"I'm really sorry, but I just think of you as a friend, not as date material. " "I already have a date, but I'm sure you'll find someone. After all, you're a really nice guy." Memories of one rejection after another paraded in Danny's mind, causing his already bleak mood to grow even darker. It seemed like every girl at school either already had a date or did not want to go with him. I suppose I'll have to look elsewhere, then. All you girls at the mall, here I come, he thought glumly. God, let there be at least one girl who would say yes. I'm beginning to think that I will end up going without any date at all. The very thought of doing such a thing made him cringe with shame and horror, his distracted mind just barely noticing the entrance to the mall's parking lot in time.
As he despondently trudged into the mall, he passed Jenny, his closest friend, carrying large boxes with some other girls, all of whom were giggling. Probably happy to have gotten their prom dresses, no doubt. Try as he might otherwise, he could not help but feel rather sour at the reminder of that dreaded event.
"Hey, Danny, find a date yet?" Jenny's voice pulled him away from his brooding thoughts and he realized that she was waving at him.
Danny tried to smile gamely as he replied with forced cheer, "Still working on it." At that, his mind was once again fully focused on the ever-present dilemma of finding a date. Vaguely noticing that Jenny was leaving, he waved goodbye in her direction before continuing on into the bustling mall.
As he surveyed the crowd in half-hearted interest, he noticed a small shop in the corner. He didn't remember seeing it there before, but it didn't look new. It had a small old-fashioned sign saying "Spells 'R' Us" with the slogan "One stop shopping for all your magical needs!" in gold letters.
As the crowd flowed around him, the puzzled teenager could not help but stop and stare at the strange shop. After a moment, he shrugged before walking through the door and was met by the sight of glass display cases containing a variety of odd-looking objects. To his left was an old man with a white beard who sat behind the counter, peering through a jeweler's loupe at a small piece of jewelry. Is he really supposed to be some sort of wizard? Danny thought skeptically. At that exact moment, the man glanced up and his unreadable gaze seemed to pierce through him. Danny froze in shock and slight fear. The man simply said in a bored voice, "Don't touch anything unless you plan to buy it, and let me know if you're looking for anything special." With that, the tension dissipated and Danny was left feeling extremely silly for reacting so superstitiously.
"Well, um, is this stuff actually magical?" He could not completely hide his incredulity at the thought.
An exasperated expression crossed the elderly man's face as he sighed, setting the loupe down on the counter. His reply, sarcastic as it was, lacked any real bite. "No, it just plays it on TV. Of course it's magical. If it were fake, do you think I could afford to rent space in this stupid piece of suburban sprawl they call a mall?"
Oh, Danny thought, feeling rather foolish as he stood at the entrance. The idea suddenly struck him, Then maybe he can- He stopped that thought in its tracks with a shake of his head. Better not get my hopes up too much. "I guess that makes sense. I don't know much about magic, but you might be able to help with something. I'm kind of desperate."
"Let me guess; girl trouble."
"Close, but more like 'no girl' trouble. My Senior Prom is next week, and I don't have a date yet. Do you have any love potions or anything?"
The old man rolled his eyes and muttered, "Everyone wants love potions. I'm afraid that those are mostly fairy tales, and the ones that aren't are way beyond your budget."
"Oh." Danny looked crestfallen and turned to leave.
"Wait," the store owner called after him, "there's no need to be so hasty. I should be able to dig up something. What ... ah ... exactly is your budget, by the way?"
"Well, I'd give several hundred bucks to have a date for the prom, but how do I know this isn't just a big con job?" Suspicion warred with desperation as he felt his hopes begin to rise again.
The old man frowned as he waved his hand and said, "Let's step into my office." Danny felt a brief flash of dizziness and then found himself sitting in a little office that appeared to be at the back of the shop across from the old man, who was seated at an ornately carved desk with a sleek computer in front of him. "Convinced?" he asked, his calm disposition sharply contrasted by his customer's stunned expression. Danny could only nod his head in shocked silence.
"Okay, let's see what I've got in stock." The old man spent a while alternately typing and frowning at the screen. Finally, he smiled as he leaned back and said, "I think this will work. You said you wanted a date. How would you describe your ideal girl?"
