About six months ago there was a strange fog that coated the city. It was green and seemed to glow as it enveloped everything. It was hard to see more than a few feet in front of you at any time, causing several accidents and general panic among the citizens. Most people tried to stay indoors out of fear. My parents locked the door and called into work that day. Within a few hours, the fog had dissipated, leaving no trace. City officials claimed that it was a harmless gas released from a nearby factory and that there was nothing to be afraid of and life returned to normal.
About a week later, however, people in the town began changing. Those that worked at or lived nearest to the factory had begun developing mutations. Mr. Jenkins skin turned green and he started to grow a tail, Mrs. Holden could suddenly compute advanced mathematics in her head, and little Freddy Thomas could turn invisible! These new traits were attributed to exposure to the chemical and the town was placed in quarantine as they tried to figure out what had happened and just how many people were affected. A sort of vaccine was created and given to those that were exposed to dangerous levels of the toxins. Those that had already developed mutations were given a cure and returned to normal, even little Freddy Thomas, whose mom had to search the whole town to find. The crisis was averted, or so we thought.
A small faction of the population, calling themselves the irregulars, refused to get the vaccine as they enjoyed their newfound abilities. They attacked the hospitals and destroyed the remaining vaccines, claiming that life was better as a mutant. They began terrorizing the town, looting and causing mayhem. The military was called in to deal with this new threat but they were unprepared for superhuman abilities. That is when she appeared! The Dragonfly swooped in from the sky and stopped the irregulars, saving the town from their wrath. Her translucent wings shimmered in the sun as she used her increased strength and agility to take out her foes! Greendale had its own superhero! After that day the irregulars vanished, but there were still members of the community that had never received a vaccine. Sometimes these mutant citizens decide to use their powers for selfish purposes, causing mayhem and destruction in our sleepy little town. Their troublemaking never lasts long though, with the Dragonfly there to save the day!
We had all heard the story of the Dragonfly and her heroism many many times as we traversed the halls of Greendale High. She was the most interesting thing that had ever happened to any of us in our lifetime and everyone loved to talk about her. Some students were trying to turn the attention on the by claiming to know Dragonfly personally or claiming that they were saved by her once, or in the case of Bobby Fleckman, dating her. My friends and I tried to stay out of the conversation as much as possible, choosing to avoid the topic of superheroes and mutants as much as possible. My best friend Eliza hated the topic more than anyone else though. Her father was one of the mutants that did not receive the vaccine due to the irregular's destruction, and by the time more was made the damage had been permanent. Mr. Jones now had an extra pair of arms sticking out of his sides, and was now considered a freak by the rest of the townspeople. Mr. Jones isn't the only mutant that did not get cured, but he is one of the few that have a visible malady, making life much harder for him and his family. Eliza hates talking about all of it because it just reminds her of how horribly everyone treats her father now. I don't blame her.
Eliza had always been close to her father, ever since her mother died when she was nine. It had just been the two of them for years, facing the world together. Whenever she speaks of him now she seems sad. She knows how cruel people can be to those that are different, and despite Mr. Jones' jokes about having an extra pair of hands around the house now, she knows that he is struggling to deal with his new reality. So whenever mutants or the Dragonfly get brought up I make sure to change the topic or get her out of the room as quickly as possible. I'm worried about her. She has been missing a lot of school and ditching classes lately. I just wish I knew how to help.
It has been months since the Dragonfly first appeared, but she has made regular appearances since, taking down not only mutants but also petty criminals in the streets. While I avoid the topic when I am with Eliza, I can't help but admire the Dragonfly and what she does. Like everyone, I am star struck by the idea of having a superhero in our own backyard. Whenever there is an attack, most people run as far away as possible, but I tend to hide in a nearby alleyway or store and just watch. It's incredible to see her in action! Her wings fluttering and her azure suit shining. She is just so strong and brave, even though she can't be much older than me. Eliza would never speak to me again if she knew I did this, but I can't help it! She's just so cool!
Today is Saturday and the gang and I are all at my house playing games and unwinding after a particularly stressful week. Matthew is destroying us on his favorite fighting game, Warrior Bots. His red bot was only seconds away from destroying my blue one when mom comes in in a panic and changes it to the news. On the screen is a reporter, backed by burning buildings.
"... There is still no sign of the Dragonfly. Several businesses have been robbed and set ablaze by the mutant that calls himself Flamethrower," the reporter says, as we all stare at the screen in horrified fascination. Eliza quietly excuses herself to the bathroom, but we barely acknowledge her leaving. Mom starts to call everyone's parents, suggesting that they all head home for the day. I head upstairs to find Eliza only to discover that the bathroom is empty and the window is open. Eliza is gone.
