Devon Min was one of the New Troy Nobles’ more popular superheroes. She was fresh out of the Air Force when she joined, a decorated officer renowned for her aerial skill and a silver exo-suit that would become her signature in New Troy’s skies.
In college, she was a member of Nu Tau Alpha. Devon was scheduled to speak at her alma mater in December when a scandal rocked her old sorority. The pledges were ordered to drink and the sister that mixed together their cocktails confused the ratios. Three of the pledges ended up in the hospital. When the university investigated, two of the pledges accepted full responsibility. They knew what they were involving themselves in. They knew they could always say no and walk away. The third one refused to say it was her fault. She was hazed and wanted the Greek system to admit responsibility.
Devon arrived on campus unaware. When asked to comment, she could only say that what happened wasn’t representative of her sorority experience. It was tragic that this had been the young girl’s experience.
“I joined Nu Tau Alpha to be part of an inclusive sisterhood, to contribute to something greater than myself. My years as a sister are among my most treasured memories,” she said.
It was an outdoor event. Devon stood at a makeshift podium in Peony Park Amphitheater. Flower shrubs surrounded her, the branches heavy with snow white blooms. The audience was mostly New Troy University sorority and fraternity members. Two of the hospitalized pledges—now sisters—stood in the crowd.
“What happened, no one wanted, but our true test comes in how we respond to events that are unwanted,” she said. “Each year welcomes a new class, a changing roster. Unchanged is our commitment to stand together. I know what this sorority can be at its best. Let’s strive for that.”
Devon was making her social rounds when a new sister shyly approached her. She wanted to share.
“I’m interning with Representative Ausderan in the spring.”
Devon smiled. “That’s great to hear.” Rachel Ausderan was Devon’s wife.
The wind picked up. It was going to rain.
Devon was almost at her car when she received the message from Jack. It was an emergency. He had to see her immediately.
They met in an out-of-the-way parking garage downtown. His idea. He was waiting, eyes wide and peering anxiously as she pulled up and parked next to him, hurrying to join her in the passenger seat.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Someone sent me this.”
Video of the two of them. That night on their way back to the hotel in Sacramento. They were walking, her in front and him behind. At one point, his hand appeared placed over her rear. In another, he looked straight at the camera with a furtive expression.
“Is this everything?” she asked.
“You wasted my time. And you made it worse by telling me to come out here to meet.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Nothing. We were in Sacramento for work. We were assigned to the same hotel. We’re taking a walk. What’s the big deal?”
“There could be more where this came from. We need to have a preemptive plan.”
“This is troll work. Responding is the worst thing you can do right now.”
He reached for her. “I don’t want to keep sneaking around.”
She pulled away. “Don’t. I mean it, Jack. Don’t do anything.”
“How long are we going to keep doing this? It isn’t fair. You can’t have it both ways.”
“I have to go. I told Rachel I’d be home.”
Devon was on the freeway when the fear caught up to her. It was less about the video and more about how Jack might respond to it.
Rain began. Home was six exits away. Devon decided to stop by the Korean bakery to buy pastries. Rachel loved pretty pastries.
Jack called a press conference the next day. His confession was off-the-cuff, purely impromptu. Clocking in at an agonizing nineteen minutes, it began as a meditation that devolved into a rambling lecture on personal accountability, transparency, and morality. He worked his way to a teary sorry. He was overcome with shame and remorse.
“I love her,” he explained. Crying didn’t become him. He looked like a tomato that was about to burst.
Media delight. Another politician who couldn’t keep his pants up and mouth closed. Moreover, Jack Seda’s paramour was superhero Devon Min, happily (publicly) married to his political rival, Rachel Ausderan. The confession went viral. Edits and remixes proliferated the web. He would later tell her it was all part of his preemptive plan.
Rachel saw it first.
“How long?” she asked.
They sat on opposite ends of the couch. Rachel kept running her fingers over the nearest throw cushion, grasping but refusing to clutch.
“About nine months,” Devon said.
“Are you going to keep seeing him?”
“What he did. He had no right. I had no say—”
“Are. You. Going to keep seeing him?”
Of course not. Devon opened her mouth. She couldn’t say no.
Rachel’s face tightened. “Why him?”
“He was there. He was easy. That’s it.”
Rachel covered her face.
Devon looked away. “I’ll leave,” she said. “I’ll spend the night somewhere else.”
Jack came to Devon’s hotel later that night. When she opened the door:
“We have to talk.” He held flowers and wine. Sorry, not sorry.
“You stupid shit,” she said.
“What I did, it’s for the best. You’ll see.”
“You’re divorced. I’m married. I want to stay married.” Devon choked up. “You ruined my life.”
When Rachel fell, Devon saved her. Four years ago, Thuy Carney hosted a party at her newly renovated home in Moldavite Falls. The property offered panoramic views of the coastline and Pacific, and the guests crowded onto the balconies to look. Jack was there, part of the crowd when an angry man decided to make his villainous debut. There was:
An occupied balcony.
Jagged cliffs and crashing waves below the balcony.
