Shivering at the implication, I watched the wind stir the tall reedy plants bordering the playground. What Zoe had said earlier about the human psyche defaulting to denial seemed to be right on point yet again, because I almost couldn’t believe it.
But it wouldn’t be the first time the human race committed genocide. It wouldn’t even be the tenth time. We had a striking inability to learn from history.
“There’s the sixteenth rug rat.” A small smile appeared, erasing a fraction of the sadness on Zoe’s face.
Following her gaze, I saw a tiny girl coming out of the door of the school, her dark hair pulled back from a face shaped like the cutest little heart. Her jeans were rolled up, revealing bare feet.
“Ashley,” I said. Bethany and Dawson’s daughter. “Is she the youngest Origin there is right now?”
“I believe so.” Zoe paused. “At least until Kat gives birth.”
Clutching some sort of stuffed toy to her chest, Ashley hopped down the steps like a little kangaroo. One of the other kids all but power-dived off a seesaw, nearly sending the other tyke flying into the air.
“Oh my God.” I laughed as that little girl rushed across the playground, meeting Ashley at the bottom of the steps. The girl gave her a quick hug and then scampered off.
“They all love her,” Zoe said quietly. “Probably because she’s made a couple of them”—Zoe lifted her fingers, forming quotation marks—“‘fly.’”
Zoe grinned. “Watch the little girl who hugged her.”
Finding the little girl in pink tights over behind the swing set, I about fell over when the child swept up into the air as if a giant, invisible hand had reached down, swooping her up.
Thrusting her little arms straight above her head like a baby Wonder Woman, she flew as high as the school and then as high as the tree.
Ashley was just standing in the center of the walkway, her stuffed toy dangling at her side while her little face was scrunched up into a mask of rather adorably severe concentration. I quickly glanced over at the teachers and saw, much to my shock and awe, they were surrounded by several of the other, very distracting children.
And they had a little lookout!
A boy with dark brown skin kept glancing between the girl in the pink tights levitating above the tree and the adults. Peals of laughter from Baby Wonder Woman sent the other children clamoring to keep the teachers focused on them.
It was a good thing they did.
Because Baby Wonder Woman was rolling in midair, not once, not twice, but three times before the lookout waved his arms like one of those flailing inflatable tube men.
Ashley brought her down swiftly. Perhaps a bit too swiftly. Baby Wonder Woman made a rough landing, losing her balance when her feet hit the ground, plopping onto her butt. Like a true warrior goddess in training, she toppled onto her back, giggling.
My mouth was hanging open.
“Ashley really needs to work on the landings, though,” Zoe murmured.
Grinning as if she were entirely pleased with herself, Ashley lifted the stuffed toy to her chest and resumed her barefoot skipping.
“I don’t know what I just watched.”
“How baby Origins make friends with humans?” Zoe suggested.
I couldn’t disagree with that.
“I bet you won’t guess who taught her to do that.”
I didn’t need to guess. “Luc.”
“Yep.” Laughing, she pulled her hands out from behind her back. “He taught her when she was barely two, apparently starting with making her toys fly, and then Daemon when he visited.”
Now my jaw had to be on the ground. It took me a moment to find my voice. “I’m sure her parents appreciated that.”
“Dawson found it hilarious, but Beth’s a bit of a worrier.” A dark look crept across her face. “Let’s just say that was the closest thing to a scolding Luc has received in his entire life.”
I grinned at that, but it sort of got stuck as I stared at Zoe, realizing for the hundredth time in a short period there was so much I didn’t know about my best friend. “You have this entire other life,” I blurted out.
Her gaze flickered back to me. “It was harder than you can ever know keeping it a secret.”
Considering all that was at risk, I understood why she’d had to. Turning back to the playground, I almost jumped when I saw Ashley staring directly at us.
“Hi, Zoe!” she chirped, waving the stuffed toy at us, which turned out to be a stuffed llama. I bet I knew who’d given her that gift. “Hi, Nadia!”
Unsure of what to do and also not wanting to correct her, I waved back at her.
“Bye!” Pivoting around, she tossed the stuffed llama into the air, and then she skipped back toward the other kids.
The stuffed llama bounced alongside her.
I picked my jaw up off the ground. “She’s, um, so cute.”