A Cruel, Cruel Summer
Gazing out the window of the airplane, I can't sit still no matter how hard I try. Of course, I was never one to be able to sit still for too long, but right now it seems next to impossible. I'll see Caitlyn, my absolutely gorgeous girlfriend, in less than an hour. I visited my grandparents in Florida for most of this very long summer, while Caitlyn had been in Virginia Beach, but soon we'll be together again.
"Would you stop that?" my sister, Shelly, demands from the seat beside me.
"You're drumming out the rhythm to the Star Wars theme song on your armrests."
"I was? Sorry," I say. With my thoughts so wrapped up in Caitlyn, I didn't even realize. I glance over at my sister to flash her an apologetic grin. She looks practically green.
"What's the matter with you?" I ask, narrowing my eyes at her sickly facade. "You're not airsick are you?"
"Don't be ridiculous. Of course I'm not airsick."
"Then why do you look like you're about to hurl?"
She swallows hard and averts her gaze from me. She lets some of her long red hair fall over her face. She's hiding, avoiding this conversation.
"What is it, Shells?" I badger.
She sighs, but continues to stare at the back of the seat in front of her, refusing to meet my gaze. I grin and raise my hand a few inches off the armrest. I position my palm so it faces her, and I shoot a quick blast of supercharged air in her direction. My air-pulse wafts her hair away from her face. It looks like she's in the wind of a really large fan.
Hey! No powers! She yells inside my head.
Um... you just used your powers, I think, knowing full well she can read my thoughts.
Yeah, well nobody can tell when I'm using my mindreading powers.
What about your other powers? I reply.
I wasn't using my other powers, she counters.
A wide mischievous grin spreads across my face as I use my levitation ability to lift up out of my seat. I watch Shelly's face with wicked satisfaction, and she glowers at me. She raises her hands in my direction, trying to force my body back down with her telekinesis. We're at a stalemate. She can't push me down, but I can't rise any higher. I'm stuck with about seven inches of open space between my butt and the seat.
Mike, get down, she implores, pushing her words into my mind again.
I will... if you tell me what has you so upset.
I stop using my levitation, but Shelly's telekinesis still pushes me down, so I plop back to the seat much harder than anticipated. The middle-aged woman across the row shoots us an aggravated look. I think we woke her from a midflight nap. I flash her a big grin and she just rolls her eyes.
"All right," I say turning my attention back to Shelly, "what's the matter?"
"Okay," she says with a frown, "I'm worried about seeing Cooper."
"Why? You guys talked on the phone all the time while we were in Florida. I thought everything was good."
"Well, that's just it. We talked on the phone. I haven't seen him in person since...that day."
I know exactly what day Shelly's talking about. The last day of school before summer break when we fought and defeated more than three-dozen demons. Thinking about that day starts my mind down a path leading to the very beginning of the Heroes of the Horde and our powers.
I run the last few months through my thoughts, starting on Halloween last year--our freshman year at Deacon Prep. So much happened since our History teacher, Mr. Thompson, taught us the legend of our high school that day. More than two-hundred years ago, our gigantic first-class prep school was little more than a one room school house--now known as the Log House--run by an Amish community. One night in the Log House, a young girl became possessed by the Horde demon. It earned the name Horde because it wasn't just one demon, but thousands. While under the demonic possession, the little girl exhibited remarkable powers. It also possessed the first person who tried to remove it from the little girl, but Deacon Isaac Yoder finally exorcised the demon. First, Isaac stripped the powers from the demon, then removed it from the two people it possessed. The name of our school's mascot, the Deacon Demons, stems from this legend.
Six of us learned the actual truth in the legend, on a slight rule-breaking binge. We snuck into the Log House and broke a bunch of little alabaster jars, which I assume housed the powers. After our excursion in the Log House, the six of us started manifesting unbelievable powers. These powers, and the desire to hunt down and stop the demons from hurting people, bound our little group together. The six of us became inseparable...except for summering away from each other. I just hope we regain the closeness once school picks up again. My demon fighting friends and I donned the name, The Heroes Of The Horde.
