Disclaimer I do NOT own the Fairly OddParents, Butch Hartman does. All I own is this story and any characters (or character versions) not seen in the series.
Summary: Side story about Anti-Di (told from her POV) and how she came to be the heartless, strict, authoritative figure she is today.
Free of Love
"Just think of it toots. One little prick with this arrow and you'll be free! Free of love and all its pointless misery forever!" Anti-Cupid's words. Hn, they still haunt me, even to this very day. I suppose I should've seen it coming though. It's a basic rule of life. No blissful rise of hope without a ghastly fall into the pit of despair. Like some cheap gag in a Saturday morning cartoon show I walked right off a ledge of security and reason and risked a journey across a bottomless chasm of false promises and rose-scented trickery. And like one of those ridiculous characters my safety was assured, my oblivious dreams supported, until the second I chanced a look down. I should've known. What I saw in that instant sent me spiraling right down into the jagged rocks and twisted briars waiting below. My darling, my beloved, my...everything! There he was, carelessly lavishing his affections--affections I had been foolish enough to believe were only for me--upon another. The cheap tramp! But what did that make me? Oh yes, an idiot. A total, complete, and utter imbecile for ever believing that I could put my faith in someone else. To give my heart to another and trust that it would be safe in their hands. Stupid, STUPID wretch! Do you EVER think things through! In my blind passion and stupor over the strangely intoxicating effects of love I had fallen victim to that which I had so fervently guarded myself against! Well not again! No, no never again...
"Yeah what do ya want?" a black winged cherub snapped as I approached the front desk.
I returned his sneer with a listless frown, heartache had left me too weak to muster much more. "I-I wish to speak to the man in charge, the--the Anti-Cupid."
"Heh," the little creature immediately began laughing, obviously unfazed to see an all powerful anti-genie hovering before him, I blame it on my frazzled state, "ya got an appointment lady? Cuz Anti-Cupid, he don't do charity work."
"I can pay," I said grimly. Even with a broken heart my anger could still be aroused by blatant rudeness.
He eyed me closely for a moment longer before pressing a button on the intercom which rested on his disorganized desk. "Hey boss, got someone here to see ya."
There was a short pause before a gruff (though somewhat nasally) voice finally answered back, obviously annoyed at the interruption, "This better be good Anti-Twitter! I'm in the middle of a very important concoction!"
"She says she can pay." Anti-Twitter replied still keeping a watchful eye on me. Hmph, as if I had anywhere to go, my lamp had been out of circulation for years, my own doing. "And get this boss, she's an anti-genie."
"An anti-genie huh?" Anti-Cupid sounded thoughtful, "We don't get many of those. Hm...well go ahead and send her in! But no more clients today, got it!"
"Got it." Anti-Twitter zipped in front of me and snatched my wrist; before I could react we were both poofed inside the back room where Anti-Cupid was hard at work on yet another of his hate-filled anti-love potions.
"AHAHAHAHA!" the twisted head anti-cherub laughed aloud like some sort of mad scientist as he held up a vial of the blood red brew. "Finally it's finished! My newest creation!"
"Nice elixir boss," Anti-Twitter smirked, "So what d'ya call it?"
"I call this little baby, Anti-Love Potion No. -9!" He announced proudly, "It's twice as powerful as that love junk my goody-two-shoes double cooked up. And it'll be twice as potent too!"
I must say I felt a bit ignored as he and his henchman babbled back and forth about the strange brew. At last he handed the vial to Anti-Twitter and instructed him to coat the heads of his arrows with its contents. Only after he was finished giving his instructions did he bother to take notice of me.
"Oh that's right, you're still here aren't you?" his remark was snide to say the least, "Well what do you want? Hurry it up lady I ain't got all day here ya know!"
"Don't tell me," his hands went up to show that he was already quite aware of my reason for coming, "Some insensitive jerk went and broke your precious little heart so now you want me to fix it so that the pain will go away."
"Well I...yes." I hung my head in shame. The way he'd explained things just now, it made me feel so weak, so helpless, and so juvenile.
"Hn, figures." with a snap of his fingers something akin to a psychiatrist office appeared around us (more like a black leather couch and wing backed chair) and I found myself lying down while he reclined in a seat beside me with a notepad and pen at the ready. "Well doll why don't ya tell Anti-Cupid all about it huh?"
"Wh-where should I start?"
Rolling his eyes he clicked the pen so that the tip protruded, pressing it firmly against the pad he replied in a manner that made it sound as though he were trying to explain something exceedingly simple to a half-witted fledgling. "At the beginning genius, where these things normally start."
"Oh, w-well his name is Anti-Thomas and we met at a gathering one night in the dormitories of AGA, the Anti-Genie Academy." Even as I spoke I could feel the tide of my emotions turning, forming gigantic waves which overwhelmed my senses and swept me away back through the relentless current of time, back to my memories of what I'd hoped would mark the happiest years of my life...
The depressing rock music blared on with jumbled cries of pain, confusion, and outrage. I never much cared for such senseless melodies and their barely distinguishable lyrics. Fortunately neither did either of my companions. So we three hovered in the background, observing our peers as they "partied on" in their frivolous manner.
"And to think," my first companion, a light haired anti-genie with icy blue eyes, muttered in clear boredom, "I could be at a protest, speaking out against 'the Man' right now."
"I must agree Anti-Des," my second companion and closest friend, Anti-Meg sighed. "I'd much rather be studying for the midterms. What in the world possessed us to come down here in the first place?"
"I believe our dear friend here knows the answer to that." I smirked at Anti-Des who was eyeing a certain green haired anti-genie across the room. He'd been quite flirtatious with her over the past few months and it was clear that Anti-Des was starting to reluctantly form some sort of attachment to the tree-hugging rebel.
"Oh don't tell me," Anti-Meg rolled her eyes, "What you see in that unruly flirt I'll never know."
"He's not a flirt," Anti-Des fought back a small smile, "Just with me."
"Men of his stature are a waste of time." Anti-Meg scoffed, "No money, no respectable social status, he's a troublemaker Anti-Des, a penniless nobody. How could you ever lower your standards so drastically?"
"I don't know," Anti-Des shrugged, nearly on the defensive now, "maybe it's love?"
"What!" both Anti-Meg and I were shocked. Of all the people one would never expect to hear such talk from, the proud feminist Anti-Des was certainly ranked among the top of the list!
But she refused to elaborate and instead turned the conversation towards me. "And what about you Anti-Di? Were you planning on a life of loneliness? Brooding to yourself millennia from now, alone in your lamp, with maybe a half dozen cats for company?"
"That's none of your business!" I snapped, she'd struck a cord and Anti-Des knew it.
"With the deceptive tendencies of the heart," Anti-Meg stated matter-of-factly, "you're better off that way. Trusting your happiness to love is like trusting your lamp to a clumsy juggler."
"My what a colorful analogy." Anti-Des huffed before pushing herself off the wall and casually floating over towards Anti-Norm.
"To Canada!" he shouted a toast and raised his glass of mineral water, "Land of flowing rivers and home of the evergreens!"
There was a brief applause and some cheering from the crowd, they'd support any cause that led to another drink. When he spotted his beloved Anti-Des he immediately forgot about everyone else and draped an arm across her shoulders. Anti-Meg and I watched silently as he pulled her close and shared a short, yet somehow meaningful kiss. Though it sickens me to say it I was--somewhat envious--of the pair. Envy? That's a perfectly natural emotion for anti-creatures right? It's only typical to be envious of what another has. Something that you feel entitled to yet find yourself without.
And it was in that instant, in that frame of mind that something happened which would later ruin my life forever. A hand reached out to my longing heart and...
...dumped a cup full of lime green punch all over my new white blouse.
"Whoa! Sorry about that," a male voice apologized with a hint of amusement.
I glanced up, eyes full of scorn for the incompetent clod that had just stained a rather pricey article of clothing. But when our eyes met, I found myself far too awestruck to mutter so much as one syllable. Unfortunately my friend was not so tongue tied.
"You clumsy oaf! Just look what you've done!" Anti-Meg exclaimed loud enough to drown out the music and attract the attention of every anti-genie in the room.
"Uh, eheh, really Anti-Meg, it's alright." I said meekly.
"No it's not alright!" she shouted, "Have you gone blind? Just look at what his carelessness has done to your shirt! The pig probably did the entire thing on purpose too!"
"Anti-Meg," I muttered feeling the blood accumulate in my cheeks, "it was just an accident. These things do happen. Just LET IT GO."
