“Wait, what?” May said in shock.
“I didn’t know it at the time,” Miss Edna said quickly. “Not until I read this.” She held out a folded piece of paper.
May’s eyes flicked up to Miss Edna’s face before she took it and unfolded the note.
It was a faded old flyer, wrinkled with age, advertising used car parts.
“You’re kidding me, right?”
“As you can see,” Miss Edna said patiently, turning the flyer over, “he was in a bit of a hurry.”
May looked down at the faded scrawl, blotted in a few places and read aloud:
“Okay, I’m just going to write this note and pray that it falls into the right hands. Please take care of Mayday. She is more powerful than you could ever imagine and it is for this very reason that I have to give her up. Her safety is all that matters. She must never know her real name or who I am. Not until the time is right. When she reads this, everything will become clear.
“May, I know you may be scared and confused about all that’s happening to you, but it’s okay. Even your old man freaked out a little bit and it was even harder trying to keep it a secret. My life has been anything but ordinary and now your life is mine. We all have to make tough choices, and leaving you is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’ve faced a lot of bad guys.
“You may not remember my face or the sound of my voice, but believe it or not, you already know me and I’ve never been far. Give me a sign and I’ll be there. I can’t wait to see the woman you’ve become.
“Sincerely …” May’s voice caught in her throat as she looked at the signature, hardly daring to believe it. “Spider-Man?” she breathed.
Miss Edna nodded, her eyes shining.
“So when you said you met Spider-Man …”
“And the favor you did for him …” May went on, the pieces starting to fall into place.
“… was to look after you,” Miss Edna finished.
“Th-Then that would make me –”
May stood up, mouth open, trying to digest everything. All this time she thought her parents had abandoned her, when in reality it was the complete opposite. They were trying to protect her.
She deciphered the note once again, noting how the letters seemed to zigzag messily across the page, how it was dotted with water marks. Were those tears?
“What happened that night?” she demanded.
“He was being chased by Green Goblin while trying to get you to safety. No one knows that, of course, it was all hushed up for your protection,” Miss Edna added hastily. “I had just gone up to get my car in a parking garage downtown when I saw him, the horrible creep, circling the building like a bat out of hell. At once, I knew Spider-Man couldn’t be far away.
“You can imagine the terror I felt being caught in the middle like that, knowing I was in danger. Many others had stopped to gawk. And then the Goblin swooped down into one of the lower levels and I heard him scream.
“Nothing happened for a bit after that, but I knew better than to think it was over. And sure enough, your father attacked and I watched both him and the Goblin fall down to the street below. It looked to be over then, but suddenly there was this huge explosion that rocked the ground beneath my feet!” Miss Edna shuddered at the memory. “The floor had become unstable, the building was on fire, the air was full of smoke, and people started running in all directions … Oh, it was terrible!
“And then Spider-Man appeared out of nowhere, yelling for us to get to the elevator immediately. I turned to go and the next thing I know, he pulls me aside and I can hear the urgency in his voice as he says, ‘There’s a baby on the next level’.”
“Me?” May whispered.
“Yes,” Miss Edna said. “Unfortunately, he’d been backed into a corner with no other option but to fight. He could only see the two of us safely out of harm’s way, and then he dealt with the Goblin.
“I took you and ran without a clue where to go! I’d left my car behind and had to catch a bus back home. When I finally got there, you’d fallen asleep and as I put you down on the couch, I found the note.
“I made a decision then that I would open a foster home to help kids just like you and save them from terrible households where their parents were impoverished, abusive, deceased, or in any way unfit to be a parent. My only goal was to provide a safe and stable environment for growing children.”
“And who better to hand me off to,” May said with a smile.
“Oh, your father took a great leap of faith entrusting a stranger with his own child!” Miss Edna cried. “You could’ve ended up anywhere! But he was desperate. What else could he do?”
May sat down again, clutching this precious note in her hands, a symbol of her father’s struggle.
“But …” she said, trying to fill in all the holes. “What did people think when I disappeared? I mean … the daughter of Peter and Mary Jane Parker … that would’ve been huge!”
