.

Brody walked across the hall, carrying a white banker’s box in his hands.  Colton jumped up and grabbed a chair for the chief, while he said hello.  “That was mighty nice of you, helping out poor Agnes that way,” he said.

“It was no big deal, sir,” said Colt sitting back down.  “Besides, our parents would have killed us if they knew we were here and they needed help and we didn’t pitch in. “

“Actually, it’s parents I want to talk to you about,” said the Chief.

“Are our mom and dad, okay?” Kaitlyn asked in a panicked voice.

“Your parents are fine,” said the chief.  “No, it’s this young man I wanted to speak to.  Did you want to go to another table, Mr. Duffy?”

“Jamie’s not going anywhere with you,” said Marina, a fierce look on her face.  “Whatever you have to say, you can say in front of us.  We’re his family.  That is, if you want us to hear, Jamie,” she added.

“It’s fine,” Jamison said, his voice guarded.  “You can say whatever you want in front of them.

“Well maybe you could answer me a question, first,” said the Chief.  “Would you’re father be Jamison Duffy, about 45 years old, with brown hair, and brown eyes.”

“That kind of describes a lot of people, Chief Brody,” Jamison said.  “But yeah, it sounds like my dad.  Why?”

“And you live in Appleton?”

“Yeah, but before that, we moved around a lot.  My uh, my dad has a hard time keeping a job.  But we moved to Appleton about four years ago, and we haven’t left yet.  Why?”

“Where are you from originally?” asked the chief.  “Do you know?”

“Not exactly, but it was somewhere up here.

“And your mother, do you know where she is?”

“No,” Jamison said brusquely, his cheeks flushing a dull red.  “She uh, well she took off when I was a little kid, according to my dad.”

“Well, there’s some question to that,” said the Chief.  “But we’ll talk about that later, when the Stephens get back.  In the meantime, this box belongs to you.”  He unceremoniously handed Jamison the white banker’s box and stood up.  “When your folks get back, I’ll talk with them, and then we’ll talk some more.”

“No offense, sir,” Jamison said, stumbling over the word.  “But I’m eighteen, and a legal adult.  I respect the Stephens, but you don’t need to wait for them to talk to me.”

“No Jamison, you’re right, I don’t,” said the Chief.  “And this has nothing to do with you being of age.  I know you respect them, and I can tell they care about you – about all of you kids.  That’s the only reason.  Pleas trust me on this.”

He walked away leaving a table full of stunned teens staring at him as he left the diner.  They sat silently, trying to make sense over what had just happened when Agnes and Claire arrived carrying the trays that held their food.  A soon as the food was placed in front of them, they dug in, though they had all lost their appetite.

Patrice and Dan Stephens pulled into the police station, laughing like two teenagers, when they became aware of Chief Brody standing in the parking lot, watching them.  He walked over to the car and met them as they climbed out.

“Thanks Chief,” Dan said, passing him the keys as Patrice removed her camera bags from the back seat.  We gassed it up for you.  I guess the kids got back okay?” he added.

“They did,” the Chief responded.  “I was wondering if you could come inside.  I need to talk to you about a few things, please.”

“Is anything wrong?  Are the kids, okay?” Patrice demanded.

“The kids are fine, in fact, they did a real nice thing today,” he said and he proceeded to fill them in on what happened at the diner.  “Most kids today wouldn’t do that,” he said after he related his tale.  “It speaks to what a fine job you people did raising your children.  Even Jamison, though I’m sure that credit goes to you and not that no account drunk of a father.”

“Wait, you know Jamison’s father?” Dan asked as they followed the chief into the station.  He led them into his office and got them coffee before he explained what he knew.

“Jamison Duffy grew up around here,” he said.  “He was a troublemaker as a kid, and useless as an adult.  A no good nasty drunk is what he was.  Well he used to date a young girl named Beth Levasseur.  One day, Beth went missing.  Nobody heard a word from her, then right around the time you two found Jayson and Kaitlyn, She turned back up with a toddler, around three or four years old, and she claimed Duffy was the father.  She left Jamison with Duffy and up and disappeared again, but before she did, she stopped by the police station and left me a box to give to Jamison.  She said I’d know when the time was right. ”  The Stephens sat, entranced by Chief Brody’s story.  They’d often wondered about Jamison’s mother, but his father always rebuffed their advances of friendship.  “The funny thing is, a few years back, we found Beth’s remains buried in a shallow grave. “

“Oh God,” Patrice said, a look of horror on her face.  “Do you think that Jamison’s father had anything to do with it?”

“There’s no telling, but now that we know where he is, we’ll want to question him.  I gave Jamison the box Beth left with me, but I wanted to touch base with you before I told him about the remains we found.  Do you want to be there with him when I talk to him?”

“Chief, there’s nothing we’d like more.  We love Jamison like he was our own,” explained Dan.   “So do Sabrina’s parents, Colt and Sam’s father, and Marina’s mother, but he won’t let any of us get to close to him.  I think, if you’re going to talk to him, you’d be better off doing it without us.    Jamison will tell the kids, and if they think he needs one of us, they’ll let us know.”

“They’re pretty close, those kids,” said the Chief, rubbing his jaw. “Especially that little brunette, she’s a feisty one.  Gave me what for when I told Jamison I wanted to talk to him alone.”

Patrice smiled, “That would be Marina, and you’re right, if you want to get to Jamison, you’re going to have to go through all of them, but especially her.”

“I have to say, Mrs. Stephens, the state made the right decision when they gave you custody of those two kids.  You’ve done a damn fine job of it.  Now how about I stroll back down to the diner with you folks, and Jamison and I can have a little talk?”

