The Body Snatcher - The Final Chapter

But what could I really do? If I told mum, their relationship would almost surely end. Great for them probably, bad for Laura and Lucas.

If I told dad that I knew and tell him to stop? Maybe he agrees and stops but her relationship with her family almost certainly gets strained beyond repair. He needed to keep seeing her as his little girl and this would ruin that.

"Something on your mind pumpkin?" He asked me.

Atleast I knew he loved his kids and maybe they were the ones keeping the family together. There's also the chance that Laura was the reason they fell apart in the first place.

I remembered her father used to be very much against the transition. I remembered them fighting over it. I thought maybe Laura might have blamed herself too but those memories weren't clear.

"Just about school. I've been asked to join the cheerleading squad" I offered.

"Honey that's wonderful" Mum said happily "You know, I used to be on the squad. I tell you, those girls will be your rock. I'm still friends with a lot of them"

Laura didn't know that. Her parents never really talked about their lives growing up. The story of how they even met, Laura had found out from her grandmother. Susan had only been an intern at the same firm Peter worked at. Apparently it had been a hushed marriage when Susan had gotten pregnant with their first child, Liam at the time.

Granny talked a bit too much when she drank and she drank a lot when she babysat.

"I wish I knew you back then" Dad told her. "You still have the body" Was that the first compliment I'd heard him throw her way.

She laughed "No I don't, I love my kids but you two really butchered my body" She gave me a smile. I smiled back.

I glanced over at Lucas who was playing some dumb game on his iPad. That kid's not going to be able to hold a conversation when he grows up.

=^..^=

While the waiter took our orders, my attention was drawn to the familiar Jeep Wrangler that had just pulled in and was being attended to by the same valet that had taken dad's Escalade. We told the waiter that that was the last of our party that had just arrived and he suggested he'd return which my dad acknowledged.

When Murphy stepped out, I did a quick scan of his outfit. Dark blue jeans paired with a button up shirt and a blazer. His hair was combed in a messy fashion that pretended to not have taken much effort but I knew better. Overall a nice touch.

"He's here" I announced. I waved at him as he walked through the restaurant doors and signaled him over. The Maître d' seeing this exchanged didn't bother him and just let him come over.

"Hello Mr. Hill, Mrs. Hill" he said charmingly. My my, he really did clean up nicely.

"Murphy! So wonderful to see you again" Mum exclaimed all bright and bubbly in usual fashion.

"Hello young man, please take a seat" My dad said stoically.

"Hey little man" Murphy who was referring to Lucas smiled as he took a seat on my brother's and my side of the rectangular table with my parents on the other side.

For the first time this evening, Lucas acknowledged someone else at the table albeit with a single "hey".

"Hi Laura, you look pretty" he told me

"Thanks" I blushed.

Seeing this exchange, my father proceeded with his line of questioning.

"Murphy is it?"

"Yes sir"

"Tell me about yourself. I hear your name come up quite a lot"

Thanks dad.

"Oh um I live with my father. He uh teaches at the university"

"A learned man" Dad nodded seemingly approvingly. "You may know that I also make a living by dissemination of information so we do have something in common".

Murphy nodded. He looked so nervous. So cute.

"And your mother?" He continued.

"She passed sir"

"My condolences"

"It's fine Mr. Hill. It was a long time ago"

That it was. Infact it was before Laura and Murphy had become friends so she'd never met her either.

Mum of course already knew. Laura had told her when she'd had her own barrage of questions about him sometime ago.

The waiter arrived at our table and finally took our orders. In the end, all of us settled for some form of steak, rib or filet except mum and Lucas who went with a salad dish and specially made burger respectively.

=^..^=

"Any plans for college yet?" Dad continued his questions.

"I'm actually planning to defer for a year to get some real world experience" Murphy responded. While that was true, real world experience basically meant travel for a year.

