Jon returns to his old school, uncovering a mystery he’d all but forgotten.
The wave of nostalgia hit stronger than it should have. After so many trips home, Jon finally made his way to revisiting his old grade schools. He rightfully felt like a giant in his old elementary, and middle school reminded him of a lot of harsh growing pains. High school was altogether different, where he got a confident handle on the kind of man he’d grow to be, but where it got thoroughly tested for the first time.
The long, locker-ladden hallway made him smile and reminisce, something he’d be hesitant to do easily with others around. He made his way to his old locker, touching the engraved number and toying with the fresh lock. He laughed to himself, leaning his head against the cool metal, eyes closed and half-expecting his old clique, Sal and Mike, to stand there alongside him like always, talking about whatever. It was his social support system for four long years, made up of the one’s he’d never hesitate to call friends. Fond smirking came as he remembered their personalities; Sal the cute nerdy girl that was somehow nerdier than him, and Mike the boyish-charm flirter that acted like a carefree younger brother to offset Jon’s older, stauncher self.
Jon remembered how all three of them spotted her one day. The way she swaggered down the hall, more confident than any transfer student had a right to be, but already acting as if she already belonged. Jon didn’t think much of her bright demeanor like everyone else. Most thought she would easily gravitate to the popular crowds, which she did. But she carried an air of something about her, an aura that people just seemed to react to. Sal had hawkish eyes making her quick to cast judgment on others; she liked sizing people up for some reason. Mike had hawkish eyes too, but for measuring girls figures more times than not; he always thought that was part of his whimsical charm, but his friends never confirmed it.
When it came to the new girl, Sal was as expected judgmental, Mike was typically horny, and Jon was surprisingly…smitten. It felt like a mix of several things, but smitten was the easiest thing to identify in the bulk of his feelings. He made sure his outward reaction to her ranged anywhere from nonchalant to also suspicious. Some of it was genuine, since he didn’t know what it was about her that got to him.
Jon’s high school trip down memory lane turned into an investigation, trying to piece together a cold case of when he’d fallen for the type of confident, manipulative women so common to the man he’d become. The more he thought about the past, the more it became like the scene of a crime. His resistance was slowly being identified as the victim, as he thought more about his assailant.
“Jocelyn,” Sal quietly claimed her name was in study hall. They all looked her way, and the opposite end of another long library table. It’d been maybe a month since she’d arrived, and nothing seemed too out of the ordinary with her, save for the fact that everyone seemed to have glowing praise for her, or almost everyone. The students loved her looks, her teachers loved her grades, to the average passerby, she seemed flawless. The fact that no one spoke ill of her seemed a pretty blatant red flag to Jon’s clique. Sal went over theories about how she could be affecting people, wild stuff that would only seem tame for comic books, and Mike made his usual ‘I should take a up-close and personal look at her’ claim. Jon just made sure he didn’t say her name with any positivity like he could’ve without trying.
They all watched with amazement as Jocelyn was engaged by Mr. Piers, the strictest teacher in the school, and an all-around asshole who loved the power he had over kids. He picked out the fashion magazine in front of the textbook with the required reading. If kids were lucky, all they got was their stuff confiscated usually; with Jocelyn, she talked softly to him a little, flashed a smile, looking pointedly at him, and Piers’ response was to smile back and leave her be, leaving Jon’s posse filled with shock.
“Witchcraft!” Sal whispered sharply, making Jon and Mike shush her to not draw Mr. Piers’ attention. A tinge of fear filled their hearts as they saw her charm in action for the first time. Unfortunately for Jon, fear meshed well with the intrigue of a mysterious girl. They certainly fused as Jon looked in Jocelyn’s direction and found her looking directly at him. Their look lingered, with Jocelyn’s expression revealing more that she knew why they looked at each other. Adult Jon stood at the library entrance, looking at where Jocelyn once sat. He swore he could still see that look, and the smile to compliment, making him mouth her name. Shaking his head to right himself, he forced thoughts of her gaze out of his head and onto the cafeteria.