The three adults walked down the picturesque street back to the diner.  Before they walked in, the Chief stopped them and pointed through the windows where they watched the kids bus their own table.  From outside, they watched as the kids asked for their check and were rebuffed by Agnes, and they couldn’t feel more proud when each of the kids dug into their pockets and left a hefty tip on the table before calling out their goodbyes.  They trooped outside to find the Stephens and Chief Brody waiting for them.

“Hey guys,” Dan said.  “How was your hike?”

“It was pretty much like we thought,”  Jayson admitted.  “There was nothing out there, but we had a great time hiking.  Maybe we could come back again, just for, you know, the heck of it.  It was really beautiful out there.”

“I think we could arrange that,” Dan said, pulling his son into a one-armed hug.  “Now why don’t the rest of us head up to the hotel.  Chief Brody wants to talk to Jamison for a bit.”  He looked at the chief.  “You’ll drop him off at the hotel?” he asked.

“I will,” said the chief.  “Jamison, I know you must be getting pretty sick of seeing my tired old mug, but I just have a few things I want to tell you.  In fact, why don’t we just follow friends to the hotel.  What I have to say won’t take long at all.”

Jamison agreed, and they all walked back to the police station.  The Stephens and the kids climbed into the suburban, while Jamison and the chief climbed into his cruiser.    He related the story he had told the Stephens earlier, including the fact that the body of Beth had been found in a shallow grave. 

“Do they think my dad did it?” Jamison asked swallowing deeply.  “He must have done it just before we moved.”

“Well, that’s the thing, Jamison.  Based upon the effects that were buried with the body, and all the tests the medical examiner ran, they’re placing time of death at approximately 4 years earlier than that.  Right around the time Beth was rumored to have disappeared for the first time.  What do you make of that?”

“What do I make of it? Jamison asked.  “Chief, I have no idea what you’re talking about.  I don’t remember my mother, and if you think my father was all warm and fuzzy and talked about her, well you have another thing coming to you.   I’m sorry for her, and I’m sorry that I don’t have any answers for you, but I don’t.   And don’t worry about me rushing and telling my father that you’re coming to hi, because I won’t.”

“I’m not too worried about that,” laughed Chief Brody.  “I just thought that you deserved to know.”  He pulled into the parking lot of the hotel and laughed again when he saw Marina leaning up against the suburban waiting for them.  “Son, you’re way too young to be thinking about forever, but that girl right there, she’s a keeper.”

After a dinner that seemed to drag on into eternity, the kids retired to the boy’s room, ostensibly to watch movies, but in actually, they went over everything that had happened that day.  When the had reviewed everything ad nausem, they waited for Jamison to open the box that Chief Brody had given them.

“You guys know this didn’t come from my real mother,” Jamison asked as he undid the flaps.  “At least not if what we heard in that cavern was true.”

“Will you quit talking and open the damn box already!” Sam demanded.    The all laughed as Jamison pushed back the flaps of the box.  He reached in and pulled out a small box, decorated with some odd symbols that looked somewhat familiar.

“Wait a second,” said Jayson. He reached into his backpack and pulled out the metal sheets they had gotten earlier in the day.  He compared the symbols on the sheets to those on the box.  “These are the same type of symbols,” Jayson said.  “Does it make sense to anyone?” 

“It’s all Greek to me,” said Sam as the others all shook their heads.  Jayson through the sheets down on the bed in disgust.

“Damn it,” he said.  “What the hell were they thinking, leaving us here with no clue about anything?”

“Jayson, you need to relax,” said Sabrina. “We’ll figure this out, but  we won’t if we waste our energy getting upset.  Jamison, does the box open at all?”

Jamison looked all over the box, but he couldn’t find a way to open it.  Each of them in turn looked at the box, and all of them came up empty.  Colt tossed the box to Jayson, and when he caught it, it began to glow and without warning, it opened.

Chapter 22

The ride to Appleton seemed to last an eternity.  The kids all sat silent, lost in their own thoughts.  Nobody knew what to say, or how to act.  It was the first time they had faced death and they were at a loss as to how to cope.

The night before, they were facing endless possibilities as they tried to decipher the inscription on the box and the metal sheets that Jayson had, to no avail.  They had just opened the box, when there was a knock on the door, and the Stephens walked in, their faces white, and Mrs. Stephens was shaking. 

“Mom, Dad, what’s wrong?” Kaitlyn cried, jumping up and crossing the room to where her parents stood.  While she did that, Colton and Sam managed to shove everything under the bed unobtrusively.

Patrice Stephens wrapped her arm around Kaitlyn, and gave her a brief hug before she crossed the room and sat down on the floor next to Jamison.  She reached out and took his hand and squeezed it gently.

“Jamison, honey, the Patterson’s just called.  There’s been an accident, sweetie.  And, well, I’m sorry, there’s no easy way to say this, but, well, your father, he died Jamison.  I’m so sorry.  We’re going to pack up and head back right now.  Okay?”

She waited for the tears, or the anger, but instead, she got a calm, level headed young man who stood up calmly and said. “We’d better pack then.”

“Jamison, do you want to,” Patrice began, but Dan Stephens stopped her.  “Don’t Patrice.  Let him deal with it however he wants to right now. “  He walked over and dropped a hand gently on Jamison’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze.  “We have a few phone calls to make.  You kids get packed up and we’re going to head out, okay?”

“Thanks Mr. Stephens,” Jamison said.  “We’ll be ready.”

After the adults cleared the room, Sam reached under the bead and grabbed the box and the sheets and unceremoniously stuffed them in his backpack.  “We’re going to go back to our room and pack,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

The boys walked out of the room in silence and crossed the hall.  Kaitlyn and Sabrina began to stuff their toiletries into their bags while Marina just stood there, hopelessly.  Jamison was hurting, even though he didn’t want to show it, and she needed to do something.  She stood in the hall, in front of the boys room with her hand poised to knock when the door opened.   Jamison stood in the door, the light from the room behind him creating an aura about him.  He stepped out into the hall and into Marina’s waiting arms.

