By Molly <MPSL27@aol.com>
Submitted: September 2003
Summary: Not only has Metropolis gone Superman bonkers for a twentieth Anniversary celebration, but fourteen-year-old Kaylie Kent has a crush on one of Metro Jr. High's biggest Superman fans. Sometimes it's really hard for her to pretend she's got a normal life — especially when continually-emerging superpowers are thrown into the mix. This is the third chapter in the "Kaylie Kent" series.
[Author's Notes: This story is the third chapter in the Kaylie Kent series, the first story being "Perfectly Not Normal," and the second being "My Almost Perfect Life." I would strongly recommend reading at *least* MAPL before proceeding with this story. This chapter takes place a few weeks after the final events in MAPL.
Please send comments, suggestions, criticism, or questions to MPSL27@aol.com :)]
I looked up from my homework to see my nine-year-old sister Jenna standing in the doorway to my bedroom. I was lying on my stomach on my bed — papers, pencils, and my algebra book strewn across the bedspread.
"What do you want?" I asked, propping my chin on my fists.
Jenna scratched the back of her left knee with her right sneaker and sniffed twice. "Can I come in?" she asked, sounding both hopeful and scared.
"I guess so."
Jenna pranced over to my bed and plopped down on it. I think she sat on a pencil. She sat there for a long time, saying nothing… just staring at me.
"Do you have a reason for being here, or are you just trying to annoy me?" I asked, finally.
"I want to hang out in your room. It's farther away from Mom and Dad's room and—"
"Farther from the baby?"
"Yes! I'm so sick of her… all Kiranay does is cry. Except when she's eating. But that lasts five seconds and then she's at it again… it never stops… never…"
"I know, I know. I live here, too, remember?"
"But why does she cry so much?"
"Because she's possessed."
"No, you weirdo!"
"Oh… you were kidding."
"Yes," I said, rolling my eyes. "But actually… if you ask me, I don't know why she feels the need to cry so much. She's only a month old! Thirty days on this planet is just not ample time for a person to develop any serious, significant issues. If she was my age — well, then that'd be different. You hit fourteen and you have every right to feel mopey. But babies have it so easy! They get carried around all the time and they don't have to go to school or do chores… life is good for babykind."
"Is being fourteen really that bad?" Jenna asked.
"Every year is worse than the last."
"Yes. Fourteen is worse than thirteen and I expect that fifteen will be worse than fourteen. By the time I'm seventy I'll be—"
"As cranky as Grandma Lane?"
"If not crankier."
"Is ten bad?"
"No, ten's not too bad. I'm guessing your transition from nine to ten will be mostly painless."
"Good," she said, sounding honestly relieved. "Was I as annoying as Kiranay when *I* was a baby?"
"I don't vividly remember you as a baby."
"I remember Michael though… I *was* almost eight when he was born. He was a quiet baby. Too quiet. I think Mom and Dad were kind of freaked out about his quietness…"
"Listen, I have to finish this assignment… it's due tomorrow. Why don't you go bug Michael?"
"I'm not bugging you!" she said, sounding insulted.
"I didn't say you were. Now go bug Michael, okay?"
"I need to talk to you, though."
I felt my heart jump. "Uh… what about him?"
"Oh, you know… stuff."
"What stuff?" I asked warily, wondering if Jenna knew something… or suspected something about Dad. Lately I've been ultra-paranoid that she or Michael will figure out the truth about him. I mean, they should be told he's Superman eventually, but not until they're a little older… maybe when they've grown out of being such blabbermouths. Right now, they'd never be able to keep it a secret. The whole world would know within a week. Then there'd be criminals after us and TV reporters hounding us… no thank you, I'll pass on *that* little scenario!
Jenna cleared her throat. "Well, see, my teacher gave us an assignment the other day, and it's about Superman… we're supposed to do some kind of project…"
"Why?" I asked. I mean, Dad — er, Superman's — great and all but he's not exactly the kind of historical figure kids study in school. And anyway, he's not historical.
"Because of the Superman celebration," Jenna explained.
"Oh… that." The Superman celebration. I overheard Dad and Mom discussing it the other day, in fact. Apparently, the month of May will mark the 20th anniversary of Superman's arrival in Metropolis… or his first good deed… or something. The city council and the mayor want to have a whole week devoted to Superman and Metropolis pride and all of that. There's going to be a parade, a carnival, a Superman look-a-like contest, auctions for a dinner with Superman to raise money for charity, and all this other stuff. I heard Dad tell Mom that, while he's touched that people still appreciate him after all these years, he really wishes they wouldn't make such a big deal out of it… that the whole thing's kind of… too much. Embarrassing, I guess.
"I know, Clark," Mom told him, "But the events will raise money for charity…"
"Yeah… I know."
"And I know you don't like people going nuts over you, but in all honesty, you *are* responsible for saving everyone's life at least once."
"I doubt that."
"Oh, excuse me — are we forgetting the whole Nightfall Asteroid thing?"
"Well, okay, but that was nineteen years ago, and…"
"People appreciate Superman, Clark… save for a few psychopathic nutjobs… and I think giving into a couple days of nonsense and celebrating will be good for civic pride… and the economy…"
"Yeah, I guess…"
"What's the matter with you, anyway? You seem depressed."
"I'm all right. Just feeling… well, there was that house fire earlier, and…"
"I thought you rescued everyone."
"I did, but… still… the house was almost a total loss. All their memories, up in smoke…"
"I know what'll make you feel better," Mom said slyly, and they started to kiss. At which point, my brain went *ew!* and I quickly shut off the superhearing. Which, to be honest, isn't an easy thing to do — and sometimes impossible!
Actually, I was discussing that very thing with Dad the other day. We talk about my superpowers a lot. He's been giving me tips on how to control them. My superhearing is definitely the most aggravating ability. One day I was sitting in Art Appreciation, and, all of a sudden, I heard this sound blast through my head, kind of like a whoosh-zip… like someone tuning a radio and suddenly finding a station. And then I heard a baby crying.
"Do you hear that?" I whispered to Meghan Corner, who was sitting at my table, next to me.
Meghan shook her head, giving me a 'you are a huge freak' look.
The baby sound didn't let up, and it took me a few minutes to realize… it was Kiranay. I should have known… her cries are very distinct. And then I thought, Oh great. It's bad enough that she cries constantly at home, but I can't even escape from it when I'm at school? Damn superhearing! What am I going to do?
I put my hands over my ears and pressed hard. I took three deep breaths. The crying faded out slowly… the volume diminished. At last, I couldn't hear the crying anymore.
Later that evening, I told Dad about it. I was helping him wash dishes; we were the only ones in the kitchen.
"I heard Kiranay crying today," I said, as I put a stack of plates away in the cupboard.
"I'm not surprised," he said, smiling. "Isn't that what she's usually doing?"
"No, Dad, I mean I could hear her at school…"
Dad looked at me, surprised. "Are you sure it was *her*?"
"Oh, I'm sure," I said dryly.
"Well," Dad said, "your abilities seem to be a little different than mine… not as strong… yet… but I *do* have a hearing range of hundreds of miles… depending on the conditions… although there are several weird things about it…"
"It's selective… and unpredictable. Sometimes I'll want it to be… um… *on*, I guess you could say. And I'll purposely *will* myself to turn it on. Like if I'm trying to hear something specific, I can focus myself to concentrate on *only* one thing, like a particular conversation across a crowded room. Or if your Mom's been kidnapped — not that that's happened lately, but there was once was a time when, well, it was a pretty common occurrence — anyway, I could have it so that I would be listening specifically for her cries for help… or her voice… and everything else would be tuned out. Because think of how useless superhearing would be if your Mom's cries were amplified… but everything else was too… car horns, motors, people talking… it'd be worthless."
"So is that why I can hear Kiranay and not… you know, like, traffic or other things going on outside?"
"I would assume so. She's your sister so you're attuned to her — both genetically and emotionally — and I don't think it's crazy that you heard her today… she *is* loud…"
"But… I mean, if Mom was kidnapped you'd *want* to hear her, but I didn't want to hear Kiranay, I just *did*."
