She felt like an exploded sun.
Her energy was completely spent, devoid of power. She’d used it all up and watched it come to nothing. Wasted.
Real stars at least knew that their light would travel on for thousands of light years; their effects could be felt for lifetimes upon lifetimes to come. But she was left with exhaustion and the chills. No satisfaction, no knowledge. She was empty. A vessel that had once been a conduit for something magnificent.
And now, nothing.
Elle fell to her knees for the third time that day, wincing as old scabs absorbed the impact from the collapse. She listened to the disappointed murmurings swell around her. She pictured a tornado in space, swallowing up the remnants of her shattered body. It took her a moment to remember that there was something like that out there, only they called it a black hole.
After a moment, she felt a hand on her back. She turned slowly, wincing at the thought of her father’s saddened face staring down at her, but she swallowed and endured. She glared when she saw it was Mr. Bennet and tried to pull away. She was too weak.
Mr. Bennet didn’t keep his hand on her for very long. He looked up, his mouth screwed up the same way it always did right before he said, “Bob, I think she’s had enough for one day.”
Then she heard her daddy sigh. It made the nothing feel so much worse. “She powered three rooms. She can manage four today.”
Normally, Elle didn’t have the patience to feel when other adults were getting upset; she was usually having too much fun making lightbulbs turn on in her hand or watching a dog’s hair stand on end. But she felt Mr. Bennet change behind her, just like those chemicals that changed colors when she touched them. This wasn’t as much fun.
“Bob, she’s not a machine,” he snapped. “You can’t just—"
“You can do it, can’t you, sweetie?”
Elle looked up, her eyes searching out her father’s. It took her a few seconds to focus, but she was happy to see him smiling at her. She liked it when he wasn’t sad after she messed up.
Mr. Bennet practically growled like the dogs she knew his wife raised. “Bob—"
“I can do it,” Elle whispered, forcing herself to her feet. “I can do it.”
Mr. Bennet started to protest, and sometimes, the others would join in. She was too young; she wasn’t developed enough; they were asking too much too soon; the consequences – no one was thinking of the consequences. But none of that mattered because her daddy was smiling at her, and if he was happy, that meant she was safe. That meant she was strong enough. That meant she could do anything.
So she stood up and tried again.