You know what sucks worse than being stood up on a date? Being stood up and then ghosted. I heard nothing from Maddy for all of Sunday, and when she didn’t show up to class on Monday either, I began to worry for her. Diana’s anger turned to concern when she saw she wasn’t in class, and she subtly put out a few questions to the other professors.
So when I heard, from Brook of all people, that she’d seen Maddy on Sunday walking with another girl like nothing was wrong, my mood dropped and stayed that way. She’d just mentioned it casually in a text. What had I done to deserve this? Was it something I did when we were working on the project together? Or was it further back? I couldn’t think of anything overtly terrible that I’d done…
The week passed in a melancholy that was fast turning into something more. Maddy had been on her way to becoming a fixture in my life, and now she was gone. Just like that.
I tried to hang out with Brook, but there was a part of me, a big part, if I'm honest, that was scared she'd decide to leave me too. I hadn’t even told her about what had happened over the weekend. So to avoid talking about it to Brook, and to avoid my pain, I focused on my schoolwork and I kept to myself.
Diana on the other hand, didn't take no for an answer, especially after our talk on Saturday night. She probably realised I wasn't feeling the best, and so cuddling and watching movies or trashy TV became compulsory each night, and I felt so damn happy about it. I had… I had a Mum! A Mum who cared and made homemade pizza when I was sad and gently chastised me when I didn't take care of myself properly. I cried myself to sleep more often than not from that simple fact alone. I had a Mum.
During our nights spent talking, she told me all about her adventures as Lavice, how she could fly and form ice over her body. She was so cool, and I suddenly felt a lot safer at home. Mother and Father couldn't do shit if my new Mum was a fucking class five Emerged! Eat a dick flashlight dad.
What I didn't have, and what I decided I definitely didn't want anymore, was a girlfriend. I hadn't been super interested in the concept of romance before I'd Emerged, and this little chance that I had taken had turned out terrible. So I wasn't going to try. Who cared? I had no idea what I was missing out on anyway, so "ignorance is bliss" was my new catchphrase as far as that whole subject went.
Honestly, I didn’t feel like interacting with many people. There was something about the innocence of my friendship and potential relationship with Maddy that had felt so freeing to me. It had been intertwined with my new life, and to have it torn from me like that, with no real warning or reason. It hurt. It hurt me deep in a place that I had no ability to see or repair. It was there though, I could feel it.
So, the rest of humanity, bar Diana and sometimes Brook, could get lost. ON the subject of Brook, I felt a little jealous. Brook was spending a bunch of time with Rosie, which was good for them I guess, but I didn’t feel like being third wheel, so I avoided them both whenever I was feeling too vulnerable. Which meant that I didn’t get to hang out with Brook even when I did want to. She was my friend first though damn it!
My distrust in people was proven by the time Friday morning rolled around. I walked into class and sat down. The professor for this class was someone I didn’t have much rapport with, and I was sitting near the back now anyway. I was in what was technically my Coby form, which meant regular human girl appearance instead of glowing eyes and freckles and shit. It had long since just become my normal form.
Two girls wandered in and sat down nearby, chattering among themselves. I didn’t pay much attention until I heard Diana’s name.
“Did you hear that Professor Monahan is having an affair with a student?” one of them asked the other in that stupid mock whisper people use to gossip.
“What? Really? Who is it?” the other asked with predictable malice and interest in equal measure.
“I don’t know, but they say it’s another girl! It’s a lesbian affair,” the first one laughed derisively.
I felt my stomach drop into yet another pit of anxiety, and I felt my face flush in true embarrassment at the same time. They had to be talking about me right? Diana didn’t spend time with any other students but me.
I didn’t wait to hear more. I stood up out of my seat, gathered my shit and left. I needed to find my Mum. I needed to warn her, to find out what was happening. Who was spreading these rumours? Why now? What was going on? This wasn’t Maddy was it? Was she trying to mess with me even further? Why did it feel like there was some sort of conspiracy against me?
I rushed through the Uni, dodging around people and through doors until I got to the offices and then sat down outside it, like I had on the first day. I didn’t have to wait long. A random professor, saw me as he walked into the offices and stared suspiciously at me, then went inside. A few moments later and someone was hanging out the door.
“Are you Eloise?” the small stern looking woman asked. She was wearing a suit and pencil skirt combo.
Oh no, she looked really official. Was this worse than I thought? Was Diana going to be arrested or something? Or had they found out she was Lavice?
“Yeah,” I nodded quietly.
“Please come with me,” she said curtly, motioning for me to go through and into the offices.
I followed her nervously through the frosted glass door and into a large, open plan room. There were cubicles everywhere and all the usual office stuff. Along one wall were a series of glass conference rooms, one of which was occupied by a few well dressed people, and then Diana. She looked closed off and wary, staring at the people on the other side of the room from her like she wanted to use that ice spike of hers on them.
She saw me as I was escorted over, her cold veneer cracking for just a split second in surprise as she saw me, but it snapped over her face again in an instant.
