The plane came in over the mountains and descended toward Victory City. Melody Tran pressed her face to the window and stared in awe at the urban sprawl stretching out to the Pacific, which itself extended beyond the horizon.
They touched down smoothly, and Melody followed the rest of the passengers out of the plane and into the airport. She claimed her suitcase and carried it out to the concourse, where her grandmother stood waving from across the crowd.
For a woman of seventy-five, Ronnie Fletcher looked remarkably young. Her hair was still its natural blonde, her skin still smooth and white. She barely looked a day older than Melody’s mother.
“Hey there,” Ronnie said. “How was your flight?”
“Long,” Melody replied.
Ronnie chuckled and said, “Let’s get you out of here, then.”
She led Melody through the crowd and out onto the sidewalk. Melody stopped in her tracks, staring up at the skyscrapers towering overhead. The view from the plane didn’t do justice to the sheer magnitude of the city.
Ronnie pushed off from the sidewalk and floated up toward the sky. She paused and glanced down at Melody, hovering a few feet above her head.
“You coming?” Ronnie asked.
“I… I can’t…” Melody replied. “I mean, I’ve never….”
“Oh dear,” Ronnie said. “Well, you’re only fifteen. Your mother was a late bloomer, too. Nothing to be ashamed of. Can you jump, at least?”
“Kind of,” Melody replied.
“I can work with that,” Ronnie said. “Toss me your bag and follow my lead.”
Melody threw her suitcase to her grandmother. Ronnie turned and flew up, hovering over a parking garage across the street. Melody took a deep breath, crouched low, and leapt up onto the roof.
Ronnie had already moved on to another building, and Melody followed, leaping from roof to roof across the city. She barely had time to get her bearings before each jump; Ronnie was fast for an old lady.
Every time Melody looked down she felt a stab of panic. The buildings here dwarfed any in her hometown. She’d never been this high up under her own power before.
She lost her balance and crashed onto a nearby roof, tearing up a twenty-foot stretch of stone with her shoulder. She rolled onto her back and looked up at Ronnie, standing over her with a hand extended down.
Melody took Ronnie’s hand and was lifted to her feet. She dusted herself off and glanced around. A penthouse apartment was built into the roof of the building, complete with a pool and a garden.
“Welcome,” Ronnie said, pausing for effect, “to the Champion Hotel.”
She turned and marched over to a pair of glass doors leading into the apartment. Melody followed, glancing back at the scar she’d left in the stonework.
“Um, sorry about your roof,” she said.
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Ronnie said. “I’ve had my share of crash landings too, you know.”
She stepped into a posh living room filled with natural light and set the suitcase on the floor. Melody kicked off her shoes and felt her toes sink into the thick carpet.
“Pretty nice, huh?” Ronnie asked, glancing down.
A bell rang from across the room, where a steel door was set into the wall. Ronnie approached the door and pressed a button beside it. The door slid open and Melody’s uncle Victor, a middle-aged with the same blond hair and pale complexion as Ronnie, stepped out.
“What the hell’s going on up here?” he asked. “We heard a crash and….”
He turned to Melody and his eyes drifted out the door behind her. She grabbed her shoulder unconsciously. He glared at his mother.
“You said you were going to take the car,” he said.
Ronnie shrugged and said, “Nine hours on a plane, I figured she’d want to stretch her legs.”
Victor sighed and rubbed his forehead. He turned back to Melody.
“I’m sorry about this,” he said. “Are you hurt?”
“No,” Melody replied, putting her hand down. “Just a little winded.”
“Okay,” he said, and turned to Ronnie. “Mom, I could really use a hand with something downstairs. Do you have a minute?”
“Sure,” Ronnie said; she glanced at Melody and pointed to a hallway by the couch. “The guest room’s behind the last door on the right.”
She followed Victor into the elevator.
“I’ll be back before you know it,” she said. “Make yourself at home.”
She waved as the door slid shut in her face. Melody picked up her suitcase and carried it down the hall. The bedroom was larger than her own back home. The bed was queen-sized and incredibly soft; Melody sank back into the mattress and stared up at the ceiling.
