“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said as we pulled out of the parking lot of the animal shelter once I had shifted out of cat form.
“I didn’t say anything,” Robbie said. “You should buckle your seat belt, though.”
I buckled it. Robbie drove in silence for a while.
“So you’re not grounded anymore?” I asked.
“My parents and I had a heart-to-heart,” he said, “and it went surprisingly well.”
“No, I didn’t tell them what’s going on.”
“What IS going on?” I asked. It was the question that I had wanted to ask when I had first seen him walk in to the animal shelter. But I had been a cat and I didn’t want to scare the attendant.
Robbie told me about how he had found out how to get Kerry to use her powers.
“That’s all?” I asked, incredulous. “You just wanted her to use her powers!”
“Well, yes,” he said. “What did you think was going on?”
I decided not to tell him about the Flaming Spiders, Big Man, and Mr. Blond Firebug. At least, not right now. I studied the side of his face that I could see. He looked tired. And thin. I’d noticed him looking more tired than usual a few weeks ago, but I’d just assumed he’d been staying up too late watching movies. But this wasn’t having-too-much-fun tired. This was worried tired. Now that I thought about it, we hadn’t spent much time together the past few weeks. Robbie and I had been exploring our powers on our own, and Kerry had been avoiding us. When had he started looking so worried? Was it before all this with the mill fire?
“Is Kerry ok?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” he said slowly, “but I don’t think so.”
“Well, a building did just fall on her. I guess it’s to be expected.”
“It’s more than that,” he said. “It’s like she’s fighting something. I think it has something to do with using her powers.”
And probably something else he wasn’t telling me that I would have to find out about later.
Robbie took me back to his house, where his parents sat in the kitchen looking rather disgruntled. They told us that Kerry had disappeared from her room and they weren’t sure how long she’d been gone. They’d assumed she’d gone out with Robbie. Robbie used his powers to figure out where she’d gone, and then we hurried out to the Manor. Kerry was upstairs on her patio, staring out into the woods.
“When did we sign up for the melodrama?” Robbie asked when we reached her.
Kerry didn’t respond. I’m not sure she even knew we were there.
“Kerry?” I asked, poking her arm. She still didn’t respond.
“Did you ever imagine yourself staring dramatically into the woods when you imagined having superpowers?” Robbie asked.
“If you’ll remember,” I said. “I never imagined having superpowers. Being short was my superpower. This was all your game.”
“So this isn’t a side effect of her powers?”
“How should I know?” This is your game!” I repeated.
Kerry was still staring disconcertingly off into the distance.
“She did hit her head,” Robbie said thoughtfully.
“How hard?” I asked.
“Hard enough to knock her out,” he said.
“Maybe I should ask my dad to take a look at her.”
“Angie, your dad’s a cardiologist. I think her heart is fine.”
“It’s worth a–cream sickle!” My unhelpful suggestion was interrupted by an unhealthy dessert option because my best friend had just burst into flame. I imagine my reaction to be somewhere along the lines of Gandalf facing the Balrog, only with a lot more terror. The only thing that might have made it worse would have been if Kerry had been laughing as she burned like an over exuberant bonfire.
It was then that I counted my blessed stars that I hadn’t gotten the superpower I had chosen. Initially I’d thought they would be cool, if you’ll pardon the pun–being able to shoot fireballs from my hands, put out a fire, maybe even fly (my own personal flight problems aside). But this wasn’t cool. It was frightening. My best friend was at the center of a roiling mass of flames. The heat and the lights together gave me a message that I understood with every fiber of my being–death. And Kerry was at the center of it, barely visible.
“We have to help her!” I said to Robbie.
“Why?” He asked.
I looked at him. In the face of his twin sister and only sibling dying by fire, he seemed bored.
“Why? She’s – she’s. . .” I trailed off. She’s immune to fire. “Well, this can’t be good for her. Smoke inhalation, or something,” I said instead.
“I’m not worried,” he said. Well, obviously, I thought.
Still, there remained the question of why Kerry was burning, and adjoining questions of whether she was going to accidentally burn down the Manor or, you know, us. Kerry wasn’t labeled a freak accident for nothing, after all. But none of the flames around Kerry seemed to be going anywhere. In fact, it looked like they were spinning around her. No, they were. They were like a twister, spinning around her and climbing towards the sky. She raised her arms straight up, cupping her palms at the top of the flame’s reach. And then all of the flames began to move to that spot. It disappeared from around her feet, her knees, her waist, gradually moving upwards to collect in her cupped hands. It compressed and seemed to solidify into a bright ball of yellow and gold flame. She lowered her hands to look at it. It seemed to pulse slightly.
Robbie cleared his throat. Kerry turned around, noticing us for the first time.
“Oh, hi guys!” she said, far too brightly.
I was still somewhat in shock.
“That was,” Robbie paused, looking Kerry up and down. “Dramatic,” he said, then cocked his head. “Did you just lay an egg?”
“Dramatic? What was dramatic?” Kerry asked, confused.
“The-the,” I tried to say something about the towering inferno that had been there moments before, but all I managed was to gabble incoherently and gesture.
“She’s speechless,” Robbie said. “That’s new. But anyway, egg?” Robbie indicated the ball of fire still in Kerry’s hands.
“Oh!” Kerry gasped, looking down at the ball for the first time. “I have no idea what this is.”