One more Strike
If I had one soul for each time this lady crammed “ya’ll” into this lecture I’d be a record breaker back home. I rolled my eyes at Lacie, and she nonchalantly covered her mouth to hide a smile.
“Do ya’ll get what I’m saying?” she asked, and I marked another tally on my mental checklist. Once you got past all the southern drawls and the unnecessary “ya’ll” in every sentence, the South wasn’t so bad. The people seemed to be a lot nicer than those from the “North” as they would say, but considering where I came from, all the pleasantries freaked me out. Even as this lady, well principal if we’re being technical, was yelling at me, she had a nice yell, more like a stern talking to versus a yell. It didn’t really make sense why this area of the U.S. was much nicer than the rest. Probably something to do with the sun, I imagine, but whatever the reason, here I was being lectured for yet another scuffle.
“Cendall, do you understand me? We typically have a zero tolerance policy, and considering this is the third time you’ve been to my office for this behavior. One more incident, and we’ll have to expel you.”
“That’s what you said last time. I understand you and your cousin are from a different area, which is why we’ve tolerated the first two instances. Coming to Georgia from my home town in Texas was an adjustment too, but Cendall, this behavior is just not acceptable here.” At the word “cousin”, I almost chuckled. That had been the story we came up with—Lacie and I were cousins and we just moved here. My parents “died” in a tragic accident, and I had to move in with her. It also helped explain my odd behavior of always having to be at her side. They assumed I was damaged and vulnerable, the perfect alibi. They wouldn’t believe the truth anyway. If you’d told me a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed it either. That I, Cendall, would go from top-rated Reaper in my training class to never finishing collecting my first scroll of souls. That I’d practically betrayed my entire realm and was now working with my natural enemies to protect one on my list.
“Cendall,” she called, taking me out of my own self-pity party
“Well, can you please tell me what’s going on so maybe I can understand?”
“They were in threating positions, and I reduced the threat, that’s all. It won’t happen again,” I told her.
“It flag football, Cendall. That’s part of the game. It was explained at the beginning that it was no tackle. Yet, you decided to run over every person who got in your way as you blocked for Lacie.”
“I really just misunderstood the game,” I lied.
“It would be a lot easier to believe if this was the first occurrence, but you did this during soccer, volleyball, and basketball. You have to get credit in gym to graduate, Cendall. Don’t you want to graduate?”
“Sure.” Hell no. I’d graduated from the only thing that ever mattered to me, and I’d lost that career within a year.
“Then can we agree this won’t happen again? No matter what the circumstances are, you cannot put your hands on other people. If you really think that you’re in danger or someone is threating you, then tell the nearest teacher, and they will handle it.”
“Okay.” Handle it? Yeah, right. A teacher would be the last person I would go to considering they were human and didn’t have near the strength I did.
“Sure,” I said as I focused my gaze on her face, willing my eyes not to give away my lies with a heavy roll..
“Say you promise,” she repeated.
“I promise,” I said, and she seemed to believe me. It’s amazing, foolish really, what that simple word can do to ensure a human’s trust. It was just a word, but if that’s what she needed to hear, so be it.
We walked out of her office, and I traipsed through the open doorway. The secretary pushed her black, square glasses higher on her nose and shook her head as we walked past.
“We can’t get kicked out of here, you know? It’s too late for my credits to be able to transfer to another school without a penalty,” Lacie complained. “Trevor’s going to be mad.”
“When is Trevor not mad?” Especially lately. He reeled with anger or awkwardness. When he talked to me, he analyzed every word before it left his mouth, like he had a little censored teleprompter in his head.
“Well, I can think of a time.” She gave me a smirk, and I punched her in the shoulder. She loved reminding me of my moment of weakness when I tried calling chicken on Trevor last year.
We walked out the doors, and the final bell rang—my least favorite time of day. Students starting piling out of their classrooms, trucking through the hallways, and pushing against one another as they rushed to their lockers. Like the extra seconds earned by pushing people out of the way made them get out of there any faster. They’d put their codes in, grab their bags, and then trudge on. Trying to dive in an out of bodies like cars in a traffic jam, I grabbed Lacie’s arm and pulled her into the next classroom which just happened to be Mr. Mullen’s class. Everyone knew Mr. Mullen never stayed after; he was too busy participating in happy hour at the bar he called home. The students liked to play “Guess What Mr. Mullen Drank at Thirsty Thursdays” on Friday morning. Today’s guess had been gin as it smelt like he ate his Christmas tree air freshener before coming in. I couldn’t judge. Everyone had their bad habits, and his worked in my benefit. Lacie and I would come here at the end of the day to teleport home.
“Do you see anyone around?” Lacie asked.
