The House That Ivy Built - Book 5

Excerpt 3

(from The House That Ivy Built #5, © 2002-2017)

Excerpt 1
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[NOTE on this excerpt: Over the course of the last few books, Ivy has begun to use "wind art" as a release and a creative experience. She can make wind with her powers and really enjoys it on a nearly spiritual level. It makes her sad that no one really understands her art. This excerpt involves her roommate Zeke—who has in the past had a crush on her and still finds her captivating (though he's no longer actively chasing her at this point)—and how Ivy deals with the revelation that he's caught her making her wind art and recorded it.

You'll also see references to a few other roommates. Ivy lives with some people with unusual abilities and a few people from other dimensions. This makes more sense if you know some background from my webcomic, but it's not necessary to know to understand it.]


Book 5, Chapter 15, Begin excerpt

       I came to rest on the shoreline sand, pulling my shirt up to wipe off the mixture of saltwater and sweat that had gathered on my forehead. I heard a whistle from the beach and my brain came tumbling out of its haze. Someone was watching me.

       Squinting to make the best use of my eagle eyes, I spotted a figure in the distance, clearly waving at me. What the hell did Zeke want anyway? I marched up to him, the sand making my toes itch, determined not to kick his ass until he’d had time to explain himself.

       When I got close enough I identified the device in his hand as his video camera. This was intolerable. Not only had Zeke been watching me make wind when I hadn’t known it; he’d apparently caught me on film. My blood was boiling once I got in his personal space, but he was first to speak.

       “Nice finish, there,” Zeke said. “You ended the performance by flashing the camera. This might be worth something after all.”

       “What do you mean ‘flashing’?”

       “You lifted up your shirt when you wiped your face. Peep show.”

       I rolled my eyes. Sometimes I didn’t even wear a shirt at home, and he knew it. “Yeah, right. I’m worried you’ll spread that video all over the Internet on account of my mountains of cleavage. Now explain what you were doing, before I rip your camera into eight billion pieces.”

       Zeke sighed and clutched his precious recorder tighter, as if a death grip would do anything against my energy if I wanted that camera. “I came out and saw you, and I thought it was beautiful, so I wanted to capture the moment.”

       I softened for a second. Zeke had complimented my wind: Bonus points. But he’d still made me feel icky by watching, especially through a lens. “You should have asked me.”

       “If I had, it would have spoiled the moment.”

       “I mean before you even watch me. I was kind of really into that one.”

       “I could tell from your face, hon.”

       “Hah. You couldn’t see my face from that far away.”

       “The camera’s zoom lens can.”

       I pried up Zeke’s fingers and flipped the camera into my hand. Looking through the eyepiece at Zeke, I could see it was definitely set with some kind of magnification. At this range I could see his individual pores and the little dots that would become mustache hairs if Zeke didn’t shave. This thing had details.

       “Why the hell did you record me?” I asked, feeling violated.

       “I didn’t figure it’d be such a big deal, God. I’ve watched you do wind before, I like watching when you fly, it’s really neat okay?”

       “Well yeah you’ve seen it before, but you made fun of it.”

       “Oh yeah? How do you mean?”

       “You made jokes about it like you thought I was doing something dirty. You told me to stop ‘playing with myself.’ It’s not funny.” I started looking for a way to eject the recording so I could bust it.

       “I didn’t say it was funny. Boy, you sure are acting offended. You sure this wind thing isn’t a religion or something?”

       I looked him in the eyes. “No, but it is sacred, okay?”

       “Okay, okay, I get it. Now what the hell are you doing?”

       “I’m looking for the eject button so I can destroy your little movie.”

       “Oh, jeez, don’t do that. Besides, don’t you want to see it first?”

       That made me stop, wrestling with curiosity. What did it look like from the outside? How did I look doing it? All I knew about wind was how it felt, in my head and my heart, but as my anger drained away, I wondered how wind compared as a visual art. I dropped my eyes and held the camera out to Zeke.

       “Fine. Yeah, I want to see it.”

       “Good. Come with me.”

       I followed Zeke into the house. It was still pretty early, though some people had already had breakfast. It was a little dark in Zeke’s room despite the open window.

       He hooked his screen and gizmos up to the generator, and soon another light source illuminated the room. Zeke put his recording into the machine and messed with the buttons.

       I wasn’t the only thing he’d been taping. First was an experiment of Zeke’s, where he used a goofy announcer voice when he recorded evidence pointing toward his hypothesis. Zeke skipped over that and landed on a scene of Roger and Cecily practicing wedding vows. I laughed when she yelled at him for skipping to the kissing too soon.

       Zeke had been busy. He videotaped a time-clocked chess match he’d had in his treehouse with his friend Sharon. When he lost, he did a weird little backwards somersault like he’d been knocked over with the force of Sharon’s victory. Her mousy laugh was barely audible over Zeke’s cursing when he rolled into the treehouse wall and hurt himself. I couldn’t help giggling along. Zeke had personality, even when I wasn’t there to see it.

