re you stupid? I said no mustard!” The guy stood across the counter continuing to shout at me in a tone that made me crave his demise. The image of my claws sinking into his eyes would have been just as fantastic right about now. I seized the burger from his grip so quickly he didn’t see it happen, as the familiar heat of my fury swelled out from the center of my chest and down my arms.
He recoiled, looking at his palm then up, a dazed expression creeping into his angry one.
I struggled to suppress a snarky response and reminded myself that I needed this job. Plus, no one could find out I wasn’t entirely human which would most certainly happen if I don’t keep myself under control.
“You did not say no mustard,” I retaliated, the words slipping out under my breath. My right index finger twitched, which meant my control was slipping.
Shit. Stop trying to pick a fight with a customer Lucy, I mentally hissed.
“Sir, if you give me a moment, I’ll make you a fresh one,” I explained louder, hoping to cover up my earlier, combative statement.
“Fineee.” The customer’s drawn-out word nearly caused me to let go and blast him, but I snapped my mouth closed. A snarl rumbled out anyway. His pointed nose expanded under flared nostrils that suddenly felt as offensive as his words.
Mistake my ass.
I twisted around, en route to the grill area. My sneaker squeaked as I spun making my teeth clench. The yellow linoleum that was meant to be cheerful had been stained with grease so many times it no longer came clean, even after night shift scrubbed it with industrial cleaner.
“Sam, will you remake this without mustard, please?” I pushed out.
“Can do, Lucy.” Sam’s patience bled into my irritation, making it somewhat more bearable. Thank God I worked with wonderful people; I would have quit a long time ago if it weren't for them.
I walked back to the front of the store and gave the man my mildest sarcastic grin.
“It will be up in just a minute. I’ll bring it to your table when it’s ready.”
There was no way I was letting this asshole cost me my job.
“Sure,” he replied with a dead look on his face, then turned around and strode back toward his table.
As if it had a mind of its own, my hand rose, and my finger pointed at his retreating back. A single spark leapt from its tip, but I clenched my finger closed, cutting it off. Without any more fuel behind it, my magic evaporated into nothingness. Fuck, that was close, I thought with a huff. Besides, I’d just feel guilty if I really did end up hurting the guy. Seething rage might try to engulf me on a daily basis, but thankfully I was also forged with a profound sense of compassion—a trait I had blessedly inherited from my mother.
I could still hear her voice in my head saying, “Lucy, when you lay in bed at night, thinking about who you are, the only thing that matters is how you behaved. Let them take their actions up with God, and you do the same.”
“I will not use my powers for evil,” I uttered a few times. Upon realizing how strange I must have looked, I forced my fingers into a fist, and lowered my arm. It had to be the approaching full moon heightening my lack of restraint and grating on my last nerve. The changes were so significant for the past few most months that I tried to hole up in my house whenever possible.
Maybe I’ll turn into a werewolf this time, I thought with a snort.
“What?” The next customer asked as they strode up to place their order.
“Nothing. How can I help you?” I replied with a flip of my hand.
If I could get through a few more minutes, my shift would be over, and I would have the next three days free. No taking orders or wiping tables. I peered at the clock on the wall, spacing out instead of listening to the person in front of me.
“Sorry, would you repeat that please?”
“A number nine with a coke and a chocolate chip cookie,” the customer repeated, louder this time.
“That will be ten eighty-four,” I said with an exhale as I finished punching the order into the register with robotic movements.
The customer reached into his pocket and passed me a literal wad of bills that I had to sort through and straighten.
I will not use my powers for evil, I chanted, in my head this time, over and over.
Five more minutes.
As soon as I handed the man his change, Sam called out from the kitchen area.
“Your remake is ready, Lucy!”
I untangled the apron strings from behind me with a yank, and pushed the fabric up and over my hair, bunching it in a hurry.
Then I turned around and moved with purpose to fetch the mustard free burger.
