It’s everyone’s favorite time of the week as Carl, El, Spore, Octane, and the rest return for the newest installment of Empowered! As our favorite non-powered mutant enjoys the wonders of having a girlfriend (read: sex), he now has to learn that no relationship is without its drama. We do a bit of a time jump here because no one wants to read about the lovey-dovey honeymoon period. I actually did have that whole section outlined (there would’ve been obnoxious texts back in forth with the word “boo” thrown around a lot; I’m sure you’re all glad it did’t come to that). Act 2 is very much inspired by (500) Days of Summer, so if you’re a fan of that movie, you might just enjoy this a bit more. That said, I proudly present to you Empowered: Act 2, Part 2!
“Are you happy with us, Carl?” Spore asked hesitantly in to her phone on a chilly Friday night in January.
Carl had noticed that Spore had been acting strangely for the past few weeks, but he had thought nothing of it up until this point. Now nervous, Carl replied in to his phone, “I am. Why? Aren’t you?”
Spore’s reticence was louder than anything she could have said.
“I dunno…” she said softly.
Spore let out a quiet *sniff* and replied, “I just…it sometimes feels like we don’t understand each other. And I just feel like we want different things sometimes.”
Her voice was equal parts sad and sweet.
“Like what, baby?”
She hesitated a moment before once again saying, “I dunno…” Letting out another *sniff*, she then continued, “I’ve just been feeling lately that my heart hasn’t been in all the way. It’s hard to just put in to words. I’m sorry, baby.”
“So what now?” Carl asked, the sorrow in his voice now mirroring hers.
“I think we need to go on a break.”
At these words, Carl’s heart felt as it had been replaced by a stone which then dropped in to his stomach.
“I don’t get it. Things have been going so well.”
“Baby, you not noticing that things have been going well is why we need to take some time apart. We need to, like…think things over, you know?”
“But…” Carl started, not sure how to go forward with what he wanted to say. “But I don’t want to.”
“You always do this…” Spore answered, her voice changing from forlorn to mildly annoyed accompanied at his comment.
“You put yourself first.”
“Are you serious? I spend all my time with you!”
“But we spend that time doing what you want to do.”
“When I wanted to go to that art show, who went with me? My sister. When I wanted to try out that new vegan restaurant, where’d we end up going? T.G.I. Friday’s. Remember when I asked you to rent The Notebook and you came back with The Transporter?”
“I misheard you…”
“They sound nothing alike!”
“Alright, listen. Listen. I’m sorry, baby. For everything. Okay? I promise to be better.”
“I just…” she paused for a moment to be certain of her words, “I just think we need to take some time to figure out what we want and who we need to be in this relationship.”
Carl was silent for a moment. Any self-confidence he had gained over the past four months of being with her was beginning to crumble down before him.
“Does this have anything to do with me being…different?”
“What? No! How could you even think that! How could you even think that I’d think that!”
“I’m just sayin’, if it is, and you want like a ‘real man’…”
“I don’t know what to say to you sometimes. Listen, let’s not talk for a few days, okay?” She then echoed her sentiment from earlier. “We need to take some time to figure out what we want.”
Carl didn’t respond. He knew what he wanted.
“I’ll talk to you later, okay? I guess for now, we’ll just keep our distance in class. Do you understand?”
“Whatever,” he said in a low, angry voice.
“I’m sorry. Bye, baby.”
“Bitch,” he muttered to himself as he stared at his phone.
Put myself first…sorry I don’t wanna go to a stupid vegan restaurant. Sorry I don’t wanna watch a dumbass movie about a dude mailing letters and building a house. Sorry I don’t wanna stand around and look at paintings all damn day. Yeah, I’m a real asshole. Guess she forgot about the money I spent on dinners, how much it cost me in gas driving her all around town, the necklace I bought her…
Carl plopped down in to his desk chair and hunched forward. In frustration, he began rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands. Once he stopped, he tilted his head back and stared at the ceiling. He then closed his eyes, and without warning, a memory of time’s past crawled its way in to his mind.
Three months ago:
“Happy one-month anniversary,” Carl said to Spore as they stood in his room.
“Aw, you keep track. Such a softie.”
“Psh, no way. I just realized, like, fifteen minutes ago.”