She turned on her phone and opened up Facebook. She scrolled through photo after photo from last night’s party; all of her friends had gotten together to kick off winter break. She would’ve been with them too if she hadn’t had to fly all the way across the country.
It had been her father’s idea to have Christmas in Victory City. They so rarely saw this side of the family and her mother was feeling homesick. Melody was okay with it until they decided to send her early to spend a few days with the Fletchers before her parents flew in next week.
She put her phone away and padded back to the living room. Stuffing her feet into her boots, she stepped outside. Even from the roof, the other buildings towered above her. She leaned over the ledge and looked down.
She could easily drop to the sidewalk and be on her way, but her legs still felt shaky from the trip across town. She headed back inside and rode the elevator down to a fancy, brightly-lit lobby. She made a beeline for the revolving doors at the far end.
“Melody!” a woman’s voice called out.
She stopped in her tracks and turned to see two blonde-haired, blue-eyed white women coming down the stairs. One was Victor’s wife Georgia, and the other was their daughter Violet.
“My goodness, you’ve grown,” Georgia said, looking Melody up and down. “You were just a tiny little thing when I last saw you. Now you’re almost a woman.”
Melody rolled her eyes and stared at the floor.
“Hey, what are you doing this afternoon?” Georgia asked.
“Nothing,” Melody replied, glancing out the door.
“Excellent!” Georgia said. “Violet here got engaged a few weeks ago and now we’re heading downtown to pick out a dress. You simply must join us.”
“I don’t know….” Melody said.
“Come on,” Georgia said, grabbing Melody by the hand. “It’ll be fun.”
Violet smiled sheepishly as Georgia dragged Melody out the door and into a waiting car. And so she spent her first day in Victory City staring at wedding dresses with her aunt, her cousin, and her cousin’s future mother-in-law.
When Melody finally returned to the penthouse, she immediately collapsed onto the couch. Ronnie emerged from the kitchen with drink in hand and smiled.
“Welcome back,” she said. “I hear you were recruited into the wedding planning committee.”
“Ugh,” Melody muttered. “I’m never getting married.”
Ronnie chuckled and sat beside her granddaughter.
“Did you have fun, at least?” said asked.
Melody shrugged. She grabbed the remote control and turned on the television, scrolling through the channels until she found some cartoons.
“All that frilly stuff kind of grosses me out,” she said.
“I can see why it would,” Ronnie said, glancing down at Melody’s baggy sweater and torn jeans. “But there might come a time when you actually want to get all dressed up like that.”
“God, kill me if that ever happens,” Melody said.
Ronnie just raised her eyebrows and smiled. Melody turned back to the television, but jet lag soon began to take its toll on her. She passed out sometime before the next commercial break.
Melody woke in bed and glanced around for a clock; it was eight in the morning, but back home it would have been noon. She staggered across the hall to the bathroom.
She took a long shower and stared into the mirror as she dried herself off. Dark roots were coming up beneath her auburn-dyed hair. It was almost touching her shoulders now; she felt a sudden urge to chop it all off again.
She heard a knock at the door.
“Hey, you up for a little errand?” Ronnie asked from the other side.
“What kind of errand?” Melody replied.
“One of our grocery deliveries has hit a snag,” Ronnie said. “I’m about to head across town and make the pickup myself, but I could use an extra pair of hands, if you’re not busy.”
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
She finished drying off, threw on some fresh clothes, and headed out to the living room. Ronnie was standing by the door to the roof.
“Again?” Melody asked. “Seriously?”
Ronnie grinned and stepped outside. Melody followed, eyeing the damaged stone on her way across the roof.
“If I drop something,” she said, “I’m not paying for it.”
“You won’t,” Ronnie replied, lifting off. “Trust me.”
She flew up to the nearest adjacent roof. Melody backed up and took a running leap across the street. Ronnie led her from roof to roof, just like yesterday, and again Melody could just barely keep up. When Ronnie stopped, Melody braced herself for a landing. She stumbled a few steps but managed to stay upright this time.