"Hey I apologize," the stranger spoke again giving me a half smile which tied my stomach into a thousand tiny knots, "why don't you come into the kitchen and maybe we can clean that off."
As you might have guessed he was one of the three students living in that particular dorm.
"Just point us towards the restroom and she can snap herself something else to wear." Anti-Meg cut in obviously suspicious of the stranger.
"Are you daft!" I gasped, "This is a genuine Abracadabrian Flitch! I'll gladly take my chances with a club soda if it can be saved!"
With the matter settled I allowed myself to be led away by the polite young man while Anti-Meg went off in search of our third companion to inform her that our stay needed to be cut short.
"Look I...I'm really sorry," he smiled warmly as I leaned against the counter by the kitchen sink, "your friend's right though, heh, I really am a klutz."
"Oh don't be so hard on yourself." I couldn't believe it, were those words coming out of my mouth? Perhaps the sudden chill from that drink had me coming down with something?
"My name's Anti-Thomas by the way." he recalled the need for introductions and extended his hand.
"Anti-Di," I replied in awe as he took my hand in his and lightly brushed his lips across my fingers. It was an unexpected gesture and I couldn't help but allow my eyes to linger over him for a moment. He wore an open black vest which showed his well toned chest and a puce cummerbund wrapped tightly round his waist.
"Nice to meet you, Anti-Di."
I could tell that he wasn't normally one for such an extravagant show of manners but the fact that he was making this rare exception for me was beyond flattering, I dare say that in that moment I felt quite special, like the most adored woman in all the dormitory. My blush must have been obvious by then.
That fang revealing smile of his had me melting inside; I only hoped he wouldn't think me some silly school girl who went around having whimsical fantasies about the older male students.
"Ahem, s-so you attend the academy too?" stupid stupid question!
"Hahaha, yes." his laughter was music to my severely tortured ears, blasted rock music. "And what about you, are you new?"
"N-No," I shook my head, "this will be my last year in the academy."
"Really?" he seemed genuinely surprised, "Wow, you look so young I--uh--I thought you were a freshman, or ya know, a sophomore."
"No," I felt as childish as an underclassman at that moment, "I'll be graduating in the spring."
"Well that makes two of us then doesn't it?" his joking manner returned and brought with it that half smile which would have started my knees buckling...had I any knees to buckle.
We both turned towards the direction of the voice. Anti-Meg was hovering on the opposite side of the room with a very peeved looking Anti-Des.
"If you're finished giving your lonely heart a trial run maybe we could get out of here before these drunken college boys turn even more moronic?" Anti-Des snapped. She was a mystery, half the time she was hesitantly enjoying herself with Anti-Norm and the next moment she couldn't stand to be in the midst of a non-riotous social gathering.
Turning back to Anti-Thomas I gave an apologetic grin, "It would appear that I have to depart."
"That's alright," that smile again, oh how much could I be expected to take? At least he didn't take offense to my extensive vocabulary; other students mistook it for showing off. Since when had it become a crime to be so well-versed in one's own language? "Maybe we'll bump into each other at the academy sometime?"
"I certainly hope so." I said the words though I strongly doubted I would see him again. After all, I'd already gone three years without so much as catching a glimpse of this handsome young stranger and his enticing golden gaze...
With a sigh I joined my friends and we returned to our rooms. From the very instant I left a dull aching sensation had made itself known. I'd known him all of five minutes and already my heart was yearning for his presence.
"So ya went and fell head over heels for the guy in a sappy 'love at first sight' deal." Anti-Cupid summarized condescendingly.
I must say I was quite hurt by his unfeeling tone, "Aren't you supposed to abstain from judgment in these matters?"
"Nope," he responded casually, "you're thinkin' of the other guy. Now let's skip ahead a bit to say...your first date with Prince Tipsy?"
"That's Anti-Thomas!" I corrected, "And it just so happens that our first date was a direct result of our next meeting."
As fate would have it I did "bump into" Anti-Thomas again. It was a few months after the training had begun for a major sporting event of some sort, the Tournament of Lamps. It truly is as 'exciting' as it sounds. A bunch of over bronzed, overconfident, and under brained athletes competing against each other with supposedly challenging spells and physical trials while giddy academy girls in skimpy uniforms cheered their empty heads off for the buffoons.
"I'd rather be browsing the historical section of the campus library," Anti-Meg remarked as she stared in boredom at the poster hanging on the adjacent wall.
There was no greater competition at AGA (as far as the school and its peppy student population were concerned) and only the top genies who demonstrated skill in both physical endurance and the ever dangerous incantations of black magic were allowed to compete. Aside from a few lousy medals a great amount of prestige was wasted upon the victor, therefore the event was widely advertised each and every year.
We all sat in Professor Anti-Umarz's classroom preparing for yet another long winded lecture on the Advanced Art of Wishfixing and Magical Modification. Anti-Meg took the seat nearest the wall while I sat in the next row back diagonally across from her. The classroom was never that crowded so students often left a good number of vacant seats around them. Being an advanced class few seniors bothered to take it and opted for the simpler, average level courses instead. But others, like Anti-Meg and I, preferred a challenge. And staying awake in Professor Anti-Umarz's class was indeed a challenge. Leave it to that man to make such an interesting subject dull.
"Now before we continue with today's lecture which will include a slideshow presentation of famous architectural alterations such as the Sphinx's nose and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, I'd like to address some concerns I have with the academic performance of students such as-"
We all looked up--somewhat thankful for the interruption--to see another anti-genie appear near the blackboard and toss the professor a white slip of paper. I recognized him as the chronically late student who always lingered in the back rows just out of sight, never really paying attention to the lessons and probably flunking the class.
This time however, when he prepared to snap himself back to his usual seat Professor Anti-Umarz placed a hand firmly on his shoulder. "Not so fast there Anti-Thomas."
My mouth was agape, my blue eyes wide as saucers.
"Anti-Thomas?" Anti-Meg repeated disdainfully, "Isn't that the name of the clumsy oaf who ruined your blouse?"
I could scarcely believe it; surely it wasn't MY Anti-Thomas who was the lazy lay-about of my Monday morning course! Wait, what am I thinking? My Anti-Thomas? Well I can hardly consider him mine, we've only just met and even that was under rather unfavorable circumstances.
"It's probably some other boy with the same name." I muttered and pretended to be absorbed in reviewing my notes from last Monday. Of course I did a terrible job in trying to prevent my eyes from straying back to the stranger up front. Once I chanced a glance up I gasped when I saw the professor pointing me out.
"If you don't pull your grades up Anti-Thomas I'm afraid I'll have to fail you for this entire course. And if you don't pass all your classes this semester you won't be allowed to participate in the Tournament of Lamps. You need the extra credits this class offers to qualify. Why don't you try buckling down and hitting the books a bit harder? Maybe it would help if you bothered to sit closer to the board, like Anti-Di there; she's head of the class. You might consider asking her for help with your studies?"
The student I'd scarcely paid attention to before (because it was obvious by his letter jacket that he was one of the over bronzed, overconfident, under brained athletes I'd mentioned earlier) turned to face me and flashed a very familiar fang-revealing smile. "It...It IS him!" I whispered loud enough for my friend to hear. "And he remembers me!"
"You have my deepest sympathy." Anti-Meg mumbled beneath her breath. "It looks like he's coming this way. If I were you I'd leave early sick."
I didn't have time to scold my friend for her rudeness; Anti-Thomas floated right up to me and took the seat to my right, behind Anti-Meg. "Well what d'ya know? All this time we've been in the same class on Mondays and never even knew it. Must be those glasses you wear. They make you look older, not like last night."
I felt my cheeks grow hot, drat, I was blushing again! And over a slacking jock no less! Albeit he was flattering me...I hesitantly removed my glasses and clipped them to my black vest. "H-Hello."
"Much better, you actually look like a student instead of a teacher now. And speakin' of teachers... Guess you heard ol' Professor Anti-Snorez harping on me?" he seemed a bit embarrassed himself which I couldn't help but find a tad...endearing?
I answered with a small nod.
"Yeah well, it's not that I wouldn't have liked to have done better on those assignments. He's just so boring ya know?" he gave a quick wink and my stomach filled with...butterflies? Yes I believe that's the way the sensation's described. "And then there's been tryouts, all those practices, the preliminaries..."
"Staggering through late night college parties dumping punch all over one's peers." Anti-Meg added without turning around.
