Deena wanted to know if I was following her.
I don’t remember which attempt it was, how many people I had been so far. But this time I was Pam, a girl who worked at the bookstore in Deena’s neighborhood. Pam, whose hair was the same color as her skin, a monochromatic honey shade that would have been boring and dreary on other people but looked delicious on Pam. I was reasonably sure that if Deena didn’t love me anymore, she would love Pam.
Deena said, again, “Are you following me?”
All she had needed was one look at me. Was it the way I was standing? Was it my little nervous cough, that identified me as surely as a DNA sample? I shook my head and sighed. I was like a ghost that had failed at whatever evil it was supposed to do, and could only be embarrassed at being found out, exorcised, and laughed at. Now I knew why there were ghosts that liked to smash things. I used the momentum of my sigh to leave Pam, whooshing out backwards and hanging in the air like mist behind her.
And then Pam wondered why she felt headachy and turned on—her heart was beating so strongly that it moved her stomach, her viscera in nauseating flutters—and all of this occurring in the lost moment between when she was shelving New Fiction and right now. Pam stared at her fingers, which were splayed out blushing and stinging against the countertop. I know because now I was someone else, and I was watching her.
My ex-girlfriend Deena killed people for a living. She was a Euthanizer for the local health bureau. I think I must be a sick person, because I thought that was sort of hot. But this is really hard to explain. I thought that people were lucky to have someone like Deena to lead them out of life and into the nothing-whatever of being dead. If you do not believe in something like St. Peter at the gates and beautiful angels who look like the best parts of men and women both, but you want that sort of thing, then Deena is your best bet.
Deena, the angel of Death, had hands that scrabbled like insects when she loaded and reloaded her licensed Death Ray in mere seconds. Her hair was always in a short bob, the ends curving into her cheeks like a knight’s helmet. It was Louise Brooks hair, but anyone could have that. Deena was just so pretty, in that same small-mouthed, secretive way.
The first time I met Deena, she killed someone I loved. His name was Melchior Pak, an old professor of mine. I had been one of the worst students in his seminar. We got to know each other when I started dog-sitting his Great Dane to improve my grades. That didn’t work, but we became friends after an argument abut whether the band Roxy Music was better before or after Brian Eno left. Mel had been pro-Eno. My youthful, Botoxed grandparents had taught me otherwise, back when I was a kid.
The last time I saw Mel, he was lying in bed, looking like hell in a pomegranate-colored velour tracksuit. I might look like a rich woman at the grocery store, Mel said, but I’m comfortable, so shut it. When Deena walked in, I barely noticed. I was watching Mel’s husband Gabriel, who was holding Mel’s hand and weeping. You might not think that people could possibly cry enough for the tears, all that water to spread like hungry lakes and make everything messy and salty, but that’s what Gabriel was doing. Mel had “Ladytron” blasting from his pricey Bang & Olufsen speakers. It was his favorite song, and perhaps his way of having the last word in the old Roxy Music argument.
There was very little ceremony. Mel patted Gabriel’s hand and whispered something in his ear. He motioned for me to come over, and took a slippery white envelope out from under his pillow and handed it to me. Don’t open it now, he said. But promise me you’ll look at it later. I tried to say something but he shook his head.
Then he nodded at Deena, who was perched patiently on a footstool. She stood and raised her arm, and a cloud of cameras coalesced, buzzing and spinning. I couldn’t hear them over the music, which had reached the sax solo, but a few of the cameras swept ticklishly past my eyelashes.
“This will be recorded for the archives of the health bureau,” Deena said. Then: “Goodbye, Mr. Pak.” She aimed the Death Ray at Mel. I felt a loud hum like cotton against my eardrums, and that was all—Mel was enveloped in a slithering gray fog. There was a moment of amazement in all of this, however; the sax was swirling and so was the fog, and right before the room clouded over completely, Deena looked me in the eyes, her gaze a pure laser-shot of information and future potential and, oh, everything. When the fog lifted, Mel was dead.
My friends tell me that I love Deena because of the incredibly fucked-up way we met, all the adrenaline and horror and twisted glamour. I love Mel. Deena kills Mel. I love Deena. My friends are over-simplifying jerks.
It was that and it wasn’t that. After Mel’s appointment was over, I found myself standing outside of his renovated Victorian. It was cold out and my feet felt as heavy as snowmen, stuck frozen to the ground. A long time passed before Deena came out of the house.
