Brightstar: The Rising Superhero
I took a long sigh before I exited the car. Never had it crossed my mind that I had to go to school after what happened, but here we are. My good old school towered over me like an impending doom as if this was the hardest thing I had to face. Another sigh escaped me as I turned around to see my mom in her old Prius.
-Don’t go anywhere after school. I got a surprise for you. So wait here, and don’t go anywhere.-
“I get it, mom. You don’t need to say it twice. I’ll wait here after school. It’s not like I’m going to do something crazy again. I already promised you that.”
-Don’t forget to invite your two friends.-
-Just do it. Your aunt is also going to join us too.-
“Next you’re going to tell me that Grandma is going to join us.”
-Don’t be ridiculous. She won’t, but she did call. She said she missed you a lot.-
“She did? Well, tell her I miss her too. Alright, I better get going.” I was about to turn around when mom tapped the side of the car causing me to direct my attention back to her.
My mom pointed to her cheek with a big smile. I snickered a laugh before leaning down and laid a kiss on her cheek. Unsatisfied by my half-hearted attempt, she pulled my head down and laid her lips on my cheek. All those eyes watching me right now. Well, it’s not like this was the first time I got to be a laughing stock.
After she let go of me, I groaned, “Mom…”
She waved her hand at me, before gesturing to, -I love you.-
“Me too.” I turned away with a slouch and started walking. She left the school driveway in her car.
The whispers started as usual as their judging sight set on me. However, I will not let them have power over me. It’s bad enough with the suppressor collar around my neck, but thank god for this turtle-neck hiding it from prying eyes. I slapped my face together and took a deep breath in then released it.
“Hey Kenn, you’re early today…” It is certainly a warm well-known voice. A welcome one. I’m glad he’s here.
“Hey, Jake. How are you.… What is that?”
I cannot believe my eyes right now, but there’s a pair of fox ears on Jake’s head. My eyes darted around me, trying to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. I pinched my cheek to snap myself out of the dream. However, here I am. What my eyes saw was real as the sun itself above me.
I sighed. “What are you wearing?”
Jake, himself, sighed. “I lost a bet.”
A few snickers of laughter passed by us as the other students headed toward the entrance. Jake looked away with reddened cheeks and a frown while I tried to hold my laugh. Jake glared at me then pinched the bridge of his nose to calm his nerves.
“Just, don’t. Please,” said Jake.
“A’ight, but I got to ask.”
“It’s because he lost a bet!” A rugged and feminine voice joined in our conversation from behind me.
My shoulders perked up the moment she laid her palms on me and Jake then pulled us closer until our shoulder met. I glanced at the chummy girl beside me causing my eyebrows to raise with a jolt of happiness.
It was Ria, in the same school uniform as I was. Except for a few of her own minor adjustments to suit her punk and goth style. The changes weren't overt enough to get in trouble with the school staff but still managed to fit her own tone and gave her the freedom to express herself.
“Hey, don't wear my name out.”
“You’re at my school, how?”
“What do you mean how? She goes to this school. It’s just she has been skipping class for a long time,” answered Jake with a shrug.
“Wait, what?” I raised both my eyebrows at them.
Ria broke off and did a little spin. Fluttering her skirt while giving us a full view of her school uniform. “So what do you think?”
“You look… surprisingly good.”
“Pfft, bland. Don't look at me like that. You ain't my type,” scoffed Jake while shrugging his shoulders.
That comment ticked off Ria causing her to hit Jake in his shoulder. The fox-eared boy yelped in pain and ran behind me to take cover. I was put in between their quarrel. With a smile, I tried to intervene as Jake pushed out his tongue at Ria which caused her to be more irritated by the boy. She chased Jake all around me until he caught him and started whomping his butt.
I couldn't help but smile watching both of them. A person who just met them would certainly mistake them for siblings. I’m glad both of them got along well even though it’s going to get noisier with the two of them near me.
“Okay. Okay. Stop. I yield,” pleaded Jake.
“You do know you hit like a dude?”
“Said the asswipe who lost the bet.”
“Wait, what's this about a bet?” I intruded in.
