Of Thorns and Lightning

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Harlem Hijinks

“One part of her wanted to be strong like Thor, but the other part of her wanted to scream it out and show just how much she was struggling.”

♦️

Maize watched the sun set through the trees of the dense forest via the large windows in her bedroom. She eventually laid down on her bed, one arm behind her head while the other covered her eyes, the shadows cast from the woods creating silhouettes on the walls and floor that grew and eventually disappeared into darkness. Time seemed to float by, and she thought that she was feeling a little better after her period of isolation, but she was rudely reminded of her humiliation when she heard a familiar voice in the hallway. Down towards the elevators she heard Talia’s immediately recognizable voice, with William’s voice to follow suit. They were arguing as they entered into William’s office, and the voices faded. She no longer could hear them speak, as the walls were an incredible sound barrier between them and her. It hurt so badly, and she didn’t know what to do. When she got the courage to leave the room and escape her isolation, were the people she called friends going to defend her? Were they going to be there for her?

That was a worry that quickly dispersed itself, because both Peter and Meaghan eventually found her. She was startled at the knock on the door and the jostle at the handle, accompanied by their soft but concerned voices. She was startled at their presence at first, assuming it was either William or Talia, neither of whom she wanted to see. She was pleasantly surprised at her friends’ presence, but didn’t know what she could possibly say to them, or what they would say to her.

“Maize, are you in here? Can you let us in?” Peter asked through the door. Maize thought out her response.

“Why do you want to come in?”

“To check on you! We’re worried.” Meaghan answered.

“Well, I’m fine. I’m feeling really betrayed and vulnerable, so I think I need to be alone.” She spoke.

“We just want to help, okay? Please let us in.” Peter asked, trying to convince her. Maize couldn’t seem to pull herself off the floor, so she muttered a command to Jason to unlock the door for her friends. The two of them walked in slowly, closing the door behind them.

“Can we sit, hunny?” Meaghan asked.

“You’re going to even if I say no.” Maize spoke. The two of them lowered to the ground to be with Maize.

“Yeah. But we just want to let you know that we’re here for you, babe. We’re on your side, we have your back.” Meaghan reassured, though Maize felt differently.

“But you’ve both been so distant. Peter, you won’t even talk to me. Meaghan, you’re so smitten with Dike I feel like I’m being pushed to the furthest back burner possible. I feel like I’m losing you two; my two best friends. And no one here likes me, that much is obvious. I just don’t know how much more of this I can take.”

“I’m sorry I’m being a bad friend. I know how distant I’ve been, and I wanted to say I’m sorry for that, Maize. I miss the three of us hanging out together after school, and I miss all those fun times we had together, honestly. This is just such a big thing, you know? It’s pushing us apart when we need to be a team the most.” Peter explained.

“Yeah, I agree. It’s not just you that’s having a hard time assimilating with the group, Maize. I’ve seen that none of us are working together, and it’s starting to hurt all of us. And I want to try and fix it, starting with the three of us.”

“Well, I’m not feeling very chummy right now, in case you haven’t noticed. I’m just feeling so shot down by all of this. I don’t feel very much like an ultra-powerful god.”

“Okay. Just tell us what you need, and we’ll help you.” Meaghan offered.

“I think I just need to get a good night’s sleep, guys. I’ve gotten my distance, I’ve worked it through. I’m not so shocked by Talia’s words anymore. I’ve stopped thinking about my dad. I’m going to go back to my room, take a long shower and get into bed, and I’ll try not to remember all the times where things were better.” Maize responded. “Then, maybe the three of us can hang out again.”

“Hey, when you’re ready, why don’t we go back to our old stomping grounds! Let’s go back to all our favorite places in Queens and then hit up that club in Harlem where we used to occasionally party.” Peter suggested, bright-eyed. “I know how much you miss how things were, and I’m not sure if it’ll make it better or worse going back and seeing our old home, but I think we all need to get back to our roots. What do you think?”

“Peter, that sounds like a great idea.” Meaghan said, and Maize agreed with a nod.

“Come on, Maize. Let’s get you to bed.”

The three of them stood up and exited the room, stepping out in the hallway at the exact same time as William and Talia. Talia breezed her way in a fury to the elevator, whose doors closed swiftly and left the four of them in the hallway together. William turned to the three of them, his eyes tired, face forlorn and his hands stuffed in his pockets. The three kids didn’t look much better, and there was a moment of silence between them before William found the right words he wanted to say to them. Maize didn’t want to hear it.

“William, please save it. I’m done, okay?” She said simply, but her message was painfully clear. He understood and nodded, respecting Maize’s wishes. Though, he still didn’t want to go into his office; he still felt like there was some sort of requirement he had to fulfill before leaving. He just couldn’t figure out what it was.

