Moving On And Move
I didn't know what happened to me in the few days after the shooting. Everything was such a blur to me that I didn't even know whether I was alive or dead. Now it all feels like a long dream with no end and no beginning. I had so many dreams, I didn't know when I was awake or sleeping, whether I was in the hard reality of the world or in the surreal episodes of dreamland. I was flying across the blue sky towards the horizon in one moment and the next I was in an overly-lit white room with doctors around me. I caught a couple of words…
… Life-threatening situation…
… Immediate surgery…
… Struggling for life…
What did I care anyway? I've never been the person to long for death or anything, don't get me wrong, but at those moments I wanted to sleep so badly and never wake up, just to escape from all the insanity around me. Distressed doctors, panicking nurses - sometimes I even heard people outside. Journalists, I later found out, fighting to get one glimpse at Videl Satan fighting for survival.
It was ridiculous. Even as I was lying in the hospital, in the bed with sheets that looked completely sterile – it was that white and clean – it felt like the whole world has lost its mind but me. Maybe it was because the lack of judgement I had in my alarming state, but my dreams made more sense than reality.
Luckily me they kept me unconscious for most of the time, so I could escape to my dreamland where no one could find me and where there is no knowledge of time.
Dreams are quite silly, aren't they? When I was dreaming, I thought my dreams would last forever. I wasn't thinking about what would happen when I woke up, because I didn't know I would. That's why my dreams never seem to have an end. Or a beginning. There are no boundaries. It's just one big episode of one surreal event after another. Maybe my dreams were happy because I didn't have a sense of time, no clock to press me down. The repressed part of my brains were satisfied by the fantasies. My dreams were the opposite of my life. Peaceful. Colourful. Limitless. Like the other side of the mirror. The world upside down.
After a while I recovered though. I didn't know how long it had taken me, but the first time I was conscious enough to talk with the doctor, he said I had been out for five days. My body hurt all over, like I'd run the marathon or something. And I was thirsty. My throat was sore and dry. I hardly recognized my own voice when I spoke to the doctor.
"Where's my father?" I asked with difficulty as he examined me.
"He went home yesterday. He was here for most of the time. He shouted at several of my colleagues, as a matter of fact. He's been very…present, so to call it. The nurse is already trying to contact him."
It was typical of my father to be absent at the moments he was needed the most. But I knew exactly what the doctor meant with 'present'. If his daughter was concerned, nothing was good enough, not even the doctors who tried to save me. It was illogical, but I was mad at him despite his efforts to give me the best care available. Again, at a crucial time in my life, he wasn't there. I had asked for him first thing when I woke up from my unconsciousness, and he failed to be present at the one time I really needed to see him.
But no, I woke up to no one but the doctors and a horde of journalists outside the door. It wasn't like anything I expected. My body didn't give me enough time to be angry about it though. Soon after the doctor left I fell asleep again. A sleep seem to have lasted until I woke up in my own comfortable room again.
When my eyes opened and I saw the cream-coloured walls, the sun shining through my open windows and everything I own that was dear to me, I felt a strange sort of relief. Like coming home after a long holiday. I turned my head on my pillow, cringing, for it was still hurting, and looked around the familiar space. Costs nor trouble were spared to give me the most spectacular homecoming a person can get.
There were big bouquets of flowers everywhere. The scent it gave was sweet and lovely. Get-well cards filled every cabinet or table in the room. Dozens of drawings, apparently made by children judged by the chaotic scribbling, covered my walls. There were big parcels wrapped up in colourful gift paper and shiny ribbons. It was almost ridiculous.
Suddenly, as I half admired, half rolled my eyes to the room, I heard a gasp.
"Sweet pea." A voice muttered on my right.
I immediately recognised my father's voice and I whirled my head to the right. I will never forget the look on his face when I first saw him after what felt like years.
My father, a big, bulky, often slightly terrifying man – appearance-wise – was now looking at me with a mixture of utter happiness and heartbreaking grief in his eyes. He looked like he was the most powerful man in the world, but at the same time he was smaller than I had ever seen him. He fell to his knees and took my hand, kissing it as he cried like he would never stop. In that moment, as he forgot all his pride and didn't care what the world thought of it, my heart melted and the anger I thought I would feel was, surprisingly, completely absent. A smile crept on my lips.
"I thought I'd lost you. I thought you'd die." My father said between his tears and sobs, placing my hand on his wet cheek and cherishing it like a treasure. He looked at me with big, watery orbs under his bushy eyebrows.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I wasn't there, Videl. I'm sorry I've never been there at all. I'm-I'm…" He couldn't utter the next words as he was caught in a fit of crying. I had difficulty seeing him like this. So incredibly small. Watching a man his statue crying his eyes out was… impressive. And moving. I almost cried myself as I listened to his muffled apologies and I knew that he spoke the truth. That he was actually sorry. And even though this was only a moment, a short moment within a whole lifetime of moments, I allowed myself a little bit of hope.