They were standing in front of a warehouse. Melody followed Ronnie around back, where a truck sat with its hood open, the smell of smoke drifting in the air. Ronnie spent a few minutes chatting with the driver, then she gestured Melody over.
“Think you can handle those?” Ronnie said.
She pointed to two large bags in the back of the truck, probably a hundred pounds each. One was marked “FLOUR” and the other “COFFEE”. Melody hefted the flour over one shoulder and the coffee over the other. It was awkward but manageable.
Ronnie grabbed a large crate of produce and the driver apologized again. She nodded to Melody and flew back up to the roof. Melody tightened her grip on the bags and jumped.
She nearly dropped the bags several times on the way back to the hotel, but somehow she actually made it. She even managed to land without stumbling this time.
Ronnie touched down beside her and carried the crate inside. Melody followed her grandmother to the kitchen, a large stainless steel room buzzing with activity. Ronnie and Melody dropped off their loads and headed deeper into the building.
“Job well done,” Ronnie said. “Here, for your trouble.”
She handed Melody a few twenty-dollar bills.
“Thanks,” Melody said, shoving the cash into her pocket. “Uh, where are we going now?”
“The bar,” Ronnie replied. “I need to wet my whistle.”
She turned and stepped into a club that seemed to be going for a “fire-lit lodge” sort of vibe. The bartender was Melody’s cousin Garrett, yet another pale-skinned blond.
Ronnie pulled up a stool and gestured for Melody to do the same. Garrett grabbed two glasses and started pouring. He slid one glass across the bar to Ronnie.
“Rum and Coke for you,” he said, and slid the other glass to Melody. “Just Coke for you.”
“I think you can give her something a little stronger than that,” Ronnie said.
“No way,” Garrett replied. “Her mother will murder me. To death.”
“Oh don’t be such a baby,” Ronnie said. “Here.”
She switched glasses with Melody and elbowed her in the arm.
“Go on,” she said. “Drink up.”
“Don’t force her,” Garrett said. “Maybe she doesn’t want to—”
Melody grabbed the glass and drank it in a single gulp. It burned a little going down and a warm feeling spread across her face. Ronnie slapped her on the back.
“Atta girl!” she said, and turned to Garrett. “Keep ‘em coming.”
He sighed and glanced at Melody.
“You should run, while you still have the chance,” he said. “This lady’s nothing but trouble.”
“Don’t listen to him,” Ronnie said. “He’s just jealous.”
Melody started feeling a little lightheaded. She gripped the edge of the bar and closed her eyes.
“See? I told you,” Garrett said. “You okay, cuz?”
“Of course she’s okay,” Ronnie said. “She’s a Fletcher.”
Melody opened her eyes and stood from her seat.
“I need some air,” she said.
“Okay,” Ronnie replied. “I’ll be around if you need anything.”
Melody nodded and headed out of the club. She made her way to the lobby and headed for the revolving door.
“Where are you going?” a man’s voice said.
She glanced back. Victor stood by the front desk with his arms crossed.
“For a walk,” she said.
“I don’t think so,” he said, stepping toward her. “You can’t just wander the city unsupervised.”
“I do it all the time back home,” she said.
“That’s not the same,” he said. “Victory City is much bigger, and if you get lost….”
“I have my phone,” she said. “I’ll be fine.”
Victor shook his head.
“Look, I’m sorry,” he said, “but for then next few days, you’re under our care. If anything happens to you, your mother will never forgive us.”
“She shouldn’t have sent me away, then,” Melody replied, and turned back to the exit. “And anyway, Ronnie said it was okay.”
“Of course she did,” he said. “Listen, she hasn’t made you do anything you didn’t want to do, has she?”
Melody gripped the edge of the door, feeling lightheaded again.
“No,” she said.
“Well… okay,” he said. “It’s just… I know she can be a bit… pushy, at times. If you’re at all uncomfortable, you’re welcome to stay with Georgia and I until your parents get here.”
“Thanks,” Melody said, “but it’s fine.”
She stepped outside and spent the rest of the morning wandering the streets, occasionally popping into shops to look around. She used most of the money Ronnie gave her to buy this badass little wrought-iron lamp for her friend Sam from a trinket shop downtown. The rest of the money went toward lunch at McDonald’s.
