AWESOME WOMAN • by Oonagh McBride

I decided to get my sister drunk so I could steal her pocket watch. I chose a bar close to home where people were used to seeing her, and she wouldn’t attract too much unwelcome attention.

“Bro,” said Olivia with great solemnity. “Get me another large chardonnay.” She slipped off the stool and stumbled to the toilets. The barman raised his eyebrows at me as if to say, really.

“Bob, please, bring one more small wine, and then I’ll take her home,” I pleaded.

“And another non-alcoholic beer for you? If you weren’t her brother….”

Olivia arrived back as the drinks appeared.

“Thanks,” she said taking a large swallow.

A guy at a nearby table snapped a picture of Olivia. Great! A photo of Awesome Woman getting drunk would be viral by tomorrow.

“I can’t do it, Jack.” Olivia shook her head. “I can’t be Awesome Woman anymore.”

“Of course you can,” I assured her again.

“No. All we can hope for is that I don’t go bad.”

That morning, she’d placed a delivery driver on the roof of our apartment block for waking her up too early, so I wasn’t confident she would succeed with this. Still, I had to try.

“Come on, Olivia. You don’t need it. You’re awesome with or without that stupid watch.” Inwardly, I cursed my mother, but she’d given Olivia the timepiece with the best of intentions.

***

In the weeks before her fourteenth birthday, we realised that Olivia had inherited the special powers that ran in the female line of my family. I was a year younger and full of resentment that she would be able to fly while I would always be ordinary.

“Jack, you are very special,” said Mum repeatedly, but I wasn’t special. I was small for my age, mediocre in school and with no discernible talents. Actually, that’s not true. I was great at eavesdropping.

“She’ll need careful handling,” said Mum to Dad as I hid behind the couch.

“She’s already a nightmare to deal with. I’m not sure I can cope with a super Olivia,” said my poor dad. I couldn’t cope with that either.

Mum sounded apologetic. “You know how it is with us specials, Bill. There’s no in between. She’ll either be a hero or a villain.”

So far, Olivia had used her burgeoning super strength to lift and hide our neighbour’s car in the next street, and she’d shrunk her body to the size of a mouse, jumped into her teacher’s bag and shouted ‘help’ in a tiny voice on the bus home. At that time, my money was on villain.

***

 When Mum gave Olivia her birthday present, I happened to be hiding in the cupboard.

“A pocket watch,” said Olivia and tossed it onto the bed.

“An extraordinary pocket watch,” said Mum.

“Yeah. Whatever.” Olivia tapped on the keyboard of her laptop.

“This watch has been handed down to each of the special women in our family.”

“So, how come I’ve never heard of it?”

“It’s a secret,” said Mum with a hint of irritation. “Henrietta wore this watch when she stopped the great fire of London from reaching the gunpowder stores in the tower.”

Olivia stopped typing. “Really,” she said.

“It was next to Doreen’s heart when she disrupted the Luftwaffe during the battle of Britain.”

She had all of her daughter’s attention now and held up the watch.

“This gave me the courage to start the destruction of the Berlin wall.”

Olivia was now looking at the heirloom in awe.

“It’s yours now, Olivia.”

***

I knew Olivia loved the watch, but I wasn’t prepared for her total meltdown when it stopped. “My watch is broken,” she told me as she sat on the couch wearing sweatpants and eating ice cream.

“Is that why you haven’t washed the dishes yet?” Since our parents had died, we bickered like an unhappy married couple without the imagination to leave each other.

“Screw the dishes, Jack,” she replied and held up her middle finger.

“Olivia, that is not awesome.” That wasn’t fair. It wasn’t her fault the press had given her that cheesy name. Henrietta might have stopped the fire of London, but she didn’t live in a world where every good deed was filmed by the public and shared across the globe. I tried to make amends and said, “Let’s get it fixed.”

“Jack, you don’t get it. The watch can’t be fixed. It’s broken because I’m broken.”

***

So, after a week of couch sitting, she’d agreed to come out for a few drinks. She put on some proper clothes, and once she got started drinking, there was no stopping her. The barman shook his head at me as I helped her out the door. She went straight to bed, and I waited 15 minutes then rescued the watch from under her pillow. She didn’t notice a thing.

The watch felt nice nestled in my palm. Olivia had guarded it so closely that I’d never even touched it before. “It’s no use to anyone in its current state,” I thought as I placed it in a box and drove to the watchmaker’s store. I’d used his excitement at the chance to work on a 17th-century antique to get him to open at midnight. The fact that the treasure had been in the Awesome family for generations also helped and he received it with great reverence before opening the box with care.

“Is this a joke?” he said.

“What…”

“This watch was made in the 90s.”

“The 1690s?” I asked.

“The 1990s.”

I laughed and sent a mental high five to my dead Mother.

***

Olivia slept late the next morning, and I paced the house waiting for her to wake. She rushed into the kitchen holding her precious watch. “Jack, it’s working,” she said and punched the air. I smiled. “That’s fantastic, sis.” I’d already ordered another two identical watches on eBay that morning.


Oonagh McBride writes in Glasgow, Scotland. Her job is creating software, but her passion is reading and writing fiction.


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