"Oh that's smart" mum chipped in "Didn't you do that too honey? You always talked about how much that year helped you"

Dad grumbled. "It also set me back and delayed my career"

"Are you planning to do the same?" Dad turning to me for the first time in a while.

"I don't know" I replied.

"You remember Bill?" Dad turned to mum. She gave him an unsure nod so he continued anyway. "He's the Dean of Admissions now at my old alma mater and he always talked about the importance of finishing school young"

A decision that was atleast a year away? Yeah I'd let Laura make that one.

"Being a legacy of course gives you numerous advantages as well" He droned on "The opportunities for networking as well is incredibly valuable at that age and the kids you meet there might even end up becoming your business partners one day"

When did this turn into a lecture?

"Laura could join a sorority as well" Mum added. Did she ever disagree with him? And since when have they been planning out my college life. "She's just the kind of girl they're looking for"

"I had hoped to see my kid join the boys at Sigma Nu but of course that won't happen now" He took a bite from his steak. "I can honestly say they made me who I am today"

I decidedly wasn't having any fun. By the looks of it, neither was Murphy.

"There's always Lucas" Mum consoled him. "He's more like you in many ways than Laura ever was".

=^..^=

The rest of the dinner carried on in a similar manner. Dad would ask Murphy a question that inevitably led to him droning on about another subject or a question that was clearly a test. What he was testing though is anyone's guess.

Honestly it seemed dad was grilling him a bit hard but Murphy in usual fashion held up extremely well.

Still he seemed tense so I reached over and touched his lap. He responded by taking that hand in his own although his face remained as stoic as before.

"What career are you looking to get into?" Dad asked again.

"Oh honey, the boy is seventeen, you can hardly expect him to have it all figured out" Mum helped. "Eat the rest of your food, sweetie" She turned to my brother who had taken a few bites before devoting all his attention to his iPad.

Sometimes I wondered if all that screen time wouldn't have any lasting effects. I mean, my own parents didn't do much right but they certainly made sure I wasn't dependent on technology.

"Probably something with computers" Murphy offered "but it's such a rapidly changing field that I can't really make any final decisions now"

Mum was happy with Murphy's answer but not as much that Lucas wasn't listening to her. I thought about taking the iPad from him but didn't want to draw his attention to the fact that Murphy and I were still holding hands beneath the table. He could be such a blabber mouth Laura's memories told me.

Dad seemed to accept the answer as well which was about as good an outcome as we could have hoped for.

=^..^=

I had gotten used to the routine at this point. Mum would fawn over dad, he'd ignore her, he'd ask Murphy a question and he in turn would expertly answer. It certainly wasn't the casual dinner I'd been hoping for but atleast by now, I knew the drill.

All that ended though when dad excused himself and asked for a moment with Murphy alone. I looked to Murphy and he too returned the same expression of confusion that I expected must have been plastered on my face.

For the first time since I touched his lap earlier, our hands parted. I watched him follow my dad as they walked out the door and to the front of the restaurant.

"it's okay sweetie" Mum said in response to what must have been very clear worry on my face.

The good thing is I could see them through the glass windows on the restaurant. Unfortunately I couldn't hear anything as they began talking.

I watched their stances fluctuate from casual conversation between old friends and Murphy looking like he was about to salute his drill sergeant.

When my attention would occasionally turn back to those still at the table, I would always find mum watching me.

"Sweetie, can you wear your headphones?" Mum asked Lucas. This request he obeyed of course since he'd only had it off because mum had asked him to anyway.

When she was sure he couldn't hear us, she turned to me "You love him, don't you sweetheart?"

This caught me by surprise but it was still a fairly easy question to answer. It was true I was falling in love with him. I didn't even know if it was just Laura falling in love with him or if there was a part of me that did too.

Who was I even? It had only been a few days but when I thought of myself, I thought of Laura, a wonderful young girl trying to break out of my shell. It felt like Eddie Russo was being washed away with every second I stayed in Laura's body. Worst part is I didn't even mind it.

