TG Universes & Series:
Story by E. M. Pisek
Months after Anya's epic fight with Oksana a rift still exists between her and Mel. Within Mel, new feelings are starting to stir which many girls go through. How does Mel handle hers as she learns more of her newfound magic? Then there's Bobby's own budding feelings.
Rolling thunder cascaded around Bikini Beach park with its wave of unseen magic by patrons enjoying the day, confused of where it started with its cloudless, clear blue sky. Trying to fathom its source of inexplicable sound none would ever see the host of strange occurrences taking place, even as they stood standing nearby.
Within one section of the park a girl readied herself to dive off a diving platform with her demonstration of a complex move to those watching below before vanishing into thin air – only one would later know of her banishment with its momentary flash, herself sitting atop a climbing tower as reality rearranged itself. Below the tri platform a diving and swimming coach changed, replaced by an older, out-of-shape woman with a stern face and hawk-like nose.
In the concrete corner of the entrance plaza, a bronze plaque where none resided now appeared, a simple inscription "Norma" explained its reason for being there with the date of her death.
A once promising young girl of Polynesian descent in the nearby college equally vanished, while across the same campus, in the NRD fraternity house, a young man retook his place once more, living in a disheveled bedroom. Depressed and lying on the bed, suicidal intentions filled his mind as with how shitty his life was, as he always did, the wants of keeping this life chipping away. And as the magic continued to expand more changes would continue to unravel lives and events because of a unified effect on person played in her surroundings.
In what seemed like an eternity but was only a few moments in the scheme of things just inside the entrance, the pain faded from Vicky Martin, who opened her eyes – only to find that she was now looking down at Anya by at least four inches. Panic began to set in as she realized that she felt – wrong.
"You... you bitch! Look what you've done! You know what I wanted! Why the hell did you do this to me?" His voice now a barreling tone of dismay and hatred.
Anya's smile was smug and, at the same time, intimidating. "You were upset Vicky that you weren't engaged to Rob. Now, since she's a girl, you can be the 'man' in the relationship, and you two can still get married!"
"You fool," Grandmother said, mortified by Anya's callous behavior at having removed a wizard's spell that had been used to transform Vic Martin to Vicky. "Do you know what you caused? You killed David! Without Vicky's intervention, he changed back from being Mel, choosing death than staying as Melody and he died! You've changed, ruined everything!" She turned her glare toward Oksana. "And all because of this meddling witch who isn't really even from the old country!"
"You tried to corrupt me!" Anya screamed at Oksana. "You lied to me and made me do things that were evil!" She stepped slowly, deliberately toward Oksana, realizing for the first time in her life just how much magical energy she had contained within her. She'd never needed to reach out for her full capabilities. "Now you're going to pay - bitch."
Oksana's eyes widened in surprise. Anya was brushing aside her most powerful energies as if they were annoying pests, and still she came closer. Once more, Oksana summoned her dark energy, and let forth a massive electrical blast aimed at Anya.
"Enough of this play!" Anya cursed. She raised her own hands and chanted, returning a magical blast that dwarfed anything that Oksana had done to that point.
"Anya!" Grandmother cried out, seeing what was happening fretting where her fighting would take her granddaughter. "Do not use your magic in anger, or for revenge!"
Ignoring the older woman's fervent plea. "You made me hurt my true friends," Anya snarled. "You deceived me, and confused me, causing me to hurt people who care for me! For that alone, you deserve to die!"
Anya extended her bare hand to create a ball of pure magic and reflected it easily to Oksana. The girl stood, stunned, her mouth agape, as the dark energy surrounded engulfing her in black as it consumed her, leaving nothing of Oksana behind except the tainted stain of who had once been an innocent girl.
Sitting quietly having shuffled to her seat Mel said not a word to anyone even after the bus had departed the terminal wishing to be left alone to mope and her loathing.
"You have da look my daughter had when she did something wrong or bothered her." And elderly lady said intruding on Mel's solitude. Mel's expression had changed several times. Her mind constantly pushing against the images that showed of having been shoved back to a different place and time as the woman watched the girl. "Care ta talk about it?" The woman offered, sounding neither condensing, yet not really expecting much from the quiet young girl. "From da way you're dressed, it looks like you left in'na rush. Fight with da family?"
"No, nothing like that," Mel said shyly to the older woman seated next to her. She loved her new mom and the act of how she left still made her feel queasy with guilty as with frightened.
"Dain what happened? Mus'ta been major if you're wan'tin to ride alone with ah bus lo'da stranga's." The older woman prodded gently. Her voice had an unknown twang to it which Mel couldn't identify.
What was she expected to explain? Or tell? Talk of having been taken to what could only be termed as Hell for her? Claim to have ended up in some unfamiliar country by her teleporting to it. Her need of catching a bus back home only after a woman named Innochka explained how to magically teleport herself safely within the upper Continental U.S. She listened to the arcane words as best she could over some antiquated telephone that crackled as she hung onto words from the other side of the world. Deathly afraid to risk another attempt, she feared the unknown of where she'd possibly end up again such as the frigid north or was it south? It didn't matter for it could be worse unlike how she nearly frozen to death. As interesting as the other places were, she was tired of traveling to places she'd never dreamed of going.
Pulling out a bottle of water. "Going home." Mel replied in a clipped answer, her usual way of talking when she didn't want to. Hoping it would satisfy the woman the stranger returned a knowing smile.
"Smart gu'rl. Best ta work out one's differences. Leave it mostly in da past. I remember da fights me and my mah'ta had."
"No, not my mom. Someone else, someone I thought was my best friend. She hurt me."
"Mus'ta not be muc'ha friend if she hoits you." The older woman answered. Her words seemed to jab at Mel as another woman's words resurfaced hitting home 'Not much of a son if you can't watch over your own brother.' "Noie, not someone I'da want to stay fri'nds with if dat vus hoie she vus goi'na treat me like." The older woman suggested.
"No. No, I guess not," Mel agreed settling down, pulling the cloaked hood further over her hood signaling her willingness to talk not wanting to discuss it further. Closing her eyes, she tried to sleep. "No, not much of a friend at all."
Stopping before Anya once she arrived from the bus depot Mel's demeanor changed towards the woman. Gone was her usual friendly greeting whenever they meet. Holding back at first, Mel refused to come near Anya who reached out with welcoming arms to embrace and hug the returned girl warmly. Mel's voice was distant, filled with venom as the elder woman's words played out one more. None missed the coldness, the hurt, when her words of "Stay away. Just go away Miss Anya," hurt the woman deeply. Mel wouldn't have dignified the use of her name except she had little recourse. "I thought …" struggling to hold back a creeping darkness that wanted to engulf her in bitterness. "I thought Nathan was bad, evil, but I was wrong. You are, and I never, ever, want to speak to you again." Anya straightened up, stunned by Mel's choice of words as Mel pushed, hurrying away from them, leaving a very hurt woman in her wake.
"Anya?" Bobby looked over his unexpected gift, a silver watch. "Mel's not going to stay mad at you forever you know."
"What?" Caught off guard.
"Mel. She's just upset, hurt. You know how bad she's had it, and I know you wouldn't harm us. Even after what I saw, I saw you fight Oksana. It was awesome. But I know you're just as afraid of that darkness."
Deep in regret, "Yes Bobby, I am." Anya agreed in how events had caused her the loss of a young friend. "You run along now. I've got work to do," she said not wanting him to see the tears come as she quickly steered him past her towards the door. Both Anya and Grandmother marveled at his innocence of faith and where it was leading him.
"He's very optimistic about you Anya. And Mel to," Innochka commented. Anya heard Grandmother give way to a relieving sigh.
"I hope he's right," Anya said thoughtfully before turning back to work wiping away a few more tears. "I hope he is right."
If seen from the front, the boy's features would clearly display the pent-up expression barely concealed beneath the helmet. Teeth gritted Bobby Sinclair held the defiant stance a little longer as he waited for what he knew would be the expected call.
"OUT!" yelled the umpire thrusting his thumb skyward like so many times before him in indication.
No sooner had the single word flew from the umpire's mouth so too did fragments of earth rise, blown into the air from a hard thumping swing of his striking home plate in anger. Scowling none the same only a few of the spectators saw the dust and dirt rise. Not high enough to show the true measure of his displeasure nobody saw his sullen face, his back facing them as he took to leave the plate. But one parent, his father, seated next to the mother of a teenage daughter in the bleachers understood the reaction. He had seen it grow. A change in the boy's attitude he called 'son'.
Scowling, Bobby made his way back to the dugout flinging his bat away only to pause when he heard the harsh call from his coach.
"Pick it up." Coach Franco demanded in a stern voice walking towards the disgruntled boy effectively stopping him from reaching the dugout. "Now!" Seeing the boy's frustration as he went to retrieve his bat, coach Franco stated firmly, "Don't sweat it Bobby," the coach said in quiet reproach blocking another boy from hearing their conversation as he went into the batting circle. "Just stay focused, you'll have another chance later."
"Sorry coach," Bobby said in earnest admission. "I just got angry, I should have swung." The pitched ball had just passed within the boundaries of the strike zone fooling him into thinking it would be called a ball.
"I know son," placing a firm but understanding hand on the small of his back. "That's not like you. Just remember, it's only a game. Nothing more."
Nothing more, Bobby wondered, then why do so many parents seem to make it more so?' Only he kept the thought to himself.
"Is something bothering you," Coach Franco asked once the two started back. Pausing briefly.
"No coach. Nothing," having given a quick look to where his dad watched him fling his bat. There was something bothering him. No not something but more like someone. Two someone's and how they started to overtake his enjoyment of baseball. Hanging up his bat and helmet Bobby headed to the teams makeshift table grabbing a Gatorade from where some parent had donated them.
"She's looking this way again." A few team mates exclaimed as he grabbed a red plastic flavor trying to ignore the banter.
Bobby already knew the who they were referring to. "She's been eyeing you a lot, she your crush now or something?" Another asked curious, even as it rankled Bobby. The question caused a stirring of envy as with assorted snorts from the other boys. Cheeks grew red just like his drink, Bobby took the ribbing.
"Nah. I've known her since she first moved here. She's my sister's BFF and always doing that." He looked back to see her, only to have a spectator block his chance of seeing Mel.
"She looks hot." "Bet she looks hotter than that pic of her in a bikini with her top off." "She's stacked." "Looks like Bobby has a crush." "She a cougar craving something?" Cringing at the start of taunts a few older boys cast their own wistful look towards Mel with their start of seeing girls in a different light, images stirred many pants unwillingly. Several had taken to look up girls on the internet with their smartphones away from their parents prying eyes seeing woman that was blocked by software meant to discourage them. One or two had even kissed one. One boy remained quiet watching Bobby for unexplained reasons. Angel seemed more embarrassed in hearing the taunts not wanting to even join the fray.
"She's not my crush." Bobby answered slowly. The words sounded hollow in his denial.
"Well, if she's not then maybe after the game I ought to go meet her." One boy ventured. A few years older than the other players he maintained a cocky attitude with being better than most of his other team mates. "Not that I'd care if you were." His back faced the bleachers not seeing the girl in question look as if she heard something unpleasant. A transfer student from another school, the boy Conner had been held back due to his parents moving in the middle of the school year. "Bet she'd be more interested in dating an older boy."
"Bet she wouldn't. Especially you." Replied Angel suddenly defiant, sticking up to the older boy coming to Bobby's defense.
"How would you know Angel?"
Looking towards Bobby for assurance with his brief bravado he wavered before the bigger boy. As if to say more than the muttered, "I just do," he kept his own turned away from her. A shiver coursed through him even in the morning heat and his perspiration.
"He's right." Glared Bobby at the boy his anger flared betraying him over Connors arrogance. "You couldn't deal with her." Taking a seat next to Angel, "Besides, we're…, just friends." A little slow in response to Conner's jab deciding to add, "Her mom works at the same school as my dad."
