A wall of trees surrounds our property, cut by a path that leads through the woods to the twins’ house. Sky is in most of my classes and we meet for lunch every day. It’s only been a week, but I like her company. I would never have taken Pax and Sky for twins. The only resemblance between petite Sky with her long red hair, and tall, blond Pax is the shape of their eyes–almond and slightly tilted, like cat eyes. Like the eyes that stare back at me in the mirror.
High above the meadow, the silver disk of my lonely Sentinel glows in the sunlight. Dad says it’s cloaked, which makes it invisible to most people. The hawk flies below it, scanning the meadow for food.
I catch the glint of an aircraft over the trees to my right. The local Cherokee have a regional airport in that direction and often fly their small airplanes near here. However, this one isn’t making any noise. Where’s the sound of the engine?
I watch it clear the treetops and my jaw drops. I can’t believe it. A second silver disk rises to float next to my Sentinel. Where did it come from? Why is it here?
A movement in the woods catches my eye. There! On the path. Is that a ball of fire?
I’d better warn my parents. My toe catches on the deck the wrong way as I lunge out of the swing and end up on my hands and knees. As soon as I get my clumsy feet under me and reach for the door handle, Sky’s voice shouts, “Hey, Jewel!”
I spin around, feeling like an idiot when I spot her riding down the drive. The fireball was nothing more than her aura. She is aflame, but only with color. Yellow and orange streaks shoot through the glowing red nimbus of hair streaming behind her in the wind. She slides her bicycle to a stop in front of the porch steps.
“It’s a beautiful day for a bike ride. Are you up for it?”
Shades of indigo, purple, gold, and yellow ebb and flow around her body. Her head glows like a bonfire, made more vivid by brilliant red hair. Rainbows play over her hands like miniature ribbons of an Aurora Borealis. Does everyone at school glow like this? I wouldn’t know. I’ll remember to thank Dad for the monotone refuge the glasses give me around people.
“Do you mind if we just sit quietly for a while?” I ask. My hands and knees are still stinging from the fall. Did she notice? I’m such a klutz.
In answer, she drops her bike, climbs the four steps to the porch, sits down and pats the deck next to her. I take a seat and we gaze at the meadow without a word. Silence has never bothered me, but Sky likes to talk.
“I didn’t mean that literally, you know,” I say. “We can sit and talk or do something else if you want.”
“Don’t worry about me,” she says. “You’re calm right now. When I first rode up, you were scared out of your wits! How are your hands?”
Oh, so she did see my clumsy act. “About that,” I start, but she stops me.
“No worries. I startled you, but it’s a bit hard to understand how a little thing like me can be so frightening.” Sky smiles and her eyes twinkle. Really. They’re deep blue with silver flecks, like a Carolina sky peppered with tiny sentinels. I glance up. They’re both still there.
“Why do you think we have the same shape of eyes?” I ask, the question popping out of a place where too many questions have been bottled up lately. A blush rushes up my neck, heating my face. Is it okay to ask something so personal? Years of near complete isolation have stunted my social growth.
When I glance at her, the smile is gone and she’s staring at the trees.
“Jewel, is there any way that you’re different from most other people? Other than being my friend, I mean. Why do you wear those glasses all day at school, and why aren’t you wearing them now?”
I guess it’s okay to ask personal questions, then. What does she mean by that “friend” comment? I’ve never known anyone with as many friends as Sky has.
“I’m a pentachromat,” I tell her. “I don’t tell anyone. My parents know, of course. Mom ran the genetic tests to figure out why I can see millions of colors most people can’t.”
She asks, puzzled, “A penta-what?”
“It has to do with the number of color cone cells in the eyes. Most people have three types of cone cells which allow them to see colors within a limited spectrum. A few have four, which give them a wider range of colors. I have five, expanding my vision to much more than just colors. In fact, you didn’t startle me, Sky, your aura did. It still does.”
I wait for the skepticism. Will she take her bike and leave?
Instead she asks, “What do you mean by aura?”
“People naturally emit an energy field I see as colors. Yours is fascinating, full of brightness and movement.”
She smiles and pulls her hair up off her neck, binding it into a ponytail with a rubber band she fishes from her pocket. I wish I’d done the same with mine, but I’m too lazy to go inside for a band.
“I’m an empath,” she says. “A lot of people are empathic and can be influenced by the moods of those around them. I’m that way, too, but I can also change their moods. I had to learn to control how affected I am by others, and to change the general mood of those around me.”
“The kids at school like you. They sort of flock around you. Is it because you make them happy when they’re near you?”
“Partially,” she answers. “I can affect their mood, usually by changing my own. When I’m calm and happy, others pick up on it and begin to feel that way, too. I can also send emotions I’m not feeling to them. It doesn’t always work, you know. Have you ever wanted to just hang on to rage when something makes you furious? I can’t calm someone who won’t let go.”
“So how do you keep from getting angry when you’re close to someone who is?”
“Pax helps me. He isn’t an empath, but he and I have this twin connection. Or maybe it’s another of his abilities. He keeps me calm no matter what’s going on. Before we moved here, we had some bad earthquakes in California. I was scared out of my wits when the earth heaved and things went flying off the walls, but Pax calmed me right down and I didn’t panic.”
“What else can Pax do that no one else can? You said, ‘another of his abilities.’”
“I like to tease him and say he smells like a dog,” she continues. “He does, but not in a stinky way. He can pick up scent molecules we can’t possibly detect. His nose tells him more than his eyes do. I imagine he experiences aromas the way you experience colors.”
I’m suddenly thankful that I shower every day. A gift like Pax’s would be brutal in a crowd. I can’t imagine how awful some things would smell to him. It’s bad enough for normal people.
Sky must sense my thoughts because she adds, “No worries. He can turn it on and off and focus it when he needs to. If you ever need a bloodhound to find something, Pax is your guy.”
My head is beginning to ache. I had no idea there were other gifted kids around. How many are there?
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