Chapter 33

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“He… he made you kill Sparky?” Making her do it herself…
“I–I knew what I’d done. I–I didn’t say a word. I just… stabbed Sparky in the chest like I’d been taught.”
We stood in silence for the longest time. Both of us crying.
“I realize now Dad never expected–or wanted–me to succeed. He was just waiting for the day that I’d lose control of Sparky, and…”
“What kind of father lets his daughter raise something just to convince her to kill it?”
“He–he said it was the only way to make sure I took my duty seriously. And… it worked. I never questioned him again, and I trained extra hard to make up for Howard.”
“You still blame yourself for it, don’t you? It was an accident. Nobody’s fault.”
“I–no. Sparky was my responsibility. And… I lost control.” She looked up. “No. Worse than that. I–I’m pretty sure I told Sparky to do it, and–I think I might have used my power on him. Controlled his mind. Is–is that possible?”
“Maybe,” I admitted, “But it doesn’t matter. However it happened, it was an accident, and I think it’s time you forgive yourself.”
“My brother is dead because of me.”
“I’ve… hurt people too,” I admitted, “Turns out… schools can be pretty flammable. Which is why I got switched to homeschooling pretty quickly.”
“You… burned down a school?”
“Yeah. I… had a few anger issues.” I sighed. “And, yeah, a few people got an early cremation because of me. I hated my powers. Hated myself.” I shook my head. “Take it from me, Lilly; hatred and guilt will only make things worse. You need to get past this. Accept your powers. And yourself.”
“I–I promised I’d never let it happen again. That I would never lose control, and–”
“I tried that, too. Hard promise to keep. I’ve got a better one now. For every person I kill, I’ll bring three back from the dead to make up for it.” I wiped some of my own tears on her shoulder. “Don’t try to be perfect, Lilly. It’s impossible. Just be true to yourself.”
“But–I promised God I’d–”
“What? You promised you’d be the perfect little angel, totally thrilled to commit genocide in his name without the slightest hesitation?”
“I–well when you put it like that–”
I pulled her head up so I could look in her eye. “Lilly, you’re already a hundred and twenty-eight times better than the ‘perfect angel’ you’re trying to be. I–I love you. And–and I know it might be too early to say that, but–it’s true.”
“You don’t have to say it back. I tend to get strong emotions, so… I understand if you don’t–I just thought you should know.”
“You’re the sweetest guy I’ve ever met. And I–”
“Wait. No. Don’t–don’t say it yet. Please. It’s–I–don’t know if–”
“I–don’t know if this could work.”
“Why wouldn’t it work?”
“Because–you’re a–and I’m–” I took a deep breath. “Just… trust me. I am not someone you can bring home to meet your parents. They would kill me.” My hands were shaking. I was heating up. Another panic attack. I pulled away from Lilly, not wanting to catch her on fire.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m… get out of here, Lilly. This room’s gonna be on fire pretty soon.” I tried to hold it in. Had to wait until Lilly’s safe.
“You really should leave,” Aiinacs said, “When Alex gets a panic attack… it’s best to get far, far away.”
“Wait. This happened before, at the Academy. I–I think I can…”
I felt a pressure on my mind. Lilly, breaking through. Forcing me to calm down.
I took a deep breath.
“Alex?” Lilly knelt down beside me. “You okay?”
“I–thank you. I’m… I’m much better now.” I smiled. “And you can use your power again.”
“Yes, my plan worked perfectly.” Aiinacs said.
“What? Your plan? The plan to torture her?”
“No. The plan to bring on a panic attack by telling you to torture her. I knew you’d crack before she would. And then she’d stop your panic attack.”
“So, what? You force Alex to get a panic attack every time I need to train?”
“Yeah, that plan kinda sucks,” I said, “Considering the risk that she’d fail to stop me, and then she’d get burnt to a crisp.”
“Hmmm…” Lilly smiled wickedly.
And suddenly I found myself singing “Jesus is Just Alright with Me” at the top of my lungs.
Lilly burst out laughing, destroying her focus.
“Heh.” I smiled. “Glad to know you’re all better. Though I think it’s about time I introduce you to heavy metal.”

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