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Gifted 2 - Better Late Than Never.doc
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It was in her head, she realized. The voice was coming from deep inside. She wasn't hearing it in the ordinary way, through her ears. It was something else.

Are you there? Can you hear me? It's Rick.

And suddenly, she understood. It was one of Ken's dead people, trying to communicate.

She didn't know whether to be intrigued or annoyed. On the one hand, the voice wasn't frightening at all. It was young and male and pleasant. On the other hand, she realized that this was why Ken always seemed so distracted.

She wasn't sure if she could talk back to the voice, but she tried. In her mind, she thought, What do you want?

Nothing special. Just wanted to talk.

She replied, I don't want to talk. Go away.

There was a moment of silence, and then the voice, softer this time, said, Okay. And her head was silent.

She couldn't believe it. It was so easy! All Ken had to do was tell the voices to go away, and they would obey! At least, this one did. It occurred to her that while she was inside Ken's body, she could do more than just ask herself out. She could lose Ken's gift for him! Then the two of them could unite, confront Madame, and drop out of the class together. And even if he wasn't madly in love with Amanda, he'd be eternally grateful, they could act like a couple, she'd be back on top--everything was falling into place.

And she'd be helping Ken, just like she'd helped Tracey Not that helping other people was a high priority for her, but she had to admit (only to herself and never to anyone else) that it gave her kind of a nice feeling.

The discussion of Martin's aggressive instincts took up the whole class session, which was fine with Amanda. Madame never called on Ken or Other-Amanda, and the other students had no problem picking on Martin for 50 minutes. Amanda was beginning to understand why the little guy was an eternal victim.

She'd planned to approach herself as soon as class was over, but Other-Amanda took off the second the bell rang. It didn't really matter--she needed more time to prepare what she was going to say, and there wasn't much time between classes for a conversation. She'd meet up with Other-Amanda at her own locker after the last class.

Ken's next class was French, and even though she'd never cheated on a test before, she didn't feel the least bit guilty copying the answers from Cara. She reasoned that she wasn't really Ken or herself either, so the rules didn't count. The only problem would be if Ken got caught--but he didn't.

She got through the rest of the day without any real problems--she just never raised her hand and none of the teachers called on Ken. The only class she now had to worry about was the last one--gym. If she didn't perform well, she could blame it on having been sick the day before, but changing in and out of the gym outfit could be tricky, especially surrounded by all those boys.

But once again, she lucked out. Ken's gym class was having a lecture day on nutrition. She could sit in the back of a normal classroom and zone out.

She used the time to revise her original plan. She'd meet Amanda at her locker and set up some kind of date for after school that day or the next. Saturday at the latest. Once they were alone together, she'd take back her own body and let him have his. How she was going to do this, she wasn't quite sure, but she'd worry about that when the time came. Then she'd tell him how she'd lost the voices for him, he'd be grateful, and everything would fall into place.

Ken?

There he was again, the dead guy. Get lost, she said.

Ken, what's the matter with you? Why are you acting like this?

Because I'm not in the mood, she responded. I might never be in the mood again.

Please, Ken. Don't say that. I don't know what I'd do without you.

Despite herself and all her intentions, the voice touched her. The guy sounded so sad. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to have just one real conversation with one of Ken's dead people. She'd have a better understanding of what his gift was really like.

What do you want? she asked.

I'm feeling really down. 1 can't stop thinking about her.

Who?

You know! Nancy.

Amanda didn't know anyone named Nancy. It was kind of an old-fashioned name, she thought. A grandmother-type name. Apparently, this guy--what did he say his name was? Rick--apparently, Rick had talked about this Nancy to Ken before.

Why are you thinking about Nancy?

I'm always thinking about her -- you know that. I miss her so much. Like I said, I really loved her. I still can't believe she dumped me at the senior prom.

And you couldn't get her back?

How could I? That was the night I died.

This was getting interesting. So she was talking to someone who had to have been around 17 or 18 years old when he died. She wondered how that had happened. She couldn't ask--Ken probably knew.

Do you know what it feels like, Ken?

To die?

No, to love someone so much. And to have your heart broken.

No, not really.

You're lucky. It's the most unbelievable pain. You'd rather have two broken legs than a broken heart. She was everything to me: the sun, the moon, the stars. I can remember thinking I would die for her. Which is ironic, in a way. I did die, but I didn't even have the satisfaction of doing it for her.

"Ken?"

He looked up. The room was empty, and the teacher was standing at the door.

"Class is over, Ken. I see you didn't find the topic of essential daily vitamins very exciting. But you could have tried to stay awake, just out of common courtesy." The teacher didn't wait for an apology.

Amanda got up, slung Ken's backpack over his shoulder, and hurried out. There were just a few stragglers left in the hall, heading to the exit.

She knew her own habits. Other-Amanda would be long gone. She'd been so caught up in Rick's story that she'd missed her chance to ask herself out.

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