Jake groaned before explaining, “We were at the arcade and I thought how about a challenge.”
“When was this? And what did you challenge her to?”
“A fighting game, Street Brawler 2081. I thought I could beat her. Damn her, and her combos.” Jake shook his head while letting out another sigh.
“How good were you, Ria?”
“Very good. I used to hang out at the arcade back when I used to skip school.”
“Hoho, I need to test this myself. So how about another challenge? But this time, you’ll be fighting me.”
“Oh snap, Ria. You’re gonna get it now.”
“Hush, asswipe. I accept, Kenn. Same terms, or are you chicken?” She glanced at the fox ear on Jake’s head before returning to me.
“Gladly.” With a smirk, I said it with enough confidence it could drown a man.
Jake leaned to the side with a raised eyebrow. His gaze pierced through me, and so I turned around wondering what had caught his attention.
Golden and radiant as the sun itself. Her long locks fluttered in the wind as she ran toward us. Wearing the same uniform as us without any alteration, proper and new could be she’s new here. Suddenly, she took a short hop off the ground, and while in mid-air, she popped two wheels out under her heels. Her eyes closed which were reckless while she bit her bottom lip. But before my thought went further she landed on her wheels then spun causing her skirt to flutter and halted in front of me with both arms extended to the sides.
Her iris were the same colour as her hair, golden and glimmering. Judging from her reddened cheeks, her dramatic entrance obviously was something she has never done before. The truth was I don't even know who this girl was, and certainly, I haven’t got a clue why she did it.
“I admit that was cool, but can I help you?” I asked her.
Just like how she appeared, she left the scene with more questions unanswered while hiding her face behind her reddened hands.
“Wait?” It was too late, she already went inside the school.
“I know I haven't been to school, but did the students get weirder?” asked Ria.
“Nope, I don't think so. I am at a loss just like you,” I reassured Ria.
“And they say I'm the strange one,” sighed Jake.
“Yeah, I don't think so, you still got a fox ear on your head,” chimed Ria.
Jake sighed before heading toward the entrance with a slump. “God damn bet.”
School started as normally as it could after what happened, Jake went to his classroom while Ria and I went to ours. I find it rather nice to know the seat beside me that has been empty since the start of the semester belonged to Ria all along.
She waved at me before reaching into her bags and took out her textbook. I never saw Ria this excited before, but I’ve only known her for a couple of weeks now. Also, we barely meet outside the hospital. It has been a while, but we all should hang out together.
The same old grumpy teacher, Mr Don entered the classroom. The students quickly took their seats before the roll call. I didn't pay much attention to the class, instead, my gaze went through the window beside me. An ache emerged, but it didn't come from any injury I knew. The tinge of pain came from the centre of my chest, to be more precise, my heart. I never noticed it before, things were somewhat different from the normal I used to have before everything. It’s a lot... dull.
“Before we start our class, I have an announcement. From our neighbouring city, Eclipsa. Let’s give a warm welcome to our new student, Juliet Tricku.” Mr Don makes way for the new student.
“Pshh, Kenn, are you seeing this?” whispered Ria.
I turned my gaze back at the front of the classroom. My eyebrows raised when I saw the same girl from earlier in the morning. Blond hair that passed her shoulder, pastel white skin with a few freckles over the ridge of her nose, and two golden irises piercing through me. It must have been a fleeting thought because, for some reason, her gaze never went elsewhere except for me.
Our gaze met, and somehow her eyes got bigger with excitement. I turned away my gaze, back at the window. In the reflection, I saw her delighted expression dropped causing a pang of weird guilt to rise inside me. After letting out a sigh, I shook my feeling away.
“Why don't you introduce yourself to the class?”
“My name is Juliet Tricku, but you can call me Julie. I used to attend Eclipsa High school. It’s a pleasure to get to know you all.”
“Okay. Juliet, was it? You can pick any empty seat in the class. We will be continuing our lecture today.”
