Chapter 18 - Face Off

Second Chances by Emily


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Synopsis: Day 8. Christina decides to confront Amber.

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I am sitting on my couch watching American Idol with my roommate. I remember living here. But I don't anymore. My roommate doesn't live with me anymore. I think she moved. She says something to me about the last singer. I can't remember what. I smile at her. I wish we were more than roommates. I'd totally try to date her if she wasn't my roommate. Maybe if I flirt just a little more.


My cell phone rings. I look at the caller ID. It's Ron. I flip open the phone and answer it.


"Hey man" I said. "What's new?"


"Hey” he says in a somber voice.  “Do you remember my friend Chase?"


"Yeah sure." I said. "He was your best man at your wedding last year."


"He-" Ron says something. I can't hear him. It's muffled. I hear a buzzing in the background. It's getting louder. And louder.



Tuesday, September 30, 1997



I wake up in a cold sweat to my alarm clock buzzing. I reached out and turned it off. What was with that dream? Actually it was more like a memory resurfacing. Now that I think about it, I don't think I really remember the moment Ron told me Chase died. I brushed those thoughts away and refocused.


It's been exactly one week since I've been Christina. This also means I have one week to figure out my purpose here in 1997. But first, I need to do something about Amber.


I got out of bed. My legs felt sore from all of that running I did yesterday.


I looked in my closet. I decided to go with another new dress today. This time it's a blue dress. School appropriate sleeves. Knee length.


Maybe I'll rock the heels today. I assembled my outfit on the bed and continued to get ready.


When I was cleaned, dressed and all made-up, I sat down with my dad in the kitchen and read some of the newspaper. The front page had updates on some of yesterday's stories. I tried reading another section.


The sports page was talking about the Giant's next opponent, the Dallas Cowboys. I remembered how this season ended. My marching band will be invited to perform the halftime show for the Giants lone playoff game this coming December. It was against the Minnesota Vikings I believe. The Giants blew a large lead and lost. I remember listening to the game on the radio on the bus ride home as the Vikings completed a very improbable come from behind victory. I was so upset and dejected. Knowing that the game is only 3 months in the future made me not as interested in finishing reading this article.  What fun is watching football if you know how the season ends?


I tried to read other articles, but I had a hard time connecting to them. Politics. Sports. Business. All of it just seemed irrelevant when I know how it all turns out.


Let me at least check out the weather. At least that is somewhat relevant to the present. Cloudy. Highs in the low 70's. I guess I better bring a sweater to my date with Chase tonight.


Chase. That dream. Focus Chris. Happy thoughts. I don't want to relive that moment again.


* * *



My ride to school with Ron was uneventful. I withheld talking about yesterday afternoon again. I highly doubt Ron wanted to hear about my time with Jessica. When I arrived at my locker, I did my normal morning exchange of books.


Julie stopped by almost like clock-work. "Good Morning Demarco. How are you feeling today?"


"My legs are actually sore" I answered.


"Awesome!. That means it's working!" She said. "Any thoughts on tomorrow?" I guess she was wondering about that double date they wanted to do.


"So, I have a date tonight." I said. "Maybe he's homecoming potential."


"Oh really?" Julie's face lit up. "Tell me more! Is this that handsome friend of Ron's who showed up Friday night looking for you?"


I chuckled. "Yeah. That's him. He took me back here so I could pick up my car the next morning. Then he asked me out."


"Nice. He had your undivided attention. Was that a motorcycle I saw him riding?"


"Yes. Yes it was."


"That's so cool."


Ug. "It's not as cool as you think it is." I responded. "Besides, he's my last option before I decide to go solo. All of my other options are-." I paused a second to think about my original choice, Fay. And then my closet-mate, Jess. "Unavailable." I suppose there’s always Carl, but would I have gotten excited over a pity date?


"If this dude doesn't work out, you should still come out tomorrow with us."


"I typically don't like being a third wheel." I said.  I was a third wheel with Ron so many times in high school and in our 20’s, so I can easily abstain and know I didn’t miss anything.


