Chapter 1: A Day Unlike Any Other
The day that changed my life, as cliché as it sounds, started off like any other day of my life.
I awoke to the sound of my alarm clock ringing and though I wanted to slam my hand down on it, I couldn't cause I'd already hit the snooze button beforehand and I knew I had to get up. So I dragged myself out of bed, rubbing my eyes as I did so and made my way over to the closet to get a clean set of clothes.
I may be 'nerdy' but I don't have to dress like one as I am not one to subject myself to typical high school stereotypes. Though that also doesn't mean I dress 'fashionably' either. It's mostly comfort I'm looking for.
So after grabbing a pair of regular old blue jeans and baggy hoodie I made my way down the stairs, grabbing my knapsack on my way out and headed down the stairs.
My awesome aunt and uncle were sitting at the table and drinking coffee and eating breakfast.
Uncle Ben looked up from his mug and smiled. "Hey sleepy head, nice of you to join us."
I grinned softly as I took my place at the table. "I know; I slept like a rock." I replied putting a pancake on my plate and grabbing the syrup bottle. I really couldn't eat because I needed to head out soon to catch the bus with my Girl Next Door type of neighbour. Although she is much prettier than your average girl next door, but everything else fits.
Oh, did I also forget to mention I'm a huge TV Tropes geek as well as a regular geek? Yeah, I sprout off on the tropes at the most random types, but if something fits, I can't help myself but try to trope it.
And to add to Mary Jane's Girl Next Door status, she's also a Green-Eyed Redhead, though if I get my way, I'm still hoping to invoke the Romantic-Two Girl Friendship with her someday but no such luck so far.
Heh, I guess I'm not only a Bi the Way, but also an Unlucky Childhood Friend, although there is still plenty of fish in the sea, but MJ is the only one who never flat out rejected me, so that always made me hold out hope for her, as reaching as it may be.
After clearing my plate, I helped Aunt May with the dishes and kissed her and Uncle Ben's cheeks as I made my way to the door. "I'll see you guys later, I love you!"
"Love you too, Penny!" They both chimed back and it echoed as I closed the door behind me.
I smiled to myself, the expression only briefly fading as I remembered that I only had such great guardians because my parents were dead. They'd been dead since I was 2, so I don't remember what they were like, but my aunt and uncle told me that they were scientists apparently and they died in a plane crash accident.
I shook my head of my thoughts as I heard the door open to the neighbours and saw Mary Jane walk out. I know it was stupid and all, but every time I saw her each morning, I couldn't help but be amazed. Her long red hair swayed with each step and her dazzling green eyes locked on mine, lighting up on sight making my knees feel weak.
"Hi Penny, heading out to the bus too?" she asked.
Take a deep breath Parker and answer her. "Uh, yeah." I replied and winced at the high pitched tone. Why was it every time MJ was around I turned into this? It was so embarrassing. I cleared my throat loudly before I continued to talk. "I mean, yeah." I said more smoothly.
Mary Jane raised a brow, a smile quirking at the corner of her lips. "Well let's go then." She said holding out her arm and I quickly sprinted over and looped my arm through hers as we made our way down the sidewalk.
"So, will you go out with me?" I asked suddenly.
"You know I won't." Mary Jane replied playfully.
I pouted at her. "I'll wear you down one of these days."
"But it won't be today." MJ retorted breezily.
I couldn't keep my pouty face up and giggled. I'd asked Mary Jane out so many times in the past that now the question just seemed mandatory. She knew that I had stopped meaning it, even though I still thought she was the most beautiful girl I've ever known, and she had played along to humor me.
It was only the times that I was really asking that she would give me a serious answer.
It was sort of a comfort really as with MJ I could feel like I can be myself, though my former self-described tropes still stand as I do have a crush on my best and only friend, I've just had a hard time accepting a friend is all she sees me as. Sigh, being the Unlucky Childhood Friend is never easy.
We unlocked arms as the bus pulled up to the curb since we couldn't get onto the vehicle at the same time, so I lagged back and followed her up the steps and we took our seats in an empty spot, with me getting a paper ball thrown at my head. I kept in my sigh; me being bi was only part of reason for the teasing and bullying, the rest of it doing with the fact everyone thinks because I'm 'so smart' that I'm a pretentious bitch.
