Previously in Comic Superhero…
Andrew contemplated cheating on his English test in order to win an autographed copy of The Phantom comic. The comic was in Emily’s possession, the grand prize for the tête-à-tête. At the last moment, Andrew’s conscience made him confess his potential error to his best friend, Jackson. Time to look behind the mask.
“Time’s up, class. Pens down please,” said Mrs Motherwell from the front of the room.
As the test papers were handed in, Emily leant back in her chair and cast a glance over her shoulder at Andrew. Grinning like a Cheshire cat she winked at Andrew and began to pack her bag.
“I still don’t trust her to keep up her end of the bargain if you beat her,” said Jackson.
Andrew simply shrugged. His mind was still filled with the thought of having almost cheated in order to win.
Jackson continued, “How do you think you went? I reckon I did alright.”
“Yeah, dunno,” replied Andrew.
“Oh come on,” interrupted Jackson. “You’ve got natural talent, you work hard and you always do well. Even on a bad day you still whip my butt.”
“Couldn’t get focused initially. Once I started I was fine. Still stressing a bit.”
The boys packed their bags and headed towards the door on the way to lunch. Andrew stopped at Emily’s desk.
“You will have that comic ready on the day when the papers get handed back.”
Emily recoiled from the bravado but sensed his unease, knowing she had the upper hand. “Oh, coming over all strong now are we? What’s the matter? Know you’re going to lose. And over what? A comic book?”
She waved her hand dismissively, indicating their conversation was over. Andrew and Jackson moved away and headed for lunch.
The wait had begun.
Jackson sat at the park bench and table waiting for the rest of the group to arrive.
“Hey, Action Jackson, shove over,” said Andrew as he arrived with Nathan and Stuart. “Got you a Coke.”
Jackson held out one hand while he scrolled through the play list on his ipod slotted into the speaker dock. “You need something to get your mind off that test.”
The strains of Bohemian Rhapsody flittered out. As the song reached its crescendo, Andrew and the rest of the boys stood up, put their left foot up on the bench like it was a fold back speaker and re-enacted Wayne and Garth, thrashing their heads in wild abandon wielding air guitars.
They fell back onto the bench and laughed. Emily wandered through on her way to the canteen with her minions. Flanked on one side was Joshua and on the other, Catherine and Bianca. Andrew pictured them in the red uniform of the Imperial Guard, protecting their Emperor.
“How’s the bromance going, Andrew? Who wears the pants in this relationship, you or Jackson? Or do you prefer to wear your underpants on the outside?”
The boys at the table laughed at Emily’s jibe.
“I do believe that you will owe me a comic, Emily,” said Andrew.
“We’ll see,” she said nonchalantly.
As Emily powered away Stuart and Nathan hummed the Imperial March causing Jackson to laugh.
“Speaking of bromance,” said Nathan, “you guys have been mates since, like, Year 7. What’s the story with you two? I mean, you came from different schools and the only thing you got in common is comics. Jackson’s into tech and geek speak and you’re into music and art stuff.”
Jackson interjected, “Yeah but you’re into cars and nothing else, except Natasha and her…”
“Mammalian protuberances,” finished Stuart.
Andrew spluttered with the fizz going up his nose. “You’ve been listening to Frank Zappa again, haven’t you? We met at Phat Albert’s comic store, in the summer holidays before school started in Year 7. Mum dropped me off and went to get some groceries and left me to look at comics. Jackson was buying the new MAD magazine, which I was also going to buy. It was the last one. Phat Albert introduced us ‘cause he knew us both. We found out we were going to be at the same high school together, so Jackson agreed to lend it to me when school started.”
“Unfortunately, I came down with chicken pox and missed the first two weeks of school,” said Jackson.
“Because I was the only one from my primary school coming here, I knew no one, so I was banking on Jackson being someone to talk to. Just bog scared for the first two weeks until he showed up. From then, we just clicked.”
Nathan took a shot at the bin with a balled up paper bag but Jackson smacked it away. He got up to retrieve it and as he put it into the bin said, “So, what’s the deal with you and Emily Lewis? You’ve been fighting it out for Geek of the Year since she arrived in Year 9. Anyone’d think you’re flirting with her.”
“Get your hand off it, Nathan,” said Andrew.
“Come on, you’re like Edward and Bella,” said Stuart. “You both want what you can’t have and bitch and moan about it. Although, I think you’re Bella in this equation.”
Andrew launched a scrap of orange peel at Stuart, but could feel his cheeks redden. He didn’t want to admit there could be something to what Nathan had said. He thought back two years ago to the Year 10 Graduation Dance. Emily arrived in an emerald dress that accented an emerging form hidden by a school uniform. Instead of the schoolgirl ponytail, her dark tresses dropped in curls around her ears and over her shoulders.
“But what turned her to the dark side?” said Jackson. “There has to be some reason for her to be so standoffish.”
“Dunno,” said Andrew. “She came here from interstate and doesn’t say anything about it.”
He looked up and saw Emily walking back across the quadrangle, minus her minions.
He wondered what costume she wore beneath her uniform. If he peeled back the mask, what would he see?
He wasn’t even sure if he wanted to know what was behind his own mask. The thought of having almost cheated turned his stomach. Some secrets were best kept secret. Andrew hated to think what Emily would do if she found out.
Emily passed by without a glance in his direction but he watched her every step until she disappeared into the library.