"It's not like it's a real date. We're just getting to know each other before homecoming."


"I'll think about it." I said smiling, shutting my locker door.


* * *


At homeroom, Fay smiled at me as she sat down. "Good Morning" she said.


"Thanks for the mix-tape." I said. "I only just started it, but it's really cool."


"You're welcome." she said.


During morning announcements, Jess turned and leaned towards me and whispered. "What are you doing this afternoon?"


"I have plans tonight" I replied in a whisper.


"That's too bad." she said, looking at me and licking her lips. She sat back in her desk and turned back around.


Wow. Part of me was thinking I should go call Chase right now and take a rain check. The other part of me was trying to rein in my raging hormones.


* * *


In Comp-Sci, Val came up to me before class started.


"Hey Christina"


"Hey Val"


"I heard you're having problems with Powder Puff."


"Yeah" I replied. "The head cheerleader forbid the cheerleaders from playing. I need to talk to her today."


"Do you know why she pulled her support?" Val asked.


"I'm pretty sure she has it out for me. But don't worry. I have it under control."


Val smiled. "Christina Demarco. Aways on top of it! I knew you were the right person!"


I smiled at Val. I'm glad she was so confident. What she doesn't realize was this problem was created by me being the organizer. I bet if someone else was in charge they'd all be playing. Amber too.  


Wait a second. Is that it? Is that why Amber is upset? She wants to play too. Maybe she's too prideful to come up to me and have a civil conversation with me. One where she has to be nice and ask me something.


I guess I could just offer her to play too. I now had a plan.


"Oh" Val added. "Do you have an e-mail address I can send some of the details about my parents' coffee shop?"


"Oh sure." I said. "Its-". Crap. What is my email address in 1997?


"warpcores1980 at compuserve.com" I said. I think that's it. It sounded right.

“Warp cores plural?  Like star trek?”  I could see Val smiling and chuckling.


“Yup.  Like Star Trek.”


"Great. I'll send something over to you tonight!" Val said.


"Awesome." I said smiling. I wonder if I'll have time to work on that tonight.


* * *


When gym class started, Amber was nowhere to be seen again. I ran up to Brittany to see what's up.


"Is Amber still out today?" I asked her.


"Yeah." she replied. "The doctor's note covers her for today too. She'll be back in class tomorrow."


"Crap." I said. "I really need to resolve this powder puff thing. I need to resolve this today."


"There's always after school" she suggested.


"At cheer practice? The lion's den?"


"You asked."


I grimaced. This wasn't helpful. Since I have Brittany alone for a minute, I wonder what information I could get from her.


"Hey Brittany." I said. "You're Amber's best friend right?"


"Yeah." she said. "Since we were 10."


"Was she always so-" I started but paused.


"I don't know what she has against you." she said. "She's not like that to me. Yeah she's bossy at cheer practice. But, you both are not the villains you think each other are."


"Oh" I said. "Have you told her that too?"


"Yes. In fact I have. I stuck my neck out for you and it got ripped off."


"Oh. Well, I appreciate you standing up for me. Is there maybe a home issue or something."


"She's a private person. I don't even know what's going on there. Regardless, that would be none of your business."


"So there is something." I said.


"I think I said too much already."  She forced a smile to hint that she was sorry she couldn’t help but she was also trying to protect Amber’s privacy too.


I sighed.


She looked at me. "Listen, I know you mean well, Christina. But I can't really talk about this with you."


"Well, how about just as head cheerleader?" I said. "Was she always this hard on the squad?"


"She's always pushed the girls to do their best. That started when we were underclassmen. We managed to win regionals with her mentoring everyone. That's how she became the captain. She's really just trying to push us so we can go to nationals."


"But why is she intervening in everyone's lives?"


"She's just really trying to instill loyalty to each other. Team-first."


"That part makes sense." I said. "But her dictating your free time?"


