When the future is already written, what will Chloe risk to change it?
For Chloe, her gift of prophecy has proven the future to be unshakeable. Nothing ever changes, and no one really has a choice. The future is what it is, and she accepted that a long time ago.
Then her sisters convince her to try changing her future, to give herself the chance for happiness that she never expected. When she succeeds, the black and white certainty she’s always had vanishes. It turns blurry with infinite possibilities she can barely distinguish and everything she ever expected to happen is lost. Only Sebastian’s future gives clues about what’s coming, and it’s filled with images of blood and death.
But Chloe can’t change the future when the choices aren’t hers to make and if she can’t change it, can she accept it or will she continue to fight for the lives most important to her?
I don’t stare at guys. I let them do the staring, but, in this case, I couldn’t help it. Bastian was my sister Phoebe’s new friend. There wasn’t anything spectacular about him, really. He’d moved to town a few weeks back and, after fixing Phoebe’s cell phone when she managed to break it by simply turning it on, was granted access to her little group of friends.
He wasn’t ugly or deformed, but he wasn’t the kind of guy girls were panting over either. Definitely not my type. He was just kinda weird. Tall and skinny, his hair was a bit too short, his clothing looked like he bought them second hand, but he was just a bit too nerdy to be hipster.
What had me staring was the haze surrounding him. That was new. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it right away. The cloud blocked out almost everyone near him, thicker where it was closest to him and then thinning to a faint white puff about five feet all around him.
Most people’s future was right there, hovering about an inch or so around them. I was usually careful enough to avoid touching it, and if I had to touch them, I could push through without catching a glimpse. It was something that had become increasingly difficult lately, though. I wasn’t sure if my ability was growing stronger or if I was getting sloppy, but it was getting harder to avoid reading the people around me.
Thank god he was on the other side of the classroom. I wasn’t in the mood for a serious slideshow of his future. That sounded selfish, or at least Lily, my other sister, would have said so, but sometimes what I saw was best left unseen.
I tore my gaze away and focused on Mrs. Ellis. Her class was never anything to get excited about, although it would probably be hard for any teacher to make calculus exciting. If Mr. Hanes taught it, I’d at least have something to look forward to. He was super hot, and considering this was his first year teaching, he wasn’t much older than us. Sucked for most of us girls that he only taught senior level German and every one of his classes was full.
She stood with her back to us, scrawling the assignment on the whiteboard. Leaning over my book, I started writing down the page numbers. In front of me, Nathan groaned as he copied our homework down. I couldn’t help the smile that crept across my face. Nathan had been dating Phoebe for almost a year now, and he was as big a slacker as she was when it came to school.
Then Nathan flopped back in his chair and in to my zone. The classroom faded back, and Phoebe’s bedroom settled around me. Nathan lay on the bed with Phoebe draped over him. Way too much bare and flushed skin for me to not know what was going on. There was a flash of the bedroom door opening, and they looked back at it. My dad stood in the doorway. I hadn’t seen his face that red since he’d fallen asleep on the beach six years ago during a trip to Hawaii.
Nathan sat forward, pulling his future away with him. I gave a snicker and kicked his desk. He glanced back, one eyebrow raised.
Given a choice, I would’ve gladly avoided seeing that.
“My dad is going to kill you.”
He sat up straight, panic crinkling his forehead. “Why? What did you see?”
“Chloe? Nathan? Is there a problem?” Mrs. Ellis asked as she turned from the board.
“No,” I said, giving Nathan an evil smile.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like him, because I did. Nathan was a great guy. Teasing him was more about how he’d tell Phoebe what I said, and it would drive her crazy. She hated when I peeked in to her future, even if I had saved her ass a few times from the full brunt of her errors.
Falling in to Nathan’s future was exactly the lack of control I’d been struggling with. This school year, I’d had to drop the cheer squad. Each time we performed a lift, I’d start reading the person I was touching and zone out. For a while, I thought I’d be able to keep things under control. To push through it like I always had. Then I dropped Vivian during a stunt. Phoebe thought it was hilarious that her archenemy had literally fallen on her ass in front of the entire school, but I’d felt guilty knowing the drop could have ended with much worse than only a bruise for Viv.
With my assignment written down, my gaze wandered back to Sebastian. He was watching me through the haze. Not that he could see it.