In the afternoon, she ended up taking a walk through a sprawling, wooded park at the center of town. Even the trees were huge here. After a while, she stumbled across a meadow surrounding a cracked boulder with a plaque set into it.
The engraving read: “Here, on the seventh of July, 1956, our Hero fell protecting our City. We name this park ‘Victorious’ in honour of his sacrifice.”
Melody only vaguely remembered the story. Something about an alien invasion that ended with the death of a superhero. Several bouquets of flowers encircled the plaque. Victorious was clearly very important to the people here.
Melody backtracked out of the park and headed for the hotel. She couldn’t stop staring up at the buildings overhead. Every once in a while she spotted someone flying by; a courier here, a window washer there. And people just went about their day as if it were normal.
Because in this town it was normal.
The elevator door opened and Melody stepped out into the penthouse. Ronnie was sitting on the couch, flipping through an old photo album. Her eyes were red and puffy.
“You okay?” Melody asked.
Ronnie closed the album and set it on the coffee table. She took a deep breath and smiled at Melody.
“Whatcha got there?” she asked, nodding at the bag in Melody’s hand.
“A souvenir,” Melody replied. “For… a friend.”
“Just a friend?” Ronnie said with a wink.
“Yes,” Melody said, and glanced away.
“Hmm,” Ronnie muttered. “Well, good luck.”
Melody almost cracked a smile but quickly wiped it from her face. Ronnie clapped her hands on her knees.
“I need another drink,” she said.
She stood and strolled into the kitchen.
“Can I get you anything?” she asked. “I’ve got bourbon, scotch, mead, vod—”
“No thanks,” Melody said.
“It’s not as fun when an adult gives you permission, is it?” Ronnie asked.
Melody chuckled. Ronnie stepped back into the living room with a glass of clear liquid in her hand. She took a seat on the couch and crossed her legs, sipping at her drink. Melody sat beside her and stared down at the photo album.
“Are you close with your brothers?” Ronnie asked.
“I used to be,” Melody replied. “I don’t really see them a lot since they moved out.”
Ronnie leaned down and flipped the album open to a black-and-white photo of a teenage girl and a man who looked to be in his thirties, both of them blond and white. The man had his arm around the girl’s shoulder and they were standing on a street lined with old-timey cars.
“My brother’s name was Felix,” Ronnie said. “I never really knew my parents, so he was all I had. But then he died too.”
“I’m sorry,” Melody said.
“Ancient history at this point,” she said. “I wasn’t much older than you when it happened. I don’t really dwell on it anymore.”
Melody glanced at the drink in Ronnie’s hand and raised an eyebrow. Ronnie punched Melody lightly on the arm.
“Don’t get cute,” she said.
“I didn’t say a word,” Melody replied.
“Good answer,” she said.
She closed the photo album again and carried it to the bookshelf, sliding it between a pair of ornate bookends.
“Are you hungry?” she asked, turning around. “I’m thinking of ordering a pizza.”
“Can we get garlic fingers?” Melody replied.
“Garlic what?” Ronnie said.
After half an hour of explaining one of Atlantic Canada’s great delicacies, Melody and Ronnie decided to make their own. The kitchen was a mess by the time they finished, but the garlic fingers turned out all right. The donair sauce ended up a bit too runny, though.
“These are amazing,” Ronnie said after the first bite.
“They’re not as good as the real thing,” Melody said, “but you get the idea.”
“Now I understand how your father managed to convince my daughter to move all the way across the country,” Ronnie said, going back for another piece.
“He’s got more going for him than that,” Melody said, crossing her arms.
Ronnie smiled faintly.
“I know, dear,” she said. “I was only joking.”
“Oh,” Melody said, and looked away. “I… I always thought you hated him.”
Ronnie shook her head.
“While it’s true that I’d have preferred to have all my family living in the same town,” she said, “we hashed that out years ago. Besides, how could I stay mad at someone who gave me such a beautiful granddaughter?”
“Ugh, don’t call me that,” Melody said, grimacing.
