Picture this: You’ve got a death ray. We’ll get to the hows and whys later. Most important fact right now is that it is a bona fide death ray, and you’re pointing it at probably the most important person in the world.
It’s a neat thing, your death ray, all shining and copper and neat precise angles. Like a steampunk wet-dream, there are even cogs, though you’ve been assured they are quite functional. You’ve built it yourself, based on plans methodically calculated to exploit every weakness of the paragon of humanity standing in front of you.
Right now, you’re a nobody, a footnote. Just a frizzy haired girl with a gun in a homemade costume gone baggy in the knees.
You’ll be famous. You’ll have beaten a god. All you have to do is pull the trigger. All you have to do is kill your best friend.
How was your Monday?
Six months previously…
This story begins with a funeral. Not just any funeral, the greatest celebrity affair since Ethan Keene died. Everybody who was anybody was there, dressed to the nines in their mourning finest, superhero costumes in muted shades of black and grey. Chatting quietly, doing whatever the polite funerary version of gossip was, trying hard not to stare too obviously at the two unmasked teenagers standing closest to the blue and green casket.
Everyone thought that Dazzler was invincible. Despite the lame 80’s callsign, she was one of the most powerful super humans on the planet. She went toe to toe with some of the biggest names in villainy and came out on top. She put multiple secret organizations out of business. Her power profile was stunning, including light-based manipulation, flight, laser vision, super speed. Her powers had been passed down from her mother and her mother’s mother before her. She was one of the first heroes to go public with her powers after the Great Moleman Uprising. Her merchandise sales alone could have funded a small nation for years, not to mention her healthy sponsorship deals and guest appearances on everything from Good Morning America to the summer’s latest blockbuster. No one expected breast cancer.
When the prognosis turned terminal, Dazzler made the stunning, never before seen decision to give up her secret identity and reveal herself as a sweet suburban housewife named Melody, who chronicled the final days of her greatest battle on Instagram. Melody’s Instagram photos reveal sides of Dazzler the media had never seen before- those of an ordinary citizen, chemo patient, and mother. She introduced the world to her life beyond the cape, and all of the little tragedies it held.
Camera pans to Harry Dean, son of the late great Melody Dean, looking uncomfortable in a suit and tie tailored just to ever so subtly evoke the lines of his mother’s world famous costume. Probably the most famous non-superhero in the country. Standing next to him is short, skinny Remi Roe, fiddling with the lace on the sleeves of her conservatively styled black dress. Me. I shouldn’t be here, not practically on the red carpet with all these caped crusaders and Hollywood heroes. I’m just a kid from the suburbs, trying to be there for her best friend who just lost his goddamn mother.
That was the real tragedy of the moment. Sure, Melody Dean was a superheroine of the highest degree, one of Earth’s greatest defenders, arguably the most powerful woman on earth- but she was also a mom to a pretty neat guy. And Harry was pretty wrecked. His mom had done a good job of keeping him out of the spotlight as a kid. They hadn’t even known of his existence until he’d started to show up in her photos. Losing her and being thrown into the maelstrom of the media circus was almost more than he could handle.
I don’t remember much of the funeral itself, just that was trying to keep my shit together and keep an eye on Harry. I was grieving too, y’know? But that took a back seat to protecting my best friend. I definitely do remember pushing a paparazzo out of the way and threatening to punch multiple people.
There were endless photos of Harry crying onto my shoulder in the church, standing next to me on the sidewalk out front, frozen hand in hand at the cemetery as the casket was entombed in the Heroes Mausoleum. That’s where the trouble started.
In the sudden celebrity void left behind by Dazzler’s passing, Harry and I were drawn in like stars to the black hole of media notoriety. Undeterred by my threats the day before (I mean, I’m 5’3” I’m not exactly imposing), the next day the tabloids were full of “juicy” gossip about Dazzler’s son’s new girlfriend and speculation about the two of us as a couple. It even got into Harry’s head that the two of us were supposed to be a thing. And that’s how I came out as a lesbian, not only to Harry and my family, but to the entirety of The Daily News and Record’s readership. It seemed like a good at the time. But I’m getting ahead of myself, rewind.
