Cut from Cracked Ice
by Jared W. Cooper
"Renei," Lindie says, across the room. "You didn't answer me."
We've lapsed into silence again. I hear her frustrated sigh, then the clatter of pans, the
click of the stove. I turn my mind to recall what she asked.
You'll be there for graduation, right?
In response, my psionics ignite the image from my own graduation. I'm eighteen, beneath
the holograms and lights, my voice projecting over rows of family and friends. I talk about the
world I'll make with my Theory. This piece of my mind is a glint of light, a crystal face in the
mirror of my memory. I see it unblemished, until it's not, because I look down and see Mom, and
everything that happened, and keeps happening--
"Of course I'll be there," I say.
I'm twenty-two, and Lindie's couch is home since leaving mine--again. I listen to her
hands, cracking lettuce, dropping ice in glasses. Hands that already know my body so well, know
how to knead out the tension and start that slow fire.
Tomorrow, Lindie will be psychic. She's as ready for it as I was at her age. Eager to share
another person's mind and body. But I was never that confident. I just wanted the amplified sex,
the doubled intoxication without the hangover. Tomorrow, she'll unfold beneath me, and push us
to move from an illicit secret to an open heart.
Grow up, Renei.
Mother's voice, reminding me. Tomorrow, it will end.
But tonight, Lindie smiles. Silverware clinks on the table like punctuation, like everything
I'm eighteen, and the many-faced crystal that is the mirror of my memory is about to
Jacksen's mind latches onto mine before I see him on the street. The heat of his want
floods my proprioception; I stagger and laugh, and before I recover, he's there, pinning me to the
wall. I feel the way my own skin feels on his hands beneath my shirt, grazing my bra.
Life with your Theory is transcendent, our professors said. You are your own person, one
among the community of minds that makes up the adult psychic world. Mental agonies in the
past four years of academia become worth it, and your view of the world sharpens, solidifies. The
minds you encounter will hone your beliefs, challenging and shaping them. Ultimately, this will
anchor your view of yourself.
Jacksen isn't quite here for that.
He takes me to his place, and we're high with anticipation, so proud of ourselves for
being adults, and by the time I'm in his bed and we're naked, I realize I've left my mind linked to
his, which means amplified senses and he's just so damned eager--and it's over.
I stroke his hair and tell him it's not his fault, it was fine, it's probably like that for
everyone. He chuckles, and, because he's my closest friend from school, we try again.
He tries to kiss me, after. I lean away, and he gets the side of my jaw. So simple a motion,
like a reflex. I'm not in love with him. Which I knew, but it wasn't crystal until now.