“… completely irresponsible, highly dangerous, and you could’ve gotten yourselves seriously hurt!” Miss Edna raged.
She had all the girls lined up side by side on the living room couch for one of her lectures. There wasn’t nearly enough room, so Abigail sat on Brenda’s lap with Tricia perched on the armrest.
“She was on the ceiling,” Logan protested. “What were we supposed to do?”
“You could have handled it a lot better than you did, Logan!” Miss Edna pinched the skin between her eyebrows, clearly at the end of her rope. Then she sighed. “Everyone upstairs. May, you stay here.”
May shrunk back into the cushions with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. How was she going to get out of this one?
Kelly patted her on the knee. “It was nice knowing you.”
Logan gave Kelly a flick on the ear.
“Ouch!” she cried indignantly, but she was herded along by the others as they left the room.
Tricia’s eyes lingered on May for a moment longer before she disappeared up the stairs.
“Miss Edna,” May blurted before she could stop her, “I honestly don’t know what to tell you. It just … happ—”
But the old lady raised a hand, cutting her off.
May studied her face. It was wrinkled and lined, but her eyes were clear and sharp. A faint smile played around her thin lips.
“My goodness,” she said quietly. “He wasn’t kidding.”
“Who?” May asked.
“Listen to me,” Miss Edna said. “The most important thing to remember is to be discreet and stay alert. The less people know the better.”
“Know what?” May demanded, utterly bemused. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“All in good time,” the old woman said. “I made a promise to keep you safe, but I can’t do that if you end up stuck to the ceiling in the school cafeteria. Just promise me you’ll be careful.”
May didn’t know where all this was coming from, but if she couldn’t trust Miss Edna, she couldn’t trust anyone.
“Okay,” she whispered.
“Good,” Miss Edna said. “No go on upstairs and do your homework. I’m going to start dinner.”
May left the room and hurried up the stairs, her mind reeling. What was that all about, she wondered. One minute she was facing punishment, and the next she was on the verge of uncovering some huge secret. May needed a place to think.
She slipped into the bathroom on the second floor and locked herself in. May gripped the edge of the countertop and surveyed her reflection in the mirror, trying to find answers somewhere in those pale blue eyes.
From what she gathered, Miss Edna knew exactly what was happening to her, but wanted to keep it quiet. But what was happening to her? Her ultra-clear vision, the strange magnetism to different objects and surfaces, the weird tingling that seemed to signal danger … none of it made any sense. And what was Miss Edna trying to protect her from? Who was this he she mentioned?
“Ugh,” she said irritably, putting her hands to her forehead. “What is going on?”
She ran a hand through her hair and suddenly froze, gaping at herself in the mirror. There was a bulge on her arm. Was that muscle?
She felt her bicep in disbelief. There was no denying it. She looked herself up and down. There was another and another! Now May was an athlete, but muscles didn’t just appear overnight. It was the product of several weeks’ hard labour.
May laughed in spite of herself. “Okay! I could get used to this!”
She lifted her shirt to expose her stomach and felt her eyes bug. She had abs!
“Shut up!” she cried in amazement. “That’s awesome! That’s awesome right there. This is just … wow …”
There was a sudden rap on the door.
“May?” said Logan’s voice.
May hastily pulled her shirt down and opened the door, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear.
“Yeah?” she said.
“You good?” Logan asked, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.
“Oh, yeah, everything’s fine.”
Logan arched an eyebrow as if to say, Really?
May and Logan were like sisters. They’d been through everything together, they’d grown up together, and knew each other’s “tells”. May was trying to put on a front, but it was feeble and they both knew it.
“So what’s the verdict?” Logan said, leaning against the doorframe with her arms crossed. Her dark eyes were unwavering, unyielding. Striking. Though she and May had the same complexion, there was something Asian about her features too. They’d long ago concluded she was probably mixed.
“Surprisingly, she let me off easy,” May said. “No extra chores, no babysitting duties.”
“What?” Logan said in disbelief, grinning. “You sly dog, how’d you wriggle out of that one?”
“I honestly don’t know.”
“She wasn’t angry?”
“Nope,” May shook her head. “She just told me to settle down and keep the antics to a minimum.”
May hated lying to her, but until she could figure out what was going on, Logan would have to wait.
The next morning, the girls were woken by Kelly’s Spider-Man ringtone.
