01: First Days Back

Trying to be Normal

01:  First Days Back


This, the second volume of my history of our founder, Alex Jennings, details what happens once Alex ran away from the big city of New Orleans and tried to seek refuge in his previous anonymity. The previous volume, “An Unusual Attraction”, detailed how he first discovered his unique abilities and those drawn to him, how he reacted to it and to them. The results of those encounters left him confused, nervous and finally, feeling like he failed everyone relying on him when he lost one of his followers on his journey home.

This volume details Alex’s attempts to resume his normal existence, even if only for a short time. When he returned, Alex had only a little more than two months remaining in his high school career. He had plans to attend college in the fall, but hadn’t had a chance to decide how his circumstances might have changed that. Alex wanted, as much as he could, to retain a shred of his former social invisibility. However, the events in New Orleans, and the things that he’d learned about himself, made trying to hide who he had become extremely difficult and were to prove very important in what he was to eventually achieve. But more than that, understanding what he went through allows us, his followers, to understand more of just who Alex really was as it reveals much of his personality that he was afraid to reveal while in New Orleans.

Finally, it reveals the three categories by which Alex began to categorize his followers. There were those that actively sought him out and who necessarily took priority, those that could determine there was something important about him but didn’t know anything more than that and finally, all the ‘normal people’ that chose to follow him simply because of what he stood for and because of the force of his personality. This book focuses largely on Alex’s ability to deal with this new, third group.

I was as bad the next day, Saturday, as I’d been the previous evening. I woke late, alone, although I could tell that both Anh and Allison had slept beside me during the night. Apparently everyone thought it better to let me sleep it off.

My family and I had just returned from a one week vacation to New Orleans for my sister Cate’s and my spring break from high school. The events of that week had been, in a word, unusual. I’d gone from an uneventful childhood and a high school career consisting mainly of being ignored, to finding myself being watched and approached by a variety of women. But they weren’t interested in me as a hot young piece of flesh. No, they were interested in me because they could sense some sort of power I was giving off, a power I’d never noticed. Actually, no one had ever detected it before because it was apparently some new type of energy that had never been discovered before.

It seemed certain people could unwittingly detect this new type of energy which seemed to surround all living things. Kind of hard to believe every scientist in the world had missed such an occurrence, but that appeared to be the case. Anyway, the people who could detect this energy were all attracted to me; the same way a magnet attracts metal filings or lanterns attract bugs at night. They were unable to resist its pull, even though they didn’t understand what it meant. They were drawn in, fascinated with me and captivated with what I seemingly represented. There were two classes of these people, the ones who simply watched me in fascination, unable to figure out why I was so interesting. The others would come right up and confront me—usually in the most aggressive and embarrassing manner possible.

While the first group—whom I’ve taken to calling ‘Watchers’ for obvious reasons—alerted Cate and me that something was up, the second group took most of my attention during the past week. As soon as I made eye contact, something would happen—even though there was no clear explanation for how it could possibly occur. They’d get this glazed look to their eyes and would jerk back like something had struck them, and then they’d get these ‘visions’. It seemed I was some kind of a catalyst that attracted people with a certain unique characteristic and then triggered a change in them, allowing them to actually see this newly discovered energy in people. The ability to see it revealed a lot about people. It showed how healthy they were and details about their health—specifically whether they suffered from any diseases or conditions—certain aspects of their basic personality, and temporary effects that played on that personality, like their emotions, as well as many things we simply didn’t understand yet. Oh, yes, it also gave us the power of telepathy.

The people I’d met this way—almost all women for some unknown reason—had decided to stick close to me in order to continue learning about these new abilities, as well as expecting me to impart some kind of wisdom about what they should do. I’d wanted to run screaming from these new intimidating responsibilities, not ready to deal with so many people and deciding all aspects of their lives. However, my reluctance faded when Anh—an older Vietnamese woman who spoke only faltering English—was thrown out of her house because of me. I realized then that I was responsible for them, and that Anh wouldn’t have been in the trouble she was if not for me. Luckily, most of them had other responsibilities from jobs, families and children, so only two had been able to follow me home—although the others planned to follow along as soon as they could manage.

Unfortunately, just when we were finally on our way home and I was filled with hopes of putting all this craziness behind me for a little while, I encountered a woman traveling the other way crossing the Frisco Bridge outside Memphis. I triggered her despite all the obstacles between us, but because of the heavy traffic and the construction limiting access, there was no way to track her, so we’d lost her. That meant there was a young woman out there who needed me, who needed us, but that we couldn’t help.

We couldn’t tell her what was going on, we couldn’t give her a sympathetic ear or understanding companions, and most importantly, I couldn’t take care of her as I’d promised to do with each of the other women, all of whom, despite my inexperience, had come to depend on me.

That was why I’d fallen apart the night before; I simply couldn’t deal with losing one of these special women. I’d told myself I’d watch out for them and I’d failed. It wouldn’t take much from me, just giving them some direction and guidance, but I couldn’t even provide that if I didn’t know who I’d unwittingly triggered.

Throwing off the covers, I dressed and wandered downstairs, even though I had no specific objective.

“Alex, Alex, Alex,” Cate said, clucking like a worried hen when she discovered me wandering aimlessly like a little lost chick. “Come on, we’re going into the kitchen. It’s a good thing that Anh alerted me you were here, otherwise there’s no telling what you might have gotten up to.”

She steered me to the family’s breakfast nook, reassuring me with a bunch of meaningless platitudes as she seated me and let Anh prepare me some food. Despite their obvious concern, and Anh’s delicious Vietnamese breakfast, my despair wasn’t mollified. Finally, they all simply left me alone as they went about their various tasks. They were busy unpacking from their trip, the new girls trying to find a place for their possessions they’d brought with them. Cate and our parents called friends, made arrangements and sorted stuff to make room for the new additions to the house—both those already here and those planning to arrive in the coming weeks. Life didn’t stop just because some stranger was lost along the way.

I finally got sick of my own sense of loss. I tried to think of a way of contacting her, just as I had the previous day, but there wasn’t any way to accomplish it. It wasn’t my fault she was lost. Besides, she might have been fine without us. She’d apparently done fine without us for a couple of decades at least. And I wasn’t doing anyone any good by fretting about it. Not her and certainly not those people who depended on me. I could and would put it out of my mind, but I couldn’t forget it. It would follow me and worry me for some time to come.

So I got back into the spirit of things, helping with the unpacking and once everyone (my mother, Linda, my sister, Cate, and Anh and Allison, the two women who’d followed me home) started relaxing, we set up some games to play together. We started with Scrabble, but Anh had trouble as she kept trying to play Vietnamese words. I supplied her some American words she could use—telepathically, of course—but everyone agreed that constituted cheating.

