Rosie’s Day by Bradley Sides
Rosie’s Day by Bradley Sides
Every morning, I awaken early to watch her bake. Her frame lies flat, as she rises and expands. I am on another spectrum, though, as I stand; I bend forward, at my hips, to watch the process. While crouching downward, I sip from my cup. The liquid from it steams and even burns the top of my lip, but I ignore it. I am unable to look away. The plate she rests upon pops. Tiny droplets of condensation collect on the oven’s window, slowly streaming downward to alter my view of her. I am tempted to open the door and brush away the water, but I don’t. When the timer dings, the flame underneath her sputters and vanishes. She is set. Her hand extends first, and she reaches toward me. Slowly, her index finger breaks free. At her own command, the enclosure’s door collapses. She extends her other limbs, frees her body from its constraints, and steps free. My posture grows erect to greet her; I do nothing else but watch.
“Erik,” she says slowly, as her voice arrives. “Good morning.”
“Rosie,” I say, nodding to her, with my coffee still in-hand.
Rosie does not hold long conversations with me. She is cordial, but our communicating rarely goes beyond greetings and work. She does not stand around either. She spends her time moving.
She waves as she leaves the room to dress herself. As she walks down the hallway, I watch the smoke flow off her newly perfected skin. When she shuts the door, I hear her fan circulating the morning air.
“What’s the plan for the day?” Rosie asks, still getting ready behind her door. “Have you heard anything yet?”
Before I can answer, I hear the doorknob turn. I turn, and I admire her, just as I always do. A red hat covers her hairless head, and a black bodysuit stretches over her body. She hides her dry, cracking skin, afraid that it might draw attention. Another splotch of red circles her waist a thick belt with multiple holsters. A yellow cape flows behind her shoulders. In the middle of her torso sits a large “R,” in white, bold lettering. “Rosie,” I whisper to myself. “Rosie the Great.”
Rosie stands over my shoulder, rocking back-and-forth with her arms crossed, while I listen to the scanner with the aid of my headphones. I can feel her eyes watching me—unwavering.
A sound clicks in my ear. My shoulder pops up to my right ear to hold the voice in place, and I begin typing.
“Was that the code this early in the day? Come on, Erik. What’s going on?”
I hit print and move as quickly as I can to the printer. I check it over, and I hand it to her. I say, “Just down below us, Rosie, on 43rd.”
She reads through my notes and nods. It only takes her one reading to comprehend it all. She walks to the window and smirks, while quickly turning back to me. “Watch now. I might need help.” It’s her only joke.
With that, she jumps.
Fourteen floors below our balcony, I watch the altercation already in process. A man, with a bull mask covering his face, blows a fire torch into the window of our neighborhood’s only bakery. I see his hands pounding the torch against the front window. The glass covering shatters, with swirly, chalky letters falling to the street’s gray pavement. The shards shimmer and reflect into the morning sky. The man continues his destruction. A stream of fire flows into the building, but my view blocks the results.
Then, I see her. She is no longer the Rosie who left our apartment. She is someone entirely different—someone transformed. She must have found water to reshape her body. She had to have found it around the corner somewhere, probably a small leak from a hydrant. Still, though, I know it is she. A black disc, with a red hood, spins. I glimpse her symbol and watch the white “R” circling toward its destiny. I feel my heartbeat quickening, with pride. She crashes into the back of the man’s neck, and he collapses, as does Rosie.
The collision causes both of them to react. The man falls to the same pavement, where his initial debris rests. Rosie slams against the bakery’s wall, but when she hits it, she unfolds back to her human shape. Immediately, she stands. I watch as she moves over to the man, still in his mask. She hovers above him, when I notice her roll up her left leg’s black covering. She grabs a chunk of her flesh and begins to mold it into a ball. I think about having to repair what she’s doing to her leg later. It shouldn’t be too difficult to manage, but legs tend to be tricky to get exactly right. Rosie grabs the man’s arms and pulls them apart. She takes the skin she pulled from her body and molds it around the man’s hands to keep him in place. Then, she unmasks the man. It only takes one mistake to ruin something great. Right now, I know that better than anyone.
Although I am over a hundred feet away from Rosie, I see that the look on her face is not relief. She looks at the man again, but she does it more out of respect to me than necessity. Rosie knows the truth. She looks up at me. Her eyes grow large. She is unable to look away, and I can’t help but meet her gaze. Disappointment, fear, anger, I can’t tell which it is that she feels—possibly all three. For once, she doesn’t move. I doubt she knows what to do or where to go. I am the one who saved her life so many years ago. I am the one who repairs her every night from her injuries. I am the one who found her, left for dead in the ally. I am the one who promised to never let anyone hurt her. Yet, now, I am the one who betrays her.
Seeing that she knows what I have done is the worst part of it all. She reaches into one of the holsters on her left hip. What she pulls out is a metallic pad with one sole button. Clasping it, she looks away from me. I know what this means. There will be no going back.
