Inferiority

Inferiority
By: Light Clark

Synopsis: Tom has always lived in his twin sister Kelly’s shadow, just because she was a pretty girl and he wasn’t. He resented every minute of it, too, until happenstance gave him a chance to shine.

Author’s Note: If you care about my stories at all, and would like to continue you reading them, then I would suggest you copy the following url into your browser: https://lightivation.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/the-future/
It will lead you to my site, as well as more specifically, to a blog post concerning the tenuous future of my work. Thank you, and now, onto the story.

Warning: This story is 'technically' set in the Whateley universe. It uses no characters or places from that universe; just borrows a few terms and general thematics. It is certainly not canon.

Chapter 01 - Day 1

The steady bounce of my pencil on my notebook matched the slow tick of the seconds as they rolled by on the clock. In the background, I could hear the teacher droning on, her words garnering as much attention from me as a white noise machine. The only reason I even knew that she was talking was because I was waiting for her to stop, the indication that the class was over.

Sighing, I glanced around the room at my fellow students, most just as uninterested in the lecture as I was. After all, there were only a couple of weeks left in the school year, so most of us had already mentally checked out. In spite of that, the teachers didn’t stop covering new material, building toward the final test of the year that didn’t even matter. It was just middle school, after all.

Not everyone in the class had a dazed look of indifference on their face, however. A few of the kids in the front dutifully took notes, hanging on the teacher’s every word in their pointless quest to get good grades. Many did it because they had nothing else going for them, so they clung to their intellect to give them a sense of self-worth. Others had bought into the idea that school actually mattered, and that some grand future awaited them if they worked hard enough at it. That was probably even more delusional. Very few people ever left the sleepy little fishing town in which we all lived. That fact did little to dissuade their desperate dreams, though. It all seemed so pitiful to me.

There was another group of hard workers that did not earn my pity, though. This group instead earned my derision. They were the people that worked hard because it fed into their already bloated egos helping them in their quest to feel superior to those around them.

Among this last group was my sister, Kelly, scribbling away as fast as she could so that she could add smart to the list of adjectives that people used to praise her like they did with pretty and kind. As her twin brother, it was hard for me to say, but I supposed that she was pretty enough, in a slightly pudgy, small town sort of way. Personally, I found her round features and curly blonde hair rather childish, but I knew few people cared about that. She had been blessed with large breasts and a decent figure, which were more than enough to have nearly all of the boys in the class smitten with her.

One of the boys that had been smitten by my sister’s assets was Mark, who sat beside her, working just as hard as she was. He was a fairly good looking guy with mundane brown hair and eyes, although, like Kelly, I felt he looked a bit immature. He was also dating my sister, a fact that had been annoyingly true ever since winter break. Meanwhile, I had never dated anyone.

Glaring at my sister’s back quickly ate up what little time remained in class. The sound of the bell finally brought an end to the teacher’s drone, replacing it with the bustle of everyone gathering their things and rising from their seats. As they did, they all started talking, grouping up with their friends to discuss the trivialities of their lives.

While the others tittered like empty-headed songbirds, I lazily flipped my notebook closed with the page still untouched. Once I had, I stuffed it into my backpack and threw the mostly empty bag sloppily over one shoulder. Finally, with an exaggerated yawn, I turned to start walking out of the class.

I managed to get all of a couple of steps before pain suddenly flared in my hip. The impact was enough to stagger me one step to the side before I could catch my balance. When I did, I spun back to glare at the person who’s chair had inadvertently bumped me while trying to rise.

“Sor–” the boy started to say.

Before the apology could even really start, I kicked the back of the chair angrily, cutting off the words. “Next time, pay attention to your surroundings, asshole,” I spat acerbically. Without even waiting for a reply, I just turned and stomped away. Some of the other students watched me go, but if anyone spoke up about my actions, I was out in the room by the time they did.

The hallway beyond the classroom was just starting to fill with students as I made it out there. Thanks to the small size of the town, there were kids of all sorts of ages mingled together at my school. Having only recently turned fourteen, I was on the younger end of the kids in this hallway, which had classes ranging from sixth grade through twelfth. It wouldn’t matter if I was the oldest or the youngest, though, as the only interest I showed the other students was the minimal amount of it that it took to avoid them as I made my way to the exit.

The cool, crisp, salty air of spring along the coast of Maine blew gently against my face as I broke free of the school, rustling my dirty blonde hair. Idly, I brushed a stray curl back out of my face as continued along, intent on getting home as quickly as I possibly could. Luckily for me, there was one good thing about living in the dinky little town, and that was that it didn’t take long to walk anywhere.

Trudging along main street, I glanced around at the small sleepy hamlet that I called home. On one side, there was the view down the hill to the beach with the ocean beyond. That view wasn’t of some california beach of golden sand and warm clear water, though. No, the beach itself was more rock than anything else, and much of the space was taken up by piers and buildings for the various fishing boats that were the town's primary industry. Beyond lay the waters of the Atlantic, dark and bitterly cold.

On the other side of the street were the various shops that a small town needed to survive, like a hardware store and a mechanic. Beyond that row of buildings were the bluffs upon which sat many of the residents’ homes. It was one of those homes that was my destination, a nice, gray and white, two story house nestled amidst several trees.

Altogether, I found the town sickeningly quaint. Everything in the place was quiet, peaceful, and never changing. If not for the fact that I grew older year after year, I would have thought time had actually stopped there like some accursed fairy tale village.

“Finally,” I sighed when I stepped across the threshold into my home. Kicking off my shoes, I went straight to the living room, dropping my backpack along the way. Waiting there for me was the TV and the video game console that would serve as much needed entertainment after the long boring day at school.

Within moments, everything was booted up, and I was deep into a game. Unfortunately, my immersion didn’t last long as within ten minutes of my getting home, I heard the sound of the front door opening. When female voices followed, my face scrunched up in annoyance and disdain.

Pausing the game, I glanced back over my shoulder to see my sister and her two friends in the foyer. One was tall, slim, and in my opinion, much cuter than my sister with her long brown hair and glasses. Her name was Laura. The other was a short, scrawny blonde named Beth that I found decidedly annoying.

“ … and then he fell right on top of her, with his face buried in her boobs,” Beth recounted some story to her friends. “You should have heard her scream. After they got untangled, she slapped him so hard, he fell over.”

“Ouch,” Laura remarked sympathetically.

“Yeah. I feel kinda sorry for him,” Kelly added. “I mean … it was an accident. It’s not like he meant to do it.”

Beth shrugged. “Maybe, but for all intensive purposes he did gr–”

“Intents and purposes,” I corrected loudly enough to interrupt the flow of the conversation.

Instantly, the three girls fell silent and turned to look at me in surprise. After a brief moment of just standing there looking shocked, Beth asked,” What?”

“The phrase is for all intents and purposes, not intensive purposes,” I explained. “For all intensive purposes doesn’t make any sense.”

Initially, Beth just blinked before awkwardly responding with an, “Oh … kay … thanks …” As she spoke, she shared a look with her friends before adding, “Uhm … why don’t we head up to your room, Kelly?”

“Yeah … sure,” Kelly agreed as she turned to lead the way upstairs.

While the girls walked up the stairs, I could hear the faint hint of whispers followed by muffled giggles. Knowing that they were talking about me, I tossed a glare that way, but they were too focused on their insults to pay me any mind. They walked into my sister’s room without ever even seeing my glare.

“Intensive purposes … psh … what an idiot,” I muttered derisively as I turned back to my the TV. “I don’t know why I even bother …”

Once again, I immersed myself in the game, trying to enjoy myself. It was hard to stay truly into it, though, as, every so often, I’d hear some obnoxious squeal or fit of laughter that was loud enough to make it through the walls and over the sounds from the TV. My sister and her friends were always such a nuisance.

In spite of the distractions, the game was still very effective at clearing away my free time. It didn’t seem to take long at all for the sun to set. With its departure came a new distraction, the sound of the garage door opening.

Unlike the last noise that interrupted me, this one did not prompt me to scowl when I heard it. Instead, it elicited a healthy grumble of anticipation from my stomach. After all, the garage door meant one of my parents was home, and they would be bringing dinner with them from the diner that they owned.

Pausing the game, I hopped up from the couch to go find out what food waited for me that evening. I made it to the kitchen just in time for my mother to walk through the door from the garage. She was a decidedly heavy blonde that bore a strong resemblance to my sister, which I took to mean that Kelly was also destined to balloon up when she got older. That was of little importance in that moment, though, as all I cared about was the bag that she was carrying.

“What did you get me?” I asked eagerly.

“Lasagna,” my mom’s answered as she set the bag on the kitchen table.

The information had me scrunching my face up in disgust. “Yuck ...”

“What? I thought you liked lasagna,” my mother replied.

Giving my mom an exasperated look, I shook my head. “No, that’s Kelly. I think it’s disgusting mush masquerading as pasta.”

“Well, shoot. I wish I’d known,” my mother muttered. “The only other thing I have is a cup of black bean soup for Kelly.”

The mention of beans got me to shudder. “Even worse.”

“Sorry …” my mom apologized.

Sighing in frustration, I tried to shrug it off. “It’s fine. I’ll just throw a frozen pizza in the oven or something, I guess.”

“I’ll make it up to you tomorrow,” my mom offered. “What would like?”

I rubbed my chin thoughtfully at the question, thinking over the diner’s menu. There were a number of good items to choose from, so it wasn’t an easy choice. “Hmm … a hamburger sounds good.”

My mother nodded. “Got it.”

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Chapter 02 - Day 2

The obnoxious buzz of my alarm clock pulled me from pleasant dreams into the groggy uninteresting world of the waking. An annoyed groan escaped my lips as I reached over to swat the nuisance off. Once it was dealt with, I just laid in bed for several seconds, slowly waking up.

“Stupid fucking school,” I grumbled before finally pushing myself upright. Flipping on a light, I slipped out of bed, navigating my way through the random mess and clutter that littered the floor of my room. Stopping at my dresser, I snagged some clothes that seemed clean and left my room behind.

It was a short walk from my room to the bathroom, which I made sure I woke up before my sister to get first dibs on. It wasn’t fun having to get up that early, but it was worth it. No way was I going to wait around for her to primp and preen, using up all the hot water in the process. This way, she had to wait on me.

Inside the bathroom, I tossed my clean clothes on the vanity and flipped on the hot water. While I waited for it to warm up, I returned to the mirror to check my reflection. Personally, I thought I was quite good looking with short, curly, dirty blonde hair, attractive features, and a great smile. At the same time, I wished puberty would hurry up a little. It never seemed fair to me that my sister got to go through it first. At least, I’d finally caught up to her height at five-five. I was really looking forward to being the taller one for a change.

After a quick check to see that I basically looked the same age as I had the day before, I hopped into the shower. Unlike Kelly, I showered quickly, getting in and out in just a few minutes. I was also faster at getting ready, towelling off, dressing, and fixing my hair in the amount of time she probably spent doing her lipstick. I supposed, though, that when all that mattered about a person was their looks that they should spend a lot of time on them.

Once I was finished getting ready, I hurried down the stairs to the kitchen for breakfast. Since they didn’t work the morning shift, my parents were still asleep, leaving me alone while I ate which was just the way I liked it. A bowl of cereal just tasted better without any else around to ruin the peace and quiet.

When my cereal was finished, I dumped the dirty bowl in the sink and left the kitchen for the highlight of the morning. Since I was up so early to beat my sister to the shower, I had plenty of time to kill before class, which meant time to play video games. Within just a few moments, I was deep into a game. While I played, I noted the various sounds of my sister getting ready, using them to gauge how much time I had left until it would be time to leave. After all, a goodie goodie like Kelly would never let herself be late for school, making her serve perfectly well as a secondary alarm clock.

The time to go was nearing when the sound of the doorbell rang out, interrupting the flow of my game. However, it was not followed by the sounds of my sister coming down the stairs to greet her boyfriend as per the usual routine. Irritation flared within me as a second ring followed the first.

“Kelly! Your boyfriend is here!” I called out, hoping the airhead had just not heard the first bell.

“Could you let him in?!” Kelly yelled back. “I’m still getting ready!”

Sighing in annoyance, I paused my game and shoved myself up from the couch. Stomping over to the front door, I yanked it open. Waiting on the other side was Mark, arriving to walk my sister to school as he had for much of the time that they’d been dating.

A disappointed look flashed across Mark’s face at the sight of me. “Oh … hey, Tom.”

“Mark,” I greeted coolly.

An awkward moment passed where Mark and I just looked at each other before he clumsily tried to speak, “So … uhm … how are–”

“Not interested in small talk,” I answered, intentionally cutting him off. As I spoke, I turned, intent on getting back to my game. “You can come in I guess, since the bimbo is still trying to figure out how to do her hair.”

“Hey!” Mark blurted, reaching out to grab my shoulder. “She’s not a bimbo.”

Shrugging the hand off, I spun back to face Mark. “She’s blonde, airheaded, and has big tits. Sounds like a bimbo to me.”

“She’s not airheaded. She does better in school than you do, jackass,” Mark countered, not surprisingly sticking up for his girlfriend.

“So what?” I scoffed. “School’s about who works harder not who’s smarter. If anything, that proves I’m smarter, because I’m smart enough not to waste my time on that shit.”

Mark rolled his eyes. “No, all that means is that you’re either lazy or too afraid to even try because you know you’d still lose to her.”

“No, I wouldn’t!” I growled, fists clenching at my sides. “I could kick–”

Before I could even get started on the tirade, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Instantly, anger and frustration vanished, replaced by a peaceful calm. The cool sensation that came with that calm made me want to just lie down and relax while the day drifted lazily by.

Shaking my head to fight off the invasive feeling, I swatted the hand away, spinning to glare at my sister. “Don’t use your power on me!”

Kelly reeled back a bit at my outburst. “Sorry. I was just trying to get you two to stop fighting. It’s too early for all this yelling.”

“Whatever!” I huffed, spinning to storm off back to the living room.

“Tom!” Kelly called after me, but I didn’t give her the satisfaction of an answer.

Unlike me, Kelly was a mutant, which meant that she got to have powers while I didn’t. Well, technically it was one power, and in my opinion, a rather crappy one too. When she wanted, her touch inflicted a sort of anesthetic effect on people. It came in different strengths, from a mild brush that was just enough to calm someone down all the way to a powerful grip which would knock someone out within a few seconds.

I didn’t stay in the living room for long, just enough time to save my game. Once that was done, I flipped the console off and turned back to the front door. Snatching my backpack up along the way, I stepped into my shoes, gave a final glare to Kelly and Mark, and then stomped right out of the house.

“Stupid sister and her stupid boyfriend,” I fumed once I’d slammed the door behind me. “I could get better grades than both of them if I wanted. I just don’t want to waste my time. It’s not like anyone would care. They’d still just praise her, because she’s ‘cute.’ Ha! What a bunch of simpletons.”

The empty street around me answered my mutterings with only silence. It didn’t matter, though. I knew I was right. Ever since Kelly and I were little, she’d always been the cute one of the two of us. Whenever she did something wrong all she had to do was smile and people forgave her. Whenever she did something right, she was showered with praise. It was so damn frustrating, but at least back then, she’d often used that gift to help me slip out of punishments, too. Now, selfish and conceited as she was, all she ever did was lord it over me.

When I turned off onto the main road, other students filtered in from the side streets as well. It created a sort of grand exodus of kids all walking to the school. There weren’t exactly a lot of them, but there were definitely enough people to get me to stop talking to myself like a lunatic.

As if the day was determined to put me in a bad mood, two students turned out onto the sidewalk just in front of me. The fact that they were a couple would be enough by itself for me to resent them. Just watching two people walking along hand-in-hand, pretending like they were in love, or even knew what love was, was enough to make my skin crawl. These two, however, were especially grating because of who they were.

The girl was Kelly’s friend, Laura, one of the only people in school that I didn’t think was an absolute moron. The guy that she was with however, I did not hold in such high regard. His name was Blake, and he was generally thought of as the class hunk. While he wasn’t ugly, I knew that his ‘hunk’ status mostly came from the fact that he was the early bloomer of us boys, leaving him taller, stronger, and more mature looking than most. He could even manage some actual facial hair, which was rather obvious thanks to his black hair. His maturity was entirely physical, however, as he was dumb as a pile of rocks. That fact had made me wonder what Laura even saw in him. If I had to guess, it was probably something slutty like he was good in bed.

Grimacing at the sight, I picked up my pace so that I could hurry past them. As I did, I tossed an icy glare Blake’s way, which he didn’t even notice. He was too busy telling some fishing story from when he’d gone out on the boat with his dad. It was unbelievably lame.

Once I’d put some distance between the couple and myself, I slowed down to my usual amble, in no hurry to get to school. No matter how slowly I walked, though, I’d still get there eventually. When I did, it would suck another precious day of my life away.

“I should just skip,” I muttered to myself, a common refrain on my walk to school. There was no point to it, though. In a small town like the one I lived in, I couldn’t actually go anywhere, since everyone knew my parents. Even if I just went home, Kelly would rat me out to Mom and Dad, and I’d get in trouble. School wasn’t bad enough that I was willing to get grounded to skip one day of it. It was tempting, though.

In accordance with my fear, the school waited for me down the road. There was one last moment of temptation to skip, but it was just easier to suffer through it. After all, there weren’t even that many days left in the year. Once they ran out, I’d be free to do as I pleased.

Accepting my fate, I walked inside. Ignoring the other students that were already there, I made my way straight to the classroom. Just like usual the room was empty. Saved from having to interact with anyone while I waited for class to start, I walked over to my seat, dropped my backpack on the floor, and flopped into the chair. Resting my head on the desk, I just let myself doze until class started.

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Chapter 03 - Day 2

Looking down at the cold chicken finger in my hand, I let out a disgusted sigh. “You’d think they could at least heat the food if it’s going to be so shitty,” I grumbled, tossing the undesirable item back into its basket. What a waste of money that had been.

Resigned to a hungry afternoon, I slumped back into my seat and folded my arms in thought. While I ruminated, the bustle of the cafeteria filled the air around me with the sounds of kids talking. Everyone was crammed onto the long rectangular tables except for me. I had a little bubble of solitude that surrounded me. In order to create that empty space, many of the tables around me were crammed even tighter, getting to the point of overflowing. Possibly the most cramped was the one at which Kelly and her friends sat. Sometimes, it seemed like the whole eighth grade class was at that table except for me.

Figuring a glare was in order, I lifted my gaze to toss one at my sister’s table only to see something dreaded was occurring. Kelly had gotten up from her seat and was coming over to me. The stern look on her face meant that she wanted to ‘talk’ to me about something. I hated that look.

“Laura says you glared at her this morning on the way to school,” Kelly stated as she sat down across from me.

“And what if I did?” I demanded, not seeing any point in correcting the girl’s false assumption about whom I had been glaring at. “She should probably get used to dirty looks, if she’s going to slut around with Blake.”

A tightness ran through Kelly’s face, an indication that she was upset but didn’t want to show it. Doing so would damage her precious, sweet girl image, after all. She couldn’t have that.

“She’s not … nevermind,” my sister began only to give up trying to correct me with a shake of her head. “Why do you have to act like this, Tom?”

“What? Don’t like it that there’s someone out there that isn’t hypnotized by you?” I taunted.

Kelly let out a sigh of frustration. “That right there is what I meant. You’re always picking a fight whenever anyone tries to talk to you. If you were just a little nicer sometimes, You wouldn’t be alone all the time.”

I rolled my eyes at the ludicrous notion. No matter how nice I was, I’d never be able to compete with Kelly’s cleavage. “Yeah, sure, whatever, sis. Why don’t you go back to your drones? They probably care what you have to say.”

That comment elicited another sigh from my sister, but this time she nodded in resignation. “Fine. Can you at least stop glaring at Laura for me? You’re freakin’ her out.”

“In the interest of not having this conversation again, I think I can manage that,” I replied snarkily.

That response seemed to be enough to make my sister content as she nodded and rose from her seat. “Thanks. Enjoy your lunch,” she told me before she turned to walk away. A few moments later, she was seated back at her own table next to Laura, probably gloating about how she’d fixed the whole glaring problem for her friend.

“What a joke,” I muttered as I slouched back in my seat again. The fact that Kelly was probably being praised right then made me want to go out of my way to glare at Laura, just to spite my sister. That would just make it seem like I hated Laura, though, which didn’t really help me any, plus I’d have to deal with Kelly nagging me again. It just didn’t seem worth it, this time.

