Paivi’s leg bounced anxiously through all of her classes, finally calming down when she arrived to Current Events. Only two more periods until basketball tryouts, not that she was worried. She was confident she’d easily make the freshman team.
She could hear the students whispering as she plopped down in her seat. Most of them hadn’t watched the debate, which was bound to disappoint Dr. Hasenpfeffer, who seemed more frazzled than usual. She knocked an entire stack of tests off her desk, sending them flying in a flutter to the floor. A girl who sat near Dr. Hasenpfeffer’s desk jumped up to help her pick up the mess.
When everything was in its place, Dr. Hasenpfeffer settled herself into her leather chair. Paivi noticed a large coffee stain down the front of her ruffled cream blouse and her hair was haphazardly pinned down by a large gold barrette on the top of her head.
“Good afternoon, class,” she began, finally getting herself together. “Let’s get right to it. How many of you honestly watched the debate, or at least saw some news coverage about it?”
Paivi looked around the room. Aside from her hand and those of the few students who had come to her Debate Party, very few others had done their homework.
“Now children, I could understand why you might not finish a worksheet, but seriously, this is an assignment that might just be helpful to you in real life.” Dr. Hasenpfeffer sounded exasperated at their apathetic response.
Stefan Jarvis, a student who normally spent the class drooling into his sleeve, had his hand raised.
Dr. Hasenpfeffer looked to be in a bit of shock, pressing her hands to her heart. “To what do we owe your glorious contribution, Mr. Jarvis?”
“Well, I just wanted to, you know Doc, put in my two cents,” he responded.
“By all means,” she offered.
“Well, I just don’t get what the big deal is. I mean, who cares about these old, rich politicians. It’s always the same crap, isn’t it? All they do is lie, cheat and steal. I can’t vote now anyways, and even if I could, it doesn’t seem like our votes count for anything.”
“Well, Mr. Jarvis, I am sure you plan on attaining the wonderful adult age of eighteen?” queried Dr. Hasenpfeffer.
“Yeah, next year,” he said with a smile.
“In that case, you should know what you’re in for. You have to take driving lessons before they give you a driver’s license. Perhaps you should take the time to learn more about politics before you can vote. Otherwise you have people voting for some idiot because he or she has cool hair!” She sucked in a breath, having expended all of her air on her rant.
“Okay, okay!” conceded Stefan. “You win!”
The class laughed.
“Those of you who deemed it uncool should be sad that you missed such a monumental debate. If anything, the most important part was not the debate at all!” She looked around the classroom. “Those of you who saw it, can you please tell the class about it?”
“The part about the list of ‘Enemies of the State,’ or the part where Moira Kelly tried to punch Stevens in the face?” asked Jason.
“Let’s focus on this list. For those of you who missed it, Senator Stevens informed the nation that he has access to a list of people who he is referring to as ‘Enemies of the State.’ These people, according to the Senator, could have stopped terrorist attacks. Some of them are, in fact, terrorists. They formed a committee and will identify the people, who will be brought in for questioning. What do you all think about this?” she asked, glancing around the room.
A few hands went up.
“Ah, Mr. Jarvis!” Dr. Hasenpfeffer gestured for him to speak.
“I think if it’s true that these people on the list helped terrorists, then they should be punished,” Stefan said.
Paivi raised her hand.
“But Dr. Hasenpfeffer, is it constitutional to just round people up because of some list? I mean, how do we know this thing is legit?” she asked.
“Legally, you can be charged with a crime of omission if you know the details of a crime that is at some point committed. Usually it’s a misdemeanor charge, something pretty minor in terms of the law. But the punishment can be more severe if someone dies. They would have to prove that the person knew about the crime, and I am not quite sure we know how they plan on determining that,” Dr. Hasenpfeffer explained. “But you are right, they won’t release any information on where the list came from. I think they are all hoping we will put our trust in them.”
“Hey, Dr. H., you’re old, so you would be a better judge. Should we trust them?” asked Jason.
