Teaser Thursday- Accepting Me

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From the newly re-released version of this story, now available as a PDF download on my Free Reads page.

Dad sat beside Tyler, and Mom took the last chair. Before we could eat, we each had to talk about something we were thankful for. My parents had started the tradition before I could even talk, because even though they didn’t believe in a god to pray to, they did believe there were higher powers than us in the Universe. They felt those powers deserved thanks for good things that happened in our lives. Plus focusing on good things made everyone happier.

Since Landon was still sort of a guest, he went first. I expected him to say he was thankful for V.J., like he had last time. Instead he said, “I’m thankful for being mostly moved in, and for you guys letting me move in. It really means a lot to be able to finish high school here.”

“I’m thankful because you’re here,” Mom said. “It’s going to be nice having another kid around.”

“Is that your thanks, Dawn?” Dad asked.

Mom smiled. “Yes.”

Dad nodded. “Okay. I’m thankful because I found the bug in the app I’ve been working on, so now I can finish it up and show it to the higher-ups at work.”

“I’m thankful for winter break and not having to go to school,” Tyler said.

“You’ve used that one every day since school got out,” I said.

“I’m thankful for it every day since school got out. I’d rather work on my manga.” Tyler had convinced himself he would write and illustrate Japanese graphic novels when he grew up. He didn’t know any Japanese and could barely draw people who looked like people, but he kept trying.

“It’s your turn, Shane,” Mom said.

I had to think about it. Not much had happened today other than Landon moving in, and I didn’t want to use that since Landon and Mom both had.

After a couple seconds I came up with something that went along with what I’d been thinking earlier. “I’m thankful because I have friends and don’t have to worry about relationships.”

Mom got a weird look on her face as if she wanted to say something and didn’t know what. Tyler looked down at his plate and poked at his burger roll.

“There’s plenty of time for relationships,” Dad said quickly. “I for one think it’s smart to just be a teenager and focus on things like school and part-time jobs for now.”

Maybe I should have said I didn’t think I’d want a romantic relationship even after I finished school and had a real career, but I kept my mouth shut. According to what they’d told me, neither of them had dated anyone until college. They just hadn’t wanted to. But then they’d gone to college and had started dating people, and then they’d met each other. That was probably what they expected me to do. Date in college and find my soul mate. Because those totally existed.

They could sort of understand wanting to stay away from dating while I was in high school, but I didn’t think they’d understand wanting to stay away from it forever.

Teaser Thursday- Superaser Saves Christmas

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“Mommy!” a high-pitched voice shouted over the low roar of panic around us.

“Thaddeus!” Frantically, the woman looked around.

So did I, until I saw the kid standing beside the corner of the fence. I touched the woman’s arm and pointed, and she ran over to the little boy. I followed as she scooped the kid into her arms. A happy ending for them, but I still needed to know what I was up against.

“Thank you.” The woman looked at me with wet eyes.

“Mommy, where did the bad elves go?” Thaddeus said.

Finally! Something I could work with to find the culprits. “Bad elves?” I asked.

Thaddeus nodded. “They was little like me. All in green. They said Santa’s fake.” He sniffled and looked at his mom. “He’s not, right, Mommy?”

“Right.” His mother pressed her lips together. “That’s who you’re looking for, I guess. About half a dozen of the so-called elves. We thought they were part of the show until they started saying all those things. And then this guy showed up wearing all black, even a black Santa hat. He went right up to the workshop and kicked, and then everything was smoky.”

“Darn it.” Now I knew who was behind this mess. Missile Toe. A supervillain who had decided the best way to fight his enemies was to shoot projectiles from a specially made shoe.

The Super Group hadn’t run up against Missile Toe since before I joined the group, over a year ago, but Super Guy made sure all the new heroes knew everything about all the bad guys the group had ever fought. I had to wonder why Missile Toe had picked now to show up again. And why he and a bunch of “bad elves” had decided to mess with one of the most important holiday traditions in the city.

