“Hey, look,” someone whispered. “Is she really back? After all that?”
“She was in prison or something, right?” another voice asked.
“No, you idiot,” a third person spoke. “She was in a rehab clinic.”
“Oh, yeah. I heard she almost OD in new year’s eve.”
Despite whispering, the girl heard them all. I’m surprised they bother to whisper, Eliza thought as she walked to the last row, her head down to avoid looking anyone. When she sat on the chair next to the window, she rested her head on her arms, her eyes close.
It’s been a week since I was released, Eliza thought. I thought you guys would’ve exhausted the topic by now. The first class hadn’t begun and she was already tired. The girl had a strong impression many students were staring her. But when she opened her eyes and looked around the classroom, there was no one looking at her.
Eliza closed her eyes again and moved her arm to cover her face. Taking a deep breath, the girl relaxed and opened her eyes again. After a few seconds staring her arm, the skin became transparent. A second later, the muscles, veins, blood and bone were gone as well, and Eliza confirmed the students were looking at her.
Holding the urge to sneer, she blinked and her sight was back to normal. Her eyes started prickling and Eliza closed her them to soothe it a bit. Shouldn’t you be tired of me? I know it’s the first day I’m back and all, but I’m not that interesting, she thought, sighing. If you wanna gossip that much, why don’t you choose someone with a fascinating life?
Eliza heard the door and moved her arm a bit to look. Someone like her. Her life’s cooler. One of her classmates was walking to her desk at the moment. The girl flipped her long brown hair with a hand as she sat. It wasn’t even a second before two of her friends sat next to her and they started talking.
Yeah, you should talk about her. Trust me, she has a much more interesting life than me. Eliza observed through the corner of her eye. Her friends giggled, played with their hairs, and redid their makeups.
I know it looks like she can’t hold a conversation if it involved something other than that kind of crap if her life dependent on it, but it’s all a façade. If they had any idea you’re working a part-time job to study abroad while taking care of the house since your mother left you and your two brothers.
The door opened again and Eliza sneaked a peek. He’s a good topic too. Did you guys know that he’s trying to become an artist and for that, he’s looking for new experiences to deepen his work? He even kissed a guy after taking some drug, though I’m not sure how it worked out with the guy, she thought, remembering how she closed her eyes after they started undressing each other. I’m not into that.
That girl’s interesting too. She goes to the cemetery and tries to call the dead. Perhaps she’s just crazy, but loads more interesting than the plain old me. Or maybe that guy, whose dick’s so small he used steroids like crazy and worked compensate. Now that I think about it, he still hasn’t talked to a girl… Maybe that’s just funny, but I’m pretty sure it’s more interesting than me. Or maybe… not her. I doubt she has an interesting life…
Eliza averted her eyes when her gaze fell on Bianca. Yeah… I guess her perfect life that looks like TV would be boring topic to gossip, she thought, her mind going to everything she heard about the girl. Does even something remotely interesting happens in her life?
Bianca, whose porcelain skin and smooth long red hair made Eliza sometimes doubt that the girl was Brazilian, had nothing interesting that could get the school’s gossipers fired up. Actually, it’s boring to me, Eliza realized when she remembered her own mother talking about her classmate. Between Bianca’s father, the chief of police, and mother, a respectful business woman owner of one of the biggest fashion store in the metropolitan region, the girl hardly had any trouble in her life, but people still looked up to her. I bet the only trouble going on in her life is what to wear.
“Did you see who’s back?” someone asked. “You should ask your dad for some extra protection. She might need some money for her, you know.” Whoever was talking made a deep noise with the nose, followed by a giggle.
So now I’m a cocaine addict, Eliza thought, sneering and rolling her eyes. Trust me, if I had the money for it, I’d rather spend on something else. For start, a headphone good enough to shut out that cat fighting a hobo voice of yours.
“Don’t say that. She’s been through enough,” a voice whispered in response. Despite being only classmates, Eliza recognized the owner of the voice and turned her gaze back to the redhead. “We don’t know her circumstances to go around judging her.”
