Paivi couldn’t have been more excited. Friday, the fifteenth of August, was a special day. It was not just her fourteenth birthday. She was also finally getting her braces off. In all honesty, she was more excited about getting the metal contraption removed than she was about the birthday. As far as she was concerned, birthdays come around every year, but it’s not every day that you get a new face.
She considered briefly that her new gleaming smile would attract a few boys, maybe a boyfriend? Okay, she didn’t want to get too carried away. There were more obstacles to getting a boyfriend that a mouthful of beautiful teeth couldn’t solve. At six feet tall, Paivi hoped there were more tall boys at St. Andrew High School than there had been at Riverview Junior High, otherwise she would be out of luck.
The morning of the fifteenth dawned bright and cool, as if recognizing the setting of Sirius, the Dog Star, signifying the end of the Dog Days of summer. Paivi woke to the light tinkle of wind chimes that hung from the porch below her bedroom window. The sun filtered through the purple curtains that fluttered in the light breeze. The smell of fresh waffles wafted up from the kitchen. She wasted no time getting down to breakfast.
“Happy birthday, my love!” said her mom as Paivi entered the sunny kitchen. There was a large stack of steaming golden waffles covered with powdered sugar sitting in the middle of the table. “Don’t bother looking at the newspaper this morning,” she added hurriedly.
“Why? Did that terrorist group blow someone else up? What else is new?” Paivi added flippantly, grabbing the front page and reading the headline ‘7 Dead in McDonald’s Playground Attack: Righteous Front claims responsibility.’
“Righteous Front.” she snorted. “I hope that makes them feel better about what they do. I mean, seriously, what’s righteous about killing innocent people?”
Mrs. Anderson sighed at her daughter’s nonchalant response. Attacks by the domestic terrorist group Righteous Front were so commonplace that everyone under the age of twenty thought weekly terrorist attacks were a normal fact of life.
“I just don’t know what’s going on anymore. I wish the government could get a handle on the situation. Hopefully one of these presidential candidates can get it right, although that Senator Stevens seems to have no new ideas. Maybe Moira Kelly. She seems to have her head on right. Those Righteous Front members are just a bunch of right-wing loonies. I know the economy is bad, but wanting to get rid of immigrants, legal or not, isn’t going to solve the problem. It’s not their fault! And the RF keep killing citizens too, so what are they really trying to prove? I suppose we should just be glad we haven’t had any attacks by those monsters here in St. Andrew,” nodded Mrs. Anderson.
“Yet,” added Paivi cautiously. “Don’t say that too loud, they might hear you!”
“Well, anyways, I think we are all set for today.” Mrs. Anderson handed Paivi a plate and a fork and knife, happy to change the subject. “We have to be at Dr. Summers by noon. It’ll probably take some time there, maybe an hour or two. And then the girls are coming over for pizza at five thirty. The movie is at eight over at the Cineplex and I think that just about covers it! So what are you excited most about today?”
“I have to say—getting my braces off! I couldn’t ask for a better birthday present!”
“Well, great, that solves the problem of having to buy you a present!” said Mrs. Anderson brightly.
“Now finish your birthday waffles while I go drag your brother out of bed. I swear, if I didn’t get him up, he’d sleep the whole day away!”
Five thirty arrived quickly. Paivi paced back and forth in the living room, watching anxiously out the front windows, awaiting the arrival of her friends. She kept running her tongue across her smooth teeth, flashing them on and off at the mirror as she practiced different smiles. She couldn’t stop looking at them.
As she glanced out the front window for the tenth time, looking for any sign of an approaching car, she heard a noise behind her and jumped.
“Jeez! You scared me!” she said as she wheeled around, clutching her hand to her heart. “Gotcha!” Her younger brother Torsten hopped down the last few steps. His curly, dark hair was neatly combed and he was wearing khaki shorts and a button-down shirt. This was quite dressy compared to his normal wardrobe, which generally consisted of basketball shorts and T-shirts.
“Wait a minute, why are you so dressed up anyways? Got a hot date or something?”
“What, this?” he asked, fidgeting with his shirt collar. “I dress like this all the time. So, uh, what are you guys doing tonight? Is Aimee coming over?”
“Oh, I see! Yeah, Aimee’s coming over. Only don’t get your hopes up. Aimee will NOT go out with an eighth grader!” snorted Paivi.
Torsten and Paivi were complete opposites, aside from height. Paivi, with her blond hair, green eyes and fair skin was a stark contrast to her brother, with his dark brown hair, matching eyes and olive skin.
“Anyways, you know what we’re doing tonight. Mom said you were supposed to leave us alone.” She felt sorry as soon as she said it, it sounded so mean. “But if you want to go to the movie, I guess that would be alright.”