Grumbling, Tricia sat up, looking for all the world like she wanted to break Kelly’s phone too.
“That’s gonna get old fast.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t break the alarm clock, so I guess you’re just gonna have to deal with it,” Kelly snapped.
If this is how it’s going to be every morning, I better get some earplugs, May thought irritably.
She got dressed quickly and headed downstairs to see the latest news report on TV.
“There were a series of high winds and blackouts rolling through Buffalo last night, the result of a freak storm,” the newsreader said. “It caused a lot of property damage and many are without power still.” The scene changed to a winding road with several fallen telephone poles and a sparking power box. “Witnesses lead us to believe that the cause of the storm was not the work of nature, but of something else entirely. This is footage from a little league baseball game in Buffalo.”
The scene changed once again to a video taken by a cell phone showing a night game at a brightly-lit baseball diamond. There was a crack as a kid hit the ball and sent it flying toward the fence line. Suddenly, the wind picked up and the lights began to pop and spark. Several screams sounded and the scoreboard winked out. Then, big flashing letters appeared, glitching and flickering, spelling out the same word over and over: AFTERSHOCK.
“If this is indeed the work of a super villain, researchers would naturally point fingers at Electro, but seeing as this person has written the same thing in multiple other spots, we can only conclude that this new villain, Aftershock, shares the same powers of electrical manipulation.”
“Well, isn’t that a cheerful way to kick off someone’s morning,” May muttered.
“No kidding,” Logan had appeared at her shoulder.
Miss Edna looked grim. “They never learn, do they?” she said, buttering a piece of toast. “Where there is evil, good is never far behind.”
“Spider-Man to the rescue!” Elena cried.
“Oh, sure,” Tricia said as she came down the stairs, her tone dripping with sarcasm. “Send the guy in red and blue Spandex to get his face fried off. Just call in Iron Man.”
“If he dealt with Electro, I’m pretty sure he can handle this guy,” Logan said.
“Have you ever met Spider-Man, Miss Edna?” Elena asked.
Miss Edna’s eyes glittered. “Once,” she said. “A long time ago.”
The girls were astonished. Elena looked like Christmas had come early.
“Did he save your life? Were there bad guys? Did you see him shoot webs? Did you fly with him? Was he wearing his mask? Did you kiss him?”
“Ew!” Krissy cried.
Logan and May looked at each other and doubled over with laughter. Tricia looked utterly bewildered. Miss Edna laughed.
“Oh, no, silly! He’s much too young for me!” She chuckled to herself. “No, he asked me for a special favor and I was happy to oblige.”
“What kind of favor?” Elena demanded.
“That’s between me and Spider-Man,” she said mysteriously.
“Sounds as if you know him personally,” May said, intrigued.
“No, I only met him the one time,” Miss Edna said. “But it changed my life forever.”
School was surprisingly uneventful compared to yesterday’s sudden display of athletic prowess. May heeded Miss Edna’s warning and tried to keep a low profile so as not to attract suspicion (though she didn’t fully understand why). There was only one instance in class when her pencil got stuck to her fingers and she had to discreetly use her teeth to pry it off.
By the end of the day, she was congratulating herself on a job well done and was about to suggest going out for ice cream when she and Logan happened to pass the gym.
May could detect the sounds of running feet, squeaky shoes, loud voices, and the unmistakable sound of a ball hitting the ground. She doubled back at once to peer through the little window in the door and saw a scrimmage match in session. Looks like tryouts are finally underway, May thought. It was a five-on-five game and among them was Isaac.
“I thought he was a football player!” she said in surprise.
“You can join more than one team,” Logan pointed out.
“I know that!” May shot back.
Logan gave her a knowing smile. “You wanna go watch, don’t you?”
“Better,” May grinned at her mischievously. “I’m gonna try out!”
“What?” Logan said as May shoved open the door. “But this is the boys’ team!” she hissed, hot on her tail.
“So?” May said, marching around the court to where Coach Bailey was standing. “Hey, Coach!” she said, stopping two feet away. “Got room for one more?”
Coach Bailey’s eyebrows knit together in confusion. “You are aware that this is the boys’ team.”
“And that the girls’ tryouts are next week?”
“So why are you here?” Coach asked.
“New territory, new challenges,” May said. “And unless I’m mistaken, there are no rules against letting a girl try out.”
A smile tugged at the corner of the coach’s mouth. “You think you can school my boys?”