"You're never fighting crime again. I forbid you."
As I gently stroke his cheek the smile on my lips grew bigger. Never fighting crime again… As if! But no matter. The moment was too precious to ruin. I would discuss it later. But for now, this was good. For now the hope of having a normal father-daughter relationship was warming my heart unlike anything ever before.
I didn't know when the change-over came, but a week later that hope was vanquished and gone, and the idea of my father and me in a normal father-daughter relationship seemed silly and much too ambitious.
The first few days after I woke up he was with me all the time. I was tired and slept a lot and we didn't talk much, but he was there, as if he was guarding me. I felt safe and happy, because he was finally there for me. But then I guess he thought he had done his fatherly duty, or he just lost his interest. One way or another, his visits were much less frequent, and when he came to my room to see how I was doing he was staying only for a short while, excusing himself with a 'the job is calling' when he left me again. And after a week, he didn't visit me at all. I asked the butler where he was and it turned out he was on business trip and that he would be gone for a few days. I cried in silence when I heard that. He never told me he'd be gone.
So there I was, disappointed and bitter again, concluding that nothing has changed between me and my father. Angry and hurt, I completely focussed on my recovery and started sitting up and walking around long before I was allowed to.
"Be careful, Vi. You're not supposed to be out of bed right now." Erasa whined when she watched me move around the room like an old woman with a broken hip. I growled in response.
Erasa was with me every day. She visited me in the mornings and the afternoons, before and after school. She came to see how I was doing and told everyone how I was doing. Sometimes she brought Sharpener, but that was not a success, unsurprisingly. Most of the time I was annoyed by him and I wished he was gone for the rest of it. But I did appreciate their concern.
"I'm going to school tomorrow." I muttered as I tried to walk to the TV and back.
"Don't be silly, it's too early." Erasa protested as she absently switched channels but never took her eyes off me, afraid I might fall.
"I've been lying in bed for almost two weeks. If I stay in bed any longer I think my muscles will deteriorate. I won't be able to walk. And then I have to stay in bed for the rest of my life."
I reached the TV and took a breath as I leaned on it.
Erasa sighed. "You're stubborn."
"And you're whining." I countered. Erasa was about to open her mouth when her eyes fell on the TV.
At first I thought it was a lame rip-off of a Batman movie. There was a guy in a funny suit and a helmet who was fighting guys who were supposedly robbing a back. Not interesting, so I turned my head to Erasa again…
… Until I heard the unmistakable tune of a news bulletin.
"Who this mysterious masked man is, is still unknown. But fact is that he single-handedly caught one of the most notorious Satan City criminals, Rob Bank, and his henchmen in a fight, apparently proving to be much more effective than the Satan City Police Department and also baffling bystanders as they watched the scene. Here is a video made by a witness on his cell phone. The images might be blurry."
What I saw the next moment was unbelievable. The 'mysterious masked man' seemed to dodge bullets. He disappeared and appeared out of nothing. He produced strange balls of light. He was incredibly fast. He was… he was…
"What seems to be a cheap movie is entirely authentic according to experts. The head of Satan City Police Department has confirmed that, although the video shows a scene he calls 'completely out of this world', it is ' most likely the thing that happened."
The news tuned to an interview with Police Commissioner Brown.
"I am the first to classify these images as false if I could, but fact is that, however out of this world it may be, the images have to be real. Whoever this guy is, he did deliver us Rob Bank, one of the most searched-for criminals of our city. And I can tell you, that is not an easy job. We have been trying to catch him for years. So what happened on that video, how unreal it may be, is most likely the thing that happened."
"What are you going to do with the masked man now, Commissioner?"
"Well, he's taken law into his own hands. Of course we are thankful for his contribution in making this city a better place, but any repetition of today will not go unpunished. It is dangerous and irresponsible and might this happen again there will be consequences for this masked man.
The news tuned to the studio again, while my disbelief grew with every second I kept watching.
"Now that this masked man appeared, making our streets safer with his unbelievable abilities, the question rises: what will happen with Videl Satan if the masked fighter makes another appearance? Videl Satan, our beloved crime fighter in service of the Satan City Police Department, has been recovering from the shooting at a kindergarten two weeks ago of which she was a victim. Now that this masked man introduced himself for the first time, will he mean serious competition for our city's beloved protector?"
As if Erasa could read my mind, she quickly turned off the TV and the next moment I was staring at a black screen, pondering about the news I just heard.