Having seen Lisa walking the school corridors needing to visit the athletic department from the high school, she usually wore her athletic uniform as she headed towards the school's offices. Conner was set to answer with what would surely have been a derogatory comment about the woman when coach Franco intruded on the dugout smack barking out. "What are you boys waiting on? An invitation? Didn't you hear that last call? Get your gloves. Take to the field, now!" Most of the players had paid little attention to the game more interested in the brewing banter failing to hear the last strike called.
Together Angel an Bobby sprinted over the green outfield before the onset of summer heat started turning it light brown. Both swerved away, avoiding Conner who played shortstop. "You still going?" Bobby asked nonchalantly safe from where anyone could hear their talk.
"You sure it's safe? I mean. I don’t know."
"What did Anya say when you changed? Temporary and it was. It wasn't that bad. Was it?"
"Not really. But…, she's a sorceress." Angel crossed himself in deference. "And so is Melody. She said I would only be able to talk to you about who she is. And she 'knows' we were girls." Angel reminded Bobby horrifically. "What if she tells my parents or worse my sister?" Pronouncing his overall saddest guiltiest fear.
Giving a slight pfft Angel gaped at the boys' indifference. "We're always teasing each other and it's not like her to tell others."
"But." Angel's resolve ebbed, peeled slowly away.
"She already knew about me even before I suggested we go there. And I'll get her back." Bobby replied confidently. He knew what was bothering his teammate and friend as well. It was the same thing that first scared him when he became aware of his own change. "You liked going right?"
"Well yeah," It was the use of magic, and his change that conflicted with his Catholic upbringing. "I mean it was fun there, sure. Especially the obstacle ones. But you could have told me we'd be girls."
"And would you have still came? You said how your sister was acting weird and she wasn't talking with you like before. I told you I knew of a possible way. Would you have believed me?" Slowly Angel shook his head no, pushing more of his misgivings away. "It didn't hurt you to be a girl for a day or two." Bobby questioned. "I've been going for years and it's a fun park. Besides you said how Ricco was pressuring your sister," reminding him of his sister's pining.
"But I was a girl for almost a week!" Angel stressed still horrified at having become just like his sister. That's, that's witchcraft. And it's like, queer." Angel said thinking over what he'd been taught on the subject. In his eyes, it was witchcraft with his being turned into girl. Yet, his reasoning was faltering. His family worshiped a Saint who was also supposed to have once been a sorceress, and they always partake in Day of the Dead to honor their relatives, but to be changed into a girl? That seemed different. "I asked you if your sister would talk to Belle, not be one." Even with his saying so he did find it helpful - informative.
"But this way was better right?" Bobby asked. "You learned things you didn't know right?"
"I guess, but. But everyone thought I was a girl for those days." His acceptance of being his sisters twin showed how powerful the magic was over him. It had felt strange, so natural – and scary.
"What if they decide I should stay a girl?" His dreading horror surfacing. "Leave me as Angelica?"
"Anya said it was temporary. I was with you bro. I've known Anya and Grandmother Innochka a long time." Bobby answered waylaying more of his friend's fears. "I mean I changed with you and I'm back right?" Keeping hidden there was a way. But it was expensive. Very expensive.
Wavering in his argument Angel admitted it had helped. His sister seemed so private and moody lately and their growing apart hurt. Being her fraternal twin, they used to be closer, then when she started growing into a woman from what both Papá, and Mamá explained, she pushed him away not talking like they used to. Claimed it was girls stuff and he wouldn't understand. True. Now he did understand - somewhat. Parts were still fuzzy, blurry with his days as a teen girl. The two had talked endlessly once more with shared secrets with his being Angelica. Each expressed how awkward their bodies were now and yet how it felt good.
Hearing Belle confide on a boy named Ricco seemed worth it. He learned how different Papá's rules were for Belle than his. To not be alone with a boy and other strict guidelines caused several arguments. And with him being a girl those few days they applied to Angelica as well. Belle mentioned meeting Ricco away from teachers to make-out. Letting Ricco go further than she had wanted which worried Angelica and now him. They knew so little about Ricco except he was some boy in one of her class's she really liked. She had yet to invite him home to meet their Papá and Mamá. The rule still applied to Belle once he had changed back. What if his parents learned of their kissing? Then his touching her. What would Papá think? Do? Seeing it from Angelicas perspective, Angel found his feelings differed - confusing as she too had found Ricco cute, charming. But now, he had seen it from Angelica's side and their Papá's way of treating the two of them differently. It seemed he didn't trust Belle.
When school started Monday he was still Angelica. Lingering by the lockers before classes she was talking to her 'girl friends' when a few mentioned Ricco. And it wasn't nice. They told of how Ricco had pressured them for favors. He wanted more than the little petting they were willing to go. But letting him also increased their social status amongst the other girls who started dating. They all dumped him.
Confused at what they were implying about spitting, they laughed as they told her. But their laughs sounded uneasy. Giving oral was way better if they dumped boys finding no interest in them after hooking up. But only if asked, never volunteered. She never expected to do such an act. One asked Angelica if she knew the signals many boys used in wanting an oral. A few didn't like it, but to be shamed in their social network would prove worse. Many girls joined in, even if it did seem degrading for they feared being ostracized more. Angelica admitted she hadn't even found a boy she liked – yet? Learning girls didn't see it as being some 'slut', was an eye opener, just a way to say no thanks and bye. Their idea of it being better than to chance getting pregnant or catching some disease made it guilt free. Even after changing back he felt naïveté with how girls were treated by some of their own friends.
Now Angel suspected Belle felt obligated to Ricco who had to be looking to score with the guys by getting into his sister's panties. Saying they couldn't be a couple if she wouldn't pleasure him or let him put his hand between her legs. He wanted to warn his sister but she was infatuated with him. To hear her talk, it was like she was under some charm spell. He shuddered at how powerful, strong the magic had made him think for as Angelica she had the same desires. It had felt so natural in being her those few days. When he changed back he'd almost walked in on his sister in her bedroom by accident. They hadn't shared a room since she started changing and he had momentarily forgotten. He was sure she wouldn't listen to him, claim he wouldn't understand what it was like for a girl to be in love.
"Yeah, I'll be there," Angel said, determined now to prove to his sister Ricco's intentions. But how would he explain his knowing? Maybe if she came to the park by seeing how he became Angelica. He needed her to understand that Ricco was a snake in wanting to charm the panties off her. His sister wasn't some tart girl, just a girl with a heavy crush. Involuntarily he gave a deeper shudder at what he was considering. Middle School wasn't like their attending elementary. Girls changed, grew earlier than boys. A few of Belle's own personal friends had even stopped being one. Mocking her over how she liked to dress in more contemporary clothes like a few other Hispanic girls he knew. She wanted to fit in, just as Angelica did. Even he had to admit how Angelica enjoyed the looks she received as the two girls dressed up. It had been strange – but fun overall.
"I can meet you after your swim class." Angel confirmed. "Should..., should I tell Belle about it?"
Relieved Bobby felt pleased. Just like his sister and Mel, Bobby had his own group of friends. Unlike them though only a few came to Bikini Beach and none knew of its secret and he had known Angel since grade school.
"I don't think so." Bobby said cautiously satisfied with Angel's agreeing to returning to the park. "We can invite her later on, but don't mention the change. Not yet anyway. You wanted to find out more about Ricco right?"
"Well yeah. I suppose. Do I have to be a girl?"
"It's cool, I understand." Bobby said with sincerity. "It's different, but we can talk with a few others I know. Their older but cool."
"You sure?" Angel asked.
"Dude we don't tell them who we are. It's like playing online. An unspoken rule. After my class we can have some fun around the park enjoy the fun rides and obstacles before the days out. You talk more with your sister about Ricco. Talk to Anya or Selena before going in on what to do." Bobby suggested unequivocally. Silently Bobby was relieved. When Angel mentioned Belle's strangeness he only suggested him going to Bikini Beach as a last resort. From the rumors circulating around middle school, only a few boys returned if they learned what happened to them and even if he and Angel were close friends he had risked letting Angel in on a very personal secret.
Separating on the outfield with one of the coach's yell, waving them to spread apart Bobby soon turned to the subject matter bothering him as well. 'Girls'.
More specifically on why he was different. He had been going to Bikini Beach ignorant of his change since he was six. Not aware of his changes until he was nearing ten he now could tell when his female side stirred just out of his reach with his nearing twelve. Almost like separate thoughts, hers seemed closer now, less foreign from when he learned what happened after showering in the Men's showers. He knew more about a girl's likes and dislikes than many boys his age would care to know and why he risked telling Angel.
Learning of the beginning changes a girl starts like her budding, her moods soon followed with brief changes exactly like his sister had. If any of his friends briefly went through what many girls had to endure it would chill their marrow. It wasn't that it hurt. It was slightly uncomfortable at first and padded bras helped with their growing boobs. Even Angel perhaps. But that didn't stop him from going back so often. It was like he wanted her to come out more so he could see what else changed about her as he stood back watching from afar.
And then there was Mel. Even with the difference of two and a half years she was an enigma to him. Unlike what happened to him or other boys, her situation fascinated him. Not that he didn't feel sorry for her. Having met her only two years before, he had found it strange when the older girl arrived in his second period math class at Red Beach Middle School. She was so quiet when she seated herself in front of him. And like most boys he snickered when he heard her last name and the cold look she gave back nearly froze him. He, as with a few others, teased her about it until he did the unthinkable. He had only done it once before to his own sister, Reba, who later extracted her retribution on him for it. It was a prank that didn't sit well with her and waking up with shaving cream smeared over his face and cold whip cream squirted in his shorts the worst part. Reba videoed it all on her phone, threatening to post it on their social webpage if he ever did it on her again. With a quick promise and apology, he hoped she delete the video.
Then came the day he committed the same offense again – on Mel. Her yelp and the painful yet insidious look on her face proved to be his undoing as unexplained happenings soon occurred. He had timed it so the teacher wouldn't see. But later he started breaking into fits of spontaneous laughter disrupting class's. He nearly failed an important test marking answers he knew were wrong as with doing a rap number on his class. The laughter and his song proved so disruptive the teacher threatened to tell his dad for his distracting outbursts.
Then came his real humiliation. The sudden urge to step out of class to go to the bathroom when he didn't need to. Worst was when he couldn't stop from going into the girls' bathroom. Luckily, for him, there was a wall separating the door from the rest of the stalls as he ventured inside. Claiming it was a mistake and cheeks redder than a pair of Bobbies panties, girls shrieking at him to get out. For two days he found himself going in three times more. And each time Mel had given him a wicked smirk.
Afterwards he learned just 'who' Mel was living with when Lisa introduced her to them at Bikini Beach. Her look of disgust said it all. Bobbie seemed to know that Mel knew. Then came his understanding of why girls hated it, pissing them off as Mel pulled on Bobbies bikini strap lightly. Her own breasts compressed a little from the pull of her string. Just enough to hurt her puffed out areolas and nipples in being slightly pressed back. Even now Bobbie emitted a squeamish squeal. Learning what Mel could do he deduced it had been her as a way of retribution.
Now older, nearly twelve to Mel's fourteen, Bobby wanted her to see him as more than the bothersome little brother he could prove to be. He found her intriguing, and fun to be with and, yet nobody really knew everything in her past. She kept it intensely private. Perhaps Lisa, her forever mother might, but that didn't stop his pestering interest - and his pranking.