Dr. Hasenpfeffer pretended to be offended. “Old! Old! I am not that old!” she protested.
“I’m sorry, you know what I’m saying. You have more life experience!” laughed Jason.
“Ah, yes, I see. Well, my answer to you would be to always ask questions. It’s your life they’re making decisions about. Being informed is the best thing to do. But I have to admit, I am nervous about this list. No good has come from singling people out. If you think back to some historical examples, there was the McCarthy Era in the 1950s when Communists were rounded up and harassed. We could even make comparisons to the Holocaust and the roundups of the Jews during World War II. But I would hope our government remembers the lessons learned during those times,” Dr. Hasenpfeffer said.
The class was still discussing the debate as the bell rang and they exited the classroom.
“I wish we were older and we could vote, or at least be able to do something. If people let the government get away with this, its just insanity!” raved Jason as they made their way down the hall.
“Maybe it’ll be okay,” said Crystal. “I mean, if it really does stop the terrorist attacks, I don’t know, maybe it’ll be worth whatever trouble it causes.”
“See! That’s exactly it—selling out your freedom for your security!” Jason snapped back. Crystal’s face fell.
“All right you two, save it for class tomorrow,” said Paivi, pulling Jason toward the cafeteria. “I’ll catch you later Crystal.”
She turned to Jason. “Look, clearly you feel strongly about this, but you aren’t going to get people to see it your way if you yell at them!”
“Don’t you feel the same way I do, Paivi? I didn’t peg you for a sheep.” His words were sharp.
“I’m not a sheep! But nothing has even happened yet. Besides, what can we do? The election is tomorrow. Let’s hope that the people who do have a say will do something about it. Until then, relax!” She spun angrily on her heel, looking over her shoulder and stuck out her tongue.
Paivi joined Michaela at their lunch table.
“What’s his problem? He looked really mad,” observed Michaela as she dug through her gigantic purse, looking for her wallet.
“Ah, he’s just mad about that debate last night. You know, politics and all that, nothing you would find too exciting,” she said, watching Jason across the room at his lunch table, still sporting a sour look.
“You are right about that, sister,” Michaela said, finding the wallet. “Let’s go. I am starving! I hope they have my favorite M&M cookies today! Yum!”
As they made their way through the line, Paivi could see the tater tots arranged in a message.
Ugh, she thought.
Christian really seemed to have a thing for leaving her messages in food. Couldn’t he just write her a note, or better yet, talk to her like a normal person?
After she had finished her lunch and Michaela was engaged in a very serious conversation over which football player at the next table was the hottest, Paivi excused herself and made her way over to Christian’s table. He noticed her walking over, and told the guy next to him to move. He patted the seat, indicating to Paivi that she should sit.
“Gee, thanks,” she said sarcastically. “So, you wanted to see me?”
“Yeah, we need to get together this week, I was thinking Wednesday at Al’s Café,” he said, not waiting for an answer.
“I hate to break this to you, but I start basketball today and I have practice every day this week after school. There’s no way my mom will let me go out on a Wednesday night,” Paivi responded.
“What about Saturday, then?” Christian asked through a mouthful of tater tots.
“Yeah, I guess Saturday would be alright, but it would have to be in the afternoon,” she answered.
“So, Saturday it is. Al’s, two o’clock.” Christian looked satisfied. “Have you had any good dreams lately?”
“Very funny,” she said. “And no, I haven’t. See you Saturday. And by the way, I do have a phone.” She grabbed a tater tot off his plate and held it up to him before popping it into her mouth. She stood up and headed back to her table, not looking back.
Paivi’s first day of basketball tryouts had gone very well. She’d hit a few good shots and done everything the coaches had asked. At the end of the tryout, she was sore and all her muscles ached, but it was a good ache. She was pretty satisfied with her effort. Paivi went to bed early that night, completely worn out. Her head barely hit the pillow before she drifted off into a deep sleep.
