They Call Me Hero
Leon was raised on comic books and adventure films, dreaming of becoming a hero. Patrice unwittingly becomes his damsel in distress, but frankly, Patrice doesn't need saving. Well, not that she'd admit it out loud. "Yes, I've always wanted to be a hero." "But without the superpowers, upper body strength or any kind of muscles?" "Precisely."
I really do make an effort not to be dramatic. I don't go looking for problem. Problem goes looking for me.
"I hate you!"
Water splashes on my face, and I thank God it's only water. I blink a few times and slowly wipe it off, wondering what exactly have I done to deserve this wrath.
"You're a whore who treats everyone like they're beneath you. You know that Jack is my boyfriend, but still, you stole him from me. Couldn't you have picked anyone else but my boyfriend? There are tons of guys in our school. Do you just enjoy causing pain?"
Gotcha. I try to explain. "Before you go on, let me clarify that we didn't kiss, Micha. Not on purpose anyway. It was an accident, ask anyone."
"I did in fact ask anyone. And they told me you kissed! And it was definitely on purpose!"
My poker face is probably infuriating her more, but it's difficult for me to get angry or feel guilty about something I did not actually do. "Look, he tripped and sort of fell on top of me -hey, don't look at me like that. True, it sounds unreal but if you see it in movies then it does happen in real life."
"I don't believe you."
"Ah, that's because you've already got it in your head that I'm the villain here. Why don't you ask your boyfriend if he purposefully tripped? Or are you too chicken to break up with him?"
She looks stricken, and takes a step backwards. "I-"
"In layman terms, you decided to pounce on me because you thought that I would be willing to be your emotional punch bag? Not so much. Oh and you know, your boyfriend? He's not such a great kisser. Sloppy. The fact is, I didn't come on to him at all, and I wouldn't have anyway."
"Patrice, you probably don't know how hard it is to feel like you're losing someone you love. You have a rotten personality! And it makes a beautiful face turn ugly." Micha shoots me a hateful glare and stomps away, rejoining her group of friends who proceeds to give me the same sort of glare.
I exhale, perplexed by her anger towards me. Sure, it sucks, but if it were me, I would've been glad to get rid of a boyfriend who kisses other girls. Some people just astound me.
"Harsh," he whispered, sliding into the seat next to me. I cup my chin in my hands and tilt my head to the side.
"It wasn't my fault. I mean, have you seen Jack Kennel? I'm not even interested in him, I barely speak a word to him and she accuses me of playing seductress."
"Impressive. You seduce him without even doing anything."
"Sometimes I wish I didn't have this kind of effect. I only have one girl friend and the next best thing is you."
He chuckles, a low, rough sound that sends a tingle down my spine. "You make it sound like being friends with me is the most awful thing in the world."
"It is. You're a beast. A wolf hiding in sheep's clothing. You always date my friends.. well when I had them.. and break their hearts."
"I'm a sheep hiding in wolf's clothing. I've got a tender, sensitive heart, you know. I didn't mean to break theirs," he says, holding a hand to his chest, giving me the doe eyes. I stare back impassively.
"There is nothing sheep about your inside."
He barks out a laugh and says, "Indeed you know me well."
"After ten years of you hanging around the house, ganging up with my brother to annoy the hell out of me? I know for a fact that you're made of evil."
"Well if I'm made of evil, you're made of ice. What does that make us?" He says, sidling closer so his shoulders knock against mine.
His face splits into a grin. "We should plot world domination soon."
"The world is already ours. They just don't know that yet."
"Very true. So what's my favourite ice queen doing in this park alone anyway? Sitting on a picnic bench with no food, staring out into trees."
"The no food part is so irrelevant. And more like, what are you doing here? And not somewhere with your flavor of the week."
"You tear me up, Patty dear. I don't really change girls that fast. It's much too tiring."
"She dumped you."
"Something like that, yeah."
"Maybe if you stopped flirting with other girls you might actually have a shot at a proper relationship."
"What do you know about a proper relationship, Miss Single-For-Sixteen-Years?"
"I know what I know from reading, and observation," I say defensively.