Despite the plethora of empty seats in the classroom, she still took a seat right behind me. I glanced at Ria, she faintly nodded her head at the girl behind me with a smirk. I don't even need to head around to know that she was staring at me. I let out another sigh. I’m pretty sure I never met her, but why does she seem so hell-bent on focusing all her attention on me?
The class went on like usual. No matter how weird it seemed, I tried to ignore whatever or whoever behind me and I did. Not a single glance I ever cast on her and I amend on doing it so until she gets bored. It’s better this way, it’s not a good image for her to get herself involved with me. I have a certain infamous reputation here, one that people like to avoid. So if she wanted a friend here, she better stay away from me.
The school bell rang, Mr. Don left the classroom first, only then the students were allowed to leave as a sign of respect. After 90 per cent of my classmates left, a few 10 per cent left. Those who are left are the popular girls, the nerd, or what I would like to call them: entertainment enthusiasts, Ria, and me. Wait, there is another person I forgot. I glanced at the reflection beside me, and she wasn't there. The strange girl wasn't there. She left. That’s good, it means my plan works.
“Ria?” I called to her as she rummaged through her bag, looking for something.
“What are you looking for?”
“Oh, nothing.” She took out a small bag of nicely wrapped cookies.
“Did you baked those?”
“Yes, and no. Aunty Kusagi helped me.”
That’s why it looks slightly burnt, Aunt never has been great at cooking. I once saw her light an egg scramble on fire while cooking on low heat. It’s not just that one instance, somehow she managed to light an onion on fire while trying to chop it in half. She wasn't even near any freakin’ stove. Since then, never again has Aunt Kusagi was allowed to use our apartment’s kitchen.
“Who is it for anyway?”
She let out a sigh, “It’s for them.” Her eyes darted at the group of popular girls.
“I know. I know. I’m nothing like them, but I’m trying okay?” She pouted with blushed cheeks.
“Trying to be popular?”
“No. Mr Aariv said this was the next step for me to better myself. I don't want…” Her put turned to a frown as she let her gaze down. “To be that girl who felt nothing but hatred and anger. So I’m trying to better myself. For my family and friends. There’s nothing wrong with that, okay?”
“Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s admirable you’re making such a huge leap to be better.” I rested my chin on my knuckle and smiled at her. “Kinda make me feel a bit jealous of you.”
“Jealous of me?”
“Yep. I tried. Twice. Baseball and Superhero, but the further I got, I always returned here. It’s not like I didn't try. I did my damn best.” I let out a tired sigh while my body felt heavy for no reason. “Maybe I’m just cursed to fail no matter what I do. Everything I ever did means nothing now, I guess.” It could be my way of coping with it, but in the face of my own despair, I let out a small chuckle.
“Don’t say that.”
“Huh?” I turned my attention back to Ria, and for no reason, a tinge of anger was there along with a frustrated expression.
“Never say that. Everything you did meant a lot to me. You save me without a single doubt. I almost lost everything, yet you came back. You had no reason to, and I even pushed you away, but you were there.” Her hand closed into a fist. “I know you are frustrated because of the choice you had to make. Trust me, I feel the same way as you. I know you will be great as a Superhero, but you pick your family first, and I admired that choice. So don't you worry about the future because I know you are going to do great things and I will be there supporting you with everything I have.”
Her eyes... It wasn't a spur of the moment. She really meant it when she said it because her eyes told me so. My heart becomes lighter because of it. She really is something else. All that brooding over my own choice was just a waste of time. My career as a superhero did end early, but not without gaining another true friend and I couldn't wish for more than that.
I slapped her shoulder causing her to squeak, “Thanks for that. I never thought I needed it, but I love being wrong. Now it’s your turn. Go for it. Jake and I will be here for you no matter what happened.”
Ria stretched her shoulders together and raised herself with a determined smile. She took a deep breath in then walked toward them with the cookies in her hands. Ria introduced herself to them. They are talking now. Okay, they accepted the cookie. I never thought I would be this nervous watching Ria talk to other girls.
