Authors: Abra Ebner
Peeking through the window, I watched as a look of relief crossed Kenzie’s face and she set her pencil down. I could hear her teacher’s muffled voice through the glass, instructing them to leave the tests on the desk and that they would all be staying after to finish. I watched her rise from her chair, thankful that she would have all the time in the world to think over the answers while she stood on the field, time she would not need because I had them.
I allowed myself the pleasure of watching her move. She had a grace that was intoxicating and legs that went on for miles. Though I had loved her while she was scarred, it was hard to deny the fact of her beauty now. It was not a selfish choice to save her good looks, though a part of me felt guilty for it. I knew as a fact that beautiful people lived happier lives, why not right?
She walked like an angel toward the door, only to be met by her boyfriend and I found myself looking away as I had before. It was painful to see her with him time after time, but at one point in her life it had been something she had wished for and I couldn’t deny her that happiness. I looked down at my hands, rough from a life full of running away, ashamed by my meek looks in comparison to Max’s effortless grandeur. I pulled the hat further down my forehead and straightened my dark green army coat, justifying my image.
Once everyone had left the room, I waited for them to round the corner before diving in and picking the lock. The teacher was smart to lock the door. Ensuring in the fact that he would know nothing could have possibly been tampered with, except by me. I was quick to grab Kenzie’s test and swap it for the finished one I had brought, figuring someone would be by to check that the room was cleared. I shoved the unfinished test back in my pocket and left the room where I walked up the grassy hill and sat by a tree that overlooked the school.
While I waited, I pulled the test from my pocket and scanned her work, smirking at the doodles she’d decorated the edges with. I knew her enough to know that she would not reject the test I had given her, knew enough about her morals that she saw it as a lucky break, not breaking the rules. She always thought she was fortunate; the girl whose life happened in every way she ever wished for, and that was exactly what I wanted.
A few moments later, the students on the field broke off and began making their way back toward class. It was easy to spot Kenzie in the crowd, her hair flowing down her back and her cheerleading sweater like a bright red beacon. I stood and moved in closer, my insatiable need to see her face irrepressible.
I stood back on the path by the rhododendron, watching her from the corner of the window as she flipped over the test. At first she looked confused, flipping through the pages and then rubbing her forehead as though forgetting that she had finished it. She looked over her shoulder toward the teacher, but he seemed enthralled by something he was writing. It was then that her confusion turned to relief and I smiled with her. She flipped over the test and placed the pencil on the page, giving her boyfriend a smug look and crossing her arms against her chest.
With that, I felt content, and I knew her dream career would come true. “I love you,” I whispered. It was then that her head shot to the window, and I quickly ducked back. I let out a nervous laugh, relieved she had not seen me.
Standing there with one leg perched against the wall, a vindictive thought crossed my mind as a girl in a black sweatshirt glared at me from across the commons. She watched me as though she knew what I was up to, and I laughed to myself, wondering if this student sensed my sick desire to endure this sort of treatment again, just to feel her touch me once more.
As the bell rang I turned my attention to the classroom door, preparing myself. The already existing bruises tingled, but what I was about to do was harmless and I swore she would never see me again. I had worked hard to accomplish all I had for her, and this was my reward. I deserved it, after all.
Statement from Dr. Ashcroft,
Vincent Memorial Hospital, Boston
August 4, 2009
So you can remember both sides of the story because of your dreams?
Yes, some are stronger than others, but reading over the journals is jogging my memory, like reading something you wrote when you were in third grade and then placing it in a time capsule.
Is that why my colleagues keep giving you MRI’s, to make sure it’s not damaging your brain?
I suppose, but it’s not. We have so much brain that is left unused, I guess this is why. (laughter) Besides, I guess they want to make sure I’m mentally fit to work, which I am.
So at this point he had already changed your scars it seems. Do you remember that?
The scars are the hardest thing for me to remember because it was so long ago, but I can still feel them at times, just as I did the day of the test in my car. The dreams, too; they’re always there, reminding me of this other life I should have lived before Jordan’s web of Shifts was created.
When Jordan said he had let me see him only once, he means the day when he came to save me from the scars. (pause) I remember it all the time, always wondering what had happened to that boy from the bus in elementary school. He came out of nowhere and disappeared just as fast. It haunted me for years, just wondering how and why it seemed to connect.
You have to understand that Jordan did not live a normal life from beginning to end. He was all over it, so to speak. Shifting from one place to the next, forgetting time altogether. Maybe one day he’d see himself at eighty, the next at five. Either way, he was able to carry the memories with him, along with certain belongings like his bag and the green coat and black hat, the one thing that eventually drew me toward him. In my dreams, I recognized the things he was wearing and it struck a chord. (laughter) It was as though he was living in a playground, but we were the toys.
I see. (pause) So tell me about the scars, then. How did he solve that?
Well, I’ll tell you from my angle, what I remember versus what he wrote here. It’s the next entry.
Told by Dr. Ashcroft,
Stories from the journals of Patient #32185
November 12th, 1994
“Hi.” I was standing at the bus stop, waiting.
A boy stood there with me, a new kid, someone I did not know. He had a black hat and a green coat that was far too large for him, and I figured it had been his father’s, or perhaps an older brother. I fumbled with the ruffle of my pink dress, hoping he would answer me.
He gave me a nervous look under the bill of the hat as he kicked a rock on the ground. “Hi.”
I looked away toward the road and smiled. “Are you new here?”
His blue eyes met mine, and there was something about them, something curious.
