Chapter 53:

sCene 53 - ᴡiᴛʜ ᴊusᴛiCe

ᴋraCᴋeᴅ ᴍooN / Kracked Moon

Of course, when I finally had an avenue for editors, and had been researching some almost entirely on my own, even reaching out to a few, I was asked to offer my time in the last place I wanted to be seen. For years, I was able to refuse this request, but I now had a weak link: Nai-bu loved helping others. So with her permission, I was roped into going to yet another Silver Justice show, but this time I had to actually do work.

Jason’s shows had been going well, and even with the school year in full swing, parents were eager to bring their kids to the park every saturday. The problem was that less of the parents were volunteering once summer vacation was over. During the summer it was a nice excuse to leave the kids at home and take quirky behind the scenes photos, but once kids went back to school, the parents often had some of their privacy back, and were bogged down by helping their kids with homework and other new school year stressors.

My suggestion every year that Jason came to me for help was to recruit high school and college students looking to put something pretty on their resume. Jason insisted that if anything he could ask college students, but felt awkward after the last time he did so without wearing any makeup. Unknown to most was that Jason had a really tough looking scar on his face that was visible on either side of his nose. It made him look really intimidating to strangers, even with his otherwise friendly face. I can’t even remember how he got that scar to begin with, but I could understand if he was afraid someone would recognize him over that.

So with Nai-bu’s help, I was recruited to help on a particular saturday, after staying up as late as usual. Unlike Nai-bu, who had offered to act, I was only working his merch table with one of the more experienced volunteers: his mother. While Jason’s father was a homebody and had never made it out to a show, his mother was very supportive and would pick up the slack, especially when it came to exchanging money.

By some miracle we arrived early enough to not appear late, and immediately I made my way to the merch table, where Jason’s mother was seemingly already set up. She gave me a very typical look of distrust, not aided by me arriving in my “public disguise” of an oversized baseball cap, big sunglasses, and an iced coffee that may or may not have been why we were almost actually late.

“Hey, Mrs. Moreno…” I said, shyly.

She looked directly into my eyes, as if my sunglasses weren’t even there. “Jason told me you would be here. I didn’t believe him.”

Mrs. Moreno, to put it simply, absolutely hated me. While Jason’s dad understood the actual dynamic between me and Jason growing up, meaning he knew that Jason was harassing me all the time, Mrs. Moreno only saw me pinning her son to the ground while he screamed for help. Even as adults, with Jason admitting how often he instigated these situations, I was still her number one enemy. She also had a way of telling me that she didn’t appreciate my wardrobe choices.

“You’re not cold dressed like that?” Mrs. Moreno would say. “It is basically autumn now.”

As I sat down, and even took off my jacket, I simply smiled at her. She didn’t have to understand why I preferred shorts and tank tops, but she was going to make it a problem somehow.

Before families had even really arrived, Jason’s mom immediately threw me a shirt and a hat.

“Since my son was apparently too afraid to tell you, if you are going to help you need to wear volunteer stuff. You can even borrow a hat.” Again with making her son sound like a baby.

I put the shirt on over my top, and it was easily two sizes too big, but at least the hat fit fine. I really didn’t want to be there at all, and Mrs. Moreno wasn’t helping. The only reason I didn’t bolt, aside from giving another reason for me to become a discussion topic at the Moreno dinner table, was because Nai-bu continued to look at me and wave every so often. She had looked tired on the drive here, and I was starting to learn that when she was tired, she was often more silly than anything else.

Once families started showing up, Nai-bu was finally staying focused, or at least behind the stage, and I was surprised at how little people were coming over to the table. Legally Jason couldn’t really sell drinks or snacks, so the water he provided was actually free. He could sell merch and fundraise, though, but the traffic was much lighter than I remember it being just a few months ago. Not the attendance, but traffic to the merch table.

