THE SAVIOR: Chapter 2

(I will link songs that fit the mood of some of the sections. Keep an eye out for them!) 

Mom was feeling unusually kind to me yesterday and let me spend the night at Spencer’s.
Ugh, I don’t want to leave.
Spencer and I watched movies all night, mainly Alfred Hitchcock classics and here is the thing about Mr. Master of Suspense: the man has ruined my life. I was a highly paranoid kid to begin with, but now Hitch has stepped it up to a whole other level. Today I can’t take a whiz in the bathroom without first drawing back the shower curtain to make sure Norman Bates or some other freak with an Oedipus Rex complex isn’t going to stab me to death. Also I hate birds. Why then do I continue to watch his movies?
         Simple: I am an idiot.
Anyhow, it’s eleven o’clock now and Mom expected me home at ten thirty. “I have to get going,” I moan, shuffling toward the door.
“Have fun,” Spencer says mockingly.
“Thanks. See yah,” I say, shutting the door and then jogging down the porch steps to my bike. Hopping on it, I pedal home. My legs churn the pedals slowly, trying to prolong my time alone.
 I put my bike away in the garage once I get home and then mosey up to the front door, moving so slowly that it legitimately hurts.
 “Logan! There you are!” My grandma Nellie trills gleefully as I open the door. I cringe at the sound of my own name.
“Hey.” I wave hesitantly, shutting the door behind me.
“Give me a hug,” she demands, toddling toward me with her fat jiggly arms spread wide open.
I drag myself over to this weirdo and hug her.
Grandma Nellie is a short pudgy woman, peaking 5 feet 2 inches, who is possibly made up of 86% Jell-O. After hitting my growth spurt I, thankfully, went from being a foot shorter than her to being a foot taller than her. Those were the dark days. Literally. My face got squished between her watermelon-sized boobs whenever she hugged me, causing the room to go black and several hours of much needed therapy.  
Ugh, my gag reflexes kick into gear just thinking about it.
Nellie has thick rolling waves of brownish silver hair that when released from her hairclip touches her shoulders. Like the rest of my mother’s side of the family she possesses the famously dark Coonrad amber eyes. Unlike my family, though, she doesn’t look like a corpse because she lives in Sandy, Utah where they get a surplus of sunshine and heat.
Unleashing me from her grip, Nellie gives me a hard smack on the back. “Boy! You’re sure sprouting like a weed!” She shrills.
“Yah,” I murmur, trying to force a smile but it ain’t working.
“Come join us, your mom just made a fresh batch of lemonade,” she informs me, taking me by the arm, dragging me into the kitchen. Jaw clenching I roll my eyes. Less than five minutes—five freaking minutes—and the woman is already on my nerves.
“Have a seat.” Nellie motions to a chair.
“Logan, you were supposed to be here forty minutes ago,” Mom says, eyes squinting disapprovingly at me.
“Yeah I know. I got sidetracked. Sorry,” I apologize.
“Fine, fine, but please try to pay better attention next time,” she lectures and then flicks something off her sea green yoga shirt.   
I sit down at the table beside my three younger sisters Hannah, Erin, and Noah. Mom’s dirty blonde curls fall over her right shoulder as she pours a glass of lemonade for me.
Sipping at it, I stare aimlessly out the window, back muscles straining into fist-sized knots.
“Nellie! Nellie!” Noah yells in her squeaky six-year-old voice, bouncing up and down like a basketball in her seat. “Guess what Nellie?”
“What is it honey?” she asks, a glass of lemonade in one hand.
“I’m going to be the chosen one!” She yells enthusiastically.
I grind my teeth together.
Oh my god! Can we please just go one day—that’s all I’m asking, just one freaking day—without talking about this, I groan angrily in my head.
“You never know.” Nellie smiles. “You could very well be.”
“Well I am,” Noah declares, violently poking at her chest with her index finger.  
“Doubt it,” Erin scoffs, rolling her eyes. 
“Who knows,” Nellie says, suddenly serious. “Nothing has come up with any of your cousins, but I can tell you this, one of you or your cousins will be the chosen one very, very soon—I have no doubts about that.”

I wake up with a burning bladder and I’m afraid it’s going to burst.
Aha, that’s why, I think as my lids open.
Ellen and Cassie are sitting on my bed, or on me rather, right on my bladder, their faces inches away from mine. “Happy Birthday,” they say in a singsong voice.
Oh, yeah. It’s my birthday. So, June nineteenth has finally arrived after-all. I am officially sixteen-years-old.
“Thanks,” I grunt. “Now would you please get off my bladder before I explode?”
The three of us go down to the Mess Hall together to eat breakfast. I have a bowl of Cocoa Puffs, nothing fancier than my usual breakfasts. Just another day the way I see it.    
I search the cafeteria for Max but fail to spot him. Things have gotten a little bit awkward between us. Ever since that one night, two days ago, we haven’t hung out much lately.

After breakfast I change into my dappled green and black Speedo, a pair of white tattered shorts, and pull on my ragged Converses before heading out on a thirty-minute jog around the lake.
Running is my life. 
When I run everything leaves my mind, the past, present, and future vanish with every outgoing breath. Concentrating only on pushing myself forward, I focus on nothing more than my breath, listen to the rhythmic beat my feet make as they pound against the earth. I like to run until perspiration floods from every pour, wanting to feel the thick streams of sweat dripping along the sides of my face, down my spine, pooling behind my knees and trickling down my calves. I realize that this is strange and that most people find any sort of perspiration disgusting, but for me, I find comfort, like I’m sweating the stress away.
 After bringing my run to a conclusion, I amble out onto the dock and take a seat on its edge, allowing my legs to dip into the cool, refreshing water. A few minutes pass and I withdraw my legs from the water, deciding to lie on my stomach instead, resting my chin on top of my folded arms, and curling my toes around the dock’s opposite edge. I gaze down at my reflection, wiggling like a snake in the water. Dark strands of hair that broke loose from my ponytail dangle off the edge, just barely making contact.
As I look down at my slightly wiggling self a thought strikes me: Am I pretty? This catches me off guard because being attractive generally hasn’t been a big concern of mine. Honestly, it’s a stupid thing to worry about while the world’s bigger issues patiently wait to be solved.  
Closing my eyes I inhale deeply, allowing this mass of oxygen to expand and replenish my lungs and once they have reached their maximum capacity I blow it all out through my mouth, beginning to hum “I Was Made For Loving You.”
My mind wanders off to a scene that took place here on this very dock exactly four years ago. We were both thirteen.

