Jasmine is eleven years old when she chooses her nemesis.
Ever since she can remember, her favorite bedtime story has been how Mommy and Daddy met. Mommy was at a fancy-dress Christmas party at the governor’s mansion when Daddy walked in and stole a Degas, using his ice powers to freeze everyone before waltzing back out onto the street. Mommy – who’d alertly ducked behind a Greek statue to avoid the flying ice rays – rolled her eyes, trailed Daddy back to his lair in her high heels, and used her super strength to vanquish his entire gang before Daddy could power up again.
Later on, of course, much later on, after a long and glorious career of being nemeses, they decided to settle down and be nemeses together. And when Jasmine came along, and then Jemarcus, Daddy gave up being a supervillain to be Daddy and tell them bedtime stories. To tell the truth, Jasmine is beginning to suspect that Daddy wasn’t a very good supervillain; his gang in particular needed work if it was to have been an effective criminal organization. But he’s a very good Daddy, and that’s enough for Jasmine.
Now that she’s eleven, and all grown up, Jasmine intends to choose a more challenging nemesis for herself. She wants to be like Mommy, the very best superhero in the world, and to be the best you have to have somebody challenging you. That’s Superhero Rule #1.
Jasmine considers putting out an advertisement. WANTED: One nemesis. Must be flexible on hours because I have karate on Tuesdays and sometimes Thursdays. Must be open to annoying little brothers sometimes tagging along. Must have a different favorite color than pink because that’s mine. Must be good at chess but not too good.
Her list gets too long, though, and she worries that she might accidentally disqualify somebody who would be perfect. Also Mommy pats her on the head and says that life isn’t all about nemeses, sometimes it’s about walking the dog and getting good grades in school. (Then she runs off to take down a twenty-foot-tall supervillain who’s threatening to drain the Potomac River and flood Capitol Hill with it. Jasmine doesn’t think Mommy has much room to talk.)
Good grades are boring when your mother's more famous than the President. (And better looking in heels, Jasmine thinks.)
Mommy’s adamant, however, and Daddy backs her up, which Jasmine thinks is totally unfair because they are nemeses. She still ends up in the library after school one Wednesday waiting for a math tutor, though, because the thing about nemeses is that when they team up they're pretty much unstoppable. Even for a future #1 Superhero like Jasmine.
She stabs gloomily at her spiral-bound notebook. “Math is boring,” she tells the air.
“I don’t think so,” someone says, flopping down in the chair next to hers. “Nice pink butterflies.”
They are nice, and when Jasmine looks up she’s already predisposed to like the new arrival.
“Hi,” the new arrival says, smiling. She’s missing one of her two front teeth and she has a lot of freckles. “I’m Mona. Are you waiting for the math tutor too?”
“Yes,” Jasmine says, scowling. It’s a pretty awesome scowl – she’s practiced it in the mirror – and Mona looks suitably impressed. “Why don’t you think math’s boring? Because it totally is.”
Mona pulls out her own notebook, which has bold polka dots. Jasmine approves. “You’re right, it is kind of boring now. But later you learn how to do all kinds of cool stuff.”
“Like what?” Jasmine asks, skeptically. She’d raise her eyebrow, but she hasn’t figured out yet how to do it without pulling the other one up as well. Besides, that’s more of a supervillain thing, she thinks. Maybe while stroking a cat. She’ll stick to being quietly withering, which is what Daddy says is one of Mommy’s best superpowers. (And then Mommy says Trey.)
Mona shrugs. “If you go all the way up to calculus I think you can figure out things like the best angle to spidey-swing from a roof down into a bank window. And if the bank window was locked I bet you could use math to find out how strong you should make your energy ray to break the window without exploding the glass all over the street.”
Jasmine stares at her and does some quick thinking. “What do you think about karate?”
Mona seems unruffled by the sudden change of topic. This is good. Jasmine likes the idea of a nemesis who’s on her toes. “It’s cool. I do ballet though. Want to see me put my foot behind my head?”
“Can you do that?” Jasmine asks.
“Weeeell,” Mona says, “I'll be able to soon. It’s really useful. You could fold yourself up into a tiny space and hide in the rafters of an art museum, for instance. If you’re careful not to get a cramp.”
“And what do you think about little brothers?”
“Useful to distract people with their cuteness while you sweep in to steal the diamonds,” Mona says immediately. “I’ve got two. They’re twins.”
“Hello, girls! I’m Kimmie, and I’m going to be your tutor.”
Jasmine’s not impressed by the bouncy teenager who’s just slammed a load of books down on the table. She and Mona share a Meaningful Look.
And, since Meaningful Looks are the last – and arguably most important – requirement for a nemesis, she doesn’t have to think for very long at all before turning to their new tutor and giving her a sweet, disarming smile. (Make people like you, Mommy says, because it’s an important tool that the supervillains don’t always have. Although from what Jasmine’s seen, supervillains are often annoyingly charming.)
“Hello,” Jasmine says. “I’m Jasmine, and this is my nemesis, Mona.”
Mona giggles in surprise, but she doesn’t lose a beat. (Jasmine knew she’d chosen correctly.) “Hello,” Mona says. “I’m Mona, and this is my nemesis, Jasmine.”
Jasmine grins victoriously. Watch out, world.
Jasmine and her nemesis are coming through.