“What, ‘granddaughter’?” Ronnie replied.
Melody rolled her eyes and stuck out her tongue. Ronnie chuckled and polished off another garlic finger. They finished the rest of the plate in silence, standing at the kitchen counter.
“Why don’t you go watch some television while I clean up in here?” Ronnie said, licking a bit of donair sauce from her fingers.
Melody glanced out into the living room, then turned back to the kitchen.
“I’ll help,” she said.
“You’re my guest,” Ronnie replied, guiding Melody to the door. “Guests get to relax while their hosts do all the work. That’s just how it works.”
“Okay,” Melody said. “If you’re sure….”
“Honey, hospitality is what I do,” Ronnie said with a wink. “Go.”
Melody nodded and stepped out into the living room. Grabbing the remote, she sat on the couch and started channel surfing. News, reality shows, Christmas movies… nothing much caught her eye. She stood from the couch and headed outside.
A light drizzle hung in the air, and the temperature was mild, the equivalent of an early spring evening back home. Melody made her way across the roof and stared out at the city, all lit up with a myriad of colors.
“Nice view, huh?” Ronnie said, stepping out behind her.
“Yeah,” Melody muttered, her eyes trailing up the side of a skyscraper next door.
“Want to see it from up above?” Ronnie asked. “I could take you for a flight.”
“No way,” Melody replied. “You’ll drop me.”
“Probably,” she said. “But I’d catch you. Eventually.”
“You’re insane,” Melody said.
“I can’t help it,” Ronnie said. “You’re like a baby bird and I just want to nudge you out of the nest.”
Melody took a step back from the ledge. Ronnie stared at her for a moment, then doubled over laughing.
“Could you imagine the look on Ginny’s face if she found out I threw her daughter off the roof?” Ronnie said, wiping away a tear. “She’d be so pissed.”
“She’d probably just assume it was all my fault,” Melody said.
“Oh, come on,” Ronnie said. “You don’t think she’d be concerned for your well-being? Even a little?”
Melody scoffed and said, “No.”
“Why do we put some money on it, then?” Ronnie said, leaning toward her. “See who she’s more upset with.”
“I’m not letting you push me off the roof!” Melody snapped.
“Killjoy,” Ronnie said, winking.
Melody sighed and headed back inside. She shook the moisture from her hair and plopped down on the couch with her arms crossed. An action movie that came out about a decade before she was born was playing on the TV.
“You mad at me?” Ronnie asked from the doorway.
“No,” Melody replied, focusing on the movie.
The main character was crawling around inside an air duct for some reason. Ronnie took a seat beside Melody and leaned back.
“Your mother had a short temper when she was your age, too,” Ronnie said.
“Can we please stop talking about her?” Melody asked.
“What would you rather talk about?” Ronnie asked.
“Honestly, I just want to watch the movie,” Melody said.
“If you insist,” Ronnie said.
She turned to the screen. The movie was better than Melody expected. The sequel came on afterwards, but the series got progressively worse as it went along; Melody fell asleep halfway through the fourth movie.
In the morning, Melody found a full continental breakfast waiting for her on the nightstand. She devoured it quickly, leaving only the scrambled eggs untouched, and stepped out into the hall.
“Oh good, you’re up,” Ronnie said, standing by the bathroom door dressed in jeans and a grey canvas jacket. “I’ve got some more work for you.”
“Not groceries again, is it?” Melody asked.
“Nope,” Ronnie replied. “Suit up. I’ll be waiting outside.”
Melody showered and threw on some clothes. She stepped out onto the roof and Ronnie immediately took to the sky. Melody followed closely, leaping higher and higher with every bound, all the way to a fenced-in lot on the edge of town.
“Fresh Cut Trees!” the sign on the fence said.
The lot was still half-full, the trees coming in all shapes and sizes. A balding, middle-aged black man in blue coveralls leaned against a pick-up truck parked by the entrance. He smiled as they approached.
“Morning, ladies,” he said, stepping forward. “There anything in particular I can help you find?”
“I’m here from the Champion Hotel,” Ronnie said. “I believe we spoke on the phone.”
