A Change of Pace – Chapter 32

Angela anxiously paced back and forth across the common room. <No…no…no, it’s not ready,> she grabbed beer bottles, a pizza box, and other bits of trash as she paced.

It was surprising how much had changed since she started at West Private’s HCP, and how much hadn’t. Angela had been in all out, knock out brawls with other Supers, she was learning form some of the best Heroes in the business, she’d cultivated a friendship, had developed an impressive reputation, and now had connections with classes ahead of her own. Even after all of that, she still felt like the scared little girl waiting for her parents to come home and see if she got into the HCP.

She glanced at the clock in the kitchen and felt the ball of stress in her gut solidify. <8:58! Where did the last thirty minutes go?> The kitchen still wasn’t up to her mother’s standard, the bathroom wasn’t clean, and as far as Angela knew; Seth, Liz, Mason, Kyoshi, Anika, and Becca were all still asleep in each other’s beds. That was not appropriate for her parents to walk in on. <Why did we have to go shopping?>

                Angela stifled the mental groan as the clock flipped to 8:59. Her parents were never late. Angela desperately wished Becca was awake to help clean up the mess they made when returning from shopping, but she doubted even the speedster could get everything done in a minute. Angela needed to prioritize, so she spent her last, precious minute focusing on the common room, the hallway, and the kitchen. Her room was already immaculate. She was tying up a trash bag in the kitchen when the doorbell rang.

Angela rushed to the door only to stop right in front of it. She took a deep breath, smoothed out her skirts, and ran a hand through her short hair just to make sure she was presentable. Then she opened the door.

“Welcome, Mother, Father,” Angela greeted the two Heroes.

Both of her parents were in appropriate civilian clothes for the Florida fall. Her mother was wearing a black, stylish pant suit with a white blouse underneath. Sophia Martin was two inches shorter than her daughter, but was what Angela would look like in twenty five years. Angela had received her facial structure and hair from her mother, although a few streaks of premature grey were starting to peak through Sophia’s shoulder length blond bob. Sophia looked almost delicate compared to her sturdily built daughter, but that didn’t matter when she shifted. Sophia Martin was more commonly known as the Hero, Seraphim. The criminal underworld used many more colorful names for the female Hero, but all were uttered with fear and respect. Seraphim was a winged terror. Few tangled with her and stayed out of a prison cell.

“Good morning, Angela,” despite being more physically intimidating, Angela quickly moved out of her mother’s way.

“Hello, Angela,” next through the door was Angela’s father, Henry Martin.

If someone on the outside was to look at the elder Martins, they would have made the assumption the Henry was the close combat specialist. Angela got her sturdily built frame and blue eyes from her father. Henry was 6’4” and probably 250 pounds. He looked physically intimidating, with a rugged jaw, a strong forehead, bushy eyebrows, his dark brown hair in a buzz cut, and icy eyes. The truth was Henry, a.k.a the Hero, Hunter, was a subtlety Hero. Sophia handled things when they got up close and personal. Together Mr. and Mrs. Martin made up a two man Hero team, and the team had quite the reputation.

Angela’s mother had always been stricter, more prim and proper, than her husband; which was why Henry was in a pair of beige slacks, brown loafers, and golf polo. They were all high quality items, but they fit together into a casual outfit. Angela learned long ago that although her mother was the sterner of the two parents, her father was the impatient one. That most likely came from being a top tier teleporter with an insane tracking talent. If you gave Hunter a target, and one of that target’s possessions, he could hone in the target’s “scent” over time. It might take an hour, or a year, but eventually Hunter got his prey.

“Please come in,” Angela’s parents were already inside surveying the common area before she got out the offer.

“This room is in need of a good cleaning,” her mother slid a finger over the top of the T.V. to show Angela the dust.

<I didn’t have time to dust, Mom,> Angela fought back the retort, and kept the smile on her face.

“It’s difficult to keep things as tidy as I would like with so many roommates,” Angela offered the explanation, but her mother was already moving on. Her father just stood next to the door like an imposing body guard.

