Trust me when I say this; there is nothing you could do to get me to like history class.
Some enjoy it; and to you, I tip my hat and say “great job”, because this is killing me.
Ms. Shindle drones on, her thin black glasses falling like dominoes. Her bun follows, and then the entire lesson plan.
“For goodness sake, Matthews!” I bolt up as I hear my name, ignoring the snickers from the girls beside me. “Pay attention!”
“Um,” I sigh. “Yes ma'am.”
“In fact,” a cruel smile twists up her mouth. “Answer my question. Give me the origin of quirks. Think of it as a pop quiz.”
My face goes red as I realize how many eyes are on me. I swallow uncomfortably; it's not just my grade on the line.
It's my pride I have to protect.
“Meta Abilities,” I begin, strengthening my confidence. “Normally known as quirks. They're another function of the human body. The first one to gain this unique phenomenon was a child in China... I think their body could light up?”
“Luminescence,” Ms. Shindle corrects. “And how was it spread?”
“Um...” I rack my brain. “Rats?”
“Incorrect,” her dark hand smashes down on her desk as a stern grimace replaces her apathy. “They thought it was mice, but we've yet to gather any proof”
“Why does it even matter?”
Only my head turns to the new voice. Horizon leans beside me, snapping a thin pink bubble. “Quirks exist. And that's all we need to know.”
She pushes up her bright yellow crop-top, shining her bristling in the thin breeze coming from the single window Ms. Shindle allowed us to open.
By some miracle, Horizon Milos decided to become my friend. I remember the day last year, late May, I think. She'd kissed the boy she loved, and the rumors spread. Horizon became the slut in the blink of an eye; her personality never changed in the time that her reputation had. She remained powerful and spunky.
“Ah,” Ms. Shindle shakes her head, dark brown curls coming loose from her messy bun. “But that's where you're wrong. I'm sure Tora would explain?”
Would I though? “Super criminals came next. They were fought against, but that changed?”
I can almost see the smile beneath her orange lipstick. Shindle pulls down her projector, reaching for the computer.
“Many countries hold heroes above all others,” a fire lights in her eye; is this what happens when you respond to a teacher? “They were created to combat the villains. However, I'm sure you're aware of the bill Congress passed a few years ago.”
She clicks her tab, scrolling down to read the daunting words. “Hero schools are to be limited. Quirk use as a whole is limited in America as well, in order to restrict villains from existence”
The final bell interrupts my thought. Kids rush from the room, happy to be liberated from the drone of school, but I stay put. Horizon raises an eyebrow before shrugging, picking up her thin black purse.
“I'll meet you outside,” she mutters, dragging a pale hand against my desk. A leather strap stares me in the face, a mirror image of the one lined across my caramel-colored skin, bordering a few black lines.
Soon enough, it's just me and Ms. Shindle. Her dark face looks lined with stress now that I can see her when she isn't teaching; in fact, it's almost like she's a different person when she doesn't force herself to be angry all the time.
“What is it?” Her voice sounds perplexed, yet almost interested.
“I wanted to talk about the thing you told us about during class just now.”
“The case?” She sighs. “Sure. I'm happy someone's paying attention in class, at least.”
“I just... I don't know if you know my mom-”
“Tiger,” she nodded. “You know, that hoodie doesn't always hide those ears of yours.
My face goes red. “You knew?”
“It's rare for me to teach the child of a pro hero,” Ms. Shindle admits. “And I have to say; I'm surprised you're not more popular with the other kids at school.”
“First of all,” I count on a finger, still admiring the orange nail polish lining my sharp nails. “I'm not just gonna tell everyone. There's a reason I usually hide my quirk. Second of all, I'm awkward. Third of all, there is almost nothing more annoying than talking to other girls my age.”
A faint smile grows on her face. “You're just like her, you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“I knew your mother, before she-”
My eyes widen. Mom? “Tell me.”
She laughs, looking out the window as the faint yellow glow wafts in, lazy and heavy. “How can I describe Tammy Matthews in any way except brilliant? She rescued me on her first job as a pro hero, and we hit it off from there.”
“Her... first job?”
“Yeah,” her light smile crinkles the creases around her eyes slowly as Ms. Shindle turns to me. “I'd say... 20 years ago? It always surprises me to think how old she'd be now.”
“I never really knew her,” I admit. “Sorry.”
“Why're you apologizing to me? In any case, Tammy should be the one apologizing. She died a hero, but what of her daughter?”
“Don't talk like I'm not here,” I growl, feeling my eyes glow a little. Her surprise catches me off guard, extinguishing my anger.
It takes me a moment to realize the surprise is fear.
“I wasn't trying to... shit,” Ms. Shindle laughs again, turning off her computer.
“Do you know why I challenge you in class?”
“Um...” my brain responds before I can compute the terrible answer I'm about to give her. “Because you know history is my least favorite class and want to torture me?”
“You have her energy. Ha, no... I saw Tammy in you from day one. And don't think I didn't see your career paper.”
