I hear her before I see her. I'm not surprised that she's the only one who bothered to find me after the memorial service.
"Hey, Gwen," I say, as she plops down beside me.
She gives me a sullen look. She's pissed I left the ceremony. "You're not the only one who misses her, you know."
She glares at me, but then the fight leaves her. "This was my place first," she says, her voice softer now. "I'm the one who showed it to Sofía."
I didn't know that. I'd always sort of thought of the chimney as my place on the island. I discovered it my first week here, after doing some research on Berkshire and finding out that the island held one of the oldest remaining houses built by the colonists. My eyes drift to the black-and-bronze plaque adhered to the crumbling bricks near the border of the academy's grounds: Remains of the Cedric Mooreheade House. Destroyed in a fire in 1775. Originally built in Salem in the 1660s, like the Isaac Goodale House of Ipswich, and moved to Pear Island in 1692.
"Why'd you come out here?" I ask Gwen.
She flicks her fingers, a burst of flame dancing out. "I like chimneys."
I like history, so of course I'd sought the ruins out, but all that was left was the chimney. Still, I like this place for what it used to be—a house built before America was a country—and for what it might have been—someone's dream, someone's birthplace, someone's safe haven. Pear Island hasn't been used for much. In the early days, settlers grazed livestock here. But at some point, a family decided that this island, with its biting flies and harsh winds and terrible weather . . . this island would make a perfect home. The chimney is all that's left of a family. Real people who stood here centuries ago, with lives lost to time.
But Gwen doesn't care about the history. She likes it simply for what it is now. She stares into the blackened center of the chimney, where hundreds of fires must have blazed over the years. Now there's just green moss and a few plants trailing up the center. Gwen cups her palm, rubbing her thumb over air, and a tiny ball of fire appears in the center of her hand. She tosses it toward the grass and plants growing in the chimney, but the ground is too wet and the foliage too young for the flame to catch. A thin wisp of smoke trails up the bricks, then dies.
That's Gwen's power. Pyrokinesis. The ability to make and control fire.
Gwen stares at the smoke. The trees' shadows reach toward us, and the air is damp and cool and slightly salty.
After a long stretch of silence, Gwen speaks. "Harold hates it out here," she says. "Says there's witches." She rolls her eyes. "That boy is crazy. Like, he doesn't just have problems, he is crazy-crazy."
Harold talks to the dead. His power is probably stronger than any of ours, but it's also the most useless and will likely drive him over the edge. The Doctor works with him often, trying to help him control his gift and filter out the voices so he can maybe glean some useful information from them.
Gwen stretches her legs in front of her, her eyes still on the chimney. There's an ease to the silence between us. I don't feel like I have to talk; we're both comfortable just being together.
Before I came to Berkshire, I thought I was alone. I have these powers that no one else has. I can control time—well, control is a strong word. I can sometimes, sort of control time. And sometimes it controls me, throwing me around history until I snap back to where I'm supposed to be. When the episodes first started, I thought something was wrong with me. I didn't know what was happening, so I was scared. Not anymore, though. Not unless I lose control.
I was fifteen the first time I lost control of my power. I was sitting in history class, and my teacher was giving a lecture about the Civil War. She was describing the Battle of Shiloh, one of the bloodiest battles ever, and she told a story about a little pond near the battlefield that turned red with all the blood from the wounded. She explained to us that the story was a myth, that it probably never really happened, but then I blinked.
And I was there.
Just like that. One minute I was in class, and the next minute I was at the Battle of Freaking Shiloh in Tennessee, and it was loud, it was so loud, and the air was thick like fog and smelled like blood. There were people shouting and guns drawn and cannons firing, and I could see it all. And then I saw the pond. It was just as my teacher described it: small and stained red with blood.
And I don't know what happened next. I guess I just lost it. I started screaming and screaming and screaming, and then I blinked again.
And I was back in class.
Obviously I freaked everyone the hell out. The whole class was staring at me. I was gone so quick no one even noticed, so as far as they knew, I was yelling for no reason. They didn't know that I could still smell the blood and the gunpowder and the death that hung in the air.
After that, I was scared, really scared. What if I got stuck in the past? What if I spent the rest of my life bouncing around time, powerless to stop it?
Instead, Dr. Franklin found me. And I came here. Here, where Gwen can wrap fire around her hands like a glove, where Harold whispers to ghosts and they whisper back, where Ryan can move things with his mind and influence people's thoughts. We all have powers here, except for some of the staff and a few of the tutors. Even Dr. Franklin is one of us. He can heal himself and others, which is ironic because he is literally a doctor, but he's the kind of academic doctor that teaches, not the medical kind. But even with his degrees and experience, he hasn't really been able to help me progress all that much.
"What are you thinking about?" Gwen asks, breaking the silence.
I shrug. It's sort of embarrassing to admit that I don't have much control over my powers. From the moment I arrived at Berkshire, everyone else seemed to advance so much faster than me. And while the Doc is nice, I can tell that he's getting frustrated with my lack of progress.
When the Doctor found me and told my parents about the academy, we were all pretty relieved. I was glad that someone finally understood me, and I kind of hated high school anyway, so it was nice to get a change of scenery. I also liked that the Berk was a boarding school. I mean, I love my parents, but I don't really feel comfortable at home. I never have. To be honest, I think I get along better with my old man now that I'm out of the house. We can tolerate each other when we only have to be in the same building on weekends. Our relationship is built on absence.
It's little wonder that Berkshire has become my real home.
"I wish I knew what she was thinking," Gwen says, her eyes still fixed on the fireplace. She glances at me, but looks away again. "You know, before."
I don't want to talk about that, about the day Sofía went missing.
Just thinking about it makes my head hurt. Like sharp, shooting pains.
And my tongue. How weird is that? Thinking about the day Sofía got stuck in the past makes my tongue hurt. On the back of my tongue, near my throat, it just aches. It feels like that sort of burning dread rising in your throat when you know you need to cry but you just can't.
I open my mouth. I don't know what I'm going to say to Gwen, but it doesn't matter anyway, because in that moment, she disappears. The cold twilight air is replaced with morning mist and damp dew, and the shadows from the trees suddenly all point away from me.
And I am standing in front of the chimney on the day Sofía disappeared.
A World Without YouTeen Fiction
MAKE SURE YOU CHECK OUT THE END OF THIS SAMPLE FOR AN EXCLUSIVE WATTPAD QUESTION AND ANSWER WITH THE AUTHOR! After the unexpected loss of his girlfriend, a teenage boy suffering from delusions is convinced that he can travel through time to save he...