Tribes and Secrets

Lori stood in the middle of the desert. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and pulled her blond hair back into a pony tail. Her heart was racing and she wrung her hands. Mae leaned against the faded red truck and guzzled cool water from her canteen, letting it drip onto her chin. She wiped her mouth and smiled a half smile, but Lori couldn’t bring herself to calm down. She always felt at peace when she was around Mae, but now she wished she could hide under a desert rock and never come out.

The sun was scorching and the air was dry. The dirt could be heard grinding under Lori’s boots as she paced back and forth. She fiddled with the canteen that was strapped onto the belt of her denim shorts and smoothed out her tank top. She put on some lip balm and picked at her nails, anything to postpone doing the thing she came here to do. Mae cleared her throat and asked her what she waiting for.

“What did you wanna show me? We’re only a few miles from town,” she said. Her shoulder-length brown hair hung down, loose strands blowing into her face. Her skin was tan and her brown eyes sparked with curiosity, but were also steady with trust. One sandaled foot was crossed over the other as she leaned against the truck without a care in the world. Lori took a breath and wondered if it were obvious that her hands were shaking.

“Do you trust me?” she asked. Mae nodded.

“Mhmm,” she said, and took another sip of water. She crossed her arms and looked amused the way she always did when Lori was stressing out over nothing. But this time, it wasn’t for nothing. For better or worse, this was going to change everything. It was the worse part that Lori was afraid of. She decided to stop procrastinating and walked away from the faded trail and toward the sand dunes. There was the occasional shrub that poked out of the ground, but for the most part, this area was all sand. She picked up a fistful of the hot, smooth sand and let it slip through her fingers. The familiar feel of it comforted her. This was her place, and for a moment, she almost forgot that she had something to lose.

She thought of facing Mae, of explaining why she brought her out here. Of telling her that this wouldn’t change anything, and that she’s still the same person she’s always been. Instead, she stood up straight and closed her eyes. The sun was hot on her skin and she focused on the quiet rhythm of her breath. The ground was soft beneath her feet and she channeled her connection to it, her connection to the earth. Her hands moved back and forth in slow movements, as if she were conducting an orchestra, until the sand around her began to move, too. She opened her eyes and let the sand twirl until two rows of it were spiraling toward the sky. She paused, letting the sand hover for a moment, and then she lowered her hands, one over the other, until the sand lay flat on the ground again.

Every time she used her powers, she felt a connection to her ancestors. This was who she was, this was where she belonged. But that good feeling was interrupted by the fear of what Mae would think now that she knew her secret. She turned around, inch by inch, until she was facing her again. Mae looked at her, but said nothing, and it was hard to read her expression from this small distance. Her hands were at her sides and she didn’t move. Lori walked over to her until she was just a few feet away. She met her eyes, but her expression was blank.

“Mae?” Lori asked. She wanted to reach out and stroke the loose strands of hair from her face. Instead, she waited to see what she would say. She was afraid that she wouldn’t say anything at all when Mae cleared her throat and furrowed her brow.

“I had a hallucination,” she said. Lori shook her head and when she spoke, her voice shook.

“No. It was real. What you just saw, what I just did, it really happened.” The words hung in the air for a moment. This time, Mae shook her head.

“But you’re not a—“

“—a telekinetic. I am.” She toyed with the silver and ruby ring on her index finger that Mae had given her a few weeks ago. “I know I should have told you sooner it’s just I only just found out about it myself. I’ve been seeing a teacher, a master actually. Master Jong. He’s been teaching me about my tribe and my history. I know it’s a lot to take in, but I—“

“No.” Mae looked at her with her wide eyes and a single tear streamed down her face. “N-no. You c-can’t. You can’t be one of them!” she spat.

“Let me explain. I’m still the same person. Please, just hear me out.” She took a step forward and Mae jerked away.

