Meanwhile, Nadine stared into her now empty cup, apparently without realizing it. Something was still weighing on her mind. Glancing down I saw my cup was empty as well. "I could use a refill, how about you?" I asked.
Nadine blinked. "Huh... oh, more hot chocolate? That sounds good."
I started to get up, but she got to her feet first saying, "I'll get it. You take it easy. I'm keeping you up, I can at least play hostess."
For a moment I was going to remind her that my little guy was really the one who'd kept me up already, but I held my tongue. I was starting to feel a bit tired, but I wanted to know what she hadn't told me yet. Whatever it was, it had troubled her up something fierce, and that bothered me.
I guess it must've shown in my face because I saw the look of worry in my friend's eyes as she served up the hot chocolate.
"Are you getting tired?" she asked gently. "I know I've been keeping you up even later than your son."
"I'm all right," I smiled, "But I am worried about you. When you came in tonight, you looked 'troubled' more so than if you'd simply had to put up with wolf-whistles and catcalls."
She nodded and sat down again. "I guess I'm still trying to wrap my head around what I saw... and what I almost did."
The tone in her voice as she spoke those last few words, sent a chill down my spine.
"The evening started out as usual. I went out to dinner by myself and got the usual questions about why someone so beautiful was on her own. Was I waiting for someone? Would I like some company? Mind you I almost said yes once, but thought better of it."
That piqued my curiosity. "Oh? Was he that good looking?"
"Oh, yeah," she nodded with a wistful look, "She was."
"Ooo... attracting girls now are we? You should have taken her up on it, you might've had a good time," I smiled.
"I kind of wish I had," Nadine sighed and fell silent.
At that point I knew I was getting to the heart of whatever happened that upset her so much. A part of me didn't want to push things any farther, but something told me she needed to get it out of her system. So I reached across and took one of her hands saying, "Hey, I'm here for you, tell me what happened. Please? I can't stand sitting here watching as it eats at you."
That earned me a small but uneasy smile. "Are you sure you want to hear about it? It wasn't one of my better moments."
"How so?" I asked.
"I think... I know, I came pretty close to breaking every bone in some asshole's fucking body."
I almost asked if she was serious, but I already knew she meant every word of it. Finally, I said, "Tell me what happened."
She nodded. "After dinner I decided to go catch the new all-female Ghostbusters movie, which was great, by the way. I loved it. Totally hilarious, and Chris Hemsworth was a riot. The man is great at comedy, let me tell you. Anyway, I was just coming out of the theater when I spotted Lisa and Marisa standing in line to get tickets and quickly did a U-turn. Unfortunately, they'd already spotted me and started calling out to me."
"Busted!" I teased, fearing she was going off on a tangent. As it turned out, she wasn't.
Meanwhile she sighed, "Yeah, I was and I knew it. Turning around, I smiled and started coming towards them when I spotted a girl I knew Marisa wasn't too thrilled about standing just a few people behind them. She was rolling her eyes in their direction, not that they could see, and I quickened my pace in the hopes of preventing any trouble. But as I did so, some guy a couple of years older than her stopped and said something to her, which she totally ignored. Next thing I know..." here she paused and shook her head.
"He what? Did he grab her or something?"
"He punched her in the face," Nadine snapped, while balling her own hands into fists. "No warning, no raised voice, he just went ahead and belted her in front of everyone."
Even I had not been prepared for that. I was expecting an argument or the guy grabbing her by the arm. But not this.
Nadine was starting to shake with anger as she continued, "And that wasn't the worst part. I heard him saying she deserved it. You see he'd complimented her looks and she didn't even so much as smile or say thank you."
I barely kept myself from yelling "Say what?" out loud and waking up my little guy. But I managed it somehow, and just hissed the words instead.
"Yeah," Nadine nodded taking a deep breath before continuing. "He'd punched her for 'disrespecting' him. At that point I didn't care if anyone saw or not, I used my speed and got between them. My first instinct was to grab his hand as he started to try and take another swing at her. But I knew if I did, not only would I catch it, but I would start squeezing."
"Squeezing?" I repeated. That didn't sound all that bad.
"As in I wasn't going to stop until every bone in that hand was broken, along with the rest of his arm," she replied quietly.
"What stopped you?" I asked, feeling a little sick at what I was hearing.
Nadine looked at me and said, "The expression on your face, it's the same one I saw on both Marisa and Lisa's. If they hadn't been there..." she shook herself. "Anyway, I caught his next punch and went all Bruce Lee on his ass instead. But even as I did, a part of me still wanted to hurt him a whole lot worse than I did. The resentment I felt from all the crude catcalling, ass slaps, and gropings was screaming for me to not only beat his ass, but rip his throat out. Literally."
"But you didn't," I pointed out. "I know you. You didn't let it get that far."
"Barely," she sighed.
"Then what happened?" I asked.
"I looked up and saw Marisa and Lisa were helping the girl who'd been hit. It turned out to be Diane, the one who was pissed at Marisa for not choosing her to be the new head cheerleader. She was looking awfully grateful for their help as well as mine. As for the asshat, a couple of his buddies had apparently started to try and pull me off him. Only the rest of the crowd, most of them women had blocked them. And then the police showed up. Of course, the jerk's friends started giving them a bullshit story."
"Naturally," I nodded.
"So I released some mist and got them singing like canaries about how their friend started all the trouble by assaulting Diane. Of course, I got the creep to confess as well and that was all the police needed to take his ass away."
"He's not going to forget," I told her.
Nadine smiled, "I made sure of that. You see I gave him and his buddies a special suggestion. One that will keep all of them from disrespecting any woman ever again."
"Good for you," I smiled, but her face was still troubled. "What?"
"I really wanted to hurt that guy," she murmured.
"But you didn't," I assured her. "You're better than that and them."
"I know, but I came so close..."
"I know, but I came so close..."
"Welcome to the human race," I cut in. "With all the powers you have, you're still a person. A good one at that. Don't ever change."
That made her smile. "Thanks. But, I have to know. Everything I've experienced lately as a woman, is it always like that?"
"Not always, but more often than it should be," I told her honestly. Then I eyed her curiously and asked, "Are you thinking about going back to just being a guy?"
She shook her head. "No. Isabella's growing. She'll need someone to help her navigate this world. It's very different than the one she remembers."
"She'll have me, Lisa and Penny," I pointed out.
"Thanks," she smiled, "But I think 'Nadine' will be hanging out with you all from time to time as well. Someone needs to watch all your backs as well sometimes. Girls have to stick together."
"Indeed we do," I smiled. As if on cue, I heard my little guy begin fussing again. "And there goes the rest of my night," I said standing up.
But once again my friend beat me to the door saying, "No, you and Richard get some sleep. I'll take care of him. He'll need to get used to seeing Aunt Nadine hanging around every so often. And I'm more of a night owl than the rest of you."
I was too tired to argue and headed back to bed. It's morning now and sure enough both my guys got a good night sleep after all. Nathan was back and thanked me for the hot chocolate and the talk. I thanked him for being willing to walk a mile (and them some) in high heeled shoes.