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“God damn it,” I hissed in frustration as I looked out the door of the school at the torrential downpour going on outside. Without an umbrella, there was no way I was walking home in that.

Trapped in the school until the rain let up a little, I turned back around and walked toward the cafeteria. There, I found my lunch table and plopped down in my seat. Leaning forward, I burrowed my head in my arms, figuring that a nap would help pass the time while I waited.

The soft patter of rain on the roof of the school was just starting to lull me to sleep when a male voice tugged me back awake. “Hey. Tom.”

Sleepily, I raised my head just in time to see Blake, Mark, and their other friend Parker sit down at the table across from me. Parker was the oddball out of the three, being short, husky, and of at best average looks. He was also pretty easy to overlook, given that he was fairly quiet.

“If this is about me glaring at Laura this morning, my sister already sorted that out,” I informed the trio.

“Huh? You glared at Laura?” Blake questioned, clearly unaware that any such thing had occurred.

I shook my head. “No, that’s what we had to sort out. She just thought I did.”

“Oh … okay …” Blake mumbled as his brow furrowed.

For a moment, I waited for the big boy to speak again, but it quickly became apparent that I’d derailed his limited intellect. “Well then, why are you three bothering me?”

“Right. Of course,” Blake replied as he got himself back on track. “We were actually wondering if you could help us. You see, me and Mark want to take the girls out to celebrate once summer break starts, but we don’t know where to go. You’re Kelly’s brother, though, so we thought maybe you’d have an idea. You’ve got like the inside track. Y’know?”

I didn’t even bother to suppress my groan at what was being asked of me. It had finally come to the point where people’s infatuation with my sister was so intense that they would seek me out just because I was related to her. My sadness truly knew no bounds.

“See, I told you it was stupid to ask him,” Mark commented after my groan. “Besides, he’s just a jerk. He doesn’t know anything.”

My eye twitched at the insult. “Oh, I know plenty, and maybe I would’ve told you two, if you’d been polite. No, instead, you ask for help then insult me, so you can go fuck yourselves.”

Blake tossed a glare at Mark for making this difficult before turning to me. “Cut him some slack, man. He didn’t mean it. We’re really stressed out about this. Isn’t that right, Mark?”

“Yeah … sure …” Mark mumbled insincerely.

Rubbing thoughtfully at my chin, I pretended to consider the lackluster apology. In reality, I was just thinking about whether I should just outright refuse or do something more nefarious. In spite of Mark’s claim, I actually knew quite a bit about what Kelly did and didn’t like. After all, up until our teens had turned her into a stuck up bitch, we’d been quite close. It would be easy for me to feed them some bogus information that would make for a terrible date. They’d probably seek revenge, though, and it’s not like Kelly would stay mad at them once they explained who had given them the horrible idea.

“Nope, not happening,” I finally declared.

“What? Come on!” Blake pleaded.

I shook my head. “Sorry. Mark blew it for you.”

“Damn it, Mark!” Blake cursed in frustration.

Mark tapped his friend on his shoulder. “Don’t listen to him. He wasn’t gonna help us anyway. He just wants us to get mad at each other, because he’s a spiteful little prick.”

After a yawn to express my boredom, I waved a hand dismissively at the trio. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Now, leave me alone so I can get back to my nap.”

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“Come on, come on, come on …” I repeated over and over again as I frantically tried to outmanoeuvre the boss in the game. Slowly, I ticked down the thing’s life, until it was only a few swings away from defeat. Just as I was about to get those swings, though, I slipped up. A stray tentacle swipe from the side clipped my character and launched it right off a cliff to a game over screen. “Damn it!”

Before I could click to retry, I heard the sound of the garage door. Perking up, I set the controller aside and hopped off the couch. A hamburger was just what I needed to refuel before I tried the boss again.

In my eagerness, I was already in the kitchen before my mom opened the door, talking to my dad behind her. “I was just making sure there wasn’t some game on or something.”

“I appreciate it,” my father replied as he came in right behind my mother. Like my mother and Kelly, he was blonde and carrying some extra weight, softening his once quite handsome features. He always joked that a belly was the price of working in a diner, a price that he was glad to pay.

“Did you get it?” I cut into the conversation eagerly.

Turning her attention to me, my mom nodded, holding up a bag. “One hamburger, like promised.”

Hurrying over, I swiped the bag from my mother and dug inside for my burger. There were four inside along with a bunch of fries, but each was marked on the wrapper with a letter, making it easy to know which was mine. Grabbing it, I plopped down in my chair at the table to start eating.

“You gonna want something to drink with that, sweetie?” my mom asked.

“Yeah, a soda thanks,” I answered as I yanked off the wrapper of the burger.

“I could use one of those as well, sweetheart,” my dad added.

Chuckling to herself, my mother turned to the refrigerator to grab the requested items. “I spend all day getting people drinks. What’s a couple more?”

Ignoring my mom’s lighthearted complaint, I bit down into my burger. Immediately, a frown creased my lips. Furrowing my brow, I pulled the burger away from my mouth to peer at it skeptically. It didn’t taste right.

“Something wrong?” my dad asked he sat down with his own burger.

“Yeah …” I mumbled before setting the burger down on the table. There, I pulled off the top bun and let out a sigh. “Mom … what do I not eat on my burgers?”

“Tomatoes,” my mother answered immediately.

I nodded. “And …”

“And?” my mom questioned just before she winced. “ … and mayo.”

That answer got another nod from me as I held up the bun of my burger. Sure enough, it was smeared with mayonnaise as was the side of the burger patty that had been touching it. The disgusting white goop even had the audacity to drip a little droplet onto the table as I held it.

“I’m so sorry,” my mother apologized. “I was rushing to get them all together during a lull and it just slipped my mind.”

Knowing that I should have expected this, I let out a weary sigh. Undoubtedly, if I checked Kelly’s, it would be perfect, devoid of mustard and pickles just like she liked it. My parents never messed up her orders. “It’s fine …”

“I can make you something else real quick,” my mom offered.

I shook my head. “No. Don’t worry about it. I’ll just eat some fries, I guess.”

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Chapter 04 - Day 3 - Saturday

I tilted my body slightly to the side as my character on screen leaned around a corner. From that position, it was easy enough to line up the shot. I just had to wait for the enemy to path properly.

Suddenly, the sound of the front door opening intruded on my focus. Involuntarily, I tightened my hand, hitting the button to fire a moment too soon. Rather than take down the guard, the shot whizzed passed him, alerting him to my presence. A few moments later, the guard and his friends had gunned me down, sending me back to the last checkpoint.

“Damn it!” I cursed as I started to work my way back through the area that I’d already completed once.

As I played, I heard footsteps behind me in the foyer. They didn’t continue on up the stairs, though, but stopped behind me. A chill ran down my spine as I realized that whoever it was was looking at me.

“Ugh, it’s your brother again,” Beth complained in hushed tones.

“This sucks,” Laura added quietly. “How are we supposed to watch a movie if he’s using the TV?”

“Don’t worry, guys. I’ll talk to him,” Kelly assured her friends softly.

Of the three, it was her words that I found most annoying. They were so damn arrogant, as if she just assumed that I’d bow to her whims. Well, she was going to be very disappointed when she found out what was really going to happen.

Without pausing the game, I spoke up, “You know I can hear you girls, right?”

“Great, now we have to–” Beth started to curse, apparently thinking that she’d been quiet enough to be hidden by the game audio. Something unheard cut her off, though.

“Hey, Tom. How long do you think you’re gonna be?” Kelly asked, talking at normal volume.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe like two AM.”

My sister’s friends gasped indignantly at my response. That was hardly a surprise given that the time that I’d just announced would basically mean that they’d never get to watch a movie that night. It was especially insulting too, since it was only the middle of the afternoon at the moment.

“Tom, come on, be reasonable,” Kelly tried.

“Why don’t you be reasonable?” I shot back. “I got here first, so you have to wait until I’m done with it.”

Kelly sighed in frustration before yelling out, “Mom! Tom is trying to monopolize the TV!”

Wincing, I turned to glare at my sister for bringing parents into this. “What the hell, you little crybaby?!”

“Don’t insult your sister, Tom,” my mother’s voice chastised just before she walked into the room. The very sound of her voice was enough to get my shoulders to sag in defeat.

“Sorry, Mom,” I hissed insincerely through clenched teeth.

In spite of my lack of sincerity, my apology seemed to be good enough for my mother as she turned her attention to Kelly. “Now what’s the problem?”

“Tom is trying to monopolize the TV all night,” Kelly explained, pointing accusingly at me.

“So what? I got here first!” I argued.

“Yeah, well, I have friends over,” Kelly retorted.

My mom let out an exasperated sigh before turning to me. “Can’t you just let your sister have the TV?”

“Why should I?!” I growled angrily. “Just because she has friends over?!”

“Yes,” my mother answered. “Plus, I already told her the other day that she could have the TV tonight when she asked if she could have friends over.”

“That’s ridiculous!” I exclaimed. “She just gets to call dibs days ago and I have to live with it?! Fuck that!”

Cursing was not a smart idea. Immediately, my mother’s features clenched and her eyes narrowed. It was a sure sign that I’d lost this argument. “That’s it. No more TV for you the rest of the weekend, young man.”

“Fine Have the stupid TV!” I spat furiously, chucking my controller away. Shoving myself from my seat, I stomped off toward the front door.

“Tom?! Where are you going?!” my mom questioned when she realized that I wasn’t going up to my room like she’d expected.

“Away from here!” I shouted as I tugged on my shoes, stepped through the door, and slammed it closed behind me.

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“Gonna be dark soon,” I muttered as I sat against a tree, looking out at the setting sun.

The view before me was truly breathtaking. I was sitting up on one of the bluffs, a little grassy outcropping that provided a perfect spot to gaze upon the ocean. From up behind me, the sun just barely peaked over the hill, casting its oranges and purples over the expanse of the ocean which spread out as far as the eye could see. Far off in the distance, I could just start to see the night, a pure black that would soon envelop the town.

Another perk of the spot was the noise. It was away from the town and a straight fall down to the ocean. That left the water crashing against the rocks below in an endless symphony of waves that soothed my frustrated soul. Even with as furious as I was, I couldn’t resist its calming chorus as it lulled me into tranquility.

While I might have calmed some from where I’d been when I stormed out of the house, I was still in no mood to return home. I’d just have to listen to my sister and her friends giggle and squeal to whatever drivel they had decided to watch while I was forced to sit alone in my room, bored out of my mind. Rather than suffer that, I just continued to sit there as the light faded away, alone with my thoughts.

Even once the sun was gone, the view was still beautiful. The moon reflected faintly off the water below, and I could watch as each twinkling star showed up in the night sky. Soon, the tapestry above seemed quite crowded with all the little lights.

It was in that starlit darkness that something intruded into my solitude. At first, it was just the crack of a branch, causing an involuntary twitch of my head. I could have dismissed it as an animal or a falling twig, if not for the sound of rustling that followed, and the footsteps that came after that. Finally, there was the most obnoxious thing of all, the light of a flashlight chasing the darkness away.

“There you are,” Kelly remarked from behind me.

“Go away,” I grumbled, frustration already building over the fact that it was my sister that had come looking for me.

“Can’t,” Kelly replied as she walked over to stand next to me. “I told Mom that I’d bring you home.

A weary sigh escaped my lips. “Of course, you did.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kelly questioned.

“Nothing,” I muttered, seeing no reason to explain myself. “How did you find me anyway?”

Kelly chuckled. “Are you kidding? This is your favorite spot. You’ve been running here whenever you’re upset since you were like four.”

Hearing that response actually surprised me a little. It wasn’t like I’d been trying to hide the spot or anything. I was just surprised that anyone had noticed it. No one ever noticed what I did unless it got in someone else’s way.

“Well, you’re going to have to disappoint Mom, because I’m not going back, so leave me alone,” I changed back to the original subject.

“You sure? Because, it’s going to get pretty cold up here in the middle of the night,” Kelly remarked.

I shrugged. “Don’t care.”

Silence hung in the air after my dismissal. Kelly made no move to leave, however. She’d never give up that easily. Instead, she just stood there, no doubt coming up with her next strategy for convincing me. It didn’t matter to me what she said, though. I had no intention of letting her tell me what to do again.

“You know, I didn’t just come up here, because Mom wanted you home,” Kelly finally said after several moments of silence.

“Really? Fascinating,” I responded dryly.

My sarcasm didn’t phase Kelly in the slightest. “I was worried about you, actually. This is the first time you haven’t come home before dark.”

“A smart person might take that to mean that I’m still angry and want to be left alone,” I replied. “Of course, the fact that I keep telling you to leave me alone is a pretty big hint, too.”

“Yeah, but why?” Kelly asked. “It’s just the TV.”

I snorted derisively. “Just the TV. Right …”

“What? It is!” Kelly insisted. “Plus, if you’d just been reasonable about it, I would have shared it with you.”

“Been reasonable?!” I spat, rising from my seat to glare at my sister. “You march in with your friends, acting all snooty and entitled, calling Mom on me when you don’t get your way, and somehow I’m the unreasonable one?!”

“Yeah! You are!” Kelly yelled back. “There was no way you actually planned to use the TV all night, but the moment you knew that I wanted it, you just had to be an asshole about it!”

I rolled my eyes at the claim. “Of course! Someone doesn’t want to give you what you want for once, and they just must be an asshole! That’s the only possible explanation!”

“Argh!” Kelly growled, shaking her hands at me in frustration. “You’re so obnoxious! All I wanted to do was watch a movie with my friends, and you had to turn it into this huge thing! It’s not my fault no one likes you!”

Before I could respond with an enraged retort of my own, pain stabbed through my abdomen, robbing me of the breath for words. For one shocked moment, all I could do was grab my chest as I tried futilely to get my lungs to work. The next thing I knew, my legs crumpled beneath me, dropping me to my knees. I could hear my heart beating, thumping loudly in my ears faster and faster. With it, came a rush of blood so loud that it was like a wave crashing over me, drowning out everything in the world, but the frantic beating.

Even as I wheezed desperately for air, my sister rushed forward. Her lips were moving, so I could tell that she was talking, but I couldn’t hear the words. Strangely, even looking at her started to become challenging for me as the night seemed to be getting darker around me with every moment that slipped by. I could feel her hand on my shoulder, though; feel the calming effect of her power try to fight against the racing of my heart. With it came a pervasive numbness, taking away the pain, and leaving behind a moment of peace.

The peace shattered an instant later when a retching cough overtook me. Something warm and wet splattered my hand as I hacked and wheezed. Even as I fought for air, I raised that hand in front of me, seeing it glisten darkly in the light from my sister’s flashlight. That was the very last thing I saw before darkness swooped in to take the world away.

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Chapter 05 - Day 9

Brilliant white light greeted me on the other side of the darkness. It was so blinding that, at first, I thought that heaven was going to be a pretty annoying place to spend eternity. It was only after that thought that I noticed that the light wasn’t just blinding, but also painful, stinging my eyes with its rays. In fact, my whole body ached. Clearly, heaven was not where I was. There was no way paradise would be that uncomfortable.

Knowing that I wasn’t in heaven didn’t help me know where I was, though. For that, I had to wait the interminable time it took for my eyes to adjust to the light. Slowly, color started to appear within the white, then shapes, and finally, blurry details.

My surroundings proved to be not much more interesting than the brilliant white. There were bright overhead lights above me, clearly what had been blinding me. Other than that, there was very little. At first, all I could see were some empty looking beige walls. It wasn’t until I tilted my head all the way to the side that I finally saw anything interesting.

Laying beside my head on the pillow was a mess of something that was dark purple in color. In addition to the odd color, it was slick and matted, glistening a little in the light. Furrowing my brow, I just peered at the strange strands for a moment before my mind finally caught up with what it was seeing. The purple stuff was hair.

“Wha?” I rasped in a dry, strained voice that was barely a whisper. Even the effort of that single syllable made my throat ache, causing me to gag and cringe.

Ignoring the pain in my throat, I kept my focus on the hair, reaching up a hand to grab some of it. The locks were fairly long and soft but a little greasy feeling. I could also feel pressure on my scalp from pulling on it, meaning that it wasn’t just hair – it was my hair.

Before I could probe further, a cheerful female voice spoke up. “Good morning, dear.”

Ignoring my hair for a moment, I twisted my head around to the voice. It’s owner was a mundane looking, middle aged, blonde woman in what looked like green medical scrubs. That meant that she was some kind of nurse or doctor or something.

Thoughts of medicine brought back fragmented memories of feeling like I was about to die. Apparently, death hadn’t decided to claim me, however, as here I was in what I was guessing was a hospital. While it answered one question, it added several more to it.

As my mind pieced things together, the nurse walked over to me and started a quick exam which included flashing a light in my eyes. “How are you feeling?”

“Sore,” I breathed weakly, wincing at the pain from my throat.

“I see,” the nurse stated simply. “Anything else? Chills? Shortness of breath? Stabbing pains?”

I shook my head. “No.”

“Alright, good,” the nurse declared. “Now, I’m going to go get you some water and the doctor, but first, I need you to relax. Can you do that for me?”

Confused, I nodded. “Kay.”

“Good, now you may or may not have noticed some of this already, but there were some changes while you were unconscious,” the nurse began in a tone that was clearly intended to be reassuring.

Weakly, I pointed at my head where the purple hair rested. “Hair.”

“Yes, like your hair,” the nurse confirmed. “That was not the only change brought on by your manifestation, however.”

The word manifestation caught in my mind. I’d heard it plenty of times when Kelly’s mutation had first revealed itself. While it explained how my hair could be purple, it also added many new questions. The most important of which in my mind was, what else had changed. I started to lift my head to find out exactly that, when the nurse pressed her hands against my shoulders to hold me down.

“Hold on just a moment, dear,” the nurse directed. Unable to sit up against the pressure, I just slumped back in the bed to let her talk, all the while feeling my worry building. “Just remember to stay calm and focus on the positives. Okay?”

I nodded immediately, as much to get the nurse to release me more quickly as to express concession to her request. It worked exactly how I was hoping it would, too. The moment the nurse released me, I jerked upright to look down at myself.

There was a lot less to see than I’d first thought. The way the woman had been talking, I’d begun to fear something horrendous, like the mutation had left me without legs or some other extreme deformity that would be impossible to live with. That didn’t seem to be a problem for me, though, as I could see legs and feet tenting out the blanket that covered my lower half. My upper half was also covered, although, it was by a hospital gown not the blanket that which had falling to my lap when I sat up. That didn’t stop the gown from being tented out as well, very prominently in fact, in a way that was definitely not expected. Pushing out from my chest were two, large, round mounds that were very clearly breasts.

At first, my jaw just dropped. The sight was just too stunning for any more than that. A moment after that, my hands caught up with my shock, flying to my chest to squish into the globes of flesh. Their solidity brought another realization to me. If I had breasts, I probably had something else as well. That just gave my hands something new to clutch at as they darted from my chest to my groin which proved to be decidedly flat.

Throughout my groping, the nurse just stood beside me impassively, clearly having expected something similar to occur when I saw my changes. It was only after I’d been holding my crotch for few seconds that I remembered her presence. Blushing, I yanked my hands away from my body and jerked my head around to look at her.

“I’m a girl,” I rasped out the painfully obvious.

The nurse nodded. “Yes, dear. Now, are you calm enough that I can leave you alone without you accidently hurting yourself? I need to go get the doctor.”

“Uhm …” I mumbled uncertainly as I looked down at myself before finally managing a slight nod.

“Remember focus on the positives. You’re alive, healthy, and still human looking,” the nurse told me before she turned and walked out of the room.

The entire time the nurse was gone, I stared at myself, patting my hands over my new anatomy. In addition to my altered chest and plumbing, there were other differences as well. My hips were notably wider, making my waist feel tiny in comparison, and my skin was softer and a little paler. In fact, every part of me felt softer, not at all like the hardness of the somewhat bony frame that I was used to having.

“Ahem. Miss Grant?” a new voice, though still female, interrupted my investigation.

Blushing again, I jerked my hands away from my body and looked up. This woman was younger, maybe thirty, and wore a white coat. She also had a confident, intelligent look to her that was decidedly calming. The cup of water in her hand was quite welcome as well.

