Crime was at an all-time low, business was booming, public works had been on the rise since the newly appointed Mayor had taken office...And yet, all was not so well for three specific citizens, despite their actions arguably leading to this rise of peace.
The PowerPuff Girls, self-appointed guardians of the city, had seen better days, however.
Hovering in her bathroom, Blossom swiped her hand across her phones touch screen, tracing a 'Z' shape to signify her saved contact and poking at the 'Call' button on the screen.
The ringback hummed in Blossom's ear as she nervously fidgeted with her bangs. It was moments like this when she envied 'normal' kids and their access to things like 'fingers.' Having caught herself envying 'normal' kids, Blossom's mouth curved ever-so-slightly downward as she stared at herself in the bathroom mirror. Her enormous bug-eyes were glazed over in a moment of remorse as her conscience scolded her for daring to feel sorry for herself. She could fly and run as fast as a bullet, lift objects thousands of times her own weight, and melt things with her eyes. She had no reason to pity herself – and yet it seemed to be a recurring trend she could not shake these days.
As she fended off this self-doubt, Blossom pulled open her personal drawer in the bathroom cabinet, retrieved her fine-toothed comb, and began to straighten her bangs with care. The ringback finally ended, and she was treated to her sister's voicemail inbox.
["I'm not at my phone,"] deadpanned the familiar, gravely-edged voice of the recording. ["Or maybe I just don't wanna talk to you. Whatever."]
A robotic voice immediately followed up:["USER'S INBOX IS FULL."][-Beep!-]
Blossom groaned, slapping her stub of a hand against her face as she tilted her head back in frustration.
"What's wrong?" chirped the sweet concern of Blossom's other sister from the hallway.
With a sigh, Blossom regained her posture, setting the phone beside the sink and re-adjusting her bangs with her comb, undoing the damage her face-palm had just caused.
A teenage blond with trailing pigtails floated into the bathroom, hovering behind Blossom. She was in a formal dress of satin blue. Blossom, likewise, was in a matching red dress of the same texture. A green one to complete the set was hanging off of the shower bar to their side, unoccupied.
Blossom ignored her sister's curiosity as she set the comb down, reaching for a brush. She willed it to cling to her stumpy 'hand' and it obeyed, assisting her in straightening her threads of wavy red hair.
"Sis?" Bubbles' cutesy voice prodded, the girl's cheeks flushed with makeup. "Didja find out what's going on with Buttercup?"
"She's not coming," Blossom bitterly concluded with a stingy passive-aggresiveness, continuing to tend to her locks.
Bubbles whimpered, her lips pouted and her shoulders slumping.
"What are we gonna do?" Bubbles sniffled. "Prom is ruined..."
"Argh," Blossom huffed, slapping her brush against the sink's porcelain. "Bubbles," she growled with impatience, spinning around. Her hands were planted against her temples. "For the fourth time...it is not prom!"
"Oh. It's not?"
"No! Prom is not for, like...a month! Seriously! What is wrong with you?"
Bubbles' huge blue eyes withered with hurt at Blossom's words, her mouth agape with shock.
That self-doubt and remorse stung at Blossom's chest again and she bit her lip, letting her hands fall to her side. She knew full-well what was wrong with her sister, and she shouldn't be taking our her frustration on her sibling.
The two teens bobbed in the air gently, their bodies light as feathers but their heads heavy with tension.
"I-I'm sorry," Blossom stammered, giving her sister a sympathetic look. "I didn't mean to yell."
"But you did," Bubbles mumbled with dejection, her head bobbed. "You've been yelling a lot today..."
"I know, I know," Blossom quickly conceded. "It's just...I feel like no one is taking this seriously."
"Taking what seriously?"
"Ohh, my-!" Blossom puffed out a grunt of anguish, her hands wriggling by her face as she struggled to contain herself. "Have you seriously forgotten?"
Bubbles nodded timidly, her eyes conveying her shame as she lifted a hand to her lips.
She muttered with embarrassment, "...Is that bad?"
Blossom went slack-jawed at her sibling's ignorance. This gave way to her teeth grinding together as she hid her awe-stricken rage as best she could, sensitive of her sister's evident condition.
"You're mad," Bubbles concluded dimly, skulking out of the room.
"N-no, wait," Blossom blurted, catching her sister by the shoulder. "Bubbles...This is important."
"And...that's why you're mad?"
Blossom nodded, her heart heavy at her sister's lack of remembrance.
"Bubbles, tonight's the commemoration of the statue."
"Ohhh, statue." Bubble's face lit up with wonder. "Is it of a unicorn?"
