I Am Not A YA Protagonist


Chapter 1: Dearly Beloved

“Watch out!” the building came crashing down, as if that scream– so resonant yet so quiet– set the scene in motion. The world was silent. Jane could hear everything yet nothing, wavering between unhearing and hearing. She was distinctly aware of everything that wasn’t her– the news crew interviewing Knight the hero and citizens cheering. 

Jane was relying purely on adrenaline to keep herself standing. She was lucky she was well past the building beside the collapsed Google headquarters, though she could not say the same for her father who had just left the recently destroyed building.

“Knight has saved us yet again! Right out of a fairytale, our hero in shining armour has apprehended the worst villain of the century, with only one casualty!” the news reporter announced, arms spread wide as if celebrating. She was, but there was still a casualty. Was it right to gloss over the loss of life? The media certainly seemed to think so. So did she, until her mother passed. Suddenly, Jane realised that having a hero wasn’t all it was made out to be.

Her mother died because she trusted that Knight would save her as he had saved everyone before. She died because Knight neglected the safety of those around him. She died because the man who was “the most virtuous person” didn’t care, unlike what the magazines said.

And it happened again. Her father’s ribs were crushed when rubble from the building fell. With Jane accompanying him in the ambulance, he was rushed to the hospital for an X-ray scan.

Knight watched the police handcuff Witch and wrestle her into the car, heaving a heavy sigh. His arm vaguely pulsed in pain but he ignored it. The citizens could not see him falter, besides, he had interviews to attend. 

The interviews crept by yet ended in an instant, Knight barely registering the answers he said or the questions asked, running on autopilot. All he wanted was to go home, take off his costume and watch television in the comfort of his bed. He excused himself, sprinting faster than the average person away in the direction of his apartment.

Knight grumbled, his armour creaking as he flung himself onto his somewhat hard bed. He took off his slightly dented helmet, becoming the normal, average, boring Simon was once more.

Simon blearily reached for the remote, the television turning on to the news channel. “…Knight has saved our town from certain annihilation…”. He clicked his tongue, changing to another channel. “…Knight has thankfully solved the crisis,” Simon rolled his eyes, “now back to our usually scheduled program.” 

And as he lay there, only partially listening to the broadcasted show, he recalled the singular casualty. It was the result of his negligence, of his inexperience, maybe even his age. After all, he was only sixteen. Still, a death was a death and the blood was on his hands. Simon bit his quivering lip. No, no, it wasn’t his fault, he saved the city. It was Witch’s fault, she was the one who attacked the city, right? Yet, there was a voice in the back of his mind, saying that it was his fault. He could picture those wide eyes full of unadulterated terror. They were begging. Begging to be saved. But he froze. Simon froze and couldn’t rescue someone in need. He watched as the red light hit the child between the eyes and did nothing but stare. All he saw was his little sister, who sacrificed her life for him, who was the reason he became a hero in the first place. Simon watched the life leave her eyes for the second time. It was all he could see: her unblinking eyes staring into his soul. It was all he could hear: “I love you, Big Br-”.

Jane sat in silence, the sterile air of the hospital pricking her eyes and the strong but ever-present stench of alcohol burnt her nose. The steady beeping of her father’s heart monitor from inside his room and the knowledge that Jill was safe were all that kept her sane. Her eyes were fixated on the white tile of the wall as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. She wished it was. At least it would have distracted her from her thoughts.

Jane looked up at the sound of footsteps that resonated through the empty hallway. A nurse, the same nurse from the ambulance, approached her with a smile full of sympathy. “You can enter the room now. Be quiet, your father’s resting,” she said in barely a whisper. Jane nodded, grimacing a smile. She entered.

The door creaked, echoing in the room. Yet, Jane hardly heard it over the pounding of her heart as she neared her father’s hospital bed. Thoughts swirled in her mind. What if she and Jill ended up parentless? What then? What now? As she placed her hands on the metal frame of the hospital bed, the cold, stinging metal, she closed her eyes, afraid to see who her father had become. Still, she willed her eyes open. 

