Kari was envious. She knew Violet and her family were supers. Well, she hadn't known all along. She had once known about Jack-Jack until her memory was safely erased, but some months after that, Violet had eventually told her.
They had gotten closer as friends, and Violet found it important to tell her best friend the true reasons why she had very sudden schedule changes all the time.
"Man, it's too bad you always have to go off on heroic quests with your family all the time, right out of the blue," sighed Kari. "I mean, we hardly get to have any plans without them being whisked away by the next mission."
"Hey, it's not up to me," said Violet. "It's superhero duty. To be honest, I actually liked it better when supers were forced to stay hidden. Then we didn't have to go everywhere and do everything."
"Yeah, well, it's still too bad…you had to miss the beach party and the pool party- twice this year. I understand why, but, you do miss a lot. There was that movie night and that time when we decided to go to the park, and the shopping trip, all of which you had to cancel. And the sleepover and the-"
"Okay, okay, I get it, Kari. No need to rub it in," interrupted Violet.
"It still has some upsides. I mean, why go to a silly little movie night when you can go do more action than included in the movie itself?" Kari went on. "And why go to the park to jump off swings and stuff for fun when you can jump off planes and-"
"I get it!" Violet said. "I want us to have more time to hang out, too. But…"
Suddenly, there was the honk of a horn from a familiar van.
"I gotta go. See ya, Kari!" Violet ran from the school steps they were sitting on towards her mom's car.
"See ya, Vi!" Kari hollered.
That night, Violet had finished her homework and read an interesting article in a magazine when her computer chimed. She forced her eyes off of the intriguing read and got up and checked her email. It was from Kari.
"Hey Vi," it read. "Do you think maybe you could go skating this weekend?"
Violet typed back a reply.
"Sorry, Kari…(by the way, I just noticed it rhymed)
But I have this family assignment coming up. Nothing's 100% positive with my schedule lately."
The next morning Violet had to get up extra early and get dressed for the mission.
"Mom, do you think just this once I could skip the mission?" the teen asked hesitantly.
"What?" gasped an appalled Helen Parr.
"I promise I won't ask too often. It's just that I don't want Kari to feel like I'm going to always be unavailable…we want to go skating together. We have barely done anything but talk at school. Please, Mom? Please, Dad?" pleaded Violet as she turned to her father just sitting down.
"I'm sorry, honey, but you know how important and urgent these things are compared to skating. As supers, it's our job to use our powers to protect citizens. If we ignored that, there'd be no place left safe for skating or any other friendly activity…" Helen explained.
"But it's just me that's going to be absent. Pleeease? Just this once?" Violet insisted. "Running away to do all this makes me feel like I'm avoiding Kari…"
"No, absolutely not," said Bob firmly. "Look, Vi, I know how much friendships matter. But this is a family team. You cannot leave at a time like this. We all must make sacrifices. What if Kari's family were in jeopardy-?"
Dash interjected, "Ooh, ooh, I know! They'd win money or be totally humiliated on TV!" He cracked up at his own joke while the parents turned back to Violet.
"Vi, what if everyone, including Kari, needed to be saved or protected? Taking a little break from superhero work leaves an open gap for more threats and attacks. We are not going to risk that," Bob continued.
Violet looked down and sighed. "I guess not. I still hope we'll get to hang out sometime…" She wished she could fake feeling sick but she didn't have the same sneaky, conniving, believable faking talent as Dash.
Violet had to be dropped off early at home, as it turned out. She had been painfully bruised and possibly bleeding a little and could only walk by limping. The injury was caused by an unsuccessful attempt to sneak by invisibly…and a fairly difficult battle with not enough energy for a strong enough force field. She knew she would have to toughen and strengthen herself up soon, as well as work on thinking fast and being more alert.
"You feeling okay, Violet?" her mother asked softly and concernedly.
"Yeah, I think," Violet replied. "I just ache a little all over…and it stings kinda, too."
"Well, thank God it wasn't too serious. Nothing hospital-worth. But it does look like you wouldn't stand a chance if we put you out there again today. You'll need rest to heal."
Violet brightened. A little rest! A break! For a moment, she ignored the soreness she felt.
"Unfortunately, that means you can't skate or swim or bike with Kari in the meantime, even when we're off the superhero mission. I'm sorry, Vi. I know how much it meant to you…"Helen sighed.
Instantly, Violet's heart sank. Bummer.
"Maybe it'd be a good thing for all of us to stay with you and take care of you," Bob suggested.
