The worst day of Morgan Fewster’s life was the day her parents left her behind at the zoo when she was four, because they came to pick her up again and wouldn’t let her stay with the lions. The second worst day was when her best friend moved away in Year 5. Which made today only the third worst day, though with the bright sunshine stabbing her retinas like silver blades and her mouth tasting like dead mice, Morgan thought at first that it might give the others a run for their money.
“Urgh,” she said, and flopped off the bed onto the floor. It wasn’t that continued sleep on the floor was impossible; it was just less comfortable, especially as she’d landed with her elbow under her hip, and that combined with the alarm blaring on the far side of the room made it ever-so-slightly more likely that she’d actually a) get up and b) be on time.
The sweet, sweet smell of coffee percolated its way into Morgan’s brain, and her nostrils twitched. Mmm. Coffee.
“Morgan Fewster,” Breanna called from the kitchen. “If you don’t shut that alarm off in the next ten seconds, I swear by everything good and holy, you won’t get a drop of your precious wake-up juice this morning.”
Morgan, conflicted by opposing messages in her brain, performed a stagger-flop with astounding grace and hit her nose on the bed leg as she simultaneously tried to get up and stay lying down. “Ow.”
Clutching the throbbing nose that now matched her seared eyeballs and pounding head, Morgan disentangled herself from the sheets and stumbled across the room, flipping her phone over to silence it. She sagged against the dresser in relief, having successfully passed yet another Herculean round of Morning: Getting Up. “Coffee,” she muttered, dragging her hands over her face and through her hair. Her appearance was probably something close to the living dead right now, but as her thirst for caffeine was probably something close to a zombie’s thirst for brains, that was probably okay. Probably. She shook her head and shambled out towards the kitchen, following the smell.
Breanna, blonde hair gleaming gold in the sunshine that streamed in through the wide kitchen windows, was the picture of domestic goddessery: blue-and-white apron neatly tied around her neatly-belted waist, hair neatly twisted into a neatly-perfect bun, neatly-manicured hands pouring a neat stream of –
“Gimme gimme gimme.” Morgan made grabby motions at the mug and Breanna handed it over, lips pressed to hide amusement.
“Morning, Sunshine,” she said.
Morgan slurped the coffee down in one long mouthful, eyes streaming as it scalded her throat. Coffee, my one true love, I’ve missed you. She finished with a contented sigh and plonked the mug back on the bench. “Hi.”
Wordlessly, Breanna handed over an envelope before turning back to the sizzling frypan.
“For me?” Morgan murmured as she tore it open. “You shouldn’t have.”
“I didn’t,” Breanna replied cryptically, stirring the eggs.
Morgan wrinkled her brow as she pulled a playing card and a folded piece of paper out of the shredded envelope, then remembered what her mother had always said about frowning. Quickly, she smoothed her fingers over her forehead.
Breanna returned to slop scrambled eggs onto a pair of plates already bearing thick, rustic-style toast slathered in butter. “So,” she said, scraping out the pan, “what is it?”
Morgan flourished the contents at her. “A card that I believe is supposed to tell me I’m about to die,” she wriggled the playing card whose front bore a picture of a black-robed skeleton on a white horse, “and a Wikipedia article on bull worship.”
Breanna made a noncommittal sound as she rummaged in the drawer for cutlery, a noise somewhere between an entire orchestra tuning and a thousand plates all shattering.
“Dear heavenly elephants,” Morgan swore, squeezing her hands over her ears. “Must you?”
Breanna arched an eyebrow in her direction. “It’s Thursday. You should have been home sleeping soundly last night.”
“I was!” Morgan protested, throwing her arms wide in a gesture of intended innocence. “I slept like a baby!”
“Yes,” Breanna agreed wryly, shoving a plate across to Morgan. “Exactly like a baby: from about one a.m. until seven, with numerous awakenings in between.”
Morgan took her plate and marched to the table, nose held high. “It’s all right,” she said loftily. “I couldn’t expect you ordinary people to understand.” She flopped onto a chair and snatched at the salt shaker. “So, is it a hint?”
“Is what a hint?” said Breanna, setting the second plate of eggs down on a placemat and bracketing it with cutlery.
“Vuh car,” Morgan said around a mouthful, waving her knife at the remains of the envelope on the bench.
Breanna glanced cursorily at it on her way back to the kitchen, summoned by the popping of the toaster. “I have no idea.”
“Wew ven…” Morgan swallowed. “Who’s it’s from?”
“I went to a psychic.”
“Ooo ven—“ Morgan cut off as she breathed in egg and spluttered. After hacking and coughing for a moment in which she made a whole mental noteboard covered in metaphorical memos-to-self about not talking with a mouthful of eggs, she cleared her throat and tried again. “You went to a psychic? Also, I nearly died here, and you are heartlessly eating muffins! What is up with that, I ask you?”
“Don’t be melodramatic, you’re not dying. If falling from a third-storey window or ingesting an entire bottle of drain cleaner can’t kill you, I seriously doubt some scrambled eggs down the wrong tube will. Also,” she said, setting a glass of juice down on the table by the other plate, “you never said I shouldn’t go to a psychic. Doctors, yes; psychiatrists, yes.” She counted them off on her fingers. “Psychologists, teachers, parents. You never said anything about psychics.”
Morgan scowled. “Psychics are a bunch of…” She waved her fork vaguely.
“People who might be able to finally figure out what you are?” Breanna suggested.
“Ha ha. I don’t need figuring out,” Morgan said and shovelled another forkful of eggs into her mouth. “Mm perfec uz uh mm.”
