Authors: Julia Mayer
“Thanks, Dad. I should get to bed.”
“Good night. I love you,” he responded.
When I got back to Samara's room, she was sitting in the mirror waiting for me. She must have been able to see on my face what had happened.
“You told him,” she said, shaking her head and letting her shoulders fall.
“I'm sorry, Samara, but I know it was the right thing to do.” I said it even though the sinking feeling in my stomach was making me wonder if that was true. Was it the right thing to do? Should I have given her a chance to tell her dad? No, she never would have. I knew that. But she looked so miserable. I felt awful.
“I hate you.” She looked like she meant it. Her eyes were angry, sad, desolate. “We're not switching back tonight. You started this. You deal with my father in the morning. You deal with whatever comes next. Good night.”
I wanted to step through the mirror after her, to yell at her and hit her and hold her and apologize to her. But she was gone, so even if I wanted to, I couldn't have. I curled up in Samara's bed, alternately angry and sad and confused and frustrated. And as it turned out, I was wrong. I wasn't out of tears.
How It Should Have Been
I was so angry at Dee for what she had done. It wasn't her right or her place to go to my father, to tell him what I had been doing. If anyone was going to have that conversation, it was me, and I knew that I could handle the problem without his help. Or hers. Dee didn't listen when I told her that I hadn't thought about it all day. And when I got to her school the next day, all I wanted was to get back at her. At least, I think that was it.
I found Jamie as quickly as I could. “Hi.”
He turned around and looked at me. Nodded to his friends, took my arm, and walked me over to a corner. “Is it you? I can't tell who's who anymore.”
“It's me,” I said. Technically, that wasn't a lie. “I know what you said to Samara.”
Jamie ran a hand over his face. “I'm sorry you had to find out that way. I didn't mean to say it to her. I meant to say it to you. I can't believe she told you. I asked her not to. I wanted to tell you myself.” Then he paused. “Wait a minuteâ¦you know. Now you know. Even if I didn't tell you. So? What's, uh, what are you thinking? What do you think?”
I smiled and tried to look coy. I imagined Dee looking perfectly coy during a conversation like this.
Jamie looked at me strangely. “You don't seem like yourself, Dee.”
“I don't feel like myself either. Living on the other side, seeing someone else's life, it made me appreciate my life. It made me appreciate you.”
Jamie smiled a little bit, and I remembered that Dee's mom was going to be out that night.
“Mom's working late tonight. Do you want to come over after school?”
“You're sure you're Dee? You seem strange.”
I can't believe how well he knows me,
I thought. Then I caught myself:
Dee. How well he knows Dee
“It's me, I swear. It was just a really long day yesterday, so I'm a little off. I don't know, I guess spending a day being someone else can kinda screw with you. I think that's whyâ¦that's why I could really use some company. I don't want to be home alone all night.”
The bell rang, and Jamie and I agreed to meet in front of the school at the end of the day.
Kelly seemed to pop up out of nowhere when I left the lunchroom to walk to class, and she took the seat next to me when we got there. She was wearing a miniskirt and an oversized sweatshirt. The sweatshirt was almost longer than the skirt: it was an impressive look. “So, is something going on with you two?” she asked.
“Oh. I don't know what you're talking about,” I said.
“You and Jamie? Come on, I saw the way you were looking at each other. Having your quiet little conversationâ¦”
I shrugged, but I was glad that someone had noticed. It meant I hadn't made up that feeling, hadn't made up the way Jamie was looking at me.
Looking at Dee
. That reminder was quieter every time I heard it.
It was going to be hard being Dee with Jamie for the rest of the afternoon. But we didn't talk much on the way back to my place, so at least I had time to prepare.
I went into the apartment first, and even though I knew he had been there before, Jamie still waited in the hall until I invited him in.
“Do you want something to drink?” I asked as he dropped off his stuff in the living room.
I brought out two glasses of water and sat on the floor next to him. The shades were open and Jamie was entirely in the sun except for a strip over his chest that was covered by the broken shade that wouldn't stay up. His eyes were clear. He was completely there with me.
He took a sip of his water, “Mmm, liquidy.” He smiled and I laughed with him. We sat cross-legged facing each other, and I ran my hand lightly back and forth along the bottom of his leg as he jiggled it up and down slowly.
“So, tell me about yesterday. What's Samara's life like?”
