She stretched as the bus came to its final stop in New York. She was relieved that the almost two-day trip was over and vowed to never travel by bus again! She grabbed her bag and rushed to the nearest restroom to wash up and adjust her head wrap; seeing that Tabitha wasn’t able to dye her hair and wigs were out of the question, she adapted the trending fashion statement (she had no clue as to why it was a fashion statement but she would not question something that worked out) of wrapping a t-shirt around her hair and securing in in the back in a tight bun-like ball.
After quickly freshening up, Tabitha followed Jamila’s instructions to a tee, hauling a cab to get to Columbia University’s dorm rooms. She had no trouble finding her room and wasn’t a bit surprised to see that she had a roommate. The girl, however, was definitely surprised to see her! Her sparkling blue eyes almost bore into Tabitha’s soul as she ran her hand through her long blond hair. She was as slim as Tabitha, showing her frame in short shorts and a tank top. Typical, she almost didn’t hide her smirk.
“Hmm… you’re my new roomie?” she almost rolled her eyes.
“Yeah. Tabitha.” she stuck her hand out, anyway. Her right hand was completely healed and the cast was removed the day before she got on the bus in Memphis. There are some benefits to these powers after all, she had thought to herself.
The girl made a slight face but shook Tabitha’s hand, anyway.
“Samantha… but don’t call me Sam; I absolutely hate that!” she dramatically rolled her eyes yet again. Was she an actress, Tabitha wondered and kept her snickers to herself. She already devised a plan to call the girl “Sam” every chance she got, just to get under the girl’s skin; what could she do to Tabitha?
However, she shook that devious plan out of her head and cracked a smile.
“Oh? Okay… what about Sammie?” she asked. Samantha thought for a moment and then laughed.
“No one’s ever thought to call me that! I actually like that.” she saw that Samantha’s attitude seemed to have changed instantly, “Wow; that’s a pretty strong accent! Where are you from?”
“… Memphis.” she thought back to her new ID.
“Aw… a country girl! How sweet! First time in the big city?” she asked casually, plopping down into her bed. It made Tabitha wince; she knew that Samantha wasn’t truly making fun of her: she was just tired of the typecasting of southern people not used to “big city life”. She accidentally huffed.
“Actually… Memphis is the biggest city in the state of Tennessee. So, no; this isn’t my first time in a big city. Let me guess; you’re from here…”
“No… L.A.” the girl answered, a bit let down from being corrected. It was almost enough to make Tabitha laugh but she decided against it. What was really important was for Tabitha to hunt down the showers and get clean. As she dug into her bag for toiletries, underwear and clothes, she had hoped that no one would be in there to see her.
“L.A., huh? Long way from home…”
“I needed a change of pace. What about you?”
“Hmm… same thing. Plus, electric engineering study is the best here.” she decided not to tell the entire truth. She remembered the professor telling her about Columbia’s engineering program and hinted that maybe she would like to go for a masters; however, her main objective was going to be genetic studies, “Well… I really need to get a shower.”
“Okay…” Samantha shrugged. When she left the room, she let out a huge sigh and headed down the hallway to the bathrooms.
It took an hour, making sure that no one would walk in on her but she felt refreshed as ever. The thought of sharing showers with the other females in the dorm made Tabitha decide that she would have to get out of the dorms as soon as possible; she couldn’t risk having one of the girls walking in on her as she was washing her hair; the questions would probably be insurmountable. Then again, it was New York, she tried to reason: would anyone really question why she had dyed her hair the color of snow? As she made her way back to her room, she shrugged the thought out of her head.
Tabitha found her new roommate on her phone but looking at her with bright eyes.
“I’ll call you back; I need to talk to my new roomie.” she announced and hung up, “While you were cleaning up… which took forever… I happen to notice that you only have one bag.” those piercing blue eyes bore into her yet again. She really wants me to give her a good jolt, Tabitha thought but shrugged as she sat down on her bed.
“I like to carry light.” she answered and fought laughter. She wrapped the damp towel tighter around her head and started unpacking.
“Well, you’re going to need a lot more than that to get by here.” Samantha almost turned her nose up. Thank you, Captain Obvious, Tabitha made sure she didn’t see the scoff she gave off, “Where’s your laptop and phone and…”
“I couldn’t carry all that on the bus. My… sister is gonna send that to me.” she didn’t lie about that; Jamila told her that it would be much easier for her to send her whatever she needed through the mail: all of her necessities were being shipped practically overnight.