“She’ll mop the floor with them!” Logan jumped in.
Coach Bailey raised his whistle to his lips and blew a sharp blast. “Hey, guys!” he yelled. “Come over here!”
A lanky boy took one last shot at the three-point line before swaggering over with the rest of the guys. Isaac caught sight of May’s face and smiled.
“Looks like we’ve got a last-minute recruit,” the coach said.
“She’s a girl,” a shaggy-haired boy protested.
“How are we feeling?” Coach Bailey asked. “Huh? Should we give her a shot?”
The majority of them looked unconvinced, and a few even scoffed, but then Isaac stepped forward.
“Let her play,” he said. “I think she’ll surprise you.”
“Unless you’re afraid of getting your butts whupped,” Logan added.
“Whatever,” said the lanky boy.
Coach Bailey looked at May. “Go get changed.”
May wasted no time. She ran to the girls’ change room and quickly rummaged through her bag for a pair of shorts.
She was back out in five minutes, her long red hair pulled back in a ponytail, and was greeted with a cheer.
“Woo! Go, May!” Logan yelled from the bleachers.
May jogged onto the court and faced off with a large, square-jawed dude at the half-court line.
“Sure you can handle the heat?” he sneered.
The coach’s whistle blew, and the ball was released into the air. May jumped, knocking the guy’s hand aside, and tipped the ball behind her.
Isaac caught it and tucked the ball behind his back, handing it off to the lanky dude.
May ran deep toward the left-hand corner of the key, watching the lanky dude try to shoulder his way down the line. A boy with a buzz cut was guarding him, spreading his arms wide to box him in.
The lanky dude continued to dribble, refusing to get trapped, and the other boy managed to hit it out of bounds.
“Switch!” May said to the guy in front of her, and she raced forward to receive the pass, but the lanky dude held the ball over his head, looking anywhere but at her.
The coach blew his whistle shrilly and marched up to the lanky guy with a frown. “Do you need glasses?” he demanded.
“No,” the lanky dude said, looking offended.
“Really, ’cause you’ve got an open player right in front of your face!” Coach Bailey said, pointing at May. “You’ve got eyes, use ’em! Let’s go!”
He blew the whistle, and the lanky dude gave May a weak underhand toss.
At the same time May felt a tingle in the back of her head, and she lunged forward, spinning out of the way as the square-jawed dude came in for the steal, and dribbled down the line.
Another defender rushed her, and she bounced the ball through his legs to a teammate waiting at the back post and he sunk an easy basket.
“Yes!” Isaac cried, giving her a high five as they fell back on defence.
The square-jawed dude gritted his teeth in frustration and dribbled straight for May at the edge of the three-point line.
He played around a little bit, putting the ball behind his back and through his legs, trying to throw her off.
“Ball hog!” Logan yelled from the sidelines.
The guy jumped back and went for the fade-away shot, but May launched herself into the air and smacked the ball out of bounds.
“Oh, denied!” another guy yelled.
May was gaining their respect a lot quicker than she expected. I gotta keep this going, she thought.
May kept her eyes on the ball as an acne-spotted boy took the in-bound. Quick as a flash, she intercepted the pass and bolted, off on a breakaway with no one to stop her.
With the goal in sight, she leapt into the air, tucking her knees into her chest, flipping once, twice, three times before crashing down on the rim, a perfect slam dunk, and the backboard shattered.
May landed firmly on the ground, flinging her arms over her head as the glass rained down, showering her with glittering shards.
The ball bounced in the silence.
Slowly, May raised her head to face the astounded crowd and a few stray pieces of glass tinkled to the ground.
She managed a nervous laugh. “Whoops.”
For the second time in two days, May sat on the couch in the living room, expecting a death sentence. Miss Edna was still on the phone with the school and from what she gathered, they weren’t too happy.
“Yes, I understand,” Miss Edna said. “We’re very sorry for the inconvenience. Thank-you.”
She hung up the phone and marched into the living room. “Well, now you’ve gone and done it! It’s clear my warnings are wasted on you.”
“I’m so sorry,” May said with the utmost sincerity.
“No, I don’t want to hear it!” Miss Edna snapped. “It’s high time I told you what I should’ve told you yesterday.” She sat down on the couch next to May with a sigh.
“And that is?” May pressed, her curiosity getting the better of her.
Miss Edna clasped her hands together in her lap and looked May right in the eyes.
“I met your father.”