Authors: Abra Ebner
Max was a decent enough man, even if he was a little controlling and stupid. He lacked any real concept of what it took to live a real life or to work for anything other than looking good. He had been gifted with a talent to play football, not the talent to think or even dream, for that matter. I suppose what it came down to was his looks, and as the head cheerleader, it was my fate to date the quarterback.
The second hand rolled over another minute and I squirmed in my seat as my skirt began to creep up my thighs. I stared down at the page, trying my best to muster some form of concentration as the words on the test began to blur into a mess of things I could not understand. Where was God when I needed him; fate, luck, anything?
Something outside the classroom window caught my eye and I looked out on the courtyard. The wind blew through a nearby rhododendron and I watched as the breeze took the leaves for a ride, the cold dead flowers holding on for dear life, as I felt I was. The fire alarm began to scream from a box in the corner of the room then and I shut my eyes out of shock, a warm sensation rushing across my body as adrenaline began to pump and relief filled my heart. Apparently, God was listening after all.
The teacher stood, calming the class as everyone looked around with alarmed faces. We stood as we saw other students pass by the window on their way to the field.
“Everybody line up, head to the field. We’ll pick up the tests when we get back so leave them where they are, please.” He glared at one student that seemed to be attempting to hide his test under his shirt and take it with him.
We all rushed to the door, where I dodged away from Max, trying to ditch him in the rush.
Once on the field, I racked my brain for the answers on the test but as I felt Max grab my ass, I knew it was little use.
“Hey, babe,” he leered at me.
I rolled my eyes. “Hey.”
I tried to ignore him while we stood, but I doubt he even noticed as he chatted away with his buddies, only concerned with himself. I shifted my weight from one leg to the next, seeing that there was a group of cheerleaders huddled nearby. I thought to join them, but I really didn’t want to. Their level of intrigue was rather low, and at the moment I felt the need to talk about something that was more intelligent than their squabbling about popularity and clothes, so I stood alone instead.
After fifteen minutes the teacher ushered us back from the field to the classroom where I knew I would finally meet my doom.
I threw myself back into my chair as Max gave me another pat on the butt. He often did this, ignored me then made up for it with some sort of rude petting, as though that made his ignorance acceptable; such a respectable way to treat a woman.
“You have two more minutes to complete the test because of the disruption. Please continue,” the teacher barked, his yellow teeth peeking from below his chapped upper lip.
I felt my stomach sink as I flipped the test back over, bringing my pencil to the page and figuring I’d randomly fill in the remaining multiple choice questions and pray for the best. As I went question to question, however, I was shocked to see they had already been filled in. Had I, in fact, finished? I looked at the margins, seeing they were no longer filled with my mindless doodles though my name still remained at the top of the page in perfect form. I looked around the room with leering eyes, a dark cloud of doubt hanging over me.
“Pencils down.” The teacher rose from his desk and looked at us over his half moon glasses, his eyes cold like a snake.
I placed my pencil onto the desk as a smile grew across my face, deciding that at this point there was little I could do. Besides, my old test was no where in sight and I had to turn in something. I flipped the test over and left it on my desk as I packed my bag, guilt filling my heart as my mind pushed it away. I rolled my eyes as I saw Max approach. The last thing I needed right now was to hear him finish his rant that he had started on the field.
“So, hey, how did you do?” His voice was still arrogant.
I winced, “Save it Max.”
My reply felt cold and undeserving, but what else could I do? I was still struggling to understand what had happened and why, and most of all, who had done it.
“Geez, you don’t have to be mean.”
He turned away from me with a stung ego. It was Friday, and he was in his game jersey and I in my cheerleading uniform; so clichéd.
I had received a lot of flack from my brother for dating such a jock, but it didn’t matter. I hated myself, but I’d rather go with the flow than try and run from the life God gave me. I swallowed, telling myself for the hundredth time that I was lucky.
“Sorry, Max, I didn’t mean it.”
He smiled and leaned into me, hooking his arm around my waist like a chain. I tried my best to sling my bag onto my back but he refused to give me space, sticking his nose into the nook of my neck where he made kissing noises. My muscles tightened, attempting to shrug him away as we walked out into the hall where we met his friends. To my relief he all but forgot about me as he dropped his hand from my waist and they began to wrestle. They threw each other from locker to locker as they laughed like children, slamming one kid in a dark green coat and black hat into the wall, not even bothering to apologize.
I rushed to the kid. “Are you alright?”
He looked at me under the bill of his hat and nodded, turning and dodging away from me with such speed I hardly got the chance to see his face. I watched as he left, something tingling at my memories, wondering if it had been him whom had done this to my test, but how and why? I then turned and grabbed Max by the arm and spun him toward me.
“Would you watch what you’re doing? You’ll hurt someone,” I hissed.
Max shrugged away from me, “What’s gotten into you today Kenzie, are you PMS-ing or something?”
He looked at me as though I were nothing more than a spec of dust and my fiery attitude boiled over.
“Screw you,” I retorted, turning and storming away from him down the hall, trying to act infuriated.
I tightened my fists around the straps of my backpack. That was my last straw with him, I swear. I grumbled as a little voice inside me tried to retort but I silenced it; this time I was serious. I was never the type to be a pushover, never the type to put up with such crap. I sighed, my guilt taking over as I began to feel bad but I pressed forward anyway, figuring I could apologize later. I was in a rush to get out of here before someone found out what I had done, that I had cheated. The self in my dreams would have never done something like this, and I knew it would eat me alive for the rest of winter break. I tried to think of the fact that I’d be heading to pre-med next year if that test was indeed correct, but on what grounds? A lie?