She said, “I liked Mr. Pak. Funny guy. He chose a very nice-sounding song, too. Mr. Pak was in a cult, did you know that? I’m sure you knew that.”
Mel’s parents had been Mindiites. He was born in their compound, lived there until he was twenty-six years old, when the leader died under mysterious circumstances and the cult disbanded. Mel talked only about the robes and rituals, not the philosophy of the cult, which was still a mystery to the rest of the world.
“I need to ask you about something,” I said.
“Mr. Pak really loved you,” Deena said, as if she hadn’t heard me. “It was your first time at one of these, right? It’s not a morbid thing, to want someone at a euthanasia appointment. It means he loves you and wants you to be the last thing he sees.”
“I wish he hadn’t chosen today,” I said. “I wish he had chosen next week, or the week after, or next year. Some other time.”
Deena’s eyes were flat and calm. “That’s why choosing is treacherous. The people that love you don’t realize that you choose the right day for you. They only want you to delay that day for as long as possible, so the appointment might never happen. But then there’s no point in choosing.”
I rubbed my eyes and looked down. I tried to stare at something that wasn’t a signpost to something sad. A rock. A dogwood tree across the street. A wrinkled club flyer stuck under my car windshield. No, that was a sad thing. They were all sad things and looking at them made me feel worse. Deena was probably the only beautiful thing for miles.
“Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I guess you’d know.” I tried to smile at her. My face felt shiny and painful and peeled. Then I felt a light touch on the small of my back, more like an animal’s paw than a human hand.
“Would you like to get a cup of coffee with me?” Deena said.
I was Martin, a homeless man who usually sat near the Trader Joe’s where Deena shopped. I was gradually learning Deena’s entire schedule. I had a paper sack of old books with the covers ripped off—Edwardian romance novels and Tom Clancy and diet guides. I was always reading. There were so many ills in my body. My teeth were loose. My stomach felt beat-up, empty, like a smashed soda can. I often had migraines so bad that it felt like my left eye was pulsing in and out of its socket, as though I were a squeeze toy. When I was Martin, it was harder for me to think. All my thoughts across all bodies sometimes acted like a card catalog that had been upset onto the floor. Things grew in my brain and their root systems were destroying everything.
A young man passing by flipped a coin into my paper cup and I thought about where I left off and everything else began. The sun sank into my skin and I sighed—a brief flare of joy. Oh, I was forgetting myself. Oh, everything I had done, all the people I had been, everyone who I’d given the Me Virus, the Deena Disease, which I suffered alone.
But there was no time for such thoughts now. I was on a mission. I saw Deena park her car and walk into the grocery store. I was also Celeste now, and I hurried out of my apartment to meet Deena. I chose to inhabit Celeste because of her proximity to Trader Joe’s and because she was older, attractive rather than cute, perhaps someone that would please Deena. Which was all I needed.
When Celeste-me passed Martin-me, I put a twenty into Martin’s cup. He would want it later.
Inside Trader Joe’s, I found Deena looking at olives. She was holding a little jar in her palm like a hand grenade.
“You don’t want those,” I said. Deena turned around and I saw her liking what she saw. A pulse of happiness ran through me.
Deena said, “What do you recommend?” She raised her chin imperiously, like a teenage boy trying to look taller than his friends. It was a good sign. Deena tried to intimidate people she was attracted to. You could call it a bad habit of hers, but I always took it to mean that she was shy at heart. I’m kind of a sucker.
“These.” I picked up a squat jar of pepper-stuffed olives. “These are awesome.”
“Oh huh,” she said. “I knew someone who loved those olives too. She was practically addicted to them.”
I talked just to say anything. “Lots of people love olives. Except for my Dad. And my sister. And some other people I know. They hate olives.”
“And she said they were ‘awesome’ too,” Deena continued, as if the word was a large bug that had flown into her mouth. “She said ‘awesome’ so often that it kind of lost all meaning, do you know what I mean?”
“Well,” I sputtered, “I don’t say it very often. And these are good olives, okay?” There was one of me but three brains, and one word kept ricocheting between my skulls:
Deena was looking past me. “Oh my god,” she said, without changing her tone. “There’s a man peeing outside of the store.”
That man was me. My neighbor Greg, an engineer at Cisco who lived in the unit above me. I had inhabited him just in case I needed to create a distraction. Again, fuck. I hadn’t planned this very well. Urine was the only weapon that Greg had, even though he wasn’t really the type of person who would pee in public, much less against Trader Joe’s. My pee splashed against the side of the store and speckled my leather shoes. I ran Greg away afterwards, before the cops could arrive. Deena slid her eyes back to me.