“So, lets see those mad skills of yours you were bragging about to your friends the other day,” I tell Max, flinging my shirt and shorts onto the grass, revealing my dolphin-patterned bathing suit.
 Man, it is scorching outside today, I think, wiping the sweat off my forehead with the back of my hand.
“Oh please,” he says, rolling his eyes. “I wasn’t the only one bragging.”
Shaking my head in disagreement, my long brown ponytail whips across my face.
“Yes you were,” he says matter-of-factly, pulling his shirt off, and then tossing it beside mine. “You probably have a crush on one of those guys, don’t you?”
“I do not!”
“Why’s your face turning red then?”
“It’s not,” I snarl, but then wheel in the opposite direction just in case.
He laughs. “Yes it—”
“Shut up,” I say, shoving him hard as I rush for the dock.
 “Is it Brian?” he asks, tone blended with a combination of curiosity and a twinge of seriousness. 
I turn around. “What?”
“Brian, Tommy, Preston, or Brandon?” He moves toward me. “Which one is it?”
None,” I tell him, heat flooding my face.
“Fine,” he mutters, unsatisfied.
“Well,” I say, hands placing on my hips. “Are we just gonna stand here and bicker like a couple of old farts or are we gonna swim?”
“Yeah.” He nods.
“Ok, then,” I begin. “Let’s have a competition to see who really has the mad skills.”
“Alright,” he answers, perking up.
Gesturing to the board with my hand, I say, “After you.”
“Nope.” Max grins. “Ladies first.”
“Fine,” I say, taking a deep breath before sprinting across the dock, but before making it anywhere near the board my right foot hits something sharp and icy. “Ouch,” I scream, clenching my foot with both hands, hopping up and down on my left foot.
“What?” Max yells.
Groaning, I plop my butt down, bringing my foot up to my face for a closer inspection. Blood drips across the ball of my foot. “Ah, crap,” I whine.
Max runs over to me. “What happened?” he asks.
“Watch out!” I shout, pointing to the source, a dang nail that sticks straight into the air, pointy side up.   
Sitting down beside me, Max reaches out for my foot. It stings. “Ouch,” I repeat.
“Yikes,” he agrees. “Geez, where did that stupid nail come from?”
“Ha!” I snort. “‘Where did that stupid nail come from?’ Like you don’t know. You probably planted it there it there for me so I’d do a crappy flip afterwards.”
He chuckles.
“What?” I ask.
“You’re hilarious,” he tells me. “You’d still beat me.” He pauses, thinking for a moment, releasing my foot. “Well, uh, want to be blood brothers then?”
“Blood brothers,” he repeats. “You know, since you’re already bleeding and all.”
“Um,” I say skeptically, “I thought it was bad to share blood.”
“We’re both O positive. What harm could it do?” he assures me. “It’s fine, but, of course, unless you’re chicken I understand.”
And since I hate being called chicken I roll my eyes and say, “Fine.”
Max pulls something out of his pocket—his dad’s Swiss Army Knife. Flipping open the blade he drags it across the ball of his right foot, eyebrows furrowing as he does this. A crimson river streams down his foot. “There we go,” he says, storing the knife away. “Now give me your foot.”
Pressing my foot against his, we begin rubbing our bloody wounds together.
This is disgusting.
“There,” he says, pulling his foot away from mine. “Now we’re blood brothers.”
Lapsing into silence for a few short moments, I finally mutter, “Happy birthday to me,” and then we both start laughing.  

Blood brothers, I think, rolling the word around my head like a marble. Probably not the most hygienic thing in the world to have done.
“Hey Tiger,” a voice greets me.  
Flinching, I open my eyes, turning my head to look up at him. Sunlight blazes around his profile. Squinting, I mumble back a hello.
Kicking off his flip-flops Max sits down beside me, plopping his feet into the water, wearing nothing but his red swim-trunks. I’ve seen Max half-naked plenty of times before—hell Leslie used to bathe us together when we were younger and we were both stark-naked then—but as my eyes skim over the shape of his shoulders, the tight cinch of his waist I’m stunned to discover that I’ve never paid any attention to what he actually looks like.
My whole body snaps into awareness.
 I gulp, forcing my eyes forward.
 His hand finds a resting spot next to my elbow, causing my heart to punch so ridiculously hard that my pulse bounces around the inside of my mouth to the point where I can almost taste it.  
Water sloshes beneath us, slapping against the side of the dock like a high five. I open my eyes and watch his feet move in circles, sending ripples throughout the lake’s surface. His foot flicks up, splashing water in my face.
I shove his knee.
Max laughs.
Twisting my neck in his direction, I smile, pulling the loose strands of hair behind my ears. His hand moves to his pocket, getting ready to pull something out of it. “I brought you a present, but’cha gotta close your eyes and put your wrist out for me first,” he instructs.
Obediently, I shut my eyes, raising my right hand out toward him. He ties some kind of bracelet around my wrist. “Ok, open,” he says calmly.
Glancing down at my wrist, I find a beautiful leather strap tied to it, etched with an elegant pattern of dolphins dancing through the waves.
“Ooh dolphins,” I coo, sitting up. “Wow Max. Thanks, this is beautiful.” I take the bracelet gingerly between the forefinger and thumb of my opposite hand, twisting it around to examine the intricate design.
“I carved it myself,” Max says, his parenthetical dimples deepening with satisfaction.
“It’s awesome,” I tell him, still examining it, stunned by the detail.
“Happy birthday,” he says, so close his breath moves several wisps of my hair.
A chill runs down my spine and when I turn to face him, his nose bumps into mine, but before I have time to react to whatever it is he plans on doing someone shrills, “Max! Oh, there you are! We were wondering where you went.”
And within that instant, we pull away from each other.

