It had been a while since Brandi had been able to see into the future. Right now, her powers, if you wanted to call them that, were limited to ordering her next desert and the fire in the restaurant kitchen. And although it hadn’t been much; it was passed down from her grandfather to her father, to her. They seemed insignificant when compared with the abilities of the great superheroes like Batman and Superman, who could stop crime and battle criminals. Which would be great, because she would be able to stop some awesome crime. Or meet a famous person and rescue them from some significant villain.
“Earth to Brandi. Earth to Brandi,” a voice from nearby called, turning she saw her best friend, Teresa Stone give her one of those glazed over looks that usually meant trouble. And Brandi didn’t have to wait too long, to figure out why.
“Where were you this time, Miss Daniels?” Mrs. Jenkins, her fifth grade world literature teacher barked, her horn rimmed glasses slipping down her petite nose. But she kept them in place with a bony index finger and edged closer. “Or off in the Himalayan mountains rescuing the Dalai Lama?”
Roger Barnes, the tall athletic boy next to Brandi snickered, shoving a baseball comic under his desk. Brandi sighed and lowered her head, wondering why Mrs. Jenkins always seemed to be on her case.
Sitting there, she decided that resignation was the least that she could do, since literature wasn’t her favorite subject. Especially when her teacher demanded to know more than just the right answer. But the reasons that made it so. And she thought about Soujourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman then and wondered, if anyone would write anything fitting that would prove just how difficult it was to be a teenager; her eyes appraising Mrs. Jenkins’ solemn face.
“I was right here,” she said, pointing to the faded photograph with its mini biography beneath it.
“That’s rather ambitious, indeed.” Pulling the book aside, the teacher turned a few pages down to an excerpt from Jamaica Kincaid’s Mr. Potter. “Except, we’re here now.”
Perhaps they had read on without her, Brandi surmised, bowing her head even lower as she reflected on her current track record. She had screwed up again. But hopefully her mother wouldn’t have to be called in, and miss another night’s work at the diner, just to see her being chided by Mrs. Jenkins. She bit her lip.
“See me after class, Miss Daniels.”
Brandi looked up and nodded as the teacher returned to the front of the classroom, doing her best to dismiss the added stares.
After a few minutes the bell rang and the other students packed their belongings quickly and then left. Brandi followed them with her eyes as the door banged shut.
Across the room, Mrs. Jenkins raised her head and looked in Brandi’s direction. “Miss Daniels?” she said in that introspective way that was customary for teachers when dealing with delinquents.
“Yes, ma’am.” Brandi gulped, looking down at her tan loafers which should have been white, but recently she had gotten accustomed to taking detours on her way home.
“This is your fifth infraction for the week,” the teacher said sternly, causing the hair on the back of Brandi’s neck to stand at attention. She folded and unfolded her arms, beads of sweat dropped off her brow like ants following the orders of a strict drill sergeant. Mrs. Jenkins thumped through the book in search of demerits.
While Brandi nodded; because what she wanted most was to be far away from this building with its sparse foliage. Gazing out the window, she was struck by a feeling of separateness; it was almost as if they existed in a separate time zone. But what she wished for was to be out on an adventure, like Jason and the Argonauts. Or Hercules.
It seemed as though, ever since Grandma rose had hinted that great feats could be accomplished by ordinary people, Brandi had felt compelled to do something. And yet here she was doing the ins and outs of attending school. And going through the motions, because that was what you did before you were discovered. Or at least your life became a little less-ordinary.
“Are you listening to me?”
“Yes, Mrs. Jenkins.” Brandi raised a hand to her head, as if deep in thought and then continued. “I have been delinquent. But I’m trying.”
Mrs. Jenkins waved her excuses away. “Well then, try harder because evening classes with Mr. Perkins will be the next step.”
Brandi braced herself, holding onto the desk for support, as the teacher diverted her attention and stuffed papers into an open drawer. A thin smile reached the corners of her upturned lips before disappearing.
“Of course, ma’am,” Brandi said, backing away. She had heard enough about Mr. Perkins to know that night classes wasn’t something to be enjoyed. In fact, Teresa had been sent there two weeks earlier after getting into a scuffle with a girl during volleyball. And she had warned Brandi about his exacting nature and need for silence. Neither of which made any sense to Brandi because detention wasn’t supposed to be anything like gym class.
Mrs. Jenkins cleared her throat. “You may go now.”
Brandi mouthed a silent okay, before grabbing her things and bolting through the door. Outside in the hallway she adjusted her backpack and went in search of her locker, oblivious to the muffled sound of sneakers that seemed to be fading into the background, just as her eyes met the orange glow of 721.
“Another round of the third degree?” Teresa said, emerging from the girl’s bathroom, which was adjacent to Brandi’s locker. She swiveled around, dropped some of her books and glared, as an amused expression crossed Teresa’s face.
“It went well, thanks.” Brand moved forward, shoving her friend out of Mrs. Jenkins’ line of view, because the last thing she wanted was another run-in with the Loch Nest Monster. Besides, things had been hairy enough without having to contend with a heart attack, she thought, remembering how Mr. Shueman, their biology teacher had keeled over the previous semester while teaching them about the respiratory system. Something which was almost as unfortunate as another lesson they had also bypassed – mouth to mouth resuscitation.