"Ah, I see she still hasn't forgiven me for that." Anti-Thomas rubbed the back of his neck a bit and turned back to me. "Were you able to salvage your shirt?"
"No," I was now twirling a strand of my forest green hair around my finger, a gesture most unfitting for me, "it's quite alright though. Eheh, accidents happen."
"Still," he leaned towards me a bit which sent the butterflies in my stomach into a frenzy, "I wish there was some way I could make it up to you. Hey, do you have any plans for tonight?"
"Tonight?" completely taken aback by his question I glanced at Anti-Meg who had spun round wearing a most disapproving frown. "I...I don't know, I..."
"Because if you were free I thought maybe you and I could head out for a while, maybe cast some spells together? Get in a little extra credit practice with all this magic stuff they've been teaching us?"
I suppose it was a mistake to look him directly in those hypnotic golden eyes but hindsight is 20/20 or so they say. Before logic or reason could interrupt I heard myself reply dreamily, "I'd love to."
Anti-Meg slapped a hand to her forehead as the lights were clapped off signaling the start of the slideshow presentation.
"Great," his face practically beamed with radiance which had me all the more ensnared by his charms, "meet me behind the gym at seven, we'll sneak out during the campus security shift change. That way if no one knows we're gone, no one will come lookin' for us if we stay out past curfew."
I knew it was a bad idea, but my mind was no longer in control. I abandoned all thought and went off the irrational instincts set forth by my treacherous heart. So when seven o'clock rolled round that evening it found me lingering outside behind the gym near the rear exit awaiting the arrival of my reckless crush.
At this point I glanced behind the armrest to see Anti-Cupid twirling his pen atop his finger in boredom. When he paused to yawn I 'coughed'. "Ahem! Pardon me but shouldn't you be paying attention?"
The pen flipped and he snatched it up in mid air then gave me a glare of great annoyance before flipping to a clean page in his notepad. "Shouldn't you be skipping to the point sister? I asked you about your first date, not for a long winded dime store romance novel."
"Hmph!" I promptly turned and placed my head against the armrest again. "Well I never!"
"Well now you have, so get on it with it already!"
Our first date was rather splendid to say the least, although it did have a rather rocky start. Just as he'd said we awaited the shift change of the campus security and snuck out the main gates, a rather tricky feat when one is without one's lamp. Those had to be signed out if we left the campus grounds and if they weren't checked back in before curfew we could've both found ourselves in very hot water.
"Now, that wasn't so hard." he mused aloud, "Come on, let's go warp some wishes."
Unlike the way things are organized in Fairy World, Genie World has no barrier dividing its normal and anti-zones. Genies are mischievous creatures by nature and the only chance one has of keeping them from running amuck with their all-powerful magic is to provide both genie and counterpart with equal access to the magic realms...and the occasional (much more restricted) trip to Earth. No one without a wish-granting license was permitted to leave our realm for any extended amount of time. Thus genies attended the academy for long-term access to Earth and the dwellings of other magical beings. But putting one's lamp into circulation did pose certain risks. Thus not many genies took that chance and preferred to live out content lives within the confines of our world.
"Where do you propose we begin?" I inquired following him down the sandy roads and out into the marketplace.
"How about there?"
My eyes drifted over in the direction he was pointing and landed on a pair of unsuspecting gentlemen. I didn't recognize the pair, one seemed old enough to be the other's father but judging from the Used Magic Carpet Outlet they were floating in front of I suspected he was a salesman trying to pawn one of those unraveling rugs off on the young man.
"That's Anti-Cal," my companion explained in a low tone, "he's the kid I've got doing my little bro's homework every night."
"You have a younger brother?"
"Yeah, Anti-Zeal," I could tell by his tone they weren't exactly close, "little runt's a pain but somebody's gotta keep winning trophies after I graduate a full-fledged wish granter. Dad's been buggin' me to train him myself but that bookwork stuff isn't my strong suit."
"I see," I frowned disapprovingly, "you're bullying the lad so he'll boost your brother's grades for you."
"Nah," he waved me off, "I'm lettin' him hang out with me and few of the guys after our games. The kid's a junior over at Anti-Ala Din's High, he's convinced it'll help him get girls."
"And what gave him that idea I wonder?"
He flashed me a sheepish grin and shrugged, "Eheh, anything for my little bro. You got any sibs AD?"
"Yes, one." I admitted, "She's a joyful little ray of sunshine but I manage to tolerate her existence long enough to tutor her myself when necessary."
"Hey just say the word and I'll have Anti-Cal there make her straight A student." he winked.
At this point I began second guessing my whole attraction. Was this really the same male who had me so spellbound the other night? At the moment he appeared to be nothing more than another mindless jock using bronze to beat brains into submission.
"Look if it'll make ya feel any better I'm about to help him out."
"How so?" I tilted my head disbelievingly.
"By souping up his ride." he turned his attention back towards the haggling pair and prepared to cast a spell upon the tattered tapestry.
"I tell ya my boy, for this price it's a complete steal!" the salesman boasted, "Genuine camel fur-"
"Camel fur?" Anti-Cal cringed as the maroon rug was shoved toward him.
"-low air mileage-"
"-forget the latest fifty-nine models this baby's practically brand new!"
"Fifty-nine!" Anti-Cal held up the worn out carpet, "This thing's practically an antique! Penguins are gonna out fly me!"
The salesman's eyes narrowed. "Look kid for your price range this is the best model you're gonna find."
The young teen sighed, "I guess you're right. Fine, I'll take it." Under his breath he muttered, "Just wish it wasn't such a joke."
"Great choice my boy," with a quick snap a dictionary-sized contract appeared, "now just sign here, and here, initial here, got any photo ID?"
Anti-Thomas and I were safely hidden amongst the small crowd of stragglers in the square.
With a crack his knuckles he prepared to fire away, "And there's my cue, here goes my good deed for the century."
Anti-Cal sighed and prepared to unroll his first magic carpet, an outdated cloth best suited for the junkyard. "I just hope it can hover." he murmured. "Dad'll never let me hear the end of it if I squandered my savings on a dud."
I watched him unfurl the rug just as my companion snapped. The timing couldn't have been better. A quick GONG drowned out by the chattering shoppers and the carpet was good as new, in fact I'd almost swear it was a completely different rug.
The salesman looked up from his satchel of gold coins to see a very satisfied customer sitting atop what was once an oversized dust rag. His jaw instantly hit the ground.
"Magic thrusters, three passenger seating, and a killer interwoven sound system!" Anti-Cal exclaimed in surprise, "You're right, this baby IS practically brand new!"
The salesman hovered there in astonishment as Anti-Cal zipped away on what was no doubt the best bargain he'd ever received.
"Anti-Thomas," I gasped in amazement, "How...how did you do that? You know the vendors here magic-proof their merchandise against free product enhancements."
"Hey why spill the secret babe, the point is I did the kid a good turn. Isn't that what you wanted?" that smile of his was back again wish all its intoxicating charm.
"Well..." I watched the perplexed salesman float back inside his outlet and managed a small smile. "I suppose I don't need to know how you did it. As long as you did it for the right reasons."
"Great, now uh...let's get outta here okay?" he threw an arm around me and started pulling me off in a random direction, "All this good deed stuff isn't sittin' too well. Wanna go over to the GA and rattle a few genies?"
"You mean our counterparts?" I felt a menacing grin tug at the corners of my mouth. I couldn't pass up a chance to toss a little black magic Di's way. I didn't know much about her (our encounters were few and far between) save for the fact that she was far too close to being good for my taste. The harmless prankster needed a lesson in professionalism, and I was just the professional to teach her...and show my companion why I was head of the class.
We left in a hurry towards the other end of our realm; while genies and anti-genies shared the same zone-free world we had two very separate self-made halves. Most anti-genies lived on the far end of the region where mystical sandstorms were common and the orange sky often clouded with grey. The regular genies preferred the sultry blue skies and clear starry nights of the region nearer to Fairy World, a place I knew to be crawling with colorful, pint-sized godparents. Hn, we most likely insisted they live in that half of our world putting a nice gap between us and the ridiculous do-gooder fairy folk.
"Wait, thief! STOP!" the salesman came flying out of his outlet holding up a rug that looked remarkably similar to Anti-Cal's just before he had unrolled it. "That little sneak pulled a fast one on me! He switched my carpets!"
