The door clicked shut, and Peter sighed deeply. Finally. He was alone.
He relaxed his slightly hostile body language and flopped down on the couch, hearing the springs groan with his weight. He placed a hand over his eyes, slightly amazed at how tired he was.
It was Friday, November 23rd, which also happened to be the day after Thanksgiving. He was on break from school, crime was low, and there was little to do besides watching TV and occasionally tinkering with the stuff he had in his room.
Yet exhaustion pulled at him, making him want to do nothing more than take a nap.
Maybe it was the fight with his aunt that drove so much out of him.
I just wish sometimes she would back off. She’s suffocating me. Peter thought, shutting his eyes.
Indignation swelled within him. I should be able to go out as Spider-Man as much as I want, when I want. I have a power. I should be able to use it.
Protests filled his head as he lay down, his eyes still closed. May wouldn’t be back with dinner for a while, so maybe he’d just take a little nap…
His corny ringtone woke him.
He vocalized his annoyance and tried to block out the noise, wanting nothing more than to just fall back asleep. The ringtone eventually faded into silence.
It was quiet for about five seconds before his phone went off again.
Peter groaned loudly. Whoever was calling was persistent, and he grumbled as he sat up. He rubbed his eyes and picked up his phone, not even bothering to look at the Caller ID.
“Hello,” Peter mumbled, stifling a yawn.
“Am I speaking to Peter Parker?” The voice was sharp, but not unkind. More urgent than anything.
Peter blinked, suddenly more awake. “Uh, yes.”
“Peter, this is Doctor Lane. You need to come to the Hospital Center in Queens right now.”
Peter felt like he had been doused in ice water. “What? Why?”
“Your aunt has been in a car accident. I’m sorry, but we cannot provide any more details over the phone.”
Peter was wide awake now. His hands shook as he spoke, “I-I’ll be right there.”
The call ended, and Peter stood, his legs shaking.
He swallowed hard, suddenly feeling absolutely nauseous. He had to take deep breaths to keep himself from being sick. He rushed to his bedroom and searched for his old web shooters, knowing full well that he couldn’t show up to the hospital in his full Spider-Man suit.
Shit. Where did he put his shooters?
He pretty much tore up his room before he found them, beneath his bed, under all kinds of stuff he had previously deemed useless.
He hooked them on his wrists quickly, pushed open the window, and threw himself out of it.
The hospital halls were sterile, bright, and smelled strongly of rubbing alcohol.
Peter’s overly-sensitive nose burned every time he inhaled, and his legs shook with every step. The lady at the counter told him that his Aunt was in room 324, and he had sprinted down the hallway in the direction of the stairs. He took the steps two at a time up until the third floor, when the apprehension slowed him down.
He counted the door numbers as he walked, his hands balled into fists at his sides, his nails digging into his palms.
320, 321, 322, 323…
There was a doctor standing outside of room 324.
She looked up as he approached.
“You must be Peter,” She said, a note of sadness in her voice.
“Where is my Aunt?” Peter spoke, surprised that the voice he heard was his own.
The doctor’s gaze turned pitiful. “I’m sorry.”
Peter felt the world collapse around him. He barely heard the words that followed the doctor’s admission. “Her car collided with a semi-truck on 164th street. Her injuries sustained from the crash were too severe. She had lost too much blood. We couldn’t save her.”
There was a sudden sharp ringing in Peter’s ears. Everything seemed too loud. The lights were too bright. All he could smell was isopropyl.
“Peter?” He blinked up at her, his vision blurry with tears.
“Where is she?” Peter whispered. “C-can… can I see her?”
The doctor nodded solemnly and opened the door. Peter forced his shaky legs to move.
The room was dark, with only one light on, and Peter almost cried with the relief from the brightness. The alcohol smell was stronger, almost sickening, but he suddenly didn’t care.
His aunt was laying on the cot in the middle of the room.
He walked over to her, feeling floaty.
She was pale. Lifeless. Cold.
The tears slid down his cheeks.
“May…” Peter whispered, his hand reaching out and touching her face. There was a cut on her cheek. It made Peter cry harder.
He fell into the chair that was placed next to her bed. His throat felt tight and his chest hurt as sobs ripped from his throat. His eyes burned with tears, and his breathing grew labored. He found his Aunt’s hand and gripped it, hating how cold it was. He hated everything then. He hated how his heart beat in his chest while hers didn’t, how his lungs inhaled and hers never would again.
