Empowered: Deleted & Alternate Scenes, Part 1

Empowered: Deleted & Alternate Scenes, Part 1



And we’re back from a bit of a hiatus! While my third story is currently in the works (still in the outlining stages, unfortunately), I wanted to present to you over the next few weeks some bonus material, like alternate/deleted scenes and commentary.

First up are two different takes on the way Carl and El’s breakfast the day after the Senior Mixer was intended to go. It was a going to be a much longer scene, but it never felt “right” to me, so I cut it out completely, opting instead for them to have a quick breakfast in the mall food court.

There’s also a brief scene of Carl and El screwing around in the park, which I realized served no real purpose, so I cut it. Also, Carl and El were to get pizza much earlier in the story, following up on the text Carl had sent him after their spat in the mall. I decided to move this to the end after their big fight. Some parts were also incorporated in to their morning homeroom scene on the first day of school.

Minor note: You’ll see things in bold, but you can more or less ignore those. I’d jump around in my writing, and those bolded lines are notes for later for sections that I wasn’t able to develop at the time.

Okay, enough of that. Let’s get this show on the road:

Breakfast, Take 1:

“Wake me up from a nice sleep, goddamn right breakfast is on you.”

“Sweet. Put some clothes on, and I’ll jump us over there.”

“No. I hate your ‘pick ups.’ Ma!” Carl yelled, “Can I use the car?”

“Where are you going, baby angel?”

He wish he had prefaced with ‘El is here.’

“EL IS HERE,” he yelled, embarrassed, “and we’re gonna get some breakfast!”

“Oh, I can make you boys something!”

“No, it’s fine!”

“Aw, come on, baby angel,” El said with a grin.

“What was that, Elcsum Gray?”

“Nothing, ma’am,” El said. He then whispered to Carl, “The ears on that woman.”

“Try livin’ with it.”

“Don’t y’all be fools, spending your money. Come down and I’ll whip you up some French toast, and I think we have some sausage, too.”

“Thanks, mom!” El called back. He then turned to Carl, “French toast! Sausage! Mom!”

“Why do you insist on being you?”

“Ms. Freeman!” El yelled to her, “Would you mind heating up the syrup?”

“Sure!”

“Syrup!” he exclaimed to Carl. “Anyway, speaking of hot, sticky things, me and Hourglass…”

“She good?”

“Yeah, man. Her powers made it last twice as long as normal. It was fucking awesome.”

“Oh, so you got to disappoint a girl for an entire minute this time, huh?”

“Best goddamn minute of her life! Anyway, what about you? You never went in to detail with that chick from last night.”

“Her name’s Spore; she’s new. She was there doing a photo assignment or something. Wants to be on the yearbook staff.”

“Yearbook staff? Yikes. Geek rejection is the worst kind of rejection. But hey, that’s what you get for trying to steal our womens.”

“Racism is fun, El.”

“Sure is!”

THEY NEED TO BULLSHIT FOR A FEW MORE MINUTES

“Boys! Breakfast is ready!”

“Yes! Food, food, food, food!”

THEY GO DOWN THE STAIRS

“Thanks a lot, Mrs. Freeman. It smells awesome.”

“Oh, of course. Gotta put some meat on you boys. Too skinny.”

“I’m trying to keep my lady-like figure.”

“Mom, can I borrow the car or not?”

“Are you going to drive the speed limit?”

“Yes, mom.”

“Carl P Freeman.”

There’s no use lying to a woman who’s a human lie detector, although that never stopped Carl from trying.

“I promise to…”

With her eyes narrowed and lips pursued, Ms. Freeman just stared. Carl knew it was better to just agree.

“I promise to actually go the speed limit.”

“Keys are in my purse, sweetie.”

NEED TO SHOW THAT THEY’RE EATING

“Elcsum, could you give us a moment?”

“Yes, ma’am. And thank you for breakfast. As always, it’s much appreciated.”

“Anything for the boy who actually gets this one out of the house.”

Breakfast, Take 2:

Walking outside, he saw El still fiddling with his hair in the window. “You look gorgeous,” Carl said, “Come on, get in the car.”

“Where do you wanna go?”

“Wherever’s close, I guess.”

Stopping at a nearest fast food joint for a breakfast of sausage, egg, and cheese on a biscuit, the two enjoyed their meal as they pondered what else to do.

“What do you want to do the rest of the day?” Carl asked, wiping crumbs from side of his mouth.

“Let’s be honest,” El replied with a shrug, “we’re in the suburbs, too young to do anything cool in the actual city, so…”

“Mall or movies?” Carl groaned.

Sighing in agreement, El responded, “Mall or movies.”

“What’s playing?”

“Sequels, remakes, and 3D re-releases.”

“Mall then?” Carl BLANK “I hate going there, man. All we do is walk around and not buy shit.”

“Of course we used to not buy shit. With what money? But now you’ve been busing tables, and I got my birthday money. Let’s get something nice to wear for Monday.”

Going to the Park:

“So where to?”

“I got a new Vortex. Toss it around at the park?”

“As long as it doesn’t mean you throwing it half a fuckin’ mile and making me run for it.”

“Oh, Carl. We both know I can’t promise that.”

GROANS AND STARTS THE CAR

“You know, for a guy with no athletic ability, you can throw the ball pretty damn far. Although it ends up flopping around like a ‘tard since you can’t get

a good spiral going.”

“Real nice, El.”

“What?”

THROWS BALL, CARL STILL NEEDS TO RUN FOR IT

Getting Pizza Take 1:

“Hey, what can I do for you two gentlemen?”

“One large…what do you want on it?”

“Everything.”

“Can you do half plain, half everything?”

“You’re so boring.”

“I am what I am.”

“Sure thing, boys. It’ll be a five minutes.”

THEY SIT DOWN

“I’m sorry, man.”

“We don’t have to talk about it. It is what it is.”

“I know, it’s just…”

“Dude, it’s fine. We’re big boys; we can move on. Anyway,” El began, eager to just change the subject, “you see they posted the schedules this morning?”

“No, shit?” he said, pulling out his phone. “On the school’s website?”

“Yeah,” El replied. “Here, compare and let me know if any line up.”

El then opened up to the page on his phone, already pre-loaded from looking at it earlier, and slid it across the table for Carl to see and compare.

“Anything?”

THINKING NOISE

“Ummm…yeah. Other than homeroom, environmental with Doc Drain.”

“That we knew; he’s the only one who teaches it. Nothing else?”

“Nah, doesn’t look it,” he said, sliding El’s phone back to him, “but we do got it at the end of the day, second-to-last period. So on non-lab days, we can just cut out early.”

“Sick.”

“You fuckin’ know it.”

PIZZA IS BROUGHT OUT

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“No problem. You boys enjoy. And watch it; food’s hot.”

“Thank you.”

Each grabbed a slice and quickly placing it on to their plate to cool. The internal struggle of waiting three minutes for it to be edible versus eating it out, to hell with the roof of your mouth commenced.

“Ah, fuck! Fuck fuck fuck!” they both yelled in unison.

Both boys now had their mouths open wide and were frantically sucking in air to cool off the pizza, which now felt like magma in their mouths.

Needless to say, waiting lost.

“So, we’re good, right?”

“Yes! Christ! Stop asking.”

“Just wanted to be sure, man.”

“Oh, dear Carl. Like I’d ever really let this friendship end. I still have fifty more hours of community service to perform.”

“Ah, that’s right. CARL HAS A COMEBACK”

“Ha, if you say so, bruddha. Now, important question: Did you stalk that chick yet?”

“Come on, man. Give me some credit.”

“Carl…”

“I may have done a quick search…”

“Carl…”

“There are four other Spores in the greater Los Angeles area; none of ‘em are under 18.”

“Good. Good.”

“It’s a mute point anyway, she…”

“Moot.”

“What?”

“It’s moot point, not mute point. Your point didn’t have its vocal chords ripped out or some shit.”

“Every time, man. Is that really necessary?”

“Sorry. Go on.”

“Anyway, it’s a MOOT point because she wasn’t in to me.”

“You don’t know that. You said she was doing some assignment, right? I mean, granted there’s the overwhelming likelihood that she was blowing you off because you’re you.”

“Naturally.”

“But it could be that she really did just want to do well on it.”

“Yeah…”

“But, I mean…she was probably blowing you off.”

“Appreciate, man. Thank you.”

“And thank you for the pizza!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That’s all! What’d you think? Were one of those breakfast scenes better than what was in there? Was it a good idea to split getting pizza in to the homeroom scene and when Carl and El finally made up?

As always, let me know on Facebookor Twitter. There will be more material that didn’t make the cut next week, so stay tuned!





Empowered: Act 3, Part 4

Empowered: Act 3, Part 4



Hello, everyone! Hope you’ve all had a great week. Mine was pretty goddamn awesome: Got to be the best man at my best friend’s wedding, which turned out to be one of the best nights of my life. I’m hoping a video of the speech turns up so I can share with you all. Until then, you’ll have to settle with another installment of Empowered. Can you believe that this is the second-to-last post of the entire story? I didn’t realize that I’ve been writing this since January. It doesn’t at all feel like more than half the year. I’ve loved every minute of it, and I hope those of you reading share my passion.

With that said, let’s get to it! The end begins.

“This is everything I’ve ever wanted and more,” El gushed.

“I thought you’d like it. So you’ll go?”

“Absolutely I’ll go. What’s with the sudden change of heart, though?”

“Wing’s pissed, and yeah he’s a dick who deserved getting that punch in the face, but it’s a problem I still caused. If he wants a goddamn showdown, then let’s have it. Maybe we can put all this shit to rest for good before it gets any worse.”

“All while wearing a baller ass tux, am I right?”

“When you’re right, you’re right.”

“I’m not putting out, ya know.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Good point. Ugh, what am I going to wear! Such little time to decide. Is coral in this season?”

“You’ll figure it out. And I’m glad you’re down.”

“I like it. And if he does decide to start anything, you know I’ll have your back,” El said. He then decided to add, “If you want it.”

“Always.”

“Good. Also, maybe we can get in on a limo with Ock and Blitz.”

“Actually, for old time’s sake, why don’t you just come pick me up?”

“I am loving this idea more and more with every word.”

“Figured you would.”

“Wanna check out tuxes tomorrow?”

“Actually, I think I know where I can get one of my own.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey, mom?” Carl asked while knocking on his mother’s door.

“Yes, dear?” she asked, looking up from the book she had been reading. It was a horror novel with the face of a werewolf on the cover, its maw drenched in blood.

“This is gonna sound like a weird question, but do you have any of dad’s old clothes?”

“His clothes? Why?”

“I decided to go to prom, and I didn’t know if he happened to have a tux or something.”

“Since when are you going to prom?”

“Since five minutes ago.”

“Did you and Spore get back together?”

“No.”

“Some other girl from class?”

“Uh…no.”

“Oh, so you’re just going by yourself?”

“Yeah…no.”

“Then who are you going with?”

“…El.”

“Oh…oh.”

“I mean, we’re not…”

“I’ve always said he was overcompensating with those girls,” Insight mumbled to herself.

“What? No! We’re just goin’ as friends. Not like that.”

“I’d still love you all the same, hon.”

“We’re not gay!”

“Okay, dear. But if you were…”

“Mom!”

“Oh, I’m just kidding with you. Now, as far as tuxes go, let’s check the attic.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ruffling through a worn cardboard box marked ‘Dad – dress clothes,’ Insight let out a loud “Ah!” as she found exactly what she was looking for. Slowly ascending from her crouched-down position, Insight carefully held up the charcoal gray tuxedo jacket that was Carl’s father’s from many years ago.

“Here we go,” she said with a smile on her face. Holding in front of Carl’s chest to see the comparison, she added, “I may have to take it in a bit; your father had such broad shoulders. But I think it’ll fit just fine.”

“Awesome.”

“Come on. Pants should be in there, too. Grab them and let’s try everything on.”

After spending a few minutes getting dressed, Carl exited his room, now fully adorned with the gray tuxedo, white button-up shirt, and deep purple tie, ready for his mother’s critique.

“Oh, Carl,” she gasped with a tear forming in her eye and a smile forming across her face. “You look just like him.”

Returning with a smile of his own, Carl simply replied, “Thanks, mom.”

“When did my little boy because a handsome young man?”

“Scary, ain’t it?”

“You have no idea, Carl.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With a tuxedo procured and tickets purchased, Carl was more than ready for the prom. And without warning, the next couple weeks breezed right by, and the big night was upon him.

“Lookin’ swanky, baby brother,” Iris said as she snapped pictures of him in their living room.

“Thanks, ‘Ris,” Carl replied.

“So, since El’s pickin’ you up, can I borrow your car tonight?”