       The next clip creeped me out. He’d videotaped me sleeping for a few minutes. I was just tuckered out on the living room floor. I wondered when that had been. I didn’t remember it.

       “This is neat right here,” Zeke said. “Watch what happens when I try to get your hair out of your face.”

       An olive-skinned hand reached toward the sleeping video Ivy, and attempted to push away some of the tangled gold tresses. As soon as he touched me I jerked in my sleep, rubbed my nose with my hand, and then all my hair gathered into a loose ponytail, dropping behind me like it was alive. I kept sleeping in the picture, and Zeke’s voice said, “Well, wouldja lookit that.”

       I grinned in surprise. “I didn’t know I could use my energy while I slept.”

       “Sure you do. Same as you used your hand when your nose itched.”

       “I guess. I just thought I only use it for tossing stuff around without really meaning to, I thought I only control it when I’m awake.”

       “Guess you can surprise yourself.”

       “That’s sick, you filmed me when I was sleeping too. Can you say invasion of privacy?”

       “You were on the living room floor, Ivy, not in the bathroom. Get over yourself.”

       I was about to yell back when the video diverted my attention. Now Bailey was on the screen. And then she wasn’t. I laughed as she came back into the picture again with her hands on her hips.

       “I thought she wouldn’t let you tape her teleporting.”

       “I got her on a good day.”

       “I bet you bribed her. You helped her with her math.”

       “How’d you guess that?”

       I shrugged. “I knew you helped her sometimes. It was only a matter of time before you got smart and asked her for something back, and everyone knows you wanted to get her on tape.”

       He grinned back at me. “Watch what I found out.” He paused it on Bailey’s image. “See, when she goes somewhere else, it doesn’t really pick it up real well. This frame she looks a little fuzzy and then in the next one she’s totally gone. But check this out.” Zeke advanced the frames. “I told her to jump to a spot two feet to the right, and watch what happens.” He single-framed until, weirdly enough, in one frame there were two of her.

       “Um, what the hell is that?” I asked, pointing at the twin Baileys.

       “She told me a while ago that she doesn’t totally disappear at once, she kinda phases in and out. This is her doing it as slow as she can. For two frames you can see two of her.” He pushed the button a couple more times and now she was only the second image. “So it’s true. That’s why it doesn’t make a cracking noise. She’s quite a bit slower than light, anyway, as you can see.”

       “Um, that was neat, Zeke, but I don’t get the science.”

       “No one expects you to.” The scene changed to the girls eating breakfast.

       “Why did you tape that?”

       He just stared at the screen. “Not sure. I just tape stuff, you know that.”

       More meaningless “stuff” appeared on the screen: Nina reading the funnies, Keenan trying to brush his hair, Miki talking about some crap while Zoe nodded her head. Now a film of Thursday sleeping.

       “What is it with you taping sleeping people, perv?”

       “I dunno. People are cute when they sleep. ’Specially him.”

       Yeah, Thursday was cute as far as tiny fairy-like boys went.

       “I’m so taping you during a nap to see how cute you are.”

       “I’m very uncute, I wouldn’t bother. I scratch my crotch and fart a lot.”

       “How would you know?”

       “Okay, deterrent didn’t work. Film my naps all you like.”

       I smiled smugly until the screen was filled with a detailed picture of the top of my head.

       The view pulled back and I could tell Zeke was filming me from the upstairs window. I was walking down the beach to the ocean. Looking at the way I walked made me cringe. I wondered if it had anything to do with the difficulty of walking on sand, but I didn’t move like a normal person should. I didn’t really move my arms. I’d never noticed.

       “Do I always look like a dork when I walk, Zeke?”

       “Is that dorky walking?” he asked through a grin.

       “Yeah, it’s pretty dorky.”

       “I think it’s cute. You look like gravity isn’t applying itself to you all the way.”

       “Uh, it usually isn’t.”

       My image made its way to the ocean, climbing into the air shortly before reaching the water. My flying looked pretty surreal, some hokey effect on a bad TV show. My arms folded behind my back, my feet with their ankles crossed, one of my most comfortable positions. The video blanked and came back once Zeke had made it out of the house to film me from the front steps.

       I watched the image of myself, entranced. Most of the beginning was shot with the distance view, and I could see my skinny body parked in the sky, with my hair beginning to blow in the self-made gusts around me. I was testing out the air and my energy level, and watching the process reminded me immediately of how that felt, the way the concentration built up inside me until I released it as art and light and life. I stirred uncomfortably in my seat as Zeke’s video started making use of the zoom lens.

