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Authors: Amanda McGee

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BOOK: Extraordinary
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“Both maybe?”

Of course, this led Blaze to believe we were ready to kick it up a notch so he suggested we rotate scenarios with him and Tristan.

“I choose Blaze!” Sadie yelped.

Her sly wink was only noticed by me, just as she meant for it to be. I knew what she was up to. The cheesy grin plastered across her face said she was rather proud of herself.

Watching Sadie and Blaze wrestle across the yard was quite a sight. Blaze was twice her size but she fought with him like an equal. Whether he was taking it easy on her or not, the girl was scrappy.

My tussles with Tristan were equally as entertaining but in a completely different manner. I was too bogged down in enjoying defeat to truly fight back. Once he restrained me the first time I couldn’t imagine anything better than losing and my competitive nature gave way to my hormones.

His striking face, encircled by sunlight, smiled down at me. His hands pinned my arms to the ground. I pretended to struggle under the weight of his body. I could easily have reversed his hold but I saw no fun in that scenario. Tristan laughed as I wiggled and kicked my legs into the air, having no effect on his positioning.

He released my arms but hovered over top of me. My body relaxed, the squirming subsided, believing our scuffle to be over. A sneaky grin spread across his face. I tensed up as he began tickling me. Like a caterpillar in a swimming pool, I wriggled and writhed, helpless under Tristan’s fingers.

It all became too much to withstand. My laughter turned into a silent cackle. My urge to cry out was too strong for my vocal cords to handle. Suddenly, he stopped. Tears streamed from my eyes and into my hair. I giggled despite the assault having ended, but Tristan did too. For a moment we were a pair of normal kids in strong like with each other.

Okay, sort of love. Whatever.

The longer our “battles” went on the more I began to think about losing him. Of course, my subconscious could not simmer down long enough for me to have a good time. I felt a forceful flare of resentment. I no longer wanted to be defeated I wanted to win. I wanted to erase the sting and quiet the unnerving thoughts. I sprang from the ground and gave the fight all I had.

All the hurt and regret of the past, present, and future churned inside of me. Focused on something other than playing helpless, I gave a swift kick to the back of his knees. His weight shifted and I pounced, pushing him further back and pinning him when his body touched the ground.

“Way to go, Alex!” Sadie yelled from across the lawn.

I wasn’t as excited. I looked down at Tristan who happily accepted my victory. The crushing burden of what my life had become caused my body to tremble. I had never felt more empowered, but no amount of magic could erase the aches I had experienced and would soon encounter. Though I said nothing, Tristan’s eyes told me he understood.

“I think that’s enough, guys,” he said, lifting us both to our feet.

Tristan escorted me to the house with his arm wrapped around my waist. I could hear the groans of Sadie and Blaze behind me, disappointed that our wrestling matches were over.

“No one said it would be this hard,” I mumbled.

“It isn’t always,” he responded. “You were just dealt a lot in a short amount of time.”

I
shuffled my way to the shower, hoping to wash off some of the dirt, grime, and gloom. Not even thirty-minutes under steaming hot water could fix what ailed me. Exiting the bathroom I found another pile of tidily folded clothing on the dresser. I was too exhausted to resume my wondering of where Tristan got them or to even put them on. Instead, I collapsed onto the bed wearing only a towel.

I awoke with a jolt to find that my hair was no longer wet but my feet were still planted on the floor. My body and mind were so weary that I had fallen asleep halfway off the bed.

My accidental nap was enough to reboot my brain. I felt refreshed. I wondered where everyone was but the hurried whispers and frantic shuffling throughout the house answered my question. I didn’t know which was worse: practicing fighting techniques with your Marine brother who made no distinction between you and a man twice your size or what was undoubtedly awaiting me outside this room.

I slithered off the bed like I was plummeting down a twisted water slide; only this ride ended with me sitting on the cold hardwood floor.

A few deep breaths and a quick wardrobe change and I opened the door just enough to peek down the hall. My hope was for a glimpse of what was in store for me but alas, there was nothing. I saw nothing. I heard nothing. Their discussions ceased, as they, no doubt, laid in wait, ready to pounce. I tiptoed down the corridor that felt like it had increased in length, carefully placing one foot in front of the other so as not to be detected.

Pausing for a moment, I spotted a photograph in the hallway that I hadn’t noticed before. A handsome man with a smile that read of his immense joy stood behind his stunning wife. On her lap was a young boy.

Tristan’s parents. Baby Tristan
!

Tristan looked to be about two or three years old but I would recognize those brown eyes anywhere. He sat undistracted on his mother’s lap, perfectly content and smiling. Their faces were aglow with the love they felt for one another.

Faint whispers drew my attention back to kitchen and what was waiting for me around the corner.

To understand my hesitation one would first need to be informed of my top two complaints. For someone who could find fault in nearly everything, it came as quite a shock that I was able to form a definitive list.

The two things I dreaded most in this world were failure and surprises.

Surprise! Your mom died and you failed to save her. Surprise! You have siblings that you failed to know about. Surprise! Here’s the guy you love that you will fail to keep.

“Surprise! Happy Birthday!” They all screamed the second I entered the kitchen.

Then there was this kind.

I was under the impression that I would be skipping my birthday this year. It was ludicrous for me to assume that life-or-death situations were enough to deter the celebration my nineteenth year of existence.

“Were you surprised?” Sadie asked. “I can’t tell. Your expression hasn’t changed.”

“I’m in shock, Sade. You caught me off guard.”

There was no sense in ruining her fun.

“I know it’s not exactly ideal given everything that is happening,” she said. “You still deserve to have your day and we all could use a break from the dramatics.”

Her excitement was once again contagious. My cynicism gave way to appreciation.