Peter reached out and pressed the down button for the elevator, and they waited for it to return to their floor. Maize felt so dejected that there was nothing she could think of that she would even want William to say. She didn’t know what she needed to hear from him, or from anybody. She didn’t feel like she needed an apology. Closure wasn’t what she needed. She just wished that some of her key life events had gone differently; her dad wasn’t so mean and cold to her, changing her childhood. She didn’t need a different life; she knew that this was her only one and there was no possible way to run from it, but she just wished things had been different. She knew that no one could ever give that to her. There was not one single person that could change the events of the past, or make up for then in any way. She didn’t expect that of William, Meaghan, Peter, Thor... whoever. She just wished it was different. She longed for a change in her life that wouldn’t leave her broken and scarred. She wished that maybe, just once, she could finally be treated better by life than it had been.

The elevator dinged and the doors opened, the three kids stepping on. Meaghan and Peter escorted Maize to her room and gently checked that she was alright and if there was anything they could do for her. She was alright, but declined any further help from them. They closed her bedroom door and made their way to their own respective rooms to settle in as well.

Maize did exactly what she said she was going to do. She took a long, cleansing shower that relaxed her and made her ready for bed, and she cozied up among her pillows and blankets. She felt better, but she still couldn’t resist the urge to reach under her bed and pull out her cigar box that was filled to the brim with memories she scribbled on pieces of paper, movie ticket stubs, concert admission wristbands and old Polaroid pictures of her, Peter and Meaghan. Each picture had a date and a location on it, bringing her back to all those places she had gone. They walked on top of the baseball dugouts at ten at night, they balanced and swung on playground equipment. They had picnics, went to the lake in the summer and watched the stars, and Maize was reminded of the times where things weren’t so bad. She dwelled within her happy memories; they took her to a safe place in her mind where she couldn’t think of anything that did her harm. She felt nostalgic, as anyone would feel, but it provided her with a temporary sense of security and that’s all she ended up needing. Maize fell asleep peacefully.

The next morning, Maize woke up feeling almost like a different person. She had completely left the previous day in the past, completely behind her, and she felt refreshed. She sat with Peter and Meaghan at a round table for breakfast, Maize munching on an orange and some Greek yogurt. They sensed that Maize was alright, and were delightfully pleased that she was. They had individually prepared for all different types of situations when they saw her that morning, but they had encountered the best-case scenario.

“Hey! Aren’t you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning.”? Peter greeted, getting a smile out of Maize.

“Yeah, I guess so. I was looking at old pictures of us last night, and it put me in a good mood. It made up for yesterday. It reminded me of all the good, and that we’re friends above all things.” Maize responded.

“I haven’t seen those pictures in forever! We’ll have to look back and go to all those places again! I’m free this weekend, how about you guys?” Meaghan asked.

“It’s not like I’m going to another planet, Meaghan. I’m free.” Maize responded, taking a bite out of her fruit.

“Peter?”

“I’m down, I don’t have any special Spider plans.”

“Then it’s set! We can go to that club in Harlem-” Meaghan began before they ran into trouble. Ariel, the new Diana, was passing by their table at that instant.

“Hey guys! Did I hear something about going to a club, because if so I’m so down! When and where?” She asked. Maize tried to respond before getting interrupted again.

“Well actually, it’s just going to be me and-”

Angelina came up to their table, and she seemed to have completely forgotten about the gym incident the day before.

“I heard something about a party! I’m in, when are we all going? I think it’ll be fun if we all go clubbing together!”

“This was kind of just between us-” Meaghan tried to stress, but it seemed like no use. Angelina called over her shoulder for Talia.

“Hey Tal! We’re going clubbing together, you in?”

“Yeah, why not? I need a break from being here all day, every day.”

Maize let her head drop to the table, rattling the silverware. What started out being three friends emotionally reconnecting with each other for a weekend ended up being an entire mini-Gods outing. That was the last thing the three of them wanted, considering Maize’s complicated history between her and all of them.

“Well, I guess we should invite the rest and then all go out this weekend! We’re going to have so much fun!” Ariel exclaimed. Maize halfheartedly tried to agree, since she knew that it would be the exact opposite.

Saturday afternoon, Meaghan and Maize were getting ready together, but Maize was having second thoughts.

“I really wanted this to be just us, you know? And I want to go to be with you and Peter, so I don’t want to back out of this, and I’d be the only one not going. But it defeats the point of having a weekend to ourselves, just us three again.”

“We can always have another weekend. We will plan it in secret, so nobody knows. I know you don’t want us to have another one because today was just supposed to be us, but it turned into something much different and more complicated, so we should let this one be and try again.” Meaghan spoke as she did her hair, which motivated Maize to get on her dress and get ready.

“You’re right. I hate to agree with Talia, but I too need to get out of this place for a little bit. Even though I’m not avoiding her, we won’t have to see each other all night.” Maize rationalized as she slipped on her red dress with a subtle gold zipper down the front and her Steve Madden Gonzo heels. She had put her hair in braids earlier that day and she took them out to leave her hair in gorgeous waves. She did some makeup to accompany her look, and it wasn’t long before they were both ready to hit the town.

The rest of their crew had congregated in the first floor living room that was located by the main entrance to the compound. Meaghan wore a navy blue minidress that looked like it was two pieces, but there was a sheer section around her waist that connected the top to the skirt. There were sheer sections of the dress around her shoulders, which made the lace detailing stand out even more. Maize and Meaghan were completely confident in their outfits, ready to paint the town red. Though their company wasn’t ideal, the three of them still got to spend some time together as they rode in Maize’s old Saab hatchback into Harlem. The rest of them carpooled in a Jeep Compass and they all gathered together at the club.