As Carl reached in to his pocket with every intention of loaning Iris his keys, he found himself holding on to them for a few seconds longer. And in those few seconds, he came to a decision.

“You know what? Since I’m going away to college in a few months…” he said as he tossed Iris his keys, “why don’t you take care of the car for me?”

“Are you shittin’ me?,” she asked staring at the keys that were now cupped in her hands. “ ‘Cause if this is a joke, I swear to God I’ll microwave the shit out of your brain.”

“I shit you not, ‘Ris. Plus you deserve it anyway.”

“Huh,” was all she could muster as she stared at the keys that were now in her hand. A wave of disbelief washed over her.

“Just don’t trash it too badly, okay? And I get to drive it whenever I come home for breaks.”

“Deal!” she yelled as she went over to hug Carl. “Thanks, Carl,” she whispered.

“Yeah, no problem,” he said as they parted. He then looked at the ground for a moment before responding again.

“I shoulda listened to you, ya know.”

Having a touch of her mother’s intuition, Iris understood immediately and replied, “I know. But it’s hard to get anything through that peanut head of yours.”

“Fair enough,” he said with a mild smirk.

“Thanks again, Carl. You didn’t have to.”

“I know, but I wanted to.”

“Now I gotta be nice to you and shit,” Iris responded facetiously.

Carl merely smiled at her, letting his dark brown eyes, full of warmth at the sight of his sister’s joy, say everything he needed.

“I’m gonna go upload the pictures. Have a fun night, alright?”

“Aight. Thanks again, ‘Ris.”

“Any time, baby brother,” she replied with a smile. Iris then turned around and sped upstairs. In the meanwhile, she switched the application on her phone from the camera to her contacts and immediately dialed Wavelength. From the next floor up, Carl could clearly hear, “Yo, Wave! You won’t guess what I just got!”

“That was a very nice thing you did, Carl,” Insight said as she walked in to the living room.

“Thanks, mom. It felt right, ya know?”

Smiling back, she simply said, “I know.”

“Hey, mom…do I have a peanut head?”

“Hm,” she began while examining her son. “No, it’s too pointy to be a peanut. More almond shaped if anything.”

Carl closed his eyes and groaned as he felt the top of his head in an attempt to reassure himself that it’s a normal shape. As he did, Insight leaned in and gave him a kiss on the forehead.

“My handsome young man,” she said.

*bzzzzz* *bzzzzz* *bzzzzz*

“Ah, that’s El,” Carl said as he looked at the text he just received on his phone. “I gotta go. He’s gonna be here in a minute.”

“Okay, sweetie. Have a good night.”

“I will, and, um…thanks, mom.”

“For what?”

“I don’t know…everything? I…”

Like her daughter moments ago, Insight knew inherently what Carl wanted to say but didn’t know how to. Instead of letting him fumble over his words, Insight went up and gave her son a strong hug.

“It’s what I do, sweet boy.”

“I love you, mom.”

“I love you, too, Carl. Now go and have fun.”

“I will. Goodnight, ma,” he said as he exited the house.

“Call me when you get there!” she yelled to him as the door shut.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*thunk*

“ ’Sup, gorgeous?” El asked he landed in front of Carl, swishing his golden hair out of his eyes as he did so. El, in addition to a classic black tux embellished with a red vest and matching tie, was wearing an enormous grin on his face. He was clearly ecstatic for the night.

“ ‘Sup, my man?” Carl responded as the two high-fived. “Lookin’ good.”

“Ain’t lookin’ too bad yourself, bud. But we can blow each other later; we’re running late.”

“Aight, let’s hop to it then.”

“Literally.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*swish*

“So what are you gonna do if and when Wing looks to start something?”, El asked after about fifteen minutes of *swishing* and *thunking*.

“Don’t know. Just gotta deal with it as it comes. I escalated shit more than I should’ve, and I’m not gonna seek the dude out for a confrontation, but if it happens, it happens, ya know?”

*thunk*

*swish*

“But whatever happens, though, I know you got my back.”

“Always,” El answered as they landed in front of The Manor House, the charming, picturesque venue that was chosen to host the school’s prom night.

“No line,” Carl remarked. “Everyone must be inside already.”

“Yeah, man. Told you we were running late. Let’s sign in and get in there.”

The two walked towards the sign in table, which was guarded by an elderly gentleman and his pad and pencil. “Name, please?” he asked

“You can’t be serious!” El exclaimed.

“Name, please?”

“We’re in your class!”

“Name, please?”

“Gray! Elcsum-freaking-Gray! And Carl-freaking-Freeman!”

“Tickets, please?”

“Here ya go,” Carl said in a much calmer voice, handing them over to the teacher.

“Thank you. Please enjoy the senior prom. If you leave…”

“…you can’t come back in,” the three of them said in unison.

“After you,” Carl said to El, who opened the door to the gigantic hall, adorned with the school’s colors of blue and gold while music played from a speaker system.

Before Carl himself walked in, he turned back for a moment and asked, “Hey, Doc?”

“Hm?”

“Is, um…do you happen to remember if…”

“Ms. Summers isn’t in there, Mr. Freeman.”

“Oh, yeah, I mean, I was just…”

“Enjoy the dance, son,” Doc Drain replied with a sharp look the rarely accompanied his cadence.

“Will do,” Carl said before turning and going in to the hall himself. And moments after Carl caught up with El, a familiar sight was upon them.

“Well, well, well. Look at these handsome gentlemen here,” Octane said as he zipped up to them, camera firmly in hand. “Guys, say something for the camera.”

“Mrs. Rice, if you’re watching this…I’m legal in a month,” El replied as he stared in to the lens.

“Welp, that’s going to have to get edited out,” Octane grumbled.

“Ock, where’s are our table at?” Carl asked.

“Back left over there,” Octane said while nonchalantly pointing to the general area of their seats. “Just look for Blitz.”

“Oh, I think I see her,” El replied. “She’s the pissed-off-looking brunette sitting by herself, right?”

“Yeah, that-that-that sounds about right,” Octane replied. “Alright, let’s go. Food should be out in a minute.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As the group of friends sat down at their table, Ms. Hawkins took to the microphone on stage and stated, “Hello, everyone. I hope you’re having as wonderful a time as I am! The band is scheduled to go on a bit later, but until then, let’s all continue to enjoy the DJ stylings of Yawn Patel!” she exclaimed, motioning to Yawn who had been providing the music for the dance up until this point. “Enjoy your meals and have a great rest of the night!”

“You guys didn’t see Wing anywhere, did you?” Carl asked to his friends as they finished their food.

“Nah, guess he’s a no-show,” Octane replied.

With a mouthful of food, El added, “Dude’s a total pussy.”

Carl nodded in acknowledgment, neither relieved nor dismayed. He then felt his damp forehead and said, “Aight, well, it’s hot as shit in here. I’m gonna step out for a second.”

Octane, who had once again began filming with the camera, turned to Carl and said, “Alright. There’s a back exit by the bathroom. Just-just-just don’t let Double-D see you, and you should be straight.”

Giving a slight nod of acknowledgement, Carl exited to bask for a few minutes in the cool night air before returning back to the dance. Unknowingly, Octane captured his departure.

After he left, El turned towards Octane and stated, “Yo, Ock. Lemme see what you got so far.”

“Here-here-here ya go,” Octane replied, handing over the video camera and instructing him on what to do. “Here: This is the view screen, and this button here let’s you rewind.”

Hitting the button, El was forced to pause it within mere moments as his eyes grew wide.

“What-what-what’s wrong?”

Rewinding the tape back a few seconds and pausing it, El tilted the viewing screen to Octane and stated, “Okay, here you see Carl going outside, right?”

“Yeah,” Octane acknowledged.

“Okay, well…” El said before hitting the play button. Within two seconds, he hit the pause button again, “…who does that look like following right behind him?”

Although Octane had begun turning the camera away at the time, it was clear in that split second of video who was right behind their friend.

“Ah-ah-ah…”

“…fuck.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As Carl leaned on the sturdy brick facade, he let the night air flow in and out of his nostrils. He’d plan to stay outside for another minute or two, hoping the sweat collected on his chest and back would somewhat subside by then.

Without forewarning, Carl heard a *creeeeaaaaaaak* followed by a loud *SLAM*, indicating that he now had company.

“I hope you didn’t let Doc Drain see you, or else we’re both…” Carl began saying as he looked over to the student who had just exited. He stopped immediately upon seeing who it was.

“Hello, Imp,” Wing stated coldly.

“…screwed.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TO BE CONCLUDED

A final confrontation. Will Carl come out a hero? Find out in a week. And come say good-bye to El, Octane, Spore, Wing, and, of course, Carl P. Freeman.

How will it all end?






Empowered: Act 3, Part 3

Empowered: Act 3, Part 3



Sorry for the delay with this post, everyone! Work’s been nuts, but thankfully I think things will finally stabilize and finish this story in a timely manner. Carl’s slowly fixing his life and getting his house in order, and in this next post, he has a revelation that will drastically change the course not only of this story but of his life as well.

Sound interesting? Then keep reading. Time for Act 3, Part 3 of Empowered!


“Good to see you two talking again,” Octane said to Carl and El after class the following Monday.

“Yeah, Carl finally took out his tampon and we made up,” El replied, shooting Carl a devious grin.

“Well, it was lodged up there pretty high,” Carl said in mock defense.

“Fu-fu-fucking gross,” Octane replied in disgust. “Now I have a mental image of you fishing out…fuck, you know what? Cha-cha-cha-changing the subject. I told Mrs. Prince what you said about filming prom and making that the end of the senior video. She thought it was a great idea. Nice job.”

“I have my moments,” Carl said modestly.

“Few and far between, but I guess you were due for one,” El added.

“You two definitely not going?” Octane asked, pushing the school doors open and exiting the building.

“Probably just gonna chill,” Carl replied.

“Too bad,” Octane remarked. “Gonna be pretty sweet.” Looking over at El, who pulled out the remote to unlock his car, Octane then asked, “You-you-you drove today?”

“It’s too goddamn hot to jump to school. I don’t know how you don’t pass out from running in this heat.”

“Short bursts, lots of water, and not being a pussy all help.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

“Easier said than done. He is a pretty huge pussy,” Carl added.

“You are what you eat lots and lots of,” El said with a grin. “Anyway, speaking of prom, Blitz isn’t gonna mind you basically doing schoolwork the entire night?”

“Wo-wo-won’t be the whole night. Plus, I’d be able to manage both her and the project.”

“Hope so for your sake,” Carl replied.

“El, you tell him about Wing?” Octane asked as he cocked his head towards Carl.

“He did,” Carl said, answering for his friend, “and that’s another reason I don’t wanna go. If the dude’s lookin’ to start shit, then why bother?”

“True, but that shouldn’t stop you from going to what’s basically a big end-of-high school party.”

“Eh, I’m sure we’ll get over it. Let’s be honest; high school ending is its own damn celebration.” Turning to face the school’s exterior, Carl then added, “Can’t wait to get the hell out of this place.”

“Oh, it hasn’t been that bad,” El rejoined, rolling his eyes. “We had some good times.”

“Yeah, like that time Spore surgically attached testicles to my heart and kicked them there repeatedly.”

Musing about what that’d entail, Octane nodded and remarked, “That’d be funnier if it didn’t sound so damn pathetic.”

“Yeah, you just gotta get over that, man,” El replied. “The ‘woe-is-me grace period’ is over. You’re now entering the ‘if you don’t stop crying over it, I’m going to punch you in the balls period.’ ”

“Just sayin’, guys. You know I’m a lot better now, but she’s still on my mind.”

“Yeah, well, that’s another reason we’re not going, isn’t it? Ain’t got no biddies to bring,” El added.

“Yeah, alright, true. Alright, bros, I’m-I’m-I’m out.”

“Later, man,” Carl responded.

“Later, boss,” El added.

Shortly after Octane left, Carl and El similarly parted ways. On his drive home, Carl reflected upon their conversation: The three of them hanging out, making stupid jokes at each other’s expense…things were starting to feel like old times again.

But at the same time, it felt different; it felt better. He and El were able to connect on a new level, and he saw a side of Octane he never realized was there. His friends had this depth that he never knew existed, and he had no idea how it took him so long to see that. They were well-rounded people with their own struggles and feelings and lives that extended beyond what Carl saw.

Carl also realized this didn’t extend to only his friends.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Coming straight home, Carl walked up the stairs in his room, thinking how nice it was that, for a change, he had no real homework to do and no tests to study for. The year – and his entire high school career – was winding down fast.

Before turning in to his room, he noticed Mesmer’s door was slightly ajar. Peering in, he saw his little brother sitting Indian style on the floor, his back pressed up against his bed. In his hands was a single issue of a comic. Carl was unable to make out the title.

