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Seven: Chapter 1

The ball park, luckily, was in my town. We were lucky we didn’t end up in some random part of the world. I was still very confused about how this whole traveling between worlds thing was actually happening.

Maybe I should start from the beginning.

I’m Willa Thompson, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. Yes. I’m the youngest of seven girls, and my mother was also the youngest of seven girls. Why is that important? We’ll get to that.

While the rest of my siblings were off in college or working on their careers or taking care of families, I was home with my parents, focusing on my senior year of high school. My plan: to make it the best year EVER!

Okay, so my definition of best year ever might be a little different than yours. As much as I like to party and do all the stuff that teenagers do… who am I kidding; I didn’t get invited to those things. Well, not since Cami York kicked me out of the group.

Side story: Cami York was the most popular girl in school. I used to be her best friend. Since kindergarten, we did everything together—EVERYTHING—like dance class, talent shows, dating (we made every date a double), track, yearbook, student council, you name it. We were inseparable, well, until jerk face Brad Howard came along. Yes. He was a jerk. Well, he was more than that, but I’m trying to be clean—you know, for the kiddos.

Anywho, Brad was dating Cami and he tried to hit on me. Believe what you will, but I’m a good friend. I turned him down. So he told Cami I tried to make out with him. I’ve never seen her so upset. And, even though I’ve been friends with her for over 11 years, she wouldn’t believe a word I said. She called me out in front of our little squad and threw me out of the group. No one wanted to be friends with me after that, not when Cami disapproved, which meant no parties.

I was mad, of course. I was lonely, yep. I was devastated. I faked being sick for over a weak, before my mom found me out and made me get back to school. Moms, am I right? This is where I eye roll, peeps.

When I went back to school, it was like I was invisible. No one looked at me as I walked down the hall. No one talked to me in class. No one sat by me at lunch. Someone actually sat on me, like I wasn’t there. So weird and horrifying and embarrassing.

And through it all, Cami giggled and laughed and gave me the worst looks. When did she become so…. I can’t say the word.

So, I spent the latter part of my junior year alone. And mad. And full of all the teenage angst. And it came out too. You betcha. I still did my homework, still got good grades, but I ended up in detention after detention after detention. I yelled at teachers in class. I shouted at students in the halls. I think I tripped a few people too. Yeah. I totally did—on purpose.

“What has gotten into her?” my mom asked my dad all the time. They didn’t even bother to ask me.

So, with my senior year starting and me still full of all that angst and anger toward Cami and the rest of the school, I vowed to have a blast of a senior year all by my lonely self. I wanted to make loneliness look like the best thing since… I would say sliced bread, but that’s so cliche. How about best thing since that amazing song by that one artist? You know the one I’m talking about. #Girlpower

It was a week before the start of school when the real craziness happened. I was at the mall, looking for clothes to go with my new look—kind of a rebel bohemian vibe. Yeah, it sounds weird as I say it now. But it sounded awesome at the time.

I found the cutest black combat boots and asked the store clerk to find my size so I could try them on. As I waited, I picked up a pair of sparkly sandals, admiring the three-inch heal.

“You could never pull those off,” I heard to my right.

I looked up to see Cami smirking in my direction. Remembering my resolution to ignore her snide remarks, I set down the shoes, turned toward the waiting chairs, and walked away. As I took a seat, I heard whispering from Cami’s direction. I picked up my phone and pretended to be interested a recent post from a former friend.

The store clerk came back with the boots, and feeling Cami still glaring in my direction, I tried to strike up a conversation with the guy. “So how long have you been working here?”

The clerk pulled the boots out of the box and handed them to me, one by one. He shrugged. “Um, a week maybe. I just moved here.”

“Cool. Where from?” I put the boots on—they fit like a glove—and stood to walk around in them.

“Uh, just from Colorado.”

“Really?” I tried to sound more interested than I really was. “That’s a bit of a move.”

“Yeah, I’m just here for school. How do they fit? Do you need a different size?”

“No, these are perfect. I’ll get them.”

I sat back down and pulled the shoes off. The clerk put them back in the box and escorted me to the register. I peeked behind me to see that Cami and Tracy followed close behind, still whispering.

After paying for the shoes, I thanked the clerk and turned to leave. Cami and Tracy barred the way I wanted to go so I turned the other direction. But Janna, Kimber, and Mila blocked that path.

I rolled my eyes, sighed deeply, and asked, “What?”

Cami cocked her head. “I should ask you the same thing.”

I narrowed my eyes. “What are you talking about?”

“Brad,” she simply said.

“Yeah, what about Brad?”

Cami hurumphed. “He says you showed up at his house last night.”

“What?” Oh, the anger. What was wrong with that guy?

Cami stepped closer. “Why don’t you learn to keep your slimy hands off him?”

I narrowed my eyes. “Oh believe me, Cami, I want nothing to do with that lying piece of scum.”

Before Cami could retort, I shoved my way through Janna, Kimber, and Mila and half walked, half ran out of the store. They followed close behind.

Feeling the overwhelming desire to cry and scream and maybe break something, I kept going. I couldn’t let Cami see me vulnerable. I couldn’t let her see me hurt from her betrayal. I couldn’t let anyone see me hurt and sad and … just in pain.

In the open walkways of the mall, I made a mad dash for the restroom. The mall was crowded so I had to weave in and out of people, vendors, benches, tables, all the usual mall stuff. As I turned the corner to the restroom, disobedient tears welled up in my eyes and spilled out onto my cheeks, blinding me. I reached for the door, pushed it open, and heard the worst high-pitched scream.

Scared, wondering what I could have walked into—I hadn’t even made it to a stall—I wiped the tears from my eyes. I expected to see a bathroom full of ladies, maybe a line, maybe a naked person in the middle of the room—I didn’t know why someone would scream like that in a bathroom as soon as I opened the door.

But I didn’t see any of that. I didn’t see the bathroom.

Instead, I saw a bunch of men standing around in towels—luckily not completely naked.

With wide eyes, I stared, scared, confused, unsure what to do.

They stared back.

I turned around and pushed the door back open. I ran out, but not back into the busy hustle of the mall. I entered a large hallway with a desk and a confused man staring at me.

“Can I help you?” the man asked.

“Um,” I looked around at the mud-colored walls and the orb sconces.

“Eh hem,” the man cleaned his throat to get my attention.

“Uh, where am I?” I asked, not sure I wanted to hear the answer.

Don’t like to read? I got ya. Let me tell you the story through this video:

[VIDEO?]

Looking for more of this story? Check here.

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