by Martin Maenza
The television across the way showed an old black and white western; the volume was turned down low but was still audible. “You know what we do to rustlers in these parts?” one of the men in the film said to the other. “We hang ’em! By the branches of the big oak down by the river!” The screen’s glow was the only light in the otherwise-darkened bedroom.
J’onn Jonzz’s attention was distracted by the restless stirring of the woman under the covers next to him. “Can’t sleep?” he asked in a gentle, caring voice.
Nubia rolled over, and her flowing, black hair naturally framed the dark caramel skin of her beautiful face. “Sorry if I am disturbing you, J’onn,” she said. “I just could not get the thoughts out of my mind.” She reached out one of her fingers and gently stroked the man’s muscular green shoulder. “Is this truly something Diana would have done?”
The bald Martian turned on his side to face her and smiled. “Yes, I am sure of it.” He reached one of his fingers forward and gently ran it through her hair. “It wasn’t uncommon for her do it at least once a month. Occasionally, even her fellow Justice Leaguers would join her in the act.”
Nubia smiled at the man’s reassuring touch. “Then I believe it is something that I just must do,” the warrior woman admitted, “even if it is not something in which I am very well-versed.” She nuzzled in closer to J’onn, placing her head upon his bare chest.
“You’ll do a fantastic job,” he assured her. “Just relax, be yourself, and it will all work out fine.”
Nubia lay quiet for a second while she enjoyed the rising and falling of the Martian’s chest as he spoke. “I believe you, J’onn, for you would never misguide me,” she replied. “I will accept the invitation. After all, how difficult can a public speaking engagement be?”
Carolyn Honeycut adjusted the paisley scarf tied fashionably around her neck. She stepped out of her office to the grassy lawn where a few print photographers and one news crew waited. Moving back her tan jacket sleeve, she checked the time on her gold watch. It was three-thirty. “It should be any moment,” she said aloud as she looked to the sky, her left hand shielding her eyes slightly in the bright afternoon sun.
“I hope I have not kept you waiting long,” a confident female voice said.
Carolyn and the news media all turned as a tall black woman strode across the well-kept lawn. Dressed in red boots and a familiar red, white, blue, and gold costume, Nubia made her way toward the blonde woman amidst the flashes of cameras.
Ms. Honeycut’s heels clicked on the cobblestone walk as she moved to intercept her guest. “Not at all, Wonder Woman,” Carolyn chirped. “Right on time.” She pouted ever so slightly. “Y’all just caught me off-guard, though. I was expecting you to arrive by your invisible plane or something.”
“That is one thing I did not inherit from my predecessor,” Nubia replied.
As the two women came together, Carolyn put forth her hand in greeting. Nubia, becoming more familiar with the customs of the Patriarch’s World every day, returned the greeting. However, she took great care not to squeeze the woman’s hand too tightly. The photographers continued to take pictures. Nubia tried her best to smile despite the slight discomfort she felt over all the attention.
Finally, her hostess took charge of the situation. “Thank y’all very much for coming, gentlemen,” she addressed the media, “but Wonder Woman and I must go and discuss her visit.” The blonde woman waved them off and escorted the statuesque Amazon inside.
Carolyn Honeycut led Nubia across the common’s area. As the woman pointed out the various high points of the campus, the warrior could not help noticing the students. Some rushed off to take the last of their final exams, while others relaxed and chatted with friends. All wore the same uniform, a dark red skirt and a white blouse.
“The campus is very pleasant,” Nubia said. She then turned to her hostess. “You said your title is Dean of Women?”
“Why, yes it is,” Carolyn replied. “Here at the Wesleyan School we maintain a level of respect for our student body. As they complete their high school academics and prepare for college or whatever have you, they have blossomed into fine young women.” Ms. Honeycut nodded as a group passed by. “We’re very proud of our young women here.”
“If you do not mind my asking,” Nubia said, “I noticed that most of the young women here are light in skin tone. Are there many students of other colors?”
Carolyn paused for a moment, surprised that the woman would bring up this particular subject. “Well,” she started to say, “we do have a few minorities enrolled. As a private school, we are not funded by the government and thus are not regulated by equal opportunity legislation.”
The woman shifted uncomfortably on one foot as she noticed Wonder Woman’s concerned look. Carolyn continued her explanation. “However, we recognize the importance of diversity and would never disqualify a candidate on her race, religion, or background. If a young woman is up to Wesleyan standards and has means to meet the tuition, she is more than welcome to enroll.”
Nubia looked at Carolyn intently. “I see,” she said rather flatly.
Carolyn smiled slightly in relief. She felt it best to change the subject. “Perhaps you’d like to see the garden before I take you to where y’all be staying the night,” the Dean offered. “The gardenias are in bloom, which will be perfect for tomorrow’s graduation ceremony.”
Nubia nodded. “Of course. Lead on.” And the two walked off.
The young ladies of the school had been observing the visitor the moment she stepped on campus. Much whispering and discussion surrounded the arrival of the graduation speaker. One group of students talked in a hushed circle across the way as Ms. Honeycut and Nubia entered the garden.
