-He's Not My Hero-

Chapter V: Mutual Mistrust

My father was home that afternoon and Marcy was at his side, entreating him to be calm. She was hanging off of his arm by the time he walked through the elevator doors, but the words coming out of her mouth somehow didn't seem to match the story of the missing jewels that I'd been a part of.

"Ben, I'm sure she couldn't have prevented it," she said with a cringe in my direction.

"I know Marcy," he said, but his jaw was tightened and he sent her looks that made me nervous.

"Elaine, are you okay?" She asked. "I'm sure you're shaken from the robbery." Her ice blue eyes were widened in shock.

I had enough sense to act like I knew what she was talking about. My dad was fuming behind her, his arms crossed and his brown eyes glaring at nothing in particular.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I said. She smiled her sickeningly sweet smile and dragged my father by the arm towards the dining room.

"Your father's a little angry; you know how he is about his privacy," she said. "He'll get over it."

I could have told her that, but I didn't, I let her drag him into the dining room where they proceeded to talk in hushed tones about nothing in particular. I trudged to my room to flip my computer on and do my best to ignore Rita as she made my bed.

I had five new emails; I answered those with the shortest responses I could and then proceeded to check the news. Updates on the CIA break in, Man of Iron's latest achievement, and a photo collage of national monuments had all been recently posted. On the front of the photo collage was a picture of plans for a monument in New York City- a monument built for Man of Iron, Luke. I clicked on the photo collage.

The second picture was of the Towering white Washington Monument piercing the blue sky in Washington DC. It looked just as it had the day my dad and I visited it when I was six; crowds had been gathered around and in it, it was swelteringly hot, and I'd thought it was a disappointment.

"Daddy, can we go now?" I remember asking him. We were in the crowds at ground level, everyone was sweaty and stinky, and the sound of snapping camera lenses filled the air. I'd always hated crowds, even at that young age.

"Elaine, this might be your only chance ever to see this," he said. "Don't you want to take it in?"

I remember pouting. I hadn't wanted to take it in; I'd wanted to go home, or at least back to our posh hotel a street down from the White House. Finally, he consented. I always got my way.

"Alright, come on," he said, more amusement than irritation in his voice.

A grin had instantly spread on my face, and I'd been the happiest little girl in the world until we passed an ice cream stand with very unusual flavors that I'd decided I really wanted to try.

I clicked out of the photo collage as Rita came over to dust my desk hurriedly. She glanced over my computer screen, at the bright yellow tulips that made up my desktop background and at my open facebook profile. I shot her a smile which she quickly returned while she finished her dusting and left. She knew that I liked to be alone.

My sketchbook was left on my desk, open to the sketch I'd drawn of the smiling couple with sunbeams and flowers surrounding them, the glory of Central Park in the late summer. I suddenly wished I was back there with them, just watching them laugh; it was better than sitting alone in a birdcage with and angry father and his annoying girlfriend.

My excitement for the day was over; Luke was gone. I still felt awed that I, a girl who wasn't even sure she approved of him, was on a first name basis with the city's most secretive celebrity. It almost made me wonder about him; he knew I wasn't sure that I liked him. If he was so secretive, why did he give me his name so easily? Was there an ulterior motive?

By sundown I still hadn't come out of my room, but Marcy came to my door and popped her head in.

"Dinner's ready," she said with a small smile. I wasn't in a good mood, but I returned the smile as well as I could.

Dinner was roast beef, baked potatoes, asparagus, and a fruit salad. It was all good, but my appetite was gone. Dad was back to normal, making happy, friendly conversation with us and acting as if the robbery/whatever it really was had not happened.

"DC was amazing this time of year," he said. "It was beautiful, you would have loved it, Elaine, now that you've grown up and you can appreciate it." He smiled a little as he remembered the trip I'd been thinking about earlier. "I think it was a mistake to take you when you were younger; you didn't enjoy it."

"I remember," I said.