"When I first started getting my superpowers, I heard a lot of things I didn't want to hear."
"Like my parents talking about me."
"Oh… were they saying bad stuff?" I asked, though I could hardly picture Grandma or Grandpa Kent saying bad things about anyone!
"Not bad things… just things they wouldn't have wanted me to overhear. When I first started getting superpowers, they were very worried about me. They knew my body wasn't developing like a regular human's… and at the time, they didn't *know* I wasn't human… although they must have assumed, what with the fact that I arrived in the ship, that whatever I was, I wasn't from around there… Anyway, they were worried… concerned… and, when I heard them so worried, it made me tense."
At that moment, I felt very fortunate to have Dad as my parent. Sure, sometimes I get mad because he's not around very much… he's always so busy with his work. And sometimes when he's home, he wants to spend time with just Mom. Or he's busy with Kiranay, or he's helping Michael with a project. But it's times like these that make me appreciate him. After all, when he was my age, he had to go through all this weird stuff with no one who really, really understood. His parents loved him, but they didn't have a clue as to what he was going through. Now that he's been there and done that, he can help *me*. Okay, so I can't tell him *every* little thing about my life, but he is a good person to talk to and he's always happy to answer my questions… unless they're about boys, and then he tries to flee.
Anyway, so Dad and I talk about superhearing a lot and how to control it. We also talk about the pitfalls of heat vision. I admitted that I've accidentally incinerated a few things. It usually happens when I'm very upset about something. I glare and then… smoke, flames, the works. The only superpower I haven't really felt the need to discuss with him is my X-ray vision because that one hardly ever happens on its own, and when it does, the consequences are hardly devastating. Okay, so I once saw Mrs. Biederman's underwear by accident… and I guess you could say the effects of that little look- see were devastating — for *me*— as in *trauma- inducing*!
He made me feel a lot better about my accidents by telling me about all the things he accidentally set on fire as a kid. "But by the time I was seventeen or eighteen," he told me, "I had my powers pretty much under control."
"Do you think I'll have mine under control by the time I'm that age?"
"Except you might be getting more. More than you have now."
"I will? Oh… you mean flying?"
"That… and other things."
"What other things?" I asked, because, for the life of me, I couldn't think of any other powers Dad has besides superhearing, heat vision, x-ray vision, strength, invulnerability, and flying… and except for flying, I've got all those others.
"Speed reading, for one," Dad was saying. "Or have you gotten that ability?"
I shook my head. "I'm still a slow reader."
"I can get through a novel in about five seconds," he said. He didn't say it in a bragging tone, just in a matter-of-fact one.
"And remember what you read?" I asked incredulously.
"Yes… my brain can process things very quickly. But before I started getting my powers, I read at the same rate as the next person."
"Wow, I hope I get that power — that'll make English homework so much easier!"
Dad grinned. "Okay, what else… well, there's this thing I can do with my breath… where I can either… do a really strong gust, or a freezing one…"
For some reason, that power was seriously amusing. I started laughing like crazy.
"There's super-speed," he continued, ignoring my laughter.
I stopped laughing. "I'm faster than I used to be," I told him. "In P.E., I can run the mile in under five minutes now!"
"And I can see very, very far… I can train myself to actually zoom in on an object, like a camcorder does."
"But Dad… none of these powers you just mentioned seem very dangerous… I mean, to other people. I can see how heat vision might accidentally hurt someone…"
"Oh, you have no idea. Try blowing some dust off a picture frame and having a door across the room slam closed… try explaining that to other people who happen to witness it! Oh… and whatever you do, cover your nose if you should happen to sneeze… just in case."
"I usually do."
"No, I mean *really* cover it… don't take any chances."
"And then there's super-strength."
"Yeah… I can lift my dresser now."
"Which is great, Kayls, it really is… but you also need to watch yourself."
"What do you mean?"
"I could lift dressers when I was your age… and then freezers… and then my parents' pickup truck… and lifting those things was all well and good… of course, it wouldn't have been if anyone besides my parents had seen me lift them…"
"So… you mean, I shouldn't do any strong stuff in front of people? Okay, that sounds easy enough."
"That's right. You need to pay close attention to what *other* kids your age can and can't do, in terms of lifting and pushing and… just… their strength. Same with your speed. Running the mile under five minutes is fantastic, but… pretty soon, I'm guessing, you'll be able to run it in four, then three, then two and…"
"That'd be really good, wouldn't it?"
"Not even the fastest human in the world can do it in two, Kayls. It would look too suspicious."
"Oh, I get it. So I should always let someone else beat me in every sport?" What a rotten deal, I thought. I get to be faster and stronger than everybody, but pretend that I'm not. Where's the fun in that?
"Kaylie, I know it's hard to let other people win when you know you could easily beat them… but when we're talking about sports, and superpowers, you'll *have* to hold back. Because if anyone sees you using your powers, they may begin to suspect that there's something different about you. Maybe their first thought won't be 'hmmm, she's got to be related to Superman!' but they *could* suspect you of being on some kind of enhancement drugs."
"You never know. And the last thing I want is the school board investigating you. But," he said, taking a deep breath, "there's another thing you've got to think about. And that is… not hurting people. Now, I know you're not the kind of person to pick fights or anything. But every day, you're getting a little bit stronger. And sometimes it's difficult to know how strong you are."
I nodded. "But I'll be careful."
"You have to be *so* careful. Think about it — before you started getting superpowers, you could have been joking with one of your friends and playfully slapped him or her on the arm. Back then, it wouldn't have hurt them one bit. Now… or before long… one little, playful smack from you could send them flying across the room."
I nodded again, this time feeling very scared.
"And then there's the reverse," Dad continued. "If someone playfully slaps you…"
"What?" I said, shrugging. "It wouldn't hurt."
"It might hurt *them.*"
"Oh no," I groaned.
"Being invulnerable is like being… a brick wall. If someone hits you… it'd be like them hitting a wall."
"So… what? I can never let anyone touch me again?"
"No… see, normally, as long as I'm fairly relaxed, my body lets it's guard down… and if someone hits me or bumps me, then they don't feel anything different than if they'd bumped into any regular person. But when I am tense, or when I am facing a criminal, my body senses that and my guard goes back up… and *those* are the times when, for example, if a person punches me, they'll end up with a broken hand."
"So you're only invulnerable when you want to be?"
"No… even when I'm relaxed and my guard is down, if someone were to come behind me with a gun and shoot me, for example, the bullet wouldn't penetrate my skin… it'd bounce off… it's hard to explain, but all I'm saying is… just *try* to be relaxed when you're around people. If you're tense, you're more apt to injure them should they touch you."
"And there's one more thing…" Dad trailed off, his voice sounding uncertain; his expression was pained.
"Well, I don't know if you've ever heard about this… but there is one thing that can hurt me."
I looked at him, surprised.
"There's a substance… a meteorite… called Kryptonite. A bunch of it traveled to Earth when my ship did. It comes in two forms: green or red… and *most* of it has been destroyed, but not all of it. I'm not sure who is in possession of the remaining chunks, but I'm positive it's out there. I haven't been exposed to it in several years. For a while, I had a scientist at Star Labs working on an antidote, but he never could come up with an effective one…"
"I don't get it," I said. "What does this Kryptonite stuff do?"
"The red Kryptonite is completely unpredictable. One time, it caused me to lose my powers… another time, it made my powers go completely out my control. And the green Kryptonite? It's completely predictable, which is also why it's so terrible. When I'm exposed to it, I become very weak. My powers begin to fade, including my strength and my invulnerability. It depends on the size of the particular rock. If it's a large one — and I think, I *hope*, all the large chunks have been destroyed — I may lose my powers within minutes. Once I even lost consciousness. However, if it's a smaller chunk — or if the Kryptonite has been diluted, somehow — it's not as potent. But it can still weaken me to the point that I can't do much of anything — effective, anyway."
"And people use this stuff on you?"
"Like I said, it has been a few years since I was exposed to it. But when I am exposed, I can pretty much forget about stopping the criminals or whoever has it. Plus, if there's enough Kryptonite, and I'm vulnerable enough, anyone could attack me and…"
"Can this Kryptonite stuff kill you?" I asked, almost afraid to even say the words… it was such a horrible thought.