“Nellie?” Noah squeaks at the dinner table. 
“Yes, cutie?”
“I have a question for you,” she says with a mouthful of mashed potatoes tumbling in her mouth.
“Yes, I figured that.” Nellie nods.
“Noah,” Mom warns my little sister. “Swallow before asking Grandma a question.”
Noah nods, swallowing, and then asks Nellie, “Do you have skits-so…skits-so…?” Noah looks to me for help.
My eyes are wide and my heart is racing.
“Do I have what dearie?” Nellie squints her eyes a bit and leans forward as a roll of fat from her belly engulfs the table.
“Do you think you are an orange?”
Crap! Crap! Mega crap!
“An orange?” Erin repeats.
My brothers crack up, while my sister, Hannah, who rarely shows any signs of life, suppresses a smile. 
“Noah,” Mom says, “what kind of question is that?”
“Logan said it first,” she points at me accusingly, puffing her lower lip out like she does whenever she thinks she is in trouble.  
“Logan?” Mom and Nellie both say, staring at me, waiting for an answer.
“I…uh…Noah,” I groan, glaring at her.
“What?” she whimpers, sinking lower into her seat until only her eyes and springy golden hair are visible above the table.
Nellie clears her throat, drops her fork to her plate, and then says, “Logan, I demand an explanation.”
I tilt my chin to the ceiling like this will help me, but it doesn’t, so I just do it, I just say what we’re all thinking here. “I, um, just don’t believe in any of this crap.”
“What crap?” Nellie puffs.
“This savior crap!” I look her in the eyes now. “I don’t believe in any of it.”
“And why ever not?” she demands, completely offended. It’s like I just told her that I don’t believe in the existence of gravity.
“Because it’s all made up. How can someone turn into a wolf?” I ask her. “I mean honestly Nellie. It’s like asking me to believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny still.”
“Santa’s real!” Noah shouts, sitting up taller now, tears filling her eyes.  
“Logan,” Mom warns, eyes flickering to both Noah and my youngest brother Connor. “That’s enough,” she says in her low and controlled voice, the scariest voice of them all.
“Logan,” Nellie begins, folding her arms across her puffed out chest, “it pains me to see how selfish you’ve become.”
I blink at her a couple times, unbelievingly. There are a thousand things I want to scream at her, but nothing comes out. Instead, I repeat the word she’s just accused me of. “Selfish?” I say.
“Yes! Selfish!” She says, her nostrils flaring. “Because this isn’t all about you, you know. It’s about your future kin. Maybe you won’t be the chosen one this time around, but down the road one of your great-great grandchildren might be and when that happens the stories you pass on will help prepare them for when the next savior comes along. Don’t you see? We all play an important role.”
No, I don’t see, but I like that Nellie has faith in the existence of my future sexual activity. Me produce offspring? Who would have thought?
In that moment I realize I can’t argue with her. It’s pointless. “Fine,” I say dejectedly, pushing my chair away from the table. “May I please be excused?” I look to Mom.
“Yes,” Mom closes her eyes and sighs, “but please apologize to your grandmother first.”
I stand up and grab my plate, which now only holds a bare corncob. “Sorry Nellie,” I mutter and then leave the table.

Later that night, I am flopped stomach down on my mattress with a crinkled photo of Dad and me in the backyard held between my hands. I am a scrawny ten-year-old in the photo about to turn eleven. Dad is bent over, attacking me with tickles. I’m trying to get away, but can’t. We are both laughing in our winter clothes with wet scarlet and orange fallen leaves surrounding our toes. Mom took the photo a couple days before his out of the blue heart attack killed him. 
I miss him more than anything now. If he were still alive, he’d be rolling his eyes too at the dinner table. We’d share a laugh or better yet, Nellie wouldn’t even be here. We never really saw her much until Dad died anyway.
I hate how they’ve all forgotten him. My siblings, I mean. They never talk about him anymore like he never existed. I mean, I guess it’s not fair to Noah since she was just a new born when he died, but it just sucks. It sucks being the oldest, the one who remembers him the most. It makes his absence hurt all that much more.
I miss when he read to Hannah and me. He’d do all these awesome voices for different characters and act out the scenes. He was so talented at the whole story-reading thing that Hannah and I begged him to read to us even when it wasn’t our bedtime.
I remember one night I told him, “I want to be an awesome Daddy like you someday.”
“Oh yeah, Big Man?” He cocked his head, smiling down at me. Hannah was asleep in his lap, drooling all over his arm. 
“Yeah.” I nodded. “Then I could read stories all day.”
“Sounds fun,” he chuckled, “but you gotta do more than that, pal. Being a dad is tough work. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices.”
“Yeah.” He nodded, lifting Hannah into his arms and then settled her into the bed across from mine. Then he came over to me and started tucking me into the sheets. “You can’t be selfish anymore. You have to do what’s best for the family.”
“Best for the family?” I repeated as he brushed some fallen hair out of my eyes.
“Yeah pal,” Dad smiled, sitting on the edge of my bed. “That’s what love is all about.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean… Hmm… That you do things that you sometimes don’t want to do because you do it out of love.”
“You mean you don’t like reading to us?” I whimpered.
“Oh. No, no, no buddy,” he assured me. “I love reading to you and Hannah. What I mean to say is that… oh what do I mean?” He looked to the ceiling for a second, searching for an idea. “Aha! Well, take diapers for instance. I hate changing poopy diapers, but because I love Rowan and Erin so much and don’t want them to get rashes I wipe the poop off their butts each day until they are old enough to do it themselves.”
I started giggling.
“You think it’s funny now,” he laughed along with me, “but wait till you’re a Daddy and have to do the same thing.”
“Ewe.” I shook my head. “No poopy butts for me, thanks! I’ll make my wife do that.”
“Ha! Good luck with that.” Dad chuckled, ruffling my hair. “You goof.”
I was giggling so hard at that point.
Hannah made a sound in her bed and then Dad started shushing me. “You do it out of love though bud. Like I need to now, actually.” Then he bent over and kissed my forehead. “Time to sleep. Love you Logan.”
“Love you too Daddy.”
I guess, in other words, Dad meant: Sometimes you just gotta deal with you’re family’s shit.
Like tonight.
I guess that’s what being a man is all about and of course I want to be a man, but gah Nellie! The woman is too damn annoying to ignore.
“Tell me again! Tell me again!” Noah pleads from upstairs.
“Ok. Ok.” Nellie laughs. “Take a seat my dear.”
I drop my picture to the pillow and crack open my door to listen.
“Every two hundred years a special person is born, a person who can, after their sixteenth birthday, transform into a wolf and save people. Who do we call this person cutie?” Nellie asks.
“The savior!” Noah squeaks joyfully and then giggles.
“And who are we?”
“The receivers!”
“And what does that mean sweetie?” Nellie questions.
“It means that only, that only we know about the savior and that we train him or her to fight the bad guys. Heehee.”
No matter how hard I try, I can’t help but smile at Noah’s silliness.
“Excellent!” Nellie cheers and I imagine her high-fiving my little sister at this point. “Now,” her voice is back to its questioning tone, “how do we find the savior?”
“That’s right! Good girl!” Nellie booms and I think she is bouncing up and down right now because the whole lower half of the house is shaking. “The chosen one—that’s either you or one of your cousins—dreams about the savior the night of his or her first transformation, which, my lovely, could be tonight!”   
“Yay!” Noah screams. “Tonight! Tonight!”
I shake my head and turn back to my bed, thinking, It’s not going to happen tonight.  