       When the camera magnified, it focused on my feet first, showing serious detail on my eight dirty toes. The view traveled quickly up my body and focused on my upper half. My hair floated above me in very unnaturally slow wind curls like I was underwater, and my eyes were shut tight, my hands curled into fists and held out at forty-five degree angles from my body. I knew that posture. It meant I was pulling for water from below. It sometimes took a while to get the sea riding my energy so it felt just right. I could see the tension in my neck and the way my jaw was set.

       “It’s really weird watching this,” I commented.

       “It gets weirder,” Zeke said.

       “What do you mean?”

       “You should know, you just finished doing it.”

       I didn’t remember. What did I do in the air during my winds?

       I kept watching. The ocean started to respond to me, and I could see the unabashed happiness glowing out of my face. My arms dropped and wrapped around my shoulders like I was trying to hug myself. Now the angle showed me in profile, with my head tossed back and my eyes still shut. The water started to be thick enough that it resembled a fog around me. It was especially weird watching that, because the camera hadn’t recorded the fantastic, roaring splash I’d heard at the time. Apparently the zoom was purely visual.

       When the wind spread out more under my control, the camera picked me up better. My arms were down again, my fingers tangling around each other, my clothes rippling and wet and my hair a blonde blur.

       “Here’s the weird part,” Zeke narrated.

       “Oh,” I murmured as the image of me began to move its arms. When the wind wound the water in a tight spiral, my arms went up, and then when they relaxed, the water spread out. I looked like I was conducting some bizarre symphony. My fingers were wiggling to an inaudible rhythm.

       “I didn’t know I do that,” I said.

       “Do what?”

       “That thing, with my arms. I didn’t know I move around so much.”

       “Yeah. Your fingers are wiggling like you think you’re doing magic.”

       “Well, I am doing magic, except it’s the real thing,” I said. “I think I do that because when I get on another level like that my fingers tingle, it’s just totally electric.”

       “And why do you think you’re flapping your arms like that?”

       “Trying to stay up, I guess?” I laughed. “No, really, I think when I direct the water like that I put every thought into movement, so my arms are trying to help or something. I never noticed it, though.”

       Now the image of me was breathing hard, and obviously having a great time in spite of the exertion because there were a few voiceless laughs. I remembered the laughter. It always came when that freedom took me away. Now the TV me opened her tilty green eyes and looked up at the heavens, smiling in a serene way I hadn’t known my face could attain. In the middle of raging wind and water, I obviously found a stunning peace. My eyes slipped closed again, and with my moisture-slicked bangs pushed back from my forehead, I could see how my eyebrows were raised as if in hope, an expression of intense care and emotion. Tears came to my eyes as I watched, partly because I knew that feeling so well, and partly because I felt so exposed having shown that side of me to Zeke. I felt some kind of shame poking at me, something weird connected to the fact that I was able to enjoy such an experience when other people didn’t even know what it was like to have telekinetic energy. They could see from watching this video that I got great pleasure out of using my power that way, but they couldn’t feel it themselves, so it just made me look like a total freak.

       The recorded image of me dropped its hold on the water and let the wind peter out, slowly spinning in the air as if unwinding was a physical process. I felt my face getting hot, really hot, as I watched how I’d looked as I calmed down, very spent but happy drifting down to the beach. I reached the sand and mopped my face with my shirt, exposing barely-visible baby nipples and an innie belly-button. That must have been when Zeke needed his hands to whistle properly, because the camera went dead at that point.

       As Zeke turned the machine off, I started crying, I didn’t know why really, but the tears just came. He looked at me in surprise.

       “Uh, what is it?”

       I just sniffled, speechless for the moment.

       “You’re okay, right?” he said, coming closer and dropping an arm around my shoulders. Anger shot through me like a magma flare, taking its own initiative and slamming Zeke up against his bedroom door. I caught my breath as I felt the heat of my temper, belatedly.

       “Don’t touch me,” I said shakily, and looked away from him, pulling my knees up to my chest.

       “Ohh, boy,” said Zeke, giving up his tenseness to my grip. “Guess I really shouldn’t have done that, I touched a nerve.”

       “Shut up,” I said, still not looking at him. He didn’t say anything else, and I tried to calm down, staring at my reflection on the shiny screen we’d been watching. Just a moment ago I’d been on there in color. I watched the gray outline of myself shudder. I could see the indistinct points of my ears sticking up out of my tangled hair. I turned away and set my chin on my knees, thinking.

       Why was I so upset, anyway? It had been enlightening to watch that record of my experience from a point of view outside my head. But I still felt violated, almost like Joyce at the mercy of Jimmy, my privacy stripped away instead of my clothes. Zeke shouldn’t have done it. He didn’t know what it meant to me, so what right did he have to capture it for himself in any medium?

