Andrew punched out a quick text to Jackson, See you at the comic store in half an hour, yelled out a farewell to his mother and plugged in his headphones. After finishing his English and Biology homework he decided a Saturday afternoon off wouldn’t hurt. The walk to the store would help refresh his mind.
Ever since his hubristic triumph over Emily Lewis, he kept his head down. She played it very cool and aloof, throwing him the evil eye every once in a while. Andrew couldn’t help wondering when she would make good on her promise to get even.
Walking into the store he pulled the headphones and waved at Phat Albert, owner of the comic book store, behind the counter. Albert’s physique did not resemble his name sake, but the unfortunate adjective had been ascribed. To compensate, he insisted on the “ph” instead of the “f.”
“Hey Andrew,” he said. “I’ve got something that you might be interested in.”
Albert turned to a cupboard behind the counter, unlocked it and pulled out a mylar pocket and placed it on the counter.
“An autographed edition of The Phantom. Signed by none other than Sy Barry. I know he’s your favourite Phantom artist, so I thought you’d like first look.”
Andrew felt like Indiana Jones holding a mystical relic for the first time. Sy’s moniker in black texta across the front cover coaxed and beckoned.
“Picked it up at comicon last week and yours for only $300,” said Phat Albert.
Jackson bounded into the store and up to the counter. “What’cha got there? Oh man, that’s awesome. You gonna get it?”
“I would do anything to have it, but I haven’t quite got the cash. I could ask Mum and Dad for a loan, but I was also saving for our end of year trip.”
Joshua, aka The Dark Knight, stepped up to the counter. He was wearing his favourite Batman t-shirt and was in the same year as Andrew and Jackson. “That’s a pretty piece of artwork there, Andrew. Going to get it? I’d give anything to have it if it was Batman.”
Jackson intervened, “Isn’t the Drama class missing their principal star?”
Joshua passed off the insult. “Just checking out the wares on offer here, Jackson; nothing more. I was merely admiring a piece of memorabilia which just happens to be of interest to Andrew.”
The three boys shared a love of comic books bordering on rivalry. Joshua was a collector of all things Batman and had a seemingly unlimited bank account to fund it. To Jackson he was a show pony.
Andrew’s shoulders dropped. “Thanks Phat Albert, but just can’t do it now. See you later.”
Andrew backed away from the counter, taking one last look. He and Jackson wandered the store for a while before heading out for some food. The thought of the comic tormented Andrew. Joshua observed their departure before pulling out his phone and sending a text.
On Monday morning, the duo headed in to English. Mrs Motherwell pronounced that she had some good news.
“You will be having an assessment task for our current text, Hamlet and you can keep your groans to yourself. It’s four weeks away so there is plenty of time to be prepared. It will be an in class essay.”
Andrew dared a glance towards Emily. She turned, caught his eye and smiled.
“That’s the smile of something that wants to eat your heart out,” said Jackson.
Emily reached into her folder and pulled out a plastic envelope. Andrew’s eyes widened in disbelief as he saw the autographed Phantom comic.
“Where the hell did you get that!” said Andrew.
“Andrew, would you please refrain from calling out in class.”
“Sorry Miss,” said Andrew as he watched Emily return the comic to her folder.
“How come she has it?” Jackson asked Andrew.
“Joshua was at the comic store with us. He probably bought it and gave it to her. They are in the same drama class together so it makes sense.”
As soon as class ended, Andrew confronted Emily. “Who gave you that comic?”
“Is this important to you?” she mocked. Her eyes narrowed, “I said I’d get even with you.”
Andrew was desperate. “I will pay whatever you want for it. Name your price.”
“What would you be willing to do for this precious possession?”
Andrew hesitated, knowing his options were limited, but he would have done almost anything.
Emily sprung her trap. “I tell you what. Next English test, winner takes all. If you beat me, you can buy it from me. If I win, you get to know that I have it in my possession. And there’s not a thing you can do about it.”
Andrew fumed inwardly and hung his head. “Deal. But you’ve got to promise to keep it safe.”
“I won’t promise anything, but I’ll take good care of it. Time’s ticking.”
Emily turned and walked away, laughter echoing in the corridor.