“Uh-huh,” she said with an incredulous smile.
“I’m really lucky to have you,” he said, shifting to a more serious tone.
“Carl…” she said, her voice drawn out. “You’re too nice to me.”
“Well, you let me touch your boobs, so…”
Faking irritation, she responded and covered her chest, “Hmf, I’m more than just my boobs, Mr. Freeman!”
“Really? I wouldn’t say so.”
Playfully, she let out a whimper and sad frown at this.
“Such a cutie,” he said as he came up and held her by the waist.
“I like you a lot,” she said in a soft voice, looking in to his eyes.
“I like you, too,” he returned.
Their hearts beat in rapid unison as they both leaned their heads to their right and shared a delicate kiss.
Pulling away after about thirty seconds, he said, “So, I have a big night planned for us tonight.”
“Is that so?”
“It is,” he said with a nod. “Pizza and chip ‘n’ putt at the golf course.”
Putting her hand to her chest, Spore gasped speciously, “Oh, Carl Freeman, you can really sweep a girl off her feet when you want to.”
“I know,” he laughed. “I surprise myself sometimes.”
“Are you going to ‘let me win’ again?”
“Hey, I have crappy depth perception. Plus, I’m pretty sure I saw the grass move the ball forward more than once.”
Spore smiled and shrugged, “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” Changing the subject, she then stated, “Oh, also, I was thinking, maybe we can go to that art show I was telling you about tomorrow.”
“Oh, yeah…I mean, I would, but you’d probably have more fun with your sister, wouldn’t you? I mean,” he then laughed, “I’d probably just complain the whole time anyway.”
Masking her disappointment, she decided to feign agreement. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I haven’t seen much of her lately anyway, I suppose.”
“See? Everyone wins.”
Turning briefly to look at the clock on his wall, Carl then turned back and asked, “Ready to go, Ms. Summers?”
Smiling once more, she replied, “Always, Mr. Freeman.”
Money for gas, a round of golf, pizza, and ice cream after, Carl thought, tallying the amount in his head. He opened his eyes and muttered to himself, “Yeah, I’m real selfish.”
Getting up out of his chair, he then laid down on his bed and attempted to mindlessly watch television, hoping to sever the thoughts of Spore for the time being. But it was futile; a swirl of emotions filled every inch of his body and showed no sign of leaving any time soon.
Deciding to give El a call, he grabbed for his phone and held it above his face. As he remained flat on his bed, he began furiously pressing away.
After four rings, El simply answered, “Yo, what’s up?”
“Nothing,” he returned.
Five seconds of silence dragged by, forcing El to once again ask, “Alright, so what’s up?”
“What are you up to?”
“Why? Aren’t you hanging out with Spore?”
“We, uh…we got in to a fight, sort of,” Carl mumbled.
“Oh, and I get to be your Plan B. Sweet,” El remarked sarcastically.
“Come on, man. You know it’s not like that.”
“What’s it like then? You’ve been a ghost these past few months.”
Carl was quiet, unsure of how to defend himself.
With a sigh, El once again broke the silence. “Yeah. Come on over. I wasn’t doing anything anyway.”
“Alright, sweet. I’ll be there in like fifteen. See you soon.”
“Yeah, see ya.”
While Carl hung up the phone on his end, a few miles away, El was switching back to the cute blonde he had on hold.
“Hey, Vector, sorry about that. Um, so about tonight…”
“And then she tells me that I always put myself first!” Carl said as he paced around El’s room in a huff as El laid face up on his bed.
The room, with four forest green walls and a light gray ceiling, was adorned with a sleek, black wooden desk; upon it were the latest model MacBook Pro and a framed picture of El with his parents. Up against the adjacent wall was a cabinet filled with trophies from playing football and lacrosse, medals from various science fair competitions, and a National Honors Society certificate.
“Uh-huh” was El’s contribution to Carl’s rant as he focused intently on a foam football he had been throwing up in to the air and catching.
“And I’m like, what do you want from me? I treat you well. I care for you. I’m always there for you. What else can I do?”
“Yeah,” he added, still throwing the football.
“It’s ridiculous! I spend so much time with her, and yet that’s not good enough. She’s the selfish one!”
“Fuckin’ women, man.”
“Think I should text her?”
