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Between the Trees

Posted on Wed Jul 19th, 2023 @ 3:38pm by Kunikpaa & Emilio Delgado
Edited on on Wed Jul 19th, 2023 @ 3:50pm

2,192 words; about a 11 minute read

Mission: 1.5 - Non Mission Posts
Location: Campus grounds
Timeline: 1 October 1992

Emilio was no stranger to difficult schoolwork, so the school was a bit too easy for him so far. He was a young man who loved to learn, and was constantly thirsty for more information. In some ways, the labyrinthine pathways of his mind served as an escape from reality, which he largely found unpleasant and uncomfortable. Attention from everyone. Somehow, things had gotten much better now that he came to the mansion.

He sat on the grass in a small clearing of trees in a place no one knew about with him. His notebook was on his lap as he sat on the ground with his legs crossed, and he worked through some of his math problems, slowly, listening to the chirping of the birds. he was wearing a green V-neck T-shirt and a pair of gray shorts.

Kunikpaa grew up loving the outdoors. If given the choice, she’d always prefer hiking or swimming over hanging out at the mall or at people’s houses. Maybe because most of her friends’ houses were like hers, small and boring, and the malls in Whitehorse were crap, but she still felt that way once she was on her own in Vancouver.

Exploring the Ridgehaven grounds was a favourite pastime, and even after a few weeks she was still finding new secrets. So today it was no surprise that she found Emilio sitting on the grass in a small clearing.

Truthfully she didn’t like how the boy’s power made her feel. She seemed to have some resistance to it — maybe because her power was so similar? — and she felt in control of herself near him. But part of her mind wondered nonetheless whether her feelings, whatever they were, were genuine.

He was cute though. And seemed lonely. She knew what that was like.

She decided to quietly walk to him, sit next to him, and look over his shoulder at his notebook. “Are you winning?”

Emilio has been so engrossed in his work that he didn’t notice anyone approaching at all. As soon as the girl had spoken, he started furiously and shook visibly, dropping his pencil and causing his notebook to fly out of his hands onto the ground. He looked at her with an expression of Confusion and, underneath it, irritation.

“What the…?” He said, his breath increasing. “What?”

She shuffled back a few centimetres. She didn’t like the look of that shaking. She’d had more than one ‘friend’ who got violent when things didn’t go his way.

“Hey, it’s all right, man,” she said. “I was just playing. Ms. Thompson’s math homework, right?”

“Sorry. You scared the crap out of me.” He said, the irritation in his voice giving way to his general good nature. He was always a friendly person, and preferred to stay on peoples good side when he could, he was very good, of course, and getting what he wanted without being nasty. “Yeah, it’s last on my list for today. I just thought it might be nice to find a quiet place outside and enjoy nature for a while. I was going crazy being cooped up in a mansion.”

“Yeah, that place might be big but it feels small if you’re stuck inside,” Kunikpaa agreed. “The grounds are nice though. I have a homework spot too, near the stream.” She gestured vaguely toward the far side of the campus, where they both knew a small stream flowed. “It’s finally cool enough to enjoy the outside,” the added.

Emilio looked at her for several seconds before reverting his gaze again. She was pretty, he had to admit, and her skin tone suited him as well. They hadn’t really said anything to each other until this moment, and he hadn’t even learned her name.

“Emilio Delgado.” he said, flashing a smile that was far more charming than he really intended it to be.

She was suddenly annoyed, not with him, but with herself for the fact that she was blushing. “Kunikpaa,” she replied. “Just that, no last name. My dad’s people don’t have them.”

“Kunikpaa..” he repeated after her, trying the sounds in his mouth slowly as they were unfamiliar to him. He looked back into her dark eyes and offered a friendly smile. “That’s a pretty name. Who are your dad’s people?”

“Inuit of Northern Canada,” she answered. “Or Eskimo, if that’s the word you know, but it’s not the right word. How about you? Where are you from?” America was such a melting pot it was hard to tell where anyone was from, no matter what they looked or sounded like. Or at least Kunikpaa just didn’t know enough to guess.

“I’m from San Antonio, born and raised. My father came over from Puerto Rico, though, and my mother is Mexican. Like a lot of Latinos, I’m kinda from everywhere.” He said, running his hand across his defined jawline. “Did you grow up in Canada or did you move here a long time ago?”

“I was still in Canada before coming to the school,” she said, trying her best to ignore his jawline (and not succeeding all the way). “The shelter in Vancouver sponsored my admission. I had to get registered though.” The way she said ‘registered’…it was obvious what she meant. She pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “I hope the school lets us stay in the summer. I don’t exactly have anywhere to go back to after the school year.”

“Shelter?” He responded, his thick eyebrows raising up. “You mean like…a homeless shelter?”

She nodded. “People found out what I was. It wasn’t safe, so I left home. That was three years ago.”

“That must have been really hard for you.” He said, showing a hint of concern on his face that looked quite different. “Having to leave your family, I mean. Lonely.”

“It’s a lot easier after your parents stand to the side and let your minister uncle beat you half to death for being a mutant,” Kunikpaa said dryly.

