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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/1003633-The-Girl-Who-Is-You
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by Seuzz
Rated: GC · Book · Occult · #2183311
A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
#1003633 added February 5, 2021 at 11:58am
Restrictions: None
The Girl Who Is You
Previously: "The Theatrical Trade

"Something came up," you tell Kristina. "I'm real sorry. Maybe tonight we could get together and talk?" You feel your heart tearing a little as you push her away.

"Okay," she says, "I'll text you later. I think I'll skip the park too," she adds. "Jack's got a bug up his ass or something these days."

* * * * *

You're on some kind of automatic pilot through your last two classes. It's like an out-of-body experience. (Or an out-of-one-body-and-sort-of-into-another experience.) You watch yourself as you brightly greet friends in Chorale and shuffle into place, and you almost faint with astonishment when you find yourself able to hit the right notes on the song sheet in the right order. German proves a little trickier when you wobble during a reading exercise. Wait, how do I know what these words are and how to say them? you ask yourself, and for a moment they become a lot of letters smushed into a random order on the page. Then, like a gyroscope recovering its balance, the language comes back to you and you're able to finish in a rush.

You're half-jammed up inside your locker with your cell phone after the final bell has rung when Wendy Terrill pops up beside you. "Hey, I heard you're bailing out on the park today," she chirps.

"Yeah, I have to meet someone," you reply, and quickly hide your phone with its half-completed text to Will. "Kind of a last-minute thing."

"Gonna take long?"

"I don't know. However long it takes."

"It's not a family crisis, is it?"

"What?" You wheel at the question..

Her face falls. "Oh God, it is, isn't it? I'm sorry, I—"

"No, no it isn't," you assure her. "Why did you think—?"

"Just the way you're acting. Kristina told me you were kind of jumpy in class today. Are you sure everything's okay?" She frowns with concern.

"I'm fine, Wendy! I just had a change of plans is all!"

You give her arm a reassuring squeeze, which sets your heart hammering in your chest. I could hug her, you think, the way I— the way Leah does, and it wouldn't be weird! Well, not for her!

Before you can act, though, Wendy pulls away. "Okay," she says. "Just that it does seem like you're changing your plans on the fly a lot these days."

"I'm always changing my plans on the fly!" It is, it now occurs to you, a complaint that Leah has often heard.

"Yeah, but you were a lot more random before," she says. There's a curious gleam in her eye. "These days it's like—"

"Like what?" you ask.

But she laughs and steps back into the boiling crowd. "Never mind. I'll catch you later!"

* * * * *

You get a text from your old phone before you can finish the text you started to send, asking if you're out of school yet and up for meeting at the Suffolk Wilderness. On my way, you reply, and scuttle for the parking lot.

This isn't my car, you think as you drive the shabby old Ford through town. It feels weird to be sitting this low to the road, and it also feels weird to have boobs. You catch yourself touching your hair a couple of times, and more than once, at a stoplight, you turn the rearview mirror to confirm the remarkable fact that you now have Leah Simmons's face. It gives you a fluttery feeling all over, and you try to ignore the tingling warmth it gives you in some of the lower crevasses.

Your old truck is parked near the visitor's center, and a tall, skinny kid in sloppy clothes is hunched up beside it. He squints as you pull up alongside, but he doesn't move even after you've stopped the engine and climbed out. "Hey," you greet him.

"Hey," he says. He peers at you from under an unhappy brow. "So what happened? Did you stay at school?"

"Yes. I went to your classes, took your notes, did your— You had a reading quiz in German. I, uh, got you a B."

"You take German too?"

"No. Never. It was— I dunno." You look around. "I just kind of went on automatic and it came to me."

"You talk to anyone?"

"No. Not really. Um, you were supposed to meet Jack and them up at Potsdam Park, and I had to tell them that I, uh, wouldn't. I didn't tell them why, though. I don't think I fucked anything up for you, honest!" you plead.

He grimaces and looks away.

"And how are you?" you ask.

"Freaked. Why aren't you freaked?" His tone is aggressive, accusing.

