Chapter 1: Jonathan Lowell Spencer Storm
Once upon a time there was a boy with a temper like burning flames. A blond haired blue-eyed lad with a baby face and a small frame, Johnny Storm wasn’t the most popular kid in school. In fact, he was probably bordering around most unpopular.
Johnny was a smart kid, but since his mother’s death he’d had a hard time staying motivated, and guys like Mike Snow hadn’t helped the matter, either. Mike was a jerk. The star quarter-back who always got the girl and seemed to have nothing better to do besides pick on Johnny—whom he had a good foot and at least fifty pound on. Sometimes Johnny wondered who the idiot was that said these were the best years of his life.
His morning had started off fairly average. Waking up at six to the droning tone of his alarm. Hitting the snooze button and ignoring said alarm. Sue bursting into his room half an hour later, coffee in hand and the dark bags under her eyes making the all-nighter she’d pulled to keep up with her heavy workload more than obvious. Blankets pulled from his bed and thrown across the room. Yelling.
No doubt he’d be up ten minutes later, a defeated sigh escaping his lips as he forced himself to get dressed in anything he could muster up from the bottom of his cupboard, but this was apart of their morning ritual now.
One drawn out shower later and Johnny was shuffling through the kitchen of the small townhouse, blond hair damp and too-big clothes hanging from his thin frame. Sue looked up from her textbook, bringing a spoonful of cereal to her mouth as she offered her younger brother a sympathetic smile. She knew he was having a rough time of school at the moment, but there really wasn’t much she could do when she could barely get him to speak two words to her. She wanted to say it was the age, but Sue could never remember being this moody and detached when she was fifteen. Though, she didn’t really have the option to be-- she was already basically Johnny’s primary carer at that point.
The young woman returned the spoon to her bowl and pushed her thick-rimmed glasses up her nose with her pointer finger.
“You want some breakfast, little brother?” she asked, gesturing to the bowl of dry cereal and the carton of milk set out at the spot opposite her.
The lad barely glanced at his sister, muttering a simple “no” before he was past the table and out the front door. He hadn’t even taken his bag. “Johnny—“ sue stood from the table and quickly raced up to his room, swiping his backpack from the floor and bounding down the stairs. She burst out the door and saw he was only just kicking the front gate closed. “Johnny!”
The younger of the Storm siblings turned around.
“You forgot your backpack,” she stated, holding out the bag.
Johnny shrugged his shoulders. “No I didn’t.” was all he said before turning around and heading in his original direction once more.
Sue’s shoulders slumped and she let the bag hang from her hand limply.
“Bye, Johnny.” No reply. Just as expected.
She spotted Johnny’s friend—that weird Mannelman kid –watching her from up the road and Sue made a face, quickly retreating inside and dropping Johnny’s bag to the floor. She nudged it against the wall with her foot and leant up against the door, closing her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose, taking a deep breath, and willing herself not cry. She had to get to class. But first, she needed a smoke.
Johnny looked down at the ground, taking every crack in the weathered sidewalk into account as he kicked a rock along in front of him. Hands shoved in pockets, the blond looked up to see Richard Mannelman standing at the end of the street a couple of feet away. His best, not to mention only friend, Richard Mannelman was a plain lad. Short and plump in stature, he stood at around 5’4” and had a head of tight brown ringlets. An introvert who sported oversized rounded glasses, a dead father, and an alcoholic mother; Mannelman was an easy target.
“Your sister looks hot in glasses.” was the first thing he said as Johnny approached and the blond furrowed his brow, the shorter boy now walking along next to him. “Gross, Rich.” he muttered, pulling an old iPod Classic from his pocket and putting only one of the white earbuds in his ear before flicking the device onto shuffle mode. Adam’s Song by Blink-182 played softly—background music.
“Have you read this month’s issue of Vapor Girl yet?” Rich asked, hands deep in the pockets of his oversized green army jacket as he looked up at his friend.
“Nah,” Johnny replied, making a face. “I only have like a dollar and thirty-five cents.” Rich nodded, looking back to the path ahead of them.
“Who do you think’s hotter? Kim Kardashian or Vapor Girl?”
Johnny snorted. “Vapor Girl.”
“Yuna from Final Fantasy or Vapor Girl?”
“Beyonce or Vapor Girl?”
“… Vapor Girl.”
“… Dorrie Evans or Vapor Girl?”