“How about if she uses a dictionary, like Mom and Dad used to allow us to do when we were first learning the game?” I suggested, hoping to include her as well as helping her learn the language.

“Nah,” Cate argued, “reading words one doesn’t recognize isn’t going to be much fun.”

“That’s certainly true,” Mom added. “Personally, I find the idea of reading the dictionary difficult enough when I’m looking for something specific, the idea of reading it for pleasure is a concept that’s completely lost on me.

Cate and I shared a private look, not wanting to admit that we’d both done just that when we were younger, reading the dictionary for pleasure and the sheer delight of discovering new things. But then, we knew we were nerdy enough without having to remind anyone else of it.

“Well how about Monopoly then?” Allison suggested, getting up and retrieving it from the bookcase. “The rules should be easy enough for her to figure out. The only things to read are the property names and the chance cards, and there’s no problem with you translating those for her.”

“Hey, now there’s a game that I can join in on,” my father said, wandering in from the kitchen, rubbing his hands together. “All those games testing how many obscure words you know always left me drooling over my Neanderthal hands, but I actually stand a chance at Monopoly!”

“There won’t be enough time to finish a full game, but I think it’ll be fun anyway,” Cate offered, grinning at Anh to include her in the discussion.

“And reading the Community Chest cards won’t be an issue,” I announced, translating for her, “because she says that her kids did that every time she played with them.” Everyone laughed at that, as the image of the ever engaging Vicky, Anh’s granddaughter who’d translated for Anh when we first encountered her, made us feel better.

Later, as Cate and I washed the dishes—after I had politely refused Ahn’s offer to do them for me, telling her it was part of my regular chores and that I really didn’t mind it—Cate finally had it out with me.

“Alex, everyone has been giving you a lot of latitude,” she said as she handed me a dish to dry. “After all, we realize how deeply this has struck you, but you’ve got to get your act together. I called Becky and Melinda, and they’re both coming home tomorrow evening for a family discussion. We really need to tell them what’s been happening. I’m interested in getting Becky to help me with my research, and she’s been champing at the bit wondering about that phone call you asked her to make to the hospital in New Orleans. There’s no way you can get out of this. You’re going to have to lead the discussion, and you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to present it without sounding like a deranged nutcase.”

“Why thank you for the vote of confidence,” I replied with a smile just before I snapped her with the towel. “But you’re right, it’ll take some thought before I’m ready to confront them. It’s going to be a difficult discussion, no matter how we approach it.”

“Well, I think that Anh and Allison can provide enough evidence for us,” Cate reflected with a wicked grin. “After all, it’s not every day that a seventeen year old virgin comes home with an Asian grandmother and an exclusive escort and his parents don’t have a problem with it.”

“Yeah, Becky could certainly help me a lot,” she noted since their eldest sister was interning for a biomedical research firm while finishing up her graduate work in Genetics. “I’d love to bounce some ideas off of her, and with any luck, she may be able to get me some resources to run a few tests. After all, I’m pretty sure these abilities of yours and the girls are genetically based, and there’s no way I can test that kind of stuff on my own. Though I’m not quite sure how we can put Melinda to use. You’ll also have to figure out how to include her so she doesn’t feel left out,” she informed me summarily, adding yet more burdens to my mounting list of responsibilities.

“Well, Melinda is tied into the whole college environment over at SIU, so she’s got access to more resources than either of us do, so I suspect we’ll think of something she can help us with,” I told her. “But don’t worry, I’ll be ready by the time they arrive, even though I may end up staying awake all night trying to figure out how I’m going to do it.”

“Good,” Cate said, leaning up and kissing my cheek. “That’s what I was counting on. You always come through in a pinch, and that’s just one of the many things that I love about you.” She finished the kiss off with a hug, which she seemed to hold for much longer than usual, which only reminded me of our recent troubles. But I chose not to voice those concerns, and after another few moments Cate finally released me, finished off the last few dishes and wandered off on her own again, mumbling about people she needed to call and research she was hoping to do online.

“Hey, Cate,” I called before she reached the kitchen door.

“Yeah?” she asked, turning and clutching the door as she glancing back in.

“Well…,” I began uneasily. “Remember how Shani wanted me to … uh, date a little before any of the girls would … uh…?”

“I remember,” she laughed, her eyes twinkling at mirth watching me twist in the wind. “What about it?”

“Well, she wanted me to find a girlfriend, and frankly, I really have no idea who to approach about it. I don’t have that many female friends at school, so I don’t know—”

“And you want me to help you out?” she asked, taking mercy on me and cutting off my meandering question.

“Yeah,” I answered, leaning back against the sink. “If you could, it would be great if you could make some suggestions about who I could ask out?” I’d been thinking about this for a while, and given Shani’s theory about Cate’s sexuality, I figured that Cate just might take up the challenge, if only to gain an excuse to gawk at the other girls at school. Either way, it was a potential win for both of us.

“Geez, bro, you’re a senior. We’re not exactly in the same classes. Besides, I don’t know what you’re looking for in a girl. You haven’t shown a preference before.”

“No, not unless you count the many magazines I hide in my room,” I teased, fully aware my stash was by no means a secret to anyone in the house since Cate had made that abundantly clear in New Orleans when she explained all my foibles to the women I’d met there.

“Yeah, I’ve tended to avoid catching up on your reading material,” Cate replied, making a face at the idea. “You know, sticky pages and all that.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m well familiar with ‘sticky pages’,” I grinned, feeling comfortable falling back into the familiar refrain of our typical teasing. Something I’d missed, even as I’d enjoyed the newer softer moments as well.

“You should, it’s your sticky stuff that stuck them,” she laughed.

“So, you gonna help or not?” I challenged, wanting a firm commitment.

“Hmmm, I’ll think about it,” she replied, her eyes sparkling as she considered the possibilities. “I’ll take a look around school and see if anyone strikes me as being a potential match for you.”

I figured that’d be her response. I didn’t think I knew a female that didn’t dream of matchmaking at one point or another. “Thanks, I’d appreciate it. I don’t have much of a clue myself, obviously,” I finished with a playful grin.

“Hey, don’t knock yourself,” she responded, surprising me since I had been expecting some sort of sharp comeback. “You’ve already proven you can handle any number of attractive women. You managed all those people in New Orleans without a problem.”

“Yeah, but—”

“No buts,” she responded quickly, reentering the room in order to confront me, staring me directly in the eyes. “You faced an unusual situation and took control of it quickly. You went from being all on your own to leading a bunch of people in only a few days. You’ve always had the ability to get anyone you’ve ever desired.” Here she hesitated before continuing, glancing down before looking up at me again. “But I’ve held you back by always criticizing you with silly jokes that were only meant to make me feel smart. You deserve better. You’re a handsome, attractive, personable guy. I’ve always known that, but I simply never bothered to tell you before. I want you to get it through your head that you are very desirable.”

