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   Chapter 3 Going Home

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 9391

Updated: 2017-11-29 19:04


I wake up to a slap in the face. And then another. And another.

"Ow, ow, ow, OW!" I flail and kick the dashboard of Kai“s Subaru. He yelps and flings his arms over the wooden paneling, lovingly stroking the built in cassette tape player. I clutch my face and sink down into the cracked leather seats, wool tufts floating up into the darkness around me.

Finn sighs. "So are we going to school tomorrow? Today?"

I glance down at my broken camera and scream. Head slammed into the headrest, face shoved into hands. I give your long, drawn out, Luke Skywalker "Nooooo..."

Kai grunts. "I don“t think Monet can handle—"

"Have you ever not seen her acting irrationally? Honestly, I think she“s right. I think she“s fine."

Tears spring to my burning eyes and race down my face. I suck in a breath, dry myself off with Finn“s hoodie, and lean against the cool windshield. "Okay, okay." I bite my quivering upper lip and puff out my chest. "So I broke my favorite camera. So the mayor is conspiring with Masquerade. Okay. Also, thanks, guys."

"You owe me ice cream," Kai says, the engine gargling as he backs the car out of this mud pit. Brown splatters the window and hides the streaks of gold in the sky. "I“m crashing at your house. After we go to the doctor."

"Oh, man." I cough, sinking even deeper into the seat. "School. Why? Why did this have to happen on the first day of school?"

"Let“s hope Masquerade is a high schooler." Finn crosses his ankles on the console, thumping his dirty Converse on the faux leather lid. Kai yelps at this, too, fumbling over me for the duster in the glove compartment. "We could identify him by the bags under his eyes. Also, quit whining. This is your own fault, Monet, all “Hey! This will be a fun way to end summer. This can“t end badly. Nope. Not dangerous at all."

"Point taken." I pick up the half-dry highlighter in the glove compartment and mark the back of my wrist. It“s a habit, scratching down every time one of my merry band knocks me a peg or six. I“ll have tally marks tattooed on my back when I“m old enough, just as reminders.

I got this. “Born leader“ ought to be my memoir title, right behind “Defender of the universe“ and “He-man.“

"But yeah, yeah, sludge. Dangerous."

"Dangerous," Kai repeats, flicking Finn“s ankles off the console with a swat of his feather duster. "You crushed your camera with a bare hand, Monet. And...and you don“t look weird or anything, just kind of sludgy, but we should still take you to the doctor." He shuts the feather duster back up in the glove compartment and places both hands back on the steering wheel, where they should“ve always been.

I sigh. "I gotta think of a plan. And I gotta take a shower. Let“s just go home. Then I can have a real cry, with ice cream."

Kai grunts again, glaring at me over his shoulder. His black hair is ruffled under his Mets cap, shorter than Finn“s mess but still a little shaggy. Eyes, a dark brown. Skin, an even tan of the sun-kissed variety most guys here sport. He even smells of sea salt, as opposed to Finn“s and my own smell of... sweat, mostly. Not all of us can be the sea“s gift to Silver Dollar.

"Seriously, Mo“, are you sure—"

I pick up his cap and slap it back on his head, mussing his perfectly imperfect waves. He groans. That“s forty percent of his communication, grunts and groans.

"Drive! Drive, my chauffeur, we must hurry home to cry and plot and make coffee for tomorrow. “Cause school sucks, and your backpacks are with me. They“re my hostages." I rub my hands together, forcing a mua-ha-ha even though this is poor timing for a mua-ha-ha. Kai frowns down at the steering wheel. "Look," I say, "if I start throwing up like crazy, I“ll hit the clinic. M“Kay? But we gotta think of something..."

Finn yawns. "In case you didn“t notice, it“s, like, three in the morning." The car pulls out of the forest roads and onto the paved, smooth ones. “Smooth“ is a term I use generously here. The car thumps, again and again. The city street is pot-holed enough to beat out the moon in sheer crater numbers. "Monet is fine—"

"No one asked you!" Kai shouts, gripping the steering wheel so hard his knuckles go white.

"Yeah, well, no one asked you to be her bodyguard!" Finn crosses both feet back on the console, driving a shriek from Kai that makes my stomach turn up as the car swerves into the next lane. City buildings and murals fly by. Seagulls perch on the street lamps and caw down at us like crows. The city is otherwise silent. Of course, it is. The heroes are gone, the only trace left of them the mural on the tattoo parlor wall where I plan to get my tally marks done. Five heroes. Al

l gone. The cracked green Patients First flies by, and I lean my head back with a relieved sigh.

