Everyone has expectations of supers. I blame the comic books. Supers are this. Supers are that.
Well, the reality is simple: supers are people, too, complete with all the sorts of strengths and weaknesses we all have. Supers are tall; they’re short. They are fat and thin and everything else in between. Some are smart; others are dumb as bricks. Some are loyally married; some are celibate; some are players and philanderers.
You know: people.
The famous ones, the ones who are the heroes or the villains? Well, they get the press. But believe me, there are a lot of supers who have never appeared in the news, and that’s just exactly how they want to keep it.
How do I know all this? Well, I’ve known a few supers in my life. Trust me: they aren’t all that.
Not all super powers are all that super. I know one super whose only ability is to make her hand glow. It’s great at night when she doesn’t want to turn on a light, but that’s about it. We all hear about Superman and The Flash, but those guys are the showy ones. Most supers aren’t like that.
But one thing about supers that we all believe, well, that’s true. As weak or powerful as the super might be, they all have a weak spot, like Superman and kryptonite.
The first super I knew? She wasn’t much to look at. She couldn’t control her power, and she was susceptible to it besides.
But my story starts before I knew she was a super.
My name is Arlette Deer. My mom told me I was named after some French-Canadian writer almost no one seems to have heard of. When I was younger, I hated my name, and I encouraged people to call me Arlie—which wasn’t really much better.
But then in high school, my favorite teach ever, Ms. Middlebrook, called me Arlette, eschewing the name everyone else called me. It started right away, the first day of school, and it was the only name she ever used for me.
Normally, that wouldn’t really have mattered. But Ms. Middlebrook was really attractive and really nice, and I found that I cared what she thought about me. Yes, I had a crush on teacher. Hey, doesn’t everyone have a crush on one of her teachers at some point or other.
And so when I got to college, and I could start over, I introduced myself as Arlette and never encouraged anyone to use any other name. And so, please, call me Arlette.
I should tell you a little bit more about myself. I am, well, average. Well, if you look at any particular aspect about me, I’m not dead average. But I’m good in some ways, less good in others. Average, you know?
I’m moderately short. Okay, perhaps more than moderately short, and no one would ever call me athletic. I’m not fat or out of shape, but I’m not in shape, either. That was all true back in high school, and it hasn’t really changed since.
I am also of average intelligence; I got A’s in school not because it was easy or because I was smart, but because I studied hard and I had a good, stable home life.
I’m not pretty; I’m certainly not gorgeous. What I am—everyone agrees—is cute. It’s easier to be cute when you’re short; can you think of anyone tall whom you consider cute? I can’t. I have long, straight, golden brown hair and brown eyes. I have a round face and soft features with lips that are best described as kissable. That’s a direct quote from more sources than I care to count.
No, I didn’t let very many of them kiss me.
It’s not hard for me to look cute; it seems to just happen. I can look cute wearing almost anything. A sweatshirt? No one looks cute in a sweatshirt. But I do. Not that I wear them all that often; I tend to take a little more time in the mornings than that. I didn’t always, but that’s part of my story, so I shouldn’t jump ahead.
But, where to start? I suppose the real story begins during my junior year in college.
I met Tabitha early during junior year. Like most meetings, it was entirely by accident, but in this time, I mean that literally. She knocked me over.
Remember when I said I wasn’t particularly athletic?
Well, Tabitha was a total athlete, and so there was little excuse of knocking me over. But given how things turned out, I really shouldn’t hold it against her. And the way she used to tell it, it was my own fault anyway. I shouldn’t have been so close to the field without watching where I was going.
It was Thursday afternoon, not even two full weeks into the term. I had my head in a book while walking from the student center to my dorm, and I wasn’t really paying that much attention. I suppose Tabitha had a point; I should have been paying more attention.
There was an ultimate Frisbee game going on. I never saw the game; heck, I didn’t even see the Frisbee. What I did see was a flash of black out of the corner of my eye, then wham! I was flat on my back.
I lay there, stunned, staring up at the sky, my things spread around me in a pile. A moment later, a woman was on her knees, bending over me, staring into my face. She was saying something, but it didn’t really register at first.
