My name is Shelby Morgan.
I'm fifteen years old. Until last Saturday, I led a normal life. I was homeschooled and living in San Diego with my mother and father, two sisters, a brother, and two dogs.
That Saturday started off normally. My mom repeatedly called me downstairs to join her and the rest of my family for breakfast. Had I not been reading comic books the entirety of the previous night, I would have joined them the first time she called. And maybe I wouldn't have dozed off at the table. This happened a lot.
"Shelby, why weren't you sleeping last night?" asked my mom, Norma, taking a break from making an omelette to question me.
Norma is middle aged and has dyed blonde hair in a quick ponytail most of the time, and usually has a coffee in her hand. She's pretty cool. Sometimes. The other times, her overprotective side comes out, and that's the main reason she's homeschooled me and the rest of my siblings.
"She was reading comic books all night!" shouted Bailey, my youngest sister.
Bailey is the (mostly) figurative baby of the family at the age of nine and has bubblegum pink hair and ducky slippers she will never take off, no matter how much you ask. On top of all that, she's a master tattletale. I don't know what I did to make her have a vendetta against me, but she's out to get me for basically every little thing I do wrong. So... she's fun to be around.
"And you're nine years old and still sit in a high chair." I mumbled, half-hoping she'd hear me, and half-hoping she'd miss it.
My mom's face turned inquisitive. "What comics are you reading? Batman? Spider-Man? Starlight?" she chuckled.
This isn't the first time we've had this conversation. She's seen my comic book collection before. I showed it to her myself. I think it was around a month ago that I sat her down and gave a little presentation on my favorite heroes. My favorite of them all is Starlight.
Not much is known about Starlight's origin, considering that she's a real person and wasn't created by Stan Lee or anything like that. That hasn't stopped comic book authors from capitalizing off of her battles with theories on how she came into being. While there's a lot of different stories about her origins (being born that way, being bitten by a radioactive bug, just being super rich and having access to incredible technology and weapons), the facts of the matter are that she has a wide range of light and sun based powers. She can fly, turn into a beam of light, and harness energy from the sun and shoot laser beams. Everyone knows not to mess with her.
Despite her being very much real, there is still a lot of speculation that her and other superheroes are frauds. Maybe because they've never seen an altercation between a hero and a villain before, maybe because they can't wrap their heads around the logic of having powers like sunbeams, or maybe they just think the whole thing is silly. Unfortunately, my own mother is one of those people. She thinks Starlight is just as fictional as Batman, or Spider-Man, or whoever else she manages to remember without butchering their names.
"Hey, those are based on true events!" I argued. Then realizing where I went wrong, I added, "At least Starlight is."
"Didn't she decimate an entire grocery store when fighting Doctor Nightmare?" questioned my other younger sister, Kaitlyn, with one eyebrow raised.
Kaitlyn is thirteen and has brunette hair. Her favorite color is orange, and she has a vast collection of headbands; you can never catch her wearing the same one on two separate days, even in the same month. Unfortunately, Kaitlyn is quite the skeptic. I think she believes in superheroes, but doesn't think too highly of them, due to all the collateral damage they inadvertently cause. When we were little, she always did prefer playing with ponies over superhero action figures.
"Okay, that wasn't her fault, and you know it!" I declared, trying to defend my hero.
My mother sighed. She was disappointed in me for focusing so much of my energy on this. I could see it in her jade green eyes. "Shelby, you really should sleep at night. Especially if you're going to be working the pharmacy today."
Ah, yes. The pharmacy. If you were wondering what us Morgans do besides churning our own butter and gloating about how much smarter we are than our public schooled peers, we all work together in the family business, the Morgan Pharmacy. My dad started the business after he and some colleagues at the hospital he used to work at decided to break free. Not only are we a pharmacy, but we sell all different types of snacks, including my mom's homemade cookies.
"Here are your tasks for the day," stated the booming voice of my father, Richard.
Richard is two weeks older than my mom, and has brunette hair, square framed glasses, and has a very loud voice, but he almost never uses it. I think out of everyone in my family, he and his son and namesake, and myself, are the only ones who really care about superheroes. I'd talk to my dad more about my comics, but he's usually so busy with his work stuff that when he has a free moment, he'd probably rather be watching football.
"Bailey, you'll be welcoming customers," my dad droned.
"No one can resist buying from someone as cute as me!" Bailey squeaked. This was true. One of the facts of life is that Bailey is objectively very cute, and upon seeing her, customers at the pharmacy tend to buy a bunch of my mom's cookies. If you dress her in a cow costume, she would quite literally be a cash cow.
"Richard, you'll stock items," added my father.
"Aw yis," exclaimed my younger brother, Richard II.
Richard II is eleven, and is basically a carbon copy of my father. They share so many traits. Brunette hair? Check. Deep voice? Check, surprisingly enough for an eleven year old boy. An affinity for the sciences? Eureka! I mean, check. He also really likes superheroes, but it's only a casual interest for him. It hasn't consumed his life like it has mine.
"Kaitlyn, you'll man the phones," my dad continued.
"Sounds good to me!" Kaitlyn chirped. She always eagerly accepted every task she was given without complaint. Meanwhile, I complained almost every chance I got. I don't think complaining is really that bad if you do the work you're complaining about. And I do it... just not too well.
"And Shelby will work the register."
Something in me was screaming for help. I've been doing small jobs at the pharmacy practically every day since it opened, and I was sick and tired of working on my weekends while other girls my age went to the mall with their friends. God, how I envied them. They spent five days out of the week seeing their friends and their other peers, and the other two days? They also spent seeing their friends. I almost wish I could call them out for having so much fun. "Hey, that's friend group inequality. You have so many friends, while I have none! You should give me some of your friends to level the playing field a little bit." I could even hold up a protest sign, "I am the 99%, you have 99 friends." Ugh... see? If I had friends, I wouldn't have time to make corny jokes like these.
But anyways, I had been doing this job for five years, and I simply wasn't going to take it. At least not today. "Actually, I'm going out," I mentioned, meekly, preparing myself for what was coming.
"Out? Where?" my mom interrogated before a realization came to her face. "Shelby, I swear, if you're going to go spy on the Mission Bay High students again-"
"Nice try, Mom. But today's Saturday. No one is even there today," I reassured her. For those who are wondering, those accusations are not without merit.
I think, as human beings, we've all done things we're not proud of. My thing? Well, one day this spring, out of curiosity, I decided to peek through the fence at the Mission Bay High School cheer practice. Not because I'm a pervert or anything, but because I was really, really, really jealous.
If being a superhero was the greatest job ever, being a cheerleader was a close second. I know, I've seen all the movies where the villains are cheerleaders, but I refused to believe that all cheerleaders are bad people. Not everything you see on TV is true. However, I believe sports channels are exempt from that, and so every time there's a cheer competition on TV, I tune in and am never disappointed by all the stunts they do, especially when a group of girls tosses another girl in the air. That must feel nice.
So anyway, I went to the practice and watched from afar, when the cheerleaders noticed me. They approached me, and I tried to be super friendly. At the time, I think they received it very well. They were laughing at everything I said, and I felt really good about myself. I asked them if there was any way a homeschooled girl could get on the squad, and they gave me the coach's number. When I got home and called it, it turned out they had given me the number to a suicide hotline. Looking back on it now, they weren't laughing with me... they were laughing at me.
I think it's safe to say I learned my lesson about that.
"I'm actually going to the comic book shop! See you guys later!" I shouted as I left the house. It was about time I had a little fun.