Her hand was awash with flame, and in that light, I could see Bradley’s terrified face.
He was on his ass, back against the brick wall behind the school. His eyes were wide, and he held his hand in front of his sweaty face, as if to stem the heat coming off the girl before him.
Monica had her back to me, but judging by the vibrancy and thickness of the lick of flame that danced around and over her fist, I knew her long dormant rage had reached the end of its journey.
“Don’t do this Monica,” I said from behind her, inching my way closer.
Her head whipped around, and I saw a single deranged green eye flashing from between the strands of her dyed crimson hair.
“Why? This is what you said, right? This is why we trained so hard isn’t it? So that we can work out what we’ve been through. Well I wanna thank you, Chase, because I’ve realized that torching this piece of shit for what he did to me is how I work it out.”
“No. No Monica, that’s not it at all.”
“What was all that about wearing our pain with pride then, huh? Our scars make us stronger? How does that even make sense? All my pain ever gave me was nightmares, and-“ she raised her hand, looking at her flaming hand as if it were new, though she’d seen such a thing many times before. “…and burning.”
She lowered her hand, clenching it again, and turning back toward Bradley. She took a step closer, her other hand igniting now. Bradley whimpered, and tried to scurry off to the left, but Monica’s hand shot forward, chucking a fireball that slammed into the brick near Bradley, creating a great singe mark next to the bully’s head and stopping him in his tracks.
“The only reason we have these powers is because we’re different, Monica,” I said. Because we’ve suffered. But we don’t have to walk around thinking we’re broken all the time. That’s when they- when he wins. We survived, Monica. And that’s a badge of honour, along with that fire of yours.”
“Easy for you to say,” said Monica, not even turning to look at me now. “You’re a star athlete. The whole school loves you. You’ve got a whole team backing you up most of the time, including this piece of shit. What pain do you have? You don’t have to show anything that makes you different. You got the powers without the pain.”
She was almost on top of him now, another ball of fire coalescing in her palm.
I had to do something, or Monica was about to roast Bradley, and make herself a murderer.
It was then I realized: I couldn’t hold back anymore. I’d always thought “pride” only pertained to something you made, not things that happened to you. Monica and the others, for them having pride in her powers and in herself as a survivor, it was like having pride in the fact that they’d been born with blue eyes, or brown hair, or ten fingers and toes. It wasn’t like having built a sandcastle, or passing a test, and saying “look what I’ve accomplished.” And I understood that now, that sometimes the thing you accomplished was just enduring. Just kept on going.
Which is why I couldn’t hold back anymore. I’d had my way of enduring for a long time, but now, I needed to take on more of a burden for the sake of the rest of them. I needed to be willing to lose it all at any moment, because that was the kind of thing they lived with every day. I did to, but it was time to let people know.
I sighed. “I’m gay, Monica.”
She froze, and I saw her shoulders stiffen.
And then, the flames went out.