Chapter 38: Anna Sun - WALK THE MOON
I took a deep breath and walked over to Finn’s workstation.
“Feel free to say ‘no’. You’re probably busy. I --”
“What do you need me to do?” He turned his head in my direction.
“I’d like you to look at my portfolio and tell me what you think.” I rocked on my heels.
“Give it here.” He tucked his pencil behind his ear. He moved his sketchbook out of the way and made room for my watercolor paintings.
I pulled up a stool and watched anxiously as he silently analyzed each piece.
I was wringing my fingers to the point of discomfort when he finally spoke. I bounced at the sound of his voice, a bit startled.
“Just okay?” I cleared my throat. “What do I need to fix?” I craned my neck to look over his shoulder.
“Okay, I am finished, not it is just okay. You have finally found your signature. Your narrative is niche, but that is really working for you.”
“How? I don’t want to belong to a category no one knows exists.”
“You can’t be great if you refuse to accept than you are different. Whether you like it or not, you have a perspective very few people share. It is a positive thing here because you are still relatable. You’re inclusive enough for broad consumption, but unique enough to have a distinctive voice. It’s what we all strive for.”
“So It’s good?”
“That’s so subjective. I --”
He sighed and rolled his eyes. “I am not saying any of this to boost your confidence. I am against the concept of pretending the sun shines out of someone’s ass just to make them feel all warm and fuzzy. Objectively, your new work is technically proficient and culturally challenging. It’d get you into any school or reputable museum.”
I hugged him as tight as I could manage.
“This is feelings territory.” He awkwardly patted my back instead of recoiling in his usual manner.
“You just went with it.” I began to pack up my portfolio.
“My mom said I need to fight through my discomfort when it comes to people I care about and affection. Apparently, people want to be physically close to those they hold near and dear. Who would’ve known?”
“You are actually listening to her?”
“I am not narcissistic. I know I do not know everything. People just assume I do.”
“It’s the aloofness.”
“Do you know what you are doing next year?”
“RISD-Brown dual degree program. The whole Ivy League thing is eye-roll inducing, but I want to challenge both sides of myself.”
“Top art school in the country and high academic standards. I can see you doing well there. Your dad will love it.” I smirked.
“Ugh. I know, but my mom will love it more. That’s the reason I’m able to stomach pleasing him.”
“When are you going to tell them?”
“When I get my letter. A goal isn’t a plan. I am not seeking advice on the matter.” He resumed sketching.
“I think I’m going to go to Japan.”
“Just to live?”
“There’s an art school -- Kyoto. My parents said no to London because of lack of support. I have family in Japan – great-grandparents, cousins, great aunts and uncles. Being there will help with my ongoing soul search/identity crisis.”
“For sure. You’ll have plenty to explore.” He looked over at me. “It’d be good for you, going out there in pursuit of answers and your own adventure.”
“I’m amped for it. I feel like I’m prepping for an epic battle, finalizing my application and my argument to my parents.”
“I think you might appreciate this more now.” He lifted the lid of his laptop.
I scooted closer. He opened an animation application. He flipped through a network of tabs within it. When he stopped, I instantly recognized myself in cartoon form. She even stood with my posture.
“I’m in your project?” My eyes remained on the screen.
“We all are. Watch what you can do.” He tapped the space bar.
She twisted her hair into a bun utilizing a paintbrush. She held out her arms and turned, a tornado of colors whirled in her place. When she stopped, she had traded her Sella Moora uniform for a paint-stained smock dress, black spandex tights, and boots. She raised her arms, put them behind her back and whipped out a glowing, Technicolor sword. She did a series of tricks and flips, landing in a defensive fighting pose.
“She’s so awesome.” I restarted the clip the moment it ended.
“She’s you as a superhero. You also have healing powers.”
“To take care of the rest of you?”
“And yourself. Your Mild mannered alter ego’s name is Morgan Cohen. What do you want your hero name to be?”
“Anything I want?”
“Anything you want.”
I thought on it for a few minutes, watching the clip, thinking about myself and my place within my friend group.
“Aya Ima. Aya is color in Japanese. Ima is mother in Hebrew.”
“You’re naming yourself mom?”
“It’s a position of power, synonymous with master. Both of us are honored by our appointment.”
“I dig it. Give me the spelling.” He angled to computer towards me, giving me a place to input the name.
“Are you naming everyone else?”
“Yes. I do not have time to lease everyone creative license, finish animating, and record voice over work, even with Nicky’s help.”
“Do you have their names sorted out?”
“For the most part, but some are still up for deliberation. I can show you what I have.” He transitioned windows.