“Jamie, I’m so sorry,” she whispered holding him tightly.  “I know he wasn’t your real dad, and he was an ass, but I’m still sorry.”  She felt him stiffen and draw a shuddering breath as he tried to hold back the tears that threatened.  “Jamie, don’t,” she whispered, rubbing his back.  “Don’t hold it in.  Just this once, let it out.”

Her words broke the damn that had been holding back a flood of tears.  He held on to Marina and sobbed. He didn’t sob for his father; the man was never much of a father.  No he cried because now he was alone.  Now more than ever before.   There was a click as another door opened and Patrice Stephens stood in the hallway, her face a mask of sorrow, her heart breaking for the boy in front of her.  She started to move forward to him, but stopped when she heard Marina’s voice comforting the boy.

“Jamie, you’re not alone you know.  You still have a family.  We’re your family.  Jayce, Katie, Colt, Sam, Bree and me, we’re your family, and we love you.  You’re not alone.  You’ll never be alone as long as you have us.

Patrice wiped a tear away, a tear that formed while she listened to Marina’s heartfelt speech, and to it she added her own silent message.  “Dear boy, you’ll never be alone we’ll all look after you.”

They pulled into the alley behind the Patterson’s building and unloaded the car.  Jon and Charles Wallace came downstairs to help bring all their belongings inside.  For expedience sake, they had decided during a hurried phone conversation to have all the kids sleep there.    They herded the sleepy teens upstairs into the brightly lit apartment.  Once inside, they all fell silent.  Nobody was exactly sure how to proceed.  Technically Jamison was an adult, but in reality, he was still just a child, especially when it came to making funeral arrangements.

Finally Jess Patterson stepped forward and hugged Jamison tightly. “Jamie, I am so sorry,” she said, softly.  “But we’re here for you.  We’ll help you get through this.”

“Thanks Mrs. P,” he said, hugging her back.  He pulled away from the closest thing he had to a mother and looked around the room in general.  “I don’t know what to do,” he said.

“Well first, let’s all sit down,” Jon Patterson said, “And we’ll tell you what we know.  “We were working on that house I bought on West St. when your dad got a phone call.  I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but he got visibly upset, and took off.  He didn’t say a thing to me, just up and left.”

“Do you think Chief Brody called him?” Jamison asked the Stephens.

“No Jamison,” Dan answered.  “When we got the news, we called him right away to let him know.  He said he hadn’t called.  In fact the only call he made was to the Appleton PD, and I don’t think anyone on the force here called to give him a heads up.”

“What happened next?” Jamison asked.

“We’re not sure,” Jon admitted.  “I don’t know where he went, but someone found his car out on the old bypass, head first into a tree.  There were no skid marks or anything.  And Jamison, I’m sorry, there was half a bottle of Jack Daniels on the seat behind him.  The coroner will do an autopsy of course, but right now, it looks like he got drunk and went off the road and into a tree.”

“Don’t be sorry, Mr. P.  He drank, we all know that.  There isn’t any point in not saying it.  What do I do now?” he asked.  “I mean, I guess I have to make arrangement to get him buried.  I, uh, I don’t know how to do any of that.  And I guess I’ll need to start looking for a place to live, so you can hire someone to be the maintenance guy here,” he added.

“What?” Sabrina cried.  “Daddy, no, tell him no,” she cried.

“Jamison, you can come stay with us, “ Colt said.  “Right dad?”

“Dad, Mom, please, Jamison can come stay at our house, right?” Kaitlyn asked, while Marina leaned over and began to whisper into her mother’s ear.

“Everyone, stop!” Jon shouted over the bedlam that erupted in the room.  “Jamison, why on earth do you think you need to move out?” he asked.  “Did you think I wasn’t aware that you’ve been doing most of your father’s work for the past few years? Even if you weren’t, did you think we’d just put you out in the street?  You’re family, son.  Look Jamison, we want you to come move up here with us,  but if you want to keep living downstairs, and keep working, that’s okay with us too.  Provided you work around school.  That comes first.”

“Jamison, you should know that we all sat down and talked when we got the news,” Mr. Wallace said, “and we all want you to come live with us.  But we also understand that you’re 18, and may have different plans.  We’ll respect whatever you choose, but please know that you have a home with any one of us.”

Jamison looked at the six adults, all of whom looked at him with love in their eyes, and he couldn’t stand it.  He jumped up and ran up the stairs.  They heard a door slam, and Sabrina said “I think he just went out on to the patio.”  Marina got up to go to him, but her mother held her back.

“Sweetie, I know you care for him, but right now, he needs a little space.  He just got dealt some cards he didn’t expect, and he needs to make sense of it all.”

_ _

The next morning, there were trips to the police station for Jamison, and to the local funeral home.  He felt awash in a sea of red tape, but he had an anchor in the Pattersons who sat beside him and guided him.  When confronted with the costs of a burial, he panicked, but all of the parents assured him that they would take care of any of the costs associated with giving the senior Duffy a proper burial.  Jamison balked at the idea of taking money from his friends parents, but they wouldn’t listen to his arguments.  Jamison vowed then and there to find a way to repay every cent. 

The week passed by in a rush of details, as Jamison oversaw what there was of his father’s meager estate, amounting to a pile of bills, and several unopened bottles of Jack Daniels.  The body was finally released by the coroner, and the funeral took place, and Jamison Duffy buried his father on a bleak November day, surrounded by a family not of blood, but one made by choice.