"Once, I accidentally ingested some. That time, it probably would have killed me. Otherwise, no… there has to be something else. Someone would have to use the Kryptonite to weaken me and then use a gun or whatever and—"
But after that, I didn't want to talk anymore. I was too freaked out. I wanted to go up to my room and think. But Dad stopped me. "Kaylie… I'm not trying to scare you… believe me… I just don't know if the Kryptonite is only something that can affect full-blooded Kryptonians or if… if you and your sisters and brother are in danger, too." He was speaking urgently now… he sounded almost panicky. He grabbed my hand and said, "I sincerely hope it'll never happen to you… I hope you'll never be exposed to it… but if you are, you'll need to know what you're up against. You'll feel weak, all of sudden, and your head will start swimming. You might feel intense pressure in your temples… you might feel sick to your stomach… you might feel like you're going to pass out. If you *ever* feel that way… just run. Get out of there — quickly. If you can figure out where the Kryptonite is, great… but get away from it as fast as you possibly can. You can recover your strength once you're far enough away from it…"
"Dad, I don't think—"
"I can't *not* tell you this!" he said. "I have to… just in case it ever —"
I nodded, feeling numb… scared… terrified… I couldn't believe that I, just a few months ago, was offering to help Dad with his Superhero activities. How could I have possibly been serious? I could *never*… I mean, think of all the bad things that could happen… all I wanted back then was for my Dad to have an easier workload, but…
"I understand, Dad. And I'll be careful…"
"Kaylie?" Jenna's voice broke me out of my reverie. "Kaylie, you're not even listening to me!"
"What? Oh sorry, Jenna… what were you saying?" I blinked a few times, and tried to snap myself out my daydream state. My algebra book lay open on the bed, taunting me. I snapped it closed and sat up, then looked expectantly at my sister, ready to listen.
Jenna sighed and shot me a bitter, hurt look. "You were spacing out while I was talking!" she said accusingly.
"So what if I was? Anyway, I'm listening now, so if you've got something to say you might as well say it."
"I was saying I need help on the Superman project. Everyone at my school, even the Kindergarteners, are going to do *something*. And then, on the Wednesday of Superman Week, we're going to have a show — in the gym and cafeteria — and everyone will get to show off their projects… and then the principal is going to pick the best one… and the winner gets to have a flight over Metropolis with Superman! Kaylie, you've *got* to help me think up a great project… I want to win sooo badly!"
"Why? You've flown with Superman — lots of times." Ever since I was a little kid, Dad's been carting our family to Smallville donned in the Superman costume. My parents put on this pretense that Superman is a really good friend of the family, and therefore is happy to do those kinds of favors for us. In reality, he just wants to save money on travel… but hey, so the man's economical… and sneaky… but who can blame him?
"I know I have. And I've *told* people that I have, but no one believes me. If I win the contest, then I'll get to fly with Superman in front of *everybody*… and they'll believe me after that!"
I sighed. I couldn't really argue with Jenna on that one… I know how it is… sometimes it's not about the thing itself. Sometimes it's all about impressing your friends.
"So, can you help me?" Jenna asked hopefully.
"You should ask Mom and Dad," I said. "They're the experts."
"I did. I asked Mom and she said, 'Ask Daddy.' So I asked Dad and he just got all weird and changed the subject, like he didn't want to talk about Superman! How could he not want to talk about Superman?"
"What kinds of projects are the other kids doing?" I asked quickly.
"Matthew J. is making a mural with a timeline going from 1993 to 2013, and it's going to list all of Superman's most important feats, in the order that they happened… Madelyn is going to do a working model of a volcano and have this electronic arm with a little Superman doll on it, flying towards the volcano, and then the volcano is going to blow up, but the Superman doll is going to blast the volcano with dry ice… just like that time Superman saved the village of Ontuba from that volcano in South America, remember? Oh, and Emily is going to make a diorama with Superman inside, only instead of using a shoe box she's going to use a refrigerator box…"
"Wow," I said. "Sounds like people are going all out."
"They are. Kaylie, I have to win… if I don't win, I'll never forgive myself!"
"All right," I said calmly. "First off all, you've got to consider your assets."
Jenna looked blank.
"Okay, it's like this… that Matthew kid's assets are, like, whatever books or resources he's going to use to get the info. on Superman's feats. Emily's assets? A refrigerator box. How many people do you know who have a refrigerator box just lying around? Emily's probably got one — so she's going to use it. Now think — what do you have that you could use?"
"Maybe I could convince Mom and Dad to buy a new refrigerator…"
"Okay, okay… I don't *know* though."
"Then I suggest you think about it," I said, sounding scarily like my History teacher.
"Come back to me when you've thought of some assets… then we'll talk."
Two nights later, we were eating dinner when Mom made an announcement. Dad had Kiranay on his lap and was rocking her ever so slightly. She was, of course, crying. Jenna was shoveling baked potato into her mouth. Michael had a chicken leg in one hand and a biscuit in the other. I was holding a fork, ready to stab my potato, but I put it down when Mom cleared her throat.
"I have something to tell you all," she said.
We looked up.
"You know your Aunt Lucy? Well, she called me earlier to tell me that she's getting married. Again."
After dinner, I wasted no time in calling Crissy. She answered the phone with a kind of droning, listless, "Hello."
"Crissy? It's Kaylie."
"I just heard."
"Mmmm," she moaned.
"Crissy, are you okay?"
"As good as can be expected," she said in a voice that sounded so weak I could have sworn she was currently being strangled.
"Crissy… do you want to come over?"
"Yes!" Finally, she spoke vehemently.
"Okay… hold on a second."
I ran and found Mom, who was now in the den, nursing Kiranay. "Mom, can you or Dad go pick up Crissy? She sounds really upset and I think it would be good if she came over for awhile."
Mom raised an eyebrow. She looked at me, then Kiranay, who was chowing away, and said, "Perhaps when I'm a little *less* busy!"
"Sorry… I'll ask Dad."
"He just left."
Ugh! I got back on the phone. "Cris? Neither of my parents can come but —"
"It's okay," she said. "I'll take the bus."
Forty-five minutes later, she arrived, carrying a backpack and a pillow. I met her at the door and led her to my room. She threw the pillow on my floor and then collapsed on it. "My life," she said weakly, "is over."
"Crissy… I'm so sorry."
"Yes… I'd be sorry for you, too, if your mother was insane."
"How long has she known this guy?"
"Ben? Two, three weeks, if that. But she's sooo into him… she says he's 'the one.' Of course, she said the same thing about Paul… and about my dad, so…"
"Ben? Isn't he the one who—"
"Yeah, he's the one you met at my house the night my mom was supposed to bring home pizza. Mr. Kissy Face."
"When are they… um… you know, getting married?"
Crissy gave a melodramatic sigh and said, "June."
"That's two months from now!"
"No kidding… although it might be enough time…"
"Are you sure? Aren't these things supposed to be planned way in advance? Not that I know a lot about weddings, but don't they have to rent a reception hall, hire a caterer, get a dress… that sort of thing? Two months doesn't seem—"
"Oh, they've got it all worked out. But I wasn't talking about that. I couldn't care less what they plan. What I meant was, two months might be enough time for *me*."
"For you? To do what?"
Crissy gave me a look. "What else?" she said. "Break the two of them up!"
"Although that didn't work with Paul… 'course, I was only eight at the time…"
Paul was Aunt Lucy's second husband. They just got divorced last year. Crissy never liked him, not from day one. Lucy's first husband, Rick Larson — the biological father of Crissy — had an affair with another woman when Crissy was two. Then he and Lucy divorced. In between Rick and Paul, and since Paul, Lucy has been dating like crazy. She goes from one man to another. Since she moved back to Metropolis earlier this year, she's dated, like, six guys. The worst of which was named Truce Kipley — the worst, that is, until Ben.
"How do you plan to break them up?"
"I don't know. I'm working on it…"
"Right… well, okay."