“I can’t believe it,” gushed one heavier set girl with brown hair. “It’s actually Wonder Woman, here at our school.”
“A Wonder Woman, Natalie,” corrected a blonde with long straight hair. “She’s the new one, the replacement. Not the original one.”
“Hey, lighten up, Blair!” snapped the taller brunette. “It’s an honor to have her here, no matter which one she is.”
The young blonde wrinkled her nose. “Maybe, Jo. Maybe.” The girls walked off toward the dining hall.
That evening at the Dean’s home, the two women retired to the sitting room for coffee after their late meal. “I hope y’all don’t mind if I turn on the news,” Carolyn said. “I prefer to catch it at ten P.M. if possible.”
The warrior princess replied, “By all means.” She sat down in one of the chairs and gently thumbed through the late edition newspaper on the coffee table. A headline on one of the later sections caught her eye. “Wonder Woman to Speak at Wesleyan Commencement,” she read quietly to herself. The article continued on briefly to discuss her arrival in town along with some history of the school. It ended on an editorial sort of tone, discussing how times had changed and how having a black Wonder Woman speaking at a predominantly white, private school in the South was less out of place today than it would have been in the past.
Nubia considered the last words and wanted to discuss them with Carolyn when another person entered the room. It was Cora, Ms. Honeycut’s maid.
The heavier black woman wearing a black and white uniform carried a silver tray with a small pot of freshly brewed coffee and two cups and saucers. “Excuse the interruption,” the elder Cora said rather meekly. “Your coffee is ready, ma’am.” She placed the tray down on the table and began to pour it out.
Carolyn barely glanced at the woman. “Thank you, Cora. That will be all.” The maid nodded and exited the room.
Nubia took the whole situation in with a cautious eye. She reached for her cup and blew gently on the liquid. As she was about to address Carolyn once more, the blonde woman spoke up.
“Oh, look,” Carolyn announced, “we made the news!” She clicked the volume on the remote so that they could both hear the reporter more clearly.
As images of her arrival on campus and shots of the college were shown, a female anchor’s voice narrated. “Today, Wonder Woman arrived in our fair city with little fanfare or ceremony. Scheduled to speak at tomorrow’s graduation commencement at Wesleyan School for Women, the heroine’s visit has not gone unnoticed by the community.”
The scene cut to a woman on the street. “What’s her kind doin’ here?” the older white woman with tussled hair and crooked teeth said to the camera. “Ain’t she s’posed to be chasin’ crooks or somethin’?”
The anchor’s voiceover then said, “But others are very pleased by her visit.”
The scene then changed to that of a well-decorated office. “It’s quite an honor for someone of Wonder Woman’s stature to be speaking to the youth of today,” a black man in a dark suit said. “She provides an inspiration to all women of all colors.” The caption under his picture identified him as Professor Carl Langden of a local university.
The scene then changed to that of the female anchor, who was also a black woman. “This is the new Wonder Woman, who replaced the original late last year. The original Wonder Woman, a founding member of the Justice League of America, disappeared after the worldwide Crisis and has not been seen since.” The news then moved on to another story.
Carolyn lowered the volume slightly. “Well, wasn’t that fabulous?” she said. Turning to see her guest rising to her feet, she asked, “Is something wrong?”
Nubia placed her coffee cup back on the tray. “It has been a long day,” she said, making up an excuse. “I’m going to retire for the evening.” She turned and made her way toward the stairs.
Upon reaching the guest room, Nubia closed the door behind herself and sighed deeply. All this attention and focus toward her made her slightly uneasy. Her warrior upbringing did not prepare her for this type of media focus, and she felt confined. The continued comparison by others of her to the original Wonder Woman also played on her mind.
Nubia went to the double doors that led to the second-story balcony and opened them. “Ahh,” she said to herself as the fresh air filled the room. “I wonder how Diana would have dealt with this situation.”
The black-skinned woman thought often about her predecessor and how they compared. Naturally, Nubia knew that she and Diana had been equally matched as warriors. Their first encounter in battle together, orchestrated by the war god Mars, told that tale. (*) Still, their upbringing differed greatly. Diana had been nurtured on Paradise Island, while Nubia fought out her existence on Slaughter Island.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “War of the Wonder Women,” Wonder Woman #206 (June-July, 1973).]
“In some ways I envy Diana,” she said softly as she looked up at the clear evening sky. “The fates have blessed her with a second chance. She will grow again from an infant with a chance to correct any mistakes she encountered the first time.” The woman closed her eyes and took another deep breath. She wondered what things she would change if she were given that chance.
When she opened her eyes again, Nubia noticed a faint glow coming from around the corner of the house. Stepping out on the balcony, she could not determine what was causing the redness in the air. Then she sniffed. “Fire!” she exclaimed, recognizing the smell. She rushed back into her room, grabbed her lasso and sword, and then leaped off the balcony. She took the twenty-foot fall as easily as a child would a simple stair step.