My life is spiraling. I am so exhausted. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits my pillow at night. I chose to take a chance by quitting my job. I mean, a woman in her 30’s striving to be happy should not be such a life altering decision. Boy, was I wrong. My family is my number one priority and really my true passion in life, but I need to join the rat race in order to help feed and clothe my children, and let’s face it, my husband too. I need more in my life.

            Now comes the hardest decision of my life, and one I have asked myself for a long time. What do I do with the rest of my life? I am having a bit of an identity crisis. Who am I without a career and who do I want to be with a new career path? Should that define me?

            I heave a sigh and run my hand down my face. I try to refocus and feel the breeze through my hair. I am always able to calm down alone up here. It gives me time to center my thoughts. I swish my dangling legs like I am fifteen years old again, waiting for a boy to kiss me for the first time. I am definitely not a teenager anymore and waiting for any man is far beneath my feminist beliefs. But waiting? I guess I am waiting. Stuck in a proverbial loop of questioning everything I am and stand for, and to what end? I have no answer.

            “Please, no, don’t do this. Take whatever you want. Just don’t make me. Please!” I hear the whispering pleas from far below me. They pull me out of my funk and back into my duty. I stand up and jump. I let myself fall for some 20 floors. I like how the freefall makes me feel. Suddenly I pull up and right myself and finishing the rest of the fall gliding down to the dark alley below.

            You may be thinking, wait now what just happened. How did she just fall over 20 stories without dying? Is this woman some kind of a superhero? Well, I am not a superhero exactly. I am more Batman than Superman, except without the hair on my chest and the billions of dollars in a trust fund. If I was more like Bruce Wayne, I may not be having such an issue right now. See I am a highly educated and capable woman, who until recently worked for an innovative and competitive tech company. And while their employees create products that could save billions of people, the company does not use it for that. Like most corporations, they use their inventions for personal gain.

A few months back, I decided to change that. I kindly commandeered some of the prototypes, and started helping people to the best of my ability. It may sound totally ridiculous, but I think that may have been the start of my decision to leave. To my core, I am a good-hearted person, and the fact that the company I worked for was not actually using their inventions for good, I just could not handle it any more.

So here I am, sneaking out of the shadows of a black night to save… a group of college students in togas? Now I am the one confused. I keep my distance and use my handy, newly obtained, and integrated by me, superhero mask. With this new tech I secretly acquired before I left my job, I am able to search these college students, who are not only wearing sheets but are also a few sheets into the wind. They seem harmless enough. They just appear to be emptying the keg I see in the corner while acting out horrible scenes from some modern day take on Shakespeare. Drama kids. Just a false alarm, but at least it got me out of my head for a while.

I decide to wrap it up and get home. If I hurry, I may actually catch an hour of sleep before I have to get up and brave the day. To be quite honest, I have been playing dress up for a while now, but I do not feel I have really made any difference in the world. I am not making any more of a mark on the world now than I was when I was gainfully employed, but I guess I just have to keep trying.

***

By 9:30 that morning, I have packed lunches for my two children and my husband, as well as, prepped dinner in the slow cooker. I have finished reading my book I started yesterday, and caught up on the news. The house is quiet, and I have nothing to do. I guess it is time to hit the pavement, metaphorically speaking. Now a days, applying for jobs is all done digitally. It takes hours to apply for one job, but the digital world makes everything easier. Right? It’s a full-time job applying for jobs, but here I go.

I log onto the computer and open a job search database. After a few moments, I find a posting.

HELP WANTED: ENGINEER

Okay. So far so good. After all, I have a Master’s degree in engineering.

REQUIREMENTS:

  • 5+ years experience
  • ADOBE program experience required
  • Management experience preferred

Check, check, check.

  • Pilot lessons preferred
  • Interior design for airplane experience
  • Must be an independent, team player willing to talk face-to-face with others
  • Must possess a great sense of humor

What?!? What does that have to do with designing an airport terminal? Oh god, am I funny? Wait! Who cares!?! These qualifications are definitely skewed. No one meets all of these requirements. There is no way. I match with all the important ones. Here goes nothing.

