I wished I did. More than anything, I wished I understood what the girl in front of me was saying.
“Your parents left you because you’re a freak. They didn’t want you,” sneered Mindy, a girl from my gym class. Was she angry with me? I always had a hard time trying to decipher people’s emotions.
“They are my parents, of course they wanted me. Otherwise they wouldn’t have had me.”
It was the truth; if you didn’t want children then the logical answer would be not to have them.
“Oh, they wanted kids all right. My momma told me how much they dreamed of the perfect family, but instead they got you. Freak of nature. They didn’t want a kid as fucked up as you. They left you in that big, empty house to start a new family.” Her words seemed cruel, but she was smiling while saying them.
“Okay,” I murmured. It didn’t seem like the real reason my parents were gone. I didn’t know why they left, but the words Mindy was spewing didn’t seem logical, so I couldn’t see why someone would do something like that.
My mind was having a hard time being surrounded by all these girls. I didn’t know how I was supposed to act. Them being around me was making my skin itch, and my body tensed from being so uncomfortable. All I wanted to do was get away from their group and wrap my arms around my sweater.
The bell rang, signaling class was over, and my senses went wild. The anxiety from the confrontation and the noise jarred me.
I tried my breathing techniques to calm my mind, but they were useless. I felt a meltdown coming and knew that the girls would just use my breakdown as more ammunition. I didn’t want to give them anything else for their arsenal, so I ran.
Pushing past the girls, not caring if they fell from the force, I ran out the doors to the parking lot.
Barely to the woods, I crumbled.
My hands gripped my white hair hard, trying to pull out the strands, as if it would ease the pain in my mind. I screamed loudly, letting all the frustrations of what I wasn’t capable of understanding out, but I still couldn’t pull myself together. My body was in the driver’s seat of this meltdown, and my mind was just along for the ride.
I thrashed and screamed, hoping no one came out to watch me.
I had a hard-enough time at school as it was.
My hopes had been dashed when the school counselor saw me and came running over.
“Gwendolyn. Breathe. Focus on the feel of water between your fingers, the coolness of metal against your touch.”
She was trying to get to me, and I wanted to focus. Truly I did, but I was too far gone.
“Oh God.” Her voice was strange, and I opened my eyes, not understanding the reason for her tone.
A blue car near us was melting, and the white SUV next to that was being squished as if something was pressing down on it.
“Gwendolyn, honey. I need you to tell me something before you go into shutdown. Did your parents lie about your age? Are you sixteen?” She gripped my shoulders, and I pushed her away harshly. I didn’t mean to, but I didn’t want her to get hurt.
“Gwendolyn, answer me.” She wasn’t shouting, so I just couldn’t tell whether she was angry or not. She definitely didn’t look happy. Why was she wanting to know how old I was? My parents wanted me to be with the elite kids at school, so they told everyone I was fifteen. So I’d fit in.
“Today’s my birthday,” I whispered and felt the final stage of my meltdown taking over. I’d shut down and pass out.
But just before I closed my eyes, I saw every car in the parking lot crumble like a ball of aluminum.
Being on the spectrum, diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, sucked. But being a girl who could manipulate metal sucked even more.
Mindy was right; I was a freak.
“So, what you’re saying is that you want to give away your cozy robots for free?” Phillip Griffin, the head of Griffin Enterprises, sat across from me in his large office, his brow furrowed.
“I wouldn’t say that’s what I wanted unless it truly was. I know personally how much good these robots can do to people with needs. Not just kids, but everyone stuck in a hospital.”
I believed in my robots and have been tinkering for years to get them just right. They were finally ready for mass production.
Phillip was a tall man, blond hair, hazel-brown eyes, and lean. He’d always been nice to me, never making me feel like I was different. Instead he made me his chief robotics engineer. Right now, I was throwing myself on the line for this project.
“Have you thought about my other offer?” His eyes sparkled, and from what I’d learned over the years, that meant he was excited but curious. I wished I’d have brought Pops with me to this meeting; he was always helpful at deciphering emotions for me.
“If I join the Hero Society, will you accept my project and its price?” I countered.
He’d been after me to join his secret society of superheroes for a year now. I remembered the world before Phillip and his gang turned back time. It was great at first, but then the world fell. They had their second chance, and so far they had been doing it the right way this time. But I wasn’t good with social situations, he knew that. I wasn’t the type of hero to jump in front of a bullet or run into a burning building to save people. I wished I was.
“I can agree to those terms. We can test the product at Seahill Hospital. After the results from a one-month trial come back in positive, we can start mass producing. As for the Society, I don’t expect you to hang out with everyone, just that when your skills are needed, you take a leap and come. Both in robotics and your other power.” He winked, and I sat there running through my mental pros and cons.
“I’m not sure I’m your typical hero,” I confessed, feeling the idea more in the con section than the pro one.
“There is no perfect hero—just people trying to help in the ways they can.” He leaned over and gave me an intense stare.
“You have so much more to give this world than you give yourself credit for.” He could see I was uncomfortable, so he looked away and put on a kind face.
“No rush, think it over. I don’t expect you to do anything you aren’t comfortable with. Think you can have thirty cozy robots out to the hospital by the end of the week?”
Numbers I could do. Thirty robots would be simple.
“Sounds good. If you need anything else, please don’t hesitate to call. Keep up the good work, Gwendolyn.” He smiled, and I smiled back, feeling like my vision for people who needed a friend would come to fruition.
The elevator ride down the few floors to my office was quick, and thankfully there was no one in there that I had to try to make small talk with. I sucked at small talk. I never knew what I was supposed to say, or when. So, I usually just stood there with a straight face, looking at something on the floor or wall.
The people I passed on the robotics floor didn’t wave to me or greet me as I passed. No doubt they were instant messaging each other, cracking jokes about the human robot who was heading back to her charging station, as they liked to call my office.
Things didn’t get better after high school. I was continually picked on. People tried to belittle me, and I had no friends besides the guidance counselor, Lynn.
She had a sister who came into powers when she turned sixteen but died a few years later. Apparently if you suppress your powers, they will consume you.
The Hero Society, when they re-established last year, had spread the word about people with powers and how they had come to be.
The old Greek gods and goddesses were dying and threw their powers out into the DNA of mankind. These powers stay hidden until they land in the perfect host, and then on their sixteenth birthday—Boom! —they have some sort of superpower.