I don't refute the fact that I can be a bitch when I'm angry enough, but other than that I'm more like a Sugar and Ice Girl; nice and sweet when I want to be, and mean and cold at all other times with a healthy dose of Deadpan Snarker mixed in.
…I'm also starting to see why the other students might think I'm pretentious.
But oh well that's not my problem.
When the bus came to a stop, I waited until the other students got off first to avoid anyone trying to trip me up like they'd done before and only then did I get up from spot, MJ getting up too and we made our way down the aisle and down the steps. I stared up at the square building and we both made our way into the school.
"So, where are you on this whole play thing you're drama teacher is doing?" I questioned as I knew MJ had a big dream of making it as an actress and I took polite interest in her dream.
Mary Jane noticeably brightened up. "Mr. Beck is really stoked, as he keeps telling us about how it's going to be the best play ever. The sign-up sheet is supposed to be put on the bulletin board next week; you should totally sign up and we can be in the play together!"
"Two problems with that," I said lifting up one finger, "one; I might not be cast in the play," I held up the second finger, "and two; I'm so not acting material."
"You've never tried it before, so what if you threw up on Sally's shoes back in the 2nd grade play?" Mary Jane questioned.
"That isn't helping." I deadpanned. Nor did it earn me any points with Sally as she hadn't forgiven me though I apologized profusely for it back then. "But," I added when MJ looked like she still was going to try and talk me into it, "I'll at least try."
"That's cool." MJ said, though there was a smile on her face she was failing to keep back. "Well, this is my stop." She said as we halted at her locker and I nodded before moving on to my own at the end of the hall.
It didn't help that we didn't have any classes together until third and lunch if you counted that, and then we were separated for the rest of the day. Although, my science class got the last few classes off as we were going on a field trip to OsCorp, but even that didn't help with the fact I'll be spending the time there with half my tormentors.
Way to rain on my parade; but maybe they'd skip, there's always that.
After I made my way to first period English, I made sure to take my seat in the back, so that way if anyone tries anything I'll see it coming. I may be a geek, but I also have what all us geeks have; self-preservation instinct. As in staying well out of trouble, though the problem with arriving early was that other students also got there and sometimes it meant my tormentors as well.
"Well, well, if it isn't little miss smarty pants."
I didn't look up from my book. "I prefer the term 'Deadpan Snarker' as it describes me more accurately." I retorted as I looked over my English notes, only to have my notebook snatched out of my hands.
It was only then did I look up at Sally Avril, my childhood tormentor ever since that day in 2nd grade. She blonde, pretty, a cheerleader and popular, though I honestly have no idea why as she was so unpleasant to everyone. I feel the appropriate way to describe her would be as the Alpha Bitch, and The Cheerleader.
Sally flipped through the book and smirked suddenly. "Oh, is this the assignment for this week?" she asked before ripping the paper out and tore the paper in half as she let my notebook fall back on my desk. "Now miss know nothing it all's got nothing too." She laughed, her grating voice getting on my nerves.
In fact, just in case things like this ever happened I kept a backup on a memory drive I carried around my neck on a keychain. Though I firmly kept my temper in check and not blab about that since I knew she was petty enough to toss the drive down the toilet.
"Oh ha, ha." I retorted dryly. "Now if you're done…" I said waving my hand dismissively at her as I bent down on my chair to pick up the scattered pieces of my written work.
But I felt a hand grab my ponytail and yanked my head back up. I gritted my teeth to keep from crying out as that really does hurt. I'd never thought about cutting it recently because MJ said she liked my hair, and well, in long tresses it stayed, but considering that it could get grabbed all the time, I am severely thinking about cutting it off.
"Listen you, freak," My blonde enemy hissed, "you might think you're all that, but just remember who rules this school."
"How could I forget?" I drawled sarcastically as the bell rung and I pushed my glasses back up to the bridge of my nose as Sally let go out my hair and walked away with a huff. I quickly gathered up the pieces of my paper that were still on the floor and tossed the pieces into the garbage can.
As I made my way back to my seat, I felt not for the first time how MJ could stand to be around the popular kids much less be willing to call them her friends. Mary Jane was so sweet and kind while they were…well, not; though since she was a part of that crowd it gave me some hope that maybe not all of them were so bad.
Although with people like Sally, it made my opinion rather biased in that they were that bad.
