by Gwenda Bond
Hel and I are on the way home after school.
"Hel, I need a favor," I say. I already asked for one, why not make it two?
"I haven’t come up with any big bright idea for how to decode our powers and make the visions go away, sis. Sorry," he says.
"That’s too bad," I say. "But this is something else."
"Drive us to Ear Wax."
"I’m not taking you shopping."
"I know. Please," I say. "It’s important."
For once, Hel does what I ask. I will give him the fact that he usually believes me. When he bothers listening. He knows I never lie.
We pull up in front of our town’s indie record shop, the windows papered with fliers and posters for crappy local bands and decent just–touring–through ones. We go inside.
The shop smells like locker room and incense. Jude wears headphones at a listening station halfway up the aisle.
I subtly point at her. "I need you to mack it up, Hel. You have to go out with her."
Hel’s eyebrows shoot up. Jude’s not really his type. Not tidy or blond enough.
"Please, Hel. I know it’s weird, but when have I ever asked you to do something like this?" Try never.
I hand him the paper.
Hel’s way of seeing isn’t exactly like mine. He relies more on outside symbols, on the weather, on feelings. I traffic in sudden, detailed visions.
The paper transmits a vibe to him, but I can tell it’s weak. I lead him closer to Jude, while he keeps shaking his head. Jude doesn’t notice us. We’re so close I canhear the music pour out of her headphones. Her eyes are closed beneath her cat’s eye glasses.
Hel squints, sweeping his eyes over her. Jude’s jacket is covered with pins and patches. I can’t tell if anything jumps out at him. I need him to know what I do.
I reach over and tap her shoulder. She jumps, then relaxes when she sees that it’s me. She slides the headphones down around her neck. "Hey, Cassie, what’s up?"
"This is my brother, Hel," I say.
Hel nods at her, but doesn’t say anything. The dork.
Jude’s grin widens. "Everybody knows who Helenus Roder is."
"It’s a miracle," I say. "She makes your name sound manly."
Hel scoffs. "My name is manly."
Jude nods. "Sure, if it was Helen it’d be a different story. The us makes all the difference."
Good line. Maybe I underestimated Jude’s appeal to a guy like Hel.
She extends the headphones to him.
He hesitates, but he takes them. That’s my boy.
He slips them on, bobs his head to the music. He smiles at us and even I am amazed at how goofy he looks.
Jude says, "You have to hang out with this jerkwad because he’s related, right?"
Special powers or no, Hel’s not going out with Jude and she’s not going to listen to him. Girls don’t listen to guys they loathe.My plan to buy some time disintegrates.
Hel meets my eyes and I can tell that now he knows too. He looks as worried as I feel.
* * * * *
Later that night we stake out Jude and Jax’s date at Mel’s Diner. It’s brightly lit inside, so from the parking lot we can see them perfectly in their window booth. They laugh.It’s just like rewatching my vision.
I have to hand it to Jude. Jax may have given himself a name that conjures thoughts more of soft jazz than punk rock, but he’s still cute. I remember his smile and what will happen to it,how surprised Jude will be.
Jude and Jax hold hands over the table, gazing soulfully into each other’s eyes. It’s sickening. I keep seeing what he is, what he does to her, over and over. Every time I blink, there it is.
"How long are we going to sit here?" Hel says. "You know we can’t do anything."
I put him on the spot. "You come up with a strategy to make my life less brutish yet?"
Hel lowers his head until it rests on the steering wheel. He turns it to the side so he can look at me.
"You look like a monkey," I say.
"I don’t think we can change who we are," he says. "None of this makes sense. What we are doesn’t make sense. I’ve read all the books, Cassie, trying to find one that says someoneat some point in history was able to change something like this, or to break a curse. I can’t find anything."
I know he’s right. I’ve read all those books too. Even the dusty ones.
"Forget that," I say. "What about this? There’s got to be a way to change this. That would be something." I gesture at the windows.
"I don’t know," he says, but he sounds less sure. "It sucks to know."
"Yeah, it does. She’s nice. And he’s a, y’know, thing."
Hel nods. "At least we’re trying?"
"I’m not sure it’s enough," I say. I don’t say that I’m not sure it’s not either. I hate watching them, knowing what’s going to happen, not knowing how to stop it or evenif we can — I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that being here feels sort of like doing the right thing. Ineffectually, but still.
Jude and Jax get up. He helps her with her coat. What a gentleman.
We duck so they don’t see us when they come out.
"They’re gone," Hel says, starting the car. "Are we doing this?"
I unfold myself. "Yes. Follow them."
We do. It’s not far to Jude’s house, and Jax stops short, pulling up at the curb. We park back a ways across the street, beneath the shadowy branches of an overgrown weeping willow tree.
"I have to do something," I say to Hel, squirming. I know this is where it starts to go bad for her. She hasn’t gotten out and we can see them kissing.
"Cass, wait —" Hel doesn’t sound sure I should try to stop it either.
I open the door and step out. He does the same. We look at each other over the top of the car, shielded by the dome of the tree.
"Agreed," he says, and we move to go help her.
But when I look across the street, there she is. She’s running to the house, her head down, like at the end of my vision.
"That was too fast," I say.
She slams the front door of her house behind her. Jax floors it, driving off in a jerky squeal of tires.
"She got away, she’s safe," Hel says. He’s confused.
I smile. "I read my vision of Dad wrong the other day too. I think we don’t always know exactly what we’re seeing yet."
Hel shakes his head. "I know what I see. What happens to Jude happens."
"Just not tonight," I say, but I cling to the idea that we can be wrong. If we can be wrong, maybe change is possible.