I met Karen Grant about three years ago. She had just moved here to Baltimore. She kept to herself. Didn’t talk about where she came from. Kinda… mysterious. But I’d never seen a more beautiful girl in my life. At first she seemed to good to be true. And guess what? She was too good to be true.
A nice neighborhood in Baltimore. A young woman is going through her morning toilette, having just applied black dye to her hair.
See, a guy like me, I figured I’d never have a chance with a girl like Karen Grant. I didn’t go to college. I got a job as a security guard at the Cherry Square Shopping Center. We’re called “mall cops” ever since that movie came out. God’s honest truth… I was an ordinary guy without a clue why she ever spoke to me.
She dries her hair, levitating her dryer telekinetically and gets dressed the same way.
Karen, on the other hand, there was something different about her, like once upon a time she was a movie star or like she saved the world…
The young woman looks at her jewelry box. Inside, beside some custom jewelry is a magazine of Timesweek magazine, the issue with the X-Men cover. She smiles, looking at it. Next, she takes up a visor to hold back optic blasts and begins to cry, as she holds it to her chest. In her mind’s eye, she sees all the dead mutants she remembers, friends and enemies both. “Please forgive me!” she whispers, her eyes are on the corpse of Scott Summers who was shot, after they had survived the horrors of Ultimatum. So unfair, she mutters, overwhelmed by the memories.
Finally, she becomes calm again and puts the visor away, instead taking out an identity tag, identifying her as “Karen.” She gets on her bike, greets her neighbor, Mrs. Tilley, and rides to work.
I must have asked her out about ten times before she said yes. Even after she agreed to it, she cancelled on me three more times. I didn’t mind, though. Much. A girl like Karen you wait your whole life for. Which brought me to today. Today was going to be different. Today after work I was going to ask Karen to marry me.
Karen arrives at the Cherry Square Mall and locks her bike. Hands clap over her eyes as someone is trying to surprise her. Reflexively, Karen takes a hold of the hands and bends the fingers back. It’s Dave, the security guard, who apologizes. She didn’t hurt him, did she? Karen asks. Dave suggests she kiss it better. “Dave,” Karen warns him.
Dave stutters he got a bit carried away, it being their anniversary and all. Anniversary? Karen asks, not understanding. Embarrassed, Dave reminds her that two years ago today they went on their first date. They saw Wall-E. Oh, right, she remembers. Dave walks her to the boutique, making plans for dinner. Karen agrees and again apologizes about the hand. They are not aware that they are watched by two customers in a another store who recognize Karen.
In the boutique, Karen is in for a surprise as her colleagues expect her with party hats and sing “for she’s a jolly good fellow.” One of them explains that Karen had the top sales or the months. As they begin cutting the cake to celebrate, Karen stares at the picture of her that the other girls have.
And that was Karen in a nutshell. Loved by everybody… except maybe herself.
Karen puts down the picture and asks her colleague, Etta, where they got that photograph. From Dave’s Facebook page, she is told. Karen glares at Dave, then stalks out of the store. Dave follows asking her to wait. What has she asked him not to do? she demands. No photographs, he stammers… but… But what? she snarls. She likes him. He’s a sweet guy and she thought a fairly bright guy. But for the life of her, she can’t imagine why he’d put up her photo on the internet where anybody could go and see it! She turns away. He asks her to talk about it. There’s nothing to talk about! she cuts him off. She has to figure out what to do!
A smaller, teenage girl wearing a hoodie has watched the exchange with a slight grin.
I messed up bad. Greatest girl in the world. I blew it forever. Worst of all: I didn’t really begin to understand what I’d done wrong. One little photograph. I wasn’t even in it with her…
Karen sits in a coffee shop in the mall, dejected and wondering how could she be so dumb. She didn’t seem like the talk-to-yourself type, someone addresses her. But after what they’ve been through she guesses anything’d be okay. Karen looks up to see the girl with the hoodie. Rogue. Hi, Rogue greets her. Karen hugs her. Rogue tells her she goes by “Anna” these days. Right, “Karen?”