He rolls his eyes. Imitating a girl, he bats his eyelashes and gives me a playful shove. "And that's totes valid ground for telling me what a proper relationship should be like, babes!"
"I'm just saying.. would it kill you to be loyal to one girl?"
Leaning back on the table with his elbows propping him up, he says, "Maybe I just haven't found the right one. Maybe I missed her on the train, or in the supermarket. She just passes by me and the both of us are none the wiser."
"What an un-Calvin thing to say."
"But wouldn't it be lovely if it were a Calvin thing to say?"
"I don't particularly care either way."
"You're so cold," he says, wrapping his arms around himself and pretending to shiver. I scoff and flick his forehead.
"Don't be stupid."
"So, what are you doing here?"
"Oh, really? And what did you find?"
"That I really want more girl best friends."
"Go get one then. I hear they've got a buy one get one free bargain for girl best friends at Tesco's."
"It's not that easy."
"Well girls are- Don't kiss me. That would make things weird," I say. His lips are tantalizingly close, our noses touching. His eyes have a strange sparkle in them, alluring somehow.
His voice is lower than before. "I like being close to girls. They smell nice."
"I'll make sure to buy you a girl's perfume for your birthday. So you can smell it all the time."
"Why would I need that when I can come to your house and smell you?"
I say in one breath, "That was such a weird sentence on so many levels."
"Why don't you just.. let it…" he inches closer, "Go with the flow.."
Just as he is about to kiss me, I reclaim my grip on reality. This is Calvin we're talking about.
"Ugh, not with you, no," I say, pushing him away. He catches my wrist in his hands with a half-smile on his face. I hate the way he always seemed mature at times like these. He lets my hands drop.
"I love it when you blush. You actually look like a normal girl."
"Don't use me as your rebound. Not only is it repulsive, it's also like incest! You saw me grow up, you're practically family."
"Yes well, this brother of yours has needs that his sister.."-he air-quoted-"..can fulfill just fine."
"Go out hunting or something. I'm sure many girls would be willing to fulfill it."
"But you're so beautiful it hurts not to touch you."
We silently look at each other for a moment, and I blow a raspberry. "Don't use your lines on me."
"You've known me for too long."
"Longer than necessary. Is she watching now?"
"The café near the playground. She broke up with me two days ago by the swings."
"Aww," I coo. "Poor itty witty Cawvin."
He pouts his lips. "If you kiss me you might make it all better."
"I usually use the word mind-blowing? Oh, and she's seriously looking this way."
I sneak a sidelong glance towards the café. He answers the question in my mind, "The brunette with the Labrador."
"I'll check it out later, I don't want to blow your cover. If I pretend to swoon over you will you pick me up at 7 and take me to Louisa's house?"
"Why? Is your brother unavailable?"
"He's studying. Ick. It's like someone lobotomized my brother into this study geek."
"I have never heard lobotomized being used in a sentence. He's trying to get into Oxford, cut the poor guy some slack."
"I amaze people on a daily basis. Is it a yes?"
"Go for it."
I lean forward to him, laughing as if he had just said the funniest thing, batting my eyelashes and toying with my hair.
"Well, say something! Don't just leave it up to me."
"I thought you were doing quite swell there if your eyes weren't doing that manic twitching thing."
"I was batting my eyelash," I hiss. I quickly laugh as loud and as squeal-like as I can, giving him a gentle smack on the shoulder. "You should probably walk away after this."
"Yep. Although I'm quite enjoying this charade. I never knew this is your flirting face. You need practice."
"Oh, stop it you, inkle-winkle!" I say, pinching him on the cheeks.
"Is that the best you can come up with? Really?"
I make sure to twist hard. He grimaces. Then, I put my arms around him and we're close again. I shut my eyes and inch forward, willing him to do what we planned.
He doesn't fail me. Shrugging my arms off of him, he feigns a look of horror and quickly walks away, giving me a quick wink before he does.
I yell out high-pitched, "Honey boo boo sugar tops! Where are you going?"
