I jerk the car over to the shoulder and put it in park before looking directly at my wide-eyed, terrified friend. I’m sure our faces are mirror images of fear, sure we look more like twins than Poppy and I have since we were three and still wearing matching outfits.
“Tell me exactly what you saw. Don’t leave out a single detail.”
“It was red this time. Everything was so red,” she swallows. “But this one was different than any vision I’ve ever had; it felt…off, weird.” I don’t question the weird feeling because visions are, in and of themselves, extremely weird.
“Okay, so red. Anything else? Anything useful? How did you know it was Poppy?” I press her as gently as possible, but I know I still sound frantic for answers.
“I saw her hair,” I nod, knowing that her hair – long, full, and dark red – is impossible to mistake. “And there was a backpack, a red backpack with writing all over it – I don’t know what it said,” she interrupts herself to answer the question before I can ask. “I saw a red car. It was demolished, totally smashed. And there was blood. There was so much blood, Kenna.” By now she’s whispering and I feel her fear seep into me. It’s not until she reaches out and touches my hand that I realize I’m weeping.
“But it hasn’t happened yet, so there’s time. How can we stop it?” I demand.
“We can’t. I saw it. I wish I hadn’t, but you know how it works. If I see it, it happens.” This was always true before. It was true when I broke my arm in 4th grade and it was true when dad lost his job when I was ten. But she’s never seen my sister die. That can’t be true. I won’t let it.
“She’s not going to die, Sage. I’m not going to let her.”
“There’s nothing you can do. It just…is. Or rather, it will be.” Her tone is mournful, regretful, but also resigned. It infuriates me.
“She’s my sister, Sage! My sister! I have to save her. I have to fix it.” I feel responsible for this vision, like I own it, like I had it. And now I have to do something about it. She shakes her head, but fortunately, doesn’t argue anymore. I turn the car back on and pull onto the road, narrowly avoiding a car driving by, ignoring the angry horn and rude gestures directed towards me.
I don’t care; it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I get to school and figure out a way to save Poppy.
The late bell is ringing as I run into the building.
“Shit, shit, shit.” I mutter, when the assistant principal catches me and forces me to stay for tardy sweep. I’m only allowed one more tardy before I’m assigned a day of Saturday school. It wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to me, since I have no other plans in the foreseeable future besides keeping Poppy alive, but right now, I don’t have time to waste on petty things like tardies and stickler assistant principals.
I feel a clock ticking, ticking, ticking like a bomb inside my head. Time taunts me and I know each passing second brings Poppy closer to certain death. He lets the lower classmen go, but spends an extra few minutes lecturing the seniors who are tardy about responsibility and grown-up life, like we haven’t heard it a thousand times before. Most of my classmates use the lecture time to catch up on their Tweets and Insta likes, while I sit and resent them for their simple, carefree lives. Also, does he not realize the irony in lecturing us about being on-time, but making us later to class? When he finally releases us, I sprint to my next class. Luckily, it’s government and we’re watching an episode of Law and Order, so I immediately zone out.
The first thing I have to do is figure out who the red backpack belongs to. Until I know, the only information I have to work with is Poppy’s hair, a red car, and blood. So, unless I just want to follow Poppy everywhere she goes today (and I really, really don’t), I need to find Red Backpack. If I’m everywhere she is, I can anticipate what she can’t because I know to expect it. For once, I’m grateful for the long school day, knowing I have at least six solid hours before I really need to worry because Poppy would never dream of leaving early and missing dance class.