How would you know? Eliza thought as Bianca changed the topic. Dad works for her father… could it be he talks about me at the station? Her father always kept the bad from his police work out of home, and only told the funny stories. At least he used to… how long it’s been since I heard a story?
Despite her friends keep bringing the topic about Eliza back, Bianca refused to talk about the girl and pulled her phone. Is she actually nice or just pretending to be above gossips? Eliza wondered as she glanced the two girls that wanted talk about her loud enough for her and anyone else to hear. One of them noticed she was looking and poked her friend with a smile. The other girl looked in Eliza’s direction and whispered something, they both giggling the next instant.
Oh no, please don’t spread any more rumors. I don’t know what I’d do if my popularity sunk any further. Then again, rock bottom is… well, rock bottom. Eliza sneered at her own thought.
Bianca kept ignoring the girls, staring her phone as if it were the most interesting device in the world. The redhead raised her head and turned to Eliza, and their eyes met. Wow… red hair and green eyes? Are you for real? The redhead turned back her attention to the phone, but not before Eliza saw Bianca’s smile.
The girl stared the redhead and before she realized it, she covered her face with the arm again and cleared her mind. I just used it a moment ago… I shouldn’t use it too much, otherwise I might… The memories of the last couple of months crossed her mind. Her breathing became shallow and irregular. Sweat came down her brow and her legs trembled. But the urge to look beneath what everyone saw was bigger.
It won’t be like before… I can control it, Eliza said to herself, closing her eyes. It’s my power… I can control it. With her breathing back to normal, she stared in the direction Bianca would be and relaxed her entire self, focusing only on her eyes. At first she saw her arm… but, just like before, the edges of her vision blurred and her arm disappeared little by little.
For a second Eliza saw the redhead as the others saw her. While she focused on Bianca, her clothes became transparent and then disappeared. Holy shit! Eliza gasped and choked. She lost control over her powers. Her vision became blurred and everything spun. Eliza shut her eyes closed, waiting her eyes get back to normal.
“What’s she doing?”
“Bet she choked on her drugs.”
“Right here in class? That’s bold.”
Even without seeing, she could feel everyone’s stare on her.
As Eliza waited for her head stop throbbing and the urge to vomit went away, everyone went back to their not-so-low whispers. Shut up. It’s her fault, she thought, rubbing her eyes. With her breathing slow and steady, Eliza turned her eyes back to Bianca. She concentrated again, and this time she could see underneath the girl’s clothes faster. Even if she already knew what she would see, Eliza still blushed.
Who the hell wears a black silk lingerie to school? Did you meet your boyfriend or something before coming to school? Are you meeting him later? Eliza couldn’t take her eyes off the girl, She’s so… beautiful, the thought crossed the girl’s head as she stared the redhead’s smooth skin. She looked her legs, her belly, her back… I bet you spend hours and hours, and a ton of money, taking care of that pretty skin of yours. Am I right?
As Bianca turned to talk to a boy, Eliza saw a mark on her on the redhead’s inner thigh. Wait, what was that? A birthmark? Turn around, Bianca. Let me see. Eliza waited until the boy finished talking and went away. Finally! Come on, Red, turn around and show me.
The redhead faced her friends and went back to their conversation, but Eliza still couldn’t see the mark. Just lift your right leg a little, Red. It’s not that hard, she thought, raising her chin a little and trying to see. Hm… So it’s not a birthmark, huh? Eliza thought when Bianca placed a food on the spindle of her chair and she saw the mark.
Why do you have a bruise there, Bianca? Though it wasn’t big, it was very visible to Eliza. Red and a bit swollen, it destroyed the beauty that was Bianca’s skin. After looking for so long, the girl realized it was almost the size of a hand.
So you’re into that kind of play with your boyfriend, huh? I sincerely apologize for calling you boring, Eliza thought closing her eyelids and waiting for the prickling sensation on her eyes to cease. It fades much faster now, she could tell. Thank God.