"Videl?" Erasa asked, a hint of concern in her voice. I didn't respond. I started walking around again, as if the news didn't worry me at all.
"It's just a goon, Erasa." I tried to assure her, unconvincingly for myself. "It's just one of those guys who wants his fifteen minutes of fame. In a week everyone will have forgotten him. It's not like this one thing means he is some sort of second protector of Satan City. He probably won't show his face again, because if he does the police will try to catch him. What he's done is against the law."
"And that video was very blurry. A masked hero with superpowers, c'mon! Alright, he's caught that criminal, but I bet it was just dumb luck. Have you ever heard about a superhero with amazing strength, unbelievable speed and awesome abilities, aside from superheroes in comic books or in movies? It doesn't exist. I don't know why there's such a fuss about it.
"Don't 'Videl' me!"
Erasa looked at me concerned from the other side of the room and I immediately regretted my harsh tone.
"You're right." She said, trying to sound as though she was brushing off that masked dude. "In a week everyone will have forgotten him."
I know she was lying and that she was saying that in an attempt to comfort me, and I realised I should be very lucky with a friend like Erasa. She walked over to me and lay her hand over my shoulder.
"Now, moving on and let's get you moving again." She sounded genuinely cheerful. It made me smile.
"Yes, let's." I replied, sounding as though I didn't care about the news I just heard at all. But in my head, one particular line kept repeating itself over and over again.
Now that this masked man introduced himself for the first time, will he mean serious competition for our city's beloved protector?
Next day people were surprised to see me at school so soon. Even though I still had difficulty walking and the doctors strongly tried to discourage me from leaving my bed, I went anyway. I didn't know what I found more annoying: all the people staring at me or all the people asking me how I was.
Luckily Erasa never left my side. Ever since the news bulletin and the appearance of the 'masked man', she had been very supportive and she never tried to discourage me from going. I guess she knew that now, after that masked dude caught that criminal, I was more determined than ever to get back to my old life again, to school… and to crime fighting. Maybe she knew that despite my efforts to brush him off as a one-day fly, I felt threatened by the dude. Even though I never uttered it to anyone, I was afraid that he might take my position as the city's protector.
The whole day, Erasa told people to back off as I made my way from one class to the other. In class I only had to deal with the stares of people as Erasa specifically asked the teachers not to give me any more attention than the other students. She didn't want any public interrogation by the teachers in front of the entire class and I was relieved that they listened to her.
During lunch break, when Sharpener joined us and cracked his knuckles at anyone who came too close to me, I didn't have to cope with whining people asking me how I was. After half a day, they got the message. Nevertheless, everyone seemed to like my table a lot, since the whole school made sure they walked past me once or twice at least. It was during lunch break when he walked past me too, staring at me like all the other people around me. Gohan.
When my eyes met his I immediately looked away. From the corner of my eyes I saw him throw something in the trash can and walk to his seat again. I knew that this particular trash can wasn't the closest one to his seat and I understood that he just wanted to see if it was true, that Videl Satan had really returned to school again. I sighed.
Suddenly I remembered that vague dream I had about him. I was naked, everyone was laughing at me and he came to me and covered me with a towel. It felt nice. That is, before he snapped my neck and killed me.
I thought about the day I first met him. He told me he killed his father. I didn't believe him, and refused to believe it until this day. But still, what did that dream mean then? Was it trying to warn me? Was I next? Or was it just a reflection of that eventful day that I met him?
As he walked away with his back towards me I followed him with his eyes. Erasa caught me watching him. I quickly looked away when I noticed she saw it.
"He's been asking about you." She muttered softly so Sharpener, who was currently giving people his look of death, couldn't hear it.
"Who?" I asked innocently, as if I didn't know what she was talking about. Erasa rolled her eyes and nodded at Gohan.
"I think he was concerned about you." She continued.
I didn't want to talk about it, but it was nice to hear that he's been thinking about me. I rose from my chair and grabbed my plate of half-eaten food.
"I'm going to class." I announced.
Erasa nodded. "Do you want me to come with you?"
"It's Latin. You don't take Latin." I said as I was about to walk away with the plate. Erasa rose too and took the plate from me.
"I'll take this. See you after school?"
Maybe I was kind of snappy, but I wanted to be alone at that moment. Don't get me wrong, I was happy with Erasa as a friend and thankful for all that she had done for me that day, but I didn't want to talk to her about Gohan. I saw them together the first day of school, during lunch, chatting as though their lives depended on it. I wondered how good friends they had become during my absence and I started to feel uneasy with the thought of them being very good friends. It wasn't a secret she liked him, but did he like her too?
I didn't want to think about it. Nor did I want to wonder what they discussed together. And if they talked every day.