Bored waiting for some action in the outfield the opposing team were hitting grounders letting boys coast onto first and second base. Glancing again towards the bleachers he stared to deliberate about the strange sensations she caused him as with those unexpectant bulges that came without warning. he imagined her gaze with those iris eyes tinged heavily with yellow that made him queasy inside. They could be so piercing soft when she wanted them to be. How they looked so inviting to him now. Pretty. Thinking of her seemed to intensify the number of his unwanted arousals with one pressing against his jockstrap. Inquisitively he questioned why the sudden interest in him today. Not that she hadn't on occasion. Only now it seemed to be more open. Shifting to contain it, his face flushed seeing Mel. Did she catch him shifting his pants? Would she read his thoughts and know what she was doing to him? Again, he envisioned those eyes as well as her shaping figure, wondering matter-of-factly if it mattered who she had once been?
He questioned why it bothered him with his knowing. She caused so many confusing feelings inside. But what if she knew, torn between if she perceived him like the other boys in wanting to know her.
Even with the Bobbie encouraging him to risk it, Bobby couldn't. Both knew how Mel felt about boys coming on to her. What would she think if he tried? A few boys had tried to friend him after seeing her posters and vids advertising Bikini Beach and yet he kept back. Her suggesting it wasn't wrong, but was it worth the risk if he did it? Shifting again to control the bulge between his legs Bobbies faraway giggles irked him as he struggled to overcome the discomfort.
To hear Bobbies opinion cause him just as much discomfort as Mel. Sudden comments about some boys look or his staring idle at a girl's dress, wondering how it fitted her bothered him. Bobbie's presence worried him. Hearing Lisa talk to his dad - promised drama and anguish. Didn't bode well for the either of them. Two maturing tweens going through diverse types of puberty. Their wondering why he liked spending so much time as her with his frequent visits. He wasn't like all the other males who had to take necessary breaks while he didn't suffer from transformation shock.
Then he overheard their talk about him and Mel's conflict. It seemed like sibling rivalry to them. Neither knew about what happened after his eleventh birthday party. She gave it to him in private, away from all their family's eyes.
"It's for you." Handing him the bag after his party had well ended. Putting his own gifts on his bed Mel had helped carry most of them to his room. It didn't look special. Just a regular bag with printed balloons saying Happy Birthday! stuffed over with tissues of red and white.
"But you already gave me a gift." Thinking it was a gag gift as she handed it to him.
"That what Mom wanted me to give you. This one's from me." She had that Cheshire cat look which Bobby knew all too well.
Closing the door Mel waited. "Go on open it." Mel insisted. "Only us two will know."
"Why now and not at the party?"
"You'll see." Laughing when his face went two shades purple as Mel proclaimed, "Happy Birthday Bobbie." He refused to pull them out, "It's not just yours and I know she's been wanting them."
Parts of stitched flowers and beads embroidered on the cups could be seen as with a matching set of panties. He shoved the paper back over to conceal them.
"Funny Mel. She's not real." Ignorant of where a part felt hurt hearing him say it.
"Isn't she? You spend a lot of weekends and summer time as her so why shouldn't she get a gift. I thought you would think it nice for her to be treated the same even if it is 'your' birthday you dope."
Mel left him to consider it with her leaving him holding the bag. Of course, in his immature way he ignored what she saw. He'd retaliate against what he took offense over and he waited for right day to reciprocate.
"Some gag asswipe." Having thrown the package of boys' underwear back showed how inconsiderate he was in her gesture. She looked genially hurt after presenting it to her on her birthday. With her nearly in tears he picked up the package leaving her alone. Bobbie agreed, looking back. He had been an asswipe, failing to see how Mel viewed others with their going from male to female and back. Hers had been a serious gift not meant to embarrass him in front of others even if it did so to him. But that was because he had misunderstood her gesture thinking she was teasing him.
He understood more that Christmas when a subtle Mel gave him another one marked for 'Bobbie'. He didn't say anything except. "Thanks. Umm can I wait?" She just nodded, leaving him alone. He didn't wait. He opened it, touched the layered material, admired how soft and pretty it was not understanding why he put it against his body only to hear Bobbie squeal in delight. Deep it went in his closet for later. He didn't want it wrinkled as it looked expensive. She wore it on New Year's Night with Mel looking pleased. It fit her perfectly just like the panties and bra had, concealed under the dress as both danced with their family ringing in the new year.
It came to him slowly in reasoning it out. Mel couldn't switch unlike him. She would always and forever be Melody, who send his hormones raging with hardons through he knew who she had once been. He had kept the gifts. Stashed away from his family as they were from his reality and not Bobbies.
Jostling with Angel yelling "Heads up Bobby." Bobby snapped out from his pondering. Instinctively he found the ball arching its way towards him. Reacting quickly, he yelled "Mine" running forward catching the fly ball closing the glove effectively grasping it within.
"Thanks." Bobby called in gratitude as the field emptied, switching places once again.
"You 'were' thinking of her weren't you." Angel asked awkwardly with Bobby's distraction from the game. "You really do have a crush on her."
"Quiet," Bobby hissed in a threatening yet mild voice before they reached the dugout. "I don't want her finding out."
"Why?" Angel asked confused. "You like her, don't you?"
"Because." Bobby's face flushed, admitting what he wouldn't say out loud. "If she finds out she'll tease me more." He was just as unsure of Mel's intents as Angel was about the Ricco boy.
"You sure? She's not into girls, is she? Not that it matters." Angel quickly added. "But it would hurt if she was." Angel thought in seeing how beautiful Melody was, and the small anguish placed on his friend's face.
"I don’t know." Bobby admitted. "It's something she doesn't talk about. Not even to my sister."
Raising a fisted glove, Bobby signaled the ump who yelled "Time". Stepping outside his dirted fortress Bobby gave an exasperated breath. His attention still distracted not fully in the game, he wanted a team win and not some lingering thoughts about girls. For him, it was the prestige of passing through the hallways giving out high fives and fist bumps having stomped down another rival and brag to friends in the school cafeteria eating what even the school faculty barely acknowledged as reconstituted food. This counted more than his wondering over both Mel and Bobbie.
Staring at the pitcher a fleeting sensation caused Bobby to shake his head. Shush he admonished the girl giving off a dim giggly burst from nowhere. Bobbie passed her idea over of how the pitcher with his tight fitting pants outlined his crotch and covered butt appeased her. Bobby himself forced away the image concentrating instead on how the boy prepared his stance and not her interest of what was obviously a cute derriere in her eyes. Concentrating on the pitcher's stance and windup before the release, worries of the opposite sex faded into the background. Here was his team, the Acers, his mates in needing him smack down a formidable foe with their arrogance. Refocused in his efforts he became attuned to the game once more.
With the score still down, and Bobby warming up in the batter's circle he tried to determine if the boy was growing tired having pitched two balls as with laying a third outside of the batter's box. It was when the last pitch hit the boy Randal an arrogant smudge appeared. The pitcher purposely walked the other batter and Bobby suspected he was the main target as Randal could smack the ball farther when connected. Directing his frustration in being seen as an easy mark Bobby pounded on home plate with the vigor's of youthful testosterone. Waiting for the released he grew flagrant in needing to exert the boyish adrenalin onto a synthetic ball. Not even Bobbie interfered once his thoughts centered on sending the ball careening to the great beyond with the exuberant outburst of buildup tension within. He didn't want to error or earn himself a free walk and it seemed Bobbie agreed moving past her first assessment of the boy, cute butt or not. He wanted the pleasurable ability to smack the crap out of some inanimate object for nothing more than frustrations sake and the arrogance of a pitcher's idea.
Behind him Bobby heard, "Bring him home son," with his dad behind the large chain linked fence chanting. It was followed by, "You can do it Bobby," Lisa's high octave voice just as evident in her passion. Hearing her, he once again pined for the affection towards him. Lisa's enthusiasm narrowly countered the silent look of the teenaged girl. If any, Mel seemed more uninterested if not slightly uncomfortable by their constant chants. No shouts of encouragement came from her he knew. It wasn't like her to be seen rooting for a boy, even if she knew him. That was except for one. Brad. And then only when they went to his football games with his sister Reba who did most of the shouting. Now with her silent stare it left only his father and Lisa to fill in the gap with their own ruckus. Their cat calls caused him a small measure of embarrassment even with being pleased to hear it. Once he wished a very missed woman could have been seated there rooting for him, but just as wistful as it was he was just as happy to have Lisa present as with Mel, even if she was silent towards him.
For all he could remember, Lisa had been a friend of his family. He'd even wished where Lisa would be his now mother. Not that he hadn't loved his own mom. Unlike Mel's ability, the vision of his mom was going clouded, dimmed - slowly displaced by the jubilant woman rooting him on like a surrogate mother of sorts. Innocently Lisa filled a gaping hole created after his mother left. As wide as the Grand Canyon it still remained yet slowly filled with the passing years.
Keeping a close eye on the pitcher's arm, Bobby saw the boy start his windup followed by the throw of a strong arm sending the ball spiraling forward uncannily fast for one his age. Unheard by him, Mel's eyes never seemed to waiver from her phone when suddenly one word passed seemingly bored lips just before the balls release.
A satisfactory smile grew on Mel's face with the umpire's pronouncement - "Steeerike one."
Momentarily distracted by the utterance, Lisa favored Mel a near quizzical gaze missing out on what Bobby had done.
With a renewed stare Mel sensed a change in Bobby's attitude, a growing frustration in having misjudged the pitch. Returning once more to her phone she tapped out a rapid stream of texts as Lisa waited, listening. Without glancing away from her phone or hesitation, a muttered "Strike" could be heard as Lisa swiveled her attention once more to her adopted daughter. She carried that typical bored attitude many teens displayed with being dragged out of her home. Mel seemed unhappy at having been pressured to attend the boys game. Lisa knew just where she would rather be. Hanging with her BFF Reba as with her own estranged brother Brad.
Circumspectly Lisa watched as Mel reached for the once rarely used purse after two balls were pitched. Her carrying it due to the many assorted items she needed handy unlike boys who could cram items in their pockets. Returning to her phone after rummaging past pushed aside tissues, pads, brush, gum, and plastic wrapped tubes imprinted with R, S, and S+ imprinted on them, didn't embarrass her as it once had before taking out the small plastic tube underneath it all. Pulling off the cap Lisa watched as Mel dabbed then smeared coated lips in her favorite lip-gloss. Smacking her lips Lisa once recalled a bitter Mel hating to put on the lip-gloss. To be seen licking over the lush lips growing now, that was dropped unceremoniously back inside her purse.
It had taken her months to accept she would always be a girl before taking to use such an apparent feminine item. The necessity reinforcing who she had become. Satisfied Mel retook to tapping out a series of messages as Mel lightly, if almost seductively, swept her tongue savoring the taste of cherry over refreshed glossed lips. Once she voiced it as gross and unwanted; now she favored the taste over the dull waxed tubed ones Lisa used.
Lisa thought how far her tomboy had grown, changed since being taken in before returning once more to Bobby. Seeing him recompose himself he looked warily their way as if he wanted assurance from both her and Keith; even Mel. Both adults signaled to shake it off with his being lulled into a full count. From the way she shook her head even Mel signaled him to dust it off before ignoring him once again.
Lisa stayed focused on her daughter, the growing fascination of what was taking place. Her breath slowed, then held, transfixed when Mel's facial features started to change. The arching of Mel's eyebrows towards Bobby and the happenstance of being pressured into a clutch situation. They seemed to grow deeper, mixed looks of what she was trying to discover in what others couldn't see around them. Separated by the distance before them her brows slowly furrowed, tapered inwards with a slight puckering of her lips. A small drop of perspiration formed as Mel's irises seemed to dilate wide just as her expression went to one of surprise. A smile broadened itself, followed with a series of rapid texts as Bobby took to banging his bat before stepping into the batter's box once more. Mel smacked her lips in anticipation. Waiting.