I just about died the following Friday, when I showed up to Carson McElhen's fourteenth birthday party. He had the place decked out with Superman garb. Red, yellow, and blue streamers… napkins with S-shields on them… and a life-size cardboard cut-out was there to greet guests at the door. Luckily, the cutout was not of my dad, per se, but a drawing of a cartoony Superman. Still…
"Superman fan, huh?" Lianna Staples asked, giggling alongside Kasey Blake.
"Yeah," Carson said, proudly. "He's awesome… did I tell you about the time he saved my life?"
"Really?" I asked, surprised.
"Yeah, when I was five… we were in a car accident… this truck broadsided our mini-van… we hit the guard-rail of the freeway…" he imitated a crunching sound "… my mom was knocked unconscious… she was driving… and my little sister and I were in these booster seats, and we couldn't get out of them… and then our van caught fire… we were freaking out… I thought I was gonna die… then suddenly, Superman shows up… puts the fire out… gets me and my sister and my mom out of the car… he even stayed until we were all in the ambulance… they had to take my mom to the hospital… she regained consciousness… but if it wasn't for Superman…"
"That's really cool," Kenny Lingheim said, sincerely.
Carson's birthday party wasn't the most exciting event I've ever attended, but it was pretty fun. He had dragged out his mom's old karaoke machine and we all messed around with it. It had these special effects options that could make your voice really low or really high, plus other effects like 'boings,' thunder crashes, horses neighing, glass breaking… you name it. Mitch McConnell hit the button for glass breaking just as Abby Joleston hit a high note on 'I Will Always Love You' and we all about died laughing — even Abby.
"Aw come on," she argued, "I'm not *that* bad!"
Carson's mom had three pizzas delivered — one cheese, one pepperoni, and one with everything. Even sardines. Kenny Lingheim was the only one brave enough to try that one. "Whoever had the idea to put sardines on pizza," he said after his sampling, "should have been committed!"
People started to leave around 10. But I hung around… avoiding calling my dad to pick me up… I wasn't sure why I was so reluctant to leave… except, perhaps, that Carson was… well…
"Want to see something?" asked Jessie McElhen, Carson's 12-year-old sister. She'd been hanging around during the party.
"Sure… what?" I said.
"I've got baby pictures of my brother! Wanna see 'em?"
"Oh… uh, that's okay," I said quickly. I knew I wouldn't want *my* little sister showing anyone *my* baby pictures!
At that moment, the doorbell rang. It was Kenny Lingheim's ride. He left, making me the last guest at the party.
"Want to play video games?" Jessie asked hopefully.
"Hey Jessie," said Carson, coming into the living room. "Scram, okay?"
"Can't make me."
"No… but Mom can."
"Fine," Jessie pouted and left the room.
"Hey, you're still here," Carson said to me. He sounded surprised… but also happy, which I took as a good sign.
"Yeah… I guess I should call my dad."
Carson looked at the carpet. "I guess so…"
So I called Dad and he told me he'd be there in fifteen minutes.
After I hung up, I sauntered over to the couch and sat down. I smiled at Carson. He turned eight shades of red, looked at every single object in the living room, and then kind of crept over to the couch. He sat on the other end and looked sideways at me.
"So," he said in a tight voice, kind of like the strangulation voice Crissy had used last weekend.
"So," I said.
"Did you have fun tonight?" came a voice. Carson's mother had entered the living room. She smiled at us and took a seat on the couch between us, separating the two of us like a big wall o' motherness. Carson looked mortified.
"It was great," I said politely.
"Good… sure was a noisy group of kids, tonight."
"Mom," said Carson, through clenched teeth.
"Maybe you could…"
"Okay, okay," she said, standing up, "I can take a hint." She smiled at us and walked back into the kitchen. But I had an odd feeling she was going to continue spying on us, or, at any rate, monitor our conversation. Some parents act unnecessarily chaperonal! It's not like Carson and I were even anywhere near each other… we were on opposite sides of the couch… sheesh!
"It *was* a good party," I said to Carson. "I'm glad Courtley Miller didn't come."
"I didn't invite her."
"That was nice of you."
He laughed. "Well, she *is* a pain."
"Tell me about it."
"But then, I guess I am too, sometimes…"
"Oh?" I said, pretending I had no clue what he meant.
"Yeah…" He looked down at his feet. He looked sort of sad.
"You're not… not really…" I said.
"No, it's okay… I *know* I am… everyone says so… my sister, my mom, girls at school. I don't *try* to be annoying, honestly… it just happens. Sometimes I'm just trying to be funny. Other times, I'm not trying to be *anything* and I end up ticking people off anyway. People are always telling me how immature I am… I hate that."
"People tell me that, too," I said.
"You?" He sounded shocked.
"Lisa's always telling me that… whenever I don't want to do something with her, like go to the mall or hang out with Courtley. And Courtley attacks me every time I open my mouth and tells me how completely dumb I am."
"You're not dumb!"
"Well, I should hope not! Believe me, I don't take much stock in what Courtley says."
"Good," he said.
I smiled at him.
And Dad knocked on the door.
Carson opened it.
Dad made a very strong effort to pretend not to notice the Superman decorations. "Hi, I'm Clark Kent… I'm here to pick up Kaylie."
Carson nodded. "I'm Carson… remember me…? From Kaylie's party a few weeks ago?"
"Oh, sure," said Dad, and I saw a lightbulb go on in his head. He was probably going, *Ohhh so this is the kid Kaylie's so insane over!* *Please don't say anything embarrassing, Dad!* I begged silently.
"Ready to go, Kaylie?" was all he said.
I smiled, relieved. "Yeah… let me just grab my sweatshirt… bye Carson."
"Bye… see you in school Monday."
"Well," said Dad, when we were in the car, driving toward home. "Anything you want to tell me?"
"Ha," I said. "Like you want to hear it…"
"Well… uh, well… y-you know…"
I shook my head. Dad still can't talk to me about stuff like boys without stuttering. Which I find weird, since he *is* one.
"Carson says you saved his family from a van fire once."
Dad raised his eyebrows. "Van fire… there've been a few of those… okay, *lots* of those…"
I nodded. "I guess it'd be hard to remember all your rescues."
"Some I don't want to remember," he said quietly, and I knew which ones he meant — the times where there'd been someone he was unable to save.
I woke the next morning to the smell of French toast and eggs. I slipped on a sweatshirt and went downstairs to the kitchen. I could hear Kiranay crying. Dad was at the stove. "Hey," he said when he saw me. "Look who's here."
Crissy was sitting at the kitchen table, one elbow on the table and her head propped on that. She looked awful. Her eyes were puffy and she was dressed all in black.
Kiranay was lying in a bouncy seat, which was sitting in the center of the table, not far from Crissy's head. Kiranay was, of course, bawling.
"I have a question," Crissy said. "Does that child ever close her beak?"
"Never," I replied, as I walked over to the table. I unharnessed Kiranay from the bouncy seat's straps and picked her up. I held her in the crook of my arm and watched as her face turned beet purple. "Shhhh, Nay- nay… it's okay… you're not in mortal danger… life is good…"
"No, it isn't," said Crissy matter-of-factly.
"Okay, it's good for everyone but Crissy," I corrected myself. "Crissy has issues… but you're *fine*, Nayster… please stop crying."
But Kiranay, as I knew full well, didn't understand one single word I was saying and continued to bawl.
"I'm sure," Dad said, as he brought over a plate stacked with French toast, "that when Naya's a few months older, she'll be a lot happier… one can hope…"
Michael came into the kitchen then and flashed a grin at Crissy. "Hi, Crissy, guess what? I lost a tooth yesterday… and look what was under my pillow."
"Five bucks?" Crissy said. "What are you going to spend it on?"
"Oh, I don't know," said Michael seriously. "Maybe some bubble gum… then I'll get cavities and lose more teeth and pretty soon I'll have enough money for a dog."
Dad raised an eyebrow. "Michael, your teeth are all going to fall out eventually, don't worry. Now put that money away before you get syrup on it. Here you go, here's a plate." He handed Michael a plate and some utensils and then looked around. "Lois?" he called. "Breakfast is ready."
