TG Universes & Series:
Despite the girls telling them no, the boys follow Natalya, Megan, and her friends to Bikini Beach to surprise them. Now the girls have to deal with an unexpected complication in their tween romances, and then the fallout of the boys having changed afterwards.
This story is copyright by the author. It is protected by licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
The sound of happy children echoed through the halls of the school and spilled through the open doors to the outside. Under the watchful eyes of supervising teachers, the children in the junior high school were barely able to keep from dashing down the halls. Another school day had ended, and with it, the children felt liberated from boring classes. More importantly, this was no ordinary end of the school day, for it was Friday. An entire free weekend lay in front of the boisterous girls and boys.
Outside the school building, a long row of yellow buses stood in a neat line, their doors gaping open, waiting for the children to board and be seated for their rides home. One would have thought that the youths would anxiously board their rides, eager to be on their way, but the kids stood around between the school and the buses in small clusters. A day's worth of news and gossip, and a weekend's worth of planning, demanded their immediate attention. They all could have used their phones to discuss and coordinate, and indeed, they would later — until the wee hours (to the consternation of many parents) — but right now, they had a need for the personal touch of the little huddles of friends. The buses could wait until the last minute, and possibly beyond. The kids knew the official rule — the buses would leave whether the students were aboard or not. They also knew that the teachers would hate to delay the start of their own weekends to watch a few stray kids until the parents could be bothered to pick them up. The buses would wait. They always had, and they always would.
One small group of girls, not unlike many others like it, stood, chattering excitedly. Natalya Michaels — Natty to her friends — grinned as she asked her friends, "What are we doing this weekend?" Natty was a typical twelve year-old girl, a bit gangly and awkward, with beautiful dark brown, medium-length hair.
"I heard the boys are planning to go to Fun Zone," Natty's best friend, Megan, answered in her usually bubbly, enthusiastic tone. She was about Natalya’s age, and rather slender and freckled, with her sandy-blonde hair in a braided ponytail.
Another girl pouted. "I was hoping we could go to the park," Ashley said. "We haven't been there for a couple of weeks." Just from the way she stood and spoke, it was evident that Ashley considered herself the leader of the group. It was possibly because she was developing a little more quickly than her contemporaries, or because she was a couple of inches taller, but she came across as the queen bee, but without seeming brash or arrogant.
"Yeah," two of the other girls in the group, Sydney and Kelly, echoed in unison.
Sydney added, "We can go to Fun Zone when it's raining. Let's go to the park." The park to which the girls referred was Bikini Beach, a noted water park in the city that was very popular with girls. It had all sorts of attractions that interested the girls, including various tube and body slides, a wave pool, and a game area called the Junior Lifeguard Academy. The girls were all members of the park, and hung out there together most of the summer.
"Yeah, it was raining the last three weekends, so we didn't get to do much swimming," Megan noted.
"Okay, so we'll go to Bikini Beach?" Ashley threw out the idea for group consensus, but given her role as queen bee, it was unlikely that there would be any dissent.
"If we go, I'm going to go to Coach Lisa's diving clinic in the morning," Natty interjected. "I learn a lot from her."
"If you get too much better, you'll show up Jeff again, and then he won't like you!" Sydney teased.
In response, Natty stuck her tongue out at her friend. "You're just jealous that I've got a boyfriend!" she countered. Their banter was friendly, so neither girl's feelings were hurt.
"I heard Syd's got a thing for Doug," Megan said with a grin.
"I do not!" Sydney retorted sharply.
"So why are you always looking at him with goo-goo eyes?" Ashley teased.
"Maybe because he's kind of cute," Natty jumped in to defend her friend and deflect some of the teasing.
"I'm going to tell Jeff that you think Doug is cute!" Kelly giggled.
Natty stuck her tongue out at Kelly. "I didn't say he's cuter than Jeff!" she snapped. "Just that he's kind of cute! Besides, do you think Jeff would believe what you say over what I say?"
The nearby group of boys had been slowly and intentionally moving, amoeba-like, toward the girls, and Jeff Watson, the object of Natty's discussion, was close enough to hear. The groups merged, directed by some unseen force. "What am I supposed to believe?" Jeff asked.
Natty blushed and looked down, embarrassed. The kids were at that awkward age, when boys were realizing that girls didn't have cooties, and girls were starting to learn that they had power over the boys. She really liked Jeff, but didn't want to embarrass him or herself. "Nothing," she said, suddenly sounding shy. "We were talking about what we're going to do tomorrow."
"A bunch of us are going to Fun Zone," Eric, one of Jeff's friends and the boy who held Megan's interest, said, hoping that the girls would pick up on the idea. Eric DiMarco was a typical twelve-year-old boy, like his friends Jeff and Doug. He had a head of wavy black hair, unlike Jeff, who was sandy-blonde, and Doug, who had brown hair. With slightly olive skin that bespoke Italian ancestry, Eric had a slightly exotic air about him that girls his age were starting to find attractive.