“Just… Go see the psych, okay? She was interested in you. She might be able to help.” Breanna folded her arms over her chest and pinned Morgan with a challenging glare. “I want you to know why you can do…” She fluttered a hand in irritation. “That stuff. You need to know.”
For a moment, Morgan considered doing exactly ‘that stuff’; if she fluttered her eyelashes winningly, parted her lips just so, and widened her eyes like Bambi incarnate, all but the rocks would be unable to breathe and would beg to do her bidding. Instead, she sighed and pressed her face into her fork.
“Fine,” she said. “For you, I will suffer this fate worse than death. But if she wants to out me to the media and the paparazzi find out where we live and they lay siege to the house day and night, and our doors are broken down by people who have seen my smile and are unable to resist, and I’m carted away to some scientific laboratory so they can dissect me for testing, I’m holding you responsible.” She gave Breanna a sidelong glance, checking for remorse.
“Fine,” said Breanna, remorseless.
What am I doing wrong? Morgan heaved another deep sigh. Some days, you just can’t win. She fluttered her eyelashes at her reflection in her fork, just to make sure she still could. Her heart trilled at the sight and this time her sigh was of contentment. “Hi there, pretty girl.”
“Morgan, stop making out with your reflection and finish your breakfast. The address for the psychic is on the back of the envelope. She’s expecting you at nine.”
“At nine?” Morgan turned her innocence up full blast. “But Breanna, darling, I have school! I can’t possibly be there at nine! What a ridiculous time to make an appointment for me. And how did you know I’d go anyway?”
“One,” Breanna started, again with the counting on the fingers, “you cut school every other week for inane whatever-it-is you do, and two, I didn’t make the appointment, she did.”
“But how did—“
“Oh.” Morgan sat back in her chair, temporarily flummoxed. “But I can’t see a psychic today, I have—David! Good morning!” she finished brightly as the third occupant of the house emerged from the hallway. Mention of anything relating to Morgan’s ‘special qualities’ always sent David into a dither and so were unofficially banned when he was around.
He peered at her suspiciously through eyes that looked weak and pale without their usual magnifying lenses. “What have you done?”
“Me?” Morgan beamed at him like a human sun. “Absolutely nothing!”
“Mm,” he disagreed, sliding in his chair. “Thanks for the eggs, hun.” This last was directed at Breanna, who stooped from her muffin-munching to nuzzle against his neck.
“Children, please,” Morgan said with longsuffering. “You have a room for that sort of sickening display.”
Breanna rolled her eyes and picked up her handbag from the chair at the head of the table. “Behave.”
“Angelically,” Morgan replied, posing with her very best saint-like expression.
Breanna rolled her eyes again and departed.
“So, really: what have you done?” David eyed her contemplatively over a mouthful of toast.
He chewed like a cow and had the same approximate intelligence, but, Morgan reflected, he could be stupidly persistent when he wanted to be. And besides. That was probably unfair to cows. “It isn’t what I’ve done,” she said, flashing him a gleaming smile. “It’s what I’m planning to do.”
He froze, fork halfway to his mouth. His eyes darted towards the front of the house where Breanna was pulling away in her dinky little hatchback. Seeing the all-clear, he reached his foot out under the table and rubbed against Morgan’s ankle. “You mean…”
Disgust filled Morgan’s stomach and she pushed her unfinished breakfast away. “No!” She really had to try harder to remember not to be charming when David was around. “You creep. Breanna, remember her? You’re practically married to her!” She stood up from the table and headed towards the bathroom.
“That didn’t seem to bother you with Simon,” David called after her, cutlery dinking against his plate.
Morgan fought the impulse to freeze. Bastard. How did he know about Simon? Besides, that was another mistake, a momentary lapse where she’d forgotten to keep her charm under control. It wasn’t like she’d meant to steal Jessie’s boyfriend.
Bastard. Whatever. She didn’t have to reply to him. Instead, she slammed the door to the bathroom and hurried to the mirror. The reflection confronting her had a serious case of bedhead and panda-eyes, but she turned a sultry smirk on it anyway, and it smirked back. “Hey there, sexy. Let’s get you looking decent.”
Her reflection willingly complied, and for the next careful hour, as she painted and brushed and sculpted and flossed, nothing was wrong with the world.
David bashing on the door broke that illusion. “Hour’s up,” he yelled. “Time to go.”
The mere thought of sharing a car with him this morning sent shudders through her, nearly making her smudge the last coat of eyeliner she was applying. “No thanks!” she called back. “I’m catching the bus this morning!” And apparently she was seeing the psychic after all, because the alternatives were car-pooling with David, or catching the school bus with Simon and Jessie, and right now, despite the imminent threat of scientific mutilation, the psychic seemed like the lesser of three evils.
David moaned at the door, something about how she could have told him earlier, and then he could have been early for work, or something equally trivial, and then he was gone in a jangle of keys and muttering and finally, the motorbike engine roaring to life in the garage.
Morgan sighed and unlocked the bathroom. She’d been keen to make an entrance this morning, too—that new fellow, Jason, he wasn’t half cute, and the bike did wonders for her reputation. Still, she’d gotten careless with David earlier, and that meant she’d have to try to avoid him as much as possible for the next twenty-four hours, since he seemed more susceptible to her charm than most. Stupid, given how besotted he was supposed to be with Breanna. Wasn’t true love supposed to protect against lust, or something like that?
Sighing at the complexity of life, Morgan snatched up her Louis Vuitton bag, gathered up the shredded envelope from the bench, and emerged into the sunshine to do one of the three things she’d promised herself she would never, under any circumstance, do: see a psychic.