Growing pains

Written in response to: Start your story with the words: “Grow up.”... view prompt


Teens & Young Adult Fiction Asian American

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

"Grow up," Martina mumbled to herself, blood trickling out of the corner of her mouth. Ignore the pain, be a goddamn grown-up, she growled internally, pushing herself to her hands and feet.

Her enemy, smiled mirthlessly, his powers swirling around his hands.

Martina glanced back, and all the employees of the Carter company were still there, terrified and pressed against the locked door.

"You want to die for them so badly?" The enemy asked, and Martina glared at him, dragging a hand across her mouth.

She couldn't think of a snappy response, so she decided to shut up.

Fighting position, focus nitwit, she hissed at herself, shifting her right leg forward and raising her arms up. Don't let them see the weakness...

There was the blare of fire trucks below, and the screaming of sirens gathering.

"Looks like you shouldn't have blown up a building." Martina raised an eyebrow, smiling. "Are you bulletproof?"

Her enemy snickered, his eyes the same purple her's became. "Are you? I'm pretty sure the city policy on vigilantes is still shoot on sight."

"Looks like we both never tested that," Martina muttered, tensing as he moved. All she had to do was stop him from hurting anyone, he had the harder job.

The enemy tilted his head to the side and both of them heard it, the voice of the sharply dressed woman. The only one in the city whose bullets could definitely hurt both of them.

"Someday, I'm going to rip off that woman's head and feed it to her children." The enemy hissed, staring down through the floor.

"You'd be doing them a favour," Martina rolled her eyes, and then felt like an idiot when the enemy stared at her.

"Careful, there can only be one antihero in this town." Her enemy said, leaping out through the smoking crater he'd left on the side of the Carter building.

Martina made a face, lowering her hands. "Asshole." She turned to the ashen, petrified crowd. "Uh, you can go now. You're safe." She raised her hands to avoid scaring them.

They stared back at her, and Martina nodded, remembering the door was barricaded. "Sorry, pardon me." She squeezed past them and punched it. Once. The second hit slammed the door off its hinges and past the barricade.

The employees streamed out, but one stopped, looking at her expectantly.

"Um, yes?" Martina asked, trying to hide her confusion. She really needed to get out of here.

"That man, the one with the abilities. That's Henry Carter." The employee said, voice taut with pain.

Martina noted his bleeding arm and committed the name to memory. "Henry Carter is-?"

"One of the founding CEOs? He died in 2016." The employee looked at her pointedly, eyes wide. "That's a-"

"Yes, dead person. Got it, thank you." Martina nodded, and the man left. She decided to get out too, before the cops, or the lady found her.

The second she left, she got spotted by the helicopter. Goddamn it! Martina may not have the enemy's ability to see through walls, or to crush things with his mind, but she could fly.

And mercifully the helicopter was slower and less able to turn. It took minutes of zipping between the city's tall buildings to shake it, and Martina raced into a bathroom to get rid of her costume.

She tried not to aggravate the bruises or her damaged ribs too much, but the spandex insistently clung to the parts that hurt. At least she was getting better at this...

In the beginning, she'd had nothing to change into, so she had to super hero for hours. She had to sneak around, like some kind of demented stalker all day before breaking into her own home.

Not fun.

Now she'd gotten into the habit of having her friend Alice stash clothes in parts of the city, or bringing them post-crisis.

Martina ran her hands into her long, black hair, trying to smooth it out a bit, maybe get some of the sweat to dry. There were so many embarrassing parts about superheroing nobody mentioned.

After that, she joined the masses entering the subway, wincing when police cars sped past somewhere above.

People gave her odd looks, especially when she wiped more blood off her mouth, but Martina ignored them, opening up google on her damaged phone.

Henry Carter. The first image was a black and white tribute to a dead, eighty-something-year-old Caucasian man. A visionary leader of the Carter Company, which had merged with Dexacorp after Carter's sudden death in 2016.

Martina thumbed past photo after photo until she finally found a younger picture of him. Yeah, that was the enemy. Young, with the same wave of blond hair he did now, eyes that were grey instead of the glowing purple.

The pole she was holding onto grazed her ribs and Martina bit down on the side of her mouth.

When she opened her eyes again, she stared at her distorted, brown-eyed reflection in the metal.

Why did they both have the same eyes? Martina screenshotted the picture and sent it to Alice.

Henry Carter + evil, please help? She texted, looking up when the train jolted at her stop.

Martina stumbled out, automatically apologizing as she stumbled up the stairs. God, when was the speed healing going to kick in?

Somehow she managed to drag her battered body back home, and as she let herself in, she knew in her bones that tonight's round of superhero antics was really going to suck.

Her mom was humming tunelessly in the kitchen and Martina clenched her eyes closed.

"Kumusta ina." Martina said carefully, gauging her mother's mood.

No reply and her mother continued humming, watching something turn in the microwave.

Martina nodded to herself and made her way to her room. A day was going to come when her mother couldn't work. Or something worse happened.

