(Part of a series; for better understanding, I recommend reading the other ones first)
“Stop freaking out,” Ali says, peering out the front window.
“Easy for you to say,” I mutter.
“It’s not, actually. At least you can defend yourself with more than Brandon’s baseball bat.”
Alex’s phone call echoes in my head. I’m in trouble, she’d told me. But I managed to communicate with a friend. He’ll be there soon. Okay? Her voice wobbled on the next sentence. Don’t worry about me.
That really just cemented my worry. Alex, our caretaker, our surrogate mom, is in trouble, and she doesn’t want us to help her. Not like Brandon cares- he’d taken off to rescue her with nothing but a thunderstorm in his wake. Worry is all I have at this point. Well, worry and anger at Brandon. But according to the phone call, he’s on his way back with Alex’s friend, along with two more guests.
Alex, Ali, Brandon and I have been together for years. As much as I love them, our family isn’t complete. It might never be. I don’t know many of the details since, legally, Alex isn’t really supposed to talk about it, but not counting Ali and Brandon, there are seven other kids in the world like me, with freakish abilities and adoptive families sworn to secrecy. Now two of those kids are on their way to join our household. Excitement and nervousness cramps my stomach.
“Hey.” Ali pokes my shoulder and points outside. Our home is a hidden fortress- high up on a hill and surrounded by thick brambles and tall trees. If you don’t know where to look, you’ll never find our driveway.
A car is slowly rolling to a stop in front of the house.
“That’s them,” Ali whispers, moving to unlock the door.
“Are you sure?" She rolls her eyes.
Two girls with duffel bags climb out of the backseat, and a tall man from the front. I study the girls- one’s blond and tall, the other’s smaller and brown-haired. Both look solemn and wary. The man is kind of a mess. He’s stumbling over his own feet and looks like he’s mumbling to himself. Then I see him. A lanky boy with buzzed hair and a face pale in the moonlight, hands in his pockets and staring at the ground. Without looking up, he holds out his hands to take the girls’ bags, grabbing them and stalking to the front door before they can either accept or reject his offer.
The baseball bat clatters to the floor.
She shushes me and opens the door. Before Brandon can react, she throws her arms around him, squeezing him tight. Then she hisses in his ear what sounds like a threat, and he drops the girls’ duffel bags on the floor.
“I’m going to my room,” he announces as he trudges upstairs with all the energy of a grumbling gray cloud.
I don’t say anything as he passes me. I’d like to think my intimidating glare says everything. But he walks by without glancing my way, which is just insulting. Ali shrugs at me. “Let him sulk.”
The man bustles inside, ushering the girls through the door, then slamming it shut.
“Hi,” says Ali. She holds up her hand in a little wave.
“Hey,” the brunette says cautiously.
“Okay,” says the man. He looks at me, then Ali, and rubs the bags under his eyes. “Okay. You’re Alex’s kids?”
“Pretty much,” Ali says. “Do you know where she is?”
“Yeah. Okay.” He briefly closes his eyes, his hands on his head.
“Dad.” The girl who said hi to Ali puts a hand on his shoulder.
He starts, then looks around at the house, and then back at all of us. “I need you all to do exactly what I say. Got it?”
We nod in unison.
“Don’t answer the door for anyone. Keep all the windows locked. And don’t go outside. Amelia, May,” he says to the two girls, “I need to leave. But I’ll be back soon. Okay?”
“Dad, where are you going?”
He presses a rough kiss to the brown-haired girl’s forehead. “A rescue mission. I love you. Be safe. I’ll be back in two days at most.”
The man runs back outside to the car and speeds off, though I’m not really sure he should be driving. The girls look stunned.
Ali claps her hands once, making us all jump. “Okay then! You guys want some ice cream?”
Soon we’re sitting around the kitchen table. We all have bowls of rocky road, though Ali’s the only one who’s started to eat. She’s also the first one to start talking.
“I’m Alizeh, but you can call me Ali if that’s easier. He’s Sam. What are your names?"
The brown-haired girl is leaning her head on her hand and gazing absently into her bowl. The blond answers for both of them. “I’m May. She’s Amelia. And that was her dad. He said…he said we were all connected. We all have powers.”
Eagerly, Ali leans forward. “What’s yours?”
“Time travel. And before you get excited, I can’t change the past.”
“Huh,” I say.
“And what are yours?”
Ali turns to me. “Show them.”
I poke a finger into my ice cream and feel it gradually grow colder. Ice blooms from my fingertip and coats the creamy treat until it’s frozen to my bowl.
“Cool,” says the brown-haired girl, lifting her head. Amelia. “I teleport.”
Amelia closes her eyes. The next second, she’s right beside Ali, who shrieks and giggles. A tentative smile appears on Amelia’s face. “What’s your power?”
“She doesn’t have one,” I tell her.
Ali shrugs. “It just never showed up.”
“Oh.” Sitting back down, she stirs her ice cream and raises a spoonful to her mouth. “We should probably talk about this whole… problem. What exactly is happening? Who’s the guy we found?”
“That’s Brandon, the weather-master. He can make storms or sunny days, or whatever. He disappeared the other night to go find our foster mom-”
“Alex,” I say, interrupting Ali. “She adopted Brandon first, then me, then Ali. She went on a trip a week ago and didn’t come back. We got a call from her saying she was in trouble, but she wanted us to stay in the house.”
“Brandon didn’t care, though,” Ali says with a roll of her eyes.
“He snooped in her papers and thought he knew where she was. Then he snuck out. Alex called again today to tell us you were coming.”
“My dad must have let her know somehow,” Amelia muses. “Do you think Brandon saw her? Something freaked him out when he found us. He thought he was being followed.”
“I don’t know. We’ll ask him when he comes downstairs,” I say, crushing up the icy rocky road in my bowl.
Ali freezes. “Wait.”
We all turn to look at her.
“What?” asks May.
“Sam. What would Brandon do if he couldn’t save Alex?”
It hits me like a truck. “Oh. Oh no.”
“What? What would he do?” Amelia's brow furrows.
“He would try again.”
Ali jumps from her chair and races upstairs, the rest of us at her heels. Brandon’s door is closed and locked, but Amelia apparates to the other side in the blink of an eye and unlocks it. His window is wide open. “Brandon!” Ali screams into the nighttime woods.
A flash of lightning illuminates the forest, and for just one second, I can see him. He’s running between the dark trees, a backpack slung over his shoulder. The sound of the storm he's created is deafening. A burst of wind knocks us all to the floor.
“Close the window! Close the window!” I try to shout, but I hardly hear my own voice. May and Ali seem to understand, though, and force themselves through the gale to slam down the window.
The lights in the room spark and flicker while the world rattles. Brandon is gone, blending in with the darkness of the forest. “What is he thinking? Alex said-”
“My dad said-” Amelia begins simultaneously.
“You guys.” May looks scared. Really scared. “We have to save him.”
“Are you serious? We could die in that weather!” Outside, trees are cracking. Splinters snap through the air. “He did that on purpose. He doesn’t want us to come after him.”
“He needs help. Sam, Alex said not to come after her. It’s dangerous,” says Ali.
“We can’t follow him."
“Amelia! What are you doing?” May cries.
Amelia stands at the window, studying the view. “Don’t worry.”
“No,” I say when I realize. “You can’t go out there. Look at it! You could get impaled by a stick, or hit with a rock-”
“What are we supposed to do? We can't let him leave!” she shouts. Once more, a bolt of lightning brightens the forest and spotlights Brandon’s escaping figure. Before we can reach her, before we can convince her to stay, Amelia squeezes her eyes shut-and disappears into a death trap.