Chapter 5 - 2018: Cassie & The Girl
“Make your phone call,” a balding cop said.
Cassie stared at her large hands.
“Well, what are you waiting for? I got better things to do with my time.”
Cassie nodded and picked up the phone with a shaky hand. She dialed home.
After three rings, a hesitant voice answered, “Hello?”
“Mom, it’s Cassie.”
“Excuse me? Who is this?”
“Mom, I know I don’t sound like myself, but it’s really me. I swear. Please, just let me explain.”
“I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but this isn’t funny. If you so much as hurt my daughter--”
The line went dead.
“No…no…” Cassie stared at the receiver for several seconds, until the officer grabbed it and hung it up. With a sinking feeling, she supposed her mother would have seen the city jail’s number appear on the caller I.D.
The cop shoved her back and directed her to the cell. “Get going. What a waste of time.”
But I’m Cassie. I’m a teenage girl who wishes Brandon Jackson would give her two seconds of his time. I just want to graduate with honors and go to college. Her thoughts stoppered up. Tears streamed down the face that wasn’t hers as she dragged her feet back to the cell. She didn’t bother to speak up. This officer wouldn’t believe her any more than the others. They’ll think I’m some sort of messed-up psycho who preys on kids. Oh, my God. What if this Randy guy… He already murdered his wife. Those cops said he was sleeping around.
They arrived at the cell. The cop gestured toward the open door. “Okay, inside.”
Head down, Cassie entered. The door slammed shut with a resounding clang that shredded her heart. She sat on the cot and drew her legs up to her chest, hating the stiffness of this body. She kept shifting, the awkwardness of the bulge between her legs something she didn’t think she’d ever get used to. She had been in gymnastics since she was three. She could do backflips and cartwheels. Somehow, she doubted she’d be able to pull off a decent somersault. Her eyes went dry after some time in that position. When the discomfort grew too great, she unlocked her arms from around her legs and straightened those long legs out on the cot. She lay down, overtaken by exhaustion. The lumpy mattress pushed back in all the wrong places. Still, she closed her eyes and tried to shove away the recent events.
Cassie beamed. Applause surrounded her as she held up her arms for the crowd. She’d just completed the last round of the gymnastics competition. She locked eyes with her parents and brother in the bleachers. Her mom and dad smiled back, clapping with enthusiasm. Her brother, Evan, looked happy, even though he always complained about having to come to “my sister’s boring gymnastics things.”
Cassie found her seat and waited for the rest of the girls to finish. At the end, although she didn’t place, when she met her family, they greeted her with hugs.
“Congratulations, sweetheart,” her mom said, dark eyes dancing in the light.
“What do you say we go out and celebrate?” her dad asked. “I, for one, am starved.” He rubbed his slight paunch.
Cassie and Evan shared a look and laughed.
“I’d love to get sushi,” she said.
Evan wrinkled his nose. “Whatever happened to cheeseburgers and pizza?”
The Meadows family erupted in laughter as they exited. Cassie’s dad wrapped an arm around her, kissing the top of her head. “For you, Cass, we’ll get whatever you like. Your brother can get his cheeseburgers and pizza when he finishes his baseball season.” He glanced at Evan.
“Oh, all right.” He sighed.
Cassie grinned. “I win this time, little bro.” She gave him a noogie.
The screech of the cell door opening woke her. She had no idea what time it was, but it felt like the middle of the night. A bug-eyed young man was escorted into the cell.
“I’m tellin’ ya! I ain’t got it! It’s my fuckin’ loser brother you want,” the man yelled after the retreating cop.
Cassie gasped and sat up on the cot, pressing against the wall. Brother. Her heart sank as she remembered her memory-dream. Will I ever see Evan again? Feel Mom’s kisses? Dad’s hugs?
The young man turned and stared at her. “Hey, what’re you lookin’ at?” he asked with an undertone of menace.
“N-nothing.” Cassie’s deep voice broke like a teenager’s.
The other guy laughed. “You like what you see or somethin’?”
“No.” What’s he think, I like him? Then realization dawned at her naivete. “Oh, God. No, no way. I, um, don’t swing that way.”
The other guy’s laughter grew. “Aw, just messin’ with you, dude. So, what’re you in for?”
If I tell him murder, maybe he’ll shut the hell up and let me go back to sleep. Then Cassie feared going to sleep near this stranger.
“Murder,” she said anyway, her face blank.
