—CASSIE—

NYU University, New York City, NY

I honestly don’t know what I’m doing here. I think I’ve gone a little crazy.

I stare at the door and raise my first, hesitant and not quite ready to knock. People pass , including a guy wearing only a towel. I give him a side glance for a moment, enjoying the view of hot college guy before turning back to the door.

This was a bad idea!

I back away from the door until I hit the wall opposite it. I lean against it and take a deep breath.

What was I doing? Lately, I feel I never know that answer. I don’t know the answer to anything anymore.

I haven’t spoken to any of the other since I stormed out of the gym earlier today. I overacted to say the least and now just felt embarrassed. Why did I yell at them? Why can’t I give them a break, just once? I shouldn’t have told Lily how to feel, and I shouldn’t have forced Cory to speak to that guy from the Manhattan School of Music. I should have just left well enough alone.

And maybe…just maybe I should tell Josh the truth.

Everything is just spiraling out of control. I feel as if I’m drowning. And no matter how hard I try to rise through the waters so I could gasp for air and finally be able to breathe again, it’s useless. I just keep descending; powerless and helpless.

I stare at the door for a long time before I breathe deep and take out my cell phone. I send two quick apologies too Lily and Cory, personalizing each one. It’s the least I could do. I can, of course, telepathically contact them but than they’d ask where I am and what I’m doing there.

And I can’t tell them that. Not until I do this at least.

With that in my mind, I steel myself and move back to the door. I knock twice before Tucker opens it.

“Hey,” he says smiling at me.

“Hi.”

He’s taller than I am, by about three inches coming in at a pretty average height. Most of his length comes from his lean chest and lanky build. He cut his dark hair shorter then the last time I saw him, it’s almost near a crew cut now, and it makes his eyes stick out a bit too much. But his eyes are still as gentle as I remember them and his nervous smiles remains the same.

“Ugh come in,” he steps back and I enter his dorm room. “I..ummm,” he closes the door behind him and even his awkward cough sounds nervous, “How uh..are you?”

He’s not like his older brother Ben at all. Ben was smooth and suave and could charm the pants off about just any girl, save for probably Lily and I. Me because I have standards and Lily because I’m pretty sure her pants are held up by a chastity belt.

“Fine,” I reply, looking around his dorm.

“I’m uh..I’m glad you can,” I can practically feel his nerves crawling across my skin. The joys of being an empath.

“Yeah well I had a college fair today,” I look back to him, “Guess I was just curious about what it was all about.”

I give his dorm another look over. The walls are bare with chipped paint and holes caused by rowdy drunk sycophants. The ceiling looks as it could shower white dust upon anyone with the slightest touch and the cold peach colored floor was barely covered by the single blue carpet rug. It was small and cramped. I could only imagine how Ororo would feel in this room with her claustrophobia. By then with a pang, I remember that she’s in eternally in a tighter space then this.

Tucker’s roommate’s bed is pressed against the wall, about a dozen or so feet from his. It’s unmade and stained with God knows what. Clothes litter the floor around the bed and on the desk adjacent from it, on top of which papers and books are ready to topple over.

Compared to his roommate’s side of the room Tucker’s side looks immaculate with his dirty socks on the floor and his bed made but filled with wrinkles.

I look back to him and he gives me a nervous smile, his hands rubbing against his jeans, “And?”

“Ew,” I reply.

He laughs, “Yeah…it’s sort of gross.”

“How is it living with someone?

“Okay I guess,” he shrugs and looks over to the other side of the room, “He’s not here much. He’s an art major, so he spends a lot of time in his studio.”

“Ah,” I nod slowly, it all starts to make sense, “Artists never seem to be able to clean up after themselves. I guess they think it makes them look more devil-may-care but I just think it makes them look like smelly, freeloading hippies.”

Tucker’s eyes widen slightly, “He does smell a lot funky…”

“That’s what happens when you smoke weed and bathe once a week,” I smile at Tucker and he say smiles back, his cheeks blushing red. I move across the room to a desk beside Tucker’s bed.

“Uh..” Tucker coughs, “That’s my desk.”

“Oooooh,” I coo sarcastically, brushing a hand against the top of the desk, “Pretty.”

He laughs nervously and rubs the back of his head. I smile as I watch him fix his shirt, stretching it passed his waist and then smoothing it down. He’s a fidgety little thing.

I turn my attention back to his desk. A photo of a pretty redheaded girl kissing Tucker on the cheek is placed prominently under a lamp. Tonya Harper, Tucker’s sister, yet another person we know who died, killed by Sentinels. I look away from the picture and pick up a book.