Is it possible for my face to get any redder? “Oh god...”
“I think it's sweet that you want to be a hero too. I think Tammy'd like that...”
“Could we talk about something different?” I burst out, already suppressing the memories. “Please.”
She shrugs, pulling out a form. “You're the first student I've seen in nearly ten years to attempt to sign up for the hero course high school.”
“I have aspirations.”
That gets a laugh from her again. “You have drive. I like that. I've been challenging you in quirk-related things because I know you have potential. It's not easy to get accepted into the hero school. In fact... I've heard they changed their admissions”
My heart beats faster. I never should have trusted the first google search... fuck. Now she's probably just gonna tell me ‘oh no! Looks like it doesn't exist anymore! Lol'
“They use scouts,” she nods, looking it up on her phone. “It's like the entertainment business. In the past, it was all about the test scores. I guess they're changing it up now...”
“So I can't get in?”
“I'm sure you'll find a way,” Ms. Shindle purses her lips. “Trust me.”
I nod, still feeling unsure. “Got it.”
Is it possible for almost all of someone's determination to disappear in a single hour? When I finally look up out the window, I notice the sun gliding across the skyscrapers in the distance, resting lightly along the painted pink sky. How long was I talking for? I click my phone on, sighing at the number of texts Horizon's left me; 0. sometimes, it feels like I'm not even really her friend; Horizon will go onto great things, and I'm there to witness it. But what if I want to do them myself?
It's just... whatever. She gets to be the pretty one, and I'm the one looking for a dream I'll never discover. It's fine.
I shoot her a quick text, bouncing on the balls of my heels as I wait. Three dots bubble up, waltzing in their tentative dance of hell.
“I'll be at the door in 5,” Horizon announces. “I was just getting something. Do you want anything while I'm here?”
“No,” I respond quickly, fingers shooting across the text pad.
“Lol, u weren't getting anything anyway.”
I have to force myself to smile at the remark, but it feels beyond fake. Just Horizon being Horizon, I guess.
My backpack lays at the edge of my desk, discarded and slouching over. If I poked it once, it'd probably fall over.
I wonder how close that is to me?
Woah. That's weird. I shake my head free of the weird thoughts, snatching my backpack. Ms. Shindle waves to me, still distracted by her phone. It's not like I'd win in a fight for attention with a phone anyway.
There's no one else in school as I jump down the stairs two at a time. After glancing up and down, I sigh, taking off the thin hood that conceals my ears. It's almost like they thank me, twitching softly in the fresh breeze.
I'm at the sidewalk in a second, running down to the store I'm almost sure Horizon's holed in; I think fashion's almost her second nature.
“Tora!” Horizon's perky voice drifts down the busy street as she waves to me, bags crowding her hand. A few boys surround her, all holding similar bags. Horizon just has that effect on guys, I guess. And girls too. “I got you something!”
A faint smile grows on me; I guess I'm not always just there for her. She tries to make her way across the street, only for a shriek to pierce my world of calm.
“Gah! Get off me, weirdo!”
One of the men has dropped his bags, replacing them with a thin knife. “Don't make hurt you, ma'am.”
“You two!” She points to the others that have also dropped their bags. “Why aren't you stopping hi-”
“Horizon!” I choke, watching as the world freezes around me. What is happening?
Okay... focus, Tora; you're not that fucking stupid.
So, one guy had a knife. The other two aren't showing weapons yet, but maybe they have quirks?
Wait... what am I even thinking? I can't fight them?
I whip my phone out, already calling the police. “Damn it!” I scream, watching as the men carry Horizon into a deep alley. No one else seems to notice; in fact, I'm the only one around.
No signal. Not even anything. How am I going to help Horizon?
And somehow, the answer's already there.
My legs go from feeling like jello to light as air in one second as I bolt through the street, a symphony of car horns honking past me. One of the guys notices me, his eyes filled with hate.
And then I realize it; that guy has a gun. I, a middle school girl, am not immortal. And I'm also a fucking idiot.
For a second, I feel a mysterious heat burning in the back of my eyes, pulsing as I scream at the men. Horizon's eyes widen as I nearly dodge a bullet. A knife comes for me next, slashing down at my knee. I roar as the pain sets in, splashing a thick red wave of blood up from the dark pants, but I ignore it, clawing at the man.
He stumbles back, reaching for his face. Blood streams from it, but he moves back, slow and unsure. This time, my leg catches him in the stomach, knocking him to the ground.
Am I winning a fight with three random guys? So, because the one with a gun drops his weapon after the bullets fall to the ground, courtesy of my newfound fury. The last one stands still though, still holding a knife to Horizon's neck.
“Who are you?” I ask, my voice quivering and shaky. “Let go of my friend!”
“One too many questions,” his suave voice returns. Before the oily man can retreat any further, Horizon elbows him in the gut, a sneer poised on her face as she picks up a discarded gun.