“To the world it remains an unsolved mystery,” Miss Edna said. “And no matter how much the press bombarded them with questions, they wouldn’t talk. Eventually rumours started circulating that Mary Jane had lost the baby and was too distraught to even mention it.”
“A perfect cover-up,” May muttered. “If everyone thought I was dead, the Goblin and all the others would leave them alone.”
“Not necessarily,” Miss Edna corrected. “The Goblin obviously thought he’d succeeded in killing you that night and wouldn’t be able to resist rubbing it in. The bad guys never stop causing trouble. It’s just what they do. And day after day, Peter Parker wakes up and puts on that mask, ready to fulfill his duties as Spider-Man.”
And then it clicked.
“He wants to meet with me,” May said incredulously. “He knows I inherited his powers, that I have the same spider DNA! ‘My life has been anything but ordinary and now your life is mine‘! He wants me to join him!”
“Now let’s not jump to conclusions!” Miss Edna said hastily. “The whole point of giving you away was to protect you from all this –”
“‘… until the time is right‘!” May quoted. “Face it, he knew this would happen eventually, it was unavoidable!” She got up and started pacing in her excitement. “This is all part of his grand scheme: send me away for my own protection, spread word of my death, and then one day, BOOM! It’s the dynamic duo, a father-daughter team-up!”
“Whoa!” Miss Edna leapt to her feet. “Crazy train has left the station!”
May crossed her arms with an amused smile.
“This is no joking matter, May,” Miss Edna said. “There’s a reason why your father wanted to keep his true identity a secret! He couldn’t risk endangering the people he loved! You can’t just come out to the world as Spider-Man’s daughter, you’ll become the prime target of every villain in New York!”
“Well, then, how am I supposed to find him?” May demanded. “How am I supposed to tell him, ‘Hey! I got your message’ without blowing my cover? This is beyond anything I could ever have imagined! It’s the chance of a lifetime! I … I have to meet my dad.”
Miss Edna’s eyes grew soft and she sighed. “I know,” she said sympathetically, “but I can’t let you fling yourself into the middle of a crime scene in the hopes that he’ll swing in and carry you off to safety. This has to be carefully planned.”
“I’ll get on it right now!” May ran for the stairs, then pulled up short, one hand on the rail. “One last thing.”
“Yes?” Miss Edna said.
“Can I tell Logan?”
Miss Edna sighed in exasperation. “Fine. But we draw the line there! No one else can know!”
“Okay!” May said, and she ran up the stairs, feeling better than she had ever felt her whole life.
May spent the entire weekend researching, experimenting, and marveling at her newfound powers. She had finally figured out how to shoot webs! She had an idea in mind, but unless she could get it right, it would all go to waste and she’d miss her best chance.
Her whole life she’d grown up watching Spider-Man fight crime on TV and had never known, had never made the connection. After scrolling through endless pictures on the net, she finally saw the resemblance for the first time. She had her mom’s long hair mixed with a shade of brown, Peter’s dimples and long face.
The more she soaked in, the closer she felt to them. Mary Jane liked Broadway. That explained why May could sing. It was every orphan’s dream to learn about their parents (no matter how unpleasant the stories could be) and the idea of meeting them was surreal.
Logan was equally ecstatic. “I mean, it all makes sense!” she said. “Although I would’ve guessed Sticky Girl the way you’ve been carrying on.”
May stuck out her tongue in amusement.
“Seriously, though, how does something so thin hold up your weight without breaking?”
“I have no idea,” May said. The two were hanging out in the empty dorm while the other girls were outside. She felt like a circus performer, holding herself up from two webs shot from each of her hands, her knees tucked in to her chest. “But they’re so strong.”
She leaned backwards and flipped over, landing on two feet again. May dropped her hands and the webs detached themselves, hanging limply from the ceiling.
“What’s that thing you do with your hands?” Logan asked.
“It’s the ‘rock on’ sign,” May said with a smile, shaking her head. “I’m not even a rock fan, no wonder I couldn’t figure it out before! Ooh!” she said excitedly. “Watch this!”