Transfixed Lisa waited herself breathless in what Mel would say as her tapered smile waned, faded, not wanting to be seen showing such affection as she breathed out "Double". Inside she had grown excited at what she foresaw. So sure with its outcome, she had already texted out the whole play to both Reba and Brad before it even happened.
For Lisa, she'd have to wait, having caught her own breath, in seeing the outcome as she turned back towards Bobby in the batter's box. She barely had time to inhale when the sound of a metallic thunk echoed sending a ball streaking towards left center. From its trajectory Lisa was sure it couldn't be a double let alone a single.
With just a high enough arc, the ball passed over the shortstops outstretched glove before bouncing then roll its way over towards left field and the outer fence line.
Without hesitation, once he connected, Bobby leaped from his confinement racing towards first as outfielders scrambled to scoop up the erred baseball. Complacency had left many of the outfielders bored with his nearly striking out. Stretching forth, one boy stretched for the ball just as he collided with another youth who had also wanted to scoop it up at nearly the same instance. Recovering the youth's mind determined the easiest pick and with swift decisiveness, hurled the baseball towards Bobby as he sprinted towards first. With one foot on base, the first baseman reached for the baseball speeding towards him. Refusing to concede, Bobby mustered his own speed in what several players predicted as an easy out only to have the outstretched glove bounce out of baseball mitt heading for the sidelines.
From the bleachers, a high-spirited Keith waved hands in a forward motion. "Go, go, go!" cheering on his son, stomping his foot as an astonished Lisa watched, who had once again became caught up in the game. Mel's prediction temporarily forgotten. In rapid secession, Bobby pushed his luck ignoring his coaches signal of staying on first as the baseman raced to recover the erred ball. Heading towards second as with a recovered ball in hand the first baseman sent it flying towards second.
With the ball screeching towards second base Bobby leaned back allowing a foot to drift forward crossing his other leg underneath. Falling sideways in a move he had long practiced the cleat turned sideways. Coming in base contact, so too did the baseman's gloved hand in a sweeping motion having snagged the ball. Connecting with Bobby's outer thigh, both boys were sure the other connected first. Waiting with baited breath each heard what was decreed. Back on the bench Lisa and Keith held their own breath as well. Not once did Mel look, belying her attitude of not caring as inside she was screaming with deep satisfaction that Bobby had risked the double play. With a blasé fair attitude, she streamed out the play across her phone to a waiting sister and brother. If one were to see inward, many would be surprised to see her jumping in jubilation over the play and its outcome. When the word "Safe" was yelled as with the signaling of the umps arm over the now ended play both adults restarted their own jubilant ruckus once more.
Grinning Bobby turned towards the bleachers taking in both adults yelling, barely hearing the "Way to go son," his father's pride evident from his yelling over other parents and spectators. A few calls challenged the umpire, still his own pride was evident as he fist pumped the air. From their yells a few parents from the opposing team were unwilling to concede defeat even as both boys exchanged minor pleasantries.
"Yeah, it was close" Bobby answered brushing off more of the dirt, "Nice tag also."
"Thanks. Should have been out on first, but butterball didn't close the mitt."
"Yeah, got lucky," Bobby admitted looking back in the bleachers. Unexpectedly Bobby saw Mel give a brief nod towards him with an approving smile. The smile warmed him inside briefly. The feeling didn't last with Lisa's own open display for him. Mel's went from approval into a transitory scowl when each took in the enthusiastic display.
Metaphysically none could see the vision within her. A single image of Mel's standing atop an open landscape. The conflicted emotion from Lisa's affection manifested itself within her, breaking and rending the land with a lone crack, edging its way over the open plain. With the creation of its brief opening, something murky oozed upwards, dark in substance taking the shape of blackened goo. Spread thinly along the cracked opening the real Mel once more returned to her phone the zeal in seeing her BFF's brother make a remarkable play summarily dismissed, lost like two ships passing one another in the night, seen but forgotten.
"It seems I managed to predict seven so far Mom." Mel said unenthusiastically, unawares of the seeping darkness released inside.
"It would be nice if you'd watch instead of texting your brother."
"I am Mom," Mel replied in an almost condescending voice. "It's just that Reba and Brad want to be kept in the know even if they are at Pop's Soda Fountain with his mom." Both heard the reluctant tone of Mel admitting Elaine's existence yet denying her name. A bitterness still evident after so many years.
"And I should have insisted they come with us," Keith replied ignorant of what he was suggesting from where he was seated.
"Pfft. As if I want to see that bitch," Mel mumbled low under her breath refraining from a more vulgar term she accidently used in front of her mother and the swift condemnation. It wouldn't be the last time Mel uttered the 'C' word with Lisa's swift condemnation, her reminder that Mel and she was considered a part of that distinctive club as well. She'd just be more careful of where. "Brad's mom would have insisted on coming," Mel said holding back an acidic response. "She wants to spend more time with him." Producing another speck of black.
"She is his mother, sweetheart," Lisa said defending Elaine in having more time with her son. Instead of fighting her, Lisa instead reached out, pulling the chafed girl close into a tight loving embrace. "And it has been some time since she was able to spend her weekends with him since the death of her husband. His father – and yours." Promptly reminding the girl of the major fact. "She's not the only one overly concerned like another I know." Indicating Reba whose had taken her own infatuation of Brad a little further. Tactfully she redirected the conversation away from the women Lisa knew Mel held an intense dislike towards. Mel didn't care how the woman she once called mother wasn't the same thanks to magic. To Mel, Elaine would always hold responsibility for allowing Nathan into their lives and the tragic aftermath, not to just her, but her brother Brad as well. Lisa wished her daughter would overcome her mistrust over one other woman whom she blamed for her latest anguish - Anya.
Giving a light chuckle, "I really shouldn't be worried." Keith stated. "Both kids insist it's not a date and they are being watched over by Elaine." He gave a quick yelp and cough after receiving a swift and not so subtle kick against his leg as with Lisa's glare.
"I still don't like how its Anya I have to learn magic from. Why not Grandmother." Mel groused not missing the exchange yet ignored it. "Even Selena for that matter." Rarely did things escaped her notice. "First she has me spinning and balancing dishes before making me levitate stupid candles demanding I keep them going at the same time. Now it's concentrating on 'sight'," Mel said glad to drop the matter concerning her once mother. But to talk of Anya still gnawed at her.
She used to admire the once friend mage with the kindness she showed towards others. That all started to change with Anya's humiliation change of her swimwear to a very skimpy and provocative bikini leaving little to any wondering boy's eye. Thankfully none were allowed inside Bikini Beach as boys, but that didn't matter to her. Later, and much worse was where she found herself back. A place she would have regarded impossible even with magic.
If not for Grandmother Innochka, whom she held in great regard as with her now mother, she would have abandoned Bikini Beach altogether. It was she who had confronted both Anya and Oksana. To confront them, in Mel's eyes, was an act of courage on her part. Mel didn't care to hear the rest. Now Grandmother acted as a mediator for the two.
"She explicitly said not to tell Bobby, but I can tell he's thinking about me and why I'm staring at him." Keeping silent about the more intimate thoughts that coursed through his and the other boys minds as well.
"He's wondering if I'm up to something." Quietly she pushed away her own ideas as well.
"And didn't Anya also say not to just concentrate on Bobby," Lisa said in reminder.
"I know what 'she' said mother." Irritated. "And I'm not. Just that he's the easiest." Her insight showed more moderate success with Bobby whereas the other boys were less accurate in her predictions. It was with her reading of several other boys such as Bailey, Angel, and two others she had profusely blushed at intimate thoughts, their ideas open to her. She wasn't so naïve to miss knowing how boys might think of her as being pretty, wanting to kiss or hold hand. Those were more innocent thoughts compared to the shortstop Conner's. And while she understood boys at Bobbies age were having their waking woodies and wet dreams in the morning, Conner's ideas didn't sit well on where he'd like his hands to roam - or her lips. Lucky for you Conner, a seethed Mel thought, we aren't going to be hooking up else you'd really find out what it means worming your way inside a pair of panties.
"Mel, please," Lisa implored risking the delicate subject publicly if only briefly. "If you would just listen to Anya." Lisa admired Mel's stubbornness for it helped her daughter through years of trouble but that bullheadedness also reminded her more of her older brother Ty and their once bickering, quarrels at home. "Grandmother is a busy woman running the park and has a great deal of confidence in Anya," Lisa said gently to the girl.
When Mel didn't rebuff her with one her snarky remarks Lisa pressed on. "And Anya 'is' making time with her own busy schedule to teach you. Coordinating her wedding plans with Vicki and their upcoming bachelorette party. She's doing all this while still having to work at Bikini Beach." Reminding the girl of the upcoming nuptials.
"She's trying to determine the extent of what you can do baby girl. She has as a lot of experience and if you'd just allow her –" Lisa stopped abruptly when Mel's face brusquely clouded over. Months had not eased the tension between the two and a once budding friendship remained just as deeply divided between them. All hopes of mending their rift appeared gone. If not for Mel's need to speak to Anya concerning magic, which was typically for the briefest of exchanges and usually in a terse manner, there would be no communication between them. No longer did Mel mingle around the park like she used to.
"Well if you manage to 'see' how the game ends," Keith requested tactfully intruding on the exchange, "hold back." He gave Lisa's hand a light tender squeeze in supportive understanding concerning the matter. "I'd like to be surprised along with the other parents."
"Like I'm really interested." Mel indicated ready to drop the matter further. She wasn't too happy in her accomplishment except for when Bobby doubled and its sudden warm and fuzzy proved so fleeing she now barely considered it now. It was like watching Brad play so many years ago – but different somehow. "This is my first attempt and I'm not sure I want to know more." Her voice a near disdainful whisper in having had to listen to Anya's earlier meticulous instructions with both mother and Grandmother nearby. Glowering Mel returned her attention back to the game once more.
Anya inspected the table arrangement with a critical eye, her fingers began to twirl causing the laid out buffet to shift, change to what she hoped was a more reasonable placement of entrées on the antique oval. After consulting with Melinda, Jenny Nelsons significant other, the idea of having the woman cater the little gettogether proved unsuccessful when Melinda reminded the woman how busy her catering business was growing. A waiting list of regulars left little room to prepare the desired entrée's as a growing list of new customers waited for promised meals as well.
"What!" Anya demanded impatiently to those watching as she fretted over the arrangement. Placements of cut meat sandwiches, canned flavored drinks along with various offerings of Melinda's chocolates purchased as with a few home baked cookies by Natty, Jenny's niece, filled the table. Pacing her living room as the appointed time drew closer, she relooked over her apartment furnishings, how spaced out it was. Did it give the right atmosphere of warmth? Inviting and yet not over crowded, wondering if she should use a bit of magic to widen the room to accommodate them all?
"Relax, Anya." Holly said, pulling herself up from one of the relaxing plush armchairs before taking hold of her friend's hands.
"But what if."
"And if she doesn't?" Holly elicited her own frustrated sigh. "What then?" She asked.
"Why won't she hear us … me out?" Anya's asked in exasperation, "She's … she's …" biting back a worn out torrent rant trying to relax once more.
"Uncooperative? Pig-headed? Perhaps she's behaving more like a stubborn regular teenager?" Vicki offered seated in the same replica armchair arranged next to a glass opened coffee table as she lounged nearby. "You're not the only one she won't open up to now. No sooner do we mention it when *poof*," Vicki emphasized outwardly spreading her fingers and arms like a stage magician, "Mel just up and disappears," she remarked in her usual chirpy voice. "We're just as concerned as you are. Whatever traumatization happened from Vic's brief return must have triggered or compounded anything she's been through. I mean seriously, if she's willing to use magic on us, her own friends to avoid talking about it." Vicki remarked. "Her behavior is like some arrogant teen determined not to discuss it even with us wanting to help."
