I held three tickets in my trembling hands, the envelope they came in ripped into a thousand pieces and strewn about my quasi-tidy room. I picked a few bits of envelope from my braided hair and stared at the tickets and the stoic image of a masked man dressed all in red printed on them.
They say that heroes walk among us. Capeless. Unseen. They say they’re unknown to the little people milling about their everyday lives and that we’re blind to their heroics until they don their mask to beat the living snot out of evildoers. But that’s a load of crap. Heroes are very much caped and very much seen, especially in the case of the Blood Revenger, played by the dreamy and exceptionally muscular Marcen Weston. He was everything a hero should be, and I was going to meet him.
Marcen rarely did meet-and-greets with his fans, so when he tweeted that he’d be stopping by the grand opening of the Skylark Razor, an obscenely tall skyscraper slash condo slash store-type monstrosity just five hours away from my bedroom, I knew it was my destiny to shake his hand. Or you know, have dinner with him and walk along the beach strip where he’d propose and whisper secrets about Season Three in my ear, because after that Season Two finale, he owed me. Us. He owed us.
I picked up the phone beside my bed, the corded, pink one with the faded, half-peeling My Little Pony stickers on it and dialed Jess, Best Friend Number One. I had my cell but reception in our area sucked, and this was important news that required a hardwire to the world. She answered and I didn’t even say hello, I just said, “They came.” A squeal came from the other end, the kind that only dogs and other sixteen-year-old girls with tickets to a Marcen Weston meet-and-greet can hear. We hung up immediately and I dialed Megan, Best Friend Number Two, but only because I organized my best friends in alphabetical order and not by some hierarchy of loyalty like most of the other girls in high school did. More squeals. More oh-emm-gees. More hanging up.
I ran out of my room and down the stairs, nearly crashing into my dad who was coming upstairs with Mathew, my annoying 7-year-old brother. “Slow down, Katherine. You’re gonna kill yourself,” Dad said and Mathew parroted my dad as I made it to the first floor in just four bounds. I rounded the corner into the kitchen and Mom was there reading the paper and eating toast smeared with disgusting marmalade. She looked up over her reading glasses and I showed her the tickets, trying to speak words but only able to express myself with excited grunts and mumbles. “I’m glad they came,” she said, not fully grasping the awesomeness of the situation. “Now get something to eat before you’re late for school.”
As if I’d be late on a momentous day like today. I grabbed a protein bar and an apple (two things I hadn’t planned on eating but took to prevent the disdainful head shake I knew was coming if I didn’t do something to appease her) and picked the bits of envelope from my haphazard hair. I then began the daily ritual of searching for my schoolbooks, which always seemed to evade me in the mornings.
“Looking for these?” my dad said, holding said books in his hands.
“Looking for these?” Matty mimicked again, standing there with his over-sized, Blood Revenger-themed backpack. He was a fan too but in that lame little-kid way that didn’t appreciate the talent or looks of the acting god that played my hero every Sunday night at nine o’clock. Eight central.
“I need you to take Mathew to school this morning,” Dad said, fully squelching my momentum. “I’ve got an interview this morning.”
Dad had been out of work for a few months since his company had – air quotes – restructured. There’d been a lot of that going on. Megan’s mom had been “restructured” a few months before my dad and had received her first job offer just last week. Still, it didn’t mean I wanted a little-brother tagging along this morning, ruining the epic Marcen Weston ticket reveal. I waved Matty over with an impatient sigh, loud enough to make my feelings on the matter known. “Thank-you, Katherine,” my mom said without looking up from her crossword puzzle.
Jess pulled up in her car which she had lovingly named Rust On Wheels, and Matty and I climbed into the back while Megan sat in the front. I withheld the tickets for a little bit, teasing them as if I didn’t know what they were talking about but that got old pretty quick, so I whipped the tickets out, making sure to keep them pinched between my fingers so they wouldn’t blow out the window.
“This is so perfect,” Megan said. “What a sweet farewell this’ll be.”