Emilio’s lips parted at that; they were so full and well-shaped, they might reasonably be considered pretty. He hadn’t ever heard anything like that. His parents would never have done that to them, whether because they were very-much under the control of his powers of charm or just out of a different nature he was genuinely unsure.

“Oh, God..” he said, dropping his pencil without a Thought as his hand rose to his face. He didn’t know what to say? What could one say to that? “Oh God..”

She shrugged. “It happened, it’s in the past, and now I move on,” she said, unconvincingly, looking down at her knees that she held tighter now. She hoped that if she repeated that enough, it would become true. She tried to blink away some tears, but it didn’t work.

If there was anything that Emilio’s powers brought, it was comfort with people from a certain angle. Rarely did he find that someone didn’t want him to talk to them, or didn’t want him to touch them. He was always wanted and those things were always rewards for others. The question that arose in peoples minds about whether or not they might be rejected no longer rang in his brain. He wouldn’t be, in his mind. He never was. So, when he placed his hand on the top of her knee, he didn’t hesitate, and when he gave her a gentle and compassionate smile, he didn’t consider whether or not she would think it was weird. That kind of confidence was attractive in itself.

“Okay.” He said, noticing her tears but allowing her to have the emotional space from the topic she had implied she needed. Despite this, he still didn’t understand her problem very clearly. “You’re a very strong person, I think.”

“You think so?” she asked, taking a second to wipe her eyes.

“I’m not sure how I would handle something like that. My parents always..adored me. Everyone always adored me.” he said, honestly. “In fact, it was impossible for me to find someone who didn’t adore me. It’s lonelier than you’d think…but its not a beating.”

“I know what it’s like to be lonely,” she said, nodding. Then she smiled and looked his way. “How about this: why don’t we try to keep each other company? It would be nice to have someone we can always go to, even if it’s just to hang out for a bit.” She shifted on the ground to pull her legs under herself.

It wasn’t the first time in his life Emilio had heard something like this. Words of dedication were a dime a dozen for them because of the nature of his mutation. Hardly a day went by in the outside world when a girl didn’t throw herself at him. Somehow he didn’t think that’s what Kunikpaa was doing here. Their connection was quick but personal in nature. He looked at her skeptically still, seeming a bit more hesitant than she was probably expecting.

“Umm, yeah sure.” he said, smiling politely. And it was merely polite. He hated hurting people’s feelings. It just complicated things. She was pretty and she seemed nice, but he needed to know she was real before he could trust her.

There is was. She’d started to open herself up, and he had seemed interested in being a friend, but she could tell a polite ‘yes to be seen saying yes’ from sincere acceptance. “Well, screw you then,” she said, perhaps louder than intended. She climbed to her feet and started back toward the manor. Shows what I get for opening up to the handsome guy.

Sometimes the girls who threw themselves at him persisted, sometimes they begged, sometimes they burst into tears, and sometimes they even got angry, but they never ‘ever’ walked away. He raised his brows again as he watched the girl get up and begin toward the house and her realized that her offer was at least less influenced by his powers than was the people outside the mansion. Without thinking, he stood up.

“Hey, wait!” he said, walking after her. “Hang on a second.”

“What?!” she yelled, stopping and turning to face him, her cheeks flush with the anger and sadness that she was letting come out.

“I’m sorry I responded like that, it’s just..” he said with a frown, searching for the right words. “My abilities make it so that everyone loves me. And I don’t mean that subjectively. It doesn’t work on most mutants, but everyone else can’t seem to resist it. I can’t even go for a walk in the park without some guy coming up to me and trying to give me free stuff.”

He took a step closer, his hands turning up in embarrassed surrender and kept speaking, the emotion in his voice increasing as he demonstrated how frustrated he was.

“Every girl wants to get close to me, in my experience. They buy me flowers, they beg. They key my parents’ car if I say no. Mierda, my best friend, stopped talking to me because he found pictures of me in his mother’s purse! I don’t know who the hell really gives a damn about me or is just obsessed because of this curse!”

She tried to slow her breathing and calm herself. His story made sense. People in Kunikpaa’s life rejected her for her power. His power made everyone fawn over him. When she first heard of his power, she figured any teen boy would love that kind of attention. But imagine not knowing who liked you for you…

She gave him a lopsided smile. “Mind if I try something?”

Emilio looked at her, a curious glint in his eye. What was she about?

“Yeah?” He asked, hesitant.

She reached forward and touched his hand. And though both of them knew it was her speaking, out of Emilio’s mouth came the words “I’m sorry about that. I actually think you’re pretty cool Kunikpaa and I’d love to hang out. How about after class tomorrow?”

Kunikpaa let go of his hand and grinned. “I’d like that, Emilio. I’ve got a cool spot near the creek I can show you.”

“What the?” He asked? Looking confused, having just warmed slightly with his hands in hers. “¿lo que acaba de suceder?”

He shook his head and looked away for a moment, then looked back and smiled.

“Kinda cool.” He said. His grin was handsome and charming, boyish and, somehow, a clear sign he was becoming a man. “Tomorrow it is.”

She nodded and turned to go back to the manor again, but this time not angry and not rushing. “See you then, Casanova.”



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