“Dispatch, Seraphim and Hunter checking out on our 48 hour leave,” he said softly into the earpiece.

Angela didn’t hear the response, but her father gave a nod, and turned his attention back to his wife. Sophia continued to inspect the room, her face growing more serious as she located more and more deficiencies.

“I would never allow this lack of cleanliness in my home,” she gave up halfway through the kitchen, her disapproving expression digging into Angela’s soul.

“Yes, Mother,” Angela bowed her head obediently. “Would you like to meet some of my roomates?”

“Rebecca Whitfield, Mason Jackson, Seth Abney, and Kyoshi Schultz,” her father answered from the doorway. “Speedster, strongman, elemental manipulator, and advanced mind.”

“Yes, Father,” Angela hated when he did something like that. “But would you like to meet them? You can’t know all about them from their files. “

Angela snapped her mouth shut as her father cocked a bushy eyebrow at her. She’d come dangerously close to back talking him, something she couldn’t ever remember doing.

Her father’s raised eyebrows turned into a slight grin, another something she couldn’t remember seeing. “You’re right,” she let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. “Human intelligence can be much more reliable that other sources.”

“Ok, I’ll be right back,” Angela rushed up the stairs and straight to Becca’s room.

Angela had to approach this strategically. She didn’t want her parents wasting their valuable time; she wouldn’t put it past them to simply leave if they were left waiting too long. All this meant that she needed to get someone quickly down to them to keep them their long enough to get everyone else up. That job automatically went to the group’s token speedster.

“Becca,” Angela smashed through the door, causing the old wooden thing to bounce loudly against the wall.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” Becca jumped a foot in the air, luckily she already had a shirt and panties on. Anika was still wrapped in the comforter half asleep.

“Sorry,” Angela offered the brief, but sincere apology. “My parents are here and want to meet everyone. Can you get down there and introduce yourself while I get everyone else up?”

“Sure thing,” a mighty breeze rustled everything in the room, then suddenly Becca was fully clothed and giving Anika a peck on the cheek. “I’ve always wanted to meet your parents,” the speedster rushed out of the room.

Angela and Anika’s eyes met as, “Golly, swell to finally meet ya,” echoed from downstairs.

“You can introduce yourself if you want,” Angela didn’t wait for a response, and hoped it didn’t come off too rude. She just needed to keep moving.

Mason and Kyoshi’s door was locked, but thirty seconds of knocking finally brought Mason to the door. “My parents are here and want to meet you. You too Kyoshi,” Angela saw a leg sticking out from beneath the blankets twitch. “You knew this was coming. I told you we should have gotten back earlier last night,” all she got was a groan as she rushed to Seth’s room.

This time she didn’t barrel through the door or incessantly knock until someone answered. Truthfully, Angela didn’t want her parents to meet Seth, and definitely not Liz. It was nothing against the girl, but her parents were Heroes, and Liz was a third rate Super at best.

Angela gave the door three polite knocks. “Seth, my parents are here, so if you have a free minute could you come down and meet them.”

The door immediately opened to reveal a well-groomed, expensively dressed Seth Abney. “I’ll be down in one minute. Thank you,” Seth finished strapping on what looked like a gold Rolex, before closing the door politely behind him.

<Maybe he’ll make a decent impression after all,> Angela reconsidered, as she rushed back down to the common room.

“So Angela is just the best, such a hard worker, at the top of the class, just the bestest,” Becca was laying it on thick, and shot Angela a wink when she didn’t think either of the parents were looking. But Angela’s father was always looking.

“Good morning,” Kyoshi stumbled down the stairs with an embarrassed blush, with Mason not far behind her. “I’m so sorry about the mess; we had a late night yesterday.”

“Hopefully not imbibing alcohol,” Sophia shot a stern look at the gathered HCP students.

“Of course not, Mrs. Martin,” Becca’s innocent smile masked the lie. There had been a little drinking, but Angela had already disposed of the small amount of evidence. “We were shopping for our costumes!”

