Aster was the first one of her friends to the lunch table, which was rare. Apparently, nervous energy could get results. For a brief moment she was worried that her friends weren't going to show up, the one day she finally decided to tell them all something important. But she knew they weren't absent, so that thought didn't last. Not that it would have had much room to linger regardless, as it wasn't long before Emily got there.
"Oh, you look serious. Everything alright?"
Aster laughed nervously. Of course it was written on her face. It was such a silly thing to be nervous about, but knowing that didn't make it stop. But at least there wasn't any actual disaster to report. Not again.
"Yeah, everything's okay. I mean... Well, anyways."
"Gotcha. So what's up, then?"
"I've got something I want to share. But for when Diana and Chester get here, too."
Not sure what to say until the big dumb moment she was preparing for, Aster opened up her bag and dug into her lunch. About a minute later, Chester and Diana took their usual seats. Things were a little awkward, or at least Aster felt they were, as everyone ate more quietly than usual. It was chipping away at her resolve to tell everyone, even though backing out would make the awkwardness all for nothing.
"Did something bad happen again?"
Nobody answered immediately. Aster looked around, seeing Chester and Emily doing the same. Diana, of course, was looking right at her. Of course she still looked overly serious, she hadn't really expected it to be directed at anyone else. But it was still jarring, and she wasn't sure how to respond right away.
"No, nothing bad happened. Not anything new."
"Yeah. I guess I just look worried because... There's something I want to share. Because I've kept it a secret for a while now for no good reason."
"You're letting us in on a secret?"
"Oh, that's exciting. Sorry I misunderstood."
"Okay, what is it?"
Aster took a second to steel herself. It would be fine. It wasn't a big deal. More than that, it would be fun. She could finally tell her friends about it.
"I have a preternatural power."
Her friends didn't react as strongly as she was expecting. Except Emily, unsurprisingly, whose face had split into a sudden grin. Chester looked a little surprised, and Diana didn't seem to react at all.
"Really? What is it, can you tell? Can you show?"
"I can block light. Like this."
Aster let that strange sense in the back of her head come to the fore. She focused on a point of space, and then brought it out, stretching it into a disk. It hovered several inches above the lunch table, impossibly black, in stark contrast to the dark but regular shadow it cast. Aster tilted it a bit, to give her friends a better view.
"Oh wow! Can I touch it?"
"Yeah, you can. As in nothing bad will happen, but you can't actually touch it as in feel it. I don't think there's actually anything there. It just deletes any light that passes through it."
Emily put her finger through it and poked the table underneath, a couple times. Aster smiled, and then laughed a little. Why was she ever worried about it?
"Huh! That's really interesting, Aster."
"Yeah. Can you make any shape?"
"I think? I'm pretty confident it could take any shape. But it's tricky to, I suppose, draw them out. Simple flat shapes or figures are easier to make."
"Figures? Like 3D?"
"Yeah. Although, like..."
Aster tilted the disk back to parallel with the table, and then folded the edges up. She made half of a hollow sphere, which... wasn't really easy to tell, looking at it. She stuck her hand in, to show that it was hollow.
"I couldn't fill it in. It's still impossibly thin, but I can enclose a space."
"Oh, I get it. That's really cool! I guess it makes sense you got a mathy power."
"I guess so. It's also been fun to try to do science with it, so..."
"Hey, I wanna try something. Could you make it flat again?"
Aster undid the curve. It was a little trickier, and she was slower at doing it the other way around, but it was back to a disk. Emily stared at with apparent concentration, enough that Aster suspected it was a conscious show—and then gave up, shrugging.
"I can't put an eye on it. Aw, shame, here I thought we could team up and put my eye almost anywhere."
"Heh. Maybe it's for the best we can't team up like that."
"Oh. So do you think it's a hole?"
"You said it wasn't there. And because Emily can't put an eye on it, you're probably right. And it eats all the light that goes in, right? That sounds like a hole.
"You know, that's a good point, Diana. That's definitely one way to look at it. I'll need to think about that."
"It's a good thing it's only light that can fall in."
