Author's note: I just had to write more. I get hooked on my chracters, and I have to finish with them.
Decieving AppearencesThe next day, I had a two p. m. doctor’s appointment that my mother drug me to. Andrew drove separately, and followed us, claiming that he was there for emotional support while Dad fended for himself against the big crowd of college kids that flocked to the café for ‘breakfast’.
Andrew sat diligently in the waiting room while the doctor looked me over, and Mom stood like a hawk in the corner with her arms across her chest.
“She’s doing just fine, Mrs. Giovanni. I’ve never seen someone recover as quickly from such a severe injury as Riley has, but I suppose that’s because she’s young. The young are always versatile. She’s got quite a ticker too,” He commented as I buttoned up my shirt.
The doctor helped me into a sitting position, because he saw that I was struggling, and then offered me a hand, helping me slide off of his examination table. I loosely tucked my shirt into my shorts when I was standing up again.
“Yes we’re very lucky,” Mom replied pleasantly, but I could still detect the false note in her voice. This wasn’t good news. She would’ve been happier if he said that I needed to rest more, instead of suggesting a light to moderate five minute exercise per day until I started to build up my strength again. She would’ve been happier if he told me it was way too soon to be eating pizza, and other solids instead of lecturing her about forcing me to drink those nasty smoothies when it wasn’t necessary anymore.
Mom gave him a stiff smile, and walked out of the examination room, a hand placed firmly on the small of my back, gently propelling me forward. When the waiting room came into sight, I saw that Andrew was hunched over a magazine. He looked up, and saw us, tossing the magazine aside, and stood up with a slightly embarrassed blush to his cheeks.
I wanted to see what he had been reading, but he walked over to me, blocking my view. Andrew kissed me on the forehead, and pulled me away from my Mom’s controlling hand. “So what did the doctor have to say?”
I opened my mouth to answer, but Mom cut me off, “Who cares, he’s a quack.” Her lower lip jutted out slightly in a pout with her arms across her chest.
“He said that my recovery rate has been faster than what he expected,” I replied, throwing her a disparaging look. I knew that Mom was upset, because she was afraid that once I was better, I’d become Glimpse again, and possibly get myself killed in action, but she could’ve at least acted a little happier about my current condition.
“Margaret, Riley wants to go back to her old school, so I thought I might extend my invitation to take her. I’m sure that Kevin is swamped at the café, and with you helping him, I’m afraid her wants will go neglected.”
“Go back?! Why on Earth would I let her go back to that place? She gave the better most of three years there, and they revoke her scholarship because she missed a couple months to recover?”
“Mom,” I sighed, glancing around, because she was making a scene. “I’m just going to grab my things from my locker.”
Mom sniffed angrily, and glared at Andrew for bringing the subject up, as if he were her own personal bane of existence. Then she looked at me, pleading me silently not to go.
I set my jaw stubbornly, and she let out an exasperated sigh, rubbing her forehead with her thumb, trying to smooth out the worried creases. “Fine, but I expect you cell phones to be on at all times!” She snapped, and then stormed out, throwing her purse violently over her shoulder. I glanced anxiously up at Andrew.
“She’ll be fine,” he assured me, “She knows that you’re safe with me, she just doesn’t want to admit it, because she wants to take care of you herself.”
The school was only half lit when we drove up, Andrew’s car hiccupping when we finally pulled into the nearly empty visitor’s lot. The school was just as vacant looking when we walked in, but of course that was normal. Classes had let out four hours ago, and all the clubs, two hours ago.
We passed the teachers lounge, one of the only rooms that seemed lit, and that’s where most of the late-stay teachers and coaches were, eating their fill of free pizza. It took me a moment to remember my locker combination, but finally the numbers came to me, and I quickly opened the creaky red metal door.
Inside, I could tell they had gutted it, stripped the locker of all the borrowed textbooks, worksheets, and workbooks. All that was left was my Hello Kitty pencil bag, and a few notebooks. I dumped the notebooks in the recycling bin, and shut my locker. The sound echoed ominously in the hall.