While I sat awkwardly with Mrs. Moreno, occasionally getting to help someone with a purchase, I realized it was my chance to see how many people show up to more than one show. There was no way I was going to look into that on my own. I was honestly surprised at how many people showed up to the first show of the day. Jason did three shows, 8am, 9:30am, and 11am, each running for at most an hour, including a break in the middle of the show. As far as I knew, no families stayed for more than one show, but local kids who were basically abandoned at the park would stay all day. They don’t even charge admission to the show, they just ask that you leave if you are standing around distracting others.

During my people watching, Mrs. Moreno sounded annoyed and stood up. “Watch the table. I have to make the tall kid move again.”

I thought she simply meant that there was a really tall kid that was blocking everyone else, but it turned out that “the tall kid” was actually fairly grown. At a distance I could tell they were at least an older teen, maybe even a young adult. In fact, the more I looked, the more I realized it was Kyle. That idiot didn’t seem to notice that adults sit further back so kids can see. I did my best to avoid looking at him as Mrs. Moreno made him move further back.

Well that’s just great. I’m spending my saturday morning outside at one of Jason’s shows, stuck sitting with his mother, and across 4+ hours I could be noticed by Kyle. Absolutely perfect.

Something that did make me feel better, but then later being very concerned, was watching Nai-bu on stage. She was helping Jason by being one of the generic bad guys, and because she was so new to it, she was a “crowd” baddie. This meant that instead of having specific parts in the fight, Nai-bu would stand next to one or two other people, and maybe push Silver Justice or the main enemy back into the fight, or get knocked down when a big attack is used. Despite having pretty easy instructions, she looked like she was getting distracted, and continued to wave at me every so often, occasionally getting some of the kids to wave back.

By the last show, I was surprised that there weren’t any incidents. I always thought kids might get hurt whenever they followed the exercises Silver Justice was showing them, or maybe some kids start playfighting after the shows and someone gets hurt, but that never happened. Unfortunately, one thing did happen before the end of the last show: Kyle noticed me.

He tried to be discreet, and stood out in the open behind me, before trying to get my attention. Mrs. Moreno absolutely gave me an even dirtier look, now believing that Kyle was here because of me. Unlike some people, she knows Kyle can’t be related to me, but once again I was made to feel like he was my kid brother. I made it clear to her that I would ask him to leave me alone, and walked over to him.

“Hey, can you stop? I’m trying to help out here.” I told Kyle, hoping it would make him buzz off faster.

“No one’s buying anything during the climax. I’m leaving so I thought you’d like to say bye. You didn’t even come visit me during any of the shows!” Kyle sounded like a pouty child. He was too comfortable doing this.

I groaned. “I’m trying to not leave the table, but apparently that’s not clear to you.”

He didn’t even pretend to understand. “Whatever. Anyway, this show was alright. Silver Justice was pretty normal, but I liked that one of the mooks kept waving at the crowd. It must have been someone’s mom with a really little kid trying to keep them focused.”

“That was Nai-bu, actually.” I said, laughing at the idea.

“Oh…” Kyle sounded disappointed. “Cool. Well I’m leaving now.”

Like usual, Kyle doesn’t want to talk when it is about someone else. He’ll ask questions about my childhood, and not mind when I bring people up then, but shuts down when I talk about them in the present. Does he even know Jason does these shows, or does he just think it is some cool thing in his local area? I didn’t care to investigate.

With Kyle leaving, I returned to my seat next to Mrs. Moreno, and watched as the show ended and the last round of photos with Silver Justice wrapped up. Mrs. Moreno watched me carefully as I helped her pack up the merch table, which was mostly loaded into her car. I knew Jason’s dad never went to the shows, but I didn’t expect his mom to be so involved. Though it definitely made sense that she was protective of what profits the show could make, since Jason would do it for free if he could.

I joined up with the rest of the cast and crew to help with any other clean up, but apparently they were a well-oiled machine. While a lot of the parents who acted were away when school started, the ones who liked the technical aspect would help all year long. This made clean-up easier, and promised that everything was packed away nicely for the following weekend. The actors were barely needed, and that was a good thing because Nai-bu really looked exhausted.

