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   Chapter 9 Council Kids

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 14870

Updated: 2017-12-02 19:04


"Don“t get kidnapped!" Kai shouts, staring wide-eyed at the mayor“s residence. Finn whistles from the back seat, beanie twisted in a sweaty knot around his fingers.

"Wow," I breathe. I“ve never seen such a beautiful house. Three stories of modern architecture with a Victorian slant. Vaulted roofs, a nine-foot arch over the door, and a coat of blue paint that glistens in the setting sun. The lawn is neatly trimmed, candles gilding the windows gold, though candles are usually a Christmas thing and Christmas is months and months away. "Well," I say, "I“ll try. Not to get kidnapped, I mean."

Finn snorts and waves me off. "Have fun."

I kick out the door, bracing my aching ribs which have swollen and grown lumpy. The car sputters and backs out, and then I“m standing alone in front of the mayor“s too-long driveway. I draw up a shaky breath and stumble up onto the front porch.

My ankle is clicking and swelling. Every step brings a hissed “d“oh,“ but if Red“s team can take buildings being swung at them, then I can take a few punches. I puff up my chest, pull down the hem of my hoodie, and knock on the door of my shared family enemy.

It swings open almost instantly. Max smiles at me and for a second I“m caught breathless. I take photos. I admire beauty. This boy is beauty and smooth with the gents I am not.

"Hey," he says. The sleeves of his plaid shirt are rolled up to his elbows. His honey-brown hair is combed back and slicked down. His skin is so damp his clothes cling to him. "Come on in." His eyes are a brown so deep you“d think you could drown in them.

"Uh, hi." I wipe my shoes on the flowery welcome mat and step inside. Max“s home is nothing like mine. No fading pink wallpaper and chipping honeysuckle beige trim. No bath mat foyer. No library of yellow-paged books or the phantom reek of long burned candles. This house is fresh. Perky, even. Bright blue paint on the narrow hall walls, clean white trim, portraits following the swirl of spiral stairs that ascend up, up, up, into the lavish mansion. The home feels alive somehow. Whether it be from those smiling pictures of a dimply Max posing with his loser father, or whether it be from the light arching into the glowing room from the wall of windows upstairs, I can“t help a twitch of a smile.

The smell of baking cookies is unmistakable. Max races up the spiral staircase and pauses half-war, leaning an elbow on the banister. "What“s wrong?" he asks. "You coming?" A blush rises in my cheeks when I realize I“ve been staring at a framed portrait of him with his dad.

"Yeah, yeah." I hug my arms around my chest and wince when new pain flares up in my side. "Coming!" I unlace my shoes and kick them by the door. The soft parts in my ankle and leg buzz with the usual pain, the whole half of my body crippled and unsteady. I force back a whimper with an awkward laugh. "S-So what do you want to do?"

He clears the staircase and skids onto the second floor in his socks. I follow. The house is so open, you can peer down at the foyer through the rails. The appliances are all steel, the cabinets all shiny red cherry wood, the counters all granite. They glitter in the late sunlight that pours through the open windows. Three kids I vaguely remember from the speech-giving-affair lounge on the cushy leather sectional, holding Cokes, fiddling on their phones. Chip and Percy take up the love seat.

"They“ve been shunned," Max whispers in my ear, up on his tiptoes once more. I can sense the smile behind his voice. Percy leans her head against Chip“s shoulder. She groans a “hello,“ turns over, and buries her face in the blonde boy“s shirt. "They didn“t make the council."

"So what are they doing here?" I don“t bother to lower my voice. The council kids lift their heads from their Coke-chugging and phone-tapping and wave their “hi“s. I wave mine back, and make myself comfortable in Max“s beautiful kitchen, opening cabinets and drawers, reading labels, locating the coffee maker.

"They“re my friends. What are you—"

"Your council is asleep. Shame on you, Max. Politics don“t happen without coffee." I find a bag of coffee grinds, Jamaican brew, organic, fair trade, everything you could want in a cup of coffee, find the pot in the pantry with all the hanging cookware, plug in, and do my magic. The oven beeps. The spicy sweet of baking snickerdoodles makes my mouth water. Max pulls out the cookies and I scoop and pour and sta

om.

The floor I“ll break into tonight.

A key clicks in the downstairs door. With all hardwood, hard finishes, and new, sharp walls, the house has acoustics that put an opera house“s to shame. "Dad!" Max shouts, launching through the kitchen like a rocket at lift off. I step away from the counter and back against the kitchen window as his pounding steps recede, a steady thump, thump, thump, like a heartbeat amplified a thousand times over. I glance outside, my fingers twitchy and trembling against the cool glass pane, the sweet taste of cinnamon and butter and salt still on my tongue.

The sun is a perfect orange, the sky a candy pink, wispy white clouds splashed gold wound like cobwebs over the view. I can make out more mansions, with their bright paint jobs and cut lawns. I can make out even the ocean if I squint, a sliver of gray water, the fog rolling in a gentle climb from the east and coating the world in a velvety fuzz. My heart is beating so fast I can hardly breathe, beating like the wings of a caged bird, beating hard.

"I“m going to jump out the window," I say as coolly as I can, my back turned to the council kids as I face the setting sun. I like to imagine myself silhouetted, casting long shadows across the kitchen floor. A dark, brooding, mysterious girl. A real superhero. I shrug. "So don“t freak out."

"You“re crazy," Percy says in her sweet, chirpy voice. She offers an awkward laugh. "Monet, I know your dad and Max“s dad don“t get along, but—"

"Guys, guys, guys, meet my dad!" Max has such an excited little voice. Even now he sounds like he“s about to burst into a musical number, or maybe into happy yips. But it“s the mayor that I“m thinking about mostly. I saw something I shouldn“t. I“m a Gretal standing in a witch“s kitchen, just waiting to be shoved into the oven.

"Oh, good." The mayor laughs, his voice low and choky, each sound he makes closer to a bark than a human word. "Kids overrunning my kitchen. Smells like coffee."

"Yeah, have you met Monet? She“s good at that—"

I pop the locks on the window up and open. With a hard shove, I disconnect the glass pane with the sill. The wire mesh squeals. My breath comes in hot and fast bursts. I don“t look back, don“t even look around, I see nothing between myself and the open sky. I unfurl myself out of the window with a hard kick.

Then I“m falling fast, arms flailing and flapping like broken wings as I grasp emptily at the open air, and when I land, I land wobbly on both feet. And then I“m running, as a warm breeze brushes my hair out of my face and tingles my skin. I“m running, and running, and running, trying to remember what I“m here for. What I have to do.

The cape. The mask. Max. I have to find my costume and learn what Max knows.

Yet all I can feel is this quiet, unsettling hum inside me, radiating from an uncalm place. I can run from the mayor, but I only end up circling back.

This, I know, is only the beginning.

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