"At least I care about her! All you care about is getting some stupid material for your stupid video game so you can—"

"Oh, and you“re so great. You“re just a domineering piece of—"

"Shut up!" I shout. My voice has gone shot. "I“m not your freaking mom! Learn to talk to each other like human beings, huh?" My hands flail up and my fingers skim the ceiling. The metal screams and felt flakes tumble down on my head. My heart stops. Kai squeaks. Finn howls and howls and howls with laughter so maniacal it belongs in a Bond movie.

I“ve left fingertip sized dents in the roof.

"Oh, my gosh, Kai! Your car! I“m so sorry...I...I“m..." My palms are sweaty and my face is flushed. If my camera is—was—my baby, then this car is—still is— Kai“s.

He purses his lips, swings the car back around, and pulls into the Patients First parking lot.

***

So it turns out there“s no diagnosis for super strength. I could“ve told you that myself. And after a quick check-up from a perky nurse on her fifth fizzy energy drink of the morning, I was cleared. Medically healthy, a pity about the almost drowning part though, and you may want further testing to make sure those chemicals didn“t bind to your DNA and give you, like, cancer by unhealthy mutation. Though they probably did do some of that binding since you are starting to mutate, what with the super-strength and all, but otherwise, you seem perfectly healthy. And ought to donate your body to science.

I was shaking by the time I stumbled back to the car. Still am. I“m exhausted, and sleepy, and beginning to wonder if any of this is happening and oh my gosh school. Tomorrow. I thunk my head on the dash and groan, just when someone taps on the window the way you tap a fish bowl to scare the bejeezus out of goldfish.

"Hey, Monet!" Masquerade waves at me, back to business in his usual cloaked black cape. "It looks like someone escaped a watery grave. Care to let me try again?"

I lift my head, blinking sleepily. Kai is screaming and revving the engines beside me. I glance into the rearview. Finn is trembling in the back seat, so pale he looks like he“s gone into rigor mortis. I lift my fist, mouth my apologies to Finn, and bash out the passenger window. Glass whooshes in Masquerade“s face, which has about as much an effect on him as party confetti.

Kai“s scream has become a choky squeal. I offer him a measly pat, the only thing I can think to offer. He hisses like a little cat.

"No. I got school tomorrow and you“ve got school tomorrow," I say into Masquerade“s long wooden mask. That grin still gives me chills. "I“ve got nothing on you and the mayor yet and you know it. Go to bed."

He whines, crossing his arms as the car barrels past sixty, seventy, even eighty miles an hour when the speed limit is forty-five. "I gotta kill you." The car trembles underneath my feet. The seats have begun to shake and whir. My knees knock, my teeth rattling. My heart is pounding, but more out of the self-preservation fear that the vehicle will self-destruct than whatever Masquerade“s trying to pull. I clap my hands.

"School! Go to bed right now, young man. You won“t even be able to function in Trig tomorrow if you kill me tonight. And that“ll be suspicious."

Masquerade laughs, a little low, a little deep. "You“re weird," he says. He reaches in, props two fingers under my chin, and jerks my face out the window. I yelp. Wind whips my hair back and stings my eyes. A tear splatters the villain“s mask. "Oh," he says, tugging my cheek hard. "I think I“ll toy with you before I kill you."

"Hey!" Kai shouts. "Back off!"

I shrug at him and knock his fingers away with a shaking fist. "Whatever keeps the hormonal stress at bay."

"You“re not clever," he tells me, fliping Kai off over my shoulder. And just like that, he poofs. A flash of white mask and a flick of black hood. Kai“s still screaming. The engine shudders as a panicking Kai slows the car to a more legal speed. Finn squeezes his arms around his chest, shuts his eyes, and bashes his head into the console. Repeatedly. Then he sighs, which sounds a little more like a moo. When I look back, his eyes are red and puffy.

"Oh, man, oh, man oh man," says Kai as he pulls into the parking lot of my apartment complex.

I snap my seat belt loose and pop the door open, half my face shoved in a shaking, cupped hand. Sweat greases my fingers and eyelids. "So we“re being hunted by a supervillain. Great. What else is new?"

"Oh, I don“t know." Finn gives another moo-like sigh. "We“re dead meat?"

Very optimistic, that Finn.

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