Meanwhile I had calmed down. “I don’t usually do this,” I said, “but you seem like a really interesting person. Can I take you out to dinner sometime?”
Deena smiled. But then her tiny nostrils flared, and I knew I was dead. I had gotten skilled at reading Deena’s moods, for all the good it did me, and this was one of Deena’s mean smiles. Deena’s mean smile was much worse than a frown from a normal person.
She said, “Actually, I’m not in the mood for olives anymore. Maybe it was seeing that man pee, or something. Thanks for your help though.” Deena turned away, frowning now, and left the aisle. Then I glimpsed her in the next aisle over, peering at me around the corner.
I bought the jar of olives I was holding and left as quickly as I could. All I had was that one quick look of admiration she had given me, before I ruined everything again.
I think it takes a while to find out when someone doesn’t love you as much as you love her. Like two near-parallel lines, diverging drastically as time passes. It would have been nice if we could see that the lines were crooked from the very beginning.
They fuck you up, perfectionist girlfriends. I had been standing in the bathroom, naked to the waist. I’d gotten one contact lens in and was struggling with the other, it kept folding against my eyeball for some reason, and then Deena had snuggled up behind me.
“Hey,” she said. “Your boobs are crooked. I never noticed.”
“So?” I said.
She smiled. She snaked her arms around the front of my body and cupped my boobs.
“They’re lopsy bunny boobs.” She jiggled them in her hands for a moment. “You are so cute. God.”
Then Deena kissed me on the ear and walked off. I looked down at the boobs. The nipples were stiff and insulted-looking. I put a shirt on.
This was a Deena habit. She listed my faults and pretended to love them, and then she’d turn around and admire all sorts of perfect girls—ones with wiry rock-climber bodies and mod haircuts; ones with short and curvy bodies and perfectly shaped shaved heads; ones with perfect jawlines and clothes they had made themselves; ones with waist-length hair, who believed in astrology; ones with waist-length hair, who didn’t believe in astrology; and finally those L Word bitches. I hated that show, a lot.
There were all kinds of beautiful girls in the world and she never failed to point them out.
I have tried seeming beautiful to Deena, just as myself, but there is only so much that is possible. Have you ever tried to make your lips seems large and luscious with applications of lip-liner and gloss? I looked like a contestant in a spaghetti-eating contest. I looked like the winner.
After Mel’s death, I did remember to keep my promise. I opened his envelope. The first thing in it was a letter from Mel.
Cults are crazy more often than they are right. The Cult of Mindy was both. I’m not going to bore you with the details (lord knows I spent most of “cult school” in a haze of boredom!), but I will say this: Mindy promises long life and the widest variety of human experience possible. Mindy shall deliver. I am bequeathing to you something that I created in my last year as a Mindiite.
Please remember that the mind does not live without the body—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise—and the body transforms the mind. I am planning to die as myself rather than live on as someone else. I am too afraid, but perhaps you are not.
I trust you to do something good with this, or at least something interesting. I am sorry to be dead. But there is a tiny bit of useful advice in this letter. If you can’t find it, then you deserve the terrible grade you received in my seminar.
All my love,
And there was an old sheet of yellow paper covered in scribbles, with two lines of writing crammed into every college-ruled row. There were incantations that read like threatening nursery rhymes, admonitions to use high-quality toothpaste and cat hair in the spell.
I put the paper down.
I had missed the sight of Mel’s handwriting—usually in bright red pen—but now I couldn’t even stand to look at it. Mel had gone dotty before he died. Mel was trying to relive his good old cult days. I stuck everything back into the envelope and put it in my desk drawer.
Perhaps it would have been better to receive nothing than to receive this. It was a thought so unfaithful that I cringed. I would not throw it away, but I would not look at it again.
Then again, being dumped will change your mind about many things. It was only three months later. I was sitting on the floor of my apartment, swigging horrible burning Jack Daniels from a mug with a broken handle. I called a few of my friends but none of them were willing to talk to me for too long. They told me that Deena was a creep with a creepy job, that she didn’t listen to good music and she flirted with other girls too much.
I hung up on all of them and lay down on the rug, mind blank. I rolled my head left and right, my heart thudding in my chest. A bad feeling was rising up in my body, as though I was fighting an ocean wave that kept swelling to my mouth and nose. It meant barfing. I shut my eyes hard and when I opened them again, I glimpsed a triangle of white sticking out of the desk drawer. Mel’s Mindiite spell. I got up and dug it out from under a pile of junk.