"We're going to the water park tomorrow," Ashley reported, sounding like it had been an edict and there was no arguing.
"We were hoping that you'd come to Fun Zone, too," Jeff said, sounding disappointed. He stole a quick glance at Natty, and saw that she was glancing at him, too. She dropped her gaze, embarrassed that some of her friends would notice and rib her about it.
"Why can't we all go to Fun Zone?" Doug, another of Jeff's friends, complained.
Jeff's face brightened. "Hey, let’s _all_ go to the water park!' he suggested eagerly.
"No!" Natty exclaimed, horror-stricken. "You guys can't go there!"
Doug scowled. "Why not?"
Natty winced. She knew that she couldn't explain the real reason. They'd never believe her. "Just don't go," she insisted. "It's ... it's for women only." She hoped they'd believe her lie. She knew men and boys could go, but she also knew what the park's magic would do.
"How about if we go to Fun Zone on Sunday afternoon?" Megan suggested, changing the subject quickly, since she'd figured that Natty had a good reason to keep the boys away from the park. "That way, Natty won't miss the diving clinic at the park." "And then maybe we can have a pool party at my house after Fun Zone, too," she added. "And my dad can grill some hamburgers and hot dogs."
Natty leaned close to her friend. "What if your dad says no?" she whispered insistently.
Megan frowned. "Maybe I should ask first?" She blushed at the oversight of inviting her friends before her parents had approved. "I'll text you." She saw the teachers gesturing toward the buses. "We better go. One of these days, they're going to leave us behind, and then we'll be in real trouble."
The group dispersed, with most of the group scrambling to board the proper buses that would take them to their homes. After watching them go, the three boys, Jeff, Eric, and Doug turned to walk toward Jeff's home, where the three were planning to hang out for a bit.
"It's really a bummer that the girls don't want to go tomorrow," Jeff said with a heavy sigh. Both of his friends knew that he wanted to spend time with Natty.
"Why don't we go to the water park tomorrow, then?" Eric suggested.
"That sounds like fun," Doug said enthusiastically. He glanced at Jeff. "You like diving, and Natty said they have a diving coach there on Saturdays."
Jeff shook his head. "Natty said we shouldn't go," he reminded them. "It's for women only."
"My brother knows a guy in college that goes there every weekend," Eric rebutted. "So it can't be only for girls."
"My mom would freak out if she caught me going to a place named Bikini Beach," Doug chuckled.
"So she doesn't have to know," Eric replied.
"Simple. There's a bus that goes past the mall and the water park. We get our moms to take us to the mall to hang out. Then we catch the bus to the water park, and voila! A day of fun at a water park," Eric said smugly, "and our moms never know. We'll just reverse it going home."
Jeff thought for a moment. Maybe if he could get in the diving class with Natty, he'd learn a few things, and he'd get to spend more time with her. "Sounds like a plan to me," he said as a grin spread across his face.
"Natty!" The voice was loud and quite insistent, distracting Natalya from catching the wave in the wave pool, with the result that she got knocked off her feet by the surge of water. She surfaced, wet and sputtering, while she tried to locate the source of the voice.
"Natty!" the staff member in the distinctive pink T-shirt and shorts insisted once more. "Anya said you girls need to come with me right now." There was little to suggest that her request was anything other than an order. "Hurry!"
Natty glanced at her friends, and then began to splash her way out of the wave pool. "What's up, Kiki?" she asked as she neared the beach.
"Anya didn't say. All she said was to get you girls as fast as I could and bring you up front," Kiki replied. She was impatiently waiting for the girls to join her. "She said it was very important," she added. She began to trot toward the entrance plaza, with Ashley, Sydney, Natty, Megan, and Brooke close on her heels.
As they neared the locker rooms, Kiki went straight for the one marked "Women's Overflow 2". Natty knew that, from the outside, it said "Men's." Natty started to get a sinking feeling. The feeling worsened when Anya came out of the locker and walked straight to her. "Natty, Megan," she said, a grim expression on her face, "a word, please."
Anya, with Natty and Megan, stepped away from Sydney, Ashley, and Brooke. "The boys followed you to the park. They're in the locker room. They've already changed."
"What?" Natty cried loudly. It was enough that Ashley and the others overheard her and looked her way, startled. "They didn't!" she said, knowing in her heart that the boys had now changed. "How could you sell them a ticket without letting me know first?"
Megan looked at her friend. She had heard rumors, but didn’t quite believe them. That was, not until now, having heard it directly from Anya.
Anya put her hand comfortingly on Natty's shoulder. "Natty, you know we let the regular girls sell short-term passes. We don't always get involved in those."
"But ... what am I supposed to do?
Anya said, "I already calmed them down, but you'll need to go in and talk to them."
"Do they ... know?" Natty asked.
Anya nodded. "Doug doesn't, but Jeff and Eric do."
"Oh, crap!" Natty shook her head. "What are we going to do?"
