Chapter 6: Revelations
“Does this make me look fat?”
Jubilee spun around slowly in front of the dressing room mirror of the department store, her blue eyes critically appraising the short metallic silver dress she wore. She tugged on the hem and turned once again to examine herself from behind.
“No, seriously,” she said, “like, does my butt look gi-normous in this?”
Minx snorted, looking up from the pair of black leather hip huggers she was trying to wiggle into and gave her friend a shake of her pony-tailed head.
“Jubes, you have to have an ass first,” she dryly commented and went back to tugging the skin-tight pants up over her own slim hips, “and it’s a wonder you don’t too, with all the junk food you eat!”
Minx yanked up the zipper on the pants and smiled in satisfaction at her reflection in the floor length mirror of the dressing stall.
“Those are way cool!” Jubilee raved as Minx grinned, striking a provocative pose.
“Yeah, but will Storm actually let me buy them?”
“Oh, ‘Ro would definitely give them a thumbs up,” Jubilee said as she squirmed out of the silver number and grabbed up a black tank dress from the pile of clothes on a nearby chair. “It’s, like, the others - Scott…Jean…Hank…and oh, yeah – the big cheese himself – Professor X? They’d probably have some major issues with you dressing like ‘the Slayer’.”
“Thanks for the reality check,” Minx smartly shot back as she unzipped the pants and tugged them off.
She held them at arms length, a wishful look in her eyes.
“What’s wrong with Buffy anyway?” she mumbled dejectedly, “She’s totally smokin’ and she can kick ass just as good as any of the X-men.”
“Sure, yeah, and so can Xena, but like, you so don’t see me wanting to go to the New Year’s dance in thigh-high boots and a breast plate!”
“Not that you wouldn’t.” she teased Jubilee. Minx laughed at the thought of Jubilee grooving on the dance floor in warrior princess battle armor.
Jubilee, her head buried inside another dress she was wriggling into, turned toward her best friend. “What. Ever. We’re supposed to be finding something to wear for the dance, remember?”
“I’m looking,” Minx protested.
“HEL-LO? News flash! It’s a winter FORMAL,” Jubilee’s head popped out of the top of the dress and she shot Minx a critical look. “Those don’t say winter formal” the girl pointed at the pants in disdain, “those say biker chick.”
“I could do biker chick,” Minx giggled with a twinkle in her eye.
Jubilee slapped her forehead in mock frustration. “Oh my Gaw - where is your fashion sense? Claudia Schiffer must be rolling in her grave right now!”
“Um, I don’t think so, Jubes,” Minx snickered, “Last time I checked? Claudia Schiffer wasn’t dead!”
Just then, Kitty phased through the full-length mirror directly in front of Jubilee, startling both girls.
“Cheeze and crackers, Kitty!” Jubilee choked in exasperation, “Would you quit doing that?” She looked down in annoyance. “Cripes! I think I just peed myself!”
“Sorry,” Kitty apologized trying not to laugh. “Ororo sent me to let you know that the rest of us are heading over to the food court. Just meet us there when you’re done here, ‘kay?”
“Ooh, tacos, here I come!” Jubilee smiled and grabbed for her own clothes under the pile of dresses she had dropped on the floor.
”You go on, Jubes,” Minx said, “I’m not hungry and I still need to pick out something for the dance or else I’m gonna end up going naked.”
”Mmm hmm, I’m sure Alex wouldn’t mind that at all!”
Minx blushed and the other two girls laughed. It had only been a few days ago that Alex Summers, Cyclops’ younger brother, had shyly approached Minx after classes to ask her to the dance. Minx, flattered and excited, had readily accepted his offer. And this was why she was now stuck in a dressing room with her incessantly chatty schoolmate, Jubilation Lee. Jubilee, now finished re-dressing, put an arm around her friend’s shoulders.
“Minx and Alex, sittin’ in a tree...hey!” Jubilee grinned, “Both your names end in ‘x’ - that’s gotta mean something, dontcha think?”
