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Chapter XII

08/02/10

Chapter XII

 

            Celia held Caroline’s sleeping head in her lap and stroked her cheek.  Celia had gathered up both girls’ bags and carried them and Caroline to a bench outside of the food court.  The young girl stirred every so often, but didn’t wake. 

            Celia smiled at the bus station cop as he passed by her for the fourth time.  She had done everything she could to make the two of them look like travelers waiting on their next bus.  Celia spent two dollars buying a bottle water and used some of it to try and wash Caroline’s face.  The napkins were cheap and didn’t hold up well when wetted.  She ended up making her look more of a mess, with bits of paper fiber all over her mouth and cheek.  She took a jacket out of her bag and put it over the sleeping girl to cover up her dingy clothes.  Celia even went so far as to memorize the bus times so if the cop asked she could lie to him and say that she and her “sister” were waiting for the 9:45 to Wilmington. 

            She did her best to remain calm, but as Celia had learned the past two days, calm wasn’t her strong suit.  If only that station cop would stop circling them.  Celia started to tap her foot nervously.  A warm sensation washed over Celia perking her up for a brief instant. She looked down at Caroline and saw the fine hairs on her cheek standing on end.  The girl’s hair started to fan out.  Celia looked around and saw tiny sparks, like static electricity in the dark, crackling across the metal frame of the bench. 

            Celia started to panic.  Her heart raced.  Don’t lose control.  Don’t lose control.  She said to herself.  What was it that guy in the tv show said?  “How can you lose what you never had?”  But she did have control once.  She stopped it.  With Charles’ help, she stopped it.  She did it once, she could do it again.  She had to. 

            Again, Celia’s mind raced with images of fear and thoughts of doubt.  She couldn’t lose it in the bus station, not here.  Not with this girl in her lap.  The sleeping girl would be killed almost instantly.  The people passing by, they were all in danger.  They would think they were under attack; and they would be, but not on purpose.  A hero would come to save them.  He would attack Celia.  Beat her as she flailed out of control.  Kill her even.  Who would come?  Clockworx?  Major Tom?  Spartanicus?  Colonel Courageous?!  Celia shook at that last thought, and she saw tendrils of electricity reach out from the bench corner. 

            No!  She could do this.  Just like she had with Charles.  She could control it.  Celia took a deep breath and closed her eyes.  She slowly blew the air out through her nose and focused on slowing down her heart rate.  She took another deep breath and blew it out.  Celia opened her eyes and looked down at the young girl sleeping peacefully in her lap.  She focused on her quiet comforting face.  Celia stroked her cheek while trying to control her breathing.  She could feel herself starting to calm down.  She could do it.  She didn’t have control yet, but she at least knew how to keep herself from exploding.  The next step was learning what to do when she did explode. 

            What was she going to do?  The thought boomeranged inside her head.  Every time she thought she had pushed it to the very back of her mind it some how swung around to the front again.  It really wasn’t something she could ignore.  Anything she did from this point on was dependent on that question being answered.  Her next thought was always, Why?  Why her?  She wasn’t like the other kids, or even adults for that matter, that wished for super powers.  She didn’t like her life – well, she didn’t like certain aspects of it – but she was smart enough to know that having special abilities would only add to her problems, not solve them.  This wasn’t her, but suddenly it was.  You never know what you have till it’s gone.  Now, her old boring crappy life had been replaced with an exciting, but even crappier version of itself.  If only she had known, all those times she said to herself that it couldn’t get any worse, if only she had known the truth. 

            What was she going to do?  Become a hero, like Charles?  Like her – dad?  “With great powers come…” No!  Not in this lifetime.  Celia didn’t want to save people.  She wasn’t the brave daring type.  She looked down at her average figure.  She certainly wasn’t built for spandex and lycra.  Growing up as the daughter of Jonni “Super Slut” Cordalis and Charles “Wooly Mammoth” Reinhart had given her enough time in the media that she knew she didn’t’ want anymore.  All Celia really wanted, was to live her life in peace. 