“I, uh…” he paused and adjusted his backpack. “I just moved in down the street.” He pointed behind him over his shoulder.
“Oh.” I nodded and clasped my hands in front of me.
He looked older than me but not by much, though his aura seemed very mature and I deduced he must be a sixth grader.
“Which house?” I pressed, looking back down the lane.
He kicked another rock. “The green one, at the end.” He pointed again.
This time my eyes followed where he was pointing down the lane, toward the green house that had sat abandoned for years. It didn’t look as though anyone lived there, but I wasn’t about to press the point any further and seem nosey. There had been a family there once, but the mother had left with the boy the day after I moved into the neighborhood and the father ended up drinking himself to death. I always wondered what had happened, made up stories that filled my head with fear.
There were four houses on our lane, all modest homes built in the roaring sixties when baby-boomers were a way of life. There was a park nearby that was shared by five other conjoining lanes, built in the middle, like the nucleus of the whole thing. Each house had a fenced yard with beautiful landscapes, each except the green one, of course.
I cleared my throat. “Do you live there with your mom and dad?”
He nodded quickly, but gave no real reply. It was then that he looked at me and smiled, distracting me away from the conversation and enchanting me with his dark blue eyes.
Changing the subject he then spoke. “So you’re a fourth grader, right?”
I smiled back and stood up tall. “Yep.”
He nodded. “I remember fourth grade. It was a lot better than sixth.”
I blinked back pride, finding I was right about his age and gloating to myself. “Sixth is exciting though, next year you get to go to Junior High.” I sighed and tilted my head. I hated school, all I wanted was to grow up and get out.
The bus came over the hill, barreling toward us. We both stood in silence, both aware of the other’s presence, and both curious. Having a new kid at school felt exciting and fresh, something I had been waiting for that could give me something to do.
The dogs in the neighborhood began to bark and I watched as the kid looked over his shoulder and back toward his house, smiling at the dog in the neighbor’s yard.
“That’s Rover,” I added, seeing the look on his face, a look of joy as though he wanted his own dog.
“Is that so?” The boy’s eyes met mine and I pursed my lips, finding his answer unexpected and strange.
The bus crawled to a rattling stop in front of us as the crossing sign squeaked out from its side. The driver ushered us around the front of the bus where the new boy allowed me to climb up first, offering me a hand. Though I wanted to, I didn’t take it, sensing the eyes of a million kids watching me. More teasing was the last thing I needed. I was strange enough as it was.
I walked toward the middle of the bus, feeling everyone’s eyes still on me. I kept my gaze on my feet as I moved down the aisle where I sat in an empty row, the same one I sat in by myself everyday. I watched the boy look from one kid to the next, a smug smile on his face as all the girls seemed to swoon. I looked down into my lap, afraid to stare. At ten, I hardly found boys attractive, but this new kid had something about him that felt warm, though I knew better than to hope.
“Do you mind if I sit with you?” My eyes shot from my lap to his face.
“Er…” I grabbed my things with a nervous hand and pulled them into my arms, making room for him on the seat. “No.”
He smiled, and I couldn’t help but gawk as he sat down.
“My name is Jordan.” He pushed his hand toward me.
“My name is Kenzie,” I stuttered, placing my now sweating palm in his and giving it a soft, nervous shake.
He laughed. “You don’t have to be so nervous Kenzie. I won’t bite.”
I let out a nervous laugh. “If you did bite, I hardly think it would matter,” I uttered under my breath, touching my face. I could tell he pretended not to hear what I said, but I hadn’t really meant to hide it. I was an open book at this point because I no longer cared what people thought of me. No matter what I said, it always came down to the way I looked. My horrid fate was now a cage.
He let out a sharp breath as though content. “So Kenzie, what do you dream about?”
I glanced at him sideways, giving him a strange look. “Um…” I paused as he turned to me with a steady stare, insinuating the fact that he wasn’t kidding. I thought hard for a moment, trying to collect my thoughts. No one had ever really asked me this question, let alone a complete stranger, and I wondered for a moment why that was. Perhaps people just figured I didn’t have dreams, that I didn’t deserve them.
He waited patiently for my reply, tapping his foot against the seat in front of him. The coming bus ride to school was a long one, so we had time. I opened my mouth to speak, only to close it and think further.
Finally, my thoughts gathered and a smile grew on my face. “I want to be a doctor,” I said in a plain manner, knowing that was all I’d ever wanted since I was old enough to know what a doctor was. “And I want to be popular,” I added under my breath, with a bit of vanity.
He nodded but did not reply, suggesting he wanted to know more.
I took a deep breath and let it all pour out. “I want to change the world, change everything. I’ve seen so much of the bad side of life. I just wish something could give.” I pulled at the strings on my backpack. “I know I will never be the Homecoming Queen, or that girl who dates the quarterback or the one that makes head cheerleader, but I don’t mind.” I shrugged, watching Jordan’s reaction.
There was sadness in his eyes, as though he knew me, as though he had seen into my soul and felt the same pain I had. Something about him felt comforting, like a long lost friend but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I looked at his messed up hair, held together by a bit of gel in a fashion that seemed cool and trendy.
He smiled then. “You deserve all that, Kenzie. Don’t you see?”
I frowned and shook my head. “But how does that work? The world is based on superficial things, on vanity. When you look like I do, you see that it’s true. Even you…” I paused. “Even you get treated differently because you’re…” I swallowed, my cheeks becoming hot. “You’re perfect.”