[size=2]Spotting wrinkles in the once wetsuit tight Daddy’s Lil Monster shirt, Jennifer knew the process was running right on schedule. With only 16 years to play around with, the outward effects would become visible much sooner. After all, Alyssa had only enjoyed her coveted cleavage for the better part of two years, and the curse would make quick work of that.
“What the fuck is this?” the dazed teen demanded, already detecting subtle but unsettling changes in her anatomy.
Watching with elation, Jennifer again wondered about the curse’s side effects and whether they were contributing to the lust for revenge and her unbridled joy at witnessing Alyssa’s descent. Either way, she couldn’t take her eyes off Harley Quinn as the spell zapped her essence. At 14 going on 13, the pastel hot pants no longer grabbed her thinning waist and the black, torn fishnets appeared much too grown up for the wearer. By 12, the late bloomer’s assets had dwindled considerably. Alyssa flinched as a cursory analysis of her tits brought some unwelcome news.
“What — what’s happening?” she repeated, hyperventilating. “Make it stop!”
“Yeah, you won’t be breaking too many boys hearts without those, will you?” Jennifer surmised.
“Are you doing this?!”
“Oh no, it’s on autopilot now, dearie. Just have to let it take care of business,” the nine-year-old princess clarified. “Don’t worry though. I promise you’ll still be as cute as ever when it’s done.”
The next round of changes was particularly delicious. Just as Jennifer marked the precursors of puberty, Alyssa made the transition into single digits. What remained of her once sculpted, high cheekbones melted under a ray of innocent sunshine. In moments, the hardcore partier famous for outdrinking the football squad and losing her virginity under the stands was replaced by a junior sweetheart ready for fifth grade picture day. The trademark Harley Quinn pig-tails now told a different story, going from sexy cosplayer to… age appropriate.
Thankfully for Alyssa, the wardrobe started disappearing just as the hot pants slid down her twiggy thighs, taking the now uninhabited Daddy’s Lil Monster shirt with it. She raced to grab them but found she was clutching nothing.
“I’m… fucking shrinking?” the fourth-grader guessed out loud, hearing her retuned vocal cords for the first time.
“Not quite,” Jennifer explained, puberty in full swing. “You’re getting younger. Almost there by the looks of you.”
Petrified, the sandy blonde eight-year-old dropped her head to see an aqua blue gown with a gold wrap coiling around her waist. It seemed to be contracting along with her body. As the curse silently rescinded Jennifer’s regalia and restored her adult clothing, she took mental bets on Alyssa’s old costume choice from 2005. After a few wrong guesses, she nailed it.
“Princess Jasmine from Aladdin,” she buzzed in, her teenage self taking shape. “Hey, can’t have too many princesses. My daughter loved that movie. I think you know her, Chloe Matthews?”
“Wh — what?”
Alyssa was beyond mortified. A cool draft whooshed up the lower half of her chinzy, store-bought costume, causing her seven-year-old frame to contract. As it did, an ancient, long-forgotten conversation replayed in her head. The costume — she remembered trying it on at Target and complaining about how different it looked from the animated film.
“But Mommy, in the movie…”
“Ally, I told you, the big costumes are not for kids,” her mother had said, putting the more risqué version back on the hanger. “I can’t have you running around with a skimpy little top like it’s the beach. It’s going to be close to freezing.”
“That’s what she wears though!” she had moaned.
The memory suddenly fresh in her mind, Alyssa once again experienced the almost painful hunger that nagged at her throughout childhood — the persistent thirst to be one of the “big girls.” Even before she understood the first thing about sex, or noticed her own puberty switch being flipped, she envied the attitude and privileges that came with adulthood. She was jealous of the whole package: breasts, influence on boys, independence, the feminine mystique, the deeper voice, everything. October 9th, 2010 would become a cherished memory, the day she noticed the first faint traces of womanhood surfacing while taking her morning shower. Always worried puberty might pass her by or prove underwhelming, she monitored herself daily, posing like an actress in front of her mother’s floor mirror. In the span of a couple years, it was clear she had hit the genetic jackpot.
But tonight, fate had washed it all away in a near instant, leaving her to relive the torture anew. As the curse let up, gently settling the victim back into the throes of kindergarten, she stared down in unbelief at her pancake-flat chest.
“See, nothing to fear,” the newly re-teened intruder encouraged. “You’re just as pretty as you were a few minutes ago. Adorable even! People are going to love your new look.”
“You bitch! How did you do this?” The accusations were disarmingly cute mixed up an octave. “Change me back!”
“Language, young lady,” Jen disciplined, stroking a strand of Alyssa’s now fairer hair.
“Don’t touch me! I’m calling my mom,” the feisty five-year-old snapped.
“Don’t you want to know what just happened? Or are you happy with your new arrangement? I’d be happy to leave and you can get on with your Barbie coloring books and bubble baths.”
“I am not kidding. Turn me back or..." More pouting.
“Patience, kiddo.” Still acclimating to her high school sophomore build and coordination, Jennifer nevertheless circumnavigated the red-faced child like a hawk. She bit back laughter thinking of Alyssa donning a pint-sized Harley Quinn costume and swinging a miniature whiffle ball bat, trying to intimidate her daughter with infantile G-rated grade school taunts.
“Here’s a thought experiment,” Jennifer said. “What if we sent you back to school like this? And all your friends could get a good look at you. Just take a spin around cheerleader practice and introduce the new Alyssa Westenberg. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
Seething but sensing a moral coming, Princess Jasmine refused to dignify the suggestion with a response.
“That’s how you made my Chloe feel every day. Lording over her with your crew of bullies.”
“What does Chloe Matthews have to do with this? I’m not a little girl,” Alyssa cut through Jennifer’s Sunday School lesson. “I am not a little girl.”
