A Just Peachy Revenge

by Rob Morris

People ask me, and ask me, and no answer ever seems to satisfy them.

Sae, they ask-why did you change? Especially as regarded Momo? I mean, could you have been any more out to destroy her?

I guess over the years these stories get repeated, though to my mind not often enough as warnings and cautions. The girls who come up to me-who I guess now will always come up to me-only want to know how I pulled it off, and finally, again, why I changed. If answering these questions is the only long-term penance I ever face, then I got off light, but it still annoys me.

They are never satisfied with the simple answers. That I didn't want to face a life alone, with a reputation of being an unstable viper you just stepped around. That I really thought of Momo as a friend, but was handling my inadequacy when up against her in the worst way a Human can. So after all of those and their variants are exhausted, I point to that day, right before Momo's graduation. If the ones I'm talking to are that far gone, I don't even bother pointing out again how my scheming helped get me left back. The ones who seek me out never seem the grade-oriented type. Karma much, anyone?

She didn't have her usual cute purse, but a large one, almost Granma-esque. I decided I would refrain from commenting, what with her forgiveness a recent thing. If I had said anything, it would be gentle and in super-private, and only after I heard others' whispers. I was still a good year away from really learning the hard lessons of my life, but no one I know is so stupid as to deliberately blow themselves up-at least without a serious plan, and I was out of those.

YEARS BEFORE...

"Umm-Momo?"

The tall athletic girl was walking at a brisk pace, her restored confidence almost a swagger.

"Yes?"

"I-"

"Spit it out, Sae-this isn't another apology, is it?"

There was a definite tone in Momo's voice that said, despite forgiveness tendered after she repaired some of her own damage with Momo and Kairi, another apology would remind of her past wrongs without reducing them one wit.

"No-look-we shouldn't walk here. Let's cut through the outside path."

Momo turned and looked at her.

"Lemme guess-a prank you didn't have time to call off?"

"No! It's just that-well-Kairi's little stalker fan club kind of claims these corridors as their own. I figured you'd want to avoid them."

Momo smiled, and it was so fulsome a smile Sae had to fight off her resentful instincts despite knowing better.

"Nope! But thanks for being concerned. I just want to give them the chance I gave you. Forgive and forget."

Sae moved in front of her.

"I-I like to think I'm smart enough to know when to stop. Momo, they never do. I only whispered in their ear. All the rest was them, and if I regretted nothing else, dealing with those three purebred psychos would still be in there."

Momo gently but firmly pushed her aside.

"Good to know you're that smart, Sae. Time to spread the wisdom-by way of a lesson."

Sae tried her best-her actual honest best-to again stop her sometime friend.

"I'm not dodging responsibility this time, Momo. But my words to them aside-they are really really bad news."

Momo spotted her quarry just beyond them.

"Keep out of sight, Sae. But watch the lesson. Then spread the word."

Sae got the sick feeling she used to only get once in a very long while. The feeling that something she had started had traveled far beyond either amusement or her ability to stop. As Momo left her at her hidden remove, Sae whispered.

"I'll hire someone to slash their faces for you, Momo. Worse if they hurt you too bad."

Sae's concerns were genuine, her vow still indicative of how far she had to go, and her concerns? Well, they would prove misplaced. The lesson began.

"What are you doing here, bitch?"

"From the size of that purse, I'd say she's carrying goodies for Grandma."

Before the third could respond, Momo cut her off at the knees.

"Oooh. And the big bad wolves will grab it from me? Not advisable. Girls, I gave Sae her chance, now I'm giving you yours. Apologize."

Sae could feel their laughter, and wondered if Momo had any idea what she was doing, or if the schemes she was once so proud of had really driven her friend insane.

"What would we have to apologize for?"

"I say we get her on her knees and get an apology of our own!"

The one girl was on heels, and seemed almost taller than Momo. Momo pushed her right back with the others as she moved to enact her threat.

"Back off, air support. As to what and why you have to apologize-and you do-you three hellcats held me by the pool, at first threatening to cut off my hair, and then deciding to burn it off-but dumping me in the pool if it got too bad. You cornered me in private. I'm calling you out in public."

"So you can run for help?"

Momo opened her large purse.

"No-so you can."

One of them revealed a knife, but Momo revealed a gasoline container.

"Remember what the Tin Man said to Dorothy, ladies? Oil Can."

Dumping out the contents over her three opponents, Momo next revealed a cigarette lighter. The knife-holder dropped her weapon and likely control over her bladder as her rear pants grew heavier.

"Now-about that apology?"

Sae watched in a mix of horror and wonder. She wondered if she would stop Momo, if Momo didn't stop herself.

"We're-we're sorry!"

All arrogance and pride had left their voices. Only fear remained.

"It was all Sae's idea!"

"Yeah! Well-she told us it would be a good idea to corner you-and we came up with the rest-damn you, you have Kairi! What more do you want?"

The leader was a mass of shaking tears.

"We'll strip! We'll run around the school-even let the super-nerds touch us-anywhere you want!"

"Pick a nerd-we'll do him right by the principal's office!"

"Just-just put out that lighter! Please?"

Momo smiled.

"Is it warm in here?"

Momo dropped the lit lighter on the ground, near the liquid.

"GOD NO!"

It sparked and sputtered out. Momo looked at the stunned mini-gang.

"Apple cider plus brown food coloring. Your imagination did the rest."

The alpha/leader ran at her in a rage, her words incoherent and rambling.

"-"

Casually, Momo sidestepped and tripped her. Picking her up, she threw her back at the others.

"Bring five of your friends. Bring fifty of your friends. And when you do-"

She moved in, shoving each of the stunned delinquents against the lockers they once thought their kingdom, holding the middle one fast with her knee alone.

"-make sure they all have supplemental medical insurance. Because what I'll do to you then-no government program will be willing to pay for. Got me?"

"Yes!"

"Yes!"

"Yes! That was really-just apple cider?"

Momo let them go, backed off and shrugged.

"Well-it *used* to be apple cider. Before I drank it, and then-you know. We're nothing to each other now, girls. We don't know each other, and we never met. Keep it that way."

Their reps forever ruined, the three-very much in the same boat as Sae-sought other schools for their next year. The removal of those headaches alone convinced the principal to let Momo still participate in her graduation ceremony. Kairi was not entirely happy, but understood why his former admirers needed this. Some years later, Toji just laughed and regretted not knowing the fruits of all of Sae's schemes at the time. At that moment, though, Momo passed by a stunned Sae at her hiding spot.

"Here endeth the lesson."

THE PRESENT

That one always makes those giggling young idiots pause. Some of them even get right away what it took me months to get. Momo's lesson was, if anything, aimed more at me than at those little fools. That lesson could apply to anyone you decide it might be fun or beneficial to torment.

Momo is my friend now, for a long time, and she even helped one of those ladies out when her daughter needed a break on a prom dress from a shop Momo owns. People change, if they have brains enough to do so and wisdom enough to use those brains. Momo still outdoes me on nearly every front you could ever name, and on occasion, the little monster comes forward in me, thinking of wounded gazelles and all that nonsense. But I win out by showing that idiot-child the last lesson, the one past friendship and forgiveness, the hard practical one about screwing with Momo Adachi.

Just because she doesn't like to strike back, that doesn't mean she couldn't.