“Literally nothing got updated in 15 years,” was his comment as he took in another all-too-familiar space that had yet to be updated if ever. Nothing changing did help to place himself exactly where Jon’s table was with his friends. Sal was keeping an eye out for ‘witch’ sightings, and Jon failed to convince her of her claim, never giving her ammunition in the form of shared looks. Sal eventually gasped as she spotted Jocelyn in the lunch line, talking to Mike. His friends watched as Jocelyn just smiled and talked to him, and he nodded and smiled dumbly back, his ‘charm’ obviously no match for hers. When she was done with him, Mike walked back to their table, mystified smile and all.
“Wow,” was his only response.
“We need to get to the public library later.”
“Why public? Why not the school one?” Jon queried.
“Better odds for something about lifting curses or spells, right?”
Jon would’ve feigned laughter at that if there wasn’t more proof of Jocelyn’s abilities to ponder. Word around school continued to be nothing but praise about her, if not more of it; unheard of for someone who hadn’t been there long. The worst teachers cut her slack, no stupid rumors being spread about how she was a slut in her old school (meaning no one was pissed off at her), and now the Jon’s posse’s horndog was left speechless with just words.
Jon had to wonder if they look they shared in study hall was just a look. Maybe instead he’d been marked to be compromised soon. Adult Jon tried to imagine his younger self, wondering if with that look, he was already compromised.
Jon and Sal certainly considered Mike compromised in a sense. Everytime her name came up, he defended her and claimed nothing was up. Sometimes he would look elsewhere, just to catch sight of her, forsaking the sight of other beautiful teenage girls. Mike looked for her around the lockers, lunch, and especially the volleyball games she played. As if she wasn’t perfect enough by high school standards, she was also a star athlete in volleyball. Even if that alone could account for the praise she constantly got, Sal of course was convinced it was all a front. It got Jon’s friend to start wearing some gem or amulet, some junk sold to her at a mystic shop for shielding and warding off bad voodoo.
At one of Jocelyn’s games, Jon found himself watching her alone, wondering where his friends had gone. Truthfully, he didn’t mind watching Jocelyn without fear or judgment; he let his smitten self watch with admiring eyes, wondering what it might be like to talk to her like Mike did. The constant fear and excitement kept him just at bay of looking for her once the game was over. Sal appeared at some point, and Jon breathed easy that he could go back to his comfort zone, only to have her bypass him like he wasn’t there, smiling and walking right up to Jocelyn as if they were BFFs.
Sal had been right the whole time; she was some kind of witch. Turning his friends pro-Jocelyn so easily defied everything he knew. Mike was caught, then Sal…
That exact thought made adult Jon stop dead in his tracks as he tried to piece together the revelation – Jocelyn targeted him, and in divide and conquer fashion, first his distrustful friends fell one by one, and he was inevitably next. But the adult couldn’t remember how, or if she’d gotten to him. Could have gotten to him and made him forget it all? With all of Jon’s post-school experiences, it was not out of the realm of possibility.
He leaned against the bleachers, filled with perplexed thoughts, nearly perspiring from worry over clouded past events, working towards remembering how young Jon would’ve stopped the witch. His brain solved one problem by taking his memories from the end of the game to a dance maybe a day later. School dances weren’t Jon’s favorite type of social outing; it took prodding from his friends to ever get him to attend. This time, a single letter from Sal telling to come was it, with no mention of Mike or Jocelyn, or anyone else. That night, Jon was the one with the hawkish gaze, searching for any sign of key people. If he spotted Mike or Sal, he’d pull them aside and try to talk sense into them, useless effort or not. There was no set plan with regard to Jocelyn except to run, which didn’t seem to happen when a soft hand on his shoulder turned him towards familiar eyes.
“Jocelyn!” Jon nearly yelped in surprise.
“And you’re Jon,” she said sweetly. He’d never been so close to her before; she smelled great, and everything that was pretty about her from a distance was magnified up close. The whole ‘witch’ persona had left his mind, as it ironically swam in her infamously bewitching charms.
She spoke some words to him, maintaining her sweet cadence and tone, and Jon understood why Mike was the way he was after their talk. It finally registered on him that she’d asked him if he wanted to dance. He didn’t answer, what was left of his usually calculating mind telling him that dancing would be some kind of turning point for both of them; another conquest for her, and a permanent sense of smitten for him. No matter how strange or rude it seemed to keep her waiting, he just couldn’t answer.
“Well, did you?”