Megan’s mom’s new job came with a catch. It required Best Friend Number Two to move out of state. A move that happened exactly one day after the Marcen Weston event.
Jess snatched her ticket out of my fingers. “Do you think he’ll be like, dressed as the Blood Revenger or just as his alter-ego, Warren Wilby?”
I grabbed the tickets back. I’d been the one to stay on the phone until 2am to order them, so that meant I was their devoted protector and even Best Friend Number One or Two would not possess them until the actual meet-and-greet this coming Saturday. “I think he’ll just be good ol’ Marcen Weston,” I said. “Good ol’, muscle-ly, five-o’clock shadowy, blue-eyed Marcen.” God my hero was gorgeous.
I walked Matty to his classroom, begrudgingly reminding him I’d meet him there at the end of the day for the ride home, said good-bye to Megan and walked to Chemistry class with Jess for first period. Morning classes seemed to drag but lunch flew by as usual, especially since we were planning out the road trip. Jess despised the Rust On Wheels, but to me, it was a luxury sedan that’d bring me so close to Marcen that we’d probably share breaths of air between us.
I thought on this through the last periods of the day, then retrieved the annoyance when the final bell rang. Matty held a paper in his hand with a painting that looked like ketchup and mustard had exploded all over it. “It’s the Blood Revenger using his blood powers.”
I rolled my eyes, but he didn’t notice. He just stared at his painting with a goofy grin and never said a word the entire way home, which is exactly the way all little brothers should be.
The rest of the week went in much of the same manner, each day seeming longer and longer until Friday finally came. Or as I referred to it, the day before Marcen Weston day. Jess had missed school that day but she sometimes took Fridays off if we had something big planned. I could think of nothing bigger than tomorrow.
That evening, just before dinner, I’d just finished washing my hair and noticed three missed calls from Megan on my cell. Someone was obviously excited.
I called her back and she answered during the first ring, sobbing into phone. She was crying so hard she had that heaving, jumpy breath that forced sentences out one word at a time. “I. Can’t. Go.”
“What do you mean you can’t go?”
When she finally calmed down enough to speak properly, she informed me that her mom’s new employer had pushed up the start date and that Megan and her family were leaving tonight. Since her mom had been looking for a job for so long, she wasn’t about to risk it for anything. And anything included Marcen Weston. I found myself crying with her by the end of it all. Not having Best Friend Number Two beside me as I met my hero was bad enough, but knowing our good-byes would happen over the phone and not in person was even worse. We said all we could to say to each other, then stayed on our phones in silence until the batteries died.
When I’d charged the phone back up enough to break the news to Best Friend Number One, I called Jess. It rang until voicemail picked up, so I hung up and waited the obligatory ten seconds before calling back. Upon second attempt, someone picked up who at first I’d assumed was her brother. When I asked to speak to Jess, she revealed that it was in fact, her. “I’m dying, Katie,” she croaked into the receiver.
“Can you maybe die tomorrow night?” I asked, hoping she’d laugh and say, but of course Katie, because I know I’m your ride to the Skylark Razor, but she just coughed and hacked up what sounded like a bucket of phlegm into the receiver. Gross.
“I’ve had a fever of, like, a hundred and eighty all day,” she said. “I can barely see let alone drive the Rust On Wheels.”
I felt exactly like the Blood Revenger in the season two finale. Two of his most trusted allies joined forces and betrayed him, leaving him in an abandoned warehouse while it burned to the ground then exploded in a wide angle shot that cut to credits. Marcen would do something heroic in the Season Three premiere to save his skin, and I had no doubt his perfect mind would figure out a way. I tried explaining this to Jess, but she only said, “I’m sorry Katie,” then her voice pulled away from the phone and it sounded like she barfed. She returned a few seconds later. “I can’t.”
“Fine,” I said and hung up without saying good-bye.
I stood there for a moment with my cell in my hand, staring at my reflection in the lifeless, black screen. I thought about Marcen. I thought of how it would’ve been such an awesome road trip and thought of the memories my two best friends and I would’ve had of our last time together. Then I did what any hero would do in that situation: I cried.
