Theatre of Heels Chapter 4: Alma Mater
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“Hey, everyone. It’s me, Erica.”
She flashed her cellphone camera a strained smile. “Oh, my God. Whoo! I can’t believe that today is the day. I mean wow.
Well, I promised to you guys last time that I would vlog a live feed just before I go in to my final. So, here I am.”
She laughed and promptly shivered. “I’m so nervous. Look at me. I’m shaking.”
Erica held up her trembling free hand before the camera.
“Anyways, I wanted to thank everyone for going on this journey with me the last several years. I can’t tell you how much it has meant to me. I never thought I would get to this day and wham we’re finally here. Wow! It’s just so much to take in.”
She fanned her face. “It’s so hot in here. I feel like I’m going to pass out or something.” She shook her head. “Here, let me just flip on the air conditioner.”
Erica reached down to switch her car’s ac to high. She sat up closed her eyes and exhaled slowly, trying visibly to compose herself. “Sorry. I’m rambling, I know. Like I said, I’m pretty nervous. I . . . I . . . I, how many times can I say ‘I’ in one minute.” She grimaced and held up her hand. “I’m so going to edit this in post-production.”
“Okay. As some of you who have been following my Vlog may already know, today is the day I have my exit interview. So, after years of training, it all comes down to this final interview. This one’s for the whole enchilada. If I pass this interview, I will finally get my Superhero License.”
Erica grabbed her head. “Ahhh! I mean, how cool is that!”
Her wide eyes stared off into space. “So, all I have to do is perform well during this interview, and I get to realize my greatest dream.” She chuckled. “No pressure, right?”
The phone in her hand beeped as a heart danced across the screen and text appeared below the image box.
“You’re going to do great today. Your Father and I love you very much and we believe in you.”
The heat rose up in her face. “Thanks Mom. I love you and Dad too.”
Two more hearts danced across the screen.
Erica turned suddenly. “Oh look!”
She spun in her driver seat trying to point her phone out her window, but accidentally banged it against the glass, knocking it out of her hand.
It fell to the base boards and she scrambled to pick it up. She pointed it out the window and the shaking camera caught the image of a girl wearing a backpack flying overhead. She zoomed up to series of metal and glass buildings lined with large trees. A moment later, she swooped down into a dive where she stuck a perfect three-point landing.
Off camera Erica said, “Wow! I wonder if she has final exam today too?”
She pointed her camera at a large brick sign posted in front of the majestic buildings.
Welcome to the Kirby Lee Sidekick Academy
Creating Tomorrow’s Heroes, Today
Erica smiled at the camera. “That’s my Alma Mater.”
She rested her cell on her dashboard clip and glanced at her watch. “Well, I don’t think I can delay this any further. I guess it’s time to suit up.”
Erica reached into her backpack resting in her passenger seat and pulled out several articles of clothing including a purple WWI pilot’s cap. With some mild difficulty she dressed in the driver’s seat. Erica fastened an elaborate chrome belt with a holster around her waist, before pulling on a trench coat and pair gauntlet-like gloves. She pulled the cap on her head last fitting its goggles over her eyes.
She smiled at the camera nervously. “How do I look?”
The text blinked again with a heart floating above. “You look lovely.”
She blushed. “Thanks Mom.”
“Wish me luck,” she told her audience.
Whether they did or not Erica never saw as tapped the screen cutting off the feed with a bleep.
For a long moment she stared at the image on the screen. It was that of the cyborg superhero, Sleek. The picture caught the superheroine sprinting towards the camera. Sleek’s human side of her face was determined, as her artificial eye gleamed. Her long hair whipped behind her as cybernetic limbs pumped mid-stride. She was the essence of power.
Erica smiled. “If today goes well, I might be able to join the Cape Corps too.”
Erica fell into a fantasy where she fought some unnamed villain beside the Cape Corps heroes Sleek, Block, and Spearhawk. She of course would pull off elaborate move that would inevitably save the day. Spearhawk would be impressed by her ingenuity and ask her to dinner. Then one thing would lead to another.