“Sorry,” I murmured apologetically as I had once again been caught feeling myself up.

“You’ll want to gulp it down, but that will just make you cough. Take it slow, only small sips for now,” the doctor instructed as she handed me the cup of water.

Eagerly, I took it, but I followed the instructions. Sipping made me simultaneously feel extremely thirsty as well as causing me to cough weakly. Still, it felt so good to have the fluid running down my dry throat that I kept at it through the other issues.

“Now then, the nurse said that you were sore, but claimed to have no other symptoms. Is that correct?” the doctor asked, getting a nod from me. “Alright, I’m going to examine you real quick. Tell me if anything hurts.”

What followed was an embarrassing series of pokes and prods all over my body to check for tender areas. No issues came up from that, or the few other quick tests that the doctor ran. The lack of issues was definitely a relief. It wasn’t common, but I knew a whole lot could go wrong when a mutant manifested.

“Well, everything looks good,” the doctor declared once she was finally finished. “Your changes are stable, and you’re showing no lasting ill effects outside of what would be expected from being unconscious for five days. There’s one last thing to test, but if that goes well, I’ll have the nurses call your parents so that they can come and pick you up.”

“Come and pick me up?” I asked in a voice that was starting to recover from it’s raspiness. However, it was doing so in a decidedly feminine way. “They’re not here?”

The doctor shook her head. “No. There was no way of knowing when, or even if, you would awaken after what happened. After the first couple of days, they returned home to get back to their jobs.”

“Of course, they did,” I muttered angrily. If it had been Kelly, I’m sure they would’ve never left her side, no matter how long they had to wait. They couldn’t be bothered to close the diner for more than a couple of days for me, though.

“Anyway, the final test is to see if you can handle solid food,” the doctor moved on. “One of the nurses will be by in a little bit with something for you to eat. Try to keep it down and finish it, but don’t push yourself.”

I nodded in understanding. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Good, now are there any other questions you have for me?” the doctor inquired.

I shook my head. “No, ma’am.”

With no questions to answer, the doctor walked out, leaving me alone with my changes once again. This time, I didn’t grope myself. Instead, I tossed the blanket aside and looked down, assessing my new physique critically. The hospital gown wasn’t exactly ideal for this, but a quick few tugs got it pulled tightly around me, allowing me to get a pretty good look at what I was working with.

The most obvious aspect of my figure was definitely my breasts. They were very large, obviously bigger than the ones my sister possessed which everyone drooled over. That wasn’t the only aspect of my body that overshadowed hers either. I was thinner than Kelly too with a tiny waist and long slim legs. I even thought my hips looked nicer. Clearly, at least in the body department, I had Kelly beat.

“Hmm … wonder if my face is just as good?” I mused. If it was, then that would make me quite a beautiful girl. Just the idea of that possibility caused a slight smile to curl my lips.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Chapter 06 - Day 9

“Amazing,” I breathed as I looked at my reflection.

Frustratingly, it had taken a while for me to finally get to a mirror. First, I’d had to prove that I could eat, which, thankfully, I’d managed. Then, I’d had to deal with the nurse removing several tubes from me, some of which were inserted into very … intimate areas. Only then was I granted the privacy and mobility necessary to get up from my bed to the bathroom where a mirror had waited.

Seeing myself for the first time had not disappointed. My face was every bit on par with my figure sporting absolutely stunning features. There was an exoticness to it as well, courtesy of the thick purple hair that framed it, and my large, almond-shaped, yellow eyes. The former was something of a mess at the moment, greasy and tangled, but it was obviously very good hair, soft, thick, and long enough to reach my shoulders. It wasn’t the only thing that had grown out during my brief coma. My nails had been exceptionally long as well, until I’d been able to clip them to a more manageable length, anyway.

It was a little weird for me to see the girl in the mirror and know it was me. A part of me insisted that I was a boy. It wasn’t the biggest part, though. The rest looked at the beauty in the mirror and knew that I had traded up. After all, being a boy hadn’t exactly been going great, and my sister was proof pretty girls had it so much easier.

Raising my hands, I poked at my face a little, feeling the refined cheekbones and full lips that I now sported. “Regeneration sure works fast.”

According to the doctor, that was one of my powers – regeneration. I’d gotten to see it at work when they’d taken my IV out and the hole had just instantly closed without leaving so much as a mark behind on my skin. It had also been a major contributor in why I had changed so significantly and completely in just a few days. Of course, it had its downsides, like that my blood was now considered a biohazard, but overall it seemed like a very useful power to have.

“Now, let’s see about that other power,” I mumbled. Ending my prodding of my face, I dropped my hands down in front of me over the sink. I’d been told that, when I’d first been brought in, I’d been leaking some kind of purple goop from my pores. It was time to see if that had just been a result of my sudden manifestation or a power all its own. I was hoping for the latter.

Focusing on my hands, I tried to visualize what it must have looked like to leak that stuff, thinking that might make it happen again. Several moments passed, though, with nothing happening. My hands just rested there, perfectly normal.

Frustrated, I shook my head to clear my thoughts and refocus. If visualizing the situation didn’t make it happen again, it was time to try forcing it. Rather than visualize the goop I tried to force it out of me, tightening the muscles in my arms so much that they shook from the strain.

At first, my efforts didn’t seem to work, leaving me straining futilely, but then something inside me shifted, like a muscle that I didn’t even know I had. Twin droplets of purple, the same color as my hair, appeared on my palms before quickly ballooning outward. As they grew, the clung to my hand, turning into palm sized gumdrops before I finally stopped pushing the goop out of me.

“Yes!” I exclaimed in delight as I shook the blobs. The stuff wiggled like gelatin as it clung to my hands. That stickiness brought a frown to my face. “Does it not come off?”

As if hearing my desire, the twin balls popped free from my palms and dropped into the sink. There, they hit with a soft, wet splat. After they struck, they seemed to latch onto the spot that they’d landed on, jiggling a bit before sitting still.

“Huh, so I can throw goop? I guess that’s cool,” I mused as I reached down to poke at one of the blobs with a finger.

Much to my surprise, the blob reacted as my finger drew close. Ii elongated out from its perfect hemisphere into a thin tendril that reached out to meet my fingertip with its own. It might have held that position except I jerked my hand back in surprise. Without my finger there, the little tendril just wiggled around until it bumped into the side of the sink. Once it did, it clung to it, rubbing against it like a cat against someone’s leg.

“Wow …” I breathed, marvelling at the movement. Clearly, I could do a lot more with the stuff than just throw it. Deciding to test exactly what all was possible, I reached toward it again, softly calling. “Come here, little guy.”

The purple tendril responded immediately, reaching out for my finger again. This time, it didn’t just poke the tip, but wrapped itself tightly around the first digit. The thing was squishy, but surprisingly warm and strong, capable of gripping my finger tightly enough that it wouldn’t lose its grip when I moved my finger around.

“Fascinating,” I remarked as I wiggled my finger in the tentacle’s grip. “I wonder if I can make them do things.”

Leaving my finger trapped by the one blob, I turned my attention to the other. It was still just a little ball resting there in the sink. Peering at it, I focused on what I wanted it to do, trying to will it to obey my commands.

Immediately, the blob stirred, elongating just like the first one had. This time, the tentacle did not reach toward me, but up to the faucet above. It was quite the reach for the small tendril, but the thing seemed to stretch and grow to make it, allowing it to wrap itself around the knob. Once it had, it twisted around. A moment later, water shot out of the faucet, splattering into the sink. At first, this was exciting news, since it meant that I could use the tentacles to perform tasks. However, that excitement was quickly tempered by what I saw next.

Where the water hit the tentacles, they started to dissolve, dying the water purple in the process. Slowly, but inevitably, the tentacles melted away. Within less than a minute, the sink was empty of any sign that the little things had even existed.

“Hmm, water soluble. Good to know,” I mumbled, a little sad to see the tentacles go like that. They’d been cute. “I hope that stuff isn’t a biohazard too.”

A knock on the door pulled me from my experimentation. It was followed quickly by the sound of my mother’s voice calling, “Tom? Are you in there, sweetie?”

Not bothering to answer that question, I just turned and pulled open the door to reveal my mother waiting on the other side. “Hi, Mom.”

A moment later, I was wrapped in a hug. “Thank God. When the doctor said that she didn’t know if you’d wake up … I’m just so glad you’re alright.”

Reluctantly, I returned the hug briefly before trying to pull back. My mom wasn’t ready to let go, though, forcing me to stay in her embrace for another few moments. “Me too …”

Finally, my mother pulled back, looking me over. “How are you … uhm … feeling?”

“A little tired and sore, but otherwise, good,” I answered sincerely.

“I meant about the whole …,” my mom clarified with a telling look down at my very female body.

“Still good, Mom,” I assured her.

My mother blinked in surprise. “It doesn’t bother you?”

I shook my head nonchalantly. “No. I’ll adjust. In fact, I was thinking that, to help with that, it might be a good idea to go by a new name. I’m not really much of a Tom anymore.”

My response only deepened my mom’s surprise, adding confusion to the mix. “Well … uhm … okay, yeah, if you think you’re ready for that.”

“I am,” I answered confidently. There was nothing I was more ready for than to distance myself from my crappy, old life trapped in my sister’s shadow. In fact, since I’d woken up, I’d been thinking about little else besides how to do exactly that. “I was thinking Teresa or Tessa for short.”

Still shocked by my calm, my mother nodded dazedly. “Uhm … sure. That’ll work.”

The lukewarm answer caused me to frown slightly. It was hard to tell if it was because my mom had an issue with my choice or because she wasn’t ready for it. “Do you not like the name?”

“What?! No, of course I like it!” my mother answered overly emphatically. “This is just going a little quicker than the doctor led me to expect.”

“Alright, then Tessa it is,” I declared, smiling proudly. It felt good to have a new name, one that I, at least, thought fit me well. Certainly, it was much better than Tom.

“Well ... Tessa, the doctor says you’re good to be released whenever, so you should probably get changed,” my mother segued, smiling with relief. As she talked, she walked over to one of the chairs in the room to grab a bag before turning to hand it to me. “They’re your sister’s clothes, so they probably won’t be the greatest fit, but they’ll have to do until we can get you some of your own.”

Reluctantly, I took the bag. “Okay. I’ll be right back.”

“I’ll be out at the nurse’s station, doing the paperwork for your release,” my mom told me as I stepped back into the bathroom.

Once the door was closed, I glared at the bag of clothes. Wearing Kelly’s hand-me-downs was the last thing that I wanted to do, but I supposed that I didn’t have much of a choice. There was nothing else for me to wear, and I doubted that my mom would go buy new stuff for me right away.

Letting out an annoyed sigh, I quickly stripped out of the hospital gown before pulling out the stuff in the bag. The outfit within wasn’t much, just a baggy t-shirt, some oversized jeans with a belt to hold them up, and some clogs. For underwear, there was no bra, just a pair of panties. Thankfully, those seemed to be new, so I wasn’t subjected to something as disgusting as wearing my sister’s.

Once I was finished dressing, I checked my reflection in the mirror. The clothes were hardly flattering, but I still smiled a little at the sight. I’d seen each article on my sister at some point or another. The jeans, she could barely button, but they had plenty of room around my waist, and my feet practically swam in her shoes. Even my bust seemed to do a better job of tenting out the loose shirt. Seeing such clear proof that I had a nicer figure than her made it worth it to have to wear her clothes for a bit.

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Chapter 07 - Day 9

As my mother pulled the car into the garage at home, I was unsure how I was supposed to feel. Should I be excited to be home and eager to show Kelly her new sister? Should I be unhappy to be returning to people that didn’t even care about me enough to wait a week before writing me off? In the end, they sort of mixed together to make me contemplative, and perhaps just a bit uncertain.

Once the car had stopped, I tried to force that uncertainty away. With speed and confidence, I got out of the car and strode straight through the door into the kitchen. My entrance was timed perfectly with my sister’s arrival from the living room.

“Tom!” Kelly exclaimed, rushing over to wrap me up in a tight, affectionate hug. “I’m so glad you’re alright!”

That reaction was so unexpected that I just stood stunned in Kelly’s embrace for a couple of seconds. I’d thought that she’d be jealous or resentful or hesitant or anything else but unrestrainedly happy at my return. I didn’t know what to do with that.

“It’s … uhm … Tessa now,” I managed to mumble after I’d recovered from the shock of the hug.

My words thankfully put an end to the embrace as Kelly stepped back to look at me in confusion. “What?”

“My name, it’s Tessa now,” I reiterated with greater confidence now that I was no longer trapped in my sister’s arms.

“Oh, you already decided on a new name?” my sister questioned rhetorically. “That was quick.”

I shrugged nonchalantly. “No sense in putting it off.”

Kelly smiled. “Well, it’s a very pretty name.”

“Thanks,” I replied.

With that somewhat curt reply, the conversation drifted into an awkward silence. Lacking an easy path to continue talking, Kelly just stood there, still smiling as she looked at me. I was content to let her look, hoping to see a flicker of jealousy or something as she took in my new appearance.

There was no such flicker, leaving me to have to settle for Kelly averting her gaze once the moment had finally grown too long for comfort. “So … uhm … did you figure out what powers you have?”

“I think so,” I answered, deciding to take that clumsy segue as a victory. “The doctor said I’m regenerator, and I can also create these tentacles made of goo.”

Kelly scrunched her face up in disgust. “Tentacles made of goo? Gross.”

“They’re not gross!” I protested defensively. “They’re actually kind of cute. Here, I’ll show you.”

“Alright …” Kelly agreed uncertainly.

Ignoring my sister’s trepidation, I walked over to the counter and focused. Unlike the first time I tried, it was much easier to make my powers work, requiring none of the pushing and straining that I’d done before. Immediately, a small dollop of purple sprang into being on my palm before swelling outward. Once it was the size of my fist, I dropped it onto the counter.

“That’s not as bad as I remember it being. Looks kinda like grape Jell-O, actually,” Kelly remarked at the sight.

At first, I was a bit surprised at the familiar nature of that comment, until I remembered what the doctor had said. I’d been leaking the stuff when I’d been brought to the hospital. Kelly must have seen it then.

“It gets better,” I told her as that realization switched quickly to a desire to show off a little. As I spoke, I directed the blob to move. Promptly, the bubble of goo stretched out into a long slim tentacle. Once it had, it waggled its tip at my sister in an impression of a wave.

“Aw,” Kelly cooed. Lulled by the cute little thing she stepped forward, reaching out a hand toward it.

The moment I saw Kelly’s movements, I gave the tentacle a new order. This time, it lashed out at my sister’s hand with surprising quickness. Before she could do more than yelp in surprise, it wrapped around her finger and gave it a friendly shake.

Kelly went from shocked to smiling in an instant. “Alright, I take it back. It is pretty cute.”

“Told you,” I declared, quite proud of the power that I’d gained. In my opinion, it was way better than my sister’s lame one.

“Little guy’s pretty strong, too,” Kelly noted as she tried to pull her finger free of the tentacle, but found it not so easy to remove.

“I guess. I haven’t really had a chance to test it much,” I replied as I watched my sister tug at her hand. Part of me was tempted to just leave her stuck for a bit, but there was no need to be so petty, not after I’d already demonstrated how cool my power was. Instead, I willed the tentacle to let her go.

With the sudden release of her finger, Kelly jerked her hand back a bit before catching herself. “So, does our counter now just have a permanent tentacle growing on it?”

“No. If I don’t focus on it, it’ll dissolve in a few minutes,” I told her, something that I’d tested during the long ride from the hospital. “I can also make it go away, like so,” I added, before willing the tentacle to disappear. Immediately, purple mist started to leak from the tentacle as it dissolved. A few moments later, it was completely gone.

“Well that’s good. Otherwise, the house would probably end up covered in tentacles,” Kelly joked.

“Yeah … that would be a bit weird,” I remarked.

“Totally,” Kelly agreed.

Once again, Kelly and I fell into an awkward silence, just looking at the spot where the tentacle had been. This one was longer and more tense than the first one had been. As the seconds ticked by, my sister shifted from foot to foot, clearly nervous. Whatever was bothering her, I saw no reason to help her with it, and just let the silence continue.

“Uhm … To-er-Tessa,” Kelly began, correcting herself on the name slip. “I’m really sorry about what I said the other night when you … y’know. If I hadn’t acted like that maybe … this wouldn’t have happened to you.”

I hadn’t really thought about it, but I realized then that my sister was probably right about the cause of my change. Manifestations were generally triggered by stressful situations, like that argument had clearly been. Without something like that, it was possible that I would never have manifested. The fact that I might owe my powers to Kelly really grated on me.

“Maybe,” I responded, not wanting to either acknowledge her responsibility or let her off the hook for feeling guilty about it.

“If you need any help adjusting or anything, just let me know,” Kelly told me. “I’ll do whatever I can.”

“Uhm … okay,” I agreed, trying to sound uncertain about it. There had to be some use for having Kelly feeling indebted to me. It didn’t come without a price, though, one that I had to pay a moment later.

Once again, I felt Kelly’s arms wrap around me, this time is a more gentle hug than the first. I felt no less uncomfortable in it, however. In fact, all the hugging was really starting to weird me out. I couldn’t remember another day in my life that had involved so much of that.

“Brother or sister, I still love you,” Kelly whispered, making the embrace all the weirder for me.

“I … uhh … love you too?” I parroted awkwardly.

Releasing me, Kelly stepped back, looking down at the floor. “Anyway … you probably have other things to do besides chat with me, and I have some homework to get back to, so I think I’ll go do that. It’s really nice to have you home again.”

“Alright,” I answered dazedly. “Have fun with that.”

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“Ah, much better,” I purred as the water of the shower washed over me. I wasn’t sure if the hospital staff had been bathing me while I was unconscious or not, but I’d certainly felt dirty ever since waking up. Having the warmth of the shower wash that grime away felt just divine.

For the first few moments of the shower, I just closed my eyes and enjoyed the feeling of it. Only once I was nice and relaxed did I start looking for body wash. Instinctively, I reached for mine, but I stopped short of actually grabbing it. Next to it on the shower shelf sat my sister’s stuff, a girly, citrus smelling brand. That seemed far more suitable to use now than my own did, so I snagged it instead along with her loofah. As I did, I made a mental note to get my mother to buy me my own.

Cleaning supplies in hand, I set about lathering up. At the same time, I took the opportunity to really look at my new body. I’d peeked at it a bit while I was in the hospital waiting to be picked up, but a hospital bathroom had felt far from private or comfortable enough for a serious investigation. My bathroom at home, however, had no such problems.

“Man these are huge,” I muttered as I soaped up my chest. Without the camouflaging effect of ill-fitting clothes, my breasts looked truly huge, dominating my upper frame with their palpable mass. They were softer than I’d expected as well as bouncier. Practically any movement of my upper body sent them swaying or jiggling. Even just trying to soap them up had them bobbing around enticingly.

Trying not to get distracted with my breasts, I forced myself to move on. The rest of me was not so obvious, but no less desirable. Every inch my fingers ran over was soft, smooth, and perfectly shaped, from the narrow dent of my waist to the flair of my hips to my supple arms and legs.

As I worked, the shower seemed to grow warmer, joined by an antsy feeling in the back of my thoughts. By the time my nipples stiffened, I realized that I was turning myself on, and it wasn’t just because I was looking at a pretty, naked girl. Being that gorgeous girl was a rush all its own, making it all the better.

Soon, I’d forgotten all about my, originally pure intentions. The loufa fell forgotten to the floor as my hands had more important things to play with. It wasn’t long at all before I was biting my lip to stifle the moans of my first time as a girl. It certainly seemed better than anything I’d ever felt as a guy, leaving me weak-kneed and gasping as I leaned against the wall of the shower for support.

“Wow …” I breathed once I was finally coming down from the exhilarating high. “That was so … wow …”

It took a few more deep breaths before I managed to push myself off the wall and get back to cleaning myself. Within almost no time, I was right back in a state where I wanted to forget bathing and go again, but this time I resisted the urge. It had been a tiring day, and I wasn’t sure I could manage another round without passing out.

Finally clean, I hopped out of the shower and grabbed a towel. After wiping myself off, I peered at the thing for a moment before pulling it around me. A quick tug and I had it tucked in place around my chest like I’d seen my sister do at times. It didn’t seem very practical, though. Every movement of my chest, or even a deep breath, seemed like it might untuck the towel and drop it to the floor.