Two hours later I finish completing the application, attach my resume, and push send. “Finally! That’s over,” I sigh with relief. Ding! I look up to find an email from the company I just applied. I click to open the email.

            Dear applicant,

Thank you for your interest in the position of Engineer. Unfortunately you do not meet the minimum qualifications for the position. We encourage you to try again.

Sincerely,

Aaaahhh! I give up! I’m going to bed and get some sleep before I go out again tonight.

***

My shifts do not end most nights until almost dawn. In the city, the real drinking continues long after all the bars are closed. The moon is going down but it will still be about an hour before any color peaks out from the horizon. It is truly my favorite time of the entire day. It is both beautiful and peaceful.

I am going to wrap another unsuccessful night. I have to get the girls ready and off to school soon and no one at home knows about this part of my life. It’s easy to hide. My husband is a hard sleeper, and I get my rest while they are all out during the day. I spend part of it applying for jobs and the rest asleep.

I hear the distinct sound of broken glass in the distance. I still, to listen closer. Now boys, you may want to think about this decision first.” I run over just in time to see several men, probably, intoxicated, and they’re running away. I stop and suddenly a woman opens her stance towards me.

“You may want to follow in your friends’ footsteps before…” She stops mid-sentence seeing me, all decked out. “What the hell are you?’

This time it was my turn to stop and stare. Her stance was still open, and I see the hand facing the runaway drunks was a gun. In the hand thrusted in my direction I saw the glint of a rather unusually large knife.

“Oh honey,” she said, “were you coming to my rescue?” She does a fancy flip to close the knife, and it was gone before I even had enough time to register what had just happened.

“Thanks for the assist,” she continues, “but as you can see, I have got this handled. I am used to it with this job.” I look around and notice the rather large construction vehicle she was chaining to another large truck. “I discovered rather quickly this job took me to sketchy parts of town at horrible hours. So, I picked up a few things.” She smiled and turned back to what she was doing. “You can go now.” Dismissing me without another question about who I was. Still stunned, I leave her to it. Tonight was definitely a bust as far as the whole superhero thing goes, but it did make me question whether some type of training on how to fight with and against weapons should probably be on my to-do list. Just another thing to add to the parts of me that I am uncertain of. Could I really defend myself if I actually do finally find someone who needs protecting? I shake the thought out of my head for now, and I head home to get started on my other duties, getting my children ready for school.

***

“Mommy,” my five-year old Abigail yells from her room. “Where’s my pink bow?”

“Good morning to you too Abigail!” I say to her from the doorway of her room. “Your bow is in the bathroom top-right drawer. You put it there last night.”

“Yay Mommy! Thank you! Thank you! I love having you home!” she exclaims.

“You just enjoy home cooked breakfasts before school. Plus I keep your room clean.” I tease lovingly.

Abigail runs over and gives me a big smile and hug only a child that has not grown up yet can give. I can hear my older daughter Charlotte come up behind me, and I remember when I used to get these same hugs from her. At the age of 12, Lottie has begun to resent me the way all teenage girls resent their mothers, but I hold on to every beautiful moment we have shared to make it feel all worthwhile.

“Abigail’s right Mom,” Lottie says interrupting Abigail’s embrace. “It really is nice to have you around more. Plus you seem a lot happier than when you were working for that company.”

Her nice words threw me off briefly. I generally get sighs and eye rolls from her now. “Thanks Lottie,” I say, “That means a lot to me. I enjoy being around for you girls more too.” I smile, and for a moment she smiles back before she remembers she doesn’t like me anymore.

“Jane,” the lone man’s voice in the house engulfs the quiet. “Have you seen my briefcase?”

I kiss Abigail on the head and smile at Lottie again. “Now your Dad would be absolutely lost without me,” I whisper to the girls. “Go on downstairs. Pancakes and eggs are waiting for your breakfast. I will be right down after helping your Dad.”