"I dunno. I am. But I guess I don't see the point." You glance around. "Um. I guess it also doesn't hurt that, uh— Well, I seem to need to know what I need to know. Like, I took your German quiz, and I know your locker combination—"

He clucks his tongue and looks away.

"And you don't, um, you don't know ... that stuff? For me?" you ask. You want to put your hands on him, but since they're not your hands, and you'd be touching someone who you want to think of as yourself, you don't.

He makes a face, but he doesn't answer, not even with a shake of his head.

"I've been trying to," he finally says. "I got out here, took a walk, tried to calm down. Tried to concentrate. I am getting, like, pictures," he continues. "But I don't know what they are. Like, I don't know if they're people you know, or if I'm— I dunno." He slumps. "Or if I'm just making it up."

"Pictures of what?" you ask.

"Pictures of a family," she says. "I don't know how to describe them. Normal, I guess. Father and mother. And a boy, a little younger than, uh, you."

"What's he look like?"

"Just a boy. Dark hair, kind of shaggy with spit curls."

"That could be my brother, Robert."

"Robert!" he exclaims. "Yeah, that sounds familiar."

"What else?"

"A house. Bedroom. Really messy." He describes an arrangement of bed and dresser and corner table with its old laptop. It could be your room, but it could probably be the room of most any high school boy.

Only when he says she keeps getting an impression of an Asian girl—but not any girl that you know at school—does your heart leap.

"That sounds like Umeko!" you exclaim. "My cousin!"

"Your cousin's Chinese?"

"Japanese. She's adopted. She's a year older than me. I, uh, have kind of a crush on her," you bashfully confess. Then you squeal. "There, you see! You are getting some of the memories!"

"Calm down," he growls as you clutch at him. "Jeez, you're—" He licks his lips and looks away. "You're acting like a girl," he mutters.

That stops you short. I am a girl! you want to retort, but somehow that's not really your own thought—it's a thought belonging to someone else, only it has popped into your head—and besides, you know what he means.

"Well, this is how I got through your day," you tell him. "I just sort of did what felt natural, and it came out right."

"Well, that's great for you," he says. "But I don't know if I can get through your day—" He groans. "I don't know if I can deal with your family if all I've got is this half-baked, half-remembered stuff."

"So don't go home! You don't have to. Hang out with me! We've been hanging out, um—" You feel momentarily embarrassed. "We've been hanging out a lot already."

He gives you a sidelong look. But whatever he's thinking, he doesn't express it.

Instead, he just says, "Okay. What time do you have to be home for dinner?"

"I don't. Gimme your phone and I'll text my mom. And, um," you add as you bend your face over the phone he hands you, so he can't see you blush. "I know you only eat at home about half the time anyway."

* * * * *

You wind up eating an early supper at Osaka, a sushi/Japanese place just across from the college campus. It's one of Leah's favorite places, so much so that the tiny Japanese woman behind the sushi counter recognizes and greets you cheerily. Though the place is empty, you huddle at a two-top in the corner so you can talk quietly while splitting three sushi rolls.

You give your replacement some quick lessons on what your home life is like—what he can expect when he goes home, and how to act in character when he gets there—and the lessons seem to take easily. Not that there's much to impart—don't sass your dad but don't let him bully; help your mom at whatever she asks; chase your brother out of your room but don't smack him too hard—but he aces the final quiz when you give it to him in the parking lot afterward. Then, with sky still light from the just-setting sun, you wander through the bohemian district next to the university, rifling through the House of Wax vintage music store and sports-clothing outlet.

You're heading back to where you're parked when you spot two familiar figures up ahead, and freeze. One of them is Elle Moore and the other is Chris Love. Will jerks to a stop when he realizes you've frozen in place. He queries you with a lifted eyebrow.

"That's Chris Love up ahead," you hiss at him. "Remember this afternoon? He was backstage when—"

"Oooh!"

"Yeah. You wanna—?"

Before you can finish, Chris turns in answer to some impulse and sees you. A warm grin breaks out across his face and he stops in place.

"Hey guys!" he calls, and beckons you to join him and Elle.

Next: "The Girl Who You Are

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