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   Chapter 14 It's a Date

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 12266

Updated: 2017-12-04 19:05

It“s pathetic to me at first. The way his eyes flutter and widen, colorless and dim. He“s wearing contacts, I think. His pupils a dull, ashy gray. They look too hard to be natural. Never changing in the light. That same sustained...nothing.

His breathing is still labored and hitched. "That“s not really a hero“s style."

"Good thing I“m a crap-hero, then."

He rolls his shoulders back and presses the side of his face into the floor. Then his eyes flicker, the first change I“ve seen in them at all. They fall shut. "Monet?" he asks, and I can hear the grin behind his voice. His breathy, part-mechanical laugh.

I recoil. Tennis shoe off his stern, heels skidding back into the pile of stiff, half-crumpled papers. "I have no idea what you“re talking back."

"You quoted me." He squirms his shoulder, an awkward attempt at a shrug that flings a swirl of crackling papers into the air. "Word for word quoted me. Is this why you“re doing this? Revenge?"

I bite the ropes. No give. "Everyone says that. That“s like, a public domain phrase, Masquerade."

He rises shakily, half-stooped in the pages. "Yeah? You sure seem defensive about it."

Every muscle in my body is tensed, a coiled spring waiting to unravel. "Maybe because that poor girl has been through enough? Maybe because she doesn“t deserve to have you breaking into her house. You want my name, I can give you my name. You want an address, sure, I can give you that too." The fibers taste like acid and spit-wash. My chin has begun to quiver. "Leave civilians out of this."

He shrugs. It“s a sleepy little motion, slow and part deliberate. My body is acting separately from my brain, responding more from his accord than my own, waiting for him to pull the trigger, waiting to pounce. "I don“t take orders from you."

That“ll do it.

He ducks a split-second before my foot connects with his face. Kicking up eves of paper and shards of twisted metal, he snatches up the loose coil that I“ve draped over my forearms. I step back, but he encircles me with it. The kid is fast. I hit the ground sprawling, my knees tangled in the thick, glowing cord, and for a whole second, I can“t even say what hit me.

I should“ve knocked him out when I had the chance. Why haven“t I learned my lesson about off-handed-remarks? Couldn“t I have told him I wasn“t Monet without taking my shoe off his chest, my one shot at restraining him, my one shot at learning what happened to the heroes.

I ram my elbow into his collarbone the inevitable moment he drops for a wrestling match. In the seconds he takes to compose himself, I pull his hood down over his eyes and shoot out the door, wobbling in the flimsy, open air. I crash in the shrubs, burying myself in the pointy leaves and burrs. Sticks tangle in my hair, gauge into my skin. My whole body is awash in pain, layers of it. From deep inside my broken ribcage, from the scratches in the thin layer of skin, a constant, flowing ache.

On the bright side, it“s been thirty minutes. At least I can take my pills when I get home.

The laces of his tennis shoes brush my upper-ear. I stiffen; couldn“t move a twitch, jaw gritted, back locked. The villain“s torn cape flips open. Gold sunlight pours through the holes in the stiff fabric. And then he“s gone, a dash against the blue-glass calm sky. I squirm through the thin blades of grass, draw up a shaky breath, and comb through the uneven patches of clover and weeds for my phone. The screen is near shattered, crisscrossed with a spiderweb of translucent cracks. I don“t know whether to categorize this as a win or a loss; Masquerade was hurt, I was hurt, he took the upper hand, I took the u

down, reminding me a little too much of the warehouse fight.

"Forms, forms, forms, forms, forms!" He“s laughing, hysterically laughing, rolling in the yellow papers so they“re all crumpled up before I can forge Dad“s signature on even one single dotted line. And it scares me sometimes, how quickly Kai swings from stable to manic, from sobbing to laughing.

Finn pushes his glasses up on the bridge of his nose. There“s a knock on the door. Kai stops laughing. Finn freezes. Then they catch eyes, and Kai is smirking and Finn is looking down at his shoes, half-smiling. I tense. They“re plotting. Plotting to overthrow me, probably.

I pull myself to my feet, unraveling the loose tangle of rope around my knees. "I guess I“ll get it." The air is sticky and warm. The boys stand to the side, not hissing at each other at least. Maybe the locker incident brought them closer. Or at least, it brought them an uneasy truce.

I open the door with a fist bracing my side. Max waves at me. I almost slam it in his face.

"Hey." He squeezes a small white bear to his chest, scratching his chin with his pinkie finger.

"H-Hi," I say, my throat so dry I rasp. Stammering isn“t my style. It makes me feel less of an action hero. Superman doesn“t stammer. James Bond doesn“t stammer. But in my defense, this a stammer-worthy embarrassment for reasons including but not limited to:

A) Maybe Max knows I“m Onyx. Maybe he“s just here to taunt me about it. Maybe I“m just a Fool and maybe he“s just Playing Along.

B) I was with him last night. I saw him in his Spider-man jammies. I saw him crying.

C) He“s here. At my house. He“s looking over my shoulder, too. At the bookshelves, at the pink bath math, at the awkward boys. He frowns.

"Percy told me about you jumping out the window." He blinks those tired brown eyes and holds out the bear. "Can we go out and... talk?"

"Oh, um." Water. I need water. "Sure."

I step outside. He“s asking me out. My pulse is pounding behind my eyelids. I take the toy out his hands carefully. "Thanks," I say, and my face is filling up with heat.

He smiles.

The door slams shut behind me, and through the half-rotting wood, I can just make out giggling. Maniacal giggling.

" you want to go somewhere?" Max asks.

I need to write down my findings. I need to respond to the comments on my blog. I need to rest.

"Sure." I shrug. I even offer him a smile. "How about the boardwalk?"

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