Chapter 23

Things returned to normal, or what resembled normal.  They were back to school, and back to work, and ready to resume their quest to find some answers.  To that end, the Saturday after the funeral, Jayson found himself driving out to Lana’s house.  He pulled up in front of what could only be described as a mansion and shut off his car.  He sat for a moment, trying to quell his nerves.  He was afraid, even if he didn’t want to admit it to himself.  He wished that Jamison, or even Colt or Sam had been able to come with him, but Jamison was taking his new responsibilities seriously and was trying to catch up on all the maintenance work his father had let slide over the past year.

Steeling himself, he climbed out of the car and walked up to the door, summoned his courage, and rang the bell.   The ring seemed to echo in his stomach, and he waited nervously until the door opened.  When it did, he stepped back in surprise.  It was Lana, but not the Lana he was used to seeing.  Instead of her usual glamorous outfits, and elaborate hairstyles and make up, she was dressed in jeans, and  a tee shirt, and her hair was pulled back into a ponytail. 

“Wow, you look great,” he said, noting that she looked so much more like Sabrina now.

“Thanks,” she said.  “I guess it makes sense to blend in.  As she talked, she fiddled with the ponytail, and Jayson felt his fingers curl up as they itched to release her long flow of dark hair and run his fingers through it.  He could practically feel the silken smoothness of it.  Suddenly, his hands were in her hair, and he was pulling her closer and kissing her.  Electricity raced through him and he fight and uncomfortable tightening in his jeans.  He felt a steel band tighten around his head and he took a step back to find Lana staring at him curiously, her hair still up in its ponytail.

“Jayce, are you okay?” she asked.

“Uh, yeah, ” he said.  “I just uh, yeah, I’m fine.” He shook his head, trying to erase the confusing images from his mind.

“Jayce,” Lana laughed.  “Are you going to come in, or are you going to stand on the steps all day?”

“Oh, yeah, right,” he said.  He followed Lana into the entry and looked around.  The place was, for lack of a better word, opulent.  Like something you’d see in one of those decorator magazines his mom did pictures for.  “Wow,” he said. “This is like, wow,” he finished at a loss for words.

“Har’ten does like his creature comforts, ” she said, laughing.  “Why don’t you come in here,” she added.  “This room is a bit more comfortable. “ She led him into a room filled with an oversized leather sofa, and a large flat screen television, and three different video game consoles. 

“Outstanding,” he said, looking around.

“I take it you approve?” she asked, leading him over to the couch.  She tucked one leg underneath her as she sat down and turned slightly so she faced him.  “So, I’m assuming you have questions?” she asked.

“More than you could ever imagine,” he said.  “Starting with how come you weren’t with us in the woods?”

“None of us were supposed to be free of the gestation pods until this year.  “Har’ten thinks that the pods were damaged somehow, and that’s why you guys came out early.  He would come back and check every other month or so, and panicked when he found your pods empty.  He had no idea what had happened to you.  He started making inquiries and found out that you and Kaitlyn had been found.  He was going to try and get custody of you, but the Stephens were already in the process of adopting you, and he figured if he tried to fight it, that would probably draw more attention to you, and he didn’t want that. “

“That makes sense,” he said, trying to wrap his mind around what his life would have been like if Har’ten had found them first.  No Sam, Colt or Marina, but most of all, no Sabrina.  The very thought caused a shiver to run down his spine.  He shook his head and tried to concentrate on what Lana was saying.

“He searched for weeks for Jamison, but  couldn’t find him, and for years, he feared the worst.  He finally gave up.  He kept checking my gestation pod, and the other four pods.  He was there when I emerged, and he took me, and essentially raised me.”

“What about the other ones?” Jayson asked. “Where are they?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.  “Har’ten never told me.   What else do you want to know.”

“How long ago did you come out of your incubator thingy?” Jayson asked. 

“A few years ago.  Like I told you, Har’ten was there when I came out, and he took care of me.  We’ve been travelling all over the place, trying to find Jamison.  He’d just about given up hope.  He decided we should come here to be near you and Kaitlyn.  It was just so amazing that Jamison had found his way here as well.”

“Yeah, amazing,” Jayson muttered.  He was transfixed, watching her speak.  His eyes seemed drawn to her lips, and he watched as she licked them delicately with her tongue.  He leaned over and kissed her, gently at first, then with more fervor.  He pushed her gently down on the sofa and began to slide his hand up inside of her tee-shirt.

“Jayson.  Jayson!” Lana said.  “Jayson, you’re phone is ringing.” 

Jayson shook his head and found that he was still sitting on the sofa in the same place.  He shook his head, trying to clear the image and fumbled for his phone, only to find that the call had gone to voice mail.  He glanced down at the display to see that Jamison had called.  He went to press redial when Lana grabbed the phone playfully out of his hand.

“Come on Jayce, you said you had questions.  So, ask.”

“Can you remember life where we came from?” he asked.

“A little,” she said.  Har’ten showed me some tricks to recall our other life.  It was really amazing.  I wish you could remember.”

“Yeah, that would be cool,” he said. 

“Jayson, do you trust me?” she asked suddenly.

He didn’t, but the only answer he could give was to nod his head. 

“Give me your hands,” she said, and he reached out and she took her hands in his.  “Now I want you to close your eyes, and take some deep breaths and just relax.”

He did as she asked, and was rewarded by scenes that began to play in his head.  He saw himself, an older version of himself standing on a balcony with Lana beside him. They were holding hands while the crowd below them screamed and cheered.  He saw himself swinging Lana up into his arms and turning and walking through the door behind them while the crowd cheered.  The image slowly faded away, and he opened his eyes.

“What did you see?” Lana asked.  He told her and she smiled a radiant smile.  “Oh Jayce, you saw it,”  she cried.  “Do you know what that was?”  He shook his head, and she continued, “That was our wedding day Jayce.  Oh, I’m so happy.”

