Alan had always been just a face in the crowd and he preferred it that way. He stood out to nobody and could go about his day like a normal person. But he wasn’t a normal person.
Taking a deep breath, Alan stepped out off the step of the store and into the semi crowded street. He pulled the sleeves of his red jacket down over his hands and tucked them into his pockets. He kept his head down and walked, weaving in and out of people.
He hated crowded streets the most. Too many people, too many chances of physical contact. He pulled up short as an older lady brushed against him with a quiet “excuse me.” It had been an involuntary stop but he found himself holding his breath, waiting for the visions to fill his head. After a few seconds of nothing, he continued walking, his hands shaking.
He looked up just in time to dodge a street vendor who was pushing his cart and not noticing where he was going. Pressing his back against the brick wall of a flower shop, he sucked his gut in, trying his back to stay away from the moving cart.
“Seriously?” he snapped at the man after he had gone by. “Pay attention to where you’re going.”
“Sorry!” the man yelled over his shoulder.
Alan’s cheeks blushed, not knowing that the man had seen him. He was an older man, slightly bent from pushing his cart for so many years. He was on the shorter side, his grey mop of hair barely visible above the stack of material on the cart.
For a moment, Alan felt bad about snapping at him but the feeling was gone the moment an older woman grabbed him by the collar and ripped him away from the wall.
Where did she come from? he wondered as she threw him into the middle of the sidewalk. He stumbled for a split second before finding his footing. How is she so strong?
“What are you doing?” she yelled at him, greying hair tucked behind her ears. “I just painted that wall!”
He could hear her but he couldn’t see her. All he saw was black and for a moment, he didn’t know what was happening even though it had happened many times before. The edge of her knuckles were against his throat, just enough contact for him to see something he didn’t want to.
A white hospital room surrounded him, several posters about pregnancy and childbirth surrounded him. A happy laugh reached his ears and he turned, looking for the source of it. A middle aged woman lay on the white sheeted bed, a tiny baby crawled in her arms. Its eyes were squeezed close and it held the woman’s thumb in its tiny fist. A man stood at the side of the bed, a happy smile on his face.
“He looks just like you,” the woman said quietly.
“Does he?” he gave a small laugh as he reached out the stroke the baby’s soft head. “What name have you decided on?”
She smiled as she held the baby close to her. “Jason.”
Alan jerked back from the woman, eyes wide. She let go of him, leaving a slight wrinkle in his jacket. He looked at her confused.
“Make sure you didn’t get any paint on your nice jacket,” she said, turning to leave. She was obviously satisfied with the lecture she’d given him even though he’d heard none of it.
“Your son, Jason-” he blurted. She stopped and turned.
“What about him?” she asked, eyes dark and narrowed.
“Um, so his name was Jason?” he asked.
She nodded slowly. “Do you know him?”
He shook his head no before turning and heading back down the sidewalk. He straightened his jacket and zipped it up the whole way. Pulling his hood over his head, his brushed his red hair out of his face and stuffed his hands into his pockets.
A couple minutes later he stood at the base of a fifteen story apartment building. He looked up, stepping back a couple feet to see the top floor. He listened, straining his ears for any sound of music. For a moment, he heard nothing but then, he did. It was a quiet and dainty sounding song that floated through the air slowly, like a lazy snowflake.
With a small smile, he pushed open the metal gate at the bottom and entered, heading for the elevator. He tapped his foot impatiently against the ground as the elevator went up. The button for the 15 floor glowed red telling him where his destination was.
After five seconds of screeching chords and cables, the elevator came to a stop and opened up to the dimly lit floor. He stepped out and headed towards the roof access, hearing the squeak of the doors closing behind him. Taking the rusted metal stairs two at a time, he quickly climbed the twelve stairs and opened the door to the roof.
There was a small wooden platform on the far end of the roof that was about a foot and a half off the ground, serving as a chair and table for those who liked to eat on the roof. For the boy that was laying on it, it served as a bed.
“Vernon!” Alan yelled, lowering his voice.