“Hey, little man,” Carl said as he knocked on his brother’s door and slowly pushed it open.

“Hey, Carl,” Mesmer responded without looking up, clearly enthralled by the comic.

“Whatcha doin’?”

“Readin’ comics.”

“What one?”

Instead of responding, Mesmer tilted the comic so it was perpendicular with the floor, giving Carl full view of its title and cover.

“What’s Marvel Boy?” he asked.

“He’s an alien. His spaceship was shot down over Earth, and everyone on board but him was killed. Like his friends and family and stuff. He ends up going nuts and declares war on Earth.”

“By himself?”

“Yeah.”

“Sounds kinda sweet.”

“He’s real cool. I actually read this issue about a hundred times.”

“What’s so good about it?”

“Well, this monster thing that was a prisoner on his ship escaped when it crashed, and it’s now wrecking New York City. But he knows that he needs to do the right thing and stop it before anyone got hurt.”

“Why not just let it wreak havoc, though? I thought he declared war.”

“Because he’s not really a bad guy or anything, and he doesn’t actually wanna see anyone hurt. He’s just all angry and alone. But I think most of all is he knows that whether or not it was his fault, this monster thing was loose and no one else was gonna stop it. He’s reluctant, but he knows that he’s gotta, like, face it and do what’s right.”

“Damn, sound pretty sick.”

“Wanna read it when I’m done?”

“Actually, I was gonna go to the comic shop today anyway,” Carl lied. “Maybe I’ll pick up my own copy. You wanna come? All your shit’ll be on me.”

“Really?” Mesmer asked with his left eyebrow cocked with incredulity.

“Yeah, little man. Come on, before I change my mind.” Then turning his head away from his brother and out the doorway, Carl yelled to his mom, “Ma! Gonna take Mesmer to the comic shop! We’ll be back before dinner!”

“Don’t stay out too late!” she yelled back.

“You ready? Get your shoes on and let’s go,” Carl said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You really don’t gotta take me if you don’t want to,” Mesmer said as they drove to the shop.

“Nah, man. I want to. When was the last time we just chilled, you and me?”

“Years,” Mesmer said as he looked out the window.

“Yeah, well, that’s my point. Time me and you do some broin’ out. And…” Carl began, not sure how to finish his statement. Finally, he continued, “and I haven’t been the best brother ever. It’d be kinda nice to change that.”

“Yeah, you haven’t,” Mesmer agreed.

“ ‘Yeah’?” Carl repeated, slightly amused. “You ain’t gonne be all like ‘No, Carl! You’re great! Don’t be so hard on yourself!’ and all that?”

“No, you kinda sucked a lot of the times,” Mesmer said, also amused. “But you’re buying me comics, so I think we’re good.”

“It’s a brand new day, little man,” Carl remarked as he made a right in to the store’s parking lot.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Keeping to his word, Carl let Mesmer pick up a whole stack of comics, thankfully most from the quarter bin. The happiness on Mesmer’s face as he lugged the hoard to the cashier would be worth any cash Carl would have to spend that day.

When they got home, Mesmer eagerly bolted up the stairs and in to his bedroom, yelling “Thanks, Carl!” in his wake. Likewise, Carl went in to his own room and cracked open the hardcover collected edition of the Marvel Boy series that he had just purchased. As he rifled through the pages, he thought about what his brother had told him:

A monster let loose. No one else able to stop it. Reluctant hero’s responsibility.

Carl closed the book and looked down. A grin danced cross his face. It started small, but as he mused more and more upon the idea that just popped in his head, his grin grew wider and wider. Before he knew it, he was laughing heartily to himself.

After a few seconds, he regained composure. Almost immediately, he took out his phone and called El.

He’ll love this.

“Yo, Carl, what’s up?”

“Elcsum Gray?”

“Uh…yeah?”

“Would you be my date to prom?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TO BE CONTINUED

With Carl asking El to the dance, things have come full circle. And with El as his prom date (spoiler alert: he agrees to go), they’re guaranteed to have, at the very least, a memorable night.

There’s only two more posts left before the story finishes! When all’s said and done, the entire tale will be about 120-plus pages…enough to get it published, perhaps? Think it can be done? Any feedback you’d like to give before I pursue that? Then, as always, let me know on Facebook or Twitter! We’re almost finished, and I thank all of you who’ve stuck along with me so far!







Empowered: Act 3, Part 2

Empowered: Act 3, Part 2



So I haven’t been able to update as frequently as I’d like, but that’s because I’ve been incredibly busy at work. But guess what? It’s paid off in the form of a promotion. That’s exciting news for sure, and what’s also exciting is Carl not being such a whiny bitch anymore. He’s ready to turn things around, and the first stop is Elcsum Gray. But can that fence be mended? Find out now!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Putting down his pen and closing the cover, Carl tucked his notebook – a personal tome of his father – on his bookshelf next to those stories of wizards and warriors, instead of hiding it away his his desk drawer. It would serve as constant reminder of who his true hero is and always will be.

His mom said she reminded him of his father; it’s time he started acting like it.

Rubbing his face to try to subvert any tears that may form, he reached in to his top drawer to pull out his cell phone. He unlocked the phone, scrolled right to his contacts application, down to ‘E,’ and hovered his thumb over his best friend’s name. As it wavered precariously over the screen of his phone, Carl’s mind became flooded with thoughts:

What if he don’t actually wanna talk? What if Ock’s wrong and El’s happy with the way things are? Shit, if he did wanna talk, why hasn’t he made even the slightest attempt to? If…

…if I wasn’t so afraid, this’d be easier.

Exhaling deeply, he put his phone in his pocket and laid down on his bed. As he stared at the ceiling, he asked himself one question:

What would El do if he fucked up as bad as I did?

He pondered for a moment before springing up from bed. Like his mom said, what El would do is act confident if he weren’t. If Carl were to fix their friendship, he’d need to be strong for once in his life.

Grabbing the keys to his car, he sped over to his friend’s house, but not before making a quick stop along the way. His heart thudded with nervousness as he pulled up and parked on the street, noticing that only El’s car was in the driveway.

Walking up the sidewalk and ringing the doorbell, he immediately heard footsteps approach the door. Carl’s heart skipped a beat for a moment; what was he going to tell him? Sure he was sorry, but what could he ever say to really make things right?

Guess I’ll have to wing it, Carl thought half a second before El opened the door.

The door opened with swift *woosh*, and immediately upon seeing him, Carl uttered, “El, I…”

*slam*

“…I’m sorry.”

Emphatically banging on the door, interspersing the knocks with “El!” and “Let me in!” but to no avail. Attempting a different method, he ran over to the backyard to face El’s open window.

“El!” he yelled, but with no reciprocation.

So he tried again.

“El! El! El! El!”

No response.

Now jumping with all his strength to try to have his voice carry farther in to his friends room, he began, “Fine! I know you don’t want to talk, but at least listen. El…I know I fucked up. I’m sorry, man. I’m a piece of shit. I don’t know what I can say or what I can do except tell you that you were right. I was…I am jealous of you, and it was wrong for me to feel that way. And if I had taken the time to ask more about you and how you’ve been doin’ with things and if you got any problems of your own, I woulda realized that you don’t have it perfect, either.

“But I didn’t…and then to make shit worse, I ditched you the second I got a girlfriend, even though you’re there for me rain or frickin’ shine any time I needed you. And then I topped it off by acting like you were the asshole and socked you right in the fuckin’ face. What the hell kind of person does something like that?”

Finally peeking his head slightly out of his window, El said his first words to Carl in months:

“A raging douchebag.”

“That about sums it up, don’t it?”

After a brief pause where both parties needed a moment to let things settle, El called out again, “I’ll be down in a second.”

Smiling, Carl sprinted over to the door to meet his friend.

“I missed you, man,” El replied after opening it to see Carl once more.

“You, too.”

“Are you done with all of it?”

“Yeah…yeah, I am. I, uh…I talked to Ock about some things. Dude can be pretty wise sometimes.”

“When he can actually get words out,” El said, allowing a minor smile to form.

Moving away from the door, El motioned for Carl to come in, and the two walked silently in to the kitchen.

“Hungry?”

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Carl said, lightly hitting himself in the head. “One sec.”

Running from the house and to his car, he rummaged through the back seat to retrieve a square white cardboard box and then jogged back to El’s door.

“Here’s the pizza I owed you,” Carl said with an unsure smirk.

“You’re a prince,” El replied. “Come on; let’s eat inside.”

“Just you here?”

“Yeah.”

“Word.”

Placing the pizza down on the kitchen island, the boys each pulled up a chair and sat down, grabbing a slice and putting it on a plate in front of them as they did.

“So for what happened to us…” Carl began, not certain about how to finish his sentence, “I don’t know if I can say sorry enough. Sorry and…thanks, as weird as that sounds.”

“Thanks for letting you hit me in the face?” El remarked with surprising levity.

“Ha…well, it started to help me realize, like you said, how much of a fuckin’ d-bag I was.”

“Well, you got it out of your system, let’s hope.”

“I wanted to say sorry right away, you know,” Carl said. “But I really just didn’t know how.”

“Yeah,” El remarked solemnly, wishing that Carl had.

“Face healed pretty quickly, though.”

“God wouldn’t allow me to not be pretty for too long,” El quipped, a devious grin now on his face.

“Still a dick,” Carl laughed, shaking his head.

Walking over, El outstretched his arms. “Come here.”

Sharing a hug, El replied, “Really did miss you, bud.”

“Same.”

“Okay, enough of that homo shit,” El joked, “there’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you for the past four months.”

“What’s that?”

“Just how good did it feel to pop Wing in the nose?”

“Really, really fucking good,” Carl answered, smiling.

“Ha! I can only imagine. But I hear he hasn’t let it go yet.”

“That right? What’d you hear?”

“Wants to fight you at prom. Figures they won’t expel him that close to graduation, and if he has the chance to embarrass you in front of all those people, he’s gonna do it.”

“Where’d you hear this?”

“Lax practice. Guys talk.”

“Well, too bad for him, I ain’t going to prom.”

“If not prom then some other time. Just be careful,” El warned.

“I will. You gonna go? I was just talking to Ock about it earlier tonight.”

“Me? No.”

“Really? I figured you’d be all over that.”

“To tell you the truth, man, I was pretty bummed these past few months and never bothered to get a date or a ticket. And now there isn’t anyone left to ask anyway.”

“Sorry, man. I actually got tickets if you want ‘em.”

“Don’t sweat it. We’ll bro out that night.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“So what have you been up to these past few months?” El asked.

“Readin’ a lot of comics. Playin’ a lot of video games.”

“Jerking it?”

“Constantly.”

“Business as usual then?”

“More or less. How ‘bout you?”

“Chillin’ with the guys. Seeing a lot of Ock lately. Yawn’s had some parties, too.”

“Guess you got our friends in the divorce,” Carl joked, referencing their falling out. But as the words escaped his lips and brushed pain across El’s face like paint on a canvas, Carl’s heart immediately dropped.

“El, man…shit. Ock told me what happened with your parents. I’m…”

“No, no…it’s cool,” El replied, hurt but not offended. “It’s for the best I realized.”

“Really? How so?”

“Just…they were really unhappy for a long time. And, yeah, I wanted them to stay together. But I guess I accepted that if I want them to truly be happy, then they’re gonna have to be apart for a while.”

“I…yeah. I never would’ve thought of it like that.”

“Yeah, I mean, it’s not like I figured it out right away. But one night, I was just laying there in bed, staring at the ceiling. And I was playing through all the scenarios in my head: Mom and dad getting back together, us going on a vacation, smiling, taking pictures, all that stuff. But the thought of it all just felt kinda empty, ya know? Like it was all just fiction. Because then I thought about how much they fought, how many times my dad would storm out of here after a big blow up, or how many times I caught my mom crying…I don’t know. I guess I realized I liked the idea of them together than them actually being together, ya know? I don’t really know how to explain it.”

“Makes a lot of sense actually,” Carl mumbled.

“So, yeah…been dealing with that, but it’s been alright. Life goes on, ya know?”

“Certainly hope so, man. So you hear back from any schools?”

“Yeah, I was between UCLA and UCB for a while, but I’m got in to the honors program at UCLA, so I think I’m gonna go there.”

“Still thinking pre-med?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Any idea what kind of medicine you’d wanna get into?”

“No clue. Too soon for that. You decide on your major yet?”

“Not too sure, either. Something in English, I guess. Like journalism.”

“That’d be pretty sweet,” El said as he took a big bite of the greasy cheese pizza that Carl had provided.

“Yeah, but who knows. Like you said, too soon to really know.”

“Well, whatever you go with, you’ll be great.”

“Thanks, man. So, you ever end up bangin’ Glacier?”

“Nah, man. All she wanted to do was make out. Like constantly. Just kiss. Some junior high bullshit.”