"We should all go, as a family, next spring," Marcy said. "Elaine can take a week or so off from school, we'll beat the tourists."

When we'd passed the invisible boundary between "Dad and I" to "Marcy, Dad, and I" I couldn't determine, but, looking back, I can't deny that the word "family" sounded awfully nice. A family was people that cared for each other, people who loved each other unconditionally, and people who understood each other. Looking back, I now realize that my naïve assessment of one of the things I didn't have in my abundant lifestyle was far from correct. It also wasn't very far from sentiments that could be found in the Hallmark aisle at a local Walgreens.

We spent an hour watching what my dad wanted to watch, Caddy Shack, and laughing at the antics of the obviously fake gopher. Afterwards, I went to sleep to the sound of Marcy and my dad debating over what to watch next in hushed tones.

It seemed like fate that Monday would end up being another awful day. It was raining outside, but that was the least of my problems. I very nearly avoided skidding on the slippery pavement that was 61st Street and having what surely would have been a near fatal crash. I wondered bitterly where Luke was when I needed him as I cautiously navigated the rest of the way to school, squinting to see through the fog and sleet.

I was confronted by a motivational poster as I walked into school that read "Choose to make your day the best it can be." It had a grinning smiley face on it and looked completely out of place in the staunchly decorated lobby milling with quiet students in neat uniforms. It was covering the handsome oak door to the counselor's office, and it almost made me feel guilty for my sullen mood as I stared at its gleaming black eyes.

Then the doors opened quickly and I was hit right in the center of the forehead where I stood. On my way towards the ground, I mentally cursed the smiley face and any other being that dared to smile at me that day. I was then met with the smiling, frizzy countenance of Mrs. Fitzpatrick.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Ms. Bishop," she said, the she instantly launched into another subject. "I read about the robbery at your house, I hope you're okay." She flopped a paper in front of my face and offered me a helping hand. I clambered up off the cool marble floor and stared at the black text in the paper.

"The Bishop Household of 61st and 5th, which contained massive amounts of valuable antiques, jewelry, textiles, and other priceless possessions, was robbed on Saturday." The article was tiny; no one would have noticed it unless they were looking for it. It briefly described what had been taken, how priceless it had been, and the Man of Iron's activities. It then went on to describe trashy lies about my relationship with Luke, which were mostly in the form of open ended questions.

"Why was the Man of Iron so concerned about young Elaine Bishop's well being?" "How had he gotten there so quickly, just minutes after the arrival of the police?" "Was Elaine Bishop really seen giving him a "reward" for his services?"

I indignantly scanned the name of the reporter; Clarissa Witching. I gritted my teeth and moodily shoved the newspaper back into Mrs. Fitzpatrick's hands. I ignored the bewildered expression on her face and stalked away. If she couldn't figure out the reason for my bad mood, she was even less bright than she looked.

Julia greeted me that morning with the news that Clarissa Witching's "breakthrough" article about me had landed her a job as a reporter in a real newspaper. I received the news with as much approval and enthusiasm as I could muster, though I seriously doubted that The Socialite had ever published a "groundbreaking" article.

She accompanied me all the way to first period, where we were greeted by a shy Chris who seemed just as unenthusiastic as I had been, but unable to hide it as well as I could, at the news of Clarissa Witching's promotion.

"Do you even know who she is?" He whispered at me as Julia skipped in front of us towards our customary three desks in the middle of the room.

"I have no idea," I said, grateful that someone else could relate, at least somewhat, to what I was feeling for once.

I tried to multi task and take good notes while Julia insisted on flicking annoying little notes folded in triangles of ripped notebook paper at my desk. I sighed as another landed on my desk.

"Chris could've acted more excited!" She'd written in her loopy handwriting. "I doubt he even knew who she was, lol, what a loser."

"Yeah, haha, I don't think he did," I wrote, a slight pang of guilt stabbing me as I flicked it back.

"Ms. Longer, would you care to answer number seven for us?" Mr. Marshall said with his eyebrows raised at Sarah. She stuttered and blushed; sending me a few bewildered looks before I softly whispered the answer to her.