After the massive battle at Jimmy's house, we said good-bye for the summer. Everyone headed off in separate directions. Jimmy went to Boston to spend the summer with his mother. Cooper decided to get a summer job since his parents don't have a ton of money, and tuition at Deacon Prep certainly isn't cheap. Maggie spent her summer as a counselor for church camp.
We didn't see much of each other over the summer. Shelly and I left less than a week after the battle. I only got to spend one day with Caitlyn, and Shelly didn't get a chance to see Cooper at all. Jimmy actually left the day after the battle, and Maggie a week later. Caitlyn and Cooper were around the most, although Cooper worked almost every day. Caitlyn's trip only lasted three weeks, and she's back in Pennsylvania waiting for me to get home.
Before parting ways for the summer, Cooper kissed Shelly...much to my horror. Standing right there, I had to witness one of my best buds making out with my sister. Gross.
Caitlyn told me later she suspected Cooper had a crush on Shelly for a long while. I guess, on one hand, I wanted happiness for my buddy, Cooper, but on the other hand... it was my sister. Bleh!
"Why are you worried about seeing him in person?" I ask.
"He's Cooper...he's my best friend. How am I supposed to treat him like a boyfriend? I'm afraid it's going to feel weird," she confesses.
"You dated Grey for a while and that wasn't weird, was it?"
"Grey wasn't my friend before we dated. He... he wasn't...Cooper," she says with a frown.
"But isn't it a good thing you and Cooper are friends?"
"I don't know. I mean, sure, I like him and everything...it's just gonna be hard. When he kissed me, I was sort of caught up in the moment. Now... I don't know."
I'm not entirely sure I understand what Shelly's saying, but we don't have a lot of time to talk about it. The plane lands and in no time we're meeting Mom at the baggage claim.
"Hey guys! How was your trip?" she asks, hugging each of us in turn. Mom came with us for the first two weeks of the Florida trip, but she headed back home because of work.
"It was really good," Shelly answers.
I just shrug my shoulders.
"Not so good, Mike?" Mom asks.
"It was okay. I just wanted--"
"He wanted to be here with Caitlyn," Shelly says with a laugh.
I punch her hard on the shoulder.
"Don't hit your sister," Mom reprimands. She smiles and adds, "I was thinking about stopping at The Clubhouse for some food on the way home. What do you guys think?"
"That would be great, Mom," Shelly replies, she sounds pretty eager about the prospect.
I try to match Shelly's enthusiasm with a wide grin, but I know my attempt falls short. Normally, I would love a trip to The Clubhouse. It's this cool place with video games, an indoor basketball court, pool tables, dartboards... the works. Sort of like an adult Chucky Cheese. They also make these killer fries, a huge plate full of fresh cut fries smothered in cheese, bacon, and ranch dressing. The fry plate is supposed to feed about four people, but I can usually knock one out by myself. As much as I would love some of the fries right now, I was hoping to go straight home so I could see Caitlyn, but I guess I'll have to eat first.
It's a long drive from Pittsburgh International Airport to The Clubhouse. All during the drive, Mom hammers us with questions about the trip. When we get to The Clubhouse, the parking lot is packed with cars. This place is always busy.
The day is partly cloudy and humid, so stepping out of the car and into the parking lot greets us with a wave of hot, sticky air. With only about a week left until school starts, I'll spend most of my time at football practice. Coach gets pretty mad at me each year since I miss most of the summer conditioning due to my Florida trip but, even with missing the practices last year, I still ended up as the starting Free Safety. That's the defensive guy who runs around the field like a crazy person.
We enter The Clubhouse, and Mom talks to the hostess. She says we're with the "Marks Party" which I find weird because why would the hostess be expecting us? The hostess walks us through the noisy dining area to a big round table in the back of the room next to a row of lit-up dartboards. The sight of the large group of people already sitting at our table brings a genuine smile to my face.
"Surprise! Welcome home," everyone shouts. I don't get a chance to look at the table's occupants because my attention zeroes in on one person: Caitlyn.
