One day, Dad came in, and beat the crap out of all the villains.
I don’t know how he had it in him; he always seemed like the pathetic kind of dad every kid is embarrassed by, but then, right when everything seemed lost, he waded into the middle of my room, carrying that one oversized unmatched dining room chair from the hallway desk, and began to crash it down against the monsters that had woken me from a sound sleep. When the chair splintered, and he was left holding the end of one of the legs, broken and jagged, he drove it through the face of the last of them that was still standing, scooped me up in one arm, threw me over his shoulder, and ran out the door that had been torn off its hinges, carrying me to safety.
Mom was in the van with Renee, my little sister, waiting for us with the engine roaring, and a bunch of duffel bags piled in the back. I got scared when she started to pull away–why were they leaving us?–but Dad was yelling “Go, Andy, GO!” and he caught up, threw me into the back seat and jumped in after. He wrenched the sliding door shut, and mom tore up the azaleas as she gunned it through the lawn, her eyes narrowed, her mouth shut in a thin line.
Nobody talked for a long time, and Renee fell asleep against me, and finally slid down until her head fell on my lap, but when the silence was finally broken, it was while the sun was coming up, and dad pointed out the windshield of the van to say, “Ooh! A 24 hour Taco Bell.”
“Thank God,” my mom said, “I’m starving.”
“What?” I asked, staring at them both, pushing Renee’s head off my lap. She muttered and moved to sit up, looking groggy and irritable. “Wait, what?” I wanted to know, craning out of the backseat and sticking my head out between the two grownups. “Are you seriously talking about food? Why are we not talking about what just happened?”
Dad looked over at Mom, who looked at him, then back at me. Both of them were quiet as they pulled off the road and went to go through the drive-thru.
“Jack,” Mom sighed, looking to Dad. “We–”
“No, I know,” he sighed, and then he turned to look at me, and I saw how he had a cut face, and a black eye, and his glasses were missing a lens, but he had a huge smile that he was trying really, really hard to hide. “Katydid, honey–”
“Kate. Sorry. Kate.”
It was a fight we were having. I know I’m always going to be Daddy’s little girl, even though I’m older than Renee, but I was getting tired of the babying thing. I’m smart enough to know I’m not a grownup at fifteen, but I’m also smart enough to know I’m not a toddler anymore, either.
“Let’s get food, okay? Couple crunch-wraps, some burritos, a vat of Mountain Dew, and then I’ll… I’ll try to explain, okay?” he begged.
I know my face looked a little too disbelieving, because his face looked really pleading, so I relented, because now that we were in the parking lot, I could smell the fried everything, and my stomach was growling, anyway. “Okay, okay,” I relented.
Too many chalupas and way too many cinnamon twists later, I was still half-craned between their seats, while Renee snored on, in the back seat, pillowed up by a throw rug Mom had never managed to take to the Salvation Army.
“Okay, so?” I said, looking at both of them. “What the hell was that?”
“Honey,” Mom tried to begin. “Your father and I… well, we’re…” She looked to him helplessly.
“Wanted by the mob? Actually government spies with some kind of national secret? You both pissed off some crazy guy back in the day, by getting married, and he’s been plotting revenge for the past fifteen years?” I offered, wanting to fill in the blanks quickly. Mom not knowing how to explain things to me, her eyes searching my face for some clue as to how I was going to accept her truth… was really unnerving.
“No, no, nothing like that,” Dad hastily said, waving his hands. “No, uh. Your mother and I… well.”
“They’re superheroes, Kate,” Renee finally interjected, sounding disgusted.
I turned around to see her sitting up, looking at Mom and Dad with irritation. “What?” I asked, laughing, the word spitting out of me with a bark of disbelieving hysteria.
“Like the Xmen or the Avengers, but real,” she said, her patience obviously tested, by the way she was struggling to not roll her eyes. “They’re superheroes, with super powers, and so am I, and you’re not, because you’re adopted, and nobody wanted to tell you–”
“Renee!” my mother and father gasped, both looking shocked.
“What?” Renee wondered, with all the bewilderment of any other tired eleven-year old. “You said the truth is best. So I’m telling her.”
I’m not really sure what happened right after that, because I think I fainted.