Read Common Ground (The Common Ground Trilogy Book 1) Online
Authors: Barry Chaison
“I know,” she said delicately, pulling out a maroon ULV sweatshirt. “I know. But, Woodward did make a good point Zoe.”
“I can’t believe this!” I said, jumping up from my bed. “If anyone should be pissed about what Professor Woodward said, it’s you! How can you stand here and actually believe this nonsense?”
“It’s easy Zoe,” she shrugged. “Woodward made it pretty clear and Liam himself told you. You have the ability to see for yourself if he is guilty or not. Why not just use your power and check? That way, you’ll know for sure and we can move forward.”
She continued to calmly unpack her bag, while I stood there stupefied. Had everyone I’d known gone insane?
“Why not?” I asked sarcastically. “Why would I possibly want to relive anything from last night? That was the worst night of my life! For hours, I had no idea where you were, who was with you, or what they were doing to you. I thought you were dead and I never want to have to experience that ever again.”
“But Zoe, you can travel back in time!” she exclaimed, pushing her underwear drawer shut. “You can clear his name in a heartbeat!”
“Don’t you get it?” I snapped at her. “I don’t want to travel back in time! I hate what I am!”
“Well if it wasn’t for what you are, I’d be dead right now!” she shot back.
I slouched back onto my bed, surprised by Annie’s moxie. The reality that her life was going to be in constant danger until Steph, Liam and, ultimately, Ignacious were all taken care of scared me.
“Look,” Annie said easily, sitting down next to me. “You have these special gifts that everyone else can only dream about and no matter what you think, it’s not a curse. Besides, you heard what everyone said tonight. If my parents believe what Woodward is saying, then there’s gotta be some truth to it right?”
“But I couldn’t even keep you safe from Steph and Liam, two people that were around every day this semester,” I muttered softly, staring at the ground. “How am I supposed to protect you from Ignacious, who is a million times worse than those two?”
“First, that’s assuming Liam is bad, Zoe, and there’s only one way you’ll find that out for sure. Second, Woodward is still around. Weren’t you telling me earlier today that he’s like the good version of Ignacious? If that’s true, then aren’t we going to be okay as long as Woodward is around?”
“But that’s just it Ann,” I said, lifting my head. “He’s not going to be around forever. You heard him tonight. Annabelle is with him everywhere he goes and as long as that’s the case, I can’t possibly put her life in danger too.”
“Well, you’re immortal, right?” she asked, sounding hopeful. “I mean, as long as you don’t have sex, Ignacious can’t hurt you.”
“That’s not what I’m afraid of,” I said, barely able to say the words. “Because of Steph, he knows how important you are to me and will use you to get to me. It’s my fault that your life is in danger.”
“Look at the bright side of this,” she said. “They’ve already tried and failed. You stopped them! That has to count for something.”
I smiled weakly. “Some things never change, huh? Always the optimist.”
“Who else is going to be?” she joked, standing back up. “You may be able to fly, disappear and travel through time, but I have a power that you still don’t.”
“Oh?” I chuckled. “What’s that?”
“Confidence,” she replied smoothly, tossing her green sweater at my head.
She was standing at her dresser with her bare back facing me. I had barely realized that she was changing for bed, but as my eyes studied the deep bruises that ran down her back, a distinct sight caught my eye.
“Hey Ann,” I said cautiously. “Come back over here for a sec.”
She turned and walked across the room towards my bed. When she was standing just a few feet from my face, I narrowed my eyes and stared at a tiny brown spot that was barely visible above her underwear.
“Um, Zoe?” Annie asked hesitantly. “What are you doing?”
“Just a sec,” I replied, not taking my eyes away from her hip. The longer I stared at the spot, the more familiar it looked.
“You’re really freaking me out! What is it?” she said more forcefully.
It was at that moment that everything fell into place. Liam was right. A small half-moon shaped birthmark was embedded on Annie’s hip. It was the exact same mark on the exact same spot that Liam had shown me earlier that morning. I continued to stare at the mark, unable to think of anything else.
“Zoe?” Annie asked again. “Are you alright? What’s wrong?”
“Huh?” I asked, finally lifting my gaze from her waist.
“Is everything alright?”
“Oh,” I stuttered, trying to regain my composure. “Yeah, everything is fine. I was just looking at that weird birthmark on your hip.”
“What is it with you and this birthmark?” she rolled her eyes. “You were staring at it when we went to the water park too! I think all those powers are making you crazy…”
“Not crazy, just exhausted,” I chuckled uneasily.
Annie was still in the dark about birthmarks, links and their significance in Common Ground. And even though everything Liam had said came true, I still couldn’t buy into the whole birthmark deal. Just the fact that I wasn’t even supposed to have a link yet, but was still closer to Annie than anyone else was one thing. Annie being Liam’s most important human in the world was another.
“Well, I think the best thing right now would be for us to go to sleep,” Annie said, jumping into her bed. “It’s been a crazy 24 hours.”
“That’s the best idea I’ve heard in a long time,” I yawned, as my eyes suddenly became very heavy.
Annie, who had changed, fixed her hair, and gotten into bed in what seemed like one fell swoop, leaned on her right arm and faced me.
“Hey Zoe, I’ve got one more crazy question to ask you.”
“Hmm?” I asked, hardly able to keep my eyes open.
“If Woodward thinks that Steph disguised herself as Liam, doesn’t it make you wonder who else she was or will be impersonating? I mean, how are we going to know if she’s not Hope next semester? Or Emily? Or Sean?”
The thought of Steph being anyone, at any time, made my skin crawl. I couldn’t help but start to wonder about all of the weak moments I’d had with Liam. Was it really him all of those times we talked? Did he really kiss me? There was nothing I wanted more than to believe Liam was guilty, if only to make my life easier. Steph’s betrayal was one thing, but the thought of Liam betraying me and Annie was another. Even against my stingiest conscious, I’d let him into my life. For the first time, I’d let someone else into my world, and it ended up costing me.
“Professor Woodward said that he’s got a plan for that, so I wouldn’t worry about it right now,” I said, doing my best to hide any trace of sadness in my voice.
“Well, I hope it’s something good because next semester isn’t going to be any fun if I have to worry about Steph being my Economics professor,” she yawned.
I laughed uneasily, while my mind was invaded with thoughts of Liam. Was I hesitant to go back because I didn’t want to know the truth? If Liam really was innocent, what would that mean? How long could I keep what happened between Liam and me a secret from Annie?
Annie said goodnight, leaned over and turned off the light, leaving our room in complete darkness and me alone with my thoughts. Within seconds, the entire room was emanating a faint silvery glow while my eyes focused directly on a spot above my bed on the ceiling. My mind began to wander, trying to find any silver lining in the darkness that was growing in my world. It didn’t take long for me to find exactly what I was looking for.
A light snore filled the silent air, bringing me back to reality. The sound of Annie sleeping peacefully, able to put everything that had happened to her out of mind, put all of my issues with Steph, Liam, Professor Woodward and Ignacious into perspective. I was finally able to understand the jealousy that angels and demons felt towards humans. Their capacity to continue living in the most difficult of times made them stronger and more powerful than anyone from my world. My lips spread into a satisfied smile while my eyes slowly closed, leading me into a long, deep sleep.