The familiar guilt that ate at Martina returned with a vengeance, biting at her. Was Martina's real place here? By her mother's side?

The superhero threw herself onto her bed, groaning. City cars beeped and honked outside, and the well-known tune of police sirens played in the background.

No, her place was there. You don't get the powers Martina had, the opportunity and waste it. And it's not like she had anything else.

Martina cracked one eye open when her phone buzzed.

Ooh, he cute. Alice had texted back.

More like evil. Martina clumsily wrote back. Lmk what you find.

K. Alice sent a winky emoji.

Martina wondered if it was acceptable to take a ten minute... No five-minute nap?

"Martina?" There was a knock at the door.

Martina swallowed the protest in her throat and got up, opening the door.

Her mother was standing there, looking a little lost as always.

"Yeah?" Martina asked, voice hoarse.

Maybe her mom would ask about the blood? Bruises? Superhero costume she'd accidentally hung somewhere to dry?

"You want breakfast?"

Her fingers found their well worn place on the bridge of her nose, and Martina sighed. "Mama, it's four in the-no, I'm okay." She studied the fragile-looking woman in front of her. "You want breakfast? Are you hungry?"

Her mother said nothing, walking off to the kitchen, mumbling something under her breath. Almost like she'd completely forgotten the whole thing.

Martina followed her tiredly. "Mama, tama ka ba? Kailangan mo ng isang bagay?" Her mind struggled and stuttered to form the words, translating from English to remember the sentences.

Her mom went back to the kitchen, and Martina watched her finish cooking a meal for a seven-person family.

They could not afford this wastage, Martina realized grimly. Well, apparently she just had to eat only breakfast for the next two days. Most important meal of the day right?

"Mama?" Martina tried again, then glanced down as her phone buzzed.

The emergency alert notification was going off. Fire in the meat district.

"Mama, I have to go. School, okay? Mangyaring kumain ng isang bagay." Martina bit her lip anxiously. Was that even right? "Mama, can you hear me?"

The alert went off again.

"Shit." Martina mumbled, knocking over the spoon holder as she fumbled with it. "Sorry." She whispered when her mother turned.

"Martina, you'll be late for school." Her mother said, eyes wide and desolate.

Tightly, feeling like she would explode, Martina nodded, pressing her tears deep inside her. "Okay. I'll-I'll come back."

Then she left, throwing on the suit that had become a second skin.

She manoeuvred her secret way through their building and flew into the sky, heading for the smoke.

The heat was monstrous, and Martina already felt the burn from the smoke.

The sound of screaming could just barely be heard over the roar of flames and Martina's blood chilled with terror as flames chewed their way through the building.

"Hello?" She called out, and then cursed herself for sounding weak. Grow up. She spat at herself, then tried again. "I'm coming to help you, please say something."

A chorus of screaming called for her.

Martina carefully got them out, one desperate person after another. She felt their nails dig into her, their terror. One by one. All of them, outside to the care of paramedics.

And then Martina escaped again before a cop could try something, or a reporter took a revealing picture of her.

She bounced from one emergency to another, or got involved in some emergencies people didn't talk about.

A scream and glass breaking made her enter somebody's house, just in time to stop a man from hitting his wife.

Later, she pulled a child off the road in the nick of time, dropping him off on the other side. The driver, pale faced and shaking, mouthed a thank you.

Martina helped until her bones demanded rest, the pain in them building and building.

So she stopped, wrestled with the suit in a park bathroom Alice frequently dropped supplies at, and spent an hour taking the most convoluted way home.

Finally, she stumbled into her house, really, really not looking forward to questioning of any kind.

"Mama, school ran late, sorry." She announced in English, tossing her back onto a chair and reluctantly bending down to untie her shoes.

Her ribs screamed with agony, an agony so profound that she didn't catch what her mother said.

"Hmm?" Martina asked, slowly walking into the kitchen.

Her heart thudded with panic as she finally saw the well dressed man seated at the table.

Henry Carter smiled over a cup of tea, eyes an unmistakable purple.

Martina felt her own eyes flicker. "Mama-"

"Oh relax, I'm not in the habit of hurting women." Henry Carter smiled warmly at her mother, who was inexplicably cooking more eggs.

"You're a liar, and I want you to get out," Martina said, her voice impressively steady.

Her mother turned to glare at her. "Ah! Marti don't be rude to our guest! Mr. Carter has come a long way."

Martina stared at her, aghast.

"Yes, Martina, sit." Carter smiled. "We have so much to talk about."

March 29, 2022 16:35

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Moon Lion
03:39 Apr 08, 2022

Wow I love this!! So much story left but the plot was fast paced and intriguing.


Iolanthe Muir
17:23 Apr 08, 2022

Oh hello there! Many thanks for reading, and I'm glad you liked it. You write a lot of superhero stories too, right?


Moon Lion
20:09 Apr 08, 2022

Yeah, but I liked the behind the scenes view your story provided. It was fascinating and really well done.


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