“Maybe I’m doing it wrong,” I mused as I stepped over in front of the mirror. There, I focused on my next problem, the sopping wet mop of hair atop my head which was currently dripping chilly droplets of water down my back, shoulders, and cleavage.

Frowning, I tugged the whole mane around front, bunched it together, then just wrung it out. Doing so sent a prodigious amount of water gushing out of the strands to splatter over the vanity. Repeating the action repeated the effect, only slightly dimmed by the copious amount of water that had already been expelled. It took a few more goes before only a few drips were squeezed out.

“Definitely gonna need this,” I told myself as I grabbed my sister’s hair dryer. Even with the blower set on high, it took quite a while just to get my hair to damp. Figuring that would be good enough for now, I then grabbed the brush and set to work on the tangles.

By the time I’d finished with my hair, I’d gone from tired to exhausted. A mild headache had also joined the mix, though, whether it was from the inconvenience or all the painful tugging was hard to say. It didn’t really matter either way, because I had the perfect solution. It waited just down the hall – my bed.

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Chapter 08 - Day 10

“How’d shopping go?!” Kelly called from the living room as my mother and I came into the kitchen loaded down with bags.

“Good!” I yelled back while walking into the living room. “I couldn’t find any bras that would fit, though. Apparently, I’m gonna have to order them online.”

“Well that’s a p- ...” Kelly started to sympathize as she turned around, only to stop mid word at the sight of me. Her jaw even dropped slightly. “... wow.”

The source of my sister’s surprise was the outfit that I’d chosen to wear home from the store rather than put back on Kelly’s old clothes. For a shirt, I had on a tunic-style top that matched my hair in color. It was very flattering with a low v-neckline to show off my bobbing, unrestrained cleavage and a thin black belt to accent my slim waist and shapely hips. It hung down to mid thigh, a fact that was very important, because I was using it like a dress, wearing just a pair of black leggings underneath it. Rounding out the outfit were a pair of calf high boots with a low heel, creating a look that was both attractive and feminine.

My sister’s reaction brought a smile to my face. I’d actually been a little nervous about the outfit before I’d seen that. The lack of actual pants combined with the cute style had made me feel less impressive than I was trying for as well inappropriately dressed. The look on Kelly’s face, though, was not just surprised, but complimentary, and most importantly, just a little jealous. That meant that I had chosen well.

“You like it?” I asked, looking down at myself to appreciate my good taste.

“Yeah ... definitely ...” Kelly answered before taking a moment to just stare at me. “You’re really getting into this whole girl thing, huh?”

I shrugged noncommittally, trying to pretend that I wasn’t thrilled with my new body, or more specifically, the life I knew would go with it. There was no way I was going to let my sister off the hook for her guilt that easily. “Well it’s not like fighting it will change me back. Hopefully, stuff like this will help me adjust to it more quickly.”

“Yeah,” Kelly responded, putting a sympathetic smile onto her face. “Well you look great.”

“Thanks,” I replied, matching her smile with one of my own that I hoped looked brave rather than overjoyed. “Anyway, I should go put this stuff away.”

“Oh, sure. Go ahead,” Kelly told me, freeing me from further conversation.

After a quick nod, I turned to bring my purchases up to my room. A whole new wardrobe was a lot of clothes, so it took a few trips. Getting it up was only half of the problem too. I also had to pull all my old clothes out, bag them to be gotten rid, and then get the new stuff detagged and put away.

By the time I was finished with the task, I was tired enough to just plop onto my bed and lay back for some much needed rest. I was quite certain that being a pretty girl had lots of advantages, but athleticism definitely wasn’t one of them. Big boobs and amazing curves were quite a bit of extra weight, especially given the fact that I was definitely weaker and less in shape than I had been before I had manifested. Altogether, physical activity, like spending all day running around trying on clothes and lugging them around, was far more exhausting than it had once been for me.

“Maybe I can figure out a way to get the goop to help with that,” I mused as I lay on my bed. I really hadn’t experimented much with what that stuff could do, yet, but the little tentacles were stronger than they looked. If I could find a way to get them to do all the work, it wouldn’t matter that I wasn’t super strong.

Just as I was about to start testing my powers, the sound of the doorbell binged through the house. Reflexively, I frowned at the sound. The only person that would ring the doorbell after dark was Kelly’s boyfriend. He was probably there to take her out on a date. It was a Saturday night, after all.

A moment later, that frown twisted into a mischievous grin as I pushed myself off the bed. Ignoring my body’s protests at the exertion, I rushed out of the room, hoping that Kelly and Mark hadn’t left yet. Luck was on my side as they were still standing at the door swapping greetings as I made it to the top of the stairs. Seeing that, I slowed down to take the stairs at a less hurried pace, so that it would all just look like happenstance that I’d come down at that exact moment.

“Hey, Mark,” I greeted cheerfully as I bounced down the stairs.

“Hey-y,” Mark returned, hiccuping slightly when he saw me. At the same time, his eyes widened, staring at me in more than just surprise.

Kelly’s face twitched at Mark’s reaction, right before she elbowed her boyfriend lightly in the ribs. It was enough to snap him from his stupor, but I didn’t care that he quickly looked away from me. I’d already gotten the reaction that I’d wanted from the two of them.

“Have fun on your date, sis,” I cooed in a falsely pleasant tone before turning the corner into the kitchen.

I couldn’t quite make out what my sister said once I’d left the room, but I definitely caught Mark’s follow up exclamation of, “That was Tom?!”

“It’s Tessa now!” I yelled back, grinning in delight. The exchange had so been worth coming downstairs.

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“Well this is different,” I remarked as I looked down at my left hand.

In my efforts to see what all I could do with the purple goo, I had managed to encase my hand in the stuff. Strangely, that didn’t inhibit the goo’s ability to turn into a tentacle any. As such, I currently had a slim whip-like tentacle about five-feet in length dangling from my hand. It was there that things really got strange.

The goop I made looked like gelatin, it even jiggled like it, but it lacked the weight of that substance. In fact, it seemed to have almost no weight at all. The entirely length proved to offer no difficulty to lift. Even odder, the tentacle lost none of its mobility by being attached to me. It could still flail about however I wanted without causing me any trouble.

“Well … let’s see if you can grab something for me,” I decided as I watched the tentacle wiggling around on the floor. Lifting my gaze, I looked around for something to pick up. The box of tissue on my nightstand seemed like a likely target, so I focused on that.

While it wasn’t necessary, I whipped out my hand, sending the tentacle zipping off toward the target. Rather than strike like a whip, though, the tentacle slowed and swerved as it reached its target, wrapping around the box. A moment later, it jerked back to me, carrying the tissues with it. Once it had returned, it just curled up in front of me to present the tissues right at the perfect height to grab one.

“Thank you,” I told the tentacle, taking a tissue even though I didn’t actually need one.

After that, another thought send the tentacle whipping out again to return the tissues back to their spot. When it had returned once more, I patted it on the tip, figuring that was sort of like its head. I couldn’t tell for sure if the tentacles actually had thoughts of their own or not, but this one wiggled under my hand in a way that at least seemed to me like it was happy.

“You guys certainly are useful,” I complimented the tentacle, before I finally let it dissolve.

Once the tentacle was gone, I flopped back on the bed, letting out a weary sigh. The goop had proven itself both versatile and strong during my tests, but it had one significant problem. It was tiring to keep the tentacles out and moving around, especially if I created several of them at once. They weren’t going to do much to solve my stamina issues.

“Whatever. I can just get guys to do stuff for me,” I declared, lifting my head enough to look down proudly at my chest.

After seeing Mark’s reaction to me, I was feeling very confident in one of my other powers – beauty. Even though he already had a girlfriend, one that most people thought was quite desirable, he’d still been staring at me when I’d come downstairs. Given that, it would obviously be easy for me to snare some unattached boy. Hell, it probably wouldn’t be that hard for me to seduce one away from one of the girls, if I wanted to.

“There’s an interesting idea,” I mused, quite intrigued by the prospect. After all, most of the good boys were probably already in relationships, and I definitely deserved a good one – the best one even. Which one was the best, though? Mark? Blake? Even though I was a girl now, I didn’t really see the appeal of either. Neither was arousing or desirable in the same way as a pretty girl had been.

That thought brought a slight frown to my face. Quickly, I switched from thinking about the boys to thinking about girls. Unlike the boys, these didn’t take long to provide a response in the form of a pleasant tingle, raised temperature, and stiff nipples.

“Great … I’m a lesbian,” I grumbled in annoyance. That was definitely going to be inconvenient. Guys were a lot easier to find, seduce, and use. It would have been nice if I’d actually enjoyed being with them too. “I guess I’ll have to fake it.”

Resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to be attracted to any of the boys, I decided to think about traits that I did care about. After my tiring day, strong and athletic were definitely up on the list. Smart was also probably going to be a big deal. If I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy the relationship stuff, I needed someone that I at least didn’t hate talking to. Good looking was probably important too. It wouldn’t really matter to me any, but other girls would definitely care about and judge on it, so whoever I was with couldn’t be slacking in that department.

“I’ll have to spend some time scoping out the prospects,” I plotted. It would be a nuisance having to put up with people, but I wanted to make sure that when I did pick a guy, it was a good one. “I guess that’s what I’ll start on tomorrow.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Chapter 09 - Day 11

“Stupid,” I groaned as I bopped my head against the back of the couch. Abnormally, the insult was actually aimed at myself, because I was proving to be rather stupid at the moment. I’d been all ready to go scope out potential boyfriends that morning only to realize that there were some problems with that plan. One, it was a Sunday. Loner that I was, I had no idea where anyone else was on the weekends. Two, even if it wasn’t Sunday, I’d been unconscious for the last week of school. That meant that even if I waited for a weekday, I still wouldn’t know where to find them.

For the last few hours, I’d thought about the issue in between playing games, and I hadn’t gotten any closer to a solution. The best idea I’d come up with was to just wander around town hoping to bump into someone. It was a small town, so there was a decent chance of that actually working, but it still sounded unlikely and more than a little desperate. Plus, I wouldn’t even know what to say if I did find someone. I couldn’t exactly admit to being out just to troll for a boyfriend. Clearly, I needed a better plan than that, but I still hadn’t come up with one.

“Maybe I can go out somewhere and wait for them to come to me?” I postulated. I was certainly an attractive enough lure to catch someone that way. Who knew how long I might have to just sit around waiting, though. That would be terribly dull. “There has to be a better way.”

Resigned to failure for the moment, I sat up and started to reach for my controller to play some more. Before I could grab it, though, I heard the sound of the door to my sister’s room opening. Leaving the controller where it was, I turned toward her instead.

“Hey,” I greeted just as my sister started coming down the steps.

Smiling, Kelly chirped in reply, “Hi. How’s your day going?”

“Uhm … okay, I guess,” I responded, wanting to sound like I was struggling a bit but not really suffering too much. “How about you?”

“Good. I’m just about to go meet up with some friends,” Kelly answered, stopping near the couch to talk to me.

Hearing that news caused something to click in my head, an idea to solve my problem. “Oh! Can I come?”

“What?” Kelly questioned like she hadn’t heard me or at least couldn’t believe what I’d said.

“Can I come?” I repeated myself.

Repetition didn’t remove Kelly’s confusion, leaving her staring at me, dumbfounded. “You want to come hang out with my friends and me?”

Knowing it was time to put on an act, I lowered my gaze and nodded shyly. “Yeah, I just thought that … well I’m going to have to meet everyone as Tessa at some point, and it would just be easier with you around. It certainly was when I met Mark last night.”

Sure enough, playing to my sister’s ego put a sympathetic smile on her face. “Oh, of course! I’d love for you come along.”

“Great!” I cheered in delight, hopping up from my seat. This would be the perfect way to start on my search for a good boyfriend. Even if none of the guys were there, I could just feel out Kelly and the other girls about who was the best. “Ready when you are.”

“Alright then. Let’s get going,” Kelly replied, starting off again toward the door. I quickly fell into step beside her, letting her lead the way.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“This is where you and your friends hang out?” I questioned skeptically as Kelly and I neared our destination.

My sister had taken me down to the waterside where her friends were supposedly waiting. The exact spot that they were waiting at was an old, two-story, boat house that had definitely seen better days. The paint was faded and peeling. The wood looked spongy and old. Even the walkway leading to it seemed to sag and groan. Altogether, the place looked like it was a good storm from collapsing.

“Yeah,” Kelly answered, not seeming to have any problem with the place. “It’s actually pretty cool. Blake’s dad let him turn the upper level into like a clubhouse. There’s a stereo, a TV, even a refrigerator.”

“I guess that is kinda cool,” I conceded with feigned disinterest, even as I silently wished that I had my own clubhouse like that. If I did, I’d never have to worry about my sister stealing the TV from me again.

“Definitely,” Kelly replied as she reached out to pull the door open, holding it for me. “Stairs are on the right.”

Nodding, I stepped through the door, turning to the right as instructed. I didn’t start up the stairs, though, preferring to wait for Kelly. I wanted her friends to see her first, both so that they’d be able to guess who I was, and so that they’d have nothing to distract them from me once they saw me.

My sister obliged me, taking the lead on the way up the stairs. There was no second door at the top, just a walk right out onto the floor of the upstairs, loft area. It was just as my sister had described, a nice little clubhouse that looked way better than the boat house had looked from the outside. There were posters, electronics, a couple of couches, and music that was already playing as we arrived. There were also people. Laura and Beth, as well as Mark, Blake, and Parker, were already up there chatting.

“Hey guys!” Kelly called out over the music, pulling everyone’s attention to her. It immediately shifted to me as I stepped up behind her, causing several eyes to bug out. In line with what she believed her role to be, Kelly turned to introduce me. “This is my sister, Tessa.”

“Hey. Hi. Hello,” came the various uncertain greetings from the gathered people as they stared at me.

For my part, I offered a little wave and a shy smile. I was nervous enough that it wasn’t entirely fake, but I was overall quite pleased. The goal of scoping out guys would be easier with guys actually around, and the way their eyes lingered on me gave me plenty of confidence. Even Mark found it hard to look away, and he’d seen me once already – even gotten jabbed with an elbow for looking. That was definitely a good sign.

There was a brief awkward moment as people just looked at me, but Kelly had apparently learned from my run in with Mark the day before. She just walked right over to her boyfriend, threw her arms around his neck, and pulled him into a kiss. Annoyingly, that pulled not just his attention from me, but the others’ as well. It also served to break up the tension, getting people to start talking again.

Laura and Beth whispered something at the display of affection, adding a giggle before Laura walked over to grab her own boyfriend and plant a kiss on him. Seeing that tensed my jaw, earning a glare from me. It didn’t last long, though, before I forced it away, pasting a fake smile onto my face.

With her friends both occupied with the boys, Beth turned her attention to me, walking over to talk. “Hey. Surprised to see you out and about. Y’know … because of the whole turned into a girl thing. If that happened to my brother, he’d probably spend a year in his room crying.”

“Yeah, well, I’m trying to not let it get me down,” I replied, making an effort to sound brave but vulnerable. “That’s why I asked Kelly if I could come hang out with her. I figured it would be easier with her around.”

“Totally. She’s great,” Beth agreed.

I resisted the urge to scowl at the compliment to my sister. “Yeah. She is.”

Not noticing the strain in my voice as I agreed, Beth instead turned to looking me over. “Well, you’re doing a great job dealing with it, plus your outfit is really cute.”

“Thanks,” I replied, smiling genuinely for once. “I was a little nervous about it.”

“Well you shouldn’t be, because you look absolutely amazing,” Beth praised. “Honestly, I’m a little jealous. I mean, you were a boy a week ago, and now, you’ve got bigger boobs than I do.”

That comment earned a giggle from me. “Yeah … they’re a lot heavier than I would’ve thought.”

“I bet!” Beth exclaimed. “They’re like as big as your head!”

That got even more giggling, both from me and from Beth, that took several seconds to die down. When it did, I decided to broach the topic that was the reason for my being here. “So, I hope I’m not being rude, but is there a reason you weren’t in on the group kiss that just happened?”

“Mostly because I don’t have a boyfriend. Didn’t you know that?” Beth answered.

“Of course, it’s just … Parker is right there, and it sort of seemed like the two groups were pairing off,” I explained.

Beth rolled her eyes. “Ugh, don’t you start with that, too. I get enough of that from Kelly and Laura. I’m just not into Parker. He’s too quiet.”

“Quiet is bad?” I asked.

“It is when you’re so quiet that you won’t even talk to ask a girl out,” Beth clarified. “Besides, who wants to date the leftover?”

Even as I nodded in understanding, I mentally crossed Parker off the list of possible dates. I certainly wasn’t going to settle for a leftover either. “So is there someone you do like?”

“Me? No. Not right now,” Beth answered, her words a little too quick and nervous to be believable.

“Aw, come one. Tell me,” I pressed, trying to get Beth to disclose her crush. “That’s what girls do, right, talk about their crushes?”

“Well, yeah, but …” Beth started to protest before pausing to glance around. Once she had, she leaned in conspiratorially, to add. “Alright, since you’re new to this, but you can’t tell anyone. Okay?”

I nodded. “I promise.”

Once again, Beth glanced around, as if worried one of the others would sneak up and eavesdrop on her. “I sorta have a itty bitty crush on … Blake.”

“Really?! Laura’s boyfriend?” I questioned in surprise.

Beth nodded in confirmation. “Yeah, I know it’s stupid, but he’s just so tall and cute, and … ugh, if only he wasn’t with one of my best friends.”

“That’s gotta be rough for you,” I commiserated as I looked over at Blake. Beth’s answer was no surprise to me as Blake was one of the few guys that I’d already had a pretty good idea about what girls thought about him. Still, it was nice to have the confirmation, plus it was a good place for me to start from.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Chapter 10 - Day 11

“And then the asshole just slapped my plate right off the table,” Blake said, recounting a tale of an encounter he and Mark had had with a couple of older boys at a restaurant.

Obligingly, Beth gasped at the turn of events. “What did you do?”

“Well naturally, me and Mark got up and – “ Blake continued on, but I didn’t bother to listen to anything after that. I was too busy wincing at the terrible grammar that the boy had used.

Almost as soon as my face crinkled, I forced it away, replaced by a fake smile. After all, there was no point in trying to correct the idiot. He’d just end up making the same mistake again anyway. I’d heard him speak like that plenty of times before. Besides, I was a pretty girl now. All I had to do was stay quiet and smile and people would adore me. Showing off my intellect would only hinder that.

Luckily, no one seemed to notice the brief slip as they were too focused on Blake’s tale of bravery. In fact, the girls looked about ready to swoon at the recounting. I supposed that meant that I should add brave to the list of qualities I was looking for in a boyfriend.

“– Pie has never tasted so good,” Blake finished the story as I tuned back in, naturally winning out over the bully to the reward of a fresh slice of pie.

From her seat beside Blake, Laura giggled at the ending “I can’t believe you almost got into a fight over a piece of pie.”

“It wasn’t just the pie. It was the principal of the thing!” Blake corrected.

“Can’t just let some guy be rude just ‘cause he’s older,” Mark added. “Gotta stick up for yourself.”

“Exactly,” Blake agreed with his friend.

Beth smirked. “So you’d have been willing to fight over anything?”

“Well not anything. Some things are worth more than others,” Blake explained, sliding an arm around his girlfriend’s shoulders and pulling her close. “Like my girl here.”

That got another giggle from Laura. “Glad to know I’m on the same level as a slice of pie.”

“Well, I didn’t say that,” Blake teased, earning a swat in the ribs from his girlfriend before adding, “You’re on a level way above pie … and everything else.”

“Aw,” Laura cooed before reaching up to pull Blake down into a kiss. The reward lasted several moments, moments that were filled with snickers and catcalls from the others, before the couple finally separated.

“Anyway … now that those two are done ...” Mark attempted to segue once the couple was finished locking lips. As he did, he turned toward me. “I’ve just been dying to ask you something, Tessa.”

Having the attention suddenly shift to me was surprising, but I wasn’t going to complain about it. “Me? What did you want to know?”

“Well, you’re a mutant, so you must have a power, and I was wondering if it was like Kelly’s or if it was something different,” Mark answered before tossing an annoying look at my sister. “Because someone wouldn’t tell me what it is.”