The other guy guffawed. “Good one. Me? Just drugs. Same old story, you know? I swear this time, pal, I’m innocent. Not no dealer here. Just use ’em, you know?”
“Why do you do drugs? Are you stupid or something?” The words came out of her mouth before Cassie realized what she’d said. Maybe she’d just had enough for one day. Maybe she was snapping. Maybe her brain was on overload.
“What’d you say?” The guy got in Cassie’s face.
She stood, leaning against the wall, waiting for the hit as she screwed her eyes shut. Then she opened her eyes and gazed down on the other man. Yes, down. She was several inches taller, and if she had to guess, at least fifty pounds of solid muscle heavier.
“I told you I was in for murder.” She leveled him with her gaze. “Do you really think you wanna mess with me?”
The other guy backed down, holding his hands out. “Look, pal, I don’t want no trouble.” He went to the bars, gripping them. “Hey, coppers! You think you can give me another cell? What’s this? Your idea of a joke, putting me in here with a murderer!”
Cassie sighed and sat down on the cot. A certain satisfaction filled her, then evaporated.
When no one came to answer her cellmate’s pleas, he gave up, dropped onto the other cot, and was snoring within minutes.
Certain the drug addict was asleep, Cassie turned away and closed her eyes.
If this is going to be my life, my new normal, I need to survive until I can get back home. To them, I’m no defenseless teenager. I’m a man, a man with a dangerous reputation.
But she couldn’t stop the tear that leaked onto her pillow.
* * *
The girl stood just beyond the threshold of the entrance to the kitchen. The phone had rung. The mom answered. In the background, the small TV on the counter droned on with the evening news. The girl glanced at the screen and smiled.
The mom hung up the phone, unsettled. She turned back to the stove and gasped when she saw her daughter standing there.
“Oh, Cassie! I didn’t see you. You scared the living daylights out of me.”
The girl kept her eyes on the TV, the grin on her face growing.
Her mom frowned, picked up the remote, and clicked it off. “We don’t need to watch that garbage. Just more depressing stuff. Can you believe it? All the money and power, everyone thinking he was a decent fellow, and he kills his wife?”
The girl took a step into the kitchen and leaned on the counter, watching the mom return to the stove and mix a large pot of soup. “Who was on the phone?”
The mom jumped back from the pot and clutched her finger. “Ow, damn it!” The spoon clanged to the floor as she went to the sink to run her finger under cold water.
The girl moved another step into the kitchen and rested her hand on the counter next to the knives. The carving knife would be the perfect tool to do it, to end this stupid creature’s little life. The girl giggled at the sound of the running water.
The mom turned the water off. “Can’t believe I burned myself,” the mom muttered. She turned, the crease between her eyebrows deepening as she surveyed her daughter. “Cassie, what’s wrong?”
The girl forced a pleasant smile. “Nothing. You didn’t answer my question.”
“Not that it matters, but it was some prank caller.”
“What did they say?”
“What’s it matter?” The mom shook her head. “Don’t you have homework?”
“I thought I heard a man’s voice saying it was your daughter.”
“You heard that?” The mom sighed. “Look, honey, I need to get dinner ready before your father gets home.”
“Anything you say...Mom.” I always finish what I start.
“Wait a minute, honey.”
The girl stopped at the threshold. “What?” she snapped.
The mom looked like she’d been whipped. “Are you okay, darling? Nothing happened to you?”
The girl left the kitchen, her eyes lingering on the faucet. She went to her bedroom, or the girl’s bedroom. She lay down on the pink comforter and took in her surroundings.
She’s a good girl. Excellent grades, a gymnastics star, volunteers at a pet shelter, shy around boys. That’s always my favorite part--the little added bonus, that bundle of memories all packaged up like a gift on Christmas morning. It makes my job all the better, the more fun to find the perfect ending to their story.
A knock came from the door. The girl sat up and smoothed down her shirt. She stood and gazed at her reflection in the mirror. She had a pretty enough face. A shame she didn’t use it more to her advantage. She winked at her reflection and went to the door.
A boy of about eleven stood there, his brown hair messy and his hazel eyes gazing up at her. “Hey, Cass, d’you wanna see what I’ve made in Minecraft?”
Evan. That’s the annoying little prick’s name. She grinned at how easily she could pull the knowledge to the surface.
“I don’t really care.” She went to close the door.
Evan stuck his hand up, stopping her. “Hey, what’s the matter? Boy troubles?” He laughed and made kissing noises.
She scoffed and slammed the door on his face.