"I'm here, I'm here…" Mom said, coming into the kitchen. "I was looking for my story notes…" Mom's maternity leave ended last week and now she's back at the Daily Planet… back in the swing of things… back to being a headstrong investigative reporter, like always. Kiranay now goes to the Daily Planet daycare — baby division.
"Lois, it's Saturday — your day to relax, remember?" Dad set a plate and utensils down at Mom's place and poured her a cup of orange juice. "Who else wants orange juice?" he asked, and went around filling cups.
"Thanks, Uncle Clark," Crissy said, listlessly spearing a piece of French toast.
"Crissy's here?" came Jenna's voice, as my sleepy- eyed, pig-tailed sister entered the kitchen.
"Good to see you too, Jenna," was Crissy's response.
Jenna slid into her seat and grabbed a banana, unpeeled it, and ate it.
"'Morning, Jenna," Dad said.
"Naturally. How can anyone sleep around here?" she asked, with a dirty look in my direction. It took me a moment to realize the comment wasn't aimed at me, but rather at Kiranay, who was still nestled in my arms… only now, instead of giving off full-blown howls, she was whimpering softly.
"We'll get you some earplugs, Jen," Dad offered.
"I doubt that will help," she said. "She's so loud I'll bet the *neighbors* can hear her!"
"Hey, she stopped," said Crissy. I looked down and saw that Kiranay was nodding off.
"Good," said Mom, "she's been awake since three. Better not try to move her, Kaylie."
"Are you telling me I have to sit like this? Until she wakes up? My arm will fall off!"
But it didn't — fall of, that is. Although I'm sure it would have if not for my whole invulnerability, super-strength thing! I ended up holding Kiranay like that for three hours… during which time Crissy and I watched an hour of Saturday morning cartoons with Michael and two recorded episodes of my favorite TV show, 'Hanna & Company.' And when Kiranay woke up, she made some funny sounds but didn't cry.
"Kaylie, I think you might be doing something just right," said Dad, eyeing my arm situation and Kiranay's position. "Either that, or she just really likes you."
"Have you held her often?" Crissy asked me, when Dad left the room.
I looked at my baby sister. "A couple of times… right after she came home from the hospital… she didn't cry so much then…"
"That's all I've felt like holding her."
"Well I bet your parents are going to make you hold her all the time now… too bad for you."
After lunch, Crissy helped me spread a blanket on the rug and I laid Kiranay on her back. Then I sat on one side of her and Crissy sat on the other. We played with her fingers and toes, gently rubbed her tummy, and tried to entice her with rattles and teething rings. She didn't seem too impressed with the toys, but she did seem pretty content — at least she wasn't howling!
Before long, Crissy grew bored with trying to entertain Kiranay and laid down on her back, on the blanket, next to my littlest sister. She closed her eyes and was quiet for a long time. At long last, I said, "Crissy — are you awake?"
"Yes," came her reply.
"Well… are you okay?"
"Thinking about your mom?"
"Look… I know you're upset about it… but I thought you were going to *do* something… try to break them up… instead you're over here, feeling sorry for yourself. Not that I mind having you here, but… shouldn't you be sabotaging them or something? The wedding's only two months away…"
"I wanted to break them up," she said, her eyes still closed. "But not anymore… I don't care anymore."
"Have you told your mom how you feel?"
"What's the point? She doesn't listen. And if she does listen, she just tells me I'm being ridiculous. It doesn't matter… if she wants to get married, let her get married… what do I care… in two and a half years I can get emancipated and get the heck out of there… then everything will be great."
"What will you do then?"
"No clue, but I have two and a half years to think about that, don't I?"
On Monday, I skipped lunch and went to the library during that period to find a book for a History assignment. After lunch came P.E. Lisa Muff approached me in the locker room and said, curtly, "I hear you went to Carson's birthday party." "Yep," I said, wondering where this conversation was going to lead. You never know with Lisa… I mean, she used to be my best friend, but ever since the school year started she's been hanging around with Courtley Miller a lot and acting like a snob. In every other conversation she ends up insulting me somehow. She's not the most pleasant person to hang around with… but since I don't really have any other close friends here at Metro Jr. High…
"I didn't go," she said, "even though I was invited… and do you want to know why?"
"Because he didn't invite Courtley. He purposely snubbed her!"
"Well, you shouldn't have gone either."
"Lisa, I'm not friends with Courtley — what do I care if she's 'snubbed'?"
"You're friends by association, that's why. You're friends with me and I'm friends with her. Therefore…" she trailed off in a tone that strongly suggested I should know what she was going to say next. Except I didn't.
"Therefore you should have boycotted the party!"
"Mitch McConnell was there… isn't he dating Courtley?"
"Well you missed out on a great party."
"Well, *you* shouldn't have gone because now Courtley's mad."
"When isn't she?"
"Kaylie, grow up!" Lisa yelled, as she turned and stormed off to the other side of the locker room.
"Yeah, whatever," I muttered.
That day in P.E. we were playing volleyball. First things first, we had to sit in our pods while Mr. Pacman called attendance. Then he divided us into four groups and sent two groups to one of the makeshift volleyball courts and the other two to the other court. I was very happy to see that both Courtley and Lisa were assigned to the other court. Carson was assigned to the team *my* team was supposed to play against.
Right away I could tell that my team situation did not look promising. My teammates were: Lowell Montgomery, who can't hit a ball to save his life; Brian Finkel, who can never get a serve over the net; Meghan Corner, who just stands there with her arms crossed and refuses to even try for the ball; Kasey Blake, who *can* hit a ball, but usually hits it *so* hard that it goes out of bounds; Brad Kelker, who tries to get *every* ball that comes over the net, whether it's near him or not, and end ends up mowing everybody down in the process; and Amy Green, who screams like a banshee if the ball even comes within five feet of her.
So my team was terrible, and I was in a bad mood left over from my conversation with Lisa. In addition to those two things, I was mad because Carson's team had Abby Joleston and Katlin Freedman, who are on the girls' varsity team (well, during volleyball season, at least) and are, naturally, two of the best players in our entire P.E. class! There was no way our team would even win. There was no way we were even going to score a point, unless some weird fluke happened.
So yeah, I was in a bad mood.
But I honestly didn't mean to do what I did. Why would I do it on purpose? I feel awful about what happened… I feel like the biggest jerk…
The score was something like 11 to 0. One of Carson's teammates had served the ball and it didn't go over the net… so it was our turn to serve… Brad Kelker's turn, to be technical. He threw the ball up, whacked it, sent it over… Abby Joleston returned it… and it came straight toward me. I was in the front row, center. In a perfect position to spike. Incidentally, Carson was directly opposite me… ready to hit the ball back… there was the ball… I thrust my body into the air, arm raised… whack! I hit the ball, hard, sending it downward over the other side of the net. I saw Carson's hand reach to hit it. I saw the ball hit his middle finger and, with a sickening sound that perhaps only I could hear, his whole hand snapped back. The ball hit the floor.
My entire team erupted into cheers — everyone, that is, except me.
Carson was standing there, as if in shock, staring at his hand.
"Are you okay?" I started to ask, but my voice was lost in the commotion that was now occurring on the other side of the net.
"Carson, are you all right?" Abby Joleston was saying. "Are you hurt?" Katlin Freedman asked.
"I… don't know," he said shakily.
"Does it hurt?" Thomas Demarro asked.
"No… it just… feels funny."
"I think it's starting to swell!" cried Madison Ambrose. "Someone get Mr. Pacman!"
Mr. Pacman was summoned. He took a look at Carson's finger, sucked in his breath, and said, "This doesn't look too good, McElhen… it might be broken, or fractured, perhaps… you'll need to see the school nurse. I need someone to go with him!" he said loudly.
"I'll go," Thomas Demarro offered.
I felt hot tears forming, and I struggled to keep them from emerging.
"Back in formation!" Mr. Pacman called to us. "Kelker — switch teams and take McElhen's spot. Keep playing, you guys."
Keep playing? Was he insane? I shook my head and walked toward one of the benches.
"Kent, what do you think you're doing?" Mr. Pacman yelled.
I didn't answer him.
"Kent, do you want a detention?"
What did I care?