Aster stared at the little black expanse she had brought into being. Or non-being, as it were. She really did have to think about it, now. Maybe there wasn't any difference, but... Well, if it was a boundary which deleted all light, maybe you could call that a hole. But maybe it was a hole, an actual one. And it wasn't deleting the light, but taking it somewhere else. Of course, that seemed less plausible, since where would it be going? But if it wasn't deleting light, then that answered another question, how she was violating the conservation of energy. Sure, preternatural phenomena in general meant that law needed heavy alteration if it was even true at all, but she liked the thought that she wasn't flagrantly breaking it.
"Sorry. For not bringing this up before."
"Huh? What's that matter?"
"Yeah, Aster, don't worry about it. You don't gotta share if you didn't want to."
"Thanks. But it's been a long time. And I... I mean, I was..."
"Do you feel guilty because you have a good power?"
"No! I mean... It's not like that."
"Good. Because that would be stupid."
Aster looked up at Diana, who was smiling at her warmly. She smiled back, and tried to quash the wave of fresh guilt in her gut. She laughed, awkwardly. Emily was grinning like she hadn't noticed anything amiss, and Chester looked slightly confused. Aster felt like it was pretty clear that she hadn't told the truth just then. Evne though she had, but... it wasn't the whole truth. She wanted to just spit it out, that she was guilty, but not because her power was better than theirs. She didn't pity her friends, it wasn't like that. It just wasn't fair, that they had to suffer to get powers idiots judged them for, and then she got something handed to her out of a positive experience. Not that she would have preferred getting a power out of the awful feeling of wondering if her missing aunt was okay, if Lily was, but...
It was not the time to start thinking about that. But it wasn't really the time for anything much, as the bell rang.
"Oh, out of time already? Hahah, dang, time flies. Thanks for showing off, Aster! I'm gonna bug you about that some more."
"I'm glad you shared that."
"Of course. I'm glad you were all so interested."
Aster let her focus retract back into a point, making a show of shrinking the boundary, the maybe-hole, for anyone dallying to watch. And then she got up, threw her trash away, and hurried to her class.
She was feeling better after the next class. It was such a relief to have finally spilled her silly secret to her friends. She could show her parents next.
When the school day ended, the relief hadn't entirely subsided. She was walking out to head to her bus, or wait for it as was likely, and pulled out her phone. She didn't check it during school, which wasn't unusual for her, even if it was apparently freakish behavior from a high schooler. Sometimes at lunch, but she generally preferred talking with her friends. But apparently maybe she should have been. How did she have that many missed calls?
And all from family, most from her parents. What was going on? They knew she was in school, obviously, why call her that many times—she dialed her mom, who picked up quickly.
"Uh, hi mom. What's going on?"
"Oh, there you are Aster. Sorry about all the calls, we knew you probably couldn't take any."
"Right. But you called anyways. Is something wrong?"
"Maybe I should just tell you in person."
"What? Why? Is it that bad?"
"It's... Okay. Lily went to the hospital last night."
"What? Is she okay? Is she sick?"
"She's not sick, and she's not in danger or anything. But I guess her arm might be paralyzed. It's bad. And..."
"What? I— How? What happened?"
"I don't know. Apparently she was shot."
"Shot? Somebody shot Lily!? Did—"
"Your grandparents are okay. It was only her. I don't know what happened either, Aster. But... I don't know. Stay safe, okay? Promise."
"I, yeah. Of course I promise. I'm not, I'm not going to do anything that— Fuck. I'll be careful."
"Okay, good. Sorry, I should have told you in person, I... We can talk more when you get home, okay? I love you."
"Yeah. Okay. I love you too, mom."
Aster hung up the phone. She felt confused, and sick to her stomach, and scared. Why would someone do that? How could someone do that? It was Monday, so that happened Sunday, so it couldn't have been at school but— she wasn't getting to let herself think about something happening at school. At her school. She needed to get on the bus.
Holly was standing in front of her, looking surprised. Aster felt a sudden surge of anger. Really, eavesdropping on that— But other people were staring at her. It settled in, sickly-feeling, that she had been yelling, hadn't she?
"Sorry, I... I really, genuinely couldn't help but overhear. I'll leave you alone. But I hope everyone is alright."
Aster just lamely nodded. She did too.