It marked my first birthday celebration without my Mom. It was also my first with Sadie and Blaze. It was truly bittersweet.

Mom would have loved to be a part of this. She often went overboard on my birthday parties. We never invited anyone but Kate, but the way Mom planned and prepared you would have thought it was the party of the century. She insisted on making the cake herself. Birthdays one through five included some rather sketchy looking culinary creations but she got the hang of it by the time I was old enough to know the difference.

“This is really nice of you guys,” I said. “But I think a birthday party is the last thing we need.”

“That’s what I said,” Blaze said. “No offense but let’s celebrate your birthday after we don’t die and all.”

“But what if we do?” Sadie asked. “What if we don’t make it out of here? Do you want our last moments to be spent worrying?”

The room fell silent. None of us knew the appropriate response. It seemed odd to throw a party as our lives hung in the balance but weren’t we supposed to live each day to the fullest? I imagined that whoever came up with that line did not account for situations like ours.

“Can we at least have cake?” Sadie asked.

“Sure,” I said.

Sadie clapped her hands together, pleased that for a moment we did not have to dwell on the doom and gloom parts of our new lives.

“Since we couldn’t go out, I had to get creative,” Sadie said, darting into the living room.

“By the way, how did you know it was my birthday?”

“She looked at your driver’s license,” Blaze whispered.

A few seconds later, Sadie bolted back into the kitchen as if she was afraid she would miss something important otherwise. In her hand was the biggest, most elaborately decorated cake I had ever seen.

Three layers, each at least eight inches high, stacked atop one another from biggest to smallest. Happy Birthday, Alex! was written in hot pink icing around the bottom layer and accented with purple and green swirls of varying sizes. The middle layer was adorned with blue and pink polka dots, also of varying circumferences. The top, and possibly most detailed of all the layers, soared nearly a foot over Sadie and featured multi-colored icing swirls, dots, stars, and hearts. Nineteen sparkler wands were placed on top but thankfully, for Sadie's sake, were not lit.

"Creative?" I asked. "Sadie, that is ridiculous! How did you make that?"

"A girl never reveals her secrets."

Who knew baking was such a top-secret operation?

"Tristan did a spell," Blaze coughed.

Sadie stomped her tiny foot but the excitement of the moment could not be disturbed even if Blaze did rat her out.

"She told me what she needed, I gave it to her," Tristan said. "She still had to do most of it herself. The vision was all Sadie."

"Well, I guess it only makes sense that I'd have a cake made from magic. Thank you, Sadie. I love it."

My appreciation was not at all forced. The truth was her gift was perfect. In a time of uncertainty and impending battles, Sadie’s present was heartfelt and could not have been easy, magic or not. She had reminded me to be grateful for the good things no matter how small they might have appeared.

If we were going to die tomorrow, I wanted to go grateful not bitter. Death was frightening but not as much as death without happiness. I was willing to bet that Sadie would go with a smile and Blaze would go with no fear, my last moment should be more significant than a pout.

“Light ‘em up, Blaze!” Sadie exclaimed.

“No, that’s not necessary,” I said.

“I agree, Sadie,” Blaze added. “How about we light them outside in a bit?”

Sadie stood tall despite her idea being vetoed. She did not crumble or whine but rather gave a stern nod of concession. She never ceased to amaze me.  

“Well I have a gift for you,” Tristan cut-in. “It’s from James.”

I was surprised when he handed me a small bottle of purple liquid.

“Purple is my favorite color but what is it?”

“As time goes on your bodies will weaken and continue to worsen with each day. This will give you a boost. He had me mix it up for you while he gave you lessons the other day.”

Oh, so he really wasn’t hanging with her.

“Really?” Blaze asked. “An energy drink?”

“You sure it won’t turn us into frogs?” Sadie asked.

“I assure you that will not happen,” Tristan said. “It is very strong so just a drop or two a day. Plus, you might want to make it last since we can’t be sure of how long you’ll be here.”

“Hopefully just until tomorrow,” Blaze said.

Again, the room fell silent. Tomorrow would be the day our fates would be decided. We would either be victorious and return home, possibly at the cost of Tristan’s life, or we would die trying. Suddenly, the excitement of a birthday party seemed like a waste of energy.

“Let’s go outside,” Tristan said. “It’s a nice night.”

We followed him onto the patio that was definitely being put to good use. Blaze lit a sparkler for each of us to appease Sadie for a few minutes. She buzzed around, waving the dazzling wand in front of her. Although my birthday was not much of a celebration, I still allowed myself a wish. 

I wish I could enjoy the good as it comes, enjoy what it is front of me.

I plunked down in my chair of choice and waited for the glittering display to fade into smoke. My eyes drifted upwards, following the gray haze as it floated away with the evening breeze. When the smoke cleared, I saw Tristan select the seat directly across from me. Of course, the universe loved irony.

Okay, universe, I hear you.

“There is really no way to judge your readiness,” Tristan said. “We can’t know what is in store for us. You are all well-trained and quite powerful, whether you realize it or not.”

“I think we are prepared physically but we have to be certain we are mentally prepared for any surprises,” Blaze said.

“Oh good, more surprises,” I whispered to myself.

“I’m just curious where Katerina is,” Sadie said. “I mean we’re here, why hasn’t she come for us?”

“If I had to speculate I’d say this was her plan all along,” Tristan answered. “She is letting you grow weaker.”

“What I don’t understand is why she brought us here?” I asked. “I mean, she couldn’t have taken our powers at home? Why drag us all the way here to sit around?”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Tristan said. “From what you’ve told me I’m willing to bet you all caught her off-guard. She didn’t know your mother died so she arrived and found you all instead.”

BOOK: Extraordinary
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ads

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