I looked over at the group of students at the 'cool' table and rolled my eyes how stereotypically they were all acting. But my attention was diverted to the rest of the school dynamic as I marched in line at the cafeteria line. The popular crowd, consisting of jocks, cheerleaders and other assorted cool kids were all clumped in one row.
Other nerds were all clumped together in one corner, as were the drama club kids, and the art kids, and so on and so forth.
I didn't really fit anywhere as even other nerds tended to shun me because their 'queen' Debra Whitman was my academic rival in grades and she didn't like me because of the fact someone was just as smart as she was. We didn't even have classes together and yet she still took it personally if I managed to outdo her on one or two assignments of the classes she also took that I just happened to have at a different time of the day.
And since lunch time was the only time we ever actually saw each other, I took to avoiding her group entirely to avoid the unnecessary drama it may cause.
When it came for my turn in the line, I grabbed one of the sandwiches and I bottle of pop from the fridge and paid for it with the money I did for some of the babysitting I did. Hey, it was a quick way to earn some cash until I could get a job I could actually show up for on time.
Sixteen and I still don't have a car, or a driver's permit for that matter.
I made my way to an empty table and ignored the paper balls that got tossed my way as I wanted to continue avoiding starting something. I could take on Sally alone, but with her clique or band of other cool kids, I didn't stand a chance. Any I really didn't fit in with anyone as I was also something of a Strange Girl seeing as I tended to talk to myself at times.
That didn't mean I was crazy, just had horrible self-esteem issues beneath my otherwise 'charming' personality. Really though, I've tried to cut back on the talking to myself thing now that I was being more open with Mary Jane. It's a work in progress.
I felt a spit ball connect with my neck and wiped it away in disgust before wiping my hand on my pant leg and started eating lunch.
It was just my luck for jinxing it and saying that my tormentors were going to be absent that they were at the fieldtrip. What were they even doing here? It must be that whole 'if you don't show up you lose so and so amount of your grade.' Personally I really don't care one way or the other, but if they left I could have had a moment of piece.
Our tour guide, Dr. Covington she introduced herself as, was quite young-looking with dark hair in a tight bun and wearing jeans and a blouse under a white lab coat. I was trying to listen to the tour guide, but I couldn't with how the Big Man On Campus was standing right beside me with his girlfriend wrapped up under his arm and they were unabashedly making out with each other. The bullies weren't really the problem at the moment, but this was so I kept my attention determinedly on the Doctor.
If I moved I was going to get hassled, so either way it wasn't really good.
Harry really was the BMOC; he had the looks, athleticism, money, smarts and charm. He never bullied anyone because we were all beneath his notice, and he was also quite smug, that being the only flaw I could see. His girlfriend was Gwen, and from what Mary Jane said, she sounded like a Tsundere, Type A; which meant she was hard at expressing emotions, especially around some they like.
Though from I've seen it didn't look like she was having a hard time expressing her feelings at the moment. I looked away after I realized I was peeking an knew I wasn't immune to her looks either, and could easily think she was beautiful, but no one would come close to MJ in my eyes. 'So quit staring, Parker.' I thought to myself and tuned into the doctor's speech.
"In the world there are over 32,000 species of spider, so there's quite a lot of creepy crawlies around," Dr. Covington said making the finger gestures like her hands were spiders, "all spiders are carnivorous, ravenous eaters who feed on massive quantities of protein in liquid form; usually the juices of their prey." She explained and some of the students grimaced in disgust.
Dr. Covington walked over to the first class container and gestured to the spider on the rock. "The Salticus can leap up to forty times it's body weight thanks to a proportionate muscular strength vastly greater than that of a human."
'Wow, that's strong for such a small thing.' I thought as we walked over to the next container.
"The funnel web spider, one of the deadliest spiders in the world spins an intricate funnel-shaped web whose strands have a tensile strength proportionately equal to the type if of high tension wires used in bridge buildings." Dr. Covington said.
'Okay, that's also pretty cool.' I thought.
"The crab spider spins no web to catch its prey, but it instead hunts by using a set of reflexes with nerve conduction velocities so fast some researches have speculated that it almost borders on precognition; or an early sense of awareness of danger if you will." Dr. Covington further explained. "Over five years we have experimented on using the super soldier serum notes we have and finally got positive results in these 15 genetic super spiders." She said and her tone turned excitable. "And this is just the first step, the possibilities of DNA transference is limitless…" she stopped herself and looked at us with a smile. "But please, have a look."