“Tomorrow is Halloween,” Sophia sounded like she just remembered something trivial. “I hope they are appropriate for young women,” no one answered that question.

Unexpectedly, Seth came to the rescue. “Mr. and Mrs. Martin I presume,” Seth descended the stairs like royalty. He looked like he was heading to a press conference, not to meet his roommate’s parents. “Seth Abney, pleasure to meet you.”

Seth shook Angela’s parent’s hands like a CEO, and made meaningless small talk about their trip and the weather. Becca started working on breakfast, and after a moment Kyoshi went to help. Mason just stood against the wall, looking even more intimidating than Angela’s father; although, the older man didn’t seem to even care about Mason’s size and stature.

“What’s going on?” Becca zipped out of the kitchen as Anika stepped off the last stair dressed in nothing more than a large t-shirt, and a borrowed pair of Becca’s athletic shorts.

“Hey, Ani,” Becca took the initiative and practically dragged her over toward Angela’s parents. “This is Angela’s Mom and Dad. Angela’s mom and dad this is Anika, my girlfriend,” she said the statement with pride.

“Anika Kemps, DVA classification still in progress, but currently ranked number seven in West’s freshmen HCP class,” Angela’s father looked more interested than he had all day. “Nice to meet you.”

“Uh…yeah, you too,” Anika was caught a bit off guard by the information dump.

“Angela,” Henry called her over as Becca and Anika both made their way back into the kitchen. “I have good news.”

Angela wasn’t sure what counted as good news from her parents. She guessed it meant taking down a Mexican drug cartel, or a supervillain; and as far as Angela knew there weren’t any of those in Orlando.

“After this weekend I’m going to be spending some time in the area. Some of my contacts have turned up some interesting leads that I’m going to follow up on. After that incident at the coffee shop off campus the higher ups are bringing in some more assets into the city,” Angela revised her earlier thought of there not being any big dangers in Orlando.

“That sounds great, Father,” Angela wasn’t sure if what she was feeling was excitement. “Maybe you can discuss a guest lecture with some of the faculty. We’ve already had a Hero from the local team, the Protectorate, come and speak to us.”

“If that is who your instructors are getting to lecture the freshman then I must insist that you speak to the student body,” Angela’s mother interrupted, her face sour. “You deserve the best education, and that means first rate guest speakers. Not some second string hero from the Protectorate.”

“I’m sure the faculty would be glad to have you,” Angela quickly ended the conversation before it could get any more judgmental. “Coach Meyers and Coach McMillian are always looking to augment our training program.”

Angela’s parents exchanged a glance at the mention of the freshman instructor’s names. “We’ll be seeing them later today, and will make sure to make the proper inquires.”

“That’s all the time we have before our tour,” Angela’s father looked at his watch. “We will see you at six for dinner.” It was an order not a question.

“Yes, Father,” Angela got out of the way as her parents headed for the door.

“It was nice to see you, Angela,” her mother didn’t bother to give her a hug goodbye before she shut the door behind her.

Everyone stood in silence for a moment as the click of Sophia’s heels disappeared into the distance.

“They seem nice,” Becca tried to inject some levity into the situation.

“I’d go with intense,” Anika offered a more appropriate adjective.

“I think it went well,” Kyoshi offered a comforting word, knowing how stressful the situation had been for Angela.

“Me too,” Angela genuinely thought it had gone well, apart from the cleanliness issue. “Thanks for coming to meet them.”

A chorus of “No problem” and “Of course” answered Angela’s statement.

“And next up we’ve got my parents,” Kyoshi looked excited, and Mason a little pale.

“Do you want us to help clean,” Angela offered, since she’d already done half the work already.

“No thanks,” Kyoshi waved off the offer. “Let’s just all enjoy breakfast. Something tells me this is going to be a long day.”

 

***

 

The restaurant was too quite. Kyoshi expected a little background noise to ease the tension. Unfortunately, it hadn’t gone the way she planned. Kyoshi, Mason, and her parents sat in a nearly empty restaurant in the middle of the afternoon. Kyoshi’s plan to break the news to them would have worked perfectly, but there was a flight delay. Instead of getting in at noon, and hitting the restaurant around one, they hadn’t arrived until two; so the four people found themselves eating between the lunch rush and happy hour.