“What about clothes?” she continued. Tabitha looked over her shoulder at the girl.
“Nosy much? Yes; along with my laptop and phone, she’s sending me most of my clothes!” she almost snapped. It was enough to silence the girl and Tabitha went back to putting her things in the empty dresser.
“… What was up with that thing around your head earlier…?”
“I don’t have any hair…” she almost growled. She admitted that it was funny and turned to look at Samantha’s face expression. She could do nothing but blink at Tabitha and she started laughing, “It’s a little trend going on in the south. Guess you can call it my signature look…”
“Hmm. Sorry for all the questions. I just… never met any…” she paused. It made Tabitha stop what she was doing and look dead at her, almost wide-eyed.
“Black people…?” she tried. Samantha widened her eyes and burst into laughter.
“No! I’ve never met any southern people before! Really?!” she continued to laugh. Tabitha joined her.
“It’s okay! You know what; I like you. Want to go get something to eat? My treat, since you’re new and all.”
“… Sure. That’ll be nice.”
She didn’t expect to enjoy college life as much. Tabitha always thought that she wasn’t smart enough; one of the reasons why she decided to go into the military right after high school. She had told herself that she would eventually go, maybe to a community college first to get her used to taking courses. However, even that small idea was scary to her.
She had always seen how college life was betrayed in movies (she was a huge movie buff; there wasn’t anything else that interested her back home) but knew that a lot of times, it was far from the truth. She knew that the classes would be hard, there would be little time to study and there would not be a party going on every hour! However, as she started to get used to things, Tabitha discovered that she didn’t mind the classes at all. Grant it, she was going through the first half of her freshman year and all of her courses were a part of the core curriculum, it gave her a taste of what was to come.
Befriending Samantha had proven to be a good move as well (much better than her idea of giving her slight shocks in her sleep); the blond was a very popular sophomore and introduced her to several groups of people. They were instantly drawn to her t-shirt head wrap and her southern twang. She had gone from isolated to very sociable in a little over a year and a half.
She didn’t lose focus on her initial agenda, however. While she wasn’t scheduled any classes pertaining to DNA study until possibly her sophomore year, it didn’t stop her from researching. She had to get an early start; she had less than two years to find a cure. The one thing that she was glad for was that she was taking biology; she had found others who were also interested in becoming geneticists and molecular biologists (she figured early that Dr. Lindsey had dumbed it down for her, calling Wyatt a DNA analyst instead of what he really was: a geneticist). They had actually taken a liking to her theory of a mutant DNA strand and worked with her as far as studying.
The one thing that she was really glad for was that her classes and research were interesting enough to try to keep her mind off of how the city of New York was. She knew that crime was everywhere however movies did not do the city any justice. She knew that the university had already lost at least five of their students to violent crimes in her first semester alone; Tabitha really wanted nothing to do with New York’s night life!
She had hit a brick wall with her other researchers as far as the DNA study. It was for the best; they all had to think about what was more important: their actual studying. Tabitha fell in love with the fine arts class she was taking; modern art. With a lot of practice and studying, she eventually learned how to control the degree of her lightning ability; her second semester found her creating artistic, abstract works of her own: she had learned how to weld using her powers. Their assignments were supposed to be simple projects however Tabitha wanted to push herself. Her art pieces soon became all the rave at the university, with even the fine arts professors wondering how she designed the pieces with so little time and with the illusion of the smoothness they gave out. To prove that she wasn’t simply buying the pieces from an art store, they made her construct a small piece of art in front of everyone, using only simple tools. No one was the wisest as to how she actually did it… but no one ever questioned her, again.
While her roommate was out and about as usual for the weekend, Tabitha decided to stay in her room to catch up on some studying and come up with a design for her next art project. She was satisfied with thirty minutes of studying and decided to go ahead and start work on her design. She had learned from the very first time that although she had abilities, it was very painful to handle heated metal; Tabitha put on her insulated gloves, grabbed one of the various metal rods she kept handy and began to work her magic. The currents flowed even through the gloves, and the rod immediately gave way. She started to bend it easily and added another rod. Before long, she had molded the two rods into a small frame of an unfinished home that reached her ankles.
