I fidgeted with the seatbelt. No matter what I tried, I just could not get comfortable. I must have made my discomfort a bit too obvious, because Beatrice took less than five minutes to notice. “What? You never been in a car, before?”
I struggled with the strap, trying to find an angle where it wasn’t crushing my boobs or choking my neck. I could achieve one or the other, but not both. I was tempted to not wear the thing at all; with my powers a car wreck was a non-factor. “Not in the front seat.”
“You have got to be shittin’ me.” Beatrice spared a glance at me, but Saturday traffic meant she needed to keep her eyes on the road. “How do you get to sixteen without riding in the front seat?”
“I only turned sixteen a month ago.” Meeting Starfall was probably meant to be a sort of belated birthday gift. Some present that turned out to be. “Mom and Dad always had a driver to take me wherever I needed to go.”
“That is the definition of swank, right there.” The car jerked as Beatrice swerved into the right lane. “Just between us girls, driving sucks.”
“Just another bar in the gilded cage,” I muttered. Up until yesterday, it hadn’t seemed that way to me. I had everything I wanted, every freedom I thought to ask for, but now all I could see was how isolated I’d been. Every friend I had was one my parents approved of, everything I held important taught to me by my parents or those they picked out. “Though, I guess a lot of their protectiveness came later. It wasn’t so bad before Adam got caught in the girls’ locker room with his pants down literally.”
Beatrice laughed. “Oh man, I heard about that one! Is it true that Miss Gibson joined in when she caught them and that’s why she got fired?”
“What? No!” I’d heard a lot of rumors, but never that one. “Adam wouldn’t do that! He just got a little too… enthusiastic… with his girlfriend. And no one got fired; Miss Gibson was already going to transfer at the end of the year.” Or, that’s what I’d been told. Now I was doubting everything my parents said to me, and I couldn’t be so sure. Still, I knew my brother wouldn’t do something like that.
“Hmm,” Beatrice’s usual smile returned. “While we’re on the subject, do you think being down with the swirl runs in your family?”
I looked over at her. “Who with the what?”
“Down with the swirl? Jungle fever?” I just stared blankly at her, hoping she’d realize I no idea what she was saying. “You know, interracial relationships?”
“Oh!” Why didn’t she just say that? “No, I don’t think my family’s big on swirls. Besides, don’t you think my twenty-two year old brother dating a girl who’s still in high school might be the slightest bit creepy?”
“All depends on how mature the girl is,” Beatrice dismissed. “I was running with a dude who was almost thirty last year. It was cool before he got all clingy.”
Yuck. What the actual… Yuck! How could anyone be okay with that? I was certain she didn’t tell Domenic or her grandma about it.
I looked over at her, appraising her features once again. Beatrice had what might be the best figure in our school. She could easily be mistaken for an adult, but she wasn’t and I wasn’t going to encourage my brother to be a pervert.
On the other hand, my parents might implode if Adam and Beatrice did end up involved with each other. “I’ll make you a deal. In a couple years you’ll be eighteen and he’ll be home from college; if you’re both single, I’ll do what I can.”
“See, that’s how you help a sister out!”
It occurred to me that Beatrice wasn’t the type of person I wanted around my brother, and I only agreed because it would upset my parents.
Is it really making my own path if I only do it to spite them? Where does their influence end, and who I am begin?
I was distracted from my thoughts when Beatrice turned into a gas station. “Aren’t we supposed to be going shopping?” I could admit to myself I was out of touch on how normal people did things, but I was pretty sure people didn’t go shopping at gas stations.
“Gotta make sure no one cancelled the card. I mean, if I’m gonna be stuck paying for my own shit, I’d like to know now.”
I looked out the window. “They won’t cancel it.” I was confident in that, at least. “As long as I keep up appearances and act like everything’s normal for the public, they’ll do the same.”
“Better safe than sorry.” Beatrice parked the car and got out to pump gas. I just stayed inside resting my forehead on the glass lost in my own thoughts. My family, Domenic being so understanding, and trying to figure out what I would do about school and being a hero.