Seems like it’s going fine then one of them sneakily pointed at me. I pretended not to notice them, but I caught a few of their glances. They are laughing now except for Ria. Wait, they stopped. The mood turned sour all of a sudden. They dropped the bags of cooking inside the rubbish bin. I almost left my seat when I saw Ria’s hand behind her, gesturing at me to stay calm. They left Ria behind and exited the classroom without a glance. Her gaze dropped while her hand shuddered a bit.
With gritted teeth, I stood up and walked to Ria. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I didn't know high school girls can be so mean.”
“What did they say?”
“Something bad about my look, about you, and about the cookies.”
“Ria…” I lowered my chin and tightened my fist. “It was my fault. I should have warned you to stay away from me. I think we shouldn’t hang out any more… if you want to make more friend.”
“Nonsense! I don't want to be friends with them. Bunch of basic chicks who do nothing but gossip and belittle people.” Ria turned to me with a large smile, “I make a good call being your friend. Way much better.”
I let out a small chuckle, “They don’t deserve you.”
“Absolutely. I am the one and only, Ria Rougham.”
Perhaps it was instinct, perhaps it was a memory buried deep inside me, a flash of blood on my very hand caused me to grit my teeth with annoyance. My hand reached down the dustbin then pushed the sticky leftover, and pulled out the bag of cookies. Ria turned to me with a raised eyebrow. “Such a waste,” I said before unwrapping the bag and tossed one of the cookies inside my mouth.
“Did you just eat that?”
I swallowed it down like it was nothing, “Yep. Oh my god, this tastes good. I thought it was burnt but no… just the right amount of flavour. By the way, chocolate is my favourite, so I’m not wasting fresh-baked, perfectly made cookies.”
“That doesn’t mean you should eat them from the rubbish.” Ria massaged the temple of her head as she groaned with a smile.
I shrugged my shoulders. Ria slipped her arms around mine and leaned her chest against my rib to take one of the cookies from my grasp. Without hesitation, she popped one into her mouth and nodded her head while savouring the taste. We started walking out of the classroom and down the hallway.
“Did my aunt really help you make this?”
“Oh hell no. I don’t know how, but the moment she poured the flour into the bowl, the whole thing went up in flame. At that moment, I knew she had to stay away, but she did help read the recipe for me though. So I would say that she helped. A bit.”
“I think she’s cursed by the cooking gods.”
“Could be. Are we going to get a stomach ache after eating this?”
“I hope not. I don’t want to go to the hospital again. I’m tired of the test and food, but not the hot nurse though.” I said it and immediately regretted it when Ria pinched my arm.
“Ouch. Ouch. Hey, be careful. I’m damaged goods.”
“Whoops, sorry. I forgot. Passed me one of the cookies.”
“Hell no, I want them.”
“So do I, and by the way I made them. It’s all within my right.”
“Are you really that desperate for a rubbish cookie?”
Ria looked at me with a straight face then we burst into laughter after a couple of seconds. We both looked like a mad couple, bickering in the hallway and laughing. However, we barely noticed anything happening around us, and we both are fine with that. We ate the cookies as we headed toward the roof where Jake was waiting for us.
When we opened the door to the roof, we saw Jake staring at the sky. Ria and I walked to his side and took a seat. “What are you looking at?” I asked.
“Is it me? I thought the weather guy said it was going to be cloudy, but I didn’t see a single cloud today. Weird.”
“They probably got it wrong.” I shrugged my shoulder then leaned against the fence.
“Right…” Jake sighed.
“Why do you care so much anyway?” Ria asked.
“I like to prepare, that's all. In ‘prepare’ I mean I don't want to get wet if it starts raining. Here green tea and egg dipped in Mayo sandwich just how you like it.” Jake handed Ria a can of green tea.
“Aww, thanks, asswipe.”
“What about me?” I raised my eyebrow at him.
“Oh, you didn't bring any lunch? That’s weird, you always bring your own lunch.”
“I brought it, but I forgot it in my classroom. I was just enjoying this rubbish cookie. It's so good. You want some?” I showed him the cookie. “It’s still fresh.”
“Fresh out of rubbish? No, thanks. Besides, it looks burnt, whoever made it probably doesn't know how to cook.” Ria jabbed Jake in the arm. “Ouch! What was that for?”
