The day seemed to zoom by. Lunch came and went, and May hung out in the library during free period to finish up some homework, but her mind kept wandering. Her hand scratched absently on the corner of the page only to realize she’d drawn the Spider-Man emblem from her dad’s costume.
She hastily tore off the corner, her eyes flicking around the room, and tucked it in her binder out of sight.
By the time she and Logan got home, May was tingling with excitement. She didn’t know what to expect, so she had a snack and changed into a loose-fitting shirt and track pants. She checked her phone to see it was a quarter to four and hurried back downstairs.
“I’m going out!” she called to Miss Edna, swinging the front door open.
“Where?” Miss Edna said suspiciously from the sink where she was doing dishes.
“To meet a friend,” May said hurriedly, not wanting to say in front of Fiona and Hallie, who were both doing homework at the table. “Logan will explain.”
“Okay,” Miss Edna said. “Oh, May?”
“Yeah?” May said, pausing on the threshold.
“Be home by six, I don’t want you out too late.”
“Okay, no prob.”
She was just swinging the door closed when she heard Miss Edna call after her, “Bring a sweater!”
May pushed the door open and leaned inside, thrusting an arm out to grope at the coat rack. Her fingers caught the hem of her jacket sleeve, and she tugged, but it wouldn’t come off the hook.
With a small noise of frustration, May shot a web and it latched onto her jacket. Quick as a flash, she yanked it back and the jacket flew into her hand right before she slammed the door.
“Phew!” she muttered, shrugging the jacket on. “Okay, address,” she said, pulling out her phone.
She feverishly typed in her password and opened her messages. “What?” she said to herself, looking at the location. “How am I supposed to get there?”
Tongue between her teeth, May stuffed her phone back into her pocket and put her hands on her hips with a huff.
Suddenly her spidey-sense tingled and she heard the unmistakable sound of a web taking flight. She turned and collided with something solid before an arm wrapped around her waist and her feet left the ground. May yelped, clinging to Peter, who had just swung in out of nowhere.
“You could’ve told me you were picking me up!” she cried.
“Oh, did I forget to mention that?” Peter said loudly. “My bad!”
This guy, May thought as her stomach jumped into her throat.
Peter shot another web and they flew high into the air, the world below reduced to an endless grid of streets and towering buildings. It was moments like this that May wished she could take a picture, but she had a feeling that this memory would burn in her mind forever.
She felt the plummeting sensation in her gut again and suddenly Peter gave a panicked shout.
“No, no, no!” May looked up to see him flicking his wrist frantically, but nothing was happening. He was out of web fluid!
Fear steeled over her as the two fell, the wind howling in her ears, making her hair stand straight up and May screamed, wanting more than ever not to become a pancake on the pavement hundreds of feet below.
Peter hugged her close to his chest as they took a nosedive towards the ground and suddenly May was looking up at the sky above, which spun dizzily.
And then their fall was stopped abruptly as Peter caught hold of a flagpole jutting out from the side of a building and May slipped.
“Whoa!” her dad’s hand locked firmly around her wrist and May hung there for dear life, practically hyperventilating, feet kicking frantically at the air.
Peter groaned in pain, but his grip on May remained firm. “May, listen to me,” he said, grimacing. “I can’t hold on forever. I’m out of fluid. The only way down is to climb.”
“No, I can’t!” May cried, her heart pounding against her ribs. “Not from this height, it’s too much!”
“Yes you can!” Peter said. “Yes you can. Don’t be afraid. You have to trust your instincts. I know you’re new to this, but you can do it.”
“No … please,” May begged.
“Fear is your enemy, May,” Peter said. “You have to fight it. I have to let go.”
May looked down and her mouth went dry. They were over two hundred feet up and she had no plan.
Peter swung her forward and May steadied herself against the wall with her free hand, her feet finding the tiniest of ledges to hold onto.
“Good,” he said. “Now I’m going to let go.”
His gloved hand slipped out of hers and May hurriedly placed her fingertips against the building, securing herself in place. Breathing hard through her nose, May slowly began her descent. About two feet down, her foot slipped and she cried out as gravity yanked her down.
May scrabbled frantically at the wall, her fingers slipping and sliding. Finally, she made contact, putting an end to her fall and she let out a breath of relief.
“Don’t overthink it!” Peter yelled from above. “You’ll just psyche yourself out. Work with the wall, not against it.”
May nodded and tried again. Come on, she chided herself. You’ve done this before. It’s just a few hundred feet. It’s all good.
“No, it’s not!” May whimpered aloud.
She shut her eyes tight and pressed her forehead to the stone, trying to calm herself down. May absorbed her surroundings and everything around her: the wall, the wind speed and the direction from which it came, her approximate height from the ground, the warmth of the afternoon sun against her back.
And then she had a crazy idea.
May pushed off the wall and fell headfirst towards the street, the wind roaring in her ears, her clothes flapping, arms straight at her sides. She was parallel to the side of the building, now a blur as the pavement below flew up at her.
About twenty feet from certain death, May tucked her knees in to her chest and flipped over, kicking off the wall and dived forwards, arms out, hands splayed as if to hit a volleyball. As her fingertips made contact with the sidewalk, she bent her elbows to absorb the impact and went somersaulting right into the street.