At that point Johnny looked up to see none other than the dark-haired Dorrie Evans standing at her front door across the road, waving to someone inside and about to turn around and see the two boys. Johnny grabbed Rich by the wrist and pulled him down behind a nearby car before Dorrie could catch a glance of them and he held a hand to his chest, taking a moment to catch his breath. After a what felt like an eternity of strategically avoiding Rich’s confused expression, Johnny peered over the hood of the car and watched as she began her trek down the road and towards the high school, textbooks hugged to her chest and jet black hair shining in the morning sunlight behind her. His shoulders slumped and he let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, standing up slowly and dusting off the lower half of his jeans.
“So, Dorrie Evans, huh?” Rich answered for him, standing up after the blond and watching his expression curiously.
“Nah, no way…” Johnny muttered, shoving hands in his pockets once more and continuing along the footpath, making sure to keep a good distance away from Dorrie as a light blush spread across his cheeks.
“Vapor Girl all the way.”
Further conversation amongst themselves had the boys deciding that Glenville High would have to make do without them this particular day as Johnny suggested they head to the local pizza parlor instead. The place had free Wi-Fi so the lads could at least try to find the latest copy of Vapor Girl to download illegally. The two headed inside and the jingling of the bells placed above the door had the owner, Mr. Morello, coming from out the back of the store and slapping two heavy hands down on the counter.
“What’re you kids doin’ ‘ere again?” he asked in a thick, Brooklyn accent. “Don’t’chu two go ta’ school or somethin’?”
Mr. Morello was a heavy-set American Italian man with a thick, black mustache and even thicker eyebrows. He had a bald patch in the middle of his head and the rest of his black hair was beginning to grey.
“To be honest, Mr. Morello, I’d rather light myself on fire than go to that hell-hole.” Johnny spoke simply, Rich standing a step behind him and nodding in agreement. There was almost a look of sympathy from the old man as his lips pursed and he shuffled across to the bain-marie, sliding half a pizza onto a plate and pushing it across the counter to the boys. “If you’re gonna’ hang around have half a pie on the house.” he said, looking Johnny up and down. “You look thin, kid. Your friend don’t, but you do. Get some meat on ye’ bones if you’re not gonna’ go get educated.”
Rich made a face and pulled his jacket around his protruding belly as Johnny stepped forwards and grabbed the pizza from the counter. “Thanks, Mr. Morello.” he said with a small smile before turning away and leading Rich to a booth up the back of the establishment.
“Don’t mention it, kid.” he said, watching the two settle into the booth and pull an old, bulky laptop from the shorter kid’s bag. Mr. Morello had always had a soft spot for the Storm kid. What happened to their family was heartbreaking to watch to say the least and he liked to help out when he could by giving them pies on the house, except for when Sue would insist on paying—his sister was too proud to accept much else from him.
The bells above the door jingled again and this time Mike Snow entered the store followed by two of his flunkies. All three boys had the broad frames of footballers and wore Glenville varsity jackets. Mike had shaggy brown hair and his bright blue eyes scanned the booths, eyes narrowing deviously and a smirk breaking out across his chiseled features as he spotted Johnny and Rich.
“Well, well, if it isn’t Johnny Sperm and Dick-Man.” Mike let out a guffaw and the other boys joined in, Rich sinking in his seat as Johnny turned around and narrowed his eyes dangerously at the trio. “Get bent, Snow.” he seethed, chin jutting forwards aggressively.
“You homo’s out on a date or something?” Mike took a large step forwards and snatched the laptop out from under Rich’s hands before he could even react, letting out a laugh. “Where did you find this piece of crap, Mannelman? 2005?” Rich could barely make eye contact with Snow so Johnny stood up quickly, snatching the laptop back from him, closing the lid and shoving it back in Rich’s tattered backpack before swinging it over his shoulder. “Get a life, Mike.” he muttered, shouldering the boy as he walked by. “C’mon, Rich.”
Just then, Mike grabbed a handful of Johnny’s shirt and dragged him up to eye-level, the blond letting out a small gurgle as he struggled to breathe.
“OI!” Mr. Morello picked up a pizza tray and rushed out from behind the counter, holding the tray up threateningly at Mike. “Put ‘im down, Snow!” he roared, and Mike turned to face the old man, pushing Johnny down into the floor before holding his hands up defensively, a cocky smirk across his face. “He’s down, Mr. Morello.”