"I'll shoot," she warns, baring her teeth. "Just leave!"
The man looks back toward his gun, running a hand past his slicked-back hair. "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
"Afraid to die?"
"No," he points out, surprisingly cocky for his situation. I scan the area, trying to figure out why he still hasn't run away yet. "But I believe you should be."
"Horizon!" I scream, trying to pull the gun from her hand. "Don't shoot him!"
She shakes her head, tears flying from the momentum. Her hand pulls down on the trigger, watching as the rimmed bullet flies toward his heart, seeking blood.
I cringe as it hits his body, only to fall to the ground, dropping dead. He picks it up, a sickly grin covering his face as the metal bullet turns to ash. "Such a waste of resources..."
"What is your deal?" Horizon mumbles, shaking her wrist. "Don't get any closer!"
His long legs carry him quickly to Horizon's side, where he points the gun down, smacking it to the pavement. "Such an insolent child."
The sound of a wailing siren spins like a merry-go-round. He curses, checking the gold watch that lines his reddening skin. "They weren't supposed to show up yet."
"But who called..." Horizon's voice drifts off as police line the alleyway, moving closer to me. The way her brown hair shifts in the wind around her terrified face melts my world. I sigh, shoving hands into pockets as the police surround us.
"It's not important right now."
My head rushes up at the familiar voice that broke me away from the blur. Ms. Shindle rushes up, twisting a pen nervously around her hand. "I'm so glad you two are okay!"
"I was just leaving for the day," she interrupts Horizon before she can even speak. "And I saw Tora. That work..."
Shindle's eyes widen with excitement, holding my hand nervously. "They saw it."
A figure bristles past the police as they apprehend the slick-haired man. I reach out to ask who he is, but the men ignore me, pulling him into the back of their car.
"I saw it all."
Horizon shifts away from me as a purple-haired girl peers down at me, a smile embroidering her face. "You're lucky I got to see it. That was truly... art."
"Can I ask who you are?"
"Excuse me," she holds a hand to her ears where two butterflies sit, rustling as if alive. "Could I ask you your name?"
"Horizon Milos," Horizon scoffs. "And I want to know why you think you can talk to Tora like that."
A laugh escapes the woman's mouth. "I haven't met anyone like you in a while. I miss the energy.
"So," she turns to me, psychedelic eyes spinning in a haunting manner. "You're Tora?"
"I believe I should leave," Ms. Shindle announces out of the blue, shaking hands with the woman. "You're a great help to our society."
Before I can place the hatred in her voice, Shindle rushes off, heels clicking against the sidewalk. The other woman just fluffs her hair, sighing.
"I should have introduced myself; I guess I'm just used to people knowing me by now. The name's Celeste. Hero name... Celeste."
Celeste giggles at the last remark, but Horizon's face stays as placid as mine. The hero crosses her arms, looking pissed. "You aren't gonna thank me for the service I've done for this country or something?"
"Never heard of you," Horizon admits, popping her gum to accentuate the acid. "Tora, let's leave"
But I don't budge when she grabs my arm. "Tora..." she warns, her voice nearing a low grumble.
"You're a scout," I realize. "You watched me save Horizon"
Celeste's peach skin turns red, matching the current shade of her eyes. "Well, yeah. I thought it was obvious."
"Tora!" Horizon shouts over Celeste. "We should go. Now."
"I want to stay," I choke out the words. "You can leave, but this is for me. My future."
"Whatever," Horizon flips me off, checking her phone. My heart races, dropping like cement; she only checks her phone like that when she's in a situation she knows she's gonna lose.
Am I the one threatening her?
Celeste ignores her, gushing over my claws. "Are these real? Are they your quirk?"
In her rush, she accidentally drops my hood, revealing the ears I tried to hide when the police showed up. A gasp echoes through the alley as she swoons.
"You have a mutant quirk? Tiger, right?"
"Mutant? Like... my quirk is me?"
"Yes!" All of Celeste's bossiness and control melt away as she takes out her phone. "Could I take a picture? God, you're almost like that old hero... Tiger!"
My face goes red. "That's my mom..."
Celeste breaks into a gasp. "Really? Damn, that changes a lot! We gotta get you a spot."
She bites her lip, eyes swirling to a dim orange. "In the hero school test. I'm working as a scout to find new students. You're in middle school, right?"
"Yes," I admit, suddenly feeling wary. "But aren't hero schools illegal?"
She huffs, pulling out her phone. "They've never turned illegal, even when congress passed that stupid bill. We are limited though; to join a hero school, first, you have to be scouted by a hero helping someone. Of course, the government also banned most quirk use, so it's pretty hard for that to happen; classes have been split almost tenfold. Then you have to pass the test."
My heart skips a beat. "Test?"
"Yeah... don't worry though! If I passed, I'm almost sure you can!"
I nod, but her smile doesn't exactly reassure me. In one hour, I've gone from a normal middle school student to a prospective hero.
Well... I guess it's better than history class.