Mystery Girl (1)

We Meet Again

3. We Meet Again

Joe distractedly drummed his fingers against his leg as his mom pulled into the mall parking garage. She had decided to take Joe and Anna shopping in Manhattan to buy new clothes before the new school year started. Personally, Joe would have much preferred to stay home and play video games and just let his mom buy his clothes for him, but she had insisted that he come along.

"So, Joe," Anna said as they climbed out of the car and made their way into the mall. "Think you'll run into your girlfriend today?"

Joe inwardly groaned. Ever since he had told his sister about running into that girl in Boston a week ago, she had been relentless with her questions. Did you see her yet? Tell me again what she looks like. What are you going to do when you finally find her?

Joe wanted to wrap duct tape over her mouth. And since when did Anna start referring to the Boston girl as his girlfriend? "I don't know, Anna."

"Girlfriend?" Joe's mom looked at him with interest. "Since when do you have a girlfriend? And why is this the first I'm hearing of it?"

Joe ran a hand over his face and moaned. He shot his sister a dirty look. Did she have to bring this up in front of their mom? "She's not my girlfriend. She's just some girl I met a week ago. Anna wants to think there's more to it than that, but there isn't."

"I see." A soft smile spread over Mrs. Arthur's lips. "And is this girl pretty?"

"I'm sure Joe thinks she is," Anna answered before Joe could even open his mouth. "Apparently she has these mesmerizing eyes. They're blue and brown."

"I never said that!" Joe glared at his sister, though he could feel a slight blush on his cheeks. She had officially gotten on his nerves. "And they're blue and green, not brown."

"Oh, right." Anna giggled like that was exactly what she had hoped Joe would say back to her. "Well, you have to see her again at some point, right? All I'm saying is that it could happen today."

"Anna..." Joe clenched his fists. He didn't want to deal with her right now. It had been so long since they had run into the girl back in Boston, that Joe was starting to think they would never see her again, and that bothered him. He wanted to see her again.

Joe's mom handed him some money and gave him a polite smile. "Joe, honey, here's some money. Why don't you go and buy some clothes. Anna and I will meet you in an hour by the entrance."

Joe knew she was only doing this as a way to keep Anna and Joe from fighting, but he didn't mind. He was grateful for the chance to leave. He knew if stuck around, Anna would bug him non-stop about the girl. He smiled back at his mom. "Thanks, mom."

Joe wandered around the mall for a little bit, before deciding where he wanted to go. He knew his mom wanted him to buy new clothes, but he felt like he had enough. Besides, he had his eye on a new pair of basketball shoes. His old ones were falling apart anyway. His mom would understand.

He walked into the sporting goods store and strode over to the shoe section, already seeing the pair of shoes he wanted to purchase, a pair of black and white high-tops with green laces. He slipped between two clothing racks.

And collided with another shopper. Clothes went flying and scattered everywhere. Joe heard someone curse and saw a blonde head bend over to gather the fallen clothes.

"Sorry!" Joe spit it out as quickly as possible. He fell to his knees and helped the shopper pick up their items. "I wasn't paying attention."

"No, you're fine. It's my fault," a young, feminine voice responded. "I should have grabbed a cart to put all my stuff in. It would have been smarter than carrying it all at once."

Joe reached for a red piece of fabric that had fallen under the clothing rack. He realized it was a sports bra, blushed as he saw what size it was, and quickly handed it to the girl without looking at her, not wanting her to think he was some sort of pervert. He grabbed the next thing he saw that had fallen, and was relieved to see that it was a shirt. It was a solid black v-neck with the word dance written across the front in silver glitter.

"So, dance, huh?" Joe attempted small talk. He felt bad about the whole situation. He should have been paying more attention when he was walking through the store.

"Yeah, I take classes at a studio in the theatre district. I needed some more practice gear, but I may have gone a little overboard." The girl let out a nervous laugh. "Sorry again. I didn't mean for this to happen."

"It was my fault. I-" Joe looked up at the girl for the first time. He forgot what he wanted to say and his mind went blank. He couldn't believe it. It was her!

Joe blinked and rubbed his eyes as if she was just an illusion that would vanish soon. He stared at her in shock, his jaw falling open. He would recognize those eyes anywhere. They were the same sky blue with that lime green ring around the iris.

The girl stared him in confusion. "Do I have something on my face?" She gingerly touched her cheeks.

Joe shook his head. "It's you. Sydney." A million thoughts raced through his mind. She was here, right in front of him. What was she doing here? What was she going to do to him? They were still on the ground, out of sight of everyone else in the store. If she was working for Mad Jack, she could kill him right now and no one would notice.

"Have we met?" She leaned back and studied Joe.

Joe paused. That wasn't right. She was supposed to know who Joe was. Was she pretending not to know who he was as payback for Boston? "It's me, Joe." Joe glanced side to side before whispering, "From Boston."

"Why are we whispering?" Sydney said, matching his quiet tone.

"Don't you remember? Last week we met in Boston. You had my book with you." Joe frowned. This encounter was not going like he thought it would. Something wasn't right. She didn't know who Joe was, and she didn't seem to be pretending either.

"I've never been to Boston, sorry. You must have me confused with someone else." Sydney gathered up the rest of her things and stood. "Thanks for the help. I'll try to look where I walk from now on."

She walked away, not even bothering to look back. Joe sighed. Why didn't she remember? He was certain it was her. It had to be. How many people had eyes like that? He hastily pulled out his cell phone and sent a group text to Sam and Fred, I found her!

