New Beginnings

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5 years later.

The restaurant was one of Evelyn's favorites, small, intimate, and best of all quiet. Better yet it held the added bonus of a panoramic view of a small park across the street. The park itself was Evelyn's favorite spot in town, a place where she often lost herself to countless afternoons of reading or doing homework under the comforting branches of a large oak tree that stood proudly in the center of the square. Under that natural canopy of beautiful greens and browns Evelyn was able to shelter herself from both the stresses of teenage life and the added stress of keeping her abilities a secret. It was her own little sanctuary, a private island in a sea of tension.

Her foster parents, Lenard and Rebecca Jensen, or Lenny and Becca for short, sat across from her with their backs to the window. Outwardly they seemed happy enough, picking at the food on their plates as they chatted with her about all the usual parent to teenager inquiries. How was school, has she made any friends, any problems with classmates. The usual. But underneath Evelyn could sense they were hiding something from her. Behind their smiling faces and calm exteriors she could sense they were nervous, even a little fearful.

Evelyn had lived with them for nearly two years, the longest stay she had ever experienced with a single family. In that time she had never known either of her parents to be nervous about anything, except of course the days and weeks after discovering her unusual talents. Lenny had always been confident and jovial, personality traits that Evelyn herself only wished she could emulate. Becca, although not sharing even half the confidence as her husband, was almost twice as bubbly and outgoing a person as her husband, and certainly more so than anyone Evelyn had ever met. Yet another trait Evelyn envied.

Tonight, however, was completely different. Their nervous energy came at her in waves, so powerful in their intensity that Evelyn was beginning to feel uncomfortable. So uncomfortable in fact that she found it hard not to excuse herself from the table altogether. Evelyn cursed herself silently. Yet another one of her – talents – trying to muddy up her life. It was a perfectly pleasant dinner, and once again her abilities were conspiring against her.

The worst of it had started just after moving in with the Jensens. At first her powers had been kind of cute, even fun. Evelyn could grow flowers out of seedlings as if by magic, could make them change colors at will, forming exotic combinations. Lenny and Becca had discovered her gifts quickly. Becca found her turning bright red roses different shades of blue and yellow not long after she had moved in. Her reaction had been predictably strong, and yet somehow both Becca and Lenny had accepted it, even encouraged it. So long as Evelyn promised to keep it a secret.

But this was something new, this ability to sense emotion. It was frustrating, uncontrollable, and distracting. It happened constantly, whether Evelyn wanted it to or not. At first it was just a series of small sensations that came upon her seemingly at random. Waves of heat like sunshine, or a light prickling of invisible needles would assault her skin whenever she stood too close to other people. Over a period of several weeks those sensations had steadily grown in strength, assaulting her hour after hour until Evelyn feared she would burst from the stress of it all.

It had been really hard to hold herself together at first. On more than one occasion Evelyn had locked herself away in the girl's bathroom at school, or abandoned the building entirely to the comforting embrace of the standing Oak in the park. It had taken time, but eventually Evelyn had learned to get used to the constant flood of sensations coming at her, learning with difficulty to block most of it out.

The metallic tink of a fork dropping onto Lenny's plate broke through the fog of Evelyn's thoughts, making her jump a little in her chair. Embarrassed, she looked across the table and smiled at her foster parents, who both looked amused. "Something got you jumpy tonight, Evelyn?" Lenny asked with a smile.

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