Kyoshi was forced to break the news without a room full of witnesses to restrain her father from going berserk.

Kyoshi had chosen the fancy Italian restaurant that Mason had taken her to on their first date. The place would always hold a romantic place in her heart, and she thought it was a great place to break the news. They could even tell her parents the story of their first date, minus the little incident in the park. Her overprotective father didn’t need to know she’d faced off against a knife wielding speedster.

<Although, Mason’s cool head had helped delay them until Coach Meyers’ mysterious appearance,> Kyoshi rethought the storytelling.

The salads had just arrived, but no one had said a word. Not that it mattered for Kyoshi. She could hear the mental dialogues going on in everyone’s heads. Normally, she wouldn’t be intruding, but she needed all the insight she could get. Her parents loved her dearly, but they’d always been a little standoffish towards male suitors. And when she said they, she meant her father.

Kyoshi’s mother, Sakura, softly cleared her throat. “Kyoshi, how are your classes?” her mother hated confrontation, it was a cultural trait left over from her childhood. But her father more than made up for that.

“They’re good, Mama,” Kyoshi answered, glad to finally get the conversation rolling. “I have a math class with Becca, you remember Becca don’t you?”

“I can’t see how anyone could ever forget that bundle of energy,” her mother smiled as she sipped at her tea, and picked at her salad.

At 5’2”, and maybe 100 pounds, Kyoshi’s mother didn’t eat a whole lot. She let her father have the majority of her meal. Kyoshi glanced over at her father who was digging into his salad. He shoveled the lecture, cheese, croutons, and assorted meats into his mouth, but his eyes never wavered from Mason. Mason was concentrating on anything but her father.

“How was your flight?” Kyoshi addressed both her parents, trying to reignite the conversation.

“Fine,” her father grumbled eyes boring into Mason’s forehead.

“It is faster flying here than flying back,” Sakura picked up the explanation. “We sat on the runway in Atlanta for forty-five minutes waiting for a gate,” her delicate voice was exasperated at the memory. “It was fine other than that.” She scooped a crouton into her mouth.

Kyoshi nodded along with the explanation. <This isn’t going well,> she sighed, glancing around the table.

Mason was shifting his gaze from the menu, to the wall behind her father, and finally to Kyoshi; with the last look pleading for help. Her father’s eyes never left Mason’s face. They were evaluating her boyfriend, sizing him up, in the macho way only her strongman father could. Her mother was at least making the effort, but it wasn’t enough to kill the elephant in the room.

<Screw it,> Kyoshi dabbed at her lips with the napkin, and pushed back from the table.

“Excuse me; I need to use the restroom,” she excused herself, ignoring the wide-eyed look Mason shot her way.

<Mama, please come with me,> Kyoshi made the mental request.

“I will join you,” Sakura almost had to hop down from her seat to join her daughter.

The women left the men alone to do whatever it was that a father did to a boyfriend.

The tiled bathroom was just a nice as the rest of the restaurant. Kyoshi heard the tile was handpicked and shipped over from Italy by the owner, and head chef. There were four regularly cleaned stalls, the air smelled like someone came in and sprayed air freshener every half an hour, and there was a comfortable couch for patrons to sit on. Kyoshi and her mother took a seat on the couch. Neither actually needed to use the bathroom.

“What is Papa’s deal?” Kyoshi blurted out angrily.

Sakura had steeled herself for this inevitable outburst. She looked levelly back into the golden eyes of her daughter. “How did you expect your father to react,” she kept her voice calm. “I’ve been telling him for weeks that you were going to develop a relationship with that Mason boy, but he wouldn’t listen to me. He kept talking about how relationships between Heroes didn’t work, and that you would be too busy with school and the HCP to deal with boys. Honestly, I think it helped him adjust to you being alone and all the way across the country.”

