It all happened so fast.
The storm that came out of nowhere on an otherwise sunny day…
The lightning that struck nearby…
What happened after that? All I remembered was the railing disintegrating, the hum of electricity swirling around me like a cyclone…
And my best friend falling. Her face almost looked serene before the splash…
I couldn’t shake the feeling that all of this was my fault, even if she was okay.
Ellie’s dad seemed to agree, judging by the look on his face when I called him to the beach–but he didn’t send me away when I asked to stay in her room afterward.
She’d been sleeping for so long, I couldn’t help but be afraid that she’d never wake up. Her dad had three different doctors check her, and all three said that all she needed was rest, but…
What if I’d lost her?
I slept too. The fragments of my nightmares were filled with darkening skies and bolts of lightning.
“What’re you doing here, Lala?” Ellie’s sleepy voice woke me.
“You’re awake,” I said. I helped Ellie sit up, then sat down on the bed next to her. It took all I had to stop myself from throwing my arms around her and squeezing as hard as I could, but she would’ve made fun of me. So instead I hugged myself and turned away…
“Sure am–awake and hungry. The one time I need ol’ Dadosaurus Rex to offer me a snack and he’s nowhere to be found. …What’s wrong?”
“You–you could’ve died…”
“From a little swim in the rain? Naw, you know I love to swim, so whatevs.” She sighed. “…Please tell me you’re not blaming yourself, for realsies.”
“It was my fault, Ellie. I just know it…”
“Kiss and make it better, then?” When I didn’t laugh, she went on, “Seriously, it was the lightning that zapped the railing and sent me into the water. Hate to say it, but your twiggy lil’ arms couldn’t have done squat.”
“Nopers, I’m not having it.”
“…Are you sure you’re okay, Ellie?”
“I can’t move my legs for some reason,” Ellie joked, “but other than that, I’m totes fine.”
“You shouldn’t be out of bed yet,” Ellie’s dad said. I hadn’t even noticed him come in. “Can I get you–”
“Room service? Sure thing, Dadaroo. Pizza for me and Lala, tyvm.”
“…How about something easier on your stomach, like oatmeal?”
“I almost died, and you offer me oatmeal?” she said incredulously. “Pizza or bust–meat lover’s, your favorite.”
“I prefer healthier alternatives, the ones with lots of vegetables–”
“It was a gay joke, Dad.”
After eating pizza with Ellie, I finally went home.
I couldn’t imagine joking around with my parents the way Ellie did with her father, even though I loved them just as much. I always felt slightly embarrassed when I caught them being affectionate with each other, like I’d intruded on something very private.
But I didn’t leave the room when I found them together.
“Back from Ellie’s already?” Dad asked. “…What’s the matter, sweet pea?”
I sat down next to them. “I…I think something’s wrong with me…”
“Nonsense,” Father said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better daughter. But being a teenager is difficult for everyone–I can’t possibly imagine what it’s like for a girl. Do you want us to call your Aunt Ophelia…? No, Daisy is probably the safer choice–less enthusiasm over blood.”
“It’s completely natural,” Dad said. Father smiled nervously next to him. “It happens to all girls, Lani–”
Did they think…? “I started my period a couple years ago,” I blurted. “Aunt Daisy taught me everything. This is different. Like…something inside of me is completely wrong–like I’m wrong and I can’t control it.”
They exchanged a look. I knew better, after all these years, but there was still a pinprick of absolute terror–like they wouldn’t want me, that they’d regret their choice if they knew the real me…
“Would you leave us alone for a bit, Lani?” Dad asked, smiling at me. “We’d like to discuss a possibility…”
I went to the garden instead of listening in on their conversation. I used to eavesdrop as often as I could–whenever they worried about me, I tried to correct my behavior, or at least pretend to. When they were concerned that didn’t have many friends, I’d make up new ones–and if they thought I didn’t leave the house enough, I’d go over to Ellie’s as often as I could.
The garden was always relaxing. It never asked for or expected anything of me, aside from water and gentle care.
I wasn’t surprised when Dad and Father took me to a therapist’s office a week later. I’d heard that word–therapy–whispered before, but I’d always thought I could avoid it if I tried hard enough.
“Don’t worry, Lani,” Dad said. “I’ve seen Dr. Puck for years, and he’s a very understanding man, particularly where the supernatural is concerned. But if you don’t like him, we can find someone else.”
“We’ll be in the waiting room the entire time,” Father said.
“But what do I say…?” I asked. I couldn’t know how I was supposed to act or what to say until I knew someone well enough…
“Whatever you feel comfortable telling him,” Dad said. “He’s there to help.”
But I didn’t feel comfortable at all. I wanted to go home to my garden, or to Ellie’s house. I didn’t know what to make of Dr. Puck when I saw him…he looked like a normal man to me, even if he knew about vampires and fairies.
“Where am I supposed to sit?” I asked.
“Where would you like to sit, Lani?”
I chose one of the big leather chairs in front of him. Was that where he wanted me to sit? At least he wouldn’t have to move… “Can you figure out what’s wrong with me?” I asked hesitantly.
“What leads you to believe there’s something to discover?”
I looked away. “Bad things happen when I get upset,” I said softly. “At first I thought it was just a coincidence, but then my best friend almost died…”
“Tell me, Lani,” he said gently, “what can you recall of your biological parents?”
My breath caught in my throat. “Finn and Benny–Dad and Father–are my parents,” I said, my voice wavering. “I love them more than anything.”
When he didn’t respond, I added, “I don’t need any other parents. I can’t–I can’t remember anyone else…” But I could remember the nightmares.
“Is that so?” he said. “…Were we expecting rain today?”
Rain pounded against the windows and the roof, the sky darkening outside as dark grey clouds blotted out the sun.
“I don’t think so,” I admitted.
“May I have a word with your parents?” Dr. Puck asked. It was never a good thing when the adults wanted to talk about me alone…
Dad and Father went inside Dr. Puck’s office without me, leaving me alone in the waiting room.
This time, I did eavesdrop right outside the door.
“Has Lani ever exhibited unusual talents?” came Dr. Puck’s muffled voice. “Or have you observed any difficult-to-explain phenomena accompanying changes in her mood?”
Dr. Puck had only met me once, and no amount of pretending could pass me off as normal…
Should I have tried harder?
Both Dad and Father couldn’t think of anything, which made me breathe a sigh of relief.
“What do you know about witches?” Dr. Puck asked.
He thought I was a witch?
But that couldn’t be…