My boss opened his mouth to cut me off as I passed him. I froze.
Shoving a finger back in the air, I directed it right at him and he closed his mouth.
“Not now, Bob. I need to leave. My shift is over.” I realized my mistake and yanked my hand down before it was too late. Knowing my luck, I’d fry Bob on accident.
He saluted and watched me as I flung my apron in the bin designated for dirty laundry.
Bob was a good and decent man. I’d covered enough shifts, for flaky employees who quit after one week, to earn his respect. The floor squealed under my shoe again and I let out a slew of curse words but kept marching toward the grill.
I plucked the wrapped burger out of Sam’s extended hand while pausing long enough to call out a breathy thank you, before racing it to the other end of the restaurant.
It bounced as I dropped it onto the customer's table.
I narrowed my eyes, daring him to say something about it. If he was a wise man, he’d never mess with a woman whose eyebrow was as hiked-up as mine was at that moment. Ever. My finger danced against my palm dangerously like a loaded pistol.
Contempt radiated from his face, as he crushed his lips together in a tight ugly line. Without waiting for him to change his mind and voice something we’d both regret, I marched my ass right out the front exit and headed to my car. Days like today, made me glad I only carried a light wallet of essentials in my back pocket.
I twirled my hand and sent a stream of white magic to unlock the doors, before climbing in and letting my fatigued body melt into the seat, the soft cushion relieving the pressure from my tired legs. At that moment, I didn’t give a shit who saw it.
Too furious to drive, I rested there, inhaling deeply, letting the silence calm my racing mind.
This is too hard. I need to find a job that doesn’t involve dealing with people so much.
Truthfully, I didn’t quite know what I was. Belonging was something I yearned for, but I had never found or heard of anybody else like me. I was stuck living with a festering rage that, if I let consume me, it could destroy everyone and everything around me. I was alone, because I needed to protect everyone else, not myself. Paying my bills and rent was important too, so I also had to keep my temper in check, in order to survive. Sure, I had a decent amount in my savings left over from the inheritance my parents left me when they died, but that wouldn’t last forever. Especially if I wasn’t putting anything back into it.
Since childhood, my powers were repressed, shoved deep down, because I never knew where they came from or how potent they really were. Honestly, the details were a mystery that I was happy to leave alone, because I was too frightened to test it. I wasn’t Sherlock, I couldn’t use deduction to get at the truth of my powers, and I didn’t want to experiment on their restraints.
The last place I worked at wasn’t as lucky as the current one, but thankfully everyone got out before it blazed to the ground. There had been a few injuries, and I found out the fire investigators weren't able locate the origin of the fire, so they ended up chalking it up to a faulty wiring issue. Thank God for that. Sometimes it seemed like I had a guardian angel looking out for me.
I swiped at the tear that escaped down my cheek. My anger was melting into frustration, making me cry. It was threatening to unleash the downpour that I was struggling so hard to hold back. Damn it. Blinking my vision clear, I started the ignition. Thoughts of a long, hot bath suddenly became much more tempting than sitting in this drab parking lot and sobbing like a baby.
∞ ∞ ∞
I opened the pale blue front door to my small house with another trail of magic. My eyes trailed along the frosted glass panes as I paused at the steps and sighed with relief. Home at last. This neighborhood was out of my price range, but the owner was old and said he just wanted someone that would take good care of it. Then he threw out some stupidly low number for the rent price. At first, I had tried to argue with him because I didn’t want to take advantage. I had even made him think about it overnight, and when he called the next day with the same deal, I hesitantly accepted.
Strange things like that had been happening on and off for as long as I could remember. This time, though, it wasn’t a fifty-dollar surprise tip; it was hundreds of dollars in markdown. Focusing my attention back on the door, I smiled. It looked so out of place in the sea of tan and brown that covered the neighborhood, but I loved it. It’s what drew me to this place to begin with even though there hadn’t been a hope in the world of landing a rental in this area.
