Adventure of a Lifetime
Part IX: Trust & Tragedies
Whoever had scheduled phys ed and combat training in the same morning was pure evil. Even though I was starving, I didn’t have a whole lot of appetite at lunch. Not only were my muscles sore but I could feel the characteristic fatigue of having over used my powers.
So I spent most of lunch quiet, forcing myself to stuff some pesto linguine down my throat. Charlie sat next to me eating the same but with more appetite.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m just in my power’s refractory period.” I explained.
Mutants powers are kind of like a muscle; the more you use them, the longer you can use them before burning out. Of course how you used them also mattered; I had a lot of experience messing around with small things, so I could go on quite a while doing that, but I’d never done something as demanding as I’d done with the Rook.
“Dang.” She said, running her hand across my back. “Are you going to be okay?”
“I will be, just need a few hours and whole lot of calories.” I said, picking up my juice box and slurping it down.
I tried to call my powers but they didn’t answer. I stared at someone’s water bottle sitting on the table and couldn’t even feel the water inside of it, which was rather scary. Not having access to your powers is kind of like having a piece of you missing.
Charlie must have senses my distress because she wrapped her arms around me.
When lunch was almost over, rather than go to class directly, I took a detour to the dorm to get some more sugar in me, Charlie following me. I filled my bag with a juice bottle and some snacks before rushing back to class.
We came in just before the bell rang and only one first row seat was open. I took it, sitting next to Amber who gave me a silent acknowledging nod, while Charlie sat behind us.
A few minutes after Ethics class started, there was a knock on the door and a new student came in; Jaeger Smith. He was this fairly tall guy with a bat-like leaf nose and pointed ears. He seemed a little uncomfortable to be with us, but that could’ve just been the stress of being the new guy.
Ethics class passes fairly slowly, with me drifting in and out of focus as we had a discussion on the use of lethal force. Thankfully I had my brought camera so I recorded it all so I could give it a listen later on.
Our next class, homeroom, had us meet the last two students who would join our class. — unless they were planning on building an extension to our house that is — First there was Sage who was this feminine European person, when they spoke, their voice was a little more deep than expected which made me think they were trans but unlike me hadn’t skipped AMAB puberty. Still, rather than jump to conclusions I defaulted to ‘they’ pronouns.
The other was Allen. He was black, incredibly twitchy and worst of all Allen was bad news. I didn’t know where they’d found him but I felt my heart sink when he spoke up.
“You mean like trannies?” He said in answer to sometimes Jaeger had said that I hadn’t registered.
Thankfully Mr. Martin stepped in and took Allen outside.
“What the hell was that?” Charlie asked out loud, already on the warpath.
“I’m sure there’s an explanation.” I said, trying to calm people down.
“Well, if it happens again I propose group intervention.” She said before looking at me.
“Hey, I’m alright.” I said. Admittedly I was still shaken, but I wasn’t angry. Maybe Allen was just ignorant rather than truly bigoted.
The rest of homeroom was much quieter and at least I was already starting to feeling better. Well, physically at least; morally homeroom had just been painful.
I’d had such an awesome time for the past few days but having had Allen’s transphobia in class had sort of ruined that and I couldn’t help but think that maybe Ravenhold wasn’t as amazing as I’d thought it was…
A few minutes before Mr. Martin dismissed us, he announced that registration for art and language electives were open and that we had to be registered to one of each by the end of the week. Registering being done through our tablet, a new app being added.
“So I’m thinking going for French and Photography. What about you, any idea what you’re going to take for your electives?” I asked Charlie as we walked through the corridor.
I was still bothered by what had happened but tried to think of anything else. Thankfully Charlie indulged me.
“I was thinking about going for Spanish, it is my native language after all. But for art, I have to frickin clue. I’m not very artistic. I’m more of a parkour, skateboard and sports trash kind of gal.”
“Going for the easy A?” I teased her.
“I wish.” She sighed. “But actually I don’t remember a whole lot of it. I’ve been with Ian for eight years and he doesn’t really speak much Spanish beyond asking where the bathroom is and Havenport is as white as sour cream so I never really got a chance to practice…”
Her talking about Ian make the cogs in my head spin. Even though I’d come to trust and rely on her in the past days, I really didn’t know anything about my best friend…
“Can I ask you something really personal?” I asked.
“Sure, I guess…” She said, looking at me like I was acting weirdly.
“Actually, mind if we sit down?”
I took her hand and guided her to one of the bench-statue that dotted the campus. If there was anything Ravenhold absolutely loved it was big statues of people I didn’t know. The one we sat under was some bird girl.
“What did you want to ask?” She asked me after a moment.
“So, you really don’t have to answer, I’ll totally understand if you don’t want to talk about it… But I’ve been wondering; what happened before Ian adopted you?”
Charlie looked like I’d kicked her right where it hurt and I immediately regretted asking her.
