W i l l i a m
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William didn’t like people cleaning up after him, even at restaurants it made him feel uncomfortable. So naturally, when the waitress started picking up dishes on Archie’s side of the table he packed his up nicely to make it a little easier on her. She was pretty, William had decided. She had light eyes and a pretty face. Fairly tall for a girl, and a small build. He caught the scent of raspberry and whipped cream on her as she moved between them and he smiled. He lifted the plate with his cup and spoon to her.

“Here you go.”

“OH! You don’t have to-- well thank you so m--”

Suddenly, they grazed and his hand was on fire. Though no flames were seen, he felt the sharp burning searing through his fingers and reaching into his veins. Immediately, he let go of everything he held. The dishes were falling to the ground, and he held his hand clasped with his other. The burning feeling remained, getting stronger. It took everything not to make any noise but it was painful and all he could do was breathe in deeply and exhale.

He heard the waitress scream and watched as she too reacted to their touch. The burning pain left almost as immediately as it had come. Only a few seconds had passed yet so much had happened.

“What happened, are you ok?!”Archie had shot up and was standing by their table glancing down at Will with a face full of confusion and worry. It hadn’t helped that he had been so paranoid only minutes before.

“I’m… Fine,” Will said flatly. He looked at the girl who had stopped screaming and stood quiet still staring at her hand, wondering, probably like him, how it wasn’t completely burnt. It couldn’t have just been in their head. Such burning pain was sure to leave a mark, wherever it stemmed from. But as he examined his own he found no sign of damage. Archie spoke again.

“Let’s go.” He said as he pulled William up out of their booth. As they turned on the waitress she stared at them, bright eyes with wet eyelashes.

“I…” William started with no real direction to his words. He wanted to apologize but he also wanted to know what had happened and he had a hunch, and he knew he was most likely right about it- but how to address it. He felt the eyes of everyone on him, they were all staring at the trio in silence and a manager was rushing to the scene.

“Dear, are you alright? Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry gentlemen, please stay for round two completely free of charge,” She took the girl by the shoulders and begun shuffling her away from the mess of broken glass. “I will be right over to clean this up, so sorry for the disruption everyone!” She now spoke addressing the rest of the guests who slowly resumed to their level of chatter.

William watched as she was taken and he wondered… slowly. “Hey, miss” he said towards her, cluing in to his earlier hunch. Archie hushed him and a couple people resumed their silence to continue watching their spectacle.

The manager released the girl who turned to look at the pair. Her eyes said so much. There was nothing more obvious than fear written all over her expression. Then, a second later, they watched her run out of the shop.

“Oh!” The manager said, shocked herself. William didn’t hear the rest of what she said because he ran out too. He couldn’t lose sight of her. He stumbled out of the shop and caught sight of her making good distance and turning on Franklin street. He ran as fast as he could. It helped that he was tall, his legs pushed him quickly, cutting through the air and through the people. Turning on Franklin he spotted her. He heard Archie call after him, surely running behind him. William couldn’t afford to turn around though, he kept his eyes on the small body making its way through the crowds on the street easily, she was tall too. He didn’t know New Montrose well enough to follow her much more if he didn’t make up the distance. She turned just past a green building he was coming closer to and when he turned too, they were in an alley. Long, narrow and an obvious dead end. She stood by the back wall facing William. Her body moved as she breathed heavily and caught her breath from the sprint. William too, wasn’t breathing well, but, in his case, it always involved more than just the physical activity. This city in general was the cause.

“Hi, I’m sorry, I’m not here to hurt you!” William called as he walked further into the alley nearing the back.

“What are you doing? STAND BACK, GET AWAY FROM ME!” She yelled at him and looked panicked around her, probably looking for something to throw, or to climb.

“I’m really not going to hurt you look, I’ll stop right here,” William said as he stopped ten feet from her. He held his hands up. “Something happened back there. I’m just here to find out what happened, and maybe to help you.”

She was breathing quickly, her hair was falling out of her braid. Now that he had a moment to look at her well, she was striking. Her hair was light, bright even, a platinum blonde so blonde it reflected light from the sun brightly. Her skin was pale and she was thin, too thin.