Maize, Meaghan and Peter arrived first and reserved their places in the line to get into the club. When the others arrived, they pushed their way to meet the three because they were further up, which made all of the other people waiting very upset. Maize knew that this was just one inconvenience, but it would start a domino effect that would set the tone for the rest of the night. It continued with Ariel, Talia, Angelina and Jordie all meeting people in line they clicked with and were heavily flirting with. Maize got a sinking feeling in her stomach seeing Jordie flirt with another girl, because out of everyone she didn’t know, he was the nicest to her and they seemed to have a touch of chemistry. Little did Maize know, Peter picked up on this but looked away, he didn’t want to get caught in the middle of a love triangle. He didn’t want to let Maize in on his thoughts; he himself didn’t want to face them.

When the group got to the front of the line, the three girls and Jordie pushed ahead to gain admittance with their new, albeit temporary interests. The bouncer then let two more people in that happened to be Peter and Meaghan, though they tried to protest in the few transitional seconds between the bouncer and the door.

“No, wait, we’re a group, the three of us!” Peter protested, though he was getting quickly pushed towards the other Gods who just crossed through the doorway.

“It’s just one more person, let her in too!” Meaghan objected.

“If you’re all a group, the three of you can go to the back of the line! No, don’t want to? Then you two go!” The bouncer threatened, making sure Meaghan and Peter got through the doors. Maize was upset, but the night continued to take a fast turn downhill.

“Wait!! You’re all just going to leave me?!” Maize called to the group, letting it sink in.

“Yeah, sorry Maize. Too bad! I’m sure you’ll get in eventually!” Angelina taunted from inside the door of the club. They laughed. Maize already felt as if her night was ruined; it was supposed to be her, Meaghan and Peter, but it took an unexpected turn that left her behind in the dust. What was intended to cheer her up just brought her back down again. Then the rain started to pour on her and all of the other people waiting outside the club. The clouds were threatening and heavy, just one more bad omen to top off the shit sundae.

It was a while before Maize finally made it into the club, though she was relieved that she made it in at all. The dim hallways and neon lights greeted her as she ascended the stairs to the main club where there was extremely loud trap music playing, and she couldn’t see her friends anywhere. The mysterious stains on the flooring and the unidentifiable smells greeted her; the club was just like she remembered it. But now, she would have a bad memory attached to it.

Eventually she ran into Peter and Meaghan, and they were pleased to see her, but Peter was already tipsy. Meaghan didn’t drink and didn’t ever plan on it, but she was still having a good time. The two were grateful over anything to finally have found Maize.

“Let’s go dance! Shake off the bad stuff, okay?” Meaghan suggested as she dragged Maize to the dance floor. Peter followed, handing Maize a plastic cup full of shitty, cheap beer. Maize drank it anyway.

For a few hours, they had managed to have a great time by themselves, dancing and letting go of all the negatives. They had become their old selves again; Maize grateful she had friends that listened to her feelings and cared about her. This was just what she needed, a reminder that her old life wasn’t gone forever. Life hadn’t changed the game up completely on her. She was, in the simplest terms... happy.

Until she ran into Angelina, Ariel and Talia as well as their beaus, at least for the night. Maize couldn’t tell if they were wasted or not, but it wasn’t as if it made any difference. Their words still hurt just as much as they normally would have.

“Maize, I can’t believe you made it in! You should really consider leaving, though, because we were having a Hella good time without you, and your kind of ruining my whole vibe!” Angelina spoke over the loud music.

“Yeah! I agree! Now I’m kind of feeling the buzzkill.” Ariel hopped on.

“Maize, it’s so clear to me now that you can’t take a hint. We left you out there on purpose! We don’t want you here with us. We just had to invite you so William wouldn’t yell at me again and so we wouldn’t get in trouble.” Talia said.

“This was my idea! I didn’t even invite you! You just decided to invite yourselves and ruin my own time with my own friends. Invite me?! You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” Maize defended, getting heated.

“Whatever, your opinion doesn’t matter to me. None of us like you, Maize, and we thought that message was painfully clear. You’re weird and you get special treatment. You’re not like us, and you never will be. You’re not a God, Maize. You’re a sensitive, whiny bitch, and that’s all you’ll ever be. Go the hell home, Maize.” Talia spat venomously. Maize didn’t know what to do. She looked around the room and saw Jordie watching the whole thing unfold and hiding behind his glass, not saying anything. Peter and Meaghan didn’t say anything, they didn’t know what to say.

Maize didn’t care about any of them at the moment. She ran out of the club into the pouring rain, finding her car and leaving every fucking person in that god damn club behind. She dumped her woes in Harlem, and didn’t give a shit about them as she ran away. She didn’t give one shit anymore. If those were the games the people who were supposed to be her team played, she was going to play them right back, and she wasn’t going to fight fairly. Why should she when they weren’t? It wasn’t the time to play fair, fuck what the Thor side of her wanted. It was time to get her hands dirty.

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