Jack approaches as the girls clamber down the stairs. “Good morning beautiful!” Jack says to my reflection in the mirror while finishing tying his tie. “Have you seen my briefcase? I can’t find my report for my morning meeting.”

I hold both up so he can see them in the mirror. “What would I do without you?” he replies.

“Probably die of starvation,” I joke. “I got to go get the girls out to the bus.” Jack grabs my wrist before I get out the door. He pins me between him and the counter. “Jack,” I begin to protest, but that did not stop him. He gently brushes my hair from my face and places it behind my ear. I look up at him. He knows this melts any hesitation I have. We have been together for over a decade now, and we know each other inside and out.

“How are you doing?” he asks. “You haven’t been in bed the past few nights.” Uh-oh, he knows I have not been in bed. What am I going to tell him? My mind is racing as he continues. “Are you having trouble sleeping? Stressed over the job hunt? You haven’t been telling me very much about it. Maybe we can have my Mom watch the kids tonight and have a date night. Catch up a little.”

That’s my husband. Always so intuitive and caring. Despite my fear of discovering my secret, I smile. “That would be really nice,” I say. “You have been working extra hard to make up for the loss of income. I would love a chance to catch up. I miss you!”

Jack leans in and kisses me. “I love you, Jane,” he says. “I will always be here for you, and support you in whatever decision you decide to make. Let’s go have breakfast.” He grabs my hand, and we walk together down to the kitchen to eat with the girls.

***

After everyone left for the day, I dressed for an previously scheduled interview later that morning. It is the first call-back I have received. It is not exactly a perfect fit. It is for a Junior Engineer, which I am about ten years beyond, but it is the only bite I have gotten since I started. I must start again somewhere, and I promised myself to stay optimistic. I put on my black suit and low heels. Careful on the make-up. I do not want to be too feminine. In the workplace, especially my profession, there are more men than women. Just like every other woman, I must toe the line between power and femininity.

I have not been on an interview for a while. I was with my last job for almost ten years. Last time in the market for a job, I had just graduated with my Master’s degree and I was still in my twenties. I feel that a lot has changed, and I may be a little rusty, but I should still remember the way around the obstacle course.

As I wait for the person conducting the interview to fetch me, I look around the office. Something seems different with my surroundings. I can’t quite put my finger on it. All the people that I can see are young, but young people do tend to have entry level positions so I push the thought aside. In the silence, I find myself questioning again. What is off about this place?

“Jane,” a man’s voice interrupts my thoughts. “Jane Jennings. We are ready for you now.”

I stand and reach out my hand. I am met with silence and left dangling with no hand to grasp. The man looks at my outstretched hand, and then straight into my eyes. After a few moments that way, I gave up and put my hand back at my waist.

“Just a word of advice,” he says to me, “do not shake Mr. Saunders’ hand.” I open my mouth to ask why, but he quickly escorts me into a room with over a dozen people staring at me from a table.

“Mrs. Jennings,” the man in the middle of the group says to me. “Thank you for coming. Please have a seat.”

I look up at the gentleman expecting business attire. A suit, a tie or at least a dress shirt. Instead I see a man dressed in a Snoopy t-shirt. And do I see flip-flops hanging out from under the table? I feel pretty silly, and the rest of my confidence just flew the coop like Woodstock in the middle of the man’s shirt.

***

“That was a total waste of my time,” I say out loud to no one as I unlock my car to leave. Despite my hesitations, Mr. Saunders believes my qualifications fit his company. No surprise there, since I am overqualified and overeducated for the position. He offered me the job before I left the interview. He could have a highly-qualified engineer in a junior position and pay nothing. It is a win, win, win situation for him, but besides the pay-cut, the people are unique. Although the work atmosphere seems unusually laid back, the other employees seem utterly terrified of their boss. Something was off, but I cannot put my finger on it. It is more intuition than anything else, but do I really have a choice in not taking the job? Jack has been working extra to make up for my lack of income, and he says he’s fine, but the credit card debt is creeping up regardless. Plus, no one can be Superman for that long. The irony of thinking my husband as being a superhero does not escape me unnoticed.

