Written by AllyTrish34. This continues Masai Giraffe Attack!, Coincidentally..., and Devin Verona as part of the Lucid Dream segments. The whole story is inspired by the FantasTeen novel of the same name. WARNING: This chapter contains elements reminiscent of most teen novels (but milder).
It's been a long time since I brought a friend of mine to my house. Maybe the last time was Jessie Lynch. Besides, she'd been stuck in the rain when she was a good three feet away from my house. And I only went inside to lend her an umbrella then she skittered away as soon as possible. When I bring Devin Verona to my house, Mom looks like a deer in the headlights. After that, she chuckles and lets us in while offering everything in the kitchen. I know; she doesn't know how to react to her daughter's guy friend (yes, Devin and I are strictly not dating. Mom doesn't let me do it before I graduate from college, and Devin doesn't seem interested in being more than best friends.). I don't blame her. I don't really know how to react toward my friend in my house. I'll be darned if I force myself to let my new house become Devin's playground, if that's possible. I might've turned into a spotted hyena and chase him out.
But I don't want to.
"This is your school friend?" asks Mom. She's taking a glass jar filled with crystals of sugar. I nod, and sparkles shine from her blue eyes — just like mine — like a pulsar. Maybe, moving out is the best choice. "Sorry, what's your name? Devin?"
"Devin Verona," says the owner of the name.
I know that deep down, he's trying to distract himself from hearing all the other sounds. But a Devin who can't stay still since born to this world, all thanks to those sounds, starts rocking on a couch. Before he can think of jumping on the table, I pull him down and ask Mom if I can bring him to my room. Devin walks ahead of me, as if he owns this house, then a smile tugs on his lips and he says, "Want to know what your Mom thought?"
I cringe. "I know when's dinnertime."
We enter my room, and Devin glances at his surroundings. That is when I realize that he looks awkward.
He grins sheepishly. "My first time in a girl's bedroom," he admits. So easy to talk with someone who can hear thoughts. Devin clears his throat. "So, does your mom not work except for a stay-at-home parent?"
"My mom's a novelist. Her name is Lorelei," I answer. Ugh! Here we go again: I'm sometimes an open book.
"Do you write too?"
"Sometimes." I point to my Acer laptop. "My mom said, if I have trouble with how to respond someone, I should better write them down. More like type them. Writing is like an emergency exit, to the fantasy world. Monsters, dragons, trolls; everything — much safer with them than with real people."
"Ah, you sound like a writer," Devin replies, laughing out loud. "What about your dad? What's his job?"
"Literature docent." I titter. "He was my mom's docent." Devin nods fast, amused. I ask, "What about you? Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
Devin nods again. He's beginning to swing back and forth in my couch — not exactly. It's shaped like a dome cut in half, filled with a supercomfy cushion, for the seat. It hangs from a six-footer stand. Thankfully, the seat floats just about a foot from the ground. "Yep. A little brother, aged six. He's in first grade and not a were. My parents divorced when I was eleven. My mom lives in North Carolina. Other than that...my family's quite okay. So you can imagine a bald man in his forties, a genius fifteen-year-old teen, and a six-year-old little kid. Always eating takeaway food every day. None of us can cook. I should've thought about learning the art of cooking — and that's what I'm gonna learn...in summer holidays."
He starts to sputter on his own; I remain wordless. Now I know why Devin always breakfasts at school: he must have been busy doing his chores at home. Maybe he can't turn on a stove — all kinds of stoves, which caused him to go ape and toast slices of bread on top of a tripod. Maybe, they also can't wash, so he used an Erlenmeyer flask instead of a ceramic mug for drinking tea. My face gets red as a strawberry when Devin cackles at my ludicrous shadow.
I harrumph, prompting him to shut the hell up. "You know, I could ask my mom to make you a lunch. Not too cool, but at least it isn't made in the lab."
"I can use a toaster," mutters Devin, as if trying to straighten out the fact that he can use normal electronic devices. I think he may just add, "I live in a cave, you know," when Mom peeks into our room via the door, bringing a melamin tray filled with a teapot, mugs, and two huge slices of an apple pie. We thank her simultaneously and she returns to the kitchen. Devin takes an apple pie plate and half of the slice disappears in just one bite. "Do you always see ghosts?" he asks.
"Hell, yeah," I answer. "I'm even seeing them now."
"Very interesting," Devin mutters. His mouth is still full of a pie, and he doesn't mind — care about — eating while chewing. I guess, that's the benefit of talking to boys. "I don't always see ghosts. Only sometimes. Probably if they want to show themselves. The ones who show themselves are the scary ones. Are yours scary?"
I shake my head. "Sometimes, I see a neat-dressed one, even though they're pale. The ghost in my room, do you see it?"
Devin shakes his head slowly.
"A little girl. Ten, maybe."
"Oh, yeah. I can see it now," says Devin. "What do you think? Why don't they disappear? You know, when a person kicks the bucket, they go to a better place."