I am hesitant upon approaching the Mess Hall for dinner, which is sort of a dilemma since it’s not like I can skip out on my own birthday party.
Seeing Max again though makes me nervous. I left him at the dock after Alisha and her idiotic cult members interrupted us. Whatever they had interrupted us doing though I am not entirely sure of.
I keep thinking about how close he leaned into me.
What had been on his mind? What was he trying to do?
I urge my legs forward, into the building where I hear a roaring happy birthday from the far left corner of the room. Smiling, I head over to the table where everyone from St. Mark’s is already seated and, of course, the only spot open to me is right next to Max.
With painful reluctance I sit down beside him.
“Fixed a plate up for you,” he tells me, sliding the dish over. It contains barbecue ribs, mashed potatoes, and green beans and smells amazing, causing my mouth to water.  
“Thanks,” I say.
He smiles.
Whew. This isn’t as awkward as I thought it would be, I assure myself, my muscles slowly untangling their knots.
Everyone is talking up a storm, giggling and laughing at one another. Henry, one of the younger boys, just had a huge chunk of mashed potatoes come shooting out his nose because he was laughing so hard, which of course led to root beer spraying out of both Paige and Ellen’s noses.
Things are constantly being passed around the table and—like at home—it is sheer chaos, but, of course, this is nothing compared to the moment when Leslie reveals the cake, a chocolate Baskin Robins ice cream cake, my favorite. They all sing happy birthday to me, which is embarrassing. For the most part, I don’t like being the center of attention, even when it comes to my birthday. Too overwhelming. 
 Alisha and her girls make their way over to the table, pretending to celebrate the date of my birth when I know that is so not the reason.  
Closing my eyes I wish for the one thing I wish for every year, a family, and with that I blow out my sixteen candles.
After my birthday dinner celebration, Max and I stroll down by the lake. In the beginning we talked a lot and our conversation was comfortable, but now as we gain closer to my cabin our conversation comes to a lull and my muscles tighten again. I am suddenly aware of how close he is to me and before I know it his fingers lace into mine.
I stop mid step and stare at him, confused.    
“What?” he asks, his smiling dipping into a frown at my expression.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Holding your—”
“Yeah, I see that,” I interrupt him. “But I meant…well…”—heat floods my face—“what have you been doing?”
“What do you mean?”
I groan, pulling my hand away from his. “You know exactly what I mean!” I practically yell.  
Remaining quiet, he absorbs this, gazing steadily into my eyes.
“You know,” I say. “When you were playing footsie with me at the table the other night. Or now how all of a sudden you want to hold hands?”
Several emotions flit across his face: fear, confusion, amusement, and then back to fear.
“I thought you liked Alisha? Alisha, she is kind of cute,” I mock him. “Remember?”
Humor tugs at the corner of his lips.  
“You are confusing the hell out of me!” I yell.
“Sorry,” he laughs.
He saunters toward me, his face suddenly reserved, cautious. A nervousness swirls about him as he asks, “Can I kiss you?”
Kiss me?” I ask, taken aback.  
I’m stunned by how serious his eyes have become, but this intensity softens when his mouth rises into a small smile. Max nods.
I gulp. “Um,” I begin, processing this way too slowly, “sure.”
Max gently places his hands on my waist, taking a step closer. He leans in when a horrible thought enters my mind: Shit, I don’t know how to do this. But before I can worry about this any longer my thoughts are hushed the instant his mouth presses to mine.  
So, here’s the thing—I’ve known Max basically my entire life and you would think that after twelve years of watching his lips pull up into a smile, twist into a smirk, dip into a frown, or even part as he stuck his tongue out at me I would know everything I’d ever need to know about these lips of his. But I hadn’t imagined how warm they would feel when pressed against my own.
Once when I was ten, Max and I were watching The Princess Bride and at the end of the movie when Westley and Buttercup make out I casually asked him, “What do you think it’s like?”
Kissing. Numbnuts.” I rolled my eyes. “What else?”
“What do I think kissing numb nuts is like?” He asked, eyes trained on the television, smirking.
“No!” I chucked a pillow at him. “What do you think just kissing is like?”
“I don’t know!” He groaned, tossing the pillow aside and then examined the two actors on the screen, seriously considering my question for a moment. “Wet?”

And yes, it is, kind of, but not in that disgusting dog slobbering way as I had once imagined it to be.
I want more of him.
I want.
I want.
I want.
But he pulls away, face wreathed in a strange combination of pride and shock as he says, “I know this is sort of a clich√© thing to say, but…”—he cracks a smile—“you really have no idea how long I’ve been dying to do that.” Laughing, he smiles triumphantly and those dimples of his have never looked more beautiful. “Will you be my girlfriend?”
Three capital letters jam in my throat and because I’m so blissfully overwhelmed by all this I literally can’t spit them out. So instead I nod, smiling widely as I answer him by pulling his head back down, pressing my lips once more to his.
Back at the cabin, I slip into my green plaid pajama shorts and black Joan Jett t-shirt before soaring into my bunk. Lips curve with delight as I rub my bracelet, fingers trailing along the dancing dolphins.
Snuggling beneath the sheets, I start thinking about the past. In second grade I had a teacher, Mrs. Wylie, who was obsessed with Dr. Seuss. Absolutely obsessed! She’d always write quotes from him on the white board for us students to read and ponder over during the day. And the funny thing is I never thought any one of those quotes would stick in my brain, but after all these years I remember one specific quote, a quote that has finally sprung to consciousness due to recent events and here it is: You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.

At midnight, I stroll through a maze of pine trees. There is a chill in the air and the stars are out. Gazing up at them, I think of how they look like sugar tossed out on a black tablecloth. The moon, so bright, makes trees cast their shadows at my feet. A slight wind moves between the branches above me and some crickets chirp near my toes.
By the looks of it, I seem to be on some sort of campground. Not sure how I got here though, but it really doesn’t matter.
I stop in front the nearest log cabin and before I even have time to think things through, my body drags itself into the structure. Once inside, I try to move, but can’t. I am paralyzed.
Great, I think. This is just great.
Glancing around the room, I notice five bunk beds, each one cradling two girls.
“This is perverted,” I mutter under my breath.
All of a sudden my body jerks into the air, my back nearly touching the ceiling as I sail toward one of the bunk beds near the window. My body stops and I hover over a sleeping girl.
I try wiggling free from this immobilized state, but can’t. I’m stuck. I can’t even blink my freaking eyelids. All I can do is move my eyeballs around in their sockets.
She better not wake up. Then what would I do? Say, Hey there! Don’t mind me hovering over your body!
Fortunately, the girl breathes deep sleepy breaths, in and out, completely unaware of my presence.
Since I can’t move anything other than my eyeballs and am floating directly over her, I can’t help but stare, and as I stare at her I’m taken aback by how beautiful she is. Everything about her seems perfect: the shape of her face, her lips, the curve of her nose. Long dark hair, tangled and wild, drapes around her milky brown face like something out of a painting. I glance down at her lips, parted slightly as she takes long even breaths, moving the flyaway hairs by her face and I wonder for a moment if anyone or anything has ever made me feel so at peace like this girl right here does.