I bang my head on the steering wheel of the car a few times. Thinking of Superman just reminds me that I am failing at everything I have attempted to do in my life the past few months. I wanted to make a difference, so I became this version of a superhero, whatever she is. The truth of the matter is, I have not successfully saved anyone in danger since I started doing this late-night charade. The only thing that it helped was to get me out of the fog at work. I realized I no longer wanted to work at a horrible company that did not invent products to help people. Becoming a superhero was an outlet for me at the time, and it gave me the courage to finally quit a job that I despised. Now look where I am. Two months later, I am still looking for a job, and the only thing I can get is a Junior Engineer making half my previous salary. Life is just looking dimmer and dimmer for me.

I turn the key in the ignition and put the car in drive. May be a stop at the coffee shop on the way home for coffee and a muffin would make me feel better. I pull out of the parallel parking spot I am in, and stop at the red light ahead of me. I take a deep breath and try to re-center myself. “You can do this Jane,” I repeat to myself over and over.

The light turns green and I slowly shake myself back to the present to get going. Just then I get thrusted forward from a thud behind. “Great,” I say to myself. “This day just keeps getting better,” as I realize I have just gotten rear-ended by the car behind me.

I slowly pull out of the way of traffic and the car behind me follows me over. I get out to assess the damage, because although it is the other person’s fault, I do not know if I am up for the whole calling the police/insurance company routine right now. It may just take every last bit of hope I have left.

As I inspect my rear bumper, the person in the other car comes over. “I am so sorry,” he says. “That was totally my fault. I will pay for any of the damages. I take full blame.” Then the man stops talking when he looks up and sees me. “Jane? Is that you?”

I look up at him. “Mark? Wow. Nice car,” I say as I also take a mental note of my 12-year old POS I am driving. “You left the company for greener pastures. What are you doing now?”

Neither of us worried about the minor car accident, we continue to talk about our lives now. “After I left,” he began, “I started working for the government. My team and I have been working on a project for food distribution. I am sorry, but that is all I am allowed to say. As you can imagine, everything with the government is top secret.”

“That is wonderful,” I say to Mark. “It seems the job is treating you well though.” I indicate the make and model of the fancy high model car that you just know cost a fortune.

“The job is great! Very rewarding!” He elaborates. “I finally feel like I am doing something that helps people instead of pads other people’s pockets.” Mark left it unsaid, but I knew he was talking about our mutual job at the previous company that I left for the same reasons. I just left without something better waiting for me. “Although I cannot say that it has not been a little lucrative for me. How are things with you? How is the job going?”

“Oh,” I realize he does not know. Why would he? I have not seen Mark since he left the company almost a year ago. “I quit a few months back. I could not handle the soul sucking anymore.” I say with as much humor as I can muster.

By this time, we are just using our vehicles as a perch to lean while having a conversation. “Interesting,” he says to me. “What are you doing now?”

“Nothing,” I respond. “Maybe soul searching?” I try to sound optimistic. I elaborate due to his blank look. “That is where I was just now. An interview.”

“At that place?” he asks pointing to the place I just left. Unable to speak the sad truth, I just nod. “You are way too talented for that place. They only hire hippies and college graduates with no other options. You have to have another option.”

I heave a heavy sigh knowing I had no other option at this moment. “I have an idea,” Mark continues. “I am so busy with our current project right now. I could really use a set of experienced hands I know I can trust. What would you think about consulting with me and the government?”

I am not sure if I could describe in words how shocked that proposal made me. That never happens to me. I am usually the person in a job getting taken advantage of then passed over for a promotion and raise. Stupid gender gap disparity.

“Mark,” I speak as my brain finally starts working again. “That is a really nice offer. I do not know what to say.”