A gentle knock came at the door ten minutes later. “Dinner’s ready, kiddo,” my dad said on the other side. He knew the rules of engagement: much like vampires, he was not to enter my room unless invited, but when I never answered, he nudged the door open a crack. “Katherine? Everything alright in here?”
“Fine,” I said. And then like an idiot, I sniffled. Daughters crying superseded the vampire invitation rule and my dad pushed open the door with fatherly concern in his eyes. I’d managed to wipe away the tears in time, but my eyes still felt puffy and red, betraying the cool, calm exterior I was trying desperately to portray.
I explained the situation and he gave me a one-armed hug around the shoulder, kissing the top of my head before helping me to my feet. “Come on,” he said, ushering me out of the room. “It’s meatloaf. Your favourite.”
We both gave a brief, hesitant laugh, knowing full well that meatloaf was exactly no one’s favourite, then headed into the kitchen. Matty and my mom were already seated. She looked at me the same way my dad had when he came into my room, but he gave her a little head shake which in parent-speak meant, I’ll tell you how lame our daughter is later.
I ate in morose silence. My parents talked a little bit about my dad’s interview the other day and how he thought it went really well and expected to get an e-mail about it tomorrow. Maybe one of us would have a happy Saturday. Matty was busy not-eating his dinner and I was doing my best to chew through the gloriousness of under-sauced meatloaf when my dad looked over and said, “I’ll take you.”
“Take me?” I asked.
“To the Blood Avenger guy.”
“Revenger, Dad. And I don’t think–“
“Oh come on. You’ve been looking forward to this all week and it looks like you’ve got a couple extra tickets for your old man and little brother. The three of us can head out to the Skylark Razor and meet this Marcen character. Would you like that, Matty?”
Matty raised his fork with a cheer and a piece of meatloaf flew from it, landing on my plate. A boiling rage filled my chest at the thought of one of my best friend’s tickets going to that little brat and the other going to my father who couldn’t even pronounce Marcen’s name correctly. Though in his defense, most adults pronounced his name with a hard C.
The whole idea of a five-hour road trip with those two almost made me regret ever getting the tickets in the first place, but then my hero’s beautiful face popped into my head and whispered, “The sacrifice of one, for sake of the many,” which was what the Blood Revenger always said to the villains after they’d given him a sound and thorough beating. So I’d do the same and sacrifice my sanity for the sake of meeting Marcen. “Alright,” I conceded with a fake smile. “Sounds good.” I excused myself from the table and retreated back to my room for the remainder of the night.
Morning came quickly and for once the annoying death knell of my alarm wasn’t so depressing; today was Marcen Weston day. I showered and put a little more effort into my braids this morning, adding the same blood-red flower to my hair that the Blood Revenger would always leave on his enemies after thwarting their evil plans. A dab of perfume on my wrists and a bit of lip gloss (just in case) and I was ready to go.
My dad was already up, checking his e-mail on his laptop at the kitchen table. Mom was getting Matty’s jacket on and applying a thick coat of sunscreen despite a thunderstorm in the forecast. “Anything yet?” she asked my dad, who’d been checking for a response from his potential employer relentlessly. Dad shook his head, closed the laptop and tucked it under his arm. “Ready to meet your hero, kiddo?”
I was so ready. Ever since the pilot episode, I’d dreamt of meeting Marcen. His character worked as a geeky investor on Wall Street until he discovered his employers doing a little insider trading. Before he could alert the authorities, they’d kidnapped him and drowned him in a vat of genetically altered blood, then threw him out of a fifty-seventh storey window where he splattered on the sidewalk below. Little did they know the blood they drowned him in could repair even the most gruesome wounds, and before they could get the cover-up story of his suicide onto the evening news, he’d healed and vanished into the shadows, vowing revenge on them all. Hence, his alter ego was born, as was my undying love for the greatest man I’d ever almost-known.
“Hellooo?” my dad said, waving his hand in front of my face. “Earth to Katherine.”
“I’m ready,” I said. “Can we go? I don’t want to be late.”
