By AllyTrish34, inspired by the FantasTeen novel of the same name. This continues Masai Giraffe Attack!, Coincidentally..., Devin Verona, Ghost Story, More Questions, Chances, Experiment, and Trying out on My Own.
Thanks to being under the weather (at least they thought I was), I was permitted to go home earlier. Mom instantaneously walks away from her MacBook and cooks up chicken soup. She has looked concerned since I returned. I really do look limp like a rag doll, but I have an excellent immune system. Disease doesn't affect me very often. I repeat: I am not out of sorts. CJ, Rafaela, and Tristan were sure that I was ambushed by a demon in the girls' bathroom — not wrong! — but Devin convinced people that I was anemic. Anemia! I've never experienced that all my life!
Mom takes my temperature, but I'm not feverous. She gives me a mug of warm white tea — tea makes everything better in this family — and asks me to await her to come back here with chicken soup. She makes me swear to finish it despite her way of talking; deep down, she's a loving, caring mother.
A few moments later — one or two hours later, because I dozed off, night terror — Mom comes back, as hoped, with a ceramic bowl of warm chicken soup and a mug of hot black tea. The chicken soup is a total success, effective, or I may be the starving one. Cold sweat wets my whole body, so Mom asks me to change clothes. When I see her pulling out my pajamas from the cupboard, I spontaneously hold my breath.
"Mom, no! No pajamas, please! For pity's sake, Devin's gonna come here. I don't want him to see me wearing pajamas!"
Mom grins widely. "What? Devin's coming?" she says between giggles. Sometimes, I suspect that Mom thinks of Devin as very handsome for a teen boy. If you think that's weird, she overlooks most boys in my grade back then. But I'd chicken out if I have to verify my suspicion — in case the answer is a yes! I roll my eyes and she returns the dreaded pajamas back into the cupboard.
Just when I'm done changing my clothes, a loud buzzing sound suddenly comes from the outside. But, instead of a bumblebee swarm, it's only from a megaphone.
"YOLANDA, I'M COMING TO YOUR HOUSE! SEE? I HAVEN'T BEEN AVOIDING YOU! WHAT A PARANOID!" I rush to the curtain to open it, while Mom hops down the stairs, two steps at a time. Devin is climbing down the willow tree in front of my house; catching a glimpse of me, then bursts into laughter, waving his hand. Below, Rocky is obviously aware of his surroundilngs, tensely holding Devin's backpack, as if one false move will turn our country into debris. I take a deep breath, shaking my head in disbelief. Wow, that werewolf kid is totally demented; he yelled in front of my house with a megaphone and isn't ashamed of it.
I walk outside, peeking, tiptoeing through the bedroom door. I can hear Devin's loud voice saying, "Yolanda thinks I've been avoiding her, so I'm coming over. And besides, I heard she's sick."
I lunge forward, running down the stairs very fast, as if being chased, and complain right away. "You don't have to say that, right?" I snap.
Devin's lips curl into a wide smile. "I'm looking for verification, in case you get paranoid again."
Mom's blue eyes shine to see Rocky who hugs Devin's thighs tightly: he will get dragged if Devin walks. It's been a very long time without a little tot in our house, and tots, I know, are Mom's weakness. She bends her back downward and, in a shrill voice, says, "What's your name?"
"Rocky Blaine Verona," replies Rocky, sounding proud that he manages to tell a adult his full name.
Mom smiles happily — the last time I saw Mom that happy is when Dad took her to a fancy Italian restaurant on their wedding anniversary — and blurts out, "Are you hungry, Rocky? I've got cake."
Rocky glances at Devin unsurely, but his face shows that he's begging. Devin nods at him, and Rocky copies Devin's nod to Mom.
Mom claps her hands in joy, then reaches Rocky's arm. "We'll be in the kitchen. You two can go upstairs. Yolanda, don't move too much. Devin, don't hesitate to inform me if something happens. Come on, Rocky. Do you like Chips Ahoy! cookies? Oreos? Do you want to drink some milk, too?" Rocky and Mom disappear into the kitchen, like walking through a portal to another world shaped like a mirror.
