"I got tested," I announced. My grip, on the velvet box in my pocket, tightened.
"Excuse me?" Sarah asked looking up from the menu with a smile. I loved her smile. It wasn't the perfect curve of her lips but the way her eyes glowed when she looked at me.
"I got tested," I repeated. "The results arrived this morning."
"Tested for what, darling?" she asked putting the menu down. I looked out the window to avoid her eyes. She reached out to put her hand on top of mine.
"I'm EMC-Positive, Sarah," I whispered. Her hand pulled away; my nails dug into the box.
"The Institute started testing everyone at puberty over ten years ago, Michael," she insisted.
"An exception is allowed if the biological parents and the child refuse the test," I informed her.
"Who would do that?" she asked horrified. I turned to stare at her.
"But even your parents have to be reasonable about some things, Michael!"
"No, Sarah, they don't," I sighed. "They thought that the Institute was just another government conspiracy. They still do."
"Everyone gets tested!" she spat.
I didn't have anything to say to that; I had been dealing with the repercussions of my parents' political beliefs since I moved out of their home.
"You had to say no for the exception to apply," she said furiously.
"I was fourteen, Sarah," I reminded her. "Every kid talked about refusing the test."
"But no one does!"
"Parents do not refuse the test," I said. "I thought it was cool that I could do what everybody else only talked about."
I warned the waitress off with a small shake. Sarah sat in silence for a few minutes.
"Are they sure?" Sarah asked. "There could have been a mistake."
"No mistake, Sarah," I said.
"There's drugs though," she said staring at me. "I've heard they suppress this."
"The drugs are rare since the Institute threatened to Quarantine anyone working for a company that manufactures them. It doesn't matter though, if I were Telepathic or Symbolic, the drugs would work," I said. "Hell, even an Empathic can be trained not to project. Not me."
"What are you?" she asked raising her voice.
"Pheromonic," I told her.
"That's impossible, Michael," she said. "They're the easiest to detect. We had a Fem-Pher in my high school; she was always flocked by boys."
"For all my parents' political beliefs, they wanted the best for their little boy," I said staring out the window again. "The best schools in my city were the single-sex grammar and high schools. Nobody thinks to ask why one boy is more popular than another in that environment."
"What about college?"
"I attended The Castle, Sarah," I stated.
Her nails scratched at the tablecloth. I picked up my napkin and wiped my brow.
"Do you need another couple of minutes?" the waitress asked approaching the table.
"Yes, please," I said.
She smiled and turned away too quickly, losing her balance. Her hand came down on top of my napkin when she tried to catch herself.
"I'm so sorry!" she said.
"It's okay," I told her.
Her face changed expressions as she looked down at the napkin. She picked it up and brought it to her face; a deep breath seemed to fuel something inside of her.
"Excuse me!" Sarah hissed.
"I'm sorry!" the waitress said blushing.
"It's okay," I said taking the napkin out of her hand gently. Sarah watched her flee.
"Is that how it's going to be?" Sarah growled at me.