“But I’m not alone, Mama,” Kyoshi let out a sigh. “Papa needs to realize that I’m a grown woman. I can make my own decisions, I can protect myself, and I can fall in love.”

“That is the most frightening thing you could say to your father,” Sakura stated. “A father spends his life protecting his daughter, and then one day, out of the blue, she says there is another man in her life. No matter how good that man might be, a father will be frightened by that reality; even a fearless one like yours.”

Kyoshi hadn’t thought if it that way. She assumed her father thought she wasn’t mature enough to make these decisions, not that he did think she was mature enough, and was just scared. She took a minute to ponder that while her mother waited silently.

“Then there’s the sex,” Kyoshi’s contemplative bubble popped when her mother poked it with an embarrassing needle.

“Sex…wha…” Kyoshi stammered.

“I see the way you look at that boy,” her mother’s grin was something Kyoshi had never seen before. “I just want to make sure you are both being careful. Some accidents might be happy ones, but I don’t think either of your career aspirations could afford this type of accident. Do I make myself clear?”

Kyoshi was blushing so hard she thought her face would catch fire. “Yes, Mama.” The young Super went to splash some water on her face. “Please don’t tell Papa.” She pleaded as she used a towel dry herself.

“I’m sure he already knows, but is in denial,” Sakura joined her daughter at the sink. “Do not worry though, I will not tell him. That is a box of wasps I have no intention of opening.”

Kyoshi thanked her mother with a hug. “Let’s hurry back,” her lengthy stride quickened as they exited the bathroom. “I don’t want Mason and Papa fighting over me.”

 

***

 

“Excuse me; I need to use the restroom,” Mason couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

<Are you serious?> he asked, but Kyoshi ignored him. Mason ventured a glance across the table. Kyoshi’s father looked like a shark that smelled blood in the water. <Dead…I’m dead. I hope your happy, Kyoshi,> he sent a last mental thought her way as she rounded the corner with her mother.

<Just stay calm,> Mason tried to act casual. He tried to take a sip of his water, but his throat wasn’t working properly. He ventured another glance and still saw Kyoshi’s father’s eyes digging into his soul.

“Now that the frauen are gone we can talk like menschen,” the giant man crossed his arms across his chest.

Mason always thought of himself as a pretty big guy, but if he was a black bear then Wilhelm Schultz was a grizzly. “Yes, Sir,” Mason decided it was a good idea to say something. Even though the huge German intimidated the hell out of him, Mason needed to stand his ground.

Wilhelm stared at Mason for another minute, his stony expression remaining unchanged. “What are your intentions with my Kyoshi?”

Mason should have had an answer in the chamber, ready to go. It was the first questions any dad would ask his daughter’s boyfriend. It was the question that predicated the entire father-boyfriend relationship from that point forward. Mason knew this; every teenage boy knew this.

<Why don’t I have an answer!> at the moment Mason would have taken another fight with Coach Meyers than have this conversation.

He didn’t have long to think. Every second he sat there instilled more and more doubt in Kyoshi’s father’s mind.

“My intentions, Sir,” Mason paused the take a deep breath. “My intentions are that I love her.”

Mason would have kept going if roaring laughter didn’t drown out every other sound in the restaurant.

“Love,” Wilhelm was laughing so hard that there were tears coming from his eyes. “You are a junge, a boy, what do you know of love?”

For a perfectly logical reason, Wilhelm’s reaction pissed Mason off.

“I know that I would, and have, taken a bullet for her. I know, and have, stood between her and possible death. I know I would do anything to make sure she’s safe because she brings a little more light into this world. A world that I’m beginning to see is darker than most people can imagine. That’s what I know about love, and it’s a love I’m willing to fight for; even if I am a junge,” Mason was pretty sure he didn’t pronounce the German word for boy correctly, but he didn’t care.

