Authors: Laurie Boyle Crompton
Tags: #Romance, #Young Adult, #Contemporary
Copyright © 2012 by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Cover and internal design © 2012 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover design by Christian Fuenfhausen
Cover photo © Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock
Back cover photo by Marie Killen
Internal Illustrations by Anne Cain
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Fire, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data is on file with the publisher.
For Brett, who once told me, “Love is a superpower.”
And who continues to prove it is true.
Hear me X-Men! No longer am I the woman you knew!
I am FIRE! And LIFE INCARNATE!
Now and forever… I am PHOENIX!
My astonishing future hurtles toward me with supernova force.
The open road ahead is bursting with the promise of
and the wind
with the sound of…
“Fire in the hole!”
The groans hit me a split-second before the stench, and
isn’t really my thing
My thing is driving my thirteen-year-old brother, Josh, and his friends around in a turd-brown minivan. I am the eternal chauffeur to a gang of Soccer Cretins. Make that totally-disgusting Soccer Cretins with reeking emissions issues.
“Dude, you should see a doctor or something,” Andrew calls from the back, his voice muffled through the T-shirt held over his nose. “That is totally not normal.”
I glance in the rearview mirror and see Ajay look up from his perpetual video game to smile proudly. “You guys like that one?”
Josh sucker punches Ajay, and the two of them start wrestling in the seat behind me.
Bash! Block! Kick!
Over his T-shirt-mask, Andrew catches my eye in the mirror and we share a look of hopelessness.
Meanwhile, the horny freak to my right is busy ogling my cleavage. Again. I take a hand off the steering wheel to yank up my T-shirt’s neckline. “Dylan, if you don’t stop staring at my rack you’re never sitting shotgun again.”
Josh immediately stops his backseat battle with Ajay and leans forward to cuff Dylan’s shaved head with his palm. “Dude! That’s my sister.”
“Ow! I was looking at the dashboard,” Dylan lies as he adjusts his glasses. “Just checking how much gas we’ve used.”
Josh, Andrew, Ajay, and I respond with a sarcastic harmony of, “Riiiight,” and, “Sure,” and, “We believe you.”
Dylan scrambles to make his lie more elaborate by blaming all of global warming on the lousy gas mileage of my 2002 Grand Caravan: the mild-mannered minivan also known as the Subatomic Superturd of Steel.
I lean further out the window. The jolt of fresh air is a welcome change from the toxic cloud festering inside the minivan. Plus, it helps erase the sense that I’ve just been violated by Dylan’s vulgar mind.
near-future wet dream.
I try imagining a superpower that would reduce my attractiveness to pubescent boys, while inversely making me more alluring to über-hotties like the cretins’ coach, Mark. Putting out is likely the missing plutonium to that puzzle. I am, after all, the Amazing Su-per Virgin Girl! Fully flowered! With chastity of steel!
Not that I’m all that virtuous. It’s pretty easy to say no when no one’s even asking for it. I never took a vow of purity, but I have a nun’s reputation anyway. It hasn’t done much for my ability to snag a boyfriend, but I don’t really want to use all my time and energy working on a sluttier image.
My dad gave me a cool name, Blaze, but my life is so unexciting that my name is more ironic than the soccer ball magnet I stuck on the back of my minivan—my failed attempt to create visual irony. The universal soccer mom badge suits me too well to be ironic.
I finally pull Superturd into the parking lot, where all the other minivans are wearing their soccer-ball magnets in a non-ironic manner. I’ve barely screeched to a total stop before the boys are evacuating through the sliding doors and thundering toward the field.
In my head, I commission them,
thee, go forth, Mighty Cretins!
! Greet your destiny of triumph with your superstar soccer skills. There isn’t a twerpy little brother alive that I’d rather be driving all over green creation.
! May your lewd glances be reciprocated by the sideline MILFs on this fine day.
you, Andrew, the small but swift
! Never has there existed a thirteen-year-old so above the immature fart jokes that surround thee.
! What can I say, aside from: Thank God you are clearing the hell outta my minivan before the seats melt.
As usual, once the Mighty Cretins have cleared, I pull my faded pink beach chair out of Superturd’s back end, grab my messenger bag covered in superhero pins, and make my way over to the field. After setting myself up on the sidelines, a bit removed from the cluster of overly aggressive parents, I put on my mirrored sunglasses to scan the field.
I quickly spot Mark, and everything else fades into background.
He strides easily across the field with a net sack filled with yellow soccer balls slung over one shoulder. I focus on the one bouncing playfully against his butt.