"That's it, Kent — Friday detention for you."
What-freaking-ever, I thought. Sometimes there are more important things than playing volleyball.
For some odd reason, I didn't think Carson would be in school the next day. The night of the disastrous volleyball game I had daydreams where I pictured him lying in a hospital bed, his arm wrapped in a white bandage, an I.V. dripping into his one good arm.
But he was there at school Tuesday, third period, Art Appreciation, his middle finger in a splint.
"Does it hurt?" Katlin Freedman asked.
"Is it sprained?"
"No, broken. They didn't have time to put a cast on it yesterday so they're going to do that today."
"A cast for a finger?" Amy Green laughed. "Well… I hope you won't expect us all to sign it… there wouldn't be room."
I had been hoping… truly hoping… that everyone would have conveniently forgotten the fact that I was responsible for Carson's grievous injury. But in case anyone had, Meghan Corner reminded them by saying, "So Carson… you gonna sue Kent for doing this to you?"
"Nah," Carson said, but I noticed he didn't look at me when he said it. "It was an accident… things happen."
I felt like a freak for doing so, but I spent lunch period in the bathroom, crying my head off. I'm not normally a crier… well, at home sometimes, but not at school… but I just couldn't help it. I felt so bad about Carson… I was sure I'd ruined everything. Just when I was starting to like him… just when he was maybe starting to sort of like me… I had to go and give the poor kid a battle wound… real nice, Kaylie.
Why hadn't I been more careful? Dad warned me about this! Super strength is nothing but a nuisance!
That night I didn't come down for dinner. I was too busy sulking. Afterwards, Mom came up to check on me.
"Did something happen today?" she asked, sitting on the bed next to me, putting a hand on my arm. "No," I said. It was true… nothing had happened that day… it had happened the day before.
"Kaylie, if you're upset about something, you can tell me."
"I think… I should… but… I think I need to talk to Dad."
"You know," she said, "if it's about… superpowers— " she said "superpowers" in a whisper"—I *do* know a thing or two about the subject."
"Didn't I ever tell you about the time I got his powers?"
"Oh yeah… you told me… you had them for like two days… you said you wore pink spandex and called yourself Wondergirl or something."
"Ultrawoman," Mom laughed.
"I know you told me about that… but you didn't go into much detail. What did you actually get to *do* when you were Ultrawoman?"
"The usual, I guess you could say. Nothing your father doesn't do on a daily basis. There was a car accident, I remember that… and a bridge collapse…"
"That must have been scary."
"Yes… and if there's one thing I learned after having those powers, it was that they are *not* easy things to have… Superhearing, especially, can be so annoying…"
"You hear a bunch of stuff you don't want to hear," I said knowingly.
"I was always hearing cries for help… sometimes I would hear a cry for help when I was in the middle of saving someone… and I couldn't leave… sometimes I had to make spur-of-the-moment choices as to who I would save… choices that meant the difference between life and death for certain people."
"And then what happened? You lost the powers?"
"It's a long story, but… eventually we transferred them back to Clark… the way it should have been… not that things are any easier for him… but your dad is stronger than most people. And I don't mean literally. We all know he's *that.* But… inside."
I nodded. "Sometimes I wish he didn't have them, though," I said. "Sometimes when he has to leave in the middle of dinner, or miss important events… or he might not be missing anything in particular but he's just not here… it makes me mad. Is that selfish? Because I know he saves lots of people and that's important… he saved Carson once." As soon as I said Carson's name, I choked up. I took a deep breath and said, "When you had Superpowers, did you ever… like… hurt anybody?"
"I hurt someone's car… I had to rip off this guy's car door to rescue his wife, who was trapped inside… he was sooo mad! But no… I never actually hurt anyone." She paused. "Are you worried you might hurt someone, Kaylie?"
"I kind of already did."
"I broke Carson McElhen's finger," I said, barely able to contain myself. I wanted to burst into tears — again.
"Were you fighting or something?" Mom sounded confused.
"No, it was during volleyball… I hit the ball and he…"
"Oh, Kaylie," Mom said, a smile playing on her lips. "If that's what you're worried about… listen… volleyball, dodge ball… those games are like accidents waiting to happen. I had a friend in high school who got her finger broken during volleyball… and she recovered just fine… Carson'll be okay."
"So it wasn't—"
"Just because you're stronger than the other kids… okay, stronger than most adults, even… doesn't mean you're a maniacal force, waiting to clobber everyone in your path! What happened was an accident. Anyone should be able to see that. It wasn't your fault. My friend, Paige… the one who had her finger broken in high school… do you know who served the volleyball that hit her finger and broke it? Not a kid with Superpowers, I'll tell you that. It was Susan Donaldson… just a regular student…"
"But, Mom… it wasn't under normal circumstances… I was in a bad mood… I was mad about Lisa and my teammates and all this other stuff… what if my mood made me more aggressive and that made me more likely to hurt someone?"
"I guess it would be a good idea to try to put aggression aside when you're playing games in P.E. class… just to be on the safe side."
"I will. From now on, I'm going to be extra careful, I promise."
"So how's Carson — is he okay?"
"Yeah… I mean… his finger's broken, but other than that…"
"Does he blame you?"
"I think so."
"Have you talked to him?"
"What am I supposed to say? I tried to apologize right afterwards, but… I just feel so *bad* and it's so awkward."
"Talk to him," Mom urged. "You'll feel better… really."
I was planning to talk to Carson before Art Appreciation, but I lost all nerve when I walked into class and saw a group of students surrounding him, admiring his new cast. There was no way I could talk to him in *front* of everybody, so I waited.
Lunch period came, and as I entered the crowded cafeteria I saw Carson at his usual table, with his friends… and Lisa and Courtley at our usual table. I didn't really want to be anywhere near Lisa, and Courtley — well, I never wanted to be anywhere near *Courtley*. There was always the Loser table… and actually, Emily, Devin, and Chloe aren't losers at all, they've just been dubbed that by people like Courtley.
I don't know what got into me, or where I got the nerve, but instead of going to Lisa's table and instead of going to the Loser table, I marched over to Carson's table, tapped him on the shoulder, and, when he turned around, said, "Can I talk to you?"
For about half a second, a million horrible thoughts ran through my head. I managed, in that half-second, to come up with half a dozen possibilities for things Carson might say in response — things like, "Buzz off," "Can't you see I'm eating?", or, worst of all, "Hey look, it's the freak who thought it might be fun to break me… quick, guys, run for your lives!" But he didn't say any of those things. To his credit, he nodded, quickly tossed his sandwich and apple into his lunch sack, got up and followed me out of the cafeteria, all the while ignoring the stupid calls and comments his so-called friends were making.
He followed me all the way out to the courtyard, where I stopped abruptly and turned around. He looked at me expectantly.
"I am *so* sorry," I said, and after that I had absolutely no idea what else to say. I felt dumb for dragging him out of the cafeteria and I half expected him to just acknowledge my apology, do a 180, and head back to the cafeteria.
Instead, he broke into a grin and said, "forget about it." He walked over to the fountain and sat on the edge. I followed him and sat, too, unsure of what was to happen next.
"It hurt like hell when the doctor set it," Carson said, dipping his good hand in the water and wiggling his fingers around, causing ripples. "But afterwards it wasn't so bad. The doctor said it should heal just fine… My mom's so whacked… she told me not to blame you for what happened. She was like, 'this sort of thing happens all the time' and she went off about how, when she was in grade school, some boy she knew got *his* finger broken playing volleyball, too. But I was like, 'Mom, I don't blame her.' I don't know why she thought I would."
"You don't blame me?"
"No… why would I?"
"Because… I hit the ball."
"It's not like you were doing something you weren't supposed to be doing! We were playing volleyball. The object of the game is to hit the ball! I could tell you were about to spike it… I could see the ball was going to come down hard… I should have just let it go… but… I mean, I thought it would be so great if we could win a game 15-0, you know? Of course, later, I realized how selfish that was… I was trying so hard not to let you guys score any points that I put myself in the way of a fast ball… what *I* did was stupid… so, really, it's my fault."
