It seemed to be the beginning of a pleasant day. Lydia was happy. Mornings weren’t usually this warm at this time of year. She sat next to Alexis on the curb, a little way away from his house, in companionable silence. Alexis couldn’t help but glance across at Lydia every now and again.
“You…” Alexis and Lydia looked up. Emma strode towards them across the road. Lydia scrambled to her feet. She raised her hands instinctively, prepared to defend herself.
“Emma!” She tried to inject calm into her tone. Her stammer fought to assert itself over her voice, but she resisted. Keep cool.
Emma was not keeping cool. Her hair was a mess, her teeth bared in a snarl of hatred. Her eyes… they seemed to burn, burn with a flickering, inner fire of their own.
“You moron,” Emma snarled, “you freaking moron. We had a deal! We had a deal and you broke it. You nearly blew my cover you freak. Okay. Fine. Now I’m going to break you!”
Alexis, who had been sitting on the grass looking up at them, nonplussed, got to his feet. His hands, he discovered to his own considerable surprise, had curled into fists. Emma looked at him. He stared back defiantly. She smirked.
“Don’t hurt Lydia,” he said. His voice was a hoarse whisper. “If you hurt her…”
“You’ll do what?” Emma cocked her head, “Cry? Unleash your hidden power? Wet yourself? Do you think I’m scared of you? I’m not freaking scared of anything.”
For a second she just stood still, then her hand shot out and connected with Alexis’ jaw. The force of the blow knocked him off his feet. He hit the ground, a single groan escaping his mouth. Emma looked down at him, lips pursed.
“Well…” she met Lydia’s eye, “he wasn’t very impressive was he? I was expecting a little more than that.”
“Leave him alone,” Lydia said, keeping her voice low, “this isn’t about him.”
Emma didn’t seem to hear her. She studied Lydia with a half-smile.
“I was so wrong about you, you know,” her voice was menacing, “I assumed you were like all the others. You had a crush on me, you just didn’t want to say it. You didn’t like me because you understood me, you liked me because you loved my looks. You loved the idea of me. I was wrong, you wouldn’t love anyone for that, now would you?”
Lydia just stared at her. Words tried to force their way out of her mouth, but they wouldn’t come.
“You love Alexis,” Emma continued, “and don’t think you can hide it, I know, you love Alexis because you see something of yourself in him. Not because you care for him or anything. It’s just a kind of weird lizard solidarity isn’t it? Freaks banding together against a world that hates them.”
Slowly Emma squatted. Reaching out a hand she touched Alexis’ face.
“Still,” she said, “I reckon you’d go off him a little if his face got burned off.”
Lydia tackled her and they hit the ground, a tangle of limbs. Emma threw Lydia off and stood up, hands aflame.
“You just couldn’t face it could you?” She roared, face transfigured by sudden, surging wrath, “You just couldn’t face that I’d escaped it all, that I didn’t let being a sub-human define me. You hate me for it.”
Lydia had got to her feet and they circled one another, Lydia keeping herself between Emma and the prone Alexis.
“I’m not one of you,” Emma said, “I’ll never be one of you. I’m better than that.”
“I see,” a deathly calm had descended over Lydia. She kept her gaze level.
“You don’t,” Emma shook her head. She moved forward, “I’m going to kill you for what you did. I’m going to kill you and your freak boyfriend. I’m done with all of this. I’m done with all of you. Why can’t you just… leave… me… alone!”
Taking a step back, Emma ran at Lydia. The lizard side-stepped and grabbed her by the shoulders. They struggled for a few seconds.
“You’re wrong,” Lydia said, not sure what was making her say it, “I don’t hate you.”
“You will when I’ve finished with you,” Emma replied. Wrestling herself from Lydia’s grasp she stepped back and levelled a flaming hand at Lydia’s head.
There was a dull thud and Emma’s eyes crossed. She fell forward on top of Lydia, her hands extinguished. Alexis stood behind her, a brick clutched in his shaking hands.
“Alexis!” Lydia cried with horror, “What did you do?”
“I’m sorry,” Alexis dropped the brick and rushed forward to help Lydia lift the limp form of Emma off her, “I didn’t know what to do. She looked like she was going to hurt you.”
Lydia stared at him. Then she nodded.
“Uh… thanks,” she murmured.
“Did I kill her?” Alexis stared down at Emma, his voice wavering.
“I hope not – I mean I don’t think so,” Lydia checked Emma’s pulse hastily, terror pumping in her chest, “no, she’s just unconscious. Where did you even find that brick anyway?”
Alexis appeared to relax. He shrugged.
“I don’t know,” he said. I just reached for the first thing that came to hand. What are we going to do with her?”
“At least there’s no-one around,” Lydia scanned the street.
“There won’t be no-one for long,” Alexis said, “it’s getting on a bit. People will be coming home for lunch. We can’t be found standing next to an unconscious person.”
“Yeah,” Lydia nodded, “but we can’t just leave her here either.”
“Let’s just…” Alexis thought about it, “let’s just sit down for a moment.”
They sank down on the grass, realising all at once that they were both exhausted. Alexis’ jaw ached from where he’d been punched. Lydia sighed deeply and looked over at Emma. She showed no signs of waking up. Lydia didn’t know if she wanted her to. The sound of footsteps in the distance interrupted her train of thought.
“Someone’s coming,” Alexis whispered.
“Get in front of her,” Lydia replied under her breath, “they won’t see her. We’ll be fine.”
Anna turned the corner of the road and picked up her step as she headed towards them.
“Hi guys,” she waved.
“Okay,” Lydia said, “we’re not fine.”