“It’s 8:00 a.m.,” my mom said. “The event isn’t over until 4 o’clock. You’ll be fine.” She kissed my father and wished him luck but I couldn’t be sure if the luck was for a potential job offer or his five-hour sentence of designated-driver-of-children. Either way, he said thanks, returned the kiss and we were on our way.
I was already on the third encore of Taylor Swift’s album, RED (eyes closed, indulged in a sea of lyrical genius), when I felt the car pull off the freeway and slow. I cracked an eyelid and saw Matty with his face pressed up against the front passenger window, my dad telling him to get his little butt back in the seat until we came to a stop. We were still a couple of hours away from reaching the Skylark Razor, but since dad drove like a NASCAR finalist, we’d gained enough time to stop for lunch. As anxious as I was to get to the meet-and-greet, I had to admit unpretzeling from the backseat felt pretty damn good.
My dad pulled into a spot outside a little strip mall containing a thrift shop, currency exchange and little dive of a diner he said he used go to when he was in high school. With the threat of rain imminent, the diner was packed, so we were forced to take our chances on the patio outside and sat on one of the decrepit picnic tables with a tattered, yellow umbrella. I sat carefully on the bench between a bit of bird poop and a carving of someone’s initials in a heart. A blue-haired waitress who looked about a hundred and sixty years old came and took our order.
While we waited, Dad flipped open his laptop and attached his little antenna doohickey to the side so he could check his e-mail. Matty played with his Blood Revenger action figures and I popped my earphones back in until the food arrived. I thought we’d eat fast and be on our way, but my dad decided he’d pick a fight with me. Not on purpose of course, but any time anyone questions my benevolent hero, they best bring their sparring gloves.
“So how old is this Marken guy?” Dad said.
“Marcen, Dad. MARRRR. SENNN.”
He ignored the phonetic lesson and asked the question again. “He’s twenty-five, Dad. His birthday is April 14th, 1990. He’s an Aries (which I might add is a sign that goes exceptionally well with my fiery Saggitarius personality). He has beautiful blue eyes and dark brown hair and a little dimple that always pops up when he does his signature smirk at overconfident bad guys.”
“If he’s so beautiful, why does he wear the mask?” Dad asked, pointing at Matty’s action figure. “I mean, it covers his whole face except for the eye holes.”
“He does it to protect his loved ones. Don’t you know anything about being heroic?”
Dad shrugged. “I don’t really get the allure.”
I let out an audible sigh of frustration and grabbed his laptop. I pulled up the Heropedia website and found the entry for Blood Revenger which contained every snippet of information on both the Blood Revenger and the beautiful creature who played him on TV. “Here,” I said and turned the laptop back to him. “You’re going to earn your ticket, Dad. I’m going over to that tree to finish my lunch in peace. During said peaceful lunch, I want you to pore over this information and acclimate yourself to the world of Marcen Weston. When you’re done, we shall continue on to the Skylark Razor, and by then you should be worthy to stand in the presence of a true hero and his fans.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Dad said with a little salute. He chewed on his cheeseburger and read while I retreated to the tree as promised. The Blood Revenger had to deal with annoying sidekicks on more than one occasion, and this felt very similar to that. His sidekicks always had a habit of disappearing before the season finales though. I wouldn’t be so lucky.
I was finishing up the last bit of fries when Matty shuffled up to my feet and looked down at me. “Dad says to watch me until he gets back.”
I peered around the annoyance and saw my dad heading into the thrift shop. “Really?”
Matty shrugged and plopped down beside me, then continued to play with his Blood Revenger until about ten minutes later when my dad finally emerged from the shop with a large paper bag. He waved and I tapped an imaginary watch on my wrist.
Thunder boomed as he opened the car doors for us and a few raindrops hit me in the forehead as I fought Matty for the front seat. I won, but the victory was short-lived. We’d wasted more time on lunch than I thought we would and dad would have to drive extra NASCARy in order for us to get a decent spot in line.