I was laughing and crying. I rubbed the toothpaste into my chest and felt it eat away at my skin, one cell at a time. Then I stepped forward and chanted the spell. My breath was caustic and smelly, as though my stomach had sent advance scouts up to my mouth. I wondered, was it easiest to do magic when you were drunk?
Choosing a name. I chose my sister, whispered her name, held her face in my mind, and,
the chest I was touching wasn’t my own, it was softer and there was no toothpaste gunk and then I caught my reflection in my flatscreen TV, something I did not remember owning. My sister Isabel was looking back at me. I was I and I was Isabel. My brain had been sliced in two and regenerated itself into two wholes, like a flatworm. I scratched my bumpy Isabel nose, and when I laughed, I laughed the same way in two different voices. After another moment, I left Isabel easily, stepping backwards but not-stepping-backwards. And then I was all myself again.
I finally threw up.
Deena my Deena.
I want you back.
But I’m not stupid enough to think that you want me back.
If you don’t love me in this body, then I’ll give you another, and another, and more after that.
Tell me what pleases you and you’ll have it.
I will be any shape you need.
My manifesto, Deena.
I was Angelina Jolie. Everyone loves Angelina Jolie, right? Even during the phase with all the blood and knives and lace-up leather pants, when she was kind of dorky, I found that no one could resist her. Even my straight female friends, who tossed around phrases like “I’d do her if I did women” as easily as ordering soup, had a certain manic light in their eyes when they discussed Angelina Jolie.
Now, of course, Angelina adopted children and went on goodwill missions and was not so cheesily thrilling, but she was still perfect. I saw my Jessica Rabbit features reflected everywhere in the glossy surfaces of Neiman Marcus—the floors, the racks, the glass counters filled with monstrous, glittering jewelry—and it gave me a short sharp shock every time. I was not comfortable. I did not like Angelina Jolie’s reflection gliding on by as I stalked Deena through the store, like a Bentley driving alongside a busted Toyota Corolla.
Deena was browsing through women’s designer sportswear. I had to stop myself from kicking off my high heels and running at her. When I sidled up to Deena, pretending to browse the rack next to her, I saw her eyes widen.
“Hi there,” I said right to her. And why not? This body, it was like wearing a magic coat that gave me permission to do whatever I pleased.
“Oh,” Deena said, “hello. Excuse me, but you’re Angelina Jolie?” It was nice to see her flustered.
“I am. What’s your name?”
She smiled, still confused. “I’m Deena.” It felt so good to touch her again, even if it was just shaking her chilly little hand. That’s probably why I went a little crazy.
“Listen,” I said. “Why don’t we get out of here? Let’s get dinner. We can go anywhere you want.”
Deena took a step backwards. The look in her eyes—I felt as though a shadow had just swallowed her up, large and dark and hawk-shaped.
“Just dinner, that’s all,” I said. Deena gasped. She turned on her heel, losing one of her shoes, and ran towards the fitting room. I followed her. Deena pushed over a whole section of separates directly in my path, the hangers screaming down the racks. I leapt over them.
By the time I caught up with Deena, she had locked herself into one of the fitting room stalls.
“Please,” I said.
“What the hell do you want with me?” said Deena. “You don’t even know me. You’re Angelina Jolie.”
“Please, I just want to talk to you for a little bit,” I said. Then I did a stupid and bad thing. I said: “I miss you so much, Deena.”
She was quiet for a long time. Behind the door of the stall, I couldn’t picture her face—whether she felt longing or hate or annoyance or fear. I couldn’t even hear her breathing.
“You what,” Deena said.
I said nothing.
“You fake-ass Angelina Jolie,” she whispered. “I know who you are. I’m going to call the police if you don’t stop following me around.”
I slumped against the door. After waiting a few more seconds, I finally left.
A few days later, I was at a newsstand and saw a magazine cover splashed with a blurry photo of Angelina sprinting through Neiman Marcus. She, I, looked awful. I flipped to the middle:
ANGELINA CHASES MYSTERIOUS LESBIAN LOVER THOUGH DEPARTMENT STORE!
“I guess I thought she was a friend of mine,” Jolie said. “She must have looked familiar. She did look familiar.”
“Besides,” Jolie added, “I pretty much only do it with Brad Pitt now.”
Worst of all is knowing that Deena won’t love you, no matter what form or size or shape you take. Worst of all is knowing that there’s something so wrong with you that it’ll stick to you forever.