She's on her feet and in front of me in a second. She throws her arms around my neck and I weave my arms around her waist, lifting her into a warm hug. I give her a quick kiss--my Mom is standing right beside us, after all, so I'm not about to indulge in a big lip-lock session.
"Did you do all this?" I ask my mom as soon as I release Caitlyn from the hug.
"No, Caitlyn did it," Mom replies with smile. I can tell she really likes Caitlyn.
I turn and grin at my girlfriend, her face looks even more beautiful now that she's beaming. "Thanks, this is awesome."
"Yeah, Caitlyn," Shelly chimes in. "Thanks."
"Well, I'll let you kids have fun. I'll be over at the bar," Mom says, nodding her head in the direction of the giant circular bar in the middle of the restaurant. I look over at the bar and see Maggie's mom already sitting there.
When I turn back to the table, I finally take a good look at everyone. It's all the members of the Heroes Of The Horde. I smile at each of them as I take my seat and think about the amazing powers they received last year.
First, is Caitlyn. She can move between our realm and the demon realm. I have no idea how scary it actually is for her, but her abilities can alert us to demons in the area. On the last day of school during the epic battle, Caitlyn's powers enhanced by leaps and bounds. Somehow, now, when she slips into the demon realm, she returns with this amazing red lighting, which can zap a demon to ash in a split second.
Shelly gained the ability to read minds and push her thoughts into the heads of others. She can also move things with her mind.
My sister's best friend, Maggie Floyd, picked up some really cool powers. She sees the spirit of a person. It comes in handy if someone is possessed by a demon. As her powers grew, she developed heat vision. Plus, every now and then she draws amazing pictures, predicting where demons will be in the future.
Cooper, Shelly's other best friend, and now her sort-of boyfriend, has super strength and is seemingly indestructible.
That's when I realize my best friend Jimmy--who has the power to create and throw fireballs--is missing from the table.
"Where's Jimmy?" I ask.
"Not here yet," Caitlyn says through clenched teeth.
I'm about to ask her why she seems angry, but my attention drifts to the awkward interaction between Cooper and my sister. He's standing in front of her with his hands nervously shoved in his pockets. She's looking down at the ground, hiding behind her hair. They mutter an embarrassed, almost inaudible greeting and sit down.
I feel badly for Shelly. I know she wants things to work out with Cooper, but if they can't even buck up enough fortitude to say hi to each other, I don't see how that's going to happen.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Caitlyn and I are acting as if we didn't miss a beat over the summer. We're holding hands under the table and I can't keep my eyes off her. She looks fantastic. Her long, silky, blonde hair is loose, cascading down her back in soft waves. She's wearing tight black leggings and an oversized soft pink t-shirt.
I'm thankful we've learned how to keep Shelly from reading our minds; otherwise she would be getting a load full of just how pretty I think my girlfriend is. We discovered Shelly isn't exactly reading a person's every single thought. She really can only hear their interior monologue. So, if I think about how good-looking Caitlyn is it's okay, but if I actually say in my mind: "Man, my girlfriend is smokin' hot!" Shelly'll hear it.
Thanks Mike, I already know you think Caitlyn's hot, Shelly's annoyed voice sounds in my head.
"So what's been going on?" Shelly asks in a low voice, after rolling her eyes at our silent conversation. We know she's not asking everyone about their summer, she's asking about demonic activity.
"Things have been light," Maggie says picking up on Shelly's code. "Cooper and I battled a few over the summer, but nothing to worry about."
Shelly nods. "Any news about the--"
"Hey." A drawn-out, nonchalant voice snags our attention away from Shelly. It's Jimmy.
"Nice of you to show up," Caitlyn says, not bothering to hide her annoyance. It's no wonder she's annoyed. Attached to Jimmy's hip is his on-again-off-again girlfriend, Stephanie Farland. Apparently, at this moment, they're on-again.
"Hi, Mike!" Stephanie swoops down behind me and plants a sticky, lip-gloss enhanced, kiss on my cheek. Caitlyn's nostrils flare.