When we arrived and I was ushered in, one of the well dressed men in the room spoke without introduction. “You’re Eloise correct? Do you mind if we ask you some questions?”
“O-oh… okay, Yes…” I stammered, playing up the scared little girl aspect of my nature. Not that I needed much help, but I hoped they would be a bit nicer to us.
“Have you been living with Ms Monahan?” he asked with a careful tone. There was nothing careful about him though. Just another person who was going to hurt me. Happiness was apparently something I was about to be denied.
“Yes. She took me in after my parents kicked me out,” I said, feeling real tears welling in my eyes. “I had nowhere else to go. My father tried to… tried to…”
Diana twitched next to me, clearly wanting to comfort me, but she couldn’t really do that given the circumstances.
“I see,” the suit said, giving another glance to his peers. “And have you been intimate with Ms Monahan?”
“We cuddle and watch movies some nights, yeah,.” I nodded truthfully. “But… like a Mum and a daughter.”
This one threw them for a loop. They passed some startled looks around and then turned to Diana. “Is this true? You view her as a daughter?”
“Yes, I do,” Diana said nodded solemnly. “My reference will attest to this when she arrives.”
“Ah yes. This mysterious reference,” he said, actually rolling his eyes.
That pissed me off. How dare they attack Diana like this? She was an amazing, incredible person. As my rage built inside me, fuelled by the hurt I’d experienced recently and what I might be about to lose, something inside me twitched and woke like a dragon.
The space in front of the dickhead in a suit bulged, then compressed and snapped into a circular void of darkness about two inches in diameter. Oh shit. I panicked, instantly. That was a black hole. In the office. On earth.
Then, the glass wall of the room shattered into a million fragments, only for them to turn to sand and drop to the floor. Through that busted window, strode Mystrix Pallas herself. One of the founders of the OMR and all around do-not-fuck-with-her baddass woman. Her helmet was on, her spear was nowhere to be seen but her shield was on her back.
She ignored the stunned suits and walked over to the black hole, sparing a quick appraising glance for me, before she wove a net of magic around the orb of potential death. I could feel it’s pull even now as the tiny baby thing ate the air around it.
The web settled over it, then began to constrict, and all the while, more and more threads were added to the net until it was no longer visible. Then she reached out and plucked the now marble sized object out of the air like she was picking a grape, and popped it in her pocket.
“I apologise for the grand entrance,” she said regally, her voice vibrating like there was more than one person talking. “I was forced to take a shortcut using a spacial tunnel to get here and stop the uh... Accident from killing anyone.”
“A shortcut?” the suit who’d been talking asked dumbly.
“Yes. I was inbound already in order to defend Ms Monahan’s honour. She is a good friend of mine, and someone is slinging slander and falsehoods across her good name,” the goddess practically growled. Wow, that was fucking scary. How was her voice doing that?
“You’re the character reference?” the woman who’d escorted me in blurted from the corner of the room where she’d retreated.
“Yeah, that’s her,” Diana said with the biggest shit eating grin I’d ever seen. It was the largest single emotion she’d ever displayed on her face, and it was perfect in that moment.
“Indeed, that is the capacity in which I am here to serve,” the bronze helmeted woman said, striding over to stand behind Diana and placing a hand on her shoulder. I don’t know if anyone else saw, but her thumb started rubbing and kneading the muscles of Diana’s shoulder blades in… comfort?
“You vouch for her story? That she and this girl are not having a sexual relationship?” he asked, looking a little stunned, but still managing to ask his question.
“I do. If you do not believe me, I can spell this room so that it will force all those to answer questions with truth, although I must warn you, I will ask one question for every one that you yourselves ask,” she said, the barest, smallest, tiniest hint of a sneer in her words. Then she continued. “It is my duty as the inheritor of Athena’s will to ensure there is justice in these proceedings.”
“No! No... I don’t think that will be needed,” he said nervously, then glanced at the space where the black hole had been. “Can you… explain what that was?”
“That was a region of space time that was bent by this young woman here. She accidentally compressed the space until it exhibited gravitational acceleration so strong that light could not escape it. She essentially, in layman’s terms, accidentally created a black hole because you pushed an already stressed young woman past her breaking point,” Mystrix Pallas explained calmly, as if I hadn’t just almost wiped the planet off the face of the galaxy.
She wasn’t done though, and she looked at me, “Never fear though. She is not terribly dangerous. The singularity would have collapsed once her attention wavered.”
“She… she did what? She…?” the suit stammered, staring at me in fear. That was new. Someone staring at me in fear, that is.
“I suggest you treat your students and Professors with a certain healthy degree of respect and good will in the future. The days of men in suits bullying the small is coming to an end,” she said with an ice to match my new Mum.
“Yes… yes…” the dickhead bully in a suit nodded like a bobblehead. “I think that this meeting is concluded then. Thank you for sitting down to talk. We’ll be going now.”
“So will we,” Mystrix Pallas said, reaching out to grasp my shoulder as well as Diana’s.