I wake up in the middle of the night with unfamiliar pains radiating in my chest. Heart thundering beneath ribcage I realize that this is where the source of the pain is coming from and it grows warmer and warmer with each strike. The heat is uncomfortable. It hurts. Bad.
Sucking in a deep breath of air I make an effort to deal with the pain.
Blackness rushes over my eyes like a thick blindfold, firm and fast, and as if blurred by tears, I blink several times, but nothing happens. In an attempt to rub the darkness out of my eyes with the backs my hands, I realize I cannot move.
Why can’t I move?
Come on, come on, come on, My brain screams at my body at which point it screams back, I’m trying, I’m trying, I’m trying!
But I can’t—
I can’t—
I can’t move damn it!
I can’t move!
What’s next? I think, grappling for a solution.
I don’t know.
Come on think! Think!
Fear sets in, swirls in my chest, and explodes up my throat. Help! The word forms in my mouth, but nothing comes out.
The burning sensation in my chest intensifies; it rises, peaks, and rises again until it surpasses any sort of pain I’ve ever experienced before. Suddenly, like an explosion, every major organ in my body erupts in flames. I start choking on the smoke, ascending up through my lungs and throat like a chimney.
And now I’ve become claustrophobic because how can you escape something inside of you? How can you break free from your own body?
 Don’t panic, I tell myself. Panic is the enemy. Come on think!
But as I struggle to think my spine jerks back and a gut-wrenching crack zips down the length of it. I scream from a hundred fathoms deep inside my soul, too deep for anyone to hear. I want to cry. Tears may be my sole weapon against the flames that threaten to consume my body.
Cry, cry, cry, I beg of myself, but I can’t. This action takes too much effort and I am exhausted.  
Flames sear through my veins, spread across my shoulders and stomach, scorch their way up my throat, and lick at my face.
Oh god, make this stop!
At this point, I don’t care if anyone can hear me or not; all I want now is to be whisked away by death, wanting nothing more than for this hellish agony to end.  
Let me die.
Let me die.
Oh god, please, just kill me now.  

The girl’s fingers clench at the bed sheets, a low throaty groan escapes her lips as her expression contorts into a painful one.  
Uh, oh.
The girl’s eyes snap open, stunning emeralds that stare straight into mine and within a split second, she blurs out of the room, while I’m left in complete shock, still hovering over her bed like an idiot.

And suddenly the fire is out, a wave of relief washes over me. Cool and refreshing.
Every inch of my body screams out in gratitude and I’m so overwhelmed with happiness that I want to cry. Relief has never felt this sweet before, like a gasp of air to my long-submerged lungs, only a billion times better.
Opening my eyes I discover that I am no longer lying in bed, but rather standing in the middle of the soccer field, beneath the midnight sky.
What? Why am I out here? Did I sleep walk?
Something else is different and then it finally registers—I am unusually low to the ground. Thinking I am on my hands and knees I look down, but nope, this is not the case. Two hands are supposed to be spread out before me, but instead I find two massive paws!
A terrified yelp comes through my teeth.
“Juna!” Ellen shakes me awake.
I scream, my eyes flashing open.
Everyone is awake in her bed, staring at me. Ellen and Cassie sit at the foot of my bed. Ellen scoots closer to me.
“What?” I shout.
“Take this.” Ellen thrusts a wad of paper towels nervously into my hand.
I hold onto the paper towels, wondering why I need them. Then less than a minute later I taste why. Blood. It trickles from both nostrils to the edges of my mouth.
“Ewe,” I admit, wiping my face clean.  “What happened?”
“You were making a lot of noise,” Cassie says shakily.
“And you were shaking really hard too,” Ellen adds, her eyes wary.
There is a heartbeat of uncomfortable silence.  
“I had a nightmare,” I admit.

Arf! Arf! Arf! My Chihuahua alarm clock sounds, jolting me awake. Yes, that’s right. My alarm clock actually arfs at me, a sound only a rat-like creature could make, a stupid birthday gift from my sisters that Mom refuses to let me discard.
Grunting, I slam my fist down against it.
My first thought is, Why the heck is that thing even on when it’s summer time, while my second is about the girl, her emerald eyes still fresh in my mind.
She turned into a wolf. That’s odd.
The word savior comes to mind, but I shake the thought away because everyone knows that if you think long enough about something before going to bed, of course, you’re going to dream about that one thing. It’s like failing a test before actually taking it. So, I tell myself that there is nothing to worry about.
Throwing off the covers I get out of bed. My sheets snag a hold of my right foot and I go tumbling forward against the carpet with a big thump.
“Ouch,” I groan, pushing myself back onto my feet and as I do this I notice goose bumps running up and down my arms.
Pull it together, I tell myself, it was just a freaking dream. Not real.
I pull on a yellow striped rugby shirt, a pair of jeans, and then head up the stairs for the kitchen, stomach gurgling to the savory aroma of bacon.
I’m all twitchy when I enter the kitchen.
“Morning Logan,” Mom says.  
“What?” I flinch.  
“You ok honey?” she questions me as she tends to the pancakes on the stove.
“Yeah, sorry,” I mutter, rubbing my eyes. “I had a, uh, freaky dream last night.” I take a seat at the table.
“What about?” Noah asks with a mouth full of mushy pancakes. Mom cuts her a warning glance because no mother likes to see her child talk with a mouth full of food. Noah hunches down apologetically in her seat, obediently shutting her mouth as she chews. 
A part of me thinks telling them would be a seriously bad decision, but still I say, “Well, um, it was complicated.”
Mom places a plate of pancakes in front of me. I grab the mini gravy boat filled with maple syrup and pour it over my stack of pancakes.
“Tell us about it Logan.” Nellie slaps me hard on the back, holding a coffee mug in the opposite hand. I hate it when she touches me, so I scoot closer toward the table, trying to get away from her. She removes her hand and listens as I briefly explain my odd dream to them, skipping over much of the details such as how hauntingly gorgeous this girl was. “Weird, huh?” I end with, taking a bite of my pancakes.
Nellie shrieks, mug slipping from her hand, shattering against the linoleum floor. Hot coffee sprays everywhere. Some of it hits the backs of my legs. I almost choke on my food, twisting around in my seat to look up at her.   
“Mom?” My mother rushes to her side. Nellie freezes. “What Mom? Speak!”
Nellie’s freakishly intense eyes lock onto mine, jaw trembling as she whimpers, “You are the…chosen one.”
Oh shit.

Luckily, all thoughts of last night’s bizarre dream vanish the minute my eyes meet with Max’s, who stands just outside my cabin, waiting for me. I sprint down the porch steps toward him.
“Hey,” he says, taking a step toward me.
“Hi,” I say, smiling so widely my cheeks burn.
“Come on,” he says. “Lets get some breakfast.”
As we turn for the Mess Hall we hear feet pattering down the porch steps of the cabin. Instinctively, I glance over my shoulder to see whom they belong to.
Alisha and her group pass us by without taking as much as a peek at Max on their way by. That’s the first. In fact, they strut past us quicker than normal, like they’re scared or something.
“What’cha do to them?” Max asks me jokingly.
I shrug, feeling a prickle creep up my spine.
“Well, hopefully they won’t bother us anymore,” he says.
“Yeah.” I nod.
Max’s hand reaches for mine, our fingers intertwine and I can’t stop smiling.

