Of Thorns and Lightning

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Untitled chapter

Overexposure

“It wouldn’t be long before she started talking about teamwork.”

♦️

Maize woke up when her alarm rang on a bright Thursday morning, because the last thing she wanted to do was keep Dike waiting. She realized she was thinking like Meaghan, but she didn’t care. She had a training session, and Maize knew that Dike was not the type of god who liked lateness. Still tired, she rolled out of bed and put her hair in a high ponytail before pulling her training clothes on and brushing her teeth before she gathered her things and headed out the door. Dike was certainly old-fashioned and meticulous about his ritual, and that was mostly exemplified by his early-morning training sessions. He woke up at the crack of dawn to start her day, and he did more in the first few hours of his day than any normal person would ever hope to achieve in that same time frame. Maize was not one of those people.

She sauntered into the elevator and found the button for her floor after some haphazard searching. As the elevator doors closed she rested her head on the wall of the elevator and let her eyes close as she searched for another moment of precious sleep. Every day it felt like she was becoming more and more like a God, but it seemed to be taking a lot out of her.

The elevator came to a stop and dinged at her floor, opening up the doors to reveal the gym on the top floor of the building. She stepped off the elevator and scanned the room to find Angelina and Talia already in the gym, doing their own training routine. She looked across the gym to see if Dike was already there, waiting for her. He was, but Talia was standing in between her and Dike. She thought that if she didn’t engage Talia then things would be fine, but she still had her hesitations. She didn’t have such a heavy gut feeling that something bad was going to happen, and the lack of a spontaneous nosebleed backed her up, but she was still a little weary.

As she walked forward confidently with her chin up, trying to send the vibe that Talia wasn’t getting to her today, she was stopped by the one and only. Maize learned that it didn’t matter if she did or didn’t engage Talia, she was going to find something to pick on her about. Maize decided that whatever she said, she wouldn’t let it get to her like some of the other things did. Talia spoke, stopping her workout to hold up Maize.

“Who are you- Kim Possible?!” Talia asked, eyeing up her outfit and looking at her judgmentally.

Maize looked down at her black sports bra and skinny army green cargo leggings, her UFC-style fighting gloves to top it off. She did look like the red-headed cartoon character, Talia was right about that.

“Well, that’s funny.” Maize said in response, seeing the comparison. “I just have a hand-to-hand combat session with Dike.”

“Whatever, I didn’t ask.” Talia said, going back to her workout. Maize was glad their interaction was brief and minimally hurtful. Maize continued her journey over to the mats where Dike was waiting for her.

“Good morning, Maize! Are you ready?” He asked brightly.

“Dike, I’m not even awake yet. I’d like to say I’m ready, but honestly, I’m not.”

“Well, let’s get your blood flowing and let’s wake you up. That’s an easy fix. 100 jumping jacks!”

“What, really?!” She asked.

“Maize, this is the warmup!” He said, leading off the exercises and doing them with her. After they had finished a series of cardio exercises, he continued to warm her up with some stretches since he had already gotten her heart rate up. They then headed over to the side where she set up the music for the main part of their workout.

“Dike, no. I love you, but I can’t work out to Frank Sinatra. Here, let me.” She said, pulling up a playlist on her phone and played the music from her playlist, the volume almost all the way up. The hip hop came over the stereo and Dike was obviously far out of his era.

“Think of this as a compromise! I work out with you at the time you set, and you listen to my choice of music. I think that’s a fair trade off, don’t you think?” She asked, Dike knowing she was right.

Dike couldn’t really teach her over the music that was shaking the floor. Maize was bouncing on her heels, ready to start, so Dike rolled his eyes and gave in. This wasn’t her style, but he just began throwing light punches that she easily blocked. He knew what he was up against; Maize trained with a UFC champion and an MMA fighter as cross-training for swimming before she was ever a goddess in training. She was strong and agile, and Dike upped the intensity since Maize obviously knew how to throw a punch and block one.

After about twenty minutes, Dike tapped out. In that short period of time, she had swept him onto the ground, causing him to lose his balance and fall. He pulled her down as well, giving him a chance to get up and recover. As she was getting up, she quickly found Dike’s center of balance and strategically placed her arms around him and flipped him right over her shoulders and back.

“You know, I think that’s enough for today.” Dike surrendered, picking himself up off the floor. Talia observed all of this and walked over to them. Because of the music noise, William and Menoetius came up to investigate and complain and witnessed the session with her and Dike, so the pair had drawn an audience. Maize agreed, and she turned down the music. She took a long drink out of her water bottle, resting before she was approached by Talia.

“Maize, why don’t you and I do a little bit of sparring?” Talia proposed after arrogantly walking over to her. Maize read the situation and understood Talia’s motives, making her feel more than threatened, but she took her on anyway.

Talia was a much different opponent than Dike. Her style was what she had trained with previously, which was advantageous for Maize, but Talia didn’t hold back. Maize ducked out of one of her punches, getting worried at Talia’s skill versus her own. Maize went for a similar move to what she did to Dike by flipping Talia over, but Talia had prepared for just that. Talia grabbed her and flipped her onto the mat, dropping her from in the air and delivering a swift kick right to her kidney before she hit the ground. For a few moments, numbness and pain shot through her body and incapacitated her, rendering her unable to breathe.

“Yeah, a real high-quality Kim Possible you’ve got here.” Talia remarked as she walked away.