Pretty and smart with parents that love me. I had my whole life ahead of me. I had Murphy. What's not to like?

I nodded shyly.

"Oh sweetie, it's okay. You're feeling something that most people never get to feel"

"You've found your person and I see how happy he makes you so don't worry about anything else because that's what matters to me. That you're happy"

She took a breath, "... and to preserve that happiness, I want you to be careful. The truth is we women love the hardest and we feel it the strongest when it ends"

"And that is not to say your love will not last, I see the way he looks at you. He loves you too, it's just..." She paused as if searching for the right words to say.

Words that never came.

In the end, her final words would ring deep in my heart.

Don't be afraid to leave when it turns out to be not what you expected.

"Laura, as women, we do our best but I want you to know that it's okay to leave if it doesn't turn out to be what you hoped for"

=^..^=

Her words were all I could think about. Even while Lucas sloppily picked at the meat in his burger. Even as dad and Murphy returned and took their seats. What did she mean?

'What was she trying to tell me?' I wondered.

The serious air around her disappeared immediately the men returned and she was back to her usual bubbly personality.

"Murphy? Did you drive here?"

"Yes Mrs. Hill" he replied.

"Hun, what do you say we let Murphy drop her off?" She asked dad. "I feel bad about taking up their Saturday night"

Dad only gave a small nod which was all she needed, "Have her back by 10:30" she said finally.

And that was that. The absolutely horrible dinner had come to an end. Dad's drilling, whatever that was from mum at the end. I thought back to holding Murphy's hand. Maybe it wasn't all bad.

"Bye mum, Bye dad" I said as I stood and took my purse. I thought about saying something snarky to Luke but he still had headphones on.

'That kid is in big trouble' I thought to myself as I waved my parents goodbye.

=^..^=

It didn't take long for Murphy's car to arrive and soon he was driving with me in the passenger seat.

God he looked so good in the driver's seat and something about the manual transmission just really did it for me.

"I'm sorry" I told him.

He chucked "for what?"

"My dad. My mom" I said "They can be a lot".

"Your mum's really nice. Your dad... cares about you a lot" he assured me.

"What did you guys talk about?" I asked curiously

"Oh he just really had to know what brand of aftershave I use" He gave me a smile.

"I'm serious" I smiled back.

"He uh he just told me not to hurt you"

"Really?"

"Yeah. Really"

We came in contact with a bump in the road which caused us to jump slightly.

"You were out there for a while though"

"Okay" he conceded "He said there's a lot of girls in the world. Why you?"

I tried my best not to show any reaction, "What'd you say?"

"The truth. That your better than all the girls in the world"

It's good that he kept his eyes on the road because in that moment, if he had looked at me with those eyes, I would have broken into a thousand pieces.

"... except Natalie Portman of course" he said with a laugh.

I laughed too, "Shut up" I said then blushed even harder.

"He said..." Murphy wasn't done yet. "... you're very strong but also fragile. And he asked me to protect you and to not let you down."

"He said all that?" I asked in disbelief. Dad never said more than a few seconds to me. To Laura.

"He did. And I promised him I would no matter what."

I sat back in the chair. Wondering what I did to deserve him. In the back of my mind though, I knew I didn't have him. None of this belonged to me. I was simply borrowing this life and eventually I'd have to give it back.

"... even if you turn out to be a crazy lady with 15 alters" He smiled at me again.

I punched him playfully in the elbow. 'Why did he do that?' I wondered. Make jokes in moments like that.

"Where are we going anyway?" I asked changing the subject. My heart had had just about all it could take.

"You'll see"

=^..^=

He'd made it sound so special but it turned out it was just our local park. He'd parked the car and at this point, we were walking through the beautiful park illuminated partially by lamps and the moonlight.

The soft material of my skirt swished back and forth as we walked, only slightly distracting me from all I was feeling tonight.

There was occasional chatter from other people at the park but it was still quiet enough that you could hear the light taps my sandals made on the stone pathways.