The door creaked open behind him.
A plump woman came in, flicking on the lights with her. Peter’s eyes burned at the brightness.
The lady was middle aged, her hair dyed a shade between blonde and brown, gray flecks at her temples. She wore a cream dress with flowers. Her cardigan was pink. She carried a clipboard.
Her heels clicked against the linoleum as she made her way over to him. “Are you Mr. Peter Parker?”
Peter squinted up at her. He swallowed, trying to find his voice. He ended up nodding.
“I’m Susan Johnson. You can call me Mrs. Johnson. I am the social worker for this hospital.”
It took Peter a second. I’m an orphan.
“May I ask you what your plans are?”
Peter stared at her, then looked at the floor. “I can live on my own.” He whispered hollowly, chest aching. “I’ll file for emancipation.”
“Do you have a stable income?” She pressed, almost ruthlessly. Peter didn’t say anything. “I’m sorry, Peter, but if you don’t have a way to support yourself, emancipation isn’t an option. Now,” Her perfectly manicured hand held out her clipboard for him. “I need you to sign this. It’s a form for you to be put in foster care for the time being.”
The ringing in Peter’s ears was back. “No.” He said, his voice weak. “No. I’m not going into the system.”
“Peter,” Mrs. Johnson’s voice finally took on a note of pity that Peter could tell was feigned. “I’m sorry, but there’s no other way. Foster care is really good; the family that you will stay with is really—“
Peter was suddenly on his feet. His blood boiled beneath his skin. “I will not live with strangers. You need to leave.”
“Please be reasonable,” Mrs. Johnson’s voice had taken on an irritated tone. “You are a minor with no living family.” Peter felt a pang in his chest. “I assure you that it is not as bad as you think.”
Bile rose in Peter’s throat. “Leave,” He threatened.
She opened her mouth to speak again, and Peter growled low in his throat.
“LEAVE,’ He yelled, his voice echoing in the anti-septic room. A strange violence rose in him, and he had to resist the urge to attack the woman.
She abruptly stood. “Well, I never!” She tutted as she left the room. The door closed with a click, and Peter breathed through the anger that sat like a rock in his chest.
The lights were still on and Peter shakily walked over to turn them off. He barely made it back into his chair before his legs gave out.
The social worker had left him a lot to think about. What was he going to do? She was right; he didn’t have any family left.
He took out his phone and unlocked it without thinking. Maybe he’d stay at Ned’s house tonight. Or maybe he’d just go home.
The thought of being alone in the apartment made him nauseous.
His fingers found the calling app on his phone. His thumb hovered over Ned’s number.
He had to act like he was okay in front of Ned, and the mere thought of having to put on a smile was enough to make him scroll past the number. He felt tears enter his eyes again.
Through blurry vision, he saw Happy’s number. Maybe he’ll give me a ride somewhere. I have enough saved up for a hotel room. He tapped the screen and held the phone up to his ear.
One ring. Two. Three. Four.
“This is Happy’s phone. Leave a message.”
Peter shut his phone off, his heart sinking. Just when he was about to pocket it, it rang.
It was Happy.
Peter accepted the call.
“H-hello?” Peter whispered.
“Hey kid. What’s up?”
A sob escaped Peter’s lips. He pressed a hand over his mouth, trying to smother it. “I, uh… I’m in a bit of… a s-situation?”
There was a beat of silence. “Are you alright?”
Peter had no strength left to lie. “N-no. I… I need you to pick me up.”
“Hold on,” Happy said, concern rising in his tone. “What’s going on? Where are you?”
Peter tilted his head up, wanting the tears to recede back into his eyes. “Queen’s Hospital Center.”
“You’re at the hospital? What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”
Peter didn’t want to say it, but he couldn’t avoid it any longer. “Aunt May is dead.”
Silence. Tears rolled down Peter’s face again. His hands shook.
“Oh my god. I’m so sorry Peter.” Happy sounded sad. It didn’t make Peter feel any better.
“C-can you pick me up? P-please…” Peter trailed off, a sob punctured his sentence.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can. Hang tight kid.”
The line went dead.
And Peter sobbed.