I simply stood there, a little stunned at the strength and the unexpectedness of her response. However, a moment later she continued, filling in the silence.

“Still, isn’t there anyone you’ve lusted after all these years?”

“Not really,” I replied, running my hand through my hair considering it. “The girls most guys lust after are the cheerleader types, and they just don’t do it for me. They’re a bit too full of themselves. They hang around with Football Players,” I sighed exasperatedly, as if the very idea of football players was a huge turn off. “Plus the girls I’ve fantasized about were just that, fantasies. I’ve learned enough in the last week to know that I want more than just a pretty face.”

“So what kind of girl rings your bell?” she asked, cocking her head as she warmed up to the subject.

“I don’t know,” I answered with a shrug. “I like simple girls, cute but not gorgeous, smart, thoughtful, quick and potentially funny. I like thin girls but that’s not really necessary. Active and somewhat athletic I guess.”

Cate looked at me askance, a small smile teasing the edge of her mouth. “You realize you just described me, don’t you?”

“You? I just described myself! I think I’m looking for me. Now if I was only gay I’d be ready to settle down,” I laughed.

“Yeah, before this last week, you settled down with yourself every night for the last several years,” she giggled back.

“You’ve been checking at my door for the last several years?” I teased, playfully leering at her though I knew she wouldn’t take it the wrong way. I was enjoying the renewal of this relaxed, playful relationship that had been missing since our difficulties of the last several days.

“Granted, and your behavior has been a bit hard to miss, bro,” she responded, falling into the familiar pattern once more. “All that time spent in the bathroom, the extra-long showers, the exit in the middle of a movie on TV to take a sudden nap, the ‘wacka-wacka’ sound whenever I passed by your room.” She certainly had a lot of examples handy of my supposedly secret activities over the years.

“Yeah, unfortunately I’ve missed all the ‘squish-squish’ sounds coming out of yours,” I shot back, eager to keep the teasing play going.

“What makes you think I ‘squish-squish’?” she asked with a ‘who me’ innocence.

“I’ve spent several nights ‘wacka-wacking’ while you were ‘squish-squishing’ in the other bed,” I laughed along with her. While the statement was true, I had only shared such activities in the past week, and I had hardly been doing the ‘wacka-wacking’ she was referring to.

“OK, I’ll see if I can find any desperate copies of me who don’t mind copulating with you in exchange for the promise you’ll be too busy afterwards to bother them anymore.”

“There is that. Thanks Cate, I appreciate it.”

“Ha, you haven’t seen who I set you up with yet,” she laughed, finally turning and sashaying out the door.

I had to grin at her antics as I put everything away. Left to my own devices, I considered how I’d missed the excitement of the various activities of the day; the apartment hunting, the last-minute school shopping and the many other tasks I missed out on. I didn’t exactly miss the last-minute rushing to complete our back-to-school assignments, but both Cate and I were so far ahead in our schoolwork it wasn’t really an issue. Finally putting away the final cup and closing the cabinet, I considered my relationship with Cate. It had returned to normal once we’d returned, I reflected, recalling how our attempt to include her in our sexual games I’d tried playing with the other girls in our hotel room had produced a noticeable strain between us. No, I corrected myself, actually it’s better for some odd reason. Not only is she speaking to me again, but she’s going out of her way to be nice to me. She’s giving me hugs, complimenting me and doing many other things that she doesn’t normally do. But the strangest thing was that she seemed reluctant to tease me the way we typically did when they were having fun together. I’d finally gotten her to resume it, but it had taken a long time of dangling openings before she’d finally relented. I figured I could adjust to that in exchange for the other things she’d supposedly substituted for it.

I was recovered enough from my missing girl trauma to make quiet love with both Allison and Anh later that night. They both gave me some step-by-step assistance in my crude attempts at cunnilingus, and they seemed to appreciate my meager attempts as well. They finished me off nicely with an exquisitely performed dual blowjob. Everyone fell fast asleep cuddling each other, though I remained awake for some time afterwards, considering what I was going to say to Becky and Mel the next day.

As I was considering those issues, I glanced again at the two women in my arms, looking perfectly at ease in my grasp as they tried to snuggle in closer in their sleep. I hated to admit it, but I missed going to sleep with multiple women in my arms every night, and another lying just a short distance away. I idly wondered what life would be like when I’d have to give it all up after I found the girlfriend the girls wanted me to get. I was still grinning at the thought when I eventually fell asleep at last.

Sunday was relatively relaxing. I’d stopped obsessing about the lost girl, I wasn’t worried about new women finding me and no one needed me to do anything for them, aside from helping unpack and store things. The women were busy preparing the house for the upcoming onslaught of women, and Allison left a few times to investigate nearby apartments and houses that she and the rest of the women could share.

But I hadn’t forgotten the upcoming discussions with my sisters. So far I’d only discussed our various new abilities with people who had a vested interest in the topic. Aside from Mom and Dad, this was the first time I had to try to convince normal people that I was somehow special. I was especially nervous since they were my sisters. They would likely think I was simply inventing stuff to sound more impressive than I was. I didn’t think my older sisters thought much of me to begin with; we’d see how they’d relate to this news. I was just the annoying little brother who’d always pestered them.

Mom and Cate thought it would be fun to have Allison answer the door when they arrived, and were watching the door so she could get to it before they entered on their own.

“Hi, Becky and Melinda, I take it,” she greeted them happily, her bright red hair bouncing as she hugged them both. “I’m Allison, I’m sure you’ll hear all about me in a few minutes, so I won’t bore you with any personal histories at the moment. Come on in, we’ve been expecting you.”

The two girls glanced at each other, then shrugged and followed Allison into their own home, watching her fantastic figure jiggle its way before them. Both girls resembled Mom’s side of the family in that they all tended to be thin and in great shape, and luckily they all managed to miss my wild eyebrow gene. Becky looked like a typical research assistant in that she appeared to have been too busy to have eaten much lately. Melinda looked much more relaxed, being in her junior year she had bypassed much of the more stressful aspects of school while getting into the more interesting, detailed subjects. They just walked through the door when they encountered their next surprise.

“This is Anh,” Allison said, introducing the gray-haired oriental woman who smiled graciously at them. “She’s another of Alex’s girls. In case you don’t know it,” she confided, leaning in and whispering conspiratorially to them as Anh surprised them with big heartfelt hugs, “you have an amazing brother and we’re totally crazy about him. We’d all follow him to the ends of the earth.” They both looked at her in confusion, then at me and then at Mom. Anh proceeded to greet them both, in polite Vietnamese, bowing slightly as she did. Linda and Cate had trouble trying to keep from giggling hysterically. Even Frank was enjoying the spectacle they presented.