I felt a soft sensation as his hand encased mine a few minutes into our walk. I was careful not to look at him in order not to scare him off. I wanted him to know that I welcomed it so I squeezed his hand lightly.

What was happening to me? The thought of this whole situation seemed so ridiculous but at the same time so right. I loved him. God I did. I had never felt anything like this.

"Murphy..." I turn to say something that I can't even remember now because my mind went blank. Empty. The only thing that remained was the realization that he was kissing me.

=^..^=

Cloud Nine. Euphoria. If you asked me what we did for the next one hour, I honestly couldn't tell you. Did we have dinner? No no, we'd already eaten. Maybe we walked some more? I don't know.

All I knew was that I wanted to be his and to be in his arms forever. That's what I thought about as he drove me home nearing the 10:30 deadline.

I watched him drive. I watched his lips and remembered the moment. I remembered cleaning my lipstick off his lips with my thumb and smiled.

"What?" he asked.

"Nothing" I responded.

Thankfully he didn't say anything and a short drive later, we were pulling up to the house.

"Thanks for tonight" I told him while unbuckling my seatbelt.

"I had fun" he said.

"Me too" I responded making no moves to get out of the car.

"I guess.. I'll see you on Monday... I'll call you" he managed awkwardly. He was so cute.

I shuffled across my seat, leaned in, he did the same and soon our lips met for the second time tonight.

They said lightning doesn't strike the same spot twice. Boy how wrong they were.

=^..^=

Yesterday had been quite the day. I'd dealt with Murphy, hung out with Lillian and that future runway model Damien, had dinner with the parents and kissed Murphy. Twice.

When I had finally had the chance to calm down, I realised how selfish I was being. I had stolen Laura's life and essentially turned it upside done. Even worse, I'd stolen her first kiss with the boy she loved and I couldn't give it back.

I'd made friends with people she might not like and turned her into someone she might not even want to be.

If you'd asked me last night if I wanted to wake up today as someone else, I'd have told you "No".

Now, I had come back to my senses. It was time to end it. Today.

I'd spent all morning on her computer preparing everything I would need. I made sure I had all the addresses and directions right and prepared to begin the final leg of my quest to fix Laura's life and leave.

"Dad can I have $100?" I asked him as he sat in his usual chair watching football.

"$100? What do you need that for?" He asked.

"I'm going with some friends to watch a movie"

He sighed. "Murphy?"

"No, my friend Lillian and her friends"

He looked like he was going to say something but didn't.

"Be safe" Was all he said as he opened his wallet and handed me $150.

"Thanks daddy" I squealed as I made my way out the door.

=^..^=

I had chosen a white floral sundress and brown flat sandals for my final day. I had come to love wearing dresses which was something I could have never expected in a million years.

Whether it was Laura or me didn't matter anymore. If I had everything right, I would wake up tomorrow in the body of some ugly man somewhere and that broke my heart but I had to get it done. I just wanted to savor it.

The only blemish on my pretty outfit was the blue backpack that currently hung on my back carrying the most crucial parts of my plan.

I checked to make sure everything was in order and that I had enough charge on my phone. When I was satisfied, I set off for the bus stop.

=^..^=

Laura didn't know the way to the train station but thanks to google, she didn't need to. Soon I was boarding the earliest train with my stop at the next town.

That was crucial. I couldn't have any of this being traced back to Laura.

As the train slowly but surely started moving, I settled in for the journey. I put her airpods in my ear and decided to give her Playlist a listen.

The train chugged along its track, passing house after house and street after street. Soon there weren't any houses left and the only things that made up the horizon were miles and miles of empty fields.

I thought about my plan. It wouldn't solve the problem entirely but after thinking and rethinking the problem. This was the best I could do and it would have to be enough.

=^..^=

This town was much bigger than ours which was good. More people was better for my plan in the end. The phone was coming in very handy as I was able to find the public library and make my way there using the public transport routes.