I shook my head a little bit and leaned back from him. I couldn't believe that Jamie just assumed Dee would tell him all about me. It made me wonder whether any of our conversations had been private. Was Dee sharing everything with Jamie, this guy I hardly knew? Who else was she telling? How many people knew the intimate details of my life? I had trusted her. I had shown herâ¦I wondered if Jamie knew about my mom. About everything that had happened, what I had done to her.
“Oh, it'sâ¦umm, it's difficult. She doesn't really have friends or anything. It's kind of sad.”
“Sad? Wow. That's not how you usually talk about her.”
How would Dee usually talk about me? I never imagined her talking about me at all. I never talk about her. I don't share her secrets with people. I don't talk about her. What would she say when she talked about me? This whole conversation was already making me feel a little light-headed.
“Well it was, umm, you knowâ¦It was sad for me. Sad for me to see. You know what I mean.” I had to end this conversation; I had to get out of this. “I'm going to go to the bathroom.”
I got up and walked into the bathroom, shaking slightly and being sure not to look at the mirror. I wasn't letting Dee through. She wasn't going to ruin this. She had ruined my life; I deserved this at least. I was the one who would have to deal with my father, not her, and now she would have to deal with Jamie.
And the fact that Dee had told Jamie enough about me and my personal life to make him assume that she would just spill her guts about my day, about me, about the things that happened to me, well, that certainly wasn't helping. But Jamieâ¦he was so, he just seemed soâ¦good and sweet. And caring. It wasn't wrong of him to ask; it was wrong of her to say.
I stood in the bathroom for a few minutes and then flushed the toilet. I hoped I would be better at being Dee when I got back.
I sat down next to Jamie again. “Sorry about that. I don't think I'm ready to talk about my alter ego quite yet. Is that okay?”
“Of course it's okay,” he said, pushing my hair back from my face. “Anything is okay.” He ran his hand along my cheek.
“Listen, Jamie,” I tried to sound like Dee. “I don't know if, I mean, tonight might not be the night toâ¦” I trailed off.
“I don't want you to do anything you don't want to do. Iâ¦” Jamie started to lean in. “I really care about you.” He kissed me. Softly, just for a second.
“Here, hold this,” he said and handed me his glass of water. I smiled.
“Whaâ¦” but I trailed off as he put one hand on each side of my face and pulled me close. This time he kissed me harder, longer. He had to know it was me; he had to.
I pushed away a pang of guilt. With everything I was going to have to deal with at home, didn't I deserve this? Didn't I deserve this just once? I didn't plan it to happen the way it did.
Down went the glass of water, most of it down my shirt and the rest onto Jamie's pants. “Oh, my God, I'm so sorry. Oh no! All over you.”
“Don't worry about it,” he said. Then he smiled. “I handed it to you because I thought
wouldn't spill it. I would've too.”
“Sorry,” I said and bit my lip, starting to lean in again.
Jamie looked at me. “Listen I don't mean to be, umm, but I'm all wet. Do you have pajama pants or something I can change into?”
“Oh, yeah. I'm sorry. Of course.” I leaned back for a moment and then stood up. “Let's get out of these wet clothes. Come on, I'll find something in my room. I'm sure there's something you'll fit into.” Though he was a lot taller than me and definitely broader.
Jamie followed me to Dee's room. I opened her closet and then turned around and looked at Jamie. “What if, insteadâ¦” I went over and kissed him. Jamie ran his hands up and down my back, then under the back of my shirt and forward over my stomach. I put my arms up, and he pulled my shirt over my head. I ran my hands over his chest, down over his abs, and began to unbutton his pants. I slid them down.
The way Jamie was touching me, the way he looked at meâ¦I felt like a virgin again. This was how it should have been the first time. Not forced, not manipulated into it. This was how it was supposed to be. I felt Jamie start walking me backward slowly, carefully. I sat down and felt Jamie turn me onto the bed. His hand slid to my back, and he unhooked my bra. It felt so right having him there lying next to me.
He rolled backward for a second and looked at me, first into my eyes, then down my body. “Your bodyâ¦” Jamie ran his hands over my arms, Dee's arms, Dee's body. “It's so perfect.” He pulled a sheet over us and rolled back toward me, pulling me into him. He dropped his voice to a whisper. “Look.”
“What?” I asked.
“We're naked together.”