May scaled the wall in seconds and crawled across the ceiling. With a flick of her wrist, a thin gossamer thread tethered itself to the ceiling. Grasping it with both hands, she hung upside down, feet together, and slowly lowered herself down Spider-Man style.
Logan’s mouth fell open. “That’s awesome.”
“Right?” May said, dropping to the ground. “It’s gonna be a bit of a hassle cleaning it all up, though.”
They both looked up to see the ceiling was hung with thick silvery strands.
“You sure you can pull it off tomorrow?” Logan asked.
“I’ll stick around all day if I have to,” May said. “It’s the only way to get his attention.”
Peter awoke the next morning to blinding sunlight. He sat up, shielding his eyes against the glare, hoping he didn’t have a weird face tan.
He looked over at M.J., but she wasn’t there. Only the jumbled blankets indicated her absence.
“M.J.?” he said, getting out of bed.
Peter headed downstairs to the kitchen, but it was empty. His highly-trained ears could detect a faint dripping sound and he looked around to see the coffeemaker had just been running.
In an instant, he knew where she must be.
Peter hurried upstairs to the rooftop balcony and pushed the door open.
She looked up at him with tear-filled eyes from her spot by the flower box.
Peter went over to sit next to her and slipped an arm around her shoulders. “What’s wrong?”
“She’s sixteen today.”
Peter felt something break within him. May’s birthday … How could he have forgotten?
“It’s been sixteen years,” M.J. said bitterly, “and she still doesn’t know who we are. There’s been no sign, no word and we don’t know where she is. We couldn’t find her even if we wanted to!”
“Well, I think you’d know her if you saw her,” Peter said. “Every mother knows her child.”
“Pete, she may not even be in New York!” M.J. cried. “Has that never crossed your mind?”
Fresh tears trickled down her face, and she put her head against his shoulder in defeat.
Peter cast around for something to say, desperately trying to claw his way out of the despair. Losing May had had a detrimental effect on their relationship. The earlier years were exceptionally hard, knowing that they were missing out on all the critical points of their daughter’s life: her first words, her first steps, her first laugh … As time passed, they tried to be positive, picturing a beautiful family reunion that hadn’t happened yet. But at the same time, what would you say to a complete stranger?
“We’ll find her,” he said softly. “Or better yet, she’ll find us.”
Peter spent the whole day swinging aimlessly through town, attempting to lose himself in the wind and the bustle of the city streets with no clear destination. Everything seemed … well, the opposite of hectic, which was a welcoming change. Lately he had started seeing a physician for some pains he had been experiencing in his lower back and he didn’t want to overexert himself.
It was late afternoon when he finally stopped on top of a building to survey the streets (and catch his breath). Peter crouched down, resting his elbows on his thighs and scanned the foot traffic about fifty feet below. If he listened carefully enough, he could almost pick out individual voices.
He looked up and did a double take. In an instant, he straightened up, hardly daring to believe it. Not two blocks away, and he knew for a fact it wasn’t him, someone had webbed the side of an aboveground parking garage on the fourth level from ceiling to floor, stretched wide across the opening. In the light of the noonday sun, he could just make out letters formed by the white-gold strands: G U E S S W H O.
Peter was completely baffled. Who the –? He dived headfirst off the tower, the wind whistling in his ears, and shot a web from his wrist, swinging over a streetlamp and through an intersection. He kept going until he reached the parking garage and landed in a forest of webs crisscrossing every which way.
He peered into the big empty space, obscured by shadow. “Who’s there?”
He heard a small gasp and caught a flash of movement behind a big stone pillar. Peter remained tense and still, but instinct told him this person wasn’t a threat. Slowly, he removed his mask. “Come on out.”
And a teenage girl stepped into view, mouth slightly open in silent wonder. She had reddish-brown hair, sky-blue eyes and dimples he saw every day in the mirror. For a moment he seemed to have lost the ability to speak. Finally, he croaked, “May?”
She smiled, her eyes glossy. “Hi, Dad.”