“No!” She screamed, and the wine glass on the table shattered. The visitor’s lapels, lilac tie, and white shirtfront dripped red cabernet. The glass had shattered so that the half of it farthest from the visitor and from Aileen Varton remained in tact, but on his plate were several chips of glass and crystalline shards like sleet among the mashed potatoes and peas. Aileen slowly lowered her arms from over her head and glanced at the visitor, fearful of his reaction. She hadn’t meant to scream. She hadn’t meant to shatter the glass. She hadn’t meant to get upset. She hadn’t meant to upset— With a shout, her mother fled from the kitchen. Her father turned to Aileen in a purple-faced fury.
Her mother returned and dashed past Aileen to kneel by the visitor. Mumbling hurried apologies, she dabbed his front herself. He allowed her to, ignoring her, his gaze carefully fixed on Aileen.
“This,” her father spat, “is exactly why you must go with him, Aileen.”
“You can’t just ship me off, can you? Don’t you care at all? I’m trying. I’m really trying.”
“If you cannot control this—this—”
“Psychokinesis, I think.” The visitor mildly provided the label. “When she’s learned to control it. But it might be more, and it might be less. That particular manifestation seemed to influence the very molecules of the air. Rather peculiar but not unheard of.”
All three Vartons stared at him. The visitor smiled. Aileen’s mother stepped back away from him. There were still spots on his clothes. “Aileen,” he said gently, turning to her, “I see many with abilities like yours, power beyond that of ordinary men. I can teach you to control it, harness it.”
“Can you make it stop?”
“It is a talent you will possess as long as you live.”
“Then you can’t help me,” Aileen grumbled. She flattened a few peas with the prongs of her fork. “I don’t want to be special. I just want to be—” Her words died as she looked up at her parents, and saw only wariness and trepidation there. She sighed and looked away from them both.
“I don’t believe that your ability is anything to fear,” the visitor claimed, and Aileen narrowed her eyes, looking for the lie in his bearded face.
She couldn’t find it. She bit her lip.
“Come with me, Aileen,” he said.
“I—I’ll still have it if I do. I—I might still hurt people, new people, people who don’t know.”
“You may hurt your family if you stay. And we can keep you safe. We have learned from those who came to me before you. We have made my home as safe for everyone as it can be.”
“Who else lives with you?”
“There are others with powers like yours.”
“I won’t be alone,” Aileen breathed, letting her eyes mist over with the daydream of herself laughing with a group of girls her own age.
“No. You won’t be.”
“Are there other girls? Girls my own age?”
The man, smiling, nodded. “Violet,” he provided, “and Sylvia.”
Aileen looked at her parents. Her mother nodded, her eyes still deep and dark with fear. A smile strained at the corners of Aileen’s mouth. She looked back at the visitor and nodded too.
He turned away to hide a smile. Aileen felt a flutter in her stomach. Her smile wavered.
He composed his face before turning back towards her. “Pack your things, Aileen. We will leave within an hour.”
“An hour? Isn’t that—”
“We must catch the next train. You will need very little. All will be provided for you.”
Aileen bit her lip and nodded. There was no one but her parents to bid goodbye, but there was much she wanted to bring, things that she could share with new friends, with Violet and Sylvia.
“Only what you can I can carry, Aileen. Go on. Time is short.”
As she fled the room she heard her father say, “Thank you, Rack.”
Aileen frowned, and she ran up the stairs to pack a bag or maybe two. Mr. Rack had offered to help her with the luggage.