"But what will we tell the agency? It's our turn and they're counting on us not to leave it," Helen inquired.
"But it's for our own daughter's good!" Bob insisted.
"Mom, Dad, it's okay," Violet said with a grin. "I don't need any more help. I'm fine on my own. The medicine from the first aid kit is enough. All I need is a rest alone. You guys can still go. I won't count it as abandonment. Like you said, supers have to make sacrifices."
"But- but this is- well, this is different!" stammered Bob. "What kind of parents would we be if we left our daughter home alone while she's hurt?"
"And what about the world being in jeopardy meaning much more than being in the company of one person?" Violet questioned. "I'll be fine, I promise."
"You go, I'll stay," Helen decided, telling her husband.
"No," Violet insisted. "Mom, you feel perfectly unscathed, right? Leaving the saving the world to the man just to watch over one teenager who you trust can take care of herself? Come one, you know we need as much from the team as possible out there."
Bob and Helen glanced at each other, unable to come up with a proper parental argument to that. It would be like contradicting themselves, they realized.
After a silent while of pondering and a deep sigh of defeat, the parents hesitantly agreed to allow Violet to stay home alone. "We'll try to be back as soon as possible," Bob reassured.
"Call us right away in emergency," Helen reminded. "Then again, chances are we couldn't answer if we were in the middle of a battle…"
"You're positively absolutely one hundred percent completely totally sure about this?" asked Bob.
"I'm still worried," Helen whispered to Bob.
"Well, hopefully supers heal faster than the average mortal," Bob said.
Just then, Kari happened to be roller-skating past their house.
"KARI!" smiled Helen, as if she were relieved to see her.
"Oh, hello Mr. and Mrs. Parr," greeted Kari. "I thought you guys were busy this weekend."
"Oh, we still are in the middle of something big," Helen said. "But Violet had to stay home, unexpectedly. She's suffered some injuries…"
"Oh, no, she didn't break anything, did she?" Kari gasped in worry and horror. "Is Vi in the emergency room? I've been there once-it's scary! Does she need surgery 'cause I know just the right-"
"No, she's not that badly hurt. But just enough to take a rest. Do you think your family would allow her to stay over your house for a while?" Helen asked with hopefulness in her tone.
Kari beamed. "That would be terrific! I'm sure they wouldn't mind. Of course, it's not as good as skating together or going to the mall, but it's still awesome to have her over after so long of having only brief conversations!"
So after a cell phone call home, Kari's parents drove there to pick up Violet. It took some assistance since Violet couldn't walk much. Violet was glad to be there.
"So," Kari whispered so her parents wouldn't hear. "How'd it happen?"
"Well, let's just say I let my guard down the slightest bit and I wasn't ready for small ambushes."
"You feel okay?"
"It's alright. I mean, supers like me need to learn to toughen up against this. It's all part of it."
"It must be tough, being a super…" Kari started.
"Okay, look, Kari. It is tough. But I'm actually lucky to get this break, even though I'm aching a bit. I'm sorry my superhero responsibilities are getting in the way of a lot of our plans. I agree with you- I don't want to be a super anymore."
"But…I want you to be."
"Okay, I was a little frustrated with how you're off doing heroic family stuff all the time, but mostly, I was jealous, to tell the truth. I was jealous because I've always wanted to be worth something important. But still, I decided I was lucky to at least know someone who's what I've always wanted to be, and…well….finding out that my best friend was a super- how much of a miracle do you want?"
"Well…maybe we need a different miracle. Not more, just different…" Violet replied. "Being a super isn't all cake and ice cream. You HAVE to go on missions whether you like it or not, and fight a lot, and, you know, make a LOT of sacrifices. With more power come more responsibilities…call me crazy but I want to be normal."
"Vi, you're probably, like, the whiniest superhero I've ever met," Kari teased.
Violet couldn't help but chuckle a little at hearing this. Maybe it was true.
"Let me know if you ever want to switch places," Kari continued. "I'd do it in a heartbeat if it were possible."
"What did I just tell you, Kari? Super life isn't easy," Violet reminded.
"So? Neither is normal life!"
"Super life means prepare for dying for other citizens, but try to survive the best you can."
"And normal life means get stuck with doing nothing better and wishing you were a hero out there- or dead."
They laughed a little.
Soon they reached Kari's house and Kari helped the limping Violet into her room. There they continued talking while Kari looked for an interesting movie to watch together or something else fun to do.