When the pain was gone, Eliza smiled. Maybe I should reveal this to the class. For once they’d forget me and leave me alone. What kind of rumors would people spread about the daughter of the chief of police? The girl entertained herself imagining, holding the urge laugh as the rumors got more and more crazy in her head…
When the bell rang and the teacher ended the class, Eliza stuffed her book on her bag. I’m starving, she thought, dashing to the door. But she wasn't fast enough to avoid her classmates' whisper.
"Where's she going in such hurry?" someone said.
"I bet it’s the munchies," another person answered, followed by low laughs.
Eliza sighed. They’re still talking about me… guess that’s the only thing their tiny brains can do, she thought, rolling her eyes. She pulled the earphone from her bag and untangled it, but to her ear, her hand froze midday. Amanda…
Even if Eliza could just see the back of her head, she recognized that long black any day. Amanda, she thought again, staring her friend heading towards the stair. The girl gulped and pressed her lips. After a moment of hesitation, she broke into a short run. Just a little more and her friend would be within her reach.
Amanda was already on the bottom step, but when Eliza saw her friend talking to her boyfriend with a smile on her face, she stopped. I can’t… I can’t just talk to her… Not after everything I did to her, she thought, closing her fist to stop her trembling hand. She watched Amanda get farther and farther away from her. Seeing her friend’s smile made her happy, but at the same time, it pained her. All the memories only reminded what Eliza did and what she lost.
I’m such a coward, she thought, after waiting a couple of minutes before heading home. All I need is to say I’m sorry. It won’t make a difference… And I doubt she’ll forgive me… but it’s the least I can do. She stopped to imagine Amanda’s face. How long it’s been since she talked to me with that carefree smile of hers? Damn it… Damn it… All because of this stupid power…
“Mom?” Eliza asked the moment she opened the door.
So she’s working, she realized when there was no answer. Eliza bit her nail and closed her eyes. Her mother was always at home with her since the day Eliza was released from rehab. But I guess her vacation days are over… Though she didn’t like to admit, it was the first time Eliza noticed how comforting her mother’s presence was.
Breathing slowly to keep her anxiety in check, the girl went to the kitchen and found a note on the microwave. Heat this for a minute. Stay home. Your brother’s at a friend’s house. Your father and I will be back by dinner. Love, mom.
Neither dad nor Fabio is coming home, Eliza thought as she turned on the microwave, the butterflies in her stomach going wild. She took her plate to the table, picked up a knife and fork and sat on the table. But as she stared the food, the girl realized she wasn’t hungry anymore. Even so, she forced herself to eat as much as she could take it.
After Eliza stored the leftovers and cleaned the cutlery, she sat on the couch. After a minute still, she stood up and grabbed the cleaning supplies. After the rehab, Eliza helped her mother with the housework. It was just an activity to keep herself busy for a while. Actually, more to avoid let my mind empty, right, Padre? She thought, smiling. How did he say? The empty mind is the devil's workshop, Eliza had listened the priest tell her mother.
The girl had barely done any housework her entire life. In fact, every time her mother asked for some help, she pretended to ignore. But she didn’t complain nor was against helping when her mother suggested this time. And without realizing, cleaning the house and listening to her mother talk about work calmed the girl more than she cared to admit.
But after Eliza finished sweeping and washing the floor, cleaning the bedrooms and bathrooms and washing the laundry, she found herself sitting on the couch again. She thought about taking a nap, or watching a movie, or even studying. But neither option seemed good enough to spark her interest. What… what did I use to do before the rehab?
She stared her reflection on the TV. I bet it’s just crap at this time, she thought, turning on the TV. Instead of the regular programs, the national news was on. At this hour? After a moment, Eliza realized they were showing the neighbor town.