“It’s not my place to say! It’s her power!” Kelly protested defensively.

“I’m really curious about that too,” Beth jumped in. “Unless your power is just looking like that.”

I giggled at that remark. “Well, I guess that technically is one of them, but it’s not the only one. I also regenerate, and I can create these goo tentacles.”

Beth scrunched up her face in disgust. “Goo tentacles?”

“They’re not as gross as they sound,” Kelly leapt to my defense.

“Yeah, here, I’ll show you,” I told them, extending a hand. Immediately, a blob of purple appeared on my palm. Once it was a good size, I tossed it onto the coffee table in the center of the group and imposed my will. Quickly, it elongated into a tentacle that wiggled around like it was dancing to the music.

“Whoa …” came several gasps of awe at the sight as most of the group leaned in to get a closer look at the thing.

Seeing their awe brought a smile to my face. “You can touch it if you want. It doesn’t bite or anything, at least not if I don’t tell it to.”

“You tell it what to do?” Laura asked while the others started poking and prodding at the dancing tentacle.

I nodded. “Yep. They’re pretty handy actually and a lot stronger than they look, plus, they’re really stretchy. Like so.”

In response to my desires, the tentacle pulled free of the prodding fingers and shot out, stretching out to the nearby refrigerator. There, it wrapped around the handle and tugged, pulling the door open. With that out of the way, it snaked inside, grabbed a can of soda, and retracted, placing the can in my hand on its way back to wiggling in the middle of the table.

“Pretty cool, huh?” I asked when the demonstration was complete, earning several nods of agreement from the awed group.

“I wish I was a mutant,” Beth sighed jealously as she played with the tentacle. “Both you and Kelly have such awesome powers.

“They do, but if I was one, I’d want super strength,” Blake remarked, flexing his arms like some muscle man. “Like strong enough to pick up a car.”

From beside her boyfriend, Laura laughed at Blake’s choice of power. “You’re strong enough already. You should get a power that lets you do something different, like reading minds. I always wanted to be able to do that.”

“Well, I for one would pick Kelly’s power. It’s so relaxing,” Mark joined the conversation, giving his girlfriend a hug.

“Thanks, but it’s not like either of us got to pick,” Kelly pointed out. “It was just random luck.”

Sighing, Beth rolled her eyes. “It’s just a fantasy, jeez. Not like any of us are actually mutants besides you two.”

“Well, we could be,” Parker note in one of his very rare additions to the conversation. “I mean ... how would we know? Kelly didn’t before she manifested.”

“Which I only did because I got in that car accident,” Kelly noted.

Beth nodded thoughtfully. “So what you’re saying is we should go take one of our parents’ cars and crash it to see if we’re mutants.”

“That is definitely not what I’m saying,” Kelly stated firmly. “If you are a mutant, you’ll just have to wait to find out about it.”

Beth pouted. “Well, that’s no fun.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“So is that what you guys do every time you hang out; just sit around and talk?” I asked as my sister and I walked home from the boathouse together.

Kelly shrugged. “We watch movies sometimes too, and when it’s just the couples we have been known to do a lot less talking and a lot more making out, but yeah, I guess?”

“Don’t you get bored?” I inquired.

“Sure, sometimes,” Kelly admitted. “Everyone does at some point, though, no matter what they usually do.”

The day hadn’t really been terrible or anything. It had certainly been different from what I usually did, but it had definitely had its moments. However, listening to the trivialities of the other kids’ lives had worn a bit thin after a while. Although, if asked, I would have been hard pressed to remember much of what was said outside of when I was the focus of the conversation, which wasn’t all that often. That may have had something to do with it.

“Today was especially fun, though,” Kelly added while I was mulling the day over.

“Oh? Why’s that?” I asked.

Kelly smiled. “Because you were there.”

“Me?” I remarked in surprise. “I suppose I was the life of the party.”

Kelly giggled at my claim. “Everyone sure seemed to love the tentacles. Of course, that just meant that you had to get everyone’s drinks for the rest of the night.”

“Yeah, that was a bit tiring,” I sighed wearily. “Do they use you for things like that too?”

“Yep,” Kelly confirmed. “Luckily, my power isn’t useful for something common like getting stuff from a fridge. Still, whenever someone has a rough day, they’re always looking to me for one of my special shoulder rubs.”

That information got a soft chuckle from me. “Well, I suppose it would be pretty pointless to have powers but never use them for anything.”

“Yeah,” Kelly agreed, her smile softening as she looked down at the ground. “Honestly, I’m pretty glad that there’s something I can do to help in situations like that. It’s always hard having someone you care about be in a bad mood and there be nothing you can do for them.”

“I wouldn’t really know,” I mumbled coldly. There was that damn good girl act of hers again. As if she really cared about the suffering of people around her.

Wincing slightly at my icy response, Kelly let the conversation trail off into silence. She didn’t leave it there for long, though, just a few seconds, before she spoke again. “So, uhm … was this just a one time thing or did you think you might want to tag along again?”

“Would like me to?” I asked. “They’re your friends, after all, not mine.”

“Of course! I had fun, and everyone else seemed to, too,” Kelly told me. “It would be great to have you hang out with us again. It’ll be just like when we were kids.”

“I see …” I mumbled, pretending to be skeptical. Of course, I was going to end up agreeing to it. I just didn’t want to seem too eager. “It was pretty fun, I suppose …”

Kelly perked up at the positive comment. “Yeah, it totally was! Plus, it’ll be even more fun once you get to know everyone better.”

“Alright, if you're sure that’s what you want, I’ll come along again next time,” I pretended to cave.

Kelly nodded rapidly. “Awesome! Makes me a little sad that Mark and I have plans tomorrow, though. It’ll have to wait a day before we can hang out again.”

“That’s fine. I could kind of use a day to unwind, actually,” I responded amiably. “The last few days have been pretty hectic for me.”

“Yeah, I bet,” Kelly answered as she looked me over. “Honestly, I’m still amazed at how well you’re handling all of it. You just woke up to being a girl a couple of days ago and you already have a new name, you’re wearing girls’ clothes, and you’re even hanging out with people as a girl.”

“Well, I am trying my best,” I replied magnanimously.

Kelly smiled. “And it shows.”

“Thanks,” I told her, smiling a little myself. It was nice to get complimented for a change, instead of insulted even if it was coming from my sister. A girl could get used to that.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Chapter 11 - Day 13

“... and then we just sat out under the stars; nestled in each other’s arms under a blanket,” Kelly said, going over what happened on her date the night before with Mark.

Walking next to her, I had a hard time keeping a smile on my face. In her happiness, Kelly didn’t seem to notice the strain in the slightest. That just made me want to grimace all the more. She just always had to rub it in how perfect her life was.

“That sounds great,” I replied, trying my best to sound sincere.

“Ah … It was,” Kelly sighed wistfully before switching gears. “Maybe you’ll get to feel what it’s like some day soon. Beth was saying that you asked her about boys last time.”

Getting outed like that caused a slight hitch in my step before I caught myself. “I was just trying to y’know … girl talk, so I asked Beth about her crush. That’s all.”

“Did she tell you who it was?!” Kelly asked excitedly.

I shrugged mysteriously. “Maybe.”

“She did!” Kelly gasped. “Oh! You have to tell me!”

“Sorry. I’m sworn to secrecy,” I declined. “You’ll have to ask her yourself.”

“Ugh, I’ve tried!” Kelly whined. “Laura and I both have. Neither of us can get her to say a peep about him.”

I shrugged again, this time helplessly. “Then there’s nothing I can do. I gave my word.”

The lack of information earned a pout from Kelly. “Well damn.”

“Sorry,” I apologized, even though I was inwardly grinning. It was nice to know a secret about one of my sister’s friends that she didn’t.

Waving off the disappointment, Kelly switched subjects. “So, you only asked because that’s what girls do?”

“Yeah, why?” I inquired.

“Well, I just thought that maybe you were … interested in boys now … y’know … that way,” Kelly clarified.

I giggled at the question. “Well, I’ll just say that I enjoyed the conversation.”

“Gah, you tease!” Kelly exclaimed, swatting my arm as we made it to the door of the boathouse.

This time, I didn’t need to hide my urge to grin. “Girls are supposed to have secrets. Aren’t they?”

Laughing, Kelly pulled open the door so that we could enter. “Did someone give you like a secret girl handbook or something?”

“I wish,” I replied, stepping into the building. “It would make this all a lot easier to deal with.”

“Well, you know you can always ask me if you’re ever confused about anything,” Kelly assured me as we turned to start up the stairs. “Not that you seem to ever be confused.”

I nodded in understanding. “Well, if I am, I will.”

That was as far as our conversation got before Kelly and I made it to the second level of the boathouse where the others were waiting. “Hey, guys,” Kelly greeted pleasantly. “How’s it goin’?”

Immediately, attention turned to Kelly as Laura responded. “Good, but apparently the boys want to borrow Tessa real quick.”

“Borrow her? For what?” Kelly asked.

“Just a few questions,” Blake answered vaguely.

“At least, that’s what they say,” Laura added, tossing a suspicious look her boyfriend’s way.

Narrowing her eyes skeptically, Kelly peered at the teen. “And you can’t ask them in front of all of us because ...?”

“There … uhm … well …” Blake stammered.

“Guy stuff,” Mark explained for his flustered friend. “You wouldn’t understand.”

Kelly frowned. “Well, it’s up to her, I guess.”

“I don’t mind,” I responded unhesitantly. Answering questions didn’t bother me any, plus it would be another chance to be the center of the boys’ attention.

“Great!” Blake exclaimed as he and the other boys hopped up from their seats. “Let’s just go downstairs real quick.”

I nodded in acceptance. “Sure.”

With Blake leading the way, the four of us went back down to the first level. That, apparently, wasn’t good enough by itself, however, as the boys then led me off to a corner far from the stairs. Clearly, they really didn’t want to be overheard.

“So, what did you want to ask me?” I inquired once we seemed settled in a spot.

“Well … we were wondering …” Blake began uncertainly. “What’s it like? You know, having boobs, and all that?”

The question wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it still caught me off guard enough that for the first moment, I just blinked. After that, I looked down, specifically at my chest which was currently well displayed by my top. Undoubtedly, the guys were staring at the exact same spot.

“Well, they’re kinda heavy, but other than that, they’re great,” I informed them, reaching up to heft my assets with my hands. “They feel absolutely amazing, and I can play with them whenever I want.”

“Really?” Parker breathed in awe.

I nodded, making sure the motion involved more than just my head bobbing. “Yeah.”

“Can I touch ‘em?” Blake asked.

“Blake!” Mark gasped in shock.

“What?! Look at ‘em!” Blake exclaimed. “When am I going to get another chance to touch boobs like that?!”

Giggling softly, I shrugged. “Well, I don’t mind, but your girlfriend might.”

Without moving my hands from my chest, I twisted a finger around to point toward the stairs to accentuate my point. When the boys followed the point, they just barely saw a girl’s head duck back out of view. It seemed the girls were quite curious about what the boys were up to with me.

“Damn,” Blake cursed in disappointment as he turned back to look at my chest longingly.

“Sorry,” I offered sympathetically.

“Then c-can I?” Parker dared to ask.

Immediately, I shook my head. “Nope.”

“But you were going to let Blake!” Parker protested.

“Because he was brave enough to be the first one to ask. You only asked because I said yes to him,” I answered, suppressing the urge to grin wickedly. It was almost too easy to tease these three.

That answer got a pout from Parker. “Damn.”

“So, were there any other questions?” I inquired as I released my chest, causing them to bounce a little as they settled back into place.

“What about the rest of it?” Mark asked. “Like not having a … thing. You do not have one, right?”

I nodded in confirmation. “Right. I’m all girl. It’s a little weird, but honestly, I don’t actually notice most of the time. Really, the biggest difference, besides the boobs anyway, is the clothes. I feel almost naked in them sometimes. Like right now, half my chest is on display, as are most of my legs, and my skirt is basically just an outline for my butt, plus it just doesn’t feel anywhere near as covering as shorts because of the gap in the middle. One wrong move and everyone would see my panties.”

The examples were less about clarity than they were a means to guide the boys’ eyes to various parts of me. They did a great job at that too, getting my questioners to look at each different region of my flawless figure with desire. It might have been easy to tease them, but it felt damn good.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“What did the boys want to ask you anyway?” Laura asked as the four girls all left the boathouse together. “It wasn’t something perverted was it?”

I tilted my head from side to side. “Not really. They just wanted to know what it was like being a girl.”

“And what did you tell them?” Laura inquired.

“The truth. That it’s weird for me,” I answered, which was technically not a lie. “It’s kind of hard to describe. No one thing is all that different, well having boobs is really different, but most things are just … slightly off. It’s enough to make it hard to forget that I’m different, but not enough to make me think I’d never get used to it.”

Laura nodded in understanding. “Makes sense. After all, boy or girl, you’re still a human being, even if you do have superhuman powers now.”

“Exactly,” I agreed.

“It makes you wonder, though,” Beth spoke up. “What would it be like to just wake up as a boy one day?”

Laura stuck out her tongue in disgust at the idea. “Gross.”

“I’m with Laura on this one,” Kelly agreed. “I like being a girl.”

“Well, Tessa probably liked being a boy, but she’s still a girl now,” Beth pointed out. “Right, Tessa?”

I nodded in confirmation. “Right.”

“See?” Beth stated. “Besides, it’s just pretend. Like when we talked about the powers that we’d want to have.”

“I stand by my statement,” Laura replied. “It would be gross, because guys are gross, all hairy and with that thing dangling between their legs … “ She paused to shudder. “ … just thinking about being like that makes my skin crawl.”

“For me, I guess it would depend on what kind of boy I ended up as,” Kelly took her turn with it. “I wouldn’t mind be tall and strong for a change. Not sure I could ever get used to having facial hair, though.”

Beth nodded at the answers. “Well, I at least think it might be pretty cool. After all, guys don’t have to give a fuck about anything. They can not shave, not shower, not be nice, whatever, and no one cares. Girls can’t even take a day off from any of those things without rumors starting to fly everywhere.”

“You’d really not shower?” Laura questioned, twisting her face up in revulsion.

“Not like all the time, jeez,” Beth replied. “But to be able to take, like, one day where I didn’t have to shave my legs, or shower, or do makeup, or dress up, or smile to people I hate without anyone judging me for it would be nice.”

“So in reality, what you’d want is someone else to be your mom,” Kelly remarked. “Because, she’s the only one that would care if you took a day like that. We certainly wouldn’t.”

Beth laughed. “Good point. She’d probably be a bitch if I were a boy, too.”

While Beth laughed, Laura turned to peer at me for a few moments. “You’re awfully quiet, Tessa. Not going to stick up for your old gender and tell us how hard it is to be a boy?”

“I would, but I wouldn’t say it was harder than being a girl is. It’s not easier either. They each have their own challenges,” I explained.

“Well, which do you like better?” Laura asked.

Pretending to give it some thought, I focused on trying to craft the correct lie. Obviously, being a girl had taken a little adjustment, sure, but once that was behind me it had been great. I couldn’t say that, though. I needed to appear appropriately unsure.

“I don’t know,” I finally said, shrugging. “I guess, right now, I’d say I liked being a boy a little better, but being a girl has been growing on me, so who knows if it’ll stay that way.”

“That’s because being a girl is great,” Laura replied confidently. “Once you get used to it, you’ll never want to go back to being a boy.”

I smiled genuinely. “You know, I think you might be right about that.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Chapter 12 - Day 20

The rhythmic sound of a pencil eraser tapping on a notebook kept time for the thoughts running through my head. I wasn’t the one doing the actual tapping, though – at least not with my own hand anyway. One of my little tentacles sat on the table in front of me, gripping the pencil as it tapped away to my subconscious.

Next to the tentacle sat the source of my brooding, an open notebook. Some of the words on the page were written shakily, even childishly, while others were in a smooth, neat script. Those words were the result of the last week during which I’d spent much of my free time practicing writing with the tentacles as well as gathering information on the boys in town.

Naturally, not all the boys in town were listed in the notebook. I hadn’t had enough time for that much detail, and it would have been pointless to try for it anyway. The notebook only contained boys my age as well as a year or at most two older than me. I felt that was both a reasonable dating pool as well as the limits of who I could get reliable information on. Kelly and her friends, who I had been hanging out with off and on, had been a big help in this. Gossip was a favorite topic for them, so I hadn’t even really had to nudge them any to get useful tidbits. I’d also taken to spending my days away from the group around town, often sitting in my parents’ diner like I was at the moment, surreptitiously studying the people that patronized the place. All that work, however, had revealed a frustrating snag in my plans that I had yet to resolve.

The issue that I had come across was that the boys that were good enough to date were pretty much all already in relationships. Of the names in my book, less than a handful were actually single, and all of the ones that were were in the lower half of the pool in terms of their quality as a boyfriend. As such, they were not what I considered acceptable for myself.

“I suppose I could wait for someone to break up,” I told myself as I leaned back in my seat thoughtfully. At the same time, the tentacle released the pencil it was holding before slumping dejectedly on the table, imitating my feelings on that course of action. It wasn’t even like it was all that unlikely that someone would break up soon. That sort of thing happened with some regularity, every month or two at most, even with the small dating pool available in the town. The idea of having to wait two months to take advantage of my new status, though, rankled me. After all, I was the most beautiful girl in town. The idea that I should have to wait to be with someone was patently absurd.

Frustrated with the idea of waiting, I switched to the other idea that I’d devised for resolving the issue. The problem of someone already being in a relationship had one simple solution. All I had to do was break them up. Once I had, the person would be available for me to date. It wasn’t like that would be a difficult task for me to accomplish either. I had more to offer than any other girl, and I had no qualms about offering it. The questions were whether it was worth the hassle, and who I should pursue.

“Should I just pick the best or the most tolerable?” I mused, unsure which would be the better option. Obviously, I deserved the best overall, but it wouldn’t matter how highly rated they were if I couldn’t stand dating them. Girls didn’t seem to care much about their boys having functioning brains as long as they were strong, tall, and cute. As such, a lot of the guys on the list weren’t exactly stimulating conversationalists. Since I wasn’t attracted to boys, though, I needed someone who had more to offer than just a handsome face.

Just as I was leaning forward to go over my notes for a good candidate, the bell on the diner door binged, followed by the sound of a girl giggling. Attention pulled away from my task, I looked up to see what the noise was all about. It was shortly after the lunch rush, so the diner was mostly empty at the moment, just me, a few stragglers, and the new couple. It was a couple I knew well, one that caused my jaw to clench and eyes to narrow just from seeing them.

Entering the diner were Laura and Blake. Laura was the source of the giggling as she clung to her boyfriend’s arm affectionately. Meanwhile, Blake was grinning confidently, no doubt quite proud of whatever lame joke or story that he’d told to earn the giggle fit from his girlfriend. I knew it had to be lame, too, because, over the last week, I’d heard plenty such tales from him, and basically all of them were mind numbingly dull.

Absorbed with each other, the couple didn’t even notice me in my corner. They just walked over to one of the cozy little booths by the front windows and sat down on the same side together. As they did, they continued to talk, quiet enough that I couldn’t eavesdrop, but not quiet enough that I couldn’t tell that they were having a good time. Of course, even with no sound at all, watching them laugh and bump each other playfully would have been a dead give away of their enjoyment of each other’s company.

The jovial behavior soon settled down, but not in the way that I would have hoped. Rather than separate or at least take some time to consider what they wanted to order, the playful mirth turned into a disgusting make out session. Just watching Blake suck on Laura’s face made me want to smack him with a tentacle.

Growling under my breath, I dismissed my tentacle and scooped up my things from the table. Shoving myself out of the seat, I hurried out of the diner and off toward home. After all, I’d need privacy to properly plan the couple’s break up.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Hmm … it’s going to be pretty early, so I can’t go with anything too revealing,” I muttered to myself as I looked at the assortment of clothes that I had available to me. It certainly wasn’t an astounding selection, but I’d made sure to get a solid range of options from cute to slutty when I’d gone shopping for a new wardrobe. It had been an absolute necessity, since there was no way that I was going let my new looks go to waste with crappy clothes.

