Summary:Lauren tries to deal with the very strange change in herself. A serial fairy tale about a girl and a frog- No, not that one- not that one at all.
Find Part 1 here.
2. Portia and the Letter
Lauren was awake in the night- all night. Everyone kept telling her to try and rest- that it would all look better, be easier, in the morning. Lauren didn’t really expect a night’s sleep to make a difference, but staying awake and getting this strange body sick wouldn’t help matters any, so she tried to catch some sleep anyway. Terry’s eyes (which felt overly large and tight in their sockets- she could almost hear them sliding against his eyelids as she moved them) continually popped open on their own.
And his ears- the ones that could hear eyes moving- the ears she was wearing kept alerting her to useless things- little innocuous sounds making her borrowed heart skip faster and faster.
She sat up in bed, turned on the light and looked around Terry’s bedroom. She was in a foreign land- everything in the room, things that belonged in it, made her nervous. She didn’t belong there, but everyone still thought she did. At least, they thought Terry’s body did.
She sat there, being green with someone else’s stomach and thought about the last week….
“Aye no, midge, I cannot do it. I cannot switch you and the great brute back- not until he is not an enchanted frog anymore,” Tris, the pixie’s voice echoed in Lauren’s memory.
“So, turn him human again,” she had answered, incredulous that the little magical beast was refusing to fix the mess he had made.
“I cannot change what I cannot see. Find me the frog and I can make all well.”
“But, he hopped away!” she cried, frustrated. “His tiny frog brain was too stupid to know he should have come back.”
“Then there is naught I can do for you.” Then the weasel of a pixie disappeared from sight and didn’t come back no matter that Lauren had called and called for him until Terry’s voice grew hoarse.
Finally she had made her way back up to the house to tell the others that “Lauren” and she had gotten separated in the wood and that she couldn’t find her anywhere.
After all of Terry and Portia’s friends had spent the rest of the night searching the woods and finding no sign of Lauren’s body, they had called the cops and Lauren’s stepdad. Lauren had tried to join the searchers, but Portia had made her stay back at the house and ice Terry’s ankle. Lauren had complied only because she knew that the search was futile. She took the opportunity to sleep a little and get something to eat. Once the cops arrived, Lauren spent a good hour sitting with them and relating her story about losing Lauren over and over. She could tell that they thought that she was lying- that she had done something terrible to Lauren.
Thankfully, Portia’s limitless faith in Terry meant that she believed the story. Once the cops left off questioning Lauren, she had spent the next few hours comforting Portia- holding her hand and telling her comforting lies about how they were sure to find Lauren any minute now. Soon Lauren’s mom and Paul got there, and Lauren got to tell the same story over again, got to be comforting for them as well. Paul kept giving her suspicious looks and pulling Portia closer to him. Lauren avoided her mom because that was just too much for her to handle.
Eventually, the search was called off and Paul packed Portia and Lauren’s mom into the car to take them home. Lauren had to watch them go. She suddenly realized that she had nowhere to go- except to Terry’s parents’ house- and what kind of a nightmare was that going to be?
By lucky chance, Terry had one of those GPS direction computers in his SUV, so all Lauren had to do was say, “Home,” and listen as the nice fake lady told her how to get there. Driving hurt the sprained ankle, especially since Terry drove a clutch. Also, the upholstery stank of smoke and fast-food. Terry rolled down the windows and tried not to stall out on the hills down to town. When she got to Terry’s house, she just sat in the driveway, unable to make the move to go inside, until Mrs. Jupiter, Terry’s mom, came outside to ask if she was all right.
“Yeah, I’m- I’m fine, M-mom. Portia’s dad called you, right?” Lauren asked because there was no way that they weren’t going to hear about Lauren’s disappearance and she was hoping that any mistakes she made in pretending to be Terry could be excused by the stress of the last two days.
“Yes,” she answered, the concern that was already on her face doubling. “Is there still no word on Portia’s poor sister?”
“No- uh, they stopped searching the woods. The police think she maybe ran away with a boy, or maybe went to see her dad. He’s in New Orleans,” Lauren said and she climbed out of the driver’s seat. “They put her on that national runaway list.”
