Eva Louise looked up when Andrei entered the room. He was sad and looking for company. She knew this the moment she saw him, so she scooted over on the couch and waved him over.
“Hey little brother, want to talk about it?” Andrei wasn’t little anymore, he was almost fifteen, but he was still her baby brother.
“Hey Lou.” Dre sat down and she smiled encouragingly at him.
At that moment, Anthony walked into the room and one look at Dre had him sitting on the chair across from them. “Hey, what’s going on?”
Andrei mumbled something and Tony said, “Speak up. I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”
“I said I’ve been sitting in her bushes for the last three hours.”
The moment he made that confession, she knew why he looked so sad. It was Cinder Langston McDonough. She had to stifle a laugh so she wouldn’t hurt his feelings but, come on! Her brother had fallen hard for this girl and that was saying a lot. Andrei was cute and he knew he was cute and so did all the girls – except for Cinder. Eva was sure Dre just didn’t know what to do with someone who told him no. He’d never heard the word before. Not from any woman, including their mom or herself even.
“Wow, that sucks. She wouldn’t even come out?” Anthony asked. Dre shook his head.
“I could make you something, if you want,” she offered. Siobhan had been showing her how to make love potions. It couldn’t make someone love you, not really, but it could make them want you. And that was good enough.
He shook his head again, “No. It wouldn’t be real, she wouldn’t love me and what’s the point of that?”
She shrugged. Wow, he must really like this girl. Whatever.
“Do you have any classes together, why don’t you try speaking to her in school?” She suggested.
“She goes to a private school. I barely get to see her during the week; otherwise, I would’ve asked her out already.” He flashed her a smile. There was the Dre she knew.
“Well, how’d you meet her the first time?”
Tony answered, “We went to that thrift store down on Main Street. She works the register there on the weekends.”
“Problem solved. Just go there this weekend, talk to her.”
“She doesn’t like wolves, Lou.” He said this despairing and she finally understood.
They sat together for a while, trying to come up with a plan to get Cinder to talk to him. She didn’t know how successful some of them might be, but by the end of their brainstorming session, Dre was laughing. Letting the twins continue plotting, she got up and went to their dance studio.
While she went through her paces and stretched her limbs, she thought about her own problems. She had to apply to colleges soon and she hadn’t told her mother, the scientist or her father, the inventor that she wanted to go to art school. She was dreading that conversation. She knew her dad would be understanding and would actually listen to her, but her mother would not.
Eva looked very much like their mother, but the two couldn’t be more different. Her mother was scientific, logical, very much against all things magical. Even her job was to find the scientific and logical explanations behind the myths of the world.
Eva shook her head thinking about that. Her mother, touched by fey, didn’t like magic. Even though her daughter was a witch, and her son and husband were werewolves. And although no one would dare say it out loud, everyone knew that Tony was her favorite, because he was normal. He was as human as they came. How her father put up with it, she didn’t even know.
She should have spoken to him about Art school before her mother had come back. He always did what her mother wanted. It was kind of sad, really. When she got married, her husband would have a backbone. He would be strong, ambitious and smart – not that her dad wasn’t any of those things, he was. But there was just something about her mother that turned him into…mush. Malleable mush.
Eva finished her warm-up with an arabesque, held it and then slide back into first position, letting her body relax. She would tell them tonight at dinner. Her mother was rarely home, but when she was, Eva could guarantee that there would be a fight, so there was no point delaying the inevitable. She rather get it over with so she could apply to University on time.
Sipping on a bottle of water, she checked her phone for any missed calls and saw one from Glasgow. Smiling, she listened to the voicemail asking her to meet him tonight at the movies. Perfect, she could use this as an excuse to leave the house if things got too bad at dinner.
Andrei stared at his computer screen, the woman looked a bit like Cinder, if he squinted…
“Hey, why’s it so dark in here?” Anthony walked into Andrei’s room, barely missing the edge of his desk in the near darkness.
Dre shot up from his bed, naked. “What the hell!”
Tony stopped short. “Are you…?” He walked over to the laptop that had fallen shut on the floor and flipped it open. He stared at the screen, laughing.
While Tony sat on the floor and finished watching the video, Dre pulled on a pair of pajama bottoms and stretched out on his bed, feet crossed at the ankles, hands clasped across his abdomen. He didn’t mind that Tony had walked in on him, they were twins. But still…“Dude, next time, knock.”
Tony looked up at him. “Dude…next time, lock the door. Where’d you even get this?” He indicated the screen of the laptop.
Andrei shrugged. “It’s a free site.”
“Hmmm,” was all his brother would say. After a few minutes of silent clicking, Tony looked up again. “There’s a lot of kinky stuff on here.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s pretty cool, right? Although some of the acting is the gayest shit I’ve ever seen.”
Tony stiffened. “Why do you always do that?”
