This is the last chapter of the Battle of the Arch-Enemies, begun here and continued from here. If JED wishes, he may decide to write the Finale from Steve’s perspective. If he does, you’ll find a reblog on this blog. Now, on with the story.
Melanie’s last sally in her little war with her adopted brother, Steve, in which she had hung him upside down in his underwear from the monkey bars at the local playground and plastered it all over YouTube, had happened just last week. Since then, they’d both been too busy with school to do much to each other. Their parents had also been too busy, and not one reprimand had been heard from them. Mom was constantly in her studio lately, working on a new line of fall fashions. Dad was out of town making a big presentation in New York City and would be gone for the next several weeks. All in all, it made the house pretty quiet for a change.
As for Melanie, she realized she’d become more than a little paranoid by this point. Her room’s now completely automatic security system was almost never off. The only way to get in was to own the correct key. The door lock was completely lock-pick proof and any contact with the wood of the door would trigger the system. She’d tested it while Steve was at the library working, so he said, on a term paper for school. She didn’t want to wait for him to come up with anything new. The next move would be hers, not his.
She’d taken to following him everywhere he went, unobtrusively, until she had his entire day’s routine outside of school down pat. If he ever deviated from it, she’d know something was up. When he was stationary, she was working on her next move, doing her best to ensure that the last word would be hers. When he was asleep, she gathered papers from his garbage can and his floor, scanned them into the new computer Dad had let her buy and added them to her file on him before returning them to the exact same places she’d originally seen them.
Yes, she thought, I’ve definitely gotten paranoid.
Today, they were at the library. Steve was looking through a book on electronics, leafing through it in what seemed like an idle fashion, but which Melanie was well aware was not. Melanie knew better than anyone that Steve could read an entire page of a book in about five seconds. So, when he looked like he was just scanning a book, he was usually reading it word for word. Just then, a taller boy Melanie had never seen before walked up to his table and pushed the book off, so that it hit the floor with a loud THWACK!
Steve looked up and his eyes filled with a hatred that easily rivaled the feelings she knew he had for herself. However, his response was puzzling. He simply got up, plucked the book off the floor and set it down in its original place, then bent over the book again, preparing to go back to looking through it. The bigger boy, smirking broadly, slid the book to the floor again.
“Stop it,” Steve hissed, getting up to retrieve the book once more.
“Gonna make me, nerd-boy?” the stranger whispered back. “Whatcha gonna do? Whisper me to death?”
Strangely, Steve, though obviously enraged, sat back down in his chair with a peculiarly helpless look on his face, the book clutched to his chest in a protective embrace. With that one look, something inside Melanie snapped. Not hesitating for a second, she walked up behind the strange boy, grabbed his left arm and quickly twisted it firmly up between his shoulder-blades, grasping the collar of his jacket as she did so. Steve’s expression went quickly from helpless to surprised.
“Let’s talk outside, big man,” Melanie whispered in the bully’s ear. So saying, she frog-marched him out of the library, nodding once at the librarian’s desk on the way out. Surprisingly, the librarian nodded back, a look of fierce pleasure on her face. Dimly, Melanie was aware that Steve was following her, the electronics book left forgotten on the table behind them.
Once the two of them were outside, Melanie gave the strange boy a shove, putting about two yards of concrete between him and herself.
“Why not pick on someone closer to your size?” Melanie suggested, folding her arms across her chest.
“Aw, you’re a girl,” the boy hedged in a lame tone of voice, glaring at her.
“Oh, poor diaper baby,” Melanie teased in a ridiculous parody of weeping. “Can’t the poor baby feel big unless he’s terrorizing kids in a library? Boo hoo hoo!”
The stranger’s lips peeled back in anger.
“What’s the matter, diaper baby?” she added in the insulting tone she usually reserved for Steve. “You’re brave enough to attack a smaller boy in a library but you’re too cowardly to tackle a girl your size out in the open?”
The stranger snarled as he leaped for her. Instantly, Melanie’s martial arts training kicked in. She hadn’t practiced in years, so it was nice to know that the reflexes she’d honed so long ago worked just as well as they had when she was going to classes every week. As he reached for her, she stepped forward, bending down so that her fist caught him hard in the groin, then stepping forward again to lift him up and throw him backward against the side of the building, which he hit with a satisfying thud!
She whirled, stepping down into stance before beckoning the bully in the classic “bring it on” gesture.
To her intense relief, the bully staggered to his feet and stumbled away, clutching himself and moaning in pain.
When she was sure he was gone, she turned to regard Steve. “Are you alright?” she asked, “That retard didn’t hurt you, did he? ‘Cause if he did, you know I’ll make him regret it.”
“Why?” Steve responded, puzzled. “I thought you hated me.”
“Yeah,” Melanie conceded, seating herself on a nearby park bench, “but all sisters and brothers hate each other. What I don’t understand is why you let that stain on the DNA of humanity mess with you.”
Hesitantly, Steve walked over and sat on the bench next to her.
“I only ever saw him in the library,” Steve explained, “and I wasn’t the only one he picked on. I wanted to get revenge on him, but he always left before I did and so long as he was quiet, the librarians couldn’t do anything against him. Where did you learn to do that?”
“Dad used to make me take classes back when we lived in Chicago,” Melanie replied. “Mom was sure I was going to be kidnapped or something while we lived there. Then we moved here and adopted you and, well, I guess they got too busy for it.”
Steve nodded his understanding.
“Wanna learn?” Melanie added, “I’d hate to think any brother of mine was getting picked on by creeps like that just because he couldn’t defend himself.”
“But I’m not really your brother,” Steve pointed out.
“According to Mom and Dad, you are,” Melanie disagreed. “Look, I’m not going to make you take martial arts if you don’t want to. I always hated going to those stupid classes anyway.”
“No, it’s okay,” Steve replied. “I’d like to learn it.”
“And you can teach me how to make electronic gadgets out of Legos,” Melanie replied, throwing a friendly arm across Steve’s shoulders. “There’s a girl in one of my classes that I’m pretty sure is copying my work and I’ll flunk out if I can’t prove it.”
Steve’s face lit up with a smile. “Partners?” he suggested, extending a hand.
“Yeah,” Melanie grinned back wolfishly, taking it, “and pity the rest of humanity if they manage to get in our way.”