Traffic ground to a halt about half an hour from our destination. The storm had hit with full force and even though sheets of water rolled down the windshield, you could still see the epic Skylark Razor towering over the rest of the city in the distance. It taunted me. It was so close yet with bumper to bumper traffic blocking the way, so very, very far away. It really made me wish we had the Crimson Jet, the Blood Revenger’s personal, aerial transport system. We’d just fly above all these cars and land right beside the desk Marcen was signing posters at.
My dad drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as we crept along, ever patient. He seemed a little quieter now, but he was most likely mapping out the best route to the tower once we got out of this mess.
The storm began to ease enough to downgrade the wiper speed from frantic to fast, and through the blots of water pelting the windshield, I saw a car up ahead with its hazard lights flashing. It’d pulled off to the side, but everyone driving by had to have a look to see what was going on. This would certainly threaten a timely arrival to the meet-and-greet.
When it was our turn to ogle, my dad slowed almost to a stop. A man stood outside the car with an obviously flat tire and some sort of L-shaped bar in his hand. His other hand was scratching his head.
We drove past but then pulled sharply off the road a few car lengths in front of it. “What are you doing?” I asked, my voice an octave higher. “We’re already late as it is.”
“He needs help, Katherine,” my dad said. “Watch your brother. I’ll be right back.”
My dad grabbed the thrift store paper bag and threw it into the trunk, then walked over to the drenched man. I watched my father in the side-view mirror as he gave the man a quick handshake before setting to work on the wheel. My dad had worked as a mechanic’s assistant during high school and knew his way around a car pretty well, but still, the clock was ticking and even as he removed the flat and began securing the spare, I knew our window for a good spot in line had closed. Now it was just a matter of actually getting there before the whole damn thing was over.
What seemed like eighty-three years later, my dad finally returned. He plopped down in the driver’s seat, combed his fingers through his soaked hair and gave a satisfied sigh. “All set,” he said and started the car. “They’re going to follow us. He’s got three boys with him about Matty’s age and they’re going to the meet-and-greet as well.”
“Fantastic,” I said. “Then we can all miss it together.”
“Katherine,” my dad said in his I’m-about-to-lecture-you tone, “there are more important things in life than meeting some television star. The sacrifice of one, for the sake of the many? Ring a bell?”
Oh no he did not just quote the Blood Revenger to me while we were on our way to missing the Blood Revenger. It made me regret ever forcing him to soak up all those nuggets of goodness on Heropedia. “You’re not even doing his voice right,” was all I responded with. He tried a few other voices and on his fifth attempt, Matty perked up and told him he’d gotten it right. I had to admit the impression was pretty good, but I was too pissed off to say it out loud. I couldn’t even listen to Ms. Swift anymore, so I just sat there, staring out the side window, hoping beyond hope that we’d make it on time.
I should have known something was wrong when we found a parking spot in the fourth row. There was still fifteen minutes left of the meet-and-greet, but it was eerily quiet. The family dad had helped with the flat parked right beside us and we all piled out of the cars.
Three boys around the same age as Matty scrambled around the vehicles, swarming like flies in their little Blood Revenger costumes. Blood Revenger’s suit was relatively simple to recreate because on the show, he’d made it mostly out of different shades of red clothes he’d found around the house he lived in before his attempted murder. Dress shirts and ties and pants, either originally red or dyed to match were fitted to Marcen’s lovely physique, and the villains often didn’t take him seriously until they were picking their teeth up off the ground. The kids made quick friends with Matty. It would’ve been a cute moment if not for the sense of impending doom in the pit of my stomach.
I bolted up the Skylark Razor stairs with everyone else taking their sweet-ass time behind me. The tower itself seemed to disappear into the clearing sky and I shaded my eyes from the blinding afternoon sun as I stared up at it, waiting for the slowpokes to join me. “Come on, old man,” I called down to my father. He shook his head, then helped Matty when he stumbled on the second last step before the grand entrance.