“You poor bastard.”

“I know! What about you, though? Any new girls?”

“Nah.”

“Have you spoken to Spore at all?”

“No. As much as I’ve wanted to, I was just too depressed and too ashamed. I, uh…I didn’t handle the breakup too great.”

“You don’t say…”

“Ha, I was just talkin’ to Ock about that, too. I mean, I’d be lying if I said I still don’t think about her, but I guess I just realized that, looking back on the whole thing…”

“…you liked the idea of it better.”

“Something like that.”

The two boys shared a poignant smile and continued to eat their pizza.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


TO BE CONTINUED


We’re slowly dwindling to a close! Though his friendship with El has been revived, will Carl have the power to fix the rest of his life? And what about this threat from Wing? Prom’s a few short weeks away, and even though Carl might not be going there, something’s definitely going down.

See you next time for another installment of Empowered!





Empowered: Act 3, Part 1

Empowered: Act 3, Part 1



Hello, all! I present to you the long-awaited (?) premiere to the final act of Empowered! After spending a month as, well, a little bitch, Carl’s finally getting his life back on track. He’s got a long road ahead, but his journey will soon be coming to an end…for better or for worse.

So sit back and enjoy. The end begins.


Months later.

It was now early May, and Carl was more alone than he had ever been in his entire life. Having learned of the fight with Wing, the school gave Carl two weeks of out-of-school suspension and placed him in a different gym class. This didn’t do much to quell the feelings on either side; Carl and Wing continued to detest each other and would share looks of mutual antipathy whenever paths were crossed.

The worst part about that, however, wasn’t the animosity; it was that Wing was one of the few people who still acknowledged his existence.

Octane continued to play mediator; he chose no sides between Carl and El as the pair hadn’t spoken since the day of the fight. Spore, too, was effectively out of his life. She had become an expert at focusing intently on a point in the distance any time they walked passed each other. To her, Carl had become another face in the crowd.

Carl knew that he screwed up. He knew everything was a mess. And he knew he that he had become his own worst enemy.

But what he didn’t know was how he was supposed to fix it.

He wanted to apologize to El. He wanted to make things right by Spore. He wanted it all to go back to how it used to be…but something held him back. Any time he went to pick up the phone to dial a number, the thought of uttering the words ‘I’m sorry’ seemed like an impossibility. He pretended that it had been pride holding him back, but deep down he knew that he was just too afraid to try to make amends. If he tried and failed, then that would mean he’d truly had lost them both forever.

Even his notebook, which in the most desperate of times provided a small degree of solace, went untouched. Writing down what happened would make the reality of the situation too palpable. And even more so, he was too ashamed to let his dad ‘know’ what happened.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Finishing up another day of school – one day closer to leaving it all behind – Carl walked in to his home. He was soon stopped by his mother.

“Sit,” she commanded succinctly while pointing with fierce intention at a kitchen chair.

“Mom, I don’t really want to…”

“I said sit!”

Taken aback by her tone, Carl did as he was asked and sat down at the kitchen island to face his mother.

“You, young man, have been throwing everything out of whack around this house these past few months, and it ends now.” Raising her fist straight up, she extended her forefinger and said, “First the anger and depression with Spore,” raising her middle finger, she added, “then not only the fight with that Asian boy, but with El, your best friend,” straightening out her ring finger, she then finished, “and now moping around this house, treating your family like people who live with you instead of people who love you…it needs to stop, Carl. I’m – we’re all – drowning in your negativity, and I’m sick of it.”

“Mom, just because you can ‘feel’ what I feel doesn’t mean you at all understand,” Carl remarked with an eye roll as he got up from the island and began to walk away.

“I did not say you could leave, young man!”

Carl, whose mother had rarely taken this kind of tone with him, looked at her with tinge of fear and sat back down.

“Carl,” she began, her voice placating, “I’ve always told you how special you. And you are, Carl. You really, really are. What you’ve had to deal with in your life, it’s not easy, and it’s not at all fair, no. But do you know how you’re not special? How you’re feeling. Everyone – and I mean everyone – has gone through this, Carl. The anger, the jealousy, the bitterness, the loneliness, the self-loathing…you’re not the first one to ever have to deal with it. You’re not even the only one of your friends who feels it.”

Before Carl had a chance to refute this, Insight continued.

“Do you know how inferior Elcsum feels all the time? Do you know how he feels the need to act a fool because he’s afraid people won’t like who he really is? He’s so concerned with what people think of him that he’s created this false persona that he thinks everyone would like. The jokes, the false confidence, the way he is with girls…it’s all an act.”

“You could tell all that by being around him?” Carl asked, surprised at the scope of his mother’s power.

“His sense of self-worth – how little of it there is – pours out of him, Carl. It’s a constant stream. And I feel so, so sorry for him. I know you’re jealous of him…”

“I’m not jeal—”

I know you’re jealous of him,” Insight reiterated after being cut off, “but despite everything he has going for him, he’s just as scared and lonely as you are. No one’s perfect, Carl. And no one truly has it easy. You won’t get anywhere in this world until you accept the fact that we’re all troubled and we all have issues that we need to deal with. In that way, we’re all powerless. Not just you.”

“Mom…”

“Make up with him. Be the friend he needs. Get your life back in order.”

Carl looked down for a moment before meeting his mom in the eyes. This woman, whom he had always considered an overly emotional, overly intrusive mess, stood before him stronger and more intelligent than he had ever realized.

“And what if he doesn’t want to?” he asked, looking down once more.

“You won’t know until you try, baby. But, from what I know about the boy, he’d be just as eager to rectify things as you are.”

“I’m an asshole, ma.”

Walking over to her son, she leaned in to give him a kiss on the head. She then promptly smacked him on the back of it.

“Ow!”

“I know you’re upset, but that’s no excuse to use that kind of language.”

Carl smirked as he rubbed the back of his head. “I love you, too, ma. And, um…thanks.”

“Anything for my baby angel,” she replied with a smile.

“Why did you take so long to tell me all this?”

“I was hopin’ you’d figure it out for yourself,” she said, “but then I remembered how damned stubborn you can be sometimes, just like your father, God rest his soul.”

“I remind you of him?”

“Every day.”

“Thanks, ma.”

“Except he wouldn’t curse in front of a lady, young man.”

“I said sorry!”

“I’m just teasin’ you. Why don’t you go get washed up? Dinner’s gonna be ready soon.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later that night, Carl, deciding to call one of the few people who still didn’t mind being around him, picked up his phone to ring Octane. He couldn’t deny the validity of what his mom had told him; he needed to get himself back on the right path and fix things, starting with El. So for the first time in a long time, he reached out to a friend. He was tired of avoiding his friends. And he was tired of avoiding the truth.

“Yo, man,” he said in to the phone after Octane had answered.

“Yo yo, what’s up, what’s up?”

“Nothin’. You doin’ anything?”

“Ain’t doing shit. You wanna come over?”

“Yeah, let’s chill, but wouldn’t it be quicker if you…”

He then heard a booming *swoosh* sound lasting around seven seconds followed by a *knock* *knock* *knock* at the door.

“…came here.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“What’s-what’s-what’s going on, man?” Octane asked as the two hung out in Carl’s room. “You haven’t been too chatty lately.”

“Yeah, well, shit’s been shit, ya know?”

“Ha, yeah, man. I’ve noticed.”

“Has El said anything about…anything?”

“Not really. Doesn’t really bring it up.”

“I see,” Carl replied, not sure what to make of that fact.

“You try talking to him?”

“No.”

“You should.”

“I don’t think he wants to talk.”

“You-you-you’d be surprised, man. Dude misses you for sure.”

“How do you know?”

“He just hasn’t been the same since, ya know?”

“Yeah…” Carl said.

There was silence for a beat until Octane changed the topic slightly.

“You never asked him about his parents, did you?”

“Must’ve forgotten,” Carl admitted, slightly ashamed. “What about them?”

“They got a divorce. It’s been super hard on him.”

“They…really? They always seemed so happy, though.”

“Yeah, well, I guess they were-were-weren’t gonna fight in front of his friends or anything.”

“I can’t believe he never said anything.”

“You never asked, man. You always go to him when you have a problem, but can you-you-you name a time when you asked him if he had any of his own?”

“I never even thought to,” Carl answered, his shame growing. “Has he mentioned that to you before?”

“No, but I see more than people realize,” Octane replied. “For-for instance, people kind of think I’m this goof, and that’s fine. What people wanna think of me doesn’t bother me. But you know who it does bother?”

“El,” Carl muttered.

“Yeah, dude.”

“My mom already laid in to me about it,” Carl said. “Never really knew, ya know? I guess, how could I?”

“He’s good at putting on a show, that’s for sure,” Octane agreed. “But you guys are best buds; you’ll be alright. Just talk it out like bros.”

“What if he doesn’t want to?”

“Said it before, and I’ll say it again: Don’t be a pussy, Freeman.”

Carl let out a light chuckle.

“I’m glad you’re back to not being such-such-such a douche.”

“Yeah. Me, too,” Carl agreed.

“Spore really did a number on ya, didn’t she?”

“For real, man. I thought she was the one.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“What about her made-made-made you feel that way?”

“I…um…she…”

Carl was at a loss for words. Had he been asked this question months ago, he would’ve spouted off catchwords such as ‘fate,’ ‘destiny,’ or ‘soul mate,’ but now what he felt for her began to feel like a distant blur. And conversely, why he felt that way became all the more clear.

“…because I liked that someone liked me,” he admitted.

“Ha, I hear ya, bro. But the only person that’s gotta like you is you.”

“You know, you’re a lot smarter than people give you credit for.”

“I play shit close to the chest.”

“Ha, I can…”

“Or is it vest?”

“What?”

“Close to the vest? But who the hell wears vests?”

“It doesn’t…”

“I mean, six-to-one, right? Does it matter? Like-like-like, if you’re wearing a vest but it’s really chest, the difference is like, an eighth on an inch of cloth, right? So it’d still be really close.”

“I take it all back.”

“Bitch. But seriously, dude…talk to him. I’m sure he wants to hear from ya.”

“Yeah…yeah. Thanks, man.”

“No worries, bud.”

“So, um…what about you? Everything good on your end?”

Octane smirked. “You’re-you’re-you’re learning. Shit’s good. Having trouble finding a good way to finish off the yearbook DVD, though.”

“Really? Don’t yearbooks get issued next month?”

“Yeah, dude. I-I-I gotta finish it up.”

“You know what you could do: Cap the whole thing off with prom.”

“That’s-that-that’s actually a pretty sweet idea. You just think of that now?”

“Keep a secret?”

“Sure.”

“I really, really like musicals. I think ending things on a dance number would be awesome.”

“Fag,” Octane replied jovially.

“Ha, fuck you. You know it’s a good idea.”

“Yeah, that actually is pretty sweet. Are you gonna go, though?”

“To prom? Well…” Carl began, embarrassed, “I, um…I bought tickets last month or so. I kind of,” he then cleared his throat and continued, “I kind of thought I’d still be able to win Spore back and wanted to be prepared for when I did.”

“Word. You better now with all that?”

“Other than wasting ninety bucks on these stupid tickets, yeah. I mean, I’d be lying if I said it still didn’t hurt sometimes, but I guess every day’s a little better.”

“Time-time-time heals all, broseph. So you gonna try to go or no?”

“Probably not. You want them?”

“Nah, I’m aight. Hold on to ‘em. Might just change your mind.”

“We’ll see,” Carl replied incredulously as he turned to look towards his dresser where the two tickets were secretly housed.

“Aight, bro. I’m gonna head out. Talk to you later, my man.”

“Later, bud. And, um…good talk. Thanks.”

“Yeah, man. I don’t like seeing either you or-or-or El all messed up. Anything I can to-to-to help.”

“Appreciated, man. Take it easy.”

“Later,” Octane replied. And with a *swoosh*, he rocketed out of Carl’s house, his long brown hair and unzipped gray hoodie being swooshed back as he did.

Carl stood up and breathed deeply. For the first time in a long time, he was beginning to feel normal again.

“What next…?” he asked himself. Reaching in to his pocket, he felt his phone. He stared at it for a moment, but something didn’t feel quite right.

He opened his top desk drawer and put the phone in there, out of sight and out of mind. After closing the top drawer, his hand drifted towards the bottom one to retrieve his notebook.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


TO BE CONTINUED


With a little help from family and friends (people whom he’s been neglecting for far too long), Carl gets his ass in gear towards a path of redemption. Will he be successful, or is he too far gone? Keep reading to find out. Empowered continues in a week!