"You two need to come in with me to talk to them. I'll have Dawn — that's Doug's female name — come out. She's a little miffed that the other two are still a little shy and freaked out." Anya turned to the other girls. "We'll go see what the holdup is," she said, sounding like there was nothing going on at all.
Inside, Natty and Megan saw that Anya had already taken care of the bikini tops, and had used her magic to calm the boys down She strongly suspected that the reason Doug was acting like nothing was wrong, was that he'd really freaked out, and Anya had to use a stronger spell that would make him forget. She wished that Anya had done that to all the girls, so that none of them would remember after they changed back.
Dawn was standing, hands on hips, glaring at the other two girls. "Jasmine," she said in a scolding voice, "I don't know why you're so slow today! You and Erica are just wasting time!"
Natty looked at Dawn, and saw immediately the facial resemblance to Doug. She frowned, and then caught herself feeling a little envious. Dawn was a little taller, and much further along the road to womanhood than Natty. Her long dark hair was wavy, and she was a very cute girl. Natty forced the jealous feelings from her mind. "Dawn," she said, speaking the name naturally, since the magic had affected her as much as the others, "why don't you go outside with the girls and head back to the wave pool. Megan and I will bring these two slowpokes along in a bit."
Dawn shrugged. "Okay," she said. She turned and strutted out of the locker, putting a little sway into her hips. She was practicing, Natty thought, for being around boys. Then she caught herself — Dawn _was_ a boy, at least until a few minutes ago! Anya walked out with her, leaving Megan and Natty alone with their former boyfriends.
Natty took the arm of the girl who looked like Jeff's sister. "I bet you have a ton of questions," she said as she led her further back into the locker room. Megan likewise led the girl who vaguely resembled Eric.
"I'm ... I'm a girl!" Jeff stammered, staring with doe-eyes at Natty. He looked so frightened and helpless and ... adorable, Natty realized. He was a cute girl.
Natty and Megan sat them down on the benches. She looked directly at Jeff. "I told you that the park is only for women," she said, her voice dripping with disappointment.
"I know," Jeff admitted, avoiding her gaze as he looked down with embarrassment. Suddenly, he looked up. "You knew!" he accused.
Natty sighed and nodded. "Yes, I knew. That's why I didn't want you coming here."
"Why didn't you tell me?" the new girl whined. "Now, I'm a girl — like you!"
Natty sighed again. "Okay, let me explain. The park is only for girls. Since you bought a pass, the park turned you into a girl."
"Are we ... are we stuck like this?" Eric stammered, fear in his eyes.
Natty shook her head. "You're not stuck. You'll change back ...."
"Okay, let's just leave and change back, then!" the girl who had been Jeff said determinedly.
"It doesn't work like that. Would you please let me explain and quit interrupting?" She saw the new girls silently nod. "This isn't like a normal water park. Most people have memberships. You guys have guest passes, right?" She saw the silent nods of assent. "The change lasts until the pass expires." She looked at Jeff. "How long a pass did you get?" she asked him.
"And when does the day end?" she prompted.
"Midnight?" the girl who looked like Eric said shyly.
"So at midnight, give or take a few minutes, your passes will expire and you'll change back to being boys," Natty explained.
"So what are we going to do after the park closes, until we change back? We can't go home looking like this!" Eric wailed.
Natty sighed heavily again. "What's your name?" she pointedly asked Eric.
"Erica DiMarco," the girl said. Her mouth dropped open as she answered, and her eyes were wide with surprise. Jeff, too, was shocked at the answer.
"This is magic," Natty explained simply.
"Magic?" Jeff asked, incredulous. "There's no such thing!"
Natty grabbed his long, girlish hair. "Then how do you explain this? Or," she glanced down at the flat fronts of the former boys' bikini bottoms, "those?" Both boys turned beet-red. They realized that Natty knew how extensive their changes were, and they felt humiliated.
"The magic affects everything. If you were to call home, you'd find that your parents know you as their daughters. Your closets and dressers will have girls' clothing. You'll probably find that your bedrooms are all girly, too," she added with a giggle.
"How do you know about the magic?" Eric asked suspiciously.
"My cousin Jenny works here, and her partner Melinda used to be a lifeguard here, too," Natty answered.
"How ... how could you let this happen to me?" Jeff wailed. "I thought ... you liked me!"
"I do like you," Natty admitted. "That's why I told you not to come to the park. I knew what would happen." She felt her cheeks redden. "I don't want to kiss a ... girl! I want to be with Jeff, but you're not Jeff today." She paused. "What is your name?"
Jeff looked down. "Jasmine," he said, blushing again. It was such a feminine name, and he was embarrassed.
"It's the same way that Doug thinks she's Dawn," Natty explained. The magic changed things."
"That's ... impossible!" Jasmine exclaimed.
"Yes, it is. You're proof of that." Natty smiled as she stood. "Now let's go play."
"Why doesn't Dawn remember?" Erica asked. "It's like she thinks she was always a girl."