“Ah, yes,” he said. “Right this way.”
He led them through the rows of trees to the back of the lot, where a twenty-foot pine towered over them.
“I can have it delivered this afternoon if you’re satisfied,” he said.
“That’s okay,” she said. “I can take it from here.”
He looked her up and down skeptically, then shrugged.
“Suit yourself,” he said.
Ronnie reached into her pocket and handed the man a cheque.
“We’ll also take one of the smaller ones,” she said.
“Sure,” he said, glancing at the check. “Take your pick.”
Ronnie nodded at Melody and said, “Grab whichever tree you like.”
“Me?” Melody asked.
But Ronnie had already turned away, approaching the pine. Melody wandered among the trees, but they all looked pretty much the same to her. Eventually she just picked one at random and dragged it back to Ronnie.
“All set?” Ronnie asked.
Melody nodded. Ronnie glanced at the man and smiled.
“Merry Christmas,” she said.
She flew to the top of the big tree and lifted it into the air. Melody struggled for a minute to get a decent grip on the smaller tree and then jumped after Ronnie.
Even though the tree was much larger than yesterday’s load, it somehow felt less awkward to carry. At the height of each jump, the world seemed to slow down, and she could actually take in the view for moment before the descent began.
Ronnie paused over the building next door to the hotel and waiting for Melody to catch up. The teenager landed on the roof and set her tree down for a moment.
“The big one goes in the lobby,” Ronnie said, “but you can go ahead and take yours straight to the apartment. Just don’t decorate without me.”
Ronnie winked and flew all the way down to street level. Melody picked up her tree and dropped to the roof of the hotel. She opened the penthouse doors and squeezed the tree inside.
She took a few minutes to shake the needles from her clothes and grabbed another shower, but she still smelled like the tree. After about half an hour, the elevator opened and Ronnie stepped out.
“All right,” she said. “Now comes the fun part.”
She stepped into the hallway and came back a minute later carrying a box full of lights and ornaments and other odds and ends. The two of them spent a couple hours decorating the tree before taking a break for lunch.
“I think it turned out rather well,” Ronnie said, nodding at the tree. “You’ve got quite a knack for this.”
“It’s just a Christmas tree,” she said. “It’s not complicated.”
“Well, then maybe you’d like to do the one downstairs, too, if it’s so simple?” Ronnie said.
“Pass,” Melody replied.
“Oh, come on,” Ronnie said. “I’ll pay you.”
Melody thought for a moment about what she could buy with another sixty bucks.
It took Melody the entire afternoon to decorate the big tree, even with Ronnie’s help. Gold was the dominant color scheme, from the ornaments to the lights to the tinsel, with a touch of red here and there. They topped it off with an ornate crystal star.
“Oh my God,” Georgia said, appearing at the top of the stairs with Victor. “It’s beautiful.”
“Our girl did a great job, didn’t she?” Ronnie said, squeezing Melody’s shoulder.
“You did this?” Victor asked Melody.
She looked at the floor and said, “Ronnie did most of the work.”
“I just followed instructions,” Ronnie said. “Melody was the mastermind.”
“I had no idea you were so talented,” Georgia said. “What else are you hiding?”
She winked. Melody shook her head.
“Nothing,” she said.
“Well, we still have plenty of time to find out,” Georgia said. “You have a nice evening.”
She took her husband by the arm and continued on her way out of the building. Ronnie reached out and pressed something into Melody’s hand.
“Here,” she said. “As promised.”
Melody unfolded three pieces of thin brown plastic bearing the number “100”. Her eyes snapped up to her grandmother.
“This… this is….” she stammered.
“It’s what you earned,” Ronnie said. “Enjoy it.”
Melody stared at the money and said, “Thanks.”
Ronnie patted Melody on the back and headed for the stairs. She paused on the bottom step and turned back.
“Hey,” she said. “Do you want to go see a movie?”
“VICTORIOUS,” the poster said. “ADVANCE SCREENING.”
A muscular white man with blond hair stood in the middle of a wrecked city block with a purple cape flapping in the wind. Fire rained from the sky.