Empowered: Act 2 Finale

Empowered: Act 2 Finale



Here we are, everyone: The thrilling conclusion to Empowered: Act 2! I’ve had this ending scene of this act in my head since even before I wrote the story, and everything I’ve written thus far has been building towards it. It’s truly the turning point of the story, and I hope those of you who’ve been reading are both satisfied with the progression and eager to see where the story’s going to go from here. As always, I’m happy to bring you a new installment of this story, and I can’t wait to show you how the whole thing ends. But I won’t get ahead of myself. For right now, let’s focus on the apex of Carl Freeman’s downfall in the Act 2 Finale of Empowered!


Gym class was the only class where Carl, in theory, was equal. Wanting to test students on their ‘natural’ athletic abilities, schools outfitted gym classes with nullifiers that suppress the gene that gives a person his or her power. Originally developed to better contain convicts in prison, the nullifiers leveled the playing field for physical education. Only those with physically manifested attributes, such as Wing, partially retained their abilities. In his case, his wings remained; however, he lost the ability to manipulate wind.

Until today, Carl had been on Wing’s team each time they played dodgeball, and he had little to no reason to not enjoy the sport.

Until today.

Getting hit in the face for the fourth time that period, he could hear Wing say to a friend, “Even with the Carl-makers, he still doesn’t stand a chance.”

“ ‘Carl-makers,’ that’s was always really funny, Wing, you fucking used tampon of a human being,” he muttered to himself as he rubbed his right cheek and took a seat with his teammates who’ve also been ejected from the game. Carl, whose mind was permeated with thoughts of his recent breakup, had been too distracted to play effectively, and Wing had taken full advantage of that fact.

After four more minutes of play, Mr. Woods blew his whistle, ending the second round. “Okay,” he said, “the score is 1-1. Next game decides it.”

“See you out there, Imp,” Wing called out from the other bench.

“Watch it, Kong,” Mr. Woods stated, having heard the antagonizing remarks. “I don’t want to have this conversation with you again.”

Superficially, Wing replied, “Of course, sir. My apologies,” then quickly following his words with devious smirk at Carl.

Carl shook his head as the lividity rose within him. With his current emotional state, it meant that Wing’s actions were more caustic to him than usual. Every time Wing antagonized him, the anger in Carl was stirred harder and harder. Usually, Carl’s goal was to just do his best to not make his team lose; today, his effort was to be focused on cracking Wing across the face with a dodgeball.

He missed the first shot he took at Wing. And he missed the subsequent five times he tried to hit the lithe young man, who was too quick for Carl to successfully land a blow. Fury replaced precision as Carl impetuously – and unsuccessfully – launched ball after ball at Wing.

And as each ball harmless flew past him, Wing would laugh harder and harder. And every time he let out that loud, deep, mocking laugh, Carl’s anger was stirred even more.

The agitation was clear on Carl’s face; he saw no need and no use in hiding it. He wanted to hurt Wing. Badly.

“Missed again, Imp,” Wing taunted as he deftly swerved out of the way of the red rubber ball that was about to connect with his head.

Stirring.

Carl immediately found another by his feet and sent it on the same course towards him.

“Don’t try too hard, Imp,” you’re just embarrassing yourself now. “Come on; I’ll make it easy for you,” he said. Then expanding the feathery protrusions on his back to their full length, he smiled as wide as his wingspan and gestured with his hands that he wanted Carl to throw the ball.

Though panting hard with exhaustion, Carl obliged Wing, but his throw was a weak and lifeless one. As the ball neared his enemy, a small flap of his wings was enough to send the red rubber projectile off course.

“That’s enough, Kong!” Mr. Woods yelled. “You know the rule about powers; you get a zero for the day!”

“Pity,” Wing remarked, feeling the failing grade for the day was more than worth the embarrassment now painted across Carl’s face. “It was an admirable try, Imp.”

Wing then turned his back to take his place on his team’s bench. As he did so, Carl, feeling a resurgence of strength, picked up another ball a few feet away and held it tight against his chest. Forfeiting any integrity, he wound up and released the ball, hitting Wing in the back of his head and interrupting his graceful stride.

Wing turned to face Carl, his face as red as the ball that had hit him. Sentiments had been quickly switched as Carl felt a wave of satisfaction and Wing a deeper loathing for Carl than ever before.

Mr. Woods blared on his whistle three times, ejecting Carl from the game as well.

“Freeman!” he screamed. “You’re out, too! Failing grade for the day, and you’re lucky I don’t fail you for the quarter for an act like that!”

Carl was silent. He didn’t know what had come over him, but he felt no regret for what he had done. Like Wing, the chance for humiliation greatly exceeded the desire for a passing grade in gym class.

“Nice shot, Freeman,” Wing sneered from the opposing bench, “but I suppose we all get lucky once.”

Carl said nothing and instead scowled at the young Chinese boy, accompanying it with a smirk of self-satisfaction.

When class ended, the boys took to the locker room to get dressed, but before Carl and Wing could go inside, Mr. Woods called them to stay behind.

“Kong! Freeman! You’re not going anywhere just yet,” he yelled. “Everyone else inside; this is none of your business.”

The other young boys, always eager to hear a fellow classmate get reprimanded by the teacher, groaned and slowly marched in to the locker room, hoping to at least hear the introduction to Carl and Wing’s verbal berating.

“I don’t know the problem you two have with each other, and frankly, I don’t fucking care,” the gym teacher growled, not concerned with sugarcoating his language. “If I see either of you pull anything like that in my class again, we’re going to have a serious problem. Do you understand me!”

Carl looked at Mr. Woods in shame; Wing stared at him in indifference. The teacher let his words linger on the ears for a moment before continuing. “Now shake hands like men and put this behind you. And I’ll repeat myself: I better not fucking see this kind of behavior again. Do I make myself clear?”

The boys simply nodded before turning to shake hands. Carl was trying – and failing – to keep a calm composure, but the anger in his eyes betrayed him as he looked at Wing. As they shook, Carl noticed how icy Wing’s grip was, starkly contrasting the furious heat in his own.

“Go,” Mr. Woods finished. “I don’t want to look at either one of you right now.”

The two remained silent before entering the locker room. The moment the door closed, Wing’s antagonism resumed.

“Must be nice, I’d assume, not being a freak for a change, even though it’s only for forty-five minutes every other day,” Wing whispered. Although better at hiding it, he was filled with as much indignation as Carl.

And Carl, whose anger never had a chance to fully subside, was being stirred once more.

“Really, it must be nice,” he said again before walking past Carl and towards his locker.

Stirring.

Carl reached for his own locker and began to turn the dial, hoping in vain that this was the last he’d have to deal with Wing for the day. Under his breath, mumbled the combination to his lock. “Zero three, three zero, one two.”

With a *clunk*, the lock came off, and the door opened up. He spent moments applying body spray and putting his normal clothes back on. Wasting no time, he slammed the locker shut and began walking towards the exit and out in to the hallway.

“See you later, Freakman,” Wing uttered coolly after exiting a few moments after Carl.

Stirring.

Turning around and getting in to Wing’s face, Carl growled, “Listen, you piece of shit, I ain’t afraid of you.” Even angrier than he was before, he the finished with “Back the fuck off before you regret it.”

A crowd of students began to gather as they heard the raised voices. El and Octane, both on their way to their gym period, were amongst them.

“Oh, Imp, you’re so much fun to be around…” Wing spouted with a fiendish sneer and narrowed eyes. “It’s a wonder why Spore ever dumped you, isn’t it?”

Stirred.

Wing, taken off guard, now laid on the ground with bloody nose while Carl’s right fist felt as if it had just been struck by a hammer.

Voices emanated throughout the hall:

“Oh, fuck!”

“Did you see that!”

“Carl knocked him on his ass!”

“Should’ve done it years ago.”

“You gonna take that, Kong?”

“Get up, Wing! Or are you too scared to get hit again by a ‘freak’!” Carl screamed at him. “Get up, you b—”

It was then that El grabbed him and exited out of the school before the situation could escalate any further. Luckily, no teachers had been present for the altercation.

“Get the fuck off me, man! What the hell are you doing!”

“Making sure you don’t get fucking expelled; that’s what I’m fucking doing, you dick! What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“I knew what I was doing! I was giving that dickhead what he had coming for years!”

“Oh great, you hit him and you’re the one kicked out. You’re fucking lucky a teacher didn’t see that! Think for a change! Christ!”

The voices of the two were raised as Octane, who had followed along immediately, tried to diffuse the situation.

“Both of you, chill out,” he said calmly with his hands up and facing outward. “It’s over.”

“Yeah, and you just got it all figured out, don’t you? Perfect fucking Elcsum Gray needs to use his strength to save Carl and tell him what he did wrong,” Carl replied, ignoring Octane’s pleas for amity.

“Oh do not even start with this bullshit again, man! I’m tired of having your back and then you treating me like an asshole because of it! You’re lucky you even have friends after how big of a dick you’ve been this past year!”

“Fuck you.”

Octane interjected again, still trying in futility to end things before they escalated.

“Carl, he was just trying to help. And El, he’s told you this before; he doesn’t want you doing things for him. You’re both-both-both acting like children.”

Also paying no attention to Octane, El continued his rant. “Getting pissed at me for looking out for you, forgetting about me and Ock the second you get a girlfriend then calling when you only when you need something. Want me to go on?” The frustration in El’s words was seething with months of anger and resentment.

“Yeah, then if I’m such a piece of shit, don’t talk to me anymore,” Carl said as he begin to turn away from his friends and back to the school.

“Spore was right,” El uttered.

“Fuck,” Octane whispered to himself as he shook his head.

Carl stopped in his tracks and turned around. It was El who was now stirring his anger.

“What?” Carl replied, incensed and walking up within inches of El.

“Spore was right. You really are selfish,” El replied.

“Fuck you!” he yelled, pushing El back.

“What, are you going to fight me now? Get a grip,” El said, rolling his eyes.

“Fuck off, man!” Carl exclaimed.

“Guys!” Octane screamed.

“I’m tired of this ‘woe-is-me’ bullshit, Carl! Yes, your girlfriend dumped you, and yeah, you don’t have a power. It sucks, but fucking get over it already! Grow a goddamn pair and act like a man for once.”

Stirring.

“Go fuck yourself, El. You could never possibly understand what I have to go through. You have it so fuckin’ easy.”

“You know what?”

El then grabbed Carl, and within moments, he jumped them so they were far enough from school grounds and to an empty parking lot nearby. Octane followed in short order.

Immediately upon landing, El looked at Carl and, in a very matter-of-fact way, requested, “Hit me.”

“What?”

“You heard me, Carl. You’ve wanted to for a while now. Hit me,” he said again, this time giving him a small push on the shoulder.

Stirring.

“Don’t push me, man.”

“What’s that matter? It’s what you want, right? To kick my ass? That’ll make you feel better, won’t it? That’ll make you feel powerful, right? Come on, kick perfect fucking Elcsum Gray’s ass, or are you a pussy?”

Stirring.

Carl’s forgot the pain in his right hand as it balled in to fist on his side.

“Carl…” Octane pleaded. For once, he was at a loss for words.

“Too scared, Imp?”

Stirred.

Carl, for the second time in a matter of minutes, hit a man in the face. This time, it was the face of his best friend instead of his worst enemy. Like Wing, the blow knocked El to the ground, and as Carl saw his friend’s face now swollen and covered in blood, he looked at his hand in terrible awe over what he had just done.

He couldn’t believe himself.

El slowly lifted himself to the ground and brushed the dirt of his clothing. With his tongue, he gathered the blood that had filled his mouth and spat it on the ground. Turning to Carl, he asked him one simple question.

“How powerful do you feel now?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


END OF ACT 2


His girlfriend, best friend, and worst enemy, in such a short span of time, he was able to piss them all off. Carl’s angst has hit its peak, and Act 3 will be about his retribution. Carl’s fallen hard, but will he be able to rise? And will he learn what it means to be truly empowered? Find out when Empowered: Act 3 continues in two weeks! I’ll see you then.




Empowered: Act 2, Part 4

Empowered: Act 2, Part 4



Work’s got me busy today, so I don’t have a whole lot to say here other than let’s get this goddamn party started! The second-to-last part of Empowered Act 2 begins now:


“ ‘Can’t wait for tonight,’ ” Carl said to Octane while they sat at their lab table the following Friday morning.

“Wha-wha-what? What’s tonight? Are we doing something? I didn’t know if we were doing something. What are we doing?”

“No, that’s Spore’s status,” Carl corrected as he looked at the Facebook app on his iPhone. “ ‘Can’t wait for tonight.’ ”

“You should really block her, man. Reading her statuses ain’t-ain’t-ain’t healthy,” Octane replied.

“What do you think she’s doing?”

“No clue.”

“Think it has something to do with why she’s out today?”

“Not sure, man.”

“Do you think she’s hanging out with another guy?”

