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episode three - being powerless part one

"'Stay away from my daughter.' You remember when my mom said that to you?" It was Olivia Cross. She just showed up in my room one night not too long ago as I was about to drift off into never never land, or dreamland, or Narnia, or Gardea, or Oz, wherever I might have been going that particular night. It had been a while since I'd seen her. And, there she was in my bedroom, unannounced, certainly unexpected. And, talking about her mother.

I sat up and looked at Olivia. "I remember that. It was one of the first things she ever said to me."

"She never liked you, Trav," Olivia said. "I'm not sure why. I'm sure she would have said you were better for me than Dalton ever was, but she still never quite liked you, even as nice as you were to Jaimie."

Ok, let's back up. I know, you're thinking, who are these people? Olivia Cross? Dalton? Jaimie? A bunch of new characters? Don't panic. That's just how life goes sometimes. New people show up, old people leave. Kids are born, old folks die. Sometimes, people are taken unexpectedly, sometimes you've got plenty of warning, but the thing is, people come and go. There are always new characters to be introduced, others to be written out. That's just the way things go, the way the cookie crumbles to use a metaphor I never liked.

So, I'll go in reverse order on those newbies. Dalton. That was Dalton Phillips, older brother to Trent, who three years ago had been hooked up with my sister Carrie. Though he's more than a few years older than Olivia, you could easily say he was her boyfriend when she and her mother and sister returned to town. How the two of them got together, or when it actually happened--see, as soon as Olivia and I got to know each other, she was already claiming she had an older boyfriend, like maybe she announced her arrival back in town and he just grabbed her up and claimed her right then and there as his girlfriend--I don't know. But, they were together. To be honest, you'd hardly ever see them together, but she always claimed him, he always claimed her. I sorta figured maybe there'd been some past thing between them, from back before her mother had packed up her and her little sister Jaimie and left town.

And, there, you see who Jaimie is. Three years ago, just after Haley's falling off King's Fate, when the Crosses returned to Reverence, Jaimie was five. But, even though she was so young and hardly had any business being around any of us, let alone Olivia, who was twelve at the time, Jaimie was a constant presence. If Olivia was around, Jaimie was around. I'll explain the reasoning for that later, when I get to Olivia trying to tell me about her life, about why they left town, why they came back, all that wonderful stuff. It'll come up, don't worry.

So, then, we get to Olivia. I'd never known her before she had left town. That had been when she was eight, Jaimie somewhere around one--I'm not sure if she'd had her first birthday yet or not. I woulda been six, so I didn't really know too many people at all. I knew my parents, I knew my sisters, I knew my grandparents, my Uncle Jack, and I knew my friends, Haley, Josh, Kyle, Barbara. That was about it for me when I was six. My world was not a big one, and I couldn't have cared less that my life was so limited. I loved it plenty as it was.

When Phyllis Cross brought her two daughters back to Reverence, as I said before, it was just after Haley's injuries. She still had casts on her leg and arm, but you could hardly tell from the way she kept on playing like before, the way she'd jump on the swings and swing as if there were no extra weight on those two limbs. Hell, sometimes I would've forgotten entirely that they were there if not for my own guilt over that whole mess up by King's Fate. And, believe me, that guilt wasn't about to go away, no matter how many times Haley told me not to worry about it, that I couldn't have been expected to save her, that Saint McMasters was insane to have done what he'd done . . . but, I digress. See, we were on those swings again, me and Haley, the third swing empty, when Olivia and her little sister showed up on the playground. Olivia took one look at the two of us, swinging higher and higher, laughing about something or other, and she made sure to lead Jaimie a good distance out of our way so she wouldn't be hit, then helped her into the third swing and got behind her, gave her a few good pushes, then backed off as that little five year old just took off pumping on her own, quickly getting higher than Haley or I, and clearly enjoying the hell out of it too.

