Now that he had reminded himself of Francis’s existence, Griff could see nothing else in his mind’s eye, could think of nothing but the expression on her face as she’d flung herself away from the open doorway, horror-stricken by whatever spell of false emotion that girl had cast on her. She’d gone invisible immediately, and then he’d forgotten her… But of course, that was kind of how Francis’s ability worked, wasn’t it? It made anyone within her ability’s area of influence simply ignore the fact of her existence: she became invisible not only to the eye, but to the mind, as well.
He hadn’t noticed it at the time, but thinking back now he had completely lost her, not only from sight but from his mind, as well. He’d never been on the outside of her invisibility before, that he could think of…
He could sense her now, though. Her outline was faint, but it was there, and growing slightly brighter. Did that mean her hold on her ability was weakening? Was her conviction waning as the fear-spell wore off? Was she simply—finally—running out of stamina?
As Griff rounded the corner of the house, back onto the front lawn, a third possibility blazed up: even as Griff could sense her huddled there, clinging stubbornly to her invisible safety, the flames were lashing out, casting sparks and embers across the porch and walkway, literally burning away the woman’s concentration.
Despite his ability to sense her location, Griff still couldn’t actually see Francis, and that would make a rescue difficult. If her grip on her invisibility was weakening, though, maybe he could just…
Griff bent down low, beneath the smoke, and dashed over to where Francis was. Reaching out to take hold of her, a new thought occurred to him: how was Naomi’s mother doing? She’d passed out while they were carrying her out of the house, hadn’t she? Maybe he should check on—
Before he realized it, Griff found himself on the sidewalk, bending over the still-unconscious woman as Naomi, Emily, Candace, and Naomi’s father ran up behind him.
“What’s going on?” asked Naomi. “Why’d you run off like that?”
“Argh,” grunted Griff. “Francis! My, um… partner, I guess. She’s right over there.” He pointed.
“Huh?” said Naomi.
“She’s invisible,” Griff explained, “but I can sense her. It’s impossible to get close to her without her ability resetting your brain and causing you to forget her completely… She’s coming out of it, I think, slowly, but—”
A beam inside the house collapsed, sending a whooshing cloud of black smoke roiling up into the sky. Several chunks of debris rained down across the lawn.
“—But we don’t have time to wait for it to wear off completely,” Naomi said, finishing his thought for him.
Naomi frowned for a moment. “She can’t physically repel you, can she? It’s just a mental thing?”
“I think so. If we had a rope or something, we could—”
Naomi cut him off: “Point her out for me again.”
Griff aimed his finger carefully. “Right there. What are you going to—”
“Emily, I need a little more eyeball courage,” said Naomi.
Emily stared resolutely into her friend’s eyes.
Then Naomi turned and leapt into a sprint, straight towards Francis. As she drew within a few feet of where the woman lay, she launched herself into the air in a flying tackle, arms extended.
The evolution of her facial expression as she passed through Francis’s protective bubble was almost comical to watch, beginning at fierce determination, lapsing into blank lack-of-care, and then momentarily bursting into fear as she contorted her body, desperate to halt her progress, just before she rammed bodily into her target with a hollow thud and rolled bizarrely over in the air, slumping down beside the invisible obstacle she had collided with.
“Naomi!” cried Emily, charging after her friend.
Griff followed, and the two of them seized Naomi by the ankles and dragged her back to safety. When Griff turned around again, there was Francis, sitting on the grass beside the walkway, head between her knees, arms wrapped around her face, with a trickle of blood beginning to run down her temple.