The boy jerked up, eyes wide, startled. When he saw Alan’s laughing face, he grinned but the paleness of his face remained.
“What do you want?” he called to him, still laughing.
“I was waiting for Ari to return with the food,” he answered, turning the music down.
Alan slid onto the wooden platform and layed out on it, staring up at the white clouds in the sky.
“What’s she getting?” he asked with a sigh. He stretched, finally feeling safe from the flashbacks of strangers.
“Fried chicken,” Vernon flipped through his playlists as the current song ended. “Are you hungry?”
“Yeah,” he nodded, sitting up. “But why are you here?”
“To hang out,” he answered. “Mom and Dad left for a business trip for the next week so I’mma be here a little bit more.”
Alan sighed and rested his hands in his lap. He sat cross legged, slightly slouched. He listened to the song that Vernon had chosen for a moment. It was more upbeat than the last one, the beat in the back more subtly than before.
“Is this the best song you’ve got?” he asked, looking at his friend out of the corner of his eye. The mousy blond boy gave a small laugh. His green eyes always seemed to sparkle, but in the sunlight, they looked to have flecks of brown and black in them.
“No,” he answered, looking at Alan. “This is just the one I thought fit the mood.”
The door at the far end of the roof swung open and Ari appeared, carrying two plastic white bags. She kicked the door shut behind her with her foot and held the bags up victoriously.
“I’ve got the goods!” she proclaimed, dropping them down between Vernon and Alan.
Ari, who was Alan’s twin, looked exactly like him only she was a girl. Her red hair was shoulder blade length, brushing against her arms and high back with every step she took. Her brown eyes were also lit up as she sat down behind the two boys and opened the bags up.
“Chicken for you,” she set a medium box in front of Vernon. “And chicken for you.”
She handed a box to Alan.
“Oh, I see how it is,” he said, taking it from her. He held the box with both hands, the sleeves of the jacket stilled pulled over his hands. The last thing he wanted to get a flashback from was a chicken box from some street corner shop.
“Did you see anything?” Vernon asked, leaning forward, forgetting about his chicken for a moment.
Alan set the box down and displayed his sweater paws to Vernon. “No.”
The boy turned to Ari, “And you?”
“The bags are going to be recycled and the money I gave the cashier is going to be handed to some college girl with the clearest skin I’ve ever seen,” she said, taking a bite of her chicken. “Or just a really good makeup job.”
“And how is that helpful?” he looked at her scornfully before taking a bite of his own chicken.
She leaned over and grabbed the speaker that sat next to him and held down the power button till it turned off. He stared at her wide eyed and then down at his speaker before doing a fake pout.
She smiled and slid it away from them. “That’s what you get.”
He leaned back, supporting himself by his hands. He looked at his piece of chicken which he had set back into the container.
“What’s it like?” he asked. “Having abilities and all?”
Alan stopped chewing for a moment, thinking. Ari shrugged.
“It’s nothing big,” she answered. “It’s actually kind of stupid, always seeing someone’s future and not knowing what yours is.”
Vernon turned to Alan, raising an eyebrow.
He thought for a moment, slowing chewing. He swallowed, remembering the first read he had ever done. All he saw was flames and all he felt was a terrible burning all over his body. He had been visiting the hospital to talk to his friend Lucas when he accidentally made contact with a burn patient. He remembered the habits and nightmares that had followed the encounter.
“I... it’s terrible,” he picked up another piece of chicken and studied it before continuing. “I feel what they felt in their worst days, I see what they saw, I experience what they experience and it honestly stinks.”
Vernon raised an eyebrow.
Alan gave a small smile before going back to eating, looking at the chicken leg after taking a bite out of it.
“I wish I had something that made me... special,” Vernon remarked with a shrug. Ari set her chicken down and took a deep breath.
“You are special,” she said, patting his shoulders. “If everyone was special, nobody would be special. We need people like you to exist so people like us can exist and be more special.”
“That was not helpful at all,” he narrowed his eyes and took an exaggerated bite out of his chicken. “That made me feel so much better.”