Somehow one of the bastards got my phone number, and by 8 in the morning, my phone was ringing off the hook. And they weren’t even asking good questions! “Remi, what is your favorite thing about Harry? Is it his dreamy eyes?” “Remi, what’s your favorite color as a couple?” I ended up turning off my cellphone and messaging Harry on Facebook.
Remi: We gotta talk
Harry: Ready for our date?
Remi: Oh god, not you too.
Remi: We really gotta talk. Can you come over?
Harry: Sure thing, hon.
Harry arrived with, and I’m not joking here, a dozen red roses. I mean, I get that we’re seventeen, but you literally cannot get more cliched. Luckily, my dad has been pretty paranoid about security, so there were mercifully no cameras in sight as Harry climbed the steps to my porch.
“What the hell are you doing?” I demanded, snatching the roses from his hands and pulling him inside just as the first news van pulled around the corner. “Are you insane?”
“I just thought…?” Harry began, looking bashful.
“Nope. No you did not. Come on, Harry.” I chided as I set the roses down on the bench in the foyer. Blank stares ensued. “Jesus Christ.” I continued and pulled him into the living room. Mom appeared, summoned by the commotion in the front hall. Her eyes softened as she saw Harry.
“Can I get you two lovebirds anything?” She asked in a hushed tone, automatically opening her arms to hug Harry. Mom, you are seriously not helping my case right now. But only a monster would deny a hug to someone whose own mom just freaking died.
“We’re good Mom, thanks.” I replied, waiting for their hug to separate. It took forever. I mean, fair, my Mom’s hugs are pretty great.
“I’ll just put those in water.” She said, scooping up the abandoned roses and heading off into the kitchen before I could convince her to shove them down the garbage disposal instead. Sigh.
Annoyed, I flopped down on the couch and closed my eyes, feeling Harry’s familiar weight settle down next to me. I groaned inwardly. There was no way I could broach this subject without potentially losing a friend who had literally just buried his mother.
“We’re not a couple, Harry. Never were. Especially not just because the press said so.” There. It was out. Well, almost.
“But… What about the winter formal last year? And junior prom?” Harry prompted slyly, like he was catching me in some sort of lie.
“We went as friends?” I countered, reminding him of what he already knew. “Plenty of people go as friends.”
“But we didn’t.” Harry said stubbornly, stiffening. God, I hated this.
“Yes, Harry, we did.” I sighed softly then sat up, opening my eyes. “You’re my best friend. You know that right?”
“I’m sensing a but here.” Harry said, and for once he didn’t make the obvious butt-joke.
“But I don’t like like you. Never have. In fact,” I paused, taking a deep breath. “I don’t like boys. Never have. I’m gay, Harry.”
There must have been a full minute of silence that spread out into a small eternity on that couch. I could feel the seconds dragging by, making each passing moment more and more awkward. I was beginning to ponder the merits of faking a migraine when Harry finally spoke.
“Gay. Queer. Lesbian. Homosexual. Not-straight. Whatever you want to call it.” I replied, with probably a bit more sass than was completely necessary.
“No you’re not. You dated Luke Holmes sophomore year.” Harry said.
“For all of two weeks before I realized it was a mistake!” I retorted. “Besides, dating a dude doesn’t make me straight.” I expected him to be slow to pick up on what I was telling him, but I didn’t expect to be getting this angry about it.
“You’re lying to me because you don’t want to hurt my feelings.” Harry said weakly.
“I’m not lying. It’s something I’ve been realizing about myself for a long time now.” I told him. “I wish I could have told you when the timing was better.” I reached for his hand. “You’re still my best friend.”
He snatched his hand away. “Liar.”
That hurt. A lot. I think he knew it too, because he winced as soon as he said it.
“I never lied to you.” I said shakily, “I will never lie to you.”
“I have to go.” Harry said. And then, just like that, he got up and left. To his credit, he didn’t slam the door on the way out.
After a long moment’s silence, there was a noise behind me.
“How much of that did you hear?” I asked, not willing to turn around and face my mother where she stood in the entryway.
“Enough.” She said simply, and crossed over the threshold of the living room to give me a hug.