When I entered the classroom no one was there. I dragged myself to my usual seat and dumped my bag on the seat next to me. I should have enjoyed that moment of complete solitude, looking through the window at the people on the schoolyard, but my mind was too much on the Gohan-Erasa issue. I didn't want to admit it, but putting the two together in my thoughts gave me a feeling I hardly ever felt before. A stinging feeling of uneasiness that just wouldn't go away, no matter how much I tried to think of something else. It made me feel…
Then, all of a sudden, in a moment that seemed like a déjà-vu, I heard his voice.
"Is this seat taken?"
I whirled my head and saw him in all his handsome glory. He looked just the same as two weeks ago, when I first met him, and just like that day a feeling of warmth entered my body and defeated the uneasy feeling I felt before. It took me ages to respond, but eventually I grabbed my bag and emptied the seat next to me. He sat down. I was nervous.
Why did he come and sit next to me? In a classroom where all the seats were empty? Couldn't he have picked another seat? Why next to me? Those questions raced through my head as he shifted in his chair. His long legs reached the chair in front of him.
"How've you been?" He asked after a while. I felt he was nervous too.
I shrugged and tried to act like a normal human being. "It was all over the news. I've been strapped to bed for the last couple of weeks."
"Yes, I saw it." He replied. "On the news, I mean."
"Yes, well… You weren't the only one." I said bitterly.
"I'm sorry about that."
"You know… It must be difficult, having the whole world watching you."
I didn't know what to say. When I looked in his eyes I saw compassion and warmth. I smiled, despite myself.
"Yes. It is, actually." I watched his face and wondered why I always seemed to be so frank with him. I guess that's how it goes with people who are sincere in everything they do and say. They force other people to be sincere as well.
"I was worried about you." He continued. I may be wrong, but I thought I saw a slight shade of pink on his cheeks. "When I heard you were shot…"
He laughed nervously and didn't end his sentence.
"I'm hard to get rid of." I joked.
He smiled. "Apparently. So are you still going on with crime fighting?"
"Of course. Why wouldn't I?"
He looked at me slightly surprised. "You could have been dead."
I pretended I couldn't care less. "I've been in crazier situations."
"Were you ever so close to dying before than as you were two weeks ago?"
I swallowed. "No. I guess this was the closest to dying."
He looked at me significantly, but he didn't say anything. I could tell he didn't approve.
"It's part of the job. I have a dangerous, risky job. But it makes the city better." I said, somehow trying to justify my decision in going on with crime fighting.
"Isn't that the job of the police?" He countered. I got a bit annoyed.
"I am the police."
I think he knew I was sort of irritated by him and his questions that gave me the feeling that he clearly didn't agree with me.
"I'm sorry." He muttered. "I don't want you to get hurt."
I looked into his eyes and saw that he really meant it. He was so genuine in everything, so sincere. I couldn't imagine that he'd ever lie. My irritation ebbed away and made place for that funny, typical feeling I got every time I looked into his eyes. He smiled crookedly and a warmth washed all over me. I wished we could have been alone like this for some more time, but the other students entered the classroom.
As I was being gawked at by practically everyone, the moment between Gohan and me was gone. I sighed disappointed as I grabbed my bag and pulled my books out of them. He did the same and for a while we didn't speak to each other, since the teacher entered the classroom and started his class.
It would have been interesting, if I didn't pay so much attention to the fact that Gohan was sitting not a foot away from me. He didn't want me to get hurt. I constantly thought about it. It was insane. How could I act so strangely when Gohan was around me?
The class was one blur. I didn't remember anything of it in the end. When the bell rang and school was over, I turned to Gohan. I wanted to say something, but I didn't know what. He looked at me too. I became shy under his gaze.
"Thank you." I muttered stupidly. I didn't understand why I said thank you, and I believe he didn't either, but before I could explain myself and give him the impression that I was not a complete idiot, Erasa was already behind me.
"Ready to go home?" She asked cheerfully. I didn't know how she got here so soon, but I resented it. For the second time that day, I wished she wasn't there.
"Yes." I said and I pulled myself to my feet.
"Can I help?" Gohan asked as he watched me getting from my chair with difficulty.
"No, that's alright." I said. I looked at him apologetically. "I'll-eh… see you around, okay?"
He nodded and before I knew it Erasa was already dragging me through the hallway.
"You were sitting next to Gohan!" She exclaimed at such a volume that I'm sure he heard.
"Yeah. I know." I muttered, embarrassed.
"Are you friends then?"
"Yes. Yes, I think were are. Let's go home."
And we went home. Erasa was chatting about something but I wasn't listening. Gohan and I friends? Yes, maybe so. But for the first time I caught myself with a thought that made me flush, worried and angry with myself at the same time…
… The thought of being more than friends.