Kitty shook her head in wonderment.
“You are so on crack,” Minx told Jubilee.
”Hey, if I get a regular coke, will ya like make it into a slushy for me?”
“Jubilee!” Kitty admonished the younger girl, “Much as you’d like to think, Minx isn’t your personal icee machine! You know, you can buy a slushy ready-made.”
”Chuh - yeah, but she makes ‘em just right. Plus, for your information, Ms. Pryde, it costs less to buy a regular Coke and–“
”Oh wow, what? A whole fifty cents?”
”N E WAYZ...” Jubilee shot back.
Minx shrugged off Jubilee’s arm and faced her classmates.
“Could you two just go, so I can figure out which one of these dresses I really want?”
Jubilee pretended to be hurt as she swung her purse onto her shoulder in a huff.
“C’mon, Kitty-Kat, let’s leave ‘Britney’ here alone so she can figure out her wardrobe.”
She winked at Minx as Kitty dragged her out of the dressing room. “Later gator,” she called over her shoulder.
Having finally settled on a pale blue dress with spaghetti straps, Minx paid for the item at the counter and slung the parcel over her arm, still amazed at the fact that she now actually had a credit card and didn’t have to shoplift anymore. Of course, the girl reasoned, Professor X had set the card limit at $250 just to make sure she didn’t abuse her privileges and go crazy buying everything in sight. Which proved to be difficult sometimes, Minx thought as she hungrily took in all the clothes, video games, CD’s and other items for sale in all the mall shops she passed by.
She stopped in front of one store, checking out the latest boot and shoe styles artfully displayed in the window. As she pondered over whether she should purchase some cute heels to go with her new dress, Minx caught sight of a dark-haired woman in the reflection of the window. The tall woman was dressed in white and appeared to be in her early 40’s. Her dark eyes carefully fixed on Minx, studying the girl from behind. Minx swiveled about to face her admirer, and frowned. The woman was gone. There was only a young, good-looking thrasher dude standing near the railing. He smiled at Minx and winked. She shyly returned the grin.
Minx shrugged, turning back to walk into the store. She did not see the boy’s eyes flash yellow and then turn back to normal as he slowly sauntered over to an alcove by the shoe display. He looked around, making sure no one was paying attention, then quickly morphed back into the dark-haired woman. She took up a position just inside the door of the shop, watching and waiting.
The mall had filled up during the morning, but the noise and bustle of the crowd did not keep Minx from noticing the same woman following her from one store to the next. The girl’s uneasiness grew as she, time and again, attempted to turn and face her stalker to no avail.
The woman in white seemed to just vanish into the moving streams of people along the walkway. It was as if she were a ghost, not really there, Minx thought, her hackles rising. Her defenses now awakened and alert, the teen scanned the scene ahead of her looking for the opportunity she needed. She found it and picked up her pace a notch, weaving through the crowd, heading straight for a large billboard set outside a Starbuck’s coffee shop.
Giving a quick glance over her shoulder, Minx confirmed that the woman was still behind her. Without notice, the teen ducked behind the coffee sign as she came abreast of it. She crouched warily behind the board and watched in silence as the dark-haired lady passed by, obviously agitated, her head swiveling to and fro searching the crowd with a desperate air.
The woman stopped, hands on her hips, scanning the nearby stores. She appeared to bite her lip, then spun about and doubled back, hissing in frustration as she came stalking toward the teen’s hiding place. Minx let the woman pass by before popping out from behind the sign.
Now, she was the pursuer. Minx quietly followed the lady past a few storefronts, watching as the woman turned a corner and dropped out of sight. Minx picked up her pace, not wanting to lose her target. She slid around the corner and stumbled to an abrupt halt as she almost smacked into the back of the woman who had stopped short and was once again scanning the crowd.