As nosy as I was, minding my own business was the best decision. And that was exactly what I was going to do this time with Sebastian. The bell rang and still I couldn’t pull my eyes away. Knowing better did little to end my curiosity. Sebastian gathered his things and walked across the room and to the door. His future came so close to me I could have reached out, and for a second, as he passed, I would have had a glimpse.
“You planning to stick around for the next class?”
I glanced up at my best friend, Nadine, missing my opportunity to see in to Sebastian’s future, and gave her a vague nod. My original plans had been to veg at home, maybe even watch one of my favorite cheesy romance movies, but saying no to Nadine was hard. We’d been best friends for nearly two years, and I knew if I backed out, she’d be pissed.
She flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder and gave me an expectant look. I shook my head and grabbed my things from under my seat. “No. Just feeling a bit spacey, I guess.”
I’d been ditching her a lot the past few weeks. Visions of the future came with a hard price. Most of them stayed unspoken. When I was younger, I’d reveled in the power knowing the future gave me over people. To have them really listen to what I said because, according to them, I had some weird sixth sense. It was how my sisters and I had ended up with the Freaky Matlin Triplets title.
Black and white. That’s the future. I know, because it was how I’d always seen it. If I saw it, it happened.
Most people, though, weren’t prepared to hear that their lives were predestined, or that they were going to do certain things they never thought they’d do. What I’d seen of Nadine’s future had crushed me. Her betrayal of me would be so complete that it was hard to look at her and know what was coming. But how did I tell someone I couldn’t be friends with them because of something they hadn’t even thought of doing yet? There was no way I could tell her the truth.
Besides, my friendship with Nadine would lead to certain parts of my own future happening. Without her, I wouldn’t get in to Berkley next fall. Without her, I wouldn’t have the worst night of my life that would show me how little the word love meant to some people.
Black and white.
There wasn’t supposed to be any gray area. There wasn’t supposed to be anything that wasn’t right. Yet, everything I saw had started shifting just a bit left of center. The first time had been with Phoebe a year ago. Parts of her relationship with Nathan hadn’t gone according to plan. My visions had smoothed out for a while, almost going back to normal, and then Lily’s boyfriend, Dylan, died right after I told her they’d be going to prom together. I still didn’t understand how I could have been so wrong.
A few times over the past year, I’d seen things that hadn’t happened and never would. It terrified me to think of how many of my visions had been off. I wanted my black and white back. Even if it meant hiding behind a fake smile and standing next to the girl who would help rip my heart out.
We walked toward the cafeteria, and Nadine told me all about the new cheer they were working on. It made me sad to think of everything I was missing out on now. At the beginning of the school year, we had managed to convince the academic counselor we needed to have similar schedules in order to facilitate our cheerleading practices. What they hadn’t known was I was off the squad.
Cheering had been such a big part of my life. Now I struggled to find things to fill my time because, really, there was only so much shopping a girl could do when she was broke. I tried writing like Lily, but that had bored me nearly as quickly as it had Phoebe. I even considered trying to draw like Phoebe—an idea that lasted all of two seconds before I remembered I was the least artistic person I knew.
“It totally sucks.”
I glanced at Nadine, realizing I’d been tuning her out. If Nadine complained about the suckiness of something, then it probably did.
“I can’t believe Mr. Gutierrez is making us do an essay this weekend. He knows there’s a game tomorrow. I don’t have time to write a thousand word narrative about the circletor system.”
“Circulatory. Do you have practice this afternoon?” I asked as we settled at a table, and I pulled out my container of chicken caesar salad.
“Yeah. Mia is filling in as a base since you deserted us, but she’s really been struggling. She almost dropped Vivian the other day.” She shuddered, causing her long blonde ponytail to swish behind her. I didn’t doubt her horror at picturing what could have happened. Definitely something worse than when I had dropped Viv. We’d been lucky she’d only bruised her arm that time. She could have died.
“I can help if you want,” I offered.
“Seriously?” Nadine perked up. “You’ll join the squad again?”
“No. I meant help you write the paper.”
Rejoining the cheer squad was out of the question. As much as I missed being a part of that group, I couldn’t risk someone getting hurt because I zoned out in the middle of a stunt.
“Oh, come on, Chloe. Please? Please, please, please?”
“I’m sorry. I just can’t.” I wanted to explain, but there was no way to do that without telling her the truth, and I couldn’t. She started to argue, but the arrival of Bianca cut her off.
“Your sister is turning into a complete drag,” Bianca said, sliding on to the bench across from me.
“Which one?” Nadine asked.