“Our wedding day?” he gulped.

“Yes Jayson, our wedding day, ” Lana laughed.  “We were married you know.  Typically, that comes with a wedding.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” Jayson said, feeling uncomfortable with the subject.  Um, so, uh, maybe you could tell me some of the things we can do with our, well powers, I guess is the best word.”

“Well, we can do all sorts of amazing things,” said Lana.  “Why don’t you tell me what you can do so far, and we can go from there.”

“Well, I guess it sounds stupid, but we haven’t really tried too much,” he said.  “Kaitlyn does all this girl type stuff with her powers like changing her nail polish color and stuff.”

“Okay, that’s actually a good start,” said Lana.  “Watch this.”

Jayson watched as Lana removed her hair from its ponytail.  As it fell, it changed from its dark sable color to a light blond.  She passed her hand across her face  and her eye color changed  to a pale blue.

“Oh wow,” Jayson said.  “That’s crazy.  What else can we do?”

“Can you get me the remote for the television?” she asked.  “It’s over there on that table, she added, pointing across the room.  Jayson shot her a confused look, but got up and started to cross the room.

“Jayson, stop,” she said.  “Watch.”  He watched as she pointed her hand at the item and focused and it floated across the room to her.

“That could come in very handy when I need to clean my room,” he laughed.

“Jayson, when are you going to realize, you’re a king.  You don’t have to clean your room.  You don’t belong here.  They’re waiting for us at home.  You heard the message, the same as I did.  They need us.  We have to go home.  Har’ten said that when the we were sent here, there were some  relics that were sent here with us, and they’ll help us get home.  Have you seen anything like that?”

His mind flashed to the box that Jamison had, and he knew, instinctively not to say anything.  “No,” he said.  “When they found  Kaitlyn and I in the woods, we were naked and dirty and had nothing at all with us to identify us.”

“Well we’ll have to go back up north and explore some more.  They have to be hidden in that cavern somewhere.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Jayson said as his phone beeped, signifying a text message.  He pulled the phone out of his pocket and read a message from Jamison that said ‘my place, stat.’  “Hey, look,” he said.  “That’s my mother.  She wants me to run to the store for her, so I need to get going.  Do you think we could do this again?” he asked. 

“Of course, Jayson,” she said smiling.  She leaned over and hugged him, he felt her hands caressing his chest, moving up around his neck and pulling his lips down to hers.  They kissed deeply, their tongues dancing around each other.  He pulled her tightly against him and his hand slid down her body. 

“Jayson, your phone is beeping again,” Lana said.

He shook his head as if trying to clear it and looked around.  He was still standing where he had been when Lana floated the remote across the room and she was still curled up on the sofa.  He looked at his phone and smiled weakly.

“Mom just wants bread, too,” he improvised, reading the second message from Jamison.  “I better get going. Thanks for everything Lana.  Can we do it again, soon?”

“Sure thing, Jayce,” Lana said getting up off of the sofa.  “Come on, I’ll walk you to the door.”

They walked across the massive hallway and she stood and watched as he drove away.  When he was out of sight, she turned to Har’ten who had come out of an adjoining room.

“Status report?” he said.

“I implanted some false memories in his head of our past life,” she laughed.  “And I messed with his mind a little, which is always fun.  I’ll have him wrapped around my little finger before you know it.  By the time I’m done they won’t know what hit them.  I have Jayson just about convinced he’s lusting after me, and when I’m done, Sabrina will be so afraid that her boyfriend is secretly a little green alien from Mars.”  She laughed, delighted with herself.    “And where Jayson goes, Kaitlyn will follow.  So if he pulls away from those idiots, she’ll follow him blindly.  Just like always.  That just leaves Jamison. “

“Yes, I thought getting rid of that father of his would help to isolate him, but I made a miscalculation.  It pulled them closer together,” Har’ten said. 

“I don’t understand that either,” Lana admitted.  “But I think he’ll crack under the pressure of being on his own.  Give him time, and hell implode on his own.”

“And what of the Olim?” he asked.  “Does he know anything about it?” 

“Well, I told him you said that we were sent back with some relics or something that would help us to return.  I didn’t get specific, but he didn’t know anything.”

“This isn’t good,” said Har’ten  “We need that to get them back to Gaia.

“I know, Har’ten,” Lana said.  “I’m not stupid.  I suggested we go back up north to search the cavern again.  I think maybe we need to call in some reinforcements.”

“I think you might be right, Iliana,” he replied.

Chapter 24

Jayson pulled into the alley behind the Patterson’s apartment building, climbed out of the car and walked to the door that led to Jamison’s apartment.  He knocked on the door and went in, no longer standing on ceremony.  He took two steps into the kitchen of the apartment and stopped and stared in shock.  The kitchen shone, there was no other word for it.  Fresh curtains hung on the windows, the stove no longer held it’s familiar layer of grease, and the sink and counters were devoid of dishes.  A small vase filled with flowers sat on the center of the table, which was set with dishes that looked familiar to him.  He picked one up and examined it closely and recognized it as an old set of his mothers. 

The sound of voices drew him to the living room and slowly crossed the kitchen.  Once in the living room, he stared once again.  The walls were a golden shade of yellow that filled the room with sunshine, and the sofa which was once a faded ugly plaid was now covered in a brown cover that matched the curtains that hung on the window.

“What the heck happened in here?” he asked.  “And was this the emergency you texted me about?” he asked Jamison who sat on the couch, looking shell shocked.

“Kaitlyn, Marina and Sabrina were here,” he said.  “They cleaned everything, and dude, when I say everything, I mean everything.  They even did the laundry, and really, I could have lived my whole life without Kaity or Sabrina seeing my underwear.”