“Say yes Jane!” Mark says. “It really would take a huge load off me with you around. They already said I could hire someone to help for a while, but I do not trust many people to pull their weight. I know you, and I know you will do what needs to be done. It is not a permanent position, but it could hold you over until you find something better than that place.”

Once again, he is gesturing towards the building I just left. “Just think about it. Talk it over with Jack.” He hands me his business card. “Call me when you decide. Trust me, this is a win, win for you. You never have to set foot in that building again, and I promise to pay you what you are worth.”

He begins to walk back to his car to drive away. “Oh and the accident. I will pay for all the damages. Just get a quote from your mechanic. At least this way I know you will have to call me one way or the other. I mean it Jane. I want you to come work with me. It should be for about a month or two. Talk to you soon.” And with those words he pulls away while I am still staring between his business card and the building I just walked out of.

What is the worst that can happen? I get back into my car, tuck the card into a secure spot, and drive away to go get that coffee. I have some things to think about.

***

A week later, I pull into a parking lot surrounded by expensive vehicles. It is my first day consulting with Mark on his food distribution project for the government. Mark told me the dress was casual, but I still opted for khakis and a button up. I needed to show some professionalism, not only to the job but for myself. I had to prove to myself that I can do something right. Since I quit my other job, I have not been myself. I am struggling with who I am and what I am going to do with my life. I need this contract position, probably more than Mark needs me.

At the reception desk I introduce myself and let him know that Mark Baxter was expecting me. It was only a few moments before Mark came storming out of the coded doors.

“Jane!” His booming voice fills the tiny reception office. “Finally, you have come to save me from the work piling up on me. Come. I will introduce you to Tara. She is my number two on this project, and she will get you started on your tasks. At the end of the month, you will just invoice us for the hours you worked and hand it to Joe at the reception desk out front. Luckily I do not have to deal with any of that.”

“Mark,” I say to him, “Thank you again for this. I am very excited to help out the best I can.”

“Jane, as I told you on the phone multiple times, you are doing me the favor. I am officially swamped with this project, and it is really killing the creative juices,” he says to me with a wink.

“Either way,” I continue, “Thank you.”

“Jane, this is Tara. She is your go to person for the project. Most questions she already has the answers to. She is a very bright kid in her 20’s. I expect great things from her.”

As Mark is giving his praise, I notice that Tara is turning a nice shade of pink. “By what Mark has told me about you,” Tara says to me recovering quite well from the praise, “You will be just fine. You will pick up everything quite simply. Let me give you a tour of the facility and show you what you will be working on.”

As Tara and I walk away from Mark, I look around at what I see. I am trying to discern what type of food distribution project this is. Tara must be good at reading expressions because she says, “Mark elaborates some when he says this is a food distribution project. He makes it sound like we are solving the problem of how to feed the world. That is not what we are doing at all. I am sure you have been hearing a lot of stories lately about contaminated food. Every week it seems there is a new food we should not eat. That is what we are trying to stop.”

Although this clears up some, I am even more confused about the reason I am there or even why it is Mark’s project. We are both engineers, not biologists. Thankfully Tara continues to explain. “This project is a dual department project. We have biologists and engineers trying to build a machine that can detect and eliminate any bacteria pathogens that could cause sickness in consumers. You will be helping me with the prototype that we have developed at this stage.”

“Wow,” I say. “That is a beneficial project that could change the world. That’s nice.” Tara laughs at me. “Sorry,” I say. “My last job was not concerned with the well-being of anyone but themselves and their clients. This is a nice change of pace.”

“And I thought Mark always made up what he said about his last job,” Tara said to me. “But now that I am hearing it from you too, I should probably stop picking on him. Regardless, I think you will like it here. We act like a team, and all of us are concerned with making the world just a little bit better. This is your work station. Sorry it is small. We are at full capacity, as the project is in full swing right now. At least you have a window.”

I look around. She was right. The desk was small, but it was organized with plenty of storage for anything I could possibly need. The window was a nice touch too. I could stay connected here.

