I spent the day by the pool. In the sun. If you know me, you know I never do that.
DEAR PEOPLE IN EMH
you don't know Li yet
or who she is
you may have heard of sakura
but that's it.
On Thursday, I show up for school and try to act normal. There hasn't been anything since the Nightclub Incident, and I've been trying to keep it that way. Maybe I can just avoid this for the rest of my life.
I yank the backpack further up on my shoulder and meander over towards English. Stacey, who sits next to me, calls, "Li!" and makes me wait for her so we can walk together.
"Hi," I say tiredly. It's been at least a day since she mentioned YouTube's resident crazy cat lady, and I've been hoping that she's dropped it, gone on to bigger and better (and faker) stories.
"Guess what!" she says, bouncing energetically. She's like a puppy that can't be discouraged.
"What?" I try to sound enthusiastic, but I really don't feel it. She doesn't notice, though.
"I got my History topic approved. You know, the Hero's Journey and stuff like that. I'm going to give it a modern twist."
It's actually a good idea. I give her an approving look. "So, what? Are you going to compare Harry Potter to Hercules?"
She laughs. "No. I'm going to do it on Sakura."
"Who?" Maybe I misheard her. "Isn't that the little girl in Cardcaptors?"
"It is, but it's also that cat lady."
Sh-t. "You mean the one that the tabloids probably invented?"
"Li, be a believer. God. People have been seeing her all over the city since then. They've got lots of reported sightings. Check it out!" She scrolls through some screenshots on her phone.
They're blonde. That's all the resemblance I see. "Stacey, those pictures could be anyone." And these stupid people have overactive imaginations. I've spent the last two nights in my house eating Coco Puffs for dinner, not fighting crime.
She sighs. "Fine. Anyways, look it up."
Our English teacher is notorious for not noticing when people use cell phones. In fact, he falls asleep while teaching half the time. And today's no exception. Fifteen minutes in, he's snoring away at his desk, a little drool dripping onto the papers he has to grade.
I pull out my phone and look up "Sakura" on Google News. Just like Stacey said, there are a lot of news stories - mostly hoaxes, though. I'm starting to worry about getting recognized. They've been taking pictures of every blonde girl in the entire city. It's a little ridiculous.
Then, I go to the regular Google site. After the few obligatory Cardcaptors and Dictionary/Translator links, I start seeing things about Sakura on forums.
"Who started calling her Sakura?" bcatz4evr asks on one website.
"We're not sure where the name originated," a know-it-all, paulrevere05 replies, "but it's probably due to her resemblance to the original Sakura, from Cardcaptors. They both are young-looking girls, but beyond that, her actions seem similar to what you might see there. It could have been another anime hero, but Sakura seems to have stuck."
On another website, people speculate about Sakura's identity.
"Who do y'all think she is?" octoberbaby93 asks.
"She looks really young," swimmer46 says.
"OMG!11!! SHE GOES TO MY SCHOOL," jazzaaaaaaaa writes. "HER NAME IS ANNA!!!!!!!"
Satisfied that the forums have nothing useful on them, I turn the phone off and tuck it back in my pocket.
When I look up, Stacey's looking at me expectantly. "Well, what do you think?"
"Of Sak -"
"No, of my idea!" She sighs. "You weren't listening, were you?"
"No, no!" I say, backtracking. "I totally do. It's a great idea."
She smiles, obviously pleased. "Cool. I'll text you to tell you how it goes, then."
After work, I walk outside with Matt. He's so nervous and is smiling awkwardly. I feel a grin spread across my face.
"I hope you're okay after that earthquake," he says.
"I think I'm good." Even though I'm anything but.
"Be careful getting home, okay? You don't know what kind of crazies are out there." He looks at me seriously, but then becomes goofier. "And if you don't, I'm sure Sakura'll be there to fix your mistakes."
I sigh. "Seriously," I say, more harshly than I had intended. "Is everyone obsessed with this cat chick or something?"
"So-rry," Matt says curtly, his tone proving he's anything but. Then, he turns and heads back into the bookstore. I stand in the cold for a minute, debating whether or not to go after him.
Finally, I turn around and head home.
