We sat at a small table clustered with other empty tables under the white fabric awning in front of Rebooked. It was shaded and quiet and reasonably private, but public enough I didn’t feel awkward being alone with Rico. He placed his bag on the table between us and smiled at me, suddenly shy now that he had my attention.
“Clock’s ticking,” I said.
“Yeah, um…” he started. He pushed his sunglasses up onto his head and studied my face for a moment. When he finally settled on my eyes, he gazed intently.
My weekly excursions to the Farmer’s Market and ‘Rebooked’ (a used book store) are the most enjoyable of my very limited errands. Though I could easily order produce online and have it delivered to my door within the hour, and every book I could ever want to read can be instantly downloaded to my Kindle, I preferred taking the time to go shop for myself.
I am a freak. I say that because it’s true and because I want you to understand about the choices I have made. I did what I did and I will do what I will do because, simply put, I am a freak.
I don’t have a superpower; no telekinesis, x-ray vision, or super strength. I cannot fly (with or without an airplane), nor can I read your mind. I have never had a vision of the future or traveled back in time or carried on a conversation with my dog; at least not one where he talked back and told me his favorite brand of doggie treat.
I am a medium height, medium build, average looking thirty year old woman. I am reasonably intelligent, socially awkward and, as my mother puts it, ‘snarky’.
When you live in a world of super-heroes, being middle-of-the-road in every respect is not okay. I am an oddity, a singularity…a freak. It’s the only thing I have going for me.
My mother is an empath, so our interactions are filled with heavy sighs and pats on the back, because according to her, I am always sad and confused. I’m not sure I agree with her assessment (I am, on occasion, almost happy), but who am I to argue with the most well-known empath in the city?
I have an older sister, Krystyll, (it’s Crystal, but she changed the spelling so her written name would be as “interesting and exceptional as I am in person”). Whatever. My mother assures me that if I had been born first I would be an only child. She says that’s because she would have dedicated all her time and energy to helping me with my ‘disability’. I am not sure how I feel about that. As it happened, Krystyll was born first and by the time I arrived Mother’s time and energy were already stretched to their limits with very little left for my issues.
Krystyll and her husband Aker run a successful investigative service helping banks and large corporations do background checks on employees or loan applicants. They are uniquely qualified for this work; Krystyll is a lie detector (with what is commonly called ‘hot hands’…she can melt metal with her touch) and Aker can communicate with cats and dogs. Understanding dogs and cats may not sound useful for their line of work, but Aker explained it like this: “A dog is a good judge of character, I always like to interview an applicant’s dog just to get a feel for who they really are. Cats, on the other hand, will expose secrets of their owners for half a can of tuna. They’re vicious like that.”
While Mother counsels the needy, moody and otherwise emotionally impaired and Krys and her hubby bribe cats for private information, I (until yesterday) was unemployed (and unemployable according to everyone I knew). I receive a monthly disability check (less than 1% of the population are considered disabled, and no one else shares my particular disability), and my time is spent reading, listening to music and rearranging my living room furniture-without using Madame Liftkoff’s furniture moving service (which is just Mrs. Liftkoff using her telekinesis to move stuff to where you tell her). Everything changed yesterday.