Listen to this story, narrated by C. S. E. Cooney:
I was never an amazing Super. I only joined the team because I wanted to be with people like me. I never thought I’d, you know, try to save anyone.
I’m not sorry. But after the incident at the museum, I have a feeling my teammates are going to reconsider my membership. I mean, when Estelle texts We need to talk, no emojis… Yeah, not good.
Where? I text back.
My stomach drops. We only go to Mimi’s for “serious” team meetings. I need to get there before they start dissecting all the negative impacts of my botched save. If I get voted off, I’ll just be a weirdo on my own. Again. Naturally, the bus is late.
There are six or seven people waiting at the bus stop and they’re carefully not making eye contact with me. Probably think I’m junkie aching for a fix, fidgeting like I am. To stop myself from looking at my watch, again, I pull out a “Lost” flyer from my tote bag and carefully tape it to the telephone pole. Makes me feel useful, though I know it’s pointless. If my cat, Pepe, has a Superpower, it’s the ability to disappear completely until he feels like coming back.
Finally, the bus comes. Everyone files on, but I’m too worried to sit. I chew my lip instead, watching the other riders stare at their watches or phones. An ad flashes above the seats. Worried about your child’s EXTRA ordinary abilities?
I scowl. Everyone’s so afraid of them, but 95% of all Superpowers are pointless, anyway.
I mean, nobody on our team has a “cool” power or whatever, but as Estelle says, we found each other because of our weird abilities and we stay together because we want to be visible, change public perceptions, even if it’s just volunteering at the kids’ art museum.
For the first time in my life, I’m part of something that accepts me as I am. I will myself not to check the time, refuse to think about how I could get to the café faster using … other methods. Or how my teammates are probably sitting around a table at this very moment, asking, “Well, what should we do about Rani?”
We should ignore the angry calls from parents, that’s what. We shouldn’t apologize.
I mean, the museum’s tour guide was clearly having an awful allergic reaction. I had split seconds to decide and rush her to the hospital a few blocks away. Sure, I knew using my “EXTRA ordinary” abilities would terrify the school kids she was leading, but her windpipe was closed up.
I didn’t see the EpiPen in her pocket until she saved herself.
I feel like an idiot, but I’m not sorry.
The bus stops half a block away from Mimi’s. I run and push through door expecting to find my team with half-empty cups and serious expressions.
But they aren’t there.
With shaking hands I text Estelle: Where r u?
Mimi’s Coffee. U?
On 4th and Sterling?
The other one. 12th and Maple.
Crap, oh crap. I forgot to ask which location. How could I be so stupid? I start running. But I’m not going to make it, unless…
I hate using my Superpower. Because all I can do is turn into a giant grasshopper, and only from my waist up. Yeah, I don’t blame those kids for being terrified of me.
But even as half a grasshopper, I can jump really far. So, before I second-guess myself or anyone on the street can react, I transform and move. I cover entire blocks in two leaps, jumping higher, faster than I’ve ever dared. Praying I’m quicker than any bystander with their phone.
When I arrive at the correct Mimi’s, the team is closing their tabs. Estelle spots me as I’m transforming back through the window and makes her way to the door.
“The meeting’s not over yet, is it?” I blurt.
“Listen, Rani. We’re thinking maybe you should just be our social media director and not come volunteering with us anymore.”
“But-“ I choke up. I’d planned this whole defense, and now I couldn’t get the words out.
Estelle frowns. “You really shouldn’t use your power in public.”
My hands clench up. I will not apologize for trying help someone, screw what other people think.
“I’m sorry, Rani,” Estelle says. “I wish I had a better solution.”
She means it, too. Suddenly, the helplessness, the pointlessness of our team is just too much. I start running.
“Rani! Wait! Please-“
I don’t, though. How can we expect other people to accept us when we barely accept ourselves?
I hate crying. But once I start, it’s like a dam breaking. I’m a waterworks display the whole 45-minute walk home. Oh god, I’m doomed to be a lonely weirdo forever, aren’t I?
I’m about to step into my apartment, ready to curl up in bed for the rest of the week, when I hear:
There, standing on the sidewalk, is the tour guide I didn’t quite save. She’s holding my cat, Pepe.
“You found him,” I say. No one’s ever done that before.
“Seems like the least I could do,” she says. “After what you did for me.”
“But I didn’t do anything.”
She gives me a small smile. “You tried. That’s rare. Why do you think I’m so good at saving myself?”
I have no idea what to say. At least the silence is mutually awkward.
“How did you find him?” I ask, finally, taking Pepe from her.
She looks embarrassed. “It’s a weird thing I can do sometimes.”
“Find lost cats?”
“Lost anyone, actually. But only if it’s a partly cloudy Wednesday.”
“Maybe we should start our own Super team,” I say, half-heartedly.
To my surprise, she smiles. “I’ve always wanted to be on one, but didn’t think I qualified.” She held out a hand. “I’m Julie.”
I’m not an amazing Super, but maybe that’s okay. I think I’ve finally found my team.