“Phoebe,” I answered before Bianca could say anything. Bianca would never complain about Lily like that, because Lils was just too sweet to be a drag. Phoebe, on the other hand, possessed the ability to drag anyone down with her if she felt like it. Although, I had a feeling Bianca was thinking more about how boring Phoebe had become. “What’s she doing now?”
“She totally ditched me for Nathan. Again. I wish they’d just do it and then she’d get over it. I mean ever since you told her they were gonna do it and then they didn’t, she’s like waiting for it to happen. It’s the only thing she talks about. Well, that and zombies.” Bianca reached over and grabbed one of the grapes sitting on my tray. “I still can’t believe you told her she and Nathan were gonna have sex. It was awesome.”
That was what I liked about Bianca. She was friends with both my sister and me, but it was as if she fed off the drama between us, never picking a side for long enough that we got mad. Possibly since her own siblings were way too boring for her tastes.
“I don’t get it,” Nadine said, looking between Bianca and me, confusion shadowing her eyes. “Why would Phoebe believe Chloe about something like that?”
Bianca raised a brow and looked to me. My sisters and I were as far from normal as people got in Beachgrove, California. Besides being triplets who, thanks to the scientific gift of in vitro fertilization, looked nothing alike, we were gifted with some unique abilities.
The youngest, by a few minutes, Lily was barely over five feet with curly red hair and a boatload of freckles. She was also a healer, able to heal the emotional and sometimes physical pain of others. She wasn’t quite the miracle worker our uncle was, but she was pretty handy with minor cuts, bruises, and, of course, Phoebe’s constant teenage angst.
Phoebe, the middle triplet, looked the most like me. She was tall with dark wavy brown hair. As the first in our family to have the truth telling gift, and having it be dormant for the first sixteen years of her life, she was still trying to figure out what that meant. As far as I could tell, she had a voice in her head telling her when someone was lying. Our nanna called it the gift of discernment. I called it the gift of pain in the ass.
As for me, well, I saw the future and, to use Nadine’s oh so eloquent words, it totally sucks.
Not that we regularly advertised our abilities. A lot of kids at school called us the Freaky Matlin Triplets, mostly because when we were younger, Lily and I didn’t bother hiding what we could do. We’re a bit more discrete now, but the memories of the things we’d done or said lingered with people. Only a handful of people knew that the rumors were true, and only because Phoebe told her friends.
It always amazed me that Nadine didn’t even suspect or pick up on the strange things I said. Although, Nadine was a little light in the intelligence department, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.
“Who knows how Phoebe’s brain works,” I said, running my hand through my hair and sweeping the long locks across one side of my face to hide it from Nadine. “I’m of the mind that she doesn’t even have one. And if she does, then it’s not fully functioning.”
Bianca fluffed her purple bangs. “Whatever. Let’s talk about something more interesting.”
“Such as?” Nadine asked, and we shared a knowing smile.
“Logan. My dad decided to go spastic last Saturday when I got home. He told me I can’t see Logan again until they meet him.”
“What does that mean?” Nadine asked, oblivious to the fact that such an event was probably the worst and best case scenario for Bianca.
While Logan had a certain slacker boy appeal, he also had the exact type of style that would drive Bianca’s parents up the wall. Which, of course, was Bianca’s primary goal.
“It means my parents are in for a shock once they get a load of his piercings, and I’ll end up grounded for the next year of my life.”
I snorted. Bianca’s parents would probably ground her, but, somehow, she always found a way around her long-term suffering by locating someone, aka Karin, who was suddenly available to tutor her. The bell rang, and the three of us reluctantly headed to class.
“Crap,” Nadine said, coming to a stop. “I forgot my homework. I’ll catch up with you.”
She ran back to her locker while Bianca and I continued walking.
“You really think your parents will ground you?” I asked Bianca.
“Who knows. They’ll probably try, and I’ll behave for a few weeks, maybe even let them enroll me in orchestra again.” She grimaced at the thoughts.
“I thought you liked playing the violin.”
“I do. I just hate the heartbroken expressions on their faces when they realize I’ll never reach the same level as my sister. They start in with the whole try harder, such a disappointment, no honor for them, blah, blah, blah.”
“Do you want me to check?” It would be so easy to reach in to the faint blue glow around her.
“No! It always freaks me out when you do it.”
“I love that you have no problem knowing about Phoebe’s future, but never want to hear about yours.”