            How odd.  Celia thought to herself.  Most people want someone, anyone to notice them, and all I want is to be forgotten by everyone. 

            The rubber soles of the police officer’s shoes made a sticky noise as they lifted from the tile floor.  Celia was completely lost in thought and failed to notice that, on his fifth trip around the station, the officer decided to approach her.  His hand politely touched her on the shoulder to get her attention.  Celia jumped, her heart raced and her lungs temporarily seized.  Her body sent a defensive jolt of electricity into the officer’s hand. 

            “Ahh!”  The police officer said as he instinctively withdrew his hand.  He and Celia stared at each other for a moment.  When Celia saw the person that had grabbed her was the bus station police officer, she knew that it would be another 30 seconds, at least, before her lungs would start breathing again. 

            Celia stared at the thirty-something cop while trying to force herself to breath.  She choked as her body relented and forced out the breath it had been holding for so long. 

            “Sorry.”  The officer and Celia said in unison. 

            The cop smiled at her.  “You okay?  Sorry about the shock.  It happens a lot.  The uniform’s polyester.” 

            “That’s okay.  We’re okay.  Just waiting for the 9:45 to Wilmington.” Celia blurted out. 

            “Really?” The officer said.  He looked at his watch.  “That’s… another three hours from now.  Where you coming from?” 

            “Uh-“ Celia froze, she had anticipated him asking any other questions.  “Dover.” She said without thinking. 

            “Huh?  I didn’t think any of the buses went through Dover.” 

            Celia’s eyes shot up to the sign behind the cop showing the bus arrivals and departures.  She looked at the most recent arrivals and picked one. 

            “Well, we actually switched buses in Rockery to come to Future City.  My sister, Dory, my sister…’  Celia was tripping over her words as she tried her best to lie and make it sound good.  The last thing she wanted was for the cop to check up on her and find out she was a runaway; probably the young girl, too. 

            “Dory and I were hoping to see some superheroes.  We hear about them all the time, and see them on tv, but we don’t have any in Dover.”  Celia swallowed hard and tried to keep her knees from knocking.  Her body started getting warm and her skin started to buzz.  “You know, seeing a hero makes a six hour wait worth it.” 

            The cop looked down at Celia.  She tried to look calm and normal.  Her eyes darted around the station, never fixing on the officer’s.  Her hands shook, and she fidgeted like a little kid in church.  Her smile was forced and strained; jaw locked tight, holding the truth behind a prison of teeth.  The silence was almost more than Celia could bear. 

            The police officer continued to stare at her. 

            “You should see yourself right now.”  The officer said.  His face was stern and emotionless.  “You don’t know how many young people I’ve talked to that have the same look on their face that you do right now.  Each of them telling me the same story.” 

            Suddenly he smiled at her.  “It’s incredible, isn’t it?  I’ve been living in Future City for seven years, and each time I see a hero, I’m floored.” 

            Relief washed over Celia like a monsoon.  Her body relaxed to the point that she thought she might wet herself. 

            “Wow.”

            “I know.  It’s amazing.  It’s almost impossible to have a conversation with someone that’s come to the city for the first time.  They’re just like you – eyes darting about, trying to see everything.  Hoping to see someone flying through the air.  I still do it myself, sometimes.”  The cop hooked his thumbs in his belt as he talked. 

            “I even met a few of them.  I’ve got a picture of myself with Colonel Courageous himself.” 

            ‘That’s… cool.” Celia said with a smile so fake and strained she thought it would crack and fall off her face. 

            The cop’s radio cracked and blurted out calls.  The officer grabbed the mic on his shoulder and spoke into it. 

            “This is Ricky.  Uh-huh.  I’m over near the food court.  I’ll go and check it out.”  He turned his attention back to Celia.

            “You and your sister take care.  I’ll be around, so if you need anything just holler.” 

            Officer Ricky turned his back to Celia and walked down the hall towards the south wing.  He grabbed the mic on his shoulder again and started talking into it.  Celia had no idea what he was saying or who he was talking to, but the one thing she did know was that she didn’t want to still be on the bench when he came back through. 