Sensing the commotion behind her, the woman turned, and Minx heard her sudden intake of breath and saw the startled look on her face. Minx glared suspiciously at the dark stranger, trying to appear tough.
“What is your problem, lady?”
”I’m sorry?” The woman’s voice was low, almost throaty.
”Look, you’ve followed me through the last three stores and I’m gettin’ kind of tired of it.”
The woman merely crossed her arms and smirked at Minx saying nothing.
Minx continued, her tone growing defensive and irritated by the second. ”If you’re a store dick, I ain’t shoplifting. If you’re a dyke, I’m not interested. And if you’re looking for a score, you picked the wrong mark. So, back the hell off.”
Minx reached into a pocket, her hand closing around some loose change, her skin tingling as she began to pour heat into the metal pieces. If the woman wanted trouble, Minx was more than willing to rock and roll. But, instead of being intimidated or even embarrassed, the woman smiled knowingly at the girl.
”I see life on the streets has toughened you up a bit, Nicole,” she remarked with amusement.
Minx froze at hearing her name coming from the stranger’s mouth. The coins now forgotten in her pocket, she quickly glanced around then returned her attention to the woman. Minx eyed her with a mixture of curiosity and caution.
”Who are you?”
“An old friend of your mother’s,” Mystique said.
”You knew my mom?” Her voice sounded unsure, untrusting.
”Claire and I went to college together, but we kept in touch over the years.” Mystique replied, “I’m Cynthia…Cynthia McDaniels.”
She held out a shapely hand tipped with red lacquered nails. Minx didn’t take it.
”You knew my mom?” she repeated.
”Yes. I even gave her a baby shower when she was expecting you.”
Minx shot the woman a doubtful look, her arms coming up and crossing over her chest. ”Yeah, well I wouldn’t exactly remember that, would I?”
Cynthia/Mystique appeared slightly embarrassed. ”No, I’m sorry,” she muttered awkwardly, “Of course not.”
Mystique laughed nervously, toying with her purse strap. Minx remained thoroughly skeptical. She hadn’t spent years out on the streets to be taken in by some smartly dressed yuppie claiming to be a long lost sorority sister of her mother’s. Her mind screamed at her to just walk away, but her inquisitive nature overruled her better senses, and she remained where she was, scrutinizing the woman.
”So,” Minx casually commented, “I’m supposed to believe that six years after my parents died, a dear old friend of my mother’s just happens to bump into me in a New York mall … and instantly recognizes me? You don’t think that sounds a little far-fetched there, Cynthia?”
But, Mystique was ready. She had gone over this plan several times during her long flight to New York.
“It’s not so far-fetched when you realize that I have been searching for you since the day of your mother’s death.”
Mystique tried to sound sincere and concerned. “Nicole, your mother called me the night before she died. She was scared - she mentioned that your father was acting irrational, and she asked if the two of you could come to Manhattan and stay with me for awhile.”
Minx stared at the woman, her heart flip-flopping in her chest. An icy chill ran through her at Mystique’s last sentence. At age nine, even little Nikki had noticed her dad’s moodiness and secretive behavior in the days before he murdered her mother. Could this woman actually be telling the truth?
”What are you doing here?” she questioned, fear beginning to shroud her senses.
”Nicole, I’ve spent the last six years searching the continent for you. I never gave up hope that you had somehow, some way survived that tragedy, especially after the police confirmed that there was only the remains of your parents found after the fire.”
This was an utter lie. Mystique had lucked upon finding the girl in of all places Xavier’s school, but she wasn’t about to let Nicole know that. She pressed the girl now, playing to her growing paranoia.
“The people you are with now, at that school – it’s not safe for you there.”
Minx laughed, some of her anxiety dropping away.
”Lady, I’m safer there than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Are you kidding me? Those people took me in and gave me my life back – for nothing.” The girl snorted, uncrossing her arms. “What makes you think I’m in any kind of danger?”
“Nicole, your parent’s marriage wasn’t always…a happy one.”
