Previously in Comic Superhero…
Andrew’s infatuation with Emily grew deeper and deeper following the party. When he should have been studying he was surfing facebook to find pictures of Emily from that night. A sudden text message from Emily broke him from his reverie. It was an ultimatum to meet her at the coffee shop. Alone…
With phone in one hand, Andrew looked quickly from left to right and back again, closing the lid on his laptop. He wondered if someone was watching him, spying his perving on Emily. Every instinct told him to give Jackson the head’s up, let him know what was about to happen but he resisted.
“How the hell did she get my number?” he asked himself aloud.
It was a nervous wait for Andrew. It was too long to simply shrug it off but close enough to keep pricking his mind. He was besotted by the images of Emily. If it was a trap, he didn’t particularly care, but it didn’t feel like one. Friday arrived and Andrew set off, unarmed and unprepared.
The people were beginning to filter into the shopping centre. The early hour meant most teens were still comatose with the sleep of the damned. The only ones up at such a stupid hour in school holidays were the ones who had to process groceries and pack shelves.
It was too early for Phat Albert’s comic book store to be open, leaving Andrew with few hiding places.
He ambled past the coffee shop. It was an older establishment in its décor of separate booths with high backed bench seats. A loose arrangement of tables lined up out the front.
Andrew took up a vantage point in the corridor leading to the toilets giving him a clear view of the coffee shop. Scoping the passers-by he looked for signs of a double-cross. There was no sign of Bianca or Catherine. Joshua might turn up at the comic book store but Andrew Phat Albert hadn’t yet arrived.
He doubted Emily would be tardy and she did not disappoint, arriving just before his phone ticked over to read 9:02. She joined the queue at the counter, checking her phone.
Leaving his vantage point he went to join the queue. He thought about offering to pay for her drink, as a gentlemanly gesture, but two suits and ties blocked his passage. She ordered a caramel latte while he ordered a hot chocolate with extra cream.
As they waited for their orders, Emily stood with her arms folded, not paying attention to Andrew. She looked at the actions of the barista and stepped forward when her name was called. Taking two sachets of sugar Emily headed towards the far end of the coffee shop and slid into a vacant booth. Andrew frowned as he looked towards Emily, who had still not made eye contact with him nor acknowledged his presence.
Andrew took his order from the counter and made his way to where Emily was sitting. Sliding into the booth he slopped his drink. A hasty mop up operation followed. Emily did not offer to help but sat with her hands clasped together in front of her, her latte releasing wisps of steam. She seemed distracted, lacking her bravado and self confidence.
Andrew noted the booth provided privacy from potential gossip mongers, but there was only one way in and out. He sensed a trap but when and how it would be sprung eluded him.
Silence followed and Andrew had no idea what to say to open the conversation. Emily took charge. She looked directly at Andrew who sat back involuntarily.
“If you breathe a word to anyone what I am about to tell you, I will make sure your humiliation will be a circle of hell.”
The bravado faded quickly as she reached for her drink and held it between her hands, stroking the foam cup with the tip of her forefinger. Andrew waited for Emily to continue. She didn’t look at Andrew but addressed her question at her drink. The voice was soft and uncertain.
“Were you serious the other night, at the party, when you said you were sorry about embarrassing me in class?”
In simple honesty, Andrew answered. “Yes.”
“And what about when you said you have no idea about what you want to do when you leave school?”
“I realised that I had made fun of you in class and wanted to set things straight. If I tried to beat you at your game, I failed. I didn’t see any point in trying to beat you anymore. All I can do is the best that I can in my studies.”
Emily shuffled in her seat, took the lid off her latte and stirred in the sugar.
“I have something to tell you. That thing about my Dad; it isn’t true. He’s still alive. My parents separated in the holidays before high school started. Mum and me stayed together but a bit after the divorce we decided to make a fresh start somewhere else. And so I came to this school.”
She paused, sipping her drink.
“My Dad was always at me to do my very best. I tried and tried. I showed my Dad all my work and assignments, all close to perfect. He applauded my work and congratulated me on my efforts. I tried to please him by doing as well as I could. When he left I thought I hadn’t done enough; that somehow he was disappointed in me. I suppose I was still trying to impress my Dad and win his approval.”
Andrew watched her fingers interlacing and releasing. He felt pity for Emily as she divulged, her super villain persona self-destructing. He tried to understand where she was coming from.
“We’ve always been competitive,” said Andrew, “and it’s been fairly friendly.”
“But I had to beat you. When you embarrassed me in English class, I just snapped. I felt like a little girl who’d been told off. I wanted revenge so badly and I got it. I watched you squirm. I saw you make mistakes, almost destroy your friendship with Jackson. And I was glad.”
“What changed your mind?” Andrew asked.
“When you apologised the other night. I began to wonder if I was doing the right thing.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Andrew asked.
“I honestly don’t know,” said Emily. “If I did, I am not sure I would want to admit it.”
A perfect storm developed. The combination of close proximity to a beautiful girl, her revelation and his infatuation, combined to create a situation every teenage boy fantasises about but is never sure how to proceed. Andrew’s gut urged his mouth to speak. Before his brain could sound a Brown Alert and prevent emergency evacuation from any orifice, three words were spoken. And there was no chance of a retraction.
“I like you.”