“Want me to get you a mirror? Seems to me your age pretty well matches your maturity level now. Care to try for pre-school?” Jennifer threatened, knowing her powers were already spent but enjoying toying with her victim.
From Alyssa’s perspective, life was spinning out of control at a dizzying speed. Had a few harmless jokes about a classmate really resulted in this supernatural comeuppance? Was she truly stuck as a stupid little kid? It didn’t take long for her to begin regretting the teasing as Jennifer’s speechifying wore on.
“I… I’m sorry,” the defeated former bombshell finally sputtered. “Just don’t leave me like this. I’ll do anything.”
The apology rang somewhat sincere, if self-serving.
“Do… I have to grow up again?” she asked meekly, realizing she held none of the cards this time.
Jennifer sighed. The rules. If Christine honored them, so should she. Maybe the episode alone was enough to scare Alyssa into better behavior. Over the course of the next few minutes, the high school track runner filled her daughter’s nemesis in on all the details, at least those that were passed on to her earlier that evening. As she spelled out the guidelines, glints of optimism reappeared on Alyssa’s face. Obviously, she was putting two and two together faster than Jennifer had.
“So all I have to do is pick somebody!” The wicked gleam in her eyes returned.
“Well,” Jennifer reluctantly acknowledged. “Yes, but you have to think about this…”
Enemies list already compiling in the impetuous youngster’s brain, Alyssa wasted no time poring over the moral and ethical considerations involved and skipped straight to vendetta. So many deserving contenders, so little time.
“Think about what?” the Aladdin love interest spouted. “There’s no way I’m staying a dumb kindergartner. It doesn’t sound like you wanted to either.”
In fact, Alyssa’s naturally vengeful tendencies needed little prodding to spring into action. In no time, she whittled a long list of worthy nominees down to the perfect choice, an inspired choice, and he lived near the park just two blocks east.
Last February, he had committed a cardinal sin in Alyssaland by dumping her very publicly on Facebook. None of her boyfriends lasted longer than about four months, all casualties of the relentless churn of her shifting attentions, but Cameron had held promise. Unlike her easy dudebro catches, he was something of a prize himself, often occupying countless pages in yearbooks designed by nerdy, fawning would-be girlfriends. And he knew it. A high school renaissance man, Cameron excelled in a pamphlet’s worth of extracurricular activities from soccer to jazz band. The pairing — dubbed Camlyssa by Markland’s resident cultural commentators — seemed fairy tale, but like Brad and Angelina the facade eventually crumbled. In humiliating fashion.
And now she could repay the favor with a cold blast from the past.
Oh god, how she would savor this. Observing him slip back into middle school, then elementary school. Seeing that foxy face and slick, grungy hair giving way to a handsome little boy. She had some idea of what to expect from the occasional old tagged family photo that would pop up in her Facebook feed: a cute munchkin with a button nose, weak chin, sprinkling of cinnamon freckles. Of course, the best part would take place downstairs.
“Heh,” she giggled, imagining that first distressing peek inside the ol’ underwear.
Jennifer had barely finished her warnings when Alyssa bumped into her leg on the way out. Unfazed, Princess Jasmine yanked Jen’s slapdash candy bag off the recliner and made a beeline for the door.
“Yeah, I know. Blah, blah,” the impossible little squirt griped, slamming open the screen door.
Shoulders slumping, Jennifer resigned to the fact that, entertaining as it was, her intervention probably accomplished nothing except to further piss Alyssa off once she regained that insane bod of hers. But she couldn’t bring herself to withhold the information. Only seven minutes of officially sanctioned trick-or-treating time remained and candy supplies were probably running low in many households, but she had no doubt Alyssa would successfully swap with some unfortunate soul. What a strange running joke this was.
Sure enough, Alyssa blazed down the emptying streets on a war footing. The porch light dark at the Stefaniak’s tree-shaded residence, she approached anyway and rang the doorbell once — then again after an achingly long eternity of a few seconds. The unmistakable strains of his incessant guitar noodling were audible from the basement. I hope Cameron’s mom is still out with his little sister, she thought. I want him all to myself.
She was in luck. After another delay and some bumbling sounds in the background, Cameron answered the door with his prize Stratocaster slung around his back like Bruce Springsteen.
“Um, I think you’re a little late,” the hoodied 17-year-old briefed the cute straggler.
Alyssa flashed a persuasive smile full of chiclet baby teeth. “Trick or trade!”
“Let’s see if we have anything left.” He foraged around briefly, eventually discovering the paltry, unpopular leftovers. Two dented Caramellos and some sickening circus peanut-like abomination. He held the surplus out for Alyssa’s appraisal. “See anything here you like?”
Alyssa made her selection. Likewise, the peculiarly familiar visitor — where had he seen this girl before? — proudly held out her donation.
“Oh, um, that’s ok. I really don’t need any candy.”
“Trick or trade!” she chirped, undaunted.
“You really don’t have to do that,” Cameron assured. “You should keep it for yourself. It doesn’t look like you got much of a haul tonight.”
Frustrated with her ex-boyfriend’s endless politeness, she stuck her arm out as far as it would go.
“Trick or trade!”
Just before Cameron could give in and comply with her insistent orders, a small blur darted around his legs, snatching the fun-sized Skittles from Alyssa’s hand.
“Mine!” a triumphant high-pitched voice cackled.
“Sorry about that,” Cameron said, trying unsuccessfully to corral the wee thief. “That’s my cousin. Come here, Johnny…”
“Nooo!” Alyssa yelped, stomach slamming into the ground. “No, no, no, no….”
It had all happened so fast. With no warning. Before she could even react. Alyssa froze. As Cameron chased the bandit around the foyer, the panicked trick-or-treater got one good look at her mischievous trading partner before the first tingling wave washed over her.[/size]