In the blast, a woman fell. The Noble flew. The man was disarmed, the woman saved. The Noble’s helmet pulled back to reveal Devon’s face. She reached out to remove the hair that covered the woman’s face.
In the crowd, a guest raised her camera, took the shot. It made the front page of the next day’s Tribune. A shining knight. A rising political star. Liked and shared, the photo captured the popular imagination. Fans wanted to know. Were Devon and Rachel together?
(Less frequently asked. Their inadvertent cupid. “An inept debut,” was the common consensus. “Not part of our rogues’ gallery!” multiple supervillains declared.)
“I learned about Congresswoman Rachel in school today,” a third-grader told Devon when she visited their class to go over how to respond in an interdimensional emergency. “Is she your girlfriend?”
She wasn’t. The thought was a seed.
They’d known each other since college, lived on the same floor freshman year. They’d shared classes, extracurriculars, friends— drifting in and out of each other’s orbits. After graduation, Devon went into the Air Force and Rachel to law school. Back in overlapping circles, they began to seek each other out at events.
Carney threw another party in the spring. Out on the reconstructed balcony, they shared stories. Devon remembered.
“You pledged Nu Tau Alpha. You dropped out. What happened?”
“It wasn’t a good fit. It wasn’t for me,” Rachel said.
“We were ridiculous. You were the calm one.” Devon smiled.
They reminisced about different sisters. They talked about work. Criminal justice reform was a key issue for Rachel, and she spoke passionately about representing indigent clients in her former work as a public defender.
Devon had met public defenders like Rachel before. “You know they’re usually guilty,” she said.
“It’s not just about innocence or guilt. It’s about being someone’s voice—an advocate. A lot of the clients I represented never had one.”
There was a rumor that Rachel’s father had served time in prison. Devon wondered if it was true. “Why did you choose criminal defense? Why not prosecutorial work?”
“At first I wasn’t sure. I wanted to see the other side. I came to realize it’s so important. To acknowledge each person’s humanity, to hear their story. It has a cumulative effect. It matters, the people that are kind to you on your way, especially when you least deserve or expect it.”
Rachel’s public persona was different from her private one. On stage, in interviews, she often came off stiff and rehearsed. She lacked the charm and spontaneity of her peers. One on one, her heart and intentions shone. She was articulate, passionate—sincere.
“You believe in redemption,” Devon said.
“Their victims don’t always receive that.”
“It’s true. It isn’t mutually exclusive. I know you see a different side of it in your work. In mine, I’ve seen it’s possible for a person to be more than their worst acts. It doesn’t just lift up that individual. It lifts up their family. Their community. All of us.”
Below them, sea lions hunted in the cove. It was a full moon. Each wave was a ship. They fished for light.
“You’re beautiful,” Devon said.
She felt Rachel’s uncertainty. She wasn’t sure how to receive physical compliments.
The predator in Devon flared at the sight. She grinned. “Gorgeous.”
Devon moved out of their apartment. She began the process of moving her things. With the House back in session, she assumed Rachel would stay in D.C., and so was surprised to find her home during one of her trips.
“I have to go back. I’m flying back tonight,” Rachel explained.
They hadn’t seen each other in four weeks.
“How have you been?” Rachel asked.
There was the induction of a new Noble. Alice Mehretu, a talented telekinetic and Devon’s protégé. Her first mission had gone interdimensional when the Hatter escaped custody and jumped through a portal in the Labradorite District. The Blue Bloods were back in New Troy. The battle was a draw. Round two was forthcoming. And earlier that week, Devon had rescued Kamahoalii, the visiting shark god, from the shapeshifter assassin, Kumiho.
Devon omitted the story of what happened after. She’d escorted Kamahoalii back to his hotel. Back at her apartment, post-mission high had given way to post-mission depression.
Jack was out of town. She had no food. There was an all-night burrito shop three blocks away. Devon walked inside to find the small space packed with college-age students. It was two in the morning. No college was nearby. Where had they come from?
One of the students, a heart-faced girl in a bright purple headscarf, recognized her.
“You were my favorite Noble. Is it true you’re leaving Rachel for Jack?”
The girl’s voice carried. People turned to look.
Devon had avoided encounters with unhappy members of the public until now. The girl’s face was mournful. One of those idealists that believed the world better with their union.
Devon mumbled some things about how mistakes had been made. She was working to rectify them. “It’s complicated,” she tried to explain.
At the counter, her order was up:
“Two veggie burritos!”
Devon stepped forward to receive them.
The girl’s eyes widened. “Who’s the second burrito for?” she asked.
It was too late for this to be fair. The whole shop waited for her answer.
“Me. I’m hungry.”
In the kitchen, Devon and Rachel stood with the island between them.
“I needed some stuff for the new place. I can come back later,” Devon said.
It was a token gesture. Rachel would never demand she leave. “Stay,” she said. She looked away. Devon stopped herself from reaching out.
She knew Rachel would give her a second chance. It would be a good-faith chance. With the necessary work, their marriage could be saved, strengthened—better. She felt Rachel’s hope. Conditions were attached.
“I miss you,” Devon said.
“We have to talk.”
“I know. I want to.”
“Then call me,” Rachel said.