Mr. Morello ducked down to help Johnny to his feet but the blond picked himself up, shoving the old man’s arm away and looking down, refusing to make eye contact with anyone as his cheeks flushed a deep red. Mr. Morello pointed to the door but before he could open his mouth, Johnny shook his head. “Don’t kick out paying customers for us, Mr. Morello. Me and Rich are leaving anyway. Thanks for the pie.”
Mike smirked triumphantly and Mr. Morello shook his head as Johnny slunk out the door defeated and embarrassed, Rich slipping out behind him.
Once they were out the door and heading away from the pizza parlor, Johnny slipped the backpack from his shoulder and handed it back to Rich.
“Thanks.” the shorter of the two muttered, slipping the bag back over his own shoulders. “You okay, Johnny?” he asked finally, cocking his head to the side somewhat as he looked up at his best friend.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine…” he muttered, bringing a hand up to rub at a bruise forming along his bicep. The two walked in silence for a while and only stopped once they came face to face with a dark red convertible. Johnny let out a low whistle.
“BMW 3 Series.” he spoke matter-of-factly, planting his hands on his hips. “2013 model. Nice.”
Rich looked at Johnny, down to the car, then up at Johnny once more. “It’s Mike’s, y’know.” he said finally.
Johnny’s eyes narrowed enviously. He shouldn’t have been surprised, really. Mike’s parents were loaded and the guy had just turned sixteen last week. The only reason Johnny was aware of this was because he and Rich were the only kids in their year not invited to the party. It was probably a birthday present. And Mike was the only guy he knew that would be stupid enough to leave the top down. There was a devious glint in Johnny’s eye and before the blond had a chance to think it over, he was jumping over the door and crawling into the driver’s seat. He ducked under the dashboard and rammed fists into the ignition cover, smashing the plastic and tossing the pieces out of the car.
Rich’s eyes widened. “Johnny! Wh-what are you doing?” he stuttered.
“Little bit of good old fashioned revenge, my friend…” he replied calmly from under the dash, ripping at wires and twisting them back together again in an expert manner. The car revved to life and Johnny sat up, a grin bigger than anything Rich had seen in months plastered across his face as he settled into the drivers seat. The blond cranked the radio up loud before patting the empty passenger’s seat next to him. “C’mon, Rich. We’re going for a joy-ride.”
Rich gulped nervously yet still complied, crawling over the door and dropping into the seat next to Johnny. He buckled up and Johnny let out a small chuckle at this, watching as the bespectacled boy clasped shaky hands in his lap and look across at him with a small nod. “L-let’s do it, Johnny.”
Johnny smirked and revved the car a few times, making sure it was loud enough to cause Mike to rush out of the pizza parlor, staring slack-jawed and wide-eyed as the two boys tore down the street and screeched around the corner, leaving nothing but burning rubber in his wake.
Chapter 2: Susan Storm
Once upon a time there was a girl who wished she could just disappear into thin air. Her name was Susan Storm and she sniffed weepily as she bought the home-rolled cigarette to her lips, taking a long draw and holding the smoke in her lungs for a moment before releasing it into the cold morning air. She was twenty-one years old, in her first year of college, and she was tired. God was she tired.
Her shoulders slumped and she let her body slide down the weathered panels that adorned the back wall of the small house, settling down on the cold cement. She sighed as she looked out across their backyard, large weeds threatening to overtake the patchy green-and-brown grass any day now. She bought a hand to her forehead and pushed her golden hair back slowly, closing her eyes.
The obnoxious sound of one clearing their throat broke through the bliss of the morning breeze rustling through nearby trees and Sue flinched, eyes snapping open as she turned to the source of the sound.
Mrs. Green had her arms crossed over her large breast and she tutted as she shook her head, her bright red perm somehow managing to stay in place even in today’s gust.
“What would you mother have to say if she caught you smoking, Susan? Honestly, your father was a doctor, you should really know better.”
Mrs. Green had been one of her mother’s friends before she died, but Sue could never understand how that friendship came to be. Mary Storm was a lovely, generous, kind person, and Mrs. Green? Well, Sue couldn’t see much more than a nosy, horrible old woman who was set in her old-fashioned Catholic ways. “Actually Mrs. Green, with all due respect my father was a surgeon and now he’s in prison for armed robbery and felony murder, so I guess there’s the possibility that I don’t know better.”