“I know who you are, you’re going to take me there, and I can’t go there, YOU CAN’T SEND ME THERE. I swear… I… will hurt you if you try!”

William wanted to take a step back. It was shocking to think this was the same girl who had offered him a Brownie Melt only minutes before. Her voice was still full of life, but in this care it held a more sour taste. He was the last person to make judgements on anyone by their size. And she had something in her, that he was sure of. His hand had never felt like it did when they touched before. He wasn’t wrong.

“No, you’re wrong, I don’t work for the Academy, I don’t want to go there either. I’m like you.”  He gave her a sincere smile and dropped his hands to his sides, relaxing slightly. He heard sound from behind him and turned to see Archie step into their alley. He was holding their bags and he jogged to Will’s side when he spotted him.

“Who is he?” The girl spoke now, she wasn’t yelling, or screaming and she seemed to have calmed slightly after his last statement.

“This is my friend, we work together.” William turned to look at Archie. His cheeks were flushed pink from the run and his glasses were slightly lower on his nose then they should have been. He looked angry though. But that was common, so William turned back to the girl. “My name is William,” he said softly. “What’s your name?”

The girl looked uncomfortable, and didn’t respond for a while. She ignored his question and asked one of her own. “What did you do to me at the shop, why did you burn me?”

William smiled, “I was hoping you could tell me, I assure you I did nothing to hurt you.”

The girl looked down at her hand reflexively and looked back to William, questioningly.

“You said you were like me. How do you know what I’m like, just… what are you?” She crossed her arms. Feeling braver as they spoke, curiosity also on the edge of her tone.

“Well, I know you’re something more than most people because of what happened a few minutes ago. Burning people with a touch is not something that I see every day, and you were worried about going to the Academy which, only means you could be sent there if I had happened to be part of the Task Force, which I’m not. But that only means you’d test positive, you have the gene.”

There was a small breeze that passed through the buildings and a tiny leaf blew past him from behind. He turned quickly, and out of the uneven pavement, on the edge where the building and the floor started, there was a flower with just one petal left. Somehow getting out through the cracks and busting out a leaf. William smiled instantly and then turned back to her.

“As to what we are… We represent a group of people that are like you...” It was his starting line, but it felt odd- knowing so little about who she was, but well, it’s not like they had the best first impression. “We care about each other, and we’re here to help each other stay safe, and away from the Academy.” William spoke gently, calmly, and though not as smoothly as he usually did, he felt ok. He couldn’t read the girl well enough yet, but he knew he didn’t have much time to try and gage her reaction. “I’m going to show you something, and if you want to learn more, or come with us to see what we do, please do.” Then he turned his back, and walked a couple steps away from the pair, turning when he was where he wanted to be and he smiled. He watched them for a second, then turned and watched the street at the entrance to the alley, making sure no one else was around. Then quickly knelt down. He reached out towards the little flower he had spotted earlier. Gently, he ran his finger along the stem. More leafs began to grow and as his finger reached the top of the flower, petals bloomed, bright in colour. Lastly, he placed his hand, palm down, near the base of the stem and forced the earth to surface. The asphalt cracked and dirt began to rise, bringing the flower slightly higher also. “There, now you have more room to breathe little one.”He said softly to it.

He ran his hand around it and then slowly started standing up, making his hand run a few inches off the wall, moving smoothly from side to side. As his hand moved from the flower, vines began to grow and attach themselves to the wall. He watched as they grew like snakes racing, and curled- tangled and some bloomed into tiny white flowers living on the wall. He stopped once he was standing again and put both his hands back in his pockets.
“That is what I am.” William spoke as he moved closer to Archie who stood still and quiet.

Both men stood facing the girl, waiting. William’s headache returning. How much time did he even have left? They did need to get back, and hopefully, with someone new. He was excited about the idea of having her join them. He didn’t know what she could do, but her fear of being sent to the Academy told him she knew something about what she was. Bringing in someone new was always exciting. Even if in this case, they couldn’t touch without burning each other. His fingertips were still numb.

She relaxed her shoulders and her chin raised slightly. Her posture changed to reveal a more confident side of her. Then finally, she smiled.

“Sloan, my name is Sloan.” 

The End

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