What was going on? Never once in my entire school career had I been called to the principal’s office. And to the best of my knowledge I still had no reason this morning. When James appeared a few minutes later I was even more worried. Was this to do with us being psychic? Had the school passed a new rule saying it didn’t want psychic students in light of the Zetes incident? It was a crazy thought but it flitted through my brain all the same. What would my parents say?
When James called me strait-laced it was like a knife in my heart. So he’d finally changed from ignoring me to being cruel to me. Fine, if he wanted to play it like that. Stressed as I was I paid no attention to my persistence having finally failed and snapped at him.
When the principal introduced us to Melanie, I grew even more fearful. ‘She’s come to take us away,’ I thought.
Melanie appeared to notice me and said, “It's nothing to worry about, sweetheart. It's to do with your, well, unique powers shall we say.”
That didn’t make me feel better at all. That was half a confirmation of what I’d already been thinking.
“What about them?” I asked, almost defensively, as if my powers were my children and I was being forced into a situation where I had to protect them.
Melanie looked at both of us.
“After the Zetes incident the government began to set up special institutes for kids - and adults - with your powers. To make sure nothing like the Zetes incident ever happened again. We’re inviting everyone with psychic powers to come to these institutes. To provide them with a community of similar people. To give them an education specifically tailored to them. To keep them away from the rest of the population, who sadly are quick to misunderstand and isolate those with special powers.”
I was still a little wary but these government-funded institutes sounded like the place I’d been looking for - a place where I wouldn’t be alone, where people would accept me, that I could call a home-from-home.
James didn’t seem even remotely attracted to the idea.
“How can we be sure it won’t just be a repeat of the Zetes incident?” he asked. “How can we be sure that the government isn’t just training us up to be spies or secret weapons?”
Melanie’s expression was serious.
“You can’t. You have to trust us. And I know that will be tough for you but without trust, we won’t get anywhere. I take it that means you decline this offer.”
“No!” I cried unexpectedly. I knew that it was a risk, I knew that I could end up in a similar situation to Kait, Gabriel and all their psychic friends, but at the end of the day, anything was better than this life: a life where even my parents distrusted me, a life where nobody at school wanted to be my friend, a life where I was alone in having psychic powers. Looking Melanie straight in the eye, I said, “I’m willing to trust you. I want to see one of these institutes. When can we go?”
Melanie smiled. “At the end of this week. Pack all of your belongings, tell your parents and we will provide the transport to the institute on Friday after school.”
“Wow, that soon,” I murmured.
“Count me in,” James said, completely surprising me, though his tone was slightly grudging as if he didn’t have a choice. Perhaps... despite the popularity he had here, he wanted to be with other psychics too. Though he wouldn’t get very far if he treated them how he’d treated me.
“Are you sure, James?” Melanie asked. “It’s not obligatory.”
“Yes, I am sure,” he said through gritted teeth, like he hated being questioned.
Melanie nodded. “I shall see you both then.”
She made as if to walk away but I stopped her.
“Um, Melanie,” I said. “I’m just curious... How did you know about us?”
Melanie smiled wryly.
“I’m afraid that’s strictly confidential.”
Oh great. Now it really did sound like a government plan to build secret weapons.
“Well, that’s all you were called here for,” the principal told us after Melanie had gone. “Have a good time in your new lives.”
We left the room.
Outside the principal’s office, I grabbed James’ arm, forcing him to look at me.
“Why did you accept the offer?” I demanded. I found that I was worried about him coming with me and making it so that I’d be lonely after all, and this made me scared.
He shrugged out of my grip, looking furious.
“That’s none of your business.”
“Well, you’d better not ruin my life,” I growled. “I’ve felt nothing but misery all my life and you’re not going to destroy my chance to be happiness.”
“Why would I interfere with your life?” he sneered. “It’s nothing to me, is it?”
I let go and slapped him.
He stared at me as if he couldn’t believe what had happened.
“Don’t you forget,” I warned. “You’ve put yourself in my bad books. Don’t you forget.”
As I returned to my class I was astounded by my behaviour. Who’d have thought that I could be so vicious? But James had deserved it. He had everything here and yet he was giving it up to follow me to a psychic institute. I didn’t want him near me. And the confusing thing was that I didn’t think he wanted to be anywhere near me. But, I resolved, I was going to have a good time. I was going to make some new friends and turn over a new leaf and my life was going to be good. I repeated those last words in my head, feeling a dizzying sense of relief and elation: my life was going to be good.