Studying the beginning of her masterpiece, she realized what her subconscious was trying to do. She missed her home in Chattanooga. Tabitha had yet to call her family to let them know that she was okay. She had been putting it off, especially now that she was really busy with school; she hadn’t even called Jamila as much.
She let out a sigh and mentally made a promise to herself; as soon as she had found the antidote to her mutant strand, she would give her parents a call. In the meanwhile, she decided against making something that personal and began to reshape the frame into something abstract. Tabitha had forgotten how she could lose herself in her work, only concentrating on the piece that she was working on and nothing else. It was actually hard work; she had to make sure that she applied just the right amount of lightning to her elements. Before she knew it, sweat was dripping from her face. She quickly grabbed a towel to wipe her brow but immediately yelped as she felt the sharp tinge on her forehead.
“Aw, shit!!” she threw the hot towel almost across the room. She continued to curse herself mentally for being so careless. That was when it dawned on her. How did the towel travel so far? She looked at it and expected for it to be seared or at least in pieces but it was still intact. She took her gloves off and picked up the towel to examine it; the cotton material was a bit coarser. She poked at the coarsest part and saw that it was very sturdy, “Hmm…” she started to wonder. What made the towel not burn but actually become tougher? She sat down and tried to think what that towel had gone through. Nothing out the ordinary, she realized. It was the same towel that she had used earlier that day to dry her hair; because of the thickness of her hair, the towel had still been a bit damp.
She widened her eyes at the towel as she remembered something that she had read a couple of weeks ago. Water was an excellent conduit for lightning. Well, not all water, she reminded herself. The thought sidetracked her a bit; that meant that the water used in the building wasn’t pure. She made a disapproving face but perked back up. That’s not important, Tabby, she told herself.
Forgetting about her project, she rushed out the room and to the bathroom. She doused the towel, made sure that no one was around and applied the same amount of electricity she did whenever she welded. Just as she suspected, the towel didn’t go up in flames or even burn but immediately dried up. She waited for the towel to cool off before grabbing it and running back to the room. She used all of her strength to tear the towel but it didn’t rip.
“… Whoa…” she marveled at the new creation. The towel had not only held her electrical surge; it was indestructible.
She had immediately bragged about yet another extraordinary use for her powers to Jamila and she suggested to experiment with all types of fabric. Cotton was, by far, the best material however Tabitha found out that she was able to make any material indestructible. She had to put her “hobby” to the side to prepare for a special project: the best of Columbia’s art students were being featured in a local article for The Daily Bugle, a well-known newspaper. Her professor had volunteered Tabitha immediately and stressed that she make her best design. She decided on a structure that represented the Lindsey family.
A reporter from The Daily Bugle made her way on campus with her photographer as the art students laid their pieces on display by the main fountain. While Tabitha was doing the finishing touches on her iron structure, she felt someone standing behind her.
“Very impressive.” she heard the guy say. She took her protective goggles off, looked back and smiled at him. There wasn’t really anything impressive about the dark brown-haired guy except for the fact that he was showing a true interest in the statue. His blue eyes were even unnoticeable through his glasses.
“It’s a family… isn’t it?”
“How’d you know?” she was actually shocked. The guy pointed towards one of the perfect curves in the statue.
“That curve right there; it looks like an arm. And those three squiggly lines…” it made Tabitha laugh a bit; they did look like squiggly lines, “The curve is supporting them. That’s a mother and her children. This other curve…” he pointed to the bulky one that seem to hover above the four, “That’s the father. He’s protecting them.”
“Wow! You’re good!”
“Well… not as good as this. Do you mind… if I put in a good word for this to be the cover for the article?” he asked. That was when she noticed the camera that dangled from his neck; he was the photographer from The Daily Bugle.
“R-really? No shit?!” she let the words slip out. She covered her mouth quickly but the guy laughed.
“It’s okay! Pretty sure I’m old enough to hear that!” he said. The guy stuck his hand out, “I’m Peter, by the way. Peter Parker.”
“Tabitha Ly… Lindsay.” the two shook hands.
“So… you sculpted this all by yourself?”
“Yeah. I’m not done, actually. Just one more small adjustment…” she already put her goggles back on and secured a metal rod at the bottom of the statue. Seconds later, she stood back to admire and mentally critique her work.
“Wow; this is a beautiful piece!” a woman in a light grey two piece suit approached them; Tabitha figured that she was the reporter, “What does it represent?” she asked. Tabitha studied the statue once more before turning to the woman with a smile.