"Hi sweetie, how can I help you?" A middle aged woman with auburn hair asked when I got to the library.

"I need to print something"

"Oh don't worry, I can help you with that" he said with a friendly smile.

"It's private. I have to do it myself" I told her after having a slight panic.

"Okay sweetie that's fine. You can use one of our computers to print although there is a small fee"

"That's fine."

=^..^=

I watched in glee as the printer hummed to life and sucked a piece of paper into its compartments.

When it spat the piece of paper back out, I hurriedly checked the print to make sure everything was in order. Sure enough there it was: "WHAT IF YOUR WIFE FOUND OUT? WHAT IF YOU LOST YOUR KIDS?" written in the boldest font I could find on Microsoft Word. Perfect.

I unplugged the flash drive from the computer, placed it and the now enveloped A4 paper in my bag and headed for the door. Next stop, the post office.

=^..^=

The boy at the counter couldn't take his eyes off me. This was an issue. The very last thing I wanted was to be recognised and described if it ever came to it.

"Return address?" He asked.

"None thank you" He didn't seem to care. Good.

Soon the envelope I'd handed him had been processed and I paid what turned out to be cheaper than I thought. That envelope was destined for my father's news station and addressed specifically to him. Just one more thing.

"Can I use your phone? I need to call my brother to pick me up and mine's dead." I pleaded in the sweetest voice I could come up with.

"Su... Sure" the attendant replied handing me his phone.

I made a show of leaving my own clearly expensive but switched off phone on the counter before walking out of the store and dialing the Police Non Emergencies tip line.

The phone rang for a while and just when I was about to give up, it was answered. Without waiting, blurted out:

"Hi I'm sixteen and I was raped by some older guy. I don't think I'm the only one. He recorded it and..."

"Please slow down" the voice on the line rang out.

No way, I was on a mission.

"He recorded it and put it online and now I'm being blackmailed. Please help me"

"I need you to tell me your name and where you are. What about your parents?"

Yeah nice try.

I pleaded some more without allowing her to get a word in then gave them his address. Somewhere along the line, I pretended to cry which I hoped showed some urgency and help my case.

When she began to ask more questions, I hung up.

=^..^=

Neither of these were full proof plans of course. Daddy could just ignore the message and that's if he even got it.

The police could treat this as a prank call or something although I don't know why they would. They had his address and I'm sure if they looked into his search history for more than 5 seconds they'd have reason to worry.

But still all of this could end up nowhere. In any case I had done my best and most importantly my conscience was clear. I had done all I could for Laura and I was sure she could take it from here.

I handed the attendant back his phone, thanked him and went on my way.

=^..^=

The train ride back went as smoothly as the first. I listened to music and watched the scenery fly by.

Sometime into the ride, I wondered what would happen if I woke up here tomorrow. I had done all I set out to do.

She had Murphy, Lillian, a cheerleader spot if she wanted it, parents that seemed to have accepted her and most importantly zero scandals.

But what if being stuck here wasn't a temporary thing? Truth be told I wouldn't mind it. I'd gladly live this life if stealing it wasn't my choice.

My conscience was clear. Regardless of where in the world I woke up tomorrow, I'd be happy.

=^..^=

If Laura did come back tonight, how would she cope? Almost nothing about her life is the same? She'd be as confused as I was when I first time got here.

Everything that happened with Murphy, with her parents, with Valerie and the cheerleaders. She'd be blindsided. She'd go to school on Monday and not know why Lillian was acting like her friend.

It was in that moment that I decided to break one of my cardinal rules. I would have to talk to her.

=^..^=

I sat in my bed... in her bed as I prepared what to say. I'd come home and neither of my parents had batted an eye. They'd ask how the movie was and I had lied. Small price to pay.

Now though I had to focus my mind, gather my thoughts and leave a message for Laura if she did come back tonight.

'What should I say?' I wondered. I had to be careful not to make things even worse and make her go crazy.

