The time had come to say goodbye to her old life. Claudia fought the decision for as long as she could. Sadly, it was getting more difficult to hide her affliction. She called it that because she didn’t know what else to call it. It was something she never wanted and didn’t know how to control.
At 15, being different from everyone else wasn’t a good thing. Claudia hated it. It made her the one everyone wanted to pick on. She was bullied constantly because of her gothic look and quiet behavior.
It was during one of the bullying events that her affliction first registered. It caught her off guard and made her run away. She skipped school for the rest of the day and went to her secret hiding place. It was tucked underneath a road overpass. A person could hide there without easily being spotted.
Claudia pushed her spiky short black hair behind her ear and tried to listen to her music. It was the one thing she could count on to calm her down.
Thinking back on her childhood, Claudia knew her troubles started after the death of her parents. Since she had no relatives, she got shuttled around from foster home to foster home. She never stayed in one place very long.
Out of all the homes she stayed in, there was only one that she liked – the McDonnell’s. Unfortunately, it was during her stay with them that her affliction began. After the incident at school, Claudia became even more withdrawn and reserved. The McDonnell’s took that as a sign that they weren’t helping her. She didn’t bother telling them otherwise. Consequently, she was back in the system shortly thereafter.
As Claudia sat in her hiding place once again she toyed with the idea of using her affliction; developing it so that she could protect herself whenever necessary. It never occurred to her that she could use it to help other people. Sadly, the young girl didn’t think that way. No one had taught her how.
Finally giving into the music, Claudia let her troubles float away. She forgot about school, her miserable life and her affliction, at least for a short while.
“Hey,” a voice called from below the underpass. “What the hell you doing up there?”
Claudia opened her eyes to see a man dressed in orange calling out to her. Without stopping to think, she gathered her gear and ran down the hill, just outside the grasp of the worrisome man.
Once she started running, Claudia didn’t stop until she put a great deal of distance between her and him. Even then, she ducked through a few back yards and down a couple of alleys to avoid his detection. She wasn’t certain he was following her but she wasn’t willing to take the chance.
Tired of running, Claudia plopped down behind a grocery store to wait until it was time for school to be out. That’s when she finally headed home. She was met at the door by a worried foster father.
“The school called. You ditched again, didn’t you?” His eyes scanned her young face hoping to find something he could use to reach her. Alas, all he got from Claudia was a blank stare.
“You know you can talk to me,” he stated as he opened the door to let her inside. “I’ll try to be fair.”
“I’ll pack my things,” Claudia stated without any inflection in her voice.
“For what?” The man seemed genuinely puzzled.
“I assume to want to put me back in the system,” she stated. She was already closing in her room when he reached out to grab her arm.
“I most assuredly do not,” he stated firmly. “Claudia, you’ve only been here two days. We haven’t even gotten to know each other very well. I suspect there is something driving your behavior. I want to understand it.” He looked at the girl with compassion. She recognized the look. It was the same she’d experienced with the McDonnell’s; at least in the beginning.
“I’m damaged goods,” she pushed out, tears threatening to break out of her eyes.
“Damaged how? Claudia, you have to talk to me for me to help you. I promise I won’t judge.”
“Right and Santa Claus is real,” Claudia snapped back automatically.
“Come, sit with me. Let me tell you something I’ve never told another living soul except my wife.”
Curious, Claudia followed the man into the front room. She sat on the leather sofa while he took his favorite rocking chair.
“When I was young, I fell in with a rough crowd.” He whispered the words as if to keep them secret from God. “I did things I’m not proud of like drugs, alcohol and senseless fights. It was nothing major but it was enough to make me ashamed as I grew older.”
“What happened to make you change?” Claudia wanted the answer. She thought it might hold the key to her own.
“I discovered that I have a gift.” The man stared at Claudia intently. “I can read minds.”
Claudia started to smart off a second time when something stopped her. If she could do what she did, why was it impossible to believe her foster father could read minds?
“Do you still do that?” The question was mumbled as though Claudia feared the answer.
“Yes. That’s how I know that you need me Claudia. You need someone to love you not just when you are good, but when you are troubled as well.”
“And you think you can do that for me?” It was Claudia’s turn to look hopeful.
“I’d like to try,” he answered honestly. From the look in his eyes, Claudia knew he spoke the truth.
“Then there is something I need to tell you, if you haven’t already read it,” she answered.
“It’s okay, Claudia. I already know that you have a gift too. Do you know what it’s called?”
“No, tell me.”
“Telekinesis. You can move things using the power of your mind. That’s a rare gift, Claudia, and one you can use to help others.”
“Help others? How would I do that?” A look of excitement entered her green eyes.
“We will figure it out together if you want.” Moving out of his chair to the sofa, the man held out his hand to the girl. When she took it and finally stood, he embraced her.
“This is what love feels like,” she thought to herself. “I’m finally home.”