“I already told you!” I groan, falling back against my chair, forehead plopping into my palms.  
“I need to know all the fine details, Logan. We have got to find her.” Pen and paper close at hand, Nellie questions me about my freaking dream over and over again.
It’s official: I am the world’s biggest idiot. Why didn’t I foresee this? I should have known Nellie would have come to this disillusioned assumption.
I could be outside riding my four-wheeler right now.
I could be fishing.
Heck, I could be picking my nose, while being severely constipated on the loo and it’d be far better than this!
Mom sits beside Nellie, staring down expressionless at the pad of paper on which Nellie has taken notes on. Pale face and kind of sickly looking too, I pray to God, Buddha, Allah, or heck even to dear ole Betty White that she does not buy into this crap too.  
“All I know is it’s a girl and that she’s at some sort of camp,” I grumble, flicking a breadcrumb across the table. It hits the wall and falls to the floor.
“Hmm…” she contemplates, tapping the end of her pen against the lower part of her chin and when I say chin I am referring to her second one. “She is no doubt an orphan.”
“An orphan?” I scoff.
“Well, basically the savior’s mother only holds one purpose in life and when that purpose is fulfilled, she dies,” Nellie explains this in such a simplistic manner I feel as though this information should be catalogued with facts like: the sun comes up during the day and goes down at night. “The mother generally has a low role in society. Probably got pregnant as a teen, no one wanted the baby, and so she was dumped in an orphanage,” Nellie says with mock sadness, then juts her finger to the sky like lightning has struck her with sheer brilliance, “which was ultimately the best decision, because we the receivers”—she giggles at the term—“will adopt her.”
My jaw clenches.
“And has it always been like this?” Mom asks, her tone dull enough to put a hyperactive child to sleep.
“Something similar…” Nellie says, quickly licking her lips. “The question now is where does she live? And where is this camp located?”
“How the heck are we supposed to find that out?” I groan, shifting in my seat.
“Oh, my dear boy, we shall find that out soon enough,” she chuckles and the sound sends a wave of shivers tingling down my spine. “Because with every dream comes a new set of answers. So why don’t you go take a nap Logan?” She makes a shooing motion with her hand and I can tell she isn’t joking.
Better, yet, I think, why don’t I wake up because this is a freaking nightmare?  