“Ow, you made my nose bleed! I’m telling Mom!”
“Go ahead.” The girl rolled her eyes.
She went to her dresser and stared at her reflection. The blah brown hair and no makeup just wouldn’t cut it. No, Cassie Meadows needed a new look, a new attitude, and a new life...fast. The girl smiled, her pupils flashing red for a second, then returning to their usual hazel.
A cell phone beeped. The girl glanced down at the device on the dresser. She picked it up, swiped the screen, and saw a text message from someone named Melanie.
Hey girl, wondering when you wanted to get together to paint our toes? Did you call Brandon yet? I swear, I’m gonna get you set up before school’s out.
The girl sneered at the phone and tossed it to the bed. An image of a curly red-headed girl appeared in her mind. The other girl laughed and talked about something trivial, like her crush on another boy, as they sat at a pool side.
So this girl’s her best friend. Cassie Meadows, you need to get a life. Stop talking about boys. Start fucking them. Her thoughts drifted back to another lifetime. Or start fucking your best friend. Maybe this Melanie chick will swing that way, even if Matilda didn’t. She smiled at herself in the mirror.
Behind the door, the mother yelled some inanity. The girl ignored the older woman. She would have plenty of time to deal with her, the father, and the little brother later.
* * *
Sleep claimed Cassie in that prison cell. She dreamt.
She stood at the bottom of a driveway, the house obscured by several large trees. Odder still was that the driveway was blocked by iron gates--not the sort of thing she’d see in her suburban neighborhood.
She shrugged and pulled at the gate. When it didn’t open, she tapped a code in. It swung open. She entered.
There was home, the place she and Danielle had built just a year ago. She walked in through the side door of the garage into the kitchen. Maria was preparing dinner.
“It smells great, Maria,” she said. “What are you making?”
The older lady smiled and said something in Italian.
“Molto bene. I don’t know what that is, but it smells delicious.”
She left the kitchen and found Danielle curled up in the library with a book. She joined her on the sofa and wrapped her arm around her, nuzzled her neck and kissed her when she turned to face her. “What are you reading?”
“How was work, Randy?”
She smiled. “It was a good day, but my favorite part of the day is coming home to you.”
Danielle giggled. “Charmer. You’re such an old soul, a real gentleman.”
“Not always. Not all my thoughts are so innocent, you know. I was thinking later...long after dinner...a bottle of wine...you and me, naked in bed…”
“And if I’m not in the mood?”
“Tease.” She kissed her wife on the earlobe, then whispered, “I’m always in the mood.”
“Then it’s a date.”
Cassie closed her eyes to Danielle’s touch on her cheek.
When she opened her eyes, she stared at a concrete ceiling. Her heart raced, thudded in her head. In a cold sweat, she sat up on the lumpy mattress and gazed around at her surroundings: a tiny prison cell with a guy snoring on the other cot.
“What?” she asked. “What was that dream?”
She lay back down, tried to tell herself it was just the stress of her situation catching up to her.
But none of this should be possible. People don’t just switch bodies, yet I can’t help but get the feeling that was more than a dream. It was...a memory.
Cassie tried to bring the memory back. Unlike a dream that faded upon waking, the vision of Danielle reading a book on the sofa in the library, the room where Cassie first appeared in Randy’s body, was clear. She could hear the beautiful woman’s voice.
Another memory surfaced, driving into her mind like a spike in the hard earth. Cassie winced as she recalled Danielle’s broken body in the bathtub. Tears prickled at her eyes. She couldn’t reconcile that the two bodies were the same, one so warm, so soft, so alive; one so cold, so pale, so...dead.
It doesn’t make sense. How does a guy like Randy go from clearly loving his wife to killing her? I saw their wedding picture. They were so happy. God, what I’d give for someone to love me like that, for a guy to notice me.
Then she almost laughed. The memory belonged to Randy, yet she shared in it just as intimately. She almost felt in love with Danielle through Randy, as crazy as that was.
Maybe I should chase after Brandon’s sister instead.
She shook her head, knowing it wasn’t true. She liked boys, yet now she was a boy...well, a man.
A small laugh escaped her lips. But the laughter ripped her in two. The cop’s words came to her. Randy had been unfaithful to his wife. Being rich and famous, his reputation was well known.
Cassie, like most teenagers, was wrapped up in a different world. She’d heard of Randy’s company, what with it being in the next city over, but she didn’t pay attention or care about the man’s sex life...until she became him.
She sighed and closed her eyes, weary of thinking so much.