       Understanding snapped in my head, and I relaxed. He didn’t understand, and that was exactly why he’d done it. He was a curious scientist, and he was one of my admirers, so it stood to reason that he’d want to capture something rare and beautiful on film. He didn’t get what it meant to me, even though he’d known it meant a lot. Nothing had been taken away from me. I still had my secret beauty, because that couldn’t be seen, not with a video camera or anything but my soul’s own eyes. It bothered me that my expressions of pure innocent wonder had become his to gawk at, but they only hinted at the true meaning of what I’d done. He’d only know about that after he took mind-reading lessons from Skyler for a couple hundred years.

       I touched the eject button on his player and removed the recording, turning it over in the air. Zeke asserted his backbone.

       “Don’t ruin it, okay? I really want a record of those other two experiments, I promise I’ll just record over you if you want. . . . ”

       He trailed off when I started looking at him. I laughed at how scared he looked and released him, floating the movie into his hand.

       “You think you could just make me a copy?”

       His eyes reclaimed their gleam, and he nodded.

       “You want I should cook you breakfast? You must’ve worked up an appetite.”

       “Yeah, breakfast would be awesome.”

       “Muffins, toast, and hash browns. Lots of carbohydrates to bring your weight up.” Zeke slipped the recording into a protective sleeve and set it on his dresser. “Don’t know why we bother to feed you, you just throw all the energy into the air, no wonder you don’t keep any of it.”

       I followed him into the kitchen, thinking.

       “You been eating heavy foods, still?” he asked.

       “Yes. A lot. Trying to eat more too.”

       “It isn’t helping,” he said with finality, glancing at my exposed legs in their short shorts. “Still just skin and bones.”

       “And a little bit of hair,” I added, beginning to untangle mine.

       “Your hair’s probably ten percent of your body weight,” he laughed.

       “I wouldn’t doubt it. It’s really heavy when it’s wet.”

       He got out a muffin tin and glanced up and down my body again. “Weren’t you cold out there?”

       “No.”

       “But you were wet, and those aren’t warm clothes, and you’ve got no fat on your body to insulate you.”

       “I’ve never minded the cold. Especially not in the wind. I actually get hot.”

       “Yeah. It’s obviously a workout, from what I could tell.” He paused thoughtfully, unwrapping ready-to-bake muffin dough clumps to put in the oven. “I bet you really do expend a lot of energy doing it. Real physical energy.” He looked at me. “You might not be skinny because of a high metabolism after all. I’ll bet it’s a lot of stress on your body to make that energy of yours.”

       “Uh, you’ve suggested that before,” I reminded him. “You said you thought my energy had something to do with it.”

       “Well, it really might. As an experiment, you ought to try eating heavy foods and not burning it up.”

       “Meaning, not use my energy at all?”

       “Exactly that.”

       “That’s stupid.” I levitated myself to the top of the fridge, my usual breakfast spot.

       “There, you probably just lost ten calories.”

       I took a spatula and smacked him on the head with it. “Oops, ten more.”

       He rubbed his head and jerked the utensil out of the air. “That was hard enough to be at least twenty.”

       I laughed and grabbed a wire whisk, and floated it at him like I wanted to sword-fight. He set the spatula down and waved me away. “I don’t think so, Ivy. That’s worth three muffins.”

       I bopped him anyway before putting the thing back.

       “I don’t know why I bother to try to help,” he whined, pulling his battery-powered toaster out of the cabinet. “I mean, I made the suggestion, but I knew you wouldn’t take it. Or rather, that you couldn’t.”

       “Couldn’t?” I repeated, narrowing my eyes.

       “You could not go one day without your energy, much less a week or enough time to really see if it affects your ability to gain weight.”

       I laughed. “You’re pathetic.”

       “Look who’s talking!” he replied, but he looked confused.

       “I mean, that was way lame. You can’t trick me into swearing off using my powers.”

       “Uh, it has nothing to do with me gaining anything if that’s what you were thinking.”

       “Oh, no! You just try to bait me by challenging my ego. Well, I can’t afford an experiment like that.”

       “Like I said, impossible for you. You’re addicted to your energy, I’ve said it before. I’d love to see you prove me wrong, but I know you never would try because you already know you couldn’t.”

       I lifted my chin. “Sorry, Zeke, no dice. I’m supposed to be helping people now. All those victims can’t be left suffering just because I felt like holding off for a while just to see if I could gain a few pounds.”

       “But I’m sure they can hang on while you have breakfast,” he said, lighting the fire and grinning.

       “Even a superhero has to eat,” I grunted, looking away. “I have to keep making this energy somehow, and staying alive helps.”

       “I guess they can all hang on while you discuss the finer points of literature with Dad this morning, too.”

       “Hey Zeke?”

       “What?”

       I smacked him with the bag of frozen hash browns. “Shut up, or you’ll make me lose thirty more calories.”

       Zeke obeyed me and put the muffins in the oven.


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