By the time I stepped outside, the leaves were on fire.
I sighed. “Alexaaander,” I called in a big-sister tone.
After a few moments, Alex’s face peeped out from behind a maple tree at the edge of the forest. “You always ruin the fun,” he grumbled, loping slowly to me across the leaf-scattered lawn.
I rolled my eyes. “Come on, Alex. Put it out. You’ve already burned the house down once; isn’t that enough?” When he hesitated, I added, “You know, if you do, Mom’s gonna take it out on me.”
Alex scowled. “Why can’t we just let it burn?”
“You know why already, Alex. It’s dangerous, and calls attention to us. You probably don’t remember, but I know what it was like for this family to be hunted, tracked. There was a reason we moved here. You have to save and concentrate and hide your powers. Besides, you’re the one who started it, anyway. Do not make me get the hose.”
A burning leaf wafted past on the wind. Alex kicked at the dirt. “Everyone knows you probably have powers, too, so stop pretending like you don’t.”
I crossed my arms. “Alex,” I said in a warning tone.
He looked up at me defensively. “What? It’s not impossible.”
I tried to turn him to stone with my eyes. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. I sighed again and began my admonishment. “We both know that’s not true. I probably don’t have powers, and even if I did--which I don’t--you absolutely are not allowed to tell Mom. She already has enough on her hands what with you, not to mention Rae and Dad. Alex, put that fire out right--”
“You do it,” he interrupted.
I swallowed. “Alex, I don’t--”
“Yes you do,” he insisted. “Olive, put out the fire.”
A branch crackled and fell to the ground, setting alight a pile of leaves. By this point perhaps a dozen trees were on fire.
I grabbed Alex’s face in my hands and forcefully made him look at me. “Alex. Put it out.”
He wrenched himself free from me and took off running towards the house.
“Alex!” I cried after him.
He wrenched the back door open and let it slam behind him.
I bit my lip and looked down at my hands. Slowly, I walked to the edge of the forest. The air was thickening with smoke, and small bits of fire drifted down all around me. Ash caught in my hair.
I breathed as deeply as I could in the grey air and concentrated. Cold, I thought. Chill. Frozen. Blue. Sharp, cool.
I felt the temperature begin to drop. I focused all of my energy on the biggest burning tree and willed it to stop. Wind. Cold wind. Rain droplets. Freezing water.
Slowly, the fire dimmed.
I turned to the next tree, and the next one. By some combination of harsh and cold wind, fat procured raindrops, temporary falling temperatures, or some other aspect of my abilities I didn’t quite understand yet, I managed to thwart the fire in under fifteen minutes.
The last spark dwindled to black on a previously orange oak tree leaf. I took one last look around to make sure the fire was out, then trudged inside through the same back door my little brother had slammed several minutes before.
He was in the kitchen, boiling cider on the stove. Without asking him, I reached over and turned the heat off. I grabbed hold of his wrist so he had to face me. “You didn’t put it out,” I growled.
He squirmed away and relit the stove, this time leaving the knob untouched. “Whatever. You did it yourself.”
I pulled him to me again and knelt down so I could be on his level. “Alex. This is important. Don’t tell Mom, okay?”
He shrugged, broke free of my grasp once more, and stirred the cider with a spoon. “‘Kay.”
I sighed, grabbed him around the waist, and dragged him, squirming, to the bathroom. I shoved him inside and locked the door, then guarded it, hovering in front of the knob.
“Hey,” he protested, whining. “The cider’s gonna boil over.”
“That’s not important!” I cried. I leaned back against the door and looked down at him. “How did you know?”
Alex scoffed. “There’s a mirror right there, Olive. Here, let me demonstrate.” He climbed up onto the sink.
“Alex--” I warned, but he was already talking.
“We’ll start with me. Light yellowish brown skin. Messy, curly black hair. Dark brown eyes. The works. Then, there’s you. Pale brown skin, although the brown is an afterthought. Straight straw-colored hair--again, with a bit of brown, as an afterthought. Brownish blue eyes. And we’re both from the same parents, so what other explanation do you have?”
I grabbed Alex’s wrist and jerked him off the sink. “Stop--”
“I’m just saying--”
“STOP!” I screamed. Alex drew back, startled. I lowered my voice and spoke again. “Stop, Alex. It’s--it’s just probably that you got more of Mom’s genes, and I got more of Dad’s--”
Alex shook his head. “You’re wrong. Why can’t you just accept that you have powers? Can’t we work together on this?”
I pushed back my tears. “Alex, listen. It’s not that simple. You don’t understand, because you’re young, but it doesn’t work that way. You can’t let anyone know, least of all Mom. Do you promise?”
Alex scoffed. “I already did! Now, let me get my cider.” He tried to push his way to the door.
I blocked his path. “This means Rae must have powers, too. Do you understand that? We moved here to escape the organization following us. We can’t let this get out, Alex. Either of us could easily die.”
Alex shuffled his feet. “Okay, I understand. I won’t tell Mom. I promise.” He looked up at me. “Can I go get my cider now?”
Reluctantly, I unlocked the door and let Alex exit. For a few minutes after, I stared at my reflection in the mirror, wondering how in the world I got here.
I shook my head and went into the hall. The rest of the Saturday passed normally--Alex and I just lounged around the house, reading or texting or loading the occasional plate into the dishwasher. I wrote an essay for school. Gram dropped Rae off at our house at six, and Mom would get back from work after eleven, so it was my job to put the kids to bed.
I did so in record time and spent the next hour in peace, listening to music in my room until my phone died. At 10:15, I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth. In my room once again, I pulled a pair of pajama shorts from a drawer and began to change into them. As I did so, I glanced at the window next to my bed that looked onto the front lawn.
There was a car in the driveway. It was black. I didn’t recognize it.
Immediately, I fell to the floor and prayed that whoever it was hadn’t seen me. I crawled across the carpet to where my phone was charging by the door. I held down the power button. Still dead.
The doorbell rang.
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Great story! Your dialogue is done super well, the two siblings' voices were distinct and realistic.
Hi Inkstained! I stumbled across your submission in this weeks prompts. I very much enjoyed the read. There are a few comma issues here and there, but all in all, well edited. I agree with the other comments, the dialogue is natural and flows well. There may be a few too many adjectives for me, but that is personal taste, and I did note a spot or two where you slipped into a passive voice. Other than that, the narration was strong and I was propelled along by your prose. Well done! Keep writing, and please do feel free to critique any of...
Thank you! Would you mind telling me where exactly you found these errors? I consider myself to be decent at punctuation and grammar in my stories but stuff can always slip by from time to time. And it might take a month haha--but sure, I'll check your profile out!
Minor stuff here Inkstained, that's why I didn't point it out. As far as editing goes, I believe your work is cleaner than mine! “Yes you do,” he insisted. “Olive, put out the fire.” - comma after yes. By this point perhaps a dozen trees were on fire. - comma after point. I enjoy your style, and am looking forward to reading through your other submissions.
Hello Ink! I got paired up with you for the critique circle this week! You did such a wonderful job with this one! I love the names you chose, the title, and just about everything about it! The dialogue was clever as well! Wonderful job, keep up the good work! Happy writing! - Felicity
Thank you so much, Felicity! I'll check out your story later :)
No problem, Ink!