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Mondays were never good for Kris anymore, not after pulling that darn fire alarm, and super gluing them all shut. It had been a while since she had had a recess and or a lunch break all too her own freedom where she could be rolling in mud or heaving dodged balls. Now, she was forced to help out the janitors with cleaning during her breaks. Yep, ever since she pulled the fire alarm, Kris was punished for her lack of better judgment. Super gluing them shut, sealed her fate. Ella had known that it had been about a good couple of months since the incident so maybe a day off wouldn’t be too bad.
It was the middle of the afternoon and Kris had already spent her recess doing some heavy gardening with the custodial staff; planting seeds all over the lawn, and heaving fertilizer.
“Ok kids, it’s time for lunch. Grab your snack sacks and head outside,” Ella sweetly informed.
Kris took a deep sigh, grabbed her lunch box and groggily marched her way over to Ella’s desk. Ella was already doing some quick paperwork and didn’t seem like she wanted to be bothered but Kris knew Ella had something already prepared for her to do.
She always does.
“Ok, Ms. Chen, I’m ready. Where do you want me this time? But I have to warn you, I think I pulled a muscle from recess!” Kris exaggerated as she tried to weasel her way out of hard labor.
“Kris relax, I’m not going to make you do anything,” Ella rolled her eyes as she continued her paperwork.
“So I have to spend lunch here?” Kris groaned.
“No,” Ella shook her head lightly.
“Then what do I have to do?” Kris winced.
“Nothing,” Ella replied. “Go to lunch.”
“…Wait that’s it,” Kris frowned. “Nothing? Just go to lunch? You mean go outside? To the cafeteria? To the playground? You do know that’s where I can play right??”
Ella gave a deep sigh and let out a small smile.
“I’m giving you permission to go out and play with your friends. You have been working off this punishment for months now and I realized that you’ve been doing a very good job. So go on. Have some fun, but I hope you learned your lesson, dear.”
“Don’t pull fire alarms for dumb reasons,” Kris proudly recited.
“Don’t act on impulse,” Ella corrected. “Really think about what your next move is or else things may come back and haunt you.”
“Got it Ms. Chen,” Kris beamed a bright smile as she was already halfway out the door.
The moment Kris stepped out into the playground she took a deep breath and stiffened her fists as if she had just won her freedom. There was an extra bounce in her step as she rushed over to her friends and greeted them with a nice, firm pat on Robbie’s back.
“Heya fellas!” she beamed greatly, sending a shock into Robbie’s now hunched back.
“Kris!” called out her friend Kyle. “How come you’re out here? Don’t you have toilets to clean?”
“No, you’re face already did that,” she retaliated back.
“HA!” Her friend Johnny laughed back; the same Johnny who called out Kyle’s name that Kris misinterpreted for ‘Fire’.
“She sure told you!”
“Whatever man,” Kyle pushed Johnny slightly.
“So what we’re you guys talking about before I got here?” Kris asked. “Why aren’t you guys playing ball?”
“Eh, a few guys over there took the last court and they don’t want to share,” Robbie pointed over to the boys over at the basketball court.
“Let me handle this,” Kris boasted with a cocky hand over their faces.
She began marching her way over to the court, ready to “handle some business”, when Ms. Chen’s words began to surface again.
“Don’t act on impulse,” she remembered.
Kris took a sigh and rolled her eyes. She didn’t want to be in trouble again so maybe this time she should really think about what she wanted to do. This made her stop half way but her friends were already following her. By the time they all reached the court, Kyle and Johnny were pushing her to talk to the boys who were playing basketball. They pushed her so far that she actually fell onto another boy who was much bigger than her.
“HEY!” the boy yelled back at her as she stood back up.
“S-sorry,” she replied, a bit scared. “Hey, my friends and I want to play too. C-can you guys share the court with us?”
The boys stopped for a second and looked at each other for an answer and then back at her. Suddenly the roar of laughter came simultaneously which really fueled her anger.
“Come on, you can’t play. You’re a girl,” the bigger kid replied.
“So,” Kris shrugged. “I have my team, you have yours. Let’s play.”
“One, two, three, four…” the bigger kid counted heads. “Nope, you guys only have 4 players. You don’t even have a team.”
“Well, fine, we’ll play four on four,” Kris continued to argue. “C’mon, no fair. You guys can’t have all the court.”
“Oh yeah, and who’s gonna kick us out?” the bigger kid threatened as his voice sounded much more serious. He stopped the game and walked over to Kris. “You?”
