Word count: 1472
Chapter 2: Get Your Eyeliner and Glitter, Boys
Some time later, I looked after Garret for a few days when Lee and Emily went on a small excursion. I took it as a vacation from Garret’s apathetic attitude. I didn’t have any plans for the week, so I could look after him. Garret would insist he could look after himself, but he didn’t know how to work the stove and the only food he knew how to make was a sandwich and microwave popcorn. I wasn’t much better, but I could force him to eat a vegetable or two. I usually looked after Garret whenever needed. Avi usually had work, but my work could travel with me.
We sat in the living room and lounged around and scrawled out on the furniture. Garret sat slumped over while he stared at his phone and melted into his blue hoodie I bought him a few years back. I was glad he still wore it. I remember when I used to come over for dinner when Garret was younger how he’d jump for joy at the mention of my name. I was the cool uncle. He loved me. He loved to learn about my job, and even though it was against most contracts, I’d read him snippets of stories I edited at the time. But then he gradually started shutting people out, including me. I figured it would be over in a few years while he was less rash. And even if it were only a couple of years, it still hurt that I would never get that time back with him. I would never let him know it hurt, though.
I saw Garret give me an off glance and my mind went to the worst of places. Teenagers are scary. I started to fidget while my mind raced about nothing. Out of habit, I shoved my hand into my shirt pocket. Something round emerged from there, and to my surprise it was my stopwatch. So that’s where it was.
“Hey Garret,” I threw my voice in the air, “Want to see something cool?” I let the watch dangle on the chain, just out of Garret’s field of view.
He slugged over disinterested, but upon seeing the stopwatch, he perked up and his eyes widened. It was a small moment, but I lived to see his unprecedented curiosity shine through.
“Is that the stopwatch?” He held out his hand and I let it dangle just above it. “Nothing’s gonna happen, right?”
I laughed and put the watch in his hand, “No, it’s made for my hands. It can’t adapt to other people. For you it’s just a regular stopwatch.”
He marveled at the watch, but eyebrows turned upwards, turned and contemptuous. His eyes hollowed and shifted from the watch’s power to the lack of his own. Emily didn’t have any powers and came from a long line of powerless people. Lee had powers, though, and genetically powers are dominant. They grew with the person once their personality was revealed when they were slightly older than toddlers. Something like a force spoke to some people to explain certain rules. Other times people found out in a grandiose display when they tried to do something.
Garret didn’t get the privilege to control, manipulate, or do anything others can’t. Lee healed many of my childhood ailments. He absorbed the physical pain to himself, but he couldn’t take away any emotional pain. I didn’t know if there was a person who could. Garret’s pain came from the ever scarring and reopening of wounds that told him he’d never be special. He’d never be special and it loomed over him and tightened around his neck for his whole life.
“Do you want to see me in agonizing pain while I stop time?”
Outside, everything was coated in a frigid air like normal. The leaves swayed in the gentle breeze. Everything minded its own business. I hated to be the one to interrupt it. I planted my feet in the dewy grass, centered myself, and took a deep breath. It had a little sting to it, it was so crisp. I slipped on my goggles and everything warped a little and tinted yellow. I anchored my vision on a tree to stop the dizziness and counted down. Three, two, one, BANG!
Breathing hurt. Every molecule of air became glass and every few seconds I had to inhale thousands of shards to stay alive. When I told people about what it’s like, they all assumed it was like being underwater. They’re partially right, but at least while you’re drowning, you can fight the water for air. When I stopped the world around me, all I could do was sludge through the thick resin-like pressure while pins and needles punctured my lungs. Throbbing, throbbing, throbbing. My ears needed to be popped, but if I did my eardrums would rupture. Even the smallest particles of dust weighed a ton with the increasing strain of the stopped time. However, nothing truly stopped. Everything slowed down millions of times over, virtually still. I couldn’t walk without the resistance of trying to push against a concrete wall. I walked on the ocean floor. The pressure made my smaller blood vessels burst, and behind my deafening tinnitus, I heard a crack.
And a pop.
I couldn’t hear anything besides a high pitched screeching in my ears. That time was worse than previous stops. I’d have to go to my doctor for more tinnitus treatment. Air flooded into my lungs again and it hurt just as bad. It was dry and fast going in my nose. I was a mermaid who learned how to breathe above water for the first time, but it was satisfying. I took off my goggles and everything moved again, but at twice the speed. It only lasted for a few seconds, but what was longer, though, was my inability to hear clearly. After a few seconds more, I heard Garret.
“Leighton, here take this,” he shoved a napkin into my hands. I looked up at him and he pointed to his nose. “Your nose, it’s uh, really bloody.”
I gingerly touched the area around my nose and to no surprise of my own, blood smeared on my fingertips. It wasn’t unusual for that to happen. It was a good thing most of the shirts I wore were red.
“It’s alright, just a bloody nose. It happens a lot when I stop time. I guess you see why I don’t do it that much.” I wadded up the napkins to my nose and took off my goggles so I wouldn’t stain the leather bands of the goggles when they hung from my neck. “Aw man.”
“One of the lenses broke. Guess I can’t stop time for a while.” I looked at Garret and smiled, “Thank the Creator.”
Garret put on a satirical smile and tried to look like he enjoyed himself. I bet he got some enjoyment from my pain, but his upward expressions were more downturned. He got up and went back inside.
I stayed sitting on the grass waiting for the bloody nose to stop, but also to ground myself. The vertigo wasn't the worst, but it wasn’t exactly bearable. The worst slowed completely to a normal pace. My goggles were the only things to not land me in the hospital each time I used my power . I’m pretty sure I would have gone blind without them. The crack penetrated to the other side for about an inch and a half. Dad made them for me along with the watch. I thought they were indestructible, just like how we all thought our old man was imperviable. I outgrew them a few years ago, but I didn’t think I needed to ask for new ones. I wouldn’t bother Dad for something I wouldn’t use on the daily.
“Hey uncle Leighton, aunt Avi wants to talk to you.” Garret held out the corded phone from the house that wasn’t replaced over the decades.
I got on my feet and grabbed the phone, “Hello?”
“Come over.” The line crackled and I heard Avi scream.
The blood rushed to the center of my body and my hands went cold. “What’s wrong? Did something happen?” I said distressed.
There was a pause on the line. “What? No. The cow gave birth, I want you guys to come to see.”
I sighed and said, “Avi, don’t scare me like that, I thought Damon died or something. Just for that I’m not coming.”
“You get over here in fifteen or else I’ll have Malcolm rip out the rest of your hair.”
“Be there in ten.” I hung up and told Garret, “Get your shoes on, we’re going to see Avi’s new cow.”
“Okay.” He stomped his shoes on and hopped into my truck.