Karen draws back with a start. She isn’t Rogue. Or “Anna.” How did she find her? “Anna” takes her true form, that of Mystique. Facebook, she replies. You can find about anybody on there. Take it easy, she tells her. She’s not the enemy anymore. They are all in this together. If she wanted to ambush “Karen” she’d be dead. She came to her out in the open in a public place. Hoping they could just talk.
Karen tries to use her powers on Mystique who shifts back to Rogue’s look. Trying to mindwipe her? Mystique asks unimpressed. Like she did with her co-workers? How long do they all think “Karen” has lived in Baltimore? Two, three years? More like two, three months, right?
How is she blocking her? Karen demands. The same way Magneto could stop Xavier, comes he reply. They took the basics of his helmet and made it smaller. Smarter. Who’s “we?” Karen asks. Mystique tells her to take a walk with her. Karen threatens that she could close Mystique’s throat until she chokes to death. She remembers Vic, doesn’t she? Mystique asks mildly, pointing at a shop. Sabretooth stands there, incongruously dressed in civvies, in the middle of many bystanders, most of them kids. Just look at all these kids, he remarks. They cleaned him up and still can’t get the “Sabretooth” out of him, Mystique remarks as she drags Karen away. With Sabretooth following, they head for the exit.
Karen asks what they want. Mystique reminds her of the law: all mutants must turn themselves in to the authorities or they will be shot on sight. They could have turned her in. Wrecked her perfect life down here. She doesn’t want to make a scene and do that herself, does she?
As they head outside, Dave sees them. He wants to apologize. Karen tells him everything is fine. Sabretooth orders him to get lost. Karen whispers at him to leave him out of this. Dave, now suspicious, demands some ID from the strangers while reaching for his gun.
I never saw myself as a hero. I only took this job at the mall to get free slurpees and hot dogs. Maybe I’d meet some girls. I got so lucky when I found Karen.
Seeing the gesture, Sabretooth reacts reflexively and slashes one of Dave’s arteries. As Dave sinks to his knees, blood spurting Karen shouts out “no!” and Mystique reprimands Sabretooth.
They shouldn’t have come here, Karen announces, her eyes aglow. Telekinetically, she smashes Sabretooth into a bus. All she wanted was to be left alone! She earned that much. More cars begin to move and fly towards Sabretooth. He swears. He’s not gonna be happy when he hears about that. The cars land on him and catch fire causing an explosion. She has made things worse, Mystique calmly states, and for what? “Leave!” Karen orders her, while she still can.
She kneels down next to the dying Dave, telepathically promising help is coming. He asks how he can hear her in his head, then who she really is. If she had any feelings for him at all… Crying, Karen telepathically tells him her name is Jean Grey. She was one of the X-Men. She saved the world, he realizes. Couple of times, yes. Why didn’t she tell him the truth? Because she didn’t want him to get hurt. Dave’s grip on her arm becomes slacks as he dies. Jean telepathically convinces all bystanders that a man with a knife attacked the security guard and ran off, causing a terrible car accident. They will forget everything else, including her.
That was the story of the last day of my life. Because of what happened, it was also Karen’s.
Karen / Jean returns to her home. Her neighbor, Mrs. Tilley, tells her she just missed her friend. A nice young boy who said he was a friend of hers. She told him to check back in the morning. Jean looks up critically while thanking her. What young boy? she wonders while she packs her things.
She had no choice but to disappear. Make everyone forget she ever existed.
Jean sees a shadow outside her door. Using what looks like a knife, the intruder jimmies the lock, then sneaks in.
I only wanted what was best for her. It didn’t matter if I knew her for three years or three days. I fell in love with her and that was real.
Jean telekinetically grabs all knives from the kitchen and uses them pin the intruder’s clothes to the wall. Who the hell is he? she demands. He’s Jimmy Hudson, the clawed young boy replies. She knew his dad! He was Wolverine. Jean is at a loss for words .
My hope is that wherever she goes she’ll be safe and happy… someday living in a world where she’ll finally be remembered…