“So, are you walking or waiting for a lift?” Teresa asked, tugging at her arm.
“Walking.” Brandi scooped up her books. “You?”
“The same.” Teresa adjusted the multicolored bracelet on her wrist. They had exchanged them over the summer at camp. She watched as Brandi opened her locker and re-arranged the messy pile as if it was nothing more than a storage unit.
Brandi’s gaze shifted to her friend’s wrist and she suddenly felt alone without her Rasta colored bracelet that reminded her of Bob Marley, the reggae singer she had heard about from one of the boys at camp who had recently emigrated from Jamaica.
“Well, I’m glad you waited,” she said, hefting the heavy literature text and slamming the locker door shut. Judiciously, she eyed her friend while flexing her wrist. “Only next time, send me a warning much sooner because I hate having to do battle almost every day.” She closed the combination lock.
Teresa hunched her shoulders and gave her friend a pat on the back. “Then stay focused. Because I’d hate to be burned because you’re my best friend.”
Brandi stopped, swallowed hard. “I said I was sorry.”
“You’re sorry but it’s almost as if trouble is your middle name.” She linked arms with her best friend as they entered the lobby. “So what was today’s reprimand?”
Brandi looked down at her feet, wondering if they could find their own way home, without her. She made a face. “An evening class with Mr. Perkins.”
Teresa shook her head as if re-imagining scenes of horror. “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” she said, swallowing hard, suddenly captivated as a man with a red cap entered the grounds.
“A good thing too, because I know I’m destined for greatness and the signal will arrive shortly.”
Not wanting to start another disagreement, Teresa kept her mouth shut, because it was pointless to argue. People like Brandi and Teresa’s mother, Sue didn’t follow reason. And the countless times that they had had this discussion, nothing had changed. So, she unhooked her arm and took a deep breath because she had had her fill of destiny to last her a lifetime.
“Brandi, you need to outgrow this,” she said, shaking her head and pointing to the man on the playground. “And next you’ll be telling me that the man with the red cap has some mysterious package for you that will reveal things about your future.”
Brandi shrugged, knowing that her friend was waiting for her to contradict her, as she stepped forward.
Stopping her in her tracks, Teresa raised a hand. “Nobody has powers that can stop things from happening,” she said, raising her eyebrows. “And all those comic books and fairy tales that your grandmother told you about are just that…tales. Things that people made up. Things that we wish would happen, but can’t.” Her hand idled on Brandi’s shoulder, before she adjusted her lengthy strap and dashed off.
Dabbing a stray tear that threatened to fall, Brandi watched her. Letting her go. As the sound of the entrance opened and then closed ahead of her; reminding her that she was alone and would remain so unless she did something. Took action.
She wiped her eyes, and stooped towards the floor, wondering how her friend could be so cruel as to dismiss her protests. If the shoe was on the other foot, she knew that she would have acquiesced. No matter how she felt or what she thought. But right now, the words stung and even if her friend had only been trying to make her see reason, she would have preferred it if she had just indulged her fantasy. Even if it was only for a little while.
So almost certain that her friend’s allegations were false, Brandi grabbed her bag and raced through the outer doors as if she were being chased by Cerberus. But outside a strong wind shook her and she lost her balance. Tipping over, she extended a hand to grab the guardrail, but nothing could stop gravity. And when she hit the bottom steps, she howled and then tried to get up.
Just then, the guy with the red baseball cap rushed over and helped Brandi to prop herself up.
“I guess your powers aren’t up to speed as yet, otherwise you would have seen that.”
She cringed, sitting up and observed her right arm which was slightly bruised. Powers? How had he known?
The messenger smiled, removing his cap. “I’m a friend of your father,” he assured her, giving her a handkerchief which he used to bandage the wound.
Brandi leaned into him and said, “Thanks.” And without looking up, he picked up her bag and deposited it next to her. Then he extracted something from his shirt pocket and presented it to her.
Brandi gushed, wondering if she should take it.
“Yes. He sent this for you.” He bowed, handing her a little brown box. “Maybe it will be of some use to you. But you should only open it when you get home.”
Brandi nodded, feeling a slight sense of apprehension as the box touched her open palm. Her father? What was there to say now? she wondered, taking it. Thank you? Then feeling uneasy, she looked around expecting Teresa to jump out from behind the bushes.
The man shook his head. “And read the instructions first.”
Of course, Brandi thought, wondering what sort of a moron he mistook her for. And yet she needed to say something. So, she turned. But he was gone. She was the only person on the stairs. She sighed, her fingers closing in around the box. A present from her father.
Above her head, the school’s outside lights flickered on and Brandi decided to go home. She would figure something out on the way, she thought, stuffing the box into the inside pocket of her jacket.
Excited about the prospect of finding out something new about her father and her powers, she lengthened her stride. Ignoring the pain in her shoulder and the bruised skin on her arm. Hopefully, she would heal soon and be able to uncover something new about herself and her future, she thought. Things that she had never been allowed to do in this crummy neighborhood, that she feared was holding her back.