A couple sirens speed by me on my way, and I try to ignore them, but my sense are really attuned to their every move. They're all heading to the same spot, parked in front of a building. And I have to pass it on my way home.
Looking around, I see police officers everywhere, pushing people out of the way and talking urgently into walkie-talkies and cell phones. I notice that everyone is looking upward and I finally take the hint. On top of the building, I can make out two men. One of them is near the edge, and the other is holding what looks like a g-un to the first man's head. "Don't you dare," he calls down, "or he gets it."
The police freeze.
I take a deep breath. They don't have this under control. They don't have it under control at all. Which is, unfortunately, my cue.
Ducking into an alley, I try to find a way in, hoping my adrenaline will fuel my power. I manage to find footholds on the side of the brick building, and I start climbing up.
Once I'm at the top, I'm not so sure about my other choice. I don't like standing on top of buildings, especially tall ones. It's windy up here, and my feet tingle with the thrill of the adrenaline rush.
"Stop right there!" I yell at the man with the g-un. If I really am a superhero, I think I need a better catchphrase. But I'm hoping to put this part of my life behind me - soon.
He keeps his hold on the weapon - good for him, I guess - but whirls around to see me. "You?" he spits. "You're not real."
"You better believe I'm real, you b-stard. I'm like Santa F-cking Claus. I know when you've been bad, and right now, you are." My speeches don't seem to be improving in quality, so I give up on the superhero banter.
"Come and get me, then," the man teases. He pushes his captive a little closer to the edge. I wonder what the police think is happening up here right now.
In one smooth leap, I land in front of him. The air is trying to suck me down to the ground. I take a deep breath. Heights shouldn't be a big deal. Just don't look down. "How sure are you of that right now?"
"Very. You're just a little girl." He punches me in the gut, and I fly backwards, colliding with the metal chimney. "How's that feel? Think it'll feel better when I put bullets in your gut?"
There's something draped on the ground next to me, so I grab it, hoping to use it as a weapon. Without even looking, I test the strength of it by tugging. Then, I hop up one more time, land behind him, and kick him where it hurts. Hard.
He collapses to the ground, and I take the opportunity to tie him up with whatever I'm holding - which, unfortunately, happens to be a leash. Great. Now I look like a total idiot. Oh well.
I retrieve the man from the side of the building, covering my face from any possible cameras below. Then, when he's safe and laid down, I check for my escape options. The ground is swarmed with people, so I decide to leap over to the next building.
I mean, I'm part cat. I can do that, right?
When I actually get home, I hear my cell phone ringing its stupid T-Mobile jingle. I answer it quickly - it's Stacey. "What's up?" I say, trying to disguise how tired I am.
"I just went through with the plan," she tells me. I can picture her mischievous grin now. "I'll show you tomorrow at lunch." Then, she hangs up.
At school the next day, I sit anxiously at lunch, waiting for Stacey to gush about the latest Sakura thing or whatever. When she comes to sit, I have to scoot over to make room.
"So here it is," she says proudly, shoving a stack of papers into my hands.
The first is an interview with Maria Hymore.
STACEY HANSON: So, Miss Hymore, could you tell me a little about the night you were attacked?
MARIA HYMORE: Well, I was just leaving my favorite club, and -
SH: Could I get the name of that, please?
MH: Neon. It's called Neon. I was leaving, but I forgot my keys in my car, and I was locked out. I was just about to call my boyfriend for the spare pair, but then, a man with an eyepatch came up to me.
SH: What did he do?
MH: He asked me if I had any spare change, and then I said I didn't. Then, he frowned at me and said, "Maria...what a pretty name. Pity you'll have to d-d-d-die." [sniffs]
SH: It's okay. [pause] What happened next?
MH: I started screaming as loud as I could, and next thing I knew, there was this girl standing there. Little thing, wispy blonde hair that was frizzing all over the place. I think I saw her in the club earlier.
SH: She was /at/ the club? Like, for fun?
MH: I saw her dancing with a couple guys.
SH: What did you think then?
MH: She looked like your typical sl-ut. Sequined miniskirt, some loose top. Showing way too much skin and grinding with every guy.