“Nope, coast is clear.” She grabbed my hand, and we ported home.
“Don’t even start. I can tell by how you’re looking at me what you’re going to say,” I said to Trevor who was tapping his foot like he’d been waiting for us as we arrived on the back porch of our Georgia palace. The place still didn’t feel like home to me, but nowhere on earth ever would. We’d been here for four months now. The Guardian team that helped me protect Lacie voted that we move away from Lacie’s place in Michigan and come here. It was practically a mini mansion, and we didn’t have many neighbors. It was the only house capable of accommodating Lacie’s entire Guardian Angel secretary squad and located in the school district slated for us to attend. The house was grand in its façade and played host to 15 bedrooms and 10 baths. The estate was gated, and a code was required to gain entrance to the grounds. This feature seemed to deter most visitors. The real barrier though, was one they couldn’t see—wards, at a level like I’d never seen before shielded us from Demons. Guardians couldn’t put wards up against Reapers or I’m sure they would have done that too and given me a little dog house outside to sleep in. It had been explained to me that since Guardians fought directly against Reapers they couldn’t put those wards up, as it was an unfair advantage, and Reapers weren’t technically evil. They could put them up for Demons because they were evil and took humans at non-vulnerable times, unlike Reapers. Lacie and I were each given a room that was connected by a walk-in closet. Most of the others had to share, except for Trevor since he was the head Guardian. For how big the home was, it felt unusually crowded with the simultaneous and seemingly constant presence of 20-30 Guardians. My only place of refuge was my room, as they took over all the other spaces, especially the basement with its small theatre, pool room, and Jacuzzi. Why the previous owners had put a Jacuzzi, I had no idea, as it was always hot in Georgia.
The sweltering Georgia heat took some getting used to. Trevor looked me up and down, probably disapproving of my outfit choice for the day. As usual, he was dressed in official Guardian uniform; most of them never changed. Unless it was their day off or they were sleeping, they were always in Under Armour from head to toe. The colors of the shirt would change to every color but black. They refused to wear that color due to the heat, or so they said, but I’d asked another one of Lacie’s Guardians one day, and his answer was what I expected: “Because black is the only color Reapers wear, and why the hell would we ever want to be mistaken for them?!” Trevor swore this wasn’t the reason, but he, like the others, never wore black. He mostly chose blue, like today.
His shirt was a light, sky blue, and I couldn’t help but notice how it made his baby blue eyes pop. The shirt also accented his arms quite well. They’d gotten bigger over the past few months. His pants were dark grey and hugged his hips enough that they would allow me to see the shape of his rear if he were to turn. A small string tied them in the middle, and my hands twitched wanting to untie it. I let out a deep breath, trying to gain control. Stupid hormones. I’d way underestimated the control they could have. When we learned about them in my Reaper training, they said to be mindful as they could make one go insane, but I vowed to never let that happen. Now if my body would get on the same page, I’d be set.
Bets were placed in my class that, because I was female, it would factor in even more, and they’d been partially right. I’d always sworn I wouldn’t get emotional, but I had, hadn’t I? And not just about Trevor, which was made obvious when I saved his life last year, but with Lacie as well. She’d become my best female friend, like the little sister I never had, but I still had to believe, given the same situation, they would have chosen this path as well. Deep down, I still knew Lacie never belonged on my list. Now, if I could just figure out the why.
“Cendall, there’s something,” Trevor said, thankfully pulling me out of my trance. Why did he have to wear blue all the time? If he’d worn brown, then I wouldn’t have noticed his eyes, or his rear. I hated that he had this effect on me, yet another reminder why I never should have kissed him.
“Can we just not have the lecture today? I’m in trouble, and I can’t get us kicked out blah blah blah…I don’t feel like hearing it, okay?” I cut him off. I didn’t need this from him today. I went to move past, but he grabbed my shoulder, forcing me to turn.
“Cendall, we need to talk about something. I… things…well,” he paused, holding me in his baby blue stare. Not this again.
“Please just say what you want to say or just leave me alone,” I said as I locked my eyes onto his. He looked taken aback; he inhaled sharply and it was followed by silence. This same scenario—always bickering, lecturing, or leaving things up in the air— had been on repeat between us since I started guarding Lacie again. Sometimes, I wished that kiss never happened. Things were so much easier when I was just trying to kill Lacie. He finally let out another breath and ran both hands through his blonde, wavy hair, something he usually only did in deep frustration. His hair hung just at his chin, as he tucked it back behind his ears. He stepped out of my path, and I saw what he was trying to warn me about standing in the doorway.