Max brushes his warm foot against my calf.
I glance up from the table at him, admiring those beautiful parenthesis-like dimples curving around both sides of his mouth. I stare at him for a long moment, watching him watch me and I want to kiss him. I want to kiss him more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my entire life.
“You almost done slowpoke?” He motions to my plate with his chin.
Peering down at my mountain of pasta, I realize it looks more like a heap of bloody worms than anything worth eating. I’ve only taken two bites over the past forty-five minutes and it’s not like I’m not hungry or anything—I’m starving, but tonight’s dinner just isn’t doing it for me. “Yeah, I guess I’m not that hungry today,” I lie, pushing the plate aside.
Glancing past me to the Mess Hall, Max’s warm foot drops to the ground, sort of squinting his eyes now. “Too bad the girls couldn’t join us for dinner tonight,” he mentions casually.
Tilting my head to the side, face tightening into a scowl, I start humming a certain Kiss song.
Peeking at me from the corner of his eye, Max bursts into laughter.
I shake my head.
“Ha!” He says. “You were so jealous, weren’t you? That’s the only reason I put up with them, you know.”
“Oh, really?” I say, placing my right elbow onto the table, leaning my chin into the palm of my hand. “Well, your loss.”
“No, it wasn’t,” he disagrees, leaning forward. “You are definitely worth the suffering I went through with those bozos.” Max drops his gaze to the table, picking a splinter out from the wood, and then flicking it onto the grass. “I’ve been trying to make you jealous for a long time…”
Again, I get that sensation of sunshine exploding inside of me and I love it, want more of it. “How long?” I ask, suppressing a smile.  
“Like four years,” he answers, glancing up at me and he’s got this cute shy kid expression about his face that I rarely see and it’s driving me crazy.
I lean across the table and kiss him.
As Max and I make our way over to his cabin I find myself feeling worse than before, more sluggish, a little nauseated too. I kind of feel like one of those fat, crippled ponies at the county fair who unwillingly gives endless amounts of rides to bratty little children, while the sun mercilessly beats down on them. The kind of pony that makes you question whether their next step is going to be their last step.
Max’s hand reaches for mine. His touch is comforting and so I lean into him, until our shoulders press against one another. As we cross the end of soccer field a squirrel races in front of us, scrambling up a decrepit old oak tree.
The nausea hits harder this time, so hard I feel as though I might faint.
I stumble backwards, tasting bile in my mouth.
What the hell is going on?
“You ok?” Max asks, placing a hand against the small of my back.
“Yeah,” I mutter, touching my throbbing temple, afraid that if I press too hard on it I might set off some self-destructive button. “I’m fine.”
“What happened?” he asks.
“Nothing—uh—I don’t know,” I grumble. “I’ve got a headache.”
“I’ll walk you to your cabin,” he tells me.
“No, it’s ok, I’m fine,” I assure him, trying to rub the throb away.
His eyebrows knit together, unconvinced.
I swallow. “I’m fine, let’s go,” I snap, marching onward without him.
At our separation point Max catches me by the wrist, pulling me behind a thick oak tree, away from the eyes that might spy on us from his cabin. Fingers slip through the belt loops of my jeans as he gently tugs me closer to him, mouth quirking up into that mischievous smile of his as he does this. “Hey, can I ask you a question?” he asks.
“Sure.” I shrug.
“Can I kiss you?”
I nod. “You know, you don’t have to ask me that anymore. You can just do it,” I tell him.
“Yeah, I know that, but I like the way you look at me when I do.”
A wide grin spreads across my face as he brushes the loose hairs out of my eyes, cupping the sides of my face with both hands. He tilts his head and leans into me. I close my eyes, feeling his breath on my lips and just as he is about to press his mouth to mine Max recoils, saying, “Wow! You’re really hot.”
“Uh…what?” I ask hesitantly, raising an eyebrow.
He chuckles awkwardly, telling me, “No seriously, you’re burning up.” He places his hand over my forehead—very doctor-like—and then pulls it away. “You should go see Leslie. You’re probably sick. Come on, I’ll walk you to her cabin.”
“But—no Max, no—I’m fine,” I whine like a pissed off two-year-old. “I don’t need to see her.”
“You have a temperature,” he states matter-of-factly.
“Uh, you don’t know that,” I argue.
“Well, we’ll just have to go find that out then. Come on you stubborn baby,” he instructs, gripping my hand firmly and then dragging me in the direction of Leslie’s cabin.
I grind my teeth the whole way over there.
Max knocks at her maroon-colored door. A minute passes and I feel like an idiot. I’m fine. I don’t need to see her.
The door creaks open, Leslie pokes her head out, realizes it’s us, and then swings the door open all the way. “Hey you two! What’s up?” she asks.
“Juna—” Max begins, but I cut him off.
“He thinks I have a temperature, but I feel perfectly fine,” I snap.
“Hmm, lets see,” Leslie says, placing a hand on my forehead, immediately withdrawing it as though scalded by a hot cookie sheet. “Yikes! Come on in.”
Grabbing me by the upper arm, she pulls me into the house as Max closes the door behind us.  
One of these days my arm is going to be yanked out of its socket, I think, rolling my eyes.  
 “Go ahead and take a seat on the couch. I’ll grab a thermometer,” Leslie instructs, leaving for the bathroom.
Max and I plop down on the couch, sinking deep into the cushions. I refuse to look at him. I bet a million bucks he is going to say something like—
“I told you,” Max says, smirking at me.
I knew it. 
“Yeah whatever,” I mutter and then stick my tongue out at him. “Seriously, though, I feel fine.” Crossing both arms over my chest I lean further into the cushions. 
Leslie tromps back into the living room, forcing a digital thermometer into my hand. Placing the cold object beneath my tongue I press the start button. My eyes wander aimlessly around the room as I wait for the temperature report.
Leslie has a really nice cabin. Walls painted in warm coffee colors bring a cozy, homelike feeling to the place. She has a fireplace too—not that she needs it during this time of the year, though, but still, it’s nice to have one. Hints of peppermint and cinnamon cling to the air, reminding me of Christmas whenever I come in here. The Beatles sing “Blackbird” from the nearby stereo. 
Beep! Beep! Beep! The thing squeaks. Drawing the thermometer out of my mouth, Leslie stares down at it, eyes widening in horror. “Oh my god!” she exclaims.
“What is it?” Max stands beside her, looking down at the number.
“A hundred and two,” Leslie says uneasily. “You need to soak in a cold water bath honey.”
“What?” I moan. “No, but…but I feel—I’m fine. I don’t even feel warm.”
“I want you stay in my guest room tonight kiddo. Got to keep an eye on you in case this gets worse and we need to take you to a doctor,” Leslie declares, her tone infused with sheer motherliness. “Max, honey, you need to get going to your cabin. It’s almost curfew. I’ll go grab your pajamas Juna,” she tells me, handing the thermometer back to me.
I take it from her, frowning.   
 “See you,” Max touches my hand lightly before leaving.
“Yes, come on.” Leslie leads Max to the door. “Juna, go hop in the tub. Remember cool water. That’s important. I’ll be right back,” she tells me in a rush as she leaves with Max.
Letting out a huff I get off the couch and plod down the hallway for the bathroom. I drop the thermometer back into its drawer and then turn the faucet on, allowing the cool water to fill up the tub. I strip off my clothes and sit on the toilet, waiting for the water to rise.
This is ridiculous. 
When the tub is ready I carefully step into it, slipping down into the cool water, which is surprisingly refreshing. Leaning my head back, I stretch my legs out, close my eyes, and sigh.
A minute or two later, it feels as if someone has turned on the jets to a Jacuzzi.
Eyes flashing open, I jerk back and my head smacks against the tiled wall.
Billions of bubbles boil all around me as though I were sitting in a pot over a stove and since Leslie does not have a Jacuzzi bathtub I spring from it like a kangaroo.
Water spews into the air as it hits the sides of the tub, bubbles quickly dispersing. My heart bangs painfully against my ribcage, going pound, pound, pound, pound, it’s the only sound I hear.  
Before placing a foot back into the water I realize—despite my hair—my entire body is completely dry. “What the hell?” I breathe.
 The second my foot touches the water bubbles erupt from every pore in my skin. Wrenching my foot out immediately, I decide to cut my bath time short. I kneel down onto my knees to unplug the stopper. Bubbles explode from my hand as it dips into the water and when I pull it back out my skin dries within seconds. Literally seconds! No need for a towel, but I grab one anyways, cocooning myself in it.
Fear prickles inside me, in my chest and in my head and in my hands.
I plop down on the toilet seat.
But I can’t sit still.
So, I get to my feet and seize open the drawer, fumbling around for the thermometer. I snatch it and place it underneath my tongue again.
What the hell? What the hell? What the hell?
I wait impatiently for the beep and when it comes I swipe the object out of my mouth faster than you can say crazy.
My jaw just about hits the floor.
A hundred and ten degrees?!?!
Impossible, no freaking way this can be correct. There has to be some kind of mistake. According to the medical world I should be dead right now. I mean there should be a bright light in the distance. Yes, and I should be running toward it, about to meet my maker.
Leslie taps her knuckles against the door and I jerk upright. “How you doing in there?” she asks.
“Oh…I’m fine. Just getting out,” I tell her, trying to keep a calm voice despite the rising panic bubbling in my chest.
“That was quick,” Leslie speaks to me through the door. “I grabbed your pajamas. I’ll quickly open the door and just drop them in the sink ok honey? I won’t look.”
“Okay,” I say. Cracking the door open she drops my clothes in through the gap, closing the door silently afterwards.
I tug on my hunter green plaid pajama shorts—the ones Max refers to as my Lumberjack jammies—and a white Beatles shirt, grab my other clothes, and then exit the bathroom.
“You don’t look too well, honey,” Leslie says tilting her head. “Did you check your temperature again?”
“Yes,” I say a little too quickly. I swallow hard. “It went down a little,” I lie.
Why am I lying?
“Oh good. Here.”—Leslie reaches out for me but I don’t let her touch me and I can tell by her face that this rejection hurts her, but I simply cannot allow her to feel how hot my skin truly is—“What’s wrong?”
“Oh,” I mutter, eyes shifting down to the butter-colored hardwood floor. “I’m just really tired that’s all.”
“Well, lets get you into bed then.”
I follow her into the guest room and climb into bed. “I brought you some medicine,” she tells me, setting a glass of water and two Tylenol pills on the bedside table. I gulp down the water along with the two pills and the water is absolutely delicious, feels fantastic against my throat.
“I brought some Gatorade, too.” She takes the plastic bottle of yellow liquid from the crook of her arm, setting it on the bedside table next to the lamp. “Drink this all up by tonight, okay? We need to get some electrolytes into you. Alright, if you need anything don’t hesitate to come and get me in my room,” she tells me. “Feel better kiddo.”
“Good night Juna.” Leslie turns off the light and exits the room, closing the door behind her.
“Good night,” I whisper.