"Why *should* you let us score? The object of the game is to *not* let us score… you were just playing the game."
"And so were you."
"Right," I said, and I laughed.
"Why are you laughing?" Carson asked, smiling.
"Because… I thought…" Now I was giggling like a lunatic. "I was afraid you hated me… that you'd never want to speak to me ever again… that'd I'd spend the next four years, 'til the day we graduate high school, being remembered as 'that horrible, violent girl who broke Carson McElhen's finger during P.E.'"
"I don't hate you… hell no… actually…"
"What?" I asked, hoping he would continue in the way I wanted him to.
"Nevermind," he said quickly.
The bell rang, signaling the end of lunch period. "Want to walk to P.E. together?" I asked.
"Sure," he said with a grin.
And so we did.
The next day marked the first day of May, and the official kick-off of Superman month. Jenna still had no idea what do to for a project, and she came whining to me about that very fact that evening.
"The project fair is in two weeks — what am I going to do? I thought about my assets, like you said… but I seriously and honestly can't think of anything!"
"Jenna, come on… think! What advantage do you have that none of the other kids… well probably none of the other kids has?"
"Your parents… know…" I said it slowly, hoping she'd catch on.
"My parents… know… Superman! They know Superman! That's perfect! Maybe they could call Superman and… and…"
"I could interview him?"
I shrugged. "That could work."
"But how would I present that? Write everything he says on a poster? That would take forever… and that'd be boring…"
"So, how about a video?"
"But I'd need a camcorder…"
"Well, you're in luck, lunkhead… cuz we *do* happen to own one!"
I swear, my sister can be so dense sometimes!
I really didn't want to be present when Jenna was going to ask Dad if she could interview his own alter-ego for her school project, so I told her to do it herself and then I went upstairs to my room and concentrated very hard on turning my superhearing off.
Five minutes later, Jenna came running upstairs, barged into my room without knocking, jumped onto my bed, and squealed. "Dad said he'll talk to Superman about it but he's '99% sure' it'll be okay. Isn't that great? Now it doesn't matter if I win that stupid contest, anyway… if I interview Superman, then the other kids will *have* to believe that I know him."
Mom came into my room just then, holding Kiranay, who was screaming. "Kaylie, could you…?"
"Yeah, okay." I took Kiranay in my arms and she immediately stopped crying.
"You're not offended, are you?" I asked Mom.
"Why should I be? I'm just glad she likes *somebody* in this house… or else things would be very intolerable around here!" She grinned and left, closing the door.
"Mom says Naya's just going through a phase," said Jenna.
"Let's hope so! I'm kind of hoping to go off to college in four or five years… I don't want to have to take her with me." I was joking, and Jenna knew it.
"I can just picture it," she said. "She's four years old and still cries alllll the time… and Mom and Dad take her down to the preschool to enroll her and they won't let her enroll because she's too loud and scares all the other kids!"
"Miss Kiranay," I said, looking down at my baby sister. "You'd better stop this craziness soon… you're driving everybody bonkers!"
Jenna started giggling and laughed so hard, she rolled right off the bed.
My detention came and went, as did the next two weeks of school. They passed pretty uneventfully, actually. I didn't break any more people's fingers — but I did sign Carson's cast. It covered his whole hand and extended to his middle finger with a little metal rod and a leather harness. It looked like he had a robot hand. I signed it *Kaylie M. Kent*.
The second full week of May, May 13 to 17, marked the biggest week of Superman Month, appropriately titled Superman Week. The parade was Monday. Dad — as Superman — got to sit in a special stand to watch the parade. The mayor and the governor were there, too, plus some people I didn't know. Dad somehow managed to procure seats there for Mom, Jenna, Michael, and me as well. The parade started at noon, so my siblings and I were given permission to leave school early, as were a lot of other kids.
"Where's Daddy?" Michael asked after we'd been seated, noticing the absence of the Clark Kent half of dad's personas.
"He's covering the parade for the Daily Planet," I told him, before Mom could say anything. "Don't worry — you'll see him later tonight." Or, I thought, if you just, you know, look over there, a little to your left… But, of course, I couldn't say that.
The parade was pretty lame. Oh, I don't mean it was pathetic. It was more like… cheesy. Metropolis had really gone all out for this. There were marching bands, dance troupes, baton twirlers, floats, city officials on horses, the works.
After the parade was over, the carnival officially began. It was held down at the waterfront. I hung around with Jenna and Michael for the most part, and we rode the tilt-a-whirl and went through the fun house. We were just getting in line for the Big Slide when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around.
"Hey, Carson!" I said.
"Hi… what's up?"
"Oh, you know… just enjoying the fun that IS the Superman carnival."
He smiled. "I saw you sitting up in the booth," he said.
"Really prime seats."
"They were okay."
"Did you get to talk to Superman?" he asked, sounding excited.
"Oh… I guess I didn't really talk to him." Well… I hadn't! I was too busy watching the parade. Besides, I talk to him every day… not that I could tell Carson that.
"You're sure lucky… sitting there by Superman…"
Jenna, who'd been listening to our conversation, blurted out, "Our parents are friends with Superman!"
Carson looked at me. "They are?"
"Oh sure," said Jenna breezily, despite my attempts to nudge her and shut her up. "We see him all the time… we've even flown with him!"
Carson blinked. "You're kidding," he said to Jenna.
Jenna's face crumpled. "See?" she said. "He doesn't believe me… no one ever believes me."
"It's true," I told Carson, sighing. I didn't really want to get into it right then, but at the same time I felt I had to back up my sister.
"Why have you flown with him?"
"Oh… just because… I mean, like Jenna said, my parents are friends with him."
"I interviewed him for my school project," Jenna boasted. "And he said that when he first came to Metropolis, my mom and dad were some of the first people who were really nice to him."
"I think it's great!" said Carson. "But why didn't you ever tell me?" He directed that last question at me.
"What's there to tell?"
"You knew I was a fan of Superman! You could have maybe mentioned the fact that you guys are close, personal friends with the guy! You could have maybe offered to introduce me to him!"
Sheesh, Carson, I thought. You don't get the least bit upset when I break your finger, yet you go psycho-angry on me when you find out I didn't tell you we happen to know Superman!
He must *really* be a Superman fan.
"But you said you've met him before!" I argued, not wanting this thing to rest quite yet… I did feel that Carson was being slightly irrational about the whole thing… and I didn't like the accusatory tone he was using. "You told us all about how he saved your life, remember?"
"I met him under harrowing circumstances! I'd kind of like to meet him under normal ones, if you know what I mean!"
"Fine. You want to meet him? Then we'll go meet him. Come on, guys," I said to Jenna and Michael.
"But we wanna go on the slide!" Michael cried.
"Later, I promise. Come on… Carson wants to meet Superman."
I felt *so* stupid approaching Dad, who was wearing the whole red-and-blue ensemble. He was over by the Ferris Wheel — I'd seen him there earlier — and people were coming up to him to talk. He was signing autographs, posing for pictures, that sort of thing.
And as we got near Dad, I noticed some of Carson's confidence slipping away. He began to fall behind my stride. Finally I had to stop, turn around, *wait* for him to catch up, and then I continued toward Dad. Jenna and Michael lingered behind Carson, interested to see what was going to happen.
Dad noticed us approaching. His eyes lit up and he smiled. I waved and he waved back. Carson stopped in his tracks so I grabbed his good hand and pulled him forward. "Hi, uh, Superman," I said, almost slipping and calling him you-know-what. "There's someone here who wants to meet you."
Carson was very pale by that point. "Hi," he squeaked.
"Carson wanted to meet you under non-harrowing circumstances," I explained.
"Are you sure these aren't harrowing?" Dad asked, jokingly. "Carson, it's nice to meet you…" he said, putting out his hand.
Carson nervously reached out his hand and shook Dad's. "H-hello," he said. "It's really nice to meet you."
"Are you friends with Kaylie?" Dad asked, as if he didn't know.
"Yeah… we're friends from school."
"Hi Superman!" said Michael, running up to him and jumping up and down in front of him. "Hi! Hi!"
I pulled Michael back and said, "He's had a lot of cotton candy."
