The air tasted like lavender body wash and gunpowder. Fireworks dotted the night sky as the bang-bang-bang of New Year explosives ricocheted off the buildings in New Glory.
Avery sucked in a deep breath and her hands to the moon, meaty palms up.
It was glorious indeed, the diamonds twinkling in the city’s shields to represent the stars no one had seen for centuries.
“Can you please cease your pointless monologue?”
Avery’s blissful smile was replaced with a scowl. She dropped her hands to her side and turned to face her mother.
“How did you get up here, Ma?”
“That’s a very ableist thing to say, Maria,” her Ma tutted and rolled her wheelchair forward until she was right beside Avery. “You should know by now that a mere stairwell can’t beat me.”
“What are you doing up here, Ma?” Avery crossed her arms then uncrossed them to hold her fluttering cape to her chest. “It’s cold. You hate the cold.”
“Well, if you stopped thinking so loud, I wouldn’t have to be here and”—her Ma narrowed her eyes—”you’re in that get-up again.”
“It’s not a get-up. It’s my life.”
“Villains don’t wear red and blue”—the old woman deadpanned—”even you should know that.”
“I don’t want to be a villain, I want to be a hero. I want to heal.”
“You also said that you wanted to be a man, and look what that got you. An obnoxious belly flab stuffed into misshapen spandex.”
“You don’t have to be so mean about it, Ma!” Avery stared off into the distance, resisting the urge to scratch her beard. “I still want to be a man… just not now… anymore… I don’t know.”
“You should have done all this pondering before your ‘dreams’ had us spiraling into bankruptcy,” her Ma pointed out, and Avery sighed, resting her chin on the railing in front of her.
“I just want to save the world.”
“You can’t save a world you’re killing in the first place,” her Ma said then tossed something at her. “You’re the poison that’s destroying this city. Mayhem runs through your veins.”
“Just because your heart is in the right place doesn’t mean that the rest of you isn’t just plain evil.”
Avery’s shoulders slumped. “I know.”
“Doing something productive will make you feel better,” her Ma suggested. “Go rob a bank, darling. Get all those good vibes out before your father comes home for dinner.”
Avery started at the knitted sack in her hands, a large smiling sunflower—her Ma’s trademark—smack in its center. “Thanks.”
When she looked up again, her Ma was already gone.
Avery squeezed the wool bag and sunk to her knees, ignoring how the pebbles dug into her skin.
“I’m going to save someone today. I definitely will!” she said to herself, pretending like she didn’t do the same every night.
She grabbed the railing and vaulted over it.
The night was still young, and someone out there needed her.