Alan studied his friend for a moment, watching him. His green eyes that had been lit up earlier seemed to lose a bit of their shine and his face had fallen.
There was something Vernon wasn’t telling them.
This is a rough draft so please excuse any misprints. (I tried lol) Thanks for reading and if you want to be tagged in future chapters, let me know!!
Alan leaned against the edge of the counter while his older friend Lucas handed his bank card over the counter to pay for their coffees.
"So you saw Mrs. Kacey's son?" he asked, turning to Alan. He tucked the receipt into his pocket and put his card back in his wallet. "Jason you said?"
Alan nodded, watching a couple at the table across the restaurant. They were holding hands over the table and talking.
"Do you think he's going to propose?" Alan asked, nodding towards them. Lucas looked over his shoulder and grinned.
"In a run-of-the-mill coffee shop?" he asked.
"You never know," he said.
Lucas took the cups of coffee that the woman handed them and headed for a table, setting them down. Alan slid into the seat across from him, still watching the two people.
Lucas studied him for a moment. He had known the boy for as long as he had lived in the city and knew more about the Allen then he let on. He watched him now, his dark eyes glued on the two people, a certain look in his eyes.
"Jealous?" he asked, taking a sip of his coffee. It burned the tip of his tongue so he set it back down on the table to cool for a moment.
"What?" Alan snapped back too, looking at him. He shook his head. "No. It just looks nice to be able to have that with someone and not worry about seeing things."
"Maybe one day you'll have that too," Lucas suggested.
Alan laughed, leaning back in his seat. He held his cup for a moment. "Nope, probably not. I'll always have this thing."
He took a long drink of his coffee, coughing as he swallowed. "That burned."
"You don't get reads from everything though," Lucas pointed out.
"Inanimate objects," Alan corrected him. "And that's only occasionally. For instance, this coffee cup. It's just plastic with no significant history to it."
Lucas nodded, understanding. "Maybe one day you'll find someone who is just like plastic. Maybe a mannequin? I think that would be a good match for you."
He faked a laugh. "Haha, very funny."
Lucas looked over at the couple just in time to see the man pull a box from his back pocket and stand up.
"Oh, look, he's going for it," Lucas tapped him on the shoulder, getting his attention.
They watched as he got down on one knee and opened the box, displaying the diamond ring. It shone and shimmered in the twinkle lights, making it look beautiful. The girl started crying and nodded, holding her hand out for him to slide the ring onto her finger.
"I can't believe she said yes," Alan muttered, turning back to his coffee.
"Yeah, I know," Lucas nodded. "The diamond should have been way bigger."
Alan raised an eyebrow at him, awaiting an explanation.
"If you're not sure if your woman's gonna say yes or not, get a bigger diamond. The bigger the diamond, the higher the possibility of her saying yes," he explained. "Woman love anything that's sparkly."
"Sure," he drew the word out, nodding.
"Do you have your eye on anybody?" Lucas asked Alan.
He thought for a moment, looking down at his drink. "No, I don't. There's nobody."
"Maybe if you talked to somebody," he prodded, raising his eyebrows expectantly.
Alan shook his head. "Why would I do that?"
"Why wouldn't you?" he countered. "If you don't talk to them, you'll never know if you like them or not!"
"I don't have time for this," Alan went to stand up but Lucas stopped him.
"Sit down," he ordered. His face relaxed, the smile disappearing. Alan obeyed, dropping back into his seat.
"I'm worried about you, Alan," he started. "I really am."
He rolled his eyes. "How so?"
"You don't have any friends," he said.
"I have Vernon and you. And Ari."
"Great," Lucas nodded. "One boy from your class, your sister, and a nurse at the local hospital. A male nurse at that."
"So?" Alan asked.
"Don't you want to have a family? A wife, some kids, maybe a dog or two?" he questioned.
The redheaded boy sighed and leaned his elbows on the table, putting his head in his hands.
"Yes," he answered. "I do. But you and I both know that it's not going to happen."