Man, how I’d love to be that soccer ball
Mark embodies the single wonder in my dismal pseudo-soccer-mom life. His taking over the team last spring was like a wish granted for my seventeenth birthday. A wish that was too fantastic for me to even think it up on my own. He and I go to the same school, but we may as well inhabit separate universes. Our lives are so different, it’s like I’m stuck with Batman and Superman in the DC World, while Mark is partying in the Marvel Universe with every other worthwhile character. That’s right. I said it:
Mark wears a faded blue baseball cap over his dark curly hair and a gray Wolverine team shirt. The odds of him taking that shirt off are lessened by the cooling weather, which is quite tragic considering his spectacular abs.
In private, I’ve sketched him from every imaginable angle. Looking now at his strong legs, lined with muscles and covered with dark hair, I let myself wonder about what lies further up, under his thin white soccer shorts. Due to my Su-per Virgin Girl! alter-ego, I’m quite unfamiliar with that territory. That is, aside from a traumatizing walk-in on Josh peeing that shall never be mentioned again. To be totally honest, I’m mildly terrified of penises. (
) Either way, the lump in Mark’s shorts doesn’t move as he strides across the even grass to shake hands with the other team’s coach. The other coach is cute enough, yet I find I’m not the slightest bit curious what his penis looks like.
The whistle sounds, signaling the start of the game. With a sigh, I flick my white-blonde ponytail behind one shoulder and pull my sketchpad out of my messenger bag. I take a quick inventory of the vintage comics I packed. There is nothing more awesome than good, old-fashioned, superhero-versus-bad-guy comic books. The classic ones where you can actually read a whole plot in five issues and one sitting. I’m not so into the current darkly stylized ones, and I don’t much care for graphic novels or manga, but retro comics really turn me on.
Today, I have two
, and a
packed carefully in their individual Mylar sleeves. I have to take precautions to keep them in mint condition, since they’re from the massive collection my dad left when he teleported his life to Manhattan.
My regular soccer sideline routine is to sketch my own comics until the game is nearly over and then lose myself in the superhero stories. Opening my sketchpad, I flip to an empty page filled with endless possibilities.
“Blaze!” At the sound of my name, I look up and see a soccer ball heading straight for my head. My sketchpad slides off my lap as I instinctively half-stand to catch the ball.
The catch stings my shoulder. Rubbing it, I see Mark jogging lightly toward me. Before I can move, he’s directly in front of me, easing the ball out of my hand. His proximity is exhilarating, plus I’m grateful I don’t need to demonstrate my awkward ball-throwing technique.
I’m hypnotized by his smiling gray eyes, which are amplified by his gray shirt. “Nice reflexes,” he says, and my insides give a twitch.
“You should see me throw.” I grin, making a mental note to never let Mark see me throw.
He raises his eyebrows appreciatively, and sonic vibrations run through me. Mark turns to throw the ball gracefully to Josh, but before rejoining the action he gives me another look. Dipping his head, he mouths, “Thanks,” in a way that is so hot I have to sit down in my pink folding chair before I lose consciousness.
Mark seems to have some unnamable quality that tunes my whole body to a higher frequency. Like Peter Parker’s Spidey Sense, except with a whole different sort of tingling. What can I say? That boy just does it for me.
It takes a few moments before I’m able to refocus my attention back on my sketching, and even then, I draw a few accidental hearts in the margins before calming down enough to get back to work on my comic.
I’ve always liked doodling, but I didn’t start drawing comics of my own until after I read through Dad’s entire stash. The collection is stored in six huge boxes in our basement and includes most of the main Marvel characters from their origins up to the tail end of the 1980s. It’s almost as if Dad left those boxes of comics behind on purpose. Like he was handing me a message that said he’d never forget about me and would come soaring back if I ever really needed him.
I suppose sketching is my silly way of trying to answer him back. Of letting him know I understand.
This one time, I even mailed a few sheets of my drawings to him in New York. They featured Ice Girl, my first attempt at creating my own superhero. She’s a little shy, but seriously kicks butt with her ability to freeze and smash any bad guy that comes her way. I designed her with large breasts, like the super-chicks from the ’80s, but I couldn’t draw hands yet so Ice Girl flies with her arms behind her back. Which makes it look as if her boobs are her source of power. It probably made Dad wonder about me being gay or something, but I put a lot of time into drawing the comic panels I sent him and I liked how they came out.
Dad usually talks to me and Josh on the phone every few months or so, but he never did say anything about what he thought of
I figure he just forgot about it, or else it got lost in the mail. Or maybe she’s just so totally lame he didn’t want to hurt my feelings. I never bothered bringing it up.
Thankfully, I’ve moved past creating cheesy superheroes with porn-star breasts, and now most of my comics focus on a character who looks and talks and acts pretty much exactly like I do. Or how I
act if I wasn’t such a geek, anyway. Plus she has telekinetic powers and mad skills with a dominatrix whip. Oh yes, and she has this ultra-cool hot-pink Mustang that
through the air, instead of a turd-brown soccer mom minivan.
I call her the Blazing Goddess and sometimes Blaze for short because, hey, my life may pretty much suck, but my name is still amazing.