“Yeah, but what are you going to see?” he asked, trying to sound nonchalant, even thought he was clearly excited at the prospect of spending time with Aimee.
“Well, I want to see ‘Sweet Pete’, that new romantic comedy,” she said.
“Seriously? That’s what you want to go see? God, anything is better than that! I would rather get punched in the stomach than see that movie”
“It’s MY birthday. No one said you had to go!” she sputtered.
“It’s going to be terrible, I hope you know that,” he said condescendingly.
“Look, we are GIRLS. We like romantic comedies. If you ever want to get a girlfriend, you better get used to it, quick!” she shouted at him. As she stormed upstairs to her room, she heard a picture frame crash to the floor behind her. She cringed, but didn’t turn around.
“God, you walk like such an elephant! The picture just fell off the wall! I’m telling Mom!”
She’d rather her mom think her heavy feet had caused the picture to fall, but Paivi knew it had nothing to do her stomping. After demolishing her room so many years ago, she had tried very hard to control her anger. Many times she could feel the energy well up in her, and with a few deep breaths it would subside. She didn’t want her friends or anyone at school to know her secret. What would they say? She didn’t want to be seen as a grade-A freak. The whole seeing-the-future-thing was much easier to hide, though it ate at her every time she thought of Michaela.
“Oooooo! Your teeth look AWESOME, Paivi!” Michaela squealed as she dragged their friends Aimee Watson and Crystal Harris through the front door.
“Definitely hot,” agreed Jenn Hernandez as she and Paulina Kaminski followed the group inside.
“Thanks! Come on in, I think my dad just got back with the pizzas,” she said, waving them towards the kitchen.
After a few thick slices of Chicago-style pizza and an impromptu burping contest, Mrs. Anderson brought out a thick and fudgy chocolate cake. They sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Paivi very loudly and off key.
“Make a wish!” shouted Paulina.
A wish. Paivi stopped and looked at the candles.
Normal, she thought. I wish for a nice, normal freshman year. Oh, and maybe a boyfriend. Yeah, that would be nice!
She closed her eyes and blew on the candles, the tiny flames flickering and then going out.
Brightly wrapped birthday presents were then passed to Paivi, which she happily tore open. Picture frame, silver necklace, photo album, clothes and CDs; overall it wasn’t a bad haul.
The last gift was in a small and wrapped in bright pink paper with a silver bow. She picked up the box and shook it, trying to hear what was inside, but it made no noise. She tore off the wrapping to reveal a delicate mahogany box. The wood looked old but was still shiny and dark. The lid displayed an expertly carved design. There were some words in a strange language engraved in a circle around the edges and a metal closure on the front. Paivi pressed what looked to be a tiny button and the clasp popped open. She lifted the lid, revealing the most beautiful locket she had ever seen.
It was small and round, a little larger than a quarter. Around the edges it was finely polished silver, which surrounded a circle of gold. In the center was a Celtic knot shaped like a triangle, inlaid in silver. She turned the locket over, and saw some more unfamiliar writing engraved around the edge. The chain that hung from the locket was of thick silver and looked heavy, but it was surprisingly light. It resembled a metal chain, only in miniature. She ran the chain through her fingers, turning the locket over and over in her hands. She pulled it open to find it empty on one half. The other half contained a mirror.
“Wow Mom,” said Paivi. “Where did you get this?”
“The locket has been in our family for generations,” she started, “and now I am passing it on to you.”
“How cool,” said Michaela. “Ooo, pass it around, I want to see it!”
“Sure, here.” Paivi passed the locket to Jenn, who paused to give it a look before passing it around the table.
“Mrs. A.,” started Paulina, as she turned the locket over in her hands, “what does the writing say here? What language is this anyways?”
“It’s Gaelic. My relatives back in Ireland used to speak it, but sadly it’s not something they passed on to us after moving to America. Unfortunately I’m not quite sure what it says.”
“That’s too bad,” said Paulina. “Well, whatever it says, it’s really pretty!”
“Thanks, everyone, for the best birthday ever!” Paivi glanced at the clock on the wall. “Oh! It’s getting late! We’ve gotta go if we’re going to make the movie!”
“I am so tired.” Paivi walked through the kitchen after they returned from dropping off her friends, basking in the pink and purple streamers, balloons, and presents strewn across the table.
I love my birthday! she thought to herself with a sigh. I wish I could have more than one a year!
“Paivi,” started her mother, pulling her out of her birthday bliss. “And Torsten,” she continued. “Don’t go upstairs just yet, your father and I would like to have a word with you both.”
“Did we do something wrong?” Paivi asked, trying to think if she had done anything punishable in the recent past. She glanced at Torsten, his brain clearly hard at work.
“Do either of you want a piece of cake?” Mr. Anderson cut a huge piece for himself and dumped it on a plate.