“No shit, so what?”
Mystique continued, her voice taking on a subtle edge. ”Your father put in long hours on his research projects, often leaving your mother alone for weeks…months at a time early in their marriage. Claire was a very lonely woman. Lonely enough to seek out the love of another-“
”If you’re trying to tell me that you and my mom were-“
”No! Stupid child!” Mystique snapped, giving the girl an irritated glare. She tried to regain her composure before continuing. “No. What I’m trying to tell you is that your mother had an affair while she was married.”
Minx blinked, stunned at this announcement. She hadn’t seen this coming, not even close. Strike one! Mystique noted with concealed pleasure. The girl’s voice was a bit shaky when she could finally speak again.
“My mom cheated on my dad?”
”I’m afraid so.”
Minx frowned, disillusioned at this new image of her parents. She looked up at the woman, the pain reflected in her eyes.
“Why are you telling me this?” Minx whispered, “What’s the point? What - to hurt me?”
”No - to protect you.” Mystique cautioned.
“Protect me from what?”
The raven-haired woman’s voice dropped conspiratorially. ”The man who seduced your mother lives in the very school you’ve decided to call home.”
”Who? Which one?!”
Minx heard her name being called from the noisy crowd on the promenade below but ignored it. She stared at Mystique/Cynthia in a growing state of shock. Mystique smiled inwardly – strike two!
”Nicole,” Mystique went on, licking her lips nervously, “ the man was once a colleague of your father’s – that’s how I suppose he met your mother in the first place. I fear that this man, if he ever finds out your true identity, may attempt to hurt you or take you to the people responsible for your parent’s murders.”
“This is totally insane,” the teen mumbled, taking an uneasy step back, “How do you know all this?”
Ah, time for the killing blow, Mystique decided.
“The man I’m speaking of goes by the name of Logan.”
Minx’s blood ran cold, her jaw falling open in unbridled astonishment. It was all her companion could do not to smile in triumph.
”My mom and Logan?? He had…they had…an…” the girl couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence. It was all so utterly outrageous and vile.
Mystique spilled the rest of the story in a hurried rush, her attention more focused on the escalators behind the girl, as she too heard Minx’s name being called out once again.
”I knew Logan back when he was an operative for the Canadian Government, and I was working for the Defense Department as a liaison there. He’s not a man to be trusted, Nicole. For all I know, he still has ties with his old employers. The same ones that decided to terminate your parents.”
Jubilee, Storm, Rogue and Kitty were worming through the crowd on the upper level heading for Minx. Mystique watched their approach, growing apprehensive. Her ruse was not having quite the effect she had hoped with the girl. The child should have been in tears and begging her to take her away to someplace safe. Instead, Minx stood with a mixture of disbelief and rage mounting on her young face.
Logan an ex-agent for the government? That would explain his detached manner and refusal to discuss his personal life, she reasoned. Her anger swelled as she imagined the surly brute sweet-talking her vulnerable and gullible mother into a torrid affair. She recalled Jean and Logan in the kitchen a few weeks back, his muscled arms around her waist. Hell, she speculated with growing revulsion, the big lecher was trying to do it again!
Seeing that her time was short, Mystique realized she would not be able to take the teen today. She reached into her purse, pulled out a pen and scrap of paper torn from an airline receipt and scribbled something down. She handed the paper to the girl, hastily stuffing the pen back in the purse as the quartet of X-men approached ever closer.
“If you decide you want to leave or want my help, call that number. I’ll come get you. Whenever. Wherever.”
Minx glanced briefly down at the paper in her hand, noting it was a local number, then back up. The woman had vanished.
“Hey, Cynthia? Hey, wait!”
Minx scanned the crowd for the tall brunette in the white suit, but to no avail. Mystique had transformed herself into an old oriental man, merging into the pool of shoppers in front of the girl.
