Chapter Two – Grier
In case you were wondering, it sucks to be the sister of the
When most people think about sisters, they picture two girls
laughing together, their heads bent in mutual conspiracy, bonded by their
shared blood. This is not us. It has never been us. I don’t even have a chance to glance up from
my book before it’s ripped from my hands and flung across the room.
“What the hell, Valora?” I squawk, scrambling to my feet as
she stands there glowering down at me, one hand outstretched, fingers curled in
menace. Even smeared with the blood of
whatever now-dead creature lies rotting in the courtyard, my sister still looks
amazing. She’s the literal worst. Her royal highness lifts her chin and twists
her mouth in a half-snarl before collapsing on her bed. Killing monsters must
Also exhausting? Being a total a-hole.
I consider saying something about the amount of blood she’s
going to leave on her ridiculous pile of throw pillows but decide against
it. It won’t be her problem to clean up,
Nothing is ever Valora’s problem.
Instead, I say nothing and retreat to my side of the suite,
the cozy little nook added as an afterthought to Valora’s spacious private
quarters. I grab everything off the beloved patchwork quilt my Nan gave me and
sweep it neatly into my bag, mourning the loss of what was a wonderfully quiet
moment. I love my room, especially when you-know-who isn’t there.
With an annoyed
frown, I toss my messenger bag over one shoulder and slip out without saying a
word to my sister, who is lying on the bed with her eyes closed. She’s probably
replaying the battle, reveling in her fearless badassery. She never thinks
about me; this I know for sure. I slam the door with a grunt and make my way to
The halls of Proctor Moor are wide and full of natural
light. Bucking the Connecticut trends of
classic architecture, this school’s buildings are sleek and contemporary,
spacious structures of steel, glass, and sustainably-sourced wood. It’s hard to mourn the lack of turrets when
floor-to-ceiling glass walls show off green hills in the summer and an
explosion of reds and golds in the fall.
I stop and stare at the hills, wishing for the thousandth time that I
could enjoy this school for what it is, and not who it was built for. I put my
hand up against the glass, but no one can see me; for our safety, the glass in
every building is mirrored, making it impossible for outsiders to see in. It’s sort of a pathetic metaphor for my life
really: the invisible girl standing in the wing that bears her family’s name.
schools before, but only in rinky-dink pockets in the U.S and the U.K. The government, originally very excited about
the Exceptional gifts when they first emerged in the 50s, made sure we were
protected. Amongst their sock hops and blatant racism, a bunch of nervous old white
men, who maybe thought we were witches for awhile, built a system to protect
Exceptionals. The world knows about us, but they don’t know many of us – we’re
kind of in our own world. They quickly
learned that most of us were utterly useless and the funding ran low. Our
schools were still funded by the taxes of normal folks, but they were pretty
terrible. I get it. I mean, why build something cool for a guy whose gift is
that he can inflate balloons just by thinking about it? But then…then came
Everett Proctor and scary-as-hell Erys and the prophecy and Valora and whoo
boy, another weaponized telekinetic! Hold the phone – this one is hot! Suddenly
the government was wetting their pants to throw Department of Defense money at
Thus, this school.
These windows, that bamboo floor, those enormous framed posters of
Valora that loom over me as I walk down the hall.
The first one is from
the day our family went to Mystic Seaport for my dad’s birthday. We’d been in
the museum gift shop, Valora sighing loudly about how bored she was, when a
Scaled Gallsoul began to slither in through a floor vent. I’d been flipping through a carousel of
postcards when the black smoke billowed up and filled the room. I remember the
burning, the thickness that made it impossible to breathe. I opened my eyes
just in time to see Valora hurtling herself through the nearest window,
somersaulting on the pavement outside before breaking into a dead sprint to
lure the creature away from us. When the smoke cleared, my parents found me on
the floor, shaking and red-eyed. By the
time Valora was found in a nearby cemetery surrounded by a black pool that was
once the Gallsoul, our birthday plans were definitely wrecked. Instead of a
dinner cruise, we had fast food in the back of a news van while Valora was
interviewed. My parents didn’t seem to
mind, though. They never do. Especially my father, who basks in her glory like
a snake in the sun.
I scan the next poster, my stomach churning slightly at the
gory memory of Valora sending a parking sign flying through the air and
straight through an Ash Ape’s head as though she were stabbing a ripe melon.
The image thankfully didn’t include me off to the side, projectile barfing at
the sight of it all. The final poster, which I know is secretly Valora’s
favorite since she stares at it all the damn time, was a gift from her official
fan club, depicting their hero as the world saw her: fierce, fearless, and
beautiful. In the glass-covered poster I
see the reflection of my own frizzy brown hair, a stark contrast to Valora’s
razor-sharp locks. We have the same heavy brows, but hers are flawlessly
arched, while mine are straight and unruly.
Valora’s cheeks are glowing; I blush easily, turning splotchy and red. I
stare into her eyes, the same olive green as mine, then nervously pull at the
hem of my long-sleeved t-shirt as I’m aware of my body shape in the glass. I’m
sturdy and pear-shaped compared to my lithe, toned sister. Kind people would
call me curvy; crueler people would call me…well, other things. We look nothing
alike. This seems to be the one thing that surprises people the most when they
find out we’re twins.
“Oh!” they’ll exclaim. “You’re…twins! But you…you’re
not…” That particular conversation that
always ends up making me feeling small.
I give the Valoras in the posters a dirty look and head toward the
cafeteria. As I pass the crowded foyer outside of the atrium, I catch snippets
of excited conversation about the battle.
“Did you see how she strangled the thing with its own tentacles?”
a bespectacled freshman boy squawks. “She made it kick its own ass!”
“The statue was SO gross!” a girl I recognize from my
History of Exceptionals class groans. “I thought Miss Flores was going to
In the cafeteria I grab a tray, my eyes scanning the room
for Agnes. We’ve known each other since fourth grade, when we were the last two
to be picked for kickball at recess. By the time I have chosen my lunch, I
still haven’t spotted her, so I take a seat at our usual spot along a wall of
windows that faces a patch of evergreens. I’m watching a pair of squirrels
chase each other among the tree branches when a deep, unfamiliar voice breaks
“Excuse me, but is anyone sitting here?”
I startle and glance up, my heart thudding up into my
throat. It’s the new boy, Leo Something-or-Other. I’d noticed him in the halls
over the last few days, carrying a campus map like only new kids do. He looked
lost, and he’d asked me for directions to the library. Now he’s standing next
to the table, tall and lean, his jet-black hair parted to one side and just the
right amount of messy. I blink, running my tongue over my teeth, hoping there
are no strawberry seeds stuck anywhere. He must be lost again. Maybe he’s
looking for my sister. What does he want? Does he know who I am?