Natty nodded. "She must have panicked too much because she couldn't handle the change. When Anya cast her spell to calm you down, I'm guessing she had to give her a little extra help, which made her forget completely that she was a boy before." She stood up abruptly. "Now, let's go play."
"What?" the two former boys exclaimed in unison, horrified at the thought of going out in public as they now were.
"Let's go play,” she insisted. “You're at a great water park, you're stuck for the rest of the day, there's a diving clinic, the rides are fantastic — so let's go play!"
"Um, you said they have ... a diving clinic?" Jasmine asked meekly as they walked out of the locker room.
"Yeah," Natty said enthusiastically. "You want to go do that with me?"
Jasmine looked at Natty, her eyes almost pleading to not subject her to more embarrassment about being a girl. She really didn't know what she wanted to do. "I guess," she answered.
Natty took her by the hand. "You'll love it. Coach Lisa is really good." She glanced over her shoulder at Megan. "We'll catch up to you after the clinic. About eleven, over at the Old Swimming Hole?"
"Sounds good," Ashley replied for the group. "Let's go!" she said enthusiastically. "We can do the rides over in Wild River this morning!"
Megan took Erica's hand. "You're going to love the slides. They're a blast!" She pulled the girl along, her enthusiasm infectious to the new girl.
As Jasmine and Natty walked toward the pool and diving area, Jasmine was slowly losing her sense of embarrassment and self-consciousness. "How many ... people were ... like me?" she stammered.
Natty smiled. "Not many."
"Can anyone tell who?"
Natty shook her head. "Only when they're too shy or embarrassed," she answered with a grin.
"Oh." Jasmine's eyes widened when she saw the diving platform and boards. "Wow!" A woman and a gaggle of girls were gathered around the base of the platform.
"Natty, you're late!" the woman called when she noticed Natty and Jasmine walking quickly toward the class.
"Sorry, Miss Lisa," Natty said, her voice sincere. "I ... got ... sidetracked on my way here." She couldn't help but shoot a glance at Jasmine. "My friend wants to join the class today."
Lisa looked over Jasmine with a critical eye. "Are you sure she should be in this class?" she asked Natty.
Natty nodded enthusiastically. "I've seen her dive. She's good." She half-turned to Jasmine. "You better not make a liar out of me."
Lisa nodded. "You know the rules. She's got to show she's qualified as a swimmer, first."
"Okay, Miss Lisa," Natty acknowledged. "I'll go to Miss Liz for that."
"What now?" Jasmine asked, feeling nervous about the curt exchange. She noticed that Natty had changed directions and was walking toward a lifeguard in the swimming part of the pool.
"You have to swim two lengths of the pool without stopping," Natty replied. "It's the standard swimmer's test here."
"But ... I haven't .... I mean, not as a girl," Jasmine whispered insistently.
"Don't think about it. Your brain knows how." Natty grinned. "I'll swim with you. Maybe a race will distract you. And I'll probably win," she taunted.
"The heck you will!" Jasmine countered sharply. Natty had drawn out the competitive spirit, which was exactly what she had intended.
After a quick briefing from Liz, the two girls got into start positions on the edge of the pool. At Liz's whistle, they both dove into the water. Jeff had been a strong swimmer. Jasmine had to rely more on her form and style, since she was a little bit less muscular. At the end of the first length, Natty, who was used to her body, had a slight lead. When she realized that she was behind, Jasmine redoubled her efforts. She focused on winning, on proving Natty was wrong. She pushed herself harder, and as a result, she began to gain on Natty. At the finish, she was only an arm-length behind Natty.
Liz nodded approvingly as Jasmine climbed out of the water. "Pretty good. How would you like to be on our recreational swim team?" she asked. "It's competitive, and a good way for girls to practice and improve."
"Thank you," Jasmine said awkwardly. "I'm just visiting, so I wouldn't be able to come back. Besides, I'm a lot more interested in diving."
Liz smiled. "Well, if you dive half as well as you swim, you'll do great." She turned to Natty. "Let Lisa know that she's got my approval."
Natty gave Liz a hug, getting her wet — deliberately. "Thank you, Miss Liz," she said warmly. She turned, took Jasmine's hand, and scampered to the diving area.
"And no running around my pool!" Liz called out after them. It was futile — Natty was known to push the rules just enough to get attention, but not to get in trouble. Besides, she was such a loveable little thing. Liz thought about Jasmine, and what she'd said about visiting. She'd taken note of the somewhat hesitant, even fearful, look in the girl's eyes. She wondered what the story was behind the girl for a moment, but she just shrugged and went back to what she'd been doing. If Natty wanted her to know, Natty would tell her.
Natty and Jasmine joined the group of girls waiting by the diving boards and platforms. For a few minutes, they listened to Coach Lisa explaining a few tips on form for getting a clean entry. Then she had a girl named Mel do a couple of dives to illustrate what she'd just explained.
Jasmine's eyes were wide with surprise and admiration as she watched Mel's dives. The girl was almost perfect. Jasmine couldn't find any flaws with her technique or form, even though Mel seemed disappointed in her performance a couple of times, smacking the water when she surfaced. "She's good," Jasmine whispered to Natty. "She's really good."
