by Brian K. Asbury
Dorcas Leigh finished chewing the last bite of her meal and swallowed. “I think we’ll gloss over his reaction when he saw that the shed had been demolished and his precious finds scattered all over the place. It wasn’t nice.”
“I can imagine,” said Dorien Leigh.
“Fortunately, the Halls were pretty OK about it and even helped Daddy and his team collect everything back up. In fact, it mostly all worked out well in the end. He got his sponsorship from their museum, and I got my article written and a fat cheque for it, which helped to smooth over my friend Ravindra over the loss of her precious Vespa — although her insurance paid most of the cost of replacing it, fortunately.
“And I found myself with a unique power. I thought the destruction of Godiva’s Comb would be the end of it — or at least that without it I would lose control of my hair again — but that energy discharge must have somehow internalized it all. I still had as much control over it as I’d had when I was wearing the comb.”
“I see,” Dorien said, sipping at her drink. “And so you decided to become a super-hero.”
“Not straight away. But seeing Hawkman in action had inspired me. He had been deliberately making a target of himself in order to keep Tommy’s blasts away from innocent bystanders. That’s true heroism, mum, and as time went by and I practised with my powers and learned what amazing things I could do, I felt more and more that I should put them to good use and help people, just like Hawkman does.
“Of course, they caused me more than a few problems at first. Explaining to everybody at college how my short, spiky black hair had suddenly become long and blonde was the trickiest. There was no way I could convince it to become that short, and it won’t take any kind of dye or gel or any other foreign substances at all: they just run off it. So I just made it as short as I could convince it to stay and told everybody I’d decided to go blonde and had hair extensions. It wasn’t all that believable, but who could dispute it? My band didn’t like it, though — they kicked me out, saying I didn’t look right any more. Prats.”
Dorien put down her glass and glared at her daughter. “You’re changing the subject again, Cas. Why did you decide to become a super-hero? Good God, girl, didn’t you realise the dangers you were exposing yourself to?”
Dorcas nodded. “Of course I did. But it was the right thing to do. As I said, this is why I never told you, mum — I knew you’d react like this.”
“And that ridiculous fake Cockney accent you put on?”
Dorcas reddened. “I don’t do that any more. It was a mistake — although it did help to hide the fact that Godiva was really the middle-class, Cambridge-educated daughter of a professor of archaeology.” She snorted. “Not that that’s a secret anymore, of course. The whole world knows who I really am.”
The two were silent for long moments. Then Dorien said, “Despite what I’ve said, I am proud of you, you know.”
She took her daughter’s hand. “Of course I am. I don’t entirely approve of it, but at least you’ve managed to distinguish yourself. We don’t have many super-heroes in this country, but if you were to ask anyone to name a British hero, they’d immediately say Godiva. That’s quite an achievement for my daughter.”
“Really? And you don’t think my being a leggy blonde with big boobs has anything to do with that, then?”
Dorien laughed. “Now you’re putting yourself down. Don’t.” She suddenly became serious again. “And there’s one part of this story you haven’t finished, Cas.”
“You haven’t told me what became of Tommy after they took him away…”
Dorcas’ eyes fell. “Tommy… yes…”
“You said that you were taking Godiva’s Comb to him because you thought it could enable him to control the destructive rays from his eyes, just as it had allowed you to control your hair. When he came out of his coma, had it done so?”
“Mum, I never got the comb to him, remember? I tried to hit him with it, but he blew it up.”
“And the energy from it was absorbed into the two of you, yes? So you retained your control afterwards. Did it work for him as well?”
Dorcas looked up into her mother’s eyes, her own eyes moistening. “I don’t know,” she said quietly.
“He never came out of his coma, mum. It’s been over six years now, and he’s still lying in a hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne, with intravenous drips feeding him what he needs to stay alive. His parents hope and pray that he’ll come out of it some day, but there’s little hope.”
“Oh, my God. Oh, Dorcas, I’m so sorry…”
Dorcas shrugged. “So you see, mum, I have these powers, but at a price. The price is Tommy and the life he could have been leading since 1980. And that’s the real reason why I have to use these powers, to try to make a difference to the world.”
The mood for the remainder of the dinner was more sombre. Sometime later they left the restaurant, Dorien hailing a taxi, Dorcas walking back to where she’d left her Range Rover. It had been a painful meeting in many ways, but a necessary one. At least mother and daughter were speaking again, and closer than they had been for some years. It was a beginning.
As Dorcas approached her car, she noticed across the road that an Asian-owned greengrocer’s and florist’s shop on the corner was still open. On a whim, she crossed over and purchased a large bouquet of roses.
She returned to the Range Rover, got in, and strapped on the seatbelt. From the glove compartment she withdrew a road atlas, which she consulted briefly. She then pulled away, heading not back to the Surrey countryside and Wordenshire Castle but north to the M1 motorway. Her teammates were expecting her back tonight, but she’d ring them when she reached a service station to tell them she’d be away till the following afternoon.
It was a long way to Newcastle, after all, and the hospital visiting hours would be long over by the time she got there. She would have to book into a motel and wait until morning.
But it had been a long time since the new Godiva had last paid a visit to the bedside of her sweet, tragic Peeping Tom. The Paladins could wait. Tommy needed her more.