Izzie’s avatar was center stage. Like me, she started out in one of her typical uniform combinations. He pressed the spacebar. She gracefully pirouetted and landed in landed in fifth position dressed as a ballerina. A thought bubble with a bee appeared over her head. She did a dance combination that was reminiscent of their movement; it caused her appearance to alter into the insect’s. She whizzed around in a downward spiral to reappear in her dancer form. A thought bubble with a butterfly took the place of the bee. She did a series of leaps and morphed into one. After another downward spiral, she was once again human. A lion was her imagined animal after that. She used her dance moves to shift -- dropping to her feet and roaring once she had. Lion Izzie was still wearing a tutu. She sat down on her hind legs after her display of courage, flicking her tail like a happy puppy. She rolled over playfully and was once again a human in her school uniform, ready to start again in first position.
“Can she transform into any other animals?”
“Any she can think of and dance to illustrate; her metamorphosis is imagination and dance reliant. Her name is Beasterina.”
“Kind of like Beast Boy, but like a ballerina verison.”
“Somewhat; that is where I got the animal transformation aspect, but I did not want her to think I saw her as some sort of monster. I validated it to myself by thinking more in terms of Beauty and The Beast. Belle is the word Beautiful in French. Milo calls her Beautiful because it is Bella in Italian, which is also another name for Izzie. She spends most of her time as ‘Bella’. She transforms into ‘Beasterina’ when provoked.”
“It fits her perfectly – all of it. Do you have anyone else done?”
“It’s not done done, but this is the one I have slaved over the most.”
To no one’s surprise he brought up Sami’s file. I looked over at him with a gum-showing grin.
“Put these on and look at the screen.” His voice was flat. He gave me a pair of earbuds. As I put them in, he picked up his travel mug and took a sip of coffee. He pressed the spacebar when we were both done.
She started at her SMA baseline. She clenched her fists and narrowed her eyes; her black fight hat appeared, as did her olive green utilitarian jacket, jean shorts, torn fishnet stockings, and black combat boots. Her platinum blonde hair transitioned to fire engine red and when she opened her hands and raised them, fire stretched across the horizon line she was standing on. She stomped and lava erupted from behind her. When she slowly lowered her hands, her hair turned itself deep blue; she produced tidal waves that extinguished the flames and lava. She pulled drumsticks out of her satchel. She raised them and started tapping them, creating thunder and lightning. She opened her mouth and sang a powerful high note, causing a devastating earthquake. She did a backflip and found herself in a seated position with her cello at her feet. Looking down to play it was the first time in her sequence that she stopped looking at the audience with fierce confidence; it produced rain. The clip stopped there.
“I am thinking about taking that part out.”
“No,” I removed the earbuds. “Keep it. It appears that accuracy is what you are going for. What’s her name?”
“Super Sami. “ He flexed the hand he was hovering over the keyboard.
“Who does the world call when they are in trouble?” I subtly shifted the subject, mindful of his emotional capacity.
“The Crazy Eight.” He shifted his eyes to me with a soft, relieved smile, expressing his gratitude for my decision not to pry.
“How did you do the outfits? I know for a fact that fashion is not in your wheelhouse.”
“Elle. Nick is helping me with the audio syncs. Sami recorded her stuff. I’ll need the rest of you later on. It’ll be a group effort when it’s said and done, which is something I’ve never done before.”
“This is going to be your best work yet. Everything you do is so next level, but this somehow surpasses all of it by a landslide. The anticipation is going to kill me.”
“We’ve discussed sunshine. Go back to your corner.” He nodded be back over to my workstation.
“Thanks for letting me in.” I gave him a quick side hug. I collected my belongings and went back to my area. I spent the duration of the period editing photos the photos I wanted to draw from next.
It was a Friday, so Life Skills Lab followed English. Lab was the term used to label the various places on and off campus we met once a week to work on projects in Life Skills that we could not do in our classroom. For example, our basic automotive repair unit took place in the parking lot. That particular Friday, we were in the set workshop in the acting building. We used facility and its supplies to build milk crates for unit on tools and construction.
I had adopted Adam as my partner for all projects to prepare for the baby unit. At least that was why I did it at first. It turned out that we had complimentary work habits and our team efforts were always met with high results.
“You need to watch what you are doing.” I rubbed the surface of my crate with sandpaper.
With one pull of the trigger, he whizzed a screw perfectly into place. “He’s going to hurt himself.” He sat the drill on the table, his eyes still on Milo.
He was seated at the bench in front of ours. He was doing everything correctly; it just appeared awkward because he needed to utilize his left hand. To keep from elbowing Iz as they worked at the same time, he needed to have his active arm on the side of the aisle.
“What else is he supposed to do?”
“Not what he’s doing –“ He tried to stand up.
I grabbed the back of his shirt and kept him on his stool. “You can’t hover. You know that.”
He sighed. “He is the threat to his safety.”
“You’re his friend, not his babysitter.” I reminded him of his role.
“Right.” He exhorted more effort into his assignment.