Natty nodded. "And she's very helpful, too. She's Miss Lisa's daughter."
After that, it was time for the girls to practice those techniques. Lisa looked at Jasmine. "Mel, can you watch ...," she stopped. "Um, what's your name, dear?"
"Jasmine," the girl answered nervously. She was now in the spotlight in the group of girls, and she didn't like the extra attention.
"Watch Jasmine do a couple of dives and make sure she's safe before she dives with the class."
"Okay." Mel walked to Jasmine and Natty while the other girls congregated around Miss Lisa. "I'm Mel," she said to Jasmine. She didn't extend her hand, which seemed a little snobbish to Jasmine, but Natty didn't react at all. "Have you dived before?"
Jasmine was about to answer, but Natty leaned over and whispered into Mel's ear. Mel frowned, but then shrugged. "Okay, why don't you do something simple to start?"
As Jasmine sprang off the board and tucked for a one-and-a-half, Natty giggled. "I guess she's like you — simple means something different!" Mel gave a quick smile before returning to business.
Mel had watched how Jasmine over-rotated just a tiny bit, and splashed a little much on entry. She surfaced, unhappy with her performance. As she climbed out of the pool, Mel commented, "Not bad, but you rotated too far."
Jasmine frowned. She didn't want this type of criticism, especially from a kid who was only slightly older than her. "No shit," she said sarcastically.
Mel glanced at Natty, and then looked back at Jasmine. "You didn't check the board to see how much spring you had. Whenever you get on the board, you need to have a feel for the board. If you know how much spring it has, you can adjust your rotation speed, and you'll have cleaner entries. Let me show you." She climbed up on the board, walked to the end, and took a few bounces to feel the board. "See? I know how much spring I can get, so I can adjust for it." She stepped back, then did a one-and-a-half, like Jasmine had tried, but with a full twist. Her entry was picture-perfect. As she climbed out of the pool, she smiled at the new girl. "Give it a try. Same dive you did last time."
Before they were done Mel waved her mother over, for a minute, close, yet far enough to where neither Natty nor Jasmine could hear. A few times Lisa looked at Jasmine, a hint of a smile on her face, before going back to the other girls.
"You were right," Jasmine said as the two walked toward the wave pool. The diving clinic was over, and Jasmine had been one of the more enthusiastic divers. "She's the best diver I've ever seen in person."
"And?" Natty prompted.
"And she's fun to work with.” Mel had pushed both her and Natty without making them feel like they were beneath her, but instead, treated them as equals. “It's like she's a natural diver and teacher."
"Admit it - you liked working with Coach Lisa," Natty said with a grin.
"Yeah," Jasmine said. Then she looked a bit introspective. "Will I ... when this is over, will I remember any of this stuff?"
Natty smiled. "Yeah. That's probably one of the reasons that Anya let you remember this whole thing. Not like Dawn."
Jasmine's eyes widened at that comment. "You mean that she could have just made me — not remember? And ...?" She feared where her thoughts were taking her.
Natty guessed what was on Jasmine's mind. "If she had, then tomorrow you'd remember having a fun day at a water park, but maybe not be able to remember all the details. That's what happens to most boys who come here." Her eyes twinkled. "Anya must think you're special. Like I do," she added coyly.
As the two walked to meet the others, Jasmine's worries faded, and she smiled. "You were right - that was fun!" she exclaimed.
"Told you," Natty said smugly.
"Where are we going now?" Jasmine asked.
"The Old Swimming Hole first to join the others then Junior Lifeguard Academy. There are some really fun games. Then we'll go on the rides and stuff." She grinned. "And you're going to love lunch at the Tiki Room. It's fabulous!" She saw the look of doubt creeping over Jasmine's face. "My treat!" Natty added, which got Jasmine to smile.
By the end of the day, Jasmine and Erica had to admit — grudgingly — that the park _was_ a lot of fun. They'd quickly forgotten that they were girls, and had played as hard as the other girls they were with. It had been a fun day, and playing — without the 'boyfriend — girlfriend' tensions — had been thoroughly enjoyable. Jasmine and Natty and Erica and Megan were acting like best friends and interacting playfully.
Natty noticed some tension between Dawn and Sydney, which Jasmine confirmed. Natty suspected that it was because Dawn was a little cuter than Sydney, and was strutting around like she was hot stuff. Sydney seemed a little insecure around Dawn. While Sydney was cute, she had nothing on Dawn, especially in the developing curves department. Natty started to wonder if Doug's lack of memory had been deliberate on Anya's part to prevent future conflicts between the two tweens.
Natty knew that they wouldn't have been able to play together if the boys were still boys. There would have been a little bit of competitiveness, which had been present while the two were at the diving clinic, and some natural male ego-driven showing off. As girls, with girl instincts, the former boys didn't have the need to show off. That gave them all a chance to relax and just have fun with the girls — as friends.
