“Mom,” Chloe whined.
“Come on, Chlo.” Her father clapped her shoulder. “It’s a big day. Let your mom have her moment.”
“It’s my day, not hers.”
“Our daughter is turning 18. It’s very, very much our day too.”
Chloe huffed. “Fine. One picture.”
“Oh, but I have to video it!” Her mom cooed. “It’s such a special moment. Seeing my baby get her powers.”
“Fine, fine,” Chloe said. “One video. Maybe two photos. If you’re lucky.”
Her parents laughed. “Alright,” her mom said. “Just take a deep breath and focus. You’ll know when you feel it.”
Chloe nodded. “And if I burn down the house? Or blow off the roof?”
Her dad laughed. “You know that’s not going to happen Chlo. Both sides of the family have had mental abilities only for as far back as we have records.”
“So why do you even want a video!” Chloe bit her lip. “But what if I - I don’t know - what if I knock you out or something?” She adjusted her sleeve and stared at the floor.
“Oh honey,” her mom took her hand. “I’ve seen tomorrow and we’re all still here, okay? Everything will be just fine.”
He dad nodded. “Besides, after having your brother, there’s nothing that we can’t handle.”
“Take a deep breath, honey.”
Chloe gave her parents a half smile. She placed her hands on the table, palms up, and closed her eyes.
“Wait, wait!” Chloe blinked at her mom. She held her phone at arm's length, peering at the screen under her glasses. “Sorry, dear. It’s recording now.”
Chloe swallowed and steadied herself again. She closed her eyes, breathed deep, and reached back into her mind. “I - I can feel it,” she whispered.
“I can feel your nerves,” her dad said. “Just relax. You’ve got this.”
Chloe nodded and pulled at the tension in her head. “It feels like a lot.”
“It’s going to be fine - don’t you worry.”
Chloe let down the wall and tugged the thread forward. A head rush surged through her. “Get back!” She cried.
Chloe pushed her chair away from the table, held her hands towards the ground, and tensed, waiting for the impact.
Small purple sparks danced off her fingertips. They fizzled and disappeared. Only a small shimmer was left, slowly falling to the ground.
“Is everything okay Chlo?”
She felt her face burn bright red. Her mom stopped recording and set her phone down. “Are you alright?”
She shook her head. “That’s so embarrassing. A few purple sparks, and then what, some sparkles? No. It’s not fair.”
Her mom pulled her into a hug. “Hey, hey. It’s alright. The first time is always the worst.”
Her dad nodded. “Give it another go. The first time I tried, I didn’t think anything happened. It took me a good few hours before I realized all the emotions I was feeling weren’t just mine.”
Chloe stared at her hand again. The tension wasn’t as blocked off this time; it was just bubbling under the surface now. She scrunched her eyes shut and dug into the power.
It was electric, running from the nape of her neck, through her arms, and out her fingertips.
Little purple sparks snapped out again and rained on the kitchen floor. They did nothing.
“I waited my whole life for today.” Chloe slumped into the chair.
“I dreamed of getting something cool, or, like, at least something useful, you know? But no, I get to be some kind of, I don’t know, lame fairy.
” She tossed her head back and stared at the ceiling.
“We’ll figure it out, Chlo. I promise.”
The fluorescent lights and air conditioner in the clinic hummed. Chloe pulled her sweater tight around her body. Her parents sat on her left.
Her mom kept glancing over and giving her a half smile or squeezing her hand. Her dad folded his arms across his chest and stared at the white tiled floor.
“I’m Lucy Wong,” the woman said. She wore sleek black scrubs and had her dark hair pulled in a tight knot. “I’ll be helping you out today.” Her smile was plastic. “Let’s see.
” She pulled up files on her tablet and rolled her desk chair next to Chloe. “I don’t really have a power of my own - my gift is sensing others,” she explained.
“After that, we can discuss various power management options.”
Chloe nodded. “Alright.”
“I’m just going to place my palm on your head. You won’t feel a thing, but it may take a moment for me to sense your gift.” Lucy placed her hand on Chloe’s forehead.
They both closed their eyes and frowned. The room was quiet for a long moment.
Lucy finally broke the silence. “I’m not sensing anything.”
Chloe caught her breath in her throat. "What?"
“I’m sorry Miss Wilkerson,” Lucy said, her face softening. She reached into her desk drawer and rifled through a stack of paper. “I know this is difficult. But you can get through this.
” She handed a pamphlet to Chloe. The front showed a young man being comforted by a grandmother. It read 'Empowering the Powerless'.
Lucy let Chloe and her parents sit for a moment before she spoke again. “It may be a difficult journey. But as a family, I believe you can work through this together.
