I Am Number Four

Page 32


  Sam looks down at the flyer. “So it’s this Saturday?”

  “Yes. ”

  He looks up at me. “I say we go. ”

  I shrug. “I’m in. ”

  Henri is waiting for me when the final bell rings. As always, Bernie Kosar is in the passenger seat, and when he sees me, his tail begins wagging a hundred miles an hour. I jump into the truck. Henri puts it into gear and drives away.

  “There was a follow-up article on the girl in Argentina,” Henri says.


  “Just a short article saying that she has disappeared. The mayor of the town is offering a modest reward for information on her whereabouts. It sounds like they believe she’s been kidnapped. ”

  “Are you worried about the Mogadorians having gotten to her first?”

  “If she’s Nine, like the note we found indicated, and the Mogadorians were tracking her, it’s a good thing that she vanished. And if she’s been captured, the Mogadorians can’t kill her—they can’t even hurt her. That gives us hope. The good thing, aside from the news itself, is that I imagine every Mogadorian on Earth has poured into Argentina. ”

  “Speaking of which, Sam had the latest issue of They Walk Among Us today. ”

  “Was there anything in it?”

  “Nope. ”

  “I didn’t think there would be. Your levitation trick seemed to affect them rather profoundly. ”

  When we arrive home I change clothes and meet Henri in the backyard for our day of training. Working while consumed with fire has gotten easier. I don’t get as flustered as I did on that first day. I can hold my breath longer, close to four minutes. I have more control over the objects I lift, and I can lift more of them at the same time. Little by little, the look of worry I saw on Henri’s face during the first days has melted away. He nods more. He smiles more. On the days it goes really well he gets a crazed look in his eyes and he raises his arms in the air and yells “Yes!” as loudly as he can. In that way I am gaining confidence in my Legacies. The rest have yet to come, but I don’t think they’re far off. And the major one, whatever it will be. The anticipation of it keeps me up most nights. I want to fight. I hunger for a Mogadorian to saunter into the backyard so that I may finally seek revenge.

  It’s an easy day. No fire. Mostly just me lifting things and manipulating them while they are suspended in the air. The last twenty minutes pass with Henri throwing objects at me—sometimes just allowing them to fall to the ground, other times deflecting them in a way that emulates a boomerang so that they twist in the air and go blazing back towards Henri. At one point a meat tenderizer flies back so fast that Henri dives face-first into the snow to keep from being hit by it. I laugh. Henri does not. Bernie Kosar lies on the ground the whole time watching us, seeming to offer his own encouragement. After we are done I shower, do my homework, and sit at the kitchen table for dinner.

  “So there is a party this Saturday that I’m going to go to. ”

  He looks up at me, stops chewing. “Whose party?”

  “Mark James’s. ”

  Henri looks surprised.

  “All that’s over,” I say before he can object.

  “Well, you know best, I suppose. Just remember what’s at stake. ”


  AND THEN THE WEATHER WARMS. BRISK WINDS, bitter cold, and continuous snow showers are followed by blue skies and fifty-degree temperatures. The snow melts. At first there are standing puddles in the driveway and the yard, the road wet with the sounds of splashing tires, but after a day all the water drains and evaporates and the cars pass as they do on any other day. A lull in the action, a brief reprieve before old man winter takes up the reins again.

  I sit on the porch waiting for Sarah, staring up at the night sky full of twinkling stars and a full moon. A thin, knifelike cloud cuts the moon in two and then quickly disappears. I hear the crunch of gravel under tires; then headlights come into view and the car pulls into the driveway. Sarah gets out of the driver’s side. She’s dressed in dark gray pants flared at the ankles, a navy blue cardigan sweater beneath a beige jacket. Her eyes are accentuated by the blue shirt peeking out where the jacket’s zipper ends. Her blond hair falling past her shoulders. She smiles coyly and looks at me, fluttering her eyelashes as she approaches. There are butterflies in my stomach. Almost three months together and yet I still grow nervous when I see her. A nervousness that’s hard to imagine time will ever assuage.

  “You look gorgeous,” I say.

  “Well, thank you,” she says, and bobs a curtsy. “You don’t look so bad yourself. ”

  I kiss Sarah on the cheek. Then Henri walks out of the house and waves to Sarah’s mom, who is sitting in the passenger seat of the car.

  “So you’ll call when you’re ready to be picked up, right?” Henri asks me.

  “Yes,” I say.

  We walk to the car and Sarah gets behind the wheel. I sit in the back. She’s had her learner’s permit for a few months now, which means she can drive so long as a licensed driver sits in the passenger seat beside her. Her actual driver’s test is on Monday, two days away. She’s been anxious about it ever since making the appointment over winter break. She backs out of the driveway and pulls away, eventually flipping the visor down and smiling at me through the mirror. I smile back.

  “So how was your day, John?” her mother turns and asks me. We make small talk. She tells me of the trip to the mall that the two of them made earlier in the day, and how Sarah drove. I tell her about playing with Bernie Kosar in the yard, and about the run we went on after. I don’t tell her about the training session that lasted for three hours in the backyard after the run. I don’t tell her how I split the dead tree’s trunk straight down the middle through telekinesis, or how Henri threw knives at me that I deflected into a sandbag fifty feet away. I don’t tell her about being lit on fire or the objects that I lifted and crushed and splintered. Another kept secret. Another half-truth that feels like a lie. I would like to tell Sarah. I somehow feel that I’m betraying her by keeping myself hidden, and over the last few weeks the burden has really begun to weigh on me. But I also know I have no other choice. Not at this point, anyhow.

