I WALK INSIDE AND LIE ON THE BARE MATTRESS in my room. The morning has worn me out and I let my eyes close. When I reopen them the sun is lifted over the tops of the trees. I walk out of the room. Henri is at the kitchen table with his laptop open and I know he's been scanning the news, as he always does, searching for information or stories that might tell us where the others are.
"Did you sleep?" I ask.
"Not much. We have internet now and I haven't checked the news since Florida. It was gnawing at me."
"Anything to report?" I ask.
He shrugs. "A fourteen-year-old in Africa fell from a fourth-story window and walked away without a scratch. There is a fifteen-year-old in
Bangladesh claiming to be the Messiah."
I laugh. "I know the fifteen-year-old isn't us. Any chance of the other?"
"Nah. Surviving a four-story drop is no great feat, and besides, if it was one of us they wouldn't have been that careless in the first place," he says, and winks.
I smile and sit across from him. He closes his computer and places his hands on the table. His watch reads 11:36. We've been in Ohio for slightly over half a day and already this much has happened. I hold my palms up. They've dimmed since the last time I looked.
"Do you know what you have?" he asks.
"Lights in my hands."
He chuckles. "It's called Lumen. You'll be able to control the light in time."
"I sure hope so, because our cover is blown if they don't turn off soon. I still don't see what the point is, though."
"There's more to Lumen than mere lights. I promise you."
"What's the rest?"
He walks into his bedroom and returns with a lighter in his hand.
"Do you remember much of your grandparents?" he asks. Our grandparents are the ones who raise us. We see little of our parents until we reach the age of twenty-five, when we have children of our own. The life expectancy for the Loric is around two hundred years, much longer than that of humans, and when children are born, between the parents' ages of twenty-five and thirty-five, the elders are the ones who raise them while the parents continue honing their Legacies.
"A little. Why?"
"Because your grandfather had the same gift."
"I don't remember his hands ever glowing," I say.
Henri shrugs. "He might never have had reason to use it."
"Wonderful," I say. "Sounds like a great gift to have, one I'll never use."
He shakes his head. "Give me your hand."
I give him the right one and he flicks the lighter on, then moves it to touch the tip of my finger with the flame. I jerk my hand away.
"What are you doing?"
"Trust me," he says.
I give my hand back to him. He takes hold of it and flicks the lighter on again. He looks into my eyes. Then he smiles. I look down and see that he is holding the flame over the tip of my middle finger. I don't feel a thing. Instinct causes me to jerk my hand free anyway. I rub my finger. It feels no different than it did before.
"Did you feel that?" he asks.
"Give it back," he says. "And tell me when you do feel something."
He starts at my fingertip again, then moves the flame very slowly up the back of my hand. There is a slight tickle where the flame touches the skin,
nothing more. Only when the fire reaches my wrist do I begin to sense the burn. I pull my arm free.
"Lumen," he says. "You're going to become resistant to fire and heat. Your hands come naturally, but we'll have to train the rest of your body."
A smile spreads across my face. "Resistant to fire and heat," I say. "So I'll never be burned again?"
"Not such a bad Legacy after all, huh?"
"Not bad at all," I agree. "Now what about these lights? Are they ever going to turn off?"
"They will. Probably after a good night's sleep, when your mind forgets they're on," he says. "But you'll have to be careful not to get worked up for a while. An emotional imbalance will cause them to come right back on again, if you get overly nervous, or angry, or sad."
"For how long?"
"Until you learn to control them." He closes his eyes and rubs his face with his hands. "Anyway, I'm going to try to sleep again. We'll talk about your training in a few hours."
After he leaves I stay at the kitchen table, opening and closing my hands, taking deep breaths and trying to calm everything inside of me so the lights will dim. Of course it doesn't work.
Everything in the house is still a mess aside from the few things Henri did while I was at school. I can tell that he is leaning towards leaving, but not to the point that he couldn't be persuaded to stay. Maybe if he wakes and finds the house clean and in order it'll tip him in the right direction.
I start with my room. I dust, wash the windows, sweep the floor. When everything is clean I throw sheets, pillows, and blankets on the bed, then hang and fold my clothes. The dresser is old and rickety, but I fill it and then place the few books I own on top of it. And just like that, a clean room, everything I own put away and in order.
I move to the kitchen, putting away dishes and wiping down the counters. It gives me something to do and takes my mind off of my hands, even though while cleaning I think about Mark James. For the first time in my life I stood up to somebody. I've always wanted to but never did because I wanted to heed Henri's advice to keep a low profile. I've always tried to delay another move for as long as I could. But today was different. There was something very satisfying about being pushed by somebody and responding by pushing back. And then there's the issue of my phone, which was stolen. Sure, we could easily get a new one, but where is the justice in that?