“Oooo yes please!” answered Paivi. Cake was always good.
Torsten took a piece as well and they carried their plates to the family room, where they settled into the couches.
The family room was large, with two tall windows flanking the stone fireplace. Along the wooden mantel was a collection of family photos, showing Paivi and Torsten posing in uniform with a basketball alongside pictures of them as chubby little babies. The room was filled with overstuffed leather furniture that looked like it belonged in an English pub.
Mr. and Mrs. Anderson sank into the couch across from Paivi and Torsten. Paivi looked at her parents and could see something on their faces, but she couldn’t quite figure out what it was. She glanced at Torsten to see if he had noticed anything, but he only had eyes for his cake. He was shoveling large chunks of it into his mouth so quickly that he didn’t notice the large smear of frosting on his cheek.
“We have something to tell you, and we know you will have a lot of questions,” began Mrs. Anderson.
“Are you getting a divorce?” asked Torsten, wiping the frosting off his cheek with the back of his hand, which he then licked clean. Between licks, he continued. “Because if I have to pick someone to live with—well I just can’t do it. I’ll have to split it evenly because I like you both equally,” he hesitated for a second, “okay, well maybe I would pick Mom. Sorry Dad, but she’s much cleaner.”
“No Tor, we are not getting a divorce. But it’s nice to know who’s side you’re on, just in case!” laughed Mr. Anderson.
It seemed to lighten the mood a little bit, and when Mrs. Anderson began again, she sounded less nervous.
“Okay, well you both are aware that Paivi has sometimes had dreams where she can see things that later happen,” she paused.
“Oh yeah!” interrupted Torsten. “Like the time she had that dream that I was going to fall off the slide at the park and break my arm and then I did! That was crazy!”
“Not only that, we later learned that Paivi can move things without touching them. However, that has only happened once, as far as we know. You remember that night a few years ago when your room was, well… a bit destroyed?” she asked, looking at Paivi.
Paivi looked a bit sheepish.
“It does still happen sometimes,” she said quietly.
“Why didn’t you tell us honey?” asked Mrs. Anderson, sounding concerned.
“That’s why, that tone in your voice. I didn’t want to worry you.” She played with her piece of cake, not quite able to take another bite. “You were so worried and upset when I trashed my room, I just didn’t want to make it worse. And besides, it was just little things that moved around, not like the time you’re talking about.”
“Wait a minute!” sputtered Torsten, sitting forward in his chair and nearly dropping his plate and fork onto the dark hardwood floor. “Let me get this straight. That time when your room was destroyed and everything was smashed to bits, you, YOU did that?”
“Yes Tor, you have to understand, you were so young, we couldn’t just tell you the truth. We had trouble with it, and we were grownups!” responded Mrs. Anderson.
“You told me it was a crazed squirrel that came in through the window!” he said sulkily, setting down his plate and folding his arms as he sank back into the couch, pouting.
“That’s right,” Mr. Anderson chuckled. “I forgot about the crazed squirrel!”
“I was always afraid he’d come back and attack me in my sleep!” Torsten softened a little, letting out a giggle.
The memory even brought a laugh out of Paivi and her mother.
“Okay, so here’s my first question,” said Paivi. “Can Tor do anything,” she paused, turning towards him. “Do you have dreams or can you move stuff?”
“Not that I know of! I wish!” said Torsten. “Why can’t I do the same things as Paivi, Mom and Dad?”
“You might someday,” began Mr. Anderson. “Our families have a long history of these special abilities. Both of our families have what are called Seers. A Seer is someone who receives visions of the future. As far as we know, they can’t be controlled. Your mother and I see things in our dreams also. As for you, Tor, some people take a little longer to discover their abilities. But it is also possible that you will never develop any.”
“Nice. Figures, Paivi gets all of the cool stuff,” whined Torsten.
“Look, it’s not like I wanted this stuff. Some of the things I’ve seen,” she paused, seeing the image of Mrs. Brown and the burning car, “I wish I never had—they were awful.”
Paivi shivered, a chill spilling down her spine. She set down what was left of her cake and pulled her knees in, wrapping her arms around them.
“So what,” said Torsten, irritated. “Then you can just do something about it if you don’t like what you see.”
“No,” said Mr. Anderson. “As a Seer, you have to follow one rule – you cannot interfere with what you see.”
“Well, that’s stupid!” said Torsten. “What’s the point of being able to see the future if you can’t do anything about it?”