"And we very well know she's not one who shares her feelings easily Vicki." Holly stated factually. "How long did it take us to even persuade her to consider one of Anya's self-help groups. That alone was a colossal undertaking by us and in her opening up."
"Let's not forget the camping trip." Vicki added. "And the little bits she admitted with Lisa needing to talk to you after hearing what happened to her before. She was just starting to open up more as well."
Exhaling, Anya released a small breath in her disappointment, "I know, still it has been months." Anya replied, when she stopped, turning to wait by the door. Her sense told of others approaching. Ones she expected now coming towards her apartment, allaying her apprehension.
"And how much more does she keep hidden?" Holly asked.
"You're right." Anya forced herself to calmly wait to her friend's amusement. They knew how anxious she was. The numerous tries of having Mel listen only to have them fail. Both Holly and Vicki watched as Anya forced her hand to wait on the knob with it resting ready to fling open the door, unwilling to wait for the chimes announcement of her guest's arrival. It seemed to be killing her hoping against hope even with her knowing who was coming. That is apart from one. Anya knew it was far better, politer to let her expected visitors announce themselves, it seemed almost rude and impolite even if these people were growing used to dealing with such happenings.
"How was the game?" Anya asked politely taking to greet each of them warmly, guiding them into her apartment looking, yet not seeing the one person she wanted most to be amongst the group.
"We lost," Bobby said, his lackluster tone evident with being the first to enter.
"Not by lack of trying," his father amended, following next with his taking Bobby's baseball cap off then handing it to him. Parts of his sons fair-haired crew-cut showed the sweat from the mornings game. "If not for that forced run in the final inning you boys would have beaten them."
"Isn't she coming?" Anya asked in not seeing Mel. The only mage she knew who failed being detected openly unlike other mages. They all needed to practice shielding their presence from others. Deep down Anya knew she couldn't expect the unexpected but remained hopeful. "She was supposed to tell me how well she did." It was then Anya glimpsed a worried thought from the woman.
"I swear." Lisa answered, herself aggravated at her daughters no show. Anya envied the woman. Her willingness in wanting to go through many of the troublesome pitfalls countless parents endured. Yet hers was harder in comparison thanks to an adopted daughter's aptitude in magic. All noticed the change taking place over her within the apartment. The once calm, cheerful woman grew move vocal in vexing her own frustration. Once she carried a more carefree demeanor to now be sorely tested from the growing trials of a teenager. An avid fantasy lover, Lisa quizzically compared herself to a lone starship captain, tasked to shepherd a child with far greater powers than herself as they journeyed through the vastness of uncharted space together.
"What happened now?" Anya inquired politely as she indicated the waiting refreshments.
"Once we finished with the game I told my darling yet temperamental daughter we were going to come directly here so she could tell you of the results. Only SHE insisted venomously it wasn't part of our agreed meeting place in my having you teach her how to control her magic. I tried reasoning, demanded even, and still that girl wouldn't budge."
"She didn't travel home in front of everyone?" Anya asked worried.
"Thankfully no. She's still keeping it in check from letting others find out." Whispering to where only the girls could hear, "She had hinted towards Keith to take her home first, or 'she' would make him."
"She didn't?" Holly asked with the revelation. "She's never acted towards him like this before."
Shaking her head in both astonishment and mingled disappointment. "So, how did she do then?"
Looking towards Keith for confirmation as he fixed a plate, "Twelve or was it thirteen she had right? There was one I didn't quite understand." Lisa answered.
"I'm going to say twelve." Keith replied. "Her saying she was uncomfortable in her trying to predict what would happen when she read his future confused her." The he in question, being Bobby had taken to heap several several types of sandwiches; tuna, chicken salad, crackered cheese spread as with one placed in his mouth well ahead of the adults. He piled over what space was open to an almost overflowing plate.
"She wouldn't say what it was but had started to blush a very deep crimson when one of the boys were looking towards her." Again Keith nodded towards Bobby as the boy looked to where he could find a place to eat. "It was like she couldn't or wouldn't tell us what she was going to say."
Seeing his son's overfilled plate ready to topple from its weight. "Bobby!" Keith admonished. Complaints of how there never seeming to be enough food at home briefly forgotten by the aroma of the assorted food took hold of Bobby's rumbling stomach.
"It's okay Keith, there's more than enough." A middle aged woman said having watched the exchange of a growing boy looking as if he had not eaten enough since breakfast.
"Why don't we talk over here," she indicated towards the adjacent kitchen, just far enough to where they had privacy. "I understand you have questions concerning Mel's actions today."
"How did you know?" Before grabbing a canned blackberry soda, a current liking of his balancing act having hastily swallowed the once placed morsel almost like magic. Anya noticed how tall the boy was becoming with his hug. Compared to Mel, the once shorter boy stood taller, going gangly, but a noticeable shift from where Mel had once towered over him. The path of a growth spurt manifesting as he surpassed the girl and meant to catch than pass up his sister, Reba, in height.
"You’re smart enough, let’s talk as you figure it out. Hmm," the middle aged woman said teasingly as she led him and Keith away from the other women. With a sly wink directed towards Lisa she sauntered away.
Stunned at first, Lisa tried to let it pass. The woman looked familiar and yet. "I'm growing more worried about her." Lisa confided to the other women, once she had fixed her own plate, placing it on her lap after seating herself comfortably next to the others on the couch. Keeping a wary eye towards the other woman it seemed Keith as with Bobby, were in entranced in their conversation with the woman who carried a near close resemblance of Anya.
The other woman nodded briefly when Bobby asked, "But I don't understand," after placing a triangular sandwich in his mouth. "Why would it matter if I knew."
"As I was explaining," effectively taking Bobby away from Lisa's own conversation even with the short distance between them.
"I thought Grandmother was going to be here?" Lisa asked sidetracked in wondering who this other woman was and a missing Grandmother.
"Don't worry, she will be" Anya said mysteriously as with Holly and Vicki's growing grins. She didn't recall hearing about any other relatives other than the one back in the old country. The middle-aged woman seemed to move her fingers in a delicate fashion before Keith and Bobby who watched the display. Before a part of her grew upset that this enchanting woman captivated their attention so easily Holly pulled Lisa back abruptly.
"Something more happened. So, give."
Coughing to not only regain her composure but her thoughts as well. "It seemed to start this morning once we went to drop off Reba to meet Brad and his mother. One minute she seemed satisfied in hearing how Elaine obtained a better job, until Mel saw her when we pulled up to the house. Elaine didn't thanks to the cars tinted window as Reba exited. She grew agitated when she determined the extent of how Elaine's weekends were now freed."
"Well she is his mother, and we went over how difficulty it would be in keeping them from ever meeting."
"I know," Lisa admitted. "It's just, since your fight with Oksana, and whatever happened to her, she's been more …, on edge – testy, if somewhat withdrawn. It's almost like all the work I went through to get her to open up, confide in me, was nearly undone, gone. I knew raising her would be challenging, but I, I never expected this." Lisa said as small tears glistened around her eyes and breaking of her voice. With a slow drink to quench her thirst, she wiped away the start of unwanted tears when unexpectedly.
"That fucking bitch hurt my girl far worse than any of us can see." She declared shocking the three with her tirade suddenly caught momentarily off guard as with nearly knocking her plate off her lap.
Catching her plate. "Anya, the more I hear, learn about this, this dark side, the more I understand how it couldn't be you." Then deciding it best to put the plate on the table before her. "Her tricking you, inciting you went beyond our normal sense of reasoning."
"I, I appreciate that." Anya said. She to wiped away clear visible, emotional tears. "I just wish Mel would understand."
Reaching out, she clasped Anya's fee hand between hers. "You've done more in wanting to keep helping her, and me, in understanding how dangerous this magic can be as with her own growing capabilities. And even though she's being so pig-headed, I wouldn't want you to stop. I care dearly in not wanting to give up on her." Reassuring those around her. "I was prepared to deal with her inability to forget of her once being a boy, unlike those who change temporarily or permanently. Help her through a girls' teenage mood swings so late afterwards. But this." Giving Anya a reassuring clasp. "Her growing, becoming a sorceress … well. Well quite frankly I wasn't expecting this." Pausing to take a deep breath to calm herself once more. "And neither was she. It's been very taxing - for the both of us."
Reaching out together, Holly an Vicki gave both women a supportive hug, along with their understanding nods Anya composed herself amongst them as with Lisa finding it hard to control the tears.
"Her school work isn't suffering," Anya asked, focusing more on Lisa's growing concern.
"At first she had a few grades slip, but she's managed to keep up in most subjects even with her acting strange, peculiar. I think she's using the incident as an excuse. Her excuse to go home was her need to work on an English assignment, as with her professing of wanting to spend more time on her Engineering studies. She's been tinkering on several small battery engines as with tearing down another motor bike we found. I think it's part of her coping mechanism in dealing with so many issues now. I think she's still trying to work through a few personal issues."
"In what way?" Vicki asked, fretting over her younger friend's mental health having had to deal with her own earlier rebellious ways of being tricked, forced to live life as a girl inadvertently and her later decision of wanting to stay as one.
Ensuring Bobby was still preoccupied from hearing, "It happened several weekends ago," Lisa divulged, "Bobbie," accentuating the female pronoun, "had finished attending one of her swimming lessons over at the park. He doesn't know how much I can see of the little girl I cared over. The growing awareness of the other due to the spell Grandmother had put in place concerning younger kids."
"But it is weakening now." Anya said.
"I know, but I don't think he knows the full extent of what Bobbies going through. Like how many girls her age wants more privacy when showering. Not wanting to be seen naked due to her body's proportions changing, developing more. They see it as awkward and gross." All the women agreed even with two having never fully gone through it. "She wanted to use my showers since Keith would be stopping by later to pick up her and Reba at home. I didn't think nothing of it and agreed.
"Well, once she finished her shower, I was helping her dry those long locks of hers, sitting cross-legged in front of me on the floor draped in just a shower wrap," Lisa said as the others listened, imagining the striking contrast of Bobby's hair when compared to who left once he used the showers at Bikini Beach. Hers of long blonde tresses flowing midway down her back carelessly, unless tied into a loose ponytail unlike the crew cut he favored.
"Mel went to shower - or so we thought as I started brushing out the tangles, the three of us chatting. Bobbie had started asking questions about boys. I mean she is aware of being a boy and knows why Reba and Brad have started spending more time away from the park. And just like him," indicating Bobby over in the kitchen, "she's just as curious about their being different. Worried about who she'll like because she knows she's not truly a girl. Well I assured Bobbie it would be natural if she wanted to spend time with boys or girls her age, but it would definitely be different given her situation. She's embarrassed like any growing girl since she noticed how much further developed her areolas are compared to mine and Reba's. She thought she was a freak because they are so puffed out and their darkening. Comforting her, we both told her there was nothing wrong with them and she was perfectly fine. She was just going to have more pointy breasts. And as for her dating we would handle it like how we're handling Reba's. Keith and I know it won't be long and we've been preparing her with us having "the talk" having noticed more of the white discharges in her undies."
"Oh my god, you mean she's going to be a pointed sister," Vicky quipped. "That is so cute."
"Shush," Lisa demand pointing to Bobby who turned towards them while still in conversation, afraid he might hear.
Even Anya gave a rare rebuke towards her friend. "Vicki we don't even know how his constant comings and goings into the park might be affecting him," She stated. "Most kids take long breaks in between, but he's been constantly going back and forth over the years. Our records from last year alone show him spending close to four months, spread out over the year, as girl and back again."
"Oh right," fighting to suppress the giggles, trying to become serious once more only to giggle once more as she thought of her joke once more. "You don't think he's secretly wanting to be a girl?" Vicky asked once calmer.
"No, Grandmother thinks it's the curiosity, novelty that he can." Anya said. "We've checked. He just seems fascinated over how easily he can switch to be a girl so much."