It’s 1:58am and I still can’t fall asleep. I’ve always been a good sleeper. So, what happened?
Oh yeah, almost forgot, I’m the chosen one who has to find out where the flipping savior is. Sounds like something out of a Star Wars episode if you ask me, not exactly the type of thing you’d hear in normal conversation.  
 With a groan, I roll onto my back once again, staring up at the pitch-black ceiling, wondering how I can make all this craziness go away.
Why can’t Nellie understand that anyone could have had this dream, but that doesn’t make them the chosen one or any of this crap true.
My shoulders ache from all this thinking and I feel like I’m stressing out over absolutely nothing. I wonder if I should even bother venting about this to Spencer and Harris. Probably not, because the less I talk or think about the savior the more likely she will vanish from existence.
I mean, hopefully that’s the case.
In attempt at relaxation, I grab my iPod and the song “Honey Honey” by ABBA comes on. I let out a growl. Erin, I think bitterly. She keeps sabotaging my iPod. I immediately switch the song and there’s nothing but girly music to listen to, so I yank out my earbuds and toss my iPod onto the bedside table. I start counting numbers, going one Mississippi, two Mississippi, and so on until I fall asleep.

Later, I’m in the middle of a kitchen, sitting on a bar stool at the island. It’s dark, but the moon is bright enough that the room is lit in a kind of eerie blue-ish glow. The ticking of a clock echoes from another room, while water dribbles from the kitchen’s faucet, making a boing-like sound as it hits the bottom of the sink. A stack of mail sits next to me, which I instinctively reach out for, reading the address:

Leslie Markham of Camp Eleanor
7740 Penny Lane
Calistoga, CA

California?  I think. That’s not too far from home.
Leaving the kitchen, I wander through the hallways like a ghost, admiring the vintage Beatles’ posters that line the walls. I move into the room opposite of the bathroom, searching for the girl and there she is, lying peacefully asleep in her queen-sized bed.
Smiling, I take a step in her direction. The floorboards creak beneath my feet. Crap, I think, pausing for a moment, breath caught in my chest. I try tiptoeing to her instead and this seems to work better. No squeaks yet and yes, I finally make it to her bed in silence.
Sitting right beside her on the edge of the bed, I suddenly reach out with my left hand to cradle her face. As our skin connects warmth from her cheek travels into my fingertips, up my arm, and to the center of my heart like I’m stealing away her heat.  
A pile of clothes sitting beneath the window catches my eye and this is when I notice a name written in black sharpie on the tag of her black collared shirt: Juna.
 Is that her name? I think. Kind of unusual, but I like it.
I better go now that I have what Nellie wants—a location and a name—but that’s the thing, I don’t want to move. Her skin so warm, her presence so peaceful makes me want to stay here forever.  
Gazing down at her lips, I act without thinking as I press my mouth to hers. Lips sparking to life, soft and warm, she kisses me back. I move my hand to the back of her head, pulling her to me. Her lashes brush against my cheek and the next thing I know she is pounding her fists against my chest.
I jerk back, indescribably mortified at what I’ve just done. Emerald eyes, hooded by thick lashes bore into mine, transfixed. I go rigid and wait for her scream, but nothing passes her lips.
Nothing. I’m not even sure if she is breathing.
And just like that she vanishes from the room in a blur.
I stand there like an idiot, unmoving, while outside, deep in the woods, a wolf howls.
ARF! ARF! ARF! My alarm clock barks.
I shoot up from my bed, gasping, torso dripping with sweat.
ARF! ARF! My stupid Chihuahua alarm keeps screeching at me, so I chuck it across the room. It crashes against the wall, batteries exploding from its backside. Dead at last. “Jesus,” I mutter angrily.
I wipe the sweat off my forehead with the back of my hand, leaning against my headboard. Pulse pounding madly in my ears I let out a deep breath of air.
Rod Serling’s voice enters my brain: You just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.
You think? I want to scream back at him.
Is this for real? Is she the savior? Was I actually with her? How? Stop! What the heck am I thinking? I’m loosing it. Yep. I am loosing it. I’m treading down the same path to insanity as Nellie.
I think I am going to hurl.
Groaning, I try to pull myself together.   
I take five deep breaths in through my nose and exhale out my mouth, the way Mom taught me years ago. See, having a yoga instructor for a mother comes with its benefits.
I don’t want to leave my room, but no point in hiding when Nellie is just going to barge in here and interrogate me anyway. I change into my clothes and prepare for the long grueling day with my demented grandmother. As I open the door, it hits something halfway. “Owe!” a voice squeaks.
Poking my head through the opening I look down. Nellie is sitting right outside my room. Apparently she fell asleep against my door at some point. “What the heck are you doing?” I ask with noticeable irritation.
“Waiting for you of course,” she says matter-of-factly and then yawns as she rubs her eyes with the back of her hands like a child.
I roll my eyes. “Well, I’m awake now. Happy?”
“Delighted.” She smiles and then lifts her fat body off the ground. “Let’s go in the kitchen.”
“Fine,” I mutter.
We enter the kitchen. It’s empty because no one is up yet and Mom is at work. Saturdays are her busiest days. She instructs three yoga classes and gives several massages today. Hannah is presumably awake in bed, reading a book no doubt, while everyone else is most likely conked out.
“Take a seat.” Nellie insists stiffly.
I slump into a chair on the opposite side of the table from her. Light shines through the window like a hot spotlight on me, making interrogation official now.
Nellie stares at me with an intensity that makes me absurdly nervous, eyes brooding and seething with curiosity. The muscles in my back tighten as my eyes wander the kitchen, trying not to make contact with hers. “Logan!” she shrieks, hitting the table savagely with her fist. I nearly jump out of my skin.
“What?” I bark, my eyebrows crumpling together.
“You know what!” Her lips twist indignantly before speaking again. “Tell me about the dream,” she roars, her hands shaking madly as she grips the edge of the table. She’s like an impatient cat, about to pounce on her prey.  
Yikes, I think. Someone obviously hasn’t taken her anti-crazy-lady pills today.
I retrace the events of my dream for her and my face gets redder and redder the closer I get to the part about the kiss, which obviously I don’t tell her about.  
   When I am done Nellie’s eyes glisten with excitement, the kind of expression you’d expect to see on a child at Christmas. Eyes swelling with liquid, she blinks and a set of tears course down her face.
I fidget in my seat.
“Thank you, Logan!”  A sob explodes from her mouth. “Oh, thank you!”
 “For what?” I ask, pushing my chair back.
The tears really start dripping now. “This is what I’ve always wanted. My life has revolved around this very moment, finding the savior. You can’t even begin to imagine how much more I love you right now.”
What the heck is that supposed to mean?
Laughing to the point of hiccups, she tells me, “The most humorous part of it all is that it is you!”
“Me?” I ask, stunned.
“Yes.”—She hiccups, laughing louder than before—“You’ve always been the doubting Thomas of the family.”
I hunch in my seat and Nellie laughs at the gesture, saying, “Yes. Who would have suspected it’d be you? I certainly did not. So, I guess we are heading to California tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” My voice cracks.


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