“She says she’s pleased to meet you and that she’s heard a great deal about both of you,” I translated for them, realizing she was lying as we’d never spoken much about my sisters.

“You speak…?” Melinda started to ask before halting, not sure what she was asking.

“No, I don’t speak Vietnamese, but I know what she’s saying anyway. We’ll get to that in a moment,” I told them simply as I kissed them both hello, both Allison and Anh stepping aside as I approached.

Mom walked up at that point and tried to give them both a hug as well.

“Wait a minute, Mom, just what the hell is going on?” Mom started to say something about Melinda’s choice of language but Becky cut her off.

“Is this what you meant when you were talking about ‘Alex’s women’?” she asked.

“Believe me, you’ll understand everything in a minute,” my father said, interrupting them. “A lot has been happening in the last week, and while you may have trouble believing it, it’s all absolutely true. Cate, why don’t you put your presentation skills to use and give them a run down on everything that’s been happening to your brother over the past week.” So Cate proceeded to describe, in a shortened version, much of what had happened during the last week. Both girls were agog at the whole thing, but Dad kept telling them not to interrupt and to listen, as they’d want to hear it all before they began asking any questions.

Cate described the basic events, the various tests she’d conducted and what she thought they meant, the various relationships that I’d formed with the ladies, and that there were others as well. She described the difference between the Watchers and, as she described it, ‘the chosen’. I’d have to talk to her about that particular terminology. I think at first they both believed it was all an elaborate joke, but the fact that no one laughed brought them around.

After Cate finished her presentation, my parents started next. First Mom described my budding social life, listing the sleeping arrangements and their conversations with each of the girls. Next Dad described Cate’s and my relationships and what had happened between us for the past week. I had to hide my head in embarrassment, but at least he didn’t know the whole story. I figured Cate was already humiliated enough as it is.

He finished off telling them what he knew about our fight, before launching into his theory about how I may be influencing those around me. In short, they managed to leave nothing out aside from the girls’ histories.

In a fairly deft move, Dad then asked Anh to explain her own theories about Alex’s abilities. That accomplished two things, besides presenting her views, it once again demonstrated our telepathy and that there was an established precedent for what was happening, however remote.

“So, do either of you have any questions?” Alex asked as he finished translating Anh’s responses.

“Oh, my fucking god,” Becky exclaimed, finally able to express herself after being constrained from doing so by her father’s admonitions before, “this is fucking unbelievable!”

“Becky!” Linda warned her eldest regarding her language, giving her a look.

“Mom, you’ve gotta admit, if there was ever a time to be profane, this is it.” That generated a laugh all around which seemed to ease the tension everyone had been feeling, wondering how the girls would react to the news.

“Man, I can’t believe our little Alex gets to be the main actor in his own Sci-Fi adventure,” Melinda said. “I mean, all this stuff about energy sounds like something out of Star Wars. And he adds his own harem to the mix. Man, if you can set me up with some amazing ability that gets me a string of attentive guys I’d really appreciate it, Alex.”

“I’ve been trying to give Alex some theories about what’s happening,” Cate said, “but I think we’ll need you to help with that, Becky, since you have more experience, more training, and better access to facilities.”

“Yeah, I think your basic theories are pretty good, as far as they go,” Becky said, her eyes sparkling at all the possible avenues they could take in studying this, “but I’ll have to see if I can arrange some tests to get a better understanding about it. So far every idea seems to be concerning the girls, though. Any ideas on what may be going on with Alex himself?”

“I don’t have a clue,” Cate responded. “From what the girls all say, it’s clear that Alex has some direct tap into this new form of energy.”

“Uh, excuse me, the non-scientist among us, but if it surrounds all forms of life, I hardly think it’s a ‘new’ form of energy,” Melinda argued.

“Granted,” Becky conceded. “I agree that it sounds like Alex has some sort of connection to this ‘energy’. So what are you suggesting?”

“Well, I think he’s managing to use some aspect of it to affect people. Since we have no way of measuring this energy, there’s no way of tracing it,” Cate started explaining her newest ideas.

“OK, but how is he doing that?” Becky pressed, trying to gain an idea into how much Cate had already figured out as well as which areas she’d been concentrating on and which she may have avoided.

“That’s what could potentially win us both a Nobel Prize,” Cate answered with a grin before her expression suddenly turned serious. “That is, if there’s any way we could do it without compromising Alex and everything he’s working towards.”

“And just what is he working towards?” Becky asked.

“Honestly, he hasn’t quite worked it out, but we all know that’s why he’s here. Right now we’re all focusing on helping him gather his people together. We need to help him find more of both these women and these Watchers. That’ll help them organize and give us more knowledge about what’s involved.”

Anh spoke up and started talking at length, so I jumped in and began translating while she was still speaking.

“Anh says that she’s responsible for the whole ‘movement’ idea, as she came up with the idea of my having a mission.” We then rehashed Anh’s ideas of me being a spirit that had somehow crossed over from the spirit world, detailing how spirits usually feel compelled to do so in order to achieve something significant. The girls just sat still, absorbing all of this new information.

“Well, I’ve got no idea of how to test any of that,” Becky responded simply. “It’s all fascinating, but I just have no idea how to process any of it.”

“Yeah, that was my feeling,” Cate agreed with her, “but her approach explains more than my few theories do.”

“What about this mind control stuff?” Melinda asked, cocking her head as she asked me point-blank.

I waved off the thought dismissively, “It’s just something Dad was suggesting. I wouldn’t give it much credence. There’s no evidence of it and there’s plenty of evidence it isn’t true.”

“Like what?” she asked.

“Like the fact that none of the women agree with me a lot of the time. Like the fact that Cate could still get pissed at me, and that someone managed to get pissed enough to punch me,” I told them, hoping to head off this side discussion. Of course that didn’t happen.

“You got punched? Now that you mention it I can see some bruising on your cheek. So, did one of your girls have a jealous boyfriend?” Becky teased.

“No, it was Anh’s son, Bao Luong. He thought I was going to take advantage of his mother.”

“So, did you?” Melinda laughed.

I sighed, having half expected it but hoping they could avoid the topic. “No, I haven’t had sex with any of these women.”

“Well,” interrupted my father with a knowing smile, “he hasn’t had intercourse with any of them. He’s had plenty of sex with them all, though. But that wasn’t Bao’s concern. He thought Alex was a con man out to fleece his mother.”

“Man, this all just gets better and better,” Melinda said, her eyes dancing with mirth. “So, what else have you forgotten to mention to us?”

“Oh, nothing and probably everything. It’d take a long time to go over it all. But Dad came up with the idea of a mind control influence just as a remote possibility, it wasn’t a realistic suggestion,” I said, trying to convince them to drop at least that topic.

“Let me try a few things,” Becky suggested. She stood up and helped Allison into the middle of the room, using a handy napkin from the dining room to cover her eyes.