“So what’s the emergency, and where are your happy housekeepers, and Colt and Sam?” Jayson asked.

“The girls are grocery shopping.  Apparently, I have nothing edible here.  It’s true, but geez, it’s not my fault.  Oh and Mrs. P is making a ton of stuff for me to keep in the freezer, plus she is planning on my eating breakfast and dinner there every day.”

“Well, you already do that,” Jayson said, trying hard not to laugh at the look of consternation on Jamison’s face.  “What about Colt and Sam?”

“That’s actually what I called you about,” said Jamison.  “Wait here.”  He jumped off the sofa and ran to his room, returning with the banker’s box that Chief Brody had given him.  When he sat back down, he reached in and pulled out the other box that was inside.

“Where are those metal sheet things? Jayson asked.

“Well, that’s partly what I wanted to talk to you about,” Jamison said.  “I tried calling you earlier but you didn’t answer, so I kind of made a judgment call.  Colt has the sheets.”

“Why?” Jayson asked, trying not to get angry.

“First, look at the box, he said, and he passed it to Jayson.

Jayson hefted the box and looked at all sides of it, trying to make sense of the inscriptions on it, but he couldn’t.  “Okay, I looked,” he said.

“Does it look at all familiar to you?”

“No,” Jayson replied.  “How about you?”

“Nothing, but do you remember when we first looked at it, what Sam said?”

“I have to be honest,” Jayson said.  “Sam says so much about absolutely nothing all of the time.  I don’t hear half of it.”

“Yeah, me either,” Jamison agreed.  “But this time he said something that made sense to Colt.  He said it was all Greek to him.”

“Are you saying this is Greek?” Jayson demanded.

“I’m not saying anything,” Jamison said.  “Sam said it, and Colt latched on to it and begged me to let him try something.  He started out trying to copy down everything on the sheets, but it was too much, so I let him take it.”

“Okay, I don’t get it, but okay,” said Jayson.

“Now, can you get that thing opened again?” he asked.

“I don’t know how I opened it before,”  said Jayson.  “It happened when I was holding it, but I’m holding it now, and nothing’s happening.”

He looked at it, trying to recall exactly what happened when it opened before.  “I wasn’t really thinking anything, ” he said.  “Colt tossed it to me, and I caught it, and it opened.”  As he spoke, the top of the box flipped open.

“Whoa,” he said, almost dropping the box.  “How’d I do that?”

“I don’t know, but let’s find out what’s inside before it closes up again.” Jamison said, and Jayson reached inside and pulled out a book, and a metal disc with another inscription on it. 

“Great, more puzzles,” said Jayson.  “Just what we didn’t need.”

Jamison’s phone beeped and he grabbed it off the table in front of them and read the message.  “Colt says he and Sam will be by in a little while.  “He has something he wants to show us.”  The phone beeped again, and at the same time there was a knock on the door.  Jayson grabbed the box and its contents and slid it under the couch while Jamison went to answer the door. 

“Jamison,” said Mrs. Patterson,  “I need you to come upstairs and help me carry some things down.  Oh hi Jayson,” she added when she saw him sitting on the sofa. “How are you today?”

“I’m good Mrs. Patterson,” Jayson replied.  “How about if I come give you a hand, Jamison’s still kind of in shock over what the girls did in here.”

“They did do a good job, didn’t they. I can’t believe how quickly they got the walls painted, and there’s no awful paint smell.”

“Yeah, this place looks amazing,” Jayson said, steering her out of the apartment.  “Jamison was telling me about all the great food you’re making for him.  You do know that means Colt, Sam and I will be eating with Jamison every chance we get,” he added with a laugh.

“You are a sweet, sweet boy,” said Mrs. Patterson as the two climbed the stairs to the Patterson apartment.  Once inside, she loaded Jayson up two bags full of plastic containers filled with food, while she carried a crock pot full of chili.  They went back to Jamison’s apartment just as Sabrina, Kaitlyn and Marina arrived carrying bags of groceries.

“Well I can see you have enough food for tonight, anyhow,” laughed Mrs. Patterson.  “Kids, I am going to say one thing to you.  It’s something your parents and I have all talked about.  While we all trust you implicitly – you haven’t given us a reason not to – we aren’t completely comfortable with you spending all of your time down here completely unchaperoned.   So when you’re all here, we will be stopping down to check on you,  understood?”

“Mother,” Sabrina said. 

“No, Bree, don’t ‘Mother’ me.  Were all in agreement on this.  It’s the same when you’re over at Marina’s.  I know Angela finds a reason to head out to the barn several times a night.  Those are the rules, take them or leave them.”

“We take them, Mom,” said Sabrina.  “But you do know you can trust us.” 

“I do know that, but I also know it’s a small town and people talk, and we don’t want them talking about you.  Those are the rules, take them or leave them, or you’ll have to hang out upstairs.”

“Mom, of course we take them,” Sabrina said.  “And we probably will still hang out upstairs too, and at the Colt and Sam’s and at Marina’s, just like always.  Before, we couldn’t hang out here cause of Mr. Duffy, but now we can.  It’s just another place for us to be, is all.”

“I know,” her mother said, dropping a kiss on her forehead.  “You’re good kids, the lot of you.”  She turned to walk back upstairs, but chuckled to herself as Colt and Sam came running in. 

Chapter 25

Jayson and Colton did a quick round of rock, paper, scissors to decide who would share their news first, and Jayson won.  Before he began, they all went into the kitchen and helped themselves to bowls of the chili that Mrs. Patterson had made.  They sat around the table and ate while Jayson told them what had happened.  He told them that Lana had helped him retrieve some memories from their previous life, and showed him some of the things their powers could do. 