"A," she said confidently.

"Thank you, Ms. Bishop," he said, giving me a pointed look. I let a small, sheepish smile come over my face, and Julia just glared at me. I shrugged towards her, but Mr. Marshall had already moved on to his next victim and didn't witness our exchange.

"Thanks a lot Elaine," Julia said.

"Sorry." I made a face at Mr. Marshall's back, but she had already gone back to scribbling on her little sheet of paper; this time she sent a note towards Chris, and I saw him smile at it.

The end of the day brought relief from school, but not from the weather outside, it was monotonously wet and humid and I found myself longing for the coolness of a New York autumn as I stepped into the sheets of rain. I was met soon by Gina, who was in her cheerleading uniform with a head of frizzy hair and a smile on her face. I was suddenly reminded of the smiling face on the poster in the lobby, and its message: "Choose to make your day the best it can be."

"Hey," I said when she intercepted me on the way to my car.

"Hey yourself; cheer got canceled, do you want to come to the movies with us?" She asked with a happy smile.

I didn't see how I could get out of that invitation, so five minutes later I found myself calling my dad and explaining why I would be home late while I followed Julia's car down the crowded streets, past mobs of people, and towards the theatre.

"That's fine, honey," he said when I told him. "We're holding a business meeting here at the house, so I wouldn't be there to see you anyways."

I had the sense not to ask who "we" was and thanked him for his understanding. Twenty minutes later, Randolph, Gina, Chris, Julia and I were debating over what movie to see in the lobby of the theatre.

"I say we see Blood, Guts, and Gore," Chris recommended.

The rest of the group chorused their agreement. Words couldn't expression the horror I felt at the possibility of seeing that movie, but when asked my opinion, I nervously twirled a strand of smooth brown hair and said a weak yes, staring entreatingly at Julia and Chris, who knew my loathing of scary movies. They said nothing, and I found myself weakly following them to the snack stand after we purchased our tickets.

The bucket of popcorn in my lap was forgotten as the blood bath promised in the title of the movie played itself out on the screen.

I tried to keep my eyelids peeled open, but I couldn't glue them to the screen for more than two seconds. I found myself burying my head in my arms, trying to drive the shrieks out of my head as yet another one of the forgettable and underdeveloped characters was brutally killed off.

I was shaking in fear and had broken out in a cold sweat by the time the movie ended. There had been no less than five deaths and three near escapes in the hour and fifteen minutes I'd sat in the theatre, and each one had chilled me to the bone.

At home, I sat in the cold living room listening to the hushed voices of my father's colleagues in the dining room, trying to shake the visions out of my head.

"Do you want to bring these to your father?" I nearly jumped ten feet in the air as Marcy walked towards me, a silver tray with some of her special home made flaky pecan pastries on its surface, the kind that my father had the peculiar habit of peeling open and inspecting the inside for a good time before he ate it, as if he expected it to be poisoned.

"No, I don't think he'd want me in there."

A sweet smiled crossed her face.

"You're probably right."

She took some of her irresistible cooking into the dining room, where I heard the conversation halt for several moments, a gruff chorus of muffled "thank you", and a pause in the low, commanding voice of my father's as he went through his ritual of peeling and inspecting his pastries before eating them slowly.

"I think I'll stay in the kitchen," Marcy said.

"Do you want me to join you?" I asked, hoping that she would say yes and I wouldn't be left alone in my room to brood on the bloody images I'd seen on the movie screen that afternoon.

"No thank you," she said, while flapping the glossy cover of an interior design magazine in my face. "I'll be reading this, really boring stuff." She smiled. I still had enough sense not to confess what I'd done earlier in the afternoon and beg her to be with me, so I shuffled across the living room and into the arched cage-doors of my room, which I was convinced would hold a bloody man with a chainsaw waiting to murder me.

There was no one in my room, and I managed to stay within the confines of its walls for a long time before the oppressive silence drove me away from my light purple painted cage and out onto the balcony.