“Such a strange girl she is, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she ran away. But still, you don’t wish ill on the family like that.” Mrs. Jupiter led her into the house and made her sit in front of some baseball game with Terry’s foot up while she fed Lauren a massive amount of food. It was more than Lauren could normally eat, but Terry’s stomach wasn’t fazed at all.
Portia came over the next day. She talked and talked and talked- all about how worried she was about Lauren and how much she missed Lauren and how much she was suffering because of what happened to Lauren. While they were hoping that Lauren would show up at her dad’s sometime soon, her family seemed to be pretty sure that something awful had happened to her. Portia still didn’t seem to think that Terry had anything to do with it.
Portia had talked herself out (a phenomenon Lauren had never seen before) they just sat together for a while on Terry’s living room couch, Terry’s big arm around Portia’s now impossibly slight shoulders. They had done this while they were still up at Lake Hera a few times- Lauren doing what she could to be there for Portia. It would have been nice to have heard all the good things Lauren meant to Portia when they’d still been sisters. It had been very hard not to tell her stepsister that it was Terry and not Lauren who was lost- that she was worrying over the wrong person. Not that Lauren felt as if she was not lost- she was just lost in a way that no one had ever been lost before, lost in a way that was impossible to tell in a believable way. Up at the lake, Portia had only clung to Lauren, only given her soft almost sisterly pecks on the cheek if she kissed Lauren at all.
There and then on the Jupiter Family’s couch, Portia snuggled into Terry’s shoulder and raised her head to look into Terry’s face saying, “You know, you’ve been the best boyfriend to me the last few days. I mean, I know you and Lauren never really got along-” she paused to sniffle and a new wave of guilt washed over Lauren as she was struck again by Portia’s red rimmed eyes. “I just wanted to say thank you for being so understanding and supportive.” Then she blinked very fast and pushed her face up close to Terry’s for a kiss.
Lauren panicked! “Not your boyfriend,” she mumbled as she scrambled away from Portia and hopped up off the couch. She was across the room before Portia would have even landed the kiss.
“Terry?” Portia asked, a surprised and hurt look on her face, “What’s the matter? What do you mean not my boyfriend?” And as Lauren struggled to come up with an answer that didn’t include any part of the truth, Portia started to cry. “Are you breaking up with me?” Portia’s voice went high and squeaky as it cracked on the word up.
Oh God! Lauren did not even have words. Just three days earlier, she would have been ecstatic if Terry had cut Portia loose, but now- well, the last thing Portia needed was for her boyfriend to go from understanding and supportive to dropping her. Terry, the lucky jerk, was probably blissfully ignorant of it all- just sitting under a rock, eating flies. And yes, what Lauren was going through was crazy, but at least she knew what was going on. Portia didn’t even have that- she was kind of losing it with how worried she was about Lauren.
“No. I’m not doing that,” Lauren said as much to herself as to Portia. “I just-” Lauren paused a moment more to decide and then, went with the truth, sort of. “I’m just freaked out, okay sweetie. I was with Lauren when she got lost and I feel like I should have done something more to keep her safe.”
And that statement really was true- Lauren did feel as if there must have been something she could have done or said to the pixie to make him change them back or, even better, not have switched them at all. If only she had made Terry shut his stupid mouth. If only she had apologized to the pixie better, maybe it would all be different.
“Aw, Sweetie.” Portia swept across the room and hugged Lauren, smushing her soft face against Terry’s neck and breathing hotly on it. Lauren kissed the top of her stepsister’s head and resolved to find a way to make this mess easier for Portia and for their parents (who Lauren liked to believe were still as worried about her as they had seemed at Lake Hera).
Snapping back to the present, Lauren started to realize what she needed to do for her family. She slipped out of bed and over to Terry’s desk seeking for paper and pen. Finding them she sat down to write…
Dear Mom, Paul, Portia and Dad,
First of all, I am fine. I saw that you have the police looking for me. You didn’t have to do that, and I’m sorry if I scared you.
Please don’t try to find me, because I need to do this. I need to find out who I really am, and I can’t do that at home or even at college. I don’t know how long it will be before I come home. Something like this takes as long as it takes.
I will try to write again soon.
It wasn’t enough in any way, but it was all Lauren could think to do. She tucked the letter into an envelope, addressed it and put it in the desk drawer. Then, she climbed back into her borrowed bed using her borrowed legs and tried to sleep on her borrowed pillow.