I smiled at him, pulled my arm out, looked into his eyes, and stroked his cheek with my index finger. “I know.”
He leaned in and kissed me again, holding me against him. He kissed my lips, my cheek, my neck, and then paused for a second and whispered, “Do you want to make love?”
“This will be your first time, won't it? It's okay to sayâ”
I cut him off. “I know. I said yes.”
And we did. I'd never made love before. With tenderness and care and knowing that he would be there after it happened. Knowing that if I had said no, he would have still wrapped his arms around me just the same way. And held me and looked at me, andâ¦
Afterward, as Jamie rolled me over and put his arms around me, he pulled me close and whispered to me, “This right here, this is the best part.” His left arm under my head, he clasped my right hand in his, intertwining our fingers.
“I'm happy,” I said to him. And it was true.
I heard the front door close.
“Lorna? Sweetheart, are you home?”
“Oh shit! She wasn't supposed to be home for hours!” I said to him.
Jamie's eyes widened.
“Go!” I hissed.
Jamie got up and started hopping around the room, pulling his wet jeans back on and then his socks. I knew it wasn't funny, that I should have been helping, but I laughed. He looked ridiculous hopping around my room with one sock on.
“Coming, Mom. Just finishing up aâ¦a paper and don't want to lose my train of thought. Just a minute.”
“I'm starting dinner,” she called.
I threw the window open as Jamie pulled his shirt over his head. “Take the fire escape,” I said.
With one leg out the window, Jamie turned back to me. “Come here.”
I walked over. He grabbed the back of my head and pulled me into him, kissing me hard. “That was amazing. You,” he kissed me, “are,” again, “incredible.”
And out the window he went.
I closed the window and walked toward the kitchen on wobbly legs. He was right: that was amazing. It wasâ¦better than amazing.
“Hi, Mom. You're home early. Good day?”
Step Back and Try Again
It was the right thing to do. Wasn't it? I knew her dad had to know. That was the only way she would get the help she needed.
I wanted to do something for Samara that she would have trouble doing herself. Samara might be good with boys, but I'm good with girls. I wanted to win her friends back. Win Eva back at leastâ¦she had already said I had nice hair. And the rest of the group would follow if she did.
I wanted school to become a place Samara enjoyed, where she went to see her friends. I mean, I spent a lot of my day thinking about Samara, but I still had friends at school. I like school. I always have. And I felt like Samara was missing that.
I spent the whole next morning in school psyching myself up for sitting with Eva at lunch. I didn't think she and Samara were friends, but she was the only person who had even spoken to me, spoken to
the previous day, and I knew I had to start somewhere.
I went to the bathroom before lunch, hoping in vain that Samara would be there, that she would have some advice for me, even if she wasn't ready to switch back. But she wasn't. I took a deep breath and walked into the lunchroom. It took me a minute to find Eva's table.
“Hi, Eva. Hi, everyone. Umm, can I join you?”
There was a pause for what felt like an hour and a half, even though it was probably only a few seconds until Eva piped up. “Of course. Tommy, scoot down.”
“Why the sudden compulsion for company?” Tommy asked, looking at me and imperceptibly shaking his head.
“Tommy,” Eva said quietly, tilting her head to one side.
“No, it's okay,” I said. “I've just been doing some thinking, and I miss you guys.”
“Miss us?” asked a girl at the other end of the table. “We were neverâ” but Eva caught her eye and she stopped.
“So,” Eva said, pulling everyone's eyes back to her, “how did everyone do on that chem test? Tough stuff.”
“I know I bombed it,” said one guy who I didn't recognize.
I zoned out, thinking about Samara, and forcing myself to laugh when I heard everyone else laughing. I reminded myself to thank Eva later for getting the focus off me. From the discussion about the test, they moved on to the dance that had been a week before and a party that one of the girls was having that weekend. Eva quickly said to me that I was welcome to come if I wasn't busy. I smiled and thanked the girl who was throwing the party. I'd have to remember to tell Samara.
After that I had trouble focusing on what people were saying. I noticed that the cafeteria smelled the way school lunchrooms always smell: horrible, even though the food isn't that bad. It's just standard cafeteria food. Why
it smell so bad all the time?
The food they served really didn't look bad, and it hardly tasted like anything, just bland. It was just the smell and the fluorescent lighting that made the whole room look like a hospital and made everyone in it look a little bit grayer, a little bit paler, and a little bit sicklier than they would the rest of the time.