From a frown soured into a pout, she crossed her arms and turned away. I shook my head disappointedly at Jake. Sometimes he is attentive, but sometimes he’s a goddamn idiot. This time he was the latter.
“What did I do?” Jake turned to me, looking for an answer.
“You’re an idiot,” I answered.
“Me? You are both a bunch of jerks. I barely did anything and I’m the idiot. Pfft. Uncivilized people.” He kept on grumbling his annoyance until I cut in.
“Alright! I finally figured it out.” Now on my two feet and a finger raised at the sky. I returned to them with a smirk on my face. My head is brimming with a single idea to jump-start my life again.
Jake shook his head with a sigh because he knew what’s going to happen next while Ria glanced between me and the bald boy beside her with a look of confusion. With a grin on my face, I backed away with a large grin and posed with my arms crossed together.
“I am gonna be a breakdancer! Hit it, Jake!”
“A what?” blurted Ria.
After taking out his phone, he played a song of his choosing then stood up and posed with me. We began by tapping our feet to the rhythm of 'Beggin by Madcon'. Jake took a step back with his hands raised and hyping me up as I moved my body to the music.
Ria turned to Jake with a confused smile, the boy replied with a shrug and a tone-down half frown. They both had no idea what's going to happen. Of course, they don't, I just make it up on the spot, and now I'm gonna own up to it. I knew Jake would go along, he's my best friend after all.
I didn't know I had it in me, but after I shuffled my feet and waved my arms, I realized I could actually breakdance. Time for the finale, I backflipped then hoped I could support my entire weight with a single arm.
Unfortunately for me, it didn't go as I planned. My hand slipped causing my entire body to fall. My shoulder slammed against the concrete floor then the back of my head and finally the rest of my body.
"Kenn!" Jake and Ria shouted in unison.
"Brightstar!" In the distance, behind the entrance to the roof, peeking behind the corner with a worried face was the same weird girl I met this morning.
"Juliet?" I groaned out through the pain, surprised to see her here. "Wait, what did you call me?"
Out of nowhere, Juliet took off into a sprint and ran downstairs. Jake and Ria looked at each other before casting their gazes on me. There's no way I heard that wrong. I need to confirm and luckily Jake pointed it out for me.
"I think she called you, Brightstar."
"Oh shit," said Ria.
Oh shit, indeed. Pushing myself off the floor, I took off into a run. Down the stairs, skipped a couple of steps then vaulted over at the end of the concrete railing. With a quick halt, I turned to the window and clicked my tongue. She appeared from the entrance and ran toward the baseball field.
I didn't expect her to be this fast. I glanced down the window noticing a tree right below. It’s tall enough to reach the second floor, but the branches are hidden behind the foliage. There’s an 80/20 per cent chance I will miss the branches and plummet against the brick path. I raised my gaze back at the girl, if I don't make my choice now I'm going to lose her.
Scratching my head with a groan at first while stretching my neck. I flung the window open. A few couples of steps away from the window build my resolve. Here goes nothing.
Like a plague in the middle of summer, Mr Aariv appeared in the worst time possible, “Ah, Ken. We are still having that session, right?”
I don't even care any more. Besides, nothing can stop me now. I took off full speed and leapt through the window. What followed my jump was Mr Aariv's surprise shouts as he watches me exit the window with a big smile on my face.
Angling my body, so my body would aim for the tree was easy, but here comes the hard part. My feet went through the foliage first, breaking the tiny branches and as my head passed through the same hole I made. I finally got a better view of the branches. Lucky me as one of the thick branches were in my way, I extended both hands out.
Grabbing the branch, I felt the dozen prickling splinter going through my palms. My momentum was redirected forward, and after I reached an angle I desired, I released my grip and then launched myself forward. Now for a perfect land or at least what I hope for, instead, what I got was a reckless roll that turned into a sprint.
Juliet turned around the corner only to be blinded by a sudden gust of wind.
The breeze dissipated, I was over Juliet with both my hands against the wall behind her. Trapping her between my arms, but still avoiding any unnecessary touching.