“Thank you, Tara.”

“Project notes are in the top drawer. Everything is in there. You may want to acquaint yourself with that first before getting started. Let me know if you have any questions,” Tara said as she walked away to let me begin in peace.

***

This project is quite amazing. It is simple yet efficient, and I know exactly where to start. It feels good to be doing what I am trained to do. I am much better at this than at the whole superhero gig, but I must keep reminding myself this is only temporary. This may be the best job I have ever had, but I am not an employee. I am only a consultant on this project, so I need to make the most of this.

I find myself engulfed in the mechanics of building and solving small issues that hours have gone by before I have even moved away from my desk. This quiet is different from what I feel when I am in disguise waiting up above. My mind is calmer. I am no longer questioning who I am, and what I can do. I know it is this. That is a very satisfying feeling. The one random thought that comes to mind is how to continue to make this happen. I have not felt this exhilarated in months.

At the end of my first day, I get in my car, mind still reeling from the day’s ideas and how to set them in motion. Heading home, I notice that it is well past seven. Quite amazed that I never even noticed how late it had gotten. I walk in the door, and all I hear is yelling. Everyone is yelling at the same time that I cannot even distinguish what they are yelling about. Abigail is covered in something white, tears streaming down her face and Lottie is yelling over Abigail’s head at my husband Jack who seems very flustered with how the evening is unfolding. Everyone is so involved in themselves, no one even notices when I enter through the door.

I take a quick look around, trying to determine the problems before jumping in the middle. Now I see that the white something on Abigail’s entire body is flour. I peek passed them down the hall into the kitchen and it looks like someone’s science experiment exploded. All the happiness I was feeling right before I walked through the door evaporated into thin air. Now keeping the job of my dreams was not the only thing I was worried about. Now I wondered how my family was going to make it without killing each other first now that I am around less. Life just keeps getting more and more complicated for me.

“Enough,” I scream to the three humans that just yesterday I would have told anyone were the best three people I know. They stopped in their fighting with each other mid-sentence and turned finally noticing that I was in the room. I could tell they were getting ready to turn their screaming match in my direction, but my face must have stopped them in their tracks. Barely audible sounds was all that came out before each of their mouths closed and their faces dropped looking at their shoes.

“I don’t care what it is going on here, but I am pretty sure you all know what I am going to say what to do next. Right?” They all stayed silent, staring at their shoes. “Right?” I prod one last time. This time they all nod their heads. Jack takes Abigail upstairs to give her a bath and get the flour out of her hair, while Lottie slinks off to the kitchen. In the new silence I ask myself, what happened to my wonderful family in just one day?

***

Both the girls are now tucked in tight in their beds for the night, after cleaning the house and themselves up leaving no trace of the mess behind. Jack walks into our bedroom looking like death. I put my book down and look up at him. He takes the cue.

“I honestly don’t know what happened Jane. Please just let it be. I don’t have it in me to get yelled at tonight,” he said adding a sigh.

“I wasn’t going to yell at you,” I reply.

He crawls into bed, choosing to bypass the nightly rituals for bed. Kissing me on the forehead he says, “You know that isn’t true, but I love that you think that. I just have no energy left to give, even in forming words for a simple sentence. I want to hear all about your first day, but tomorrow please. Love you, babe.”

And just like that his face is buried in the pillow beside me. “Okay, but this isn’t over. At least take your shoes and pants off,” I say in response to his limp body.

All I get in return from him is, “Tomorrow.” Unsure if he meant the conversation about what happened or taking off his pants, I giggle. I close my book, turn off the light, and roll over to hug Jack to fall asleep. Oh how life has changed since the kids have come into our lives, but instead of thinking of all the things we could be missing, I smile thinking about the wonderful life we have created together. No superheroing tonight. I am going to enjoy holding my husband while sleeping in our bed at the same time for the first night in months. The thought of what I have been giving up to go out at night made me think about my decisions for the first time. May be I need to reassess my priorities.