Maize was recovering as William, Dike and Menoetius all walked over to her.

“Maize, I think you’re done for the day.” William suggested.

“No, I’ll let you know when I’m done, please don’t try and tell me what my limits are. But in this case, I’m done,” she gasped. “I think I’m done for now.” They all agreed.

Maize refused help and picked herself up off the floor all by herself. She waited until the pain and numbness was gone and she slowly worked her way up to standing. She drank the rest of her water and was a little shaken up, but still wanted to do a little more training on her own. She reassured William and Menoetius that she was fine, and they hesitantly let her go, and Maize watched them leave as she was walking over to the gymnastics equipment. Angelina was on the beam, doing a beautiful routine that Maize had to stop for a minute and admire from a distance.

She seemed to be practicing a difficult backwards maneuver, and as Maize walked close to her she lost her focus and balance, her feet slipping off the beam and her body taking a hard fall into the mat. She groaned in frustration and a little bit of anger as she got up and faced Maize, to scold her.

“YOU! You made me fuck up my back handspring and back layout! God, I almost had it, but you ruined it for me!” She yelled. Maize was taken aback.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to distract you!” She apologized.

“And I couldn’t get anything done because of your loud music over there! I’ve been coming to the gym every day at the same time in the morning and I’ve never had a problem, but the day you come in I can’t even get a workout in!”

“I get it! God, I’m sorry! I had a scheduled training session and you can’t expect to have the gym all to yourself all the time! Next time I won’t have the music so loud so you can focus better.” Maize said, getting heated but bringing herself back to propose a compromise. “I have just as much right to be here as you do.”

“Fine, okay!”

“Okay.” Maize responded calmly.

“Yeah, whatever. I’m leaving.” She announced, dusting the chalk off of her hands and side-eyeing Maize as she left. Soon, Maize was all alone in the gym, and it struck her that she never had a conversation with Angelina before, but it was obvious she didn’t like her. Maize was getting that vibe from some of the other trainees, and she wondered what she could possibly be doing or saying that was wrong or so off-putting. Moments like those made her feel like maybe her life would have been better if this wasn’t who she was meant to be. The more she felt unaccepted by the others, the more she desperately longed for a different fate. And her feelings would only be accentuated more when she was humiliated by Talia later that day.

Maize spent the afternoon alone in her room doing her school work and trying not to think about the negativity she had been experiencing. She felt like she couldn’t even talk to Meaghan, since she was on cloud nine, living her best life with Dike around. She felt like her best friend was just a touch disconnected from Maize’s issues and wouldn’t understand them like she had before. So, she suffered in silence until dinnertime.

Once a week, they all sat down and had dinner together at the enormous dining room table that was the size of an entire room and accommodated every resident in the Gods Compound, including spaces for guests. Still feeling down, Maize walked quietly into the room. The last thing she wanted to do was make her presence known, but she knew of one person who would always find her out. She couldn’t hide from Talia, and that was one of the few things she truly dreaded.

Maize found her spot at the long table next to Jordie, Meaghan and Peter a few spots down the table on the other side. Maize served herself in peace, not joining one of the few lively conversations happening at different points at the table. As much as she strived and longed to be eating by herself, she still joined her compatriots since it was the right thing to do. Though she knew an attack from Talia would happen at any moment, and the time leading up to it was spent in tense anticipation for the worst. Then it happened and Maize didn’t know what to do.

“Hey Maize!” Talia said, her tone mischievous. She had an ulterior motive and Maize knew it.

“Yes, Talia?” Maize responded, her throat tightening up.

“I heard that earlier today you got your ass kicked, then you went ahead and caused my friend Angelina here to take a nasty fall off the beam, how about that?”

“It was an accident, I already said I was sorry.”

“Yeah, but here’s the thing; it seems like you don’t have much respect for others, if you’re distracting them and causing them to injure themselves.”

“Talia, that’s not-” Maize tried to defend, but it was useless. Everyone was already looking at them, and Talia knew exactly what to say to attack Maize where she knew it hurt.

“Didn’t your dad teach you anything before he left you? Or did he just give up on you entirely, didn’t even bother?” Talia asked at the dinner table. Everyone then stopped in their places. Maize went as white as a ghost, dropping her fork in surprise. Everyone was now looking at her and she quickly excused herself from the table, removing herself from the situation. She didn’t know how to respond. She didn’t like the way it felt to be completely vulnerable; Talia had revealed a piece of her life Maize wasn’t aware Talia knew about. She had been completely exposed, and Talia had gone way too far. She had toed the line before, but it was definitively crossed now. And Maize didn’t know what to do.

She ran out of the dining room and into the hallway, unable to decide where to turn next. But she had to decide. She was looking out for herself now.

She realized that the more she faced adversity, the more one part of her wanted to be strong and be like the Thor she’s supposed to be, but the other part of her wanted to scream the injustices out and let everyone know just how badly she was struggling. But it wasn’t about her anymore. She knew that she was having a rough time really, truly acclimating with the group, and one thought became increasingly clear to her as she sat in silence.

Fuck teamwork. It was quickly becoming every man for themselves. And with the group of so-called Gods-to-be, that would the kiss of death for them all, especially with their initiation night coming up. They would have to be a governing body together, a council of gods. Maize couldn’t envision that ever happening. Her mind was swimming with self-doubt. Was she even strong enough?

The answers she would get to her questions would only be known after the ceremony.

After she was immortal, and there was no going back.

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