It didn’t matter, really. I had already accepted that I was meant to be single. I had to be. I was some kind of genetic freak, and that meant that I should be alone. I knew that and I knew that April and I were not a good match. We fought a lot, we didn’t really get along except in small patches, and—most importantly—she didn’t believe me about what I could do. That meant that we would never get anywhere. She thought I was a liar. And these feelings—they were all because of Larabee’s pills.
I wasn’t in love. I was just… thinking. Thinking about what could have been. It wouldn’t have been anything, though. This was April I was talking about here.
Oh, yeah, and it was me. That said it all, didn’t it?
“You have to stop moaning and carrying on like this, Clayton. It’s not healthy.”
“I am not moaning and carrying on,” Clayton protested. He had been watching superhero movies all day and decided that he was way too close to the whiny level of the so-called “emo” Spiderman or the teenage Rogue. He should be more like Captain America—not the over-exaggerated hero thing. That was kind of annoying, really—but the crap that happened to him—at the end, at least, really sucked, and he took it rather well.
Clayton never took anything well. If his story was made into a movie, people would throw tomatoes at the screen because he was that annoying. He’d be like that one side-kick of Batman’s that everyone hated and was glad to see die.
“Yes, you are,” Larabee insisted. He pointed to Clay’s clothes. “You haven’t gotten out of your pajamas all weekend. And your pajamas are not ones that we were able to change, so even though you’ve shifted into a teenager and an old man and a toddler, you never even noticed. You’re moping. The side effect is definitely over. You’re just moping now. A poor lovesick teenager.”
Clay took a look at his hand. He was not a teenager at the moment. “Shut up, Larabee. You made this stupid thing—I mean, you did the stupid pill with the stupid side effect—not once, not twice, but three times, at least. If I’m moping, it’s because I’m back here. I wanted to be out of here, you know that. I wanted things to change.”
“You have to stop thinking that everything else is going to change. You need to change you. And clearly that hasn’t happened. You’re still moping. Look, you don’t even know that April is back with that guy. Why not try talking to her instead of spending all day in your pajamas?”
“I’m not going to call her. April and I don’t have that kind of relationship.”
“Then shower and go out to the diner. Get yourself one of those gummy bear sundaes you love so much and wait around for her to show up. You know it can’t be that bad. At least you’d have gummy bears instead of smelly pajamas.”
Clayton lifted his shirt and winced. Still, he couldn’t resist looking at the other man. “You know that this doesn’t even compare to you on a good day, right?”
“You’re still mean, you know that, Clayton?”
Clay smiled. He was actually kind of proud of that. After what Larabee had done with the experiments and side effects thereof, there were worse things that Clayton could do to the man than be a little insulting, a little mean every once and a while. “Fine. I’m going to shower and then I will go out. You can stay here. And so help me, if you show up and say there are more side effects heading my way, I will hurt you.”
“Fair enough. Just stop moping.”
“So… seat open or taken?”
April looked up from her milkshake, stirring the straw absently. She shook her head, and Clayton picked up his gummy bear from the top, munching on it while she took a moment to focus. He wasn’t sure what was with her today—she seemed distracted—and he wouldn’t know what to do about it, either. “I mean, no, it’s not taken.”
“I can go if you want. I’m just… Larabee kicked me out—not permanently, but I will still be working toward moving out—and so I figured I’d get a sundae since I have nothing better to do on a day off from school and work. You?”
She sighed. “Being nostalgic again. I wish there were simple answers to all the questions.”
Clayton sat down, looking at her. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, just… the usual drama, you know,” she answered, shaking her head. She reached for one of his gummy bears and bit its head off, sighing again. “I should hate you for starting that with me. Now I can’t stop.”
He smiled. He wasn’t going to apologize for that. He still believed it was the best and the only way to eat gummy bears. “Maybe I could help you answer the questions. Sometimes talking it out works. Not that I know about that all that much.”
“I wish I could ask my mother,” April said, toying with the chain around her neck. “Sorry. It’s nothing. What about you?”
Clayton could tell that whatever it was, it definitely was not nothing. She wasn’t going to tell him, though. That much was also clear. “Oh, just the usual. Should be finishing up my degree shortly, and then I have to see if I get to keep my job or if I’ll have to find another one. Boring. Mundane. I actually kind of like that. My life is usually a lot worse.”
April shook her head. “It’s not as bad as you think.”
“So Larabee keeps telling me, but he doesn’t wear pants, so I don’t think his opinion counts for much.”
“What about your brother?”
“I don’t have a brother. At least not that I know about.”
“Yes, you do. I met him, remember?”
Clayton shook his head. Why was she still like this? She couldn’t accept it, could she? “I don’t. I know you don’t believe that, but it was me. Only me. I guess I should go, then. I can’t keep going over this with you again and again.”
“I don’t usually leave my house until after I’ve had a random shift—not if I have a choice about it—meaning that once again, I can’t prove anything to you for another… ten minutes, probably, but I don’t want to fight about it, either.”
“You’re not really leaving. You haven’t had half your sundae yet.”
“I don’t want it anymore,” he said, pushing it to her side of the table. She tried to shake her head, but he didn’t want to do this. No more fighting. Let her go back to Brady. He didn’t need the hassle, and he didn’t need a girlfriend who wouldn’t believe him.
“Why do I get the feeling we’re not talking about your sundae?”
Clay shook his head. “I don’t know. You’re just… How can you be so insightful half the time and completely miss it the rest of the time? Why is that?”
“Is this about the impossible superhero thing? Again? Clayton, I—You know, if you could just let that go and stop making up the stories—”
“And that’s always going to be the thing that keeps us from ever getting anywhere, isn’t it? Get it through your head, April. It’s not a story, not for me. If you can’t see that…” Clay trailed off, not sure he even knew what to say. He couldn’t ever be with her if she wouldn’t believe him, and he didn’t want to admit how much he actually wanted to be with her. “Go back to Brady. Have a good life. We don’t ever have to see each other again.”
“Hey, don’t be like that—”
“This is who I am, April. I am a man with a freakish ability and crazy roommate who thinks I can be a superhero. I don’t know about that, but I know that the ability isn’t going away. Sorry,” he shrugged and turned to leave.