They closed the curtains and covered the mirrors, drawing in close and tight and safe. This wasn’t a time for the living, sun in the sky or no. This was one of the four days that belonged to the others, the dead and the never-so, the ones who dwelled in a distant place the living would only see when time had finished marching and their personal hourglass was empty of sand. This was her time. And it had been her time since 1927 and a boy with none of the manners he ought to have. Her hair was still bobbed short and her skirt still swirled around her knees, or at least it did on these days. Any other day and you’d never have picked her out of the crowd of college co-eds. Today, she was free to be herself though and to dance to a record that hadn’t been played anywhere but her mind since that year. Today, she smiled at a pretty girl and held out her hand, promising forever to the newly dead.
The old pickup truck bounced its way down the dirt road, the suspension long since gone the way of all mortals. Behind the wheel, a young woman kept her eyes on the road and a dog leaned out the window. Another mile and she’d be home for the first time in years. She glanced at the picture taped to her dashboard. Two young boys played in a creek while the old dog splashed around. Would it still be like that or would things be different now? Would her brother recognize her? How long had it been? She could barely remember the day she’d climbed into the old truck and taken off down the dirt road and hadn’t come back. Well, until now. A little further and she would see the house. She was already past the old creepy gate and she could hear a coon hound baying somewhere. And there he stood on the steps, one hand up to shade his eyes. Her twin
He had bought a ticket to go west. A one-way ticket to freedom and open skies. Sitting on the train, sitting by the window, he kept his cap pulled down and hoped no one would see the soft curves of his face. They would see the heavy work pants and shirt and the cap and never once think anything but young man. His eyes were on the skies now, on the low clouds that hung over the prairies. This was his new home, this place where the sky went on forever. Here, he would be free.
Stepping off the train, his rough boots touched the ground and he pulled his cap down again. Freedom would still have a price. Anonymity. But it was a price he was willing to pay. No one would ever know what had happened to the precocious daughter of the Greenbriar family and no one would ever know where Michael Green had come from.
Cyn sat in front of the mirror, the prom invitation on the desk and let the tears fall. There was a pounding on the door and she turned, quickly wiping her face on her sleeve. The door opened before she could say a word and she gulped. Her step-mother stood in the doorframe, hair pinned and tortured in curlers in preparation for the evening out she’d been planning.
“I left a list of chores on the fridge for you, Aaron. They’d better all be done before your father and I get home. Do you hear me?”
Cyn just nodded, keeping her head down.
Her voice caught and she winced. Her step-mother was walking into the room, striding with purpose as she looked at something.
“What’s this?” She flicked the invitation off the desk and a cheshire grin crossed her. “Is it prom season already? Well, that’s exciting, isn’t it? It’s not every day a young man gets the privilege of escorting a girl to their senior prom. Your father will take you for a tux, of course. Have you got a date yet?”
Her mind had gone blank, her veins turning to ice the moment the damnable piece of paper had been taken from her. Young man. A tux. She was freezing from the inside and she couldn’t look up anymore.
“N-no, Ma’am. Not yet.”
“You’ll find someone soon. Don’t you worry? Have you thought about asking one of the nice girls from church? I bet they would just love to go.”
Cyn’s step-mother tousled her hair and then turned to return to her preparations. For her part, Cyn waited just long enough for it not to be rude, closed the door tightly and dropped to sit hard against the door. She was shaking and the tears streamed down her face once more. Not for the first time, she wondered what it would be like to claw her own skin off, to take the parts of her she didn’t like and just be rid of them.
Marlee Walker held her toothbrush between her lips and glared at her reflection, trying to pull her curly black hair back into a loose ponytail. She had 10 minutes to finish getting ready, get downstairs and get to the bus stop. Assuming, of course, that her day didn’t get wildly disrupted like it usually did. There was a reason she was still working at the family business, after all. At least her folks understood when she had to suddenly vanish in the middle of the day.
That was when the sound of shattering glass echoed through the air. With an audible groan, she jammed her toothbrush into the cup on the counter and spat out of the mouthful of toothpaste. She could fix her hair while she flew.
“Boomerang!” The woman standing on top of the giant robot grinned broadly, throwing her arms wide. “What a pleasure.”
Marlee hovered in the air, a frown on her face behind her painted leather half-mask.
“Who are you and what are you doing?”
The strange woman fidgeted, adjusting the mask that covered her own face.
“That… isn’t important. I’m here to… defeat you!”
Marlee stretched idly, landing with barely a sound.
“Well, we’ll see about that.”
The robot lay in pieces, metal scattered all over the ground. Boomerang held this strange new villain against the wall of a nearby building.
The woman tried to look away.
“I…it’s… I still have one weapon left.”
She blurted the last bit, seeming to surprise even herself.
“Oh? And what’s that?”
Then the woman smiled nervously and leaned in to kiss Marlee gently on the lips. For a long moment, Marlee just stared at her.
“What is this really about?”
The woman pulled her mask off to reveal Marlee’s best friend, Emily, with a chagrined smile on her lips.
“I… couldn’t figure out another way to get your attention. You’re always running off and…”
Marlee could feel the blush coming to her cheeks.
“Em?” She looked around at the scene around them. “You did this so you could…?”
“Corner you long enough to ask you out on a date?”
Marlee pulled Emily in close and carefully floated back down to the ground.
“Friday night sound good? Just don’t bring the robot this time.”
“Only if I get to come with you if you have to run off to save the world.”
Her bass drum heart boomed so loudly the band on the stage could have used it to keep time. The trumpet crooned and the snare drum begged her to follow her dreams across the room to the beautiful brunette leaning against the bar. She took one last sip and set her glass down on the table. Pulling her courage on, she hummed along as she wove through the crowds. Stepping in alongside, she smiled and held out a small bunch of lavenders.
“How’s about a dance, sweetheart?”
The brunette turned, smiling shyly as she took in the flower and the suited woman offering it. Taking it, she slid away from the bar and tucked it into her hair in a fluid motion.
The night went on like that, with laughing and dancing until the midnight hour approached. The doors were suddenly flung open, church bells tolling the midnight hour somewhere in the distance. Heads snapped up all over the room as the lights came up and the police poured in. She turned, meaning to run together, but the brunette was gone. All that was left were their memories. She had no time, though, to worry about that. She had to make it out before she got caught.
“I didn’t get her name.” The realization hit her like a truck as she stepped into her small apartment. “Dammit!”
Running her fingers through her short blond hair, she wondered if they would ever see each other again. But it was so unlikely. So unlikely that it hurt. With a sigh, her shoulder slumped and she hung her coat by the door. Leaning against the wall, she wondered. That club would be closed for a while after the raid. How could she possibly know which one to go to to find her again? It was like looking for a needle in a haystack or trying to find Cinderella without her glass slipper. Hopeless.
“Wait, wait, go back. You like me? Like me like me?”
Slowly, I lowered my deathray and stared at Captain Courageous. He had a wry smile on his face and a bit of a blush under his mask.
“I know, it was a surprise to me too.” Taking a step towards me, he slung his shield on his back again. “To be perfectly honest, before I met you I’d never even…” He took a breath and looked me up and down. “I’d never considered that I might-”
“What?” I cut in, grinning. “That you might be capable of love? That you might have a crush on a villain?”
He reached out and grabbed the front of my costume.
“That I might be gay.”
My breath caught in my chest and then I let my deathray fall from my fingers as I reached for him.