***

After the initial family drama melt down the first night I had returned to work, things seemed to go a little more smoothly. Everyone tried to understand that me returning to work and leaving them to do more things on their own was less about hurting them and more about making myself happy. It was not very hard to see that working with Mark made me happy. I was finally happier than I had been in quite some time, and it was very noticeable.

The four of us had gotten into a new rhythm where everyone helped out somewhere to make things easier for me. I even discovered a new passion after getting my groove back. I may not have been superheroing much these days, but I did start taking defense classes. I just couldn’t seem to kick the niggling voice in my head telling me to learn to take care of myself. If I had learned nothing from my short time as an unsuccessful vigilante is that you could only trust to be safe if you were ready for anything.

For a month, I would get up at five, go to class, return home to get everyone ready and off to school or work, including myself. It was a normal schedule, and I finally felt invigorated again. Jack was loving this renewed side of me. We have reconnected as a unit in not only the family front but after hours as well. It felt wonderful. Everything at the job was going without a hitch, and Mark and his bosses are extremely happy with my quick progress. There was even talk about making my position permanent.

The job may not have been the reason I needed to be happy, but it gave me a purpose. I felt like I was doing something for myself and for the greater good at the same time. Searching for meaning in your own identity is sometimes too difficult to establish without help. I really could not have asked for more.

Saturday morning, the girls and I decided to have a day to ourselves. My income was well above our needs, so I was treating them to a little shopping and day at the spa. Lottie even seemed to be ignoring her almost-teenager tendencies because she was laughing and playing with Abigail. We had made an entire day of it. It was beginning to turn dark as we left the last store. Knowing Jack would never feed himself when it was just him, I suggested we pick-up dinner and take it home with us. With no complaints from them, we headed toward the restaurant at the end of the block still carrying all of our bags from the day’s shopping. Although the girls had given most of them to me to hold at this point.

A white van pulled up right in front of the restaurant situated on the corner at the end of the block only a few feet away from where we were. All of a sudden the van door slid open and two men in black hoodies jumped in front of us. Their faces were shaded from us by their hoods and the sunglasses encompassing most of their face. That is when I noticed the gleaming blades in their hand.

I pulled in front of Lottie and Abigail guarding them from the two men. “Girls run! Now!” I scream. Luckily Lottie understood the importance of the words and could tell the danger from my stance. She grabbed Abigail, the two of them leaving behind the few belongings they had been holding. I mentally thanked Lottie for being such a great big sister when one of the men started to take off after my girls.
            “I don’t think so,” I exclaimed using the multiple bags I was carrying as a weapon spinning my arm toward him using its momentum to launch the bags into his body. I caught him off guard because he became unbalanced, falling back hitting his head on the sidewalk. I had knocked him unconscious in one shot, but I knew I had been lucky. These guys didn’t expect any pushback from three girls. The second guy wouldn’t be as easy. His stance changed immediately and I saw the grip on the knife grow tighter.

I dropped the remaining bags in my other hand to avoid being off-balance when the second guy finally attacked me. Opening my stance, I readied for an attack. I may have been taking defense classes, but I had never had to fight someone with a weapon on me. I was scared, but my girls were counting on me, and I wouldn’t let them down. I could only hope they would call for help when they got somewhere safe.

As suspected, the second guy didn’t waste any time coming at me, trying to catch me as off-guard as possible. Only moments after I had dropped the bags, he lunged at me. His shiny knife leading the way. Instinct kicked in and I dodged to the left barely missing the knife’s purpose of wounding me. Quickly I darted around turning 90 degrees to face his back kicking him forward in the process. Trying to keep him as far away from me as possible especially since he still grasped the knife.

I quickly accessed my options running through any weapon options of my own I may have. I left all my gadgets that I used when I had been a superhero at home figuring I would be safe during normal hours. My discarded bags were now out of reach, and I couldn’t locate the weapon the man on the ground had wielded earlier. Then I remembered my scarf. Knowing it was not much of a weapon, it was my only chance. I would just have to stay on the defensive until he was disarmed or help arrived. Hopefully before I was unable to defend myself anymore.