“The authorities still has no information about what caused the explosion on the chemical plant. The fire still hasn’t being controlled and the fire department has requested help from the nearby cities,” the reporter said and then the image changed. The plant Eliza had once visited as a school trip burned. There already were three fire trucks, but more were coming. “The number of victims is unknown, but they estimate over a thousand. They’re moving the patients to the closer towns—”
Eliza turned off the TV and buried her face on the cushion. So mom and dad won’t be home today, she realized. If they were bringing the patients, mom will be working overtime. And dad will probably help with the rescuing. It wasn’t uncommon for her father to be late. The police paperwork took some time, but ever since the rehab, he made sure to come home in time for dinner.
The ringing woke Eliza. With her eyes closed, she reached out for the phone. “Hello?” she said in a raspy voice.
“Eliza? Thank God you’re home,” her mother said, the relief in her voice evident. “I was worried. I called you a few times, but there was no answer.”
“Sorry, mom. I was taking a nap.” The girl sat up and took her phone from her pocket. Wow… Nine calls isn’t a few times, she thought, chuckling. “What’s up?”
“Me and your dad… erh…” her mother trailed off.
“Won’t be coming home for dinner, right?” Eliza finished her mother’s sentence. Even if I’m not completely okay, you don’t need to treat me like a kid, she thought. “You guys are helping with the accident, right?”
“Yes. And your brother’s gonna spend the night at his friend’s,” she said, and then kept quiet. Eliza could sense what her mother was thinking. “If you want, I can come ho—”
“Don’t worry about me, mom.” Eliza tried keeping casual to hide her anxiety. Technically, I’m an adult. I can’t be like this just because my mommy isn’t here, she thought to herself.
“Okay…” her mother’s voice wasn’t convinced at all. She knows me so well. “What are you gonna do for dinner?”
She considered, but she wasn’t in the mood to cook. And I need to get out a bit. “Maybe go out.”
“Eliza…” The girl imagined her mom’s face full of worried over the phone.
“I promise I won’t do anything stupid,” Eliza said. I hope I can keep this promise.
She heard someone calling her mother on the other side. “Fine, but be careful. And please get home as fast as you can. Don’t go wondering off. It’s dangerous. I gotta go. I love you.”
Her mother ended the call before she could say goodbye. Guess she’s really busy, Eliza thought as she put the phone back.
After minute taking deep breaths on the couch, Eliza went to her bedroom, changed her clothes and went to eat out for the first time in weeks.
It wasn’t so bad, Eliza thought after she left the fast food restaurant. Though the attendant knew her, he didn’t make any jokes about her this time. He couldn’t, otherwise I could make a scene and get his ass fired. The idea amused her for a bit, but she shook her head to dismiss it. My life’s too short to waste time think about a guy like that.
Eliza took her phone and reread the text from her mother again. I’m gonna have to work over time. I don’t think me or your dad will be home today. Please, be careful and go home soon. If she couldn’t call me, it means it must be crazy busy at the hospital, she thought, putting her phone back in the pocket of her jacket and leaving her hands there.
The girl walked aimlessly through the streets. I don’t wanna go home now. I can’t stay inside alone without going crazy, she thought. Before her powers, she loved her privacy. When she was home, Eliza was certainly in her room. But that was just wasting time on the net or talking with my friends…
Amanda… Eliza looked around. She lives just one block from here, she realized, turning her head towards her friend’s house. I think she’s within my power. The girl bit her lips, closed her eyes and breathed out slowly. When her breathing was calm, she opened her eyes and relaxed her body, concentrating on the trees before her.
After a few seconds, the trunk and the leaves fade. A moment later, Eliza could see through the three, but her sight didn’t stop there. The house behind came closer and then its wall became transparent to her. The residents were in her sight, but only for a second. She forced her powers to move past them. I don’t wanna spy on people that I don’t know without a reason… I wonder if I’m turning into a pervert voyager?
Eliza dismissed the thought as her sight moved past the house. My eyes are getting faster, she thought, relief she wasn’t feeling any pain. This was enough to prick them at the beginning… especially when I had no control over it. The memories of those days flashed on her mind. No… don’t think about it… don’t think about it. I’m not gonna let it ruin me anymore, she said to herself, closing her eyes for a second.
