this is chapter one of a story about a teenage superhero.
The alarm wakes me up. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! It has no idea how much I detest that noise, the incessant beeping that always starts my day. I bury my ears in my pillow, trying to rid myself of the noise and the morning. But, of course, the alarm burrows into my brain until I hit the SLEEP button.
I roll off my bed, then regret it immediately afterwards when my knees hit the wood floor. I’m always forgetting that my mom removed all the carpet from the house. She says it’s easier, less of a mess. But my knees get banged up every morning.
I stand up, trying to work the soreness out of my back, my legs, my arms. I’m aching this morning. It’s probably from gym yesterday, when we had to play dodgeball, which I’m no good at. I’m clumsy, not very fast, and terrible at dodging. And throwing. And sports in general. Consequentially, I’m always the last kid to get picked for a teammate, and the first to get an out.
As I get dressed, I notice the sun shining through my window. I pause, and close my eyes, listening to the birdsong, and feeling the sunlight’s warmth. It’s beautiful, and I relish moments like this, where it’s just me and nature. I open my eyes again. Enjoying the view outside the window leads to me getting distracted. To me, windows are very distracting. Which is one of the reasons why I’m so bad at sports.
I exit my room and head down the stairs towards the kitchen, slipping on the smooth, polished wood. I grip the handrail firmly after that. I’ve fallen down enough stairs to last a lifetime.
“Is that you, Jade?” My mom calls from the kitchen.
“Uh-huh,” I call back. I come in and sit down at the island that serves as my family’s table. As I scoot my stool up, Mom says,
“You fall down the stairs again?” She sets a still-sizzling plate of bacon and eggs down in front of me. I pick up my fork.
“Almost,” I say, shoveling down the eggs. My mom says teasingly,
“Well, that’s a first,” which makes me smile.
I watch as she pours orange juice for me. She’s tall and blonde, and very brave. She’s a politician, so she has to be. Mom knows how to talk to people, how to give impromptu speeches and never gives up. I don’t know how I’m her daughter. I’m small and freckled, and whenever I have to speak, the words catch in my throat and my brain freezes. The only people I can really talk with are my two friends, Mady and Pete.
“Here’s your OJ, honey,” I murmur a thanks and gladly gulp it down.
“Dad have to go to work again early?” I ask.
“You know he did,” she says, washing the frying pan and shaking her head, “those news stations never give him a moment’s peace.” My dad is a news reporter, and gets jittery with excitement whenever he finds a good story. He runs around enthusiastically so much I sometimes wonder how those round glasses stay on his nose. “Do me a favor, feed Chewie, will you?”
I nod, slide off my stool, and pour out some kibble for the huge, hairy brown dog, who uncannily resembles his namesake. He gobbles down his breakfast, wagging his tail and knocking over my stool in the process. I stand up and stretch, then look at the time on my watch.
“Woah, I’ve gotta catch the bus. Bye Mom,” I say, walking to the doorway, grabbing my backpack and hoisting it over one shoulder.
“Bye, Jade!” My mom calls back as I open the front door. I close it softly behind me then set off for the bus stop. It’s only a few blocks or so from my house. Taking the familiar walk through my neighborhood, I look at all the landmarks I always do. That weeping willow. The birdhouse that looks like a castle. The cat that always stares at me. I walk faster past one house that contains a particularly vicious chihuahua. Nevertheless, I enjoy my morning walks to the bus. I find them rejuvenating.
As soon as I reach the bus stop, the five or six kids already there look back around to see who has joined them. Each face immediately forms an expression of indifference and turns back towards the street. It has really no effect on me. I’m used to this stuff. The weird girl who trips over everything and always wears the same NASA sweatshirt. I don’t have many friends. Just tiny Pete, and eccentric Mady. It’s always just been the three of us.
But for now, it’s just me. I watch the yellow school bus slowly make its way up the street. When we line up as the bus stops, I find myself jostled to the back, as usual. Oh well.
I sit down on an empty seat, and watch the ground move, slowly at first, then pick up speed. The rowdiness on the bus is as loud as always. Kids talking about who knows what. I lazily gaze at the blur of cars outside my window, and an old, violet one that looks about ready for the scrap heap catches my eye. You don’t see many purple cars.
Suddenly the racket on the bus evaporates, replaced by white noise that fills my eardrums. It intensifies, and I give a small yelp and clamp my hands over my ears instinctively. My vision disappears for a moment. And then it’s gone. The kid sitting in the seat across the aisle is looking at me like I am the most absurd person ever. So I put my hands down and shake my head as if to clear it. I have no idea what just happened. Judging by the careless, lively chatter all around me, no one but me noticed it.
But all contemplation of this strange event is driven from my mind when I step off the bus, and Mady careens into me. I have no idea where she needed to go in such a hurry, but when she bumps into me, all of her books spill out of her hands. A few snickers follow.
“Oh, sorry. I’m so sorry,” She says, desperately trying to pick up the books that are starting to get smashed. I kneel down to help her.
“Oh!” Mady says, noticing that it’s me. “Hi, Jade!”
“Hello,” I reply, “What happened?” I put the rest of the books back into her outstretched arms as we stand up.
“Well, I was just walking to school when I saw a - a red cardinal. I’ve never seen one before. I followed it, and…” She trails off. I smile inwardly. Like me, Mady often gets distracted by simple things.
“Yeah,” I say, for lack of a better thing to say. Mady smiles, revealing large front teeth.
“Well, come on,” She says, nodding toward the school and almost dropping the precarious pile of books again, “we don’t want to be late.
Where’s Pete?” Her frizzy hair whips from side to side.
“Over here,” says a small, quiet voice. We both turn around to see Pete, the tiniest kid in the school. His camo beanie even looks big on him. Because of his height, he’s prone to being shoved around by the other boys, which makes him very skittish. Pete doesn’t have anybody but us. I think sometimes he feels embarrassed hanging around two girls both taller than him, but he shrugs it off.
Exchanging friendly smiles, the three of us step inside the school’s doors, and enter the hallways full of chatting people. We sidle and squeeze past clusters of people, who are prattling on about this or that. Absorbed in their conversations and personal drama, no one notices us. We’re just three more insignificant faces in this enormous crowd.
It’s not as though anyone’s mean to us - they’re just oblivious to the fact that we exist. As we enter the classroom, I think it’s almost worse than being bullied. Being ignored, that is.
My friends and I each take our seats and wait for the day to begin. As I rest my chin on my hands, I mentally scan my schedule. It’s Tuesday. Good. I don’t have to go to P.E. today.
I freeze mid-yawn when Mrs. Robinson enters the room. She must have been in the army when she was young because she treats us like military trainees. I have no idea why. I mean, it’s only History. The frail, old woman surveys the class before announcing that this morning we will be learning about the Declaration of Independence.
I blink slowly, my brain already wandering away. American history was never one of my favorite things. To me, there is something just plain uninteresting about studying your own nation’s history. I already live here. Tell me about someplace that’s different. My chin finds its way onto my folded arms as the lecture begins. I listen at first, but when politics make an entrance, my eyelids start to close.
And suddenly, I’m standing in the midst of a screaming crowd.