"Couldn't you take me on your missions? Just one? Please? I could be a sidekick and you'd be helping me by giving me something really cool to remember," Kari suggested.
"I don't think so…sorry. It's just that- first of all, you wouldn't last ten minutes…"
"If this is because I don't have powers, then can I ask you…don't you believe that you can be super without them? There are special heroes out there without powers!" Kari protested. "Please? I want to have an adventure…"
"No, non-supers are special, too. I never said that you have to have powers to be somebody!" Violet exclaimed. "It's just that I'd be worried about you…you wouldn't be safe."
"It's sweet that you'd care for me," Kari smiled. "But I still would love to see how it's like." She sighed. "Guess I'll never know. Except from your perspective, which, no offense, I think is more negative than the experience really is."
Gently and teasingly, Violet blushed and nudged Kari on the arm.
"That, and my father doesn't really believe in sidekicks…I told you about the encounter with the fanboy 'Incrediboy', right? I mean, the way he turned down Buddy as a little kid was wrong, but he still was concerned about Buddy's own safety…by the way, please promise me you won't end up as crushed and corrupted as Syndrome…"
"I promise. I won't hold it against you," Kari promised.
"Okay, great. Yeah, it's nothing personal, and we're not saying we're better than you…"
"I understand," said Kari, a little disappointed, but calm and accepting. "I just think you're so lucky and yet I'm shocked that you would want to give that all up."
Violet pondered about this. Kari was right…there were so many people in the world who would die for the chance to be a superhero just once. Maybe she really was lucky and needed to be thankful for being a super…still, she wondered if the normal dreaming citizens ever thought about the consequences. She decided they didn't.
That afternoon, Kari and Violet played card games and did arts and crafts and watched some good movies that balanced romance, excitement, mystery, humor, action, and true-to-life meanings. They played some video games as well (according to Kari, "ignoring the stereotype made by the public and the labels on the video game store that made them for boys only").
"I do hope you get well soon," Kari said.
"Thanks," said Violet. "But you know, once I get better it's off to the superhero routine again ASAP. And this injury doesn't hurt so bad either- I wouldn't mind having to get physically injured in order to hang out with you again."
Kari shook her head. "No, Vi. The world would be missing something without you out there fighting alongside your family. I'm okay with your schedule changes."
"You can't be ser-"
"Vi, your powers are awesome. And your powers are a gift. And your gift gives you purpose. You shouldn't waste it on just seeing me. Face it."
"But…" Violet searched her racing mind's vocabulary for the right words. "I'm not just a super, you know! That's only half of who I am. I have yet to find out who the other half is, but…it's like you said. Just having superpowers in your blood doesn't make you awesome and important just like that-"
"So you are an awesome superhero-in-training with your whole family on your side with you, able to go on the missions the rest of us normal boring kids could only dream about, and yet that's only half of you. Wow. What's there to complain about? Okay, I know, I know, it involves sacrifice and struggles and blah blah blah, but I would give up whatever potential I have in the future just to see what it's like out there as a super."
Violet was about to say "we had this conversation before" but she held her tongue. Kari was really serious about this. It was probably her last birthday wish, wish by the wishing fountain, and wish on the shooting star, and not to mention evening prayer. And yet Violet wished the opposite. Maybe they should switch places.
Both girls sighed. Kari began, "It would be utterly selfish of me to want to tear you from your superhero duties in the future. Once you get well again, don't hurt yourself. Your superhero self is, like you said, half of you. Then support that half and the other half can manage to improvise, right?"
Violet thought about it. First she tried to figure out what it meant. Then she tried to understand what made it sound like the right thing. She nodded. Kari means that I should be living up to my full potential as a super and my normal life hanging out with her can wait because it's not so urgent. How she managed to state it in a part- philosophical way is beyond me.
"But Kari, we're best friends, and I-"
"Exactly. We're best friends, so as a friend, I'm telling you that you should put the super duties first. I understand."
"Kari, you sure you don't feel left alone…?"
"Yes. Friends have to make sacrifices."
Violet beamed back at Kari.
"You know, maybe it would be a good idea if I invited you to our superhero training with workouts and other exercises," Violet suggested. "You could help in a way…"
"Just don't get too show-off-y at P.E. in school once you've gotten unbelievably active," Kari said.
Violet giggled. "Don't worry, I'll keep it low profile."
"Then I like that idea," Kari replied.
"Terrific," Violet commented happily. Later that day, Vi pondered on Kari's words. Kari may not have superhero blood, but as an encouraging, supportive best friend, she was a super in her own way.