The next day, I wait anxiously in the classroom for Eliza to appear. She never answered my calls or texts after her disappearance on Saturday. I called her dad and he said she had made it home safely but had broken her phone. When I asked if I could speak with her he said she was busy and hung up the phone. I want to be angry at her for not telling me where she went or at least trying to call me, but I'm more worried. What if something is really wrong? What if she's being targeted by one of the anti-mutant hate groups because of her dad? It would not be the first time she has received harsh treatment because of his condition. Just last month their house was broken into and someone had graffitied the walls with anti-mutant sentiments and crude drawings of Mr. Jones getting his extra arms chopped off. Their family has already been through so much that if something like that happened again I'm worried that Eliza might just break.
She finally arrives in class, but one look at her face has me worried all over again. She has a visible black eye and several other scrapes and bruises along her neck and arms. She sits beside me with a smile as she greets me.
"Hey Annie! What's up girl? Sorry I didn't call or text you this weekend. Phone broke and then I just got so busy with homework and stuff! You get it, right?" She says obviously trying to pretend that everything is okay.
" What happened to your face?" I ask quietly. She reaches up to touch the bruise and winces.
"Oh that? Yeah, when I broke my phone I kinda tripped and, whoops clumsy me! I fell on the stairs going into the house. Scraped myself up pretty badly, huh?" she says as she shifts nervously, not looking me in the eyes. I can tell she is lying, which makes me even more worried. Before I can call her out on her lies, Mr. Diaz walks in and begins class. I look over at her as she listens intently to the lecture, planning on getting to the bottom of this later.
After first period, Eliza is nowhere to be found and seems to be avoiding me. We don't have class together again until the end of the day, but we usually eat lunch with Matt and the others. Today she sat with the rest of the cheer squad instead. I spent my time watching her as the guys all goofed off around me.
"... And then I said I'd give him my pet llama George in exchange for his sandwich." I hear Matt say, breaking through my inner turmoil. I give him a look to show that I am not impressed with his antics.
"What's up with you today, miss mopey? Did you embarrass yourself in front of ol'Danny boy again?" Matt teases. At the mention of my crush, I feel my face heat up as I tackle Matt and cover his mouth with my hands.
"Shut up! Do you want everyone to hear you!?" I whisper-yell as he shakes with laughter. I release my hold on him with a grumble.
"What's wrong Annie?" He says in a much gentler tone, "I've never seen you this out of it before."
"Eliza has been acting weird and today she shows up with bruises and stuff and I swear she is avoiding me! I just want to know what's wrong." I tell him.
"Annie relax. If something is wrong you know she will tell you on her own time. Obsessing about it is only gonna make her push you away. Let her come to you on her own time." He says. I know he's right but I can't help but worry. Lunch ends and we all head to our next class. I stay behind and attempt to approach Eliza but once she sees me coming she quickly gathers her things and leaves. All except for her backpack, which she leaves sitting on the floor. I grab it and attempt to catch up with her but she is nowhere to be seen. Her bag feels weirdly heavy as I carry it with me to class. I know I should respect her privacy and leave it closed, but with how she has been acting I feel like I need to see what's inside. I duck into the nearest bathroom and hide in the stall. I place the bag on the ground in front of me and slowly unzip it, hoping that Eliza doesn't get too angry with me for doing so. Once the back is unzipped I peek inside to find a strange blue fabric and yellow boots. I stand and unfurl the material and have to keep myself from screaming as I stand in the restroom holding a very recognizable costume. Eliza is Dragonfly.
I shove the costume back in the bag and rush out of the bathroom. I make a beeline back to the cafeteria and put the bag back where I found it. I'd rather her not discover that I had seen what was inside. When she arrives in our shared last period she has the bag again, obviously having gone back for it. I can barely pay attention to the teacher as I stare at it imaging the secrets that it holds. My best friend is a superhero and I didn't know.
After that day things went back to normal. Eliza stopped avoiding me and I pretended as if nothing had changed. Internally I was screaming. My best friend regularly risked her life to save the town. She had saved me before and I did not even realize it was her. It actually seems obvious now! Dragonfly and Eliza are identical – they have the same body type, hair, skin tone, everything! I actually feel stupid that I didn't realize it sooner. It's no wonder she did not like talking about Dragonfly's adventures when it was her the whole time. I keep thinking back to every missed class or canceled sleepover, trying to figure out how I missed something this monumental. I call her my best friend, but if I didn't notice something like this can I really say that? I feel like a horrible friend.
I'm just so angry! At myself for not realizing sooner, and at her for not telling me. We are supposed to tell each other everything but she kept this from me. It really hurts. I'm also weirdly jealous. She is out having all of these great adventures while I've been stuck at school or home living my boring life. I could have been helping her somehow! I could've at least been covering for her at school but apparently, she doesn't trust me enough... and the worst part is that I can't confront her without telling her that I looked in her bag. Then she would really have a reason not to trust me....
(Stay tuned for part 2)