I didn’t have time to figure it out right then, though. If I was going to be any use to the rest of the Super Group, I had to change into my secret identity of Superaser. Kind of a dumb name, in my opinion, but I wasn’t the one who picked it. Super Guy named me for my ability to erase pieces of people’s memories.

“Thanks for explaining,” I said to Thaddeus and his mother. “I know some people who can make sure nothing like this ever happens again, so I’m going to talk to them.”

“The bad elves made Santa go away,” Thaddeus said. “After they said he’s fake, they took him away. Are you going to bring him back?”

I started to say yes, but remembered just in time that Thaddeus and his mother, and anyone else nearby, couldn’t find out I was a superhero. I had to keep pretending to be a normal teenage boy until I got somewhere private enough to change.

“I’m going to tell my friends,” I said. “They’ll make sure Santa’s okay. But I have to go now. Happy holidays.”

Teaser Thursday- Imaginary Friend

The full version of this short story is available as a PDF download on my Free Reads page.

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I got up from the couch to find the TV remote and heard the familiar banging engine of Jules’s old Chevy pick-up out front. Just like that, my heart gave a little jump and I smiled.

I forced the smile away. This wasn’t a happy occasion.

I opened the front door while he was still walking up the steps. He had a huge grin on his face. The grin he always gave me. The one that made me feel special and cared about.

Today it pissed me off.

“Hey, Trinity.” His smile faltered a little, but he got to the door and gave me a hug. “Sorry I’m late. Marybeth’s parents invited me to go to church with them.”

“And you couldn’t have told me that?” I pulled away from him and went back into the living room. I didn’t bother watching to see if he followed me. I knew he would.

“Marybeth just asked me this morning.” The door closed and his shoes clunked across the floor to me. “I thought you’d understand.”

“You and I had plans.” My eyes watered, and I squeezed them shut for a second. No way was I going to waste any more crying on Jules. Not anymore. “You could have told her we had plans. You said she knows we’re friends.”

“Yeah, but she’s my girlfriend.” He put his hand on my shoulder, and for just a second, my heart melted at his touch.

I hardened it right back up again. He wasn’t getting away with anything this time.

“You could have texted or something,” I said. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have.” Now he sounded annoyed. “I said I’m sorry.”

I yanked away and whirled around, rage twisting my face. I wished I’d had lasers to shoot at him, but all I could do was glare. And yell. “You’re right. I shouldn’t have waited. I shouldn’t have been waiting all these months. You promised me!”

My voice broke, and I started to cry. He would see it as me trying to manipulate him or something, but I couldn’t hold it back now that I’d started. Even if I didn’t want to waste the tears on him, I had to let it out.

“I haven’t broken any promises.” He took a step back, looking confused. “Why are you being like this, Trinity? You’re the one person I thought wouldn’t flip out on me.”

“I’m not flipping out. I’m standing up for once in my frigging life.” I took a deep breath. I was going to get through what I had to say if it killed me. “You have broken your promise, Jules. You promised we would stay friends.”

“We are friends!” He gritted his teeth. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

“An hour late and hoping to get laid.” I took another breath so I wouldn’t scream, and wiped my eyes so I could stop crying enough to talk.

“I don’t care if we have sex,” he said slowly. “You know that. That’s never been why I hung out with you. We didn’t even fool around until what, six months after we met? You said you liked it. We have fun together.”

That much was true. The first time we’d crossed the line between hanging out and making out, it had just kind of happened because we’d been talking about couples we knew at school, and then he’d started tickling me to make me laugh because I’d been too close to crying about how I would never find anyone to love me after what had been done to me.

I hadn’t fooled myself into believing Jules loved me. I knew better. But I’d believed he cared, and that was why I’d let him touch me, kiss me, and after a couple months, have sex with me.

I couldn’t even wish I hadn’t done it, because that was what had given me the confidence to talk to him the way I was now. Sleeping with Jules had shown me I was desirable and still pretty even with the burn scars marring half my face. Even with the emotional scars that no amount of surgery could fix.

