Updated: Jan 27, 2020
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Chapter 3 (Part 2): “I thought you wanted to watch a movie,” Sabrina reminded her with a whole lot of skepticism to her tone, even while she did as commanded. Anything was better than staying alone with her ridiculous imagination.
“Changed my mind,” was the terse reply. “Now come on.”
The phone clicked, effectively ending the call, and Sabrina glared at it in frustration before hurtling down the stairs. It wasn’t like Deanda to be so cryptic or bossy. She had always been a take-charge kind of girl, but for the most part, she exuded that quality in a way that wasn’t the epitome of irritating.
Deanda had parked her red sedan practically in front of their door, so it took Sabrina just a few anxious steps to make it over to her. She slid into the passenger’s seat, taking in her friend’s apparel and appearance like either might provide some kind of clue as to what was going on. But the light grey suit Deanda wore was just as crisp as it had been that morning, and her hair was still captured in a perfect bun. The only telling sign was in her eyes. They kept flickering to the rear-view mirror like she expected to be followed.
For the first five minutes, they seemed free of any tails. Sabrina knew because, incited by her friend’s unnerving behavior, she kept glancing backward too. Somehow, it wasn’t until they were out on the highway that she first caught sight of the shiny black Cadillac only three cars behind them.
“What is going on? Are you in some kind of trouble?” She didn’t turn away, almost afraid to not look in the mirror.
Shaking her head, Deanda let out an audible sigh of frustration through her nasal passage. “No. You are. But if you do what I say, we’re both going to get out of this alive, and then I’ll answer all the questions you have. You just have to do exactly what I say for now.”
“Alive?” Sabrina repeated somewhat stupidly. “Get out of what alive?”
“Questions later,” Deanda reminded.
She hadn’t asked for affirmation, but Sabrina gave a nod of acceptance anyway. The situation was getting stranger and stranger with each passing second, and her throat was getting tight.
There wasn’t much distance between their exit off the highway and the local mall, but there were three lights, two of which turned red on them. Stuck at the second one, Sabrina stared into her side-view mirror again, unable to keep her eyes elsewhere for very long. Each time she risked a glance at the car’s occupants, they looked increasingly more frightening.
Who wore full suits in Lancaster County anyway? Dress shirts and slacks, sure, but the men behind her looked like they’d fit much better in the secret service down in Washington D.C. than Central Pennsylvania. It was foreboding.
For that matter, she thought as Deanda pulled into the west side of the parking lot, so was the mall itself. Under normal circumstances, she’d barely take notice of the sprawled-out building, which was large enough to host five department stores and some ninety smaller shops. It was what it was: a familiar part of her surroundings.
But right then, despite the perfect blue sky above and the sunshine streaming down, it just looked dodgy. Like some structure in a movie that the audience knows the heroine shouldn’t enter, but which she foolishly does anyway. It made Sabrina’s insides cringe.
That impression solidified in her mind when the Cadillac stopped right at the curb, and two men – one expressionless blond and the other a brown-haired clone – got out from the back seat, opening and shutting their doors in practically perfect unison. The detail creeped her out even more. Though by that point, she felt like even a child laughing would sound ominous.
“Maybe we should go somewhere else,” she began.
But Deanda was already out of the car. “Let’s go. Stay close to me.”
There seemed little to do but buck up and go for it. Sabrina’s legs felt wobbly as the remaining two men drove the car right past them, the vehicle so close for a moment that she could almost reach out and touch her distorted reflection in the shiny side. Neither the driver nor the passenger turned to look at her directly, but she was sure they were staring behind their sunglasses anyway.
Deanda established a quick pace toward the triple set of double doors leading into one of the department stores, and she didn’t slow down once they were inside. Avoiding the various racks of juniors’ apparel, she grabbed Sabrina’s hand and snaked her way along the jean-laden back wall to the dressing room.