Wilhelm’s laughter stopped, and his penetrating gaze returned. “I can see you are not lying,” he stated after a second. “But that still does not mean you know anything about what you are about to face; what Kyoshi is about to face. The life you have chosen is incompatible with the love you seek. I know this, and you will one day see it for yourself. I offer you this warning,” Wilhelm took a deep breath, and the big strongman suddenly looked very tired. “There will come a day when you need to make a choice, and no matter how much you do not want it, that choice will be between being a Hero and my daughter. When that time comes I will not hold it against you when you break her heart, but mark my words, you will do just that.” A darkness hung over the table that wasn’t there before.

Mason didn’t know how to respond to that. How was a boyfriend supposed to respond to something like that? He was pretty sure this was the first time this conversation was going this way in the entire history of boyfriends.

“But do not mistake my foresight for leniency,” the tired strongman was gone, replaced by a decorated German Hero with over a decade of experience. “If you tell me you love her now, and you end the relationship in a month because of another woman, or another thoughtless excuse, I will fly back here, and I will break you. I swear on my daughter that I will make your life a life of pain; so make sure that you understand the depth of my commitment before you foolishly jump into this love you believe you have.”

Maybe it was youthful ignorance, or all the training he’d been doing since starting the HCP, but Mason stood his ground, “I do love her, and I am not so easily broken.”

Cold fatherly eyes met the blazing eyes of young love in a tense stare down. After a few seconds Wilhelm smiled. “I hope for your sake that is true.” The smile shifted from Mason to a space behind him.

“Welcome back,” Wilhelm got to his feet to pull out his wife’s chair, and Mason quickly followed his example.

Kyoshi looked a little flush, but Mason didn’t have time to ask her about it.

“How are the rest of your classes?” Wilhelm addressed his daughter as if nothing happened.

Kyoshi’s eyes narrowed as she looked back and forth between Wilhelm and Mason. <Do I want to know?> Mason just shook his head, but put his hand on top of hers; which was on the top of the table, in clear view of her parents.

The rest of the lunch was as normal as could be expected, but Mason would never forget Wilhelm’s words, or the ball of led they formed in his gut.

 

***

 

“It’s going to be ok, I’m right here,” Becca felt the warmth of Anika’s hand as it slipped into hers. “They are your parents, and they love you,” Becca felt the pressure as Anika squeezed her hand, receiving some of her natural confidence from her girlfriend. “Everything will be ok.”

Three more knocks echoed through the townhouse at the end of Anika’s pep talk. Becca and Anika stood right in front of the door, close enough to hear the confused voices on the other side. The doorbell had rung twice, and her father had knocked three times, but Becca was still having trouble building up the courage to let them in.

<This is just a great start to this whole situation,> Becca tried and failed to command her body to open the door.

“Why don’t I get it,” the warmth of Anika’s hand started to slip away, but Becca gripped it tighter.

“That’s ok,” now that she was moving, Becca capitalized on that momentum.

“Rebecca!” her mother’s wide smile and greeting washed over her.

“Hey, Mom,” Becca’s nervousness vanished when he mother wrapped her in a familiar hug.

“Where’s my favorite daughter?” Becca rolled her eyes as her father stepped through the doorway. He used the same, corny old joke all the time.

“I’m your only daughter,” Becca dutifully responded to complete their traditional exchange.

Her father waited patiently for Becca’s mother to let go before wrapping her up in his own hug. The Whitfield’s were simple people in every way possible. Both of her parents were average height, weight, and with plain brown hair and brown eyes. Her father was dressed in jeans, work boots, and had a thick plaid jacket in the crook of his arm. Her mother was in a black ankle length skirt that she would come to regret.   Fall was in full force up in Iowa, and working the dairy farm all day long required layers; sunny Florida did not.

“I brought cookies,” Becca’s mom pulled a huge plastic contained from her bag, large enough to feed an army of hungry soldiers. They’d learned long ago to feed Becca’s heightened metabolism.

“Thanks, Mom; thanks, Dad,” Becca accepted the cookies and hugged them protectively to her chest. She wasn’t sure if this was the last time she would get any.

“Don’t be rude, Rebecca,” her father was still smiling as he gestured at Anika. “Introduce us.”