It was cold and crisp, the sounds of car horns and the millions of lights in the night helped ease my nerves, and I could have the confidence that, if an insane chain saw wielding serial killer should somehow find me up here, a certain masked hero would miraculously come to my rescue once again.

A certain kind of guilt came with that confidence as I leaned heavily onto the cool concrete railing to look over the busy streets of Manhattan. I knew he would be there if I called to him, but I still didn't know if I trusted him. There was a certain kind of unease in my heart that pertained to my mother. It wasn't sadness, because I had never known her, and how could I consciously miss someone I'd never known?

It was regret and anger, the anger and regret that I was barely able to keep under the surface in my brief conversations with Luke. That anger and regret were accompanied by another feeling, and I wasn't sure if this feeling was as angry as the others that accompanied it in my head and in my heart; it was a curiosity. I was getting to know him, but every question he answered left five more, ten more, and it was enough to add to my anger as well as to a desire to see him again.

I remembered the night that he had been lurking around the window to my apartment, spying on my dad. He clearly suspected my dad of something, and I was absolutely positive that those suspicions were completely unfounded and solely based on the expensive items that we had in our house.

I felt like an idiot, but I couldn't help myself. He could be hovering in the dark, just a few feet away from me, but invisible in the shadows of the eves.

"Luke?" I asked.

There was no answer at first and I was about to call again when I heard a sigh.

"Yes?"

"You're not very good at sneaking around," I said. He emerged from the shadows, a pair of jeans with gigantic holes in the knees that were so faded they were almost white hung off his narrow hips and he wore a Yankees T-shirt. He could have passed for a hobo if it weren't for his clean shaven, sharp looks, odd silver eyes, and black mask.

He frowned at me.

"You'd have no idea I was here if you weren't so clumsy and I hadn't had to save your life that night."

"Well if you're just going to insult me I can walk in there right now and tell my dad you're here." I purposefully kept from encroaching on the newest burning question; why did he suspect my father; an honest, hard working man, of anything?

"Don't," he commanded.

"What are you doing here; I'm starting to think that you're stalking me."

There was a small snort of laughter as he floated gracefully on to the ground, his bare feet silently hitting the stone ground a few feet away from me.

"I know you think my father did something."

There was no response from him, he just stared at me with his arms crossed, and I realized that he trusted me as little as I trusted him. He would never concede anything to me. He was probably already thinking that giving me his name was a mistake.

"I can see that you aren't going to tell me anything."

"No."

"Okay," I said. I could live with it for the time being. After all, the mistrust was mutual.

"I'll see you here tomorrow, same time?" There was a smile in his eyes, but his face remained stone cold.

"Sure."

He gracefully shot into the sky, rocketed down, and flipped into the shadow of the eves once again.

"You can't keep from showing off, can you?" I whispered into the darkness, certain that he could hear it.

There was no answer from the shadows, and I saw no more movement there the next forty five minutes that I spent staring into their seemingly endless depths. It was a strange feeling, staring at something you couldn't see, and being contemplated by that same invisible being. I couldn't be sure, but I thought I felt his eyes on me, instead of on their intended prey in our dining room.

A/N:

Wow, I'm really sorry that it took me so long to come out with this chapter. I only checked it once, but I sure hope you guys won't mind.

Review Responses:

All That And A Bag Of Chips: Thanks! It sounds like your English teacher is pretty cool, I wish we could do stuff like that in my class, instead of stupid essay writing, which I suck at.

ElenJunai- It's really good to hear that you like my story so much! Wow! Thanks for taking the time to review

Pterodactyl- Don't underestimate me, I have quite a few more tricks up my sleeve than that ;). You're also underestimating Elaine's character quite a bit, but I won't say anymore.

Frizzle-tastic- I'm glad that you're paying attention! But, remember that the story's definitely not over yet, a lot of other things can happen! (PS: I'm not saying you're right)

REVIEW PLEASE!!!