And he’d told me the attacks hadn’t changed me. That I was strong and beautiful where it counted, and that anyone who couldn’t see it was an idiot.

Apparently that made him an idiot.

Teaser Thursday- Superaser Saves Christmas

From the short story I posted yesterday on my Free Reads page.

Before anyone asked me any more questions, I hurried to the nearby food court, which was nearly empty. No one at all was in the rest room, so I quickly changed into my super costume, which was made of a special fabric that could fold up small enough to fit into the pockets of any of my jeans.

When I left the rest room, Super Guy and Polarity were right outside. Super Guy glared at me. “You almost gave yourself away, according to Farsight. What did you say to the normies?”

Even though I hadn’t done anything wrong, my stomach sank down to my shoes. The same sneakers I’d been wearing all day, because my costume didn’t include footwear. Hopefully if anyone had seen me earlier, they wouldn’t notice what I had on my feet. If Super Guy was already getting annoyed, I didn’t want to do anything to make it worse.

I tried to cover up how guilty I felt. “All I told them was that I have friends who can take care of everything.”

“Farsight is never wrong.” Super Guy folded his arms. “Are you sure you didn’t say anything else?”

“You said she told you I almost gave myself away.” I took a deep breath and pretended for a moment that I was Scott. He could out-argue any adult, and right now I had to make sure I didn’t trip myself up with Super Guy. Especially since we were wasting time on the debate while we should have been tracking down Missile Toe. “She isn’t wrong about that. But it was only almost. I caught myself before I actually said anything I shouldn’t. Look, I know I need to be more careful, and I will be. Right now, we have a super villain and a flock of angry elves to deal with.”

“Elves?” Polarity wrinkled his forehead. “People in elf costumes, right?”

I shrugged. “The little boy and his mother, the ones I was just helping, said there were bad elves. And they said the villain shot something out of his foot.”

“Missile Toe,” Super Guy and Polarity said together. They glared at each other for a second, then Super Guy cleared his throat and said, “Missile Toe hasn’t been active in years. You’re sure of what they told you?”

“Yes. He and his elves—or people, or whatever—took the mall Santa. I think that was their plan, but I don’t know why they would do something like that.”

If the elves were real, maybe they had a grudge against Santa for some reason. After all, he supposedly made his elves work around the clock making toys. That would explain why they were backing up Missile Toe.

I shook my head. I’d stopped believing in Santa when I was seven. Of course the elves weren’t real, just like there was no real jolly red-suited dude with a workshop at the North Pole.

“What’s wrong?” Polarity asked.

“Just thinking.” Quickly, I walked over to the workshop. “Missile Toe shot some kind of smoke bomb to cover up kidnapping Santa. Can Farsight tell us where he’s gone?”

“I’ll check in with her.” Polarity walked away.

“We need to move.” Super Guy glanced around and lowered his voice. “We’re attracting too much attention. Come on.”

I’d barely even noticed the crowd gathering around us, but sure enough, plenty of people had returned to the workshop area, and most of them were gawking at the superheroes. No big surprise there. People wearing form-fitting costumes and masks were pretty noticeable. But Super Guy didn’t like it when normies stared and asked questions. I wasn’t a big fan of it myself, especially since Super Guy had forbidden me to use my memory-erasing power to make the normies forget about us if they got too curious.

We hurried outside without letting Polarity know where we were going. For a couple of seconds, I thought we were leaving him behind, but then I remembered he was talking to Farsight. She would let him know where we were.

Teaser Thursday- The Right Thing

The full version of this story is available in PDF format on my Free Reads page.

As I closed my locker, Bryce walked over and leaned against the one beside me. “Turow says shit like that all the time.”

“He shouldn’t,” I said. I looked at him and quickly looked away, my face warm.

“Yeah, well, he’s a teacher. He can do what he wants.” Bryce fidgeted with the combination lock on the locker he was leaning on. “Look, there’s stuff going on you don’t know about, okay? Don’t mess with Turow. Let it roll off.”