"And a pretzel," said Michael, "and an icee!"
"We're gonna go on the Big Slide!" Michael announced.
"Oh, fun," said Dad. "Well… I won't keep you."
"'Bye, Superman!" Michael said, turning and scampering off toward the slide.
"Michael, wait up!" I yelled. "'Bye," I said quickly to Dad. He nodded in response.
"'Bye, Sir," Carson said over his shoulder, as he turned to follow me. "Thank you for… meeting me."
When we were all back in line for the Big Slide Carson slapped his hand over his eyes and moaned, "I can't believe I said that!"
"Said what?" asked Jenna.
"I thanked him for meeting me! Aughh… he probably thinks I'm the biggest moron!"
"No, Superman's cool," Jenna said knowingly. "He'll know what you meant to say. Don't worry."
I had to give Jenna credit for saying that, because it obviously made Carson feel a lot better. After two rides down the Big Slide he said to me, "I'm sorry I was all weird earlier… about Superman… about you not telling me you knew him… I overreacted… I mean you and I have only had like, four or five serious conversations, right? Okay, so that little fact about your family never came up — so what? I'm sure there's probably lots of stuff I still don't know about you."
"And lots of stuff I don't know about *you*," I said.
"Well," Carson continued, "I just want to say… thanks for introducing me to him… I didn't really think you would… I guess I could have gone over there myself and talked to him, like all those other people were… I probably wouldn't have though… I would have been too nervous… but with you—"
"Dragging you over there?"
"Yeah… I mean, that's what it took… and I was as nervous as anything but I'm glad I met him… under non-life-threatening circumstances. It was pretty cool."
"You know," I said, "there's nothing to be nervous about… except for all the powers, he's just an ordinary guy."
"Yeah… easy for you to say…"
Wednesday was the project fair at Jenna's and Michael's elementary school. Jenna's interview with Superman was a big hit, though it didn't win the grand prize. That award went to some fifth-grader named Oliver, who had designed his own computer game with Superman as the main character.
Oliver got to fly with Superman. Oliver got to be on the eleven o'clock news.
"I don't care," Jenna told me the next day. "Oliver got to fly with Superman — but I'll bet you anything *his* parents don't *know* Superman! So ha ha…"
"Uh, Jenna—" I began. I was going to tell her that her attitude probably wasn't the best one to use around people, but I thought better of it. Who cares? She's only nine… why not let her have her moments in the sun?
Thursday was just plain weird. There was a Superman look-a-like contest at the carnival, on one of the pavilion stages. Crissy came to the carnival with us that day and she, Jenna and I got good seats in front of the stage. We watched as one guy after another paraded across the stage wearing spandex. Crissy and I rated them, and to be honest, most of them looked *nothing* like Superman. One of the so-called look-a- likes was about 5'5" and couldn't have weighed more than 140 pounds. Another one was at least 300 pounds. Another was blonde!
"This is pathetic," I whispered to Crissy, and she agreed.
In the end, the honors went to some guy named Barry, who, oddly enough, did bear a scarily striking resemblance to Superman. He got a gift certificate and a ribbon.
After the look-a-like contest there was a talent show, with all the talents having something to do with Superman. Three kids did a magic act in which two of the kids made the third kid fly. Well, he looked like he was flying, anyway, and I'm guessing if I had used my x-ray vision, I could have seen how they did it, but I don't intend upon using my abilities to ruin *all* of life's little mysteries, thank you very much! Besides the magic show, there was a woman who sang "Fly Me to the Moon," two girls who rapped about how cool Superman is, a teenage girl who juggled red, white, and blue scarves and bouncy balls, and a twentysomething guy who dressed up like Superman and recited a poem about the rain forest. He was definitely the weirdest entrant of all. Crissy, Jenna and I agreed on that without argument.
Friday was the last day of Superman week, and for once, no one needed Superman to be there. That's because the city had officially declared the day "Superman's Day Off."
When Mom first heard they were going to do that, her response was, "Oh great — every criminal in town is going to have a field day!"
To which Dad replied, "It's technically Superman's day off… but he'll still be around if said criminals should try anything… and I hope they know it!" I think, by "they," he meant the criminals. To ensure against anything bad happening on Superman's day off, the city put a ton of police officers on duty that day. More than usual, I think. Criminals beware!
So on Friday, after school, Dad and Mom took Michael, Jenna, and me to the carnival. (Grandma Lane had offered to watch Kiranay.) We went on a bunch of rides and ate a ton of junk food. Mom was in seventh heaven when she discovered the existence of chocolate-covered Elephant Ears.
As the afternoon turned to evening, I couldn't help thinking how great it was that the city had given Superman a day off. Even though Dad has no legal obligation to help Metropolis… he does it voluntarily anyway… it was still a nice gesture. I wondered what the Metropolis city council would think if they knew Superman was using his day off to spend it with his family… I wondered what they would say if they knew he *had* a family? Before I knew Dad's secret, I never really thought about Superman having a personal life, or a love life, or a family… I'll bet most people don't stop to think about that, either. Most people probably just assume that all he does is work, work, work. Like that's all he's good for — doing deeds for people. Saving people.
Shows how much *they* know.
And then I thought about how weird it was that, here everybody was, giving a week-long celebration to a guy that they didn't even really know at all. They only liked him because he'd probably saved their lives… and who doesn't like a live-saver?
"You okay, Kayls?" Dad asked me, putting his hand on my shoulder as we walked toward the haunted house.
"Yeah, sure, Dad… I'm fine."
I can't believe it's June already. Aunt Lucy's getting married next week. She and Ben are tying the knot down at the courthouse. Big romantic deal. There's going to be a party afterwards, at our place. School gets out on Friday… that's two days away. This school year went by so slowly… until Kiranay was born… since then it has just *sped* by.
Carson got his cast off. No permanent damage done. He and I sit together at lunch now — at the table formerly known as the Loser table. Emily, Devin, and Chloe are great, and Carson's friend Kenny Lingheim has been sitting with us too. It's a much more pleasant environment than sitting with Lisa and Courtley. And Carson has *finally* stopped making food sculptures… I guess there's hope for his maturity after all. Maybe there's hope for me, too.
Kiranay's just shy of three months old now. She still cries a lot, but not quite as much. So I suppose there's hope for her, too… and for everyone else's sanity!
Crissy's still in her funk. Sometimes I worry about her. I talked to Mom about it and she told me to tell Crissy that she's welcome to stay at our house any time she needs to get away from her mom and Ben. I told that to Crissy and she seemed pretty grateful. She's been coming over to our house for breakfast on Saturday mornings… every week.
Michael lost another tooth. He was biting Lego's to get them to detach and bam — there went a tooth. He put it under his pillow three days ago but I think the tooth fairy's been preoccupied because Michael still has yet to see a cent.
Jenna made friends with Oliver, the boy who won the school contest, even though he's a grade older than she is. She says they talk about Superman all the time, during recess.
My parents are doing great. Mom's back to the usual — burying herself in her work. Dad's back to the usual, too — trying to stop Mom from getting so involved in her stories, but at the same time, being busy with his Superman activities. In the past week alone he's had to deal with a derailed train, a sinking yacht, and a trailer park fire. Something tells me that being a superhero is tough — I'm seriously considering *not* being one when I grow up. But if the world needs… ugh, I don't know what to do… I don't want to think about this… not until I'm at least fifteen, sixteen…
Other than the abovementioned inner conflict crisis, I'm fine. I wish I knew what will happen with Carson, though. Are we still going to be friends when we get to high school? Or… more than friends? What if I find another boy that I like? What if Carson finds somebody else and I never find anybody to be with and end up miserable and alone? I think I'm going to take Dad's advice… and that is: take life as it comes at you, one day at a time. Or Mom's advice: stop worrying about the future, you'll give yourself a headache. Of course, whenever she has a headache, Mom also has a very good excuse to indulge in a Double Fudge Crunch Bar.
Which reminds me, I'm hungry. But what else is new? I have an eternal stomach, let's not forget… but hey, that's just me. I'm as normal a the next Kryptonian/human. And I couldn't be happier about that.
(of this chapter, anyway…)