Marling cleared her throat. “So your burning resentment against your telepathic family keeps you warm in the Russian winter? Because your shirt is really, really thin and I’m finding it hard to believe you’re that angry all the time.”
“No, mine is anomaly.” Viktor said the word with such force that Marling couldn’t help thinking he’d recently learned it and was quite proud of himself. “We think my great-grandfather had this too, this fire.” Viktor stopped and looked around quite thoroughly before wrapping his hand around one end of the stray branch he’d been playing with. When he removed his hand, a tiny flame danced atop the branch… and along his fingers.
Marling thought of Kyran’s warning that Viktor had burned people to death.
“I see,” she said. “Uh, is that just in your hands or are you like the Human Torch from Fantastic Four?”
Viktor stared at the growing flame that hovered over his fingers. “Just my hands.”
“You’ve never like… burned anyone, have you?”
The silence was almost unbearable. Marling’s mind filled to brim with images of Viktor wearing one of those super stereotypical Russian fur hats and a faded military uniform while he burned down houses with screaming families inside. She wasn’t sure exactly why he would do that, but fear can run rampant in that kind of silence.
“Yes, Marling.” His eyes fixed on her, so intense and so dark that she almost backed away from him. “But I’m very careful now. It’s been many years since I can’t control it. Are you afraid?”
“I’m a little afraid of fire, like most normal people are, but I don’t think you’ve burned anyone… you know, to death, or anything.”
“If you’re afraid of me, Marling, then you have answer you need. This is… this won’t go away.” He held his hand out towards her, the flame dancing over his slender, pale fingers. “You come all the way here from across the world. This is something you need to know, because I can’t show you this five years ago.”
No, five years ago she’d met a heavily inebriated Russian at a party thrown by a mutual friend. Five years ago the weirdest thing about Viktor was how he pronounced “little” and dropped words out of sentences and mixed up his tenses.
Five years ago the most confusing thing about Viktor was his utter disbelief in fortune cookies.