I have been so many people for Deena, so many varied and beautiful women. But she didn’t want any of us.
What’s the spell that’ll change every single thing about me inside and out. What’s the spell that’ll render me unrecognizable to Deena, to anyone, to my own mother.
Deena didn’t invite me to her birthday party, so I crashed it. Specifically, I inhabited every last person at her party. I waited until after everyone got into her apartment. I became thirty-six people. The sensation was almost too much, I could barely carry on ten conversations and one of me got a terrible nosebleed that poured out of my nostrils as suddenly and smoothly as poured wine. Somewhere else in the room, a beer bottle slipped from my hand, and rolled over on the floor. A puddle fanned out around my feet and burbled quietly to itself. Keep. It. Together.
This is the last time, I had said into the mirror at home. This time something has to happen. Maybe we can all line up. Maybe Deena will chose one of me. Maybe Deena will choose the one she might be able to love from a catalog. I think we can discuss this like adults. My chest was angry and red from repeated applications of toothpaste.
I was Vishal, one of Deena’s co-workers from the health bureau. I said to her, “You look exhausted. Is everything okay?”
She said, “I don’t know. Things haven’t been going well for me.”
“How so?” I said. Vishal’s mustache felt heavy against my lip.
Deena smiled a little, a smile that expressed only tiredness. “A lot of people have been hitting on me these days.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Isn’t it?
“No. It is not.” She had lost a bit of weight, hadn’t she? From behind her, I saw how the pale knobs of her vertebrae jutted out above the neck of her sweater. She said, “But if I tell you why it’s not a good thing, you’re going to think I’ve gone insane.”
“Oh, Deena,” I said. I gave her a careful pat on the back. She started to cry. I came closer to her, folded my arms around her. It’s okay, it’s okay, I said. Oh, I’m so sorry.
At that, Deena lifted her head. We had all stopped talking, stopped playing at being thirty-six different people at a party. We were thirty-six people who were all me and all loved Deena, looking at only her and wanting her and pressing ever closer.
“Oh no,” she said. “Get away.”
“I’ll be whatever you want,” we said. “See how?” She was shaking her head as thought she could shake us all out of her sight.
Imagine a room full of people who love you, who adore your body and thoughts and words. I can’t even imagine such riches. Deena was lucky. We were a kicking chorus line of people who loved Deena! A battalion of soldiers who would give their lives for Deena! A synchronized swimming team who fluttered and kicked for an audience of only Deena!
Then Deena pulled her Death Ray out of her purse.
Confession time. I made Deena seem like the Mean Girl, the Ice Queen, and that’s not completely fair. It is true that in many ways, Deena was like a Soviet Constructivist painting, all gorgeous reds and tans and blacks, with lines and edges that would poke you painfully the closer you came. But Deena was also cuddly. I just wanted to say that before it was too late.
Once we were at a karaoke bar downtown, a nice sort of place where people sang like wannabe pop idols instead of badly and drunkenly like they were supposed to. We had stopped by to drink dirty martinis and watch the singers for a while. But then the host called Deena’s name. I hadn’t seen Deena put her name in, so I was shocked.
“Deena? You’re going to sing?” I hissed to her as she got up. Deena never sang. I couldn’t imagine such a thing.
“We’ll see if it actually sounds like singing,” she said.
Standing in the front of the karaoke monitor, Deena kept smiling, her lips clamped shut. She looked friendly and approachable. That’s how I knew she was terrified.
“This song is dedicated to my one and only lady love,” she said. She pointed gracefully at me. Her arms and neck shone under the spotlight. Everyone turned around, but at this point, there were only a few spare hollers and claps. I felt a certain message emanating very strongly from everyone in the bar—Deena would have to sing before they would be convinced of her love for me.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting the song. I was expecting a Top 40 hit, maybe, who knows. Deena was not exactly one for pop culture. She watched The L Word only for the babes, naturally.
The song was “Let It Be.” The Beatles. It was incredibly inappropriate for the karaoke bar and incredibly long. Deena had that familiar, unmoored look of someone who thought they knew a song intimately until they actually had to sing it without the real vocals half-drowning them out. And there’s a special sort of problem you might encounter when you sing a simple song like “Let It Be”: if you suck at singing, a large part of the song will be you chanting “let it be let it be let it beeeeeee” drearily, tunelessly, please let this be over now.
Of course I loved it. When Deena was not squinting at the monitor, she was trying to smile for me, brave and ashen like someone who had been called off to war.