Enough thinking. Be Eddie Russo once more. Wing it.

"Hi Laura. I hope you get a chance to listen to this before you go about your day" I began. I spoke clearly into the phone camera which was propped up on her vanity. I used the voice that now felt most natural. Hers.

"You've probably woken up and realised that things are very different. If you've already been out in the world, you've experienced that first hand. If not, I'm going to do my best to prepare you for it.

Thursday morning last week, I was put into your body by someone I can only assume to be God. You needed help. I have never been a believer myself but how else can you explain this?

I found out about the fox, the video, about Gino using it against you. Don't worry though, if all went according to my plans I fixed all of that for you. The video should be gone now and so should the fox. If he isn't, I left his home address in a pdf in a folder on your desktop. You'll want to check it when you're done listening here.

Gino shouldn't be a problem anymore. In the same folder is a video recording of him admitting everything along with some incriminating evidence of him stalking you and other girls. It's also very embarrassing. You'll see what I mean.

I found out about the affair. What you ultimately do is still up to you but today I sent a post to his office. You can find the actual file in the same folder. Don't worry, I did it in another town so he'll never find out we did it.

Some good things though, you know Lillian? She's our friend now. She's really nice. We hung out at her pool on Saturday with Cassie and Emma and other friends in case she talks about that.

I changed up your style a bit. I know I had no right but you'll have more friends this way and you'll be bullied less. You're a girl and a very beautiful one too. Embrace it.

Valerie liked you so much that she invited you to try out for the squad on Tuesday. I wouldn't do it if you ask me but that's entirely up to you.

About Murphy... And we kissed last night. I'm sorry I know how much that must have meant to you. Don't be weird, he already suspects something was wrong with us."

I paused, 'what else?' I thought.

"I know how scary this must be for you because I've experienced it but I've been you, I know you're strong. And you can get through this.

I also wanted to thank you. For the first time in a long time, I am at peace. I feel light if that makes any sense. I'm not a good person, I know. Not even for lack of trying. Being you the past few days atleast makes me feel like I can be one now. Thank you"

I reached forward and stopped the video. Taking a pen, I wrote on a little sticky note "WATCH ME" and stuck it on the phone.

I was done. The job was finished. I don't know how I knew it but I did. If I lay on that bed, it would end. Credits.

I took one last look at the room. The walls, the wardrobe, my reflection in the mirror. God, I was going to miss this.

=^..^=

=^..^=

=^..^=

Whats that? Crying? It was so loud, so obnoxious. Make it stop.

Was it coming from me? Why couldn't I stop? Why couldn't I open my eyes?

Stop crying.

"Congratulations, it's a girl" I heard a voice.

'Hey! Hey! What's going on?' I tried.

All that came out of my mouth was that damn crying.

"Do you have a name yet?" That voice again.

'Hey! Help me!' I tried again. More crying. Was this hell? I guess I deserved it.

Eddie Russo wasn't a good person after all.

"Victoria. Her name is Victoria, after my grandmother"

'Victoria. What a pretty name' I thought.

I had a name too. What was it? It started with... ugh I don't remember.

I was someone before. Who was I?

Victoria.

=^..^=

THE END.

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END NOTES:

We made it. I can't believe someone actually read the whole thing. Thank you so much. What did you think about the direction it went? Especially the end.

I had considered keeping Eddie body hopping and helping more people. That probably has more story potential but in the end, I decided to let our boy rest.

Was that the right decision?

Right now I see two story paths moving forward

  1. Eddie's story is over but Laura's is far from over. So many loose ends and uncertainties. It will be interesting to see how she handles everything.
  2. Victoria. There's not much there as of now as it would be a fresh story but I was thinking about her regaining her memories at a certain age. Plagued with remembering things that she never lived as well as new skills she never learned, she may even contact Laura.

However this goes, I'm so glad we got to this point 5 years after it was first published.

Again, thank you and please let me know your thoughts. =^..^=



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