As I try to smear Stephanie's lip-gloss off my face, I realize she didn't bother to greet anybody else. Why did I get the special sticky kiss? As Jimmy and Stephanie sit down, Stephanie instantly starts talking. She's yammering on like a monkey, and I stop paying attention within thirty seconds. One look at Jimmy's glossed over expression makes me realize he's not paying attention either. I also realize our demon conversation will have to wait for another time. We certainly won't talk about it with Stephanie at the table.
After we eat--of course, I ate the giant plate of smothered fries all by myself--we break away from our table to hit up the games. I only get a few minutes with Caitlyn before Stephanie pulls her away from me to gain a bathroom companion. Why do girls have to travel in packs to take a leak? I spot Shelly, Maggie, and Cooper deeply involved in a game of darts, so I walk back to our table where Jimmy is sitting.
"Pool?" I ask him.
He nods, and we make our way across The Clubhouse to the pool tables. Jimmy's much better at pool than I am. He's got his own table in his mansion. Jimmy's dad is the wealthiest person I know, and so his humongous house is filled with all the bells and whistles, but I know Jimmy would trade it all to live with his mom.
"Back with Stephanie?" I ask him as he racks the balls.
He shrugs, "Yeah, I guess. She's hot."
I know Jimmy doesn't like Stephanie. In fact, I think she annoys the crap out of him. I can't figure out why he's with her. Maybe being with her is better than being alone. I don't know, but I do know Jimmy. I can tell by his flippant responses whenever I bring up Stephanie he'd rather not talk about it.
"How was your summer?" I switch topics hoping this one will be better received.
"Same old, same old."
Nope, not a good one either. I give up for the moment, and we play in silence...well, not exactly silence. Chatting people and blaring music fill The Clubhouse.
As expected, Jimmy kicks my butt at the pool game. I'm half tempted to challenge him to some one-on-one basketball--which I know I could slaughter him at--but the girls return from the bathroom.
"Jimmy, can we leave?" Stephanie asks in her irritating sing-song voice. "It's too noisy in here."
"You can leave," Jimmy says, off the cuff.
"I can't, silly. You drove us here."
"Dude!" I interrupt. "I completely forgot you got your license."
"Yeah," Jimmy replies, his face becoming animated for the first time since he arrived. "Bummer is, I can't drive us all around. I'm only allowed one teenager in the car at a time for the first six months of my license. Stupid law."
"Since when are you one to follow the rules?" Caitlyn asks. She sidles up beside me and laces her arm around my waist.
Jimmy just looks at her for a long moment, but doesn't respond. Finally, he looks at me. "Wanna check out my ride?"
"Heck yeah, man!" I reply.
Caitlyn, Stephanie, and I follow him into the parking lot. Jimmy leads us to a shiny black Escalade completely tripped out with flashy chrome and all the amenities inside.
"Your dad?" I ask.
"Of course," Jimmy says without missing a beat. "I'm pretty sure he bought it for himself."
"Do you mean he'll drive it?" Caitlyn asks.
"No, he bought it so he can brag to all his stuffy friends that his son drives an Escalade."
"Well, I think it's awesome," Stephanie says, hopping into the passenger seat.
"Whoa...nice ride," Cooper says. He, Maggie, and Shelly have just arrived in the parking lot to check out Jimmy's new car too. Cooper's eyes pop wide at the Escalade. Cooper's family doesn't have much money, so he has a tendency to marvel at Jimmy's expensive things.
"Yeah, well, I guess we're gonna take off," Jimmy says, sliding into the driver's seat.
"When can we get together to talk about...things?" Maggie says. Her narrowed gaze flashes to Stephanie for a second.
"How about my house tomorrow around noon. Bring your swim suits," Jimmy replies.
"Oh, darn! I have plans to go shopping with Becca tomorrow," Stephanie says with a major pout on her face.
"That is a tragedy," Maggie says, not bothering to hide her sarcasm.
All of us chuckle and Stephanie scowls.