The second man finally finding his footing, lunged toward me again. This time the knife connected with the scarf while I swung his arm in a circle making him turn to follow the momentum of the joint in his shoulder. I had his arm in a lock between his shoulder blades with the knife wrapped in my scarf. A moment of disbelief wound through my body. That had actually worked.

The man was not easily deterred by my ambition and slight knowledge of defending myself. He slammed his head back connecting right with my nose. I stumbled backwards unable to get my balance. I feel to my knees. The blow so painful I raised my hand to my face and when I pulled it back I saw the blood gushing between my fingers. My vision was blurry combined with the darkness that had settled around us, I was having a hard time finding my opponent. All of a sudden I heard footsteps quickly approaching. I looked up and made out his shape running toward me, but this time I could no longer see the glint of the knife. Hoping it had gotten dropped in the commotion, I decided it was time to take a chance and fight back. From my position below him, I pulled my right hand into a fist swinging up connecting with his chin right before he was able to bring me all the way down to the ground.

The blows no longer coming as a surprise, the man quickly recovered and readied for the next attack. Finally face to face, we were both ready to fight. Me due to necessity and him because of his new found anger towards me. Both of us were fighting due to our adrenaline, meaning we both could do something dangerous and unpredictable.

As my vision slowly returned, I could see the man slowly smile. Unsure of the meaning of the smile, I readied myself for his attack. If I hadn’t heard the footsteps moments before, it would have been the end of the battle for me, instead I was able to duck missing the new man’s kick meant for my upper body. Again I had gotten lucky, but now the odds were against me. Both men were angled toward me and I had failed to injure either one. What am I going to do now?

The sweet sound of sirens in the distance was my saving grace. I only needed to hold them off for a few moments longer, and I would no longer be alone. I wasn’t the only ones that heard the sirens though, and even though I had made these men angry by successfully fighting back, their self-preservation instincts kicked in. Suddenly they were reaching for the third man still on the ground from earlier, readying to escape back into the van and rushing off before my help arrived.

I couldn’t let them get away. Not after they threatened my family. Once again I reached for a bag, but this time it was my handbag. With its long strap, I swung it at the first man’s head stopping his advance toward the man on the ground. I quickly swung around following up with a swift and quite powerful kick to the head. This time the man flew to his knees unable to stay upright. The third man seeing that his time to escape was growing thin, turned to leave both the others behind heading toward the van to save himself. I swung the strap like a lasso toward the man’s back wrapping around his neck. The man clawed at the leather, still trying to escape while I pulled twisting as I got closer. As soon as I was right behind the man, I fisted my right hand leaving the left to hold the make-shift rope in place. With as much power as I could muster up, I punched the man in the kidney which also made this man fall to the ground like his counterparts.

As the police cars pulled up surrounding the van leaving the men no quick way of escape, all three men were on the ground in differing degrees of pain. The police exited their vehicle calling on everyone to freeze and put their hands up. The man I still had my handbag wrapped around finally passed out on the ground from lack of oxygen while the first man that had knocked his head on the concrete still remained lifeless, unconscious on the ground. I released the bag and raised my hands letting them see that I was not armed and not the true threat, and just to prove to them that I was not the bad guy, the only man not unconscious finally regained his faculties and bolted to his feet running as quickly as he could toward the alley. One of the officers easily took a shot wounding his feet bringing the man down for good. It was over, and somehow I had survived.

I could only imagine how strange it looked to the onlookers. A petite woman, blood all over her face, the only one left standing. Three men all on the ground somewhere near her feet. With that image in my mind, I was able to push the pain away for a moment, and I found myself smiling. It seems that I am capable of quite a lot when I put my mind to something. I have never been more proud of myself than in that exact moment on my knees, hands interlaced behind my head. What a dramatic change.