My eyes widened and I turned to Anti-Thomas in shock. "Y-you switched the carpets? But that's illegal! You're in clear violation of-"
"Look AD, I like you and all, but you're a little too uptight with the magic. I mean we're anti-genies, we operate on a RULE-FREE basis," he explained still tugging me through the crowd.
"But there was a contract and-"
"-all sales are final." Anti-Thomas snickered as he pulled me behind a vacant tent. "Now gong us out of here before they find out who did it."
I couldn't believe it, in one night I had gone from upstanding citizen to a criminal's accomplice. But I supposed I was in too deep to turn back so reluctantly I raised my fingers and snapped us over into the heart of genie territory.
"Ah-ha! Right outside the Genie Academy, AD you are the ma--ur--gal."
I scowled at him, angry that he'd gotten me into so much trouble and on top of everything seemed rather proud of himself. "I thought you were making amends with that boy, not framing him for theft."
"So it got a little out of hand," Anti-Thomas shrugged, "at least he had himself a sweet ride for a while. And did you see how happy it made him?"
"Perhaps you should stick to negatively warping the wishes of non-anti beings?" I huffed.
"You got it," he made a dramatic display of crossing his heart, "Now c'mon, it's getting late. Our counterparts are probably in their dorms by now."
"As we should be."
"Aw c'mon AD," he shook my shoulders lightly, "Don't be like that. Look I'm gonna make it up to you okay? You'll see, we'll have our counterparts so mixed up they won't know their shades from their tails."
With a sigh I glanced towards the main gate, "We're going to stick out like a sore thumb."
"Not if we use a disguise spell from Anti-Snorez's class." he urged. "C'mon, 'magical modification', we'll just modify our forms to look like-"
"-who?" I demanded, but my question was answered when his green hues changed to a deep tan and dark shades of maroon, navy, and black.
"And presto," he tapped his navy oval shades, "genie Thomas!"
"How is it you managed to perfect that spell and yet you're still failing the class?"
"I learned this trick back in my sophomore year. A guy's gotta know how to keep a low profile." he motioned for me to give it a try.
"Won't this use a lot of magic?" I questioned uneasily as my form started to shift.
"Relax, we'll have just enough left to pull a few pranks and get back to the AGA before midnight."
"You're worrying too much again."
With a sigh I watched my hair go from forest green to a fiery red. I cringed to think of what I must look like in this form, I could already see my tanless skin tone and odd combination of aqua, violet, and dark blue clothing. "Ugh it's horrible! She has absolutely no sense of style."
"It'll get us past security," Anti-Thomas assured me as we floated toward the gates. Sure enough we were allowed to pass and found ourselves staring at a campus not much unlike our own, only a bit more...distinguished.
"Heh, figures their school would be a lot neater than ours." Anti-Thomas mused, skimming the area for dormitories. "Bet they're a bunch of bookworms."
"Indeed," I frowned, "the AGA is under funded and under staffed while the GA seems most renowned and well kept."
"Not for long," Anti-Thomas remarked slyly, "There's the dorms. Hurry let's-"
A semi-familiar voice called out causing me to turn and gasp, "Anti-Meg?"
"Haha, very funny." the bright yellow clad brunette floating before me smirked, "Curfew's almost up girl, we'd better head back to the dorm and get in some studying for Professor Umarz's midterm next week. You know he'd love an excuse to flunk us." She spotted Anti-Thomas just behind me. "Oh, hi Tom."
"Well I don't know I mean I-" I was starting to panic; Anti-Thomas hadn't mentioned splitting up to be a part of the plan.
She gave me a look of puzzlement, "What happened to your voice? You sound like some uptight librarian."
At this my companion tossed me a smug "told you so" glance to which I gave a small growl of annoyance. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with my voice--girl--so let's be on our way then shall we?"
Meg shook her head in confusion but led the way back to the dorm, as I floated past Anti-Thomas he grabbed my arm and whispered, "Just play along and I'll meet you back out here in twenty."
Twenty? Twenty MINUTES! Why in the worlds is he waiting so long? The troublemaker is truly pressing our luck and completely out of his mind if he thinks for one minute that I'm-
A soft peck on my cheek sent my pale colored face aflame. He...did he really just...!
"Di? DI? What's wrong with you?" the slam of a door snapped me out of my stupor. It was Anti-Meg's annoyingly pleasant counterpart again; no doubt another harmless prankster like my own. "Your face is redder than your hair for once." she arched an eyebrow, "Wait a minute, is there something going on between you and Thomas? Geez girl I never knew you were interested in him."
If possible my blush deepened another three shades, "I-I don't know what you're talking about! We...we're just friends, mere...acquaintances, that's all."
"Uh-huh yeah right," Meg laughed as she snapped a stack of textbooks onto her bed and plopped down on the tie-dye comforter, "that explains why you started acting funny outside. Usually you're either cracking jokes or clamming up, not playing Miss Know-It-All."
Well that was that, I decided I rather disliked this genie Meg. But I was growing nervous fearing that my counterpart would return and spoil my deception at any moment.
"So tell me Meg--other than my unusual behavior just now--what other faults can you find with me?"
She paused from reading and stared at me quizzically, "Okay now you're just trying to pick a fight."
"Very well," I shrugged intent on obtaining some invaluable information on my 'nicer' self, "I'll go first. I find your outlandishly ridiculous wardrobe to be in very poor taste."
Her chestnut eyes narrowed, "Is this about Thomas or are you just looking to get punched?"
It was extremely unlike Anti-Meg to result to physical violence so the threat of her opposite self did not go unnoted. Still, I was persistent if nothing else. "And that hairstyle is most unflattering, could you be any less unruly, and my dear those sunglasses clash with whatever plastic flower that is pinned to your skimpy top."
"SKIMPY! That's it Di this lame impression of yours has gone on long enough." she shot up and zipped over mere inches from my face.
I went for broke, "Sigh, some people just can't handle a little constructive criticism."
"Okay Di, you wanna play the high and mighty insult game? Let's dance!"
FINALLY! I thought I'd never crack this hippie's shell of indifference!
Meg's fist shot up as she began counting off my counterpart's faults, "Let's see here: you can't cook, YOUR wardrobe has 'Halloween Clearance Bin' written all over it, the last time you did laundry by yourself even the dryer turned pink, and this little insult game of yours is so lame it's beneath the APRIL FOOL!"
"WELL DARN IT MEGS, SCREAM IT TO THE HEAVENS WHY DON'T YOU!"
The two of us nearly jumped out of skin at the sudden outburst from the doorway. And who should it be but my carefree counterpart, come to ruin all.
"Di? You? But she-? You were just over there and-" Meg did a series of double takes which left me to lock eyes with who I considered to be my weaker self.
"Well if it isn't my fashion challenged counterpart who can't perform a simple household chore."
"You!" she flew before me and pointed an accusing finger, "What are you doing over here? It's bad enough you've got my face, why are stealing my IDENTITY too!"
"Okay so, which one's my roomie and which one's the witch?" Meg was still thoroughly baffled.
"I am!" we both exclaimed.
Meg looked from one of us to the other and blinked.
"Megs it's me!" Di shouted, "Don't be fooled by a cheap imitation!"
"Cheap?" I huffed.
"That's what I said you imposter!"
"Ha, you're the only imposter here!"
"Wanna take this outside!"
"Gladly." I couldn't have planned it better myself. I needed an excuse to get out and find Anti-Thomas; it was just a bonus that I'd get to fry my weaker half in the process.
Meg followed us out on the front lawn of the dormitories, apparently our bout inside had attracted the attention of some of the other students for there was soon a crowd gathered round us.
We stood facing each other at approximately ten feet apart. With our hands raised poised to snap I skimmed the crowd for any sign of Anti-Thomas. I managed to spot him hovering over by some drinking fountains.
"Ready?" Di's voice brought my attention back to our face-off. "One...two..."
"Fighting on school grounds! And AFTER curfew!" a commanding male voice boomed, "That's THREE weeks of lamp polishing duty!"
Everyone froze as a dark shadow fell over the crowd. Looking back over my shoulder I saw the authoritative figure of-
"Pro-Professor Umarz!" my counterpart stammered.
"Di! I might've known." the professor did not look happy.
Meg quickly flew forward, "Professor Umarz it wasn't her fault an anti-"
"Meg! You're in on this too!" the Professor was not nearly as patient as his anti-version. He seemed to bear a particular grudge against my counterpart and her friend, all the better for me to sneak away. While he was busy dishing out a punishment to the duo I stole through the crowd and snagged Anti-Thomas by the arm.
