Authors: Deborah Kreiser
By Deborah Kreiser
Published by Astraea Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
Copyright Â© 2014 DEBORAH KREISER
Cover Art Designed by CORA GRAPHICS
To my family and friends, who put up with and encourage my dreams, however outlandish.
Destiny grants us our wishes, but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our wishes. â Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Sitting in French class, I let my mind wander back to my grandmother's cryptic statement this morning. “It's December sixth. You're seventeen-and-a-half now, and today is the day you become a woman,” she warned. In the rush to get out the door, I hadn't paid close attention and chalked it up to her usual absent-mindedness.
I puzzle over her words for another moment before brushing it off. After all, this is the same woman who tells me I “hit the nail on the nose” when I get things right.
Leia, my best friend, sits to my left. Catching my attention, she mouths
and gestures with a nod to the front of the room, where Madame Houle is describing how we'll be preparing for the Advanced Placement Exam. I shrug back at her. Languages have always been a cinch for me, so this is the one class where I'm not too worried.
The same is not true for AP Bio, AP European history, or AP English, which fill the rest of my day. By the time school ends, I'm exhausted. “What was I thinking, anyway, signing up for such a hard year?” I complain to Leia, yet again, as we get in the car to drive to swim practice. “Aren't seniors supposed to skate through?”
“Get real. Don't try pretending you're not an overachiever.” She laughs. “We all know you want to get out of Sleepsville St. Philomena and go off to college.”
“Whatever.” I poke her arm with my elbow. “Don't we all?” Looking around at the emptying parking lot, I ask, “So, just us two today?”
“My brother's getting a ride home from Kaydee,” she tells me, pulling a face. “I can't imagine what he would see in
“C'mon, Leia, it's what all the guys see in those girls â fake hair and fashion doll bodies. Yeah, it's superficial, but what can you do?”
I sigh as I back out of the parking space.
“It doesn't give the rest of us a chance.”
“You're so-o-o much better tha
n those girls. Seriously? Don't even start comparing yourself. And the boys around here are hardly worth noticing. Other than my brother, of course.”
I snort and put the car into gear, accelerating out of the lot to make it to practice on time.
“Whatever, Leia! Let's be real hereâ¦ but I do wish I were more like you, not caring about guys and being above all the gossip.”
She twists her lips into a half-smile, staring straight ahead at the road before us. For a moment, my spirits lift, all thoughts of Y-chromosomes far from my mind. I should channel Leia's attitude more often.
We rush to get changed in the locker room, but while I wrestle my swimsuit over my unexpectedly curvaceous chest, I realize, somehow, I have grown from a barely B to a voluptuous D. We're talking, like, Kate Hudson to Katy Perry.
I pinch myself, and run over to the mirror. The cold, hard tiles beneath my feet remind me I am awake, though the bright overhead lights make me look like a zombie. I have seen enough â this change is real. But, frozen in shock, I can't tear my eyes from my reflection. For a moment, I think I stop breathing. Black spots fill my peripheral vision, and I start feeling lightheaded. I lean on the wall for support, and inhale, trying to keeping from fainting.
Recovered, I glance over at Leia to see if she's noticed, but she's still getting her suit on with her back to me. My hands flutter up, ready to caress my new curves, but I manage to resist, knowing Leia is going to turn around at any moment.
Panicky, I wonder what I am going to do about this situation. I've sprouted boobs, hips, and â stop the presses â major junk in the trunk. My heart's beating so fast I think it's going to burst out of my already-burgeoning chest. I grab my towel and hold it in front of me, hoping it will provide some camouflage.
Most of the time, I fly under the radar at school. To be fair, I'm noticed at the academic awards assemblies, but it sure isn't for my looks. If anything, my height and lack of curves get me negative attention. My name is EugÃ©nie â Genie for short â but because I'm almost six feet tall, the oh-so-original popular kids have been calling me Bean Pole â Beanie â since my growth spurt in sixth grade.
Examining my reflection, I'm bewildered by yet another spontaneous, dramatic physical change. I've already had to do a lot of adjusting and damage control in recent weeks. After a vivid dream about being a redhead, I woke up as one and had to dye my hair back to brown before school. Another time, I had been muttering about a new zit at the tip of my nose, which disappeared in the moments it took me to find makeup to cover it. Also, my teeth, which had been getting crooked again in the four years since my braces had come off, straightened themselves in my sleep after a threatening visit with my orthodontist.
Part of me was grateful â I mean, who wants crooked teeth or a big zit? But I also have been feeling like my life is spiraling out of control. I've been chalking these incidents up to an overactive imagination, or, with my hair at least, some sort of over-reaction to chlorine, and have been too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it all.
Most of the time, I'm happy not being the center of attention, and I have done my best to keep these changes on the down-low. My new body, however, is another matter.
I hear the locker behind me
as Leia closes the door.
“What theâ¦?” she shrieks. She gives a low wolf whistle and stares just a little too long at my reflection. ”Hey, sexy! What pills are you taking?”
No fooling Leia. Then I notice her checking me out from behind. Her eyes widen.
“Whoa. And I sure didn't know you'd be borrowing JLo's rear end today.”
“Can it,” I warn her while angling my back to the wall.
“But how did youâ”
“It's â whatever â I don't know â but I don't want to talk about it.” What I want is to melt into the floor.
