Stephen James is JJ
In a flat in Camberwell, London, UK
JJ cracked his eyes open. For the first time the pain didn’t feel like an axe slicing through the side of his head.
He remained still for a few moments just to make sure. Then he moved his fingers and then his toes. No numbness, no pain, everything seemed in working order.
Now for the real test.
Bracing himself for the tidal wave of nausea, he lifted his head slowly from the pillow until he was looking at his toes. He moved onto his elbows.
After the initial wave of dizziness the world stilled and there was still no pain.
It had passed.
The curse of his entire life was over. The severe pain that plagued him for days whenever he lost his temper and used his telekinetic powers.
Gaining confidence, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and slowly sat up. He took a minute to let his head adjust to the change of angle.
Something rattled in the next room. Someone was home.
JJ stood slowly and lurched for a second, grabbing hold of the bedpost. His legs were like jelly and he was as weak as tissue paper. God knew how long he’d been out for. Could have been days.
After a moment, he walked unsteadily to the door, opened it quietly and peered outside. He wasn’t sure who was home and whether he could handle talking to them.
Just then, Rianna walked from the kitchen and pulled up sharp. “JJ! … You’re awake.”
He smiled a little at making her jump. “Sorry … how long have I been out?”
Not bad. He popped his eyebrows. It had been as long as a week before when he’d really lost it.
“I’ll make you a hot sweet tea,” Rianna said, turning back towards the kitchen. “You must be dehydrated.”
JJ followed her. “Where is everyone?” He had no idea what time or day it was.
Rianna looked up at the plastic wall clock. It said 4 o’clock. “They should be home from school soon.”
She pored two cups of tea. “Come and sit down. You look a bit shaky on your feet. Then you can tell me all about it.”
JJ sighed and followed her into the living room. Memories were coming back to him thick and fast. Filling him with a progressive sinking feeling that he was not going to escape a grilling.
They both sat down in the living room, he on an armchair and she on the sofa.
“We’ve got about fifteen minutes before the kids get back. I wanted to thank you privately for what you did.”
His eyebrows popped again. It wasn’t what he was expecting. He smiled wanly. “Didn’t really think much about it.”
“Doesn’t matter. You were brave. It wasn’t your battle and you bought me some time. Can’t thank you enough.”
He put up a hand to stop her. “Please … it’s OK.” A wave of hopelessness washed over him. It wasn’t OK, although not in the way she was thinking.
“What is it, JJ,” she said softly. “Look, you don’t have to tell me, but it helps sometimes, you know.”
JJ took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. She was looking at him so kindly, but she had no idea. There wasn’t a whole lot she could do. Shit, there wasn’t anything anyone could do. Nevertheless, he felt he could trust her. “How do you know my dads?” he asked, looking up through his eyebrows.
A smile instantly transformed her face. “Oh yeah. I know both your dads from years ago.” She leaned back into the sofa with a sigh. “A pair of real heartbreakers. I used to work in a small club in Soho. We all adored your dads – particularly Jay. He kinda looked out for us all. He lived close by,” she tacked on slightly embarrassed.
JJ wasn’t stupid. He knew where his dad’s hotel was, and what the bars were like around it.
“They were well known on the club circuit – real celebrities. But we always knew there was something different about them … something ….”
JJ remained still and looked her dead in the eye. “Something what?” he sad flatly.
Rianna sighed deeply. “We were never sure exactly. But you kids have it,” she said, nodding. “I knew straight away.”
He held her gaze for a long moment, then looked around him. “How come we’re here … now?”
“Dante contacted me last year.”
JJ frowned. Last year was way before they ever got expelled.
Rianna read the confusion on his face. “Jay looked out for us, but Dante … well, we had a bit of a thing back in the day.”
His eyes widened in shock. It was the last possible thing he expected her to say.
She held up her hands. “Nothing serious, I promise. And it didn’t go on for more than a few months. You couldn’t even count it as a relationship. – Just when he was in town. That type of thing,” she rambled, assuming he disapproved.
JJ shrugged it off. It was a surprise, yes, but it was none of his business really. Knowing what he and Xavier were like, he guessed his fathers weren’t much different when they were younger.
“He kind of kept in touch ever since.”
He studied her face and felt quite sorry for her. She was backpedaling in the hope she hadn’t offended him. The truth was, he seriously doubted whether Dante had gone behind his mother’s back.
Rianna seemed to read his mind. “No, nothing like that. There was only one woman on both your dads’ minds. We all knew that.”
He guessed by the wry smile, that she wasn’t the only person his dads had had flings with. It must have been hard for her or anyone else knowing his mother was with both men at different times. They would never understand what had happened. That it wasn’t his mother’s fault. Costing her dearly with a lot of heartache. And he wasn’t about to discuss it with a stranger.
Rianna did seem like a really nice woman, and didn’t push it any further. “Thanks for taking us in,” he said eventually.
She smiled in relief that he wasn’t angry with her. “No problem honey. I was glad to be able to give something back to your dads for everything they’ve done for me over the years.”
JJ stared at her again. He wanted to scan her brain to find out exactly what his dads had done for her, and how much she actually knew about his race, but decided against it. The process could be painful for the subject, and he couldn’t risk sparking off his migraine again. He opted for the old fashioned way. “Did they ever … you know, explain anything to you?” he said, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.
Rianna looked him steadily in the eye. “They didn’t need to, honey. I saw things no one could explain.” She continued to look at him with meaning.
JJ studied her intently. He could see what Dante had seen in her. She was making this whole thing a lot easier for him. “What about the others … Dwayne, Patrick and … ?“ he said, letting his voice trail off.