Still recovering from his shock, it took a moment for the teenager to compose his thoughts. "Umm, well, tall, pretty and smart would be nice, but I'm not real picky right now. Long hair would be nice."
"Okay, hold on..." The old man leaned back to the keyboard and typed some more. "That'll do it. I just happen to have a spell that will guarantee that you have a date for the prom, and I can even customize the spell to produce a tall, pretty, smart girl with long hair. Five hundred bucks and it's yours."
"Wow. Okay, I'll take it." An overjoyed smile spread across his suddenly radiant face.
"Since this is your first purchase, for an extra hundred I'll throw in our Extended Magical Assurance Plan. It's optional, but it takes care of a lot of the hassle of using magic."
"How?" Danny asked curiously.
"It adjusts other people's memories along with other aspects of reality so that any side-effects of the spell aren't noticeable to anyone else. It saves a lot of explaining."
"Okay, that sounds good."
The old man waved his hand again and Danny found himself in front of the counter again. "That'll be six hundred dollars, plus tax." His customer handed over a credit card and the old man rung up the sale. "Sign here." As the store owner ducked under the counter and pulled out a blue suitcase, he told him, "Here's the item. Now, be very careful. Your date will appear one hour after you open the suitcase and put on the clothes inside; don't worry, they'll look great at a prom, and they're guaranteed to fit. But wait until the afternoon of the prom; the spell takes effect immediately."
The teenager earnestly replied, "Thank you so much. I really appreciate it."
"That's what I'm here for. Enjoy the prom. . ." Inexplicably, Danny's earlier apprehension rose up unbidden as the man smiled warmly at him. Shaking his head in a futile attempt to dislodge a sudden chill, he swiftly made his way out of the shop. Walking back to his car, the implications of his purchase struck him anew and he whooped in jubilation, the strange feeling of a moment ago now but a distant memory. I've got a date! Not only that, but she's like my dream date!
On Monday, Jenny asked again if he'd found a date. Danny grinned and nodded. "Cool, who is it?" she inquired, clearly curious.
He shrugged and continued to grin. "It's a secret. You'll find out on Saturday."
Throughout the week, the teenager could scarcely focus on anything because of his excitement and curiosity over prom and his unknown date. Finally, it was Saturday. At about four, Danny showered before going to his room and shutting the door. He pulled the suitcase out from under the bed where he'd hidden it and then set it on the bed. Taking a deep breath, he said to himself determinedly, "Here goes nothing. . ."
He opened the suitcase. There was a brief flash of light and a strong tingling sensation swept from his toes to the top of his head. He blinked for a moment and then leaned to take a closer look at the contents of the suitcase. The item on the top didn't look like a tuxedo, which was what he'd been expecting. Even as he stared with anxious dread at the now mysterious suitcase, his hands reached in of their own accord and took out the first object. It took a moment to register that it was an evening dress with a burgundy velvet bodice, sheer burgundy sleeves, and a full satin skirt. The shocked teenager tried to drop the offending article of clothing, but his hands would not obey his numbed thoughts. Instead, they carefully set the dress onto the bed and proceeded to remove the rest of the contents: a satin bra, a camisole, and panties- all in burgundy- along with a pair of sheer black patterned pantyhose, burgundy suede pumps with gold accents, and a black lacy petticoat. He realized with growing panic that he could not control his actions. The spell was now in control.
The terrified boy could only watch helplessly as his hands picked up the satin panties and his feet stepped into them. In accord with the spell, his body moved separate from the will of his mind as it began to go through a grotesque metamorphosis. The odd tingling sensation returned in his legs as his hands slipped the pantyhose on and it travelled up his hips to his chest and head as the other garments in that accursed suitcase were placed on him. Though he felt no physical pain, something about the contractions that had seized his body made him want to scream in horror and flee to somewhere safe, where normality was not as a distant memory. But he had nowhere to flee; his own body was now his prison and his mind its captive.