I led Andrew down the hall to my old music room, throwing out comments every now and then on the way, pointing to my old science lab, English room, and the gym, where the screeches of tennis shoes against old wax on a fake wooden floor could be heard as the basketball team rapped up their five thirty practice.
I was surprised to find the light on in the music room, and hesitated momentarily, before I got up the courage to open the door. Mr. Sidle looked up from his work, and jumped up in surprise from his computer chair. “Riley, what are you doing here dear? Shouldn’t you be resting?”
“I’m…um…here to pick up my cello.”
His face fell slightly, and he moved slowly around his desk so that he sat down on the front of it. “I’m sorry, but that cello belongs to the school. Your parents were making payments on it, but since it’s not fully paid for, and the fact that you’ve been terminated as a student, I can’t let you take it home.”
I felt my face pale. I started to see fuzzy dots in my vision, “Not…mine?”
Andrew pulled a chair up, and forced me to sit down. I collapsed onto the chair, and put my head in my hands.
“Riley, are you okay? Do I need to call the nurse?” Mr. Sidle asked, fanning me with a page of sheet music.
“It’s not mine. I can’t take it home.” I murmured, repeating the words to myself, hoping that they’d make a little more sense, but they didn’t. My life meant absolutely nothing without my cello. Without a cello, what was there to live for?
“Wait, you said her parents were making payments, how much more do they owe?”
“Three hundred,” Mr. Sidle replied, his eyes locked on my face.
I heard Andrew fumbling for his wallet, and then the muffled crinkling of new money before he slapped it on Mr. Sidle’s desk. “Now get that cello.”
“I can’t, they’ve already packed it in storage. It won’t be brought out until next year.” He replied, sounding absolutely heart broken. He never liked to be the bearer of bad news. And then I saw him freeze from the corner of my eye, and after a moment of complete silence, he laughed, laughed loudly, jumping up to his feet, and darting into his instrument closet. He returned a minute later with a battered black case.
“Riley,” he said, and I looked up at him vaguely, “If you don’t mind taking an older cello, this is the one for you. It was given to me on my fifteenth birthday, and I’ve cherished it throughout my life ever since. I’m old now, and I focus more on other’s musical talents besides my own, so this cello gets neglected. I think its time for it to find a new home. It can be yours if you’ll have it.”
He laid the case in my lap, and Andrew held it there as my hands numbly undid the clasps. It’s true what they say about books and their covers, but it still came as a shock to me that the old proverb applied to cellos as well. But there it was, that ugly black case with chipping leather, and a black handle that was held together by three layers of silver duct tape. Inside was a slick bodied brownish red cello gleaming in the dim light of the classroom. Its partner, the bow was lying beside it; looking just as magnificent.
I lifted the cello out of its case carefully, studying it with an awed expression as Andrew slid the case from my lap, before he handed me the bow. The metal leg touched the floor, and I laid the instrument across the length of my body, bearing the familiar weight on my chest with a silent glee. I was only able to play for a short while before the pain in my torso became too great to ignore, but in those few moments, I fell in love with the rich tantalizing resonance of the cello once again. I felt my soul weep, and I hunched over, trying to hide the tears as they streamed silently down my face.
Andrew reacted in concern, sliding the instrument gently from my shaking hands. He asked me if I was feeling okay, and many other things along those lines, but when I looked up, I saw that Mr. Sidle understood my tears. These were not tears of pain. They were of life, of love, of pure unbridled joy.
“That is the most beautiful cello that I’ve ever played, thank you.”
“And now it’s yours,” Mr. Sidle replied with a smile as he tried to nondescriptly slide the money back into Andrew’s hand. Andrew refused to take it, and they had a silent stand off, with both of them glaring each other down. Finally, Mr. Sidle caved, and accepted the money grudgingly.
