5. An unexpected visit

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I was back at my parents. Great. I hadn't told anyone about the man in my room, and I don't really know why. Maybe because that would make the fire story more complicated and I couldn't answer difficult questions, not when I didn't really know what happened, either. For now, everyone was content with the explanation of a gas leak. When the police later asked why the window in my room had been open, it added perfectly to the story: I had smelled something weird and thought it was the mustiness of my room after not having been there for a while. I had opened the window to air it out a bit. Of course, the police immediately assumed the weird smell came from the supposed gas leak. It all made perfect sense. Except for one tiny detail which was that it hadn't really happened that way. In my mind I had gone over everything that happened that night over and over again, but I couldn't explain it. I had melted a knife with my bare hands without feeling any pain, and then the kitchen and a living person had caught fire. I tried not to think too much about that last thing. If the fire had somehow been my fault, I had almost killed another person by accident. My parents were even worse than before now, I was officially labeled as the person with the worst luck in the world and they wouldn't let me out of their sight. At that moment, I was watching an action movie with lots of noise and blood, something I knew my mother hated. But she was dutifully sitting by my side, with a cup of tea and a magazine in her lap. I looked at her, at her long brown hair with streaks of grey coming through, and her large hazel eyes that I inherited. I felt horrible for lying to her. A million times I had almost told my parents what had actually happened, whatever that was, but I always backed out last minute. They would have probably thought I was crazy and locked me up. But then I looked at my mom again, and I knew I had to try.

"Mom?"

"Yes, honey?"

I fumbled with the fuzzy blanket I was under. "Something happened the night of the fire. Something weird."

That caught her attention. My mom slowly closed her magazine. I coughed, not knowing how to go on. How much should I tell her? At that moment, the doorbell rang. My mom sighed and got up. "We'll talk about this later, okay?" she said, and I nodded. If I could ever muster the courage to bring it up again.

My mom went to open the door and I heard some muffled sounds from the hallway, and then she came back in. Behind her were two people, a man and a woman, somewhere in their fifties. The man had a friendly face, but the woman had a tight set around her mouth. She reminded me of one of my fifth-grade teachers I used to be scared of.

My mom gestured for them to sit. "Can I get you anything. Tea, coffee?"

The woman shook her head but the man replied "some water would be great, thank you." I saw the woman shoot him a look.

My mom left for the kitchen with one last, concerned look at me. I shared her concern. What the hell was going on, who were these people?

The woman started talking. "I'm sorry to barge into your home like this, but we had to talk to you as quickly as possible. Time is crucial."

That didn't clear up much. "Excuse me, but who are you?"

My mom got back and handed the man the glass of water. He put it down and smiled at me.

"We're from an organization called Aether. This is Mary, and I am Harold. We help and protect people like you, Emma." I stared at him. "People like me?"

"Have you had any weird experiences lately? Accidents, with heat and fire?" I felt my eyes going big. My mom mistook my expression for confusion and put her hand on my knee. "Emma indeed had a problem with fire two nights ago, there was a gas leak in her apartment. But I don't understand how that is any of your concern."

The woman let out a short laugh, which sounded more like a bark. "Excuse me, but that was not a gas leak and Emma must know that as well." Now my mom was the one looking confused. "Emma?"

I felt my hands had started shaking. Did this mean I wasn't crazy after all? "I don't know how the fire started. I was standing in the kitchen and one minute everything was fine, and then suddenly everything was in flames," I said carefully.

The man nodded. "It was a reaction to your extremely high level of stress and adrenaline. You don't have any control over it yet, but it saved you this time."

"Saved her from what?" my mom asked sharply.

"The man in my room," I mumbled.

"The... what? Can someone please explain to me what is going on?"

So I told her everything, glancing at the two people that seemed to know more about my life than me every now and then. When I was done, the blood had drained from my mom's face.

"But how did you say the fire started?"

I looked down. I didn't know how to explain. Before I could open my mouth, the woman said "Emma started it. With her hands."

Now it was my mom's turn to let out a fake laugh. "With her hands? Do you think this is funny? My daughter was attacked and almost killed! What is your role in all this, anyway? What are you doing here?"

The woman got up and I saw her mouth was even tighter now. "The man that died in the car accident two weeks ago, Stephen Rodriquez, was not a normal man. He was what we call an elemental. Someone who can influence one of the four elements. It's simple. You kill someone, you inherit their powers. There is no such thing as good magic in this world. Magic is dark and evil, and you have to do dark things to get a hold of it."

Both me and my mom were dumbstruck. "Magic, as in fairytale magic?" My mom asked, clearly finding this all ridiculous.

The man got up as well. "No, magic, as in the forces of nature already discovered by the ancient Greeks."

I could see my mom wanted to snap back again, but I grabbed her arm. "Mom, could I please talk to these people, alone?" No matter how unbelievable it all sounded, these people seemed to know more than they could have, and I had about a million questions for them. My mom grabbed my hand.

"You don't seriously believe all this stuff, Emma? I know it sounds amazing, magic powers and all that, but you aren't nine years old anymore. I get that after all these events you might be bit confused, but..." she suddenly gasped jerked back her hand. Looking down at it, I saw her hand was completely red, exactly in the shape of my hand where it had just been holding hers. Burn marks. I felt tears coming up. "Mom, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to! I'm so sorry." My mom looked at me, and then at Mary and Harold, completely in shock. Then she seemed to make up her mind and said "I'll be checking up on my vegetable garden outside. Call me if you need me." With that, she left. I sat back down on the couch and looked at the two strangers in front of me. "Tell me everything."

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