  “So it’s this one?” Sarah asks.

  “Yes,” I say.

  She pulls into Sam’s driveway. He paces at the end of it, dressed in jeans and a wool sweater. He looks up at us with a deer-caught-in-the-headlights blank stare. There is gel in his hair. I’ve never seen gel in his hair before. He walks to the side of the car, opens the door, and slides in beside me.

  “Hi, Sam,” Sarah says, then introduces him to her mom.

  Sarah reverses the car out of the driveway and pulls onto the road. Both of Sam’s hands are planted firmly on the seat in nervousness. Sarah turns down a road I’ve never seen before and makes a right turn into a winding driveway. Thirty or so cars are parked along the side of it. At the end of the driveway, surrounded by trees, is a large, two-story house. We can hear the music well before we reach the house.

  “Jeez, nice house,” Sam says.

  “You guys be good in there,” Sarah’s mom says. “And be safe. Call if you need anything, or if you can’t get ahold of your father,” she says, looking at me.

  “Will do, Mrs. Hart,” I say.

  We get out of the car and begin walking to the front door. Two dogs run up to us from the side of the house, a golden retriever and a bulldog. Their tails are wagging and they’re sniffing spastically at my pants, smelling the scent of Bernie Kosar. The bulldog is carrying a stick in his mouth. I wrestle it away from him and throw it across the yard and both dogs sprint after it.

  “Dozer and Abby,” Sarah says.

  “I take it Dozer is the bulldog?” I ask.

  She nods and smiles at me as though in apology. I’m reminded how well she must know this house. I wonder if it’s odd for her to be back now, with me.

  “This is a horrible idea,” Sam says. He
looks at me. “I’m only now realizing that. ”

  “Why do you think so?”

  “Because only three months ago the guy who lives here filled both our lockers with cow manure and hit me in the back of the head with a meatball during lunch. And now we’re here. ”

  “I bet Emily is already here,” I say, and nudge him with my elbow.

  The door opens into the foyer. The dogs come rushing in past us and disappear into the kitchen, which lies straight ahead. I can see that Abby is now holding the stick. We’re met with loud music that we have to yell over to be heard. People are dancing in the living room. There are cans of beer in most of their hands, a few people drinking bottled water or soda. Apparently Mark’s parents are out of town. The whole football team is in the kitchen, half of them wearing their letterman jackets. Mark comes up and hugs Sarah. Then he shakes my hand. He holds my gaze for a second and then looks away. He doesn’t shake Sam’s hand. He doesn’t even look at him. Perhaps Sam is right. This may have been a mistake.

  “Happy you guys could make it. Come on in. Beer’s in the kitchen. ”

  Emily stands in the far corner talking to other people. Sam looks her way, then asks Mark where the bathroom is. He points the way.

  “Be right back,” Sam says to me.

  Most of the guys are standing around the island in the middle of the kitchen. They look at me when Sarah and I enter. I look at each of them in turn, and then grab a bottle of water from the ice bucket. Mark hands Sarah a beer and opens it for her. The way he looks at her makes me realize yet again just how little I trust him. And I realize now just how bizarre this whole situation is. Me, being in his house now, with Sarah, his ex-girlfriend. I’m happy that Sam is with me.

  I reach down and play with the dogs until Sam comes out of the bathroom. By then Sarah has made her way to the corner of the living room and is talking to Emily. Sam tenses beside me when he realizes that there is nothing else for us to do but walk up to them and say hello. He takes a deep breath. In the kitchen two of the guys have lit a corner of the newspaper on fire for no other reason than to watch it burn.

  “Make sure you compliment Emily,” I say to Sam as we approach. He nods.

  “There you guys are,” Sarah says. “I thought you had left me all by my lonesome. ”

  “Wouldn’t dream of it,” I say. “Hi, Emily. How are you?”

  “I’m good,” she says, then to Sam, “I like your hair. ”

  Sam just looks at her. I nudge him. He smiles.

  “Thank you,” he says. “You look very nice. ”

  Sarah gives me a knowing look. I shrug and kiss her on the cheek. The music has grown even louder. Sam talks to Emily, somewhat nervously, but she laughs and after a while he eases a little.

  “So are you okay?” Sarah asks me.

  “Of course. I’m with the prettiest girl at the party. How could things be better?”

  “Oh shush,” she says, and pokes me in the stomach.

  The four of us dance for an hour or so. The football players keep drinking. Somebody shows up with a bottle of vodka and not long after that one of them—I don’t know which—throws up in the bathroom so that the smell of vomit wafts throughout the whole downstairs. Another one passes out on the living-room sofa and some of the others draw with marker on his face. People keep filtering in and out of the doorway leading to the basement. I have no idea what is going on down there. I haven’t seen Sarah for the past ten minutes. I leave Sam and walk through the living room and the kitchen, then walk up the stairs. White, thick carpet, walls lined with art and family portraits. Some of the bedroom doors are open. Some are closed. I don’t see Sarah. I walk back downstairs. Sam is standing sullenly by himself in the corner. I walk over to him.