Normally the Skylark Razor would have locked entrance doors, protected by a concierge who would sit behind a desk and let the people in, but because it was the grand opening, the doors were propped open with nothing blocking the way but a few coloured streamers and some helium balloons bouncing off the glass. I ran into the main lobby and marveled at the expansive marble floors covering an area nearly the size of an ice rink. Stores now open to the general public lined both sides, their managers (or assistant managers or whomever drew the short straw) stood at the entrances peddling free samples of various crap.
A large temporary railing was setup across the middle of the marble causeway. On the other side of the railing was the concierge desk. The desk that Marcen Weston was supposed to be sitting at. The desk he was supposed to be signing autographs from; shaking hands from and asking for my number from. But there was no Marcen Weston at the desk. The only things left were a few small posters of the Blood Revenger, a couple pens and a half-empty bottle of Perrier. “What the actual fu–“
“Katherine!” my dad said, cutting off my emotional explosion with a stern look and nod toward the boys. Whatever. While they peered over the railing with slight confusion, all I could do to keep from knocking the whole damn railing down was swear or cry. Neither seemed appropriate to do in public so I chose the former and swore. In my head. Many times.
I was working my way through a flurry of mental expletives when a group of men dressed in suits exited a store at the opposite end of the lobby. They were walking very close to each other, tightly packed and laughing, slapping backs as they moved across the lobby. About halfway across the marble expanse, their little man-huddle separated slightly and my heart skipped a beat. It was Marcen Weston, surrounded by what was probably his entourage, security and publicists.
“Marcen!” I screamed without thinking, and for a brief second, I felt a bit embarrassed by how shrill and juvenile my voice sounded. The boys jumped up and down at the railing, waving furiously as Marcen stopped and looked over at us. I found myself waving too, like an imbecile, but I’d be damned if the little twerps got his attention before I did. One of the men whispered something in Marcen’s ear. He looked down at his watch, then back up to the man and shook his head. They both laughed and continued across the lobby with the others in tow, leaving through a door on the other side.
“He left,” I said to no one in particular.
He effing left. Without so much as a wave back to one of his greatest fans. A fan who spent a five-hour car ride with her annoying brother and non-fan father to get here. A fan who bought both the DVD and Blu-ray versions of Season One just because the cases came with different artwork. He just, left. There were no such things as heroes; only asshats who played them on TV.
My shock and stunned silence was interrupted by Matty’s hope-dashed sniffles. His three new friends joined in, creating a symphony of angry-boy-cries. The other father just stood there staring at my dad with a look of, oh God what do we do now? What do we do with a pissed-off sixteen-year-old girl and four distraught, mini Blood Revengers?
“I’m really sorry,” my dad said. His words felt genuine and he looked legitimately saddened by the situation, but his condolences did little to alleviate my heartbreak. He continued to console. “I know what it’s like to have your heart set on something, only to have it snuffed out at the last moment.”
I didn’t really know what he was talking about. I didn’t really care. He crouched down beside Matty and gave him a hug, but that only made him cry harder. The other dad tried to do the same, but two of his three boys rejected the comfort and pulled away with angry grunts and more tears. My dad patted my shoulder a couple times. “I’ll go pull the car around. Be right back.”
I didn’t answer as he left.
Several minutes and a few gallons of Matty tears later, he looked back past me toward the entrance and his watery eyes widened. The other boys did the same and one of them pointed, shouting, “Blood Revenger!”
I froze, suddenly feeling star-struck and unable to face my hero. Had it all been an act? Had Marcen just played the too-cool-for-fans douchebag on the outside, only to don his Blood Revenger suit and sneak up from behind?
“Good afternoon, citizens,” he said, and although the voice was nearly perfect to the untrained ear, I knew instantly it wasn’t Marcen Weston but in fact, my father. This made looking even more difficult, but Matty and his friends let out a collective whoooaaaa and rushed past me. I took a breath and turned around.
My dad walked toward us with a confident gait, the silhouette of the Blood Revenger outlined by the blinding afternoon sunlight pouring through the propped open entrance doors behind him. His approach seemed to happen in slow-motion to match the crescendo of my own mortification. The closer he got, the clearer he became until our eyes adjusted to the backlight and he was standing right in front us.