The plump, redheaded woman harrumphed, uttering a “why I never” under her breath before straightening her floral dress out. “I’ll be praying for you and your brother, Susan.” She said seriously before turning on the heel of her foot and marching back inside. Sue couldn’t help but let out a snort of a laugh, bringing the cigarette to her lips once more and inhaling. The laughter left her after a moment and she was left feeling empty, with thoughts of her parents, Johnny, and their current situation swirling around in her head. She exhaled smoke.
Sue didn’t understand. Sure, things had been tough since their parents were out of the picture, but her and Johnny had always gotten along-- they were a team. Well, at least they used to be. Everything had changed over the last year.
Johnny’s grades had dropped, he was always angry, making him get out of bed for school was a fight every single day, and he would rarely speak to her. Barely utter a word. And it was nothing less than draining; she didn’t know how much longer she could keep this up, or what she could do about it for that matter.
Was he depressed? Was it something else? Should she take him to a doctor? Would he let her take him to a doctor?
Sue’s eyes widened and the cigarette fell out from between her fingers at that point. Had he found out about Dad?
After a moment she let out an uneasy laugh, shaking her head to herself. There was no way he could have found out, and no reason for him to think otherwise. Besides, Johnny would have blown up at her as soon he found out. As if that eased her thoughts at all. She reached out and picked up the cigarette from the ground, sighing as she bought it to her lips once more.
Franklin Storm had been a well-respected surgeon before his devastating downwards spiral-- friends in higher places had helped to keep his situation out of the public spotlight and Aunt MaryGay who lived next door stuck around to look after Sue and Johnny when he would disappear for days on end. The first time he disappeared was the night of their mother’s funeral.
Sue had put a movie on for Johnny and she sat with him until he fell asleep before sneaking out of his bedroom and dialing her father’s cellphone frantically from the landline. It wasn’t until the fifth call the she heard a bang from the kitchen and ran into the room only to see that his phone had vibrated off the counter and smashed into three separate pieces on the floor. Franklin didn’t return home until the next morning, stumbling and smelling of vodka and calling out for Mary. A few years later Sue found out that he blew twenty thousand dollars that night. In the end he had blown just about everything.
They ended up staying with Aunt MaryGay and Franklin had ended up robbing a liquor store. Drunk, desperate, and flat broke, he pulled a gun on the store clerk and shot him dead, taking the money from the cash register and as much booze as he could carry, but it wasn’t long until he was taken into custody, trialed, and put away in a prison a few days drive from Glenville; Sue couldn’t even remember the name of the place.
Aunt MaryGay was an eccentric who didn’t have a lot of close friends, but got along surprisingly well with Mrs. Green who had lived next door as long as she could remember. While Sue was aware of the situation and decisions being made, she didn’t have a say in them at all, so matters of their welfare were discussed between the two older women. They decided that cutting contact would be the best thing for the children, so they told Johnny that Franklin was dead and Sue that “it’s for the best”. With Aunt MaryGay passing on a few years back and neither sibling being able to hold a civil conversation with Mrs. Green, the burden of the lie was left with Sue. While she didn’t agree with it, she couldn’t tell him either. At least not now.
When she thought about it had felt like it had gone on forever, but in reality the space of time between her mother’s funeral and her father’s incarceration had only been about two months, and Aunt MaryGay had her heart attack about year after that. She took one last draw from the cigarette before stubbing it out on the ground, standing and crushing it with the toe of her sneaker for good measure. She was a mother of a fifteen year old at twenty-one, she had no damn clue how to do this! But at least she could rejoice in the fact that Johnny had gone to school and she herself only had one class today. She might even get the chance to study in the library for a while afterwards if she was lucky, and if today really went her way she could even drop in on Reed on his lunch break—it’d be nice to have a chance to spend some time with her boyfriend for once. So Sue headed back through the house, collected up the essentials for the day, and pulled the faded red ’84 Celica out of the garage. It took about forty-five minutes to get to New York State U on a good day but traffic was looking dense; it’d take at least half an hour longer today. Fantastic.
Though it was all for nothing. Around an hour into her commute, Sue’s cellphone rang and seeming as she was stuck in traffic anyway, she reached into her bag sitting on the passenger’s seat and retrieved the device. Johnny’s school. He'd probably ditched class. Again.
“Hello, Susan Storm speaking.” She greeted in the most professional tone she could bring herself to muster– her 'phone voice', as Johnny would say.
Johnny’s principal began to fill her in and Susan’s mouth fell agape.