Adult Jon was jolted out of his memory to find Sabrina had whispered her question in his ear in her usual teasing fashion, shaking him more than the posse was shaken by the witch.
“So all this time you’ve really been here?” he calmly commented, more than accustomed to her mind tricks like making him believe she was invisible or just not there.
“Nice to know I can still surprise a naive little boy every now and then. But, kind of takes some wind out of my sails to know I’m not the first mind witch in your life.”
“I’m just as surprised as you are Sabrina.”
“That remains to be seen. But it also depends on if you decided to dance with this Jocelyn.”
“I’m still figuring that part out.”
“It sounds like you need some help then.”
Brain power used most of his energy for memories and not reflexes to stop an insistent hand covering his face, specifically his eyes, as a whispered voice added energy to his task.
Suddenly young Jon felt not just a hand on his shoulder, but another hand gently gripping it.
Sal had appeared out of nowhere, and smiled genuinely at the two of them. Confusion was abound as Jocelyn’s smile was just as genuine, in both of them acting like two best friends.
“I need to borrow this guy for a while.”
“Sure,” Jocelyn said without a hint of dismay.
Jon looked back and forth wanting to ask what the hell is going on, but started to inconspicuously dance, waiting for Sal to start sprouting more not-so-paranoid babble.
“Nearly not quick enough apparently. Why did you need to meet? And how can I make sure that you’re saved yourself?”
“Meant to tell you, this amulet actually works.”
Jon looked down to see the blue amulet around her neck, hanging comfortably near her cleavage and the tops of her dark dress.
“So she turned on the charm and nothing?”
“Nothing. Didn’t feel a single thing. Whatever Mike went through, maybe this thing can cure him.”
“How did it protect you, and how will it cure Mike?”
“Rumor has it there’s a lot of mysticism in this thing. Whatever kind of magic Jocy has, this thing…nullifies it I guess, even throws it back at her.”
“Dance a little closer,” Sal urged them together. “Not sure if you can feel it too, but it has an effect on those close to it. Like you can keep sight of it even if you’re eyes aren’t looking at it at that point. Like her, it’s got an aura to it. She really didn’t see it coming; I bypassed you after the game to go see her; she thought she had me, but as we talked for a little bit and she turned on the charm in full to get me, the amulet noticed or something and drew her attention to it. Her eyes kept going back to it, like it was beckoning her.”
Jon took a few glances in Jocelyn’s direction, still dancing close to his friend, noticing her attention was half on them, and half on other people talking to her.
“If she’s still looking our way, she’s more looking at me, or the amulet is still on her brain. She talked about the shimmer of it, or some light on it or in it, and kept telling me how beautiful it was. I guess that means that the wearer gets not only a charm defense, but a reflect, or an offense. She was like suggestible, friendly but needy. She kept mentioning friendship, but the amulet kept her mind busy, so when I mentioned it, it was like she’d forgotten about what she was talking about, but the idea of friendship was fresh on her mind. It sounded like a good idea to her, probably because I said it. Then she just needed to be my friend, like how we are. She even mentioned you before she started staring more than talking, repeating my words.”
“She acted as comfortable as we feel, I could feel that as the crystal worked its magic. If you feel anything, it’s that same comfort, the one we love so much, the one you don’t get from anyone else in school, or even the world. You see your friends, you see me, and you’re totally at ease. You can look at my face, and know that everything is as it should be.”
Jon had only realized how close he and Sal really were, as her lips pulled away from his ear, still dancing but with different looks than they started. His was a different type of mystified than what Jocelyn made him feel, but exactly the kind of comfort Sal described. He looked down at the blue amulet again, and then into his friend’s eyes, noticing they were nearly identical in shade, though Sal’s carried a twinkle that meant more, urging him to search that meaning.
“See? Everything is as it should be. So close to your best friend, so close to that comfort that knows you, that you rest in like a cushion made just for you, knowing every last contour of your body so you can rest. You can forget about the mundane things that might’ve been on your mind before. No need to worry about Jocelyn’s ‘charm’ anymore, no need to worry about Mike or the others, no need to worry period. You might even forget things you already knew; it’s totally ok. You’ll remember them later. You’ll probably recognize later that I’ve always worn this crystal, and you’ve never noticed. You’ll probably remember how we first became friends. I tend to make friends with those who don’t seem very friendly at first. A little guarded, suspicious, you know the type, cause you are the type.”
