"I know we talked about this, Amy, but now is not a good time!"

It's really hard to sleep when Dad and Aunt Amy are fighting which really sucks because Dad and Aunt Amy are always fighting. As much as I love my aunt, I'm kinda glad she stays away for most of the year. The three months or so that she spends with us is already enough to give Dad an ulcer.

After a little more yelling, Dad slams down the phone and maybe finally I can get some sleep. I let out a sigh and snuggle deeper in the bed. A cold front blew through last night and I say it's about time. I love sleeping on flannel sheets but living in Texas means I don't get to use them very often. Warm, comfy sheets, my favorite pillow and dreams of Paul Davis, the guy I've been crushing on since junior high. It doesn't get any better than this.

"Don't ever hang up on me again, Connor MacIntyre!"

The slamming of the front door, which is almost right under my bedroom, jolts me awake. Great. Just great. Bad enough they have to fight over the telephone but now they're going to continue their shouting match in person. I'll never get any rest and there's a big Pre-cal test in the morning and I'll look like a hag with bags under my eyes and wait a minute!

In person? As in, Aunt Amy's in the house? Sweet!

I remember to pull on my plush pink robe before racing down the stairs. "Aunt Ameeeeeee!" Okay, so the squeal is better suited for a tween and not a mature young woman of almost-seventeen, but what do I care? I haven't seen my aunt in seven months and she always brings the best presents.

She's there to catch me as I round the corner into the kitchen. I've had a growth spurt since the last time she visited, so this time when she hugs me I can rest my chin on the top of her head. It's so nice being taller than someone!

"Oh, I've missed you cariad."

The sound of her voice always makes me smile. She's got the coolest British accent and uses all these Welsh words, which really makes no sense at all since she's not Welsh. She's not really anything at all, but that's a long story. "Missed you too, Aunt Amy."

After a few minutes, Dad clears his throat. Aunt Amy chuckles and turns but keeps her arm around my waist. Now that we're separated, I can get a good look at her and its not pretty. She's pale as a ghost and there are dark bruises on her face and collarbone. I know what they're from and it makes my stomach ache.

She catches the direction of my gaze and squeezes my side. She's super-empathic like that. "I'm okay, sweetness. Nothing to be concerned about."

"How long are you here for?" It's a question I hate asking. I really, really wish it could be like it was when I was a kid and Aunt Amy was around full-time but I know she can't do that anymore. I just hate hearing that it's only for a couple of weeks or days.

Dad drums his fingers on the countertop. He's frowning, as usual. It sucks that there's so much tension between my two guardians. Yes, I said guardians. Surprised? I can do even better. Dad's not my real dad. He's my birth father's older brother. I suppose I could call him Uncle Connor, but he's always been Dad to me. Which, I guess, is a little strange because Aunt Amy's never been Mom. She's just not the type. She's more like the fun aunt who gets you into all kinds of trouble. Anyway, she's my birth mom's twin sister. My parents died when I was a baby and Dad and Aunt Amy got custody.

"We were having a conversation, Allyson."

Oh. Full-name usage. Not good. "More like an argument, Dad. You guys woke me up. Again."

Aunt Amy laughs which only makes Dad angrier. "She's got you there, Con."

Dad's face is a bright red but he's doing those deep-breathing exercises I taught him so maybe his head won't explode. I elbow Aunt Amy in the stomach, hoping it will keep her from laughing. Fortunately it works. Nearly a minute later, Dad's calmed down enough to form a complete sentence. "You'll see your aunt tomorrow, Ally. It's late and you should be in bed."

It is really late, so I don't argue. I just kiss my two favorite adults and dash up the stairs. I don't actually go into my room, though. There's a little alcove beside the stairs that is the perfect spot for eavesdropping. I've even stuffed a small pillow in there to make it a little more comfortable.

Dad and Aunt Amy resume their argument as soon as I'm out of sight. Dad, of course, is the first one to start up. "I don't like this, Amy."

"You think I do? I hate it just as much as you do. Maybe more. It's not going to change anything, though. Thankfully you took my advice and we've already prepared her for this."

"Prepared her? You call a few measly explanations and one controlled demonstration preparation? She has no idea what it's going to be like when the binding breaks!"

Aunt Amy huffs. I can picture her with her arms crossed over her chest and that ice-queen glare I so want to learn on her face. "That's why I'm here now. I'm going to spend every minute she's not in school or doing homework training her. She will be fine."

"Is that why you're here? I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you remembered this birthday. Lord knows you haven't been here for the past ten."

I love my dad for sticking up for me. Aunt Amy usually calls and sends a present for my birthday, but she rarely ever shows up for the party. I guess it's not such a bad thing, since having to explain my eccentric aunt's presence would be a pain, but it does hurt when she's not there.

"Those were your rules, Connor. You're the one who limited the amount of time I'm allowed to spend with our niece. I understand the reason but that doesn't make it any easier for me. You think I enjoy missing so much of Al's life?"

I didn't know that. I'd always assumed that it was Aunt Amy's decision to spend so much time away. She's got a really demanding… job. I just figured that was part of the reason. The sound of a chair being kicked over makes me jump and almost give away my position.

"Damn it all, Amaryllis, now's not the time to argue about the past. You need to do another binding before her birthday. No need for extra training or anything like that. We can put it off for another year and you can go back to whatever in the hell it is you've been doing."

Another chair bites the dust. At this rate, Dad'll need to buy a new dining set in the morning. I'm just glad they haven't started throwing things at each other yet. That's always the worst to clean up.

"I'm not going to take that choice away from her. It's not fair." Something slams down on the countertop. I hope it's just Aunt Amy's fist and not Dad's head. "And, don't make it sound like I've been fooling around all this time. I've been keeping her, and you, safe."

Ugh. Dad of all people should know that. He's usually the one telling me how self-sacrificing my aunt is. As if she wasn't already my biggest hero. Dad must realize what a jerk he's being, because I can hear him sigh. He only sighs like that when he's going to apologize.

"I'm sorry, Amy. That was uncalled for. You caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting to have to deal with all this tonight. Maybe we should take this up tomorrow after we've had some time to cool down."

I crawl out from the alcove and lay on my stomach behind the railing. It gives me a great view of the kitchen. I watch Aunt Amy kiss Dad's cheek. He hugs her, a little too tightly for my peace of mind, and walks her to the door. While he's still talking about timing and meetings, she rises on her toes and looks straight at me.

"You should be in bed, young lady.."

The echo of my aunt's voice in my head, yes, in my head, has me scrambling to my feet and racing to bed. Since I haven't done it in a while, it takes me a little while to be able to respond. "'Night Aunt Amy."

"Good night, sweetness."

Alright, so my life is a little strange. I'm being raised by guardians who fight like cats and dogs. My upcoming birthday is some sort of catalyst that's making them fight more than usual. There's talk of bindings and protections. I'm close to failing stupid Pre-Calculus, I'm never going to finish my big English paper, and oh, yeah, my aunt and I can communicate telepathically. I'm a freak. At least I come by it naturally.