"N-no, Bubbles, it-""I love unicorns.""Yes. Yes, I know that, but...No, it-""Is it an octopus?""No, why would-?""Then what is it?""It's a statue of the Professor...Of Dad?""Ohhh...Is he riding a unicorn in it?""Nnn...No, he's not riding a-""Welllll, then, is he riding an octop-""No.""Oh. Seems like a waste to me. So...Is Buttercup gonna be there?"
Blossom sighed, utterly defeated by the apparent futility of this conversation. Bubbles had never been the sharpest tool in the toolbox, but she seemed to have gotten worse and worse ever since the night that had splintered their unnatural family apart.
And here Blossom was, feebly attempting to hold it together when she could hardly hold herself together.
"I hope so," Blossom answered Bubbles' inquiry. "But she won't answer her phone."
"Oh...She's prolly with those boys again."
Blossom's lips squirmed with dissatisfaction at that thought, but it made the most sense.
"Probably," Blossom agreed, a bit surprised at her sister's perception, given her current condition.
"Hmmm..." Bubbles tapped at her chin, surveying the neatly pressed green dress hanging behind them. "Maybe if we show her how pretty her dress is, she'll change her mind."
Blossom's eyes were at this point drained of energy. She patted Bubbles tenderly on the back before floating over to the sink.
"Yea," she lied, complying with Bubbles' misplaced hope. "Maybe she will..."
It was agonizing to endure the applause. It dragged on for so long, too, even as the crowd began to disperse. Should she be happy about it, because it spoke to the quality of character of the figure being applauded? Or should she be aggravated because he wasn't there to accept the praise that was deserved? Or should she be hurt because how could people be clapping and happy and smiling with the way things were? Or should she-"Blossom?"
Blossom's stinging eyes blinked, damp at their corners. She looked up to the curvy figures of the woman dressed in red business attire, her face obscured by Blossom's tears.
"Mayor Bellum?" Blossom courteously acknowledged the woman before her.
"Are you all right, dear?"
"Oh, y-yes, I'm fine," Blossom stated with a shaky nod, her voice cracking.
Bubbles, standing right beside them, opted into the conversation.
"Watch out," Bubbles whispered – loudly. "She's been reeeallly cranky today."
Blossom's quivering expression soured at her sister's statement.
"Ah," Mayor Bellum laughed weakly. "I see. Thank you for the warning, Bubbles."
"Say," Bellum directed to the blond girl. "You sure are looking quite pretty – why don't you go pose with the statue for the photographers?"
"Oooooh, I love pictures!" With that, Bubbles whizzed off in a burst of blue, greeting the journalists who remained, lingering around the statue.
Blossom took that moment to marvel and appreciate the craft put into the piece that she's been avoiding. There he was – just as he'd been not long ago, before the accident had transpired. His thick chin, bright eyes, clean-cut hair...Well, all right, he looked like he had about ten years lopped off his age, but still. It sure looked like a bronze embodiment of the man, dressed in his lab coat, merrily toting a large vial crossed with that enormous 'X' that Blossom had come to feel so conflicted with.
"Ms. Mayor!" a voice called to them from nearby, jarring Blossom from her nostalgia. A stocky journalist in a cheap suit had asked the question, as he was becoming quickly surrounded by news reporters.
Blossom breathed out an audible sigh, to which Ms. Bellum offered a light touch on the shoulder with condolence before approaching the thirsty mob.
"Why couldn't the third PowerPuff Girl make it here today?""What about the Professor? What is his status?""Is she evading the law?"
"Please, please," Mayor Bellum pushed her hands at the air, hoping they would ease up. "I'm sorry, but Professor Utonium is still bed-ridden, and he-"
She was interrupted: "Any word on when he'll be able to return to work?"And another: "Any response to the criticisms leveled at the way you've handled the recent tax situation?"The barrage went on: "Do you really think the Utonium girls are fit to be living on their own?"
Blossom stepped forward, opening her mouth and lifting an agitated arm.
"Hey!" she squawked with indignation. "I'm standing right-!" But Ms. Bellum eased her to stop, speaking up instead.
"As I understand it," Bellum explained cautiously, "Utonium is still under heavy care. There is no indication of when he will improve. And I stand by my decision. We should remember that the girls aren't normal children." Blossom's body tightened with indecision at Bellum's phrasing. The woman finished her thought. "As such, our traditional laws need not apply to them in exactly the same man-""So you're saying that they're above the law?" quipped one journalist.
"That is not what I'm saying," Bellum firmly replied.