“Say stupid things like that. Equate things you don’t like with someone or something being gay.”
He shrugged. “Cuz it is.”
Tony stood up from the floor, angry, and started to pace. Dre looked up at his ceiling, thinking that he should get Eva to paint something sexy up there, so when he was fooling around with Lilac, she’d have something to look at.
“Are you even listening to me?!” Tony yelled.
Dre looked over at his brother. “No. What did you say?” Tony was always lecturing him about something. He only ever listened to half of anything he said. His twin was boring as hell.
Sighing, Anthony grabbed the desk chair and sat down, frowning. “Listen, I have something I want to tell you.”
He was about to roll his eyes, not in the mood for another sermon, but Tony looked serious. And smelled nervous. Dre sat up and swung around, placing his feet on the floor. “What?”
“This is something I wanted to tell you for a while but I didn’t know how you’d react. At first, I thought you’d be angry, but after thinking about it – and talking to dad, I’m deciding to give you the benefit of the doubt. So don’t blow it and just hear me out, okay?” He took a deep breath and said, “I’m…I’m gay.”
He paused and Dre’s frown grew deeper. “Did someone hurt you? Cuz I’ll kill him.”
“Why would me being gay mean someone hurt me?” Tony asked, confused. Then understanding dawned. “I’m not gay because I was molested, you ass!”
It was Dre’s turn to be confused. “I never said you were.”
“Really? That’s not what you were implying?”
“No, it wasn’t. What the hell are you talking about then? You’re gay and what? Finish your story.” He said the last part through gritted teeth. If someone had hurt his brother or made him feel bad about himself, he’d beat the crap out of them.
“My…that was it. I’m gay.”
Dre looked at his brother for a heartbeat before he started laughing, relief traveling through his body, replacing the adrenaline pumping through his veins. “That’s it? But I already knew that. Some confession.”
He got up off the bed. He should get dressed, they’d have to go down to dinner soon.
Tony stared, practically gaping, “What do you mean, ‘You already knew.’ How could you know?”
Andrei shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve known for a while, actually. I’ve just been waiting for you to tell me.”
Tony shook his head. “If you knew, why would you say things, like, ‘That’s so gay,’ to me all the time?”
“At first it was because it was just something people say. Then, cuz it bothered you, I thought you’d get mad and tell me shut up cuz you were gay. It took you long enough. I hate saying shit like that.”
They stared at each other for a while, each trying to read the other’s thoughts. They were unusually good at that.
“Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner,” Tony said. He sat back down in front of the computer. Idly clicking through the browser, something on the screen catching his eye.
“Sorry I kept offending you rather than just confront you about it,” Dre said and then added, “That site has some stuff on it for you too, you know.”
He waggled his brows at his twin and smiled when Tony laughed.
“So, I’ve been thinking about Cinder,” Tony began suddenly and Andrei groaned.
“Stop. Don’t ruin my day by bringing her up. I’ve decided that I’m over her. If she can’t even stand to speak to me because of what I am, then screw her.”
He said the words and a part of him actually meant them, but a larger part cringed. He wasn’t over Cinder. He was desperately still into her, but she wasn’t into him. And there was only so much a guy could do before he had to call it quits.
Tony just looked at him and said nothing. He knew a lie when he heard one, but Dre didn’t care, as long as they stopped speaking about Cinder.
“I’m taking Lilac to the movies tonight,” he said.
“Lilac Duvalier? Dre, you could do so much better!” Tony gave him a look of disgust.
“She’s not so bad.” Okay, that was another lie. Lilac had been trying to catch his eye for months now but he’d had standards. At least he did until the-girl-who-shall-not-be-named rejected him for the third time. He was looking for something nice and easy; and Lilac was easy if not particularly nice.
Tony shook his head and walked out of the room. Dre could practically smell the disapproval emanating from his brother’s skin. Whatever, he was never going to beg someone for their love. All that did was land you in therapy.
Anthony was walking towards his bedroom when he felt it. A slight tingle in his palm. Cursing, he hurried into the nearest bathroom and shut the door. He had maybe two minutes.
Staring at himself in the mirror, he started counting the seconds. Last time it had taken 146 seconds before he’d started to change. The transformation had taken 83 seconds and had lasted for 645 seconds. A little over 12 minutes total.
What would he do when it started to last longer than he could hide? Tony closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The first few times this had happened, he’d panicked. But the transformations never caused him any harm and they didn’t hurt. They would just happen and then go away. He had yet to figure out the why and how of it. But the who was him and the what?
He was turning into a ghost.
Twenty minutes later, he unlocked the bathroom door and silently walked into his room. Turning on his computer, he wrote down the data and stared at the sheet of paper that held all this information. It had started two years ago. The night of his thirteenth birthday, while leaning against his bedroom wall, he’d suddenly found himself in Dre’s room, missing a shoe. It had been enough to freak him out, but understanding hadn’t dawned until he’d walked back to his room to find his missing shoe stuck in the wall. He’d gone through the wall separating the two rooms!