After a moment, I headed inside and shut the door behind me. The inside was the opposite of the door— every room was a stark white. I never stayed in one place for long, so it made painting pointless. I’d never even asked the landlord if I could paint, because I didn’t care. White suited me fine; it was clean and impersonal. Making a place homey made a person want to stay, and I didn’t need that kind of unnecessary commitment.
I would revel in the joy of my little home until it was time to move on again. And I had to admit, it was a nice break from the usual noisy apartment complexes with people coming and going at all hours of the night. I was a night owl too, but I tried to be quiet for the people who had to get up early for work. Not everyone shared my theory on manners and their importance. It would be hard to say goodbye.
I cringed as my thoughts shifted back to my magic and how careless I had been at work earlier. There wasn’t a lot I could do with my alien powers, but there were at least a few benefits of being weird. I rarely had to use keys although my car was one exception.
Complicated machinery was beyond my magic’s ability, but it if was something simple, like a dead bolt, I could turn the internal mechanism with a thought. Visualization seemed to be the key, I needed to see it in my mind to make it work.
At some point I had considered taking classes to learn about motors and the intricacies of vehicles but ended up scrapping the idea with little thought. I wasn’t interested in it and honestly, it was more trouble than it was worth trying to get my wiggly ass to stick with something I found boring.
It would have been nice if I could wave my hand and do something a little more significant like end world hunger, but apparently that wasn’t in the cards for me.
A job as a thief had crossed my mind a few times. An epic heist or two that would leave the authorities clueless and me infamous among all the other notorious criminals in some secret underground society—it sounded amazing in theory. Unfortunately, my moral compass made me dismiss that fantasy each time it arose. I may be cursed by fury and fire, but I didn’t want to be a willfully bad person. The urge to give into this evil calling that arose from within me seemed deeply ingrained in my bones, but my heart simply wouldn’t allow me to live up to that irreversible potential.
Plodding to my cramped bathroom, I wasted no time maneuvering around the standing metal shelf the held my only two towels, and turned the taps above the bathtub on, adjusting the left tap to a temperature that would boil a lobster. As the bathroom rose with steam, I headed to find the open bottle of Riesling sitting in my fridge and to pluck up something to drink it out of. I swiped a glass sitting beside my sink where I’d washed it but hadn’t put it away yet. Then I rushed back to the tub.
Sweet wine and a long bath were exactly what I needed. I would have three whole days without people nagging me. That thought was enough to lift my spirits significantly. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like people—I specifically hated rude ones. I hated being forced to fight my rage over stupid, trivial things like mustard-less burgers.
My face morphed into a series of dramatic expressions as I thought about all the angry customers I had dealt with over the last week at work. Just another curse to add to the list. Even if I kept my mouth shut or filtered my words, I could never fully stop my face from answering, before my self-control filter kicked in—no words required.
After quickly undressing, I slipped into the bath with my tall glass of wine. I was too broke to buy actual fancy wine glasses. They held more marvelous drunk juice than their dainty counterparts, so I found it to be a fair trade-off. You didn’t need etiquette when you were trying to get sloppy drunk anyway, might as well just drink straight out the damn bottle.
I exhaled deeply, closing my eyes and let the heat sink into my aching body.
Moments of solitary silence like these were worth the trouble of holding my temper. Sometimes I got lonely, but that was par for the course. At least, this lie was something I was more than happy to grasp onto, because believing the opposite would tear me apart with longing.
Yep, it had to be the coming full moon with its overpowering magnetic forces that had me acting this way. If it could move whole oceans, it could definitely screw with me.
I closed my eyes, trying to block the flooding emotions and thoughts out of my brain. I wanted a damn moment of nothing.
“What was it that guided meditation said to do? Oh, right. Think of one thing, a color, a number, or a place,” I muttered then took a long sip.
Three. Three. Three. Three.
I rolled my eyes. This was stupid, and if it was going to work, I needed something more interesting than the number three to distract myself.
