It took me a full ten seconds, after waking up, to remember that I shouldn’t have expected to wake up alone. I had already forced myself out of bed and towards the bathroom when this occurred to me. Kimberly had come over last night.
Once I knew to look for it, I found signs of her presence, from mussed sheets on the side of the bed that was usually empty, to discarded tissues imprinted with makeup in the bathroom trashcan. The room also carried just a hint of sweetness, a mere suggestion of the perfume she had worn the night before.
I remembered our long evening together. The enjoyable conversation without the need to stick to or avoid any topic. The shedding of clothes and inhibitions as we each became more relaxed and more excited at the same time.
I had stayed up for two or three hours after she had drifted off to sleep, trying to decide what to tell her. As far as I could remember, I had had no resolution to the dilemma by the time I finally succumbed.
My remembrance was cut short by the sounds of laughter downstairs. Two voices, and I had a pretty good idea of whom. My View quickly confirmed it: Kim, dressed in last night’s clothes except for her make-up, munched on toast in the kitchen across from Paris in her full uniform.
There were several ways this could go badly for me. Popping a pill and shrugging into my shirt and pants, I quickly moved downstairs to join breakfast.
“… museum, but I’m not really sure why. He always got C’s in art as a kid.” Paris’s remark got a chuckle from Kimberly before I rounded into view. My date was perched on one of my barstools in front of a plate at the counter; Paris was moving between her own plate and sputtering a skillet of potato hash. On the stove. “Morning, lil’bro! Thought I’d miss you. Gotta leave in ten.”
Paris kept to her side of the counter as Kim flitted down and over to me, reaching up on tiptoes to run a hand through my hair. It was always uneven in the morning if I didn’t tame it. She pulled me down for a kiss that was animated and… mmm… a bit possessive.
“Morning,” my date said. “Paris told me to let you sleep; I hope that was okay.”
I nodded. “Yes, thank you. I don’t need very many hours of sleep, but I have a pretty awful day if I don’t get the amount I need.”
“He’s not exaggerating; I’ve seen it,” my sister confirmed. She deemed the hash done, pulling a third plate from the cabinet and sliding a third of it onto each of our plates. She didn’t look up at us before tucking into it with her fork.
I took my seat next to Kimberly, not at all minding when she nudged hers over far enough that we touched hips while we ate. The hash was good, not overly crispy like Paris sometimes made.
“Your sister and I were talking about you,” Kimberly opened. “And before I forget: if you felt like I gave you any sort of a hard time about the secrecy, you have my sincere apology. I had no idea you were worried about Paris.”
My sister jerked her head up to look with alarm at Kim and then at me, while I felt my body tensing up. The contact with Kimberly was suddenly unpleasant.
“Kim, I don’t know what you think you know, but I think we should wait and discuss this between the two of us,” I began. It seemed like the sort of thing I would say if I was as clueless as I wanted her to think I was.
“Not a chance.” Paris got to her feet, backing up a couple of steps from the table and crossing her arms. “I don’t appreciate being talked about, Hector, you know that. So what have you guys been talking about that concerns me?”
“A recent study discovered,” Kim explained, “that over thirty percent of people claiming an aversion or phobia involving touch, were concealing some form of touch-activated power.”
“Thirty percent? That seems really high,” I responded, feigning ignorance of the obvious connection.
Kim nodded. “There is probably a selection bias in play, so I suspect the real number is lower.” She gestured to Paris. “But still high enough that with the available supporting information – and the indirect questions I asked over breakfast – I’m pretty certain that that’s what going on with Paris. If I touch her, I’ll get a shock, or be set on fire, or teleported away. Or maybe I’ll just feel some unexpected plasticity or cold. Or-”
“That’s enough of that,” I said, softly. Paris’s crossed arms had turned into a tight self-hug. She had no idea how to respond to this.
“You don’t have anything to be afraid of,” Kimberly said with a smile. “I’d never tell anyone; I don’t want to hurt you.” She leaned forward, peering curiously at Paris. “What’s wrong? What -”
Kim stopped as she turned to me again and saw my expression. Paris was scared; I was livid. So much so that I was having difficulty seeing straight.
Kimberly swallowed, her eyes wide. “Hector. Please, I….”
I turned and bounded up the stairs to my room, grabbing my phone. Kim was yelling up the stairs, “I wouldn’t hurt you! I just want you to trust me!”
The app was up and the info input by the time I was back down the stairs. I heard the garage door clanking as it opened; Paris had fled, and I completely understood that.
“You don’t have anything to fear from me.” Kim’s beautiful, bright eyes were starting to tear up now, which only made them sparkle more. I wouldn’t pretend, even to myself, that they didn’t affect me.
“That’s not something you can convince me by digging. By pushing and pushing on everything,” I insisted. “It’s certainly not something you’re going to convince my sister over breakfast. What were you thinking?” It was a plea more than anything, for her to give me some way to salvage this.
She shook her head slightly, “It would have been wrong of me to figure it out and not tell you.”
“You didn’t figure anything out,” I countered. “You were reaching. And for what I’m unsure. I already knew you were smart.”
Kim wiped her hands across her eyes. I’d never seen her slouch when standing before. “Let’s just sit down and talk about this.”
“Not today,” I announced, holding up my phone. “Your ride will be here in five minutes.”
“Don’t,” she pleaded, tears flowing now.
“Make sure to close the door securely behind you.”
“Hector!” I felt her nails as she grabbed my wrist, but I jerked it away and climbed the stairs.
She didn’t follow me up. I sat on my bed and closed my eyes, Viewing her until she walked out the door and into the back of the hired ride.
Once Kimberly was well on her way, I took the time to text Paris. “So sorry that happened. Didn’t realize.”
There wasn’t any immediate response from her, but I did get a text from Kimberly: “Is that it? You’re done with me?”
“Not forever. Just for today. Please give me a little time.” I would never make that radical of a decision on immediate notice. It required more thought.
Kim sent back: “Okay. Whatever you decide, no need to be scared. I would never.”
“Good to know,” was all I responded.
When I stepped out of the shower, there was a message from Paris. “not ur fault” and then “family dinner?”
I also had a text from Mom wanting to know what to make and if I were up to bringing a couple of sides. There were a lot of issues to work through as Delphic before even thinking about dinner, but I went ahead and agreed anyway.
If I kept myself busy, maybe the whole thing would hurt less.