He looked at the teenage boy before him, his heart aching. The poor kid had never really been open with Lucas before about what his abilities kept him from doing but now he could see that it was a big burden for the boy. He wanted to do something, to find some way to help him, but he didn't know what to do.
"It's okay," he said finally. "We'll figure something out, okay?"
Alan nodded, avoiding eye contact. "Sure."
Alan shut the door behind him and stepped into his dark apartment. He sighed, contemplating whether he should turn the light on or not.
Ari might already be asleep so it’ll be fine. He thought, flicking the switch. The dim light turned on, giving him just enough light to see to get to the fridge. During the day time, the sunlight was brighter than their light but at night, they had to use the old fixture to see.
He opened the fridge and bent down to look through it. A sub was pushed to the side of the fridge, untouched. He pulled it out and examined it, trying to figure out who’s it was.
“Ari’s?” he looked for any markings. “Or Vernon’s?”
He put it on the counter and turned back to the fridge trying to find something to drink. He straightened, confused. “Was it mine?”
Shaking his head, he grabbed a soda from the bottom shelf of the fridge. To his relief, it was unopened. He turned, shut the fridge door with his heel, and picked the sandwich up off the counter. He walked to the couch and plopped down, switching it on to the news channel.
As he unwrapped his sandwich, he listened to what the news anchor was saying.
“There was an accident on Interstate 78 this afternoon. A truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and caused a five car pile- up ...”
He tuned it out as he ate. He looked behind him at the wooden door that was shut.
“Is she really sleeping?” he asked himself.
Taking one more bite, he set the sub down on the coffee table and stood up. He walked to his sisters bedroom and opened the door a crack. Letting his eyes adjust to the darkness, he saw her flopped over the bed, blanket barely over her.
He walked through the doorway and pulled his sleeves over his hands more. Grabbing the edge of the fluffy purple blanket with his covered fingers, he pulled it up and over her. He tucked it over her shoulders and stood back, satisfied.
He left, shutting the door quietly behind him. He smiled for a moment but then it disappeared as Lucas’s words came back to him.
“Don’t you want to have a family?”
His head dropped and he looked down at the floor, his sleeved hand still holding onto the doorknob. He stayed like that for a moment, thinking.
Do I want a family? He asked himself. I don’t want to let them down like Dad did…
He stopped himself, not allowing his thoughts to go there. It wasn’t fair. His hand
dropped from the doorknob and he took a couple steps away from the door before stopping. A certain feeling filled his chest, spreading through his whole body. It was cold and foreign and for a moment, he thought he was having a flashback from the doorknob.
But I didn’t touch it.
And then it was gone, leaving a feeling of loneliness in its wake.
Alan sat in his chair, flipping his pen over his thumb impatiently. He had his red hood
pulled over his head, trying to block out the surrounding noise as best as possible. He studied the open book before him, propping his head up with his other hand.
Someone bumped into his back as they dodged a paper ball. They laughed and picked it up, throwing it back.
He glared at them but kept his mouth shut. He felt safe in his jacket, secure from the
invading memories and habits. After reading the old flower woman yesterday, he had picked up on the habit of tucking his non existent long grey hair behind his ears. Just thinking about it, he reached up and tucked the ends of his red hair behind his ear.
He jerked his hand down and held the edge of his book to keep himself from doing it again. He gritted his teeth as the people around him got louder. He slammed his book shut with a loud snap and everything was silent for a split second.
And then the door opened and a girl walked in. Her dark black hair danced around her waist as she entered, shutting the door behind her. Her brown eyes took in everything in a single glance; the two obnoxious boys standing on either side of the classroom, one about to throw the paper ball, the group of four girls in the far corner whispering about the latest drama, and the other people that were scattered about, minding their own business, and lastly, Alan.
She made eye contact with him and for a moment, Alan didn’t want to look away. An
easy smile spread across her face, making her beautiful eyes light up. She ran a hand through her hair, flipping it over to the other side before heading to her seat, the front left corner. She sat down, hooking her backpack on the hook on the side of her desk.