"Shh! Come with me." I hissed, wishing to be anywhere but the GA.
We were almost to the gate when a voice called, "And just where do you think you're going!"
"Perfect!" I snapped pointing towards the genie, "Your counterpart's spotted us! I thought you were going to take care of him!"
"I...was?" the genie before me was truly stumped.
It was then that it hit me; in my haste I had grabbed the wrong Thomas and wound up with the original. The disguised Anti-Thomas floated forward and slapped a fist into his opposite hand. "Trying to pull a fast one on me T? You were probably after my spot in the Tournament of Lamps!"
Letting go of the clueless dolt I grabbed the real Anti-Thomas and drug him towards the gate and out of sight from the crowd. "You don't have time for that! They're onto us now, that professor could be here at any moment. We've got to go. NOW!"
"I've got my eye on you T!" Anti-Thomas threatened as the gong sounded, "Don't think I'm gonna forget this!"
With half lidded eyes his counterpart watched us vanish in a cloud of green smoke, "Weirdo."
When we were safely back at the Anti-Genie Academy in our normal forms I lit in on Anti-Thomas as if there was no tomorrow. "You incompetent oaf! You could've gotten us both EXPELLED! What were you thinking!"
With an ear-to-ear grin he answered, "I was thinking that it was completely awesome to see you land that double of yours in hot water."
"WHAT! Are you daft! I-" well, I had to admit, it was fairly amusing to see the look on Di's face when the professor gave her lamp polishing duty. "Where were you?"
Reaching into his jacket he brought out a can of black spray paint. "Just defacing some flawless school property. Let's see those stuck-up gong ringers gloat now."
I gave a lop-sided grin and propped my hands on my hips. "You truly are a menace to society."
"Heh, as far as anyone knows it's all on Thomas." he chided, "Made sure to give him all the credit."
"Well this certainly has been an eventful night, if nothing else." I sighed and felt my anger subside.
"Not bad for a first date huh? Stirring up some double trouble."
"F-first d-date?" I stammered.
"See what happens when you cut loose and let yourself have a little fun?" he was being quite smug but I didn't mind. My thoughts were still jumbled from the mention of a 'first date'.
"Well I-I suppose the evening wasn't too disastrous." I blushed.
"Great so you'll let me take you out again?"
My expression became uneasy, "Back to the Genie Academy?"
Anti-Thomas couldn't contain his laughter, "No, ahaha, I promise next time we'll do something less 'extreme'. Why not make it a study date? With midterms coming up I could really use the help. I can't be in the tournament if I don't pass ya know?"
"Oh, that's right." the slight fear was growing that he might be using me for higher test scores, not so much unlike he'd used Anti-Cal to boost his brother's grades.
He must have sensed my uncertainty because he quickly added, "And after that we'll--uh--we'll go dancing!"
"Dancing?" now it was my turn to laugh, I could just picture the muscular jock cutting a rug.
"Hey I've got moves!" he boasted under the pretense of taking offense, "Just wait'll this Friday AD, I'm gonna sweep you off your feet--ur--tail."
"We'll see about that," I retorted with a poorly suppressed grin. It would be the first Friday night in ages I hadn't spent with my nose buried in a book.
"Friday it is then," and with another quick peck (this one catching the corner of my lips) he bid me adue and left me floating on air (well, you know what I mean) in front of my dorm room.
"I can't believe you're going to go out with him again!" Anti-Meg's voice caught me off guard.
"And you were busting my chops about Anti-Norm." Anti-Des folded her arms.
"Just how long have you two been watching?" I demanded as I zipped inside and slammed the door.
"Long enough to know you've lost your mind." Anti-Meg scoffed. "You do realize you just risked your enrollment to have a few cheap laughs with some over hyped athlete?"
"He's not that way at all!" I insisted, "Anti-Thomas is different, he's..."
"Special?" Anti-Des spoke up.
"Yes, he's 'special'." I said the word as though it were being forced out of my throat. "We had a wonderful time and I think we really made a connection."
"Hmph, keep at it and you'll be sharing a jail cell." Anti-Meg rolled her eyes and turned away. Clearly she'd heard the entire conversation.
"Oh ease off her case AM," my other roommate half scolded/half teased, "It seems our little Anti-Di's finally growing up. She's found herself a man and even fallen in love, how cliché."
"Love?" I spat out the word with less disgust than I had intended. Love? Me? Why it's impossible, I'm much too well guarded against such things. Love. Hn! Well...perhaps someday...perhaps I'll succumb to it...but for someone like Anti-Thomas? He's certainly not what I pictured my type to be. And yet... Well maybe...if he...sigh...only time will tell.
"And oh what a wonderful time it was. We spent most of our senior year together. With Anti-Thomas I felt as though I could--what's the expression, 'let my hair down'--and it would be quite acceptable. The more time we shared the stronger our bond grew, and at last I was sure that something much stronger than a mere infatuation had grown between us. Yes, I was finally ready to admit that I, Anti-Di, had found love." I finished passionately, lost in the sea of my memories, happy memories of tutoring my darling troublemaker, attending his practices, sharing my favorite poems, sneaking out to explore the worlds, and dancing the night away wherever our young hearts desired. He truly did seem intrigued by me, as was I by him. We were from two separate worlds and yet...we were not so different.
"And that's when he dropped the bomb." Anti-Cupid cut in as if he already knew the tale.
"Yes," my countenance darkened all at once at the recollection of that first terrible day when suspicion and jealously took hold.
It was the start of our final semester at the Anti-Genie Academy. With my help Anti-Thomas had managed to pass all his courses in the prior semester and earn enough credits to qualify for the Tournament of Lamps. Normally I would have nothing to do with such a dull event, physical competition was never my cup of tea and magical combat only sparked my interest on rare occasions, but since I'd started dating Anti-Thomas I had made it my top priority. Every day after practice it was my custom to greet him as he exited the gym and begin the tutoring so he'd do exceptionally well on his final courses leaving us to graduate together and from there...well, I had hopes but none I had dared to mention. The moment was never quite right but I was certain we were heading on the track to something along the lines of long-term commitment. Yes I confess, at that point in my life I could honestly see myself sharing a lamp with my beloved, raising a little chaos in what he'd convinced me was an all too routine universe and perhaps later we would start a family of our own.
Hn, but dreams are for saps who can't face the cold truth. That we are all essentially alone and merely create the delusions of happiness and devotion to fool ourselves into thinking we live a more endurable existence. I may have cared for him more than anything else in the worlds, but that was no guarantee that he returned my feelings. That lesson was learned the hard way when I rounded the corner humming some foolish tune in my head with my leather carrying case slung behind me. I remember now as if it were only yesterday. How I froze in my tracks, slack jawed and speechless, like some poor deer caught in the headlights.
"I still can't believe you were able to go through three days of intensive training without recharging in your lamp once." a grey-eyed female with long emerald hair and a pearly white smile was shamelessly flirting with MY boyfriend!
"Yeah well, some guys got it and some guys don't. I like to build up my endurance. Why I'd bet I could go a whole week just on the energy I've got stored up right now." Anti-Thomas gloated as he flexed.
And that traitorous buffoon is flirting BACK! The anger that arose inside me was like nothing I'd ever felt before: hurt, betrayal, distrust, I...I felt like a complete fool for ever having put my heart on the line, for handing it over to someone else, and a dishonest klutz at that!
"Oh hi Anti-Di," the woman turned and caught sight of me, that's when I recognized her; it would have to be HER of all people.
"Anti-Heather," I seethed, tears pricking at the corners of my eyes. Why? Why on top of everything else was I about to cry! I knew her, my bitter rival since freshman year, nothing in the worlds would bring her more pleasure than to see me broken and in tears!
Anti-Heather was my greatest competition at the academy. She had an impressive grade point average, beauty, wealth, and a much higher social status. No matter what she always seemed to have me outmatched...except when it came to being head of the class. We battled fiercely for that position, each of us having our own moments of glory before the other would snap in with some sort of unannounced extra credit and topple the other to second best. By sheer good fortune she and I had had a separate Monday course last semester; I had no such luck this time around and spent five days out of the week competing against the smug faced wench. And was that enough for her? No! Now she was after my boyfriend too! Well if she wanted a fight she'd come to the right place!
"I was just discussing the Tournament of Lamps with Anti-Thomas here," she gave him a coy grin and batted her long lashes alluringly, "I say he's going to win."