As I mentally worked my way through places I had been or at least seen online, I felt the familiar cloudy haze overcome me.
Fuck, not again.
The sound of my heavy cheap glass clanking against the side of the tub filled the room as my entire body seized up. White-hot pain split my head as it slammed back against the plastic tub rim, my chin jerking away from my chest. My arms locked straight down by my sides, my palms flipped up toward the ceiling.
“Lucy! Where are you?”
I could see a man standing behind a wall of flames, but I couldn’t get to him.
“I’m here!” I shouted, even though I knew it was no use; he couldn’t hear me. He never could.
I tried to move closer to make out his face, pushing against the heat.
The flames narrowly parted to reveal a strong jaw line, pale hair, and smoldering green eyes.
I felt the melting hot brush of flames against my skin, they held me back but never singed my flesh.
Fire never did.
My heart clenched as desperation wracked through me. I was the only one who could save him!
“What is your name? How do I find you?” I screamed out at the flames, trying to project my voice by pushing magic into my vocal cords.
Please hear me!
Again and again he cried my name like an old incantation meant to protect him. But I still couldn’t reach him, though his chant caused me to fight even harder against the impossible obstacle between us. He shoved his way forward, pushing past the wall of fire, but with each step he was nowhere closer to me. It was like he was running in place.
I watched helplessly as the blaze grew all around us, engulfing his distorted form. The greedy flames were licking forward, consuming him.
I cried out just as he vanished from my view.
Time stood still against the sound of my broken heart, it’s beat like a tribal drum, then an alabaster wolf rose from the flames. The orange from the fire danced on its silvery mane.
It stood there for a few brief moments, its piercing gaze pinned me in place, before it howled with the same urgency as the man from before. Realization flooded me—they had the same eyes.
The burning consumed me. It worked its way down through my skin, bypassing my flesh and wrapping its phantom fingers around my muscle and sinew.
Before I could scream, my body ceased to exist. I had no throat to cry out from. I was nothing. Struggling to sense my surroundings, I realized this was a void. A vacuum of nothing.
Not burned away but faded into blackness. I hung in space, as if broken down into single cells. Then shafts of light appeared. My tiny atoms swirled around—illuminated among the floating dust particles, they reached for each other. My need to be whole pulling them together like magnets.
Whispers rose out of the black void from all directions, one after the other, all saying the same thing.
“Lucy. Lucy. Lucy. Find him! Lucy! Lucy! Lucy!” On and on they taunted me.
Then one voice rose above the others, its feminine call like a ghostly presence.
It brushed across the place my ear should have been, whispering, “You must find him before it’s too late. Watch for the signs to lead your way!”
Coming to with a violent jerk, I remained beneath the surface of the water. It stung my eyes as I burst up, coughing and gasping for air. I slumped backwards in the tub, shivering in the lukewarm water. I knew I’d been unconscious for a while.
I hated my visions!
A few of them had given me useful or practical information in the past, but not this one. As much as I loathed them, I would have preferred the normal ones that showed me things to avoid or which cities I should move to next. This one had been replaying itself for years just to taunt me. Nine years to be exact, with the first one paralyzing me when I was only sixteen years old. It was always the same man who needed me to save him, but that’s all I ever saw. At first, I couldn’t even make out his face, but through the years, pieces of him had gotten clearer.
Important details always evaded me. I didn’t have a clue who he was or even where to look for him.
What if I don’t want to find him? The thought had a bitter taste to it.
Seconds passed, I sighed brushing the thought aside. I did want to find him, I always had, but the lack of ideas on how to do so were wearing me down. The first time I heard his voice, it had washed over me like instinct, embedded in my genetic code. Maybe it was the allure of the unknown, but I didn’t think so. Some part, deep inside me, knew this man. I knew he was important, and I fiercely wished I knew why.
“I need a clue or some way to find you, dammit,” I murmured, the words falling out of my mouth as a plea.