Francis Allen stared at Adelaide, who was trying her most convincing smile. His first instinct was to run away. He was talking to a girl for one thing, not only that but one of his own age, which had never happened before. For another she appeared to be performing some kind of bizarre contortion with her face that was a little bit unsettling.
“Who are you?” He asked slowly. Adelaide pursed her lips, irritated that he didn’t remember her.
“I’m Adelaide,” she replied, “I go to your school. I’ve seen you around.”
“Oh right,” that didn’t help. Francis wasn’t good at faces. Adelaide could have been any number of girls that he’d watched from a distance talking or on their phones. There were so many as well, how was he supposed to remember all of them? They all seemed to know him though, he could tell by the way that they crossed the street to avoid him when he walked to school and the whispers when they thought he couldn’t hear.
“I was wondering whether you’d like to do me a favour,” Adelaide said, trying to look casual and cool. Price made it appear so simple.
“Name it,” Francis said, adding mentally then please leave me to my comic.
“I’d like you to join my team of heroes and fight crime,” Adelaide said. She felt instantly ridiculous. Again, Price had made it seem so much cooler than it was. She half expected Francis to break into laughter. Instead he slammed the door in her face.
Standing on the step, staring at the door-knocker, Adelaide felt her heart sink. Was it something she’d said? Was it the smile? Her parents were always telling her not to do the smile in public.
“Hey!” She said hammering on the door, “wait a second! Hear me out!”
Suddenly Francis reappeared, his head coming out through the front of the door so that he was half submerged within it. He was scowling. Adelaide jumped backwards in shock and nearly fell down the front step.
“Is this some kind of joke?” He asked, “because if it is it’s not very funny.”
“Of course it’s not a joke,” Adelaide raised her hands defensively, “why would you think I was joking?” Her mind reviewed the sentence and submitted a reply. She inwardly cursed herself.
“Why do you think?” Francis hissed, “because all the time I am beset by morons who like to make fun of my powers. People are scared of me and it makes them hate me. It seems to me like you’re just another irritating fool who thinks I’m fair game to bully just because I’m different.”
“Woah!” Adelaide shook her head rapidly, “No no no. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve been told-” she checked herself, “I thought I’d get together some people with… uh… expanded capabilities like you to… um… show people that you’re not so bad after all. If anything I’m being public spirited.”
Francis narrowed his eyes and withdrew his head back through the door. There was the sound of receding footsteps.
“Wait! I’m trying to help you!” Adelaide shouted after him desperately, “I just want to be your friend!”
There was a long silence. Then, through the door, Adelaide could just make out a muttered conversation. Eventually there were some more footsteps and the door swung open once more. Francis regarded her critically.
“I’ve been thinking about it,” he said quietly, “and maybe I can help you. On one condition.”
“Anything,” Adelaide mumbled, aware that she was on very thin ice here.
“Lee gets to join too,” Francis said. He opened the door further and another boy grinned out at Adelaide. She stepped back in surprise.
“Hi,” Lee said. He did a small, embarrassed wave.
“Oh,” Adelaide stumbled over her words, “hi. Yeah sure he can. Is he your…”
“We’re not related,” Francis interrupted, “Lee just lives with my family. His own parents kicked him out a few years ago when they discovered he was ‘sub-human.’ I quote their exact words.”
“Oh that’s terrible,” Adelaide said, looking at Lee. He shrugged and smiled at her, his grin was a little bit infectious. “So anyway we should meet up and discuss this in more detail at another time,” she continued, “I’ve got… uh… stuff I need to get back to.”
“Right,” Francis nodded, “before you go I’ve got to know something. How did you find out where I live?”
“I really must dash,” Adelaide turned and hopped down the steps, “let’s meet up in three days. The park? Ten? That sound good?”
“Sure,” Francis raised and eyebrow, “see you then I suppose.”
After he shut the door Francis turned to Lee who had headed back into the sitting room and appeared to be eating a yoghurt which had been in his pocket.
“She was quick to leave I thought,” he said and sat down next to his friend on the sofa, “almost as if something was bothering her.”
“Well,” Lee put his head to one side, “it may well be because she’s been spying on you for the past week or so and she doesn’t want to admit it.”
“What?” Francis stared at him, “why didn’t you tell me?”
“It’s cool man,” Lee leaned back on the sofa, “she was just watching the house from the street. I reckon she was plucking up the courage to ask us, or rather you, for the last few days.”
“Right…” Francis frowned, “is this a thing girls normally do? I mean, speaking from a non-expert point of view it seems a little odd.”
“I also have no idea,” Lee replied, “you forget that I have one female friend, and that is your mum. So, what do you think? Reckon we could fight crime?”
“Well,” Francis pursed his lips, “my power’s not exactly first class…”
“Look it doesn’t matter,” Lee stood up and spread his arms wide, “let’s just play along, you never know, things might get a lot more interesting. We could have some fun out of this if nothing else…”