The Crystal Bridge

Chapter 2 - Lavender Scented White Noise

Aren spun her lock as the hallway filled with jostling students, deafening though not just from sound. She closed her eyes, pushing away the noise of invasive memories, images, secrets, and sins not her own. Each body in the hall carried these around them like a cloud, a thick, choking cloud that Aren couldn’t help but see. Oh, how I hate crowds.

Tracy, Aren’s best friend, leaned against the locker to Aren’s right and continued to drone on about the new kid, Kaden. Aren hadn’t heard a word. She opened her eyes and spun the lock again.

A small fist slammed into the locker to her left, startling Aren. Steph had been Aren’s locker neighbor for two years and her feisty nature made her fun to be around, most of the time. Steph hit the locker again and made a growling noise of fru­stration in the back of her throat. Puffy, pink eyes caught Aren’s look of concern.

“Sorry, Adam’s being a jerk!”

Aren didn’t hear her. She’d already fallen into one of Steph’s memories.

Aren found herself looking up through Steph’s eyes as Adam’s face came closer. They were in the auditorium, lights dimmed. Aren could feel Adam’s warm breath roll across her face, Steph’s face. She wanted to pull away, but this wasn’t her memory. She had no control over what happened here.

Soft lips touched hers, prickling with the thin mustache Adam had been trying to grow for months. Steph burst out laughing in the memory. “You really need to shave that thing.”

Aren pushed her way free, surfacing in reality and turning away from Steph. “I’m sure he’ll get over it. Being a jerk, that is. He always does.”

Steph sniffed and smiled. “You’re right. He does. Doesn’t he?”

Aren nodded and swallowed, managing to keep Steph’s other memories at bay by staring at her locker. Avoiding eye contact usually helped.

Steph slipped away down the hall and Tracy started tugging at Aren’s sleeve.

“You listening?”

“Of course I am.”

“Okay…where was I?”


“Right. I know you’re probably sick of hearing about him, but he’s tall. Not as tall as Brian, but still up there. He has dark hair, almost black, and green eyes. Sea green. At least I think they’re green, maybe hazel. And—”

Aren lost her place with her locker combination for the third time. Frustration with the lock, her friend, and her inability to resist Steph’s memories all bubbled up inside her. “Tracy, that’s enough. I don’t really care about Kaden or his hazel eyes. Slow down a little, won’t you?” She spun the lock again, letting the notched numbers slide beneath her fingertips. “You only met him this morning.”

It’s such a waste of energy for both of us. She’ll be babbling about another guy in a day or two.

“You’ll see. He’s in our fifth period History class. I peeked at his schedule when he wasn’t looking.”

“Oh, I’m so excited,” Aren rolled her eyes.

Tracy’s lips tightened, turning the skin white around them. “You could at least try to be excited, maybe be a friend for once, instead of pretending you’re better than everyone!”

Aren looked at Tracy’s puckered lips. Oh crap. She only does that when she’s really angry. Aren glanced up at Tracy’s wide, hurt filled eyes. Mistake. The raging emotions of her friend made it impossible for Aren to keep her guard up. She fell deeper into Tracy than she had with Steph. For a moment Aren ceased to exist. She was Tracy through and through, looking out of Tracy’s eyes at Aren, confused at how she could stay friends with someone who shares so little of herself and can be so mean at times. Then a memory surfaced.

Tracy rode a bike, Tracy’s dad holding the seat to stabilize her as she pedaled. Aren managed to find herself again, even though she was still lost in Tracy’s memories. Tracy’s laughter rolled out of her throat as if it were her own as the wind whipped past her face and the chain purred through the gears.

The memory faded, but another rose before Aren could find her way out.

Tracy knelt on the floor in her kitchen, peeking through the door to the living room. Tracy’s mom sat on the couch, crying as two men sat stiffly across from her in crisp uniforms. Tears streamed down Tracy’s face. She didn’t know what was wrong, but she was unable to hold them back. Aren could only watch, unable to comfort her friend.

The memory transitioned in a blur to Tracy huddled in the corner. Her stepbrother swung the sock, stretched out from the weight at the end. Aren looked up at him through Tracy’s tear blurred eyes, unable to stop him. The sock smacked against Tracy’s back hard, knocking the air out her as the thick piece of soap inside did its damage. It fell again and again, as Tracy cried out and whimpered for it to stop. Tracy would have bruises for months, but she would never tell, even when it happened again, often.

Aren watched through Tracy’s eyes as her talkative friend cracked the popsicle against the edge of the table and handed her stepbrother the other half. Tracy always forgives too easily. Anger boiled up in Aren, not part of the memory, but her own rage at the injustice she witnessed in Tracy’s mind.