"Like Greg and his wanting big honcho's?" Vicky suggested to Anya with the waggling of eyes not to innocently.
"Girls," Lisa said tersely, laughing herself trying to keep on topic. "As I was saying. It was somewhere in our conversation she asked why Mel didn't seem more interested in a relationship with either boys or girls, wondering if maybe something else may have happened to her before she became Melody, and why she grows upset when asked."
"You're not thinking - Nathan?" Vicki hinted as all joking stopped abruptly as with her hand midway in taking a sip of diet coke, alarmed at the implication. Holly and Anya shared the same concern. "He wasn't? Was he?"
"What? For heaven's sake no!" Halting any further speculation. "Mel's always been addiment of how Nathan's interest always been in controlling people with Brad's half after he had first taken it from him, and why as David, he couldn't be subjugated through its use." Setting their minds at ease. "I honestly believe it was David's perseverance of not wanting to give in that infuriated Nathan the most, but it also kept him alive."
Relaxing. "I was thinking back to how often I'd teased Bobbies and Reba's hair over the years in caring for them. Seeing the changes in them as they grew." Anya sensed, as did Vicki and Holly, Lisa harbored the unfulfilled desire of what she couldn't conceive. With a voice now slightly softer, a whisper of longing could be heard with its yearning of unfulfillment even after her adoption of Mel.
"As much as the kids go to the park, you would think how harsh the water would be on their skin and hair, and yet both girl's hair is so vibrant, and I was thinking of braiding Bobbies when I saw Mel's reflection in the curio. Standoffish in the hallway her face had a look of contention."
"You're not supposing she was …" "She didn't, wouldn't? Would she?"
"I'm still not sure what Mel was thinking. You know how good she is at hiding her feelings. That's why we were surprised today in seeing her go flush at the game earlier. No. It looked like envy before it vanished replaced with that Cheshire look of hers when she's about to tease Bobbie. Normally they just do harmless pranks to one another, just something silly. Except now Bobbie was starting to rise, float towards the ceiling as Mel chanted, focused in lifting her up. And as she floated Bobbie her robe slipped open –
"NO!" " She didn't." "Really?"
"- exposing herself to us." Confirming the startling revelation as Lisa continued on.
"Of course, I demanded Mel bring her down instantly, gently as Bobbie frantically tried to grasp hold of her robe to wrap herself. She was mortified, humiliated in having flashed us as she ran crying into my bedroom once down. She hadn't thought to put on a top. Reba quickly followed behind her shouting at Mel for teasing her sister in such a manner, even to us.
"What of Mel?"
"Mel seemed shocked at first only to have a look of defiance with my admonishing her, like she couldn't have cared. To Bobbie, Reba, and me, she was a girl and Mel dismissed it offhandedly as if it was nothing more than a prank gone bad." Turning towards Holly with her also majoring in psychology, "What's your opinion on it Holly?"
"Well we know Mel still thinks of herself as a boy, taking hold of being a tomboy and may have just gotten carried away. The two have also done some rough horseplay. To her there's nothing wrong with their wrestling even with their grabbing areas some parents would think inappropriate. To them it's boyish fun." Holly answered, yet not fully convinced. "What do you think Anya?"
"I don't know. Mel does know neither of them are exactly the same as with other boys who change Holly. It's not likely she would mix the two up."
"Perhaps." Vicki stated. "You're not thinking," Vicki wondered unsure if she should bring it up herself as she had done some things she regretted later. "I mean girls do do mean things to one another to shame them." Vicki asked. "She's not possibly becoming evil, is she?"
"I know. It didn't look like she was trying to be vindictive towards her. It's just … it's not like her." Lisa said before frowning. "But she is learning more ways of using magic she didn't want either."
"I agree with Lisa, Vicki," Holly said even with her being just as doubtful. "It can be nothing more than her being a bit jealous and finding out how strong her magic is. You did say she was shocked and her defiance could be nothing more than being scolded in front of others as it got away from her. Maybe. It happens with all girls."
"I hope you're right."
"I mean, consider how others see the two of your families. Your being seen together so much lately many mistakenly think you and Keith are more than an item Lisa."
"Yes, there have been some who have confused us in being married." Lisa conceded.
"With the way both your families hang out together," Anya said, "and how you and Keith need to attend school seminars, you may as well be one." A growing smirk crossed her face at the twos implied tryst.
Snapping back, "And that's the way we want it to stay," Lisa said towards Anya causing the woman to pull back, shocked at the scolded outburst.
Even Vicki was taken slightly aback given how she had implied, hinted it herself on the few occasions when asked to watch Mel at her parents for a weekend as Keith and Lisa claimed of needing to go away suddenly for a school seminar. Both Reba and Bobby were supposedly going to be spending the weekend over with other friends when asked about. Together Vicki and Holly wondered why the two were being so clandestine on the matter. Many schools didn't prohibit the dating amongst their teachers so long as it wasn't a conflict. Across the room the other trio grew suddenly interested facing them. Both woman thought it was just a lame excuse as Lisa never truly denied the liaison.
"Rumors and nothing more. We are just - friends - who 'like'…" Lisa insisted rather harshly. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean." Her words broken as the tension still emanated from her unexpected attack. "It's just, we enjoy each other's company."
"Lisa there's nothing to be ashamed of," Holly said. "We've all done a one-nighter."
"Do you?" Lisa asked almost ashamed of the admittance.
The other woman, in her mid-thirties to early forties now interested in the commotion, gazed at Anya who seemed startled, ashamed as she looked towards both Keith and Bobby followed lastly back to Lisa. "I'm sorry Lisa, I didn't mean ...." Anya said apologizing profusely as Lisa's face started to grow a little crimson. "Your right it is 'none' of our business."
Unspoken words of 'Calm down Lisa they don't need to know fully' only she could hear soothed her in reminded of who's company she was with. "No, you're right. I'm the one who should apologize, I…" as if ready to say something more before hesitating. "I just over reacted. You see. We was, we were," hesitating briefly on telling about hers and Kats past sexual exploits. "It nearly cost me both my job at Bikini Beach and my brother Les's well-being as Grandmother will confirm."
"It did work out for the better, didn't it?" Anya asked as she took to console a tense Lisa who used a napkin to dab her eyes.
"Yes." Lisa agreed, "We both agreed we needed to tone it down. We still continue to share out-of-the-way trips, Sci-Fi conventions, and the likes. Peggy once asked me to help Keith with the kids and I nearly screwed it up, Vicki, Holly. It has strengthen our friendship and neither of us want it to end between us." Lisa hinted vaguely towards Anya leaving Holly and Vicki bewildered. " Lisa said calmer. "Even with my traveling with rambunctious tweens and a… minor mishap here or there the trips proved better off. Your friends I trust. It's just …, well, it's a situation that's become complicated over the years." Lisa said, not wishing to elaborate further. Anya could feel the tense embarrassment Lisa held, taking a drink leaving the rest unsaid even if they were respected friends as well as trusted co-workers. Anya thought long as she digested words meant only for her to understand. The unspoken reason of why she and Keith needed that time away.
"And Mel? Does she…. Does she know?" A trepidatious Anya asked.
"It's not like we can hide it much longer Anya, you know that. Keith is like a father figure to her. You've seen how she looks up to him and his taking on the role of her deceased father. I wonder, the strange look she will gives him at times, though. I don't know. It's why I'm worried about that outburst. It startled the both of us," as the conversation swayed back to why they had gathered. "I guess I'm just tenser lately because of the incident." A look of understanding came to Anya in what she now knew."
"We can only imagine." Holly said thinking perhaps she and Vicki might try and have a talk with Anya later. "She is adapting. A little less uncomfortable with the dresses Vicki has been playful pushing them towards her. She's very determined to stay true to her tomboyish ways and we're not trying to change her, just stress where she could be a little more flexible with a girl next door look in her choices and still maintain both."
"I know it's not been easy - for any of us." Lisa reiterated. "Besides that day, this is the first I've ever seen her act so nasty. You don't know how her going to sleep overs has tapered off. She used to join in dancing with the other girls her age. To hear her giggling, laughing like any of them would. Her taking it in as Reba and the others discuss boys or other talk. She usually didn't join them, but to see her interested still showed she wanted to learn. Her paying close attention over what some said of a boy they liked as they watched a movie. You don't know how Reba helped console Mel once after deciding to buy a dress only to toss it aside after modeling it in her bedroom. Collapsing onto her bed screaming in her pillow wanting David's image to go away after her seeing him in her bedroom mirror. Reba knows she's not crazy, but many would think she was deranged because of how his image crops up at the wrong moments. Blaming her pendant for not letting her forget who she once was. It's days like those I wish I could take away the hurt from my baby." Lisa broke into a sob over the anguish her daughter was going through.
"It may not be her pendant's work anymore," the middle-aged woman replied sashaying over towards them in a light dress, her own plate looked mostly untouched. "A small remnant of magic perhaps keeping it a part of her," she speculated.
"Why is that? You found something, Grandmother?" Anya asked to the somewhat astonished Lisa using the tissues Vicki provided her. Lisa looked over the now younger woman the sniffles diminishing, nearly missing who Anya called her due to her own anguishing cries.
"Innochka," Grandmother reminded her granddaughter lightly. "I could barely be considered even your mother looking this age," extending her youthful hand in greeting towards Lisa who observed the other woman with a perplexed look.
"Oh my god." Lisa said when it dawned on her who this distinguished lady was. "Were you hitting on my men?" Lisa teased.
"Hardly," the older woman said. "I don't date men younger than myself." A hinted twinkle in the now youthful woman's eyes. "Just telling the reason behind today's lesson for Melody. Although it has been fun."
"Our Great-Grandmother insistence. Claims she needs to practice various concealment spells for when she visits our homeland." Anya stated hiding how Innochka had even teased a flustered Greg.
"Today I just chose this age and appearance for my own reasons." Nodding. "As for finding out how David's father came across it." Once she released and astonished Lisa's hand before seating herself. "I've found - nothing. Not even those I trust have even heard of such a pendant or who could have crafted it."
Smoothing out her flowing skirt, she lightly seated herself next to them, her movement graceful, dignified as she relaxed among them. "A lot of our past was lost or ruined due to strife, destruction and theft with our fleeing to nearby countries due to revolutions, as with not involving ourselves in wars such as World War I. Many of our clans suffered heavy losses during World War II." Innochka stated as she recalled her work back in the bomb factory back in forties.
"Why's that Grandmother?" Bobby asked in a near reverent display to the young woman knowing she didn't look old enough. "Couldn't they just go to the 'OtherWorld' like you and Anya do sometimes?"
"Sadly child, not all could go. We have rules, laws passed down through the ages on who may go to the 'OtherWorld'. Many of our elders chose to stay with the younger ones who were left behind taking their teachings with them. They couldn't travel there and many families weren't going to leave their children at the mercy of those invading as with famine. We lost many friends and families, as with a rich history of our past. It was a devastating loss to all our factions."
Anya had heard the haunting words Innochka uttered through bitter tears standing before her own mother's grave. Her fate evident as one who bravely stayed behind.
"May the destructive void claim those who betrayed our kinsman as the Great One comforts us in our lost. To care over ours who bravely fought to protect our people, our land, and our loved ones." Grandmother Innochka asked solemnly.
To those around, her shedding a few tears with her rumination showed the lingering hurt she still felt. War, any war to her, was an unnecessary evil in showing nobody really won for all sides suffered lose. "Enough of this." Growing stern. "David had unwittingly suffused himself with wild magic, we should continue to test her strength. No one truly knows the extent one gains from such an infusion." Unlike the others, Anya understood the double meaning of Innochka's words as they listened in. "As it stands it's best to think of her as an amalgam. The best word I can offer within my culture as the actually wording is considered – vulgar."