“No, no there’s no way he could— he admitted it? How much is that going to—oh, they will? That’s—no, that’s good. It’ll do him some good hopefully. I’m stuck in traffic in the city but I’ll be there as soon as I can—Thank you, sorry.”
She hung up the phone and tossed it over onto the passenger’s seat before banging her head on the steering wheel. The horn honked but blended in seamlessly with the rest of the various sounds coming from road raging New Yorkers. Her little brother was an idiot. An actual, honest-to-God idiot.
It had taken Sue another whole hour to get back to Glenville, there was no way she’d be getting to class now. It turned out that Johnny had hotwired the quarterback’s car, stolen it with Richard, and crashed it into a pole. The boys were alright thank God, and the quarterback’s—Mike’s parents had been more than reasonable. The boy’s father was aware of Johnny’s formidable mechanic skills and asked for nothing more than his time. He’d be spending the month working in the garage and fixing up the car himself. Susan thought the agreement was a whole lot more than her little brother deserved but was thankful for it nonetheless. They hadn’t even gotten the police involved and she thanked her lucky stars.
But now Sue had a cross-armed, fuming Johnny sitting in the front seat and a fidgeting, snuffling Mannelman in the back and she kept her lips pursed for the whole trip to hold back from exploding in front of the innocent party—who was already uncomfortable enough. Richard might be a weird little guy but Sue knew her brother and she knew that this asinine plan had been one hundred percent him. At the end of the day Johnny was far too persuasive for his own good and Richard Mannelman was a follower.
She stopped out the front of his house and the boy uttered a small “later” to Johnny and a “thanks” to Sue as he opened the car door, got out, and closed it, leaving a thick silence in his wake. She gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles as she pulled back onto the street again. Just because Johnny had gotten away with his little performance basically scot-free didn’t mean that she wasn’t still absolutely ropeable.
Tension so thick you could cut through it with a knife, Sue watched her little brother from the corner of her eye and spoke up after a few minutes of deadly silence.
“Put your seatbelt on Johnny.”
So Susan sped up, slammed the breaks on, and watched as Johnny was thrust forwards into the dash, the lad only just managing to hold his hands out in front of him so that they absorbed the brunt of the force rather than his head. He sat up quickly and turned to her with wide eyes. “What the hell is wrong with you?!”
“No Jonathan, what the hell is wrong with you?!” The car remained still in the middle of the empty street and Sue stared daggers into the boy who cowered ever so slightly under her glare. “Seriously Johnny, how stupid could you be?! You don’t have a license, you stole a car—you could’ve died! Not to mention how much it would of cost me to fix that thing, we would have been screwed! We’re just lucky the Snows were so understanding—not that they had any reason to be…” She took a breath and adjusted her grip on the steering wheel. “You don’t think, Johnny. You never think. I mean—you understand that’s how mom died, right? You haven’t just glossed over it and forgotten like you do with everything else?”
Before she could stop the words from leaving her mouth she knew she’d over-stepped the line. Johnny’s mouth dropped and his brow creased and he reached for the door handle, Sue reaching out to grasp his wrist tightly before he had the chance to exit the vehicle. “I’m sorry,” she said desperately. “I didn’t mean it.” He tugged in her grip but to no avail. “Let me go, Sue…“
Behind them a car honked and both siblings turned around to see a large SUV sitting right up their rear. With a roll of the eyes Johnny slumped down in his seat and successfully freed himself from Sue’s grip, who had let go of him to return both hands to the wheel to continue their journey down the street once more.
“If you died I wouldn’t have anyone.” She said after a while.
Johnny turned away from her, facing the window with arms hugged around himself. “Don’t talk to me.”
Emotionless words stung and Sue still couldn’t believe she’d actually said that to him. She’d have to be in the running for World’s Worst Sister. No doubts there. She pulled her phone from the console of the car and her eyes darted from the road and down to the screen sporadically. Her thumb hovered between two possible choices of escape and after a moment’s hesitation she selected the number of her choice and bought the phone to her ear.
“Hi—Yeah, I’m alright. It’s just been one of those days. You mind if Johnny and I come visit?” Johnny groaned at this. “—You are? If I’m being completely honest it’s kind of what I was hoping—Okay, we’ll see you soon. Thanks, Ben.” She hung up the phone and dropped it back in the console, eyes darting across to her brother momentarily and she sighed as he curled further away from her.