Storm touched Minx’s shoulder, making her jump. Minx turned, secretly stuffing the paper with the number on it into the pocket of her coat.
”Didn’t you hear us calling you?” Kitty asked.
”Uh, no. Um, I guess not. Sorry.” Her voice was flat, detached.
”Who was that lady you were talking to?”
”What? Oh, um, I dunno. She thought she knew me or something.” Minx shrugged and looked away, not able to face her friends’ concerned stares. “I guess she was mistaken.” her voice trailed off.
Jubilee spotted the garment bag, Minx had draped over her arm. ”So – don’t keep us in suspense, dahling. Which one didja get?”
But, Minx wasn’t paying attention to her friend. Jubilee frowned and looked over to Kitty who shrugged. Storm, now concerned, put a finger under the girl’s chin and directed her attention back to the present.
”Is something wrong, Minx? Did that woman hurt you? Are you all right?”
Minx pulled away from her mentor. Rather stiffly, Storm noted.
”Yeah, sure. I’m fine. I’m just tired.”
”Well, then, what say we go home?”
Kitty and Jubilee voiced their disappointment, but Rogue agreed with Storm. She too had picked up on Minx’s peculiar behavior and thought it wise to return to the school and Professor Xavier.
”Ah’ve pretty much spent my entire allowance anyway,” Rogue commented ruefully as the girls headed toward the escalator that would take them down to the parking garage.
Minx remained lost in thought the entire ride back to the school, much to Jubilee’s dismay. No amount of teasing or cajoling by Jubilee worked to snap her friend out of her strange mood. Upon pulling into the spacious garage of the school, Minx immediately hopped out of the car and headed for the stairs before Storm had even turned off the ignition. She left the three to contemplate her sudden change in behavior.
”Okay,” Jubilee complained as she unbuckled her seatbelt, “like how rude was that? I mean, what’s the sitch here?”
”I don’t know, Jubes. But something happened back there, ‘cause she wasn’t like this earlier today.” Kitty replied, her voice showing her concern.
”You don’t think she’s like pissed that we ate lunch and didn’t wait for her, do you? ‘Cause I-”
”Don’t be such a dope!” Rogue drawled and rolled her eyes at Jubilee.
”Whatever is bothering her, girls,” Storm cut in, “I’m sure she’ll tell us when she’s ready.”
Pietro Maximoff better known as Quicksilver observed Mystique, somewhat bemused, as the cobalt-skinned beauty paced the floor of the large hotel suite, her voice pleading and apologetic over the phone she clutched to her ear.
“No, sir. It was not that way! I tried to get her away from-“ she stopped, listening to the wrathful voice on the other end of the phone.
“Luuu-cy,” Quicksilver needled from across the room, “You got some ‘splaining to do!”
Mystique shot the boy a murderous glare, baring her teeth at the mutant sitting on the couch. Her attention was immediately drawn back to the phone.
“Yes, sir. Yes. Of course I can handle this!”
Quicksilver smiled evilly and grabbed up the remote for the TV. ‘Yeah, that’s right, Mystie,’ he smugly muttered to himself as he began to channel surf at a speed that would have been impossible for a normal human, it’s your turn get ripped a new one. Quicksilver was quite used to the angry tirades of his father. It was quite ironic to the youth that he and his sister, Wanda, happened to be the only offspring of the great Magneto, and yet both suffered his wrath far worse than any other member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. It was about time that his father’s precious ‘pet’ tasted some of that anger as well. Mystique finished her conversation with her employer and angrily hurled the phone across the room, her scaled chest heaving in uncontrolled fury. She rounded on the boy.
“Turn that damn thing off!” she fairly shrieked.
Quicksilver shot her a disparaging glance, then returned his attention back to the tube.
“You know, you better be nice to me, Mystique,” he said as he leapt off the couch in a blur and was back before she could blink, holding the phone she had thrown across the room. He waved it under her nose, taunting her. “Otherwise, I’ll tell daddy on you.”
