A Stone Heart: Chapter Three
(Sorry for the delay. I’ve been in chat with the provider trying to get into the site.)
How strong IS Dex? He’s about to find out.
There was a cab stand near the restaurant, and I was able to get one right away. I had the driver take me to my parent’s house. She was already there, kneeling in her garden, her hands buried up to her wrists in the dirt. My palms sweated at the thought I’d ruined our relationship. I tossed twenty to the driver, told him to keep the change, then hurried for the door.
As I approached, she sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“Tell me what’s going on, Mom. You’ve never acted like that before.”
She pulled her hands out of the earth, the granules sliding off as though her skin was teflon. She turned, and I could see the sheen in her eyes. “Huey’s not for you, Dex. He’s going to hurt you even more than he already does, and I can’t stand by and watch it happen.”
That anger from earlier surged up again. “Isn’t that my choice? I know it’s more than likely Huey will never feel for me what I do for him, but that’s up to me to decide, not you. Why are you and Dad so set against Huey? He’s never been anything but polite to you.”
Her lip wobbled a bit. “We want you to go out and live, and you can’t do that with Huey around. I wish… I wish he’d move away and let you get on with your life.”
Now that simmering anger turned to white hot rage. “You wish? Do you know how much it would kill me if Huey left? I mean, I know it’s going to happen one day. He’s going to find someone who will sweep him off his feet and they’ll take him from me. On that day, I’ll probably break down and go hide in the forest for a few years. Until that happens, though, Huey is my best friend, and I love the fuck out of him. If you can’t deal with that, then maybe it’s best if the two of you don’t see each other again. And I can’t be around you if you’re going to act like this.”
The words were hurting her, I knew, but as much as my parents knew about me, they couldn’t know the depths of my feelings. I was lying when I said it would break my heart. The day Huey walked away, I would go into the forest, merge with the trees, and never set foot outside again.
“You can’t mean that.”
“I do.” I stood a bit straighter. “I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you, but I can’t let you hurt me or Huey.”
“But Huey’s not made—” She bit her lip. “I wish it didn’t have to be like this, Dex. Your father and I want what’s best for you, and Huey isn’t that. He’s cold, and you need someone filled with warmth and light. A plant can’t bloom when there’s no sun to nurture it.”
“Cold?” I laughed. I loved my mom, but she was so fucking clueless. “You don’t know Huey at all then. He’s got the biggest heart of anyone I know. He’s got sunshine coming out of his fucking ass, and you’re too blind to see it.”
Okay, that wasn’t exactly what I was going for, but I’d made my point.
“We know Huey better than you think, Dex.”
They couldn’t. It wasn’t possible for them to know the Huey I did.
I sucked in a breath. “The night of my graduation, when everyone else was out at parties, where was I? No, don’t answer. Let me tell you. Huey picked me up and we were out watching the stars. Prom, when you and Dad thought I had a date? That was Huey, who took me to Babe’s for ice cream, because everyone said no one would ask me out. After we gorged ourselves on about a dozen different flavors, I sat there and complained about not being able to go to prom and have my special dance. Do you know what he did? Huey took me in his arms and held me close while we twirled around the room. When I asked why he hadn’t gone to prom, he said the person he wanted to ask him never did. Guess who that was, Mom? Me. He was waiting for me to ask him. It doesn’t matter that he’s straight, he was going to take me so I wouldn’t be alone. You tell me, if that’s not heart, then what the hell is it?”
Her cheeks reddened, and her eyes flashed. “You don’t know what you’re talking about and, the gods willing, you never will. We—your father and I—won’t accept this.”
“You don’t have to, Mom. I’m happy to talk with you on the phone, I’ll meet you for breakfast, whatever. But I’m not going to hide Huey because you’re uncomfortable. He’s part of my life and, gods willing, he will be for all of it.”
With that said, I turned and walked away. She didn’t call me back, and I was okay with that. While it hurt, she couldn’t dictate who my friends were, and I wouldn’t let her tell me that I couldn’t be with Huey. Did she seriously think I didn’t already know that?
