A Most Unwelcome Guest
Amanda’s backyard was a little cozier than the front, what without all of the gravestones, fog, and scary leaf monsters. The night was very clear, which made the yard bright, despite the moon only being at half strength. Paivi and Michaela walked towards the fire. There were already some partygoers seated on the outdoor couches, extending marshmallow-laden branches over the open fire. The flames crackled and licked the marshmallows, as if it wanted to eat them itself.
“Hey, where did you guys get those sticks?” Michaela asked.
“We had to go to the end of the yard, on the edge of the woods there.” Pointed a guy dressed as a pirate.
“Wait, do I know you?”
He flipped up his eye patch.
Michaela took a closer look, leaning towards the fire.
“Dave? Is that you? Oh my god, I haven’t seen you in forever!” She moved closer to Dave the pirate, looking eager to continue the conversation.
Paivi took a look and didn’t recognize anyone around the fire. There were no open spaces to sit. She set her witch’s brew down on a nearby table and tapped Michaela on the shoulder.
“Hey, I’m going to run and get us some sticks, I’ll be right back.”
“Cool! Thanks, girl!” Michaela turned back to Pirate Dave.
Paivi took her time walking to the edge of the Montoya’s backyard. It took her down a slight hill and ended at the edge of the woods. Off to the left was a small lake. In the distance she could see the lights of the other large houses that surrounded it. The moonlight left a thin silver path across the water.
Paivi could see two figures walking back towards the house from a path that wound around the lake. She could make out someone dressed as the Grim Reaper, carrying a large scythe and wearing a flowing black robe with a hood. A girl walking along side the Reaper wore her hair in a ponytail, a pink poodle skirt, and a letter jacket.
Interesting, she thought. Death and a bobby soxer.
She laughed silently to herself and pulled the hood of her cloak up around her head. She didn’t really feel like talking to anyone. She turned back towards the trees, moving a little closer to them. In the shadows, she tried to spy some proper marshmallow-roasting sticks.
Paivi turned back towards the house to see how Michaela was getting on and found herself face to face with the Grim Reaper. She jumped slightly at the sight of the dark cloak with no face. The bobby soxer was gone. She could see her walking across the yard, back toward the group around the fire.
“Sorry, Grimmy,” she chuckled, her hand pressed to her heart. “It’s not my time yet!”
“I wasn’t aware you were such a comedian,” retorted a voice behind the black fabric that she didn’t recognize. A black gloved hand pulled off the hood.
“You!” Paivi said, shocked to see the face of Christian Nelson. “What do you want?”
She took a step back towards the trees. She could see the house and bonfire in front of her, and wanted nothing more than to take off and head back to Michaela.
“Tsk, tsk,” clucked Christian. “Why so unfriendly?”
She looked into his eyes. They shined brightly in the moonlight. She decided they weren’t as scary up close. She didn’t feel so much afraid as she did annoyed.
“Look, I just need to find a couple sticks and then I am going back to the fire.” She turned back towards the trees. She noticed some sticks on the ground and could see her name spelled out in them.
She whipped back around.
“I knew it was you! Why? Why are you doing this? What do you want from me?” she demanded. She could feel the energy building up in her, but fought it. A scene in front of a group was something she couldn’t risk.
“I have my reasons.” He smirked and Paivi contemplated slapping it clean off his face.
I could get away with it here, she thought, we aren’t at school.
“Anyways, I’ve been trying to get your attention for awhile,” he added.
“If you wanted to meet to me so badly, why didn’t you just come up and talk to me like a normal person? That would have worked better than staring me down with the evil eye and leaving creepy messages in my food,” she retorted.
He turned toward the pond, looking out at the sparkling water.
“I have a reputation to uphold. Christian Nelson wouldn’t just go up and talk to someone, especially a freshman,” he said smugly. “They all come to him.”
“Well I am glad you think enough about yourself to refer to yourself in the third person. However, I could care less about you and your reputation. So if you don’t mind, I’d like you to just leave me alone and forget whatever it is you think you know about me.” She grabbed two sticks out of the piles that had spelled her name and turned to head back to the party.
He grabbed her arm and pulled her back. She tried to pull away, but he only pulled her closer.
“I don’t think that’s possible. You see, I know things that I just really can’t forget.” His face was so close to hers she could feel his breath.
Her eyes flashed with anger. Unable to hold back this time, she felt the energy rush out through her fingertips. A strong wind rushed around them causing the twigs and leaves at their feet to dance, some clinging to the bottom of their cloaks. In an instant the air was calm once again. Christian seemed unfazed.
