My parents don’t know that I dropped my math class. My parents wanted me to take AP Statistics, but I was like, Um...no thanks. So I changed my schedule last minute. Now my third period consists of traveling to the comic book store near the school: Bennett’s. It’s run by my two favorite people in the world: Aaron and Christine Bennett. Aaron is a comic book writer for DC Comics and Christine illustrates for Marvel Comics. They're my favorite aunt and uncle. Christine is my mother’s sister. Just think: my mother the science whiz and Aunt Christine the comic geek. A pretty dynamic duo, if you ask me.
Aunt Christine and Uncle Aaron are coming over for dinner. My mother isn’t as excited to see her twin as I am. Aunt Christine and Uncle Aaron will be such breaths of fresh air in a house where arguments about mathematical concepts and scientific discoveries reign supreme. Most of the time, I don’t even talk at the table.
“Hello, darling!” A dramatic voice fills my chest with joy. I whirl around and there she is-Aunt Christine. She grins toothily, showing off her metal braces. Her dark brown skin is glowing against her red t-shirt that says Talk Geeky to Me and her leggings. A jean jacket is shrugged around her shoulders, and she wears deep red lipstick. The jewel from her black choker winks mysteriously. “Auntie!” I squeal. She chuckles and swoops in for a hug. I love her hugs; they’re the kind that if you try to hug back, she squeezes even harder.
“How’s my beautiful and talented niece today? Feeling brave?” She curls up on my basket chair and stares at me with her intense dark eyes. “Kara, if you’re worried about your parents, don’t. Aaron and I are 100% behind you. Besides, I know my sister. She’ll come around...eventually.” She hops down from the chair and leans over me. The computer screen shows the main page of my blog. It was an assignment for the comic class: to create original, professional content. My aunt and uncle helped me outside of class to really give it that authenticity needed for original artwork. I post every two weeks because heaven forbid that my grades drop even a little bit for my perfectionist parents. I call my comic ‘Panels’. It’s pretty adventures are based on me, Kara Stallone. Of course I changed my name and the major details, but it’s still about a girl who loves writing: fanfiction writer and student by day, but at night, she works as a sidekick. She can make her drawings come to life.
Now I’m pretty sure I’m going to be chopped, but I won’t be mixing basket ingredients or seeing Ted Allen.
I hear footsteps from the staircase. Fear jabs into my stomach like a knife. My mother steps into the room, towering over the both of us. Aunt Christine stands and smiles at her twin. “Hey, sis!” she says, going in for a hug. Mom stands there awkwardly while Christine wraps her up tight like a Christmas present.
“Hello, Christine. Are you two, uh, busy? Making those…” She waves a well-manicured hand in the air. “Picture books, are they?”
“Comic books,” I correct automatically.
“Ah-ha! Comics. Such a huge waste of time. What have they done for the world? Now, science and technology, those are the things that people care about.” She stares at me. She has the same intense dark eyes as my aunt.
“Oh, Calliope,” Christine says breezily. “You never understood the arts as well as I did. Even your finger painting were heavily calculated. Must you torment me for going after my passion with the person I love...and my husband?”
I stifle a laugh behind my hand. Mom’s not one for jokes, so she stares at her sister and fires back, “Dinner’s in ten minutes, Christine Lina Stallone-Bennet.” She hyphenates Auntie’s two last names, a personal stab, saying that she doesn’t approve of the marriage.Mom looks from me to Auntie, something unfamiliar flashing in her eyes. Guilt? Silly Kara; this is Dr. Calliope Stallone, intelligent pharmacist. She won’t be jealous of her daughter hanging out with her geeky twin sister. Mom turns around and walks out of the room, her footsteps click-click-clicking on the wood floors.
Aunt Christine kneels so that she’s eye level with me. “Remember what we practiced, okay? I might have your mother’s face, but even I can’t work this miracle. Be brave, young Padawan.”
“How was your day, Thomas?” Aunt Christine makes a face as she chews on her salad. “Anything exciting?”