I tried to make myself listen to the conversations, but I couldn't make myself interested in people I didn't know and tests I hadn't taken. At the end of lunch, I really wanted to talk to Eva, so I went out of my way to linger. After everyone else had left, I put my hand mirror back into my bag and slowly stood up again.
“I need to talk to you. Iâ¦I need to tell you something. Today at lunch, I mean, and yesterday, I just wanted to say that, well, I don't even remember what happened between the two of us. I don't even know why we're not friends anymore, and I miss you. I meant that when I said it before. I want to be friends again. Do you think that would be possible? I'm turning over a new leaf, trying to be a whole new person.”
“Oh, Samara. Look, I've missed you too. And, I don't know, maybe you really are trying to turn over a new leaf. But you're still you, like it or not. We can try, I guess. I mean we can definitely try. But, well, I was pretty hurt when you stopped talking to me. And I don't know if I can truly forgive that. Not overnight at least.” She stood up and walked out of the lunchroom, and I looked around and felt alone. Completely alone.
When I got home that night, Samara's dad was already there waiting. He was sitting at the kitchen table, hands folded on top of the table in front of him. He looked at his thumbs, at the table, at the wall behind me, even up at the ceiling. He did everything but look at me.
“All right,” he said, beginning to twiddle his thumbs slowly. Right over left, left over right, right over left. Very slowly. I waited. He continued, pronouncing each syllable in a hard tone, using each word as its own complete thought. “I've decidedâ¦what I want to do.” Right over left. “This isâ¦what is going to be best for you.” Left over right. He paused to raise his eyebrows at the cookbooks on the bookshelf. I guess the cookbooks didn't have any questions, so he went on. “There's a placeâ¦in Floridaâ¦that helps girls when they're in trouble. Depressed, or you knowâ¦”
Rehab. He was going to send Samara to rehab.
“They only take girls for a week at a time because of the high demand. There is usually a long waiting list, but I called some people and they can take you right away. You need to be there Monday.”
He unclasped his hands and held onto the table instead as if preparing for me to yell and kick and scream. As if the table would be able to stop a huge wind from blowing him away. He had rehearsed talking to me. He had prepared for what he thought my responses should have been.
He had no idea what I would be thinking right now, no idea what
would be thinking right now.
had no idea what Samara would be thinking right now. I was almost glad I was still here. At least I would be able to break the news to Samara instead of her hearing this ridiculous semi-talk her father was giving. That was something.
“Then after that,” he continued, “you're going to have a weekly support group. The people at theâ¦facilityâ¦will help you find one you're comfortable with.” His body wilted and he looked so old. “This is okay. We're going to get through this. You and me. You're going to be fine. We're going to be fine.” The cookbooks clearly appreciated his moral support.
I had nothing to say. I was in shock. I couldn't begin to imagine how Samara would or should respond to all of this. I couldn't respond, and eventually he just said something about letting me think it over for a few minutes. He got up, kissed the top of my head, and squeezed my shoulder. I winced.
I spent the next day wondering how I was going to tell Samara that she had to go to rehab. She was not the type to just open up to a bunch of people she didn't know, and I couldn't imagine her going to a weekly support group.
By the end of the day, I was thrilled to get back to my locker. It was cold for early December, but it took me a few minutes to bundle upâlonger than usual because I accidentally put on my gloves before zipping up my coat. That gave Eva enough time to come and find me.
“Okay, look. Maybe you are turning over a new leaf. You've seemed happier. I like that you're happier. Andâ¦I
missed you. We used to be so close beforeâ¦you know.”
“I don't. I honestly don't remember anymore,” I said, pulling on my hat and then my gloves again. I took a quick look in the mirror in Samara's locker but nothing. I turned to look at Eva again.
“I just meantâ¦” She lowered her voice. “Before your mom died.”
“Oh. Well, I'm obviously not going to say I'm over that. But I am trying to be me again. I'm trying toâ¦I don't know. I think I need help, though. I need you guys again. I need my friends.”
“Well, I guess I can try to be here for you. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but if you're going toâ¦to, like, flip-flop again, I don't know if I can handle that. Well, actually, I know I can't.”
“I'm trying. Please believe me.”
“I'm trying to believe you.”
