Brook and I both got a ride to college with Rosie, who was more than happy to help. She seemed like she’d been really enjoying our friendship since she realised her old friends had been crap. In fact, she seemed to be slowly losing that overly preppy attitude she’d had when we first met. The way she’d been ready to defend Brook had my estimation of her rising too.
Meanwhile, separating myself from Brook in order to go to class was… exceptionally hard. I managed it, but only because I knew I’d be seeing her after class was done. Also during breaks, if I could arrange it.
My first class had Oliver and Eric, who were more than happy to see me. “Elsie! Come sit with us!” Eric exclaimed, calling across the room.
I laughed, giving them a skeptical look. “What are the chances I actually get work done if I sit all the way back there with you?”
“Hey!” Oliver pouted, pretending to be offended. “We’re actually very studious, I’ll have you know.”
“Dude, I’m surprised you even know what the word studious means,” Eric chuckled. “Me however, I’m all about my grades.”
“Alright, alright,” I sighed, rolling my eyes. “Fuckin’ clowns. I’ll sit with you.”
“Are we like, creepy clowns, weird clowns or like… funny clowns?” Oliver asked, almost pulling off a serious expression.
Sitting down with a laugh, I decided not to reply. Listening to the two guys next to me debate what kind of clowns they were had me grinning as I got out my work and textbook. They were so great and so silly. Made me realise that I’d managed to somehow make friends through all of my social awkwardness and anxiety. Yet another reason that my magical transition had been amazing for me.
If I’d found myself talking to these two in class during the time before I’d been Elsie, I’d have clammed up and avoided them like the plague after the first interaction. Even if they’d been as nice and welcoming as they were now. My social anxiety simply wouldn’t have been able to handle it. Now that I was happy in my own skin though… it was wonderful. I could talk to people now! Kinda! It was a work in progress.
Class took altogether way too long to get through though, despite the two dorks sitting next to me, and I was close to warping my way out of the room and straight into Brooks arms when I was finally allowed out. I’d been texting her the whole time, and we’d agreed to eat lunch together at one of the cafes on campus.
For some crazy reason I was nervous. It was like my first proper date with my new and very real girlfriend. My girlfriend who just happened to be Brook, my long time best friend and one of those girls that everyone kinda knew of. Deep breaths Elsie, you literally slept in the same bed last night. No need to get all worried and anxious, it’s just fi— oh who am I kidding. Of course I was going to be anxious, it was practically who I was. I should rename myself to anxiety.
The cafe was situated on the edge of a big plaza, full of grass patches contained by squares of decorative tiles, big trees for shade and a bunch of tables around the place. Brook was waiting outside for me, and I found my feet dragging as I approached.
“Hey Brook,” I mumbled shyly, catching her attention.
“Hiya glowstick,” she beamed, crossing the distance between us and pulling me into a hug that turned into a kiss. Just a light kiss, she pulled back after a second or two to give me a big funny smile. “Why are you looking so worried right now?” she asked, tilting her head in a way that had her eyes reflecting gold light back at me. It was funny, but there was something strange about that gold light. Was there a gold surface nearby that was reflecting into her eyes, or was it just their natural hazel colour?
“I was just feeling anxious…” I replied, hiding my face in her neck.
“About this?” she asked incredulously. “Hey, it’s okay, I got you. Let’s go inside and get food.”
“Thanks brook,” I mumbled, allowing her to put an arm around me and shepherd me inside. I could feel her thumb gently stroking at my waist through my top and all of a sudden I was beginning to melt.
“Brook, if you keep doing that thing with your thumb, you’ll have to carry me to the line for food,” I grumbled, already leaning on her for support.
“Sorry,” she grinned, giving me an affectionate squeeze. “Just happy to be with you, in public and for real.”
“Me too,” I said, a smile blossoming across my face.
Our lunch date, or coffee date or just hanging out, whatever you were meant to call it, it went well. We laughed and joked with each other as normal, but there was this deep tenderness between us now too. It was wonderful, looking at her and knowing what she was to me now. Mine, my wonderful Brook.
We parted with a kiss that was probably a little too intense for where we were, judging by the catcalls we got. Brook just threw them the finger and went back to making sure I wasn’t getting anxious about the people watching. I was, but not enough to stop me from wanting her. Parting with her for the afternoon was once again extremely hard too, and I kept finding myself glancing back at her until I had to turn a corner.
