This is it, the absolute final issue. It's possible that in December I'll come back and do one last "special features" issue, but I have to finish my novel for National Novel Writing Month first. So, here's a bit of prose to get caught up on what's happened over the summer, and then we'll say good bye to Nina.
Pamela and Tsukino never fully recovered from their hazing at the party. They finished high school with their heads mostly down and other girls gained power in the cheer team (particularly Mari). Marley and Tory were Prom Queen and King and finished school as the uncontested social center of the school. Nina was named co-valedictorian with a girl named Yi and gave a very short speech praised by her family (her dad in particular) that was slightly embarrassing to the MPHS staff. After a tearful good-bye to Momo, The Six spent a comfortable two weeks on the beach in Schulman until Nina prepared to depart for the US...
Nina sat on her bed and stared blankly at the carpeted floor of her room the night before her departure for America. Schol had been out for a month but it felt as though just a day or two before she ahd given her speech at garduation, and Momo had only just left yesterday, but there had been weeks and weeks between the two events. The night prior she had enjoyed a quiet night at Dan-O's house as a kind of farewell party with her friends (Dan-O, Kari and Taro, Ayumi, Erisa and Kyosuke, and Kana had brought Kellen along), just laughter and pleasant conversation, generally speculating on how much fun college would end up being after how eventful their high school lives would be. Things were already changing drastically, as evidenced by Momo's absence, and this being Nina's last night with them was not lost on them either. Erisa and Kyosuke openly discussed their future and thus the end of their short-lived relationship due to his impending departure to Japan for college.
Kari, her oldest and best friend, had come over that day. It was a heavy meeting, and it was plain by Kari's dark expression and shaky words that she was hurt by her friend leaving.
Kari: Hey, Nina.
Nina: Hi, Kari.
Nina smiled at her, but knew her happiness was coming across as flat.
Kari: So tomorrow's the big day, huh?
Kari entered the room and sat down beside Nina on her bed. They looked at Nina's two packed-up suitcases for a moment.
Nina: Yup. I'm like, totally nervous.
Kari: Whatever, Nina, you're like, great, so you'll be like, totally fine.
Kari's reply was almost as if she were offended. Nina picked up on the bitterness and fell silent as she thought about how to proceed.
Kari: *softly* Nina, I already miss you. I guess it's like, Port Matthew is such a nice place, I wish you wanted to stay. I don't know why you want to leave me.
Nina: I'm not leaving you, Kari, it's like...
Nina trailed off and she watched her friend stop fighting her tears back.
Nina: Sorry, Kari, I'm sorry...
She put her arms around her and Kari slumped heavily against her chest.
Nina: Dan-O and Erisa are still around, and Taro's like, always with you...
Kari shook slightly as she fought to regain her senses. When she spoke again her voice trembled.
Kari: You've always been with me, Nina, as far back as I can remember, but this time, I mean, now... I was fine, but now I'm scared, like totally seriously scared of what the future's gonna be.
Nina: Scared? Why? I mean, even if I'm like far away, I'll never stop being your friend, I'd like, drop everything to help you if you needed it.
Kari sat back up and she and Nina looked at each other.
Kari: I've been thinking about joining the Defenders. I know what that means for my family and for you and your family and for Taro, but ever since the battle... And like, recently, I don't know, maybe it's like, I'm just so sad you're leaving or like it's post traumatic something or whatever, there have been these terrible dreams and I've started worrying about like, what if I'm somewhere a bad guy attacks, and suddenly he's like, so powerful before help can come? I'm not powerful, I'm defenseless, and so many people could be hurt, and like you, like, if you're not here to support me like you were after the attack, I just don't know what I'll do...
Nina: Kari, you're like, I mean...
Nina knew deep down that she was all talk and that actually having powers would be terrifying on a scale she had difficulty imagining. She also knew that Kari was more stable than she herself was.
Nina: You'll handle it better than I would, I'd be like, honestly, like a total, like, like...
Kari: Like, mess?