May sat up, her head reeling. Before she could congratulate herself on not dying, she looked up into a pair of headlights.
She rolled out of the way as a truck steamrollered past. A car honked at her and she scrambled to her feet.
“Get out of the way!”
And right on cue, a web hit the back of her shirt at the base of her neck and she was yanked into the air, over a car and dropped onto the sidewalk.
Peter jumped down in front of her.
May’s mouth fell open. “I thought you were –”
“You gotta be more careful,” he said. “These streets are dangerous. It’s alright, everyone!” he called out, raising a hand.
“You set me up!” May hissed.
“Well,” he said loudly. “My work here is done. Stay safe!”
“Da—” May caught herself, realizing where they were. “Spidey!”
“I’ll be around the corner,” he hissed, and he suddenly shot up into the air, executing a perfect back flip before zipping around the corner and out of sight.
“I’m gonna …” May ran past a food cart and around the corner, shaking her head.
She suddenly bumped into a tall man in a leather jacket. “Sorry,” she said hastily until he turned and she realized it was Peter.
He adjusted his glasses with a mischievous smile.
“Not bad,” he said. “Although you might want to be a little more subtle.”
Peter chuckled. “Come on, let’s go.”
“So you’re fast, agile, flexible, strong …” Peter listed. “Wall crawling … we’ll work on that.”
“I’m telling you, I’ve done it before,” May insisted. “I just panicked.”
“We’ll work on that too.”
May gave a snort of laughter. She and Peter had been hanging out on top of a big factory where they were the least likely to be spotted to push May’s boundaries and see what she was already capable of. So far she’d flipped over smokestacks, constructed a web the size of a trampoline, tested her flexibility, and tried her hand at hand-to-hand combat.
“By the way, I’ve been meaning to tell you something,” May went on. “I made the basketball team.”
“What?” Peter cried. “May, that’s great! That’s … oh …” The grin quickly slid off his face. “That’s problematic.”
“But it doesn’t have to be,” May piped up. “If you could teach me how to keep my powers under control, I could still play without attracting suspicion.”
“No, it’s too risky,” he said, beginning to pace. “Though your enhanced senses and abilities are favorable qualities in a star athlete, the fact remains that it’s an unfair advantage. And yeah, there are plenty of good athletes out there, but it might make you too good. One little mishap can result in your face plastered all over the papers and if anyone were to make the connection, there’s no telling the chaos that will inevitably ensue. I’d try to avoid sports at all costs.”
“Ugh, what am I going to do?” May groaned, putting her head in her hands. “Coach Bailey wants me in the starting lineup!”
“Well, the simplest excuse would be a heavy workload and a busy schedule,” Peter suggested. “You could say you’re focusing on your studies and being on the team would clash with valuable study time. Besides, you’re in what? Grade ten, eleven?”
“Things only get harder from there. You’ll be loaded with homework before you know it.”
He stopped pacing and looked her over again. “How’s your spidey-sense?”
“It’s been active for a while now, even before everything else kicked in,” May said, remembering the night when the bulb blew.
“I’d like to put that to the test,” Peter said. “Close your eyes. No peeking,” he added.
“Okay.” May closed her eyes.
“Just relax and listen to the breeze,” he said.
May took slow, steady breaths and tried not to think. It was so quiet, it was almost as if he’d disappeared. She waited a moment longer before a jarring buzz made her skull rattle and her ears rang insistently.
May instantly dropped to the ground as something soared over her head, landing a few feet in front of her, and she opened her eyes to see Peter crouching low, ready to spring.
“I said no peeking,” he said.
“Right, sorry.” May shut her eyes again, barely suppressing a smile.
Her spidey-sense sense went off again and she did a backflip as Peter’s leg swung around to knock her off her feet. May landed firmly, then spread her feet apart, raising her fists.
There was another loud ring. May raised her arm and blocked Peter’s windmill kick, responding with a hard shove to the chest.
Peter staggered backwards and May opened her eyes again, completely dumbfounded.
“Good,” he said with a smile. “If you can fight without having to look, you’re untouchable. Let’s go again. And this time, try to move around a bit. Learn your surroundings. Use whatever you got.”
May turned in a full circle, trying to memorize every detail of the terrain from the smokestacks to the foot-high drop to the next level of the roof.
“Okay,” she said, closing her eyes once again. “I’m ready.”
She heard Peter rather than felt his presence as he barreled towards her at full speed. May shot two webs and felt a tug, indicating that they met their target. She leaned backwards, the webs pulling taut, and released, launching herself skywards as Peter shot past beneath her feet.
Her spidey-sense suddenly went haywire and she raised her hands just in time to stop herself face-planting on a smokestack. May struggled for a good grip on the slippery surface. Why was she suddenly so bad at this?
She registered the sound of a web taking flight and rolled over sideways. Now with the smokestack against her back, she tried to judge the direction from which the web came. Suddenly, she got another “incoming” alert. She caught the second web in her hand and yanked.
“Whoa!” she heard Peter yell, followed by a thud.