The two men who had gotten out of the Cadillac trailed them, and the darker haired one touched the side of his face briefly like he was trying to get better reception from an ear piece. Between that, their suits and their intimidating bulk, Sabrina was growing more and more certain they were from some type of government operation.
Bewildered, she could only wonder why the powers that be were after her.
Deanda pulled her into the bland and empty dressing room, setting off the censor, which binged with an eerie sound: another horror-movie noise. Sabrina jumped at it, but her friend didn’t even pause, dragging her around the corner and to the back instead. Just as they reached the last stall, two young women brushed by them on their way out, causing Sabrina to turn and gape.
Somehow, someway, the pair looked a whole lot like Deanda and herself. Not perfect replicas, she realized after several startled blinks, but close enough to confuse even her for a second or two.
“What the –”
Her friend clapped a hand over her mouth. “Shhh.”
With that warning, Deanda let her go, though just to yank her into the furthest stall, where there so happened to be two large shopping bags. Sabrina was sure she looked stupid gawking while her roommate started stripping out of her grey suit, but she was also equally sure that she didn’t care.
Looking stupid was far from her worst fear at the moment.
“Change into whatever you find in the bag on the right, and do it fast.” Deanda sounded steady, yet the sense of urgency in what she said and how she said it was unmistakable.
Sabrina didn’t question. She was far and away beyond questioning, so she shimmied out of her work clothes and reached for the pair of jeans at the top of the pile. Survival mode had kicked in hard, because she found herself ready to do whatever it took to get out of the situation she’d found herself in, whatever it was. She was so wound up that, when the censor went off again, she spun around quickly enough to nearly trip herself.
Someone knocked on the stall door, giving Sabrina a new appreciation for the notion of hearts jumping into throats. Her fists clenched at her sides, and she changed her stance as much as she could in the crowded space. But Deanda put a hand on her arm.
“It’s me,” a female voice called out cheerfully, as if the whole entire world hadn’t shifted into an alternate universe. “I’m coming in.”
“Put on your shirt,” Deanda instructed, reaching forward to let in the new arrival.
Obediently, Sabrina slipped the white tank-top on over her head. As a result, she felt the new woman’s presence before she could see her.
“This is Ellie.” Deanda introduced the leggy brunette. She seemed to take great pains to look Sabrina in the eyes once again, like she was trying to ensure that everyone remained calm. “She’s going to put on your makeup, okay? I’ll be in the next stall.”
With that, she grabbed her own bag and sidled out.
Ellie didn’t waste any time on pleasantries, though she didn’t seem unpleasant per se. Contrary to her chirpy demeanor a moment ago, she was now a woman on a mission. That mission seemed to be securing Sabrina’s hair into a long, light brown wig and then coating her face with enough cosmetics to satisfy a prostitute.
Sabrina obediently looked down for Ellie to run a mascara wand over her eyelashes. The new direction of her gaze afforded her a less than decent view of her own breasts, which were smashed together to create a sizable amount of cleavage for someone who was only average-sized in that department.
She didn’t need to see past her pushup bra to know that her new pants were a snug fit as well.
Next came the eyeliner, cool, wet and unfamiliar on her skin, since she was normally too cheap and lazy to wear any serious makeup. Her lashes felt far too heavy, and her lips seemed just as weighted after Ellie ran a tube of very pink lipstick over them.
The real brunette stepped back to regard her handiwork, then grabbed up a stylish, light pink jacket. “Put this on.”
The cut and oversized logo identified it as something silly girls wore to over-accentuate their sexuality. But Sabrina slipped it on without a peep of protest, just as she did with the black ballet flats and the large silver hoops Ellie passed her once the jacket was on.
Turning toward the mirror to put the earrings in, Sabrina stopped in dumbfounded fascination at the picture before her. Gone was the young professional who had walked into the changing room five minutes ago. In her place stood an immature teenager looking for all the world like she belonged to a completely different line of work.
It was a shocking image and one Sabrina wasn’t given any time to process. With one final fluff at the wig, Ellie prompted her out into the little corridor.
