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Home > Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1)(6)

Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1)(6)
Author: Kasie West

My chest tightens, and I try to ignore it. I glance over her shoulder to where some people are throwing rocks at the Compound wall, creating a ripple in the mountain illusion. “No. Lots of movies and books end that way. The plot point is obviously based on some sort of reality.”

“Your parents aren’t getting back together. And you read entirely too much. It’s not good for your brain. I hereby ban you from all books.”

I look down to hide my stinging eyes.

“Oh no,” Laila says, her voice now serious. “You really thought your parents might get back together?”

“No, of course not.” I’d been holding out hope, but she was right, there’s no chance. A guy dancing slams into Laila’s back and she growls at him, then takes my hand and pulls me away from the crowd and behind some trees.

She wraps her arms around me. “I’m so sorry, Addie.”

The words make me realize just how final the situation is. My heart aches, and my throat is sore. “It’s good for you,” she says, rubbing my back. “Just let it out.”

I can’t. My emotions feel lodged in my chest and push against my lungs, making it hard to breathe. “I’m fine, really.”

“You’ll get through this,” she says. “I’m so glad you stayed with your mom. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

A deep voice behind me says, “Am I interrupting something?”

I look over to see Bobby standing by a group of trees, staring between the two of us. He has a satisfied look on his face as though he just solved some mystery. “Had I known, I would’ve never asked you to the dance. You should’ve just told me you were already taken.” He nods his head toward Laila. “Mind if I watch?”

Laila’s face hardens, and she whips around to face him. “Listen, we already know you’re a perv, no need to prove it again. Get out of here.”

He raises his hands in surrender. “Fine. Fine. I’m leaving.” He walks backward through a tree trunk.

Laila walks over and hits the tree as if that will somehow hurt him. “Idiot.”

“You don’t think he really thinks …” I trail off, and let my finger float back and forth between Laila and me.

“Please. He’s just trying to soften the blow of your rejection. Come on. Let’s go back to the party.”

CHAPTER 6

NOR-Mal-i-za-tion: v. reduced to a normal state My dad walks in the house after five on Friday afternoon. “I’m so sorry, Addie.”

I melt off my chair and land in a pile on the floor.

“That bad?”

I roll onto my back. “I know no one, I have no car, and you’ve abandoned me.”

“You didn’t want to watch the movie I rented?” He points to the TV and this huge, boxy player he set up the night before.

“I couldn’t figure out how to work that stupid thing. There’s just a bunch of buttons with triangles and squares.”

He laughs. “No voice activation here. I’ll teach you how to use it later. It’s not that hard. But right now I have a peace offering.” Out of his back pocket he pulls two strips of paper.

I sit up. “What are those?”

“Tickets. Your new high school has a football game tonight.”

At this point even football sounds decent. “What time?”

“Kickoff’s at seven.” He sits on the couch.

I plop down next to him, sideways, one of my feet nudging my dad’s leg as it settles on the cushion.

He pulls on the toe of my sock, causing it to form a loose pucker above my big toe. Then he stares at me, waiting to see how long I’ll leave it like that. I count to twenty to prove that it doesn’t bother me at all.

“You’re a nuisance,” I say, fixing my sock.

He laughs, then pats my ankle. “So, how is your cover story going? Are you going to be okay for school on Monday?”

“I think I’m good.”

“Need me to quiz you?”

“Sure.”

He squares his shoulders and raises his chin, assuming what I guess he thinks is a teacher’s pose. “Welcome to class, Addie Coleman. Where did you move from?”

“Jackson, Texas. It’s about five hours southeast of here. Half an hour from San Antonio. If you went there you’d find a tiny town surrounded by a mountain range. That mountain range is actually just an illusion though. It’s really a sprawling city full of people with mind powers.” I laugh. “How’s that?”

He doesn’t crack a smile.

“Oh, come on. It was a joke.”

“Addie. That’s not something to joke about. You can’t tell anyone about the Compound or your powers. Not anyone. The Compound Containment Committee works very hard to keep the psychologically advanced a secret. And if they ever found out you told someone …”

“Yeah. I know.” Of course I did. We had a major debriefing in the Tower before we were allowed to leave. But in a way I thought it was more talk than action. I didn’t think my dad would be so strict. Of course I’m not going to announce my ability at school, but realizing I can never tell anyone … ever … is hard. I’ve never had to lie about who I am before.

My dad still has his stern look on. I nudge his leg with my foot. “Loosen up. I’m not going to tell anyone. Finish the quiz. Ask me another question.”