Not prone to panic, he’d written what happened to him and saved the document. He spent the rest of the night trying to recreate the experience. That was two years ago and he now had ten pages of data. He would have to tell someone soon. The changes were happening more frequently and lasting longer. What if they were doing some damage to him that he just couldn’t see?
Closing the file, he walked over to his bed. He could tell his parents, in fact, he should tell his parents. But would they take him seriously? What if they thought he was just making things up? He was their only normal child. Eva was a fey-witch; Andrei was a werewolf, but him? He was just a fourteen-year-old kid who had no special abilities, no curses hanging over his head. He was above average in intelligence, a fashionable dresser, and liked to learn about new things. At least that’s how people who knew him tended to describe him.
For as long as he could remember, he’d always felt like something was wrong with him. In a family full of Sups, he was the lone human. What if he was just imagining this phenomenon so he could feel special too? He immediately dismissed that thought. He would never do that; it would be a waste of time and energy.
When Dre opened the door to tell him supper was ready, he got up and followed his twin downstairs. As they descended, he studied Andrei. He guessed they looked enough alike that they were obviously twins, they both had the same dark hair, although his was streaked with red, like his mother and sister, while Andrei’s was pure black. He wore his longer than his brother did as well. He had his mother’s eyes, while Dre and Eva had their dad’s eyes. Andrei especially, with both him and their father’s eyes having a tendency to glow.
He liked to think of himself as a nice blend of both his parents but being the last born, all the magic that made them special was given away before he could claim any of it. Not that he was complaining. He was free in a way that neither Eva nor Dre would ever be. He would grow up and live a normal life. Dre would always have to stay with other Sups or spend his life explaining who and what he was. Eva had spent at least a third of her life away from her family, learning how to control her powers and being taught by Siobhan. She never really had a childhood.
He, on the other hand, spent all his free time reading or puttering around in their basement laboratory. He never had to worry about controlling his strength like Dre did, or his emotions like Eva did. He was just a normal guy. There wasn’t anything wrong with that. Not at all.
Sighing, he walked into the dining room and took his seat at the table. When his uncle Caleb and his family walked in, he was surprised. Didn’t they know that his mother would be there tonight? By the looks on all the adults’ faces, they had known and not everyone was pleased by that. Read: his mother was not pleased. There was a moment of tense silence and he hoped that an argument wouldn’t erupt. Not tonight of all nights.
After everyone was seated and dinner was going relatively smoothly, he looked up at his mom and said, “Mom.” At the exact same time that Eva said, “Dad?”
They looked at each other and smiled. “Go ahead,” he said.
Eva’s smiled slipped a little and she turned towards their parents. “Dad, mom; as you know, I have to start applying to schools soon and I wanted to get your opinions on some schools I had in mind…”
She trailed off after that, as if unsure how to proceed. Connor smiled at her encouragingly and she took a deep breath before saying, “I want to go to art school.”
Aunt Kaylynn smiled and said, “That’s wonderful dear. You’re such an amazing artist. I’m glad you want to perfect your craft!”
Eva smiled in gratitude and then looked back at her parents, both of whom were very quiet. Of course, her mother spoke first.
“What kind of art school?” Rae asked quietly.
Eva blinked. She hadn’t expected that. “Well, I really like to paint, so I thought I could go for painting as my major. SVU has a great art program and it would let me…” She stopped when she saw the frown on her mother’s face. “What’s wrong with SVU?”
Connor spoke up then, “Nothing, honey. It’s a great school, but it’s kind of far away, isn’t it?”
Eva shrugged, but said nothing. Rae didn’t say anything at all, just took another bite of her vegetarian salmon.
Clearing his throat, Caleb said, “After dinner, we need to talk, Andrei.”
Andrei’s eyes widened and he looked frantically at Connor.
“So soon?” he asked.
Connor nodded, “I’m afraid so, but I’ll be there. We’ll do it together.”
Dre nodded, resigned. Rae’s lips tightened even more, but still, she said nothing.
“Mom, dad?” Since everyone else seemed to have something to share, he might as well. All eyes turned towards him and he took his own deep breath. “I’m turning into a ghost.”
His mother’s fork clanked onto her plate as she got up and walked out of the room.
“Rosie!” Connor said. He rose from his chair as well but before he followed his wife he turned towards Tony. “Are you sure?” He knew if Anthony said something was wrong, it would be after carefully thinking about it and coming to a definite conclusion. Something that Connor was not particularly happy about, since by the time his son was ready to share, it usually meant he and Rae had to deal with a raging fever or pneumonia.
Sighing, Connor said, “Come with me Anthony. Your mother and I need to tell you something.”