“You all talk about ‘seeing’ these new visions. I’d like to see whether Alex affected something in your eyes or something else. If it’s in the eyes, a simple optical examination should show anything hidden there.” She then moved everyone around the room.

“OK, now, Allison, tell me who is where in the room.”

Allison had no problem immediately locating me then Anh. She had trouble identifying anyone else, but she could pinpoint their locations as she pointed out each. She explained to do any better, she’d have to compare their auras with what she remembered about each, correctly guessing Cate and selecting my father by the size of his aura, which reflected his physical size.

“OK, then it’s clearly not a vision thing after all. I’m guessing Alex must have done something somewhere else. I’m guessing probably somewhere in the brain, as that’s the only viable organ that could sponsor such complex behavior.”

“See, I told you telling them would be a good idea,” Cate said enthusiastically. “I was getting tired of always providing all the science advice, as I was feeling like the local heavy, making all these pronouncements that no one was ready to hear yet. So, do you have any other ideas on what to look for?”

“A few,” she responded. “Alex?” she asked, turning towards me after removing Allison’s blindfold for her. “Have you tried contacting any of your other women since you got here?”

“No, they’re all back in New Orleans.”

“So, are you going to try?” she responded simply, unperturbed by my unspoken argument. I took a moment and tried to reach them. Shani answered immediately. Surprised, I tried Patricia next and she too responded right away.

“Yeah, I could speak with them without any problem.”

“Amazing! I know it’s a silly question, seeing how quickly you responded, but what about a time delay? Was there a wait between when you spoke with them and they responded?”

“No, they responded instantly and the distance didn’t make any difference in the strength of the signal,” I answered, knowing full well I was using cell phone terminology.

“That says a lot in itself. It shows your telepathy isn’t any kind of broadcast waves, since waves are weakened by distance and take a while to travel between distances, so you must be using another means of communication. Somehow you’ve created some kind of complex communication facility in the short amount of time it takes to look someone in the eyes, which is essentially instantly.”

“Wow, that’s amazing. I’d never have been able to figure all that out,” our father said, congratulating Becky.

“Now, the only question is whether they already had the mechanics necessary in their brains, or whether he somehow put it there,” Becky continued.

“How could he do something like that?” Melinda asked. “It’d take complex manipulation on an incredibly minute level, plus engineering skills and neurological familiarity.

“Exactly,” agreed Becky, “but I don’t think it’s as complex as it sounds. I’m guessing he’s somehow tapping into some kind of simple solution that we simply don’t understand yet. It’d have to be something that doesn’t take a lot of thought, planning or knowledge to accomplish.”

“Still, if he’s doing something to their brains, he’d have to know just where to operate in their brain in order to prevent causing substantial brain damage,” Melinda argued.

“There is that,” conceded Becky. “Again, I have no clue how he’s doing any of it. All I know is it’s got to be something simple so that he can do it all without any conscious thought. I’m also guessing it’s going to be something incredibly small, so he doesn’t have to risk destroying any surrounding tissue when he does it.”

“That’s a brilliant deduction if I do say so myself,” Dad said, grinning in satisfaction that not only were all his daughters incredibly bright, but that they were all working together in order to help me with my struggles.

“Please, honey, you’ve already got enough kids with swelled heads as it is,” my mother told him with a grin.

“Hey, I think I’ve been handling all of this pretty well,” I argued.

“And you have,” Dad said. “I don’t know anyone who could have handled it as well as you have. Despite your initial panic,” he added, whispering just loudly enough for everyone to hear him.

“So you’ve been able to see this same energy signature in plants as well as people?” Becky asked, trying to keep the focus on her questions.

“Yeah, I made sure to check. It’s not as strong but it’s still there,” Allison replied. When Anh agreed as well, Becky just shook her head.

“Man, that is so weird. She can understand everything we say?” Becky asked.

“As long as I or one of the girls is here to act as a go between,” I answered.

“Anyway,” she replied, shaking her head slightly in an attempt to refocus her mind. “Does it look substantially different?”

“Well, yeah, it’s just a dull, flat color without any of the variations that show things like emotions and other things.”

“What about the health signs you notice by the variations in the energy’s strength?”

Allison stopped and thought a moment, and then Anh spoke to her for a few moments. Finally she turned back and responded to Becky. “We don’t really know. We haven’t had much of a chance to examine a lot of sick plants,” she answered with a cockeyed grin.

“No, I can understand that. Here, let me try something.” Becky then took my hand and walked into the other room, where she took a piece of paper and rubbed her hand against it, then told me to do the same with another piece. We also did the same thing with hand towels before walking back into the den. She placed the items around the room.

“Now, can either of you see any energy signature in any of those items?” she asked.

“Yeah, those two are clearly Alex’s,” Allison replied. “I’m assuming the other two are yours, although the cloth seems to hold the energy better than the paper does.”

“Interesting,” said Becky. “I suspected as much. Although both are biological products, the cotton isn’t as processed as the paper is, so I’m assuming it holds the left over energy better. I’m betting man-made products would hold it even less well, if at all.”

“I’ll get a cutting board,” Mom suggested, as she got up and headed into the kitchen.

It turned out a plastic cutting board still held some remnants of our energy, but not nearly as well as the cloth did, and it seemed to fade away even faster. Becky seemed pleased and said she’d have to consider how she could use this knowledge.

“Could you use your lab to do anything?” Melinda asked.

“Mel, I work in a DNA lab. I could do a DNA test, but we’d have no idea of what to look for. A simple DNA test only looks for certain significant markers. Trying to locate any DNA that might be producing this would take a full DNA workup, and we’d have to do it for everyone we know with any of these abilities. Not only would that be expensive, but we wouldn’t be able to hide the information we gathered from prying eyes at the lab. Beyond that, even identifying a possible suspect gene wouldn’t tell us anything. It would merely tell us that it’s genetic and where we could do future research, but it wouldn’t help us at all. Personally, those little tests I’ve just done tell us more than full DNA scans would.”

“I can see Cate and Becky taking a lead in this, but is there anything that I can do to help?” Melinda asked, looking like she was anxious to get involved.

“I’m not sure,” I said considering it. “Even if you can’t help with the research, I’m sure there are a million things you could help with. Personally, I’m busy trying to figure out what it all means, what I need to do for everyone, and who is going to be waiting for me around the next corner,” I complained. “Besides, you’ve already sacrificed your bedrooms,” I informed them, laughing gently.

Cate took that opportunity to explain about the lost girl and how it had upset me. Everyone sympathized, but I figured that was enough for me, and not wanting to dredge up that unhappy topic again, so I wandered into the kitchen to grab something to eat while everyone else started to go over even more details about me.