“Latitia?” she finished for him. Then she shook her head. “No honey, but I’m gonna trust that you know they are my babies, and I want them to be safe … you understand?”
He nodded thoughtfully. He knew exactly why his dads trusted this woman. “Of course.” It was a bargain on a need to know basis, and he accepted that.
Just then, the front door rattled and opened with the crunch of keys. With the sudden barrage of noise and voices, their little heart to heart was at an end.
The kids blustered in waking the little ones who’d been napping. Soon the small flat was full of people with the volume switched up to maximum.
JJ smiled to himself. He kind of liked it.
It didn’t take long for them to realize his bed was empty and pile in to the living room where he was still sitting. Patrick and Dwayne marched straight in and loomed over him.
JJ didn’t move a muscle – although he was ready for any trouble. He looked up at them through his eyebrows and waited.
Patrick just nodded and put out his hand. “Dunno what crazy-assed shit you pulled, mate, but I’m glad you’re on our side.”
JJ held out his hand slowly and they shook. Then his eyes tracked to Dwayne. Patrick nudged him, and he nodded once in agreement but didn’t say a word.
JJ nodded back. It was an unspoken truce and they weren’t giving him the third degree. He was grateful for that. Rianna’s voice rose over the din from the kitchen, and their attention was soon on something else.
JJ’s eyes found Xavier who rolled his. He instantly understood. Xavier too had powers, but kept his firmly under wraps. It always looked like JJ was bragging or showing off, but that was never why he acted out. Xavier was about the only person who knew and understood why. His best guess was that he had the hump as he had no intension of hanging around there and didn’t want JJ getting too comfortable.
And lastly, there was Latitia. She was standing just inside the room looking on quietly. The look in her eyes said it all: Pity. How he hated that.
Thinking she somehow had a right to put her two pence worth in, she walked over and stood right in front of him. “Got a minute?”
He almost laughed, and frowned up at her. “Why?”
“I’d like to talk to you in private.”
“You’re alright,” he said, blinking slowly and looking away. It was brutal shutting her down like that, but there was no way he would go there now. She knew too much about him already. He felt exposed and he didn’t like it. Rather she hated him than this … soppy compassion shit that was coming off her in waves.
“So you’re … you know, OK?” she stammered, shifting her weight uncomfortably.
JJ nodded without looking at her. The ‘pissed off ‘ look he wore was more about how he was hurting her than being impatient with her – which he was sure she thought.
“Asshole,” she said under her breath, as she turned on her heel and stomped from the room.
Mission accomplished. He laughed on an exhale with no real mirth. Equilibrium was restored with her at arms length. There was no point in letting anyone close enough to get burned, because when he went down they most definitely would.
Later that evening, JJ managed to get a minute alone with Xavier in the bedroom. “What have I missed?” he asked, flopping down into his bunk..
Xavier climbed the ladder and moved onto his own with a creak. “Not a lot. Alexia is getting too close to that Dwayne. She sloped off to lunch with him yesterday.”
JJ sighed and absorbed the information. He weighed up all the angles and the pros and cons. It probably wasn’t a good idea for her to get close to anyone, any more than it was for him. But there was no doubt Xavier was too protective of her. If he didn’t start letting her breathe they could have more to worry about than Dwayne. “I think Dwayne’s OK,” he said, thinking aloud.
“He can’t keep her safe,” Xavier spat, leaning over the side of the bunk to glare at him.
“You gotta let her have a life, Xav. She’ll only fight you … surely better the devil you know,” he finished wearily.
Xavier relaxed back down in his bed and was silent. It went on for so long that JJ thought he was actually considering what he’d said.
“No one’s coming for us, JJ,” he said.
JJ didn’t answer right away. So the penny had finally dropped – that they were completely alone there. It made sense then, why he was holding on to Alexia even more tightly. “I know,” he said, eventually. The conversation he’d just had with Rianna went through his mind again. The way he’d cut off Latitia.
He closed his eyes suddenly hating himself. “This is our life now, Xav. Gotta get used to it.”
“It’s OK for you. You’re blue-eyed boy with Rianna and you’ve already got your feet under the table with Latitia.”
JJ let out a blast of air. “Noooo, not going there.”
Thankfully, Xavier didn’t answer. He knew him well enough to know something had changed and didn’t push it.
“Come on … there must be someone you have your eye on?” JJ said, putting his forearm across his eyes. Xavier was quieter and more serious out of the two of them, but he was a good looking kid and got just as many girls interested in him as he did.
The silence that followed piqued his interest, and he dropped the arm from his eyes. “Well?”
“There is this one girl.”
JJ smiled. He’d kept that quiet. “Who?”
“I don’t know her name. I managed to knock her dinner all down her yesterday,” Xavier said, not able to keep the laughter out of his voice.
JJ grinned. “Nice … made sure you’re on the radar then.”
They both laughed just like when they were kids getting into trouble over something.
“Guess she wont forget me.”
JJ stopped laughing. “Make the most of it, Xav,” he said quietly to himself. Latitia came to mind again. He squashed it instantly, not sure why she was bugging him.
“Yeah,” Xavier said, “Keep your bloody hands off, JJ.”
He laughed. “Get a move on then Bro … I’m getting bored.” He wasn’t sure what made him say that – probably because it was their usual MO. But in reality he had no real desire to steal Xavier’s girl.
He felt Xavier shuffle in the bed moodily. “She’s mine.”
It gave JJ pause for thought. Xavier must like this one.
Let the games begin …
Copyright T Stedman 2017