Suddenly, she was walking down the hallway at school. She looked down and noticed she was dressed for practice. She entered the large gym, where groups of girls were practicing out on the basketball courts. The freshman team coach, Ms. Jensen, was talking with the head coach, Mrs. Espinosa. They both turned to her as she walked up.
“I was just telling your coach that I’m afraid we’re going to need you on varsity,” Mrs. Espinosa patted Paivi on the shoulder. “My center just quit on me. I’ve seen you play. You look perfect for the job. Now, I know it’s a lot to ask, and it’ll be rough in the beginning, getting used to the speed of varsity. Are you up for the challenge?”
“Oh my god, yes! Of course!” Paivi could hardly get the words out; she was so excited.
The picture changed. There was a man standing on a stage, but she couldn’t see his face. Music played and confetti fell from somewhere up above. People cheered loudly, waving signs bearing the name ‘Stevens.’
Paivi awoke suddenly with a gasp. She rolled over and checked the clock. The neon green numbers showed 2:37. The house was still, silent and dark.
She smiled to herself. She was going to be on varsity! She had thought she would make the freshman team, but varsity! This was unbelievable! She hugged the nearest teddy bear, Mr. Stinky. She lay back down and rolled onto her side, snuggling into her pillow. Her mind fell briefly on the other vision.
So the jerk wins, she thought. Maybe Crystal wasn’t half wrong. Maybe the guy could at least stop the terrorists.
Paivi pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind, closed her eyes, and drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
The election came and went the following week with Senator Stevens winning in a landslide. Aside from Dr. Hasenpfeffer’s lively classroom discussions on the topic, life returned to its usual concerns.
Paivi was more focused on basketball than anything else. It was a few days before Coach Espinosa offered her a spot on the varsity team. Paivi was relieved, but also nervous. She liked the girls on the freshman team and she didn’t know any of the girls on varsity.
Friday was her first day of practice with the varsity girls. She had tried to take everything in but there was so much to learn. The girls were working so hard; there wasn’t much time for socializing.
Paivi found herself paired with Leyla Bianchi, a junior forward, for a particularly challenging drill. Paivi had to turn her back to Leyla, and then pivot around to catch a pass. Leyla was supposed to tell her to turn to the right or left and then throw the ball, which should meet her as she turned.
“Left,” Leyla called out, her voice echoing through the gym.
Paivi swung to the left, but before she could complete her turn, there was an explosion of pain in her face as the basketball crashed into her nose. She flew straight backwards onto the floor.
“Oops!” Leyla giggled, covering her mouth with her hand. Shay Montgomery, the team’s point guard, joined her.
Her face throbbed making it difficult to open her eyes. Blood dripped down from her nose and pooled into her cupped hand.
“Paivi, are you bleeding?” Coach Espinosa ran over. “Off to the trainer’s, let’s go.”
She helped Paivi up and pointed to the door of the gym. Paivi looked back to see Leyla still talking to Shay and laughing. Paivi glared at them and turned her back as she headed to the training room. She felt the energy building up again, her anger forcing it through her. She made no attempt to control it this time. In the gym the girls let out a shriek as a light bulb burst, raining glass onto the hardwood floor.
This is just the beginning, she thought to herself, trying to keep the blood from running onto the floor.
Saturday morning’s practice was still unpleasant, but at least it was not as physically painful. Her nose still ached from the day before, and her eyes were slightly black underneath, but Paivi didn’t want it to look like she was weak, or worse, afraid of Leyla, so she tried not to shy away from any of the drills.
Leyla Bianchi didn’t throw a ball in Paivi’s face, but she made her presence known. When Leyla picked teams for a scrimmage, she chose Paivi for her team, and then never put her into the game. When Coach Espinosa noticed and subbed Paivi in, Leyla made sure she never got the ball. Paivi could see she had no supporters on the team. Leyla had a group of about five girls that stuck to her like glue and the other teammates just ignored her.