That anger cleared her head and brought her fully back to herself, swimming out of Tracy’s head and back where she belonged. She’d seen those memories before, but her outrage never lessened.

Aren swallowed back the anger. It’s anger for her, not at her. Don’t take it out on Tracy. “I don’t think I’m better—”

“You do too!” Tracy interrupted. “Just because you don’t like anyone, doesn’t mean you can make fun of me when I do.” She gave Aren one last dirty look, lips pinched tight, and stormed away.

Aren watched her friend’s back as it disappeared into the mass of students walking the hall. Better than everyone? Aren wanted to deny it, but she often felt that way.

She sighed and turned back to the lock. It failed to open a fourth time. Of course. My locker hates me. I give up. She abandoned the locker and walked to class without her textbook, weaving her way through a group of boys who smelled of sweat and too much cologne. She kept her head down, not wanting to meet their eyes. Don’t want to know.


Aren wasn’t surprised to find Tracy chatting like usual when fifth period rolled around. Her ability to forgive rivaled only her ability to talk.

“So Cindy totally dropped her books and punched him in the nose. He bled all over the place. It was like a geyser. Right there in the hall. She may get suspended. Did you see Steph this morning? Adam told her he couldn’t go to the dance on Friday. Oh, don’t worry. They’re fine now. Turns out his uncle died and Adam has to fly to Denver. He’s a pallbearer. Sad, huh? He’d look good in a suit. Did you hear about Tim?”

Aren cracked a smile. “No. Tell me about Tim.”

A tall, dark-haired boy walked in during the typical, modestly-contained craziness be­fore class. Kids joked and talked throughout the room. A good humored pushing match took place near the back row. A greasy-faced boy tried to discretely rub some­thing he’d spilled into the already stained brown carpet.

Tracy dropped the topic about Tim and grabbed Aren’s arm with a hiss. “That’s Kaden.”

The dark-haired boy took an empty desk next to Tracy, gave her a half smile, pulled out a piece of paper, and started doodling as the bell rang.

Aren fought the urge to laugh as she took her seat behind Tracy. Yeah, a winner this one, bored and drawing before class even starts. He is kinda cute though. She fought hard to keep her little brain jumping gift in check as she looked the new kid over. Tall, but not lanky. He could use a haircut…or two. Looks athletic, but thank goodness he’s not a human ball of meat like some of the jocks.

Aren’s gaze tightened, triggering the full depth of her power, and no memories swam into view, no secrets, no hidden feelings, nothing. What? She looked again. Nothing hovered around him. No cloud of thoughts. That’s new.

Aren swallowed as she blinked and looked away. She’d always seen something.

She looked again. This time she saw a wall, a mirrored wall that curved around Kaden and kept her from getting close. She pushed against the wall, staring at him now.

Someone off to her right noticed and giggled, whispering. “Looks like Aren digs the new kid.”

“Huh? Weird, I’ve never seen her look at anyone like that.”

“I know, right? She maxes out at like three seconds. She’s a freak.”

Aren ignored them. Her mind beat against the mirrored surface without effect, sliding along the slippery wall without finding any weakness.

There really is something to this guy. And it struck her, in that mo­ment, that there was something to her as well. She saw it reflected back at her. She’d always known she was different, but until now she had no idea how unusual her gift was.

Her mind burrowed into herself as it had always done with others. Memo­ries surfaced of her standing up to Tracy’s stepbrother, stopping the abuse years ago. I’m childish at times, but strong and like to do the right thing. Lance held her hand in the third grade. She pulled away. Tyson leaned in to kiss her on their third date and she gave him her cheek. I push love away out of fear.

The more she pushed at Kaden’s shell, the deeper she saw into herself. She waded past memo­ries into some part of herself she had locked away, hidden emotions and fears. No, I shouldn’t be here.

Aren tried to look away, not wanting to see any more about herself, but was unable to escape the mirrors, her own stark two-toned gray eyes staring back. She fought to be free of herself, but only fell deeper and deeper into her soul. I have power and waste it on trivialities. I have a good heart, but mask it with sarcasm. I complain that life lacks adventure, but avoid doing anything too difficult. I can be cruel to those who disappoint me…no, no, no. I don’t want this.

Tears blinded her and she managed to pull away. She stood, trying to flee from the visions inside herself, but it had been too much. Aren collapsed to the floor. Her head hit hard on the thin carpet veneer that covered concrete floors and the edges of her vision blackened, spiraling in until she saw nothing at all.