“Oh yeah, like what,” she spat, holding her ground.
“Well,” he looked into her eyes and smiled, “you’re quite cute when you’re mad. Has anyone ever told you that?”
She didn’t answer.
“I know about you, Paivi; that you can see things. But I didn’t know about this,” he waved his arm at the mess of leaves and twigs that clung to him and began to pick them off. “You’re more powerful than I thought. I also know about your parents, John and Maria. I know that your brother, Torsten, is not ‘gifted’, as you might say, like you and your parents.”
“So what, what can you do about it? Are you going to tell people? Do you really think anyone would believe it?” she asked.
His eyes narrowed.
“Are you really willing to find out? Do you want to be labeled as a freak?” he hissed.
She wavered a little, but continued to hold his gaze.
“You wouldn’t.” She wasn’t so sure of that. “How did you find out? All I know is if you know about me and you can send those messages, then you are just as ‘gifted.’ Why couldn’t I just tell people about you?”
“Well, you could try, but no one at school wouldn’t listen. Let’s just say they all owe me something. Plus, they love me,” he said, flashing a gleaming white smile. “They would never believe you, you’re a nobody. And I can’t tell you how I know, that’s a secret, I’m afraid.”
“So what is this all about then? What do you want?” she demanded, her voice rising.
“Look, you need to understand, right now—I own that school. I’m offering you an opportunity here to join me. Together we can have complete control of that place and everyone in it. Just think, you could be the most popular girl in school.” He studied her face closely and released his grip.
“I don’t care about that. I don’t need to be popular. I don’t want to have to manipulate people just to be cool. What if I say no? You’ll tell everyone about my parents and me? Basically, you want to blackmail me to be your friend?” Paivi said, rubbing her arm.
“Ooo, blackmail is such an ugly word. Let’s say encourage. Look, do you know anyone else who is special like us?”
“No.” She took a step back.
“Well, there are a few others at our school, but they aren’t even aware of what they have. They would think I was crazy if I tried to talk to them. They wouldn’t understand. But haven’t you ever just wanted to talk to someone about it, to not have to hide what you can do?” He moved closer to her. “Haven’t you ever wanted a friend that you could be yourself around? Paivi, if those people knew about you, about us, we would be totally on our own. Outcasts. This way, at least we have some protection. Think of it this way, we’d be in this together.”
“Well, I think you’re nuts, but it’s not like you’re giving me any choices here.” She thought about it, looking back at the bonfire, back at the others. They were all so normal.
“Fine, Christian, fine. Whatever it takes to protect my family. But you have to give me some time. It’s not like I am going to be your best friend overnight. And I am not going to manipulate people. I’ll leave that to you.”
“Okay, okay, you’ve got a deal. I knew you would come around!” he smiled and clapped his hands together.
“Can I go back to the party now?” The crisp air crept up her neck, sending a shiver down her spine. She pulled her cloak closer. It was colder than she thought.
Christian pulled his mask back down, concealing his face.
“Here, I’ll walk with you.”
“Gee, thanks,” Paivi retorted sarcastically.
They quickly made their way across the yard, neither of them saying a word. Images swam before her eyes. Friends. Her parents. Jason. Her heart sank into the pit of her stomach. There was no way out of this.
The group on the patio had grown since Paivi had left to gather the sticks. Michaela was still in deep conversation with Dave the pirate. They were sitting on a bench together, close to the fire.
“Bye Paivi, I’ll talk to you on Monday at lunch,” said Christian quietly from behind his mask. He squeezed her arm and headed back into the house.
Paivi pulled her arm back, as if his touch burned her. She said nothing and turned her back to him. Excusing herself and squeezing through the crowd, she tapped Michaela on the shoulder with a stick.
“Oh, thanks P!” was all Paivi got out of her.
Great. Now she was on her own and there was still nowhere to sit.
“Paivi?” asked a familiar voice.
She turned around to find herself looking at a more pleasant view this time. Jason stood before her, dressed as a Chicago Cubs baseball player. Paivi smiled.
“Hi! What happened to the lederhosen, Hansel? I thought you’d look so cute! Think of how much leg you could show with those shorts!” she teased. “Where’s Melissa?”
“Um,” he looked down, fiddling with the leather mitt he was carrying, “we broke up.”
She stared at him for a moment and hid her smile behind her hand. “Oh my god! I’m so sorry! Are you okay?”
Maybe this wouldn’t be such an awful night after all, she thought.