There he stood, arms folded across his chest and head covered in the Blood Revenger’s signature full-faced, featureless mask with only his eyes visible. Matty and his friends had no idea who was behind it. They didn’t notice the buttons on my dad’s red dress shirt straining against the tiny pudge of a middle-aged man’s stomach, nor did they observe the hem of his wine-red dress pants rising just above his ankles like he was expecting a flood. The pants were also exceptionally tight and I was thankful he’d strategically placed his utility pack directly below his belt buckle. Other than those few giveaways, it was actually of fairly accurate representation of the Blood Revenger’s suit. His trip into the thrift store suddenly made sense and it probably cost him less than twenty bucks all told.
“I hear you travelled quite a ways to be here today,” he said, winking at me through the left eyehole. “That’s a long time to sit in a car. Wouldn’t you agree, Matthew?”
Matty’s mouth dropped open at the mention of his name. He nodded slowly with no audible response, like he was three seconds away from going catatonic. I envied him in that moment. I envied all four of the boys whose eyes were locked on the red silk scarf my dad used for a mask. They truly believed this was the Blood Revenger, their hero, and that he’d come to some random condo shopping tower just to see them. The other father played along, asking if he could take a picture of the Blood Revenger with the boys.
My dad nodded then glanced my way. “Would you like to join us, Katherine?” he asked in his refined Blood Revenger voice. I shook my head and Matty looked shocked that I’d refuse a picture with someone I’d idolized longer than he had. Seeing confusion creep into his eyes, I quickly back-pedalled as not to ruin my father’s ruse. “Just kidding,” I said with a forced laugh. “Where should I stand?”
We took several rounds of pictures. Some with all of us, some with just the boys and a few one-on-ones with my dad doing classic Blood Revenger poses. He must’ve sped-read Heropedia during lunch to do such an accurate impression. His focus on getting the voice right in the ride over paid off as well. As the camera kept flashing, others in the vicinity started taking notice. Adults and kids alike collected around us, expanding down the railing until there was such a commotion going on that it drew the attention of a nearby security guard.
He walked up to us, at first a little confused since he probably thought it was Marcen himself, but after closer scrutiny, his demeanour changed from uncertainty to macho-security-man bravado. “Sir, you can’t be here,” he said, his hand resting on his radio like it was a gun. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
My dad, bless his dorky heart, ignored the orders and took some more pictures with a few kids that’d finally pushed their way through to him from the outskirts of the crowd. The security guard repeated the order but my dad never acknowledged him until he’d shaken the hand of every last kid (as well as a couple of adults wearing Blood Revenger t-shirts).
“Sir, you need to leave. Now,” the guard said, quite loud and abrupt.
My father nodded and turned to the crowd, addressing the children. “Dear friends,” he said with his hands extended over a dozen awe-struck beady eyes, “my good friend here has told me I am needed elsewhere. Doctor Venison–“
“Veneesean. Veneesean,” I whispered loud enough for him to know he butchered the villain’s name.
“Doctor Veneesean is attacking a nearby city, and I must go. It has been an honour meeting you fine people. Now I must leave with the guard and take care of the doctor.” He produced the Blood Revenger’s signature crimson flower from behind his back and handed it to me with a light bow. “Farewell, my dearest Katherine.”
Some of the kids made that mushy, romantic ooooooooh sound that kids do and I blushed, but only because it was so damn embarrassing. It worked well with my dad’s act though, and to finish it off, he (quite unexpectedly) hopped the railing and ran toward the same door Marcen had left through. The security guard chased after him like a sidekick worried about being left behind. It was perfect.
“That was awesome,” Matty said to his new friends. The crowd expressed similar sentiment before dispersing toward various storefront samplings, like ants looking for the next food crumb. A few minutes later my dad appeared behind us, back in his normal clothes.
“Ready to go?” he asked as Matty ran up to him, grabbing both sides of his face. “Dad you totally missed it.”
“The Blood Revenger. He was here. And he knew my name. And he took pictures with us. And, and he gave Katie a flower. He ran that way but you won’t find him. He’s going to fight the doctor.”