A momentary panic set in as she realized that she was about to pass out in the middle of class. How embarrassing. She fought the darkening tunnel for a second, but unconsciousness won, flowing over her bruised mind like a warm blanket.

Smells like lavender.


Kaden tugged the brown bag out of his backpack. Great, I’m sitting alone for lunch. This school sucks. He opened his Egg, the glowing sphere only he could see comforting him and calming his nerves. His first day at Snow Valley High hadn’t been the greatest and he felt he needed the distraction. He threw a few images around the interior shell with his thoughts.

The accident had taken so much from him. He was glad his Egg had remained even after the bones had mended and the drugs had stopped. He’d been fairly certain the land of tigers had been a hallucination. Now he knew how close to being eaten he’d come.

He picked at his sandwich as portals to other worlds danced around him. A bell rang and he closed down his Egg so he could walk to his next class. He’d learned that it wasn’t wise to walk with his Egg open. He didn’t care too much about making friends at this new school, but he swore they wouldn’t know him here for running into drinking fountains. Only three times and everyone thinks you’re a freak.

The paper crinkled in his sweating hands as he pulled his sche­dule from his bag. Fifth period…History. Great. Kaden walked the halls with his head down and then snuck in the classroom, taking a quick seat in an open chair and praying the teacher didn’t have a seating chart. It’s always awkward having to stand up and move. Everyone whispering and giggling. Twice today already.

He doodled on the back of his schedule for a couple minutes, but the temptation to open his Egg proved too much. He tried his best to be as disinteresting as possible as he closed his eyes and the Egg blazed open. He imagined the golden shell as a barrier that blocked everyone else out, like a one-way mirror.

I’ve traveled to another universe, braved monster tigers, unknown deserts, black oceans, and the nastiest sulfur swamps anyone has ever seen and I can’t handle a few kids looking at me…sad reallyI guess I should at least make an effort.

Kaden opened his eyes and looked through the glowing amber shell at the teacher. History wasn’t his favorite subject. He preferred biology or physics. The other students mirrored his boredom in their faces, tinted light yellow by the Egg.

The girl next to him looked over and smiled. Tracy, I think. She’d been kind to him earlier, though a bit too talkative. He smiled back and thought about how much his ears would hurt if they became friends. She giggled and glanced behind her. Kaden’s eyes followed hers.

The girl behind Tracy was pretty, despite looking like she’d just sprinted to class. Her cheeks burned red with exertion on her pale face as her labored breathing raced through her clenched teeth. She had a light spattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks. Cute. Kaden allowed himself to smile at her too and they locked eyes.

Kaden froze. The maelstrom gray of her eyes widened and Kaden felt himself drawn into them. He lost concentration and his Egg slid closed, returning his world to fluorescent light.

She’s even prettier without the yellow. He noticed that her eyes were two different colors. Her left eye was blue-gray and her right had a hint of green. I should stop staring.

He tried to blink and turn his head. Nothing moved. A tingling sensation crawled down his spine, like information being sent to muscles, but not processed. The teacher’s words turned dull and distant, pulsing in the background like the heartbeat of the universe, subtle, near silent.

Kaden felt a warmth flow out of Aren and into him and then back, like the eternal tides of the ocean, in and out. They were connected. Nothing else existed.

Her stormy eyes watered and then tears flowed down her cheeks, leaving tracks on her reddened cheeks. Kaden tried to reach out to her, offer comfort, but his body still refused to move. She stood slow and graceful and, as her eyes closed, the connection broke. The world came rushing back.

The teacher’s voice grated against Kaden’s heightened sensations, sounding louder and harsher than it had moments before. “Aren, are you okay? Where are you going?”

The fluorescent lights burned too bright, stinging his now sen­sitive eyes. The air conditioner blew icy dry wind over his shivering skin. As Kaden rubbed a hand over his gritty eyelids, the girl folded to the floor.

Her head bounced off the hard floor twice. Her eyes flitted open for a second and Kaden dropped his hand from his face as he felt a hint of the con­nection, but she closed them again and the link broke once more. Classmates rushed to her side and the teacher yelled out commands that no one heeded.

“Stay seated! Calm down, everyone! Tom, hit the page button. I said stay seated!”

In the midst of the chaos, Kaden found himself surrounded by the comforting glow of his Egg. He looked out through the golden sphere to where the fallen girl lay and his mouth fell open.

That’s weird. He’d let it close and he hadn’t pulled his Egg open again. Did she? Could she?



Tip: You can use left, right, A and D keyboard keys to browse between chapters.