"Then what are your thoughts on the impending trial of Buttercup Utonium?"
Blossom's heart sank at the reminder of that mess, and she was further distraught at the manner in which even the sturdy Ms. Bellum was slightly shaken by the question.
"Buttercup...was unable to attend the ceremony today, but it is completely unrelated, and it will be up the courts to decide her fate."
"Should she be found guilty," the same reporter dug further, "how do you expect she would be detained?""Will the Chemical X be removed from her body?"
"How would such a decision impact the safety of Townsville?"
"Do you feel any personal responsibility for these girls?""What was your relationship with the Professor?"
"I have no further comments for today," Mayor Bellum loudly announced her disinterest in continuing to publicly discuss these affairs. She proceeded to backpedal away from the crowd, her assistants and bodyguard holding the press at bay as Blossom followed. Blossom couldn't help but admire the way the woman's long strides maintained grace and strength. As much as she had come to care for the old Mayor of Townsville, Blossom couldn't deny the objectively safer town they had come to live in since Bellum had taken over in light of the man's retirement.
"I'm sorry you had to hear all of that, dear," Bellum said to Blossom as they made their way toward the statue.
"It's OK," Blossom tried to appease her, suddenly distracted by the site unfurling before them.
Bubbles was gleefully posing in her satin dress by, on, and around the statue as photographers snapped their cameras. The girl was evidently ignorant of the emotional weight the chiseled hunk of bronze carried. Blossom found herself a bit uncomfortable with some of said poses, given that the girls themselves were still but sixteen. With how much trouble Bubbles and Buttercup seemed to be getting themselves into trouble these days, Blossom's insides squirmed at the thought of what awaited, especially without their father there to anchor them. Her grip had barely held for a few months before Buttercup flew off the handle. She could feel Bubbles slipping away more and more each day, but in such a different manner.
Something about the particular ways in which Bubbles was prancing about reminded Blossom of something...No, of someone. Oh, no. No, no. That was it – those moves, it made Blossom think of...HIM.
Bellum gave pause in the same manner Blossom did, the two of them gawking at the blue-laden Powerpuff Girl.
"I didn't realize how serious you were," Bellum thoughtfully lamented.
"Huh?" Blossom was stunned, still trying to process her realization of just how deep-seated Bubbles' issues were.
"Your sister, she's...really slipped backward a ways, hasn't she?"
"Oh..." Blossom nodded her spherical head with melancholy. "It's like-...I think she's repressing it even more now."
"I think you may be right," Bellum agreed. "Those pills aren't working?"
Blossom dully shook her head.
"No. Nothing. I mean, our bodies aren't exactly...normal, so I guess it's not a surprise, but...-"
"You weren't able to figure out a cure from who did this, were you?"
"Mm-hm," Blossom shook her head, her mouth curving with a barely contained rage. "Buttercup made sure we didn't get the opportunity."
"Ah, right..." Bellum gave pause, acknowledging the sensitive subject she was stirring. "Whatever happened to counseling?"
Blossom shrugged, discouraged by another reminder of failure.
"She wouldn't go back after the first time. I mean, what am I supposed to do? She refuses to go on her own, and I can't make her, she's-..." And there was that uncomfortable sensation of her eyes growing wet again. "We're super-powered freaks, Ms. Bellum, I'm afraid that-""Blossom...""I'm afraid that if I try to make her go again, she'll get upset, and someone will get hurt, like last time."
"Blossom, she is hurting – right now."
"We all are!" Blossom whimpered in defeat, tossing up her arms.
Wide-eyed and trembling, Blossom plodded forward a couple of steps. She looked over her shoulder to the independent woman she had come to admire.
"And I don't know what to do," Blossom confessed weakly. "Each day, it's like...-" She shook her head and let it sag down with hopeless anxiety. "My whole family - I'm losing each of them more and more. It's just a matter of time until...-"
Blossom closed her eyelids, keeping her tears withheld. Bellum's tall form squatted down to offer Blossom a brief hug before the flashes of camera and squabbling of reporters drew closer, destroying this short-lived moment of reprieve Blossom had so desperately needed.
"Mayor," cited the deep voice of Bellum's head bodyguard. "We'd best get you back to Town Hall. We're already behind schedule."
Bellum pressed down on Blossom's small but durable shoulders, leaning herself back upright.
"I have to go," she stated the obvious to the red-haired super-teen. It was less about informing Blossom and more about expressing her regret. "If anything comes up – anything at all – you know how to reach me. That phone works both ways."
"Thank you," Blossom earnestly expressed.