I sigh. "Devin, those things really do go to a better place. The ghosts we see are just living beings with incorporeal bodies! They were either created that way, or a curse turned them so. Do you believe in ghosts — those ones and wraiths?"
For a second, he gapes at me with a wide mouth. But he recovers. "I don't know. I'm not sure. I don't know much about them."
We stay quiet for a few moments, contemplating the ghosts that we both can see. The clink of a fork fills in the silence. The air feels static, slowly growing into stiff. Finally, Devin mutters something. "Spirits float in front of me; my hairs stand, Job 4:15. Countless ghosts float all around you, Alexander Pope."
Then, I realize that Devin is shivering. His fork keeps clinking because his hand is shaking. He's not chanting a song; he's grimacing. Tears trickle down his face.
"I'm afraid," he whispers to his apple pie. "All this time, I'm actually so afraid."
Without even meaning to, I snatch his pie plate from his hands and place it on the floor, holding his nonstop-shivering hands. I feel hot tears prick my eyes, rolling down, wetting the carpet. I nod, not knowing why I'm doing this. But, then, I know, I'm afraid, too. I want to tell someone, admit that I'm scared to death. I want to tell him that I understand, that he's not alone, but snuffles block my throat. But I'm not worried, of course he knows what I want to say. He hears them.
I wipe a tear on my face with my hand. "Say something about bravery."
"Bravery lies within loserness and recklessness, Plutarch," he mutters.
I shake my head. "Please, a more optimistic. The kind that makes you confident."
Even Devin has to think for awhile. "Don;t ever disturb the harmony of fire, ice, or lightning! Don't let the giants exact disaster on the realm they're living! In your hands, bring all three treasures to tame the Sea Monster! From three islands, an ancient ball! The choice can mean the difference between life and death; YOU ARE THE CHOSEN ONE!"
Devin shouts very loudly that doubt rises in my chest, whether he's being possessed or just simply nothing more than demented. I bite my lip, nodding reluctantly. "Okay, that was a good narration. Who wrote it? Shakespeare?"
"No," he shakes his head. "The B-52's, The Chosen One. The theme song of Pokemon 2000."
I chuckle, relieved. "What a weirdo!"
Devin nods repetitively, but he's smiling. "A lot of people say that. So, by the way, do you want to do our trigonometry homework first or speculating how we got our ghost-whispering powers?"
I sigh, shying away. "Trigonometry first, please," I say without hiding the lack of spirit in my tone. I smile. "Prove how smart Devin Verona is to this girl."
* * *
Apparently, the story of Devin Verona being supersmart is no baloney. Devin does his trigonometry — mixed with a pinch of some Pythagorean theorem — homework and rolling on the carpet simultaneously. He finishes it in five minutes flat. Despite his messy handwriting, he really is smart. A genius. Hearing the answer keys or others' answers during a test doesn't even spell an F-grade for him. He teaches me how to solve the ones — all — I can't, but apparently, he's weak in explaining. When I ask him how he does it so easily, he just shrugs.
"I study often, way too often, so I don't have to care about those freaky sounds. I told you that, and I know I'd said it before. So, no, New Girl, Devin Verona ain't no genius. He studies too often because he will be staring blankly if he doesn't."
I laugh...like a hyena again. I think that this has become a part of me. Let it ride, Yolanda. I shut my spiral notebook and my math textbook, and toss my stationery away. "Okay, Too Much Studying Dude." I yawn and stretch. "Where did we leave off in our discussion earlier?"
"From where I said that yawning and stretching in the same time is called a pandiculation," Devin says.
I still don't understand why Devin often gives me weird, uncommon words. So far, I've heard groak (to watch a person eating and hoping you'll get some of it), philtrum (distance between a faced living thing's nose and mouth), and fillip (the act of snapping your fingers).
Devin bursts into laughter when he sees my flushed face. "Okay...let's get serious. Um, how do we start? Hmmm...we both lost our eyesights when we were twelve."
"Too many things in common, scary."
"Rapport, which means a relationship of two people who think they have lots in common. Propinquity, a relationship that is formed because they often meet. I know I'm starting to run my mouth, I just love to see you pissed off," Devin says with an awful laughter. I kick him on his left shin. He still can't wipe his trademark smirk when he continues, "Where did your accident happen?"
I mutter, "Between Rye and Florida, that's for sure. I don't know exactly where."
"When?" That's Devin.
A lot of things aren't recorded in your psyche, especially when you were little. The chances are you'll only remember 40% of what happened yesterday, let alone three years ago. I think of it. "Around February," I muse, trying to remember. My head shakes sideways. "I don't remember other deets. Maybe, if I search my old files, there may be the date, but I think we won't find anything else relevant."
Devin contemplates it. "That's weird," he utters, as if talking to himself. "Mine also happened around February." It was a leap year when the accidents happened. "End of February, maybe. February the twenty-ninth? For sure, school hadn't ended for a long time. I got a surgery around early March." He props his head on the carpet and begins to mutter strange things. Devin looks at me with almost-conjoined eyebrows, saying things I happen to be thinking.
"Maybe, just maybe, there was something in that year, in that year's springtime."