As the girls got ready to board the bus back to the mall, Natty pulled Jasmine aside. "Did you have fun?" she asked hesitantly.
Jasmine nodded. "I guess it was okay. And ... it was ... nice to play ... without the guys making comments about, you know, you and me." She sounded hesitant, despite her reassuring words.
"I had fun, too." She got a stern expression. "But please don't get in the habit of changing into Jasmine, okay?"
Jasmine vigorously shook her head. "Once is enough!" she said. "I've heard my older sister complaining about 'girl things' too many times, and I definitely don't want to try ... that!"
"I'll see you tomorrow at Fun Zone?" Natty suggested hopefully.
Jasmine nodded. "Aren't you going to call tonight?" Her eyes widened at her automatic comment. "Did I just say that?"
Natty laughed. "It's some 'girl' thinking. You can't help doing a little of that until you change back." She grinned. "Give me a call, okay."
"K," Jasmine said.
"And we can talk tomorrow at Fun Zone."
“Yeah." Jasmine's attitude seemed to cool at the thought of seeing Natty the next day, as if she expected it to be awkward. She turned, and following Erica and Dawn, boarded the bus.
Natty watched them go. She had a bad feeling, like Jasmine was holding something back and wasn't being completely honest about her thoughts on the day's changes.
As the group played at Fun Zone, Natty noticed that Jeff and Eric were a little edgy. Jeff seemed to be avoiding Natty, and Eric seemed to be keeping his distance from Megan. Both girls — and the two boys — seemed a little miffed that Doug and Sydney were acting like nothing unusual had happened, and were holding hands whenever they thought no-one was looking. When they were taking a break from miniature golf, Natty edged closer to Jeff.
"Are you okay?" she asked carefully.
"Sure," Jeff replied in a macho, confident-sounding voice. "Why do you ask?"
Natty winced at his reaction. He wasn't making eye contact with her, and he was acting a little arrogant and cocky. "I don't know," she said. She shuffled away, anxiety filling her heart. He wasn't being his usual self. She feared that he was angry at her over what had happened the previous day at the park.
As they came off the go-carts, Jeff nudged Eric. "Do you remember?" he asked surreptitiously.
Eric nodded and frowned. "Yeah." He didn't sound in the least bit happy.
"Have you talked to them about it?"
Eric shook his head. "No."
"Me, neither." He frowned, like his buddy. "It's ... too weird." He saw Eric nod his agreement.
A bit later, Natty bumped into Jeff in the hallway by the rest-rooms. "Are you okay?" she asked again.
Jeff seemed a little indignant by her repeated question. "I'm fine!" he replied.
"I know things were kind of weird for you yesterday, and I was just afraid that ...." Natty didn't want to finish the sentence.
"I'm fine," Jeff continued. He looked down, fidgeting. He wanted to walk away, to not discuss the previous day's change with Natty. And yet, he liked her too much. He was torn, adrift in a sea of mixed emotions. "It's just weird. I mean, I was a girl, and now I'm not, and ...." He was struggling to put his feelings into words.
Natty smiled at him. "I like the way you are now," she said, trying to be encouraging and sweet.
"What if ... we'd have gotten longer passes?" Jeff asked, fear in his voice. "Would we be stuck longer?"
Natty nodded. "Yeah."
"Doug doesn't remember anything, like you said." He suppressed a shudder. "That's kind of scary. Other than Megan and you, the other girls were acting like we'd always been girls."
"Yeah," Natty admitted. "Most people don't know when someone changes."
"And you know because ...." Jeff sounded uneasy that Natty knew he'd been a girl, even if his change had only been temporary.
Natty winced slightly — enough that Jeff noticed. She had hoped to avoid this type of question. "Anya must have known something," she lied. "So she let me know about the change. Otherwise, I wouldn't have known."
"Oh." Jeff looked very thoughtful, pondering something that had crossed his mind.
Natty noticed. "What?"
"Nothing," Jeff tried to lie, but he couldn't. "It's just that, if ... someone changed — with a really long pass, no-one would know?"
Natty shook her head. She was afraid that she knew where this conversation was about to go.
"Even if ...." Jeff stopped, looking for the right words. He looked down at the floor, not wanting to look at Natty.
"If what?" Natty asked, trying to sound innocent.
"I can't help but wonder if ... you ...," he stammered. "You girls all are members ...."
"You're wondering if I ...knew ... because I changed?" Natty asked, her heart racing. She'd always dreaded what might happen if someone figured out her secret.
Jeff nodded, still looking down. "Yeah."
In answer, Natty impulsively put her hands on both sides of his face, and gave him a big kiss, right on his lips. She wasn't rushing the kiss, either. In a few moments, Jeff began to respond, and he kissed her back. When she finished the kiss, she let her hands drop. "Do you think that I'd do _that_ if I was a guy?" she asked.
Jeff thought for a moment, wide-eyed about the kiss. "I guess not," he admitted as he started to smile. He leaned forward and kissed her again.