Devin shrugs and walks up the stairs. "I wish I were Rocky," he whines. He steadies me as I go upstairs. My knees are quite literally weak like Jell-O, so I'm baffled when it comes to how I just ran downstairs very fast. Yeah, my shapeshifter, animalistic side may be to blame.
My bedroom's door is ajar, gapiing open. Devin goes inside and leads me to my bed, which is a spring bed. He plunks himself down by my feet, playing and tossing some of my pillows and stuffed animals. "So...you're okay, right? And your mom won't lock Rocky up here?"
I laugh. "I'm okay, but I'm not sure. Mom looks like she wants a son of her own."
"She can legally adopt one," Devin hisses slowly. He throws a pillow aside. "What happened in the bathroom?"
To remember the events in the girls' bathroom makes me want to throw up, but I do it nevertheless: blank eyes, pale bluish skin, and wet blond hair. I swallow. "He opened his mouth, probably to scream, but I heard nada. Strong wind blows that I hit the cubicle's door, And then..." I trail off. "And then, I found myself struggling to breathe, starting to shiver due to coldness. I tried to talk, but I couldn't. I felt half asleep...you know, like when you're too beat; too beat to do anything and too beat to sleep, you'd find yourself half asleep?"
"Hypnagogia, the condition when you're not fully conscious, but not fully asleep, either," Devin crows.
I look at him worriedly. "What about you? Did he scream to you?"
He nods. "Yeah, so loud, it sounds like someone's tugging on his hair. But I'm all fine."
"Are you seeing those flashbacks again?" I ask.
Once again, Devin nods. "Reiner Rivera, aged fourteen. All his life, if you can't figure it out from his behavior, he was bullied. They brought him to the girls' bathroom, dunking his head into a toilet. The next thing they knew, Reiner Rivera had to go."
I shake my head. What a really bad way to bully a person, that he might've been under too much pressure he couldn't hold anymore. Without realizing it, hot tears trickle my eyes.
"What are we gonna do?" I say, gently.
Devin shakes his head. "Reiner Rivera only wants to exact his revenge," he replies slowly. "He still lingers there because he wants to give people a taste of their own medicine. We can't help him. He's trying to take over your body, to possess you. If we near him even closer, this'll be dangerous."
"What? He's trying to possess me?" I sputter incredulously. Devin nods confidently. "How did you know?"
Devin shrugs. "Books. Documentary films. Intuition. You looked like you were possessed. Maybe, your life wavelength is more similar to his than mine, so he had no trouble attempting to take over you."
"Empathy between bullying victims?" I add sarcastically, "Wow, I luck out." I smile at Devin. "Relax, I'll be more careful from now on. I don't want to repeat my mistake three years ago. Ever since I moved here, everything has been way much better."
"I know," adds Devin, nodding emphatically. "But now, we know that they can hurt us both physically and mentally. What do you think? Should we put our investigation under a hiatus? Honestly, this has absolutely nothing to do with our eyesight; it only empowers them."
"Empower?" I ask.
Devin nods, taking off his glasses and cleaning the lens with his shirt. "I see them more often now," says Devin. He points to the edge of my bed, located in front of us. "An old man over there. He looks nice, not bad."
I frown, staring at the end of my bed. I have never seen an old-man ghost there. I shake my head at Devin.
Devin frowns, puzzled. "You can't see him? A burly old man. Wrinkled skin — of course, duh. Whitish hair, bald on the middle. He wears a beige tuxedo and pants. Holds a hat. Wears black oxfords as well. You never see him?"
"Hell, no." I put a special emphasis on each word as I speak. I look at Devin sideways, flummoxed. Can he be hallucinating?
Devin waves his hand. "This is a discussion topic for later on. Don't overthink when you're ill. You're supposed to seize the rest of today, lounging. And if I were you, I wouldn't go to school tomorrow."
"Are you going to school tomorrow?"
"Of course. The competition is over," Devin answers.
"If so, I'm going, too."
Devin frowns. "Why? Don't push yourself. I can come here again tomorrow if you want."
I shake my head. "I'm going to school tomorrow, no matter what. I want to continue our experiment."
A wave of surprise washes over Devin's face. He stares at me, as if trying to find out whether I'm really me. "Seriously?" he asks carefully.
I nod confidently. "We'll continue in the lab."