Melody followed Ronnie to the front of the line, where an usher checked their tickets. He waved them through and they headed down some steps to a section of reserved seating.
“Ronnie!” a woman said, rising from her seat.
She was dressed in a grey sweater and blue jeans, with short black hair and horn-rimmed glasses.
“I’m glad you could make it,” she said.
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Ronnie replied, and glanced at Melody. “This is Charlie. She wrote the movie. Charlie, meet my granddaughter, Melody.”
“It’s a pleasure,” Charlie said, shaking Melody’s hand.
She turned and dragged a scruffy looking guy in a cheap dinner jacket from his seat.
“This here’s Francis, my boyfriend,” she said. “He was the stunt double for our star. Show ‘em.”
Francis’s face shimmered and transformed into the white guy from the poster outside. He smiled at Melody. She looked away.
“So I hear this picture’s getting some good reviews,” Ronnie said.
“Sure is,” Charlie said. “Ninety-two percent and climbing on Rotten Tomatoes.”
“That’s pretty exciting,” Ronnie said. “Sounds like you’re going to have to make room on your mantle for an Oscar soon.”
Charlie chuckled and said, “Here’s hoping.”
The house lights dimmed and everyone took their seats. The film unfolded in a nonlinear fashion, exploring the life of the superhero Captain Victorious, from his early childhood to his debut as a hero to his death at the hands of the Venusian Armada that laid siege to Earth in the summer of 1956.
Along the way, he made enemies, he fell in love, and he even rediscovered a long-lost sister who would go on to become his sidekick under the alias “Champion”. In the end, he gave his life to save the city and nobody even knew his real name.
Melody glanced up at her grandmother as the credits rolled. Tears streaked Ronnie’s face, smearing her mascara. Melody reached over, tentatively, and squeezed Ronnie’s hand. Ronnie looked down at her granddaughter and wiped at the tears.
“I’m so embarrassed,” she said, her voice catching in her throat. “I thought I could keep it together.”
“It’s okay,” Melody said.
Ronnie smiled weakly.
“Ancient history, right?” she said, and cleared her throat. “I need to step out to the little girl’s room. Excuse me.”
She rose from her seat and hurried out of the theatre. Melody waited, watching the names scroll up the screen. The audience began to head for the exit. Charlie stopped in front of Melody and looked down.
“So what’d you think?” she asked.
“It was good,” Melody replied. “Really… well-written.”
“Thanks,” Charlie said, chuckling. “I have to confess, I couldn’t have done it without your grandmother’s help. She’s a hell of a woman.”
“Yeah,” Melody said. “She is.”
“See you around, kid,” she said, and headed out the door with Francis in tow.
When the credits finished and the theatre staff had just started cleaning up, Ronnie reappeared at the exit with a fresh coat of mascara. Melody stood from her seat and joined Ronnie in the hallway.
“Are… you okay now?” Melody asked.
“I’m fine,” Ronnie replied, and winked. “Maybe a little thirsty, though.”
“I could go for another Rum and Coke,” she said.
Ronnie draped her arm around Melody’s shoulders and said, “Honey, you just read my mind.”
On the morning of Christmas Eve, Melody woke early and joined Ronnie on the roof. They stood together for a long moment before either of them spoke.
“You ready?” Ronnie asked.
“I think so,” Melody replied.
“Then let’s go,” Ronnie said, and flew out over the city.
Melody jumped after her. She could barely feel her feet touching the rooftops as she made her way across town. A passenger jet flew over her head, descending in the same direction she was moving.
She landed smoothly in front of the airport, where Ronnie was already waiting. Ronnie’s eyes widened, staring at Melody with her jaw slack. Melody hugged her elbows self-consciously.
“What?” she said.
Ronnie glanced down at the ground and Melody followed her gaze: six inches of empty space separated Melody’s feet from the sidewalk. Melody gasped and fell to the pavement with a thud.
“See?” Ronnie said, grinning. “What’d I tell you?”
She turned and headed into the airport. Melody followed closely. At the far end of the concourse, she spotted her parents and brothers dragging their suitcases through the crowd.
She ran toward them.