At long last, the contractions ceased and Danny felt his body walk over to his mirror. However, his mind balked at the sight of even that piece of furniture, for it was no longer as he remembered it. A flowery pink vanity table was now where his plain brown-framed mirror had been. His body sat itself down on a white chair vaguely similar to his old chair and he mentally sighed in relief that at least one object was not entirely different. That relief was short-lived, though, as he noticed his reflection. Looking back at him was a pretty girl with high cheekbones and long flowing brown hair. There was a slight family resemblance with him- my former body, his traitorous mind corrected- but the face and upper chest was clearly feminine. All in all, this would have indeed been how he envisioned his dream date. Now I guess I've become my own dream date. Yay for me, he mused with weary sarcasm.
Even as these thoughts were processing through his mind, his hands had been skillfully applying makeup to the face he observed in the mirror. Eyeliner now deepened and shaped the pale hazel eyes, blush highlighted the cheekbones, and some powder made the girl's skin as even as fine porcelain. His now delicate hands opened an ornate jewelry box and fished out a gold necklace with a heart-shaped pendant, which they proceeded to hook around his neck. Next, a bit of perfume was dabbed at the nape of his neck. The scent reminded him of a rose that Jenny had made him sniff before.
"I know that you're a boy, but you could still have some appreciation for nature's beauty, you know!" she had exclaimed in a rather exasperated tone. "God created nature for everyone, not just girls!" An unexpected wave of nostalgia swept over him at the memory. A sudden thought struck him, piercing through his pleasant reverie with sharp alarm. Jenny! Would she even recognize me now? What about my parents? How in the world am I going to explain this to them? Entirely against his will, his body made its way down the stairs as his mind flew into a blind panic. Can't all this just be a horrible nightmare? I can wake up and find that I'm still a boy and in control of my own body. Not this . . . situation. For a single blissful moment, Danny could almost believe that this strange reality was merely a nightmare caused by his dilemma of a dateless prom, that none of this was real. But that dream was shattered by his mother's gushing words.
"Oh, Deanna, you look absolutely lovely in that dress! Come, let us look at you." Danny felt his face stretch into a smile and a blush spread across his cheeks as his body walked into the room, the high heels clicking on the hard wooden floor. His mind having shut down in renewed shock, he barely registered his body twirling around, letting the skirt flare out.
His father looked very proud and his voice was rough with suppressed emotion as he said, "You look all grown up, but you'll always be my little girl." Danny suddenly realized that everyone now thought he'd always been a girl named Deanna. Part of him felt deeply relieved that he wouldn't need to explain anything after all, but another part could only feel horror. Am I going to spend the rest of my life like this? In this strange body with familiar people who're just somehow . . . not familiar in the way they were before? Despite his parents being the same as before, everything just felt different and wrong about, well, everything he had encountered so far. Despair threatened to overwhelm his already tired mind. The old man didn't say anything about how long this spell was supposed to last. . .
He was startled out of his downward spiraling thoughts by his own voice, only it was no longer his voice. "Thank you, Daddy." 'Daddy'? I always call him 'Dad.' "Do I look pretty?" his voice inquired, higher and softer than it had ever been before.
His father chuckled as he shook his head and replied, "You'll knock 'em dead. Just be back by twelve o'clock tonight, and be careful."
"I will, Daddy."
The doorbell rang; its familiar chimes strangely comforting and nostalgic. Danny realized with a start that it had been exactly an hour since he'd opened the suitcase. "That must be your date," his mother said. My date, he thought, . . . oh no, as the teenager realized that he was now the one being taken out for the prom. His stomach felt like it was on a roller coaster and his dad's admonishment to "be careful" suddenly seemed much more significant. "Have fun, dear," his mom said with a grin as his parents hurried upstairs.
Danny's body walked over to the door as his self-conscious mind took undue notice of the clicking of his heels against the floor and the rustling of his petticoat against his skirt. He opened the door, revealing his classmate Kevin in a tuxedo. Kevin's eyes bulged, and he took a deep breath before stammering, "Wow, Deanna, you look . . . well . . . incredible."
His mind was in turmoil again, but he heard himself shyly respond, "Thanks, Kevin. You look great, too." Danny futilely attempted to steady his thoughts. Kevin, as he had known him, was another "brain." They were lab partners in Physics, but they hadn't really known each other well. Danny had the sinking feeling that he would be facing an incredibly awkward prom. It might've been better for me to have gone without any date at all, he thought with yearning.