His hands deep in his pockets, brows scrunching together, he is the epitome of a conflicted man. As he saunters past the café, he glances to her and even though I couldn't see his face, I know he's looking surprised. He stops abruptly. They stare at each other. The girl is pretty in a simple sort of way. I see she has a book with her and she wears glasses, one of the rarer, nicer type of the girls that Calvin ensnares. I pity her, she probably thought she was going to change him.
"I'm going to go home," I say aloud to no one, running to the other direction so if the girl notices me she'll think I'm running away crying. Well, that's the idea.
Mostly, I just like running. The wind whipping my hair, the adrenaline coursing into my veins, the warmth seeping in. It's addicting. The other exit to the park is far away, which suits me fine. I stop running when my vision blurs and I'm wheezing, and as soon as I reach the rusting statue of a woman holding a bucket, I fall to her feet. I've never seen the point of that statue.
I catch my breath, inhaling deeply. The café is a small box from this distance. I imagine that Calvin is hugging her now, spitting out cliché lines like, "I couldn't forget you. I have irrevocably, irreparably, irrefutably fallen in love with you." Or whatever bullshit he can come up with. Growing up with him and my lame fail of a brother around, it's probably not surprising that I have little faith in boys.
Especially not when a gang of four comes up to me from their weed-smoking hiding spot by the thickets. They look like the typical hoodlums, wearing baggy, black hoodies with a strange almost limping gait in their walk, one of them has Skullcandy headphones on his neck and another has a roll of weed tucked behind his ears. They look threatening, so I stand up and start to shift to the back of the statue.
"Hey, pretty girl. Don't run away!"
They cackle madly and approach. I take a deep breath and prepare to run when from behind me, I hear a voice.
"Leave her alone!"
This boy comes out from nowhere, brandishing a stick in his hand. I'm not sure if he intends to use that like a sword.. or.. a wand.. or if he's just casually holding it in his hand..
"Didn't you hear me? Leave her alone!"
"Like we're going to do anything you say. What can you do anyway?"
"Well, I'll fight you!"
-Wait what? Why is this boy picking a fight he clearly wouldn't be able to win? He stands in front of me, his brown hair glinting in the light. He doesn't look like he can take on four guys who are all taller than him. Turning around to me, he gives me an OK sign with his hand. "Don't worry. I'll protect you."
"Are you crazy?" I exclaim, seeing that one of the other guys is carrying a knife. I hold his wrist and tug. "Come on! Run!"
"No! A man doesn't back down from a fight!"
"This is not a fair fight! You can back down!"
"I have to protect you. You can run first if you're afraid."
I'm more afraid for his life. I wrack my brain for a way of putting this so it gets through his thick skull. "Doesn't a hero also know when not to pick a fight? You know it's like what Gandalf said in The Hobbit.. um.. wait what was it.."
"True courage is not about knowing when to take a life, but when to spare one?"
Sure, I'll go with that. "Exactly! And isn't this time to spare one?"
"Contemplate later! Run now!" I drag him by the wrist and he nods. We make a run for it all the way towards the exit. The hoodlums chase after us, yelling profanities. We keep going until we reach the nearest bus stop, both of us panting and heaving. My legs burn with strain.
"What the hell were you thinking?" I say to him. He looks dazed. His mouth opens and shuts, making noncommittal noises. "Well?"
"You looked like.. you were in trouble. So I.. it was a chance to save someone."
"More like a death wish! Are you mad? Do you even know me?"
"Of course I do. You're Patrice, right? From class B?"
"Hold on. We're in the same school?"
I don't recognize him at all. His description is generic. Brown-hair and matching eyes, average-height, freckles on his face, gangly limbs. Yet when he rubs his eyes, I notice that he has wide, curious eyes, like a child's. It is quite startling to see how golden they look in the sunlight.
"I can understand you wouldn't remember me. I'm Leon, from class D. We have Maths and English together, but I don't really speak out much in class."
"And why did you challenge those guys?"
"Because.. I was born to be a hero."
You're kidding me. "… like with superpowers?"
"Exactly! But I prefer the medieval knights with the code of honor and swords."
Oh. So it was a sword.