I want to be a superhero.
When the girls all put pillowcases on their heads and pretended to be brides, Bethany threw hers over her shoulder and said she was Power Girl.
"You can't do that," she was told. "Superheroes is a stupid kiddies' game. We're being brides."
The other girls grew out of it; Bethany didn't. The pillowcase was always a cape. Sometimes it was Power Girl's, sometimes Batwoman's, sometimes Wonder Woman's (she always wore a cape when Bethany played the game). All that happened was that Bethany stopped talking to people about her dream, after people kept telling her it was silly. She didn't have any meta powers, her parents were alive and loved her very much, and she wasn't even very good at tae kwon do. An infection she'd had when a very tiny baby had nearly killed her, and left Bethany with chronic asthma, but she still wanted to be a superhero.
The only person she ever told about this was her best friend Helena, who agreed it was silly.
"When you're a superhero," she promised, "I'll be your arch-nemesis."
--------------------I want to be rich.
Helena never made any secret about the fact that she loved pretty things and wanted to surround herself with them. When she was ten years old, she worked out that the age difference between her and Damien Wayne wouldn't be that
much when they were older, and set about spending his money in her mind, on jewellery and clothes and all the most beautiful and valuable art. It wasn't that she was particularly impoverished as a child, it was just that she wanted to live in a palace.
When she was thirteen, her parents broke the news that she was adopted, and though there was no available information about her birth parents, she instantly decided she was a European princess.
When she was fourteen, she stole a cat-shaped pendant from an antique shop near her house. She kept the prize in the bottom of her jewellery box, and began to take it out just to hold every few weeks. It represented the luxury lifestyle she longed to have, and the most fun she'd had in her life so far.
-----------------------I want to be myself.
"Very important time in the boy's development. A broken nose at this age could ruin his looks for life."
Tom squirmed in his seat as the principal told his Appa what a nasty, horrible little boy he was. Appa sat still and quiet through the rant before asking his son what none of the teachers had bothered to ask.
"Why did you do it, Tom?"
Tom told Appa what the boy had said and Appa turned calmly to the teacher.
"Is this boy going to be punished for using a racial slur against my son?"
"You think a broken nose isn't punishment enough?"
"I don't want you to think this is about racism, Mr. Park. This is just one of a serious of incidents that make the faculty at this school wonder if you're providing the best environment for a growing boy. Your domestic circumstances..."
Tom never went back to that school. But his Appa and Dad were very firm in telling him that violence is never acceptable. By the time the comments about his "domestic circumstances" reached the minds and mouths of his peers, he'd learned never to bring his anger out where it could be seen. He bottled it up, and swallowed it down, like the worst of all nasty medicine.
He told the grown ups he wanted to be a pharmacist.
-------------------I want to be worthy of her pride.
Don't do drugs.
Don't answer too many questions about your family.
And never ever, under any circumstances, play with guns.
There were rules, and as long as Zoe played by them, everything was great. And Zoe had no reason whatsoever not to play by them, She was lucky, she knew that. Her Mom was involved in every community group going and worked hard with a smile and a flush of fulfilment to give Zoe, and every damn kid in the neighbourhood, a childhood and opportunities she never had. Zoe, whose mother was an ex-drug addict and an ex-prostitute and whose father they never talked about ever, was acing through high school and had offers for pre-law from Gotham and Metropolis as well as UCSC. She was going to make her mother proud.
Of course, Michelle was already proud of Zoe, and she loved her very much, but there was something else under that, something that might be pity but might be something else, and Zoe never ever understood what it was.
But then Zoe never really understood the concept of fear.
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