"A half-blood then," Lisa suggested giving a light laugh in seeing the bemused look from the youthful woman whom she worked for. A rare chance with their elderly matriarch in what a growing number of kids took to reading or going to the movies to see, and her being caught off guard unexpectedly.
"Their called mud-bloods by a lot of older wizards but it's considered offensive." Bobby explained. "There are kids called true or full-bloods by having both a wizard mother and father. All others are considered half-bloods. I got all the books and movies." Filling the woman on one of his favorite tales about magic and sorcery.
"Ah," Innochka nodded in agreement after a moment pause. "I've heard of them, but never bothered to go myself. Better than ours I suppose. Let's make it so then. As for the pendant, its magic should have dissipated its power leaving it a useless talisman or trinket now. Honestly, it should never have returned to her once I removed it from David before his submergence within the pool. And she clearly shows the abilities of a young mage given her age. And with her ability to memorize spells considerably faster it does make her more dangerous."
"Dangerous? But why?" Bobby asked to the astonishment of those around her. "I mean she teases me, but…"
"Child as I was explained on why we didn't want Mel telling you about what she was doing. It's because of that ability mixed with her use of other magic that makes matters worse."
"It's also made her school life a little more difficult." Lisa interposed. "Many of her teachers believed she had been cheating, especially in Math and Science but haven't been able to prove it. If not for her average grades in English Literature and Engineering, they might not have believed us." She indicated towards Keith who nodded in agreement.
"Then there are those," Keith presented, "who have decided to prove there is magic being done here in Bikini Beach as with Mel. Their claims of showing pictures of her vanishing was their proof. Most everyone generally ignored them thanks to heavily blurred pictures or videos saying it they were shoddy thanks to the spell preventing our taking clear pictures. Downplayed as amateurish photos and faked."
"Anything we can do?" Anya offered over the growing concern now hovering over Bikini Beach again thanks to Oksana's ineptness.
"Just keep playing it off for as long as we can I suppose." Lisa replied with the uncertainty of how they could maintain the deception. "You've done more than I had expected of you Anya. With no evidence to fully support the other kids claims, it's become nothing more than a game of accusations. Many aren't so sure who to believe."
"You're serious?!" Vicki asked. "Don't they understand what she could do if she's provoked or bullied?"
"Since when did it matter to some teenagers, Vicki. How many teens act before they consider the consequences beforehand?" Keith said stating the obvious. "To them it’s a game not understanding its 'she' who can make the rules."
"I have to trust her Vicki, what choice do I have?" Lisa asked just as bothered. "As Keith stated it's not her I'm worried about, it's the other kids with their trying to prove she is one." Lisa answered. "Thankfully she still confides in me. She had to compel a few kids to forget they tried; have them delete images from their phones with their attempts in capturing it when provoked. She is trying to keep her temper in check. Luckily the schools' surveillance cameras haven't been activated - yet. And now a few teachers are acting just as foolish as the students," Lisa admitted.
"What are you thinking?" Anya asked when Vicki seemed to focus more on her engagement ring with this newest revelation. "She hasn't mentioned wanting to back out of the wedding?"
"Not, that I'm aware of." Vicki expressed. "She's still acting like she's been duped into it as always. Just like her working on school work, I think it's her way of handling it. Except …."
"But, you haven't brought it up yet have you."
"How can I? Not with her feelings towards you. I was thinking perhaps …." not wanting to admit what was preying on her mind.
"What? We wanted her to be involved with both our weddings. We talked about it for weeks." Anya said reminding her gently.
"It's just that I was wondering if we should. I mean she's more like a sister but with the ways she's been acting towards you. And then there's mine. She acts so apathetic towards it. But gets upset if she isn't included in the discussions. I want her to be there with us but. I mean … is it an act or? I don't know." Vicki said in frustration. "I just hope she agrees, understands why we want her standing there. I don't want her to think it’s a planned embarrassment meant to put her on display, that's all."
"I see." Anya answered hesitantly as both Lisa and Innochka drew concerned looks. One and old parent, the other new, each it seemed to wonder if Mel was starting to go into ones' rebellious stage.
A hesitant Lisa asked Holly. "You're sure about this? I mean it's not an inconvenience given how the two of you have been trying to sort out your feelings towards each other."
"It's not a problem Lisa, I don't mind really," Holly said chatting besides Lisa while Keith and Bobby loaded luggage in his car. "I mean I did agree to watch her today after our meeting at Anya's last week. I think Chuck's joining us affords us a chance to discuss it further with no obligations."
"But I thought. You know."
"Lisa, it's a big step for us, given what happened earlier. Even with me telling him my feelings towards him, we just, I mean just …, well maybe we're both just being overly cautious. It hurt having our feelings controlled like that and I just want to be sure about them now. And our backing away from each other was a necessity. That's all."
"I understand." Lisa said kindly. "All of you learned how magic could be used against us. It's something we don't like thinking about." In understanding. "Mel has her debit card so she can use for her and Bobby. And I know you're wondering."
"Lisa no." Holly said stopping the conversation before it became an issue. "You said it was personal. Anya said in no uncertain terms we were to stay out of this. Which means even she's not to be involved. Obviously, our teasing hit a nerve over your relationship concerning Keith and neither of you want to discuss it. Don't worry, we'll have fun. I'll be sure to drop her off later tonight."
"You're sure?" Lisa asked once again. "I'm not asking too much am I?"
"Lisa," Holly said, "Your acting like an overprotective mother." Quipping. "I'll arrange a date for you on my make-believe couch. A young mages mortal mother needing treatment herself." Holly said before laughing.
"Maybe I am worrying too much." Lisa admitted.
"No Lisa you're not." Holly stated truthfully. "You're a mother who's concerned about her daughter. Sometimes, when I think back when I was Hank," Holly said, his days fading further away from her memory with her growing up as a young girl. "Not that they didn't love me as they do now. Both encouraged me to do more in my selection of career choices; Electronics and Psychology. They're both challenging, but fascinating." Holly joked making Lisa snigger at the reference. "It's one of the prime directives in my reasoning of wanting to stay as Holly unlike Norman."
"Are you sure it's going to be safe leaving her alone for the night?"
"It's not Mel I'd be worried about." Lisa said. Causing both woman to laugh.
Holly watched Keith hastily close the back of his trunk after Bobby placed what looked like a child's suitcase next to other items meant for a young girl. Not able to hear the conversation he gave his father an offish grin at what Keith was saying before Bobby waved him away. The banter display left Holly baffled as Keith seemed to be unusually excited, jumpy when Bobby wished them a fun time. Bobby, himself, carried just a backpack to Holly's car as he would be dropped off at a friend's house, spending the night with him.
Snooping unashamedly even after Anya's demand, Holly asked innocently. "Is your sister staying home as well?" As Bobby shoved it behind his seat.
"Nah, she's going to be spending the night, maybe two with a friend and her mother." He couldn't or wouldn't look directly as Lisa gave him a brief hug and kiss on the cheek before leaving.
"Oh, have we met them." Thinking the odd suitcase was Reba's and dropped off on the way.
"Yeah, kinda, I guess," Bobby hinted mischievously in a sort of roundabout way waving to both his dad and Lisa as they drove off. "Kinda wish I was going with them. It's always been a lot of fun when we did."
"I'm sure we will to." Holly said getting behind the wheel of her own. "Let's get Mel." Surprised that she wasn't here to say good-bye. "Who are you staying with?"
"Friend of mine from baseball, his names Angel." Showing her the address on his phone.
A yellow object hit with malice intent hurled up the embankment having sailed over torrent water meant to impede its passage separating one side of the green turf for another before banging itself against a two brick retainer propelling it in a set direction. Rolling steadily up the incline the ball slowed than rocked backwards intending to returning down the path it had come before catching itself with the many dimples along worn fabricated grass. With its final rest, Mel gave a victory grin from the other side of the water hazard where she had putted it off the plastic mat. Incredulously the golf ball had stopped at the only safe place designed by its builders. A small level track between the start of a steeper rise that sloped upwards on a curved bank before leveling off towards the waiting hole on top.
"Your cheating," Bobby said just loud enough towards Mel to voice his suspicions once he saw where Mel's golf ball had come to a rolling stop. A hard to achieve location on a course meant to send a putter's ball and frustration back into a roiling torment. Many putt-putt players would curse or laugh depending on their mood as they watched their ball do a slow rock than roll off forcing them to take a penalty stroke once they fished their ball out of the courses artificial stream.
"I am not." Mel said in his attempt to spoil her victory putt as she went to cross over a small wooden bridge waiting on him. The two had competed over the first set of holes with mild bouts of near sibling arguments meant to antagonize the other. Holly and Chuck decided earlier they had enough of their competitive if not childish banter. Nine holes proved how taxing it could be in dealing with two willful teens and their own start of playful antics. From their quiet discussions and the sometimes holding of hands, Holly allowed Chuck closer when she contemplated on the eighth how to strike her ball. Mel guessed the two had other ideas than puttering around with Chucks hands roaming more freely along her arms and waist as he leaned close looking over her shoulder to 'help' show with suggestion suggestions on how to properly hold the putter. Small giggles could be heard now and then in that proffered advice. Together the two agreed with the kid's assurance of behaving they could finish the back nine before leaving. Each wanted to deepen their discussion at the concession counter. That had been two holes back as both waited on a promised set of drinks.
A tropical miniature golf course with its realistic active volcanic grey mountain the mountain replication took up most of the landscape standing well over forty feet tall and twice as wide with its circular width water cascade down into a makeshift lagoon before flowing around the courses water hazards. At the top of volcano real flames blew forth into the sky just above the waterfall fueled by positioned nozzles at designated times. Most greens were hidden by tropical plants and palm trees meant to give one a tropical feel as people played about the holes. Sections of the fake streams and steam added to the courses realism with overflowing water on inlaid rock, blocked off by realistic timber poles interwoven with rope.
Throughout most of the course players could view the mountains off shooting flairs knowing another eruption would soon commence as sounds of a building rumbling grew from hidden speakers. A loud frightening roar would initiate its climax ever hour on the hour when the sky brightened with molten sunbursts meant to represent spewing larva rocks high above the waterfall.
"You said the same thing," Mel said when another mild rumble filled the air as with the swatting of another bug. Congesting flying insects hovered above her as she waited under a florescent light hidden within the foliage that had slowly started coming to life with its buzzing ballast. Igniting the gas inside more bugs flew towards the glowing florescent tubes.
"Well it looked like it." Bobby said as he took a few practice putts before putting down his green ball on the mat choosing the outside hole to angle the ball across the water hazard. "Nobody's that good."
"Uh-huh. Did I say anything when you made that hole-in- one?" Mel challenged. "If I wanted, I could have made a hole-in-one on it to."
"Uh huh. With Magic." Bobby claimed giving her his usual toothy grin. "I used skill. How fun is it to use magic and always win."
"You're just mad because I'm ahead." Mel said contradicting him as Bobby warmed to his teasing now free from the adult's watchful eye. He was doing it to her once again Mel suspected. Being so immature towards her with his boyish attempt to impress her before coming up with false accusations like her wanting to give him a gift meant for Bobbie. "You just got lucky, that's all." She had gone against Lisa's wish's secretly giving him the present instead of waiting for Bobby to visit the park after his last birthday. Bobbie's image so clear and strong over his unlike many of those who visited Bikini Beach. So of course she was going to treat it as Bobbies day as well.
Looking over the lay of the green, with an offhand 'uh huh,' Bobby put aside their arguing evaluating what it would take to make his ball land close to where Mel's ball rested. To hard or soft and the ball would likely roll back causing him to take a penalty as he was forced to put the ball just above the water hazard. Many players considered the twelfth hole the trickiest throughout the course with many not even trying. He wasn't one of them. He knew Mel used skill, but it was fun to accuse her just the same even with Bobbie calling him stupid for doing so.