Andrew placed a hand on my head, and I grinned up at him while Mr. Sidle was packing my cello away in the worn case. Andrew took it from him before I could, so I just had to settle for holding his hand that carried the case.
“I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve officially been introduced,” Mr. Sidle said, extending his hand.
Andrew shook it, “No, I don’t believe we have. I’m Andrew.”
“And what is your relation to Riley?”
“Well, I was just a friend of the family,” Andrew replied, pausing warily. I leaned into his side encouragingly, “But recently, Riley and I have realized that we love each other too much to keep up with the big brother, little sister routine, so I guess technically that makes us boyfriend and girlfriend.”
Mr. Sidle’s eyes softened when he looked at my blissful smile, “Well the best of luck to you then. Now, Riley, you must play for me someday when you’ve become a master. Only then will my life be complete.”
I blushed and promised I would, and then we left his room, with Andrew carrying my cello, and me clinging onto his arm. It was only when we were in his toasty car did he comment on the fact that I was trembling.
“I guess my adrenal glands just don’t know when to quit. I thought I’d have to figure out a new future for myself, so that got my adrenaline going.”
He sighed, slightly bemused, and pulled out his cell phone, “Well I can’t let you go home like this. Your mother will never let me take you out again.” So he called my Mom, and told her that he was taking me to his studio, and he didn’t know what time we’d be back.
It wasn’t a complete lie, but it wasn’t the complete truth either. Andrew showed me a few of his photos in his studio, but before I realized it, we were on the couch with lips locked, my hands in his silky hair, and Andrew trying to remind himself that I was still healing.
A knock came from the door, and Andrew pulled away from my lips with an annoyed look.
“One of my clients. I forgot I set up a consultation for today,” he sighed, grabbing his shirt off of the floor, and putting it on as he walked towards the door. I smoothed my hair.
Andrew opened the door, and I gasped quietly, shoving my glasses on, and letting my hair fall down like a curtain around my face. At the door was a man with an arm around a leggy brunette. He introduced himself to me as Gar Den, and the voluptuous brunette was his wife Trixy Den. I knew that these were quickly thought up aliases, that the man was actually the unmasked Black Wrath, with his scar unconcealed.
They were both dressed well, him in a black and gold three piece suit that probably cost more than our apartment’s annual rate, and his wife was stunning in all white. She wore a fifties style sleeveless dress with white pumps, a diamond choker, and a shawl made of arctic fox fur. That shawl probably made all former members of PETA roll in their graves. It made me almost sick to see the poor remains of at least ten foxes sown together just so she could cover her bare shoulders.
“We’re not interrupting anything are we?” Black Wrath asked, pleasantly, stepping inside Andrew’s apartment. “We did set an appointment for seven, but we can come back if you’re busy.”
“No, you aren’t interrupting anything,” Andrew replied, taking Black Wrath’s coat. Trixy kept her shawl on, her eyes wandering around in a disgusted manner at Andrew’s decorating skills before she sank down on the couch across from me, giving me a coy smile at my slightly disheveled appearance.
I looked away, blushing, and bit back a surprised yelp when I realized that Black Wrath was now practically in touching distance. I moved away from them, and grabbed my coat, ready to bolt before Black Wrath discovered my resemblance to his former adversary, Glimpse.
“Riley, if you’re headed home, call your Mom first, or wait for me to walk you home. You know how she hates it when you walk home alone.”
“Yes, New York is a very dangerous place at night,” Black Wrath added with a careful smile, scrutinizing my face very closely. I could tell by his expression that he was wondering where he had seen me before. I was surprised that he hadn’t put two and two together, especially since I was in Andrew’s apartment, and he had been the one to help me escape sudden death, but I suppose Black Wrath had no reason to believe I was Glimpse.
As far as he was concerned, Red-Pseudo had killed Glimpse and let her remains be crushed and buried under the demolished old school house they had used as a secret lair. Glimpse hadn’t foiled any of his recent crimes, so she must be dead.