It hadn't occurred to me that Samara could stop me from getting into my own world, but as it turned out, she could. I had to wait in front of the mirror in Samara's room for most of the night. I was glad it was Friday. I occupied myself by returning all of the things in Samara's room to where they belonged. I knew Samara would be upset if she found out I had gone through all of her stuff.
I looked at the dolls, the dresses, the notebooks. I turned them all over in my hands and put them back in the cupboard. Then I got to the razor. I knew it was easy to get another oneâto get a knife, to get anythingâbut I wrapped it in a tissue and threw the razor away, hoping that I would be able to stop Samara just one time, just one day. I wanted to make her think about what she was doing. Think about not doing it.
I would try to get through the mirror every few minutes, but each time I ended up in the black box between worlds and I had to step back and try again. The fifth time, I stood silently in the black box for a long time. I wanted to see if my eyes could adjust to the darkness and I could find my way around without touching anything. But nothing happened as I stood there.
I tried to blink my eyes, move my head, clench my face, but I felt like my whole body wasn't there unless I was touching the sides of the box. My soul stepped through the mirror. My body was left behind. I supposed that was why Samara and I took each other's bodies when stepping through.
Then I began to feel the same tingling I had felt when Samara and I had switched bodies for the first time. A moment later, I found myself back in my own body, in my own room, on my own carpet, looking at Samara through the mirror in front of me.
“Lorna,” she said, nodding her head coldly.
“Samara, don't be angry at me. Please, don't be like this. Weâ¦we need each other.”
But even as I said it, I knew it wasn't true. I was tired of it. I was tired of her blaming me for everything I had done for her. I had seen her suffering and tried to help. I had found her and befriended her and switched places with her and given her a chance to see another world and another life, and I was so tired of her acting like this.
“You know what? Whatever. Be angry at me. You want to blame me for all your problems? Fine. But at least listen to what I have to say. Before you talk to your dad, there's something you should knowâ”
“No, Dee, there are some things
have to tell
,” she said.
“I'll take care of whatever it is, Samara. I can take care of myself. Now listen to me.”
“What? As if I need your help to take care of myself? Bullshit, Dee.”
“That's not what I was trying to say.” But it
what I was trying to say.
“My dad's calling me. You can fill me in on the fascinating things that went on in my life while I was away some other time. Oh, and if I were you, I'd go talk to Jamie. You have plenty to talk about.” Then she walked away and I was left with the empty reflection across from me.
I stared at my room and then closed my eyes, feeling momentarily relieved to be home, to be back where I belonged. Then Samara's smirk in the mirror flashed in front of me again. I realized that she was not that good an actor, and I ran out of my room to go find Jamie. I needed to know what it was
. Right away.
“Lorna, where are youâ” Mom must have just gotten in from work. She was cooking dinner, and I felt bad that I had to go and couldn't help her get anything ready. She looked so tired. Days on end on her feet can do that, I suppose.
“Sorry, Mom. No time to explain. I need toâ” but I cut myself off to go give her a hug. I had always appreciated my mom, but after seeing Samara's dad, I appreciated her more than ever.
“Hey, sweetheart.” She kissed the top of my head. “What's going on? You've been justâ¦off for the last few days. Stay, talk to me.”
“I can't. Over dinner, definitely. But I really need to talk to someone right now.”
“Yes, you do. Your mother. Sit down, sweetheart. Keep me company while I cook. What's going on? Is this person you
to talk to a certain boy? Who slipped out the window when I came home?”
“What?” Samara had screwed things up so much worse than I had thought. “No. I mean, maybe? No. Please, Mom. I need to find him and figure things out.”
She put a hand on my shoulder. “Lorna, it might be better to figure things out before you find him.”
She looked me straight in the eye, and it felt like a standoff. I knew that she was right. But I didn't have enough clues to figure things out yet. There was a knock on the door. We stared for a moment before I ducked under her arm to answer it.
I looked imploringly at my mother. Jamie looked nervously at the floor, tapping one foot rapidly as we waited together for my mom's decision. My mother shook her head at me and sighed. “Think about what I just said.”
“Fine. Go. It's your choice. Take a sweater. And I'm holding you to that real-conversation-over-dinner promise. This isn't over.”
“Thank you, Mom,” I said and ran in for a second to give her a hug. A real hug.
Jamie waited until we got outside to turn to me and say, “We have to talk.”