“Back off man!” Kyle finally came between the heated argument. “Kris can play with us. She’s so good you can’t even tell she’s a girl.”
Another roar of laughter came from the other group of boys and this time fingers came pointing and bodies were practically rolling on the floor.
“She’s not even a girl!” one boy laughed.
“Thanks a lot Kyle,” Kris growled. Kyle only shrugged apologetically. “C’mon are we playing or not.”
“Hey, you’re that girl who pulled the fire alarm!” the bigger boy continued to point. “It was so dumb! There wasn’t even a fire.”
“Stop it! Shut up!” Johnny defended. “Kris, we don’t have to play anymore.”
“How dumb could you be!?” the bigger kid continued to laugh. “You’re mom must be so embarrassed to have you.”
“HEY! Stop it or else-
“Or else what, your dad’s going to come get me? Your dad is probably stupid too for having such a dumb daughter.”
“HEY!” Johnny yelled. “Kris doesn’t even have a dad so you can’t talk about him.”
“Johnny!” Kris yelled back at him.
“What a loser!” the boy went rolling on the floor in an exaggerated manner. “You’re so dumb your dad didn’t even want you!”
“Shut up!” Kris balled up her fists readily. Her pulse was running fast and she was ready to let all of them have it, but kept it back knowing that she would be in trouble.
“C’mon Kris, you don’t have to take this. Let’s go,” Robbie tried pulling her shoulder. “You’re only going to get into more trouble if you start a fight.”
This didn’t stop the onslaught of taunts from the other side however. If anything, it fueled their laughter.
“Aw, running away are we?” the bigger boy mocked a fake tear. “Go home and run to your stupid dad.”
“Take back what you said about me and dad and I might not hurt you,” she threatened.
“Oh I’m so scared,” the kid feigned fright and brought his friends to do the exact same. “I thought he said you didn’t have a dad? Do you even know who he is?”
“YES!” she yelled back.
“Oh I know who it is!” one of the boys interrupted. “It’s the janitor! No wonder you’ve been hanging out with him so much!”
“HAHHA! The janitor! She’s going to pick up trash when she grows up!” the bigger boy slapped his knee. “Dirty girl! Dirty girl!”
“He’s not my dad!” Kris started to feel the brimming tears of anger overflowing already. “He’s not my dad!”
By this time, the anger was too much. There was a feeling of hatred, obviously, but she couldn’t do anything about it. She could only use her words but nothing could really put a stamp on it until her fist lands the first punch. But she couldn’t do it, not after what Ms. Chen had told her. Not after promising herself that she would never reveal that her father was really Superman. If they only knew! If only she could just spit it out of her then they’d really shut their mouths.
“Are you crying?” the bigger boy continued to taunt. He could tell she was. “Go home and cry; this is no place for babies!”
Kris wiped the single tear dripping down her cheek and turned around to face her friends.
“You guys are on your own,” she muttered and walked away with a head full of shame.
Kris didn’t hit him this time, but that was because there were too many things going on inside her that she felt like ripping her limps apart. She wasn’t dumb. Her father wasn’t dumb. She wasn’t dirty. Her father wasn’t the janitor. That was what she had been saying and thinking, but that doesn’t solve anything. Joe was her father, but she can’t admit that in front of everyone. So she ran to one of the far corners of the school, where the fences met and the pavement hadn’t been walked on; a perfect escape that was still on school grounds. It was there were she really cried, huddled close to the fence.
“I’m not stupid,” she mumbled under her breathe. “I don’t do stupid things. But why don’t I believe that! AH! So frustrating! I’m not stupid!”
She picked up a rock and threw it against the fence and it bounced near her foot. She picked it up again and threw it harder and it rolled up to her once again.
“And my dad…my…”
Kris quickly grabbed the rock and balled it up tightly in her fist.
“Is he really Superman? Then…why am I like this?” she choked out. With one swift throw, she rocketed that rock straight through the fence and left a deep hole in the middle of the crisscrossed metal. With much astonishment, Kris grew numb. Her rage had carried her much further than she had expected. “What is this? Am I the Hulk’s daughter?”
Kris sat back down on the ground and moped. She had no idea who her father was even though she felt strongly that there was a Superman waiting for her. He’s out there, but has she found him yet? Was it really Joe? If it was, why not just tell her in the first place. Family is more important than anything else in the world, she thought. There isn’t a secret big enough to separate blood. So why doesn’t he want to tell her?
“There’s not enough rocks…” she grumbled.