My afternoon didn’t have the guys in it. I used to have Maddy in these classes, but that wasn’t a thing anymore, which led to me being incredibly bored for most of it. With the exception of my class with mum, who raised an eyebrow in greeting when I wandered in.
“How was your night?” she asked with an overly casual tone.
“Good,” I mumbled, a blush lighting up my cheeks.
“That’s good to hear,” she chuckled, then gently motioned me to my seat.
I could tell that she and I would be having a big ol’ conversation when I got home. She seemed to be more than fine with it, but I could tell her protective instincts were kicking in too. Seeing that she cared about me sent a little thrill of happiness through me. So many people just… gave a shit about me now. It was nice.
I enjoyed mum’s classes, in part just because it was her teaching it. Obviously people who’d grown up with a parent as their teacher might think differently than me. Still, my circumstances were different.
The university day mercifully ended soon after, and I wandered my way out towards where Brook and I had agreed to meet up. I got out onto the road and walked down around the curved street towards the next gate into the college where she was waiting, when I saw something odd.
A car I recognised, my father’s car. Anxiety spiked within me and I began to run towards where my girlfriend was meant to be. Something within me was screaming that I needed to get there now. My feet pounded against the cracked pavement, I didn’t have time to get my board out from its holster in my backpack.
Fuck this, I was emerged. I warped space ahead of me and pushed, crushing time with my will until I lanced down the sidewalk with a thump. I turned the gentle curve and halted to take stock of what I saw.
My father was there wearing an old worn out suit, and people were staring as he held… as he held Brook roughly against the wall. He was screaming something into her face as she stared back at him with wide, scared eyes and a stoic jaw.
“What the fuck are you doing?!” I demanded in a voice too high and panicked to be intimidating.
“You!” he growled, shoving Brook back against the wall one more time before he turned to me, fury and hatred in his eyes. “You fucking embarrassment, you think you can just walk around… like that? Make videos displaying your… I don’t even know what to call it. You’re coming with me right now. I’m going to make sure that everyone forgets you, I know people now, people who can make sure of it.”
He was stalking towards me, my girlfriend behind him now, doubled over and coughing. She looked up, her eyes bright gold and desperate. She tried to take a step towards him, but I knew that he’d just hurt her more.
No, I needed to make sure he couldn’t hurt either myself or my girlfriend.
I raised my hand just as he was about to get into swinging range with his fist and simply stopped him. I was so full of fear, so full of anger that he’d hurt Brook, but when I saw the fear spark in his eyes, I felt a surge of satisfaction. Then I sent him flying backward until his back impacted the pole of a metal signpost with a dull clang.
It was all I could do to stop myself from crushing him into a marble of base elements in that moment, all the fear and abuse that I’d endured over the years piling behind the action, screaming for blood. I remembered the psychological shit, the way he’d constantly harassed and belittled me for being too feminine “for a guy.” I remembered the way he used to fly into rages, breaking shit around the house in a man-baby tantrum over some inconsequential bullshit.
I remembered tiptoeing around the house afterwards, like one wrong move, one floorboard creaking too loudly would set him off again. I remembered all the times I’d sat huddled in the shower, confused by the disquiet of my male body as my mind ran through fantasies of getting back at him and my mother.
Fantasies that I now had to hold back if I wanted a normal life. I couldn’t let him take my life from me in this moment, no matter how much I wanted to crush him.
“Brook, my phone in my back pocket. Call Mum, Diana. Please,” I asked my wonderful girl as she hobbled over, each step a wince of pain.
“Not the cops?” she asked, her tone hoarse. Before I could reply she shook her head at her own question. “Right, not them.”
Couldn’t call the cops because the cops would be just as likely to side with my father in this situation, given their track record with shooting Emerged who were defending themselves with their powers.
I felt her slip my phone out of my back pocket, followed by the faint dial tone that came from the small speaker.
“Hello? Diana? This is Brook… yeah. Can you come to gate G right now? Yes… yes Elsie’s birth father is here, he… yes she’s alright, he attacked me, she has him restrained. Yes, I’m alright too,” Brook said with a grimace. It looked like something was wrong with her chest, she was tenderly poking at her ribs. “Alright, thank you. See you soon,” she said, then ended the call and nodded to me.
It was at about that point that I realised I was just using my powers out in the open in front of a bunch of other students. Crap. Rumors were going to fly about this too, people were going to talk about how I could throw people around with my mind.
Frustration at the whole situation welling up once more, I turned to my father and let up a little on the force I was using. I was too angry for even my anxiety to take hold right now, and it bubbled out in a question, “Are you fucking stupid?”