“Oh, sorry,” a flush of embarrassment flooded Becca’s cheeks. “Mom, Dad, this is Anika. Anika these are my parents Maurine and Eugene Whitfield.”

“Nice to meet both of you,” Anika stepped forward to accept Maurine’s hug, and Eugene’s hand shake.

“You’ve got quite the grip on you, little lady,” Eugene retrieved his hand, shaking it out a bit.

“She’s just as tall as you, Dad,” Becca corrected him.

“It’s ok,” Anika kept on smiling; she was determined to make a good first impression.

“Are you one of my daughter’s roommates? I don’t remember seeing you when we dropped her off.” Maurine’s brow furrowed as she looked over Anika, her eyes lingering for a moment on her intricate tattoos.

“No, Mrs. Whitfield, I don’t live here,” Anika answered.

<I should have told her to wear long sleeves,> Becca groaned, knowing exactly how her parents felt about people defacing their bodies.

“Ah, I see,” her father made the connection. “You’re in Becca’s special class.”

“Yes, Sir,” Anika’s voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper.

“Fantastic,” her father beamed, overlooking the tattoos. “I’m glad Rebecca is making friends.”

“Yes, she is,” Anika smiled lovingly at Becca. “Becca is my best friend.”

“At college for two months and you already have….what do you call it…a BFF?” Becca’s mother struggled with the modern lingo.

“Yeah, mom, you could say that,” both of her parents noticed the change in her voice.

“What’s wrong, sweetie,” their parental instincts, dormant since she went to college, kicked into high gear.

“N…nothing,” Becca could feel the tears welling up. “Why don’t we sit down and talk.”

Becca’s mother tried to sit down next to Becca on the small, beat up couch, but Anika beat her to it. Anika placed a comforting hand on her shoulder as she took a few deep breaths. Her parents watched the scene with worried expressions, both fearing the worst.

“Did one of those boys living here touch you,” anger filled Eugene’s good natured face. “Because if they did, I swear to the Lord Almighty…”

“No, Dad….no, of course not,” Becca wiped away a tear. “Mason is an absolute gentleman and is dating Kyoshi. Seth is…well Seth is Seth, but he’s with Liz.” That calmed her parents down a bit.

“Then what is it, honey?” her mother reached across the space between them and patted her on the knee. “Is it school, the city, your special program,” Maurine started listing out possibilities in the hopes her daughter would open up.

Becca didn’t answer immediately, so Anika stepped in. “Do you love your daughter?” the question took Becca’s parent’s by surprise.

“Of course we love her!” Eugene answered first, startled that anyone could contemplate anything other than his complete devotion.

“Good,” Anika shot him a reassuring smile. “And I’d bet everything I own that nothing could ever change that.”

“Of course not,” Maurine jumped in this time. “We will always love Rebecca, no matter what decisions she makes.”

“You hear that Becca,” Anika gave Becca’s shoulder another reassuring squeeze. “You’re parents love you very much, so don’t be afraid.”

“What are you afraid of?” Becca’s parents mind were drifting back to worst case scenario mode.

“I’m safe,” Becca quickly extinguished their fears. “No one is hurting me, or doing anything to me that I haven’t signed up for. School isn’t too bad, I haven’t really been into the city much, and the HCP is really tough, but I’m doing fine,” Becca sucked in a deep breath. “There is just something I need to tell you.”

“What is it, Rebecca,” curiosity outweighed fear now. “Whatever it is, you can tell us.”

<I hope so.> Becca steeled herself for the reaction.

“Anika is more than just a friend to me,” Becca reached up to grab Anika’s hand, and squeeze it. “Anika is my girlfriend. I’m gay.”

Silence.

Becca was glad that she didn’t have telepathy because it would have made her nauseous trying to discern the thoughts swirling in her parents mind. It was written all over their faces; complete and total confusion was the first thing. Eugene worked his mouth like he was trying to say something, but nothing came out; while Maurine’s eyes just went back and forth between Becca and Anika.