She rushed out of the school’s bookstore, heading towards the cafeteria. She had hoped that she had gotten there before they stopped serving food; if not, it looked as if fast food would be in her near future yet again. It was a hard task for her to not show off her enhanced ability of speed and Tabitha sadly decided that she would just have to walk normally and hope she made it in time. She mentally promised herself that she wouldn’t starve herself ever again for the sake of being on time for classes.
“Hey… Tabitha?” she heard a familiar voice. She turned and saw Peter walking towards her.
“Hey, P! What’s up, buddy?” she smiled. The picture he had taken of her statue was indeed the feature photo; her popularity was on the rise.
“Glad I ran into you! I wanted to thank you for letting me take a picture of your sculpture.”
“Oh… isn’t that part of your job…?”
“I’m freelance so I only get paid by how great the photos are. Which… you may have landed me a permanent job…”
“The Daily Bugle would like to have a different sculpture from you every month. It’s not guaranteed that it would be used for the cover of the arts section each time but… you’d be compensated, regardless. Would you be interested?” he asked. She no longer was worried about getting to the cafeteria on time.
“Whoa… wow! That’s… that’ll be great! Wait… will this benefit you, too?”
“Then, I’ll do it. You came all this way to tell me that?”
“Oh… I’m a student here, too. Just part time, though.”
“Let’s see; a freelance photographer and a student… only met you twice and you keep amazing me! Say… wanna join me for a late lunch?” she asked. Peter looked at his watch and slightly frowned.
“If you’re talking about the cafeteria, then I’m afraid it’s too late…”
“Damnit! Well… want some Burger King…?”
“Is this your first time in New York?” he eyed her. She nodded, “Then, I have a better idea!”
The two took their seats in a local diner and ordered their food. She took a sip out of her soda and looked out the window to watch everyone walking by.
“So many people…” she thought she said it low enough for only herself to hear it. Peter looked on as well and smiled.
“Not used to it?”
“Starting to get back used to it.” she admitted. It was one thing to be around the various students on campus; she was in the heart of the city, “Guess you can say that I went through a hermit phase for a while…”
“Is it me or do all artists have these depressing stories about their childhood?” he asked and it made her immediately laugh.
“My childhood was great, thank you! For about a year, though… I didn’t feel like dealing with anyone. I kinda liked it, though. Being away from the outside.”
“Must’ve been tough on your friends and boyfriend.”
“I never had too many friends to begin with. The people I stayed with were my friends… well, no. They’re family.” she smiled. Their food was delivered and she immediately went to work on her burger.
“The statue you did… is that them?”
“Yeah. And… there was no boyfriend. What about you?” she wanted to change the subject. The thought of a potential boyfriend only brought back memories of Tony… and she really didn’t want to dwell on that.
“It’s… somewhat complicated.”
“There’s this girl. We’ve been neighbors since we were little. We’re really good friends but…”
“She don’t know that you like her.” she finished for him. Peter nodded sadly, “It’s a good thing you ran into me, then; I got the solution to all your problems!” she perked up. He gave her a look but kept a smile on his face.
“You gotta take the bull by the horns!”
“… What…?” he asked. She stuffed almost a handful of French fries in her mouth and waited until she was halfway done chewing before speaking again; she loved French fries…
“You know; lead by the reins!”
“… I think you have the saying wrong…” he tried to joke. She huffed.
“Take charge of the situation! Go up to the girl and tell her how you feel, smart ass!”
“I can’t; what part of ‘complicated’ did you not understand? What if… she doesn’t feel the same way?”
“There’s only one way to find out! What’s the worst that could happen?”
“… Total rejection… a ruined friendship…” he started but she waved him off.
“Wuss! That only happens in the movies, anyway! P… life is too short to let the one you love walk away without ‘em knowing how you feel, at least. I…” she stopped herself before she said something that she wasn’t ready to admit; it pained her to even think it. Tabitha stared down at her plate, “Sorry. I think I said too much…”
“No… I think you have a point.” he waited until she looked at him and shrugged, “I don’t think I can afford to sit here and not say anything to her; she’d end up with someone else, again. I think… I will take your advice.” Peter agreed. It was enough to make Tabitha smile.
“Good!” she said and stuffed her mouth with the rest of her fries.