Deanda was already standing there, also converted into something ridiculously different. Her lips flat-out sparkled, and Sabrina was quite sure she’d put on lash extenders along with colored contacts, which turned her violet eyes brown. She’d also tucked her long locks into a dark blond bob; and she wore formfitting jeans that were slid into a pair of brown boots. A t-shirt was stretched taut over her chest, drawing even more attention to that area of her anatomy with the words “Fight Global Warming: Let’s Go Green” emblazoned in large block letters.
All in all, Deanda looked like Deanda about as much as Sabrina resembled Sabrina.
She tried not to stare too much while both women escorted her out of the department store, into the greater shopping center and down the opposite wing from where they had parked. Outside the east entrance, Ellie left them as abruptly as she’d appeared. One second she was there and the next she was walking away like they’d never seen each other before and never would again, leaving Sabrina in a continuous pool of clueless anxiety. She desperately wanted to know what was going on, and had a dozen or more questions crowding her brain and blocking up her throat.
Still, safety came first, so she kept them all at bay a little longer. Following Deanda out into the parking lot, she looked every which way for black Cadillacs and scary men in suits.
She would have walked right by the unfamiliar grey Honda if Deanda hadn’t pulled out a set of keys like she owned it. For all Sabrina knew, she did. Life had taken enough confusing turns already that she could believe almost anything.
The engine hummed to life under Deanda’s guidance. Yet even as she pulled it out of the space, Sabrina kept her mouth shut, still overwhelmingly concerned that the four men might somehow appear out of nowhere. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and the girls made it out of the parking lot and onto Route 30 without further trouble. Just to be on the safe side though, it wasn’t until they had left the developments and strip malls of that highway for the trees and open farmland of 222, that Sabrina spoke up.
“What happened to your car?” Now that she had the freedom to ask questions, she found herself focusing on the most trivial of them all.
“This is a loaner. We’ll drop it off when we get to where we’re going.”
“Where are we going?”
Frustrated, Sabrina shook her head. “No. I want answers, and I want answers now. I’m dressed like a baby prostitute driving ‘away’ in a rented car after four creepy guys just followed me all over Lancaster. Now what was that all about?”
She steeled herself for the answer. Drug deals gone bad. International spy rings. FBI conspiracies. She could take the news, whatever it was. While any mention of aliens would be disconcerting, Sabrina tried to mentally prepare for that as well.
Deanda first glanced in the rear-view mirror and then at her. “We’re moving at eighty miles an hour, right?”
Sabrina didn’t bother glancing at the speedometer. “Sure.”
“So you can’t throw yourself out of the car when I tell you what I’m about to tell you. Your brother would kill me if anything happened to you.”
Sabrina got very quiet then, her insides doing their familiar little drop at the topic. Unlike Eugene the other night, Deanda was very well aware she didn’t have a brother. So unless she was suffering from some sudden and inexplicable memory loss, she was pulling a very inappropriate joke.
Sabrina stared at her friend for a few seconds.
“That isn’t funny.” The three words were all she could manage.
“I didn’t intend it to be.”
Sabrina didn’t know how to respond to that, so she waited for her to continue. Maybe it was how Deanda’s eyes were still discolored by the contacts, but they looked very, very serious. And her glossy lips were set in a way that didn’t seem to bode well either.
“I’ll tell you everything, but first you have to promise me you won’t do anything stupid, okay?”
Sabrina nodded, and Deanda took a deep breath, then let it out slowly.
“You’re going to think I’m insane, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Looking very nervous, she glanced over and then straight ahead again, her hands digging into the steering wheel.
Sabrina took a deep breath of her own.
“You’re not quite who you think you are,” Deanda continued slowly, like she was pondering every syllable before she spoke it.
In no mood for the elongated version of whatever story Deanda was about to give her, Sabrina interrupted. “Just tell me. Spit it out. Please.”
So Deanda did, uttering the last four words Sabrina ever would have expected.
“You’re a faerie princess.”
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