Well, I guess since my last teaser was from Edge, I will now post a snippet from its sequel, Jump. It might not make perfect sense in context, but I think you'll get the gist. As always, if there are any questions about it you can ask in the comments. :) And just to clarify (since no one seemed to understand this from the Edge excerpt) the main character, Max, IS A BOY. I guess I'm just not very good at being boy-ish? Or everyone assumed that I only write from female point of views? Well, I don't know. But here it is! Enjoy! :D
“Max,” Lacey said. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” I answered, but I couldn't look up at her. For some reason, I didn't want to see the sympathy on her face. “Why?”
“I don't know. Something seems … off.”
“Yeah, well … Everything is pretty screwed up right now.”
Lacey was quiet, like she didn't know how to respond. Finally she said, “I'm sorry about, you know, your portal thing.”
I didn't answer.
“What are you going to do?”
I sighed, feeling the headache pound deep in my skull again. “I don't know. I'll have to find another way back.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Lacey fiddling with her hands, knotting her fingers together and releasing them again. “How soon will you have to go back?”
Oh, no. This was what I had been dreading. I finally looked in her direction, but now she was the one who refused to make eye contact.
I took a deep breath. “Soon,” I said. “I––I don't know when. But soon.”
Lacey continued to stare down at her lap. Her voice became even softer, almost a whisper. “Do you really have to go, Max?”
I tried not to wince. “I'm sorry. I mean, I wish I could stay longer. But, there are so many things I have to do, people I left behind. This is just … a transition, sort of. You're …” I stopped, feeling like I wanted to punch myself in the face. “This is coming out all wrong.”
“It's okay,” Lacey said, before I could continue. “Really. I get it.”
She finally looked up at me, and I couldn't deny that there was a wounded expression in her eyes––something so deep and so sad that it almost physically hurt just to see it. Yet, she was still trying to smile.
“I do,” she said. “I mean, I've known all along that you weren't going to stay forever. Of course I know that. It's just …” She trailed off, blinking, like she was trying not to cry.
“It's just … what?”
“Forget it,” Lacey said, looking across the water again. “It's nothing. I'm being dumb.”
“No, you're not.”
“Max, you don't even know what I was going to say.” There was an edge to her voice now, almost like a threat. Then she sighed, like she could hear the hostility and was trying to make it go away. She laughed, but there was nothing happy in it. “Even I don't know what I'm saying.”
“You can tell me,” I said, without thinking. As soon as the words came out, they just hung there, waiting to be acknowledged.
Lacey ran a hand through her hair, only glancing at me briefly. “I …” She spoke the one word and then stopped, wiping the back of her hand across her eyes. “I don't know. I'm just really confused, right now.”
Well, that made two of us.
“I know I complain way too much,” Lacey went on. “I mean, compared to most people in the world, my life really isn't all that hard. But it's just been … empty, you know? It's like, I feel like I've worked so hard for everything I have, but what I have is still … nothing. I've always wanted something out of life. I've always wanted to find some kind of happiness, and I just can't.”
She fell silent again. I kept watching her, waiting for her to continue. I didn't know what else to do, whether to say something, whether to try to comfort her. I felt like it wasn't the time for me to talk yet. She still had more to say.
“I really thought I'd found something,” Lacey whispered, “with Garrett.”
I stiffened upon hearing the name. “Garrett?”
“I know. It's stupid. But I thought that would be the turning point, that I'd actually found that joy I'd been searching for. I mean, he was nice at first, but when he got more serious …” She swallowed, closed her eyes. “You know, I––I lied to you about it, about how bad it was. He wasn't just pushy or anything. He was … cruel.”
Lacey bent over, covering her face with her hands like remembering it was suddenly too much. Silently, I put an arm around her, and she leaned against me.
“I've never told anyone this, how bad it really was.” Her voice was shaking. “He talked down to me, made me feel like dirt. He got drunk. He'd … He'd hit me. More than once, he tried to …” She stopped, as if choking on the words.
It was at least a minute before she continued. I waited patiently, just holding her, watching the calm water in front of us.
“Every day, it was like a nightmare,” Lacey said at last. She seemed to have collected herself a little more, her voice steadier. “I was always terrified, not knowing what he was going to do next.” She paused, took a deep breath. “And yet, I stayed with him. I thought maybe it was my fault, for not loving him enough or something. I just had to try harder. I really thought I could change him. But, it's like I said before … People don't change.”
The words still scared me a little, but I nodded.
“Once I realized that,” Lacey went on, “it was like I … I sort of lost hope for the world. It was the point where I thought nothing was ever going to get better. I've spent so long, thinking that way.” She lifted her head again, pulling away from me and still avoiding eye contact.
I looked at her, and it was like I was seeing her for the first time, for who she really was. She'd always worn such a brave face, but especially after what she'd just told me, it was becoming clearer to me that she wasn't as confident as she appeared. She was beaten, she was scarred … in places that couldn't heal, that couldn't fade with time. There was no way I could imagine what it was like, to go through the things she'd endured, but in that moment I felt as if I carried all her pain. I felt the enormous, overwhelming weight of it all, and I knew I didn't have the power to lift it.
“I'm sorry,” I said.
Lacey finally looked at me, probably out of surprise. “For what?”
“I––I don't know. For everything. For how hard it must be … And the way Garrett treated you …” I couldn't even think of words to express the rage I felt. I'd hated Garrett to begin with, and this just made it worse. Why had I ever felt guilty about beating up that guy?
“Max, you don't have to apologize,” Lacey said, taking hold of my hand. “That's what I'm trying to say. I'm saying that you … you're different.”
“Different?” It was the only thing I could say.
Lacey smiled. “Not in a bad way. And I don't mean just all the superpowers and whatever. I mean you, as a person.” She shook her head, her face becoming serious again. “I know, this is all pretty ridiculous. It's like you said before … I don't even know you, not really. Or, not in the way you normally know people. But somehow, I feel like I––like I'm actually worth something. And no one has made me feel that way since … ever.”
She let go of my hand, touched my shoulder. A strange feeling seemed to pour through me, tingling inside my veins, and I wasn't sure whether it was a good feeling or not. It was just unexpected. I stared at Lacey, surprised, and I found that I couldn't look away from her. It was something about her eyes, how they held a world of feelings, of so many things that I wondered how she could contain it all. And, I realized, she was saying that she felt all these things … because of me?
“I know it can never happen,” Lacey said quietly. “But I just don't want it to end. I don't want you to go away.”
Her hand slid up to rest against the side of my face. I didn't move, didn't react, even though there was a storm of clashing emotions inside me. I suddenly didn't know what I wanted or what I'd expected. The panic started to settle in. What could I do? I tried to say something, anything. But I couldn't find the words, because I didn't even know what I was thinking or what I was feeling.
“Max,” Lacey said. “You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. And I can't … I can't lose that.” She leaned forward, resting her forehead against mine, and I stiffened. I could feel her hand shaking. “Please,” she whispered. “Stay.”