Short Story

A Moment of Reflection
or
Broken

by Melissa Minners
 

            As she stacks the clean glasses behind the bar and passes Carter another brew, she contemplates her life.  Her shift will be over soon, but there won't be time for rest.  Already she's been informed of a new menace invading her city and what means with which she will have to take him down.

            How did she get here?

            Only a few years ago, she was a happy teenager with no cares in the world except getting good grades, keeping up with the hottest high school trends, boys and what cool new place her mother was going to take her for vacation.

            Then her whole world came crashing down.  Her mother was murdered and she learned that her father, a man she never knew and one of the city's rich elite, wanted nothing to do with her.  Her only recourse was a guardian just as damaged as she was.

            She lost all interest in school.  She was angry all the time - at the police for not finding her mother's killer, at her mother for dying and never telling her the truth about her father, at her father for not stepping up, at the world in general.

            And then her guardian revealed something to her...something about a hidden past that might offer an outlet for her anger...and a way to do what the cops either didn't want to do or were just too incompetent to accomplish.

            It started slow with training, training and, just when she was tired of all of the training, more training.  Then there were the nighttime excursions which became her second job outside the bar.  And though the premise of this second job was to help others, to her it was something else - a way to take her anger out on someone well deserving of it.

            Sure, her guardian warned her not to go too far - not to go past the point of no return - and she hadn't...for the most part.  But what she was doing...well, it was a way of getting a little revenge...a little vengeance...at least in her mind anyway.

            And along the way, she found something else.  In her guardian, she found a protector, though she often didn't want one; a mentor, though often she pretended not to listen or outright rebelled and something more than a friend.  And herein lies the problem, because after her mother was killed, she swore she would never get close to another person again.  The idea of losing someone she cared deeply for again was terrifying...perhaps the only thing she was ever afraid of these days.

            And as if things weren't bad enough, her guardian took in another lost soul.  About the same age as she was when she began sleeping on her guardian's couch, this new addition to the "family" was a naively optimistic sprite...with hints of a darker past worth running from.  With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, she knew this kid wouldn't be turned away...her guardian had a soft spot for the broken ones.

            So, add another problem to the list, because, though the kid's energy and enthusiasm were a tad annoying, she could say she hated her.  And this kid wanted all in...with everything, including the secret life...especially the secret life she led after hours.  But this kid was raw, inexperienced, a total liability to herself and her...team...damn!  There it was again - that feeling that she belonged to something.

            She was supposed to be a loner.  That way no one and nothing could touch her.  All this time, her guardian kept telling her that she couldn't keep using anger as a shield to hide her feelings.  And all this time, she had been telling her guardian that it wasn't a shield, but the real person inside.  But that sheild was cracking - the sheild that kept her safe...that kept her from bonding. 

            The more she thought about it all, the angrier she got until it happened.  She heard it before she felt it - the crumbling as her hand closed around the glass she had been holding.  Hoping no one else had seen it or the fact that her hand was already healing despite the deepness of the cut she had just caused herself, she wiped her hand on a bar towel and headed toward the stairs to her apartment

            Her shift was over.  Time for the real fun to begin.


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