The woman had reached her boiling point. She let out an animalistic wail of outrage and stomped off to the bathroom, the boy admiring her shapely form from the rear. Quicksilver winced slightly when the door to the bathroom slammed shut. He heard the shower come on and then chuckled as he heard Mystique’s screams of frustrated wrath over the noise of the water.
“I think someone needs to enroll in an anger management course,” he observed and settled back on the couch to watch a re-run of Dukes of Hazzard. “I love these guys!” he cackled at the television.
The next few days at the school were filled with a strained atmosphere as the group puzzled over their newest student’s abrupt change of disposition. Minx was cool and disengaged from everyone, including her best friend Jubilee. Her thoughts tormented her night and day, filling her mind with images of her mother and Logan pawing at each other while her father remained stupidly unaware or uncaring, shut up in his office at the labs – too busy to pay any attention to his family.
The woman she had mourned over for the past six years, the one who had been her mother, protector, role model, was really nothing more than a cheat, a selfish dishonest woman that cared more about her personal pleasures than her family. And the father whom she had grown to hate, even abhor for murdering her mother was now the victim. He had been selfish too, she thought bitterly. His work was more important to him than wife, child or marriage. And Logan, who had saved her from a lonely life on the streets, the man whom she had begun to trust and admire…he was a home-wrecker and a lying cheater.
She could barely stand to be in Logan’s presence anymore. Her suspicions towards the man were evident in the surreptitious glances and subtle innuendoes she leveled at him. Logan had noticed Minx getting a little too big for her britches as of late, but conflicted he had yet to say anything. On one hand this young girl had become his buddy, his pal. In fact, it seemed he had become somewhat of a father figure to her. And while he was not opposed to this role, not entirely, anyway, it was new to him and he was still learning how to react. As a result, he chalked her sullenness up to youthful angst. He tended to make himself scarce anyway, so Minx didn’t have much opportunity other than meals to have to face him.
Jubilee noticed the girl was spending more and more time locked away in her room, heavy rock music blaring from her stereo more often than not. It troubled her, but she was not about to question Minx. The last person to try that was Remy, and he paid for it later. The Cajun had stopped the young woman as she was returning to her room from classes.
“Dis gotta stop, petite,” Remy stepped in front of Minx, blocking her path, “you be walking ‘round dis place in a moody daze for a week now. What be de problem, hm?”
“Get out of my way,” she muttered tiredly and tried to brush past the man.
Remy moved to block her way again, not willing to give in so easily.
“Dere be som’ting wayin’ heavy on your mind, mais non?” the sandy-haired man questioned with concern.
She shook her head, refusing to meet his burning eyes.
“C’mon, chere,” he coaxed her, “tell ole Remy what be botherin’ you. Mebbe it be I can help you.”
Instead, Minx sighed heavily and faked a left. Remy went to block her again and she easily sidestepped the Cajun and made for her room.
“Leave me alone, you Southern-fried ham,” her voice carried back to him.
But Remy wouldn’t let up. He followed the girl and stood outside her door for half an hour trying to cajole her into opening up to him. Minx’s muffled voice came from the opposite side of the door. It was tinged with tired irritation.
“Go away, Remy, or I swear, you’re gonna be real sorry.”
The man did not give up until Rogue came to get him for supper. Minx wasn’t hungry and stayed in her room, more confused and lost by the minute. She only left her room once that evening and that was to make good on her threat to the obnoxious Cajun. Remy was in the shower when Minx made her move. Using her sense of stealth, the vengeful teen had picked the lock to his room, padded soundlessly into his bathroom and in a moment of pure vindictiveness, had quickly reached down and laid a hand against the glass and metal of the shower stall instantly freezing it and the water coating it with her thermogenic powers. Remy’s shocking howls could be heard up and down the hall, but Minx was back in her own room by the time doors flew open and heads popped out into the hall, looks of mild surprise on everyone’s faces.