May sat at the window overlooking the New York City skyline as a tear traced its way down her cheek. The sun glowed bright orange on the horizon and as she watched, her vision seemed to tunnel, the sun growing larger and brighter, her lighthouse in the middle of a stormy sea.
Allison was gone. She’d finally been adopted, was accepted by a family who wanted her, leaving an empty bunk to serve as a painful reminder of the ten years she spent in the foster home. May wanted to be happy for her, but the emptiness continued to weigh her down.
She was turning sixteen next week. As much as she loved Miss Edna and all the other girls, she had never thought she’d be here so long. Countless others before her had come and gone, but May remained. And now one of her best friends had left her.
She wouldn’t even be here if her parents hadn’t –
Stop, May chided herself. You’ll just make it worse.
“May,” said a voice, and May hurriedly wiped her eyes as she turned to see Krissy standing in the doorway, her hand on the knob. “It’s dinnertime.”
“Okay, Krissy,” May said. “Just give me a minute.”
Krissy tilted her little head to the side as she scrutinized May. She’d always been the intuitive one and could tell whenever someone was upset.
“I can bring you up a plate,” she offered.
“No, it’s fine,” May assured her, getting to her feet. “I’m coming.”
Krissy gave May her classic tight-lipped smile, chin up and hand outstretched.
May smiled back and took her hand, letting Krissy lead her downstairs.
There were eight other girls who lived in the foster home: Kelly, a rambunctious skater girl/tomboy, Brenda, a ten-year-old who lost her glasses every other week; Hallie, who wore ear buds as part of her every day wardrobe; Fiona, the early-bird stomper; Logan, May’s best friend and fellow partner in crime; Tricia, the could-care-less, anti-social goth; Abigail, an adorable two-year-old, and Elena, the chatterbox. It was all Miss Edna could do to keep them in line, let alone feed them.
Krissy was nine with a light brown complexion, thick black hair pulled back into a little bun atop her head, and a round face. She was a bit chubby too, which made her all the more huggable when May needed her support.
The two girls filed into the kitchen where most of the girls were still bustling around, setting the table. Tricia sat nearest, arms folded across her chest with a look of disgust.
“Careful with those glasses!” Miss Edna told Elena and Kelly, who both carried three each.
“Relax, I got this,” Kelly said. “I could speed-stack these glasses without chipping a single one.”
“Yeah right!” Logan said. “It’s impossible.”
“Ooh, challenge accepted,” Kelly said with a smug smile, setting the glasses at the head of the table. “Pass me those,” she said, nodding at Elena. “Prepare to have your minds blown!”
“As long as you’re paying for them,” Miss Edna said, setting a platter of corn on the table, “knock yourself out!”
Kelly opened her mouth and then shut it again. She put down the glasses and took a seat.
Logan laughed mockingly.
“Shut up,” Kelly snapped.
“Language,” Miss Edna scolded. “There are children present.”
“Well, it’s not like it’s a bad word,” Hallie pointed out.
“Nevertheless, it’s rude,” Miss Edna said as she passed the corn around the table. “Tricia, don’t you want any?”
“No,” Tricia said sourly. “Corn is just too … yellow.”
May and Logan shared a look and they both shook with barely suppressed laughter.
“You are all kinds of weird,” Krissy said.
“Would you prefer it burnt?” Kelly asked.
“Girls!” Miss Edna chided as Tricia glared frostily at Kelly. “That’s enough. Brenda, would you turn on the TV?”
Brenda dropped her chicken leg and got up from the table. No sooner had the screen flickered to life when Abigail cried, “Spider-Man!”
Half of the girls jumped up out of their seats to get a better look.
“Ooh, car chase!” Kelly said excitedly. “Those are always good.”
“You’re acting like it’s some kind of movie,” May said. “Those are actual people wreaking havoc on Fifth Avenue.”
“Duh, that’s what makes it awesome! I mean, look at him!” Kelly said as Spider-Man pounced on the lead car. “You’d think at this age he’d be retired or something, but no! Crime never sleeps and Spidey’s always on the job.”