“This rule goes back to ancient times,” replied Mrs. Anderson. “This is what my mother told me. Let’s say in Mrs. Brown’s case that you had told her to stay home that day. The event may have still occurred, but then it could affect someone else’s life in turn. Someone may have taken Mrs. Brown’s place that day, maybe a young girl riding with her parents or someone’s grandfather. It is not for us to choose who lives and dies. That is way too much responsibility for one person to have. Besides, if you did get involved, you would begin to obsess over your visions, frantically trying to save everyone you know. Everyone’s story has a different ending and unfortunately we aren’t the writers, just the readers. There are some visions that can change. The event may not occur because the people involved alter the outcome of the situation— they make different choices. It’s not that the vision you had was wrong; it could be that it was just one option. If we were to get involved, we could disrupt it somehow, upset the balance.”
“So, Dad, if you can do this too, do you use it to catch bad guys while you are at work?” asked Paivi.
“It may help to know who I’m looking for, but we still have to have evidence. I can’t just run around rounding up criminals with no case against them. People would get suspicious. They would wonder where I had gotten my information,” Mr. Anderson said.
“Why would anyone care?” asked Paivi. “You’re just trying to help people.”
“That comes to the most important part of the discussion. People who don’t have this ability wouldn’t understand that we are special and not just a bunch of freaks. For centuries our ancestors had to carry the knowledge of these gifts in complete secrecy. Before the Middle Ages, people with special abilities were respected and trusted,” said Mr. Anderson. “There were magicians, sorcerers or viziers on every royal court. You know, Grandpa Anderson did a family tree a few years back and found that we had some very interesting relatives. He claims that Merlin Ambrosius, the Sorcerer of King Arthur’s court, was a second cousin, twice removed. He also discovered relatives who lost their lives during the Spanish Inquisition and even a great-great-great aunt that died in the Salem Witch Trials here in the U.S. If they didn’t agree that they were receiving visions from God, they were put to death as witches. Those with special abilities who believed God spoke through them became powerful within the church. Many of them are saints we know today.”
“Huh, so saints were really just people like me. Interesting,” Paivi said. “But how awful for the others; why didn’t these people get together and do something about it?”
“Well, we aren’t superheroes honey!” chuckled Mrs. Anderson. “And there are not huge numbers of people like us. They were split up pretty far and wide back then, it was nearly impossible for them to contact each other. They were forced to keep their secrets in order to survive. Some families moved near others they knew, but that was dangerous as well. It was difficult to trust anyone. Now times are different. We might still keep a distance from others, but they make themselves known to us, and us to them.”
“Wait!” shouted Torsten. “There are more people like this in St. Andrew? Who are they? Do we know them?”
“That is our secret to keep,” said Mrs. Anderson. “We can’t allow information like that to be passed to children. It’s our choice to tell you about all of this, but it’s not fair for us to put others into jeopardy by naming names.”
“Well, how do you know who they are then? I thought you all tried to keep separated from each other,” asked Paivi.
“There is a way to tell about the others, a sign, but you can only see it if you know what you are looking for. When you are eighteen and an adult, we will explain it to you. But until then, mum’s the word,” said Mrs. Anderson.
“And the others, can we all do the same things?” Paivi had a million questions running through her mind.
“Some, but it’s possible that there are abilities out there that we have never seen or heard of yet. Being that we have to keep it all to ourselves, we can never be sure what others are capable of, or for that matter, what they are doing with it,” answered Mr. Anderson, laying his empty cake plate on the wooden coffee table.
“We chose to make use of our abilities only for good things, but others may not make the same choices. These things can be dangerous. For instance, those ‘Illusionists’ that perform in Las Vegas and make those television shows doing their street magic are putting us all in jeopardy. They think they have everyone convinced that it’s just entertainment. All so they can make a quick buck and hang out with their Hollywood friends. It’s such a great risk to us all,” said Mrs. Anderson with a hint of disapproval.
Paivi thought of the locket in its velvet-lined box. She had an urge to put it on. “And the locket? I know everyone was here earlier, so you couldn’t really say much, but do you know any more about it, really?”
“No, my mother told me when she gave it to me that if I ever needed something, it would be there for me. But in thirty years, I’ve never noticed it do anything. I think she was just trying to give me a romantic story to make the locket more special. Anyways, it’s pretty.” The carved wooden clock on the mantel chimed once. “Oh, I didn’t realize how late it was getting!”
Mrs. Anderson jumped up from the couch, grabbing her plate and an empty glass from the coffee table. She put her things in the kitchen and turned back to her children, giving them both a big hug as they rose from the couch. “Now don’t forget to put your dishes in the dishwasher! Let’s get to bed!”
It took Paivi a long time to fall asleep that night. Her mind felt full, and trying to close her eyes felt like trying to shut the doors on an over-stuffed garage. She pulled back the curtain, staring out the window at the full moon floating in the starry sky. The moonlight turned the street in front of the house into a river of silver. She begged sleep to come, and as dawn brightened on the horizon, with Mr. Teddy Bear in her arms, Paivi finally drifted off to sleep.