A Practical Guide to Your Magical Hero Destiny
1299 words long
Sheād shape-shifted into a runway model who would no longer acknowledge my existence, so I shape-shifted into a thief.
Notes from the author:
Middle grade and young adult protagonists are often confronted with the impending death of a friendship. In most cases, itās down to natural causes. Friends grow up; friends grow apart. When they start to solidify their own identities, they start to question the parental assumption that two kids sharing the same gender, age, and geographical location are destined to be best friends forever. In this story, however, the cause of damage to Tiana and Mishaās friendship is anything but natural.
Of course I stole it. It was the obvious thing to do. It was this big tacky symbol of everything that had gone wrong between Tiana and me. If Iād believed in magic, Iād have said that stealing the locket and maybe destroying it was a spell to put everything right. But I didnāt believe in magic. I was just angry and hurt and ready to hurt someone back. And what better way to hurt the person who hurt me than by stealing her prized possession?
Tiana and me, weād been best friends. You couldnāt see daylight between us, we were that close. Everyone at school knew it: Misha and Tiana, ride or die. Then I guess puberty hit, that magic age when everyone shape-shifts like werewolves under the full moon and you get to see what kind of monsters they really are. In Tianaās case, it was even more like werewolf stories than most, because she was seriously sick for a couple of weeks, so sick they wouldnāt let me visit her. She never told me what was up with that. Only reason I knew sheād got better was seeing her around town again, going out to breakfast with her family, waiting for the school bus. Moving through the crowd at the junior lockers like a Goddess among mortals. Sheād shape-shifted into a runway model. About ninety percent of the boys and twenty-five percent of the girls were crushing on her, hard, and she ignored them all.
And she flat-out avoided me. She made damn careful sure that I never got a chance between classes to talk to her alone. And I wasnāt going to ask her,Ā Hey, Tiana, what did I do wrong? where anyone else could hear. I could just imagine the fun that the rest of the kids at school would have after thatĀ scene went down. My only real option was to follow her home after school or just go knock on her door, make her look me in the eye. Make her say it out loud: Sorry, Misha, I just donāt like you anymore.Ā And I was way too much of a coward to face that.
Meanwhile, she had this locket.Ā This big, eye-catching thing. Had to be fake, the way it gleamed and sparkled; real gold and diamonds donāt have so much to prove. And what was Tiana trying to prove, swanning around with that hunk of bling like she was too much All That for the rest of us?
So of course I stole it.
But I didnāt just knock her down behind the gym and rip it off her. I was angry enough to do that, yeah, but I wasnāt stupid. So I told my cowardice to stuff it and I damn well did follow her home. Acted like it was no big deal, like nothing had changed. Asked her, soon as we were away from the other kids,Ā Hey, so, we both have that big test coming up next week, how ābout we get together for an all-nighter study session? Like we used to do?Ā It was hard to stop there when I wanted to go on begging Canāt we go back to the way we were, why arenāt we friends anymore, what changed?Ā It was reallyĀ hard to shut up and wait for her to answer, or to just turn and walk away from me without a word. And it was superĀ hard to watch her face get this conflicted, painful look like she had a difficult truth to tell me and didnāt know where to start.
Finally she said, all reluctant like Iād badgered her into it, āYeah, OK. Tomorrow after school?ā So thatās what we did.
HerĀ mom acted all stiff and proper around me, which was weird. And Tiana acted like we were actually there to study and nothing else. āTiana,ā I said, āwe used to talk. Whatās up with you?ā And sheĀ just frowned and said we couldnāt goof off like silly middle-schoolers anymore. The trig test was going to be serious, OK?
And thatās when I thought, hell with it. Hell with her. I shut my mouth about anything that wasnāt trigonometry. And I watched where she put the locket when she got ready for bed. I waited until she was for-sure asleep.
And then I stole it.
I put it on so that the locket was under my shirt. Then I grabbed my things and got out of there. I figured, now she couldnāt ignore me anymore. If she wanted the damn thing back, sheād have to come crawling to me.
It was only a mile home from there, maybe not even that. But I never made it home. Halfway there, I got theseĀ monsterĀ cramps, worse than before my parents finally gave me permission to go on the pill. And it wasnāt even the right time of the month. They were so bad, IĀ just curled up right there on the sidewalk and lay there trying to breathe. Eventually, some animal instinct propelled me off the sidewalk and up the docks and down under a tarp on one of the boats, where I could fold myself up tight and wait to see whether I was going to die.
That was howĀ Tiana found me. She dug me out from under the tarp, picked me up like I weighed less than a baby, and carried me back to her house. And then she told me everything.
āI felt you,ā she said. āI was dead asleep and you woke me up, hurting. Iād felt you hurting for a long time, but Mama told me to just tune it out. And I hatedĀ it. But then tonight you got the destiny sickness and I knew Mama was wrong.ā
I didnāt knowĀ what the hell ādestiny sicknessā was, but, whatever it was, it had me hurting too much to ask any questions.
āIām so sorry, Misha. I should have come to you sooner. I told Mama the locket wanted someone, I could feel it, and maybe Iād have figured it was you if Iād thought for two seconds about it. But Mama was always telling me, it only gets handed down from mother to daughter, it canāt possibly want someone new already. But I should have trusted what I felt. You deserved some kind of warning, what it would be like.ā
It all came out after that, in dribs and drabs over the next two weeks while I suffered my way through this ādestiny sicknessā business. Tiana told me that when I got better Iād have super strength, weird mental powers, all this superhero shit. And it meant Iād be set apart, just like her. We couldnāt afford to get attached to ordinary people anymore. We had to be able to answer destiny the instant she called, no questions asked, no regrets.
āBut I didĀ regret it.Ā I missed you, Misha! But Mama made it clear I couldnāt haveĀ friends. All could have was a daughter, eventually, so I could hand her down that locket. But thenĀ the locket called you. I should be sorryāitās gonna be rough on you, no lie. But Iām so glad weāre in it together and we can be friends again.ā
It was a lot to take in. And I canāt say it made it all better. Who says superheroes canāt have friends? Thatās stupid. Thatās, like, the stupidest trope in the comic books. Iām pretty damn mad at Tianaās mom for pushing that bullshit on Tiana, and Iām still pretty mad at Tiana for buying it in the first place.
But at least weāre talking again. And, hey, I have a Magic Hero Destiny. Thatās kind of neat, isnāt it?
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