Alan looked back down at his book and pulled his sleeves over his hands even more, the secure feeling growing stronger.
He studied the edge of the sleeves, battered and worn from their use. He loved the
jacket as it had protected him for as long as he could remember. He rubbed the edge of the cuff between his forefinger and thumb for a moment.
I need a new jacket.
The teacher entered and he straightened, reorganizing the pens and book on his desk. Class was starting and he had no time to think about his jacket or the dark haired girl.
Ari straightened behind her brother as they stood in line, waiting for their food. She
stood on her tippy toes, trying to be the same height as her brother.
“Why are you taller than me when we’re twins?” she asked, pulling on his shoulders to shorten him. He shrugged them off.
“I don’t know,” he answered quietly, stepping forward. “Why are you so short?”
She huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. “At least I’m not a jerk.”
“Look, Ari, I’m kind of tired,” he looked over his shoulder.
She perked up and peaked around him. “You read someone, didn’t you? You always get moody and tired after reading someone.”
She watched him for a moment as he reached up and brushed the tips of his hair behind his ear.
“Oh,” she pointed at what he had just done. “You did! You even have their habits!”
He glared at her. “It was that woman who sells flowers at the corner.”
She laughed. “The one that always yells at me whenever I stop to smell the flowers?”
Pinching her nose, she spoke from the back of her mouth, trying to imitate the woman. “You don’t get to smell them if you ain't gonna buy ’em.”
“Hahaha, very funny,” he rolled his eyes. “But yeah, it was her.”
“What did you see?” she prodded, poking his arm. “Tell me.”
He ignored her for a moment as he slid his tray down the line, telling them what he wanted.
“I saw her son as a baby,” he answered, waiting for her to get down.
“Her son? He’s been gone for years!” Ari said, leading him towards their normal seat. “When he left for college, he never called or came back. Never wrote, never visited, never showed his face.”
“Why?” he sat down.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. They don’t know either. You probably saw that scene because she hates the fact that her one and only son doesn’t even call.”
He chewed on his lip for a second, thinking. “Wouldn’t you get over it eventually?”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “Get over it?” she laughed. “You can’t just act like your son, which you carried for nine months, birthed, and raised to the age of eighteen, didn’t hurt you by leaving and never coming back. Could you?”
He nodded. “Just don’t think about it. If you don’t think, you don’t feel.”
“Is that how you deal with grief?” she asked, frowning. “Is that why Mom and Dad’s death was so easy to handle?”
He stopped eating and swallowed, shocked. “What? No!”
“Then how was it so easy for you to act like nothing has happened?” she raised her voice. “Was it easy to forget them by not thinking about them?”
He bit the end of his tongue to keep from snapping at her. Steadying himself, he answered. “We’re just dealing with it differently.”
She scoffed. “Sure, okay. That’s great.”
She stood up and grabbed her tray. “And I bet you didn’t even remember that this is the one year anniversary of their death, did you?”
And then she was gone, stomping away from him. He didn’t blame her for being mad because he hadn’t remembered. Maybe that’s why he’d had that weird feeling last night. He thought back. It had been around midnight by the time he’d gotten home, around the time the accident happened.
He closed his eyes as hot tears boiled up. He rested his hands on the table and took a deep breath but it didn’t stop the tears from flowing. He reached up to wipe his tears away but he stopped when he sensed someone standing next to him.
He opened his eyes and looked up at the girl. He recognized her immediately, Jules Wiles, the girl who he had seen earlier that day. She carried herself with control and confidence, each step having a purpose.
She reached out and wiped one of his tears away with the edge of her thumb. His skin turned cold as he anticipated a flashback but none came.
“Sorry,” she smiled. “It just makes me sad to see someone crying.”
And then she was gone, continuing on her way. He watched as she sat down a couple tables over with a group of girls and guys, laughing.
He reached up and touched where she had, confused.
“Why didn’t I see anything?” he studied his hand. “What is this?”
He looked back at her, watching as she pulled her hair up into a ponytail.
“Is she special?” he questioned, letting his hand drop. “Or did it go away?”