“Romeo and Juliet,” I show the cover to him.

He nods, “I have to read it for my literature course.”

I look back at the cover to see two lovelorn teenagers embracing each other, staring into each others eyes with doomed longing, “I love this play.”

“Really?” he’s barely able to contain his surprise.

“Oh yeah,” I open the book and flip through the pages, “How could you not love two self-centered lovesick teenagers committing suicide? Tragedies are supposed to basically be warning tales of hubris, envy, and the like. But I don’t see Romeo and Juliet as a tragedy. I see it more as a cautionary tale of what happens when teenagers fall in love and act like morons. When I read this book I took it as, ‘hey stupid teenagers, you’re not even sixteen years old yet, what do you know about true love or real life? If you really think this person is your one and only, when they’ve only been your only, then just go ahead and kill yourself because you’re a lost cause anyway’ And hey I got my happy ending, that’s just what they did.”

He stares at me dumbstruck. I have that affect on people. I take great pleasure in it.

“Umm,” he says somewhat apprehensively, “If you ever have to write an essay on the play, I’d try and go for a different approach.”

I smile as I toss the book down on the desk and move towards Tucker, “I could be very persuasive.”

He swallows hard and I have to work my best to shut out all of his emotions; the attraction, the fear, the nerves, the self-consciousness and of course, the horniness.

“So uh…” He swallows again, “How’s life?”

I laugh as I step closer to him, “Life? Well,” I laugh again and it comes off sounding harsh and bitter, “Not great honestly.”

“Oh?” his green eyes, always so full of emotion, show deep concern, “Why?”

“I can’t really tell you,” I laugh again and Tucker stares at me like I’m crazy. “You see everything is going wrong in my life. I mean everyone thing. I use to be this confident absolutely unflappable person. I put myself before anyone else, I cared about my friends but I tried not to concern myself too much in their lives. I had my own to worry about,” my eyes begin to tear and I want to look away from Tucker but I can’t because there is something about him that makes me want him to see me like this, “But something changed in me, right in my core,” I point at my heart as tears falls down my cheek, “Because now all I can think about is them, and how much I want them to be safe and happy.” I wipe the tears from my eyes and look down at my wet fingers with frustration, “I use to be in control. I knew everything about everything. I knew myself. My emotions, my relationships, my feelings…my future,” I sob and cover my eyes with one hand. Tucker puts his hand on my shoulder and I wipe my eyes and look up at him, “But I’m doing everything wrong now. I’m trying to control my friends, not for my benefit but for theirs but I’m doing it all wrong. I’m being all wrong! I’m trying to protect them and all I’m really doing is making things worse. I never felt so powerless and helpless in my life! I never felt like a failure until now.”

Tucker puts his arms around and I cry into his shoulder. I hate doing this, I hate being weak. I hate crying into a guy’s shoulder, because I’m so much better then that but I’ve been carrying this burden for so long now.

“What can I do?” he says softly into my ear.

I break from his hug and wipe away my tears. I take a deep breath and pull myself together. I’m Cassie Eaton. I’m not a crier, I’m not some weak little girl. I’m Emma Frost’s freaking prodigy. And what would Emma do? How did Emma take control?

“Take off your clothes.”

—CORY—

CB’s Pub, Ridgefield, NY

Twenty-one and over bar baby! It’s a huge thing for my band! We’re going to be playing at one of the most popular bar’s in the whole freakin’ COUNTY! I’ve tried to get into this bar and got denied so many times, and now I’m finally here. I’m gonna getso much ass!

My eyes are currently set on a hot older chick with short, dyed pink hair and a large tattoo on her shoulder. She had huge boobs and, I notice when she bent over in her tight leather pants, a really nice ass. She’s one of the managers of the bar and was the one who helped us get the gig. Our leader singer, Jason who’s in college(which is totally not awesome),is hooking up with her sister.

“So you ready?” she asks coming up to me.

“Oh yeah,” I say confidently, “Born ready.”

“Great,” she says clasping my shoulder, “I heard your demo, you guys sound great!”

“Thanks,” I try to sound suave and sexy, which obviously I succeed at, “Maybe I can get you a drink after?”

She removes her hand from my shoulder and looks at with an amused smirk, “How old are you?”

I think for a moment. I can’t say I’m seventeen, because she wouldn’t want to hook up with a teenager! I could say I’m 21 but that’s too obvious of an answer.

“28!” I stand up taller and try to make my voice sound deeper, “I’m 28.”