“She wouldn’t do that to you. It’s been, what, two weeks? Plus you’re technically still together.”

“Yeah, I guess. I don’t know.”

“Easier said than done, but just don’t think about it,” Octane said with a shrug. “It’s not gonna make it any better for you.”

Disregarding his advice, Carl then asked, “Has she said anything to you during the yearbook club?”

“I don’t really interact with-with-with her too much. She does the photo editing for the printed book; I do the video editing for the-the-the DVD. Plus, it’d just be kinda awkward to talk about it: ‘Hey, Spore. I like what you did with the Spanish Club page, also, how come you don’t want to fuck Carl as much lately?’ ”

“Yeah, fair enough.”

“Have you-you-you given any thought to what she said?”

“About what?”

“About your issues or whatever.”

“She’s ridiculous. Like, she was upset that we only did the crap I wanted to do apparently. So I told her last week we can do whatever she wants to, then she says that there are ‘deep problems’ that I’m not focusing on. She’s just bein’ a girl.”

An incredulous “Huh” was Octane’s only contribution.

“Whatever. El says it’ll all be fine so long as I play it cool.”

“Speaking of…” Octane said as he cocked his head towards El’s direction.

Diverting his attention away from Octane, Carl glanced over his right shoulder and saw El at his table with Glacier. He was leaning and smiling, and she was smiling back wide as him. Carl managed to overhear part of their conversation:

“You know, it’s funny,” El began, “girls all seem to want the bad boy who’s only good for her. And guy just wants the good girl who’s only bad for him.”

El’s overt flirtation made the fair-skinned redhead blush, and she shot him an intrigued glance.

“He really does know a lot about women, doesn’t he?” Carl asked, his voice bubbling slightly with jealousy.

“Dude’s got charm to spare; that’s for sure,” Octane replied, noticing Carl’s annoyed disposition.

“What’s wrong now?”

“Nothing,” Carl replied, cutting short his lingering stare at El’s table.

Unconvinced, Octane merely asked, “Seems happy, though, doesn’t he?”

Carl scoffed and shook his head in agreement, not picking up on the point his friend had tried to make.

“He tell you about this parents?” Octane asked.

“What about ‘em?”

“You should ask.”

“Yeah, maybe later,” Carl replied, disregarding what Octane had just said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Not being able to get her off his mind, Carl sent Spore a text that night at 9:30. ‘Whats tonite?’ the message read, referencing her Facebook post. Three hours passed without a response, and Carl sent another text to her, this one more acidic in tone: ‘Can’t respond? Real nice.’ This, too, went unanswered.

Without welcome or warning, Carl’s thoughts were plagued by the worst-case scenario: Spore cheating on him.

Is that what’s going on? Is she with someone else? Is why she’s having such an easy time of all this?

Has she moved on?

All he could think now was her in some other man’s arms. Someone bigger than him, smarter than him, more attractive than him. Someone that’s making her laugh, making her heart beat fast. Someone holding her, kissing her, getting in to bed with her, and sleeping with her.

Someone taking his power away from him.

These unfounded fears filled Carl with an irrational contempt for this imaginary home-wrecker that he had concocted.

Whatever, let her get with someone else, he thought as his eyes started to fill with tears. Like I give a shit.

He then planted his face in to his pillow and forced himself to go to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That next morning, Carl dug through the bottom drawer of his desk. Finally finding what he was looking for, he cracked open the cover to the notebook he just retrieved, put pen against paper, and began writing:


Carl closed the marble notebook that he had opened for the first time in almost six months and put it in his desk, making sure to cover it with a stack of papers so no one would see it. Unsure of what to do next, he pulled out his phone to call El.

“Yo, bud,” El answered on the other line.

“Yo, what are you up to?”

“Glacier’s about to come by. I rented some BS nature documentary and told her it’d be a good way to study.”

“Oh, I was gonna see if you wanted to come here.”

“I already have these plans. Sorry, man. Everything alright?”

“I…uh…I texted Spore last night.”

“Dude.”

“Twice.”

“DUDE!”

“I couldn’t help it! I can’t get her off my mind, man.”

“It’s alright. I guess you’re still pretty inexperienced, so it’s bound to happen,” El replied, unaware of the condescending weight of his words.

“Don’t be a dick.”

“Just saying, man. You ought to listen to me more; I know what I’m talking about.”

“You’re not always right, you know.”

“Except that she didn’t text you back, did she?”

“Whatever.”

“What’s your problem right now? Seriously?”

“Nothing. Have fun,” Carl replied. Without waiting for a response from El, he clicked his phone off and threw it angrily on his bed.

So damn selfish. Dude’s got enough and fucks enough. Doesn’t realize how good he has it either, I bet. Comes so goddamn easy for him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After spending the rest of the weekend in an angry, depressed solitude, Carl was dreading going through the motions of another week of high school. As the minutes slowly ticked away and lunchtime rolled around, Carl, though not having had much of an appetite since the break, knew he had to eat. Purchasing a cafeteria lunch of an overcooked cheeseburger, fries that were too soggy to enjoy, watered-down iced tea, and a stale chocolate chip cookie, he sat down at his usual table with his friends: Copycat, Shift, Brainstorm, Yawn, and Reach.

“Yo, big Carl. How you holding up?” asked Brainstorm.

“Aight,” he responded, looking down at his unappealing lunch.

“Stiff upper lip, buddy,” Shift said. “Plenty of fish in the sea.”

“Yeah, but something tells me his rod is defective,” joked Reach.

“Not cool, man,” retorted Yawn.

“It’s whatever,” Carl muttered, caring neither for the comment nor conversation in general.

Moving the topic away from Carl and towards teenage boy antics, Shift said with a smirk, “Hey, ‘Storm, those chips look good.”

“Yeah, they’re harvest chedd—”

But before he could finish, Shift phased half of his torso through Reach, seated to his right, and solidified his hand to take the snack off his tray.

“Oh, that’s real cute,” Brainstorm replied. “But I think I’ll help myself to your hotdog,” he then mimed a lasso and whipped Shift’s hotdog off his plate and right in to his hand, “and I feel that Yawn’s pickle would go great with it.” Doing the same motion, he swiped Yawn’s dill spear off his plate and placed in snuggle between the bun and meat.

“You guys are so immature,” Reach noted. Then, pretending to stretch, he elongated his arms, curved around both Carl and Shift in an attempt to take Yawn’s salad off his plate.

“Don’t think so buddy. Sweet dreams,” Yawn said with a wink.

“Crap,” was the only word Reach could get out before he went face down in his tray.

“Shouldn’t have made…” Copycat prime stated.

“…eye contact,” his duplicate finished, as one went right and the other went left to loot what Reach’s face wasn’t touching on his plate. The two halves of Copycat merged back together as he made his way back to his seat, holding the bounty that both parts had stolen.

“Well,” Brainstorm stated, “Looks like CC is today’s winner.”

“You, uh, want some of these chips, bud?” Copycat asked Carl, who he noticed was staring blankly at his food.

“Nah, man,” Carl remarked, having less of an appetite than before. “Not really hungry.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One month ago:

“And they play this stupid game where they steal each others’ lunches the whole time. It’s obnoxious.”

“Sorry, babe.”

“It’s just so stupid,” Carl replied, attempting to mask his jealousy.

“You can join in, too.”

“Yeah, well, except that…”

“I know, Carl. I know.”

“I’m just sayin’.”

“You just say it a lot, babe.”

“But at least I got you, right?”

Spore was silent and looked down.

“What’s wrong?” Carl asked.

“Nothing. But it wouldn’t matter whether or not we’re together,” she then let her words linger for a moment before continuing. “Just because you don’t have a power doesn’t mean you’re not special. You are, Carl. I keep trying to tell you that.”

“Yeah, and my mom’s been telling me that since I was born. And after you see everyone around you getting stronger and stronger every day, it starts losin’ its meaning.”

“Oh, cutie,” Spore replied, shaking her heard. “When will you learn?”

“I’m slow, remember?”

Spore let out a tiny laugh. She then looked at the blue-and-yellow rental box on Carl’s nightstand and saw The Transporter labeled across the side.

“I thought you were going to rent The Notebook?”

“Oh, is…is that what you said?” Carl remarked. “I’m almost positive you said The Transporter.”

“ ‘Pure popcorn pleasure for older teens and up,’ ” Spore said, picking up the box and reciting the review on the back. “Carl, there’s actually something I’ve wanted to talk to you about.”

“What’s up?”

“Um,” she began, looking at him in the eyes, the eyes of a boy she didn’t want to hurt. “Nothing. It was nothing.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey, Carl!” Brainstorm said, snapping his fingers in front of Carl’s face. “Snap out of it; you’re going to be late for Health.”

Carl hadn’t realized he had been lost in his thoughts for majority of the lunch period. Coming out of his daze, he thanked Brainstorm, grabbed his things, and went on with his day. When he wasn’t thinking about Spore, he was thinking of ways to try to not think of her. With her being all he could focus on, everything else around him was a blob of places and people and things. None of it seemed distinct, nor did any of it seem important. It was just there.

As Carl began his trudge to Environmental, he came upon a surprising sight: Spore stood outside the doorway, waiting for him.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” she returned.

“How’ve you been?”

“What was with that text last night?”

she asked with certain bite in her voice.

“Just curious what you were doin’.”

“Ugh, I went with my family to visit my grandparents up north. That’s what. What did you think I was doing?”

“I don’t know. With some other dude?”

“Is that what you think of me? That I’m going to go slut it up behind your back?”

“Guess so…” Carl muttered, looking away.

“I don’t think we should be together anymore, Carl. I’m sorry.”

“You’re so selfish…” he sneered as he shook his head. “Not me.”

“Me? I’m the selfish one! Are you serious!”

“You make me care for you, then you did this shit? Without really giving things a chance? No one’s ever gonna love you as much as I do.”

“Oh my God, you’re unbelievable. I asked you for one thing, Carl, one thing: A little time. But no, you couldn’t give me that. I told you that you always put yourself first, and what do you do to try to prove me wrong? You go out of your way to talk to me when I specifically asked for you not to. Did you really not see how you were doing the exact thing I said was the problem!

“I care for you, Carl. I really do,” she continued, “but I don’t think you ever really cared for me as much as you just cared for yourself. And I really think ‘us’ wasn’t as great as you seem to think it was. I hope…I know one day you’ll find what you’re looking for, but it just won’t be with me. I’m sorry.”

Spore turned and went in to the classroom. Carl stood there and attempted to let her words marinate in his mind.

And with that, things were officially over. Spore had ended it. Everything Carl had…all the love and joy and happiness and strength…it was all gone. In what felt like no time at all, things had gone from great to downright bad.

And little did Carl know, things were about to go from bad to worse.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


TO BE CONTINUED


Compliments and criticisms are always welcome, so let me know on Facebook and Twitter what you thought! Next week is our Act 2 conclusion, and I hope to see you all then. Have a great weekend!





Empowered: Act 2, Part 3

Empowered: Act 2, Part 3



I’ll start right off and apologize for the interruption in posts. I won’t lie: I’m pretty disappointed in myself for missing last week’s, but my allergies were absolutely wrecking me, and I assumed everyone would rather wait a week than be treated to a subpar entry. I suppose I’m my own toughest critic, and I try to keep entries as regular as possible. So to try to compensate, this week’s is extra sized for your pleasure.

Before we start, a special thanks to dear friend Amy Chen and her suggestion of getting some Allegra to battle the allergies I was having. And now the return of Empowered, which is back and better than ever.


It was impossible for Carl to sleep that night, so after hours of desperate tossing and turning, he decided to leave the house just barely after the sun rose and go on a drive to clear his head and empty his thoughts. He had no idea where he was going; the only thing that he knew was that he had to go somewhere. Anywhere.

Following the road for about twenty-five minutes, Carl came upon a local park and decided it’d be as good a place as any to pull over. He got out and sat on top of his car, letting the cool, crisp morning air circulate in through his nose and out through his mouth. The act was therapeutic and helped him to relax slightly.

Try as he might, his thoughts were still plagued by Spore and the desire to talk to her. I wonder what she’s doing right now. Is she thinking of me? Maybe I should te…

A sudden noise of rubber against asphalt was able to divert his attention away from her and towards a pair of young boys playing a game of one-on-one on the basketball court about thirty yards away. As they played, the Hispanic teens, clearly twins, were using their powers to try to get the better of one another.

He recognized them as Fahrenheit and Celsius, ninth graders from his high school. While they played, Celsius would freeze his brother’s feet in place, and Fahrenheit would overheat them to melt the ice and regain mobility. They went back and forth like this: Body parts were frozen and singed in good fun as the boys played their game, using their hands to funnel their powers.