Exaggerated laughter made both of us stop what we were doing. We followed its direction. Alex was imitating the way Milo needed to hold his drill, entertaining Anna and Elle’s old friends.
Adam and I both tensed up when it appeared as though they were talking him up to do something. He put together what Lex’s move was going to be as soon as he took a step in our direction. Adam inserted himself into the aisle just before Alex got past our table, causing their bodies to roughly collide. By that time, Milo had stopped drilling.
“Dude, what’s your problem?!” Lex shrugged him off.
“My apologizes. I was in pursuit of more screws.” Adam stifled a groan, rubbing his chest.
“They are that way.” He pointed to the opposite end of the room.
“I see that now. Again, my apologizes.”
Alex when back to his seat, his plan to nudge Milo to poke further fun at him was successfully derailed.
Adam sat back down beside me, stifling pain, after actually fetching screws.
“Are you okay?” I put my hand on his back.
“He’s taking this too far. He was operating machinery.” He rubbed his chest.
“You. How are you?”
He took a deep breath. “My chest is sore.”
“We should go to the nurse.”
“No, I will be fine.”
“At least let me see it.”
“I am sure there is nothing to see.” He lifted the hem of his polo.
There were faint purple splotches on his skin near his sternum. “You should put ice on this. It’s bruising.” I was careful not to touch any of them.
“Ms. Cohen and Mr. Lofaro!” Ms. Brodsky shouted at us.
We both looked in her direction. I did not know what was wrong with what we were doing until I looked at Adam’s face, instead of objectively at his wounds. I dropped his shirt and stepped a foot away, blushing profusely.
“Sorry. He hurt himself.” I looked down at my desk.
“Hands to yourselves from now on.” She calmed down, walking away to help another set of students.
“ I didn’t mean to get you into trouble. I should’ve just gone to the nurse.”
“It’s okay. Neither of us thought about it like that until she made us.” I kept my head down and tucked my hair behind my ear.
“You are the one that made me strip. The least you could do is look at me afterward.” He leaned in my direction with a smile.
“I was just trying to –“ Our eyes met.
“Take care of me. I can return the favor – encourage you to laugh through the embarrassment with me, instead of allowing you to take it to heart.”
I smiled. “I might have to take you up on that. It sounds much better than imagining that everyone is silently judging us. I stay off the radar for the most part. Being the one called out is jolting.”
“You are sadly mistaken. You cannot be the glue that holds your family together without being bold enough to stand out amongst them. All of them look to you for guidance.”
“What? No.” I scoffed.
“Of your seven friends, name one that you have not comforted or supported this week.”
I remained silent, unable to think of one.
“Your presence is known. Don’t underestimate that.” He picked up his drill and got back to work.
“Are you going to report what happened?” I changed the subject.
“Yes. His safety was undoubtedly in jeopardy this time. He could have severely hurt him or caused him to hurt someone else.”
“Are you going to tell Milo?”
“No. He will attempt to talk me out of it.”
“Lex has had it out for him for a long time. It started sophomore year, shortly after he arrived. Alex wanted Anna; Milo was whom she decided to be with. She cheated on Milo with him over the summer. Milo found out after they broke up. He seemed to brush that off rather easily. They officially went to war when Alex made some comments about Izzie.”
“Why did no one tell me this before?”
“Elle only discloses information if you ask for it. I’m not surprised Ryan didn’t mention it; he probably feels it would violate Milo’s trust. It is a pride thing to both of them. Milo wants to prove that he can take care of himself. He feels extra pressure to do it because most people doubt he can now. ”
“This is a different circumstance. He is being bullied. Milo is not tormenting or actively fighting him back.”
“Because he promised Izzie he would rise above people who tried to provoke him.”
“That’s all it took for him to mellow out?”
“You have lived with him for almost three months and you still haven’t grasped that he’d do anything for her?”
“I figured it was an expression, not a true way of living.”
“How little you know.”
“I think Wilmer got it wrong. You should be my consult, not Elle.”
“You came at a bad time. She’s a bit busy falling in love at the moment. It’s pretty time consuming. Otherwise, she would have reports typed and PowerPoints.”
“It feels like that is a common theme amongst your friends.”
“Again, you came at a weird time. We were far less relationship oriented in previous years.”
“ What about you?”
“I just broke up with a boy I wasn’t even aware that I was dating this summer. I am taking that as a sign that I’m not interested in romance at the moment. Soul searching is where my heart is at.”
“I understand.” He almost sounded disappointed. I was probably just hoping he was.
I felt undeniably powerful putting on my Batgirl costume. I tried out a few fighting moves after I finished getting ready for the dance. I stopped when there was a knock on my door.
“Are you ready to take pictures?” Izzie stood outside my door as Wonder Woman.
“Yep. You look fantastic.” I shut my bedroom door behind me.