Next up was disbelief. Both of her parents just shook their heads back and forth for a good twenty seconds, still unable to form words. Then Maurine began to cry a little. A lump formed in Becca’s throat as she watched her mother fight to understand. Her father just continued to shake his head.

“Are you sure?” it was a solid minute before her father was able to get the three words out.

“I’m sure,” Becca felt one weight being lifted off her shoulders, only to have another placed squarely on top of them.

“Have you tried not being gay,” now it was Becca’s turn to cry.

Becca knew her mother wasn’t trying to be insensitive or homophobic. She knew that the older, staunch Catholic was just having trouble comprehending it. They both remembered Becca dating boys in high school, they were pretty sure she’d been intimate with one or two of them, and now their daughter was telling them that she was gay. It just didn’t make sense in their minds.

“I can’t chose how I feel, or who I love, Mom,” Becca’s voice came out stronger and more confident then she felt. Anika squeezed her hand tighter with encouragement. “But I do know that I love Anika.”

“Honey, you’re so young. Are you sure?” Becca’s father was stuck on that point.

“Mr. Whitfield,” Anika took control of the conversation. “I’ve known I’m gay for a long time. It isn’t something we get to choose, it is what we are. It is a fundamental as you being human, and us being Supers, it is a part of us.” Anika’s confidence drove the point home. “Becca has gone through a journey, just like anyone else that grows up to discover their own identity. But what I can tell you is that your daughter is the most kind, pure hearted, and extraordinary women that I know,” Anika made sure she was looking directly into Becca’s eyes when she said that. “Neither of you know me, and there are some parts of my past that I’ve kept to myself, even from Becca. But what I can say is that she has helped me more than she could possibly know. She’s helped me find love, and I am forever grateful for that.” Anika eyes gazed into Becca’s. “I love you Rebecca Whitfield.”

Becca wanted nothing more than to kiss Anika in that moment, but a public display of affection might be a little too much for her parents to process. Both still had a deer in the headlights look in their faces.

“I’m sorry if this isn’t how you wanted to start parents weekend, but you needed to know,” Becca reached out and placed her hand on her mom’s knee.

She didn’t flinch away, which as a good thing, but she stiffened slightly. “This is just a lot,” Becca couldn’t identify the emotion on her father’s face. “I think it’s just been a long drive, and with all…this, I think we just need a little time to digest it all.”

Becca felt a wave of sadness wash over her, but reminded herself that this could be much worse. She knew her parents, and just like everyone in her old town they were resistance to change. She needed to give them time to take it all in.

“Ok,” Becca didn’t let her sadness show. “Why don’t you head to your hotel to rest, and then call me later. Maybe we can have dinner?”

“Yeah,” Becca’s mother’s tone was noncommittal, but Becca didn’t let it get to her.

Everyone got to their feet and walked back over to the door. “I love you two, call me after your nap,” Becca exchanged hugs with her parents.

“Nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Whitfield,” Anika said her own goodbye.

“Yeah, you too,” Eugene replied, distracted, while Maurine didn’t say anything at all.

And just like that they were gone.

Becca turned to Anika, and was almost crushed in a hug. “I’m so proud of you,” there were tears of joy in the stronger Super’s eyes. “You were so brave, and gorgeous, and just so great.” Anika’s smile could have outshone the sun.

Becca smiled too, the warmth of Anika’s love filling the momentary gap her parent’s somewhat acceptance had left behind. But Anika still noticed the change.

“Don’t worry,” Anika reassured Becca. “You’re parents are good people, they’re just confused. They will call for dinner, and things will be a little better, and then we’ll go out and have fun at a Halloween party tonight.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Becca’s mood brightened with her girlfriend’s optimism. “Come on, we’ve got some shopping to do.”

“What?”

“Unless you have black fishnet stockings sitting around somewhere then I need a few more items to complete my zombie Little Bo Peep costume,” the zeal was back in Becca’s eyes.

“That’s the Becca I like to see,” Anika rushed to grab her purse. “That’s the Becca that I fell in love with.”

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