The divorce papers came in May. It wasn’t a surprise. It still hurt.
Jack surprised Devon with a trip to Hawaii. They landed in Hilo on Big Island. Their home was a giant yurt in the jungle in Pahoa. For three days, they traversed all over, hiking, snorkeling, paddleboarding. Jack wanted to know.
“Why didn’t you call her?”
“I got busy.”
It was true. It wasn’t true.
Jack had theories. “You loved the idea of Rachel more than the reality. You wanted to protect her. It isn’t enough.”
To distract her, Jack talked a lot about his divorce. What had happened, what he could have done differently, why it hadn’t worked out. He talked about his political ambitions in light of the confession.
Devon turned over what Jack said. There was truth to it, but it wasn’t all. She’d once told him—as he antagonized her yet again over their affair and why they needed to go public—that she preferred Rachel for a reason.
“All you ever do is challenge me.”
He didn’t really challenge her.
Their last night, they went to Kalapana to watch the lava flow into the ocean. They hiked the four miles over the gravel and lava fields to get to the viewing area.
Rachel challenged her.
In college, Rachel was raped. She kept things to herself, so it always felt like a victory when Devon could get her to open up and share things that were personal.
The night Rachel told her, Devon was horrified, rapt—glad. It hurt to imagine Rachel keeping such a secret over all these years, telling no one. That she chose to open up to Devon was an honor.
It had happened at a party hosted by Nu Tau Alpha’s brother fraternity. Rachel was still a pledge. She drank too much, ending up going into a room to get away from the noise and rest her head.
“Who was it? Did you know him?” Devon asked.
“He was our friend,” Rachel said.
Rachel wouldn’t say.
Devon was at that party. It was a good party. She remembered feeling happy, dancing with her pledge sisters, flirting with the cute fraternity boy she would eventually date and stay close friends with through college. Many of the guys there would become her good friends.
The night Rachel told her, Devon was glad. It was after that she began to have questions. Rachel’s story conflicted with Devon’s. It went against what she held to be true.
In college, Devon was reckless. She liked to party, push limits. There was opportunity. She was always surrounded—in school, the Air Force, the New Troy Nobles—by men that outnumbered and could have overpowered her. Nothing had happened. They were good men. She was safe to act out because she knew nothing would happen.
A mutual friend? Not her friend.
She needed details, clarification.
“You don’t believe me.”
“I didn’t say that. I never said that.”
Rachel persisted. “All the years that you’ve known me, I have never given you a reason to doubt my word.”
“I’m just trying to understand.”
“It’s something that happened. Rehashing the details won’t change that.”
They fought. Devon left.
She went for a long walk, eventually came to the flower shop at Soledad and Balboa. Buckets lined the sidewalk. Freesia filled them, their buds like bells on antlers. Devon stopped to smell the pink and orange blooms.
Devon loved flowers. She loved to buy Rachel flowers. Back home, she presented her with a freesia bouquet. She was sorry for walking out.
There was something that happened. It was what didn’t happen. They didn’t discuss the rape again. Devon didn’t want to. She told herself Rachel didn’t want to. A month later, she began to see Jack.
Jack and Devon made their way up a last hill. She reached the top first, turned to give him a hand. “Get up here!” She laughed. They embraced. Desire coursed through her.
The sun set. They settled.
As night came, the cliffs lit up with glowing red lava. It fell to merge back with the night.
There was a memory, a college roommate Devon hadn’t thought of in years.
“It was just for a semester. One of the girls went to Peru for study abroad. The new girl, Brienne, I don’t remember how we found her. She was a friend of a friend.”
Devon and Brienne lived in a three-story apartment with two other girls. Devon was home alone one afternoon when the doorbell rang.
It was winter. The heater was on. The apartment was hot. Devon answered the door in a tiny tank top and shorts.
Four men. Freshmen. They lived in Carney Hall, were looking for a place to live next year. Could they see her place?
She’d done it last year, going door to door to tour the different apartments. She showed them the downstairs, led them up past the second floor (“My roommates aren’t home.”) and to the third (“You can see my room.”). She gestured them in.
It was then she realized the sprawl. Laundry all over the bed, underthings dangling from the closet and drawers. They were gentlemen. They didn’t say a word. Shuffling around each other in the small space, they asked questions about the apartment, thanked her for her time. She led them downstairs, wished them good luck on their search.
Devon later shared the story with her roommates. Brienne was the only one that didn’t laugh.
“You let them inside?”
“Yeah. They needed to see what the place looked like.”
“You shouldn’t have done that.”
“It isn’t safe.”
“It isn’t a big deal. I was with them the entire time,” Devon said. “They didn’t take anything. I didn’t let them into your room.”
“How did you know they were actually students?”
“They said so. I could tell.”
They’d lain down a blanket. Still, the night was cold.
“She was just worried about you,” Jack said.
“She worried for herself.” Devon pulled Jack to her.
Yet it was true. Brienne had only expressed concern for her safety.
She shouldn’t have presumed to question her safety.
C.E. Hyun’s fiction has appeared in Joyland, 7x7LA, Failbetter, and elsewhere. She lives in Sunnyvale, California.