Dedicated to the Luthras
Because they have changed me
Another day began, in the usual way, at the Johnson household. Diana and Jake, the parents, left early in the morning for work, leaving one note on the polished dinner table. About an hour following their departure, Taylor, their son, awoke. He made his bed neatly, took a quick shower, brushed out his hair, and rushed down to the dinner table, reading their instructions.
Then he began his trek back upstairs, to the dreaded room opposite his.
Roughly he banged on the door with his fist. "Brooke! Brooke!" he hollered. "Wake up!"
From inside, Taylor heard faint moans, but he knew better than to trust his sister to wake up. With a sigh, he opened the door, entering her world of sparkly nail polish and weekly boyfriends, of oversized sunglasses and Seventeen magazine. "Yo, Brooke!" he said. "Wake up or you'll be late."
She groaned again and rolled over.
Ultimately he neared the bed and turned her over. "Wake up!" he screamed in her ear.
Immediately she shot up, aiming a punch at his left ear. Expertly he dodged. It wasn't like that was the first time. "God!" she said. "You don't have to yell."
"Just get dressed and come downstairs," Taylor requested. "What do you want?"
"I don't need breakfast," she muttered. "It's going to make me fat."
"No, it won't. You're at least ten pounds underweight. A bowl of cereal isn't going to make you obese. I'll put your Cheerios and orange juice on the table," Taylor informed her, and then he went downstairs.
In about twenty minutes, Brooke Johnson arrived in the dining room, clad in a revealing dark red camisole, a low-rise denim miniskirt and dark brown sequined flip-flops, all courtesy of Abercrombie and Fitch. Taylor nearly choked on his orange juice.
"Brooke, what the heck are you thinking?" he demanded. "It's February, for heaven's sake! It can't be more than sixty-five degrees outside!"
Demurely she glanced outside. Then she turned her black-eyeliner-lined eyes at him. "So?"
"So?! You're going outside in that? Mom and Dad would kill me!" he pointed out.
She shrugged. "Is it on the note?"
"Yes," answered Taylor, almost smugly, showing it to her. "There it is. 'Make sure Brooke is warmly dressed so she doesn't catch a cold. She must wear long pants and a sweater, or a jumpsuit if she prefers.' See?" He smirked at her. "Should I get out a jumpsuit for you?"
Brooke smirked at him, too. "No, I'll just get it myself."
Brooke descended the stairs in her pajamas, a jumpsuit folded over her arm. Taylor, already dressed, smiled, thinking that his sister was finally obeying.
She laid it out on the floor, expertly cutting the long sleeves and the legs. It was nearly as revealing as her previous outfit. Taylor stared in astonishment. "But…you…"
"It's a jumpsuit," she smiled. "Ha."
The Sibling Wars, was what the parents called them. Ever since their childhood days, Taylor and Brooke had squabbled because of their conflicting personalities. Taylor was sweet and obedient, while Brooke was rebellious and trendy.
Every morning their parents would leave a note, and Taylor was to complete all the tasks by the time they came home. If he did not, then Aunty would be in charge of the house the next day. Taylor, knowing that Aunty would make their home a living hell, avoided that situation at all costs. Brooke disliked Aunty as well, which was why she obeyed.
But that didn't stop her from finding loopholes in the rules and utilizing them to her best advantage.
When she arrived at school in her newly fashioned jumpsuit, her best friend, May, approached her. "What in the world are you wearing?" May demanded, her brown eyes wide with astonishment.
"The brother wouldn't let me out of the house unless I was wearing a jumpsuit," answered Brooke. "I figure, it's still a jumpsuit. I just wanted to cut some parts of it off…to make it fashionably revealing."
May shook her head, laughing. "You are such a genius, dude. And your brother is a weirdo."
"I know," Brooke agreed. "It makes me wonder—what kind of loser is going to marry him when he grows up?"
The next Saturday afternoon, Brooke said, "Hey, bro, do you think it'll be okay if I slept over at May's house tonight?"
"No," answered Taylor.
"Ugh, don't be such a spoilsport," Brooke said. "You know you want me out of the house."
"Of course I want you out of the house," agreed Taylor. "But there's going to be a violent thunderstorm tonight, and Mom and Dad always want you home when the weather's bad."
Brooke sighed. "All right then. Can I at least stay up?"
"Sure," agreed Taylor. "But you know what the parents say…no MTV, no Internet…"
"I know," Brooke said.
Taylor yawned. "I think I'll go to bed now. Have fun doing whatever you're going to do."
Brooke stayed in the living room, watching the crackling fire cast its moving shadow-shapes on the walls. She felt her eyelids slowly closing, and she clutched a soft pillow to her chest, breathing in and out deeply.
Her slumber was uninterrupted until…
She jolted awake, looking around and around the room for what might have fallen to the floor. "It wasn't me, Taylor!" she yelled. "I swear!" But then she remembered how deep a sleeper her brother was. He wouldn't wake up.
On closer examination of the room, she discovered that nothing could have made the louse noise. "Hm," she said to herself. "I wonder…"
She turned around to find a young man in her living room.
She shrieked. "WHO ARE YOU?" she demanded. "What are you doing here? I'm going to call the police!"
He said nothing.
"Where…where did you come from?" she said.
He pointed to the fireplace.
"The fireplace? Who do you think you are, Santa Claus or something? Who are you, and what the HELL ARE YOU DOING IN MY HOUSE?" she screamed, no longer afraid of waking Taylor.
He handed her a thin piece of binder paper. She took it in her hands, persuaded to silence by the calming look on his face, and began reading.
I am writing this message in behalf of my husband, who is here beside you. I hope you have not attempted a thorough interrogation, because he is completely mute. In his teenage years, he could speak as well as any other man, but now, his communication skills have been reduced to simple gesturing.
My name is Brooke Johnson, and I am twenty-five years old.
You must believe me, Brooke. During thunderstorms, accidental time traveling occurs frequently. I did my best to control my husband's route so that he would end up at your home—where you, my fifteen-year-old self, would live.
If you do not believe me, I know a secret of yours.
When you were seven years old, you had a crush on Ian Naldrick—the nerdiest fifteen-year-old in your world. You have told no one this, and I am the only one who knows—save for my husband, who has read the letter to ascertain that I have written all the important information.
Now you believe me, do you not?
Please take care of my husband until the next thunderstorm, when he can come back home.
Brooke looked up from the letter, terrified. "So you're my future husband?"
He nodded solemnly.
"But…but…time travel…it's…" She closed her eyes. Of course she did not want to believe it. How would she explain this man to everyone? To her friends? To her family? To—heaven forbid—Taylor? But she could not help but accept it. No one in the world knew that particular secret—she had told no one. Besides, the voice had sounded like hers, and the handwriting was not too far off, either. And…
"Can I see your hand?" she requested.
He gave her his hand, and on his fourth finger was a bright gold ring with a diamond deeply set into it.
It was the ring she had always wanted to give to her future husband.
"I guess this is it, then," she whispered, her voice barely above the air. "But…what's your name?"
He picked up the note and turned it over to the back. His long index finger pointed at a scribble that his wife had written.
"It's kind of hard to make out," Brooke said. "T…t…what does it say? I can't read it." In her mind, she scolded her future self for not having immaculately clean handwriting, like her brother.
Eventually, her future husband took a black pen from the countertop and wrote his name in immaculate cursive on the back. He seated himself on the expensive leather sofa and handed her the paper.
"T…Taylor Johnson?" She gasped. "I'm going to marry my brother?!"