“Please, Rosie! Please! Don’t!” I yell from my—our—apartment balcony. I know that my shrieks are desperate, and I know that Rosie is not one to change her mind based on sentimentality. I still try.
But it’s too late. She looks back up at me and pushes the button.
Immediately, I hear an explosion within our apartment. I turn from Rosie to save what I can. The radio I used is gone. Pieces of it lay scattered across the room. The dial to channel the frequency is smashed into the opposing wall. The computer, which helped Rosie find her way to missions, lies in pieces, smoking. Maps on the walls burn. I run to my bedroom to grab a blanket to smother the flames, but the streets have already melted away. A humming penetrates my ears. The plugs on the walls spark and shoot across the room. Clouds of smoke billow out of the window and up into the morning sky. Stepping over smoldering pieces of equipment, I run to open as many windows as I can. With the haze, my vision is lousy. I stumble and fall over my own tools. Foolishly, I just now remember my contacts in the desk drawer, my hard copy to the Agency of Heroic Names. I frantically leap to my desk and pull open the front drawer. I see nothing. I pull it out further, but I still find nothing. Then, I turn around and see her. Rosie stands at our door.
I expect her to yell, attack, or even kill me. But then I remember that this is Rosie in front of me. No matter what another person might want to do, Rosie is always calm. She understands what I’ve done.
“I’m hurt,” she says, still standing at entrance to our apartment.
“I can fix you, Rosie. It’s okay—.”
“No, Erik. You can’t fix this. Why did you do it? Why did you set it up?”
I start to approach her, feeling the smoke and flames at my back. Sweat dampens the back of my shirt. I feel the droplets running down my torso. “I, I wanted to make you feel special. Like you are. You are so important and so powerful. What you do is good for the city. You save it, Rosie. You save us. I wanted you to feel your power. I wanted you to use it. Why let something—someone—like you waste away?”
“How am I using my power if the crime is a setup? The same guy being used two days in a row. Did you think that I wouldn’t recognize his face? Am I that stupid? And how am I saving the city when you have someone destroying it? This is my neighborhood, too, Erik. I love these people. That’s why I allowed you to save me anyway. I want to prevent other people from being hurt. Don’t you understand that? Do you think I would want to be a freak for any other reason?”
“You are not a freak, Rosie,” I say. I keep moving toward her. My arms are open. I want to embrace her. She still stands in the doorframe. Her arms are crossed. She moves her right leg, her closest leg to me, in a bending motion. Even when she is upset, Rosie moves.
“I go through what I do to protect my neighbors—I love this city and the people in it. They are good to me. They allow me to roam these streets. I’m not some deformed misfit to them; they don’t think of me as something that has to sleep in an oven overnight just to survive. I am more than that. I’m their help. I’m their hero, Erik. They respect me.” She pauses in her speech for a moment, unfolds her arms, and steps into the apartment.
I back away from her, not knowing what else to do. The expression she models is not one that I have seen before. “I’ll make this right, Rosie,” I say. “I’ll make this right. Allow me to do this. Please.” The smoke distorts my vision, as I step further back into the denser clouds.
“I called them. They are on their way,” Rosie calmly says to me.
“No. Please tell me that you didn’t, Rosie. You are all I have. I protect you. I take care of you. I don’t know how to do anything else. Please. Don’t do this,” I say. I look at her and continue to plead. “Please, Rosie. Please.”
“The Agency already has someone else set up for me,” Rosie says. “It’s here in the city, too. I can do good things. I can continue to stop crimes. Remember when you first fixed me? Remember the rush of those first few missions? I came in broken apart—sometimes even in pieces. You’d put me back together, and I would go out again the next morning. Do you remember those first few sirens, when the police would arrive to take the bad guys away? That’s what I’m going back to, Erik.”
I scrub the tiny whiskers on my chin. I don’t know what to say to her. She fights for the good guys. I no longer retreat back into the haze; instead, I step toward her. “The setups have only been going on for the past month. I just want you to know that, Rosie. I wanted you to have that rush you get all the time. I didn’t want you to feel worthless or wasted. I am sorry, Rosie. I am so sorry.”
She looks at me and nods, but she doesn’t speak.
I hear feet rushing up the steps, just outside my door. Yelling gets closer and closer to me. I hear chains clinking along the stairway banister. I begin to see lights—purple and yellow—dancing along the doorframe. I recognize the colors immediately. The Agency will punish me. I should think of what to say in my defense, but I can’t concentrate on myself right now.
I look to the balcony, just as she leaps into the city’s arms.
* * * * THE END * * * *
Copyright Bradley Sides 2014
About the Author: Bradley Sides is a graduate of the M. A. in English program from the University of North Alabama. He currently teaches junior English in Tennessee. His work was recently published (and is forthcoming) in Inwood Indiana and Boston Literary Magazine. He resides in Florence, Alabama with his wife.