Finally sitting up, El responded, “Well, first of all, because she told you that you two shouldn’t talk for a few days. Second of all, it’ll make you look pathetic. It’s been, what, two hours?”
“But she has to know I’m thinking about her.”
“I’m sure she does, man. And I’m sure she’s thinking about you, too. But she said she needs space. Give it to her.”
Carl let out a heavy, angry sigh. “This sucks.”
“I know, bruddha. You’ll be alright, though. Trust me.”
“I wonder what she’s doing right now,” he said with his head in his lap as he plopped down in to El’s desk chair.
“Just don’t think about it, bud. Come on; let’s get your mind off it. Wanna go bowling or something?”
“Spore and I used to go bowling,” Carl whimpered.
“We were supposed to see a movie tonight. She always liked going to the movies,” Carl added, his tone dripping with self-pity.
“Okay,” El sighed. “What’s something you two didn’t do together?”
“I don’t know,” Carl muttered.
“Well, I could cum for you. I’m willing to bet she never did that.”
“Fucked up, man,” Carl replied, his speech muffled by his lap.
“Too soon? Too soon. Okay, what else…”
“Are you sure I shouldn’t text her?” he asked, picking his head up. “What if I said…”
“Yes I’m sure! Now, come on. I actually just remembered that Yawn is having people over tonight. We’ll go there, play some pool, and just shoot the shit. How’s that sound?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Carl replied, knowing he had no other options besides being alone.
“Sweet. I’ll drive.”
As the two traveled down the road in El’s Jeep Wrangler, it was clear to El that Carl’s disposition was changing from anger to depression at an exponential rate. Attempting to get Carl’s mind on to something else, he tried to throw out any topic of conversation he could think of.
“Alright, man, better game: Final Fantasy VII or Ocarina of Time?”
Disinterested, Carl responded, “I don’t know.”
“I gotta go Ocarina. It’s just about as perfect as a game could be, ya know? Except for that fucking owl. Plus, I don’t really like role-playing games, so I never understood the hype around Final Fantasy.”
Looking over, El saw Carl staring melancholically out the window, barely listening to what he had to say.
“That’s a weird term, isn’t it? ‘Role-playing game’? I mean, in what game don’t you play a role, right?”
“Yeah,” Carl said, now thinking that maybe being alone would’ve been the better option. The last thing he wanted right now was to be around people who were happy and having fun.
“So anyway, I was reading this physics article online, and there’s this theory on infinite universes where any reality that could possibly exist does exist,” El said as he pulled in to Yawn’s driveway.
“Okay?” Carl responded as the two got out of the car.
“What I’m saying is, that means there’s a universe out there where, right now, you’re fucking eighteen supermodels, if it makes you feel any better about things.”
“I’d rather be in the universe where I wasn’t on this damn break.”
“Well, that’s just silly. A universe where you fuck eighteen supermodels, and you choose that one,” El replied as he rang Yawn’s doorbell. Within moments, the stocky, well-built Indian boy answered the door.
“Hey, guys!” Yawn exclaimed, happy to see the pair. “Glad you came. Everyone’s downstairs; make yourselves comfortable. You want anything to eat or drink, just let me know. Parents are gone for the week, so help yourself to a beer or six.”
The two thanked Yawn and went in to his professionally finished basement where Brainstorm, Hourglass, and others were watching TV, playing drinking games, laughing, flirting, and having a good time. Shortly after Carl and El showed up, Octane and his girlfriend, Blitz, arrived.
“Yo-yo-yo, guys. What’s happening? Big C, where’s Spore at?”
“She, uh…” Carl looked at the ground, downcast.
“She’s sick,” El finished, not wanting Carl’s misery to become the focus of the night. “Apple scab or something. Right, Carl?”
“Ah, bummer. You-you-you guys wanna play us in pool?” Octane asked, gesturing to the finely finished oaken billiards table.
“Absolutely we do,” El said, answering for the both of them. “Come on, let’s show these jabronies how we run shit.”
“Sweet, I’ll rack ‘em,” Octane replied as he and Blitz walked to the table.
Whispering to Carl, El asked, “You feeling better?”
“Feelin’ as good as I’m gonna, I guess.”