She was glad when practice was finally over. She found that she was dreading meeting Christian less than she was dreading Monday’s practice. It was a sunny November day and unseasonably warm. Paivi decided to walk downtown—it was easier than trying to explain to her parents who she was meeting. She didn’t want to tell a complete lie, so she told her mother that she was meeting Michaela at Al’s Café. It was the right place, just not the right person. Besides, she didn’t mind walking when it was so nice out. She felt a bit cagey and figured some fresh air would do the trick.
As she walked through the neighborhood, she looked at the houses as she passed. Every house looked slightly different, one story, two stories, red, brown. Most were neat and tidy. Some were a bit run down and looked out of place.
As she turned on to Grove Street she stopped in front of a large Victorian house. It was known as the Butterman Mansion and it was by far Paivi’s favorite house in all of St. Andrew. The imposing three-story mansion sat in a large garden surrounded by an ornate wrought iron fence. The house had been expertly painted in shades of purple and blue, accenting the delicate woodwork that made it resemble a gingerbread house. With a sigh, she crossed over a busy street into St. Andrew’s downtown.
Al’s Café was located in an old two-story brick building that dated from 1871. It was located in St. Andrew’s historic downtown and overlooked the Fox River. Paivi opened the heavy wooden door and heard a jingle. The girl standing behind the register looked up from a magazine she was reading.
“Hi! Welcome to Al’s. How many?” she asked with a smile.
“Hi, I’m meeting a friend.” Paivi paused as she scanned the downstairs dining room. There were a few couples sitting at the tables, but no Christian.
“Blond guy?” asked the girl.
“He’s upstairs.” She pointed to a staircase to the left.
“Thanks!” Paivi went around a corner and headed up a wide wooden staircase. As she entered the room, she could see Christian sitting at a table next to the fireplace and in front of one of the large windows. The room was large and airy with high ceilings framed by elaborate wood trim. A fire crackled in the stone fireplace, throwing shadows along the walls.
Aside from Christian, the room was nearly empty except for a table of three very loud middle-aged ladies sitting at the far end of the room and one very bored looking waitress.
Christian glanced up from the menu he was looking at, his face brightening.
“Hi!” he said. “Did someone mug you on the way over? Those are some nice black eyes.”
“Funny.” She took off her coat, hanging it on the back of the chair. “It’s from practice. Apparently my teammates don’t like me very much. Well, one, anyways.”
Paivi had been too embarrassed to tell her parents about the incident with Leyla. She figured getting her parents involved wouldn’t make the girls on the team like her any better.
“Really?” He raised an eyebrow. “Which teammate in particular?”
“Right, like you’re really interested. What are you going to do, leave her a nasty message in her green beans?” she snapped.
“Look, I know we’ve started off on the wrong foot,” he began.
“You think?” She leaned back, folding her arms across her chest and narrowing her black eyes.
“I want to make it up to you. If you tell me her name, I’ll make sure that after Monday, she won’t bother you again and everyone on the team will be nice.”
“I want to know what you’re going to do, first. I don’t want this getting any worse.” She touched her nose gingerly. “I don’t need any more black eyes.”
“Can you just trust me?”
“Um, so far, no,” Paivi replied.
“If I can do this though, then maybe you can trust me?” He played with his silverware.
“Maybe. A little. But why won’t you tell me anything?” She sat back, folding her arms over her chest.
“Let’s just say, I have ways of taking care of it, and no one will know but me and this other person. In order to do that, however, I would need a name.”
The waitress approached the table, pen and pad in hand.
“What can I get for you?” She tapped her pen on the pad.
“I’ll have an Oreo shake please,” answered Paivi, without looking at the menu. It’s what she always ordered at Al’s, they were famous for their shakes.
Christian ordered a cheeseburger and a chocolate shake. The waitress headed off to put in their orders.
“So, are you going to give me her name?” Christian asked.
