In the days leading up to his murder, my brother was as he always had been. He seemed quiet, but was actually very opinionated once people got to know him. He was introverted, but knew how to have fun. I loved Harry, as had everyone else in his life. He taught history at a high school level, coached tee ball, and still managed to raise me, his little sister. Harry taught me to drive, to work, and how to survive in the city. Then again, maybe he wasn’t that good at surviving. It’s funny how the tables can turn so suddenly, pitching you off the ledge on which you were just standing. One day, Harry was taking me to a Mets game, the next he was held up and shanked outside the grocery store by some punk in a Jim Carrey mask. Just like that, he was another lost soul in the wind.
The funeral was lovely. Most of Harry’s students showed up, as well as his entire tee ball team. A few of my friends showed up for support, as well as some distant relatives. Our parents didn’t show, which wasn’t a surprise to anyone. They weren’t too keen on me, which is why Harry had to step in and raise me. Mother and Father cared more about their reputations than their “special” child. I didn’t care about them, not anymore.
I wore a bright blue sweater and jeans as I stood in the funeral reception hall. Harry hated it when I wore black. Some people hugged me, which was awkward. Most just told me that my brother was a kind man. I think that made it worse, honestly. If he was a criminal, he still treated me well, but I could see how he could have it coming. But the fact that he was this immaculate pillar of society who didn’t deserve this at all made it all the worse.
Harry was never afraid of me, which was comforting. So many people looked at me with suspicion because I always wore baggy sweaters or a trench coat every day of the year. Dear old mom and pops weren’t too happy with me being the way I am. But with Harry, he let me be myself. In the safety of our apartment, with all the blinds drawn, he let me slip off the jacket and unfurl my wings. On every birthday, he would take me up to the roof after dark and let me take to the skies, my obsidian wings powering me upwards into the stars. When I flew, the city was no longer the stifling wasteland in which I had to hide and pretend to be normal. From above, I couldn’t smell the acrid stench of hot garbage, and the city looked shiny and beautiful. As I soared over the tops of buildings, I saw potential. I saw hope.
A few days after Harry died, I reached a very important conclusion: I had this power, this ability gifted to me, and I wasn’t using it to help others. I needed to stop being a coward and start being a hero. So, every night after work, I would practice flying. I took self-defense classes four days a week, and trained myself with a variety of weapons. I wasn’t the best, but I wasn’t fighting super villains, just regular scumbags. My opinion of the city had changed, and so had I. I had never felt safe living in the city, but I didn’t look over my shoulder every moment of every day. Now, I knew better.
Preparing my costume was one of the hardest parts. I had only ever taken middle school home ec classes, and as such could only do one stitch. Never mind that I was also working with a very difficult material. It took about three weeks to complete the costume in total. The night I finished, I celebrated with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a nap.
My only inhibition left was that I needed to be financially stable. After Harry passed, Mother and Father agreed to disowning me and leaving me a legal adult. I was only seventeen, but had a job to bring in money. Even though the rent was higher than my salary, Harry had bequeathed all of his
money to me. An inner city teacher’s salary didn’t give me much, but if I got a second job, I could use Harry’s money to fill in the gaps.
So now, after school, I rode my bike to Barnes and Noble and worked until six, getting in whatever homework I could. Then, I rode my bike to IHOP and worked there until close. On the weekends, I worked eight hours a day at Barnes and Noble. In total, I was working 56 hours a week, and earning around $700, before tax. My apartment cost $650 a month, which wasn’t good.
Even with tips, I was barely covering rent, and had no money for food. So, I sold my car, which went for about $15,000, started couponing, and stopped taking public transport. So, I was afloat for now.
I slipped on my crimson jumpsuit and zipped it up, laced my boots up, and slipped my domino mask onto my face. As a final touch, I applied some blood red lipstick to complete the hero ensemble. Stepping out onto the rusty fire escape, I surveyed the city I was now in charge of protecting. From eye level, it still looked like the crap neighborhood where I was never safe. Pushing off, I soared off the fire escape, and flew into the night sky, the smell of hot garbage out of my reach, but still lingering in my airways. But when I was above it all, I was no longer filled with optimism. Instead, I saw a job that needed to be done, a mess to be cleaned up. It was my job, and it was time to get started. I was no longer Avery Flint, the girl with the dead brother. I was Enigma, and I was going to take back the night.