Gina Morrow, Superhero

by Julie Griffin

Gina Morrow, mild mannered, middle row student, gave herself the once-over to be sure that her secret identity was securely in place then casually swept her eyes up to the classroom clock. Eleven minutes until the lunch bell rang.

Piece a cake. Walk in the park. No problem.

Just had to make a move here, a barely perceptible, tactical move, which she did by scrunching down into her seat, making herself as small as possible behind Jeffrey, the big, soft boy who sat in front of her. But she did not make herself small in the sense of little. It was more like small in the sense of invisible.

The trick was always the same. Blend in. Look like everybody else. Today that meant she would have to look like an ordinary eighth-grader, which of course, she was. Sort of.

Carefully she raised her head and peaked over Jeffrey's meaty shoulder. A handful of classmates were at the front of the room gathered around the new teacher at his desk, asking for his help, preening for his attention. Occasionally the new teacher raised his eyes and looked in Gina's direction.

Darn this superpower! she thought, sure she had been found out; sure he knew by the way his eyes kept coming back to her now, the way they had been magnetically drawn to her since the beginning of the school year.

Think, she pressed herself. Think!

Which Gina did, with her mind nimbly racing at hyper speed through all of the superhero research she had done, all of the Saturday morning cartoons she had watched, all of the comic books she had read.

Granted, none of the characters she had encountered had a power quite like hers, but at least when she read about or observed these heroes, she no longer felt so alone, so isolated, so weighted down by the heavy burden of secrecy.

But that's the way it was. The way the Supreme Commander said it had to be.

No one must know, Gina. No one! Ever!

Although Gina sometimes worried that someone did know.

Seven and a half minutes to the lunch bell. Another glance from the teacher.

Aunt Pam, her mother's sister, a trusted family member, or at least she had been until she and Uncle Ed had divorced. Which was really too bad, Gina's dad said, what with Pam being kind of a plump little spinster type. He figured Ed was a pretty good catch for her. Heck, he figured Ed was a good catch for the whole family. All the kids were crazy about him and even though he was always "suckin' up" to the women by offering to help with the clean-up at family functions, the men in the family said that was offset by the fact that he liked to talk cars and drink beer and do other "guy stuff" with them. "Too bad," her father said, "too bad that one got away."

Five minutes to the bell.

Which was not exactly the truth. Uncle Ed hadn't exactly gotten away. Aunt Pam had never given anyone a clear reason for the divorce, but secretly Gina knew.

Four minutes, twenty seconds.

Uncle Ed was driven away by an overexposure to power. Gina's power. But that was not Gina's fault. He had gotten too close too many times and now he was gone. It was as simple as that. She had tried to warn him telepathically of the danger, tried to send him signals, but it hadn't worked. And the rest, well, it was sad but it was just part of the superhero life she secretly lived.

Three minutes, twelve seconds.

Although she did feel bad about Aunt Pam being hit with one of the shock waves. At least that was what Gina was pretty sure had happened. How else could she explain being Aunt Pam's favorite niece one day and " Dirty, filthy little girl! " the next?

Which was just plain nutso, Gina knew, considering how long and often she bathed. Making the water as hot as her adolescent body could stand it and standing it for as long as she could. Even cleaning herself from the inside out, putting her fingers down her throat, getting out whatever dirty, terrible power was inside there, whatever it was that attracted Uncle Ed to her in the middle of so many nights, weeping, explaining that it was not his fault, that he just couldn't help himself, that he was sorry, Gina, so sorry.

Uncle Ed. The Supreme Commander.

Now two minutes to the bell and away from this new teacher who hovered over her desk for a little too long sometimes and brushed up against her when they passed in the hall. New but old. With eyes like Uncle Ed's that watched her, all hungry and staring. Just like Uncle Ed had watched her.

One minute to the bell.

But only seconds to the door. To the bathroom down the hall. To emptying herself of this power. To performing her sworn duty.

To saving this man's life!

Gina scooped up her books, readied the fingers on her right hand.

Thirty seconds.

"Gina," said the new teacher, "could you stay after class for a few minutes, please?"

Oh, no! Too late!

Gina dropped her books on the desktop, jammed her right hand into her pocket. She looked around the classroom with wide x-ray eyes and began frantically sending out signals.

BIO: Julie Griffin is the author of two children's picture books and a chapter book. She is at work on her first YA novel.