“She didn’t’ know much about the other set of us, and she told me that when Har’ten, realized the three of us were missing, he freaked.  He found out what happened to us,” he nodded at Kaitlyn,  “right away, but he couldn’t find anything to do with you.  I guess they’ve been searching for you all this time.  They finally gave up and came here, where they knew we were.”

“What else did you learn, Jayce?” Sabrina asked as passed around cornbread muffins to go with the chili.  She added some cheddar cheese to the steaming bowl in front of her and watched in satisfaction as the cheese melted slowly combining with the spicy chili.  Normally she wasn’t a fan of spicy food, but lately, she couldn’t get enough of it.  Salt too.  The saltier, the better, it was strange, really.   She shook her head and tried to focus on the conversation at hand.

“She showed me some of the things she can do with her powers,” Jayson said.  “She totally changed her appearance, hair color, eye color, everything.  It was pretty cool.  Oh, and she floated the television remote across the room.   So honestly, it’s not too different from the stuff we’ve been doing on our own.”

“Did you tell her about healing Sabrina that time?” Kaitlyn asked and Jayson flushed.

“No – I uh, no, I didn’t bring it up,” he stammered.

“Jayson, what is it?” Sabrina asked.  “What aren’t you telling us?  Or maybe it’s me.  What aren’t you telling me?”

“Look, it’s nothing, really.  It’s just that sometimes, for no reason, all of a sudden, these like thoughts of Lana will pop into my head.  I don’t know why, I mean, it’s not like I’m attracted to her or anything.”

“Right,” Sabrina said, her voice laden with acid.  “Excuse me, please,” she added getting up from the table.  She ran from the kitchen and into the bedroom that used to belong to Jamison’s father.  She sat on the bed and pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them and struggled not to cry.  It was finally happening, she was losing Jayson.  She knew it was inevitable.  He was so much her opposite.  Where he was outgoing, she was shy, he was an athlete, she preferred to participate in clubs, and he was so handsome, and she was stuck with that stupid red hair.  She was losing him and it was to Lana, the one girl she couldn’t stand from the moment she met her.

Unsure of what to do and unwilling to go back out and face her friends, Sabrina began stripping the bed of its sheets, and making a pile of laundry to be washed from all the clothing strewn about the room.  With that finished, she went to the closet and began to remove clothing , folding it and putting it on the bed for Jamison to go through.  Her mom would take what he didn’t want to keep down to Goodwill.  She removed the shoes from the closet, and lined them up at the foot of the bed.  She went back to the closet and tried to reach the top shelf, but she was too short. She looked around the room  and saw an old milk crate in the corner filled with trash.  She emptied it quickly and carried it over to the closet and stood on it.  At first glance, she thought the shelf was empty, but as she started to climb down, something caught her eye, and she looked again. There, wedged in  far corner of the shelf was a small package.  She stretched as far as she could, but was unable to reach it.   She climbed down and looked around the dirty room and smiled when she saw the yardstick sitting on top of a bureau.  I don’t want to ever know what Mr. Duffy was measuring in here,” she thought to herself.  She grabbed the yardstick and climbed back up on the crate and managed to pull the package close enough to her so she could grab it.

She jumped down off of the milk crate, package clenched in her hand.  She looked down on it and saw Jamison’s name written on it, and underneath it some more of those really odd symbols.  She took a deep breath, she was going to have to go back out there, give this to Jamison, and worse, face Jayson.  Sighing, she opened the door and walked out to the kitchen where the others were still talking. 

“and after I manually enter everything in the computer, we can try and run a translation program,” Colt was saying.  “It would help if we had a key of some sort.  Right now, I’m kind of flying blind.  I mean some of it looks like Greek script, but that doesn’t mean it has any correlation.”

“Maybe this will help,” Sabrina said, walking into the room.  “Jamison, I was cleaning your dad’s room and I found this.  It has your name on it.“   She passed the package to him and sat down next to Marina.  Jayson tried to catch her eye, but she looked everywhere in the room but at him.  Jamison opened the package carefully, and found several papers and a ring in it.  He glanced at the letter, then looked closer.  It was written in English, but under every letter was one of the symbols that were on the box and on the metallic sheets they took from Lana.

“Colt,” he said grinning.  “I think I found your key.”

“What do you mean?” Colt asked.

“This letter, it’s in English, but under every letter is one of those symbols.  Will that help you?”

“Hot damn!” Colt shouted.  “Are we finally catching a break?”

“What does it say?” Kaity and Marina both asked.

“Oh yeah, I should probably read it,” Jamison said.  “Where’d you say you found it?” he asked Sabrina. 

“Wedged into the back corner of the shelf in the closet,” she said.   “Why?”

“Well I’m just wondering how someone from well, wherever we are got into my dad’s room.  If it were Mr. Harrison, don’t you think he would have told us.”

“I don’t trust him,” said Jayson.  “Or her for that matter,” he added, flashing quick glance at Sabrina.  She reddened delicately, but continued to ignore him.

“We’ll be right back,” Marina said suddenly, pulling at Jamison. 

“No,” Jamison responded, just as suddenly.  “I get what you’re doing, Marina, you’re trying to give my privacy so I can read this.  But I think we all need to hear it.”

“But it’s addressed to you,” Marina said.

“Yeah, probably because whoever left it, couldn’t find a way to get into Jayce and Kaity’s place to leave it,” Jamison replied.  “It’s for all of us.”  He placed the letter on the table and smoothed it out and began to read.