My problem wasn’t really with my clothes, though, but with Maine’s weather. Thanks to a little clever conversation an my sister, I had learned of a good time to happen upon Blake when he’d be alone. He apparently liked to run along the water in the morning. The problem was that, even though it was early in summer, that time of day and location would be quite cool. I couldn’t exactly sit out there in a tank top and a mini skirt if I wanted to be comfortable, and there was no way I was going to get any more uncomfortable than I had to for this.

“It probably wouldn’t look right even if I did go that route,” I consoled myself as I conceded to the need for warmer attire. If I went with something that was too revealing, it would just look like I was trying too hard. I needed to look natural – like it was just a coincidence that Blake and I had bumped into each other. Of course, it wouldn’t just be a coincidence, so I also wanted to look exceptional, even for me.

Finally, I snapped my fingers as an idea struck me. Immediately, I started grabbing items from the available selection. For starters, I assembled a base outfit, created from one of the more lightweight and revealing options. It was a white sundress of a flowing material with matching heeled sandals. Not only was the material thin, there wasn’t a lot of it either. The skirt barely made it to mid thigh, and the top was sleeveless and very low cut. In the ocean wind, the garment would probably be chilly even once the day had warmed up, so it was obviously not going to be enough earlier – at least not by itself anyway.

With the base outfit handled, I started grabbing more clothes, stuff that would cover me up and keep me warm. There was a long jacket that would basically completely hide the dress if it was zipped up. Some stockings that would look like the leggings I was often wearing, but not actually be them. With those on in addition to the dress, the temperature wouldn’t be a problem. It would also let me look exceptional, not right away, but when I was ready to strip away the conservative outer layer to reveal what was underneath. The juxtaposition of the two looks would make the latter shine all the more.

“I’d better make sure that I’m ready underneath too,” I noted as I walked over to the dresser to grab yet more clothes. This time it was underwear that I was picking up. Luckily my bras had finally been delivered, the support of which was quite welcome after a week of bouncing around without one, and with them, some sexier bottoms that I hadn’t been able to buy while shopping with my mother. Some lacy lavender undergarments soon joined the pile that I’d gathered. They would be perfect should Blake happen to catch a glimpse of them – a glimpse that I would probably make sure happened if happenstance didn’t. After all, I needed the boy to want me so badly that he’d leave his awesome girlfriend for the chance at me.

A malicious grin spread across my face at the thought of Blake leaving Laura for me. It wasn’t just because I was certain that he’d choose me that had me grinning. What really made it fun was that, not only would he choose me, but he’d be chasing after a chance that I had no intention of actually giving him. Blake was well-rated by the girls, but I knew that there was no way that I could stand dating that idiot. He was hard enough to put up with when he was someone else’s boyfriend.

“Ah, being a pretty girl is just so much fun,” I sighed in delight as I set about reorganizing my room. My chosen outfit was carefully laid out to avoid wrinkles while the rest of my clothes were all returned to their proper places. Soon, everything was nice, neat, and clean, just like a girl’s room should be.

Once my room was organized, I sat down at my desk and flipped open the notebook with all my information on potential dates. “Now then, once I’m finished with the test run with Blake, who should I go after for real ….”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Chapter 13 - Day 21

Simultaneously, I had to resist the urge to both yawn and sigh. The former was thanks to the combination of boredom and the early hour. The latter came from frustration over the fact that my mark still had not arrived. I was not a fan of waiting.

As per my plan, I was out by the coast of the ocean, seated on a low wall as I looked out at the icy waves. In the distance, the sun was still quite low in the sky, adding an obnoxious glare to the chill of morning. I did my best to ignore both as I sat there nestled under my jacket, trying to look appropriately forlorn. After all, no man alive could resist a sad, pretty girl.

While the plan was sound, it was getting hard to actually implement it. I’d been sitting there for a while, resulting in my being cold, bored, and sore-butted. Blake was taking far longer to arrive at the spot than I’d anticipated, making me wonder if I’d missed him entirely. If I had, I’d have to come up with something far worse to do to him than just breaking up his relationship.

“Probably throttle him with a tentacle,” I mumbled angrily under my breath. Over the last week, I’d tested my tentacles pretty thoroughly, and they were quite a bit stronger than they looked, enough so that I could pick up my family’s sedan with them if I had a few of them work together. Throttling some idiotic boy would be easy.

Even as thoughts of strangling Blake threatened to ruin my affected despondence with a smile, I finally heard something over the sound of the waves. There was the soft, rhythmic patter of feet running on the ground, then the huffed breaths of exertion. It seemed that the idiot was finally drawing close.

Pretending not to notice, I refocused myself on looking out over the waters, doing my best to appear lost and disheartened. It wasn’t all that easy as, underneath the calm, my heart raced with anticipation for what was coming. Any moment, Blake would stop, sucked in by my beauty, like a sailor drawn toward the rocks by a siren.

A moment later, just as I’d predicted, the pace of the footsteps faltered. When they continued again, they were slow and clearly coming straight toward me. I still didn’t look up, though, wanting to force my quarry to make the first overture.

“Tessa?” Blake used my name questioningly.

It was hard for me to not squeal in excitement at the sound, but I managed to keep it in. I even managed to keep the smile off my face as I slowly turned my head to look at the boy with my eyes big and sad. He was dressed fairly lightly, just an unzipped hoodie, a t-shirt, and some shorts, with his black hair matted a bit from sweat. The look of concern on his face, though, was what really mattered to me. He’d taken the bait. All I had to do was reel him in.

“Oh … hey, Blake,” I greeted drearily, letting my shoulders slump. “Out for a morning run?”

“Yeah …” Blake responded uncertainty, still looking at me with concern. “You okay?”

After a brave nod, I turned my gaze down and away from Blake. “Mmhmm … it’s just … “ I started to answer before letting out a disheartened sigh. “Nevermind. I don’t want to bother you with my problems.”

There was a pause as the blockhead tried to wrap his head around the situation. It was a tense pause for me as a small part of me worried if I’d overestimated the big lug’s mental ability. If he didn’t pick up on my hint and instead walked off, I would have suffered all morning for nothing. That tension proved unfounded, though, as a moment later the footsteps approached closer right before someone sat down on the wall next to me.

“It’s no bother. I’d be happy to help,” Blake offered supportively.

“You sure?” I asked, looking up with what was meant to be hope on my face.

Smiling reassuringly, Blake nodded. “Of course.”

“Uhm … it’s kind of personal … “ I mumbled, glancing around in an imitation of being nervous about onlookers. “Can we … uhm ... go somewhere private?”

“Oh … sure. How about my dad’s boathouse?” Blake suggested.

“That would be perfect,” I replied, smiling for the first time since Blake arrived.

With a location set, Blake and I both hopped off the wall and started off toward the boathouse. I made sure to stay silent and brooding during the walk, rarely even looking at the boy beside me. At the same time, I also made sure to stay as close to him as propriety would allow, even adding an ‘accidental’ brush of my hand against his to make him aware of my proximity.

The awkward walk lasted a few minutes before Blake and I reached the boathouse. A few moments after that, we stood on the second floor, still trapped in the silence. In fact, it seemed to grow even deeper now that we were sheltered by the camouflaging walls.

“So … uhm … wh-what’s the matter?” Blake finally managed to muster the nerve to break through the quiet.

As I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, I wrung my hands in front of me. “Well … do you remember when you guys asked me what it was like being a girl?”

“Yep. You were … uhm … “ Blake answered as his gaze dipped to my chest, enticing even in the conservative, zipped up jacket. “... quite descriptive.”

“Well there was one thing that I didn’t describe … something that’s … “ I began before pausing to wrap my arms around myself. “I … uhm … started feeling … different … when I’m around certain … people, people like you.”

Blake furrowed his brow. “What do you mean like me?”

“Well … uhm … you know … boys,” I answered, the last word barely a whisper.

There was an audible gulp from Blake in response to my declaration. “You mean you’re … uhm into …”

Keeping my gaze down, I nodded. “Yes.”

“Wow … I guess that makes sense,” Blake mumbled, rubbing at his head. “Must be hard to get used to, though.”

Sighing, I dropped my hands to my side and turned away. “It’s not that. I was prepared for that to possibly change too, it’s … I’m worried that … “

When I didn’t continue, Blake spoke up. “Worried that what?”

Spinning back around, I looked Blake in the eye with desperation in my gaze. “That no one will want to be with me! I mean … look at me! Two weeks ago, I was a boy, and here am I wearing a dress! That’s gross isn’t it?!” I blurted as I tugged the zipper on my jacket down to gesture down at the cute, revealing dress that I wore. Almost immediately, I let my intensity vanish, slumping my shoulders in dismay. “I’m gross.”

“What?! You are definitely not gross,” Blake tried to reassure me.

“You’re just saying that,” I huffed dismissively, turning away again.

“No, I’m not,” Blake insisted.

Back around I went, this time with a bit of hope in my gaze. “You mean that?”

Blake nodded emphatically. “Totally. In fact, you’re uhm … very … beautiful.”

“Then why hasn’t anyone showed any interest?” I asked, pretending to be dubious of the claim. “The closest anyone has gotten is when you asked if you could touch my chest.”

“Well … uhm … maybe they just don’t think you’ll be interested in them?” Blake guessed.

“I don’t think that’s it,” I sighed, looking down at myself. “I mean, I wear cute clothes. I try to be friendly and show interest in people. I even spent a bunch of time over the last week hanging out places by myself to give people chances to approach me. Shouldn’t at least one person have tried?”

Blake shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know, maybe you just need to give them some time. You are pretty intimidating,” he pointed out, only to see me frown at the implied insult. Instantly, he raised his hands to stop me from jumping to conclusions. “Because you’re so beautiful and smart and …”

“You mean that?” I asked, stepping forward to close the gap between Blake and I, so that my chest was only a few inches from touching him.

Another audible gulp escaped from Blake as he struggled to get his eyes up to meet mine. He didn’t succeed, though, as his gaze kept dipping back down. I couldn’t really blame him for that, though. From where he was standing, he had not just a great view of my cleavage, but could probably see hints of my bra too.

“Definitely,” Blake managed to say through his struggle.

I thrust my chest out, taking another inch or two from the space between us. “It’s too bad there’s not someone around right now that’s not intimidated by me – someone who’s not afraid to take what’s right in front of him.”

As I finished speaking, the moment just hung there as if time had stopped. The look on Blake’s face was filled with desire. His hand even twitched slightly as if he intended to take me literally as well as figuratively. In the end, though, he was still just an inexperienced boy, and the moment passed ungrasped – just like I’d planned.

“I suppose I’ll just have to wait for that brave someone to show himself,” I sighed, pulling back from Blake to create a more appropriate gap between us.

As I moved back, Blake tilted forward, trying to keep us close for a moment before faltering balance got him to correct himself. “Yeah … don’t worry. I’m sure you won’t have to wait long.”

“Thanks,” I replied, smiling warmly. “And thanks for talking with me, too. I feel a lot better.”

Blake nodded quickly. “Of course. Not a problem. Always glad to be of help.”

“Yeah … well …” I mumbled, affecting an awkward shifting of my weight. “I should probably let you get back to your own stuff.”

“Oh, yeah. I was sort of in the middle of a run, wasn’t I?” Blake replied, rubbing the back of his head self consciously.

“I’ll see you the next time we all hang out then?” I checked.

Blake smiled. “Definitely.”

“Great,” I responded. Without preamble, I stepped forward, darting in quickly to peck Blake on the cheek. “Thanks again, Blake. See ya!”

As I turned to go, I caught a glimpse of Blake waving dumbly at me, clearly stunned by the show of affection. “See ya …”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Chapter 14 - Day 22

“... and then he fainted again!” Beth exclaimed to finish her story, earning an uproar of laughter from the gathered friends.

Just like the others, I joined in the laughter with a light, breathy giggle and a slight toss of my head to show my amusement. I followed it up by pushing a few stray strands of purple hair back from my face and glancing toward Blake. As I turned that way, the boy happened to be looking at me, so I added a little smile before turning back to the rest of the group.

An inner smile joined my outer one at that confirmation of Blake’s interest. My little act yesterday was working out just like I’d hoped that it would. Throughout the time that we’d been hanging out, Blake had been unable to take his eyes off me. Even when his girlfriend clung to him affectionately, he couldn’t help but glance toward me, toward what he wanted.

Throughout our time around each other, I’d played into Blake’s desire with flirty looks, and the occasional touch or bump when we happened to be close enough to each other for coincidental contact. Each little thing drew him further in, making him want me more and more. I doubted it would take more than another day or two for him to make a move on me.

Confident that Blake was right on path, I glanced over toward Mark where he sat with his arm around my sister’s shoulder. Blake just needed a few more nudges, which meant that I could start focusing on my real target, and for that, I’d chosen Mark. He was well rated by girls, being both smart and cute. More than that, I knew from my sister that he was a wonderful boyfriend, generous, devoted, and polite. That was what I wanted, someone who had more to offer me than looks. Mark was the perfect choice for that.

Of course, the very things that made Mark desirable made him much harder to win. He wasn’t stupid or easily led astray like Blake. He was also with Kelly, who, in spite of my own opinions, was regarded as a wonderful, beautiful girl. I doubted a little flirting and a showcase of my considerable offerings would be enough to sway him to pursue me. He was going to require something else.

“But what …” I mumbled under my breath, trying to figure it out.

“You say something?” Kelly asked from beside me.

Caught scheming, I started with surprise before immediately shaking my head. “No … I uhm ... was just humming … that’s all.”

Kelly squinted at me suspiciously. “You were so not humming. What did you say?”

My mind raced as it searched for an answer, latching onto the first one it found. “It’s … embarrassing ... “

“Oh …” Kelly mumbled before nodding in understanding. “Alright. Talk later then?”

I nodded in agreement. “Yeah, later.”

With my slip resolved, at least for the time being, Kelly turned her attention back to the current conversation. As she did, I sagged back in my seat in relief. Panicking like that had been a huge mistake. I hadn’t even said anything damning, so Kelly overhearing me couldn’t even have mattered without my screwing up like I had. Now, I’d have to come up with some lie to tell her later. It was just so stupid of me.

Trying to shake it off, I brought my thoughts back to Mark. I didn’t look at him this time, just pretended to be listening to the conversation that was going on. All the while, though, my mind was working on possible ways to make him mine. I knew that, if I spent enough time thinking about it, I’d eventually find the answer.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“So, you ready to talk about it yet?” Kelly asked as she closed the front door to our home behind us. “Or did you just agree to later, hoping that I’d forget?”

Affecting an embarrassed look, I turned away, wringing my hands. “Well … I was sorta hoping you would ...”

“Come on. I can’t help, if you don’t tell me what you need help with,” Kelly pointed out. “I thought you were doing really well with everything.”

“And I am,” I told my sister as I turned back toward her. “It’s just … “ Trailing off, I narrowed my eyes and wagged a finger at her. “No teasing me for this. Okay?”

Kelly raised a hand in an imitation of swearing an oath. “I promise.”

“Alright … well … “ I began, keeping up the facade of uncertainty. “I was kind of interested in … starting to … date.”

That revelation got a surprised blink from Kelly. “Really? What brought this on? Did someone ask you out?”

I shook my head. “No, and actually that’s the problem. I don’t know what to do about it either. Blake thinks it’s because I’m intimidating. I don’t know, though. I think it might be because I used to be a boy or because I’m a mutant or maybe just everyone hates me.”

“Well it’s definitely not the last one, and I’m a mutant and that didn’t stop me from getting a boyfriend,” Kelly pointed.

“Yeah, but you don’t have purple hair and yellow eyes,” I retorted, twirling a finger through my dark, oddly colored hair.

Kelly responded with an exasperated chuckle. “Trust me, I don’t think the color of your hair is a problem. It’s lovely. I think Blake’s probably right that you’re just intimidating. I mean look at you. You’re stunning.”

A shy smile curled my lips at the compliment. “Thanks. Still, then what do I do to get people to stop being intimidated?”

“Why are you in such a hurry?” Kelly asked, furrowing her brow. That lasted only a moment before her eyes widened. “There’s someone you like, isn’t there?!

While I couldn’t fake a blush, I did avert my eyes. “No … maybe … I’m not telling.”

“What?! You have to tell me!” Kelly exclaimed.

I shook my head fervently. “Nope.”

“Can’t you at least tell me if it’s a boy or a girl?” Kelly asked. “I’ve been dying to know about that.”

Grinning, I shook my head again. “Nope.”

Kelly sighed in frustration. “Fine. Anyway, if there is someone you like, why not try approaching them? That way, you make it clear that you’re interested, so they won’t have to be intimidated.”

“But, aren’t girls supposed to get asked not do the asking?” I inquired.

“Well it’s nice when the guy makes the first move, but a girl can totally ask out someone she likes,” Kelly assured me.

Looking down thoughtfully, I mulled over that idea for a moment. Maybe that would serve as my answer to getting Mark. “Hmm … that seems a bit radical. I mean, what if it wasn’t just my being intimidating that was the problem?”

“Well then they might say no,” Kelly admitted. “Isn’t it better to know that, though, than to have to wait day after day not knowing why they aren’t asking?”

“Maybe … “ I conceded. I certainly did hate waiting.

“Of course, maybe I could help more if I knew who you were trying to get to ask you out,” Kelly commented with obvious ulterior motive.

I rolled my eyes at the attempt. “Nice try, but I’m still not telling.”

“Aw, why not?” Kelly whined. “I’m gonna find out after you ask anyway. There’s no way something like that remains a secret in this town.”

“Well maybe, I’m not gonna ask!” I retorted.

Kelly sighed in defeat. “Alright, fine. Don’t tell me. You really should ask, though. Right now, no one even knows if you’re into boys or girls, much less that you’d be open to dating. That makes it pretty hard for this person you like to make the first move.”

I nodded in understanding. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Maybe … no, no … that won’t work,” I muttered as another scheme was created and dismissed in my train of thoughts. There had been many since I’d decided to go after Mark, but none of them had survived more than a few minutes. It was beginning to put a real dent in my confidence. It was definitely starting to seem like he was going to be unattainable.

Sighing in frustration, I leaned back in my desk chair and looked up at the ceiling. “Maybe I should just settle for someone else.”

There were a lot of merits to just picking a different boy. Much as I hated to admit it, Kelly was probably the stiffest competition for me anywhere in our age group. Worse, Mark was not a good target to try to steal away to begin with. He’d be hard to lure astray even if he was with a lesser girl.

“There’s Greg in the year above us,” I mused, briefly considering the idea before quickly shaking my head. I would not admit defeat in this. I was better than Kelly, and I was going to prove it.

Determination just brought me right back to where I’d been a few moments ago, however. I still didn’t have a plan. All I was certain of was that it would take more than just dangling myself in front of Mark and hoping that he chose to reach out for it.

“Maybe Kelly was right. Maybe I should just tell him that I want to date him,” I mumbled, not at all happy to actually be considering my sister’s advice. It wasn’t just because the plan came from her either. The whole idea just seemed too desperate the way it required me to throw myself at Mark’s mercy.

There were upsides to the plan, though, too. It didn’t require me to wait. It also made it so that Mark didn’t have to risk what he already had in a venture to pursue me. He could just pick me, and we’d be together.

“I suppose it does make for a good last resort,” I remarked, warming up to the idea a bit. There was no reason to start with such a risky gambit, though. I could start small, working on Mark just like I was on Blake. Given that it was me doing the work, there was a good chance that would be enough even against Mark. If it was, I wouldn’t have to do something as needy as asking him out first. There was no need to rush. He’d be mine in the end.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Chapter 15 - Day 26

“Alright, one more try, guys,” I whispered to the pair of tentacles that sat on the table in front of me.

The twin tendrils bent their tips in an imitation of a nod before moving in tandem to my desires. First, each curled around a little plastic package of creamer that sat on the table next to it. Once they had those firmly gripped, they burst into motion. The one on the right tossed its creamer up into the air while the one on the left passed its creamer over to the one on the right. As soon as it was free of its package, the left one dove down, scooping up a third creamer even as the right hand one tossed the second one up into the air. The left tried to get its new creamer shuffled over to the right, but it was just a little too slow, earning a bop on the tip as the first creamer that had been tossed into the air came down just as it released the one it was holding.

“Well damn …” I mumbled as I watched the tentacles fail once again. I’d been trying to juggle the creamers for a while now, but I hadn’t had much luck with it. It wasn’t that the tentacles weren’t quick enough to handle the task or that I couldn’t handle controlling them independently. It was just hard to give precise orders to the little guys in rapid succession like juggling required. In the end, I always seemed to get overwhelmed by the speed needed for the task.