A slow smile spread across her flushing face.
She blinked and shook her head. She tore her gaze from her cell phone’s screen.
“No time for that now. I’ve to focus,” she told herself.
Erica focused, and as her thought shifted from her pleasant daydream and block of icy dread chomped down on her heart. “Oh God! All of that rides on today.”
Sweat gathered in the palms of her gloves. From her parking space, she glanced back up at the sign. Her breath quickened.
Erica tore her attention away from it and focused back on her hands. She forced herself to take a deep breath. “Okay, Erica. Okay. You can do this. You’ve been studying here for years. You’re at the top of your class for all your engineering and legal courses.”
She grimaced. “Granted you’re . . . less than stellar at your practical studies, but . . . no one can excel at everything, right?”
She flipped down her vanity mirror and briefly looked herself over. Erica would have referred to herself as cute, with a question mark. It was hard to feel attractive when many of your classmates had the bodies of gods, both literal and figurative. She hoped the trench coat would hide the rolls of her “curvy” body. Another sigh escaped her. It wasn’t as if she could just plop down and do a bunch of crunches right now.
Or can I…
Erica shook her head. No. I definitely can’t.
She briefly wondered if she had time to throw up.
She glanced at the clock on her cell, and decided that she did not.
Erica sighed. “Let's do this.” She slung her backpack over her shoulder and exited her car.
Erica wasn’t the first of her classmates to do their final exam. Her friend Jenny had passed her interview yesterday. Of course, Jenny, unlike her, had superpowers. Jenny could fly, fire energy beams out of her hands, and pick up a car.
Unfortunately for Erica, not being a metahuman was a major strike against her in some people’s books. She’d heard rumors that the Dean, who was officiating for her interview today, was one of those people. She’d tried to push away the thought, but it wouldn’t budge.
Her phone beeped again.
She glanced down and smiled at the message.
I caught the tail end of your vlog today. Mom’s already ringing my phone off the hook. SMH
Don’t be nervous. You got this!
Thanks Ced. She typed back before pressing send.
Then grinning to herself she typed. And it’s, “You’ve got this.”
He sent her an emoji rolling its eyes.
YOU still got this.
Erica chuckled before she powered down her phone and stuffed it into her backpack.
She glanced at the statue of the school’s founder Kirby Lee Captain Starlight. It showed the him leaping in the air with his cape flowing behind him. The architects had design the fountain to flow down his cape’s wake to simulate his flight. She paused a moment to touch the base of the statue, hoping some of the legendry’s hero’s power would rub off on her. The heavy concrete building of the testing center loomed before her. The statue didn’t send any sudden surges of energy into her being, but the testing center did succeed at filling her chest with even more terror. Perhaps that sensation did grant her powers. She felt like she now had the power to throw up at will, so that was something.
Swallowing back a wave of bile, Erica proceeded forward. She pushed open the heavy metal door and headed towards the elevator. On the ride up her mind raced. You can do this, Erica. You’ve got this. You’ve earned this! I mean how many other people have accomplished what you have? Graduate high school at eleven, and earn not one, but three PhDs by seventeen. Most people don’t even have one PhD, and those that do take way longer to get it. You’re a freaking prodigy! They should be glad to have you. Their lucky that you’re so interested in being a superhero.
Her smile faltered as the door pinged open. But do they really care about what I’ve accomplished if I don’t have powers?
A fresh wave of nausea rocked her stomach, and she had to fight back her new found power. Her gaze darted around for another bathroom.
Calm down, Erica, she told herself. That can’t be everything to they look at. You don’t need to worry. You can do this.
As Erica walked down the hallway, her mood kept seesawing between stark terror and slippery reassurance. She passed other students uniquely killing time as they waited for their own tests. A girl lounged on the floor idly spinning a multi-ton boulder on her index finger while she studied her ‘Intro to Inter-Dimensional Cultures’ textbook. Nearby a skinny guy played an exciting game of hacky sack with seven of his clones.
She reached the classroom’s closed door and knocked.
“Enter!” boomed a voice from inside the room.