I knew I’d be staying in classes, which was a pretty harsh blow against my planned career as a hero. I couldn’t afford to slip up in class, and that meant I wouldn’t have much time to patrol or fight crime. More than likely, I’d have to wait until summer vacation to even start making a name for myself. It was only a few weeks away, and I needed time to train with my powers anyway.
“Yup, the card’s still nice and loaded.” I felt the car shift when Beatrice climbed in, then the door slammed behind her. “Man, if I were you I’d be blackmailing the literal fuck out of them, all day every day. Have me a mansion, and a yacht, and a mansion in another yacht that’s in the swimming pool of my first mansion.”
“I don’t want their money.” I looked at my reflection in the window. I allowed the briefest flare of my power, a blue light shining in my blue eyes; a reminder that for everything I lost, at least I still had my power. I will make it worth it.
“Or go public and make it really hurt.” What did Domenic tell his family? “Maybe you can get a reality TV show out of the deal.”
“I don’t want anything other than to forget they even exist.” But if I run into either of them in costume, I’ll also settle for beating them to within an inch of their lives. “All a fight’s going to do is hurt my brothers.” A twinge of guilt reminded me it would also expose a corrupt hero and cripple one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the state. “They shouldn’t have to suffer for all this.”
“Suit yourself.” We didn’t speak for a while as Beatrice navigated her way through Saturday lunch hour traffic. I didn’t quite know where we were heading; one thing about other people doing all the driving is you don’t bother learning the streets. It was something I resolved to change; if I wanted to be a hero, I needed to be able to find where I was going.
We wound up stopped not terribly far from a J.C.Penney. Beatrice got out, then waited for me to catch up. “Hey, cheer up. As far as runnaways go, you’ve got it pretty good. Money, clothes, possibly the best boyfriend ever-”
“He’s not my boyfriend!”
“-your boyfriend’s even more awesome sister taking you under her wing.” She ignored my objection so fluidly I wondered if she even heard me. “Most girls just wind up stoned and turning tricks for some asshole.”
“Turning tricks?” I suspected I knew what she was talking about, but I wasn’t certain.
“Prostitution.” That’s what I thought. “There are guys who’ll take in runaways, get them hooked on some drug, usually the scary shit like meth or heroin, then force them to have sex to get their fix.” Or not.
“That’s horrific.” With a thought, I let my power know that no, we were not going to be smashing anyone right now. Then I made a silent promise to myself to teach anyone like that where the ‘break’ half of my name came from. “I thought that kind of stuff only happened in movies.”
“Nope.” Beatrice’s lips popped on the ‘p’ sound. “All real. Could have been you, if Dom wasn’t a walking advertisement for knights in shining armor. Then what would you have done?”
I would have discovered if it was indeed possible for a human to survive being reshaped into a pretzel. I couldn’t tell her that, however. For similar reasons, I couldn’t tell her how close to literal she came when calling her brother a knight in shining armor. “I don’t know.” We walked along in silence again until we were in the store.
“You know, I usually don’t have so much trouble cheering someone up.” Beatrice put her arm around me. “Then again, all my friends are guys, so they don’t need much more than cleavage.” With her pressed against my side, I couldn’t help but sneak a peak of my own. “Hey! I know! What are the odds your parents picked out your summer wardrobe?”
“They paid the woman who did.” They made sure everything was as classy as could be, too. As usual, making me the very definition of a Southern Belle.
“Then I have the perfect plan! Let’s get some bikinis! That’ll show ’em!”
Wait, what? I could feel my face heating up. “I thought you were shopping, not me.” I struggled to break her grasp, though admittedly I didn’t try very hard.
Despite my protests, she had us in the swim-wear section so fast I suspected she was heading here long before she said anything to me about it. “Let’s see, for you I’m thinking green or blue.” She thrust a green bikini into my hands, this time way too fast to make it seem spontaneous. “If it makes you feel better, I’ll pay for it with my own money.”
“But… but I can’t be seen wearing this!” The picture with the model made it clear I’d be next to naked.
