Nono Rodriguez pauses, staring at the screen. The words glow back, defying her to continue the sentence.
Nobody cares about Agent R.
Objectively, her fans would tell her otherwise. They do, weekly, through notes, reblogs, likes, and the other amazing new verbs that social media platforms have invented for us. But sometimes, she forgets all that, and the mental effort to believe it again is beyond what she can give.
Downstairs, she hears the warm-up to another shouting match. They tell her they love her, they always tell her it’s not her fault, after it’s done. She knows better. It is her fault. She’s an awful, useless child. She’s trapped in a dark room, and there’s a tiny rectangular escape hatch right in front of her, but she can’t fit through it to the world beyond.
School used to be comforting and familiar. She’d go to the same building, see the same people, do the same things, say the same words. It was a ritual, and it fit her and warmed her like an old jacket.
Now everything’s different. She can taste it, like a bitter cancerous ughiness in her mouth. It revolts her, sends her skin crawling, makes her want to cry. She can’t cry, not with the shouting going on downstairs, or they’ll bring it up here.
Everyone’s so amazing at Gardner. They’re all so pretty and rich, and they have powers. And Jason Quill is there, and his friends, and Harry Gale, and now ugh, even that boy, Leo, he’s a superhero too and he didn’t tell me, or invite me, he kept it a secret, I know he was right to, now people are going to hassle him, but he’s secretly got this amazing life and I don’t and I’m stupid and ugly and useless and it’s so unfair–
Nono realizes she’s covering her face in her hands, holding her eyes shut. She opens them, feeling hot tears come away on her fingertips. She knows what she needs. She won’t get anything done on this story, but that’s okay, she’s bad at it anyhow.
She opens Netflix. It’s their stupid 4K video channel, with stupid weird Japanese food shows and stupid TV shows about superheroes she’ll never get to meet, only look at from afar, but it does have something else. Against all reason, Netflix decided they’d run not one, but two, 4K demos of a fireplace with a burning log. She queues them up with easy familiarity. On the screen, flickering red firelight starts to dance, in perfect visual clarity. The flame reflects off her glasses, off her pupils, and she feels that perfect inner calm descend on her. The shouting downstairs is still there, but she’s lost the ability to mind. It’s easy to just lose yourself like this, and at times like this, she does.
She’s surprised to see messages on her chat app. “Hey girl, wake up,” says the latest one. Belatedly, Nono realizes that someone has been trying to get in touch with her.
“I’m here,” she types.
“That girl that started at Blintzkrieg. Summer. She promised she could get members of the Menagerie to show up more. She’s asking me for mobile #s so she can stay in touch w/ people. Can I give her yours?”
Why would an amazing girl like that want my number? She’s close to Leo, somehow. What does that mean? She’s super gorgeous, and super nice, and so graceful and cute, why would that girl with a pretty name like Summer Skye care about Nono Rodriguez?
“I don’t mind,” Nono types back.
“Cool. She sez you should come hang out there more, she said thanks for taking care of Leo at school too.”
I didn’t do anything at all. I’m so embarrassed now, I must have looked like a fool to him. He’s a superhero!
“I didn’t do anything special.”
A text arrives on her phone. It’s from a strange number. Nono stares down at it.
“THX for everything U do for Leo, he sez U R awesome. Txt me anytime U want to hang or talk, Summer ”
author: Bill G.