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Home > Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1)(7)

Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1)(7)
Author: Kasie West

“Excuse me, are you saving this?”

He looks up. Long lashes surround chocolate brown eyes. “No, have a seat,” he says in the Southern accent that prevails here.

I sit down. “Thanks. And can we just get this out of the way? Your eyelashes make mine want to commit suicide from shame.” Yeah. I’m not very good at small talk.

He laughs.

“I’m sure you’ve heard that before.”

“Never put like that …” He looks around. “You here alone?”

“Well, sort of. My dad’s over there.” I nod my head toward my dad. “You?”

“No. See those idiots right there?” He points to the front railing, where several guys stand shirtless with painted chests and wigs on. “Those are my friends.”

All his friends are making fools of themselves, and he’s not. Right away that says almost everything I need to know about him: He’s not a follower, he can make up his own mind, and he’s perfectly okay with sitting alone. “Why aren’t you participating?”

“Because a coat of paint doesn’t conceal my layer of fat very well.”

I give him a quick once-over. He looks like he’s in good shape, but it’s hard to tell with his jacket on. I glance back at his friends. “It’s not doing them any favors either,” I note.

He smiles. “Plus, it’s cold tonight.”

“Your layer of fat is supposed to help with that.”

“True.” A whistle sounds, and he turns his attention back to the field. The quarterback snaps the ball and is almost immediately tackled in a hard hit near the thirty-yard line. I suck air between my teeth.

“I’m Trevor, by the way,” he says, now that the play is over.

“Addie.”

“Addie?”

“Yes, short for Addison.”

“Do you go to this school, Addison?”

The fact that he has to ask makes me realize it must be a very big high school. I may not have known everyone’s name at my old school, but I would easily recognize a new face. “My father and I just moved here. I start school on Monday.”

“Ah, very good. Welcome to Dallas.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re a senior?”

“Junior. You?”

“Senior.” His gaze goes back to the game. My attention is drawn to the sidelines, where a person dressed up in a large cougar costume runs circles around the cheerleaders. We have a mascot at Lincoln High too—a lightning bolt. And thanks to the Perceptives, I’ve heard most home games include an actual lightning show (probably to divert the attention from the boringness happening on the field).

I cringe when the play ends in a bone-crushing pileup.

“You don’t like football?” Trevor asks.

“Actually, I like this kind better. It’s more exciting.”

“More exciting than …”

“Um, than flag football,” I say, proud I remembered another version so quickly. This whole business of not letting things about the Compound slip is going to be harder than I thought. It had been my entire life, after all.

“You’ve watched a game of flag football before?”

“Well, no, but this is more exciting than that, you have to admit.”

“A lot of things are more exciting than flag football.”

“True.”

The rest of the game passes in comfortable silence interspersed with a few comments. By the end I’ve adopted his closed-off position of hands in my pockets, shoulders hunched against the wind. The final whistle sounds, and his friends rush toward him, a rowdy mass of painted bodies. I try to slip away, but one of them stops me with a loud, “Hi, who are you?”

I start to answer, but Trevor is faster. “Guys, this is Addison. She’s new here.”

“Just Addie is fine,” I say, but my voice is swallowed by their boisterous hellos.

He goes on to list several names. To remember names, I usually advance my memory by relating the person’s name to one of their physical features, but since theirs are covered in paint, I won’t remember who is who after tonight. “Nice to meet you. I’m sure I’ll see you on Monday.” Again, I attempt to leave. The same guy who stopped me before—Rowan, with red stripes of paint down his face—stops me again by saying, “We all party at Trevor’s after the game. You should come.”

I really don’t want to hang out with a bunch of Norm guys I don’t know. I check the time on my cell phone. Nine thirty. Still too early to claim tiredness or curfew restrictions.

“Didn’t you say your dad wanted you home early tonight to help unpack?” Trevor says, surprising me. Was my body language that obvious?

“Yes, he did. I’m supposed to meet him now, in fact. Next time?” I say to Rowan.

“For sure.”

I back away slowly. Thanks, I mouth to Trevor when the others get distracted by a shoving match.

He nods. “See you Monday.”

CHAPTER 7

PA-RAl-o-gize: v. to draw illogical conclusions based on assumptions I stare at the two doors. They both look so real. But I know one of them is an illusion that a Perceptive has made me imagine. When I figure out which one is real, I’m supposed to walk through it to Mrs. Stockbridge, who is on the other side, probably with her tablet already scrolled to her grade book. Imagining the big F she’s about to type there is not helping my concentration. I need a good grade in this class since I’ve been bombing Thought Placement. I wonder if she’ll highlight it red to emphasize my failure. I would.

Stop. Concentrate.