Jon felt like he should’ve had some kind of reaction to Sal’s words, anything but sinking deeper into her explanation.
“It’s kind of unlike Jocelyn really, making friends with just any random person. If I was on the charm offense like her, I’d go for the tough ones like you, maybe corner them at their locker, introduce myself and never let you look away from my eyes, until you couldn’t look away from my eyes, until your ears heard every other word mentioning how blue they are, until your eyes dove into mine to take in their deep blue color, until you really didn’t want to look away, until you went so deep into them that even when I told you to close your eyes, you’d still see them, and let them control you along with my voice as my eyes, my amulet, and my voice turn us into such good friends.”
Faint awareness made a note of the way her hand caressed his shoulder.
“You and Mike are reminded of that friendship everyday. Everyday we’re at our lockers, talking like friends do, you see me, hear me, feel that comforting touch on your shoulder, and know that all is right with the world, because Sal is your friend. Every day you feel my comforting touch, and my power over you is reinforced, until not feeling my power, my friendship physically, feels like something is missing. Such a small, comforting gesture, isn’t it, yet somehow as powerful as the amulet or whatever my voice tells you.”
Jon groaned in agreement as she gently gripped his shoulderblade a little.
“You and Mike are the best friends in the whole world, you’d do anything for me. Anything. Mike loves hitting on every girl but me, and just being my jester, amusing us both. And you, handsome boy, love treating me like a girl friend should be treated. My strong, attentive boy friend who pleases me however I want. Like, if I wanted another kiss, you wouldn’t couldn’t deny your girl friend that. I was your first kiss, after all, and it left such an impression on you….”
She smiled at the twitch of a smile on his face from just mentioning his first ever kiss.
“You’d kiss me right now, in public, deeply, just to make everyone else jealous, like you’re the most smitten guy in high school, and I’m the most irresistible girl in high school, it makes so much sense that we’d kiss, doesn’t it Jonathan?”
He leaned in to complete her inclined command, and found himself instead kissing a hand that slipped between them, snapping her fingers in his face three times. A huge shift in his memory righted everything until what was there and real was very mundane by comparison.
Sabrina let reality sink in for long seconds, watching gleefully as surprise and dismay cross his face. The dismay was obviously how much better her reality was better than real reality.
“You wanted to know what it would’ve been and we’d gone to school together, now you have your answer.”
“You were that…evil in school?”
She thought about correct his choice of words, but shrugged her shoulders instead.
“Pretty much. The popular girls wear their evil a lot more on their sleeves. Hard to suspect your best friend of being evil when you’ve succumbed to her hypnotic, nefarious, nerdy ‘innocence’ from day one, isn’t it?”
Jon declined to answer such a leading question, as usual.
“I notice it’s not that’s not so different from how we really got together. Marcus, Jesse, all your ‘subtle’ stand-ins…”
“Take that little stunt you pulled with me out of the equation, and-”
“The stunt you prompted, in case you forgot,” Jon reminded her of their literal first kiss, and got a smirk for his trouble.
“And that’s what would’ve happened to us.”
“Meaning you would’ve happened to me. And you convincing me that Jesse/Jocelyn was the witch, I mean, pot calling kettle…”
She shrugged her shoulders again. “There’s more than one kind of witch out there; it’s good to know that you have a thing for the wicked ones.”
“Or the wicked ones have a thing for me. Just my luck that I get to be a part of their, your wicked deeds.”
“Tell me you love it,” she told him teasingly, but commandingly pulling his head to her blue eyes once again.
She loved how all she needed with him was patience.
She used a series of snaps to wake him up again, letting his head clear, and letting her charming smile diffuse any complaints he had about her little memory overlapping game played.
Sufficiently charmed, Jon smiled and led Sabrina into another dance in the middle of the empty gymnasium.
“So now that you’re my first kiss too, should I expect you to retroactively ruin every other woman for me? Or will you ever grow out of that?”
“If when you look into my eyes, any other woman is present in your head, we have a problem.”
The dance continued, but his eyes remained still and steeled to her hawkish ones that confirmed there was no problem.
“Face it Jonathan, some merely grow taller.”