Carl looked at his own hands and then, for no logical reason, he outstretched his arms towards the grass, shut his eyes, furrowed his brow, and concentrated on channeling some sort of power.

Nothing.

“Never gets easier,” he mumbled as he looked again at his ineffective hands, unsure of what he had expected to happen.

He then glanced back towards the two boys, and after doing so, despair was replaced by a feeling of déjà vu. Initially confused, he had to comb his memories until he finally pinpointed what it was: The night of the dance, the night he met another pair of twins. A much different pair of twins. The guys with the weird names and ambiguous powers who talked about Carl’s name and Carl’s power – or lack thereof – and their words suddenly rang in his ears: ‘Maybe it’s not that it doesn’t mean anything; maybe it’s that it could mean anything.’

“The hell did that even mean?” he muttered to himself as he leaned back on the windshield of his car. It was strange; he hadn’t thought about them or that conversation since that night. Every time he thought back to that dance, the first and only thing he would think of was meeting Spore.

Now the brothers’ words had a sharp poignancy to them. Just as he thought he had found what ‘defined’ him, just as he began to feel special in some way…it all threatened to disappear forever.

He began to realize that there are few things worse than having a taste of something you’ve always wanted only to have it ripped away.

Carl sat on his car for a few minutes more as he watched this second pair of brothers attempt to outdo each other. When one froze, the other thawed. When one burned, the other cooled. Carl couldn’t help but note the harmony of it all. Fire and ice in perfect balance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hearing the door to the house open as Carl returned home, Insight came in to the hallway while still holding the plate she was drying. “Where were you, Carl? I was getting…”

She then caught eyes with her son and saw the sadness in him. He always exuded a sense of perpetual loneliness, but since he started dating Spore, this had been muted. But right now, it radiated off him like heat from an oven.

“Oh, hon, I’m so sorry,” Insight replied sympathetically as she herself became overwhelmed with that feeling of heartache. “But if you decide you want to talk about it…”

Carl stood in place for a few seconds and stared at the ground. Finally, he muttered a hollow “Thanks” and continued along his way, up the stairs, and towards his room. And with the towel she had been holding, Insight wiped her eyes and went back inside the kitchen, wishing Carl would just let her in for once.

As Carl neared his bedroom door, he heard a squeaky voice behind him before he could reach for the doorknob.

“Hey, Carl!”

“What’s good, little man?” Carl asked unenthusiastically as he barely turned his head to face his younger brother.

“Do you wanna go to the comic shop with me?”

“Yeah, not today, buddy. Sorry,” Carl replied as he turned back towards his door, went in, and slammed it shut.

“Okay,” Mesmer murmured to himself before walking downstairs and in to the kitchen.

Having overhead the discussion, Insight kindly told her son, “I can take you a little later, hon.”

“It’s okay, mom.”

“You sure, sweetie?”

“Yeah. Thanks, mom.”

Giving her son a weak smile, she added, “I’m glad you didn’t use your powers to force him to go.”

“I didn’t wanna have to force him,” Mesmer whispered as he opened the refrigerator door and took out a gallon of milk.

Insight looked on as her youngest poured himself a glass of 2% and sipped it half-heartedly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carl was able to exercise enough self-restraint to go all of Saturday without contacting Spore, despite every waking moment being filled with thoughts of her, and by Sunday morning, teenage melodrama had fully sunk its claws in to Carl and had no intentions of letting go.

What am I going to do? How am I ever gonna find someone like her again? I won’t. If I don’t have her, I’ll have no one. I’m losing her. I need to get her back before it’s too late. If I don’t have her, I’ll never have anyone again. No one like her. She’s perfect.

As he laid sprawled out on his bed, Carl jerked his head up and looked at the calendar pinned to his wall. “How the hell long is ‘a few days’ supposed to be?” he asked himself out loud.

He grasped his phone firmly in his right hand; every time it vibrated, his held his breath for a moment until he saw if it was her or not.

True to her word, Spore remained silent.

That weekend had marked the first time since becoming ‘official’ that they had gone the span of an entire day without speaking. Carl couldn’t help but wonder if she realized this like he did, and he couldn’t help but wonder if it bothered her as much as it bothered him.

While he was in the midst of drowning himself in in melancholy and misery, a sudden succession of booming knocks on his door brought him back to his senses.

*thunk* *thunk* *thunk*

“Carl, you in there?”

“What is it, ‘Ris!”

“Can I borrow your car?”

“Take mom’s!”

“She’s out! Let me borrow it; I need to go to the library.”

“I might go somewhere later; take the bus,” he answered back, blatantly lying, just not being in a generous mood.

“Are you serious! You might go somewhere? What the hell kind of shit is that!”

“Go away, ‘Ris!”

“Nice to know getting dumped turned you in to an even bigger ass than usual!”

“She didn’t dump me! We’re on a break!”

“Yeah, uh-huh,” she sneered back. Then taking a moment, she flashed a quick glimpse through her brother’s wooden bedroom door to see if she could spot the keys. The first and only thing she was able to focus on, however, was the pained expression in his face.

She hesitated for a moment, deciding to pick her words carefully as the faintest echo of her own former love blew in and out of her thoughts. With an entirely changed tone, she replied softly, “It’ll make you stronger, baby brother. And it gets easier. I promise.”

“Just go away,” he answered, his voice heavy with exhaustion.

Iris walked away as her brother asked while Carl continued wallowing in his room, his depression now even worse after bickering with his sister. Her words made it sound like things were already over.

They’re not. I’ll prove it, Carl thought, and in a moment of weakness, he brought his phone to his face and sent out a simple ‘Hey’ to his estranged girlfriend.

The minutes felt like hours until he received a response back. And when she finally did respond, it was a succinct ‘Hi.’

‘How r u?’ Carl typed back eagerly.

Her response: ‘I thought we agreed not to talk for a few days?’

Carl grimaced. I guess she’s not too bothered after all.

‘I know,’ he typed in to his phone, ‘but I just wanted to see how u are.’

‘I’m fine. U?’ she responded tersely.

‘Good,’ he said, his second barefaced lie of the day.

Spore felt it best to leave the conversation at that as Carl foolishly waited for a text back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On that bitter Monday morning in late January, Carl couldn’t remember a time where he felt like going to school less, and considering his high school career thus far, that was saying a lot. His legs, which inexplicably used to feel full of jelly at the thought of Spore, now felt of lead, as if his body were rejecting the act of walking through the school entrance and seeing her that day.

“What am I going to do in Enviro, man?” he whined to El as the two sat in homeroom.

“Listen, she said for you guys to keep your distance, so do just that. Yeah, I know it’s gonna suck, but show her you can be a man about it. Pretend like you don’t really care. Act like everything’s fine. She’ll be upset that you’re doing so well without her. By tomorrow, she’ll call off the break. Trust me. Make her think that you don’t need her, and she’ll want to prove otherwise.”

Carl didn’t respond with words, just a quiet grunt of acknowledgement.

“And thankfully we’re picking new lab partners today,” El continued. “Ock can be yours this semester, and he’s more than capable of keeping you preoccupied.”

“You’re not gonna be partners with me?” Carl asked, irked.

“I already told Glacier that I’d be hers. Plus…”

“Plus you wanna fuck her.”

“I wanna fuck her, that’s correct.”

“You’re a good friend.”

“I already promised her, like, a month ago, and it’s not like Ock isn’t your friend. You know that I’m always here any time you need me, except for 45 minutes every sixth day when we have lab.”

“Yeah…yeah, I know. Thanks.”

*riiiiiiiing*

“Any time, man. And it’ll be alright. Chin up, okay?”

“Yeah…chin up,” Carl repeated quietly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first day of the new semester was not unlike the first day of the year: Teachers discussed their syllabi and what was expected of the class, seats were assigned, and, in the case of gym class, students were able to choose which unit they’d prefer to be in.

“Alright, everyone, you know the drill,” Mr. Woods called out to the dozens of students seated in the bleachers. “Form a line and pick a sport; it’s all indoor activities for the next couple months, so you have volleyball, badminton, mat sports, and cooperative learning to choose from. As always, it’s first come, first serve, so get to it.”

The students all got in line, and Carl, who normally waited until after Wing picked his elective, paid no attention this time around; his mind, understandably enough, had been elsewhere all day.

Jotting his name down for ‘mat sports’ (Whatever the hell that means, he thought to himself, uncaringly), Carl dragged himself back on to the bleachers to stew in his depression.

Wing, ever observant, was sure to take note of what unit Carl signed up for. Wing had no compulsions to not be in Carl’s class. And Wing knew full well what ‘mat sports’ entailed as he wrote his name on the same sheet Carl had written his moments ago.

Walking up the bleachers and past Carl, Wing, with a smile akin to that of the Cheshire Cat, simply stated, “See you for dodgeball, Imp.”

Carl shut his eyes and angrily shook his head, partially blaming Spore for distracting him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When the bell for the second-to-last period rang, Carl felt dread drape over him like a heavy wool blanket. Going to this class was the last thing in the world he wanted right now.

He walked in to A142, and he noticed that, as usual, Spore wasn’t there yet. He sat in his normal seat and just waited.

Although he tried forcing himself not to, every time he heard the door open, his head would immediately shoot to the left like a dog who saw a stray animal on his master’s lawn. And when the inevitable moment occurred where Spore walked in to class, she caught eyes with Carl for only a moment. Hastily looking away, she continued walking to the other side of the room to sit next to Decibel.

Carl’s mind once again wandered back to the happier times he longed for.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two months ago:

“Happy two months, sweetie.”

“Happy two months, cutie.”

They both then took a sip from their glasses; hers filled with iced green tea and his with Dr. Pepper.

“I got you something,” he said as he pulled a small white box out of his pocket and placed in gently in to her eager hands.

“Aw, you didn’t have to.”

“Really? Alright, I’ll take it back,” he joked as he reached for the box he had just given her.

“No! Mine now!” she exclaimed with a playful smile, bringing the box to her chest. Opening it up, her smile broadened ever more. He had gotten her a necklace with a golden shamrock pendant.

“I remember you saying something up liking plants, right?”

She smiled back at him, “It’s beautiful. Thank you, Carl.”

“It’s the best I could do on a bus boy’s salary, but I’m glad you like it.”

Looking at him with those big brown eyes and through her black-framed glasses, she replied, “I love it.”

“Here,” he said, gesturing that he wanted her to hand him back the necklace, “let me put it on you.”

She handed it back to him, and he carefully unclasped it as she leaned her head forward for him to fasten it around her neck. Before she could lean her head back, he gave her a soft, tender kiss on the lips.

“You can be sweet sometimes, you know that?” she said.

“Just don’t tell anybody. I got a rep to maintain.”

“Oh, yeah. I’m sure the guys at the comic book shop would be mortified to hear that you kissed a girl. Isn’t that against nerd law?”

“You just think you’re so funny, don’t you?”

She shrugged her shoulders and beamed, “Yep!”

“So you’re okay that we went here, right?” Carl asked, changing the subject of the conversation.

“Oh,” she said, “yeah, no, it’s…it’s fine. That other place was probably too expensive anyway.”

“Yeah, plus I looked online, and the menu was kinda crappy. What the hell is baba ghanoush anyway?”

She let out of a smirk and said reassuringly, “It’s fine. Friday’s is…” she paused for a moment and looked around the restaurant, seeing the pin-striped servers, tacky memorabilia gracing the walls, and overweight patrons ignoring their screaming children.

“…it’s kind of our place, I suppose.”

“Exactly,” he replied, not picking up on the mild disappointment in her voice that she tried to hide.

“Thank you again for the necklace, Carl. It’s beautiful. And you really didn’t have to.”

“Anything for you, sweetie.”

Spore smiled at him and took another sip of her tea.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When class eventually started, Doc Drain instructed the students to do as they had done months ago and pick a lab partner for the remainder of the year. “No pressure,” he added as he had done before.

As discussed, El partnered with Glacier Green, while Carl paired up with Octane, and Spore with Decibel. After a few minutes had passed, Doc Drain indicated for the students to take to their seats as the day’s lesson was about to begin.

With his left arm propped on his desk, Carl rested his head on his fist as Doc Drain’s words breezed past him, only managing to catch a stray one here and there as he was lost in his own thoughts, trying to mend his fractured relationship.

El’s gonna bitch me out about it, but I gotta talk to her after class. Just remind her of the good times. Stir up some feelings that she has to still have, and she’ll realize how much she missed me and how stupid this whole thing is.

“…natural selection…”

And yeah, fine, she’s upset that I never do anything that she wants to do. She feels neglected or something. Alright, so from now on, we do everything she wants to. Problem solved.

“…extinction…”

There. Figured out what I want and what I need to do. Took all of five minutes. If that doesn’t work then…

“…evolution. Mr. Freeman?”

“Huh?” Carl replied, snapping out of his daze.