"Ahem," Megan's voice sounded from the door of the women's rest-room. "Are you two done, yet?"
Jeff and Natty both blushed, and Jeff stepped back half a step. The noteworthy thing to Natty was that Jeff hadn't scampered away like a frightened rabbit.
"You just _had_ to do that, didn't you?" Natty grumbled. "Why is it that anytime Jeff and I are kissing, someone interrupts us?" Megan didn't laugh, and only then did Natty see that there were tears on her cheeks. "What's wrong?" Natty asked softly as she put her arm around her friend's shoulder.
"Eric ... won't talk to me," Megan sobbed. "He ...still thinks ... I tricked him, and that I'm gay or something."
Natty winced. Megan really liked Eric, and she didn't need to deal with this type of rejection. "Maybe I should go talk to him," she volunteered.
Jeff shook his head. "No," he said firmly. "He's my friend. I'll talk to him."
"I just don't get how you can be so ... cool about the whole thing," Eric complained. He and Jeff were sitting on the fire stairs at Fun Zone, out of the way of the noise and kids. Eric wasn't even looking at Jeff, but staring at his feet.
Jeff shrugged, a gesture unseen by his friend. "Was it so bad?"
Eric snapped up to stare in disbelief at Jeff. "Are you nuts? How can you even _talk_ to the girls after that?" He shook his head. "I wish I was like Doug, and didn't remember anything," he grumbled. "That'd be a lot easier to deal with."
Jeff answered with a grin, "You know that was the best water park we've ever been at, right?"
"Well, yeah," Eric admitted hesitantly.
"And we got to spend the day with the girls, but without ... feeling weird about boys and girls."
Eric wrinkled his nose. "Maybe." He looked down for a few moments. "You don't care, do you?" he accused.
Jeff chuckled. "We got a chance to understand girls a little better than most guys."
"That's just ... weird!" Eric spat in disgust.
"Look, I was kind of embarrassed — at first," Jeff said. "And it was weird wondering what Natty ... well, what she thought ...." He looked away from Eric for a moment. "But she understands, and we had fun, and I like her, so I guess I can deal with changing once."
"What'd she do to convince you, kiss you again?" Eric queried. He saw Jeff's cheeks redden.
"Megan's a cool girl," Jeff continued, changing the subject abruptly. Even with 'one of the guys', he was embarrassed to be talking about kissing Natty. "I think she really likes you."
Eric's eyes brightened a little at Jeff's observation. "Really?" he asked hopefully. "But ...."
Jeff shook his head. "Natty tried to warn us not to go, didn't she? Megan tried to help. It wasn't the girls' fault. If we blame anyone, it should be us. Right?"
Eric nodded slowly. "Yeah, I guess."
Jeff smiled. "Plus, while we were girls, you got a chance to get to know Megan like she was a friend, right?"
Eric nodded. "But Megan knows I was a girl. That's kind of ...."
"Embarrassing? Like Natty knows that I was a girl, too?"
"So what? It was magic," he said. "Who's going to believe that? Would you?"
Eric thought a moment. "No, I guess not."
"So our secret's safe. Besides, we've done plenty of things that were a lot _more_ embarrassing, haven't we? Like the time at the lake at camp ...."
"You don't need to remind me of all that stuff," Eric interrupted quickly, with a frown. "I guess if you can deal with it, I can too." He sighed, and then looked at Jeff. "You're not kidding me, are you? She really likes me?"
"Since we can't go to Megan's for a pool party, I checked with Jen and Mel, and they're okay if we hang out and have dinner and watch a movie," Natty said. "Mel is making spaghetti. Her home-made spaghetti sauce and meatballs are to die for!
"Maybe," Jeff said hesitantly. "I'm not sure what Mom will say."
Natty laughed. "Jen can call them to see if it's okay, if you want."
"As long as it' not a 'chick flick'," Eric laughed.
"And we don't want a 'hack and slash, fantasy magic monster' movie," Sydney said with a grin.
"That doesn't leave much," Jeff frowned.
Natty grinned. "Mel and Jen have a lot of really fun old movies," she said. "And they're not corny, stupid movies either. I bet we'll all like them." She noticed that Megan was smiling again, and she was exchanging adoring glances with Eric.
Megan glanced Natty's way, and saw that Natty was smiling at her. Megan silently mouthed the word "thanks" to her. Natty grinned.
The kids were sprawled around the living room, watching the movie. They had to admit that Natty had been right — the movie they were watching was hilarious. The dinner had been fabulous, too.
"We'll have to hang out here more often," Doug said with a grin. Sydney was sitting beside him, and the two were holding hands. Whenever she had refilled her soda, Doug went with her, and vice-versa. Natty and Megan had suspected that the two were sneaking a kiss whenever they could.
"I told you it'd be a fun movie," Natty couldn't help but say as the credits began to roll. She stood. "I need more soda. Anyone else want something while I'm up?" When no one took her offer, she went to the kitchen. As she was pouring her drink, she noticed, from the corner of her eye, that someone else had come into the kitchen. She turned, and smiled when she saw that it was Jeff.