For her surprise, her powers continued to work. Guess I’m getting better at controlling it, she noticed, somewhat happy by the fact. The lack of concentration made her sight go back to the house, so Eliza cleared her mind and focused.
Finally, she could see the two-store house visited so much it was almost like her second home. The hairdresser on the first floor was busy as usual. Though Amanda didn’t work there officially, sometimes her friend helped her folks with the manicure. But at the moment, she was in her bedroom on the second floor, making out with her boyfriend. Sorry, Amanda, Eliza thought, shutting her eyes.
It took a few seconds, but finally her sight was back to normal. With a smile and her cheeks red, Eliza raised her hands and stared at her unkempt nails. Though she didn’t care much, Amanda insisted on doing her nails. Eliza never admitted, but she liked the purple nail polish her friend insisted on making her wear. I wished we could make things go back to the way they were, she thought, putting her hand back on the pocket.
The sudden urge to see her friend’s face grew. No… I shouldn’t… I can’t invade her privacy like that, she thought. Besides… I can’t abuse this power again… that pain…
Before the memories jumped on her mind, Eliza sighed out loudly, and turned around, heading home. Mom and dad probably aren’t home yet… and I’m not tired at all… She stopped at the park two blocks from her house. Oh yeah… I used to come here all the time with Fabio, she thought, chuckling out of nowhere. How long it’s been since I played here?
Even though the park was empty at this hour, she still checked before sitting on the swings. Putting her feet on the ground, Eliza pushed herself and until she was swinging, each time a bit higher. Wow! I never reached this height before, she thought, smiling and throwing her weight forward to go higher. When she was little, she remembered crying because her father pushed her too high. Why was I so scared of this? It’s almost like I’m flying.
When she was at the highest point, something over the park’s fence caught her attention. Digging her feet into the ground, Eliza stopped the momentum and focused her eyes. She knew she shouldn’t use her powers too much, but her curiosity getting the best of her.
This time, the trees, plants, the playground and the fence became transparent in a heartbeat. She was so excited it was hard to control her powers, and her sight went beyond the fence too much. Shit. Eliza closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened again, her sight stayed on the alley instead of keep going.
Damn it! Why is it so dark? Eliza hard learned her power could use almost every source of light to illuminate her sight. But if the light was too weak, it would barely help her look. Couldn’t this power work like night vision goggles?
Concentrating, she could tell there were four people in the alley. One had his back to the fence, so Eliza couldn’t see his face. She could only tell he wore a black hood. The other three closed in on him.
Hood was shorter than the rest, but that didn’t stop him from kicking the closest one right on the neck. Holy shit! I only saw that in movies, Eliza thought, so surprise her sight moved forward a bit. Damn. She breathed out and focused her eyes. The alley was back, and Hood was fighting the other two now. More like beating the crap out of them. There was a smile on her lips before she realized.
Come on… turn around, turn around, Eliza found herself wishing for Hood to turn around so she could see his face. I don’t wanna keep watching your back, she complained in her head. At the end of the alley, another person appeared. He stayed in the shadows, waiting the moments when Hood wasn’t looking. Eliza focused on Hood, and only noticed the bat at the last second before he attacked Hood.
“He’s got a bat!” she screamed suddenly. Hood dodged the bat and kicked the newcomer on the belly. He fell on the floor with the rest.
Hood turned to the park. In the dark, Eliza couldn’t make her features. But then, due to her enthusiasm, Hood’s clothes suddenly became transparent. Holy shit… I… can’t believe, Eliza thought, barely containing her smile. The girl stared awestruck at the wound on the inner thigh. Not only she had seen that mark earlier, but also she always recognized the winner’s underwear.
Maybe it’s not Bianca, Eliza said to herself. She stared at the face, focusing her eyes and hoping the light would become stronger. And she finally saw a lock of red hair. So it wasn’t your boyfriend, huh?
Closing her eyes to stop the burning sensation creeping around them, Eliza smiled for some reason. What else is she hiding? She asked herself as the sting subdue. I’m really sorry for calling your life boring.