            Celia shook Caroline softly, talking gently in her ear while she did so. 

            Caroline stirred.  Her heavy eyelids slowly lifted over a period of several blinks.  She had slept so well, the best sleep she’d had in weeks.  As her eyes fully opened she expected to find herself back at home and in bed with the past week and a half being nothing more than a bad dream.  As Caroline returned to consciousness, so did her senses.  Suddenly her ears were filled with the hustle and commotion of the busy bus station.  Her eyes drank in the vision of Celia and all the commuters swirling around the bench. 

            Caroline panicked.  She retreated from Celia, turning invisible as she moved away. 

            “Ahh!” 

            Celia reached out for the invisible girl, grabbing not for where she was, but where she was moving to.  She caught Caroline by the arm and held tight.  A jolt of electricity stabbed the younger girl in the arm, making her turn visible once again. 

            “Ow!  That hurt!”

            “Then stop doing that.” Celia said, pretending that she had shocked her on purpose.  That was the second time she had zapped Caroline out of surprise.  So much for control. 

            “You can’t keep turning invisible in front of all these people.  Someone’s going to notice, and then you’ll be in big trouble.”

            Celia took a hold of Caroline’s shoulders with both of her hands.  She held the girl firmly and looked in her eyes. 

            “We’ve got to get out of here.  A cop came by earlier when you were sleeping.  He seemed nice, but he was asking a lot of questions.  I don’t think we should be here when he comes back.” 

            Caroline looked in the older girl’s eyes.  She could see the honest and genuine concern for her.  She held her gaze for a long time, not moving or looking away.  Finally, she nodded yes and grabbed the handle of her pack. 

            “Where are we going to go?” Caroline asked.  She slid her arms through the straps, and lifted the pack unto her back. 

            Celia looked own at Caroline.  She took the girl by the hand, and weaved the two of them in and out of the commuters and long distance travelers. 

            “I don’t know.” 

            “I’m hungry.” Caroline blurted out. 

            “I still have the fries you tried to steal in my bag.  I’ll give them to you once we’re out of here.”  Celia shook her head.  Only a kid could be more concerned over their stomach than their safety. 

            Safety.  As Celia and Caroline reached the outer doors of the bus station the older girl had another thought.  Geez, why couldn’t she just turn her brain off for a minute? She wondered at the same time.  Wasn’t she actually taking the girl away from safety?  Here she was helping a girl that couldn’t be older than ten run away from home.  Wouldn’t it be safer if she were at home with her parents?    

            As the two of them stepped outside and into the open air, Celia looked down at Caroline.  The younger girl’s eyes were captivated by the sights of the big city.  Celia would have been equally amazed, had her mind not been on other things. 

            Where would she be safe?  In the arms of her loving and protective parents, or venturing into the unknown with a stranger?  Celia thought the girl could easily ask the same thing of her.  She could, and the realization made Celia’s heart sink.  She turned and looked back at the bus station doors.  Maybe they both belonged at home; the human livewire and the daughter of the Invisible Man

            Maybe, but they weren’t there.  Not anymore.  Whatever the reasons they had for leaving had put the two of them in the same spot.  And, as Celia thought more about the invisible girl, she realized that they needed each other.  They were alike, and she probably couldn’t go home right now anymore than Celia could. 

            The two girls crossed the street, and continued moving away from the bus station.  Celia wanted to put as much distance between them as possible, in case the police officer or one of his partners came looking for them. 

            “I’m really hungry.” cried Caroline. 

            “You can have the fries in my bag.” 

            “Bleech!  They’re all cold now.” Caroline replied. 

            Caroline looked up at Celia.  “They had a microwave at the bus station.” 

            “Microwave french fries never taste right.” 

            “But they’re not cold.”   

            “Good point.” said Celia.  She smiled at the younger girl.  “My name’s Celia.” 

            “I’m Caroline.” 

            “Nice to meet you, Caroline.” 

            “Celia, where are we going?” 

            Celia smiled at Caroline.  “To find a microwave.”

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