"Yeah. I guess" she said. "But she's asked for our trust. She's never led us wrong."


"Thank you Brittany." I said. "I feel like I have a little more insight."


Some of that confirms what I already knew or had assumed. But I still don't understand why she considers me a threat.


* * *



Later in the day, as I was about to leave the locker room for track practice, I was stopped by Coach Shannon. She held a stack of clothes. "Here's your uniform for track meets, and a track suit for warm-ups. The team also wears the track suits on Fridays for spirit day."


"Thanks, coach." I said, taking the stack of clothes. Well there goes me looking cute on spirit days. I turned back to my locker and put my new track outfits into my locker.


I marched out to the practice field with determination.


I saw the teams in their usual locations. 


It’s go time Christina.  I made a bee-line towards the cheerleaders in the south end-zone. As I got closer, the cheerleaders who were casually socializing with each other stopped talking and just looked at me walking to them.


I saw Cindy whisper to me. "What are you doing here?"


I said nothing and smiled. I kept walking. Cindy, Brittany, Jessica, and all of the other cheerleaders just watched in silence as I approached Amber.


I really didn't want an audience for this. But Amber's absence during gym class forced me to do this here. In front of her squad.


Amber hadn't noticed me yet. But she noticed the silence. She turned to me and was taken by surprise as her eyes grew wide and she backed up a few steps.


Amber and I stood there for seconds in silence staring at each other. On the positive side, I could tell the swelling in Amber's nose was going down.


"You have a lot of nerve showing up to cheer practice" Amber spoke first. "This is my house!"


"Which is why I came to apologize." I said. "Here. In front of your friends."


"OK." she said, folding her arms over her chest. "Let's hear it."


My strategy was to stroke her ego. I believe- that she believes- that she's the victim.


"I was wrong to hit you. I'm so sorry, Amber."


"And?"


She wants more? "I'm sorry I've been getting in your way in gym class."


"And?"


And what? What more does she want me to say. OK, I'm going to bullshit here. "You're right. I'm a fake. A phony. You saw right through me."  


She was caught off guard by that. Maybe as if she herself didn't actually believe her own accusations.


"OK, So what do you want?" she asked.


I broke through her wall. I'm doing a fist pump in my head. "I would like your blessing for those who want to play powder puff to play."


"Um, We're trying to practice for Friday's game and for regionals next month. I need the girls focused."


I swallowed my pride. "I want you to be the Powder Puff Senior Team Captain."


Amber was caught off guard again. "Me?"


"Yes." I stated. "I saw you in your element on Friday. You understand football. You understood the situations." I motioned to our audience. "You are a leader to these ladies and I think you could be a leader for our team" Oh God. Barf.


"I uh." she stammered


"Please." I said. Let's lay it on thicker. "It would mean such much to the other girls. They keep telling me how much they wished you'd join us. I see your competitive nature during gym class. I know you'd be a HUGE addition to our team" Ew. I think I just tasted some bile in my mouth.


"OK." she said. "You convinced me. It's for a fundraiser right?"


"Right." I said.


She nodded. Her arms fell back to her side.  I could tell her demeanor changed. She wasn't nearly as defensive. I could ALMOST see a smile behind that grimace.


"Thank you." I said. "Maybe we could work together and set up a practice after school this week?"


"Yes." she said. "Absolutely."


"Thank you." I said, backing away.


"Oh and Demarco." she said.


I stopped.


"This doesn't mean I forgive you. Or that we're even."


I nodded. Fair enough. But I got what I needed. I turned around and jogged over to the track team. I let out a huge sigh of relief. I considered that a victory. So is this the part of the Quantum Leap episode that Sam leaps away to his next assignment? No such luck.


* * *


After another brutal track practice, Ron was waiting for me. We both got into the car. As he started the car, Stone Temple Pilots started blaring from the speakers.


"How was track?" he asked.


"I ran a lot." I said.


"Isn't that the point of track?" he laughed.