“Alright, Leyla Bianchi. She’s a junior,” she answered, fiddling with her napkin. She had mixed feelings about this. She wanted Leyla to leave her alone, but she wasn’t sure she wanted Christian to feel like he had won her over.
“I’ll take care of her on Monday. I know who she is and it won’t be a problem. By practice everything should be fine.” Christian was visibly pleased with himself, smiling like a Cheshire cat.
Paivi felt a little uncomfortable.
“Uh, thanks?” It sounded more like a question.
There was a loud burst of cackles from the table with the three ladies. Paivi jumped a little, she’d forgotten they were there.
“Now, I have a favor to ask you,” Christian began. “I need you to tell me who is going to win the big football game next weekend between Chicago and Green Bay, and the exact score.”
Paivi looked at him with a confused look on her face.
“What? How am I supposed to do that?”
He looked at her, raising an eyebrow.
“Okay, okay, I get why you asked me, but I can’t do that. I’ve never had any dreams about that kind of stuff. I mostly have dreams about myself, or family and friends,” she explained.
Christian looked up as the waitress approached, carrying their shakes and his cheeseburger.
“Here you go, Oreo shake.” The waitress set the tall glass and metal tumbler carrying the freshly mixed shake in front of her. “Cheeseburger and chocolate shake. Enjoy!”
Paivi didn’t waste any time digging in.
“So, let me guess, you’ve never really used your ability before?” he asked, taking a bite of his cheeseburger.
“Used it? I’ve just seen lots of things. They just come to me,” she answered through a spoonful of Oreo shake.
“Exactly. No one has ever taught you to use your ability though.” Christian popped a french fry into his mouth. “I’ve met other people like you. They could just turn it on and off. So try that and see if you can find out about next weekend’s game.”
“Okay Mr. Know-It-All, how do I even begin to do that?” Her spoon was paused mid-way from the cup to her mouth. “And why aren’t you asking these other people to do this for you?”
A shadow passed across his face, and Christian met Paivi’s gaze across the table.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” He looked away and continued. “Anyways, when they wanted to see something, they would concentrate on a person or event, and if they concentrated on it hard enough, they could see it. I’ve seen people do it, they kind of looked like they were meditating, you know, like Buddhist monks do.”
“And they didn’t have to be asleep?” Paivi was listening intently. She had never realized she could control it, her parents hadn’t told her that part. Is it possible they didn’t know?
“Nope, they could do it any time they wanted. The reason you see the things you do in your dreams is because you have thoughts of those people or events in your subconscious. You were concentrating on them without even realizing it,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Wow,” was all Paivi could say. She stirred her shake with the spoon.
“What are you going to do? Bet on the game or something?” she asked.
“I won’t worry you about that. The less you know the better. If I remember right, that’s how you wanted it to be,” he answered.
“But what if it doesn’t work? What if I can’t see the game?” She set her empty glass to the side.
“Well, you’ve got all week, I just need to know by next Saturday. You’ll get it, don’t worry.” Christian pushed his empty plate forward.
He waved for the waitress to bring the bill. She hurried over with the check, handing it to Christian.
Paivi took out her wallet, but Christian held up his hand.
“My treat,” he said, opening his wallet, which was full of cash.
“Uh, thanks. I didn’t realize you were Mr. Moneybags. Where did you get all that cash?” she teased.
“That’s for me to know.” He threw down some bills on the table. “Come on, let’s go.”
They made their way down the stairs to the entrance. Paivi put on her coat.
“See you at school on Monday, I guess.
“Do you need a ride?” he asked, scanning the street.
“No, thanks, I don’t live far and it’s not too bad out. I think I’ll walk.” She didn’t want to explain to her parents why some strange guy was dropping her off.
“Ah, here’s my ride. Later, then,” he said, giving her a quick wave.
A black SUV pulled up to the curb. Paivi turned to head towards home, thinking about what Christian had told her. She walked quickly, barely taking in her surroundings. She wanted to get home and see if she could really choose what future to see.