May jumped down and started reeling him in like a fish. There was another tingle as Peter swung out wildly with his legs and May jumped, evading the attack.
She grabbed him by the arm, hoisted him to his feet and wrapped him up in his own webbing, shooting a few of her own in the process until she was satisfied.
“Okay, okay, you win!” he finally cried.
May opened her eyes and had to laugh. He was cocooned in spidery gauze from neck to ankles, his arms bound at his sides.
“Now I know what a fly feels like,” he grumbled.
“Oh, this is priceless!” May said. “I gotta get a picture!”
“No, don’t you dare!” Peter yelled as she reached for her phone.
“If only the Bugle found you like this,” May fantasized. “I can see the headlines already: ‘Spider-Man Out-Spun‘!”
“Oh, that is such a Jameson!”
“I know, right?”
“Get me out of this!” Peter said, hopping.
“Oh, don’t worry,” May said with a wicked smile. “It’ll dissolve in a few hours’ time.”
And with that, she skipped away across the rooftop, Peter shouting after her.
“I’m warning you! Come back here! You don’t want to see me angry! May!”
But she only laughed.
“You’re grounded!” he yelled. “No, I’m not kidding! You better –”
May doubled over, feeling tears welling up in her eyes.
“I know where you live!”
May did unravel him eventually … after she’d stopped laughing. He chased her around for a bit before May checked her phone and realized she was going to be late for dinner. She returned home in high spirits, ready to fill Logan in on all the highlights from her trial session with Peter.
Over the course of the week, May learned flips, safety tips, hand-to-hand combat, stealth, and how to trust her instincts. Training with Peter was like being in a totally different world. Not only was he incredibly skilled and amazing to watch in action, he was a good coach and mentor. He was funny, smart, and May felt totally comfortable talking with him. It gave her a really different and reassuring feeling to know Peter was there for her.
When May got home from another session, she was amazed to see an all-too-familiar face on the front steps of the foster home.
“Allison?” May said in amazement.
“Hey!” Allison exclaimed, jumping up from her perch.
They hugged and took a seat on the stairs as Logan came out with a jug of lemonade and a stack of plastic cups.
“Oh, hey, you’re back,” Logan said, taking a seat a few steps above them. “Anyone feeling thirsty?”
“Oh, definitely,” Allison said.
Logan poured glasses for them all and handed them out. May hurriedly took a swig before asking, “So, what are you doing here?”
“To visit my best friends, why else?” Allison said as if it were obvious. “I need to know what’s been going on. How’s school? How’s Isaac?” she said, wiggling her eyebrows at May.
May nearly choked on her lemonade. “Wha—?”
“Oh, don’t play dumb,” Logan said, giving her a playful nudge. “It’s so obvious he likes you.”
“Okay, yeah, we’ve talked a bit,” May admitted.
“Um, he complimented your football skills and spoke on your behalf when you wanted to join the boys’ basketball team,” Logan said. “It’s only a matter of time before he asks you out.”
“Shut up!” Allison said in disbelief. “Are you serious?”
“He was just being nice,” May said.
“Well, you like him, don’t you?” Allison demanded.
“I guess, but …” May pursed her lips, staring into her cup. “I dunno, things are just a little more complicated now,” she said, thinking back to the events of the past two weeks. “It’s like … Have you ever felt like one day your life was simple and the next it’s totally different?”
“Honey, I think we can relate,” Allison said. “I mean, we’ve all been orphans for most of our lives. My life was anything but perfect before I was put in the foster system.” She paused as if waiting for them to tell her no, but she plowed on anyway. “My parents … they loved each other, but they were never married. I guess my mom couldn’t commit or whatever, but she let my dad stick around after I was born.
“I was really young when the fighting started. Turns out my dad had a criminal background and my mom didn’t want us to be dragged down because of it. And I remember him saying, ‘I can do better’, but that wasn’t enough to convince her.
“And then one day there was this accident and I got burned. It wasn’t super bad, but my mom was furious. She blamed my dad and said he was too dangerous for me to be around, so she kicked him out. Then it was just me and her. I missed my dad, but I couldn’t change her feelings about him and we were okay for a while.
“But then when she died,” Allison said, her eyes turning dark, “I had no one left. There was a custody case and everything, but my dad never showed up. Never even bothered to come back for me, never stepped in to say, ‘Yes, this is my kid’. I was put in the foster system and I was left to think that nobody wanted me. But don’t get me wrong,” she added hastily. “It hasn’t been all bad. After all, I’ve got you guys and a new father. So don’t be scared of change, May.” Allison placed a hand on her knee. “Sometimes change is a good thing.”
May felt a minor tingle in the base of her skull. This was different from anything she’d felt so far. She didn’t sense any immediate danger or a familiar presence, but felt a strange feeling of skepticism. But why?
Maybe I’m just a little frazzled from training, she thought. It shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
“You know what? You’re right,” May said. “I mean, life works in unexpected ways, right? You just have to go wherever it takes you.”
“You know, between the two of you,” Logan said, draining her cup, “you could write a book.”
“On top of the essays we’ll have to write in English class?” May said. “Yeah right!”
And as she talked and laughed with her friends, May couldn’t help but grin having Allison back.