“Right…” For some reason she seems like she is about to start laughing, “Well you look really young.”

“I know, it’s my eyes,” I wave a hand in front of them, “I’ve got young eyes and a young soul.”

“Hmm,” she nods, “I see.”

“But I’m like super worldly,” I assure her, “I’ve been all over the world. London, Italy, Paris, France.”

She covers her mouth for a moment, though I could still hear her giggle. What did I say?

“So wait,” her lips twitch, “You’ve been to Paris, France or Paris and France?”

“Uh…” I pause for a moment and try to think… “Paris, France!” I scream, “Paris is in France!”

She doesn’t hide her laughter this time and pats me on the top of the head, “You’re cute.”

I frown and watch as she walks away. Well that stunk! Maybe 28 was too young?

“Yo let’s go!” Jason speeds past me as he heads toward the stage.

I follow him, grabbing my guitar just as my phone vibrates once for a text message. I throw my strap over my shoulder and move to the stage, taking out my phone to see a message from Cassie.

“Sorry about today. I hope you know I love you. Good luck tonight, you’ll do great! Remember groupie love is not real love.

I put my phone back in my pocket, feeling guilt gnaw at my stomach. I shouldn’t have snapped at her today. I know she was just trying to do what’s best for everyone. I was wrong to yell at her. I just suck at controlling my rage. I get angry so easily sometimes…a lot like my dad. I didn’t want to be like him, I didn’t want the people I love to hate me or fear me.

I’m going to buy Cassie flowers and go over to her place and apologize first thing in the morning. No, not flowers! She’ll call me sexist. I’ll buy her a book! Yeah, she’ll like that. We’re getting paid for this gig and I’ll use my share of the money and buy her something nice and apologize.

“Cory!” Jason screams from the stage, “Get up here NOW!”

I rush to the stage, jumping up the steps.

“Sorry!” I say to Jason as I pass him on stage taking my position a few feet away.

I hope it works. I hope she forgives me. I think she will. This isn’t like last year, when everything just built to one big blow up. At least when we fight all the time we’re getting it out of our system.

I just wish I had someone to talk to this all about. Everything that’s going on with Josh, with my future…What if Cassie is right? What if it doesn’t all turn out alright. What if I do need a plan?

If Ororo was here I could talk to her. She’d tell me what to do. She’d be honest and judgement free. I’d tell her about Stryker, about what my anger made me do to him and she’d forgive me. We’d tell her about the prophecy and she would steer us in the right direction. Hell, I bet she’d fight Apocalypse all by herself and finished him off within seconds. She was that awesome.

I strum my guitar for sound check and look to the crowd.

God I miss her. I just wish I could talk to her again. I wish I could get advice. I wish she was here.

And that’s when I see it, moving through the audience towards the door; long, flowing locks of white hair.

—JOSH—

A Clearing in Mt Lakes Park, North Salem, NY

Oh rowdy teenagers, how I envy thee.

They surround me. Teenagers drinking copiously, dancing dirtily, and hooking up freely and happily. They don’t have a care in the world except ‘well I hope this next drink doesn’t make me black out’.

I’m glad for them. They shouldn’t be burdened. They’re young and free of any real responsibility, and that’s how teenagers should be.

It’s how I should be. I’m sure I’m not the only student given bad news today but I am the only student sitting down by himself on a log, paying more attention to the warm and crackling bonfire then I am the opposite sex. But woe the introspective one, for it is he who I’ve become. I don’t see the world as teenagers do. I feel prematurely grown up. That’s what this business does to you. Broken legs, near death experiences, getting tortured. They say war changes you, will War changed me.

That isn’t to say I’m not like other high schools boy. I’ve got what is probably my fifth beer in hand and I do occasional glimpse away from the fire to look over at Megan, my ex-girlfriend. Right now she’s talking to a large, meathead from a rival school in Ridgefield, laughing at some stupid joke he said, putting her hand on his muscular arm.

I feel a violent and primal urge to run over to this asshat and start something, get him to fight me, throw a punch so I can show Megan that I’m the better man, that I might not be as tall or handsome as this douchebag, but I’m stronger, as in super stronger. Sure that would be wrong. He and I aren’t evenly matched. He might work out everyday, take steroids and all sort of pills to make his arms bigger than my head, but he’s human and I’m mutant. He’ll never be stronger than me. And if I fight him, I’ll be more monster than man.

