When I step off of the school bus on my block, the first thing I notice is the screaming. Not I’m-about-to-get-murdered screaming, but frustrated, angry screaming, and of course it’s coming from my house. Well, technically it’s my aunt’s house, I just live in it.
My aunt’s neighborhood is what the rich, snobby, white kids at my school would call “sketch” or “the ghetto”. They’re not wrong. It’s located in a forgotten corner of Astroria. Most people don’t even know it exists. If you drive down the main road, there is a bunch nice, big, brick houses and if you keep going down the road those big nice houses fade into the dilapidated, sketchy houses I know well.
I run towards the house, ignoring the searing pain shooting up from my ankle. When I get to the house, which is in desperate need of a little TLC, there is my drunk mess of an aunt, standing on the front porch, empty whiskey bottle in her hand, yelling incoherently.
“Aunt Mazy! What the hell is going on?” I yell at her.
Either she doesn’t hear me or she is just ignoring me. I don’t really know why, but she never really liked me. Not that I really care, but since my father was murdered and my mother went to prison for grand theft, she became my only living relative. It would be nice to have a family member who actually isn’t dead or cares about me. But that’s asking for too much, isn’t it?
I give up trying to get her attention. I march, well, really limp, up the front steps and rip the bottle out of her white-knuckled fingers.
That gets her attention.
“What the hell was that for?” She says, getting all up in my face.
“What the hell was that screaming fit for?” I reply evenly, not backing down.
“The **** cat tore up the couch again,” she snarls grabbing the bottle back out of my hand and chucking it into the street. It shatters into thousands of pieces on contact with the asphalt road.
We don’t have a cat. Either my aunt is very drunk and delusional, or that she tore up the couch herself for who knows why and then decided to get wasted.
“Ok Aunt Mazy, let’s go inside and you can continue your screaming fit there if you wish.”
On entry to the living room, I discover that it was Aunt Mazy who tore up the couch. I can’t repress a sigh. Now I have to find the money to replace it.
I watch as my aunt plops down on the ripped up couch- but not before going to the kitchen and grabbing another bottle of whiskey-and turns on the TV to CNN. I turn around and start up the stairs to my room. I almost have a heart attack when I hear the newscaster say my alter ego’s name. I turn around and watch from the stairs, curious as to what they are saying about me.
“The Shade Assassin strikes again!” The newscaster says, “This afternoon an elderly woman was on her daily walk that takes her through the back alleys of downtown Astroria when she spotted a door slightly open. The woman claims that she looked inside the door to find a dead body, whom the police are trying to identify as we speak. She says she was calling the police to report it when she saw something a few feet away from her. Upon closer examination, she realized that it was a blood-stained rag with the initials S.A.stitched into the bottom right corner.”
Shoot*! I check my boots, which I had never taken off this morning, and find the dagger there, but the rag I wiped it on missing. Well, at least I still had my gloves on when I wiped the dagger off. They won’t get anything from that rag, just another murder to add to my case file.
I tear my eyes away from the television and resume my trek up the stairs, on one leg, which is much harder than on two. When I get to my room, I shut the door behind me, throw my satchel and backpack down, and lay down on my bed looking up at the peeling ceiling.
My room isn’t anything special, the walls are painted my favorite color, silver. My bed is ******, old, dusty, and unbelievably hard, covered by black sheets and a white to black ombré duvet. On the right wall, there is an empty shelf and a wooden desk with an old swivel chair at it. There is a closet full of stolen and bought clothes on the other wall. The only decorations in my room are the two pictures on my desk-one of me and my parents before everything fell apart, and one of me and Selene last summer at the beach-and the antique wire moon hanging above my bed that I found on the side of the road a couple years ago.
I get up from my bed and put my backpack on the shelf. I then grab my satchel and dump the contents out on my bed. My Shade Assassin outfit falls out along with my mask, gloves and the brown package. My villain outfit is just a plain black, form-fitting V-neck shirt with small plastic jewels on the neckline and edge of the long sleeves paired with black ivivva leggings with jewels running down the outer edge. I had fought with Selene over the jewels, but she eventually won that argument.
“If you’re going to be a big-time villain, can you at least do it in style?” She had said. How could I argue with that?
The mask is the best part of the outfit. It’s stark black and goes around my eyes and up into two points on either side, kind of like cat ears. Thank God there weren’t any security cameras around this morning because I had completely forgotten to wear it. I really need to be more cautious. I am getting reckless, and that’s going to be my downfall if I’m not careful.
My phone rings in my pocket, jolting me out of my own head. It’s Selene calling. I guess that means she’s wrapped her head around her best friend murdering someone. I answer and put Selene on speakerphone while I hide the package and my Shade Assassin outfit.
“Hey, Selene! What’s up?” I say brightly.
“You will not believe what I just found out!” She squeals.
I’m scared to find out.
“What did you do this time?” I tease.
“It’s not what I did, it’s what I heard Nix. Now are you going to let me tell you or what?”
“Go ahead,” I sigh, bracing myself.
“ATLAS LIKES YOU!!!!” She screams.
“I’m sorry what?”
“You heard me girl! You know Brady Star, Atlas’ wingman? Well I saw him at the gym so I started chatting and, I’ll admit it, flirting with him and I just casually brought up Atlas. Brady told me that he’s liked you since the beginning of the year. That’s 3 months Nix! He said that he waited to say anything to you because when it comes to girls he likes, Atlas is a nervous wreck. Can you believe this!”
I think I’m going into shock. I literally can’t move anything.
“Hellooooo? Earth to Nixie? Are you going to say something? The King of Astroria High has a crush on you! You are like, the luckiest girl in the world!”
“Oh my God,” I whisper, absolutely shocked. My mind is already racing, thinking of all the ways that this could go, and none of them are remotely good. All my instincts are screaming at me, “DANGER!”
“I can not believe this. Atlas Rivero likes you and all you say is ‘Oh My God’? What’s wrong? Are you lesbian?”
“No Lean,” I sigh, “I’m not lesbian. I just…I don’t know. This complicates things.”
“Why? Do you like him back? Come on Nix, help me out here.”
“No I don’t like him Selene. Look I have to go, Aunt Mazy’s going crazy downstairs, I think I just heard something break,” I lie, desperate to end this conversation
“Oh yikes! Ok, that’s fine. See you tomorrow!” Selene says, disappointment woven through her forced cheery tone.
*****, is my main thought as I flop facedown on my bed. She’s probably really jealous and upset right now beneath the smile and cheery voice. That’s kind of Selene’s thing. She bottles up her real emotions and replaces them with a smile. After all, she did join the “I Love Atlas Rivero” cult. Not that I can blame her, Atlas is hot, I’m not even going to try and deny it. But the fact that he is my enemy is a huge turn-off. Now I feel really bad for lying to Selene, but I’ll make it up to her tomorrow. For now, I have to think.