Kari gave Nina a funny little half-smile, then turned serious again.
Kari: I don't know, I think you'd like, be fine, you're more like your dad than your mom anyways. Honestly, George would be the mess.
Nina: Hehe, he so totally would. *brief silence* You have to go for it. The Defenders are the best, and they do as much as they can to prote t the closest people to them, even my dad, and us. I think it's a good point you made about what if you're near a bad guy when he tries something and the Defenders aren't there yet. I totally get, like, how scary it is, like Eikyou's samurai demon, that was totally scary, and she's one of the good guys! But I totally know they'd be good for you, Kari. You know I support you no matter what, even from far away.
Kari: That's the other thing: you're gone, like, you won't be here with me when I go, and you've been with me for everything! How am I supposed to do this without you?
Nina: Kari, it's not like that, if you need me, I'll be here, I'll come, I promise. But even though I'm leaving, there's still like, Taro and 'Ris and our parents and Dan-O and George and Haley and Sandy. And like, if you go to the Defenders, you'll have them, too. I love you, Kari, and I always will, and we'll never be so far apart that it matters. I know you can do this, that you have to, and that you'll do it better than I would, and since you're like, way loved by us, you'll be great.
Kari: Thanks, Nina, I love you, too, you really are the best. I'll always make sure to take care of you when you need it.
Nina: You always have, and I appreciate it. That's why I'm like, there for you, too!
The rest of Kari's visit was a lot lighter after that. They talked about old memories and laughed a little and speculated a bit more about what was going to happen to them. Then Nina went with Kari to her house and she said good bye to Kari's parents. They hugged each other and Nina went home and had one last quiet dinner with her own parents and George. She knew her mom wasn't totally thrilled by her leaving, but Nina figured she'd be back on island after school anyways. They were together for the evening and ten retired to their rooms for showers and sleep and thus Nina sat.
She had been to America before plenty of times, both with her family and by herself, and wasn't really concerned about beign confused or surprised by a lot of “new” things. She was, however, nervous about how much her lifestyle was going to change, about being totally alone, having to try to make new friends by herself. And then, a year and two weeks later, she missed Marv.
Nina: He said we were only temporary, and if things hadn't happened the way they did, maybe I wouldn't be able to handle it. My injuries were worse after the attack, the doctors couldn't believe it that I could stand it. Probalby I'll never be able to be an athlete or move like I used to, but I can still stay fit at least. But what if something had happened to him in the attack? What if we survived only to have to say good bye now? I'd never be able to do it...
Marv: You did it once already, you'd do it now and be just fine.
Nina: I'm sorry, Marv, you were the first, my first love, and I lost you too soon...
Marv: I can't disagree. It would have been nice to graduate, honestly. But anyways, you are a strong girl, bright and happy and you know how feelings of pain and lonliness go away. Everyone changes everyday, and your best friend is gonna be a superhero. You keep your wits about you and you'll be fine.
Nina: I love you, Marv.
Marv: I love you too, Nina. *pause* The Six is finished, isn't it?
Nina: Well, you just said everything changes. Is it any surprise that this would, too?
Marv: No, not really. It's a little sad, I guess. But one of the nice things about life is that there's never really an ending, but a series of endings and beginnings and we're never quiet finished with it.
Nina: That's not true. Death is a pretty big end. You can't start anything from that.
Marv: Don't be so selfish, Nina. Other people have beginnings after that, too. It's not all about you. But when it is, there are huge surprises waiting for you, good ones and bad ones.
Nina: Like, such is life.
Marv: Such is life. Marley was right in that respect. Sometimes you really should just sit back and enjoy it happening around you.
Nina: Yeah, either that or she ravages my body in front of like, the whole school...
Marv: I didn't say she wasn't crazy. Anyways, everything changes for you tomorrow, and there'll be a lot of good. Keep yourself warm in those winters up there.
Nina: Thanks Marv. I'll talk to you again someday.
Marv: Even if you don't, don't waste a second feeling bad about it. Just keep going, Nina.
Just keep going.