Chapter 8

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As I leave the main building in the city, I remember that Peter said he comes to the forest every day starting at 2:00. It's 2:00 right now. I begin making my way towards the woods, and I notice people turning their heads and whispering about me. In hushed voices, I can still hear the conversations. "Isn't that her?" "She's the one who got the power?" "Just look at her; how is she going to master her power?" "The twelve always give the right powers to the wrong people." "How did she get that power? She's different; just look at those eyes."

I duck my head so people will stop looking at me as I run in a sprint for the woods. Aren't we all different in some way? Why do you have to pick on me? I can't help what happened. I don't judge you by your power, so why do you judge me about mine? All these thoughts go through my head as I finally make it to the woods. I do quick glances behind me to make sure I wasn't followed. Adam's cautioning voice repeats itself over and over in my head as I make my way through the trees. How am I going to find him? I don't know how I got to him yesterday.

Well, Adam said to practice outside of training. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and start feeling the ground. Instantly, the motion waves move around as they bounce off of the objects. I notice them being drawn toward another human down a trail to the left of me, so I get up and make my way there.

Peter sits the same way he did yesterday, cross-legged but slightly shifted forward, as if he's ready to flee at the slightest sound. I make my way to him quietly, but I once again step on a stupid twig that immediately snaps. Peter hurls around with a look of panic in his eyes until he sees that it's me. He immediately looks relieved and says, "It's only you."

I smile and sit next to him. "If you're so worried about being caught in here, why do come anyway?" I ask. "It's quiet and peaceful. Or at least it was until you stepped on that twig," he teases. I try to look offended, but I end up just smiling again. "So, you had training today, you mastered a part of the power of the senses. That part was touch, and that was how you found me. Am I right?" He asks. "Stop evaluating me," I shoot back. "Hey, I only keep evaluating people that I find interesting," he answers. "I'm not interesting. I'm just some random person who found their way here," I say. "And that's what makes you interesting. Who else, especially a person who is probably the most watched person by the Council now, would knowingly come to the woods not once, but twice? That's why I think you're interesting," he tells me.

I begin to blush, but then I mentally scold myself for it. "Peter, can I ask you something?" I ask. "Sure. Anything," he replies. "Do you know what happened to Gwyneth Ross? I mean, know what really happened?" I say. "It's a long story. We're not supposed to talk about it, but yes, I know," he answers. "Tell me," I insist. I can see Peter pondering about where to start, and then he begins.

"A few months ago, the Council came to my side of the circle to see how things were going. I evaluated one of them, the oldest and well over a hundred. I saw everything he knew about Gwyneth, and here's what really happened. Gwyneth never wanted her power; she thought of it as a curse rather than a gift. Her mentor knew it, but he still trained her with every ounce of force he had. Once she turned fourteen, she only had eight of the fifteen powers mastered. She had given up, for the power of dominance had hurt her. She felt like she was no longer in control of who she was. Gwyneth saw herself as a puppet being controlled by the Council, and it took a toll on her. She forced herself to stop learning the rest of the powers because she felt if she took in anymore, it would destroy her. Once she had her mind made up, she went to the Council and told them this: "I'm not your puppet anymore. I'm done learning, and I'm done serving under you twelve." They were infuriated, but they let her go. The twelve discussed about what to do with her, some saying they could torture her into learning, others offering up brutal murder. As I'm sure you know, murder won. So that night, they tracked her to her home. They ransacked the place, taking everything of value and killing each of her family members. Gwyneth tried to hide from them, but they eventually found her. They beat her and tortured her, letting her die painfully and slowly. While that took place, she yelled at them, "Your rein of terror over the people of the city won't last forever! Someday, someone will have had enough and overthrow you! The system of powers will fall!" And then one of the Council members replied, "Little girl, that will never happen. Our way of life will last. Yours, however, will not." And that was the last thing she heard before they put a bullet in her head."

I blink, trying to bring myself out of Peter's words. I feel like I just lived out Gwyneth's life through her story. "They killed her just because she couldn't take in anymore?" I ask. Peter slowly nods his head and says, "The nerve of that little fourteen year-old inspires me. She inspires me to fight back, to have the hope that the system will corrupt one day." I don't know what to think, except for one thought: they killed an innocent person because she couldn't absorb anymore.

Then, a thought hits me, and I say it out loud: "The same thing will happen to me if I can't do it." Peter looks at me with a fierce look in his eyes, a look I have never seen in someone else. "I won't let them hurt you," he states. I then blush again, this time with no intention of hiding it. "Why?" I ask. I have to know why. "Because I...because you're my friend," he says, his voice catching on the word 'friend'. "I always stick up for my friends," he finishes.

My heart starts beating out of my chest, and I'm positive Peter can hear it. I look at him, and I see a boy who has been hurt a lot in his life, but who also has this look of absolute love and happiness in his brown eyes that can never be taken away, not by anyone. And right now, that look is directed at me. I can feel the space between us getting smaller, and before I know it, he's kissing me. And I'm kissing him back. The air around us seems crisper, and the colors of the forest become brighter. Never before have I kissed anybody, never before have I felt this way about somebody. I am almost sad when we break apart.

"Sorry. I don't know what just happened," he says as he blushes. "Sorry for what?" I ask with a smile that I tried to hold back. "I really don't know," he answers back. We both laugh then. "Peter, you get the chance to evaluate people and find out who they are before you even meet them. I want to know more about you," I say. "There's not much to tell really. I come from a broken home. My mother died from sickness, and my dad thinks I'm a failure. I have a few friends, but none of them understand me. People look down on me because I don't want to be bad. Our way of life is uncivil on our side. We have no one to teach us what is right or wrong; we do what we please without anyone stopping us. I don't want that. I want to be good," Peter says with sincere honesty.

I find the courage to hold his hand, and he doesn't try to pull away. "Peter, you are good. I've known you for two days and you're already one of the best people I know. You're different, and that's a good thing. You're a wonderful person," I tell him. He smiles again and says, "I think you're wonderful too."

We spend the rest of our time with my head on his shoulder in silence as we watch the afternoon sun start to fall into evening. It's not an uncomfortable silence; it's the peaceful and happy silence. "I have to go back now," he says after a while, and I can hear the sadness in his voice. He gets up, offers me his hand, and I take it as he pulls me up. We walk out of the woods, our hands still holding. When we make it out of the forest, we break apart and go our separate ways. Even as I walk away, I can see him watching me leave. For the hundredth time today, I smile again. I could swear I saw him smiling too.

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