"This was fun," Jeff said as he moved beside Natty to refill his own drink.
"Kind of a date, but not a date," Jeff added.
Natty looked toward him in surprise, and when she did, he bent forward and kissed her. With one hand holding a soda bottle, and the other holding her cup, she was unable to do what she wanted, which was to wrap her arms around Jeff and prolong the kiss.
It didn't matter, because Jeff was in no hurry to end it.
A bit back from the doorway, Jen watched with amusement as Natty and Jeff kissed. She knew that she'd have to stop them before they started more serious making-out, but she figured it wouldn't hurt to let Natty enjoy a special moment. After enough time had passed, she noisily slid back the chair she was sitting in, giving Natty and Jeff enough of an alert to not be embarrassed. She walked into the kitchen as the two kids quickly resumed pouring their sodas.
Jeff noticed the knowing smile on Jen's face, and he blushed. He scurried out of the kitchen, back to the living room, while Natty just stared, red-faced, at Jen.
"I don't mind you getting a kiss or two," Jen said softly, "as long as it doesn't go further than that."
"How long ... were you watching?"
"Long enough," Jen answered with a grin. "He really likes you, doesn't he?"
Natty grinned and blushed at the same time. As the two stood, talking about boys, Natty and Jen saw Megan walk past the kitchen toward the bathroom. A few moments later, Eric walked the same direction. Jen frowned. "Do I need to keep an eye on those two?" she asked Natty.
Natty shook her head. "Eric was upset about being changed at the park yesterday. I think he kind of blamed Megan, but Jeff talked to him about it." She walked to the dining table, where she could see down the hall. She shrugged at Jen.
A moment later, Megan exited the bathroom, and nearly bumped into Eric. She hadn't expected him to be there. "I wanted to apologize for freaking out," he said slowly, looking down at the floor. "I had a lot of fun at the park, and Jeff told me that it was our fault because we ignored what you tried to tell us."
Megan smiled. "I had a lot of fun, too."
When Eric looked up at her, Megan impulsively wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. At first, Eric was too startled to react, but then he began to kiss back. After a few seconds, Megan dropped her arms and stepped back, looking down, embarrassed and startled by her own actions.
Eric leaned forward, lifted her chin, and kissed her again. Then he scampered into the restroom, reminded by an over-full bladder of why he'd come down the hall in the first place.
Behind him, Megan was practically melting, her expression one of heavenly bliss as she glided gracefully and happily back toward the living room. Natty stepped to cut her off. "Well?" Natty asked.
"Well, what?" Megan said. She looked like she was far away, focused on something entirely different from talking with Natty.
"Was it as good as you hoped?" Natty asked, knowingly.
"Better," Megan purred with a contented smile.
"I had a good time at the park," Eric admitted to the others in the car. "Even if it was a little weird." Sydney's mom had picked her up, and now Mel was taking Eric, Jeff, and Doug to their homes. Megan and Natty were riding along. At the last minute, Natty had asked her to spend the night. Doug was the first to be dropped off.
As they drove toward Eric's house, Natty suggested, "Maybe someday we can get together at the park for fun again?"
"Or more diving lessons," Jeff countered. Eric stared at Jeff, his mouth agape with shock. "Aw, come on," Jeff said. "It _was_ a lot of fun, wasn't it?"
Eric realized that Megan was staring at him. "Yeah," he admitted sheepishly, "it was." He frowned. "But I'm not weird or anything!" he added defensively as the car pulled into his driveway.
When Eric climbed out of the car, Megan followed him. She walked with him to his door, and then, after glancing furtively around, she gave him another kiss. She was practically floating on air as she climbed back into the car.
The next stop was Jeff's house. Like Megan had done, Natty walked with Jeff to the door. Unlike Megan, she was holding Jeff's hand. Their kiss was a little longer, until Mel flashed her lights to let the two kids know it was time to go.
"I'm not going to tell anyone about the park," Jeff said to Natty as he grasped the doorknob. "It'd be too embarrassing."
Natty grinned. "No one would believe you if you did."
"Can we do this again sometime?" Jeff asked.
Natty felt her heart flutter. "Yeah," she answered eagerly. "I'd like that." She walked back to the car, just as enthralled as Megan had been.
As Natty buckled in, Megan said, "That all worked out."
"Better than I thought it would," Natty admitted. She glanced at her best friend. "I'm glad you got your first kiss," she said softly.
Megan blushed and giggled happily. "Not a much as me!"
"I got the impression that the boys might come to play with us at the park once in a while," Natty observed as they drove toward Megan's house.
"Yeah," Megan said. "It was a lot of fun. But I like it more when they're boys, so I can kiss Eric!" she added with a naughty giggle.
"Me, too!" Natty grinned. She saw Mel's knowing smile, and felt content. It _had_ been a really good weekend, despite her fears of how it had started.
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