Afflictions: Part Thirty Seven

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Zoey sat in the back of the truck, watching the plains go by out the window. This part of the drive had been pretty boring, and she was tired of looking at her phone. She’d scroll on insta for a little, then check to see if Jessica had messaged her back, return to insta, and repeat the cycle. She’d texted her a few times now, and still had no response. This was a little out of character, but she was trying not to worry about it. Ideally, she’d text someone else, but she didn’t really talk to anyone else besides Jessica.

She thought back, and tried to remember how they’d even become friends. Jessica and her group used to torment Zoey all the time, so it was a strange turn for things to end up like this.

 The day after Zoey got her powers, she’d accidentally used them on Jessica when she was picking on her. After that, Jessica basically completely left her alone for the rest of middle school. With that, her school life got a lot better. Sure, she wasn’t popular or anything, but she was no longer actively tormented, which was a huge upgrade.

It all changed when they hit high school, and there was a big redistricting.

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Zoey sat alone in her new classroom like she’d done most years prior. All the other kids were coming in and clumping together with her friend groups, but she sat in the back, away from everyone else. It was 6th period already, so she’d done this same thing in five other classes already. The teachers here seemed to be nice enough, at least. There had been a big school shuffle, and it seemed like there was nobody here that she knew, which was another nice thing. Everyone else had their friend groups already, so it seemed like she and a few unlucky others got grouped with half of another school.

Into the room, came a tall girl with red hair that Zoey recognized very well. She’d seen her in a couple of other classes, but had successfully avoided her. What she didn’t recognize, was the unnerved expression on her face. She seemed to be peering into the room to see who was in the class. Evidently disappointed, she hung her head and entered.

Zoey sank into the corner as much as she possibly could. Hopefully she’d just sit somewhere else and ignore her, like she had in 3rd and 4th.

Jessica took one last glance around the class, and locked eyes with Zoey. Her eyes went a little wide for a moment, but she took a deep breath and made her way towards her.

“Hey Zoey…” She smiled, and pointed to the desk in front of her. “Is this seat taken?”

Zoey shook her head no, as her heart pounded. This was shaping up to be a good year, and of all the people to walk in, it had to be her.

“So have you seen anyone else from our school?” Jessica asked, as she sat her bag down and took a seat.

Zoey shook her head again. Maybe if she didn’t move then Jessica would forget she was there.

Jessica nodded for a moment, then looked down in silence. After a moment, she looked back at Zoey, and her face was red. “Listen, are you doing anything after school?”

Zoey’s heart sank. She tried to think of any excuse that she had. Her dad was at work, so he’d be a little late picking her up, but Jessica wouldn’t know that. “Um, I don’t…”

“Please?” Jessica added on. Her face was almost as red as her hair now. She almost looked ready to cry.

Zoey sighed. Whatever it was, Jessica seemed to be borderline begging for it. She was reluctant to, but she could already imagine her dad telling her to give her a second chance. “I guess I’ve got a little bit of time…”

“Really? I’ve got a couple of things I want to talk to you about.” She looked down again. “I’m… Well let’s just talk after school…”

Jessica faced forwards, and Zoey spent the remainder of the school day worrying about what Jessica could possibly want to talk about. The most obvious bet was that she was lonely at a new school and wanted to make up, but there was a chance she just wanted to torment her some more. That didn’t seem terribly likely based on how she’d asked, but Zoey was still wary. There was also the possibility that she suspected Zoey had powers, and wanted to ask about them. With how embarrassed she was, it almost looked like she wanted to ask her out, but that wasn’t possible…

After school, Zoey followed Jessica in silence to a pretty quiet spot in the school courtyard. Once they stopped, Jessica looked around. Her face looked almost redder than before.

“Hey, um…” Jessica paused for a moment, and looked down. “I’m really sorry. I don’t know what we were doing, but we just kept messing with you. I was kinda joking at the start of it, but then it just kept escalating… I’m so sorry…” She broke into tears, and put her face in her hands.

Zoey stood there, as her heart raced. She’d really never seen Jessica break down like that. “Um, it’s not a big deal…” She really had made her life hell, but she didn’t want to see her like this.

Jessica looked up in tears. “I’m sorry…” She wiped her face. “I didn’t mean to break down.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Zoey started to edge away.

“Would you mind if I sat next to you in 3rd and 4th too?”

Zoey stopped in her tracks. “Oh you saw me?”

“Yeah…” Jessica looked down again. “I was just nervous…”

She felt a little weird about this. It seemed like a little bit too sudden of a character change. “Listen, I’m sure you’ll be able to make plenty of new friends here. I don’t think you really need to-“

“I promise I’ll never be mean to you again! It’s not just that I don’t know anyone here…” Jessica stood up. “I wanted to say something sooner, but I was just…” Tears began to run down her face again.

Zoey was a little reluctant to believe this. On the other hand, she could already imagine what her dad would say. “I guess if you really want to, I don’t care. It’ll probably be boring…”

“Really?” Jessica wiped her eyes again, and smiled hopefully.

“Sure…” Zoey smiled as best as she could. This was going to be a weird year.

Linebreak

Somehow, Jessica actually held up to her promise after that. They hung out a lot outside of school, and she seemed nothing like before. She never ended up asking about her powers, until after her first mission. There were some pictures of her online, but nobody seemed to really recognize her, so she thought she was fine.

A few days after the mission, Jessica seemed to be acting a little off. They were hanging out upstairs at Zoey’s house like always, but she was very quiet.

“Hey, is everything okay?” Zoey asked. Things had been going good lately, so this was a little concerning.

“I need you to be honest with me.” She sighed, then held out her phone. On the screen was a picture of Zoey in that ridiculous Dayspring themed costume, charging the Impostor. “Is this you?”

Zoey’s heart stopped. They’d built a surprisingly good friendship considering their past. She always meant to bring it up, but there was never a good time. “Yes…”

Jessica’s face lit up. “That is so cool! So are you doing the full ‘secret identity’ thing?”

Zoey was a little surprised by her enthusiasm. “Um, I think that’s the plan…”

“So what exactly is your power?” She moved up to the edge of her seat.

“Well, we don’t really know…” Zoey looked off to the side and blushed. It was a little awkward getting questions like this, but it was still nice. “I can make some kind of salt.” She made a small piece in her hand to demonstrate. “I think it can take away other people’s powers. At least based on what it did to that guy… Listen, you can’t tell anyone though.”

“My lips are sealed.” Jessica nodded, miming zipping her lips. “You have to introduce me to the other supers you know. Do you have, like, a team?”

Zoey laughed. She felt relatively certain everyone would be fine with it. “Sure, I guess it’s kind of a team. There’s just a few of us right now. I’ll take you over soon.”

“You’re the best!” Jessica beamed.

It was funny how things could change in the course of a year. She’d thought that the year she got her powers would be the biggest year of her life, but this easily topped it.


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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

To be fully honest I’m typing this super quick in two minutes before I go to work today. Have a good one.

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