"You're so slow as always." With Bobby falling to his side hitting the ground roughly. Bobby rolled to look up to see who had just shoved him as one of two boys took to pulling him back by the scruff of his shirt.
"Conner." Bobby said looking the older boy in the face.
"Hey!" Mel yelled after seeing Bobby fall. "We're playing here."
"You cost us the game, pipsqueak." Conner said letting Bobby go roughly with Mel making her way back. "You and your slow ass running."
"Did not. You ignored coach's signal forcing me to run."
"Well if you weren't we would have won." Replied the boy. "Not that it matters to you Bobby."
"Yeah, well if you stayed on second like coach signaled we would have." Bobby replied growing hot over what Conner accused. "YOU were the one who cost our team the game." Bobby snapped shoving the obviously stronger boy. Both looked ready to fight when Mel barked out.
"Stop it! Both of you." Forcing both boys to halt. It was then Conner turned on Mel standing there hands on hip her face showing her displeasure. A grin came to him. "Your friend coming to rescue you?"
"Mel?" Another boy said having come up behind Bobby pausing when he heard the sound of Mel's voice. He had been ready to grip him while Bobby and Conner stood off.
"Jake. You part of this also?"
Unsure the other boy answered. "No." even with Mel knowing it was a lie.
"You know her?" Conner asked ignorant of why the boy backed away suddenly.
"Sure, we um, yeah. We share a class. Mr. Callaway."
"Yeah, when you're in it." Mel stated. "You don't even show up for after school detention."
"Um. Maybe we should go." Jake said. Mel always seemed to know when he was going to use his phone to upskirt several of the girls by suddenly getting in his way or tossing something that the teacher always missed. Then there were guys. How she avoided their passes at her as with the odd rumors going around school.
"Hey, you were the one staring at us. " Conner said in recognition. Not taking his eyes fully off her given the chance to use this opportunity to finally meet her. He thought she looked good-looking. "Scoping us out." Better up close than through the dugout or the posters. She looked better than the younger pics showing her in the tight swimsuit, not showing much of her now larger breasts and different hairstyle.
"You wish." Mel said nearly offended. "Do you always bully those who play better than you?" Mel asked looking over to where Bobby waited. He shook his head as if wanting to say something only he waited. "I mean we were playing here."
The taller boy appraising Mel now seeing her up close. "I could teach you better than turtle here." He liked what he saw, enjoyed how Mel dressed for the upcoming summer heat. Her wearing a pair of denim faded light wash Bermuda Shorts. They didn't come down far with only an 8" to 9" inseam. It was a growing look a lot of other girls favored in wear, but many of the girls in middle school looked scrawny. With the end of late spring many high schoolers like Mel had decided to wear them. Hers overlapped itself with sewn up permanent cuffs pleated with loose strands of string nicely placed on her shapely legs. Not tight enough Conner though in the crotch. His thoughts turned briefly in what many boys were enraptured over, dreamt to see.
"He," pointing to Bobby, "said your name's Mel. Nice name," trying to place a hand across her waist only to have Mel step back to keep her distance from him. "Why hang around a guy who can't play ball?"
"It's Mel to my friends and you're definitely not one." Mel said in disgust with his roaming over her.
"Well we could change that." Conner stated as he fixated on what was concealed beneath her thin plaid buffalo top. Chest pockets denting forward, they curved over the outline of each breast for show. Not fully buttoned he could see the grey tee outlining her titties. A common interest many boys took notice of as his lingered on Mel's having scoped out the well girls figure her shorts filled out. Swaying his way towards her he tried to act nonchalant in having missed her once their game ended.
"I wouldn't do that," Bobby warned as Conner strived to take hold of Mel's hand. "Mel don't."
Jake listened to the exchange Bobby sounded more pleading with each step. "Conner…" Mel didn't look scared, if anything she looked as if she were trying to control herself even with the taller, stronger boys touch. Doubts grew on what floated around school as he ignored Bobby with the boy standing next to him. Mel seemed defiant unlike a lot of girls who at first were love-struck when they met Conner.
"And that's why you're a loser runt. She just needs someone to show her who's man enough in being a real ball player and not some lame running nerd."
"That 'nerd' is a better player than you will ever be." Mel stated attempting to pull her hand away from where Conner had grasped it. Lifting the bill of her cap Conner could see more of her face as she found herself cornered against a set of decorative ropes used to separate putting sections of the mini-golf course. "At least he listened unlike you costing them the game."
Connors attitude waned in hearing Mel defend the boy going instead of what he liked to hear from a lot of girls. "He would have still been out. Couldn't even run home, he's slow a runt. He runs slower than even a girl. The coach even said so after the game." Refusing to admit he had been the one in error. "I can help him for one little favor."
"Favor," Mel asked. "Like in me giving you a kiss for not beating him up? Or let you rub my ass because I'm supposed to be captivated over you?" Conner seemed pleased in knowing Mel knew what he expected. "And if I say no?"
"Maybe Bobby's gonna have a messed up time on the team. Coach knows I'm a better player than him. After that last game I'm sure I can persuade coach to bench him."
"As if." Mel said wanting to keep her distance from him, her words icy.
Cautiously Jake gave Bobby an inquisitive look asking in a muffled voice. "Is…. Is she?"
"You had to have heard the rumors." Bobby said. "What do you think? Seeing where Conner had cornered her against the ropes. "Mel don't. He's not worth it."
"Listen to him. He's nothing but a shrimp, thinks you, a girl, could hurt me." Cornered Mel found herself left with no place to go as he blocked her.
"I think you don't understand what Bobby's saying." Mel said as her voice turned frosty with his placing one hand on her shoulder the other going to the back of her jeans attempting to pull her closer. "I said no, and he's not as stupid as you are. Just because your bigger you think I'll let you have what you want."
"What's that supposed to mean." Conner said obviously confused.
"It means be afraid," Mel said a gleam coming to her eyes, "because he knows I don't like it when people put their hands where they don't belong." Inside her anger now apparent with his unwanted touching dark ooze seeped upwards bubbling forth from the cracks. More ground became coated in a thin layer of black. "I see someone going down because he's acting like a privileged brat."
"Run." Bobby nearly yelled pushing Jake from him. "Go to the concession and find call for Holly Larson." Bobby said rapidly. "Tell her she needs to call Anya."
Shoving him roughly, "Go! NOW! I've got to try and stop her." Bobby said. "Tell her its Mel and to call Anya. She'll understand. Go!"
"Take it off him now Mel." Anya reiterated as both mages faced one another. No others except for Holly, Chuck, Bobby, and Jake stood nearby and even they stayed away from the two. Thanks to a ward Anya had hastily threw around the area they all waited. All felt the hostility Mel exhibited as with her terse remark at Anya in being told what to do.
"Bitch." Mel stood defiantly against her former friend.
"Mel, you don't want this." Anya said, "Think how close you are to the darkness with this act."
"He deserves it." Mel stated ignoring her words as the boy Conner sat on the ground crying. "I pway. I pway." Trying to move his way back to the water unable to due to Anya's preventive compulsion. His bawling evident with a childish tantrum in having his fun ended with his being pulled out from his splashing antics in the flowing brook. He wanted to play more, to splat the water with his hands making the funny noise in the babbling water. Holly and Chuck going into the water with his sitting waist deep. Nearby Mel and Bobby were arguing freely over the boy.
"I know he's a jerk, but he's one of our best hitters Mel."
"So fucking what. He shouldn't have touched me. Now he can hit all he wants. Play all he wants." Having turned on the boy. "Who's the boss now brat." His clothes soaked from the splashing.
"Pway, pway." Conner repeated with the now present Anya, her popping in on them had startled Jake in her sudden appearance after seeing what had happened to Conner.
"Now! Mel." Anya demanded. After hurrying over and seeing what had taken place.
"Fine." Mel said, backing down knowing Anya could win if they fought. Kneeling down to eye level meant for only him to hear. "Look at me." Focusing the childish boy on her when Mel pulled his face to hers. It was as if he understood what was going one even with his lack of control. All his actions was because of her. "Just remember this Conner." Mel stated persuasively. "After I remove it just remember who it was that made you feel small. Put you down. You may think you're a hotshot player but you ain't shit. Don't you ever forget it."
"What were you thinking Mel." Grandmother demanded as Mel stood in the grey office building after a very quiet ride from a reluctant Holly. Glancing periodically at Mel during the short drive over Mel kept the hatred brewing over what Conner had instigated with his touch.
"Preventing someone getting fresh with me." Mel interjected. "He wanted to put his hand down my damn pants."
"I understand how some boys act at this age –"
"You don't know the half of it. What I read back at their last baseball game. I didn't want to go, but you said I needed to. Now thanks to my damn pendant I have to learn how to control magic I didn't want. And having to learn it from from - You think I want to learn from HER?"
"Mel, we don't want you straying towards the darkness. You, yourself know you can't just ignore your magic once it's been unleased. You need to learn to exercise control just as Anya –"
"Anya!? What does Anya know of control and the darkness?" Mel nearly yelled. "She's the one who caused it. She's now dark because of what she did to me." Mel wailed giving a demeaning glare Anya's way having traveled back to the office with Holly taking Bobby to his sleepover and doing her best in concealing what had happened to Conner. "What does she know of control having turned men into girls, screwing with one's emotion for whatever goddamned reason."
"Mel, what I did was a mistake. I'm your friend and if you'll just listen to us."
"My friend? You're not my friend!" Mel roared. "You changed Vicki back to Vic. Didn't you even dare think of what it would do to others? To me? It took Grandmother to fix what YOU caused!"
"Mel, I admit it was a mistake."
"Mistake. You and that fucking bitch Oksana ridiculed me in front of everyone. You insisted how it could all be taken away with a snap of your finger as you changed my outfit as she laughed at me. You left me in barely nothing. A skimpy bikini meant to humiliate me in front of everyone. And YOU DID!"
"Mel, how did I hurt you? Please I want to know. I would never knowingly do any –"
"How? You didn't just hurt me." Mel replied interrupting Anya her cheeks flushed in anger. "You promised me something – happiness - and then when I thought I had it with mom, you took it all away from me with Vicki's change. You have no idea of the fucking pain and suffering I had to live through again MISS ANYA." Her aguish boiling as tears trickled down Mel's face in contorted rage. Tightening her fingers deep into her palms fingernails dug deep unable to stop what others would never see. "Everyone wants to know where I went." Screaming towards a withdrawn Anaya. "I went back to living with Nathan! YOU HAD ME FUCKING KILLED!"
"ENOUGH! Enough. I will not let you demean us child." Grandmother bellowed ready to cast a shield of protection over her and Anya only Mel didn't look like she meant to attack them. She seemed more upset than vindictive. Having had enough of the quarreling girl, trying to quell her own outrage she demanded "I think it best you leave Mel. Go home. Go, leave." Indicating the door to her. Grandmother tried hard to keep her own emotions under control certain Mels outburst was due to losing her composure and control. "I'll let Lisa know what happened."
"Whateva." Mel said heading towards the door. "Don't think I believe mom's reason needing to go to some seminar. But I'll head home, only because 'you' asked me and not her." Indicating a silent Anya having slowly lowered herself into the chair at her desk. "Now you know Miss Anya." Pulling the door open forcefully. "You sent me back to Hell." Leaving Grandmother and Anya alone. "Don't bother checking on." Mel said almost in warning before leaving. "I'm not some baby."
"As if we could child," Grandmother stated more to Anya than Mel who had already left.
"If you learned we couldn't -" Going to comfort her granddaughter who slumped over sobbing with the vindictive words of sending her friend to relive a painful life while under Oksana's influence."… what would you do?"
End Part I
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