“What are you funboys whispering about?” Octane yelled, having already finished racking. “Come on; we need to shoot to see who goes first.”
As the four played, Carl noticed Octane’s interactions with Blitz. In between turns, she would go over and tickle him, using her electric powers as she did so to make his long, chestnut brown hair stand up on end. And every time he went to make his shot, she’d playfully give him a shock with a poke of her finger.
“We’re on the same team, you goof!” Octane would reply jovially. “You’re going to make me miss!”
The skinny brunette smiled and replied, “Crap! Losing at basement pool. My parents will, like, totally disown me.”
As he saw Octane and Blitz banter back and forth, Carl found it impossible to not have his mind shoot back to Spore. He was then hit with a rush of dread: What if he and Spore will never again joke like that, laugh like that, or touch that? Carl became lost in his own sad, depressing thoughts as the reality of their break set in, but Blitz managed to break him from his self-imposed trance.
“You’re up, Carl,” she said, smiling at Carl and handing him the pool cue.
Lacking even the slightest amount of enthusiasm, Carl barely took a second to line up his shot and completely missed on the 7-ball that was teetering on the edge of the front left corner pocket.
“Gotta be more careful, big C,” Octane replied as he took the cue from Carl’s hands. He then began zipping around the table, sinking shot after shot as he did.
*zip* 10-ball in the back right corner pocket.
*zip* 15-ball in the left side pocket.
*zip* 12-ball in back left corner pocket.
*zip* 8-ball in the front right corner pocket.
“Tha-tha-that’s game. Re-rack?”
“Nah,” Carl said, “I think I’m good. El, you tryin’ to head out?”
Looking at his watch and seeing that they had barely been there for an hour, El lied and said, “Yeah, I’m…I’m pretty tired actually.”
“Ah, come on, guys! Stay! We just got here.”
El looked over at Carl to see if his mood at all changed. It hadn’t.
“Nah, it’s been a day,” El answered. “Ready, bud?”
“Yeah. I’ll see you guys later,” Carl mumbled. He then went up the stairs and outside without saying a word to anyone else.
“Is-is-is he alright, El?” Octane asked.
El exhaled and looked down. “He’s fine. Just going through some stuff is all.”
Giving a disappointed nod, Octane replied, “Word. Alright, bro, I’ll talk to you later.”
“Later, man. Later, Blitz,” El replied.
“Bye! Tell Carl I hope he feels better!”
El smiled a little and replied, “Sure thing.”
The drive back to El’s house was painfully quiet, and despite knowing what the answer would be, El eventually asked, “You have a good time?”
“It was aight,” Carl muttered unconvincingly.
“Take your mind off her at all?”
“Not really, man.”
“Just remember you guys aren’t broken up, alright? You’re just taking some time off. Don’t sweat it. Just give her what she needs to figure out it all out, and it’ll be fine. I promise.”
“You really think?” Carl asked, his voice filled with sad hope.
“Yeah, man. Absolutely.”
“Appreciate it, El.”
“No worries,” he replied as he pulled up next to Carl’s car. “Give me a call tomorrow if you wanna do something, alright?”
“Thanks. Think I’m just gonna lay low, though.”
“I hear ya, boss. Feel better, okay?”
“Will do,” Carl said as he opened the passenger side door. “Later, man.”
Carl drove home in silence; he tried forcing himself to think of nothing, but the dull ache of despair was a constant reminder of the girl he was losing.
In his depression, he didn’t bother with brushing his teeth and washing his face after coming home; he instead just decided to crawl underneath the covers of his bed.
He didn’t want to lose her. He couldn’t lose her. The past few months had made Carl feel special for once in his life. He felt as if he could do anything; he felt as if he could be anything. With Spore, he never felt helpless or handicapped. She made him feel strong. She made him feel invincible. And now, he was facing the possibility that that feeling would be gone forever.
He didn’t want her to go.
He didn’t want to lose that feeling.
He didn’t want to be powerless again.
TO BE CONTINUED
Poor, poor Carl. With first love comes first heartbreak. Do you agree that he was selfish? Is Spore overreacting? And do you think they should (or will) overcome this break? Thoughts, insights, criticisms, and comments of all kinds are more than welcome, so log on to Facebook and Twitter to share what you think! See you in a week for Part 3!