Sighing, I leaned forward to rest my chin in my hand and peer at the tendrils thoughtfully. I couldn’t figure out if the problem was something that I couldn’t overcome or one that would just take a lot of practice. At the same time, I wasn’t sure that those two possibilities didn’t amount to the same thing. After all, I couldn’t juggle with my actual hands either, but I had no intention of ever spending the time that it would take to learn. Being able to do so with my tentacles didn’t seem to be any more valuable to me. It would be little more than a party trick.

As I thought, the twins on the table squared off like they were about to fight. A moment later, they trust forward and tangled around each other, tugging and twisted as each tried to pin the other beneath it. It looked a lot like a thumb wrestling match to me.

“Uhm … do those things have minds of their own?” a male voice questioned uncertainly.

Snapping from my thoughts, I jerked upright, twisting to face the speaker. As soon as I saw who it was, though, I relaxed. Adopting an easy smile, I shook my head. “I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so. From what I can tell, if I don’t focus on them, they play along with my subconscious.”

“Oh …” Blake mumbled, looking at the tentacles. With my thoughts no longer in turmoil, they had released each other to just wiggle around a bit. “So … you were wrestling with something then?”

“Exactly,” I confirmed. “Specifically, my inability to get these two to juggle creamer properly.” That remark earned me a dazed look from Blake, who was clearly overwhelmed by the oddities of my power usage. I decided that it would be best to get him back on track. “So, did you just come over to say hi?”

“Huh? Oh … no, uhm … can we talk … somewhere private?” Blake managed to finally ask.

Acting as though I had no idea what this was about, I cocked my head to the side. “Sure … I guess. Boathouse again?”

“Yeah. That’ll work,” Blake agreed, glancing around.

Rising from my seat, I let Blake lead the way out of my parents’ diner and into the street. It was already late enough in the day for the bluffs to heavily shadow the town. It was through those shadows that Blake and I walked, surrounded by nervous silence.

It was hard for me to preserve that mood, though. For my part, I wanted to just grin and skip along merrily at what was finally happening. The only reason for Blake to talk to me alone was if he’d finally decided to pursue me. That decision was no surprise to me – not after the days of longing glances thrown my way. If anything, I was a bit disappointed in just how many days it had taken. Clearly, Blake, and maybe boys in general, were not as brave as I’d thought, and I hated having to wait.

The walk passed quickly, leaving me once again alone in the boathouse with Blake. This time, it was he that was nervous, and he wasn’t faking it like I had been. He didn’t even speak right away, but walked over to the refrigerator to grab a soda, taking a long chug of it before he turned back to me with steel in his eyes.

“Tessa, I’ve been thinking … about what you told me the other day,” Blake began as he walked over to me.

“The other day?” I asked, not making this easy on the teen.

“You know … about being interested in … dating, and … wanting someone to … uhm … take what’s in front of them,” Blake stammered out, losing the steely determination that had carried him across the room. Instead, he looked down shyly, his cheeks turning pink from embarrassment. He shook it off quickly, though, lifting his eyes back to mine. “I want to be that person.”

There it was, the confession that Blake had chosen me over Laura. It was so hard to not smile, to not grin madly and laugh in Blake’s face. I managed it, though; managed to keep my face neutral except for a stunned blink. “I … you … want to be … with me?”

Blake nodded in confirmation. “Yes.”

“But you’re with Laura,” I pointed out.

Blake nodded again. “I was, but I broke up with her.”

For a moment, I just stood there blinking to continue to illusion that I was surprised by this turn of events. “Blake … I …”

“I know it’s a surprise, but I think – “ Blake started to explain.

“I like someone else,” I cut him off, having no interest in what Blake thought. As I spoke, I looked down in an imitation of shame. “That’s … that’s why I was upset that day because he … he wasn’t showing any interest.”

Now, it was Blake’s turn to be surprised, and he did it marvelously. His eyes were wide, and his mouth moved without making words. I could almost see into his mind where the gears had ground to a stop at my revelation. “B-But … you said …”

“I know. I just wasn’t ready to tell anyone who it is … I’m still not,” I told him, looking up apologetically. “But it’s not you. I’m sorry.”

“Why?” Blake gasped breathlessly, looking as if he could topple over from a breeze.

I shook my head sadly. “I don’t know … I didn’t pick him. I just … feel for him.”

“And not for me,” Blake stated the obvious.

“Yeah … I’m sorry,” I confirmed. “You’re a great guy, and while we haven’t been friends long, you’ve been a great one of those too, and I hope you still will be.”

Blake nodded in understanding. “Yeah … of course.”

Stepping forward, I rested a sympathetic hand on Blake’s arm. “I’m really sorry, Blake. I didn’t mean to mislead you.”

“I know,” Blake responded, trying to sound brave but ending up sounding like he was about to cry. “I … uhm … I should let you get back to your juggling practice then.”

“You sure you’ll be okay?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Blake assured me. “I’ll be fine.”

With that final reassurance, I nodded, and turned to walk away slowly. As I made it to the steps down, I glanced back once to see the despondent boy standing there, appearing to be in the throws of cursing himself for what he’d done. I managed to keep the smile from my face until I’d made it to the bottom of the steps.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“That’s her now. I’ve gotta go,” I heard my sister say as I stepped through the front door after walking home from rejecting Blake. A moment later, my sister came around the corner from the living room, leveling a glare at me. “What did you do?!”

Affecting confusion, I furrowed my brow and stumbled over my words. “I … uhm … I don’t … what?”

“I just got off the phone with Laura, who’s been crying for hours because Blake dumped her – dumped her for you,” Kelly clarified icily.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” I blurted, burying my face in my hands. “I was just talking to Blake as a friend, but somehow he got the idea that I was into him even though I’m not! I certainly didn’t mean for him to break up with Laura!”

The sudden apology robbed my sister of her fury, leaving her to peer at me in a mix of confusion, suspicion, and pity. “I think you’d better explain exactly what happened to me.”

“Of course,” I replied before taking a moment to gather myself for the story with a deep breath. “So, you remember about a week ago, I was feeling really down, because I’d been trying my best to be nice, and cute, and everything, but no one seemed to be showing any interest in it. Right?”

“Yeah,” Kelly confirmed.

“Well, before I talked to you about it, I talked to Blake about it,” I explained. “We ran into each other the morning before I think, while I was out moping about it. We talked for a while about how I was looking to try to date, and how I’d been trying to make that clear, and how I wanted someone to notice it. I guess I should have been more clear about who that someone was, because somehow Blake seemed to think I meant him, but I didn’t. I explained this all to him when he tried to ask me out, but by then he’d already broken up with Laura.”

“He asked you out already?” Kelly questioned.

I nodded. “Yeah … about thirty minutes ago maybe. I turned him down of course, but I don’t know what else to do.”

Sighing, Kelly rubbed at her face in frustration. “This is such a mess.”

“I’m so sorry. This is all my fault,” I apologized profusely. “I’ll understand if you guys don’t want to be friends with me anymore after this.”

Kelly shook her head. “No. I mean, it’s not like you tried to steal him. I’ll talk to Laura and try to figure something out.”

“I’m really sorry,” I repeated as if the discord wasn’t utterly delightful to me. “If there’s anything I can do to help …”

“Thanks, but I think it’s probably best if you give those two some space for now,” Kelly replied. “At least until this blows over.”

Adopting a sad expression, I nodded. “Of course. I understand.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll find a way to fix this,” Kelly promised reassuringly.

Maintaining the despondent act, I pasted a wan smile onto my face. “I hope so.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Chapter 16 - Day 27

“Mmm … what a lovely day,” I sighed in delight as I stretched my hands over my head and looked out at the ocean.

It was indeed a lovely day. The sun was out, burning away the fog that often hung around the town. It was warm too, the warmest day of the year so far. Thanks to that, I was dressed lightly in a cute little dress that made me feel even better. In fact, looking down at myself, I knew that being me was probably what really made the day so great.

The day before, Blake had dumped Laura for me. It was yet more proof of how much more wonderful my life was a beautiful girl. The way I was now, it was easy to make friends. It was easy to get a date. It was easy to get everyone to do whatever I wanted them to.

“Feels better too,” I purred, cupping my chest with my hands. I’d gotten used to their weight a long time ago. Now, they were a source of pride, confidence, and pleasure. That was true of the rest of my body as well.

Releasing my chest, I let out a little sigh. There was one little problem with the new me, though – the need to pretend. That was what had brought me out to my thinking spot that day. Even though I was in a great mood, I needed to pretend like I wasn’t happy. I needed to pretend that I felt remorse over the ruin that I had wrought on Blake and Laura’s relationship. The charade was annoying to maintain, but I knew from watching Kelly that it was important. People would forgive anything for a pretty girl, but she had to at least act reasonably contrite about it.

Leaning back against the tree, I shifted focus from the past to the future. I might be stuck spending a day pretending to be sad, but that didn’t mean I had to waste the day. Blake may have done what I wanted, but he wasn’t the fish that I was trying to land – Mark was.

Unlike Blake, Mark hadn’t been particularly responsive to my efforts to charm him. Of course, he was still a guy, so he gave me the occasional look, but his gaze never stayed on me for long. It would always turn lovingly back to Kelly, a fact that I found most frustrating.

“Maybe he’s just more discreet,” I postulated optimistically. Mark was certainly more reserved than Blake, so he might not be resisting my charms at all, but merely hiding it. It was possible that his seeming devotion to my sister was just a mixture of shyness and obligation. A more direct approach might be just the thing to get him to overcome his uncertainty.

Even as I pondered that possibility, the sounds of footsteps moving through brush made it to my ears. An involuntary scowl flittered across my face as I realized that my sister had probably intruded on my privacy to talk about her friends’ silly issues again. I quickly forced that scowl away, though, adopting a more moroes look as I turned to greet the approaching person. When I saw who it was, however, that look vanished into one of surprise.

“Mark?!” I gasped at the sight.

“Hey, Tessa,” Mark greeted wearily as he came into the relative clear around the tree that I sat against. “Can we talk?”

Peering at Mark in confusion, I nodded. “Uhm … sure … I guess …”

“Kelly told me that I could find you up here,” Mark answered my unspoken question.

Inwardly, I cursed my sister, even as I forced myself to outwardly relax. “Oh … of course,” I mumbled as I got to my feet and dusted off my rump. Once that was done, I turned my focus fully to Mark. “So, what do you want to talk about?”

“Blake,” Mark answered curtly.

“I’m sorry … I didn’t mean for anything to happen,” I apologized immediately.

“Then what did you mean to happen?” Mark asked, his tone harsh and accusing. “Why would you even talk to Blake about something like this?”

Looking down, I let out a little sigh. “Who else was I going to talk to about it? You, him, and Parker are the only three boys I hang out with. I don’t even really know Parker, since he’s so quiet, and I couldn’t talk to you about it.”

Mark furrowed his brow. “Why couldn’t you talk to me?”

“Because … you’re … uhm … “ I pretended to struggle with the words. Finally, I lifted my gaze up to look Mark in the eyes and confess, “... you’re the person I like.”

“What?!” Mark gasped, looking at me in shock.

Once again, I let my gaze fall as I wrapped my arms around myself. “You’re the one I like, Mark. I have for a long time – since before I changed.”

“But … I … “ Mark fumbled for words only to end up shaking his head to clear away the cluttered thoughts. “How is that possible? You used to always be a jerk to me, glaring at me every time I came over to your house, arguing with me whenever we talked.”

“Because you were always coming over for Kelly, and I was … I don’t know jealous, I guess,” I explained. “Plus, what could I do? You liked girls, and I was a boy. There was no way you’d ever feel the same way about me as I did about you. That was … hard to deal with.”

Stunned, Mark fell back a step. “Wow … I … I don’t know what to say. I mean, I’m dating your sister.”

I nodded in understanding. “I know it’s weird, but …” Pasting a pleading, desperate look onto my face, I lifted my gaze once more. “... that doesn’t change how I feel about you.” Adding to the words, I stepped forward, closing the distance between Mark and me so that we were only inches apart. “Is there any chance that you might feel the same way about me?”

“I … uhm …” Mark stammered, leaning back as I drew in close.

With Mark’s resolve seeming to crumble, I decided to advance further, pressing my chest up against his. As I did, I brought my hands up, using them to cup his cheeks. A moment later, our lips met in a kiss.

The kiss held for only a brief moment before I felt hands on my shoulder. Immediately, they shoved me back, breaking my contact with the boy. I stumbled back, as much from shock as from the actual shove.

“No. This isn’t right,” Mark stated with cold certainty.

That simple response seemed to cut through me like a shard of ice stabbed into my chest. “Why? Is it because I used to be a boy? I promise, I’m all girl now.”

Mark shook his head. “That’s not it.”

“Then what is it?!” I demanded, voice getting a bit shrill. “I’m prettier than her! I’m smarter than her! I’m willing to go further than her! Anything you want!”

“I’m sorry. I just love her,” Mark answered.

There it was, the confirmation of my failure. Anger, resentment, depression, and every other negative emotion ran through me at those words. In the end, though, all I felt was empty and defeated, like everything that I was or did was meaningless.

“I see …” I mumbled, letting my shoulders slump and my gaze drop to my feet.

“Tessa –” Mark started to say as reached a hand toward my shoulder.

“Don’t!” I snapped, pulling away from him. “I don’t want your pity.”

Whether I wanted it or not, Mark gave me a sympathetic look. At least he didn’t try to reach out to me again, letting his hand fall to his side. He didn’t try to say anything either. Still, that look hurt more than enough by itself.

Suddenly, my vision was blurry as tears filled my eyes. I tried to fight them back, but I knew they were coming regardless. All I could do was spin around and storm off to keep Mark from seeing them when they finally fell.

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Resting on my bed, I looked up at the ceiling at the speckling in the paint that created a sea of little bumps. There were hundreds of them, each a little different, but all equally pointless and mundane. You couldn’t even see them unless you were really looking for them. Otherwise, you’d just see the glistening white of the paint and never notice that they even existed.

“Tessa?” Kelly’s voice questioned from the other side of my door.

“Go away!” I grumbled loudly enough to be heard from outside of my room.

A moment later, the door opened, and my sister stepped inside. I wasn’t even surprised. It wasn’t like what I wanted mattered. Only what she wanted ever mattered. All I could do was bow to her whims like everyone else.

Expected or not, I was still angry. Sitting up, I leveled a glare at my intrusive sibling. “I said, go away!”

“Well I’m not going to,” Kelly responded calmly. “Mark told me what happened between you two.”

Huffing in frustration, I flopped back onto my bed. “So what? Did you come to laugh at me or yell at me?”

“Neither,” Kelly answered as she walked over. “I came to find out why you lied to him.”

“I didn’t lie,” I told her.

Kelly rolled her eyes at me. “We may not be very close anymore, but I know you well enough to know you were into girls before you manifested. Yet for some reason, you told Mark that you liked him even before your change.”

“Fine, I exaggerated a little. Happy?” I spat acerbically.

Sighing, Kelly sat on the edge of the bed beside me. “No, I’m not happy. My sister just lied to my boyfriend while trying to steal him from me. I mean, do you even like him?”

I shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. He picked you, not me.”

“It does matter!” Kelly exclaimed.

“Why?! Are you gonna give him to me if I say that I do?!” I retorted mockingly.

“Of course not!” Kelly responded.

I let out a derisive chuckle. “Sure doesn’t sound like it matters.”

Kelly let out a growl of frustration. “God! There you go again! Back to how you were before!”

“And how was I before?!” I demanded.

“Always trying to pick a fight for no damn reason!” Kelly yelled. “I could’ve come in here all angry! I could’ve slapped you! You would’ve deserved it after the shit you pulled! I didn’t, though! All I wanted was to understand what happened, but rather than explain yourself, you’re acting like a little shit!”

Eyes narrowing at the insult, I shoved myself up to a sitting position. “Fine! You wanna know why I went after Mark?! Because I was sick and fucking tired of being stuck in your perfect shadow with nothing while you got everything!”

Silence followed my outburst as Kelly just looked at me in surprise. While she looked at me, I glared at her with all my pent up hatred. There was no pretense, no restraint, just absolute loathing.

Several moments passed before Kelly broke the stare, gaze dropping to her lap. “I … I’m sorry … I didn’t …”

“Stop it!” I shrieked. “Stop pitying me!”

“That’s not–” Kelly started to say.

Lashing out with my hands, I shoved my sister. The intent had been to knock her off the bed and onto her ass, but all I managed to do was unbalance her a little. Still, that was enough to force her to get her feet under her and stand up rather than keep sitting there.

What followed was another second of us looking at each other, my sister surprised and me furious. It was only an instant before my sister’s face steeled itself. The next moment, she lunged at me.

Caught by surprise, I barely managed to get my hands up as my sister’s weight hit me. It didn’t do much good, though. I wasn’t very strong and my sister wasn’t small or weak. She easily bowled me over, pinning me beneath her weight with her hands locked onto my wrists. That was when the cool calm of her power hit me.

Grunting in anger, I tried to struggle, thrashing about in an effort to free my hands from Kelly’s grip. She didn’t budge at all, though. As I struggled, the calm seeped into me, putting out the fire of my anger and robbing my limbs of their already limited strength. Within moments, I couldn’t even muster the will to fight back anymore. Slumping in defeat, I averted my gaze so that I wouldn’t have to see the superior glint in my sister’s eyes as she looked down at me.

“I don’t pity you,” Kelly insisted once my struggles had ended. Suddenly, my hands were free as my sister released my wrists. Before I couldn’t even think to move them, though, I was wrapped up in a different kind of pin – a hug. “I just don’t like seeing my sister suffer, especially when it’s because of me.”

I didn’t know how to respond. Part of me wanted to believe it was all just an act, to lash out with anger, but I didn’t feel angry – couldn’t feel angry. There was shock, embarrassment, and some annoying little tickle of something else, but no anger.

“I just wanted you to know that,” Kelly told me before she released me from her grasp, got up, and walked out of my room. I still didn’t know how to respond long after she gone.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Chapter 17 - Day 28

An anguished groan slid up my throat to puff past my lips and out into world as I tried to shift positions in my bed. No new position was going to alleviate the ache in my stomach, though. That would require food, and food would require me to get up. I hated that.

Letting out a resigned sigh, I finally caved to my hunger, shoving myself up to a sitting position to glare at the room around me. As I did, stray strands of purple hair, matted and tangled from far too much time spent laying in my bed fell into my vision. I just glared at them, too, sick of absolutely everything.

Anger did not ease my need for food, however, so it was only a couple of moments of glaring before I shoved myself again, this time out of the bed. I wobbled a bit on my feet as my vision swam from a mix of low blood sugar and not being used to standing. It cleared quickly enough, though, allowing me to trudge over to my dresser and closet.

Both storage units were filled with all the new clothes that I’d managed to buy since becoming a girl. Each and every garment was cute and stylish, chosen for its ability to accentuate my beauty in some desirable way. That made me hate them even more than I hated having to get out of my bed. They were useless, just like my beauty was. I couldn’t even outshine some pudgy blonde girl.

After tossing a glare at my array of clothes, I looked down at myself instead. I wore one of the few garments that I’d kept from when I was a guy. It was a big t-shirt that served as a night gown now since I’d had a limited budget for clothes and I had needed to look good around people not in my bed. Since I was both taller and … fuller than I’d been as a guy, it actually covered less now than it once had. As such, it barely covered my panties, leaving the entire length of my long, slender legs bare. It wasn’t like anyone would actually be looking at them, though, so I saw no point in bothering to cover up. The house was plenty warm.

“Whatever,” I muttered, turning from the array of potential clothes to walk right out of my room. From there, I trudged down toward the kitchen, not even bothering with the bathroom on the way. I’d relieved myself earlier, and a shower would be even more of a waste of time than getting dressed.

To my great relief, I didn’t happen upon any of my family on my journey through the house. It seemed that all of them were gone – out living their happy little lives. In fact, that day, my sister had to be especially happy. She would undoubtedly spend the day wiping away all of my efforts for the past month, setting everything right once more in her little queendom. She lived for that kind of thing.