Thomas takes a delicate sip of water. “Fine, I guess. UNC sent me a scholarship email.” Our eyes meet. Thomas could be described-and is constantly described-as handsome, according to my friends. His hair is close cropped and his eyes are gray like Dad’s. His dark skin has no blemishes, but I know he has imperfections.
“UNC would be a good fit for you, Thomas,” Dad says. Dad is a tall, intimidating man and when it comes to our higher education, he’s emotionless and expressionless. “Just remember we only want what’s best for you. If you don’t pick the right university, a physics degree will have been for naught.”
“How about you, Kara? Supergirl must be up to something of interest.” Aaron winks at Christine, who giggles like a middle schooler. “Anything new with your... comics?” He gives a special glance to my dad.
“Well, my blog is doing really well. In fact, FANDOM wants to give me an internship to work with them this summer in San Francisco to write articles for them. It’d be great college experience for the San Francisco Institute of Art.”
“What?” Mom and Dad say together.
Here we go. I know what will happen next: Thomas will rant about how pointless art is, Mom will probably slam my head on the table and Dad will get out the steak knife and cut me to pieces. Then, when they’re done, they’ll erase me from existence and pretend that they only had the one child who’s wanted, the one who wasn’t a complete mistake. I’ll die alone and-
“I think she should do it,” Thomas says.
My mouth drops. “What?”
“Look, if you really want to do this, I think you should. Mom and Dad, it’s her passion. She’s been dreaming about being a comic book writer and artist since she was little.”
“B-B-But…” Mom stammers worriedly. “Honey, comics are such a waste of time. Tell me, darling,” she says, looking to my dad for help. “Have they contributed to the cure for the common cold?”
“No, but neither has science,” I snap. Comics are my life. They gave me the chance to rebel, no matter how discreetly, against my parents expectations. “Mom, Dad, I’ve been doing what you what and doing what you say my entire life. But I really want this internship with FANDOM. It’s been great on my transcript if I want to get into the San Francisco Institute of Art.” The university is halfway across the country. It’s a chance to get away from my parents and see who I am without the helicopters.
Thomas pushes his chair back from the table. “I want to go to UNC. I want to study music, not physics. You can only go so far with science, and I want to express myself doing the thing that I love.” He goes around the table to stand next to me. “Kara, if you want to make comics for Marvel, you should be able to whatever she wants with her life. If you were good parents, you’d encourage her.”
It’s a standoff for a few seconds: me, my aunt and uncle and Thomas and my parents. I hold my breath, not daring to even blink. This is the moment that defines the rest of my life. If they say no, I’ll be forced to have a career in mathematics like they want. If they say yes, I can start my FANDOM internship in San Francisco this summer, which’ll be great experience for my portfolio.
I gasp. I think my stomach fell through the flooring.
Mom curls her lip. “We’re not going to allow you to go to San Francisco for the summer, Kara. Our plan was to make you a mathematician. Thomas, you were supposed to be a physicist. I can’t believe that you two would throw away your lives for some hobbies. Music? Comic book art? Pathetic.”
“That’s right,” Dad agrees. “You know, I expected better from you, Thomas. You’re supposed to be an example for your little sister. Instead, you’ve pushed her off the deep end.”
Mom stands, ready to deliver the final blow. “If you all want to support each other in this ludicrous creative endeavor, feel free. But as for me and my husband, we’ll keep making progress in this world and getting things done.”
My face is red by now. “You have no right to say anything about art! Aunt Christine and Uncle Aaron work super hard to make a place in the community for people to express themselves. You, on the other hand, just sit on your rich butts and disrespect the rest of us. Science and math are not the only things in the world.”
My mother’s face is stormy. “Then you all can get out of my house. Permanently.”
I think we’ve been chopped.
Well, as Nick Fury once said, “There was an idea, Stark knows this, called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could be something more.” My family are those people, and we need to be remarkable. Only God knows that I can’t do that here.
So we left.