“What? That's it?” she asks, incredulous. “I know you love your privacy, G, but wow. This is wild.”
“Eh, quit it. And go to practice.”
“Aren't you coming?”
“I can't go out there looking like this,” I say, gesturing to my body. I feel goose bumps just thinking about the reaction I would get.
“So don't,” she shrugs. “But you know Coach Terri is going to bust youâ¦” She snickers at the pun. “For skipping practice.”
I hesitate. Leia knows I have an unhealthy paranoia about getting caught breaking the rules.
the captain,” she adds.
I take my responsibilities seriously, even in a drastic situation like this.
“But everyone's going to seeâ¦”
“So what? We've all seen each other in bathing suits for years. Forget about it.” She waves her hands in dismissal.
“You don't think it's a big deal?” I ask, hopeful.
“Nah. Go swim.”
I force myself to keep from peeking in the mirror and leave the locker room, Leia right in front of me. Even with the overpowering blast of
eau de chlorine
, I take a deep breath, feeling my cheeks burning and hoping â somehow â no one will notice me. But moments after we walk onto the pool deck, I see one boy, then the next, elbowing each other to get a glimpse of the new (and improved?) Genie.
I'm not used to this kind of attention, and my face flushes even deeper as I wrap my towel more closely around my body. ”Hi, Genie,” Joel Brand, the boys' captain, calls out to me. He moved here only in our junior year, and instantly became one of our top swimmers. Though he kind of keeps to himself, everyone likes him because he's always super nice. But I can't face him right now.
“Hey,” I mumble, not raising my eyes, and continue to my lane.
The pool is one place I have always belonged. Long ago, I'd gotten over my self-consciousness about being in a bathing suit, knowing I'd be fine once I started swimming. At least those same qualities that make me look weird on land make me graceful in the water. I've been a strong swimmer throughout high school, and now, as a senior, I'm ranked among the top swimmers in the state. Every time I dive in, I am thankful at least I have one place I always feel comfortable.
As we ready ourselves for this round of practice, Coach Terri instructs us to begin our warm-up exercise. I drop my towel only when I am just about to swim and will myself to focus on the familiar movement, ignoring the odd jiggle as I raise my arms to dive in. I try not to think about how my body had changed in such a short time â and how my grandmother maybe knew about it before I did. At least my practice suit is â or rather, was â loose and a couple of sizes too big to help me train with some drag. It's the only way I've managed to keep from being near-naked today.
different. And swimming, normally as natural as breathing for me, feels different. I can't help marveling at my curves, but I also notice practice takes more effort than usual. And I am not enjoying doing backstroke, my specialty, because as I swim, my view is way too up-close-and-personal with my chest. Somehow I get through it all and pretend not to hear the whispers behind me as I exit the pool.
Afterward, I hurry into the locker room before anyone else can get a closer look at me. I change from my wet suit and throw on a loose hoodie and sweatpants â thankfully, loose enough to fit the new me â then throw my hair into a messy bun. Leia watches me out of the corner of her eye, and I know she'll want more answers later. What can I tell her?
Sorry, your guess is as good as mine?
We work our way toward the building's exit, where Joel is waiting near a group of boys from the team, who commence poking each other when I walk by. I overhear
as part of the conversation, but I don't stop to figure out who said it.
“Genie, can I talk to you?” he asks. I gaze into his earnest, deep-brown eyes. Despite myself, my eyes dart to the T-shirt clinging to his muscular chest. He's a couple of inches too short for me, but he'd be a great catch otherwise.
“Um, I'm kind of in a hurry,” I tell him, anticipating the conversation I want to have at home with my grandmother, and anxious to escape the other guys' leering.
“Oh, it can wait, I guess. It's, uh, a team thing.”
“Great,” I mumble. “Text me later?”
He nods, and Leia and I head out the door.
Leia and I are next-door neighbors, so she always rides home with me. Her whole family shares an obsession with a certain movie, which explains why Leia's twin brother's name is, of course, Luke. At least their middle names aren't Skywalker.
“So, yeah. What's the deal with the new rack?” she asks me as soon as the car doors are closed.
“Leia! You are soâ¦ ick! And I don't know what's going on. Maybe it's hormones.”
“Well, those are some major hormones. Seriously. The boys' drool added another inch to the pool's water level.”
“You think?” I ask, doubtful. Then, “Whatever. I'm stillâ¦
“Girl, when are you going to start giving yourself some credit? You're so smart, and a total catch. I wish you and Luke would be more than friends.”
At least I've sidetracked her enough to leave me alone about my new body.
I groan in response. “Have you forgotten that he and I have already tried that? He's like a brother to me, Leia. Just because he's
brother doesn't mean he and I are perfect together.”
Luke and I dated for a few weeks last year, mostly because Leia kept setting us up for romantic interludes, but the chemistry wasn't there. When we were kids, Luke and Leia used to call me Han Solo because the three of us were super-close. But near the end of junior year, Luke's skin cleared up, he grew half a foot and built up some muscle, and he started hanging with the popular crowd. Things aren't the same now.
“You have to accept it. Luke and I are never, ever, ever getting back together,” I sing out. “So, anyway, what
would you wish? You know you're supposed to get three wishes in all those old stories.”