I nodded and turned away from them, not giving him any reason to doubt his assumptions. I grabbed my cell phone from my purse, and disappeared down the hall, and locked myself in the bathroom.
Dad answered Mom’s cell phone, and it sounded like they were in a crowded place, not the café though; the café couldn’t hold that many people.
“Dad, where are you guys?”
“Hey, Rainbow, we’re at the Blue Flamingo. I decide that I’ve been working too hard, and your mother has been worry too much, so I treated us both to dinner and a few drinks. Is everything alright? You’re not alone are you? We can come home if you are.”
“No, I’m still with Andrew. I just figured I’d better check in,” I lied.
“Good girl. Anyways, I’m going to have to get off here. Mom is a little tipsy from the shots she drank, and I’m afraid if I leave her alone too long she’ll jump up on the bar and start singing karaoke without me.”
“Don’t wait up,” he said, and then he hung up.
I sighed, and snapped my phone shut, shoving it in my pocket before I trudged back down the hall. They looked up when I reentered the living room.
“I guess I’ll be sticking around here. Mom and Dad are busy. Is it okay if I go take a nap?” I asked, jabbing my thumb back in the direction of Andrew’s room.
“Sure, kid. I guess you have had a long day, haven’t you?” Andrew replied, extending a hand towards me, inviting me for a goodnight kiss, but instead, I looked around the room, and gave him a small wave before shutting his bedroom door behind me.
I laid down with my head at the foot of the bed, so that I could hear what they were saying, and I closed my eyes, listening hard. I didn’t hear anything suspicious. Everything sounded completely legit. Black Wrath wanted a series of photos taken of his wife as an anniversary gift to her, and they discussed places they thought would make a good composition.
I’m not sure exactly when, but sometime in the midst of their discussing the pros and cons of different lenses, and how something would look in sepia, I fell asleep. I woke up sometime later to the soft shifting of weight on the bed other than my own. I opened my eyes and found that Andrew had laid down beside me, with his head at the foot of the bed too.
“I like this fungshway style of sleeping,” Andrew commented when he realized he had woken me up. “Although I do have to wonder if you always sleep like this.”
He leaned over me, and kissed my lips tenderly.
“Are they gone,” I whispered.
“Mmhmm,” he replied, kissing my jaw, his lips traveling down to the base of my throat, and his hands wrapping themselves around me so that I was pressed against him in a questionable manner that made my heart beat faster, and my breath catch in my throat. I think he had misread my question.
I twisted out of his arms before I lost my senses, and struggled into a standing position on the floor, and he propped himself up on his elbow with a confused look as I darted to the window, peeking out of the blinds.
“Riley, what’s wrong?” He asked. When I didn’t answer, he sighed, and I heard the mattress springs creak before I felt his arms wrap gently around my waist.
“That man, Gar, that’s not his real name.” I said, searching for some unseen attack getting ready to happen.
“What? How do you know?” He asked.
“I’d recognize that face anywhere, he’s Black Wrath.”
Andrew was quiet for a moment, and I turned around in his arms, to see the expression on his face. It was worried. It was worried, but not because he had unknowingly had a powerful malicious super villain in his apartment without even realizing it. This look was concerned for my health, for my sanity.
He placed a gentle hand against my forehead, “Are you feeling alright?”
“Andrew, listen to me! Take the space between ‘Gar’ and ‘Den’ what does that give you? I’ll tell you, the worst alias I’ve ever heard. Garden. Please.”
“That could just be a coincidence,” Andrew replied after a moment of silence.
“What about that scar?” I growled.
“He was burned in an apartment fire. He was lucky to be alive.”
“No. No! No!!!! I gave him that scar! Gar is Black Wrath! Why can’t you see that?!”
“Riley, I think you need to calm down. I understand that this has been a difficult adjustment for you, but you must understand that it’s not healthy to go looking for bad guys in every stranger that happens to have a funny scar, or looks similar to your nemesis. Mr. Den has been a faithful customer for five years, and I can assure you, he is the nicest man that you will ever meet.”