“Am I boring you, Mr. Freeman?”

“No, sorry, I just…”

“Do pay attention. You won’t have Ms. Summers as your partner to rely on this semester.”

Doc Drain’s words were a knife in Carl’s heart. He closed his eyes, looked down, and forced himself to mutter a simple “Sorry, sir.”

Spore looked sympathetically at Carl. The last thing she ever wanted was to see him hurt.

Waiting until the teacher’s eyes were diverted from his direction, Carl discretely held his phone underneath his desk and typed out a message to Spore.

‘Can we talk after class?’

Carl could hear the faint *bzzz* *bzzz* from all the way across the classroom. He didn’t turn her way; instead, he focused with his peripheral vision to try and catch her reaction.

Her noticeable exasperation didn’t fill Carl with much joy, but as she turned to look at him, her reserved head nod gave him a pang of false hope.

Despite El’s objections, Carl waited for Spore in the hallway outside of A142. As she exited, she approached him with trepidation; she didn’t want to say anything to the boy to hurt him anymore than he already was.

“Hey,” she said.

“Just like old times, right? Talkin’ outside here.”

“Carl…” she started.

“I miss you. And I don’t like not talking to you.”

“I don’t like it, either. I really don’t, and I’m not just saying that. But I said we need to take a few days to figure things out.”

Carl was quiet for a moment then stated, “I have figured it out.”

To Carl’s surprise, this visibly irritated Spore, who responded, “Have you? In three days, you’ve figured everything out?”

“From now on, we can go to that one restaurant you wanted to go to, and then I’ll go out and rent you whatever movie you want. All that stuff. Whatever you want. I promise. Okay, sweetie?”

“You don’t get it, Carl. You’re looking at the surface problems and not the deeper ones.”

“I…”

“Please, I need time. We both need time. Give me some space, okay? Just like a week or two.”

Carl was silent.

She began to walk away, but stopped herself to add, “And please don’t text me. I won’t respond.”

She slowly turned her head back and continued on.

As Carl watched her wander from him, he noticed her neck was bare.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


TO BE CONTINUED


Teen drama and high school go together like hamburgers and French fries, but as common as it is, that doesn’t make it suck any less, does it? We’ve all been there: Angst, depression, heartache. Fun times, right? Got a story of high school to share? Post it on my Facebook page or shoot me a tweet. Or even if you have a random compliment, complaint, suggestion, or criticism, I’m all ears. I’m especially interested in knowing if the extra week was worth the wait.

As always, thanks for reading. See you in a week (I promise this time).





Empowered: Act 2, Part 2

Empowered: Act 2, Part 2



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.

“Spore?”

“I dunno…” she said softly.

“Baby…”

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.

“Do what?”

“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.”

“That’s not…”

“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.”

“Yeah. Bye.”

*click*

“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.”

“Yeah…yeah.”

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?”

“Nothin’, you?”

“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!”

“Sure is.”

“Fuckin’ women, man.”

“Seriously.”

“Think I should text her?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Why?”

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?”

“Yeah, but…”

“No.”

“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.

“Movies?”

“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?”

“Yeah. Sick.”

“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.”

“Later, bud.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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!





Empowered: Act 2, Part 1

Empowered: Act 2, Part 1



And we’re back! After needing a couple weeks to really get the start of Act 2 ready, I’m proud to present to you Act 2, Part 1 of Empowered. Have you been aching for a new post? I bet you have. It was goddamn selfish of me to deprive you all for so long, so let’s get this show on the road. Act 2 begins now!


Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap, Carl kept repeating in his head as he drove home from Spore’s house.

She actually kissed me. SHE kissed ME. El’s not gonna believe this. He’s never gonna let me hear the end of it, either.

Is that what a tongue in your mouth feels like? Why does it feel good? I never thought having someone’s tongue in my…

A sudden *hooooooonk* snapped Carl out of his daze as he nearly missed stopping at a four-way intersection.

“Oh, shit! Sorry!” he yelled, despite the fact the driver in the other vehicle was long gone at this point.

Putting the thought of nearly getting sideswiped by another car out of his mind as quickly as it had entered, Carl’s mind immediately flew back to what just happened. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. I need to call El.

Frantically parking the car in the driveway and slamming the door shut, he rushed in to the house, but before he could get very far, he was stopped by big sister Iris as she came out of the kitchen and in to the front hallway.

“How was your date, princess?” Iris asked as she held a plate of celery sticks with almond butter, the hallway being filled with a loud *crunch* noise as she bit in to them.

“It wasn’t a date. We were just studyin’,” Carl replied, clearly trying to break away from the conversation and make his way up the stairs.

Narrowing her eyes, a light green aura began to glow around them as she stared at Carl’s chest.

“Then why’s your heart beatin’ so fast?”

Turning around to see what she was doing, Carl noticed her eyes and yelled, “I told you to stop using x-ray vision on me! You’re gonna friggin’ give me cancer!”

“Fine,” she replied as the green aura turned crimson, indicating infrared vision. With a self-satisfied grin, she then commented, “Your body temperature is goin’ wild. What exactly went on at your little friend’s house?”

“None of your business, Ris! Ain’t you got your own shit to deal with that you don’t have to butt in to mine?” he moaned as he once again began hopping up the stairs.

There was another loud *crunch* as she bit in to a celery stick. “She’s gonna break your heart.”

“What?” he asked, stopping on the stairs once more.

“Just don’t be surprised,” she answered in a very matter-of-fact way as she wiped almond butter off her bottom lip.

“Wow, you’re bein’ kind of a bitch right now, aren’t you?”

“I’m bein’ the complete opposite. I wish someone woulda told me this when I was your age. First love or whatever, someone’s gettin’ their heart broke. And you ain’t no heartbreaker, baby brother, so…”

“ ‘First love’? What the hell are you even talkin’ about? All we did was study.”

*crunch* “Uh-huh. Just be careful. High school girls can be bitches. I know from experience.”

“Yeah, whatever, thanks for readin’ way too in to something that ain’t there,” Carl said with a slight hiss as he finished jogging up the staircase.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” she muttered to herself as she walked back in to the kitchen.

“Thinks she sees so much,” Carl mumbled under his breath as he walked to his room. “Her and Mesmer always fuckin’ with me. They need to cut that shit out.”

Trying to forget the conversation he just had, Carl ripped his phone out his pocket and began furiously scrolled through his contacts for El’s number. He had the number within seconds, and he anxiously tapped his foot as the phone rang.

“Ye-oh! What’s up?” El asked enthusiastically from the other end of the phone.

“I kissed her,” Carl said immediately.

“You…really? Awesome! So awesome!” El gushed, his enthusiasm almost matching Carl’s.

“Yeah, well, I mean, she actually kissed me, but…”

“Still counts. You’re a pussy for not going for it first, but it still counts. You touch her tits?”

“What? No. I barely knew what to do with my mouth. You think I know what the fuck to do with a bra?”

“Yeah, I just rip it off. Saves me the hassle.”

“Yeah, well, in my case, no tits. We just made out for, like, a half hour.”

“Ni-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ice.”

“Yeah, man. It was…it was awesome.”

“Happy for you, bud. Just don’t act all weird around her tomorrow now.”

“…huh,” Carl replied pensively. He hadn’t even considered what would happen when he saw her again.

Immediately, he was hit by a wave of self-doubt and uncertainty. El assured him it’d be fine a minute later before hanging up and heading off to bed. The words, however, rolled right off Carl as he dove in to an ocean of recurring questions that he had no idea how to answer:

What do I say to her? Do I say anything? Maybe I’ll wait until she says something to me. But would she say something? I don’t know. I don’t see why she wouldn’t. But maybe she’s asking herself why wouldn’t I say something to her. Shit, should I text her? Maybe if I text her, it’ll seem less weird when I do see her. No, don’t text her. Play it cool. She always gets to class after you, so just give her a head nod as she walks in. Yeah, that’ll wo—

“Hey, Carl!” Spore said to him as she walked in to class and past Carl, textbook close against her chest.

What the fuck? Carl thought, flummoxed. Everything had been a blur since the night before, and it was like his body had been on autopilot the entire day. He hadn’t even realized that he was already in Enviro.

“Hi, hey, yeah!” Carl called out to her after needing two seconds to process what had just happened.

Fuck.

Looking over to catch a quick glimpse of the girl, she smiled and offered him a soft, delicate wave before turning and talking with Decibel.

As Doc Drain croaked out that day’s lesson, he was sure to remind the students of the upcoming test. Carl, however, paid no mind to what the teacher was saying and instead was trying to formulate his plan of attack for talking to Spore after class.

When the bell finally rung, and on the advice of El and Octane, Carl waited for her just outside the doorway. As he saw her approach with Decibel, his chest immediately tightened with anxiety, but he forced himself to produce a slight wave and half smile as the two of them locked eyes.

“Oh, hey!” she exclaimed, surprised to see Carl outside the door. Turning to Decibel, she said, “Talk to you tomorrow, Dez!”

Now turning back towards Carl, she responded, “Hey. Sorry about that.”

“It’s cool.” He then paused for a moment as he looked in to her eyes. “I had a really nice time with you last night.”

“Me, too! I think with my help you might actually pass now.”

“Hey, you were a good study partner, but you weren’t that good,” he quipped, self-mockingly.

“I wasn’t?” she said, cocking her head a bit and giving Carl and devious look.

“I…uh…I meant…”

She laughed at his hesitance and responded, “Well, I thought you were very good at studying.”

“Thanks, I…study with my pillow in bed sometimes. It’s good practice.”

Spore giggled and replied, “Well, I’m jealous of your pillow.”

Carl laughed nervously, unsure of what to say.

“I hope we…um…could study again soon,” he responded.

“I’d like that a lot,” she said, smiling. “Maybe this weekend?”

“Yeah!” Carl exclaimed. Then trying to hide his excitement, he repeated in a much more reserved manner, “Yeah. That’d be cool.”

“Cool! I gotta head to the computer lab now,” she said, pointing in the opposite direction Carl was going. “So I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”

“No doubt. Have a good one.”

“You, too! Bye!”

“Later,” he replied in a pretend aloofness.

“Like a boss,” El said, coming out from behind the classroom door where he had been busy eavesdropping. “Date #2, huh?”

“Ha, yeah. Guess so.”

“Nice job, man. I just got one question for you.”

“What’s that?”

“What’d you name your pillow?”

“Ha, I was just kidding around with her,” Carl replied as he pushed open the exit door to the parking lot.

“Oh, I see what it is. You named it after me, didn’t you? It all makes so much sense now.”

“Ya got me. I’m in love with you, and dry humping my pillow at night is the only way I can express it.”

“We’ve graduated to dry humping now, have we? Goddamn, you’re a freak sometimes,” El joked as he unlocked his car. “Be sure to ease Spore in to that.”

“If I even end up hanging out with her again, anyway,” Carl responded, not wholly convinced a second date would happen. But as unbelievable as it seemed to him, Carl and Spore did end up seeing each other that weekend. And the weekend after. And the one after that as well.

Before either of them knew it, they had become a full-fledged couple. And by the time January came around, things had felt as if they were finally going Carl’s way. Much to his sister’s chagrin, he received his grandmother’s car for Christmas as promised; with Spore’s help, his grades improved; he got in to a decent college on early admission; and he even managed to not have any of his gym electives line up with Wing’s, successfully avoiding him for the first half of the year.

But what really made the past four months feel special was the girl he had fallen for. Spore was his first kiss, his first girlfriend…his first everything.

El had been sure to make the obvious ‘de-flower’ jokes.

And the ‘cross-pollination’ jokes.

And the ‘planting the seed’ jokes.

Carl dating a girl named ‘Spore’ really opened up a lot of doors for El.

But regardless of El’s comments, Spore made Carl happier than he ever thought possible. Thinking about her made his knees feel as if they were full of jelly; his heart would flutter when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket and instinctively knew it was she. There were video chats that went late in to the night, text messages first thing in the morning, pet names that Carl prayed his friends would never find out about, and tender handholding as the two traveled together down the hallways together.

It was the stage of dating where each party thinks that there’s no possible way they’d ever fight. What could there ever be to fight about?

We’re perfect together, Carl would think.

She’s my soul mate.

She’s my destiny.

Indeed, Carl was soaring. But like the *swish* and *thunk* noises he knew all too well, what goes up, invariably, must come down.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


TO BE CONTINUED


If you all haven’t figured out by now (and especially by reading Wood You Be Mine?), I’m a big fan of dramatic irony. The audience knowing something that the characters don’t…f’ing with the characters like that is enjoyable to me. I guess I’m a sadist.

Anywho, shoot me a message what you think of Act 2 Your thoughts are always much appreciated, so get on to Facebook or Twitter to let me know. So you in a week!