"Don't let those piranhas get you," Bellum warned as she backed off, pointing her finger to the crowd of cameras and notepads. "Take your sister and try to go home and relax."
Blossom nodded compliantly, taking a deep breath as she looked up to the bold woman in red, whisking away with her small entourage of assistants. Bellum was escorted into a nearby black limo and driven off the premises. Blossom gave a tired glance to Bubbles, who was giggling like a clown. In one swift hop, Blossom was immediately floating beside the blond girl, perched atop the statue's shoulders.
"All right, Bubbles," Blossom sighed. "Come on."
"But I'm having fun~!" Bubbles squealed, flipping up over the bronze Professor's head in a smooth cartwheel-like motion. She landed primly on the opposite shoulder, stretching out one leg and arm in a graceful pose.
"Bubbles," Blossom firmly repeated through grit teeth. "Please." A moment or so later, when she realized that she wasn't being listened to, Blossom frowned, bellowing at the batch of on-lookers below. "Hey! Show's over!"
Bubbles dropped her theatric pose in light of her sister's shouting.
"You don't have to yell," Bubbles snipped with dainty annoyance.
"I feel like I do when you won't listen," Blossom cited.
"Why do I gotta keep listening to you, then?"
"Wh-?! Because, I'm the leader!"
"We're not a team anymore," Bubbles spitefully snarled. "You can't have a leader if you don't got a team."
"Fff-!" Blossom thrust her knubs for hands onto her hips. The wary collective of on-goers had her a little nervous, but her frustration today was preventing her from caring all too much. "Well, we have school tomorrow, and I know for a fact that you haven't done your homework yet."
"I bet Buttercup hasn't, either," Bubbles taunted. "Whatcha gonna do, go hunt her down and make her do her homework?"
"M-maybe I will!" Blossom half-heartedly countered. "School is super important. You know that."
"I'll do my schoolwork when I feel like it," Bubbles growled, floating right up to Blossom with crossed arms.
"Fine!" Blossom spat. "Can we at least go home now?"
"You can go home if you want to," Bubbles declared. "I've been stuck in the house all week with you, and you've been bossy and pushy and I am sick of it. I get a night out."
"B-but...you can't!" Blossom denied, clinging to control in a feeble attempt.
"I can," Bubbles declared, poking at Blossom's chest. "I can do whatever I want, and you can't tell me what to do."
In a streak of neon blue, Bubbles was gone, whizzing off toward who-knew-where. Blossom was left dumbfounded, slack-jawed, and humiliated in front of the passers-by.
"Urgh!" she huffed in rage, swinging her fist at the nearest object available. This object happened to be the extended arm of the statue, and a severed stone hand holding a chiseled vial of Chemical X collided with the nearby sidewalk, cracking the cement in pieces. "Oh-my-gosh!" Blossom immediately gasped, distraught at her own mistake. "I'm so sorry, Professor," she rapidly whimpered to the inanimate object.
The camera snaps picked back up, and Blossom could feel her face burning red as she fumbled with the broken statue piece, lifting it back into place with the forces that latched her appendages to what she willed to pick up. She focused her sight and used her heat vision to fuse the broken arm together with its owner.
"Ahhh, haha," she shakily laughed, gently patting the slightly warped stone and waving her other hand to the small audience. "See? Good as new! Um, th-thank you everyone for...for coming today, and...it's been good! Everything is good! Good? Good! Uhh...Good-night!"
With a flash of her own, Blossom jettisoned her body away from the congregation, her chest full to bursting with anxiety. Within seconds, she was tucked within the safety of her home – alone. Drained of all willpower, Blossom shoved off her shoes onto the carpet of her shared bedroom, staring at the three beds against wall. Green, red, and blue – side-by-side, each one unmanaged, the sheets in clumps because Blossom had given up caring to tidy any of them up that day.
Blossom's bed, in the center, still had last night's reading material and a laptop sprawled across its surface, half buried in sheets. Bubbles' bed, on the left, had a small sea of stuffed animals, with a large stuffed octopus serving as the pillow. Buttercup's bed, on the right, had been untouched for days, a small stack of green, neatly folded sheets resting on the bare mattress from when Blossom had last washed them.
Blossom lingered over Buttercup's bed, running her hand across the green comforter with some longing.
I am a good sister. I am a good sister.
The weakly constructed dam of self-esteem she'd employed for the day gave way, a flooded river of insecurity barreling over the buildings of her brain. Blossom pushed aside her book and computer and threw her body into the middle mattress, filling her pillow with the tears she had been hiding all week.