At this Anti-Thomas blushed (actually BLUSHED), "Anti-Heather's the head of the AGA's cheerleading squad. They've been training alongside the contestants for months. In fact I don't think she's ever missed a practice." He was using that tone again, going out of his way to sound nice and mannerly. So much for doing it just for me, a pretty face was all it took to make a gentleman out of the clod.
"Well of course not silly," she gave his beard a playful tug, "after all, we go way back."
"Oh?" I felt a vein in my forehead pulse but tried my best to keep a calm exterior. Anti-Heather was expecting me to lose my temper; she wanted me to make a scene. I wasn't going to play into her hands. Maim her later yes, but not with so many witnesses around.
For a moment Anti-Thomas resembled a trapped rat but managed to compose himself and clarify. "She means we knew each other before college, we both went to Anti-Ala Din's High."
"And where did you go Anti-Di?" Anti-Heather's voice had that underlying tone of mockery that made me want to smash her bottle to bits. "Don't tell me, home schooled?"
"No," I managed to reply through clenched teeth, "Anti-Schehera Zade's."
This seemed to spark her interest, laughter danced in her coal colored eyes as she muffled a giggle. "Isn't that a private school? For girls? I suppose it does explain your taste in clothing then. And to think I thought you got hand-me-downs from the teachers when you're really just hung up on an old dress code."
Unable to contain my fury any longer I sprang for the condescending wench but found myself restrained by a pair of strong arms. "Whoa, AD relax okay? It's not what it looks like. Anti-Heather and me, we're just friends you know?"
"That's 'Anti-Heather and I' and don't think I'm buying that lie for an instant!" I struggled to break free but his hold was simply too tight, soon my arms were pinned to my sides with Anti-Thomas telling me to calm down and Anti-Heather grinning in triumph a few feet away.
"AD, you're gonna get expelled! Is that what you want? Just knock it off, there's nothing going on."
"Urgh!" falling limp I glared at the meddling minx and resolved that I'd come too far to allow her flirtatious ploys to ruin my chances of graduating. And besides, I had no real proof that Anti-Thomas was lying. I hadn't attended the same high school as they had. For all I knew, it was true, and they were merely friends. Friends who exchanged the occasional compliment...with Anti-Heather throwing herself at anything with muscles and a chance at fame.
My roommates felt my prior instincts to be closer to the truth...
"So you catch her putting moves on your boyfriend, the jerk doesn't brush her off, and you're still giving that cretin the time of day!" Anti-Des couldn't make sense of my actions and to be perfectly honest, neither could I.
"I just wanted so badly to believe him." I explained in a hopeless tone much unlike me. We were sitting in our dorm discussing the matter while Anti-Meg busied herself making herbal tea in our cramped little kitchen.
"Oh Anti-Di wake up!" she shouted, "He's a man, and men can't be trusted! They go completely gah-gah over a pretty face!"
My eyes flashed red as a sudden surge of anger swept over me, "Is that so? Then perhaps Anti-Norm will react the same. Especially when he finds out that your 'pretty face' is in debt up to its eyeballs!"
A teacup in the kitchen came crashing to the floor. Quite fitting seeing as how I had just struck a cord with my friend. Anti-Des was by far the most impoverished among us. She came from a broken home, barely scraped enough together to attend the academy, and by some strange twist of fate she'd managed to find herself in the good graces of the one male she could find no horrendous fault with. I knew that the thought of losing him--though she'd never admit it--was her own worst fear.
"So you think I'm too poor to hold onto true love then? Is that it?" her tone was angry, though her voice cracked midway through the question.
A wave of guilt washed over me as I stared at my broken friend. I couldn't believe I'd just said that, and to Anti-Des of all people, she and Anti-Meg were my closest friends. How could I? What was I thinking? "Anti-Des I-"
"Save it," she refused to meet my gaze, her eyes hidden behind a row of unruly white bangs. I knew she was on the verge of tears, knew it was all my doing. She got up and retreated slowly into the bathroom. I heard the sound of running water (a poor attempt to cover her muffled sobs). With a hopeless sigh I lay my head in my lap, ashamed and aghast at my behavior.
"Well now you've done it," Anti-Meg emerged from the kitchen reforming the broken teacup in her hands. "Misery must love company Anti-Di because now you've got her crying too."
"It wasn't my intention," I grasped lamely at some sort of apology, "I just, when she said that about Anti-Thomas I-"
"Snapped," she finished, "yes I heard. But why did you snap?" her eyes narrowed behind the frames of her crescent shaped glasses, "If you insist on lavishing affections on someone who will obviously never return them that's your business. But don't come crying to us and then take out your frustrations here. Anti-Thomas is at fault, not us."
"So I should give up?" I felt that same anger rising again; only I couldn't will myself to suppress it. "I should accept the worst case scenario without any sort of proof and resign myself to a life of loneliness and---cats!"
"As if you weren't well on your way now," for once Anti-Meg's voice was rising to unusually high levels.
"And what would you know!" I snapped, rising from the edge of my bed so that we were hovering face-to-face. "What would a prude like you know of love!"
"Contrary to what you may believe Anti-Di I'm no stranger to heartache!" I saw a sudden flicker of pain flash in her chestnut eyes. "And unlike you I chose to accept the truth and move on!"
"And what exactly is the truth!" I demanded.
"That you'll never be free of the pain until you're free of love!" she exclaimed with more passion than I'd ever seen her muster before. Her voice lowered to just above a whisper as she continued with downcast eyes, "And you'll never be free of love, because a part of you will always long for it."
I suddenly felt exceedingly uncomfortable being in such an awkward argument with my best friend. If Anti-Meg had a love life it was certainly news to me. We had attended Anti-Schehera Zade's together and I'd never seen her show the slightest interest in dating. Then again, dating wasn't something we spoke of often, not favorably at least. "Balderdash." was all I could think to reply.
"It's true though," she placed the reformed teacup (now in perfect condition) on my bedside table. "The heart is a fragile thing. Both a hindrance and a weapon. And it is the only line of defense we have that will still work...even after it's been broken."
"Hn," I made a half hearted attempt at teasing, "you sound like a spokesperson for that annoying cherub."
"Hm..." she murmured in agreement still staring at the teacup, "annoying indeed, but very very powerful. To even stand a chance against his love magic you'd need a dose of hate from the Anti-Cupid."
And that's when I first got the notion to ask for your services. A friend recommendation. I knew she wasn't serious but if push came to shove...she could very well have provided me a way to be free of heartache, free of doubt, free of love and all its unpleasant side effects forever.
Had I no means to become attached to Anti-Thomas in the first place my dear friend Anti-Des wouldn't be struggling against her worst fear, Anti-Meg wouldn't have relived a painful past as love's fool, and I...I would have lost nothing to such an imbecilic emotion.
But even then, I still wasn't ready to face the truth.
"Holy heartbreakers lady what was it gonna take to open your eyes!" Anti-Cupid exclaimed. "Two, three women? The whole dang squad! 'Old friends' my blue fanny, they're never just 'old friends'! Geez when are you dames gonna learn! Why if it had been the other way around Anti-What's His Face would've pummeled the patooties out of the jerk hittin' on his girl!"
I crinkled my nose in disgust, "I'm sure it's quite common for one to desire to give the one they care about the benefit of a doubt!"
"And were they 'just friends'?" Anti-Cupid's smirk was enough to grate on my last nerve. Making me feel even more idiotic than I ever thought possible.
"Of course not!" I screamed in utter frustration, "Do you think I'd be here if they were! That--that--sneaky WRETCH! That LIAR! That SCOUNDREL! That CAD!"
"And here we go," Anti-Cupid flipped to a fresh page in his notepad and reclined back for the 'finale', "the break-up scene."
It wasn't so very long after the first incident, when I discovered that everything, everything I'd dared to even secretly hope for, was never meant to be. In fact it was the very day of the Tournament of Lamps. Yes, it occurred the day before graduation. I'll never be able to forget it.
The games had officially begun early that morning. Like a faithful girlfriend I'd made sure to purchase my ticket early so I could have a front row seat to Anti-Thomas's big day. In feats of physical endurance my darling managed to put away all the competition and reign victorious. The entire magical portion of the tournament was divided into a series of one-on-one matches. Anti-Heather leapt about shouting encouragement to him as one-by-one he delivered crushing mystical blasts to his opponents. She of course never missed a chance to glance over her shoulder and flash a cocky grin to me. Had I not been so close to my wish-granter's license that I could practically taste it I no doubt would've snapped myself down there and giving that flirt the beating of her life!