“As do you. I’m really into this whole ‘being a superhero’ thing. I wish this was a full time gig.”
I smiled as I thought of Beasterina. “I think you’re built for it.”
“I love this idea so much! The fierceness in this room is making my life.” Elle bounced, clasping her hands together.
She more than pulled off her midriff baring Starfire outfit. Her early morning runs proved to be very beneficial. Art struggled to keep his eyes off of her.
“You’re truly embracing your character.” Sami adjusted her utility belt.
“Good!” Elle’s excitement didn’t falter.
“Hello, Nightwing. I’m happy you were able to join us the hero that ends up with our lovely Starfire.” I greeted Art.
“She wanted to do a couple costume. It was easy enough to oblige.”
We took countless photos before leaving. I set a silly picture of Izzie, Elle, Sami, and me as the background on my phone. We left to meet the boys at their suite. Another slew of photos were taken before we were allowed to leave for the dance. Adam and I walked together.
“Batgirl suits you.” He started up a conversation.
I smiled. “I thought so too, especially with Sami as Batman. Atom’s a good fit for you too.”
“It felt right with the name.”
I nodded. “I commend you for finding time to build your own costume. There were obviously no premade costumes for such an obscure character.”
“It’ll come in handy for the convention. I will get some wear out of it.”
I was overwhelmed by all the elaborate costumes when we walked into the banquet hall. I was comforted to know Adam was too. The two of us, along with Nick, gravitated towards each other subconsciously. We tried to make ourselves comfortable as the others thrived in the crowded area. I stayed near Finn and Sami to ensure they didn’t stir up too much trouble.
“Because she’s literally dressed as a man this year, is it acceptable to call her one?” I overheard Heather ask her group of friends.
I internally prayed that Sami did not hear her. My question was answered when a black net shot from Sami’s direction, trapping Heather inside. She cried out, dropping to the floor.
“Say it to my face next time!” Sami shouted as Finn collected the net she shot from a wristband.
One of the chaperones approached them. I rushed over to where they were. I got there in time to hear them get kicked out of the dance.
“Wait outside. I’ll go tell the others.” I sighed.
“You’ve got it.” Sami used her Batman voice. She dramatically whipped her cape as she walked away.
“That took all but twenty minutes.” I thought aloud.
“I thought I was keeping her out of trouble by making the net launcher instead of the retractable tether she requested.” Adam replied.
“You made that for her?!”
“Well, yeah. I wanted to see if I could.” He shrugged.
I shook my head. “Remember this lesson.”
“We’ve got to initiate plan b. They got themselves thrown out.” I told Iz and Milo, who dancing together.
They did their jobs by notifying the others.
“What is plan b?” Adam asked as we walked out.
The eleven of us went to the open field near the woods. It was well lit because of the harvest moon.
“Alright, the name of the game is superpower tag.” Ryan announced as we stood in a circle.
“Who every is it will tag as many people as they can. The people who get tagged must freeze. They can only resume running if a fellow hero utilizes one of their superpowers on them. Example, dear Izzie.” Elle gestured to her.
“I’m Wonder Woman. Let’s say Milo gets tagged.” She took his hand and dragged him away from the group. She went a few feet away after he was placed.
“I would take my lasso of truth and toss it on him.” She threw it and it landed on his arm.
“Now I can resume running.” He concluded.
“Everybody got it?” Elle opened the floor to questions.
Adam raised his hand. “Did you know this would happen?”
“We had an idea. They got kicked out of prom. We aired on the side of caution for this school dance. We want to stay together as much as possible.” Elle answered.
“You rig some pens to explode and suddenly everyone’s on your case.” Finn snarked.
“It was also our backup plan if the dance got boring.” Nick piped up.
“What is my power?” Misha asked.
“Your fairy dust, Babe.” Ryan put his arm around her.
“I’ll volunteer to be it first.” I raised my hand. “Whoever gets tagged first is it next.”
“Thanks, Mom. Get to counting.” Sami started walking backwards to get away from me.
Everyone scattered as I counted to ten.
Adam was the first person in my sights. I bolted in his direction at full speed. He did all that he could dodge me. I resorted to pulling a fake out, pretending to go to a different target. My quick movement accidentally turned into a tackle and I landed on the ground on top of him.
“Are you okay?!” I panicked.
“Can I speak while I’m frozen?” He mumbled from the side of his mouth.
His playfulness put me at ease. “In this case, yes.” I smiled.
“You were a little too swift for me, but I am fine. You should get back to running. You’ve got heroes to take down.” He remained on the ground.
“It’s kinda fun being the villain. Don’t tell anyone.” I worked myself off the ground.
“You’ve got my word.”
We sent our night laughing and running around outside. It was safe to say we all had far more fun than we would have inside the dance. It confirmed that I was able run wild with them without losing myself.