I finally made my way away from the happy couple totally oblivious to the tour going on and looked at the glass containers holding the spiders and I looked over each one with their intricate and exotic red and blue patterns. "That's interesting, there are only 14 spiders." I muttered to myself.
"Excuse me?" Dr. Covington questioned and I realized that she didn't know about my strange tendencies.
"Um," I cleared my throat and flushed when there were mutterings of 'freak' and 'Parker' before replying, "there are only 14."
The doctor stared at me before looking down at where I was pointing and blinked "I see, well one of the other doctors must be doing more tests on it." She said dismissively and looked at the rest of the class. "Now, if you'll just follow me…"
I straightened my back and was about to move on too when I felt something on my hair and I put my hand on the back of my neck when the feeling went there and I winced when something bit down on my neck and I slapped the thing away. I stared down at the red and blue spider on the floor, unmoving, and I felt myself go pale.
W-What…who…why would someone do this?
I carefully picked up the dead spider and looked it over, feeling horror and revulsion come over me. Was anything going to happen? I heard snickering from behind me and looked over to see Flash and Kenny snickering and I let out an angry sigh through my teeth before marching over to them and it didn't take much to figure out that one of them put the spider on my head.
"Okay, which one of you did this?" I hissed and held out the dead spider on my pale hand, the contrast of the red and blue standing out much clearly.
"I don't know what you're talking about geekette." Flash said huffing.
I narrowed my eyes up at him and gritted my teeth before spinning on my heel and storming after the class, tossing the spider on the container figuring someone would notice that it had expired. Well, I killed it but it was only an accident since it freaking bit me. I had to ask what would happen if it hypothetically happened.
I caught up with the group just as Dr. Covington was asking if any had any questioned and I raised my hand. "Yes?"
"Hypothetically, what would happen if someone got bitten by one of your spiders?" I inquired.
Dr. Covington let out a small laugh. "That could never happen because our spider cages are fool proof."
I resisted the urge to point out that no, they weren't and I had just got bitten, but that would bring upon me my other classmates thinking I'm even stranger than they think.
As it would later turn out, I was right.
I was still worried about what the bit might bring, but that took a backseat to the pain that came over me on the way back to school to catch the city bus back home. It didn't start out blindingly awful, it started out faintly annoying, like an itch you can't scratch because you don't know where it is.
The scratch soon turned to pain as I felt pinpricks running along my hands and legs, causing me to spasm as I was getting off the bus and I fell down the steps to the ground. I gritted my teeth as pain shot up my back and spread through me. I wanted nothing more than to curl up and die, but I forced myself to stand.
I ignored the stares from everyone else, who were for once not laughing at me, and made my way into the school to get my things out of my locker, trying very hard to ignore the painful pricks in my legs. I felt my vision get bleary as I made it to my locker and I wiped my brow from the sweat forming and I my breathing got heavy as I felt my chest constrict.
I fumbled with the lock, but groaned as I slid down the still closed locker and leaned my head against the door. Everything hurt, and my breathing was getting shallower. It felt like I was breathing through a straw. I closed my eyes, thinking to myself that I'd just sit here and wait for the pain to pass until I try and move.
I'm sure…it'd pass…in a few…minutes…
I awoke to a headache and I blinked my eyes to adjust to the darkened hall, disbelief setting in when I realized that I had fallen asleep inside the school. This went way past embarrassing and into mortifying; what were my aunt and uncle thinking? I hope they just grounded me and didn't ask why I was out late.
I tested out moving my arm slowly up my locker door and when there was no pain I lifted myself up and waited to let any lingering sings of vertigo pass. I unlocked my locker and grabbed my knapsack before closing it and making my way to the door, even though the door will likely be locked depending on how long I was in here for.
When I tried to push open the door, it wouldn't budge and it told me that I had been here later than I would have liked. I frowned. "Way to go Parker, you just had to fall asleep didn't you?" I hissed to myself before slamming my fists down on the door, flinching back when the glass broke and the door opened.