Their responses came quickly. The reply from Fred read, Ask her if she's a time agent!

Sam's response was a little different, Be careful! Don't go near her!

I talked to her. She doesn't remember anything. She said she's never even been to Boston. She left, but she's still nearby. What should I do? Joe glimpsed up from his phone and saw that Sydney was almost done checking out. Should he follow her and question her some more?

Go after her! Fred replied first. We need to know more about her and all the top-secret information she's guarding.

Joe rolled his eyes. After meeting her, Joe seriously doubted that she was a time agent. But still, Fred had a point. They needed to learn more about her. In Boston she had said that she and Joe were friends. You can't forget a friend in a week.

Anna's suspicion about Sydney suddenly came to mind. What if that was a future version of her back in Boston? She didn't know Joe because this present version of her hadn't met him yet. So if they weren't friends now, were they going to be?

Sydney grabbed the bags the cashier handed her and headed out of the store. Joe made the abrupt decision to go after her before she could get away. He ran out of the store, forgetting that he had wanted to buy a new pair of shoes. "Sydney, wait up!"

She stopped and turned around. Her eyes scanned the mall before landing on Joe as he caught up with her. "Oh, um, hello again. Can I help you?"

"I just wanted to..." Joe trailed off. How did he want to handle this situation? He stuck his hand forward for her to shake. "I wanted to properly introduce myself. I'm Joe and it's nice to meet you."

"Okay." Sydney reluctantly took his hand. Her eyes darted around the area. Joe could guess her thoughts. She probably thought she was on some sort of prank TV show and someone with a microphone was going to jump out at any moment and yell 'gotcha!'. "Well, I have to go. I'm meeting some friends. We have band rehearsal."

"You're in a band?" Joe smiled. He couldn't explain why, but talking to this girl felt nice, like it was exactly what he was supposed to be doing.

She hesitantly returned Joe's smile and tucked her hair behind her ear. "Yeah, it's called Heart on a Wire. We have a show tomorrow night actually. It's at eight at The House of Rock on Fiftieth and Broadway if you want to come. There's a ten dollar admission charge."

Joe's grin widened. "Sounds cool." Joe wanted to say more, but out of nowhere, two people appeared at Sydney's side.

"There you are. We've been looking everywhere for you girl. Did you forget we have rehearsal?" The one who spoke was a boy with black hair and silver dyed bangs. His dark blue eyes looked back and forth between Sydney and Joe with interest. He threw a pale and skinny arm over her shoulder. "Sorry to interrupt, but we do need to get going. Megan and Dylan are waiting for us."

The other person who had joined them scoffed. She was a short girl with caramel coloured skin and dark brown eyes. She flipped her shoulder-length auburn hair over her shoulder. "You're the reason we're late, Jake. You spent an hour in that dressing room."

"You can't be fashionably late if you're not fashionable. I was making sure my outfit looked good. Unlike some people." The boy, apparently his name was Jake, stuck his tongue out at the girl.

"What is that supposed to mean?" The girl crossed her arms.

"You know what it means, Crystal. Your outfits are..." Jake paused, waving his hand in the air, looking for the right word. "Unique. We do not need a repeat of last time. You need to get a stylist. Next time you dare dress yourself, call me first."

"Watch yourself."

"I am, and I is gorgeous." Jake threw her a wink.

"I think your sass has reached an all-time high, Jake." Sydney rolled her eyes. "Take it down a notch, and Crystal, try not to mix patterns next time. Okay?"

The way Sydney stopped the argument between Jake and Crystal reminded Joe of how he had to stop Fred and Sam from fighting all the time. He awkwardly cleared his throat. "I guess I should let you go then."

Crystal and Jake's heads snapped to him. Their eyes scanned him up and down. Joe shifted uncomfortable under their gazes. Why were they looking at him like that?

"Come on, you two." Sydney started to pull her friends away. "Later, Joe."

"Bye." Joe gave her a half-hearted wave and watched her leave. All things considered, he thought that went pretty well.

Mad Jack coughed violently, the yellow mist in his lair swarming his lungs. "If I only had The Book, I could find myself a decent place to live instead of this wretched time pocket." He coughed some more. "How that warp runt of a nephew has managed to keep a hold of it for so long, I'll never know."

He sighed and slouched down in his throne. Various time relics and tokens from his travels floated around the room. "The Book can't be the only object in the space-time continuum that will let me rule." He frowned and tapped his chin in thought.

He spotted a small bookcase near the base of his throne. It was filled with old magic books and texts on the history of time travel. They were his old textbooks from his days at the Warp Academy before he had gotten expelled and banned from the fourth dimension altogether.

He sat up with a sudden start, a wicked grin spreading over his lips. He cackled as the perfect idea came together in his head. "Why didn't I think of this sooner? A time god is just what I need to take over the space-time continuum. And if I'm lucky, there's a time prince or princess out there who hasn't achieved god status yet. All I have to do is snatch one of those, turn them into my servant, and the universe is mine!"

He reached for one of the magic books. "Surely there must be something in here about tracking down the gods." His eyes rapidly scanned the pages, desperate to find something, anything that would give him what he wanted. His eyes stopped on a paragraph about how time agents were able to track down rogue warpers. "Now this, this could help me a lot." He snapped the book shut and let out and evil laugh.

"Soon the universe will be mine! And the first thing I will do as sole ruler of the space-time continuum is make that nasty nephew of mine and all his little friends pay for what they have put me through." He clenched his teeth together. "Beware dear nephew, your end is coming."

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