As soon as class is over, I head to Poppy’s usual hangout spot in the Commons and watch from the other side – close, but not so close she sees me creepily stalking (but really protecting) her. She’s deep in conversation with her best friend Kat. Though their conversation seems serious, they’re probably just discussing the products that give them magically smooth and bouncy waves. They pretend not to notice the attractive guy walking towards them, forcing him to reach out and touch Poppy’s shoulder to get her attention. She glances backwards coyly, tossing her hair back in a move designed to look natural, but which is clearly meant to draw attention to her raw beauty. Strangely enough, he seems unaffected. Interesting. Perhaps he’s some new breed of teenage boy. Normally, they trip all over themselves fawning over Poppy. I’m pretty sure the freshman boys started a Poppy Barquin fan club where dedicated members could spend their time running her errands or taking pictures of her from a distance.
I watch as Hot Guy tells what is apparently the funniest joke in the history of ever and Poppy grabs his arm to hold herself up while she laughs. He grins and says something else before continuing towards the 100 hallway, which is exactly where I’m standing. Sort of. I’m more off to the side and hidden in the shadows, but still, he’s heading in my direction. I’m so distracted in trying to jump out of the way so he doesn’t see me and ask me why I’m staring at him, that I nearly miss it. Strapped to his back is a dingy red backpack nearly completely covered in black Sharpie.
“Who do you think he is?” Sage whispers, peering over my shoulder. I usually tease her for whispering since I’m the only one who can hear her, but I don’t have the time or energy.
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.” She trails behind me anxiously as I walk over to Poppy and Kat. They know I’m there, but both pretend not to see me.
“Who was that?” I ask. Poppy looks at me, her eyes widening incredulously; probably surprised I would deign to speak to her in public.
She stares at me in silence for approximately twelve hours, but when it becomes apparent that I’m not going anywhere, she finally says, “He’s new.” Then she turns back to Kat, her meaning clear: Leave. When I don’t, she sighs, “What?” She draws the word out so I know how irritating my presence is.
“Well, ‘he’s new’ doesn’t tell me anything about him. What’s his name? When did he get here? Where did he come from? How do you know him?” She’s obviously annoyed by the barrage of questions, but I don’t stop. “What’s written all over his backpack?” She holds up a hand to stop me.
“His name is Ian. He moved here a few days ago from Colorado or Ohio or something. He’s in my AP Calculus class first period and I offered to lend him my notes. Why are you asking so many questions? You’re being weirder than normal.” She’s either suspicious or jealous and I’m guessing it’s somewhere in the middle.
“I mean, he’s hot, so I’m curious – ” I start, attempting to speak her language. She narrows her eyes and I get the sense she doesn’t believe me.
“Poppy’s driving him home. He’s currently sans vehicle, but don’t worry about him because Pops will take care of him,” Kat cuts me off, effectively marking Poppy’s territory for her. Poppy doesn’t say anything, just stands, arms crossed, smirking, grateful for a friend who will fight her battles for her since I’m clearly not worth her time. I’m about to respond when the warning bell rings.
“Okay, bye,” Poppy says, tugging on Kat’s arm and the two walk to class without a second glance back at me.
At least now I know who to keep an eye on.
I stand for a moment, thinking, but then I see the same AP who caught me this morning. Two run-ins in one day is way too much exposure for me, so I run to English and slide into my seat just before the tardy bell sounds.
I love English. I love immersing myself in literature, knowing for a little while I won’t have to interact with people who think I’m strange, knowing I’ll be able to disappear into someone else’s world, knowing who I am makes no difference to Harry Potter or Elizabeth Bennet. My teacher, Mrs. Henrys, reminds us about that our literary analyses are due at the end of the week and asks us to take out our journals and something to write with.
Someone taps my shoulder.
People don’t talk to me and they certainly don’t touch me. I’m the weird one, the other sister. I’m the girl who talks to herself, the girl without friends. I’m no one. Usually, I barely exist. I wonder if it was an accident. Maybe I should pretend like it didn’t happen; it would probably be less embarrassing if I did.
I busy myself gathering my things.
“Excuse me?” A low voice sounds behind me. I hesitate a moment and finally turn around only to find myself looking amber-colored eyes, feline eyes, eyes a color I’ve only seen twice before, eyes that look exactly like mine.