Family Ties: the puzzle pieces align

“Alex was talking to you, wasn’t she?” Nick accused.

Tamy slid into the seat, squinting at the bright reflection from the aluminum bench.

“Alex?” their mother asked across the table. “She’s out of town.”

Tara, sitting beside Tamy, set her bunny prize beside the steaming box of pizza. “We are staying in her bedroom,” she added.

Tamy stared at the puddling cheese pizza, ignoring their mother’s confused glances. “I’m going to get some drinks,” she announced, standing up. “Nick, do you want to help me pick?”

He nodded, face impassive, clambering after her. Tara gave her a thumbs up under the table, and reached for a goopy heap of pizza.

Tamy led Nick away from the table, heart skipping when she realized she’d given all her money to Tara. “Nick, do you have any money?” she asked.

He nodded, opening his palm. Tamy blinked at the five dollar bill crumpled there. “How long have you been holding onto that?” she asked, weaving through the lines of people towards a soda stand.

“Alex was talking to you,” Nick repeated, closing his fist.

“Alex is out of town,” Tamy said. “I’ve never met her.”

Nick glared, and Tamy swallowed. Why did it have to be so busy here? “Okay,” she stopped walking. “How do you know? You’ve never even seen us with her.”

“You’re right,” Alex’s voice made Tamy jump. She glanced behind her, then back at Nick, who was staring up at her with deep green eyes.

“Maybe we should wait on the drinks?” Tamy suggested, steering them towards the bathrooms. Specifically, the much less crowded sidewalks near the bathrooms. She sat on a bench, motioning for Nick to sit too, but he just stood in front of her. She frowned. “Nick, how do you know we’ve been talking to Alex?”

He shrugged and stared at his shoes.

Tamy gritted her teeth in annoyance. “Were you spying on us?”

Nick shrugged again.

“Did you see Alex talking to us by the carnival games?”

Nick shook his head.

“You didn’t?” Tamy clenched the edge of the bench between her fists. “Then how did you know?”

“I know,” he said.

Tamy shut her eyes for a long moment and exhaled slowly, trying to calm herself. “Okay, Ni–” she froze at the sight of Alex standing just behind him.

“He’s jealous,” Alex said, arms folding. Tamy blinked.

“Nick, di–did you hear that?” She finally tore her gaze away from Alex, blinking at her younger brother.

“Hear what?” he asked, scuffing the ground as Alex flickered in and out.

Tamy stared at Nick’s face. “Right behind you,” she pointed.

Nick shrugged. “No.”

Tamy blinked, pressing her hands to the bench as if the world were tilting. “Nick…I’ll…I’ll be right back,” she said breathlessly, leaping to her feet and sprinting away.

***

“Tara,” Tamy breathed heavily, “we need to talk.”

Tara stared at her quizzically, cheese strung from her mouth to a half-eaten pizza slice.

“Is everything okay?” their mother asked, pushing sunglasses up her forehead. “Where’s Nick?”

“He…he had to go to the bathroom,” Tamy said quickly, grabbing Tara’s arm.

“What?” their mother immediately began rising to her feet. “Is he sick?”

“No, no,” Tamy shook her head, “Nick’s fine. I just…need to ask Tara about drinks,” she tried speaking with her eyes that Tara really needed to see this. And then yanked on her arm when she didn’t seem like moving.

“Ow!” Tara yelped, pizza falling from her fingers. Tamy quickly dragged her away from the table. “Tamy, can’t this wait? I don’t care what drinks we get.”

Tamy pulled her sister into the middle of the sidewalk and stared her in the eyes. “Tara, Nick definitely has powers. I…I can’t…Alex isn’t real, Tara.”

Tara raised a single eyebrow. “Are you sure she didn’t just go intangible?”

Tamy nodded. “I’m positive. I think Nick’s making an illusion or something.”

Tara glanced around, presumably hunting for Nick. “But we just talked to her maybe an hour ago. Did that conversation seem off to you?”

Tamy pointed toward the bench where she’d left Nick. Fortunately he was still nearby, albeit in the flowerbed inspecting the bushes. Luckily no one seemed to be around to stare at him. “No, but he made Alex appear at a very convenient time. She was standing right behind him. I…I can’t explain it. Just, hurry up.”

Tara frowned, so Tamy grabbed her and tugged her over to the bench. “Hey,” Tara said as she carefully sat down. Nick ignored her, walking further into the bushes.

“Nick, I don’t think you should be in there,” Tamy told him, meeting Tara’s questioning gaze. She sighed when Nick didn’t reply. “I’m telling you, Tara,” she sat next to her twin. “It was like Nick made her talk. Like he was making her appear.” She peered over at Nick to see if he cared.

“I don’t think you’re lying,” Tara whispered, turning away from the bushes. “I just don’t understand how we had conversations with Alex.”

“It’s not that hard.”

Tamy jumped from the bench. Alex was sitting on the arm rail, feet swinging idly. Tamy swung towards Nick–briefly catching Tara gaping–still crouched in the bushes. “Nick,” she hissed. “Stop.”

Tara leaped from the bench and grabbed Nick, shaking him by the shoulders. Alex wavered, stuttering incomprehensibly, then flickered out. “Ha!” Tara exclaimed, letting go of Nick. She grinned at Tamy, but then her eyes went round. She collapsed to the ground, clutching her skull.

Tamy gasped and sprinted at Nick, sweeping him off the ground. “Stop it!” she exclaimed. “Whatever you’re doing, stop it!”

Nick’s eyes opened–she hadn’t even realized they weren’t–and Tara stopped writhing. “Oh–” Tamy dropped him and stumbled back, collapsing into a bush and nearly drowning in showering leaves. “You’re a telepath,” she mouthed. She coughed, trying to get her throat to function. “You’re a–a–”

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