I made a disgusted sound, and broke his embrace. I stomped to his door, threw it open, and stalked out, grabbing my purse, and my coat.
“Where do you think you’re going?” He demanded, grabbing my wrist, “You know you’re not supposed to walk alone.”
“How can you be so blind?!”
“Riley,” Andrew sighed.
“He’ll come for you Andrew. Then he’ll figure out that Glimpse isn’t dead.”
“Mr. Den is not Black Wrath!”
“He’ll know I’m Glimpse, and he’ll get me!” I sobbed, “He’ll kill my parents, Andrew. That’s what he told me!”
“Mr. Den won’t be killing anyone,” Andrew said, pulling me to his chest and holding me there despite my attempts to break his hold.
I cried, soaking the front of his shirt, my hands clutching the fabric, hoping that it would give me comfort as my knees buckled beneath me, and my vision dotted out.
Was he right? Was I so obsessed with being a superhero that I saw my arch nemesis everywhere?! Or was I just going insane…? Yeah, that was probably it. I was going insane.
The world came back to me slowly, and I blinked against the bright bulb of a small flashlight, confused. “Where-“ I started, and then I remembered. I was still in Andrew’s apartment, but now, I was lying on his bed, tucked under the warm covers. Stanley sat on the edge of the bed, and tucked his flashlight away, and proceeded on with his checkup as if I hadn’t spoken. “What are you doing here?”
“I called him,” Andrew said, and I looked to my right. He was sitting in a chair that he had drug into him room, his hand on his chin. “You fainted.”
“He figured it was better to call me, than an ambulance. He didn’t want to frighten your parents unless it was completely necessary,” Stanley added.
“Mom!” I said, sitting up quickly, but Stanley pushed me back down.
“It’s okay Sarah is on the look out for you parents. They’re still not home yet.” Stanley said. “How are you feeling?”
“A little light headed,” I answered, “but otherwise I’m fine.”
“Is there something that made you upset?” He asked, “Your blood pressure is through the roof.”
I glanced over unwillingly at Andrew, who was pinching the bridge of his nose. Stanley followed my gaze, and lifted an eyebrow, “Did you guys have a fight?”
“More of a silly disagreement than a fight,” Andrew replied, standing up. “You see, Riley is convinced that one of my clients just so happens to be the notorious Black Wrath, when I know for a fact that he’s not.”
“He is too,” I insisted, trying to sit up again. Like before, Stanley prevented me from doing so. He threw Andrew a drop-the-subject look.
“Well there is nothing wrong with you, other than your stress level, which is the very thing I suspect made you faint in the first place. So I suggest holding off on this little dispute until you’re feeling better,” Stanley said, packing his things up. I sat up, and scooted off the bed, standing up cautiously. The walls stayed where they should, thankfully.
Andrew drove me home after Stanley left. He said nothing, and I said nothing, so the goodnight kiss that he attacked me with was quite a surprise. His hands were angry as they held my face still, his lips rough and forceful, but I can’t say that I minded. I stepped out of his car, breathless, shut the door, and nodded as he sped off, his tires screeching as he took a curve to fast.
When I made it upstairs, I saw that my parents were already home. Mom was passed out on the couch, one shoe on, the other I tripped over in the doorway. I could hear Dad’s soft snoring from their bedroom, so I sighed, and took the stairs up to my room.
That night I dreamed, which didn’t happen too often. This time, my dream was a nightmare:
I opened my eyes when I heard a muffled scream from downstairs. It belonged to my mom. I heard an identical lower pitched sound that come from my dad, and I flicked my lamp on to find Black Wrath standing in my doorway, his knife, already bloody from slaughtering my parents.
“I knew you couldn’t be dead,” He whispered, walking towards me. “It was just too easy. Now, I will kill you myself.” He raised his knife. In the gleam of his blade, I saw my reflection, two wide brown eyes, a pink mouth opening in horror.
I woke up to the sound of my own scream.