Instead of taking a cab back home, I decided to walk and fumed the entire way. Why couldn’t they see the person Huey was? Hell, he’d carried me all the way home from school after I’d been beaten, and handed me to my mom. He’d protected me my entire fucking life, and she—oh, no.
It started as small pinpricks of energy that danced over my skin. Little electrical impulses that chased each other, covering the length and breadth of my body. Then the hair on my neck stood on end as the winds picked up, sending debris down the street. A peal of thunder tore across what had been clear skies moments before. Lightning arced across the dark, foreboding clouds in brilliant, jagged streaks. Then came the pelting rain, falling in big, splatting drops. Most people ran inside, though a few struggled to stay upright against the onslaught. Me? I had fucking roots pressing through the bottoms of my shoes that tore through the concrete like butter until they reached the soil beneath, anchoring me in place. Around me the chaos grew, and in the center of it all, I stood, untouched. The worst part was when the ground rumbled. I’d never experienced anything like this, and now I was freaking out.
“Huey!” I screamed to the heavens.
A moment later, arms wrapped around me. “I’m here, Dex. Close your eyes for me. You’re with me, and you’re safe. You know you’re always protected by me, right?”
His breath was warm against my ear, and sent a shiver of desire through me.
“Focus on my voice, Dex. Hear only me. Blot out everything else. Right now there is only you and me.”
“But my mom—”
“You and me. Do you hear me? No one else right now. Do as I say.”
His hands were on my chest, holding me tight. In the distance the sound of mom’s ringtone caught my ear, but I pushed it aside and focused on Huey, the gravelly voice, the hard muscles I was pressed against. Huey was my rock, my anchor. He kept me grounded, safe, protected. His arms, so powerful, held my magic in check, and let me get control of it again. I drew it back into me, calling it home where it belonged.
The skies went from a deep, dark black to shades of gray, then white, fluffy clouds that evaporated moments later, leaving only the sun high in the blue skies. My roots drew back inside of me, leaving the sidewalk with deep cracks. I’d lost control. I was the danger my parents said I would be if I didn’t keep everything under a tight lock. I could have killed someone. If Huey—Huey.
I turned and my heart sank when I found he wasn’t there. I was so certain I’d felt him that the mere thought was enough to pull me back from the brink. With the sun coming out once again, people left the buildings they’d taken shelter in. Comments about freak storms, global warming, and the like filled my ears, but I knew the truth. I’d done that. What if I hadn’t gotten it under control? What if the next time was worse?
Oh God. What if the next time I hurt Huey?
That thought sobered me, and it made me realize what I had to do.
“So let me get this straight.”
I sighed, because I’d explained it no less than five times, and the only explanation was that Huey was choosing to ignore what I was telling him.
“You lost control, downtown, on a busy street?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m telling you.” I lifted my foot, and showed him where my roots had burst through the rubber. “This? It’s what scares me. I lost control of my body, of my magic. I created a storm, I made the earth rumble. Because of me, people could have died.”
“I don’t believe that.” Huey crossed his arms over his chest. “You might get scared, but you’re the most put together guy I know. It’s that inner core of strength that let you pull the magic back into you.”
Huey was my biggest supporter, but right now I needed him to be a listener.
“I want to believe that, but I can’t. You don’t know what it was like. My emotions got the better of me, and they fed the magic. My parents told me I would be a danger if I didn’t learn to control my abilities, and today I found out they were right.”
He came over to me, but I stepped away. I didn’t want him to placate me. I was sad and him hugging me would take that away from me and make me doubt my decision.
“We can fix this together,” he swore. “You don’t have to go away.”
But I did. Looking at Huey, seeing those flinty gray eyes would undo me, and my determination to take care of myself for a change would wither and die.
“Yeah, I do.” My heart ached. “I’m dangerous, and I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to hurt you.”
This time his eyes darkened even further as he backed me into a corner and gathered me up in his arms. “You could never hurt anyone, let alone me. It’s not in you.”