Suddenly a voice sounded not too far away.
“Hey!” Robbie called out. “Kris, are you ok?”
“Eh…” she grimaced her face and laid on the ground. “I’ve been better.”
“That guy was a real jerk, so you shouldn’t think too much about what he said,” Robbie comforted as he sat next to her.
“Besides, he left with his friends so we can take the court now. Johnny and Kyle are holding it open for us.”
“Why did they suddenly leave? Did they feel bad?” Kris anxiously snapped back in an upright position.
“Nah, he’s got some new fireworks from his big brother for the Formal Ball of Cianhjen Harbor so I heard he’s going to light it up soon in the back of the school.”
“But, we’re not allowed to have them at school,” Kris frowned. “Even I’m not stupid enou…I’m not crazy enough to bring fireworks to school. That’s just dangerous. What if it lands on the grass and starts a fire? I just fertilized it this morning! If it hits a pipe we’re all doomed too! What is his problem?!”
“Wow, I didn’t know you were so worried about the school. It’s just a couple little firecrackers,” Robbie shrugged casually. “It sounds pretty cool to me.”
“Of course I’m worried Robbie!” Kris screamed. “You know how much of my blood, sweat and tears went into fixing up this dump! This school is like my left arm! How would you feel if someone wanted to blow up a part of your arm?”
“You think you could stop him now?” Robbie scoffed with a harsh laugh. “He’s probably starting it off right now.”
“We got to stop him!” Kris grabbed onto Robbie’s collar and lugged him with her across the other side of the school that wasn’t patrolled by the yard duty ladies.
Once they reached halfway, Kris stopped dead in her tracks as the bigger boy and his friends were fleeing away frantically from the opposite direction. Something wrong had definitely happened. Their once tough guy image has melted right in front of Kris like a dull blur. Other kids were screaming too and ran away from them. A strong burning smell was taking over the fresh air and Kris suddenly knew what happened.
“The grass!” She screamed.
As the other kids ran the other way, Kris was running towards the smoke and soon enough her eyes were only seeing blackened concrete and burning grass.
“NO!” she cried suddenly. “Those idiots! Someone pull the fire alarm!”
“You super-glued them shut remember!?” Robbie screamed back at her
“They still haven’t pried them out yet!?” Kris was going absolutely crazy at this point. Her beloved field was burning and there was no way of saving it now.
“Children what are you doing here!” One of the teachers called out. Ella was amongst those teachers and saw Kris and Robbie nearing the field. “Get out of the there! We have to evacuate the school now!”
“Call the police, the firefighters, everybody!” Robbie screamed back as he found himself the only one running towards the teacher. “Kris? Kris what are you doing?!”
“I’m saving my baby!” she screamed as she ran across the burning field. “The sprinklers can save it!”
Unfortunately, the sprinklers that Kris was referring to, can only be manually turned on by a handle on the other side of the field. The only way to stop the burning was to turn on the field and since the grass was already fertilized, the chance of the grass burning up fast was a definite possibility. So Kris wasn’t taking a chance on waiting till the firefighters get there. Whether she was Superman’s daughter or not, she’d walk onto a burning field to save her left arm.
“KRIS!!!!” Ella called out as she saw a bouncing blur in the middle of the field. “Get out of there!!”
By the time she heard Ella, Kris was already in the field and using her hands to try to turn on the sprinklers. But due to the accumulating rust on the blasted metal, it would be impossible for her to turn it on.
“C’mon Kris Lin,” she grunted and twisted the handle. “You can do it. Turn darn it! Turn!”
“KRIS!” the onlookers screamed. “Get out!”
The fire around her quickly gathering, and soon all that could be seen were flames. There was no sign of Kris or green grass.
“TURN DAMNIT!” Kris screamed in one last attempt to rip the handle apart.
The crowd grew calm as the flames hit high and everything was waving in heat. Robbie took a deep breathe as the dark smoke was being carried into the sky. Ella attempted to run into the field but the teachers grabbed a hold on her sleeve and didn’t let go.
“Kris!” Robbie screamed one last time as he felt his stomach churn.
A moment of silence rendered the onlookers but suddenly a burst of mist escaped from the middle of the field. Then another burst came, then another. Soon water was spurting in every direction possibly, rigorously and furiously. The fire was going down, the smoke disappearing. The grass was pitch-black and some spots were now as bare as the concrete not a few feet away. And squatting down, with her hands on her head, was Kris now drenched from head to toe with bits of ash falling on her head.
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