I stared at the scattered glass, wide-eyed before scowling to myself. "Even better Parker, you just cost the school money, now let's get out of here before you wreck things further." I said and took my own advice before hurrying out of the school and breathed out to see the cold breath to tell that it was cold enough for that to happen.
I managed to catch a late bus and waited patiently on the ride to the street corner, more than willing to walk a mere stretch of concrete to get home. I stared at my reflection in the window. I was pale; thanks to the fact I didn't like spending time outside and along with the other students thinking I was a bitch, they were also rather unnerved by the fact I was quite 'eerie.'
After losing my tan from when I was younger and spent much more time outside at recess, though still staying in the shade, the derogatory name 'Twilight' got tossed around a lot. Though I myself don't see the resemblance as I don't sparkle in the sunlight than more likely to burn easily in the sunlight.
The bus stopped and I got off the vehicle, letting out another cold breath before walking down the street and I paused when I heard voices inside and what sounded like sobbing. Something icy gripped my heart when I realized the sobbing was coming from Aunt May. I opened the door, and closed it behind me, but before I could go into the living room, Mary Jane came out and grabbed a hold of my arm, her expression gravely serious.
"Where have you been?" she questioned.
I knew this was no time to joke, but I couldn't tell her that I had fallen asleep because a blinding pain had come over me after my trip. It even sounded crazy in my head. "I was at the library; I forgot to call; what happened?"
"It's your Uncle Ben, apparently your aunt was worried about you, so she sent him out looking for you and," Mary Jane paused and looked sorrowfully at her while choking up herself, "…and he got shot."
I felt the ice grow and it felt like the world had stopped around me. My uncle, who was practically like a father to me, had gone out and gotten shot because of me? This…this was all my fault. "Is…" I gulped and forced myself to continue, "is…is he…in the hospital?"
I couldn't bring myself to considerate the alternative.
The silence from Mary Jane and the sobbing in the living room from Aunt May answered that question. I felt my legs start to give out and MJ grabbed a hold of my waist to keep me from falling to the floor. She was touching me, and if it weren't for the situation, this would be a dream come true.
But it wasn't, not by a long shot. It was a waking nightmare.
"Please tell me this is just a nightmare and I'll wake up?" I questioned even though I would get the answer I wouldn't like to hear right now and closed my eyes to get away from how the room seemed to spin around me.
"This…this is unfortunately real." Mary Jane said softly and led me over to the staircase and I sat down on the steps, gripping my knees as I breathed deeply in and out.
The icy numbness in my heart was giving way to guilt. This was my fault, wasn't it? If I hadn't gotten bitten by that stupid spider then Uncle Ben wouldn't have gone out looking for me. How could I have been so stupid? 'Yeah, how could you have been?' I thought snidely to myself.
Sometimes I really hated my brain. I glanced into the living room and saw Aunt May being comforted by her friend Anna, also Mary Jane's aunt. I winced and wondered if I could bring myself to face her.
"I can't go in there, I forgot to call, I didn't come home early enough, I…" I could've went on, but Mary Jane placed her hands on my shoulders and I stared into my eyes, but this moment was completely devoid of any of that kind of intimacy on both our parts.
"Penny, this isn't your fault." She said softly. "You didn't know this would happen."
I wanted so badly to believe that, but I just couldn't. I was the type of person who felt guilty for everything, making it eat me up inside, but I just couldn't bring myself to stop.
That didn't mean I couldn't fake what she wanted though. I smiled slightly. "I…understand that." I said quietly before clasping my hands over MJ's and taking them off my shoulders. "Thank you for being such a good friend."
Mary Jane smiled back at me, her expression still subdued since this was not a happy moment. "Go to your aunt, she needs you."
"You're right." I said in placation before rising off the steps and made my way into the living room. I tentatively sat down on Aunt May's other side and gently grabbed a hold of her shoulder. "Aunt May?"
My aunt looked up at me wildly, her blue eyes red-rimmed and for a brief moment I was scared she was going to start yelling at me for being so stupid, but instead she just pulled me into a hug and continued crying on my shoulder. "Oh Penny, this is all my fault." She sobbed.
I resisted the urge to cringe as I patted her on the back. "No, Aunt May, it isn't your fault." I said softly. 'It's mine.'
The day that changed my life, turned out to be one of the worst days of my life.
And it seemed the universe wasn't finished with me just yet.