I remember, Haley kept looking over at Olivia standing there watching us, watching her little sister. I guess I kept looking too. It wasn't a normal thing for new people to just show up like that. It's not like Reverence is out in the middle of nowhere. I mean, we've even got a major highway cutting past the edge of town, and that ol' Carlton Falls tourist trap not too far off, but still, we don't get too many new people too often.

Haley slowed her swinging, came to a stop, watching Jaimie go back and forth, back and forth, then looked over at Olivia, and nodded her head, said "hi."

"Howdy," Olivia said. She actually used that word. I don't know if I'd heard a real person (actors and such on tv and in movies not counting of course) use that word before that.

Josh was nearby on the bars. He dropped to the ground right then, and jumped in before anyone could say anything else. "You're the girl that moved into that house over on Maple, aren't you," he asked Olivia.

She nodded. "Yeah, moved back yesterday."

"Back?" That was Haley.

"We used to live here, a few years ago," Olivia said. "We left. We're back now."

"Where ya been," Josh asked her.

"New York, living with my aunt and her family." Right then, Olivia stepped around the back and forth path of her little sister, who was laughing and hardly noticing any conversation anywhere near her, and came over toward Josh and toward Haley and toward me. I slowed my swinging and came to a stop.

"My name's Olivia," she said. "Olivia Cross."

Josh put out his hand. "Josh Doyle," he said. Olivia looked at his hand for a second, surprised I guess by the gesture, then grabbed his hand and shook it. "Nice to meet you."

Haley followed Josh's lead, put out her hand. "Haley Manning," she said. Olivia shook it.

Then, I put out mine. "Travis Adams," I said. Olivia smiled at me. I hadn't noticed, maybe she had smiled at Josh and Haley too. But, whether she did or not, she DID smile at me.

Her sister was swinging pretty high right then, laughing still. Olivia looked over at her, a little worried. "Careful Jaimie," she said. Then, she looked back at us. "My little sister's a daredevil."

Right then, Jaimie leapt from her swing at the top of her swing, flew through the air, and for just a second it looked like she might make a perfect landing, both feet planted, stable footing. But, her feet hit the ground, her momentum overtook her little legs, and down she went on her face. I don't know about everyone else, but I figured she'd start crying. Briefly, I was reminded of Haley crying from down below King's Fate, and I had to shake off that thought. And, then I realized, Jaimie wasn't crying. Wasn't crying at all. She got up, wiped sand off of her clothes, looked at a few scrapes on her arms, touched a scrape on her cheek, then smiled at all of us, a huge grin. "I gotta do that again," she said.

"No," Olivia said abruptly. "You'll hurt yourself."

"Aw, you're no fun," Jaimie said. "I didn't get hurt. See." She held up her arm, the biggest of her fresh scrapes displayed quite nicely. "It's hardly even bleeding." She touched her finger to it. She winced, but said, "don't hurt at all."

"Sure it doesn't," Olivia said. She shook her head, like some adult might. I fully expected her to follow that head shake by saying "kids," you know that exasperated, shocked way of saying it that so many adults have got down pat.

"Kids." It wasn't Olivia. It was Josh. Haley and I looked over at him. He smiled a stupid smile. Olivia laughed.

Jaimie gave us all a look that pretty clearly let us know she didn't like whatever it was we were thinking. Then, she returned to the third swing and started swinging again.

Olivia was still standing in front of me and Haley, so we couldn't have started swinging again even if we had wanted to. But, we didn't want to anyway; we wanted to know who this new girl was. Maybe not as much as Josh seemed to--of course, if Barbara McMasters had been around, I don't know if Josh woulda been showing so much attention to the new arrival. Olivia looked at Haley and I, then briefly at Josh, then back at Haley and I. "This what you guys do for fun," she asked.

"Most of the time, yeah," Josh said. "Not much to do around this town."

"Bullshit," Olivia said. Before any of us could be shocked by that word, Jaimie chimed in, "oooh, I'm telling mom, you said a bad word."

"Oh, shut up," Olivia said. Jaimie, surprisingly, did just that, just shut up and kept swinging.