"Ignore her," a familiar voice said as someone took their seat next to me, "it's envious tramps like that who give the rest of us a bad name."
"Anti-Des?" I could scarcely believe it. After our fight I'd assumed she'd never speak to me again. We'd passed the past several months giving each other sideways glances and letting silence linger in the dorm room whenever Anti-Meg wasn't around. "You came?"
"Yeah well, there was nothing good on TV." she attempted to shrug it off but I could see a small smile playing upon her lips. She and I were true friends and it would take more than some silly fight to tear us apart. For that, I was truly grateful. My only regret was letting the air go unclear for as long as it had.
My spirits were further heightened when we were joined by Anti-Meg (someone else who'd barely spoken two words to me over the past semester). "Did I miss any of the mindless brutality?"
If I had been the sort to hug (or they the sort to enjoy it) I would have locked them both in a tight embrace. My worst fears had proven false. It may have taken quite some time but at long last all was forgiven. Let Anti-Heather do her best to bring out my worst, with my friends here there was nothing I couldn't withstand. The wench had no power!
"Hey there's my little celery stick!"
Anti-Des immediately began to blush and made a half hearted attempt to hide her face in her hand.
Anti-Meg and I couldn't help but laugh as Anti-Norm floated down and scooted close beside our embarrassed friend. The rebellious protestor had admittedly started to grow on us over the year and had become an openly accepted part of the group. I suspect he found much amusement in Anti-Des's feminist rants. I probably had him to thank for the forgiveness of my friends. If not for him there would have been no communication, no time shared between us. Anti-Des hadn't spoken a word to him of the fight and thus had to maintain a sense of normalcy in his presence. Anti-Meg played along and likewise so did I. In that way we had begun to forgive and forget.
The final event for the tournament began and a hush fell over the crowd as Anti-Thomas squared off in a magical duel against Anti-Yvreyn, the top ranking male student in the academy. I cringed to think of what the outcome might be. This was truly a bronze vs. brains event.
"You can do it AT!" Anti-Heather just had to make a spectacle of herself.
"Doesn't that chick realize she's rooting for someone else's boyfriend?" Anti-Norm mused.
"Oh she knows it alright." Anti-Des glared down at the prissy cheerleader no doubt contemplating the same brutal actions as I.
"Down in front BIMBO!" All together we three whipped around to stare in amazement at Anti-Meg and her uncharacteristic outburst.
"What?" she shrugged with a sheepish grin, "It's all this sports fan mania, it's going straight to my head."
Anti-Heather had spun around with her pompoms pressed tightly against her hips, her lips pursed in a pout. That was enough to bring a smile to my face...a rather wicked smile derived from imagining a boulder squashing her flat, mini-skirt and all.
As the opponents built up their energy to deliver a rapid succession of black magic blasts tension rose amongst the crowd.
"So why didn't you participate in the tournament?" Anti-Meg inquired of Anti-Norm.
"Because he's got better things to do then get his brains zapped out in some overrated display of muscle-bound idiocy." Anti-Des muttered causing her boyfriend to laugh out loud. Yes, she definitely managed to amuse him with her rants.
"Something like that, plus I only get involved in fights where picket signs are involved. None of this competing for a lousy piece of scrap metal and fifteen minutes of fame bologna."
"Well then Anti-Des I suppose I owe you an apology." Anti-Meg smirked, "You seem to have found one of the last surviving members of the intelligent breed."
"Aw don't say that. It'll go straight to his head," Anti-Des grinned as Anti-Norm ruffled her sloppily pulled up ponytail. Even I was convinced that they shared something special, something real. Surely it wasn't so farfetched to believe that perhaps Anti-Thomas and I could form such a bond? Weren't we already well on our way?
Oh! That reminds me...
The blasts came in quick bursts, each opponent struggling to avoid a direct hit while firing off as many as he could manage without zapping all his strength at once. The first to fall out for more than ten seconds or lose his stored supply of all-powerful black magic would be declared the loser. And it was clear from the look in both contestants eyes that neither one was prepared to lose.
"YAH!" Anti-Thomas hurled a large sphere from his black magic reserve at his opponent. Anti-Yvreyn gracefully dodged the brunt of the blast and managed to counter with an equally large sphere of his own.
The dark energy hissed and crackled as it sped through the air at an alarming rate. It didn't look as though my Anti-Thomas would be able to dodge it in time! He must have realized it too for I recalled seeing his eyes enlarge just before the blast hit--dead on--and resulted in a massive explosion on the far side of the stadium.
My fearful cry hung thick in the air as everyone watched on the edge of their seats, awestruck, waiting for the smoke to clear. Anti-Heather shifted from one side to another with her pompoms tucked under her chin, trying none too desperately to get a better view.
Anti-Yvreyn seemed assured of his victory. With his arms folded smugly over his chest he beamed, "Hmph, brains over bronze. That duntz is just a smear on what's left of the stadium wall."
I wanted to throttle him for his careless statement but was halted by the sudden appearance of-
"Anti-Thomas!" the head cheerleader squealed with delight as he appeared in a burst of red smoke behind his startled opponent.
"Hey, what the-!"
A fist emanating black magic connected with Anti-Yveryn's jaw and sent him sprawling backwards onto the field. He left quite a deep trench as he slid all the way back to where he'd assumed he'd blasted Anti-Thomas and smacked into the crumbling wall. Some more rubble fell on the impact, one chunk just large enough to knock him out when it conked him on the head.
"Hn, so much for the Brainiac." Anti-Thomas smirked triumphantly and dusted off his hands.
"HE DID IT!" Anti-Heather and I exclaimed simultaneously causing us to pause and glare at one another before turning back to Anti-Thomas who'd just received his second gold medal.
"I can't believe that dunderhead won for both physical endurance AND magical dueling." Anti-Meg muttered but a disapproving look from me had her amending the statement, "I mean...what talent?"
With the tournament over anti-genies fanned out and began snapping themselves to restrooms, the snack bar, gift shops, and back to their dorms/containers to prepare for graduation on the following day. Eagerly I shoved my way through the crowd to congratulate my darling on his masterfully cunning victory over the cocky Anti-Yveryn. My three companions could barely keep up and soon all that stood between me and my beloved was a flock of those bothersome cheerleaders. But not even they could ruin this moment, although upon seeing me most started to giggle madly and surprisingly moved aside.
I was soon to discover the purpose behind their uncharacteristically polite gestures. When I reached the center of the crowd a scene I had long feared and only recently come to believe I'd never witness met my eyes. There, hovering together in place were Anti-Thomas and Anti-Heather, locked in a tight embrace...sharing a passionate kiss.
That, that moment was so unreal for me, so unbelievably unreal that I was sure it had to be a dream. No, a nightmare! My WORST nightmare come alive to haunt me after being pushed to the back of my mind for weeks. I watched in absolute shock as they broke the kiss and smiled upon each other in a way I'd come to believe that he only looked at me.
"Anti-Di what's-" Anti-Meg was at my side the next moment looking nearly as dumbstruck as I, "-wrong?"
On my opposite side Anti-Norm and Anti-Des appeared staring from me to the pair in the center with heavy hearts and sympathetic eyes.
"Aw Anti-Di...," Anti-Des fumbled for the appropriate words, but for once, she had nothing to say. No feminist rants or snide remarks, just this look of utter loss.
"He's a creep alright," Anti-Norm patted me on the shoulder, "you deserve better AD."
But...but I don't WANT better! I remember thinking as the tears swelled up in my reddening blue eyes, I want him. I want Anti-Thomas! We were...so happy. Where...where did I go wrong? What did I do to deserve THIS!
He absently turned his head in my direction then. The look on his face told me everything. He hadn't anticipated my arriving there so soon. Hadn't counted on my seeing them together, finding out the truth. All the lies, he'd made a fool of me for what couldn't have been less than half the year! And I--like a complete dupe--I had gone along, following blindly, believing I was the only one. I had myself to blame for this. Myself, Anti-Thomas, and HER!
"YOU!" Before I knew what was happening I found myself looming over the tramp with my hand raised high a dark teal imprint upon her cheek. The look on her face was truly priceless, had I not been so overrun with fury I would have paused to savor the moment. "HOW DARE YOU! You could've had anyone! ANYONE! Why!"