When I returned to see how much had progressed, I was surprised to find my mother, my own mother, gossiping with my sisters about the details of my nascent sex life, while Anh and Allison were happily agreeing with everything she said. Dad looked decidedly uncomfortable with the topic, and I figured now would be a good time to head off to bed, so I quietly slipped out and found myself a good book. I hadn’t managed to read anything for quite a while, and I thought it would be good to empty my mind of all my other concerns before I had to return to school in the morning.

I awakened slightly as the girls climbed into bed with me. I’d apparently fallen asleep while reading. As I sat up, meaning to show the two girls some appreciation, Anh pressed me back to the bed.

Don’t get up. You need your sleep for your return to school in the morning. It’ll be a big day for you. Allison and I will help you sleep. Besides,’ she giggled a little, ‘she’s promised to show me a few new things and, as you may have heard, we old bitches like to learn new tricks.’ So I happily laid back and allowed two happy ladies to practice their craft. Anh managed to improve her already excellent techniques as she learned from a true professional in the field.

The following segment, again told in third person perspective because Alex wasn’t aware of it at the time, took place once Alex left the discussion downstairs.

“Now that he’s safely out of the room,” Allison said, glancing over her shoulder to make sure that Alex wasn’t secretly observing them, despite her being fully aware of where he was, “there are some additional tests that I’ve been wanted to conduct, but that I didn’t want to do in front of Alex.”

She then turned to address Becky, Melinda and Alex’s parents and explained “Cate and the rest of us had a fairly in-depth discussion, and she revealed a lot about herself and her relationship to Alex. However, what she said has been bouncing around in my head ever since, and now I’m curious about it.” Without giving anyone any more context, she turned to Cate. “Quick, without looking, point to where Alex is.”

Without thinking, her face a mask of confusion and doubt, Cate turned and pointed at the kitchen. But instead of pointing at the kitchen door, which would have been logical, she instead pointed too far to the left, near the edge of the room.

“I’m guessing that’s the refrigerator, which wouldn’t be a difficult guess,” Allison observed. Grinning, she turned to Melinda. “Could you get Alex to get something for you, something that would require him to move somewhere else in the room? The rest of us can pick out where he is most of the time, but I want you to confirm it for your family.”

Confused, Melinda got up and headed into the kitchen to check on her brother.

“Dare I ask what this is about?” Alex’s father, Frank, asked.

“Not just yet,” Allison told him. We want to establish whether this is an actual event or not.”

“How about now?” Allison asked Cate when she detected Alex moving. Looking doubtful, Cate once pointed to the kitchen, but this time to a different spot, one she was unable to see from her position. Keeping her hand up, she traced Alex’s movements as he walked to a new location.

“Wait, how the heck is she doing that?” her mother, Linda, asked, her brow furrowing as she contemplated yet another of her kids having strange abilities.

“OK, where is he in the room?” Allison pressed. “How far away from you is he?”

“Uh,” Cate said, hesitating. “I’m not sure. I guess maybe about three times the distance as from me to Becky.”

Curious, Becky got up and walked to the kitchen door, determining just where he was. Shaking her head in disbelief, she returned to her seat. “She’s spot on, both the exact direction and the distance too. Now what’s going on? Clearly you’ve been thinking of this for some time, so you must already have an explanation for this.”

“Shit,” Cate said, amazed at her own unacknowledged ability. “I guess I have my own super power.”

“It looks like she’s another Watcher,” Becky suggested. “You know, it’s entirely possible she just never noticed since she’s been exposed to him all her life. She’d never associate him with an unusual presence if she was already used to it.”

“I don’t think so,” Allison said, surprising them. “She’s never had a clue about anyone else. If she had any inherent abilities, then she’d be able to pick up information about other’s motives, or about events that were about to happen nearby, but she’s never hinted at anything like that. I wish we had one of the Watchers here to confirm that, but none of them are here yet.” She took a moment, glancing at Alex’s family as she let the information sink in before she continued.

“In previous discussions, Cate revealed a lot about her earlier experiences with her brother. I have a feeling that prolonged exposure to Alex has somehow given Cate an innate ability to pick up on Alex’s energy signature. She said as much when she described seeking him out for hugs, and always feeling better whenever she spent time with him. Frankly, she’s spent a lot more time in close proximity to him than anyone else. Since his energy level is so much stronger than anyone else’s, it would make sense that someone without the Watcher’s ability would eventually learn to pick it up. Again, she’s not able to pick up variations in the energy from other people, she can only feel the stronger level that Alex gives off.”

“Shh,” Allison hissed in an extra quiet voice. “They’re coming back.”

The discussion was instantly dropped, and in an attempt to provide cover, Linda started telling an embarrassing story about Alex’s sexual dalliances in New Orleans. When Alex entered the room, led by Melinda who opened her eyes wide to show how amazed she was at their insight, he recoiled at his mother’s apparent gossiping about his private affairs.

Blushing profusely, he made an awkward excuse and made a hurried exit, rushing upstairs. As soon as he was safely upstairs, Allison glanced back and then nodded that it was safe again, at which point everyone laughed.

“Quick thinking,” Frank congratulated his wife. “Did you see him running like a scared rabbit? That was classic. We’ll have to remember than whenever we need a little more privacy in the future.”

“I figured that nothing would scare a young man more than having his mother enjoying his exploits vicariously, and it looks like I was right,” Linda explained, to more laughs from everyone. But, in order to avoid accidental exposure, the family gathering broke up, although they broke up into smaller groups to discuss this newest revelation, and for Becky and Melinda to ask more specific questions of Allison.

The next morning I jolted awake to the shrill ring of my alarm. I quickly shut it off, hoping to avoid waking the two women beside me, but I could see it was already a lost cause. They both slowly sat up, rubbing their eyes.

“Go and get … showered and ready, Alex,” Allison told me, yawning. “Anh’s going downstairs to fix everyone a nice traditional Vietnamese breakfast, and I want to take some time getting dressed this morning.” So I took her advice and took a quick shower, something which most kids in high school have perfected. I was quickly heading downstairs, feeling pretty good about returning to the hum-drum, everyday life of high school, far from the crazy scene that New Orleans had been.

Most everyone was already there, although Cate was just rounding the corner and Allison was still getting dressed. She had seemed reluctant to let me see her getting dressed this morning for some reason. Dad had already left for work, as was usual on a school day. As I sat down, Becky leaned forward.

“I want to do one more experiment, Alex,” she told me as she grabbed my arm and pulled out a scalpel. How she ever found a fresh scalpel in our house I have no idea, but I wasn’t overly fond of whatever she was thinking. I quickly jerked my arm back.

“What the hell are you planning on doing?” I asked, cradling my arm protectively against my chest.

