EVERYONE HAS TO LIVE with something.
For instance, my hair is the unmanageable kind of curly, the color of burnt toast. Imagine waking up every morning looking like the Lion King, or having to spend a disproportionate amount of your allowance on hair products that don’t deliver. Like the ones under my bathroom sink. Row after row of half-empty containers of mousse, gel, and hair tamer standing dejectedly like the third string of a basketball team that rarely gets to play.
The thing is, I would be fine with rag mop hair, truly, if only I didn’t have this other issue: uncontrolled time travel to the nineteenth century. I’ve never met anyone else with the same problem, either, so that also classifies me as some kind of freak.
On the upside—like a blind girl who ultra develops her other senses to compensate for what she can't control—I’ve picked up a few extra skills along the way. One survival reflex I’ve nurtured is how to be quick on my feet. I have good impulses, you could say.
Well, normally, this is an upside.
Until a second ago.
I was sitting with my best friend, Lucinda, on the sidelines of the football field. As usual, we were watching the yummy football players, rather than the scrimmage going on because really, who cared about the actual game? Despite the glare of the setting sun, I saw the brown speck hurtling towards me.
Impulsively, I jumped up and thump, Nate Mackenzie’s football, signed by the famed Tom Brady himself, was in my arms. I couldn’t believe it. I’d caught Nate Mackenzie’s ball!
Gingerly, I raised my head. Sauntering across the field, with all his hunky hotness, was the cutest boy in the school, the most valuable senior varsity football player of Cambridge High, and the love of my life. He stopped right in front of me.
“Good catch.” His rugged and manly voice lassoed me. He'd said, good catch. I couldn’t move or take my eyes off his face. The way the sun glistened off his sweat, emphasizing his strong jaw and the brightness of his blue eyes, brighter still because of the contrast of his dark, shaggy hair…
“So, can I have my ball back?”
My hands gripped his football with sticky sweat. The ticker tape in my brain searched for the right response before flashing ERROR in red neon twelve-point font.
“Casey?” Lucinda nudged my back. With a slight swivel of my head I saw her expression. Mortification. Give the dumb ball back! Did I just have an aneurysm? I felt woozy, like throwing up. I imagined myself vomiting all over Nate’s feet.
Unbelievably, there are some things worse than puking in front of the football team. A wave of dizziness threatened to wash me away into black nothingness. But I couldn’t be so lucky to just faint. It was happening. Oh no. Not here. Please, not in front of Nate Mackenzie.
In an instant, my world brightened like a nuclear blast as I spiraled through a long white tunnel. When I opened my eyes, he was gone. Nate was gone and so were Lucinda and all of Nate’s football team.
I stood alone, in the middle of a lush forest painted every shade of green. My lungs filled with the sweet scent of undamaged air, my skin tingled with warm humidity. The furry and feathered inhabitants squealed and chirped with enthusiasm. I heard an unwelcome whistling noise and a pop. Nate’s ball, still in my hands, had an arrow sticking out of it.
So much for quick thinking and quick feet. I jumped behind a tree and hid as a couple of kids, maybe ten and twelve, cantered by on horseback.
“You missed it!” teased the older boy. The fortunate squirrel scurried up the tree, its little feet loosening bits of bark that rained down on my head. I could have been killed or at least drastically injured, but all I could think about was Nate’s football. The air seeped out as I tugged on the hand-whittled arrow. I slid down the side of the tree and groaned.
Tom Brady’s signature had a puncture hole right in the middle of it. I gripped the flattened ball as I stomped through the brush, pushing scratchy branches away from my face. Why did this have to happen in front of Nate Mackenzie? Why?
Pack your bags, self-pity. I was cursed with time traveling. I was a slave to it with no control over when or in front of who it happens, and as far as I knew there was no cure. Not that I had anyone to ask about it. I just had to survive, which fortunately, I'd gotten pretty good at.