“Hi, I’m Catherine,” she said like I didn’t know who she was. Like I’d forget that day. Like I’d be able to forget her skinny, chicken legs wrapped around Trevor’s waist. Hell, I’d almost ended her life that day, but not that she was ever aware. If only I’d known how to aim the electricity that left my fingertips. But, I guess I did have her to thank for me discovering the electrifying effects my fingers were capable of emitting. Too bad my aim was off. I would have loved to make her long, wavy, brown hair stand up like a porcupine. I walked past her, ignoring the “how rude” comment she said to Trevor as she rolled her emerald green eyes at me.
Rude? Seriously, she was at my assignment? I let out an exaggerated breath as I went up the stairs and opened my bedroom door. What the hell was she doing in our house? How could this day get any worse?
“What is she doing here? Conjugal visit?” I asked Trevor as he entered my room behind me.
“This isn’t prison.” He smiled.
“Says who?” Sure felt like it sometimes, especially with how much time I spent in this room. Granted, it was a pretty decent size, and if you counted the walk in the closet that connected my room to Lacie’s, it was twice the size of the one I’d had back home. I did miss my red paint job though. This room was painted daisy yellow with brown edging. Nothing hung on the walls except for a painted picture of pugs playing poker. Lacie said her overweight pug, Debbie, got it for me for guarding her so well. That ball of fluff didn’t leave me alone from the moment we arrived.
“Bite him, Debbie,” I commanded as she jumped off my bed. If only she’d taken one obedience class, but Lacie thought they were cruel. The damn pug didn’t listen to a thing I said. And no matter how hard I tried, she wouldn’t even leave my room. I didn’t mind it so much on the few nights that were cold. She was like having a mini heater, but most nights, she just kept me up with her snoring. For some reason, the thing would whine until it slept with me. Lacie said it was because Debbie was her guard dog and she still assumed I was trying to take Lacie’s soul, so it was her duty to watch me, monitoring my every move.
“Seriously though, what is she doing here, Trevor?” I asked as Debbie wobbled out of my room.
“She’s a Guardian.”
“You’ve got to me kidding me.” I turned to face him, making sure he saw my eyes roll.
“No, I’m not kidding you. She’s a first level.”
“Do they let just anybody join? We at least have restrictions and a course we have to pass.”
“So do we. She may have gotten help getting in, but she’s really not bad.” He was lying.
“Okay. Let me guess. By mere coincidence, she was assigned to protect a child in this school? And please tell me she’s not staying here.”
“She’s not staying here, but she will be over occasionally, I assume. And yes, she was assigned to a child at the school, but why do you care?”
“I don’t. I just don’t think the distraction is needed.” Not to mention, I didn’t need another person around who wanted me gone; the list seemed to be multiplying daily.
“Distraction?” He ran a hand through his hair again and started laughing like I didn’t get it.
“Yes, she distracts you. I don’t want you making out with her in the corner or something when Lacie is in trouble. It’s just tension, and annoying, and well, again, we don’t need those kinds of distractions around here.” As I finished my sentence, he really started to crack up. Was I spitting out jokes here?
“Have you lost your mind? She doesn’t distract me. Never has and never will. She may try to fault my attention, but it’s not with ill will. She likes being around me, unlike some. No, there is only one thing that takes my mind from my mission, and it’s something I’m working on.”
“What?” I tried to get out, but he interrupted
“Have you figured out how to control your light yet?” he asked, throwing me off my question.
“I think so. It comes out when I’m angry, apparently, so I’d watch it if I were you,” I threatened.
“How did you find that out? And how long have you known?” he questioned.
“I figured it out yesterday. It just came to me that each I’m really angry, it deploys.” The timeframe was a lie, but I didn’t want to tell him how or exactly when I discovered it.
“Like the tree outside when Catherine came to see me after your trial?” he asked, and I felt my mouth drop.
“Well, make sure you learn to control it. We might need it soon. If you need to picture me making out with Catherine for it to come out, that’s fine.”
“That wasn’t it. I wasn’t…” I stuttered out as he let out a breath and raised his brow. The look in his eyes let me know he called out my bullshit. “I wasn’t mad you were making out with her. Why would I be? I was mad because of the situation. I don’t want anything distracting you from what our mission is. That’s why that made me mad. It had nothing to do with the fact that you were making out with her.”
“Okay, Cendall. Whatever triggers it is fine with me, and it’s nice knowing something that I’ve done resonates up there,” he said as he poked me in the forehead. My cheeks burned, exposing he’d found the truth. The penalties of fair complexion sure liked to get in the way.
“Why hold that information for so long? To catch me off-guard?” I asked him.
“Of course. That is the only time that I get a slight glimpse into what’s going on in that head of yours. It’s the only time you let the wall down, and I can see how you really feel. You’re very hard to read, Cendall, I have to use any advantage I have.” He smiled wide and gave me a wink before turning away.
I hated him so much.