The sight of her father’s motionless body greeted her, an IV drip connected to his forearm. A mask obstructed his face and he was almost mummified. At that moment, Jane could only see the living dead. She licked her cracked lips, hands trembling as she fished her phone from her pant pocket. “Hello? Jane?” Jill’s voice brought her some relief, Jane’s shoulders sagging as the tension left her body. At least, until she remembered why she called. Immediately, she tensed again, shoulders more rigid than before, fists clenched white. 

“Jill…do you– do you know where St Andrew’s Hospital is? The one nearest to Knight’s recent battle?” Jane began in anticipation. “Yeah, um, something bad’s happened and you need to get here now. Like, now.”

“Jane? What’s going on? Are you okay? Is Dad okay?” Jill queried.

“Jill, listen, I just think it’s better if you see it yourself. Just come, please.”

“I- okay.”

Jane and Jill sat in the thick silence as a singular entity, feeling the same emotions, thinking the same thoughts. They stared at their father in unison, eyes darting from the IV drip to the heart rate monitor back to his face. Jane tightly clasped Jill’s smaller hand in hers, to comfort her little sister, though it may have been to comfort herself instead.

A groan came from beside the girls. An ‘ugh’ sounded, causing Jill to look over. She let out a gasp, shaking Jane. Snapping out of her stupor, Jane rang the bell to call the nurse before taking her father’s hand in her own, still holding Jill. “Dad, what d’you need? Are you hungry? Thirsty? Hold on, okay? The nurse is on her way.” Jane rambled, barely giving her father time to breathe.

“Tired. Shush… wanna sleep…” her father waved, as if to swat a fly. His eyes fluttered shut, though they were barely open to begin with.

“No, Dad! Keep your eyes open, the nurse is coming! Whatever you do, please don’t sleep!” Jane exclaimed. She could see it vividly: her mother in the same position as her father begged his wife to stay awake for him, for their daughters, for their family. Yet, the only response that greeted her was the rapidly falling beeping of the heart rate monitor that lasted barely a moment before the long ear-piercing beep. The nurses came rushing in. Jill looked around, still unsure why there was chaos.

“Jane? What’s going on?” Jill turned to Jane innocently. Jane sighed, why was she the one who had to break the news?

“Is this like what happened with Mom? There was that really loud beeping too! Dad said she was going on a business trip. But we haven’t seen her in so long…why hasn’t she come home?” Jill moped, eyes glossing over.

Jane sighed. “Jill, you’re already eleven, so lemme tell you what happened to Mom and Dad, okay?” Jill nodded. “Mom and Dad went to heaven, Jill, because they passed. And what happens when someone passes is that you can’t see them again, ever. But they’re always in your heart like-” Jane could feel the wave of emotions that enveloped her, feel the urge to scream. She continued. “They’re always in your heart, like what Dad used to say when– ” a sniffle, “when Mom died. I- I’m sorry, Jill, I’m so sorry.” Jane’s lips quivered as she bit them, she couldn’t cry, her sister needed her. Couldn’t cry, couldn’t cry, couldn’t cry. But the tears came anyway, reddening her eyes as they flowed down her cheeks.

Jane pulled Jill closer, burying her sister’s face in her chest. Jane stroked her hair softly, humming the lullaby their mother used to sing to them, though that was broken by the occasional sniffle.

Songs played in the background, their father’s favourites from his youth. Jane stood at the entrance of the funeral home, shaking the hands of unknown relatives and accepting their empty condolences.

Then, finally, the man of the hour arrived– because Knight would always be “man of the hour” even when it wasn’t his wake. Flashes of bright light blinded Jane, despite her covering her eyes. The paparazzi followed the hero closely, shouting questions and shoving microphones in his face. Jane grumbled, “Can y’all not invade my father’s wake? Honestly, have some basic human decency.” The flashing stopped. The news crew turned to stare at Jane.

“What? This is my father’s wake. Not yours, and not his. As far as I’m concerned, you’re all trespassing and I can easily get y’all arrested.” Jane snapped, giving the paparazzi a dirty look. 

Knight intervened. “I promise I’ll give you guys an exclusive interview later, please leave.” With that exciting compromise, the news crew happily left. If Knight had known that it was that easy to get rid of them, he would have done so a long time ago.

