“What did you just say to Ruth?” I said, unable to keep the anger from my voice, which only made me real y mad at myself. Missy’s clique delighted in belittling those who could not—or would not—wear the “right” skinny jeans or date the “right” senior jocks. The bigger the reaction, the better. I didn’t like to satisfy them—or feed their little games—with any sort of reaction. Particularly since Ruth was plenty capable of defending herself in the classroom and in the hal ways, if she so chose. And today, she did not so choose.

Missy waved her hand around again, and this time, it nearly brushed up against Ruth’s cheek.

I felt anger sweep over me like a wave, something I’d promised my peace-loving mom to avoid ever since I got into a nasty argument this summer with a spiteful member of our mission. I sensed my fair skin turning a fiery red and experienced the oddest sensation of my shoulder blades lifting and expanding.

Without thinking, I grabbed Missy’s wrist. Suddenly, the school hal way faded away, and I got a vivid flash of six-year-old girl Missy as if I were her.

She stood at the edge of the pool at the posh Til inghast country club she so often bragged about. In the image, a group of boys and girls teased her about her buck teeth and knock-knees. Missy turned around, looking for the protection and consolation of her mother. Her mother was indeed watching. But rather than answer the cal for help in her daughter’s eyes, she gripped her gin and tonic and walked over to her own gaggle of friends, many of whose children were teasing Missy. Her mother kept pretending she’d never seen the weakness in Missy’s eyes. In that very moment, the young Missy promised herself to never show that weakness again. She vowed instead to create that weakness in others, to make others buckle at her feet.

I started to get another, more recent, image. Missy was locked in a tight embrace with a guy. Looking through Missy’s eyes, I couldn’t see the guy’s face, but I could hear his low, gravel y voice whispering in her ear. At first, I couldn’t make out his words, but I could feel the warm, feathery sensation send shivers down Missy’s spine. Then the words became more distinct, and I swear he said, “El ie.” But the guy could only know my name from Missy, and why would she bother to talk about me?

Lost in that thought, I was jarred back to reality by Ruth, who was trying to pul my hand off Missy and whispering, “C’mon, El ie, she’s not worth the bother.” The image disappeared as quickly as it came, bringing me back to the horrible, and very real, teenage Missy. Yet, of the two images, the childhood scene remained so real to me that I felt Missy’s six-year-old feelings and thought her six-year-old thoughts as if I were the six-year-old Missy, and I experienced a deep sense of pity for her.

It wasn’t the first time I’d had this kind of flash, as I’d come to think of them. They’d been occurring more often since my sixteenth birthday in June, although they usual y didn’t amount to much. Usual y, they showed me what people had for lunch or told me what they thought of their friends’ outfits.

In the beginning, I thought my imagination was just going into overdrive, but it wasn’t long before I realized that what I was hearing and seeing in my mind wasn’t made up. It was true. One of the first times it happened, I imagined the girl sitting behind me in Spanish class was wondering about whether to break up with her boyfriend, and then a few seconds later she turned to her friend sitting next to her and asked about that very thing. But who could I tel without getting locked up for delusions?

Despite Ruth’s attempt to pul me away, my grip on Missy’s wrist tightened as my feelings about her swung wildly between sympathy and rage.

She didn’t move; I guess she was too stunned by my action to lash out with one of her usual barbs or even yank her hand away. We stood frozen until I felt Ruth’s hand forcibly pry my fingers off Missy’s wrist and lead me away.

“What were you thinking, El ie? You know I can take care of myself with those idiots,” Ruth whispered as she pul ed me toward our classroom. I could tel she was mostly mad that I’d put myself in jeopardy; Ruth was very protective of me.

“I’m sorry, Ruth, I know you can. I real y don’t know what came over me,” I whispered back.

We grew silent as we wove slowly through the crowded hal way. I felt someone staring at me, and I turned, hoping that it wasn’t Missy or her crew behind us ready to retaliate.

It wasn’t. A tal , impossibly blond-haired guy was leaning against a door frame, watching me. He smiled a wry smile as though he’d seen the whole scene with Missy and company, even though he couldn’t possibly have witnessed it from his vantage point. He wasn’t traditional y good-looking, but he seemed older than the average high school guy. His body language was comfortable in a way that I’d never seen before in the other guys. I usual y hated arrogance. But this was something else. He had an easy confidence that I was surprised to find instantly attractive. I felt certain that I didn’t know him—an oddity in the town where I grew up and where I recognized pretty much everyone.

The bel rang. “Oh my God, we can’t be late on the first day with Miss Taunton,” Ruth said and picked up the pace. I let her drag me away from his penetrating gaze. And away from my own pounding heart.

Chapter Two

I forgot al about him over the next week of school. That was the little lie I told myself as I embarked on advanced English, history, chemistry, Spanish, and calculus, al of which had piled on their workload this year, supposedly to prepare us for col ege.

But the truth was, I was distracted. I looked for him everywhere. The relative smal ness of the upper school— just a hundred students for the junior and senior grades—made his absence that much odder. It was almost like he was a figment of my imagination.

But I couldn’t real y ask Ruth if she had seen him too. I’d never hear the end of it. For years I’d been proclaiming indifference and immunity to guys our age. I’d never real y felt comfortable with them. They always seemed sil y or self-important, and I never felt like I had any common ground with them. Or they with me.

But by lunch on Friday, I was scanning the tables and the cafeteria line for this guy. I could hear the buzz of voices around me, but my focus was elsewhere. It didn’t help that I was exhausted. My nightly dreams were getting more and more vivid, and I woke up feeling as if I’d been up al night.

The details would get fuzzier as the day went on, but every night I’d be back in the sky, flying over the town.

“El ie, are you listening to me?”

I turned to Ruth. “Sorry, what did you say?”

“I swear, you’re like a ghost these past few days. Where are you?”

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