Teen-Age Spider-Girl Part 2

Part 2 of the Teen-Age Spider-Girl book!
" 'Is that real?'
It sounds like a silly question, but at the same time, the most logical. Maybe I'm dreaming, perhaps hallucinating. Anything makes more sense than the possibility that whatever it is that's standing before me can even exist.
And the person standing next to me can be alive."

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3. Family Reunion

"Jo, can you grab the potato salad out of the fridge, please?"

"Sure, Mom," I reply.  The second Saturday in October is always when we have our big family get-together with all my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  It's the only time of year (aside from our other family reunion in the Summer) that I can say I have a big family.  I'm an only-child.  In my extended family, I'm the only only-child.

As I walk over to the fridge, I'm thinking about why we even do a family thing in October.  It just seems so random.  There's no birthdays or special holidays or anything like that.  Then, as my mom picks up a plate of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies off of the counter, I remember how much my family loves pumpkin desserts.

But, that can't be the reason, I think.  Then, when I open the fridge, a dozen things fall out, and my spider reflexes kick in, and I stop thinking about why we get together in October and start thinking, I hope Mom didn't see that.  Luckily, she's on her way out the door with the cookies and barely notices the noise.

Hurrying, I grab the bowl of salad and hustle out to the car behind her.

"We were supposed to be there ten minutes ago," Mom says as my seatbelt clicks into place.

"Do you want me to drive?" I offer.

"No, Honey, we'll get there faster if I drive."  And she isn't lying.  She's always been a real city girl when it comes to driving and the handle bar above the passenger side door has become very familiar under my grasp.  Her driving is one of my worst fears.

As we reach the city traffic on our way to The Pavilion in the mall at the center of the city, my mom cuts into another lane, receiving a honk from the driver behind us.

"Mom, you could've been a taxi driver," I say as she yells out the window at him.

"Actually, that was my 'plan b' in case I couldn't pay for nursing school."

"Really?"  My mom's never told me about that before.  But, come to think of it, it explains a lot.

"Yep.  Luckily, though,"--she cuts into another, faster moving lane and speeds up--"I got grants and student loans and scholarships.  And I'm glad I did because that's how I met your father, at the hospital."  She cuts across three lanes, nearly getting hit by a semi, in order to make a turn onto another street and I almost say, Do I need to remind you how he died?  But I don't want to upset her.  She's too busy smiling at the memory of meeting him, and I don't want to pain her with the memory of losing him.

I grab the handle bar again when she stops suddenly, nearly crashing into the car in front of us, and honks her horn.  "C'mon!  We don't have all day!" she yells out the window again.

I may never fully understand the woman sitting next to me, how she can drive like a maniac through the streets of our city after her husband died on those very streets.  I've never bothered to talk to her about it.  I just never could stand to see the sad look in her eyes when she thought about his death.

But now, my curiosity is winning over slightly.  "Mom," I start.

"We're here!" she says, cutting me off.  "Now let's hurry and get inside.  Oh, what were you saying?"

"Nothing," I tell her.  We walk into the large building with our bowl of salad and plate of cookies, and I can't help but feel a little out of place.  Then we get to The Pavilion, which we've rented for the occasion, and seeing my family, I feel right at home.

"Oh, you made it!" one of my aunts says, walking over to us.  "When you called and said you were on your way, I thought maybe half an hour, but that wasn't five minutes ago."

"Um," I say.  "Hello?  Have you seen how she drives?"

My aunt laughs.  "Oh, right.  I should've known she wouldn't be letting you drive when you're running late."

"Hey!" my mom says, slapping her sister on the arm.  It's such a teenager-y gesture.  That's how my mom always acts around her siblings--like she my age.  It's just a little weird, but it's nice to see her so happy.  Now I really can't talk about Dad.

She walks on ahead of me with Aunt Katey, laughing and teasing.  Then suddenly, a warning shoots down my spine and I know something's about to happen.

I look up at the domed glass ceiling of The Pavilion just in time to see it collapsing, falling to bits as a small airplane crashes through it.  An airplane?  Why is there a plane crashing into the mall?  And heading straight towards my mom!

