Tension

Tension is a story in two parts about a young barista, who discovers that she has super powers, and a chipped friendship. Meanwhile, a criminal empire rises, and the barista is faced with a choice. Is she going to join a criminal's call or will she refuse?
- “If I'm a hero,” she thought out loud. “I'll save you first..."
- The story participates in the competition "A Tribute to Stan Lee" and is a story, in which the superhero doesn't win.

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1. Paralyzed

She took a deep breath and stretched her arms above her head and rolled her shoulders backwards. They made loud cracking noises. The hard muscles twisted in agony under her skin. The movements released wastes into her blood, and a warm feeling rose to her head like a fever. If she did not drink a glass of water soon, she would have to call in sick.

The thought of not making it to work again sent a slight twitch trough her tense muscles. She looked at her phone. It was almost time for her to go and catch the bus.

 

She got off at the bus stop by the coffee shop, where she worked. A lean figure waited for her at the entrance. The other girl was almost a head taller than her, but she had a slimmer and more elegant figure. She wore ripped jeans, an orange sweater underneath a grey hoodie, a flannel scarf, a black beanie, and black nail polish. The back of her head rested carelessly on the doorframe.

“Edith, I’ve been expecting you,” the tall girl said with a mysterious voice. Her eyes were narrow and followed Edith’s every move.

“Good afternoon to you too, Shay.”

The girl, Shay, tucked some loose hair behind her ear, and a white gold ring on her finger caught the light.

Edith shook her head at her friend's dramatic welcome.

“I don’t understand why you bother coming,” Edith mumbled and entered the shop and the little bell above the door rang.

Shay followed her inside with a smirk on her face. “Watching others work helps me relax.”

 

It was a busy day at the shop. Edith served the regulars, a ton of high schoolers, business people, a single family, and two ladies with strollers, and she also made the tea for Shay who sat at the high table closest to the counter. The shop was full for hours and kept Edith busy. She took orders, made the coffee, served desserts, and cleaned tables. At one point she almost spilled an entire cappuccino on the counter. The mistake made her clench her teeth and look at the customer with a mix of fear and defeat.

“Maybe you should relax a bit,” Shay proposed and sipped on a cup of black tea.

“Maybe if you helped me, then I wouldn't be so busy,” Edith bit back and cleaned up the spilled coffee.

“I didn’t come her to work,” Shay sighed, warming her hands on the tea cup, and stared off into the distance as if the coffee shop and the customers was not there at all.

Edith rolled her eyes at her and went back to work.

 

It was getting dark outside, when Edith finally closed the shop. She took a seat next to Shay and inhaled the constant smell of coffee that haunted the insides of the shop.

“Sometimes,” Edith groaned and looked at Shays sculpted face. “It would be nice if you helped me a little. I would even split the tips with you.”

“I'm sorry, E. I just don't… I can't work hard like you. If you put your mind to it you can do anything. But me? I'm nothing like that.”

Edith studied the other girl's features, the chestnut brown hair, the small chest hidden away under the grey hoodie, the soft hips, and the skinny legs. She would kill for a body like that.

“I really don't get you sometimes.”

Shay shrugged.

They sat in silence, but Edith could still hear the faint echo of the customers chatting, laughing, and stirring coffee or tea.

“I think you're better at this than me,” Shay finally said.

“What do you mean?”

“You know. Doing stuff. Perhaps a bit too much sometimes, but you're a hard worker. You're unbreakable. I like that about you.”

Edith could not help but smile at the serious look on Shay's face.

“You’re like a hero to me or something. Never giving up. Always pushing forward. While I'm just… Stock.” The last word barely made it out of Shay's mouth.

“Come here, you.” Edith embraced Shay. Somehow the tall, beautiful girl felt very small in her arms, but it did not matter to Edith. She still loved her.

“If I'm a hero,” she thought out loud. “I'll save you first. I'll defeat all of the enemies and rescue you from that well of self-pity you've gotten yourself into. I'll extinguish all evil no matter what happens. Because good always…”

“Win,” Shay finished the sentence.

“And while I beat the bad guys, you use that brilliant head of yours and your top grades to come up with secret code names, high tec equipment, and battle tactics. You could run the whole show with that brain,” Edith pointed at Shay's forehead and smiled.

“You're too good, y'know.” Shay smiled back.

The bell above the door rang.

Nobody moves.”

 

Both of the girls stiffened at the sound of the stranger's voice. He pointed a loaded gun at them.

“Hand me your wallets, your phones, and the money from the register. And no police.”

Edith slid down from the high chair and went over to the register. It opened easily and she took out the earnings of the days.

“Put it in the bag,” the man commanded and threw a black backpack onto the counter. “You.” He pointed at Shay who went white as a sheet. “Phone, wallet and the ring.”

Edith's eyes widened. That ring meant everything to Shay. It had belonged to her mother, and she always wore it.

“No…”, Shay's voice was trembling. She covered the ring protectively with her hand. Tears were streaming down her face.

“I said now!”, the man yelled.

Edith clenched her teeth hard. It was wrong!

Shay took the ring off with a trembling hand and put it in the backpack along with her phone and wallet.

The man grabbed the bag in a violent movement and fled towards the door.

“Stop!”

The man froze in the middle of the movement. He did not turn his head. He did not aim nor fire the gun. He stood completely still and did not move a muscle.

“What happened?”, asked Shay. Her voice was still trembling like the rest of her body.

Edith made her way over to the man. She rolled her sore shoulders and discovered that they were less tense than usual. Close up she could see the sweat covering the man's face and smell it too. Thick blue veins had appeared on his neck. Edith waved a hand in front of his eyes but he did not as much as blink. She placed two fingers on one of the swollen veins, which made Shay let out a gasp behind her.

His skin was rough with tiny stinging stubble on it. She could not feel a pulse.

“He's dead,” she concluded out loud.

“What? But how?”

“I think I did it. I made him stop. I killed him.” Edith looked over at Shay.

“Listen to yourself, E. That doesn't make any sense!” Shay's brows furrowed.

“I think,” Edith stared down at her own hands. “I have powers.”

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