He blinked at me, taken aback by the question, his dumb brain only spitting out, “What?”
“Are. You. Fucking. Stupid?” I asked again, throwing each word at him like a rock. “I threw you around like a toy when I left, what on Earth made you think you could just rock up and kidnap me or whatever?”
“I’m emerged too!” he spat, struggling briefly against the restraints of crushing gravity that I had around him. Then he turned his god damn flashlight eyes on.
I couldn’t help it. I laughed. I doubled over and laughed. “You’re fucking pathetic mister… mister lasgun eyes. Holy shit. You’re a class 0, father.”
I watched as he struggled and seethed at my words, his face going that odd shade of purple that said he was going to fly into a mantrum at any moment. I just smiled, I took a deep breath and smiled. He couldn’t hurt me anymore. He couldn’t abuse me, he couldn’t throw me around, he couldn’t even yell at me if I put him under enough gravity.
“Not going to lie, that’s satisfying to see,” Brook murmured through her pained expression.
My amusement melted into concern as I saw her holding her side the way she was, my phone barely held in her other limp hand.
“Are you okay?” I asked worriedly, trying to get her to meet my eyes.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” she nodded, but I didn’t believe her. “I think he cracked a rib or something, I don’t know.”
I wanted to move and help her, but I couldn’t without losing my hold on my father. I was struggling with this dilemma when I heard the roar of a motorbike in the distance. The sound grew and grew as it neared, the roar seeming to increase well beyond what seemed reasonable, but hey that was motorbikes for you.
The motorbike pulled up next to us and the rider cut the engine, turning and hopping off the bike. The first thing I noticed was that she was short. Like, seriously short. She couldn’t have been above five feet. She wore a leather bodysuit done up in the universally recognisable american blue, with green and teal accents running across it in lines. The upper portion of her face was hidden by a mask in the same colours, while her mid length strawberry blonde hair was allowed to fly free.
“Not often I get asked to do a favour for Pallas herself,” the woman remarked as she wandered up. “Sending me through a rift no less. Forgot to mention where the hell I was going though.”
“Um, hi?” I asked uncertainly. If Petra had sent her then she was here to help.
“Sorry, I’m Rampart,” she smiled. “I’m here to contain… this fellow? I believe? Looks pretty dangerous with those eyes. He might start a fire if someone gives him the wrong prescription glasses.”
“Ah, another one. You and my son will get along well,” my father sneered down at us from his position on the pole.
“Look friend, if you say anything else like that again, I’m going to go and get a handful of dirt from that garden there and stuff it down your throat. Trust me, it doesn’t taste good,” Rampart smiled amicably.
“Sorry, my fault,” I blushed, shutting my father’s flapping jaw with a flick of gravitational force. I didn’t want to look silly in front of the cool hero chick.
Rampart’s eyebrows rose at my display, and she gave me a more critical look.
“You ever thought about becoming a hero? You’d be damn good,” she commented, her head tilted to the side as she inspected me.
“I’d rather not,” I shook my head. “I just want to live normally.”
“Understandable,” she said, turning back to the problem at hand. “If you let him down I’ll keep him contained until he can be taken to a cell. You’d best get out of here though. I’m a hero, so the charming New York cops will have to tolerate me, but you on the other hand… let’s just play it safe, eh?”
“Okay,” I said quietly, a little intimidated by this short, confident woman. She was kinda cool.
I let my father drift down to the ground but kept him gagged, then waited for whatever Rampart was going to do. No sooner had his feet touched the ground than a shield of rippling blue energy came down around him in a box, and the hero nodded in satisfaction.
“Alright, purple face here is contained. You two skedaddle, I assume someone will have sent you a message on where to go?” she asked, raising an eyebrow as she nonchalantly held my dad in a box.
Brook looked down and checked my phone, then nodded. “Yeah, says to go meet her mum in her office.”
“Good good, catch you later!” she smiled, waving goodbye with a remarkably dorky little finger wiggle-wave thing.
With that, Brook and I began to move towards where mum’s office was, entering the college again through the gate we’d been standing outside of. My girlfriend could walk, luckily. It seemed very likely that he’d hurt her ribs in some way, and my heart ached with every sharp intake of breath that she took.
“I’m not done with you Coby!” my father screamed after us. “I’ll make sure of it!”
“Dude!” I heard Rampart exclaim as we walked away. “That was cringe man, real cringe. You sound like a villain from like, Scooby Doo or something.”