Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
(Gifted — 3)
For my goddaughter, Iris, her brother Octave, and their parents,
Muriel Berthelot and Jean-Francois Marti
SOMETIMES EMILY WASN'T sure if she was dreaming or having one of her visions. Usually it happened in the early morning, just before her alarm went off.
On this particular Monday morning, she was pretty sure she was awake. She knew her eyes were open because she could see her chest of drawers, her desk, and her bookcase, with her old collection of dolls from many lands lining the top shelf. Dim sunlight was coming through the muslin curtains on her window, and she could even see the sweater she'd left hanging on the bedpost the day before.
But at the same time, she saw something else, something that didn't belong in her bedroom- an image, sort of translucent, that floated before her eyes. Even though it wasn't very distinct, she recognized the image immediately-it was one of her classes at school, her so-called gifted class.
There was the teacher, Madame, sitting at her desk. In their usual seats sat her classmates: Ken, Amanda, Tracey, Martin, and the others. She could even see herself. . but wait, there were only eight students-someone wasn't there.
It was funny, in a way: they all complained about the class-some of the students even hated it-but they rarely missed it. And with only nine students in the class, no one could skip it without being noticed. But who was missing in her vision? Jenna was there; she could see Sarah; and there was Charles in his wheelchair. .
Carter was missing. It made sense that she hadn't realized this immediately. Since Carter didn't speak, he didn't call attention to himself, and it was easy to forget he was even in the room. But normally, he
Then her alarm clock rang, and the classroom disappeared. She sat up, reached out to her nightstand and turned it off. The image was gone, and she still wasn't absolutely sure if it had been a dream or a vision. She'd dreamed about her class before, but the dreams had been like most of the dreams she had, full of silly things, like Ken swinging from a light fixture or Charles dancing on Madame's desk. The image she'd just experienced had seemed so real. . yes, it must have been a vision.
It probably wasn't a big deal though. Carter might act like a zombie, but he was a human being and just as susceptible to getting the flu or an upset stomach as anyone else.
'Emily! Are you up?'
Her mother's voice sounded testy, as if this was the second or third time she'd called to Emily- which was entirely possible. Emily's visions, even the trivial ones, always seemed to require all her senses, so she might not have heard her mother's earlier calls. Or maybe she'd really been sleeping. It was so hard to tell. .
'I'm up,' she called back. Dragging herself out of bed, she left her room and went across the hall to the bathroom. While brushing her teeth, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror and almost choked on the toothpaste. Why was her face so blurry? Was this the beginning of another vision?
No, it was just that she hadn't put her contacts in yet. Having done that, she went back to her bedroom where she spent about twenty seconds selecting her clothes. This activity never took very long since she essentially wore the same thing every day, with some minor variations in her choice of T-shirt or sweater. She didn't bother with makeup. Until very recently, she'd worn glasses, and what was the point of makeup when your glasses covered half your face? And even though she had contacts now and her face was more visible, she hadn't yet bought any cosmetics. Makeup required concentration, and the way Emily daydreamed, she knew she'd end up putting lipstick on her eyelids.
So when she checked herself out in the mirror, she didn't encounter anything surprising. In fact, having examined photos of herself as a small child, she knew she'd looked pretty much the same all her life. In her class picture from first grade, she could see the same oval face, long, straight nose, and full lips she saw now. She was still wearing her long, straight brown hair in the same style, which was actually no style at all.
She wondered if she would still look like this when she was an adult. But as usual, when she really wanted to see the future, she couldn't.
'Emily! You're going to be late!'
'I'm coming!' She grabbed the sweater hanging on the bedpost and ran down the hall to the kitchen. Her mother had set out a choice of cereals on the small kitchen table, and Emily helped herself.
'Did you sleep well?' her mother asked. She asked Emily the same question every day, and usually Emily responded with an automatic 'yes.' But this time, thinking about her confusion that morning, she looked at her mother thoughtfully.
'Mom … do you ever think you're awake but you're really sleeping? Or the other way around?'
Her mother looked at her sharply. 'Are you having those visions again?'
'Is there any orange juice?' she asked instead.
Her mother was clearly relieved to have the change in subject. 'Of course, it's in the refrigerator. There's grape juice, too-it was on sale at the grocery store.'
Her mother was always on the lookout for items on sale. She had a good job as the office manager for a company, but since the death of Emily's father, she was the only one in the house who earned money.
A couple of other kids at Emily's school had also lost a parent, and although she'd never talked to them about it, she assumed they suffered the same kind of sadness she did. But she couldn't imagine that either of them felt as guilty about it.
'By the way, I'll be late getting home today,' her mother told her. 'I've got an appointment with Tony.'
There was nothing unusual about that. Her mother wore her hair in a short, layered style, and every six weeks she went to see Tony at Budget Scissors for a cut. But out of nowhere, Emily had a sudden vision, and she was alarmed.
'I don't think you should do that, Mom. Not today.'
The vision was shockingly clear. Her mother's normally soft curls were a frizzy, snarled mess. 'I can see you. After your appointment. Maybe Tony's in a bad mood or something-I don't know-but he's not going to give you a nice haircut today.'
Emily watched the bewilderment on her mother's face turn to irritation, and she didn't have to be a fortuneteller to know the annoyance wasn't directed at Tony the hairdresser.
'Emily, stop it, right this minute! You're talking utter nonsense.'
There was no point in arguing with her, but Emily had to make one point. 'Mom, if my visions are nonsense, why do you think they put me in the class for people with special gifts?'
Her mother's lips tightened.' I don't want to discuss this now, Emily. We're leaving in two minutes.'
She left the kitchen. Emily finished her cereal and went to search for her school stuff. She wasn't angry at her mother for not understanding her gift. How could she be angry when Emily didn't understand it herself? Passing through the living room, she paused to look at the framed photograph on the wall. It was something she did