Five hours later, the green “i” in “Skippy’s Pizza” flickered on the neon sign above the entranceway. Customers talked and dined in the booths or at their tables as “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls played over the speakers. The restaurant lighting was dimmed in the customer area to provide a comfortable atmosphere while it was well-lit behind the counter and in the cooking area. Skippy’s was a local restaurant, so the owner had chosen to put pictures and even flyers from local events and bands around the counter and on the walls.
Tonight, Leia was at the register taking orders. She normally didn’t mind this aspect of her job, it gave her a chance to talk with people as they ordered their food. But as usual, there were difficult customers.
"Are you saying you won't put that on my pizza?" the fifty-something man demanded. He was tall, very muscular, and smelled of beer and cigarettes.
"I'm sorry, sir, but we don't have grilled salmon as an ingredient here at Skippy's. I'll gladly substitute one of our other ingredients," Leia said.
"Like what?" he replied, curious but not yet satisfied.
"Well, sir, we have pepperoni, Italian sausage, hamburger, ham, spinach, barbecued chicken, Roma tomatoes—"
"Standard pizza toppings," the man interrupted gruffly.
"Yes, sir," Leia continued, smiling but holding her ground. "Just tell me what you'd like and I'll have it made for you."
"I want grilled salmon!" he shouted. "Let me talk to your manager, miss!"
Miffed, Leia pointed to her nametag. "I am the manager...sir!"
"Are you kidding me? You're just some kid barely out of high school! How can you be manager?"
Leia had had quite enough. Channeling every bit of self-confidence she could muster, she stood to her full six foot height and stared the man in the eyes.
"I have attempted to accommodate you, sir," Leia insisted, slamming her fist onto the counter next to the cash register. "I have explained that we do not carry grilled salmon at this or any of our locations and I have offered you an alternative, which you have refused. As the manager of this business, I have the right to refuse service to anyone...including you. You are preventing other customers from ordering, customers who know and understand what our regular ingredients are. So, sir, I must ask you to leave!"
It was then that Leia noticed that not only was the middle-aged man staring at her in fear, but so were the other six people near the counter and the two couples sitting at booths.
"What are you??" the man said. "You ain't normal!"
Leia turned around and saw the same frightened look in her co-workers' eyes. Then she noticed the four pizza cutters and two butcher knives suspended in mid-air around her, pointing towards the man. In one of the butcher knives, close to the left side of her head, she saw a reflection of her face. Her eyes were glowing and on fire...yet they didn't hurt.
When she looked down and lifted her fist from the counter, she was further shocked to see the impression of her fist permanently embedded into the countertop and cracks spider-webbing from the impression. A pit opened in her stomach and she almost became nauseous. With her concentration shattered, the hovering objects fell to the floor. Then Leia collapsed to her knees, trembling with adrenaline and fear. She closed her eyes and all the sounds in the room were drowned out by the roar of a building tidal wave in her ears.
The sounds of employees and customers alike as they ran out of the building were barely heard.
Sometime later, she wasn’t sure how long, Leia recovered her composure, her senses relented and most of her strength returned. Leia looked up and saw that she was alone.
"Leave. Now!" a female voice said. Leia didn't hear it with her ears. It seemed to be in her head. “The police have been called. You have to get out of there, now!"
The voice was familiar, though Leia couldn't identify who it was. But clearly, whoever spoke to her was worried about her. Leia stood up and exited the back door of the restaurant. Hearing sirens a few blocks away, she started running down back alleyways to avoid being seen out on the street.
"It'll be alright," the woman's voice soothed in Leia's head. "But you should get home. Only tell your parents. They'll understand."
Am I nuts? Is that it? Maybe Josh was right, I have a fever and I'm hallucinating!
"I wish that were true, girl," the voice added. "But sometimes the truth is harsher and more difficult to deal with."
Who are you??
"Someone with...abilities like you," the voice said. "I want to help you."
Why? Everyone else is scared of me! Are you just interested in me because I have powers? Why are you doing this?
"You mean much more to me than your powers, Leia Hamilton. I'll explain everything someday. I promise."
Still somewhat disoriented, Leia began to cry, feeling overwhelmed as it dawned on her what had happened. There was so much she still didn't understand.
"They fear you because you have power," the voice continued after a short pause. "It separates you from them, it makes you better than them. And they know it."
I'm not better than anyone.
"Really?" the voice said, ripe with sarcasm. "You could have turned that drunkard into a torch or impaled everyone in there with sharp objects. You could have crushed their skulls!"
Shut up! Leia thought, agonized by the callous imagery. I'd never do that!
The voice laughed.
"I was like you once," the voice added. "Young, hopelessly naïve, and idealistic. I hope you can maintain that illusion. I had to learn the hard way."
Who are you?
The voice went silent as Leia reached her home and went inside.
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian, happily interracially married since 1995. Father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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