“Oh, it’ll be fine.” She pulled me toward the dressing rooms. “Just try it on, if you don’t like it I won’t make you take it. But if it’s as awesome as I know it’s gonna be, you have to pay for lunch.”
“Umm, I thought I was already-”
“Ooh!” She jumped away from me, somehow snatched another bikini off a rack with her bandaged hand, and was right back next to me all in a single motion. “Alright, I think I’ve found my pick. We’ll see who’s the winner.”
I accepted there was no way I’d be getting through this without putting on these bits of scrap that pretended to be a bathing suit. I just went into the booth and changed into the flimsy thing, noting that it may be a bit too big for me. I looked forward to seeing Beatrice show off her figure in something just as insubstantial.
“Don’t chicken out now.” Think of the devil.
“Okay, I’m coming out.” I took a breath and stepped out. Beatrice had picked a black and white number tight enough that I could see the outlines of her… well… pretty much everything. If I didn’t know she just grabbed it a minute or two ago, I’d have thought she removed the lining. Not that I was complaining in the slightest.
I don’t know how long I stood there staring like an idiot before Beatrice spoke. “Nope, no good, you have to send yours back.”
What? “Why?” I almost wanted to cry; I didn’t want the thing, but she said I should try it and now she was rejecting it. I knew it was stupid, but it still hurt.
“Because if we show up at the beach together, everyone’s gonna be staring at you.” I felt myself turning pink. “I gotta keep a little action for myself.”
“You’re just saying that. I don’t even have-” I couldn’t say it, so I just gestured with my hands at my chest.
“They look fine to me.” She appraised me for a moment. “Medium B cups, I’m guessing.”
I looked down. “Maybe on a good day.”
“Yeah, but you’re not very tall so they look bigger.” I wasn’t sure if that made me feel better. “All guys care about is how they look, so you have the only benefit of big boobs without having to search for hours for underwear or spending more time with your chiropractor than sleeping. I’m just hoping mine decide ‘E’ is enough.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
“Besides, tits aren’t everything, and you’re smoking hot.”
“You think so?” I didn’t believe her for a second, but it was nice to hear.
“If I had a body like yours I’d walk around naked all day.” I blushed all the harder. “What do I have to do for abs like these?” She reached out and poked my stomach. I was disappointed when she took her hand away a moment later. “I would literally kill someone.”
“I do a lot of crunches, for gymnastics.” I knew one of the first things I’d need to do was drop out, the risk of my powers being found out was too high if I didn’t. In a way, I was relieved; I wasn’t competitive, and my body type was all wrong for the sport. I wouldn’t miss it at all.
“Damn, I was hoping it was ‘sit on your ass all day, but remember to drink lots of grapefruit juice’ or something cool like that. Now I learn it takes shit like ‘time’ and ‘effort’.”
“Sorry, as far as I know your only hope is hours of working out each week.” Actually, that’s an idea. “You can join my routine, it’s always better with a partner.” And if that means I get to see you sweaty and in sexy yoga clothes, so much the better.
Beatrice looked at me for a bit. “Only if you let me be there when you show that bikini to Domenic. I wanna see if his brain will melt out his ears.”
I hesitated for a second. Beatrice’s attempts at getting me together with Domenic were as transparent as that bikini of hers, and I wasn’t quite sure how to tell her why it wouldn’t happen. “I’ll think about it.”
“I’ll invite him to the beach, so he doesn’t know it’s a setup.” I was coming to suspect Beatrice couldn’t smile without it looking like she was plotting something. “But you’ll have to make the first move, ’cause you’ll die of old age before he does. Oh, and you have to promise to distract him long enough for me to sneak off and find some arm candy of my own. My brother is not allowed to have a date as hot as you while I’m there alone. It’s against the laws of nature.”
Somehow, it didn’t seem like Beatrice was the sort that stayed single for long. “I’ll see what I can do.” I knew it was stupid before I even said the words, but I said them anyway. “But first we’re getting you some workout clothes.”
Beatrice groaned. “Why do I feel like I’m going to regret this?”
Welcome to the club.