She laughed and tucked a jaggedly cut strand of hair behind her ear. “That’s because when Phoebe’s schemes fail, I can laugh and then help her get over it. Besides, it’s more about the way you stare at me when you’re doing it.”
“Am I that obvious?” I’d never given much thought about how I looked when I was in the midst of a vision. Apparently, it wasn’t a pretty sight.
“It’s like you’re looking at one of those magic pictures, and you’re searching for the hidden 3d image.”
She wasn’t far off. My visions were still images. I’d once described them to Lily as one of those books where images are drawn in the corner of every page, and if you turn them fast enough, you can almost believe it’s moving. As for being hidden, well, it really depended on how far in to their future I went and how much I already knew about their future.
“Anyway, according to you, knowing won’t change anything.” She shrugged and stopped in front of her class. “I’d rather be hopeful that they’ll finally stop their constant nagging rather than wallowing in self-pity at the demise of my social life.”
“Well, don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.”
She snorted. “At least you won’t be able to say I told you so.”
“Maybe not, but I can still gloat over the fact that I could’ve told you.”
I ran a hand over my side braid, smoothing down the wispy pieces that had escaped. My fingers hit the hair tie at the end that belonged to Lily, and a vision of her flashed before me. When the pictures faded away, I smiled. I’d seen her future so many times, but parts had been blocked mainly because of Micah, whose future intertwined with Lily’s. He was able to block us from reading him, but now that Micah had started to lower his guard, pieces were filling in.
The two of them had played hot and cold for the past few months. Yesterday had been a turning point when Lily finally figured out that he really did want to be with her. I could have told her it was a pointless game. Although the presence of Micah’s ex-girlfriend, Jaime, hadn’t helped his case much. Today, though, Lily and Micah were finally going to be official. It was nice to think that after all the heartache Lily had been through this year, that she would finally get a happily ever after.
I simply had to do my little part, and that meant being late to class.
“Hey. I need to go find Lily. I’ll see you in class,” I said to Bianca, and took off before she could ask any questions. I turned the corner and saw exactly what I’d expected. Micah and Lily were kissing right in front of her locker.
“So, can I just break it to you now?” I asked over Micah’s shoulder.
They slowly pulled apart to glare at me.
“Micah’s happy. Lily’s happy. You’ll stop macking on each other right before Mrs. Ellis turns the corner and gets ready to remind you about appropriate student conduct, and later today, Jaime’s gonna tell you that she’s going home.”
“What?” Micah and Lily said at the same time.
I held up a finger, motioning for them to wait.
“Mr. Davidson, Ms. Matlin, do I need to give you a reminder about appropriate student conduct?” Mrs. Ellis said as she stopped beside us.
They dropped their hands and took a step back from each other.
“No, ma’am.” Micah coughed in to his hand in a poor attempt to cover his laugh.
Mrs. Ellis gave him a stern look and then walked off.
“I rest my case. See you Thursday, Micah.” I sauntered off, a smug grin stretched across my face. I glanced over my shoulder, and, sure enough, the two of them were again completely absorbed in each other.
I almost made it to class when I noticed Sebastian heading the opposite direction. I tried to steer through the crowd to get to the other side of the hall, but the rush of people forced me even closer to him. A few feet from him, the haze I had seen earlier hit me, and I was consumed by a vision.
The images flashed so quickly I barely recognized half of what I was seeing, but what I did was terrifying.
Everything was red and black. Sebastian. Blood. Gun. More blood. People falling. Lily screaming. Her hands pressed to Micah’s chest. Nadine and Andrew on the ground. Sightless eyes. Dark sky. Red rain. Rivers of blood.
Then the vision was gone, and the horror of what I’d seen sent me to my knees. The pounding of my racing heart and the roar of blood pulsing through me muted the sounds of people around me. I struggled to take a breath as terror and sorrow crushed me.
“Chloe?” Lily’s voice came from far away, and I pulled myself away from the images. She laid a hand on my shoulder. “Are you okay?”
I swallowed and got to my feet shakily. “Yeah. I just… Could you…?”
She nodded and placed her hand on my shoulder. With her healing touch, my terror was gone, replaced by a sense of calm that let me focus on the impossibility of what I’d seen. Micah, Nadine, and Andrew couldn’t die. Not yet. I knew they would have long lives. Micah was Lily’s future. Her ‘till the end love. Andrew would outlive me by six months, and Nadine would live even longer.
So, what had I seen if not the future?