“Relax, I’m not going to hurt you,” she answered, her reassurances betrayed by her playful smile, “but I want to see if this energy you’re generating impacts your physical responses. I promise I’ll inflict the least damage possible,” she responded, smiling like a cat that’s just cornered a wary bird. Reluctantly, I let her take my arm again. She steadied it, wiped it with an alcohol swab, and then quickly slit it with the scalpel. True, it wasn’t very deep, but still.

As my arm began to bleed Becky was checking her watch, counting down the seconds that passed. It didn’t take much creativity to figure out that she was checking my blood clotting response time. When the tiny cut finally stopped bleeding, she called out a figure which Melinda wrote down on a notepad I hadn’t noticed.

“OK, your clotting response appears to be normal. Now I’m going to do it again, but this time when I do, I want you to apply some energy to it like this Brooke woman had you do. Use the same controlled flow you did then, OK?”

“Fine, but I had no idea how much energy I applied then, just as I have no clue now. Since I can’t detect this energy, it’s difficult determining how much I’m using.”

“Well, just do the best you can,” she replied as she cut my arm once again.

Using my other hand to try to apply a small amount of energy to my newest injury, more blood immediately started to pour out. Becky frantically tried to sop it all up with a small bandage she’d had handy, not anticipating this much of a mess.

“Oops, that wasn’t what I was expecting,” Becky responded, still trying to clean up our mess. “OK, let’s try again, and this time focus on clotting the blood or healing the cut and we’ll see if the response is any different.” Once again she slit a small incision on my arm, and, while it didn’t bleed quite as profusely, it didn’t seem to make any difference in how much I bled.

“Interesting,” she observed, once again telling Melinda the time that had passed before the bleeding had stopped. “Apparently it’s not as simple as I was hoping. At least we know you don’t have any control over cellular events, although why it would bleed more is a bit of a mystery. I’ll have to consider these results a little more,” she answered with a distracted expression, her mind already wrestling with the new information.

“Fine,” I said, finally pulling my arm away. “Is it OK if I stop bleeding for a bit so I can eat some breakfast and regain some of my strength?” Becky had the good grace to giggle before she patted my arm and proceeded to clean up my wounds.

As we proceeded to eat Anh’s delicious breakfast, which I was sure would soon become a staple around here, Anh started spouting off in Vietnamese.

“She said that she won’t be driving me to school as we’d planned,” I translated. When they continued watching me, waiting for me to continue I just shrugged. “It seems that Allison wants to show me off or something.”

Cate seemed to take the information well, even though we both knew there wasn’t room for all three of us in Allison’s tiny 2-seat BMW convertible.

When we were finally ready to go I called upstairs to see if Allison was ready yet, and she proceeded to descend the stairs. She’d been waiting to make a big scene, as she was really decked out. To show off her bright red hair, she wore an equally bright, low-cut, short, fire-red dress, along with bright red lipstick that all really contrasted against her pale, flawless skin. She looked absolutely amazing. It was clear she’d have an impact on everyone at school looking like that.

We trooped out to her car after receiving goodbye kisses from my mother and sisters—and Anh’s, which was a bit more inspiring than the others—Cate told me to get in and then proceeded to sit in my lap. I knew we’d be in trouble if we were to be stopped by the police, but I fastened the seat belt around the both of us, forcing Cate to squeeze against me even more than she already was. Feeling practically every inch of Cate pressing against me generated a few unbrotherly thoughts on my part, but we quickly got underway.

We seemed to fly on our way to school, although it was difficult to see the speedometer with my sister pressed against me. I figured we’d deal with it if we got stopped. I’m sure the cop would have a good time if it happened, and all that would result would be the fine he’d undoubtedly slap Allison with, but I assumed we could all live with that. Allison pulled up in front of the school and parked right in front of the door. As I started to reach for my seatbelt, Allison pressed her hand against my chest to restrain me, then got out of the car and walked around it, showing herself off to the entire assembled school. She proceeded to open the door for us with a great flourish. Cate managed to wiggle off of my lap, looking almost as sexy as Allison herself. That left me to climb undignified from the low-lying seat, trying to shield my erection from the gawking crowd. Still, it was emotionally satisfying, even if it was a little over the top.

As Cate got all of our books settled, Allison gave me a very visible, short but intense kiss before patting my cheek and hurrying off, while Cate handed me my books. We proceeded into the school to quite a few surprised gawks.

Eldorado High was an older building, part way between our hometown of Shawneetown and Harrisburg, which was slightly larger and on the way to Carbondale. There was always talk of a new Shawneetown High School but, so far, it was just an empty field with a sign on it. I assumed neither Cate nor I would ever see it, except as someplace we might pass when visiting home. Neither of us had any plans to remain in this small town any longer than we had to. Becky and Melinda had decided to go to school nearby, but they too planned on leaving to work elsewhere. The hope was that Mom and Dad would eventually relocate near one of us when they finally retired.

I strode into school with a purposeful stride, feeling like a new man. Having spent the last week in such exciting circumstances certainly did a lot for my ego, especially having multiple females who were all crazy about me. I felt on top of the world. I glanced around at the girls I passed in the hallways, once we were finally past those who had observed our grand entrance. Several were quite pretty, but with the wit and wisdom demonstrated to me by the women I’d met, I felt I now expected a little more than just ‘good looks’. I kept walking.

Mike welcomed me back in Home Room. He was my best friend. Well, one of my few best friends. We were mostly the shy, quiet kids, who liked to believe we were just more sophisticated and discerning than the other students. Mike was the typical geek, interested mostly in computer games, but we still found several things to enjoy together.

He was thin like me, although he sported a retro look, including 50s glasses with moderately long hair. I suppose he wasn’t particularly bad looking, but with his social standing and our shared reticence, he didn’t stand much chance with any of the ladies.

“So Alex, how was New Orleans?” he asked me, ready for any interesting stories I might have for him.

“Very nice, I had a great time,” I replied, thinking to myself how I’d never be able to tell him a quarter of it.

“See any naked tits?” he grinned, teasing me.

“It wasn’t Mardi Gras, Mike,” I informed him.

“Yeah, I know, but you never know what might happen.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” I said, thinking over everything that happened over the past week. While I didn’t see any naked tits on the street, I’d seen plenty in our hotel room, including my sister’s!

“You seem a lot more relaxed,” he observed, taking in my overall demeanor. I found it a little strange considering what a wreck I had been on Friday and Saturday.

“Yeah, well it wasn’t all fun and games. There were a lot of worries. I actually got punched by a Vietnamese fisherman.”

“What? Are you kidding me?” Right then I wished I was. WHY had I told him that? About then the teacher started calling attention to the front of the class so we ended our conversation.

I spent the next several classes considering the various girls I saw but had been terrified of speaking to before. I asked Alice Swinson if I could substitute as her lab partner since both our regular partners hadn’t returned from their vacations yet. She agreed, so we spent most of the next hour talking while the teacher droned on about what we’d already covered in the weeks before Spring Break. It was fun. I was wondering why I had avoided moments like this before.