“What are you talking about?” This time I managed to look at him without being flustered. “Don’t mess with him? Isn’t that the same thing you told me about Pete and them?”

He hesitated. Bryce almost never hesitated. He didn’t care what he said or what other people thought, which was one of the reasons he was one of my most frequent detention slip customers.

I leaned against my locker. Lunch was only half an hour, and time was ticking, but whatever Bryce had to say was more important. He wouldn’t talk to me in the cafeteria; he kept his distance at school, mostly. I’d used to think it was because he was embarrassed to be seen with me, but he’d explained over the summer that it was the opposite. He didn’t want people to look down on me for hanging out with him.

So to find out what he was talking about, I would have to miss part of my lunch break. Not that it mattered. My third-block teacher would give me a pass to the library, and I would sneak into the caf and eat during study hall lunch. I did that half the time anyway.

Bryce still wasn’t saying anything, and now I was getting fidgety. I tried not to show it. He liked me better when I was confident and patient.

“Turow was on something this morning.” He said it so quietly I barely heard.

I replayed the words in my mind to make sure I had them right. When I spoke, I lowered my voice even more than Bryce had. “Drugs?”

He gave me a short, sharp nod. “I know what he takes.”

I decided to pretend I hadn’t heard that one. I knew Bryce used and sold drugs. He’d told me his reasons, and they weren’t something I was willing to judge him about. He didn’t use anything stronger than pot around me, and mostly he didn’t even use that. And he’d told everyone he knew that if anyone tried to sell me drugs, they would have to face him. Something no one really wanted to do.

I was guessing if Bryce knew what Turow took, he had something to do with Turow getting his supply. That wasn’t something I wanted to know about.

One thing I knew for sure, though. Sometimes Bryce smoked on weekday mornings, but he saved the stronger stuff for weekends and occasional nights when he just couldn’t handle things. He never came to school on anything strong.

Turow was a teacher, and if he was coming to school on drugs, someone had to do something about it.

I touched my tongue to my too-dry lips. “He called you guys names.”

“Because he doesn’t want to admit he’s one of us.” He twisted his mouth into something between a smirk and a grimace. “He’s getting worse. I don’t know where he’s getting the stuff anymore, and some days you can tell he isn’t even here. Last week he grabbed Kendall’s arm so hard he left bruises.”

Teaser Thursday- Not-So-Super

The full PDF of this story is available on my Free Reads page. 

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I stared at the band on my left wrist. To the normies, it looked like one of those souped-up watches that could tell the time in fifty different zones and do tricks under water.

It did tell the time if I had it on the right setting. Unfortunately, that wasn’t all it did.

Right now, it was glowing a soft red. I didn’t like red. Red meant there was trouble.

Trouble meant I had to find somewhere to transform into my secret identity and go off to save the day.

I never should have gone along with the Super Group when they’d invited me to join them. Despite the Saturday morning cartoon-style name, the Group was made up of legitimate superheroes. Men and women who had mutated into something powerful, or who’d developed technology that gave them the illusion of having powers.

They’d gathered together to fight evil and protect the normies, the humans who mostly didn’t even know—or believe—super powers existed.

Farsight, the group’s resident psychic, had tracked me down after my morph power went off on its own and turned me into a bear. Not even a scary grizzly that might have scared away the guy who was trying to steal my backpack as I walked home from school.

No, of course my power hadn’t done anything that useful. It had turned me into a teddy bear.

Fortunately Power Guy and Polarity had found me before the mugger stopped laughing long enough to grab my backpack. They’d taken me back to HQ and told me all about the Super Group and how they could help me learn to manage my powers and use them to benefit others.

I was all about the benefiting others part. The managing, not so much.

They kept me around, though. I wasn’t sure whether they believed they would be able to help me learn to control the morphing eventually or if I just provided them too much comic relief for them to get rid of me. Whichever it was, they kept me around, and when danger threatened the residents of our city, sometimes they called me in.

Like now.