“So pretentious,” I grumbled under my breath at my absent sister as I moved around the kitchen in search of something eat. Nothing looked good, but that didn’t stop my tummy from rumbling loudly at the sight of all the edible things that I was for some reason not stuffing into it.

After a few moments of resistance, the gluttonous complaints proved insistent enough to get me to grab some leftovers from the fridge in spite of my lack of interest, hauling them over to the kitchen table. I plopped them down on top of it just before I did the same to my butt on one of the chairs. Slouching forward in my seat, I just stared at the plastic bag full of styrofoam boxes for several seconds until yet another stomach rumble, a particularly loud and uncomfortable one, convinced me to move again, reaching out to tug the first box from the bag. Popping it open, I was treated to the disgusting goopy sight of some Lasagna that had congealed a bit while waiting around in the fridge.

“Figures,” I muttered, letting out a dry, despondent chuckle. I didn’t even bother to put it back, just grabbed a fork and forced myself to choke it down.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Lethargically, I manipulated the controller in my hands, absently guiding the character on the screen through a maze of dangerous traps and pitfalls. The scene was undoubtedly supposed to be tense, rousing the player with the constant threat of failure, flashy visuals, and epic music. In spite of that, I was barely awake, slouched lazily on the sofa with my eyes drooping and my shoulders sagging.

The weight of my indifference proved devastating to my virtual avatar as I lack the focus or care to react to a sudden falling rock. My fingers had barely started to shift to the appropriate key before the character was smashed by the boulder, bringing up a game over screen that elicited a heavy sigh from me. Wearily, I brought the same finger that had failed slowly over to the confirm button and pressed it, bringing me back to the last checkpoint to try again with even less interest than I’d had before.

Before my next attempt could get very far into the maze a new noise tugged at my attention, putting a scowl on my face. It was the clatter and clink of someone working the lock on the front door of the house. While one of my parents would occasionally walk home and leave the car at the diner for their partner, I was all but certain it was Kelly returning home. I could feel her oppressive joy from where I sat.

As much as I would’ve loved for Kelly to decide to just go away, I was not at all surprised to hear the door open. I was never so lucky as to get something I wanted. Instead, I was stuck trying to just focus on the game while ignoring my hated relation.

I might as well have tried to ignore a hurricane while I was in the middle of it. Every footstep Kelly took echoed in my ears like the heavy, dreaded thump of a horror movie villain. The controller sat unused in my hand, leaving my character to idle on the screen as all of my attention was gobbled up by the noise that my sister made as she traveled from the door toward the stairs. To my great sorrow, they didn’t go up, though, removing the unwanted nuisance in the process. No, they stopped at the base of the steps, pausing there, so that Kelly could look at me. I could even feel her stare on the back of my head.

It took a couple of moments of looking before Kelly finally called out to me. “Tessa?”

“What?” I grumbled, filling the single word with an unwelcoming rumble from the back of my throat.

“I didn’t tell Mark that you lied to him, and made sure that he wouldn’t tell anyone else about what you tried,” Kelly told me. “Blake and Laura are back together, too.”

“Great,” I muttered with utter disinterest in my voice. At the same time, I was almost glad to have the confirmation of my earlier suspicions. The sun was barely starting to set and little miss perfect had already solved everything, because everything always worked out for her.

Following that single word was a long pause filled by more of my sister’s cursed staring. I could just imagine it. Her eyes full of pity. Her brow crinkled with thoughtfulness and concern as she tried to figure out what to do about her useless little sister.

“I just thought you might like to know,” Kelly finally stated.

I didn’t even give her a real response, just a grunted, “Mmm.”

That response finally elicited a defeated sigh from Kelly, which curled my lips up in a sad but cruel little smile. I was the one problem that she couldn’t fix – the one flaw in her perfect little life. That was something at least.

Without another word, the footsteps began again, carrying my sister up the stairs and away from me. A few moments, I relished the sound of her door closing, the final note to punctuate the end of the obnoxious interaction. With any luck, the brief chat would have put a damper on her day, a little dollop of my misery to stain her picturesque world.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Sighing in frustration, I rolled over onto my side to try to alleviate an annoying twinge in my back. While it served that function, it also required me to flop my arm over in front of me, which promptly squished my boobs uncomfortably between it and its partner. That had me glaring down at the hefty lumps in annoyance, but I didn’t bother to move again. Undoubtedly there would be something wrong no matter what position I ended up in.

Resolved to my fate, I just let out another sigh, settling into the mild discomfort of my new position. At the same time, I stared at the wall of my room, look over all the little scuffs, smudges, and bumps in the paint. There were a few, but I couldn’t remember how’d they’d gotten there. Maybe that one was from a poster or that one from moving a piece of furniture. At least one seemed to be from a bad brush stroke by the painter. There was another ...

A soft knock interrupted my thoughts, followed by my mother gently calling out, “It’s time for dinner, Tessa.”

“I’m not hungry,” I grouched back before rolling over to put my back to the door.

While I’d hoped that would be enough to drive my mother away, it barely gave her pause before she spoke up again. “It’s pizza night. Your favorite. We even got you, your own bacon and–”

“I said I’m not hungry, so go away!” I screamed, interrupting my mother’s efforts to tempt me out of my room with tasty food.

My outburst earned me a longer, but still all-to-brief pause from my mother. When she spoke again, it was in the calm, stern voice of someone who was to be listened to and obeyed, not questioned. “Open the door, Tessa.”

“What?! Am I not allowed to not be hungry anymore?!” I yelled back indignantly.

“Just open the door,” my mother responded without any hint of perturbation.

Growling in frustrated fury, I shoved myself upright on my bed and turned toward the door. Creating a glob of purple in my hand, I chucked it over toward the portal. The throw was quite short, but it didn’t matter really, the thing just stuck onto the ground instead. As soon as it did, it elongated into one of my little tentacles before whipping out toward the door to yank it open for my mother.

Seeing only a tentacle in the doorway clearly surprised my mom, but it didn’t stop her from coming inside. She even tipped her head politely to it as if the little thing were a helpful gentleman rather than a pile of goo. After that, she turned toward me, and, I was subjected to the look of motherly concern on her face as she peered at my disheveled state.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?” my mom asked gently. “I thought things were going pretty well with you, but Kelly says you spent most of the day cooped up in your room alone, and would just grouch at her whenever she tried to talk to –”

Mention of my sister already had my eyes rolling long before my mother could continue her list of worries. “Yeah, because not wanting to make nice with my sister is clearly the sign of some terrible affliction.”

“That’s not the only thing,” my mother countered, looking a little annoyed at my snarky retort. “It’s night and you’re still not dressed, plus you’re refusing your favorite food. Something’s clearly bothering you.”

“So what if it is?!” I demanded. “It’s not like you even care! The only reason you even have a clue is because Kelly complained about me, and naturally, you leapt to help her just like you always do!”

That accusation finally broke my mother’s calm, narrowing her eyes in anger. “Don’t take that tone with me, young lady!”

“I’ll take whatever fucking tone I want!” I shot back.

The next thing I knew, I saw my mother’s hand twitch, and I thought for sure I was about to get slapped for the way I was acting. Instead, though, my mom just raised that hand to wag a finger at me reprovingly. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, Tessa, but this is no way to treat someone trying to help you.”

“Yeah, well, you’re not helping,” I hissed. “You’re just making things worse.”

“Well then maybe, you should tell me what I can do to make them better,” my mom huffed in exasperation.

“I already told you! Leave!” I yelled definitively.

Shaking her head, my mother threw her hands up in defeat. “Fine, sit up here by yourself and starve if that’s what you want.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Chapter 18 - Day 30

My eyes cracked open against my will, taking in their first bleary view of yet another new and unwelcome day. Forcing them shut again, I tried to cling to sleep, holding onto it tightly as I nestled deeper into my blankets in the hopes of returning to the empty waste of slumber. My efforts were futile, though, as sleepiness slipped away from my hold, while consciousness slowly crept into me to take its place.

“Fuck …” I groaned, hating the fact that my eyes had ever opened. Why couldn’t I just stay asleep forever? After all, there was no point in being in this world.

Wakefulness came with all sorts of other issues. The first was a twisting pain in my stomach that came with a loud gurgle to express my hunger. The next was a pressure in my abdomen from a full bladder in reed of relief. Lastly, there were all the aches and pains that came from days of spending too much time laying in bed.

Forced to rise, I shoved myself up, peering through a greasy mop of hair to look at the clock by my bed. It was a little after noon meaning that my parents should already be gone for the day. That left only my sister for me to have to avoid. Waiting for some indication of if she was home might take a while, though, and my bladder had no intention of giving me that much time.

“I should just wet the bed,” I muttered even as I shoved myself off of the mattress and onto my feet. Padding across my room, I stopped at the door, listening for any sounds that might indicate that someone was in the hall beyond. When I heard nothing, I dared to crack the door open and peek out.

To my relief, I found no one waiting outside to ambush me with kindness. Slipping through the door, I closed it behind me as quietly as I could before sneaking down the hall to the bathroom. Another quietly closed door later, and I was dealing with my first issue of the day.

While I was midway through using the facilities, I heard a sound from the hall that made me wince – footsteps. While I thought for sure it was my sister come to wait outside the bathroom until I left, it wasn’t. Instead, the noise went right to the stairs before heading down. A couple of moments later, there was the sound of the front door opening and closing.

“Lucky,” I mused as I finished up with the toilet then washed my hands. If my sister was gone, that meant I could pop downstairs real quick to get something to eat.

Putting the bathroom behind me, I scampered quickly down to the kitchen, moving like a scavenging mouse trying to hide from the family cat. Down there, I started digging around in the refrigerator, searching for something filling. There was no way of knowing when I’d get another chance to sneak down for more food.

“So, you do still eat,” my sister’s voice remarked from out of my sight.

A chill ran down my spine as I winced at my mistake. Straightening up, I peeked around the refrigerator door to see my sister standing in the doorway of the kitchen. “Why are you here? I heard you leave.”

“You heard me pretend to leave,” Kelly corrected, prompting me to roll my eyes. “How else was I supposed to get you to talk to me?”

“I don’t know, maybe you could just accept the fact that I don’t want to talk to you,” I huffed in annoyance, slamming the refrigerator door closed. “Not now. Not ever.”

The hurt expression on my sister’s face when she heard those words almost made having to talk to her worth it. “You don’t mean that.”

“Yes, I do,” I hissed acerbically.

Kelly’s shoulders slumped at my vehemence. “Was it all a lie, accepting your changes, spending time with me, being nice to my friends, seeming happy, everything you’ve said and done since you came back from the hospital that day?”

“Pretty much,” I confirmed, hoping that answer would hurt my sister even more.

I didn’t get the pained expression that I’d wanted, though, just a resigned nod. “You must really hate me, huh?”

“More than anyone,” I confirmed, trying again to wound her.

Still, there was no pain in response, just a quiet sigh followed by, “Then maybe I should leave home.”

“What?” I questioned, furrowing my brow in confusion at the unexpected suggestion.

“When I first manifested, Mom was worried about how people would treat me here in town. There are some boarding schools for mutants. She thought it might be better if I went to school at one of them,” Kelly explained. “I convinced her to let me stay here, but I guess I shouldn’t have.”

Unlike my manifestation, there had been a lot of family talks back when Kelly manifested on everything from the science of it to how it would affect the family. I didn’t remember one on the topic of my sister going to some boarding school, though. I certainly would’ve remembered something like that, too.

“You’d never do that,” I denied.

Kelly shrugged. “What else can I do? Am I supposed to just leave you to moping in your room?”

“Why not? What do you care what I do?” I retorted. “Just go back to hanging out with stupid friends like you used to.”

“I don’t want to go back to how things were! I hated how things were!” Kelly blurted, tears suddenly falling from her eyes as she looked at me.

Stunned, I reeled back a bit, having no idea how to respond. I hadn’t expected tears. I hadn’t expected those words. Neither made any sense. She had nothing to be upset about. I was the one that had been denied.

Shoulders slumping, my sister looked down, using a hand to wipe at her eyes. “What happened, Tessa? We used to like each other. You used to do more than just sit in front of a TV and make mean comments to everyone that talked to. I just wanted to be like that again. I just wanted you to be happy again. When you asked to come along that day I thought ...” That was all the more words that Kelly managed to get out. The next thing I knew, she was spinning away from me, fleeing off toward her room.

Left behind, I just stood there, staring at the now empty spot where my sister had stood. I didn’t know what to do or what to feel. In a way, I’d finally won. I’d hurt my sister so deeply that I’d driven her off in tears. If her words were to be believed, I’d denied her any chance at what she wanted most – what would truly make her happy. Now, she was as miserable as I was.

I didn’t feel very victorious, though. There was no thrill of triumph, no exhilarating glee. I felt … lost … weary … defeated. My body seemed to not have the energy to move and my chest ached with a profound emptiness. Everything was just as hollow and meaningless as it had been before. I hadn’t become any better. All I had done was drag my sister down to me.

Of all the odd things to snap me from my stupor, it was my stomach rumbling, reminding me of the need that had brought me out of my room in the first place. Hearing the sound, I absently lifted a hand up to place it over my tummy as if that would quiet it down. The gurgling actually did fall silent, my stomach finished with it’s grumbling for the moment, but it had accomplished its task of shattering the gridlock in my thoughts.

Ignoring my hunger, I started forward, walking right out of the kitchen then turning toward the stairs. My feet carried me upward, then down the hall to my sister’s door. There, the same hand that had briefly quieted my stomach reached up to knock on the door.

No answer came from within, only the sounds of crying. That only spurred me on, sending my hand down to the knob to try it. When it proved to be unlocked, I pushed the door open enough to poke my head inside.

That peek granted me a clear view of my sister’s room – and my sister within it. She lay on her bed face down in her pillow. That muffled her sobbing a little, but not much now that the door was out of the way, and I could clearly see her shoulders shaking with every new wave of tears.

“Kelly?” I called out tentatively, starting to lose my nerve in the face of my sister’s distress even as I slipped into the room. I hadn’t seen her so sad since our dog had died when we were just little kids.

Unlike the knock, Kelly heard the sound of her name, immediately choking back her sobs. Lifting her head, she twisted it around so that she could look at me with red, puffy eyes while still laying face down on her bed. Her eyes weren’t just red and puffy, though, they were filled with genuine hurt and sorrow at the sight of me.

“Here to gloat?” my sister questioned bitterly. “This is what you wanted right? To see me in tears?”

Was that the outcome that I’d wanted? Certainly, if I had succeeded in my plans, Kelly would’ve been devastated. Would I have then gone to gloat over my victory while she cried into her pillow?

“This isn’t what I wanted,” I told her truthfully. “I just …”

That was all I could manage to say. The rest just stuck in my throat, refusing to enter the world, refusing to be admitted to. Without those words, I just trailed off helplessly as my sister stared at me with all that pain – like some strange mirror that could show my soul.

“Tell me,” Kelly urged as she pushed herself up, sounding almost like she was pleading.

That desperate tone was too much, forcing me to drop my gaze to the floor as my eyes started to burn. “I just wanted to be equal for once. We’re twins, but you’re the pretty one, the the one that’s good at everything, the one that everyone likes. I’m just your obnoxious little brother that everyone tolerates because of you – or I was. I’m sure they have worse adjectives for me now.”

“Laura definitely had some choice ones when she thought you’d stolen Blake from her,” Kelly admitted, managing a little smile through the tears. “She liked you before that, though. They all did.”

“Only because I was pretending,” I countered bitterly.

“Pretending to be what, Tessa? Nice? Happy?” Kelly asked.

“You,” I corrected.

Kelly’s eyes widened at that. “Me?”

I nodded in confirmation. “Yeah. I thought … now that I was a pretty girl, too, all I had to do was pretend to be nice and friendly and upbeat like you and everyone would love me too. Add in a little flirting and playing the victim over what happened to me, and I was sure that, for once, I’d get to be on top.”

“And to prove it you tried to get Mark to leave me for you,” Kelly surmised.

“I guess,” I answered, shrugging uncertainty. “It didn’t start that way, though. At first, I was just trying to find a boyfriend and he seemed like a good one.”

“So you actually do like Mark?” Kelly queried.

I shook my head. “No, not really. He just seemed like a good candidate, nice, smart, helpful, and supposedly not bad looking.”

“Supposedly?” Kelly repeated the word. “You’re not sure?”

“Not really. I’m actually sort of still … into girls,” I admitted, blushing a little bit. That blush only deepened when Kelly started giggling, causing me to jerk my gaze back up to glare at her. “What’s so funny?”

“Sorry!” Kelly apologized, trying to choke back her laughter. “It’s just funny that you tried to get a boyfriend when you don’t even like boys. Why would you do that?”

Having to admit that it was a little silly, a slight smile curled my lips. “Well, there aren’t exactly a lot of options in the way of girls for me looking like this. I figured, if I settled for a guy, I could at least make him carry stuff for me. Lugging these boobs around is hard enough by itself.”

The giggles that Kelly had been trying to hold back burst forth again my explanation. “I bet!”

Caught up in my sister's good humor, I actually laughed a little myself, and for a couple of moments, things weren’t so dour. The fleeting nature of mirth reared its head quickly enough, though. Soon the last few chuckles had died away, leaving an awkward silence between us in its wake.

“So what now?” Kelly finally asked, breaking the tense stillness.

Truly at a loss, all I could do was shrug. “I don’t know.”

“It might be a little rocky at first, but I’m sure everyone would welcome you back into the group,” Kelly suggested hopefully.

“Not if they knew the truth,” I answered. “Besides, those are your friends, not mine.”

“They could be both our friends,” my sister tried tried.

I shook my head. “I don’t think so, Kelly.”

“I can still ask Mom to send me to boarding school,” the other girl offered, trying to be helpful.

“Would you really do that?” I questioned. “Leave home, your friends, and everything just for me?”

“Of course,” my sister answered without the slightest hesitation. Her eyes were full of determination, too, a willingness to do whatever it took to fix this.

Normally, standing in such a gaze would’ve filled me with anger. The arrogance of it, believing that she could fix me or that I even needed fixing, would just be too much to bear. For the first time, though, I wondered if maybe I did actually need fixing, and that maybe … just maybe, my sister could help. There was just one problem.

“I … I can’t make you do that,” I stammered, having seen more than enough of my sibling’s pain. Making her leave would cause even more.

“You won’t make me, Tessa,” Kelly assured me. “I want to help. Whatever will, I will gladly do.”

The earnestness of that offer left me all the more certain that I couldn’t accept it. If I did, my sister would do exactly as she’d said, convince our parents then leave. Once she had, I would be alone here in this town, trying, and undoubtedly failing, to fill the void left by her absence.

“I won’t work,” I breathed.

“Sure it will,” Kelly insisted. “I can’t overshadow you if I’m not here, and you’ve already proven that you can make friends. You said it was pretend, but–”

“It was pretend,” I interjected firmly. “And I’m not going to pretend again. If I did, I’d just be spending all of my time trying to serve as some replacement for you, but I’m not you, Kelly.”

Conceding the argument, the other girl slumped with a heavy nod. “Alright, but then, what do we do? I don’t want you to just go back to resenting me.”

In response, I opened my mouth, all ready to deny that claim, but I found that I couldn’t. If we just forgave each other and nothing else, everything would just go back to where it was. I would sit alone with my games while Kelly hung out with friends, went on dates, got our parent’s love and attention. It had torn us apart once, and I had no reason to think it wouldn’t do so again. We had to do something to change things, to find ...

“I should leave,” I suddenly declared.

“What?” Kelly asked.

“I should leave,” I repeated. “After all, I’m the one who doesn’t work here, not you.”

“That’s not true!!” my sister countered. “You could if–”

I was already shaking my head. “No, I couldn’t. There’s no room for me, Kelly. Everyone will always compare me to you, including me.”

Those words seemed to suck the fight right out of Kelly, leaving her shoulders to slump as her gaze fell to her lap. “I understand.”

Seeing that despondent look, I walked over to my sister’s bed and sat down next to her. Then, for the first time in years, I reached out, wrapping my arms around her to pull her into a comforting hug. “I promise I’ll come back someday, and when I do, I’ll be ready to be your sister again. It won’t just be pretend.”

Starting to cry again, Kelly returned the hug, squeezing me tightly. “I’m gonna miss you.”

Feeling my own tears start to fall, I whispered back. “I’m gonna miss you too.”

The End



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