My dad feigned extreme disappointment for missing such awesomeness and I felt my lips curl into a smile despite the image of Marcen walking away still burning ferociously in my mind.
“Thanks again, bud,” the other father said, trying to corral his boys toward the entrance. “You’re a standup guy.”
My dad shook his hand and we parted ways, heading back to the car that he hadn’t actually moved. Matty called shotgun and I didn’t fight him on it. I flopped into the back seat and connected my earbuds to my phone. I created a playlist of sad music suitable for a crestfallen drive back home. I just wanted to be in my room so I could tear all my Marcen Weston posters off the wall and cry into my pillow.
Three hours later as I was drifting in and out of sleep, my phone died and the music stopped. Matty was passed out in the front seat and my dad was just staring straight ahead at the road with a faraway look in his eyes. I couldn’t go another two hours without any distractions, so I pulled my dad’s laptop out from the back of his seat and propped it up on my legs.
I flipped open the lid. The Blood Revenger’s entry on Heropedia was still loaded into the browser along with another tab marked with the URL www.marcenwestonsucks.org. Curiosity got the better of me and I clicked it. It was a site dedicated to people recanting various tales of showing up to meet Marcen only to find he’d left early or never shown up at all. He’d never, not once, stayed until the end of any of his meet-and-greets. It was clear this is what prompted my dad to run into the thrift store for a backup plan should Marcen keep his streak alive.
I wouldn’t have known this about Marcen because I never would have visited such a blasphemous site before today. Now I wanted to donate to it. Actually, I didn’t even want to see his face. I closed the browser down, including the two popups asking if I really wanted to leave Marcen’s Heropedia page. I did. I so did.
The browser disappeared revealing my dad’s e-mail which he was usually very careful to keep closed. He hadn’t this time (most likely due to my forcing him to take Blood Revenger 101 during lunch) and before I could shut it down, my eyes landed on the last e-mail he’d received. It’d come in at 11:37 a.m. this morning and read:
Thank-you for taking the time to speak with us last week. We’ve had several meetings regarding the open position but unfortunately have decided to go with a more suitable candidate. Good luck and please feel free to apply to any future openings within our company.
Soul-crushing Middle Management Dickheads.
I made that last line up of course, but it didn’t mean it wasn’t true. I felt my throat tighten. The e-mail had come during our stop for lunch, just shortly after I loaded Heropedia for my dad and abandoned him to sit under a tree by myself. And I thought Marcen was a spoiled ass.
“I’m so sorry, Dad. About the job.”
His eyes flicked back at me through the rear view mirror and he shrugged. “They’ll be other opportunities, kiddo. Better ones.”
“They were stupid not to hire you,” I said. “Don’t they know they could’ve had the Blood Revenger working for them?”
“Tis true,” my dad said, “but the sacrifice of one was for the sake of the many. Or at least, the sake of two,” he added with a wink.
So now I was crying.
Despite a crushing job rejection, my father continued to drive five hours upstate; helped a stranger change a flat in the pouring rain and cosplayed the Blood Revenger, probably violating a dozen copyrights. And all so his bratty, teenage daughter could meet her ex-idol and for the sake of his seven-year-old’s awestruck wonderment.
They say that heroes walk among us. Capeless. Unseen. They say they’re unknown to the little people milling about their everyday lives and that we’re blind to their heroics until they don their mask. I know that now to be true. How blind I was.
I unbuckled my seatbelt and jumped forward, throwing both arms around my dad. He startled as I squeezed him tight. I probably should’ve warned him it was coming, but I was a slave to the love and unbridled admiration exploding in my heart at that particular moment.
“What’s this for?” he asked.
I kissed him on the cheek. “For my hero.”
When 15-year-old Katie gets 3 tickets to a Meet-and-Greet with her real life hero, actor Marcen Weston, she's beyond words. But when circumstances prevent her two best friends from attending with her, her father and little brother offer to take her there instead. She begrudgingly accepts, but learns along the way that not every hero wears a cape.