I pushed open the doors of the hall and stormed out into the parking lot to my car. I saw the kid in the green coat and black hat climb onto a motorcycle I had never seen before, pressing his foot down on the starter as it roared to life. I made a move to run toward him and ask his name but stopped myself, relieved that he didn’t notice my attempt as I unlocked my car and stepped inside.
I didn’t want to start the engine, afraid that it would draw attention and ruin my voyeuristic game. I turned my head and watched him through the dusty glass of my rear window, wondering who he was and why I felt so strange in his presence. Looking away, I buckled in and put both hands on the steering wheel, taking a deep breath.
For a moment I thought about my dream and the man I’d met there. My mind was twisting to find some resemblance, but the man was nothing but a blurred outline, and though I did not know who he was, I was lost in the mysterious romance of the whole thing.
I shook the thought away, angry that I’d allow myself to think of anyone but Max that way. Still parked in my spot, I then looked in my rearview and out the back window as I heard the motorcycle engine roar. With poise and a strong sense of independence, the strange boy drove behind my car and out of the lot as my gaze followed him, wondering if he would turn his head so I could see his face, but he never did, and I found myself disappointed.
As he disappeared over the hill I felt my forehead begin to ache, the left side of my face burning as though I’d been slapped, as though the scar from my nightmare was really there. I pulled down the visor and flipped open the mirror, looking at my face and finding nothing was wrong other than the smeared make-up from class. I rummaged through my bag for my powder, cursing the thick leather that hid all the contents so well.
I jumped, letting out a half-hearted scream as Max grabbed the edge of the car window.
“Sorry babe, you know I can’t act weak around my friends.”
I let out a discontented sigh and flipped the visor back up. “Grow up Max. I doubt they’d see you as a weenie for treating your girlfriend like a human.”
He laughed. “I’m the Quarterback, babe. You know I can’t show a soft side. I’m supposed to be their leader.”
I rolled my eyes and flipped open my compact, dabbing my forehead, “Whatever.”
“Will you drive me home?”
He gave me a sweet smile and I felt my guard fall. He had a way of looking at you that made all your inhibitions melt, like an expert salesman. I paused and tightened my grip on the steering wheel, grabbing my keys and starting the engine.
“Fine.” I gave in, so gullible.
He leaned in through the window and kissed me on the cheek. “You’re a doll, the best woman in the world.”
I laughed to myself, wishing he had even the simplest understanding of who I really was, and not just what I did for him and how I looked. It was amusing to think that in my dreams he actually hated me, taunted me like a bully because I was ugly, a nobody. In my dreams he was also the type that would cheat on his girlfriend. There, he dated my best friend Marcie, not a far cry from someone I could really see him being with, except in the real world, she wasn’t the head cheerleader, and if she wasn’t the head cheerleader, then they would never date. It was the rules after all; the head cheerleader always dated the Quarterback. It was this dark side of him that I feared was real, but I’d never seen it except in my dreams, so I knew it was just a figment of my imagination; another reason to justify hating him when really he was no more than a sweetheart.
Statement from Dr. Ashcroft,
Vincent Memorial Hospital, Boston
August 4, 2009
So that’s your side of it?
Yep, that’s my side. I wanted to give you the full dynamic, so you’ll understand more later in the story when Max and I mature and go to college, then you’ll really see why trying to change your past doesn’t mean you solve a problem.
So what does Jordan’s side of it say?
It starts out the same, but then there’s a portion here that’s different, a portion I had actually dreamt about the very night it happened. It’s crazy because what I thought was just a dream is written right here before me. (pause) The next morning I laughed it off, figuring it was my mind’s way of coping with the fact I cheated my way into med school.
Well, what does it say was different?
Well there are two endings here, the one I just told you, only from his angle, and then the one that I suppose was what should have really happened if the tests hadn’t been swapped out; if he hadn’t Shifted my life.
I see. Tell me the bit about what should have happened, the part you dreamt of, but from his angle.
Alright. This feels strange but it’s fascinating to think it was real and that he was really there.
Formulated from the journals
of Patient #32185
December 8th, 2002
I stood near the edge of the school, parking my bike in the lot. It had taken me longer than I’d anticipated getting here, as I forgot that having a bike stored in the future posed a few problems, like old gas. I made a mental note to put some additives in my bag before I left today so that when I came back to this same time tomorrow, I wouldn’t have any issues.
I walked down the hill from the lot and onto school grounds. I was not concerned about being caught here because I looked the part of a student in my green jacket and black hat; a part of the grunge crowd no one really wanted to confront anyway. I made my way down the empty halls to Kenzie’s classroom where I knew today was her big test, and though she had spent late hours studying last night, her knucklehead of a boyfriend had kept her up with his own issues, distracting her from what she needed to succeed.
When I arrived at her classroom, I made my way around back where a large rhododendron shielded the window, hiding me from their view. I watched her through the leaves, always feeling as though I were no more that a pathetic voyeur, but it was my job. I saw her look up at the clock with a fear in her eyes that I hated to see.
A cold breeze blew then, ruffling the leaves and shriveled flowers that were left over from summer. Kenzie looked up and out the window. I ducked back, feeling my heart race as her eyes almost met mine through the leaves. I waited a moment before looking back, relieved to see her attention was back on the paper as her head dropped to her hands out of frustration.