Then, slowly, I focused on her.
She was wearing a black tee shirt that she’d cut up; the sleeves and midriff were gone, and I could just see the hint of a sports bra underneath. She had the most beautiful ebony skin I had ever seen, and even in the grubby, sweaty, grass-stained clothes, she was gorgeous.
“Are you all right?” she asked. “I’m so sorry. Please. Say something.”
“I—” I stared at her, and through no volition of my own, my hand rose to caress her cheek. “You have the most perfect skin I’ve ever seen.”
“Um. Okay,” she said. “Yours isn’t so bad yourself. Are you all right? I didn’t see you. I’m so sorry.”
She helped me to sit up. “What happened?”
“I jumped for the Frisbee. I never saw you. I’m sorry. I scored, by the way.”
I immediately wondered whether I was going to score, too.
“Um. My things.”
“Right.” She scurried around, collecting everything for me. Then she knelt down facing me, still holding my things. She held out a hand. “I’m Tabitha Byram.”
“Arlette Deer,” I said, automatically taking her hand. Her hand was slick from her exertions, but I didn’t care. I found myself holding it longer than would be polite. Tabitha didn’t even try to take her hand back.
But finally she said, “Let me help you up.” She pulled me to my feet, pushed my books into my arms, then walked around me, brushing the grass off of me. To this day, I’m sure she did it just so she could check me out—and brush her hands against my ass—but she would deny it, I’m sure.
She moved back in front of me and looked me in the eye. “Are you all right, Arlette?”
“I—” Physically, I was fine. But I wasn’t, if you know what I mean.
“Right,” she said. “Where were you headed?”
“I better make sure you get there safely then,” she said.
“You’re going to make sure no one else knocks me down?”
“That’s right.” This time she looked me up and down slowly, and she was entirely clear. “I’m the only one who gets to knock you down today.”
“Okay,” I said a little dreamily. Then I stood there, looking at her.
“Which way?” she asked finally.
“Oh.” I turned in the proper direction. “Hasberg,” I said. “Fourth floor.”
“Fourth Hasberg it is,” Tabitha said.
Then she took my arm, “To steady me,” but I’m not sure it was at all about steadying me. No, not at all.
“This is me,” I said a few minutes later, coming to a stop at the entrance to the dormitory building where I lived my junior year.
Tabitha barely paused. Instead, she opened the doors as I used my access card on the locks. She walked me up the stairs to the top floor and then I led the way to my room.
“This is me,” I said again, but she simply took my keys from me, unlocked, then opened and held the door for me. I stepped past her and she followed me, closing the door behind her. I set my books down on my desk and turned to her. She was leaning against the door, watching me.
“Maybe I should stay with you,” she said. “To make sure you’re all right. I’m worried you have a concussion. You’re acting a little oddly.”
“Don’t you have to get back to your game?”
“Naw. It was just a pickup game. I don’t want to leave you.”
“I don’t want you to leave me,” I admitted. I offered a smile. “But I have to ask you something.”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
She made a face. “No.”
“Not in a while,” she said. Then she looked me up and down pointedly. “But I just met someone really cute that I’m hoping to get to know better.”
“Oh,” I said, disappointed.
I really was a little out of it. Tabitha moved closer, cocking her head and looking at me in concern. “I meant you, Arlette.”
“Oh,” I said, suddenly a lot less disappointed. “Well. All right then.”
“All right then?” she asked. “Really?”
“I just met someone, too.” I offered a smile. “Can I get you something?”
She stepped up to me and studied me carefully. “How’s your head?”
“You’re a little unsteady.” She took my hands. “Which bed is yours?”
She pulled me towards the bed.
“Tabitha, this is a little sudden.”
“Relax,” she ordered. “You’re going to lie down. I’m going to wait on you.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“Maybe I want to do that,” she said.
I didn’t protest further. She pushed me onto the bed, and I obediently lay down, letting Tabitha arrange me for my comfort. “Did you want a blanket?”
“I’m going to get us some water,” she said. “Glasses.”