Lunchtime rolled around and I noticed a few odd looks as I walked toward the lunchroom. I began to wonder if Dad’s theory might not have some basis in reality. Then I remembered our dramatic entrance into school this morning and promptly forgot about my concern. Entering the lunchroom I saw my group of friends sitting off by themselves, but felt I should try something a little different. So I just walked up to a table more or less at random and asked Wanda Garrard if I could sit beside her. She looked at me as if I had just climbed out of a clown car, but said OK so I sat down with her group of friends. Personally, she might have looked like that because I had never mixed with the black kids at the school before. It wasn’t anything personal, it was just that every high school has cliques and I just figured I wouldn’t fit in with that particular one.

I talked with her and her friends about various things. They asked me about my vacation and I started talking about N’Orleans—I’d learned to say N’Orleans instead of New Orleans—and about my experiences with café au laits, po’ boys, and the Vietnamese and Jamaican communities there. They were soon fascinated with the experiences I felt safe telling them about. Lunch ended way too soon.

I was beginning to feel silly having been a loner all these years, afraid to come out of my shell and simply talk with people. I guess enough had happened over the past week to finally give me a little confidence in myself. My self-esteem was bolstered by the utter adoration of several women in particular, but it seemed to infuse me with an eagerness to overcome my previous shyness. Besides, I reminded myself, hiding from things doesn’t mean they won’t happen to you. Who in the world could have guessed what had happened to me the previous week?

As I was heading out of the lunchroom I noticed a single girl looking at me with a look I now readily recognized. She was staring at me with rapt attention. I made a note to talk to her soon. I figured maybe there had been people watching me earlier but I’d just never noticed it. It’s very easy to overlook a casual glance, no matter how meaningful it may be. Just before I left I turned, pointed to her and pantomimed that I’d met her here tomorrow. I’m not sure if she got the full message, but her eyes seemed about to bulge out of her head at being recognized by me. I was sure I’d get some sort of a response from her.

The rest of the day continued along a similar track. I found more and more people looking at me, both boys and girls, but I tended to notice the girls more. When the final bell sounded, we all streamed out the front doors and herded like sheep down our little path. I noticed Cate, her friend Vicky, as well as Anh, Shani and Natalie all standing around Shaniqua’s car. I guess they’d managed to finally get away and had wanted to surprise me, and they certainly did. When I reached them Shani threw her arms around me and gave me a huge hug and kiss. As soon as she finished Natalie nervously moved up to me and, after a moment’s hesitation, latched on tight in a fierce but brief kiss, followed by Anh doing the same. I was feeling a little conspicuous being hugged by several adult women in the school parking lot. When Anh finished, Cate gave me a big hug, minus the French kiss though. Then Vicky gave me a big hug and kiss, also minus the intimate portion as well. I was blushing big time after all of this.

“What’s with the kiss, Vicky?” I asked. Vicky Siegel was Cate’s best friend and, although she frequently hung around my sister, she’d hardly ever paid any attention to me before.

“Oh, just thought I’d join in while the joining’s good,” she replied with a little wink. I laughed, feeling good. Somehow it’s hard feeling bad with multiple women giving you hugs.

“Well, that was interesting, but let’s get out of here before anyone else sees us. So how are we all fitting into one little car?”

Shani told us they’d brought a couple of cars, anticipating we’d have a few people to transport. She pointed out Anh’s worn out little car parked a short ways away.

“So,” I said, “who wants to travel with the new girls and who wants to ride in Anh’s crummy car with me?” Suddenly everyone put their hands way up in the air and called “Crummy car ride, crummy car ride!” We laughed, and finally Shani and the others took off while Cate, Vicky and I all trudged over to Anh’s car with her.

“Wow, Alex,” Vicky whispered when we were out of range of Anh’s hearing, “who’s the black chick and the Oriental lady?” Such a simple question and I was already feeling ticked off. Calling Shaniqua a ‘chick’ and segregating Anh into the ‘old lady’ category set me on edge.

“Oh, just some friends we met in N’Orleans,” I replied, trying to not overreact to things. “But, since she’s kind enough to offer you a ride, I suggest you call her by her name, which is Anh.” I then proceeded to introduce them. She was polite enough after the introduction, although she was still curious.

“What’re they doing here?” she asked, clearly a perfectly sensible question.

“They followed him here,” teased Cate. “They’re all totally nuts about him. Plus there are more who are still wrapping up loose ends and are waiting to join him soon.”

“I’d hardly say that,” I protested, wishing my sister wouldn’t speak before considering the possible ramifications of her words.

“I don’t know,” countered Vicky, completely ignoring the second half of Cate’s comment, “those kisses seemed a bit nuts worthy to me.”

“Nuts worthy, that’s a great category to be in. Sounds a lot like Sponge worthy, but just a little south of there,” replied Cate, making a comparison to the now classic Seinfeld episode.

Great, I thought, I’m never going to able to get away from this at school now. I purposely avoided asking Cate about any potential girlfriends she may have found for me, not wanting to be embarrassed in front of her friend. We teased and laughed all the way home, where Cate and Vicky said hello to Natalie and Shani again. Vicky was surprised they were both here in the house. Anh had remained silent during the car trip, so Vicky never suspected she didn’t speak English well. When informed that Anh was now living here, and that Shani and Natalie were going to be moving nearby but were both staying here until an apartment became available, Vicky’s mouth just dropped open. She turned and whispered to Cate, who turned and told us, “She wants to know where they’re all sleeping.” Anh rattled something off in Vietnamese and I just stood there, biting my lip until Cate turned to me.

“Well?” she pressed.

“Well what?” I asked, trying to appear innocent.

“Translation please?” she asked politely. I rolled my eyes.

“She said they’ll manage to find someplace comfortable to sleep,” I replied without further embellishment. Cate just rolled her eyes at Vicky and said, “And we both know the most comfortable spot in the house.” They laughed all the way to Cate’s room.

“Thanks a LOT for that,” I told the remaining girls sarcastically. At least Allison had enough sense to remain hidden. If she’d come out as well, I’m sure Vicky would have had a heart attack!

“You’re welcome,” they said as they kissed me again.

“Come help us unpack,” Shani said, taking my arm and leading me happily back up to my room.



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“House in Disarray” links finally working

Sigh! That’s what I get for not extensively testing my posts. Aside from several other errors, I was using a capital “I” in the links (“In” vs. “in”), so the links weren’t functioning correctly.

However, that’s corrected now. Now I’ve got to correct the WP pages, since they’ve <b>stopped</i> automatically posting the page title at the top of each page, meaning <b>all</b> of my old pages will no longer display correctly! Sigh!

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