“Okay. Why did you move here?”

“My dad’s work.” I start to say as a human lie detector but stop myself. He is obviously not in the mood to joke about it. The jokes were helping me feel better and without them the seriousness of the situation settles onto my shoulders.

“What do you like to do for fun?” he asks, still in teacher mode.

“Read … mostly.”

“Good. You’ll do just fine.”

“You think that’s all they’ll ask?”

“I’m sure you’ll get more questions, but it sounds like you have your story down.” His lips pucker into his concerned face. “Are you okay?”

No. “Yes, I’m fine. This is just so new to me. That’s all.”

I know he doesn’t believe me. He is the lie detector after all, but still he says, “You’ll feel better once you start school and realize the cover story isn’t a big deal.”

“Yeah, probably. I’ll go get ready for the football game.”

I shut myself in the bathroom and lean against the counter. My ability had been my entire life. It Presented earlier than most—at the beginning of the sixth grade. But even before that, from the time I was little, my mom was constantly assessing my strengths, testing my mind patterns, seeing what I was drawn toward. Without my ability, I’m not sure who I am.

I dig out my phone from my pocket and dial Laila. On the second ring she picks up.

“Hey, what’s up?” she says.

“I have to pretend like I’m average.”

“The horror!” she says in faux offense.

“It is horrible. You know what this means, right? Everybody is going to think I’m … Normal. My ability is what makes me halfway cool. I’m nobody without it.”

“Oh, please. You aren’t average—with or without your ability.”

I lower the toilet lid and sit down. “What am I supposed to talk to people about? The weather? I already tried that and it went horribly. I’m doomed.”

“Did you hear what I just said?”

“Yes, but I don’t believe you because you only know the me with my ability. You haven’t seen the me without my ability in a long time. The me without my ability is boring, whiny, and plain.”

“The you with your ability is pretty whiny as well.”

“Not helping.” I pull on the string hanging from the blinds beside me and they raise with a clatter, making me jump. After tugging on the bottom a few times, I give up, not remembering how to put them back down again.

“So let me get this straight. If I didn’t have an ability, you wouldn’t like me?”

I sigh. “Of course I’d like you. But that’s because you’re outspoken, bossy, and don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

“You just made me sound like a total witch.”

“I know, but let’s not get sidetracked. This is my meltdown.”

“Addie, come on, you usually don’t care what anyone else thinks either. What’s going on?”

“I don’t care when people think I’m an antisocial, controlling bookworm because that’s what I am. It’s when they interpret me wrong that I have a problem.”

She gives a short burst of laughter. “Well, I’m sure you’ll prove yourself to be just what you are soon enough. I gotta run. I’m getting ready to go out.”

I pull the cell phone away from my ear to check the time. “Yeah, me too. Football game. Actually I’d better go take a shower.”

“Wait. You’re going to a football game?”

“My dad’s taking me.”

“Wow. Well, that’s not going to help your image.”

“Ha-ha.”

“I’m proud of you. Find the student section and make some friends.”

I wish she were going with me, and I think about blubbering this to her in an ever-so-dignified manner but settle with, “I’ll try.”

My dad and I sit on the cold cement benches of the stadium as we watch the game. It’s a lot louder than I remember. The crunching of helmets and the cheering of the crowd echo through the air. The moon hangs over the stadium, a sliver in the sky. I try to remember the last time I’ve seen the moon anything but full.

“Is it disappointing?” my dad asks.

“Not at all,” I answer quickly, and then realize I’m not sure if he’s talking about the moon or the game. I decide the answer applies to both.

“Addie, why don’t you go sit in the student section? It looks like they’re having a lot more fun.”

I look over to where a whole section of high school students are cheering and waving signs. Some have even painted their bodies in the school colors. I wonder how they can be so excited without Mood Controllers rallying their emotions. My dad nudges my shoulder with his.

“I don’t know anybody.”

“And that’s never going to change unless you try.”

“I don’t want to leave you here alone.”

He chuckles. “I’m a big boy.”

The night, which has turned quite cold considering how hot the day was, sends a shiver down my spine. After another nudge, I stand and walk over. My dad always knows when to push and when to back off. I needed that push.

The student section is pretty full, so I squeeze my way down several rows. Faces that hold no history for me flash by, their most prominent features lingering in my mind for a moment or two—bright red hair, a large nose, green eyes, a gap-toothed smile. Finally, I find an empty seat next to a guy wearing cowboy boots and a wool-lined jean jacket. His hands are shoved in his pockets, and he watches the game intently.

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