“There.” I pointed.
She was gone just a few minutes. I lay in bed, my eyes closed, my head pounding a little. Then she let herself back in the room. I opened my eyes to look at her, then closed them again. She crossed the room, sat on the bed, then said, “I found some Ibuprofen. Up.” She lifted me into a seated position, gave me a couple of pills and a glass of water, then waited until I had downed them before settling me back in place. Then she moved on the bed so she was at the foot, her back against the wall. I pulled my feet up, but she grabbed them and set them across her lap.
We talked, getting to know each other. She was a business major; I was studying sociology. We were both juniors. I lived here in the dorm, of course. She and a friend shared an apartment just off campus. I opened my eyes for that. “Friend?”
“Just a friend,” she assured me. “Maybe you know her. Eugenie Shaw.”
“Yeah, and call her Gene at your own peril.”
“Got it,” I said.
“Now close your eyes. Does your head hurt?”
“Would a cold towel feel good?”
I nodded, and so she slipped out from under my legs, found a clean hand towel, and was gone another minute. She let her self back in and placed the damp, folded towel over my forehead. It felt good.
“You’re welcome,” she replied. Then she took her place back under my legs again.
“So, you’re not good at sitting still.”
She laughed. “Sorry. No. But I’ll settle down now. Childhood: good, bad, or indifferent?”
“Pretty good,” I said. “My folks are great.”
“Do they know you’re gay?”
I cracked an eye. “That obvious?”
“Maybe flirting with me while you were flat on the grass was a hint.”
“I suppose it was. Yeah, they’re real cool. And yours? How well does an African-American family deal with a lesbian daughter?”
“I wouldn’t know,” she replied. “I’m not from an African-American family.”
“You’re just really tan?”
She laughed. “I consider myself a black American,” she said. “But my parents aren’t black.”
“I’m pretty sure I learned something about genetics in junior high that suggests you might be mistaken.”
“Ohhh,” I said slowly.
“I have a Russian brother and a Vietnamese sister. My mom is Japanese and my father is of mixed European heritage, the only nth generational American in the family.”
“Wow. That’s some diversity.”
“It’s a very multi-cultural household,” Tabitha said. There was a softness in her voice. I opened my eyes to look at her. She was staring out the window while smiling softly.
“I’m fluent in Japanese and semi-fluent in Russian. I could order at a restaurant in Viet Nam. I was six when my father offered to hire someone to teach me Swahili, but I said no.”
“Have you regretted that?”
“No. Well, not yet.” She looked over at me. “You? Foreign languages?”
“French,” I said. “To go with my name.”
We chatted until my roommate came home, shortly before dinner. “Faith,” I said. “This is Tabitha. Tabitha, this is Faith.”
“Hey,” said Faith. “Um. Is everything okay?”
“Yes,” said Tabitha. “I practically knocked her senseless, so now I’m just staying with her to make sure she doesn’t have a concussion.”
“I don’t have a concussion,” I said. “But perhaps you should make sure I get back and forth to dinner okay.”
“I suppose I should,” she agreed.
We got back to my dorm an hour later. She was going to leave me at the door, but I looked at her sadly and rubbed my hand along her arm.
“Maybe I could come in for a minute.”
Faith had disappeared on the way back from dinner, so we had at least a few minutes of privacy. As soon as the door was closed, Tabitha pulled me to her. I went willingly. We stood there, her arms around my hips with mine resting on top of hers and my hands on her shoulders.
“I’d like to see you again,” she said in a husky voice.
“Tomorrow night. Dinner and a movie. I’ll pick you up at six.”
“I’ll be here,” I said.
Then she pulled me in for a kiss.
As first kisses go, it was a little hesitant, but good. Sweet. A little hungry, but only a little. But afterwards she pulled me tight against her, and I laid my head against her shoulder.
She smelled... wonderful. Earthy, I suppose. She’d been sweating pretty hard from her game this afternoon, after all, but it smelled good.
“I’m probably all gross,” she said.
“You’re not,” I replied. “I’m glad you ran me over.”
“I am too.”