Not intentionally, no. Even though Greg Abernathy and his buddies tried to make my life a living hell, I never wanted to hurt them. Educate them? Show them they were being dicks? Yes, but never hurt. I would rather take on someone’s pain, rather than cause them pain. But deep inside, I knew better. An argument with my mom had me so rattled, that I could scarcely control myself. What if it was Huey? What if he said he couldn’t be in the house with me, and needed to leave?
“You know, I used to think that, but there are a few concrete slabs in a downtown sidewalk that say different. I need to learn control, because if I don’t, I have no idea what’s going to happen the next time. And trust me, there will be a next time.”
Sadness stole over Huey’s expression. “We haven’t been apart for more than a couple days since we were kids. I don’t know what to do in a world you’re not in.”
The tears slid down my cheeks as his eyes went misty. He gave me a crooked grin as he swiped a finger under my eye.
“Don’t cry, Dex. Please. I’m being selfish, and I know it. You have to do what’s right for you.”
Panic gripped me as I realized by the time I returned, Huey could move on. I clung to his shoulders. “Please tell me you’re not going to disappear while I’m gone.”
He frowned. “What special kind of stupid are you? I’m not going anywhere. Ever. You are my best friend, and I won’t ever walk away from you.”
This time I reached up and dabbed my finger over Huey’s tears. I’d never seen him cry before, and it filled me with conflicting emotions.
“Why are you crying?”
“Hm?” He stared at my finger, his eyes wide. “I… I don’t know.” He stepped back. “Are you sure about this?”
Hell no, I wasn’t sure. In fact, I was hoping to come to my senses any second. “No, I’m not. I don’t want to go. I wanna sit down with you and make soda and watch your face as you drink it. I want to have dinner with you, and then sit down to watch one of those shitty sci-fi movies you love so much. I want to sleep in my bed, the covers pulled up to my chin, and tell myself this is all just a bad dream.”
“We can do that, you know.”
His voice pleaded with me to come to my senses, but I thought about what happened just a few hours ago, and I couldn’t get the image of Huey, hurt and broken out of my head.
“I’m sorry. God, you don’t know how much I wish I could be normal and—”
“Don’t you dare finish that sentence you…you…asshole.”
I pulled back. Huey rarely swore, and when he did, it was never aimed at me. He gripped my shoulder, just this side of painful.
“You are the most remarkable person I know, Poindexter, and I won’t have you talk bad about yourself.” He gave a pained grin. “That’s my job.”
I choked out a laugh. Huey knew my name wasn’t Poindexter, but he liked to use it when he teased me. My parents had given me a Latin name that meant right-handed or dyer. It was funny, because I was ambidextrous and with my magic, I could dye my hair. Maybe they knew something even before I was born.
“You’ll go, and you’ll find what you’re looking for. When you’re done, you’ll come home where you belong.” He drew me into a hug. “I’m going to miss you so much.”
He turned and left the room, and it took everything in me not to chase after him. I took the phone from my pocket and found I’d missed thirty-two calls, and too many texts from Mom. I dialed her number.
“What happened?” she asked by way of greeting. “I felt you. Even in my prime, I never sensed that kind of power. Are you okay?”
So I went through the story again, not leaving out anything. When I was done, I sighed. “I was scared, Mom. I kept thinking I couldn’t pull it back, and things were going to blow up around me.”
“Dex, with the magic you were putting out… My gods, I’ve never in my life felt anything like that.”
Well, great. Even mom knows I’m a freak.
“You need to go to the Institute, Dex. They can help you channel that much magic, teach you how to harness it.”
“I know. That’s why I’m calling. I think…” I drew in a lungful of air. “I think I’m ready to go.”
She told me she’d call them and get it all set up, but all I could hear in my mind was what a huge mistake I was making. Huey was my touchstone, and without him nearby, I worried what might happen, not just to me—though I admit, that was pretty high on my list of things to worry about—but to everything around me.
“Dex?” My name came out as a breath. “It’s going to be okay, you know.”
But I didn’t. I couldn’tknow this. All I was certain of was that if I hadn’t been able to contain my magic, I could have been responsible for a lot of destruction today, and maybe even a few deaths. I couldn’t live with myself if that happened. As much as it hurt me to think about being away from Huey, I needed to do this.
For both of us.