In my mind, I scan through the lessons we’ve had on detecting illusions. Inconsistencies in the image. My eyes go back and forth between both doors. They’re identical. Ripples, movement, or haziness on an otherwise solid surface. None. A thinness or transparency to the object. They both seem like perfectly solid pieces of wood to me. My time is running out. Then I see it, a small smudge of black in the center of one door. I smile and step toward the smudge-free door. I reach for the palm scanner, and my hand goes right through it. “Crap.”

After I walk through the right door, Mrs. Stockbridge clucks her tongue and types something into her tablet. The clip attempting to tame her frizzy red hair has been unsuccessful in its efforts, leaving several strands sticking out at odd angles. If I were a Perceptive, like she is, I wonder if I would try to make others see me at my best all the time.

“Reasoning?” she asks.

I almost answer my own hypothetical question but stop when I remember she can’t read my mind. “What?”

“Why did you pick the door on the left?”

“Oh. There was a black smudge on the real door. I thought that meant it was fake,” I admit.

“Sometimes perfection reveals the lie, Addie, not the truth,” she says. I nod and wait with the others who have already completed the task.

A memory involuntarily works its way into my mind, filling the corners and taking me back to that moment. I am a little girl of five. My father has taken me on a picnic to a beautiful park near the lake. After picking at my sandwich for a few minutes, I lie back on the blanket. Suddenly thousands of colorful butterflies appear overhead. They gently float downward, twisting and turning, like fluttering leaves. At any moment they will land on and around me. I can almost feel the soft touch of their wings on my skin. With a smile I reach up.

“Addie,” my dad says, “they’re just an illusion.”

I sit up, my brow drawn low. “They’re not. I see them.” They swirl between my dad and me, warping his image.

An old man walks by and smiles. “A gift for the little lady,” he says. My dad waves politely. When he’s gone, along with his butterflies, my dad takes me by the shoulders and points. A single butterfly rests on a flower five feet from us, its plain white wings moving slowly up and down. “That is real, baby. Isn’t it pretty?”

I curl my lip in disappointment. “It’s boring.”

A barking laugh pulls me out of the memory. I glance over my shoulder to where a few girls quickly stop whispering. I shoot them narrow eyes. Am I the only one who failed the stupid door test?

At lunch, Laila gives me one look and says, “What’s wrong?”

We walk toward the outdoor stage—our normal lunchtime hangout—and I give a frustrated grunt. “I failed an Illusion Detection test today.”

“Failure is so relative,” Laila says.

“No. It’s not. You either pass the test or you don’t. There’s nothing relative about it.”

She shrugs. “But you’ve aced all your other ones, so it averages out.” She sits on the cement stage, letting her feet dangle over the side. “So, therefore, it’s relative.” She jerks her head to the side. “Sit down.”

Seeing her so calm makes me think I’ve completely overreacted. I’m prone to do that. I take a deep breath, dig out my lunch from my backpack, and hop up beside her. A semicircle of grass fans out to surround the stage and soon it’s full of people.

As I open my bag of chips, Laila leans forward. “This stage isn’t very high, right?”

What is she talking about? I follow her gaze to the ground. “I guess not.”

“So it wouldn’t hurt too bad if someone got pushed off?”

I look to the left, where several other regulars are lined up along the stage, lunches on their laps, feet dangling. “Who’s getting—” Before I can finish my sentence, she grabs my arm and flings me off the stage. I gasp in shock, wondering what evil plan this act has accomplished. I don’t have to wonder too long when Duke practically trips over me.

“Are you okay?” he asks as I collect my scattered lunch.

“Fine.” I shove my sandwich and chips into my ripped lunch bag and straighten up.

“Addie,” Laila says, feigning concern and jumping down next to me. “Did you get hurt? What happened?” But her “concern” is instantly replaced with a smile for Duke. “Hey, Duke, we didn’t see you.”

More like I didn’t see him. Laila quite obviously saw him from a mile away.

Ray bends over and picks up my water bottle, which had rolled up against his massive foot. Seriously, he has to wear at least a size fifteen. The guy is huge. “Here,” he says, handing it to me.

“Thanks.”

“Where are you two headed?” Laila asks.

Duke points in the general direction of the parking lot. “Off-campus.”

“Really?” Laila says as though this is the biggest coincidence ever. “We were just going to get something from my car. Mind if we walk with you?”

I could murder Laila right now. If only I could get my hands on a weapon—a size-fifteen shoe might work.

“Of course not.”

And of course Laila squeezes herself between Duke and Ray, leaving me with no other option but to walk next to Duke. After only a few steps she has managed to become so engrossed in a quiet conversation with Ray that Duke and I are left in awkward silence.

“Sorry,” I finally say, because unless he’s an idiot, it’s pretty obvious what Laila just did.

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