"Oh, these are for you." Kevin blushed and handed Danny a bouquet of red roses.
"Oh, that's so sweet! Thank you," Danny heard his voice reply as he felt himself also blush.
Kevin grinned, still blushing, and stammered out, "Uh, well, shall we be on our way?" Hurrying over to his car, he opened the passenger door with an only slightly clumsy flourish and held out a hand. The boy-turned-girl felt his body take Kevin's hand and lower itself into the seat while smoothing the skirt under his legs. As Kevin got in behind the wheel and started up the car, Danny felt his body tense with thrilled anticipation of the momentous event even as his mind screamed its mounting dismay at said event. Thankfully, or perhaps not so thankfully, the drive to the hotel was short and uneventful. Kevin parked and helped Danny out of the car. As they walked into the hotel arm in arm, the teenager felt the overwhelming urge to simply run away screaming and forced himself to ignore it, knowing that the body he dwelled in was no longer under his control.
Dinner was pretty good for hotel food. There were two other couples at their table and they chatted away on inane topics after complimenting each other on how nice they looked. One of the other girls was Jenny, who seemed to regard "Deanna" as a casual friend. This gave Danny mixed feelings. On one hand, he was deeply relieved that there was at least one friend in this reality whom he knew from before. On the other hand, he had always been a very close friend with her; thus, he keenly felt the distance that existed between them now, as minimal as it was. Also, something about the way she talked and giggled with "Deanna" disturbed him. It's as if she is . . . a different Jenny, somehow, even though she seems the same as before.
After a while, Jenny stood up and said she had to powder her nose. The other girl said she needed to as well, and Danny felt himself stand up too. "We'll only be a minute," he heard himself say to Kevin. The three of them wound their way through the tables, out to the hallway, and around the corner to the ladies' room. Danny felt very odd going through the door, but he couldn't help himself.
As his body leaned over the sink and his hands brushed the powder on his face, Jenny asked, "So, how's Kevin doing? He doesn't look quite comfortable in his tux."
Danny heard himself reply, "Not bad, actually; he brought me roses when he picked me up. He's been quite a gentleman so far."
"Ooh, roses," she teased. "He must really like you."
"Deanna" was putting the finishing touches to her make-up as Jenny said this and Danny knew by the other girls' giggling- other . . . girls, his mind skittered around the idea- that his voice must have said something in response. However, his thoughts were too preoccupied with processing her words. Kevin, a guy, might have a crush on me. He mentally reeled with horror. The very thought was simply too strange to comprehend; he had never even been liked by any girl in that way before. As they walked back to their table, his mind did its absolute best to avoid thinking about that subject.
Dinner ended far too soon for his comfort and his body eagerly moved to the dance floor with his date. As the music started, Kevin leaned over to Danny's ear and whispered, "Let's dance." The music was slow and Danny's body relaxed against Kevin's arms as his mind attempted to do the same. However, Jenny's words suddenly rose to the forefront of his mind. "He must really like you." Can this nightmare get any worse? the boy- or at least he was within his own thoughts- wondered as uncertain fear overwhelmed his mind. But there's nothing I can do about all of this. I mean, it isn't like I know anything about magic or spells or . . . reality-altering insurance policies, and it's already been clearly established that I have absolutely no control over this body. As his mind continued to brood over the situation, the blinding fear gradually gave way to mental fatigue. There is nothing I can do, after all, he thought once again, this time with an almost desperate acceptance.
With that unpleasant decision made, it was as if a filter that had been separating his mind from the world around "Deanna" had been removed. The DJ had apparently changed to another slow song and Kevin appeared to be enjoying the dancing immensely, if his blissful expression was anything to go by. Jenny and her date were dancing next to them, content to gaze lovingly at each other as they gently swayed from side to side. Other couples whom Danny vaguely recognized as his classmates either danced or rested on the edges of the dance floor. As a faster song began and his body shifted to match its rhythmic beat, he unconsciously relaxed. Not taking into account his bizarre situation of being turned into a girl and not being able to control his body's movements, this prom night was everything he could have wished for and more.