“It’s kind of a long story…” She said, her voice being heavy with pain. Still, she continued speaking. “My birth parents were cops, they met on the job and fell in love. Being a cop is a difficult job, but even after I was born, neither of them let go. I don’t remember a whole lot about them, just fragments here and there but they were amazing parents and even better police officers. And someone wasn’t happy about that, the cop thing I mean. They couldn’t be bought or made to be no longer a threat so someone decided they had to go.
There’s a group called the Syndicate — when supervillains came to be, old criminal groups became obsolete and were went by the wayside. The syndicate assembled the remnants of old gangs and mafia families into a new greater, more powerful, more united entity. — They had a lot of pull in the system but my parents were untouchable to them and became a thorn in their side. One night while I was being babysat, they kidnapped me and brought me somewhere to use me as a bait or bargaining chip with my parents…
I don’t really remember much of what happened next, just horrible fragments; I remember my dad’s lifeless body staring at me… Being covered in blood… and other things…”
As she spoke, her words and breathing became more and more ragged. She raised a hand and I saw that she was shaking. Tears started to flow out of her eyes. She didn’t even look like she was with me anymore, just staring blankly ahead. In her eyes I could see the burried horror that her memories had unleashed…
“Charlie, I’m so sorry! I shouldn’t have asked.” I said, wrapping my arms around her.
In answer, Charlie clung to me as if hanging on to dear life. She started sobbing heavily and I held her, whispering whatever encouraging words I could, wishing I could do anything to help her.
“The next thing I knew, the Raven was taking me out of the building and into the blaring sirens of police and paramedics.” She said a few minutes later, her voice hoarse from the crying. “When they tried to take me away, I kicked and screamed, somehow I felt safe with him and in the end he decided to take care of me until I calmed down.
It was just supposed to be for a few days top. But it didn’t happen like that, first it was a few days, then a week, then a few weeks. I didn’t have anywhere to go, my parents were the only members of their family in the United States and I’d never met any of my extended family; Ian was the closest thing I had to someone I knew beyond my seventeen years old babysitter so I didn’t want to leave him… And he didn’t want me to; he asked me if I wanted him to be my new dad and I said yes. The rest is history.”
“I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that.”
“It’s alright. I mean alright most of the time; I’ve had a lot of therapy and treatment for my PTSD. Outside the occasional episode, I’m fine.”
“Still, you shouldn’t have had to suffer through all of that.”
I gave her another hug, a brief one this time and when we broke up, her redened eyes met mine. She just looked at me for a moment, I had a feeling she wanted to say something but she couldn’t. Eventually her gaze drifted to the ground.
“Thank you for your support, you’re a good friend Caroline.”
“Hey, I’m the reason you’re like this. I really shouldn’t have asked.”
“No, it’s alright. I mean it had to get out at some point.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, I just need a moment.” She said, but I wasn’t reassured the least bit. “Say, can I ask you something personal too?”
“Hey, it’s only fair. Is it about me being trans?”
“Nah, I don’t care about that and I one hundred percent respect you.” Although I knew that already, hearing it from her made me feel just a little bit better. “Heck, I’m not really supposed to say, but I’ll make an exception for you; Ian is transgender too.”
“Really?” I said in surprise. I would’ve never guessed on my own.
“That’s so cool!” I couldn’t help but scream it out, which made me feel bad; I didn’t want to attract attention… “I should probably keep it down. But it’s good to know I’m not the only trans hero — well hero wannabe in my case — that’s around.”
“I know a few more, but I really don’t think I have the right to out them.”
“That’s cool.” I nodded, admittedly outing Ian wasn’t the coolest thing to do, but in a way I understood. “So what did you want to ask me?”
“I was just wondering what happened to your leg.”
“Oh, that?” I asked, raising the rim of my yoga pants and showing her. “Literally nothing, I was born without it. Juggled different prosthesis through my youth and two years ago I got chromed. Same thing for my hearing, my mom just had a really difficult pregnancy and I came out premature. But I’m alright.”
“That’s good to know.”
“Anything else you wanted to know?”
“Not that I can think of…” She said. There was a brief pause before she spoke again. “Wait, actually I was wondering if you wanted to maybe come and hang out at my place this weekend? It’s like a twenty minute walk away. Ian wanted me to invite you to dinner.”
“That sounds fun, although we should really do it Saturday, Sunday’s my b-day and I figure we could celebrate with everyone.” I answered.
“How old will you be?”
“Just fourteen. I know, I’m super frickin young.”
“Hey, you’re only a month younger than me.”
“Really? I thought you were older. I mean you’re like really mature and confident.”
“Nah, I just fake it convincingly.”
“If you say so. Why don’t we go back to the dorm and make some dinner? I’m starving. Ooh wait, since we have new students I just got to make a cake. I’m a kick ass baker, I promise.”
“I believe you. Want help making dinner?” She answered.
“That’s so sweet of you to offer.”
“Anything for you.” She said, looking into my eyes. Her words sent butterflies to my stomach.
I got up and my hand found hers, our fingers entwining. Hand in hand, we went back home.