When “Let It Be” ended, everyone clapped for real—Deena, although awful, had proven her love valiantly—and a few people even whistled as she speed-walked towards our table and leaned down to kiss me.
“You’re amazing,” I said.
“I knew you’d enjoy that,” Deena said, calm and beautiful once more. Then she pushed her head against me like a puppy and mumbled, “God, that was awful. I thought it would be so easy. I picked that song because it was easy. But then it went on and on forever.”
It was the best thing Deena could have given me. Deena hated rough edges and discomfort. Easy for Deena would be paying for dinner at a nice restaurant and taking me to a wine bar afterwards. Easy for Deena would be finding me perfect shoes from stores with single-word names.
That is why I chose karaoke night as the night of perfect happiness, the night I held close to me when I inhabited and left body after body. When we left the bar, Deena rested her hand on my waist, the little hill of fat that sat between the place where my waist pinched inwards and my hips swelled out. She didn’t do it in the evaluating sort of way that she usually did. She liked the feel of me. And I was so happy. I felt beautiful. Just a bit. Maybe.
It’s like certain movies, where you only get one truly happy scene after you meet cute and before everything falls apart. It’s like everyone is in a hurry to get to the doomed part. Well I wasn’t. But maybe constant exposure to the movie version has altered me forever. Because now the Deena I think about more, want more, is Bad Deena. Ice Queen Deena.
My brain feels like a warehouse. There are so many different people, all me, crammed up in there, and I am having trouble moving us down the street. Deena is closing in on us, her curvy legs flying down the street. She has already picked off a few of me from the perimeter. I can feel the sharp little deaths spiking in some deep part of my brain as they happen, the bodies falling like limbs from the group.
I start panting as I run down the street. I didn’t mean to get anyone killed. I was just borrowing their bodies and I know that sounds bad but I didn’t mean anyone harm. I swear. Now I shiver in my original body, hiding by a dumpster in an alley by Deena’s apartment. The white nimbus of the Death Ray spills over the edge of the dumpster. They’re close.
Stop! Stop! I’m leaving them, we all say. Deena stops shooting.
“Then do it,” she says. I run them a few blocks away, and then I leave them. Deena’s standing still. I hear her breathing, punctuated by the rain that begins to spatter the ground in irregular blots.
“It’s just me now,” I say from my hiding place.
“Christ,” she says. She sounds so broken-down and low. “It’s not like I can file a restraining order against you, you know?” Then she laughs, but it’s not the good kind.
“I know. Deena, I’m sorry. It’s my fault.”
“It is your fucking fault,” says Deena.
“I wanted you back, Deena, I didn’t know what to do.” I don’t know what to tell her that will fix everything. I don’t know why Deena was the only woman that ever made me feel like this, all itchy and angry and desperate.
Deena said, “With every person I date from now on, I’ll only think of you. That was rotten. You have no idea.”
Her shadow stretches like black taffy against the alleyway, and my breath stutters in my throat. I’m all twisty inside. At the sight of Deena, even after everything, sense will always leave me and again I will wish I could be someone she loved. Oh, it’s so fucking ridiculous and it will never end.
What would Mel say? I imagine Mel’s face filling the narrow rectangle of sky between buildings, like the lion dad in The Lion King. I wish he could yell at me, remind me that there are other women in the world besides Deena, and ask me why I have been so monstrous. Or demand to know how, with such great magic in my life, I’d managed to screw up so badly. Anyway, Mel is not saying anything.
I clap my hands over my mouth and try to quiet my breathing. The wet ground has seeped through my jeans and my butt feels cold and dead and detached from me. I reach down into my sock, where I’ve rolled a small tube of potion, and squeeze some out onto my palm. It stings. I move my hand up and down, like I’m weighing it. But I’m all out of options, aren’t I? And with that thought, something tremendous seems to loosen inside me, and I stop shivering. I wonder, what will it be like to look out of Deena’s clear eyes, to look at myself and see my adoration shining out, reflected back and forth in a swimmy, swoony feedback loop? I could it do it. I could do it forever.
Her feet crunch into the wet pavement. “I’m here,” she says in a weird singsong. But she’s not that good at playing the villain. She clears her throat awkwardly.
“Deena,” I say, potion at the ready, eyes closed. “Deena, Deena, Deena.” I know where my eyes will open next, how my heart will thud inside my borrowed, stolen body; and to be utterly and completely honest with you, I am looking forward to it.