Knight turned to Jane, scratching his neck with eyes darting from left to right and his mouth opening and closing like a gaping goldfish. “I’m so sorry about them, they just won’t leave me be.” A look of realisation passed his face, as if he remembered why he was there. “My… greatest condolences for your loss. I wish you all the best going forward… uh,” Knight took a gulp of air, that sentence he wanted to say– was obligated to– was lodged in his throat. “…If you are ever in need of saving, you know who to call.”

“Yeah, not you.” Jane snarled.

Knight blinked owlishly, unable to process Jane’s words. “What?”

“No, nothing, forget it.” Jane dismissed with a wave of her hand. She just wanted to find Jill and recharge. It was as tiring as she anticipated when she first heard that Knight would be attending her father’s wake which she remained uninformed about until the news covered it a mere few days prior. Apparently, he was there “to provide support to those affected by Witch”, but Jane knew it was simply a PR (public relations) stunt.

“But I’m the only hero in town.” Knight reiterated. Surely she was joking. The authorities were hardly reliable, though Knight could never say that aloud.

“No offence, but you suck at your job. My father died because of you. Countless people have died because of you. The media glosses over them but you’re our town’s saviour. That means you save everyone, not most people, everyone.” Jane snarled, frown lines marring her face. Her mind was hazy between anger and sleep, the delirium making her more confrontational.

“Listen, I’m sorry about the loss of your father, but that wasn’t my fault, okay? He was nearby– ” Knight defended.

“And was struck by debris that you created. You’re supposed to be protecting us, not causing death due to negligence then blaming it on the villain.” Jane bit back.

“She would have killed thousands of others!” Knight retaliated. It was true, Witch was going wild, killing that child, who knew what she would do next?

“Did you know anything about Witch? A quick Google would have informed you that she was fired from the news company that keeps stalking you because she was framed.” Jane argued. How could the town’s supposed “Knight in Shining Armour” be so oblivious, so dense, so ignorant?

“That doesn’t change the fact that she tried to harm innocent civilians!” Why was this ignorant girl trying to sympathise with a villain? She was a murderer. Those people didn’t deserve sympathy.

“Because you attacked first! You started swinging that big sword of yours as if it’s gonna solve everything! You could’ve– no– should’ve handled the situation more tactfully! It was so easy for me to access that information, imagine what you could do. You could’ve used the info to deal with her! She was trying to feed her starving family!” Was this true? Did Knight make the first attack? Surely not? He could not recall the beginning of their battle. “So now you’ve just left three children without their caretaker, like me and my sister….” Jane growled, stomping away to find Jill. 

Her father died because of Knight. Her mother died because of Knight. She and her sister were orphans because of Knight. …Because of Knight! Everything she had to endure, every bad card she was dealt, everything linked to Knight!

He was a hero who suddenly appeared two years ago and brought with him glorified pandemonium. It was because of this society that worshipped the ground Knight walked on that his ego was inflated. But Jane refused to bend to the whims of society who put the safety of millions of people in the hands of a negligent hero. She would make society see the truth. She would save Jill from the fate their parents suffered.

Knight stood, confusion in the depths of his mind. He was the saviour, the hero. He wasn’t a parent-killer, an orphan-maker. The world adored him. They believed in justice. That meant that they believed that he brought justice. So why did she hate him? But she knew so much about Witch. Was she more knowledgeable than he? Maybe the media was blind, they often were.

No, she was wrong. He was protecting the city he loved from harm, and Witch? Witch with her powers made her dangerous, Witch with her desperation made her mad. Was he the same? He was different. Knight with his powers was adored, Knight with his desperation was loved.

He was a hero. That’s what his sister called him. Never again. Never after she ceased to speak, ceased to breathe, ceased to be. For a moment, he felt like the Simon who the world left with nothing, who could only pick himself up and resolve to change the world for the better.

And maybe that made him the villain in this story. Maybe his sister would have been disappointed. And maybe that girl was right. But maybe not.

Leia Lo (Class of 2025)  is an aspiring writer who aims to entrance readers with her characters and worldbuilding. She writes with the desire to provide readers an escape from the mundanity of everyday life.