"Yeah." I said laughing with him. "Coach is pushing me further than I've ever pushed myself. What about you? How was the band room?"


"I just spent time practicing for my next gig with the ska band. It's nicer than practicing at home. And homework. Nothing exciting."


"Cool" I acknowledged.


Half way home, Ron lowered the volume on the music.


"Good Afternoon Tony!" the guardian angel said.


"I haven't seen you since Saturday." I replied "I was starting to worry that you forgot about me."


"Liar." he said. "You've been having too much fun that YOU forgot about ME."


"So am I done?" I said. "I made amends with Amber. She gets to be Powder Puff Captain. Is that what I was supposed to do?"


"You don't really believe that was your mission do you?"


"A girl can dream I suppose" I said.


"It was impressive though. I didn't know you had it in you."


I audibly sighed. "I was hoping that was it."


"Not at all. Remember, you, Christina, created your issues with Amber. Without you, Amber wouldn't have found a rival to fight with. She would've been part of that fundraiser anyway. All you did was fix what you broke."


"Yeah, Yeah, I know. I'm at least happy I got that thorn out of my side. So outside of Amber, I've gotten closer to people. But I'm no closer than I was a week ago."


"As we discussed on Saturday, You are much closer than you were a week ago. You're even closer than you were Saturday."


I didn't know what to say to that. I'm seriously getting annoyed at how vague the guardian angel can be.


"So it looks like you've been busy." he said. "I've enjoyed watching you blossom and really explore who you are."


Was he talking about sex with Jess?  I let that slide. I didn't want to talk about my sex life with an omniscient entity.  


There was a question in the back of my head that I’ve been pushing to the side for a few days now.  I didn't know how to verbalize it until now.  I’ve been so preoccupied with getting back to Tony’s life in 2018 that I didn’t realize how much fun I was actually having.  But I decided to ask the angel what he thought.   


"So, there's something that I've casually been thinking about." I said. "I've worked very hard over the past week. My life is now so much better than it was originally. Now that Amber and I are on speaking terms, it's even better than it was an hour ago. What if... I don't want to leave?"


He smiled. "I've been waiting for you to ask a variation of that question. So I'm going to fire a question back at you. Will be able to live with yourself by failing the mission."


I was silent for a moment. "I guess it depends on what the mission actually is. You haven't told me. For all I know you want me to eat Friday's lunch at Taco Bell instead of Burger King. So failing is a choice? You've been teaching me to fail all week. Is that what you want?"


"Whoa Whoa" he said. "I've been teaching you to LEARN from failure. Not seek it out. I don't want you to fail. If you fail this mission. I fail too."


That sucks. It didn't occur to me that the guardian angel has a vested interest in this as well.


"But to answer your question." he continued "Yes. You can choose to ignore the mission. I told you a week ago that it will be your choice. That hasn't changed. But there will be consequences. Not from me. But from the actual events if you choose to abstain."


"Great. So my choice will be - go to Taco Bell so I can go home to Tony and 2018, or - go to Burger King and stay here as Christina in 1997, but live with the consequences of eating Burger King?"


"Yes. But, the cosmos doesn't care about your lunch."


"Wow! I finally got a yes out of you!" I smiled briefly. I let that sink in for a second and let out a disappointed sigh. "But following that logic, that means whatever it is you want me to do must be big enough for me to throw away a chance at reliving 20 years of my youth. The friends I've made. More time with my family. The things I've accomplished. The things I can accomplish with the knowledge I have."


He nodded. "This is certainly bigger than your lunch choice. I think you have a good grasp of what's at stake. It's time for me to go."


I had nothing else to ask.


He turned the music back up and we continued riding home.



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Emily

Hi, I'm Emily and I'm writing Gender Transformation Fiction! This site is a place for my to keep all of my stories in one place. I'm also a software developer in the daytime, so this site will also be a proving ground of cool new features that pop into my head. Feel free to message me on Twitter or at my Discord Server! You can also find me on TGStorytime.com and FictionMania.tv.

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