Vanessa Marino, Leonine
One year ago — October 2015
“It’s a school for people like us, for those who want to help the world, fight for justice and freedom. I can get you in if you’d like.”
I had to think a moment.
“I don’t want to pressure you, but we need to get moving before the Syndicate can retaliate.”
“Alright.” I answered. “I’ll go there.”
“Perfect.” She said before going to the side of the van and tapping the door, which caused it to drive off.
She then nodded in a direction before getting a move on and I followed. She lead the both of us to a motorcycle which was waiting not too far. She got on and passed me the helmet.
“Put that on, get on and hold onto me tightly.”
I didn’t question her and sat behind her, wrapping my arms around her waist and we darted away. Tachyon was nowhere to be seen anymore, she’d probably left at fast as lightning. Nusaybah drove through the town, taking some obvious detour for reasons unknown until we stopped in an alley behind an apartment. We went up the fire escape and onto a second floor apartment.
The apartment was very relaxed; smooth earth tones, bamboo plants, wooden furnitures, lots of books but otherwise very little clutter. It was all one open plan with three doors leading to others rooms.
‘We’ll get you to Ravenhold by morning.” She said. “You can stay the night, it’ll be simpler that way.”
“Alright…” I nodded. “Thank Nusaybah… I mean, not just for this, but for getting everyone out.”
“You don’t have to thank me. If anything, I’m sorry we didn’t get you you sooner, we failed you for a long time.”
“I can’t ask for anymore than what you did.”
“Well, i still want to help you and hopefully together we can work on making sure this never happens to anyone else.” She said with a tender smile. ’Oh as long as we’re not in costumes, you can call me Zainab. What’s your name, I can’t really call you Leonine…”
“You’re a girl?” She asked visibly shocked which formed a lump in my stomach. I knew I didn’t look or sound the part…
“I see.” She said with a nod before removing her headscarf. “So uhm, this is my home. You can stay in the spare room for tonight. It used to be my sister’s but she’s moved out a few months ago to be with her new wife in their new Atlanta home.”
“New wife?” I asked, feeling a hot flash fill my chest.
“My sister is a lesbian.”
“I don’t know what that means…” I muttered, looking away.
“Lesbians are women who love other women.”
“Oh.” I awkwardly nodded.
There was a moment of silence before she spoke up again.
“Why don’t we get you dressed in something else?” She said, putting a hand on her hip and looking me up and down. “You know, you have almost the same figure as my sister, I’m sure we can find something in what she left behind.”
She took lead and went through one of the door which lead to a bedroom which I guess was pretty average for other people’s standards, but compared to the cramped, dirty cells I’d spent most of my life, it was luxury. She went to the closet, opened it and took some boxes out which she opened on the bed.
“This is her old stuff, feel free to take anything you want, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.” I hesitantly approached the boxes and looked at their content; mostly masculine looking outfits. There was a lot of dull colors; beiges, grays and dark blues or blacks. “I hope it’s alright for now, I can get you some money so you can get your own, but that may take a day or two.”
“No, it’s perfect.” I said taking a turtleneck and inspecting it.
“Alright, I should probably leave you to try them on and get some rest. It’s late after all.” She took a few steps toward the door.
“Wait… I need to know; where are my friends being taken?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know.”
“No, all I know is that they’ll be brought to the Legion headquarter and from there they’ll be taken somewhere safe. To avoid any possibilities the Syndicate reads our mind or something similar only a few people know the details. People I would trust my life with in a heartbeat, so I know they’ll be safe and taken care of.”
With that she left the room and I decided to try on some of the clothes. Once I’d removed my ‘stage costume’, I couldn’t stop myself from ripping it to shreds out of spite. Never again I would allow myself to be someone else’s pet… Nusay- Zainab’s sister’s clothes were adequate, some of them were a little on the tight side, but not so much that it was uncomfortable.
That done, I lied down and tried to sleep. Even though the mattress was the softest thing I’d ever been on, I couldn’t stop thinking; about the others, about our captors, about my future. Lost in thoughts, I caressed the scars etched onto the flesh of my left arm which crudely spelled my name. The men who owned us didn’t like us using our names, we were supposed to be nothing more than animals. They’d taken my life and my family away, but not my name…
I must have fallen asleep somewhere in the middle of the night because I woke up all curled up and was greeted with the first rays of sunshine peeking from atop the skyline. I stayed in bed, not sure what else to do. It was a little later that I heard a door open which was quickly followed by ruckus in the kitchen. Still, I didn’t leave my room, I mean, I didn’t know if I was supposed to… I waited for a while until it stopped. A moment later there was a knock on the door.
“May I come in?” She asked, surprising me.
She opened the door to the room and stepped in, still wearing what I assumed were her night wear; plaid cloth pants and a loose fitting t-shirt but no footwear.
“How did you sleep?”
“I didn’t sleep much.” I confessed. “This is all so new… I couldn’t stop thinking about things.”
“Well, you must be starving. I made some breakfast.”
We went into the kitchen and I saw that there was a platter left on the breakfast bar. It held flat bread, cheeses, a pair of spreads I didn’t recognize and some scrambled eggs. There was a pot containing mint scented tea which filled the room. We sat down and I instinctively waited for her to take the first bite before eating.
“Tea?” She asked pouring herself a cup.
“I’ve never tried it.”
“Do you want to try?”
I shrugged and she poured a cup for me. I brought it to my nose and smelled it. There was a strong bitter smoky smell that mixed with that of mint. I brought it to my lips and tasted it, before spitting it back in the cup.
“That’s gross…” I said grimacing.
That made her laugh.
“It’s a bit of an acquired taste.” She said with a smile before taking my cup away and pouring it down the drain.
“What will happen now?”
“Well, first we’ll finish breakfast. Then I’ll get you a ride to the school. It’s quite a ways from here tho. There you’ll learn how to be a superhero.”
I nodded and thought it all over.
“I don’t know… I’m lost in all of this…”
“You can still go with the others, that door remain will open indefinitely.”
“I think I’ll try this road a little further.”
“Alright, better eat and get your strength up, you’ll need it.”