Dear Jamison, or should I say Lord Brendair,

It pains me to have to write this, but it pains me even more to know I have failed in my task to watch over and protect you and the others.  When we fled Gaia, I didn’t realize that Har’ten was loyal to Prandor.  After we hid the first set of gestational pods, he intentionally crashed our ship.  I was wounded and left for dead in what I now know to be the mountains of New Hampshire.  It took me many months to recover, and when I did, I was unable to find any sign of your pods.  I didn’t know if he destroyed them or had hidden them.  I did my best to assimilate myself into the culture and watch for you.  One day, while searching the woods for any sign of where you may be hidden, I came upon the body of a man named Jamison Duffy.  I modified my appearance to look like him, and after disposing of the body, I took over his life.  Several years later, when King Jayseth and Princess Katalia were found, I redoubled my efforts.  I found you wandering in the woods, alone, scared and starving.  I took you in and concocted a story about a former girlfriend of Duffy’s leaving you with him.  But then I failed you again, My Lord.  You were entrusted to me to watch over, guide and protect you, but instead, I became resentful at being stuck here on Earth, and my inability to locate Iliana’s pod, and I began to drink.  I failed all of you.  I should have protected you, guided you and I failed.

When the opportunity came to move closer to Jayseth and Katalia, I took it, and I tried to turn my life around, but the resentment was too strong and I sunk deeper and deeper.  I watched the three of you grow into such strong individuals, and it had nothing to do with me.  But Lord Brendair, danger is among us.  I was happy when I saw Iliana in town.  At last the four of you were to be reunited, but she was with Har’ten.  He is evil, Lord Brendair, and he will do his best to destroy you.

I am fearful for all our lives.  My job is to watch over you, and with Har’ten here, I don’t know if I can protect you, or myself.  If you are reading this, it means that I failed, and I am dead.  Lord Brendair, I am leaving your Father’s wedding ring.  He gave it to me to give to you  when you were of age.  It is yours now.  Never take it off.  Wear it and know that you were loved.  Trust nobody, Brendair.   Trust nobody, and guard Jayseth and Katalia with your life.


“Wonder-fucking-ful,” said Jamison, pushing himself away from the table.  “One of our guardians turned out to be an abusive alcoholic and the other is a freaking traitor.  How great is that?”  He jumped up from his chair and it went flying across the room.  At the same time, the overhead kitchen light exploded, and tiny shards of glass fell from the ceiling, and the cabinet doors began to open and close.

Marina reached out and took Jamison’s hands in hers.  “Jamie, look at me,” she commanded.  “Focus on me.  That’s it, relax, take some deep breaths, Jamie. That’s it.”

Jamison tried to focus on Marina, on her voice.  He listened as he looked deep into her eyes, and felt his breathing become slower, and his heart rate began to slow as well.  The cabinets ceased banging, and the tension in the room abated.

“Okay?” she whispered to him.

“Yeah,” he said.  “Sorry everyone,” he added.  “Did uh, did the light hurt anyone?”

“Not the light,” said Sam, but I was attacked by the chili.”

Jamison flipped on the light over the stove and laughed when he looked over at his friends.  All of them were covered in the remnants of their chili. “Sorry, guys,” he said. 

“It’s okay,” Colt said, scraping chili off of his shirt.  “I was full anyhow.  Uh, at the risk of getting hit with more flying chili, do you think I could borrow that letter?”

“Here let me,” said Kaitlyn.  She passed her hand over Colt’s shirt, and the chili disappeared.  She got up and made her way around the table removing the chili stains she could see.  When she was done, Sabrina started clearing away the dishes. She was at the sink when Jayson came up beside her.

“We need to talk,” he said, and she stiffened

“No, we don’t,” she said.  “I get it, you’re with Lana now.”

“The hell I am,” Jayson all but shouted.   “I’m not with anybody but you, only you’re to freaking stubborn to see it!”

“Jayson, I heard what you said,” Sabrina said, struggling not to cry.  “About all those images popping into your mind.”

“Right, you heard what I said.  Think Sabrina.  You’re supposed to be the smart one.  If there was anything between Lana and I, do you think I’d be telling you about it?”

“But Jayce, you heard her, she was your wife,” Sabrina said, the tears falling in earnest.  “And now you’re having these fantasies about her.  Maybe you’re starting to remember your life with her, and that’s what you want.”

“Sabrina, I don’t know how many ways I can tell you this.  I love you.  You and only you.  When I think about my future, the only thing I see is you.  Jeez, how many times am I going to have to tell you that?”

“Probably quite a few times,” Sabrina admitted, wiping the tears away with the dish towel Kaitlyn had put out earlier.  “I’m trying to understand, but Jayce, think about it from my perspective.  You’re so gorgeous, and popular, and I’m, well I’m not either of those things, and then we find out you’re, well you’re not from around here.  You’re this whole other person with a whole other life, and a wife.  How do you think I’m supposed to be reacting?”

“Probably just like this,” he admitted.  “Look I promise you one thing Sabrina Patterson.   I love you now, and I will love you forever.  We’re like baby ducks, and we’ve imprinted on each other, got it?”

Sabrina gave a watery sniff and smiled.  “I got it, Donald,” she joked.  The two looked around the kitchen and realized the others had discreetly left the room to give them privacy.

Jayce, what you said about images popping in your head; the same thing has been happening to me.  I think that’s why what you said hit me so hard.  I keep seeing you and Lana together, and I keep getting these incredible headaches.  I feel like there’s a steal band pressing down on my head and It won’t ever let up. 

“Something’s not right,” Jason said.  “Let’s finish up in here and go talk to the others.”  The made quick work of the clean-up and joined the others in the living room.

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Thinking Positive: Take the Journey into Positivity

By: Tracie Joy

Thinking Positive Toolbox

A Workbook for Developing Positive Thinking Strategies

We all try to think positive, but sometimes it can be so hard. Life can get crazy, and we get pushed and pulled from all different directions. How do you stay positive when life seems to be conspiring against you? The Thinking Positive Toolbox will help you develop your own strategies to stay positive in this crazy life.

Drop me a line!!