This is about a woman. It always is with us, isn’t it? Clark Kent has Lois Lane, Peter Parker has Mary Jane Watson, even Bruce Wayne has that on-again off-again thing with Selina Kyle. It doesn’t matter where we are, or who we’re fighting, or how bad our costume is. There’s always a woman.
Except this woman was different.
Sure, it started out innocent enough. Young woman being chased down alleyway by gang of thugs, enter the hero, fight ensues, thugs get thrashed, young woman swoons (always my favourite part), and then the hero vanishes into the dark. That’s the formula. Time-tested, quality assured, end of story. That’s how it is. That’s how it’s always been.
She really should have stuck to it.
It was almost a month before I saved her for the second time, dragging her car from the edge of that cliff. I barely recognised her, but she certainly recognised me. She hugged me with an oh-so-sweet “My hero,” just in time for the reporters to arrive. They lapped that right up, I can tell you. It even made the headlines the next day. And she was right. That’s exactly what I became. Her hero.
The third time was another alleyway, another gang of thugs. I remember how similar it was because we made a joke about it. But then she pulled me close to her in the rain, and kissed me.
It got more regular after that. So often I can’t even count them anymore. I’ve saved her from burning buildings, collapsing bridges, even a stampede once. Afterwards, when I took her back to her apartment, there were pictures of me stuck all over her walls; photos, newspaper clippings, all with lovehearts drawn on, and plenty of “4ever”s. I’ll never forget that. The way she smiled at me in there.
No one gets into as much trouble as she does. Saving her is all I do anymore. Even now she’s standing on top of a building getting ready to jump. Oh, she’s happy enough about it. She knows that when she jumps I’ll catch her, save her like I always do. That’s what she’s telling the negotiator. That’s what she’s telling the police, the crowds, the world. That I’m going to display my love for her, right then and there in front of them all. That when she falls, I’m going to catch her. Because I always do. Because I love her.
The thing is, this isn’t exactly what I signed up for.
I thought I’d be fighting crime, beating up bad guys, saving the world! Sure, I expected the odd damsel in distress routine. Hell, in the old days I even looked forward to them, but this is just ridiculous. Every week, it’s the same old characters, the same old story. And quite frankly, it’s getting tiresome.
I never even said I loved her. Hell, I actually told her I didn’t – though I guess in her mind that was just another way for me to protect her. Villains always target the SAGs (That’s ‘Sidekicks And Girlfriends’ if you don’t know the lingo), so no matter how much distance I put between us, she saw it exactly how she wanted to see it. How she wanted to see me. I tried to avoid seeing her, but when you hear a girl scream, certain instincts kick in. And every time they did, I’d think; This time. It won’t be her this time. It can’t be her this time.
It’s nothing personal of course, she’s just not my type. I wanted a Wonder Woman, and she’s a Rapunzel. Except Rapunzel didn’t throw herself from the tower…
Oh well, the clock’s ticking. I have to be getting downtown. There’s a little café right opposite where she’s making her scene, and it’ll give me a good view of the situation. It’s curious, actually. You see, in the men’s toilets of that particular café is a stall that’s always ‘closed’. That’s one of my costume spots, one of the places I go to make my quick change into Hero form. (Oh yes, we have to stash those things somewhere. It’s not like we’re always wearing them under our regular clothes.) It’s quite a coincidence that she’s threatening to jump just across the street from there.
Or… maybe it’s not. Maybe she figured that one out too, and she’s just trying to streamline the process for me. I wouldn’t put it past her. Last month I had to abandon my underground wonder fortress after she broke in and filled it with rose petals. Honestly, I’d managed to keep it a secret for more than a decade before I met her. I still don’t know how she tracked it down. Or where my toothbrush went.
When I get to the café I’ll need an alibi, like usual. I’ll grab a table out front, order a hot chocolate; extra milk, no foam. Ask what pastries they have today. Get a paper out, start the crossword.
And then, when she jumps…
I’m just going to watch.
Joel Hunt is an English Teacher who currently lives in Derbyshire, England. He is particularly interested in science fiction and social themes, and has had a short story published by The Gentlemen Press and several stories and plays performed.