There is a wonderful therapist I can refer you to, she specializes in… power related issues. Here, I have her card, her name is Doctor Joan-”
“Stop,” Chloe cut her off. “Just - just stop. This isn’t fair.”
Her mom pulled her into a hug. “I’m sorry, honey.”
“Life throws curveballs, Chlo. We’ll work it out.”
“But what about this?” Chloe sparked her fingers again, sending a few pitiful purple sparkles onto the floor. She grimaced.
“It’s likely just a manifestation of residual powered energy, similar to an appendix. It doesn’t serve a purpose but it’s still there,” Lucy said. The room fell silent again.
“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing else that I can help you with today. Your best option is to begin to schedule some regular therapy.”
Annalise took the therapist’s card. “Thank you, we’ll set something up.” Chloe stared at the floor, blinking back the tears in her eyes.
Chloe sat alone in the park. She smiled as the beat-up Honda Civic pulled into the lot. “Took you long enough.”
The girl smirked as she climbed out of the car. “Oh shut up. I had to make a stop,” she said and pulled a pack of cigarettes and flask of out of her bag.
“You’re an angel, Tara, you know?”
“I know,” she said. The sun had finally slipped below the horizon, but the last streaks of rose light still painted the sky.
The streetlights flickered on and hummed, drawing the mosquitoes and moths to the glow.
The two girls sat on the grass and took swigs of the cheap rum. Tara laughed at Chloe as she sputtered. “So spill it,” she said as she fished a cigarette out of the carton.
“What got you so upset?”
Chloe took the cigarette and turned it around in her hand. “I don’t have a power,” she said. “All I can do is make some purple sparkles.”
Tara frowned. “Come on,” she said, “It can’t be that bad.”
Chloe let the sparks bubble up again. Tara stared, transfixed and waiting for something else to happen. “That’s all I got.”
“God, that sucks. I’m so sorry Chlo.”
“You don’t have to say that, I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I just want to forget it.
My parents just wanted me to stay in tonight - rest and relax, you know? But I just couldn’t take all those painful looks they were giving me. It was like I was dying or something. ”
“Well, you called the right person,” Tara smirked and took another swig of the rum.
Chloe laughed, “I know I did. Give me a light?”
Tara held out her hand. A red-white flame flickered out of her index finger and she held it to Chloe’s cigarette.
“God,” Chloe said as she took a drag, “What I wouldn’t give for a cool power like you.”
“Well, it wasn’t always cool. It took a good three months before I could control this,” she said and flicked the flame off again.
“And another three months before I could do this,” she said and let a small fire dance around her palm like a firebug.
“My grandma said it took her four years before she could do her whole ‘flamethrower’ thing. Maybe you just need some time?”
Chloe shook her head. “No, I don’t think so,” she sighed. “I went to one of those consultants.”
“Come on, those power sensors don’t know everything. Try it again, and don’t hold anything back.” She handed Chloe the flask. “For confidence,” she winked.
Chloe took a long drink, turned her palms upward - the cigarette smoldering between her index and middle fingers - and closed her eyes. She tugged on the tension in her head.
“Just let it out. Don’t think.”
Chloe breathed out steadily. “Alight.” She yanked on the power, letting it surge through her. It was electric, like the first time she tried it, but it hurt this time.
It felt like a lightning bolt tracing her neurons. Chloe screamed and opened her eyes to see purple sparks flying out of her hands.
Tara dropped her cigarette in the grass, scrambled back, and yelled, “Chloe stop!”
“I - I can’t,” she hissed and screwed her eyes shut. She reached back into her head, but it was like trying to hold back the ocean. Come on.
Something snapped. A breaker in her head flipped, and the pain stopped. It all surged outwards, a purple bubble that blasted out like a shockwave. The lilac wave pushed across the city.
“What was that?” Tara sat up, her hair swept back from the blast.
“I don’t know.” Chloe rubbed the phantom pain in her hands. “I really don’t know.”
“Maybe you should just go home. Get some rest.”
Chloe walked downstairs the next morning, her head pounding from exhaustion and a slight hangover. Her parents were both in the living room, huddled around the television.
“Morning,” she called and poured herself a cup of coffee.
“Chloe, have you heard the news? Powers are out all over the city.”
Chloe laughed. “Sure Mom, that’s why you’re watching the news and I’m drinking hot coffee.”
“No, Chlo,” her dad said. “Powers are out. Everyone’s gifts just disappeared. Sometime last night everyone's powers just stopped working.”
“No one’s sure if they’ll come back,” her mom added.
Chloe swore silently. She looked down at her hand and pulled at the tension in her head.
Lilac sparks still shimmered from her fingertips.