Chapter One The Catch
She wished something would happen.
She wished it while she was looking at a magazine.
The magazine was her sister Chrisanne's; so was the bed she was sitting on and the sweater Debbie had decided to borrow after coming into Chrisanne's room to use her lip gloss. Chrisanne wasn't there. She had gone off somewhere.
Thinking she should be more specific in case her wish came true, even though it wasn't an official wish, it was just a thought, Debbie thought, I wish something different would happen. Something good. To me.
As she thought it, she wound her finger in the necklace she was wearing, which was her own, then unwound it again. It was a short necklace, and she could only wrap her finger in it twice. At least while it was still around her neck.
The article she was looking at was about how the most important thing was to be yourself. Although the pictures that went with it recommended being someone else. Looking at them together made it seem like you could do both at the same time.
Debbie checked her wish for loopholes, because of all those stories about wishes that come true but cause disasters at the same time. Like King Midas turning his daughter and all of his food into gold. Even in her own life, Debbie remembered that once, when she was little, she had shouted that she wished everyone would just leave her alone. And then everyone did.
The trouble with being too careful about your wishes, though, was that you could end up with a wish so shapeless that it could come true and you wouldn't even know it, or it wouldn't matter.
She wrapped the necklace around her finger again, and this time it popped loose, flinging itself from her neck onto a bright, fuzzy photograph of a boy and a girl, laughing, having fun against a backdrop of sparkling water.
Debbie picked up her necklace and jiggled the catch. It stuck sometimes in a partly open position, and the connecting loop could slip out.
Something like that, she thought, looking at the photo. Wondering if it would require being a different person.
In a way that doesn't hurt anyone or cause any natural disasters, she added, out of habit.
Fastening the chain back around her neck, trying to tell by feel whether the catch had closed, she thought of another loophole. Hoping it wasn't too late to tack on one more condition, she thought the word soon.
The wish floated off, and she turned the page.
Meanwhile, in another part of town, Hector's sister, Rowanne, was upstairs in her bedroom, changing her clothes or something. Hector could hear her humming, and the sound of drawers opening and closing.
He was crossing the front hall on his way to the kitchen and, as he passed the mirror, he glanced in and gave himself a little smile. It was something he always did; he didn't know why. For encouragement, maybe.
This time he smiled hello at himself just as a slanted ray of sun shot through one of the diamond-shaped windows in the front door at the side of his face, producing a sort of side-lit, golden, disembodied-head effect in the mirror. It struck him as an improvement on the usual averageness of his face; it added some drama. Some intrigue. An aura of inter-estingness his sister's face had all the time, but his did not, which mystified him because when he compared their features one at a time, a lot of them seemed identical. Or almost identical. There were some small differences. Like their hair. Their hair was different.
They both had auburn hair, but while Rowanne's auburn hair plummeted in a serene, graceful waterfall to her waist, Hector's shot out from his head in wiry, dissenting clumps.
And while both of their faces were slim, freckled ovals with a hint of roundness, Hector's was rounder. Rowanne had slipped away from her roly-poly childhood like a sylph from a cocoon, but Hector's was still wrapped around him in a soft, wooly layer.
Their eyes were blue-gray, behind almost identical wire-rimmed glasses resting on very similar slender noses. But Rowanne's eyes-glasses-nose constellation somehow conveyed intelligence and warmth. Hector's conveyed friendly and goofy. Why? What was the difference? Maybe it was his eyes, he was thinking. Maybe they were too close together. Maybe they would move farther apart as he matured, like a flounder's. Although when he thought about it, he seemed to remember that both the flounder's eyes ended up on the same side of its face. He tried to remember what made that happen, if it was something the flounder did, and if maybe he could do the opposite. Perhaps it would help that he wasn't lying on the bottom of the ocean watching for food to float by.
He definitely felt unfinished, still in process. He felt that there was still time, that by the time three years had passed and he was seventeen, as Rowanne was now, he, too, might coalesce into something. Maybe not something as remarkable as Rowanne, but something. It was possible, he felt.
Hector took off his glasses to see if his eyes looked better without them. He looked blurrier, which seemed to heighten the cinematic, enigmatic quality lent by the falling sun's sideways glance. His clumpy hair dissolved softly into the shadows, and the effort he had to make to see gave an intense, piercing quality to his gaze. Maybe corrected vision wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Maybe in ancient times, when distinct edges were unknown to many people, he would have been considered handsome. Though he might have had a lot of headaches.
The sun dropped a degree and the golden disembodied moment passed. Hector put his glasses back on and was about to turn away when a sharp jab of weight on his shoulder made him jump. It was Rowanne's chin. She had sneaked up behind him, and her face appeared next to his in the mirror. So much like his, but more. There was just no explaining it.