“Cryztal carry me home!” Nai-bu practically shouted, grabbing onto my shoulders and giving me a lot of her weight.

I did my best to keep her from falling over, before kinda just slowly letting her sit on the ground. “You shouldn’t have spent so much time waving at me if you were already tired.” It was a little funny at least.

Jason then came over and held out a hand to lift Nai-bu back up. “We’re going out to eat if you would like to join us. It’s on me.”

I actually had to compose myself in front of Jason. He was half-dressed in his costume, a lot like he was the last time I went to his show. Specifically when he had to stop me from transforming and attacking Nai-bu. It made me think of the things I said not too long ago now when I couldn’t control my body. About him not being a good hero, and even when I had control, how he didn’t protect Nai-bu from me. I didn’t want to ever talk to him about those things, but I couldn’t help but think about them.

“We don’t want to impose. This was just a one time thing.” I said, trying to discourage him and Nai-bu from roping me into doing this again.

He just smiled at me and said, “I promise my mom won’t be there.”

It had definitely been a long time since I had been to a pizza place, let alone with a group of twelve. I never asked, but I always thought it took about 20 people at most to make Silver Justice shows happen. There were around ten different people on stage during the busiest scenes, a sound technician or two, some people to stand with the audience to hype up the action on the show, and of course Jason’s mom and whoever was helping her with merch. Jason seemingly invited anyone to come out to eat, but those who did seemed pretty close with him.

I recognized the two that I believed were sound technicians, and I was pretty sure I could tell who helped Jason with making armor and costumes. Actually, I didn’t even think about that. People probably helped with costumes all the time and didn’t need to be at the show. Four of the seats were taken up by kids, with one mom per two kids trying to make sure they didn’t make messes. And based on how Nai-bu was chatting with the last person I didn’t recognize, I would guess he was working alongside Nai-bu on the stage.

“Sorry for pairing you with my mom. I just figured you wouldn’t really want to be on stage, and all the behind-the-stage stuff was covered.” Jason said to me during a lull in the conversations.

I had just been quietly sitting with Nai-bu, trying not to bring attention to myself. “It’s fine. She definitely kept me in line.” I tried to laugh it off, even if it was uncomfortable.

“Really? Mrs. M is always really nice to me.” One of the sound guys said, surprised.

Jason laughed a bit. “That’s because you didn’t help me train like Cryztal did.” Is that what he wanted to call fighting as kids? Training?

“Does she still blame me for your face?” I asked, sipping my drink.

That really made Jason laugh. It was weird seeing him so jovial. Do I normally bring him down?

“Surprisingly she avoids the topic now, even when I bring it up.” He explained.

“What happened? I thought you went flying off your bike!” The same sound guy said.

“I did! I did! But my mom thinks I made that up and that Cryztal shoved me or messed with my bike.” His scar was a little visible from having sweated off some of his makeup.

I knew the bike story, but I never believed it. How could I? The mark was so deep and long that no brick edging or misaligned stop sign could have cut him like that. My claws easily could have done that to him. And learning that Mama tampered with my memories wasn’t very reassuring. I believed Jason when he said it wasn’t my fault, but I had a hard time believing I didn’t do it. Especially with his mother holding it against me.

“But that’s nothing compared to the things my mom actually saw Cryztal do!” Jason started, seemingly excited to share stories from our childhood. “How many times did you toss me over your shoulder like it was nothing?”

That was an embarrassing question. “I-I-I don’t remember! You were small for our age! Don’t make it sound like I beat you up!”

For as much as it bothered me, it was nice to see Jason like this again. I was worried that he had been suffering like me, but he was doing good. Even catching the glimpses of Nai-bu talking with the other actors and the kids was nice. I decided I wanted to be more social, and thought Nai-bu was my only chance, but Jason really had also been offering the whole time. I should have taken him up on it sooner.

But I really never want to work on a Silver Justice show again.