by Katsuko

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Jean didn't believe in ghosts.

She was only ten, but she was fairly certain ghosts and specters and the things that go bump in the night didn't actually exist. Her mother would just laugh softly whenever she made such statements and smooth down Jean's auburn hair; her father simply huffed his agreement and continued to read his paper.

And then the weirdness started.

At first, it was just little things. Mom would go to pick up the car keys from the table where she'd dropped them only to find that they were already in the glass bowl in the entryway. Daddy would find his coffee cup on top of the refrigerator rather than the cabinet where the glassware was kept. Jean would despair over finding a specific article of clothing to wear for the day but upon turning around spotted the exact shirt or skirt or shoes she'd been trying to find.

But then the bigger things started to happen. A vase flew across the room, nearly hitting Miss Marcus when she came to the house to complain about Jean's inattention in the classroom. (It wasn't Jean's fault the woman was so boring that she nearly nodded off every other day.) The glasses in the cabinets would rattle about if Jean was frustrated with her homework. Mom had held a whispered conversation with Daddy one evening when he got home, and Jean could hear her saying that she'd watched the house keys float out of the entryway and drop themselves onto the mantle.

Jean still didn't believe in ghosts, but she was starting to wonder if mischievous fairies were a real thing; this whole situation seemed like something out of one of her storybooks.

One day about a week before her eleventh birthday, Jean came home from school to find a stranger in the living room talking to Mom. He looked nice, all dark curly hair and friendly blue eyes and a shiny wheelchair that looked almost like it belonged in her house. There were some kids there, too, a brown-haired boy a couple years older than her wearing some really funny-looking glasses with red lenses that didn't really look like John Lennon's and a teenager with black hair and bright green eyes who was holding a tiny dark-skinned girl with snow-white hair on his lap.

Good afternoon, Jean, whispered a voice in her head. I'm so pleased to meet you. Your parents thought it might be a groovy idea for us to talk.

After that bit of super weirdness, the nice man actually spoke with words. He said his name was Charles, and that he had a school for kids with special gifts. He said that the boy in the glasses was named Scott and the black-haired boy was named Loki (it was a weird name, but Loki was nice) and that the tiny girl was Ororo, and that all three of them had special gifts. Loki was the only one who did anything, but it was so cool when he turned all blue and his skin felt like the ice in the freezer.

Mom and Daddy sat with her for a little while after Charles and the kids left, saying that they didn't care if she was something called a mutant. When Jean asked what that word meant, both her parents got very quiet before Daddy said, "It's a word people use when they don't understand how special some people are. Some people are scared of anything different, so they use a mean word to make themselves feel better."

"People are dumb," Jean said seriously, almost-eleven-year-old indignation heavy in her tone. "I liked Mr. Charles and Scott and Loki and Ororo. They're nice."

On her eleventh birthday, Mom and Dad took Jean to the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. That was what Charles' school was called, and she was excited to see that it was more of a really big house than a stuffy building like her old school. Mom and Dad talked to the teachers (and while Loki turning blue and cold was pretty cool, Mister Hank was fuzzy! That was the best thing ever!) for a little while, and then they kissed her goodbye and promised to visit at Christmas.

And Jean slowly fell in love with the school and everyone who lived there as she learned about her own special gift. She still wasn't totally sure she'd been the one moving things around her parents' house, but since it happened here too whenever she tried to make something come to her, she figured it must be true.

It was too bad. She'd been hoping that the invisible fairies were real after all.