But if I was regular teen, if I was an average, everyday boy, I’d be drunk and ready to go. And I’d get my ass kicked, but it would probably feel good instead of this; watching her from afar and being ignored by her. She’d have to notice me then.

I guess this is a broken heart. Lily told me it sucks, but I had no idea how much.

I look away from Megan again and take a large gulp of my beer.

“That’s right,” says Derek as he sits beside me, “Drink up buddy.”

“Why is that guy even here?” Milo said placing his foot on the leg, staring at the Ridgefield jock, “Why do any of them even come here?” He shakes his head, his black hair falling over his forehead, “I hate this town,” he says wiping the hair away, “Same people, same parties, same people crashing the same parties.”

“Whatever man,” Derek takes a large swig from the solo cup in his hand, “Who needs her?! Not you, that’s who!” He pokes his finger into my chest, “You my friend, can move onto bigger and better things.”

“Though she is hot,” Milo muses with a nod, “Really hot.”

“But hot girls are a dime a dozen,” Derek throws his arm around my shoulder, “And you and I will be bringing hot girls back to our dorm all the time.”

“Not at the same time I hope,” Let me add a really hope to that.

He laughs and bumps his shoulder into mine, retracting his arm from my shoulder, “You, my friend, should just get drunk and forget about her, forget about everything. You know how the old saying goes. ‘Drunk is good'”

I raise an eyebrow, “Plato?”

The question confuses Derek, “Uh I don’t have any if that’s what you’re asking.”

And he’s going to college, and I’m most likely not.

Milo gives me a sympathetic pat on the shoulder and then he and Derek are off, back to to the party to find the keg. I watch them leave, and my spirits do feel lifted. I’ll miss Derek and Milo. Chances are Mil’s getting out of this town and not coming back, and if I don’t get into ESU, I’ll never see Derek save for school breaks. They’ve both been my friends since Kindergarten and it just feels weird imagining life without them.

As I turn back to the fire, my eyes catch sight of my fellow classmate Tessa Keyes, who to my surprise, is looking at me. She waves at me, a small smile forming on her lips, I wave back in reply. Then she surprises me again when she walks over.

“Hey,” she takes a seat on the log beside me. She brushes a piece of her long, black hair out of her eyes, which I notice are a pretty blue.

“Hey,” I reply.

“Good turn out,” she motions around the clearing, where dozens upon dozens of teens continued to mill about, “I saw kids from Ridgefield and South Salem.”

“Yeah,” I mumble, “Don’t they have parties of their own to go too?”

“I guess we’re just so cool,” Tessa replies with a smirk, “You know they call us the mutant school, don’t you? I mean we’ve had how many incidents in the last three years?”

“Too many,” I take another sip of beer.

My sister getting kidnapped, Cassie getting trapped by Serenity, those mutants attacking the school my freshman year…Those all were our fault. Anyone who died during those attacks died because of us. I look down at my nearly empty beer and silently swear to never let that happen again.

“I’m sorry,” I say softly.

“Not your fault,” she smiles and puts a warm and soft hand on my arm. She scouts close enough to me that I could smell her perfume.

I’m a little taken aback by the move. Tessa and I had only talked about six or so times throughout our four years of high school. We didn’t run in the same circles, had only one class together and the only time I saw her was when mandatory school counseling when having a last name that starts with “Ke” would bring us together. But I’m pretty sure se’s actually into me.

“So, uh,” I try to be cool about this very new experience. I don’t very often have a girl interested in me, “How’d your session with your guidance counselor go today?”

“Fine,” she smiles a very pretty smile, “I mean I don’t think he’s a fan of me being a Vet. He gave me this face like, ‘really’,” she mimics the face then laughs.

“Well forget him,” I tell her, “He’s an ass.”

“That he is,” Tessa nods.

There is a moment of silence between us where I feel Tessa move closer to me. I can’t help but look up to Megan, hoping that she notices that a pretty girl is sitting beside me. And booyah, she does! Megan is looking right at us, as the Ridgefield jock yammers on and on, but she’s only paying attention to me.

I look away, smiling quite pleased just as Tessa looks up at me and returns my smile, our eyes meeting. I could see the reflection of the bonfire in Tessa’s eyes, feel it’s heat against my skin. I lean in towards Tessa and she leans closer to me.

“FIGHT!!!”

The cry cracks the air like a whip and Tessa quickly stands, causing me to nearly fall face first into the log. A large commotion was breaking out and I could hear a scuffle and loud cheers. I move beside Tessa and get my first glimpse of the fight. Four kids in Ridgefield letterman jackets were fighting with four kids in North Salem letterman jackets. They were being egged on by the cheers of every drunken teenager in the clearing.