Instead of being a nobody in the high school hierarchy, he seemed to be a somebody, maybe even a popular kid. He had a decent date and a father who was actually proud of him. After all, Dad has always wanted a daughter, not a hopeless son like you, a sneering voice seemed to whisper to him. There had been no hint of disappointment in his father's normally harsh gaze back at the house. So, in a way, this strange reality that his world had become was his dream come true. Glowing contentment settled on his battered consciousness for the first time in recent memory. Danny basked in that serene calm even when his high-pitched voice suddenly said to Kevin, "Whew, I'm a little warm. How about something cool to drink?" He watched as a distant spectator as they worked their way off the dance floor, hand in hand, and sat down at a table with a pitcher of ice water. Kevin hesitantly put his arm around "Deanna," who snuggled into the crook of Kevin's arm. "Are you having a good time?" Danny's voice asked.
Kevin sighed happily and replied, "How could I have anything else with the prettiest girl in the class as my date?" The spectator had no idea what his voice said in response to that well-meaning compliment as something about those words caused uneasiness to stir in his mind. However, he would not let his peaceful mood slip away so easily, not after the turmoil of this night. So Danny determinedly ignored that troublesome emotion and wrenched his attention back to the prom. This is my dream night, so I'd better enjoy it. That means no more depressed thinking.
And enjoy it he did. The two of them talked for a little while more before heading back to the dance floor. When the final notes of the last song died away, Kevin and "Deanna" reluctantly headed towards the exit along with the rest of the crowd. The empty darkness of the night outside startled Danny with its sharp contrast to the warm glow of the hotel's lights. "It's cold out here. We should get to my car quickly," Kevin murmured. Danny felt his head nod in reply and they quickened their pace towards the parking lot. As his body was getting into the car, he was stopped by Jenny's voice.
"See you in class on Monday, Deanna!"
His voice called out in reply, "Bye, Jenny!" Inwardly, however, Danny had frozen up. The happiness he had clung to earlier evaporated as if it had never been. He remained in that strangely numbed state of mind throughout the rest of the car ride and as his body made its way up to the flowery pink bedroom. Tired from the heavy amount of dancing it had done, it collapsed contentedly on the ruffled bedspread. His body's breathing and heartbeat gradually slowed in what Danny assumed to be the process of falling asleep yet his mind remained wide awake. The detachment that had shielded Danny's consciousness from an unidentifiable and turbulent emotion slowly cracked under its pressure. Memories of the day flickered through his mind. This . . . world, for lack of a better word, was something he had only ever dreamed of. It was the fulfillment of his deepest longings, wishes he had never been able to confide in anyone else, not even Jenny. So shouldn't I be happy? I was actually grateful for the spell earlier. I mean, what more could I ask for? He recalled Kevin's words at the dance, "How could I have anything else with the prettiest girl in the class as my date?" Jenny's casual farewell just half an hour ago drifted to his mind. The urge to scream, or perhaps cry, rose up in his mind, overriding all other thoughts.
"This isn't me!" he wanted to cry out. "I'm not 'the prettiest girl in the class'! Jenny isn't some distant friend whom I just see at school! Those aren't my parents! This just isn't me!" Of course, his slumbering body would not allow his vocal chords to comply. It felt like his soul was weeping even as his eyelids remained shut. "None of this is me," he just wanted to be able to whimper in the hopes that somebody might be able to hear. Not that it would do me any good. Anguishing over this will change nothing. There is nothing I can do, after all, the boy thought for the second time that night, this time beyond desperation. There was no place for desperation anymore, after all.
As the siren of an ambulance speeding past the house wailed from somewhere on the darkened street outside, Danny silently pleaded, to whom he did not know, Just let me rest. I don't want to know any more of this strange world within the spell. Please. The rollercoaster of emotions that started with the accursed suitcase on the bed now ended in the same manner. One final wave of exhaustion swept over his battered mind and then a warm golden light seared through the boy's consciousness. "Oh, Danny, you embarrassing yourself is not the end of the world, you know," Jenny's melodic laughter seemed to echo within the confines of his swiftly fading awareness. "There are more important things in life for you to dwell on . . . ."