There was a whump sound, and suddenly we were in front of Diana’s house. Righto, guess I was skipping the rest of class today. Life in a post-emergence world was fucking nuts yo.
“Petra… I drove to work,” Diana grumbled, still sitting in a chair like I was. “Also you cracked the pavement.”
“You’re welcome for being allowed to keep your job,” Mystrix Pallas said, — who was apparently called Petra — with a sly wink at me.
What was going on? I knew that like, as heroes, they knew each other, but they seemed to be more familiar than I thought. Wait, were they fucking? Was that what the wink was about?
“It’s not over. Just because they aren’t going to fire me, doesn’t mean the rumours will just vanish overnight,” Diana sighed, pulling herself out of her chair and walking towards the front door of our house.
I got out of my chair and followed her too, and so did the goddess named Petra. Petra. It was so weirdly mundane, and yet not, to hear that the crazy ultra powerful goddess had a normal-ish name.
“It is a start however, and it was doubly important considering your fascinating new charge,” Petra said, a note of seriousness entering her voice again. “You need the income if you are going to support her as well.”
As they argued back and forth, I glanced back at the place we had arrived. Two chairs sat off kilter in a little cracked dent of pavement on the sidewalk. So we were just leaving the chairs there too? Should we call the Uni and let them know where the chairs had gotten to? Heroes were weird. Really weird. I was definitely thankful I’d decided to just live my life like a normal person instead, like, throwing black holes at people or whatever.
Pinching the bridge of her nose, Diana sighed, “I know. She’s important to me, and I’ll make sure to support her properly. Which also means getting to the bottom of these rumours before they end up hurting her. Did you know they have a picture of us on the couch during one of our movie nights?”
She’d directed the last at me, and I shook my head with wide eyes. Really? Someone had been snooping on us? That was downright creepy.
“I’m going to put wards around your property,” Petra said abruptly, floating into the air and looking around at the house with a professional eye.
“Nothing lethal!” Diana said hastily, looking worriedly up at her.
“Yes I know, I am well aware now that wanton death is immoral,” the goddess said, floating off to do whatever ‘putting wards around’ meant.
As she left, I rushed up next to Diana and waited as she unlocked the house, then followed her inside. She looked relieved, but still a bit stressed.
Plucking up my courage, I decided to hug her. She wouldn’t mind a hug right? It wouldn’t be weird now? She froze in the hug at first as my arms went around her, but then she laughed and put her arms back around me in turn.
“Well, seems this comforting thing goes both ways huh? Thank you little Eloise,” she chuckled, squeezing me affectionately.
“I don’t like seeing you stressed, it means whatever has happened must be really bad. You’re normally so calm about things,” I told her shyly, stepping back from the hug.
“Well, I could have lost quite a lot if I hadn’t known Mystrix Pallas was around,” she stated quietly. “Someone did this on purpose though, that’s what’s bothering me. It’s either someone at the university who has a grudge against me, which is, unfortunately, quite a few people. I am not known for mincing words. The other consideration is someone who is instead out to hurt you.”
“Maybe my parents, or my cousins… or Maddy?” I asked, feeling myself deflate again as I was reminded of just how many people were out to hurt me.
“Not Maddy. I do not believe she wishes to be malicious. I would give her time if I were you, you’ll find out what happened eventually,” she said reassuringly, reaching out to place a comforting hand on my arm.
“Okay… I don’t think I’m interested in trying again though,” I mumbled, my heart constricted with pain over the recent wound it had taken.
“That is perfectly understandable,” she nodded. “And now, come along, I’ll make tea and we can discuss the recent problem. It might distract you from that heartbreak of yours”
“Thanks,” I sighed. Wait, when had this turned into her comforting me?
We moved through the house to the kitchen, and Diana started making some tea while I got on my phone and texted Brook about what had happened with the rumours. I didn’t want her to come to crazy conclusions about Diana and I.
She replied with a lot of angry emojis and an evil scheming emoji, then said, Come to my place tonight? I think I can help.
How could Brook, of all people, help in this situation? She was great for comforting, but I saw no way she could help with the rumours. I decided to tell Diana what Brook had said. You were meant to get your parent’s advice right?
“Um, Brook thinks she can help with the rumours, she wants me to go to her place tonight,” I said, looking up from my phone.
“Well, don’t do anything before talking to me, but you should go. If she has a way to help this situation I am all ears,” Diana said thoughtfully.
“Um, okay. I’ll do it,” I smiled. “And we won’t burn anyone until we’ve talked to you first!”
“I hope you don’t go burning anyone Eloise,” she frowned.
“It was a joke… sorry Mum,” I mumbled, then realised I’d called her Mum. Like, casually? Already? I’d almost called her it once, and actually called her it on Saturday… but this had felt so much more… I don’t know.
We both blinked at each other as the word bounced around on the floor like a dropped sportsball. Oh gosh. Did the word make her uncomfortable?
“Mum indeed,” Diana said at last, smiling a broad smile and reaching out to ruffle my hair.