Olivia turned her attention to us again. "I remember there was stuff to do here four years ago. Some creek to mess around in, the woods, an old church--"

"They're tearing that place down," Josh said. He would know. He lived about half a block from the place.

"Oh, too bad. I remember it was kinda fun climbing around in there."

"You went in there," I asked. It was hard to believe. I was guessing Olivia was closer to our age, ten, not a couple years older. And, that woulda made her about six when she lived in Reverence. I couldn't imagine any six year old being brave enough to go into the old church. It was a scary place. Long overdue for being town down.

"Just once," she said. "My last Halloween here, a friend of mine dared me to go in there, so I did. It wasn't so scary inside compared to what you might expect looking at the outside. People always talk about ghosts or whatever. Well, I didn't see any. Only thing I saw was some woman screaming at me to get away from there before I hurt myself. Mrs . . . " Olivia stopped talking, then focused on me. "Mrs Adams," she said.

"Kinda tall, reddish hair," I asked.


"My mother."

"Oh well, no offense, but she was a bitch. You'd think that place was her house or something, the way she was screaming at all of us to get away from there."

I never knew my mother to go anywhere near that place, but there was probably a lot I never knew about my mother, a lot I never would know, since my dad had been visiting her less and less, and hardly ever took any of us kids to see her anymore.

"His mother was always telling someone not to do something," Josh said. "I think she thought she was a saint even then, thought she needed to protect us all from injury."

"Josh, shut up." That was Haley, standing up for my mother and me before I could.

"Why? It's true."

"Josh," I said. "Shut up. You don't know anything about it."

"I know she's crazy."

"Josh," Haley said again, "shut up."

"You're mom's crazy," Jaimie asked, her swing slowing almost instantly to a stop. "Cool."

"She's not crazy," I said.

"Oh, yeah she is," Josh said. To Jaimie, he said, "Trav's mom is about as crazy as they come."

Josh was my friend. Still is. But, I got off my swing about as fast as I could and attacked him. He'd said stuff like that before about my mom, and hitting him a few times always got him to shut up for a while.

Olivia just watched. Haley got up from her swing and stayed close to me and Josh, ready to peel one of us off the other if she had to. She'd let us fight, but she wouldn't let it go too far. Jaimie got off her swing and moved closer to watch us go. I think she even cheered a bit, though I'm not sure if she was cheering for me or for Josh or just for the violence of it in general. I was too busy giving Josh a bloody nose to notice exactly what she was saying.

When I was done, Josh got up, whined something like, "what do you think you're doing," then headed off to find something for his nose, his hand clamped on it to stop the bleeding.

I got to my feet, wiped some sand off my clothes, like Jaimie before, though I wasn't about to show off any scrapes I'd gotten in the scuffle.

I looked at Jaimie for a second. She was grinning like that was the best show she'd ever seen, like she was eager for more. I shook my head, thought of saying that line myself, "kids," but didn't. Then, I turned to Olivia. "She's not crazy," I said. And, I walked off. Haley followed after me, tried saying some things to reassure me. And, when I started crying, she put an arm around me. This girl who I'd left to die below King's Fate put her arm around me, actually put her arm around me, then turned me to her, and put her other arm around me, hugged me. "I'm sorry Trav. Josh shouldn'ta said that stuff."

"She's not crazy," I said through some sobs.

"I know," Haley said, and she hugged me tighter.

I looked past her, back toward the playground. Olivia was still standing where she had been. She was watching us. Jaimie was back on that third swing, swinging away.

Haley let go of me, then grabbed my hand in hers. "Come on, let's go to my house and find something to do," she said. That sounded like the best idea I'd ever heard, so that's what we did. We went to Haley's house. Her father was there, working on some painting in the garage. He smiled and said hi to us when we got there. We went inside, found a boardgame, and started playing. After a while, I forgot all about what Josh had said, forgot all about the new girl, who certainly was probably thinking plenty of things about me and my mother that I knew could not be good. I forgot all of that, and just enjoyed my time with Haley.