Tara’s Story: cut ties, in the end

To check out the full Family Ties story, check out the table of contents here!

“This all happened while I was out running? Just yesterday?” their mother paced toward the door, rubbing her temples. Tara gulped. “You took my car even though you can’t drive legally, then nearly got in a wreck, and made rivals with a group of boys? The trouble you put yourselves into! I just…I can’t–”

“Mom,” Quinn interrupted, wreathed in the odor of melted cheese and pizza dough. “I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“Clearly!”

“Nick did his telepathy stuff on me and made me go help them.”

Tara’s eyes bulged, and she nearly rose from the couch.

“What?” Tamy exclaimed. “Nick did not force you to come.”

“How would you know? You were being chased by a car until I saved you.”

“We had it under control,” Tara cut in, “and then you showed up and made us wreck our bikes.”

“Certainly not what it looked like to me,” Quinn huffed.

“Nick, I haven’t given permission to leave yet,” their mother interrupted. Tara’s gaze swiveled to the hallway, catching Nick halfway up the stairs. “Come back in here.” Nick turned and sat on the steps, glaring at them. Their mother just sighed. “Seems to me you all deserve punishment. You two for starting a fight where you didn’t belong, and you for taking my car. And Nick,” she pointed at the couch, “I still haven’t given permission to leave. This family meeting is still in session.”

“You’re all too loud!” Nick protested. “I don’t want to be here!” he darted up the stairs.

“What are you going to do about him?” Tara said before their mother could continue. “He still has powers, whether you like it or not. He’s got to learn how to deal with them.”

“This isn’t about Nick’s powers,” their mother said. “It’s about what you three did yesterday.”

“But Nick made me do it!” Quinn exclaimed.

Their mother’s eyes narrowed. “Nick can’t–I don’t think Nick can make you do anything. You still chose to take my car, Quinn.”

“But–”

“No buts. You’ll be in charge of doing the dishes for the next week.”

“But–”

“And you two,” their mother folded her arms, “can’t leave the house unless I know exactly where you’re going and when you’ll be back.”

Tara snorted. “Like you can enforce that.”

Tamy gasped softly, and their mother stared like she’d been slapped.

Tara stood. “Well, it’s true. And the same’s true for Nick, unless you actually do something about it,” knees trembling, she stormed from the room.

***

Tara yanked the window open, glaring at the neighbor kids splashing in the pool. They, clearly, weren’t grounded for the next week. She snorted. Lucky them. Shoving her sister’s suitcase aside, she plopped to the floor, nearly hitting her head on the windowsill. She glared at that too.

“Hi Tara,” Nick’s voice made her whip around and stare as he clambered out from under the desk.

“Nick? What are you doing in here? I mean…” she recalled him running up the stairs before their mother grounded her and Tamy.

His eyes slid away. “Alex’s room.”

Tara crawled away from the window to sit by him. “I forgot. I mean, I didn’t forget this was Alex’s room, but I forgot…”

“That makes it my room?” Nick asked.

Tara shrugged. “Yeah,” she muttered.

“Can I see what school is like?” he asked.

Tara blinked. “What do you mean?”

He reached up and tapped her forehead. “Can I see?”

Tara pulled away, grimacing. “You’re asking if you can look in my head?”

He nodded.

She hesitated. “Don’t you do that anyway?”

He shook his head. “Only what you really want.”

She glanced at the open window, biting her lip. “I can try,” she finally said. “Why do you want to see it?”

“When I go there,” he said.

“Oh.” She stared out at the neighbor kids, yelling from the pool. It really wasn’t fair, was it? “Okay,” she crossed her legs and shut her eyes, trying to picture her memories of the school. The dorm room, the pranks she and Tamy had pulled on Bella and Ryn–painting their ceiling, barring their door from the outside while they slept. Meditation class with Mrs. Luywai, the squeaky yoga mats and the scented candles. Mad Murder Mayhem, the prickling hairs at the back of her neck that someone might Murder her any moment; the adrenaline coursing through her. Eating all the chocolate and marshmallow cereal she wanted the first day of class, only to have gym first period and vomit after running just two laps. Pushing her body over obstacles above an illusory bonfire, wielding twin daggers humming with energy against Rielle’s broadsword, losing Capture the Flag against seniors in high school. She smiled softly.

A doorbell rang. Tara’s eyes snapped open. “You like it,” Nick said.

Tara rubbed her eyes, then stared at his face again. “Are you crying?” she asked. Their mother’s footsteps tapped through the house, and muted voices floated up to them. “And who’s our mother talking to? Is it those boys again?” She crawled to the door and pressed her ear to it.

“This may be hard to understand right now,” a clipped voice spoke. Tara strained to make out all their words. “But it really is for the best.”

“Who are you?” their mother’s voice floated up to Tara.

“We’ve met,” the clipped voice said. “Not that you would remember, of course. I’m here for Nick.”

Tara locked her eyes shut and slowly leaned away from the door.

“Do you think I’ll like it?” Nick asked. “When I go there?”

“I don’t know, Nick,” she whispered, flatly. “Don’t you think you deserve to stay here a little longer?”

He rustled from his seat and twisted the door handle. “Maybe Quinn and Mom don’t want me here.”

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