She's just standing there in shock, unable to move.  Some of my cousins are screaming, everyone's running.  But my mom is still as a statue as the plane draws closer.

"Mom, look out!" I scream, but she still doesn't move.  Without another thought, I grab her in the back with webs and pull her out of the way.  Right into the arms of a total stranger.

"Well, hey there, pretty lady," he says after the plane crashes and he realizes he's holding a beautiful woman in his arms.  He has a thick southern accent and a cowboy hat and boots to match.  The way he flashes his perfect white teeth at my mother sends another warning through me, this time in the pit of my stomach.

"Mom!" I yell, running over to her.  "Are you okay?"  But her gaze doesn't turn from the stranger's.  How did he get there, anyway?  It's like he appeared out of nowhere.  I look around as if I'll be able to see where he came from, but in vain.  "Mom?" I try again.

"What?" she asks, but still doesn't look at me.

Can this really be happening?  Some strange man steps in out of nowhere and sweeps my mother off her feet, changing everything that's ever been a constant in my life?  And why the heck is there an airplane in the middle of The Pavilion during my family reunion!?  I am freaking out right now!

"Amy!" my aunt is yelling.

Finally, Mom pulls away from the man.  "I'm over here, Katey."

Several members of my family step out from the other side of the plane.  A couple of my younger cousins are crying.  "Is everyone alright?" Mom asks.

"We're all fine on this side.  What about you?" Aunt Katey asks.

My mom looks at me finally and says, "We're safe."  Then she gestures to the stranger and says, "Thanks to, um..."

"Oh, Conway, ma'am.  John Conway," he says with a tip of his wide-brimmed hat.

"John Conway," my mother repeats.  "He saved my life."

"Well," John Conway blushes.  He doesn't even deny it, he just says, "It all happened so fast.  I wasn't even thinking, I just..."  He stops before he can take the lie any further.

I want to say--to yell, to scream--No, he didn't, Mom--I did!  But I know I'd have to provide an explanation for that, so I just stand there quietly, watching as my beautiful mother swoons over a handsome stranger.

And I think I'm going to be sick.

...

Finally, some police and people from the fire department get there.  The pilot of the plane is being questioned.

"I don't know how it happened.  One minuted, I'm just enjoying a peaceful flight over the city and the next, I'm crashing into a big window."

So, it was just a freak accident, I think, but barely believe it.  I've made a lot of enemies in the last month.  I'm sure at least half of them want to kill me.  But there are easier ways to do it than dropping an airplane on my family reunion.  And who knows my identity--besides Pete and his "boss"?

Maybe I'm just being paranoid.  Maybe it really wat just a freak accident.  A freak accident that brought my mom and John Conway together.

They're standing about ten feet away from me.  They're talking, she's laughing.  What is she laughing at?  She just about got hit by and airplane!

Oh, what am I saying?  I should be happy for her.  Didn't I just say a moment ago that it was nice to see her so happy?

I guess that was before she was smiling and laughing with a strange man about her age who had a big hat and a voice to match.

My thoughts of John Conway and my mother are interrupted by one of my eight-year-old cousins asking, "Mom, how come Spider-Girl didn't come to save us?"

I feel a pang of guilt at the words.  I should've been more prepared, should've been ready for anything.  And I should've taken some pictures for The Daily Trumpeter.  My job is to take pictures of Spider-Girl, but I didn't expect her services to be needed at my family party.

"Young lady, we need to ask you a few questions," a police officer says, placing his hand on my shoulder.

"Oh, okay," I say as he pulls out a pen and notepad from his coat pocket and begins to write.

"Name."

"Josephina Johnson."

"How long were you here before the incident?"

"Just a couple of minutes.  My mom and I got here late for our family reunion."

"Mother's name?"

"Oh, Amy Johnson."

The questions continue like that for a while--why I'm here, who I'm with.  But my mind never fully strays from Amy Johnson, beautiful in her late 30's, and John Conway, a handsome man we've just met.

And I can't stop wondering what more changes the future will bring.

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