“You should work for the Bugle,” Hallie said.
“Well, at least they’ve stopped calling him a public menace,” Miss Edna said. “Jameson made him out to be some sort of vigilante when he first became known.”
“What’s a vigilante?” Elena inquired.
“A menace,” Logan said. “Causes trouble, disturbs public life, that sort of thing.”
“But Spider-Man’s a hero,” Elena protested.
“He certainly is,” Miss Edna said.
“Ugh,” Tricia groaned.
“Um, I’m sorry,” Kelly snapped. “No one asked for your opinion.”
“Whatever,” Tricia said, standing up with her plate in hand. “I’m taking this meal to go.”
And with that, she stomped up the stairs and out of sight.
“She’s so mean,” Brenda whispered.
“She just likes to be alone,” Miss Edna said. “All children go through that phase. Now,” she said, setting down her fork. “Who has homework to do?”
May realized with a sudden jolt that she still had textbook work waiting upstairs. She groaned internally and looked at Logan, who was in the same math class. Her head snapped up at once with a look of frustration.
They both got up from the table, leaving their leftovers behind and raced up the stairs.
The foster home was old and rickety with cracked plaster on the walls, old brickwork, creaky wooden floors, and bare light bulbs fixed to the ceiling. As the two girls happened to be passing underneath one, May felt a strange tingling somewhere in the base of her skull that made her ears ring. Without thinking, she cried, “Look out!” And she tackled Logan around the middle, sending them both sprawling to the ground as the light bulb burst with a loud pop and a spray of glass rained down.
Stunned, May whipped around as footsteps pounded on the stairs and Miss Edna burst onto the scene, looking petrified.
“Oh my goodness,” she cried. “Someone get me a broom!”
“Whoa,” Logan said. “Thanks, May. But how did you …”
“I-I don’t know,” May stammered, utterly bewildered. “It’s like something came over me.”
Miss Edna shuffled quickly over to them in her slippers.
“Are you girls okay?”
“Yeah,” May said, clambering awkwardly to her feet. “It just missed us.”
“Thanks to her quick reflexes,” Logan said, nodding at May. “Could’ve been ugly.”
Miss Edna’s face was difficult to read, but the way she looked at May … was it astonishment? Fear? Surprise?
But then she turned to see Kelly come up the stairs with the broom, Hallie, Krissy and Brenda trailing behind, and May figured she must have imagined it.
“Whoa,” Kelly said. “Looks like a crime scene up here.”
“Stupid bulbs,” Miss Edna said irritably, sweeping up the shards. “I should replace them all.”
“But how did it break?” Krissy asked.
“It just exploded,” Logan said.
“Overheating,” May explained.
They all turned to look at her.
“Incandescent bulbs radiate more heat than they do light,” she went on. “That’s what makes them the least energy efficient. Too much heat plus electricity causes the bulb to burst.”
“Well, look who’s the little science whiz!” Logan grinned, clapping her on the shoulder. “This girl’s just on fire tonight.”
“You’d know that too if you ever paid attention in class,” May said, giving her a playful shove.
“Well, I hope you’re just as good in math because I totally suck!”
Laughing, the two headed up the next set of stairs.
“Okay, no one come through here, it’s dangerous!” Miss Edna called after them.
May had just reached the top of the stairs when Tricia marched right up to them, eyes over bright.
“I heard an explosion,” she said, completely straight-faced.
“Um, yeah, you’re kinda late,” Logan said, unable to conceal her smirk.
She and May exchanged a quick look of amusement before they brushed past her, Tricia glaring after them.
That night, May shifted fitfully in her sleep. Her fingers clenched and relaxed once again. Her head buzzed angrily and she felt a shiver go through her entire body. Her head twitched to one side.
Something was happening to her. Something unreal.
In her dream she saw only shadows, bursts of light, heard screams and shouts. She felt like she was being smothered, and the racing heartbeat she felt was not her own. She was free-falling through space … and then she heard a low voice whisper against her ear, “Everything’s going to be okay.”
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