I knew what was coming next and preempted it. “But with Morales . . .”
“You weren’t afraid,” he said.
“I was angry.” Fight.
“There are different biochemical reactions that occur in response to different emotions, like stress—”
“Adrenaline and cortisol, I know,” I said. “I took ninth grade bio too.”
Noah ignored me. “And they’re processed differently by the brain—we should read more about this.”
“Okay,” I said. But I was still frustrated; Noah once again managed to turn the conversation back to me, thereby avoiding what I wanted to know about him.
So I said, “I still think we should test your ability.”
Noah’s eyes went sharp—he was uncomfortable again. “You want to do this scientifically? Here,” Noah said, and stood. He crossed the room and picked up a bottle of Tylenol that I left on my bookshelf. Placed it on the floor. “We’ll use the scientific method: My hypothesis is that you can manipulate things with your mind.”
Deflecting again. He didn’t actually believe I could do it; he was just trying to distract me. I went along with him—for now. “Telekinesis?”
“I don’t think so, exactly, but in order to figure out what you can do, it would be helpful to know what you can’t do. So here, move this.”
“With my mind.”
“With your mind,” he said calmly. “And I’ll know if you’re not trying.”
I glared at him.
He gave me a nod. “Go on.”
Fine. I’d do this and then it would be my turn to make him do something. I dropped to the floor, crossed my legs and hunched forward, staring at the bottle.
About twenty seconds of fruitless silence later, Daniel knocked and pushed my bedroom door open all the way.
“I’m here to announce that we’re departing for the carnival in approximately twenty minutes.” He paused. I felt him look down at me, then up at Noah, then back at me. “Uh, what are you doing?”
“Mara is trying to move a bottle of Tylenol with her mind,” Noah said casually.
I glared at him, then back at the bottle.
“Ah, yes,” Daniel said. “I tried that once. Not with Tylenol, though.”
“What did you use?” Noah asked.
“A penny. I also tried that ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’ game—the levitation one, you know?” he said to Noah. “And Ouija boards, of course,” he said to me, adding a melodramatically meaningful look.
“You played with a Ouija board?” I asked slowly.
“Of course,” Daniel said. “It’s a childhood rite of passage.”
“Who did you play with?”
“Dane, Josh.” He shrugged. “Those guys.”
“Was it yours?” I felt nervous without quite knowing why.
Daniel looked taken aback. “Are you kidding?”
“What?” Noah asked.
“I would never keep one in the house,” Daniel said, shaking his head vehemently. “Conduit to the spirit world, Mara, I told you.”
Noah cracked a wry grin. “You don’t actually believe that, do you?”
“Hey,” Daniel said. “Even men of science such as ourselves are entitled to get the heebie-jeebies now and again. Anyway,” he said, a smirk creeping onto his lips as he gestured to the Tylenol bottle, “nice to see you giving something the old college try, Mara. Though, my brain is bigger, so if I didn’t have any luck—”
I refocused on the bottle and said, “Go away.”
“Any progress on the vampire story?”
“Good luck!” he said cheerfully.
“I hate you,” I said as Daniel closed the door.
“What vampire story?” Noah asked.
I was still staring at the bottle. The bottle that hadn’t moved. “It was his other theory about my fake alter ego,” I explained. “An alternate to possession.”
“Well, you are awfully pale.”
I exhaled slowly. Refused to look up.
He reached for my bare foot and squeezed my toes. “And cold.”
I pulled my feet away. “Bad circulation.”
“You could always bite me, just to test.”
“I hate you, too, by the way. Just so you know.”
“Oh, I do. I would suggest make-up sex, but . . .”
“Too bad you have scruples,” I said.
“Now you’re just being cruel.”
“I like pushing your buttons.”
“You’d enjoy it more if you undid them first.”
Save me. “I think you should go and help Daniel.”
Noah stood. There was a mischievous smile on his lips as he left.
I stared at the bottle of Tylenol for another few minutes and tried to envision it moving, but it went nowhere and I gave myself a headache. I popped it open and took two, then trudged into the kitchen and plopped down at the table across from my mother, who was sitting with her laptop. I rested my head on my arms and sighed dramatically.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“Why are boys so annoying?”
She chuckled. “You know what my mother used to say?”
I shook my head, still in position.
“Boys are stupid and girls are trouble.”
Truer words were never spoken.
DELIGHTED SCREAMS PIERCED THE AIR AS carnival rides swirled and blinked and swung over my head. I walked with my older brother through the crowd of people; it had been years since we were last at a fair, and the second we arrived, our dad dragged our mom onto the Ferris wheel and Joseph absconded with my boyfriend to conquer some ride, leaving me and Daniel alone.
I was flooded with sounds and scents; artificial butter and giggles. Frying dough and swelling shrieks. It felt good to be out like this. Normal.
“Just you and me, sister,” Daniel said as we milled around between booths. “Whatever shall we do?”
A little kid walked by carrying enough balloons to make me wonder how many it would take for her to lift off. I smiled at her, but the second she met my eyes, she darted away. My smile fell.
We passed beneath a row of hanging stuffed animals. “I could win you a teddy bear,” I said to him. My feet crunched over discarded popcorn and I dodged a giant puddle left by an earlier drizzle.
He shook his head. “The games are rigged.”