SH: So when she saved you...
MH: I was surprised.
SH: Was there anything else special about her?
MH: Her eyes were freaky. Like that anime character.
SH: Thank you so much.
The second paper was another interview, this one with the bouncer. I wanted to put it down, but Stacey gestured for me to keep reading.
STACEY HANSON: So you were the bouncer for the club that night?
JAKE MORRIS: That's correct.
SH: And did you see a girl fitting this description? Uh, blonde, "freaky" eyes, sequined miniskirt, black top.
JM: Now that you mention it, the eyes sound familiar...oh, yeah! There was a chick who came to the door and wanted in, and she had really creepy eyes.
SH: Can you describe her any other ways?
JM: She was smokin'.
SH: Uhm. So you let her into the club.
JM: She was too young to be there, far as I could tell, but she talked me into letting her in.
SH: She did?! What did her voice sound like?
JM: H-ell, I don't know. Look, can I go now?
SH: Thanks for your time.
When I'm done reading, Stacey snatches back the papers.
"So," I say, "she's a s-lut? I mean, what am I /supposed/ to be getting from this?"
Stacey frowns. "I guess. She sounds like she'd be Jessica's kind of friend." We both look over at the school's most popular table enviously.
"Yeahhh," I say slowly. "Right."
"Anyways," she interrupts, "I'm going Sakura-hunting after school. Wanna come?"
"I doubt she'll be showing up anywhere," I tell her. I don't mention that Sakura hasn't finished her History proposal yet.
"Oh, yeah!" Stacey says excitedly, like she just remembered. "There's another video! And there's a fansite I joined. It has a lot of conspiracy theorists and stuff. But people say that she's a member on one of those sites, so that's cool. I just gotta find her."
"I wouldn't bet on that," I say. "No superhero would join her own fansite. That's just stupid."
"Hey," she says, an accusatory tone in her voice, "I'm sorry that you don't like this, but you need to stop being so rude all the time."
I shrug. "Sorry." I am being rude. If only she knew... "Can I see the video?"
Stacey passes me the phone. "Here." It's yesterday's shooting man, just like I thought. Once the video is over, Stacey says, "She even used a leash to tie up the bad guy!"
"Sounds like a cheesy movie." When Stacey shoots me a look, I say, "I mean, that's cool. Right?"
Stacey rolls her eyes. "Right. Li, what am I ever going to do with you?"
On Saturday, I get a call from Stacey while I'm burning my nightclub clothes. "Hey." I poke the fire with a stick.
"Oh my gosh, I have a date!" she squeals. "Can I borrow some clothes?" STacey's parents are notoriously conservative.
"I don't have anything you like, Stace."
I can just envision her pouting. "Fine. Can we go shopping?"
"Sure." I laugh and pull on my coat. "See you at the mall in fifteen."
Stacey has apparently decided the new look is a sequined miniskirt and a black tank top. "I'm not buying it," she says. "I'm just trying it on." I guess she's kind of blonde, so it sort of makes sense that she'd want to envision herself as the superhero. And if I'm right, she'll probably get mistaken for her a couple times.
Stacey struts down the aisle of the dressing room while I sit and watch. A little girl comes up to her suddenly and says shyly, "Are you Sakura?"
Stacey bends down and laughs. "No. I wish."
The little girl's face drops. Then, she sees me staring at them. "Who's that?"
Stacey looks over to me. "My best friend!" she replies, grinning.
"She's creepy-looking," the girl tells her matter-of-factly.
Great. First I'm a s-lut, now I'm creepy.
After the purchase of a more decent date outfit, Stacey urges me to buy something. "C'mon, it'll be fun."
When she's not looking, I buy a different miniskirt to replace the one I burned. Me at the club may seem kind of s-lutty, but the truth is that I enjoy the anonymity of the throng of people. And I'm very afraid anonymity won't be mine much longer. I just won't leave the club, I decide. I'll just stay inside. Nothing happens inside, right?
On the way home, I stop at the craft store and buy a plastic mask for my face. Just in case.
If you read that, let me know. It was like seven pages in Pages. Derp derp.