“Don’t touch me.” She reached for the door handle to get in the driver’s side of the truck. Lori used her powers again. She didn’t mean to. It was a reflex, she panicked. With a flick of the wrist, she sent the truck flying ten feet ahead of them, kicking up dirt on the road. Mae screamed and glared at her. “You could have run over my feet!”

“Sorry, sorry, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it, I panicked. Please, if you just let me explain—“

“You’re a monster,” she said. The words stung and tears welled up in Lori’s eyes. She reached out and Mae backed away. “I’m leaving and you’re not going to stop me.” Her voice was firm but her eyes had a hint of uncertainty. She knew her words were powerless. “I’m taking the truck. You can walk back to town by yourself.”

“Please,” Lori started. She was sobbing now. Hot tears streamed down her face and she sniffled. “Please, d-don’t do th-this. You s-said you l-loved me.” Mae clutched her hands together and her expression was pained.

“Just stay away from me.” She went over to the truck, looking over her shoulder to make sure Lori wouldn’t use her powers again. She hopped in the truck and drove off, leaving a trail of dust behind her. Lori watched as the truck moved farther away. She ran and yelled after it.

“Fine, just go! Just take my truck and go!!” She yelled. She stopped running to catch her breath, placing her hands on her knees for support. Still sobbing, she let herself collapse onto her hands and knees and cried into the palms of her hands. She had a sweater wrapped around her waist and used its sleeve to wipe the snot from her nose. She knew this would be a lot to take in, but she didn’t expect her to leave her in the middle of the desert. Was this it then? Were they over? Mae meant more to her than anything else in the world. She would give all this up, if she could…

She thought about how she would have felt three months ago if someone had told her they were a telekinetic. She would have run off, too, no doubt about it. She expected this kind of reaction, but she wasn’t prepared for how much it would hurt. She tried to compose herself and reached for her canteen when she realized she had no water left. All the extra food and water was on the truck. Her truck. She was still a good 6.5 miles away from town and everything she owned was at Mae’s apartment. She didn’t even have her cell phone. The sun was hot on her skin and she was fatigued from using her powers, especially after moving something as heavy as a car. But that didn’t matter. Feeling sorry for herself would have to wait until later. Right now, she had to get out of this desert.

She’d barely been walking five minutes when she began to feel faint. She was about to sit down at the side of the road when she heard a vehicle coming toward her. It was Mae driving her truck. She pulled over and sat for a moment, still clutching the steering wheel. She got out and walked over to Lori, pausing a few feet and away, her eyes cautious. She started to reach out, but then pulled her hand back. Lori couldn’t stand to see her be afraid of her. Her blue eyes met Mae’s and she tried to express everything she was feeling with one look. When she spoke, it came out in a whisper.

“I swear I’m not going to hurt you.” Mae nodded and tears welled up in her eyes.

“I know,” she said. She reached out, still cautious, and placed a hand on Lori’s cheek. She pressed her forehead against hers and lay her gentle hands around her neck. Tears streamed down her cheeks. “I’m so sorry I left like that. I do love you, I would never leave you alone like that.”

“I know.” Mae gripped her in a tight hug and didn’t let go when she continued speaking.

“One of the tribes killed my family. I was just a little girl.”

“I know,” Lori said. She stroked Mae’s hair. Her body was warm against her and it didn’t help with the intense heat of the desert, but she didn’t care. She was so relieved to have Mae back in her arms.

“I’ve spent my whole life hating the tribes. I can’t just forgive them.”

Lori stroked her back. “I’m not asking you to.” Mae pulled away and placed her hands on Lori’s shoulders.

“You’ve been carrying this secret. I can only imagine—“

“I’ve been so terrified of losing you,” Lori said. Mae held her hands in hers and smiled through her tears.

“I’m not going anywhere. I’ll listen. You can tell me everything. But first, let’s go home.” She opened the passenger door for Lori and they drove off back to town. The worst was over, Lori thought. No matter what happened from this point forward, they still had each other. And that mattered more than anything.




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