I shake my head. Rowdy teens…maybe I don’t always envy thee.

—LILY—

The Palisades Mall
Nyack, New York

“So guess who got a job!”

“Congrats!,” my boyfriend’s Connor strong and deep voice comes out crisp and clear from my cell phone.

“Thank you very much,” I say doing a little excited sway of the shoulders as I enter the parking garage on the third floor of the Palisade Mall. I can’t help but feel downright giddy. First I get a text message from CAssie saying “Sorry about today. I <3 you and I’ll talk to you later” and then I get a job! I don’t know which I love more! The job is good but Cassie sent me a symbol of a heart! That’s a big moment in our relationship.

And now I’M talking to my boyfriend. Today might have started horribly, but it seems to be ending quite pleasantly!

All is good except for the fact that I hate parking garages. They totally freak me out. They’re so spacious and large…and concrete. Every little sound puts me on edge and I just want to get to my car as soon as possible

“I didn’t think they’d give you the job right away, though can’t say I’m surprised you are such a charmer,” Connor’s voice makes me heart beat just a little faster and I inwardly swoon.

It been three weeks since he went off to Duke University in North Carolina. We didn’t talk as often as we promised each other. When he left it was going to be four times per day, with texts in between. Now we’re looking if we even talk four times a week. He was so busy with school and getting acquainted. Plus, he was going to school on a baseball scholarship, so that meant practice every day. And me, well I’m a superhero.

I miss him a lot. I miss seeing him, I miss being able to looking into his eyes and watch his lips move as he talks. And yes, I’ll admit it. I miss kissing him! Kissing him was always so nice so nice.

“I’m starting next Friday,” I say as I reach into my bag for my keys. I parked pretty far away from the entrance, something that I’m regretting now. To be fair, finding parking in this mall could be about as easy as taking down a Sentinel, “I’m going to hostess mainly, but the manager said he wants to train me as a waitress as soon as possible.”

“Ah well,” Connor says, “Did he also tell you to expect a lot of late nights with just him and you?”

“Yes actually he did!” I reply with a smirk, “Then he gave me a back rub.”

“Well as long as nothing inappropriate is going on,” Connor replies, his voice breaking with laughter.

“Not until I need a raise.”

He laughs loudly and I bit my lip, feeling a tinge of sadness. I wish I could see him laugh. I always use to like to see him laugh.

The weird thing is, I always tend to miss Connor more when I talk to him then I don’t. It’s like I could go throughout my day feeling perfectly okay that I don’t see him. Sometimes I hardly even think of him. I just have too much going on. But then I hear his voice and it all comes rushing back to me like a smack in the face with a plasma blast.

“So what are you doing tonight?” I ask him as I stop walking. I look to my left and then to my right, and realize that I’m a little lost.

“Ah well..I’m going to this party at the house all the upperclassmen on my team live in,” I could tell that t he’s nervous to tell me, though I can’t figure out why.

“That’s cool,” I say biting my lip as I look to the support columns and read the row numbers. I’m pretty sure I either parked in 3L2 or 3A4, “I think I’m going to head over to the bonfire. Josh is there, and I want to make sure he’s doing okay.”

The parking lot is completely devoid of people. I’ve had nightmares about this very scenario. Michael Jackson was going to pop up out from nowhere any moment now.

I start walking again, my every step echoing.

“That’s nice,” he says and then coughs into the phone, “So uh…there will be girls at this party tonight.”

“Oh a boy-girl party!” I say wryly, turning left and right, “Look at you all adult.”

“Just thought I’d share,” there is something weird in his tone but I can’t really dwell on that right now what with the creepiness of the garage.

I stop walking as I reach a place which looks vaguely familiar. “I’m so -” The sounds of the footsteps still fill the garage and I stop mid-sentence. They echo throughout the garage, sounding heavier and larger then my own. They’re moving fast and I tense as I realize that the footsteps are coming directly towards me!

A hand touches my shoulder and my heart leaps.

I spring right into action. I smack the hand away with my arm, than kick out at my assailant’s legs, sending them falling onto their back. I raise my fist, and prepare to strike until I catch a glimpse of the person on the ground.

She has to be about seventeen, skinny with dirty hair and ragged clothes. Her eyes are wide and bloodshot and her skin as unwashed as her clothes.

“Lily!?” Connor cries into the phone.

“Oh poop,” I cover my mouth, “I just hit a homeless person!”

Leave a Reply