Anyone who's experienced a completely shattered heart can tell you that no amount of rage or lust for vengeance can overcome the throbbing pain of betrayal and hopeless agony that takes hold. I'd become physically ill from my immense emotional pain, suddenly my energy was drained. I had nothing left, nothing I could use to hold back the tears that came streaming down my cheeks.
My voice cracked but I couldn't silence myself. "Why?" I repeated my whole body wracked with sobs, "Why Anti-Thomas? Why HIM!"
The wench just stared up at me from the ground, gingerly placing a hand over the sore imprint I'd left over half her face. And everyone else? Well they just looked on in stunned silence, even Anti-Thomas himself had nothing to say, didn't bother to budge an inch. I swear the silence was deafening!
Unable to take the pitiable stares a moment longer I fled from the stadium, not even remembering I could snap my way out. Once outside I collapsed in a heap against the wall and cried freely--rather noisily--into the poofy sleeves of my white sweater which hung halfway off one shoulder. My hair had fallen down, messily spread out over my shoulders. My long bangs were plastered to the sides of my face by hot tears. My cheeks were so flushed I most likely appeared feverish.
Finally after about five minutes of dampening my sweater I felt the presence of someone else hovering beside me. I knew that presence, recognized his shadow, I'd know it anywhere.
"What do you want?" the words were spat in a mixture of anger and sorrow.
"I figured I'd better come out here and ya know, explain things before that mob in there turned ugly and decided to lynch me." Anti-Thomas muttered as he nervously rubbed the back of his neck. A gesture I used to find cute but now couldn't stand the sight of.
"Old friends indeed." I felt my body tense, rage surfacing above my grief.
"Yeah, look, I never meant for any of that to happen it just...happened."
If looks could kill he'd have died a thousand times over in that instant. "What?"
Gulping he drew back, "We knew each other back in high school right? Well Anti-Heather and I kind of flirted back and forth some but nothing serious ever came out of it...until now. I guess it all started back during the training sessions. Around the time you spotted us in front of the gym."
"Why didn't you tell me then?" I demanded, "Why did you continue to string me along all this time!"
"I'm sorry," the words seemed more mechanical than sincere, "I didn't mean for this to happen. I thought it was just some harmless crush. Didn't know it was gonna grow into anything. And I didn't mean to--you know--hurt you."
"Well you certainly botched that up!" all traces of my grief were dissipating; the more he spoke the angrier I grew. None of his excuses, none of them made me feel an ounce better. All he'd brought upon me in coming out there was more grief, more self loathing, more rage.
"AD, look I know you're upset now but hey," his tone suggested he was trying to make light of the situation, it was the same tone he'd use when trying to convince me to 'lighten up', "it's not like we ever agreed to be exclusive."
A hard slap to his cheek, my second hit of the day, it was a much deserved punishment for toying with my emotions. I hadn't delivered enough force to knock him down but his head was spun away from me. At that point I was eager to see him 'turn the other cheek'...so I could slap it too. "You're a disgrace to anti-genies, and I'm a fool for not seeing that."
The words came out in such an unnervingly calm tone. But I knew if I didn't leave on that note I'd find myself weeping like a helpless child again. My nerves were frazzled, my emotions still on the rampage, I had to take that moment of brief composure and run with it. Though I hadn't the slightest idea where I was running to.
I didn't speak with Anti-Thomas again after that day. The last I saw of him was at our graduation late into the next morning. He had a bit of a bruise from the imprint I'd left, nothing that wouldn't completely fade from view in another day's time. Anti-Heather on the other hand still bore the teal colored mark upon her face, only after applying several layers of foundation was she able to make herself presentable for photographs. As for me, I didn't care. I appeared decent enough on the outside but inside I was a total wreck. I hadn't eaten, hadn't slept, hadn't done much of anything aside from locking myself in the bathroom and bawling my eyes out, muffling sobs with tissues and willing the pain to subside while my roommates stood outside the door muttering words of comfort.
At long last I had my wish-granting license. My lamp went into circulation on Earth and I began the career of a traditional anti-genie. Sometime shortly after I learned that my counterpart had managed to get her lamp confined to the magic realms (particularly Fairy World) due to a series of mishaps on Earth, to which she and genie Meg were primarily responsible. So my lamp was transferred to the magic realms as well.
Honestly it didn't matter where I went, who was my master, what wishes they willed me to grant/alter/undo. At the end of every job I would return to the vast emptiness of my neon green lamp and stare dejectedly out at the ominous bat wings protruding from the sides. So this is my life? Alone, miserable, and nursing an aching heart that won't fully heal?
"I can't believe you're going to go out with him again!"
"You do realize you just risked your enrollment to have a few cheap laughs with some over hyped athlete?"
Conversations from the past haunted my idle moments which grew to be long dreary weeks of nothing but solitude and contempt.
"See what happens when you cut loose and let yourself have a little fun?"
"Anti-Heather and me, we're just friends you know?"
How could I have let this happen? Why did I risk so much on something I held so little faith in?
"So you catch her putting moves on your boyfriend, the jerk doesn't brush her off, and you're still giving that cretin the time of day!"
"I just wanted so badly to believe him."
A fool, that's what I was. Just a hopeless, blind, trusting fool.
"Yeah, look, I never meant for any of that to happen it just...happened."
Yes, despite all the walls I'd built to guard myself against such a travesty it still wound up happening to me. He had made me feel like one in a million when in fact I actually one out of a million others he'd probably misled.
"And what about you Anti-Di? Were you planning on a life of loneliness? Brooding to yourself millennia from now, alone in your lamp, with maybe a half dozen cats for company?"
"With the deceptive tendencies of the heart you're better off that way. Trusting your happiness to love is like trusting your lamp to a clumsy juggler."
Maybe Anti-Meg was right? Out of all the people I'd ever known no one knew me half as well or had such a firm grasp of the world around her as Anti-Meg. Perhaps it was time to take her advice and give up on silly notions of true love and eternal happiness? To cease harboring a secret desire to find what so many went through life without. After all, solitude had its advantages, it's not as though a life without love would be empty. Perhaps, in its own way, it'd be fuller.
"The heart is a fragile thing. Both a hindrance and a weapon. And it is the only line of defense we have that will still work...even after it's been broken."
But how was I supposed take her advice when she kept contradicting herself? A sign Anti-Meg! I need a sign! This love business is becoming far too annoying. Just tell me what to do!
"Hm...annoying indeed, but very very powerful. To even stand a chance against his love magic you'd need a dose of hate from the Anti-Cupid."
"And I guess you could say that's where the light bulb clicked on and so--here I am." I finished with a sigh.
Curious I sat up and turned only to find Anti-Cupid chattering away on a cell phone not paying one iota of attention to my story.
"Excuse me!" I was quite indignant with the rude little anti-cherub, "Could you be any LESS professional? I'd wager you didn't even hear a single word I just said!"
"Oh please like you're that hard to figure out." Anti-Cupid yawned and cut his phone conversation short. "Boo-who my buff boyfriend left me for a mean spirited cheerleader with big pompoms and a tiny skirt! Lady, I hear it all the time!"
"Well I need you to DO something about it!" I shouted in despair, "I can't keep living this way! I haven't been able to put that blasted dolt from my mind for a single moment! I want my life back! I want to be rid of this!"
"Hn, that's the problem with these show-offy types who think they can get away with jugglin' too many hearts at once." Anti-Cupid remarked as if it were the most well-known fact in the world, "Sooner or later they're bound to slip up and drop 'em, breakin' hearts left and right."
"Whether out of lust or love I don't know nor do I care, he LIED to me. LIED! To me! Nothing could have prepared me for that mind blowing sight. I'm no saint but nothing comes to mind that would warrant putting me through such torture. The ingrate, the heartbreaker, the CAD! He had no reason to do that to me. NONE! And yet...there they were."
Anti-Cupid rolled his eyes and informed me I needn't worry my 'pretty little head' about the jerk any longer, in fact, I needn't worry about falling in love or suffering through a heartbreak ever again. Which of course, was exactly what I wanted to hear.
"Then..." I raised my gaze level with his and inquired uncertainly, "...you'll help me?"
"Heh, better than that toots, I'll CURE ya! And because I'm such a nice guy, I'll do it for free. Provided you're willing to help me test a little potion I've been itching to try..."
Anti-Cupid snapped his fingers and Anti-Twitter appeared carrying the jagged, flame adorned bow with a full supply of hate arrows freshly coated with Anti-Love Potion No. -9.
"Just think of it toots. One little prick with this arrow and you'll be free! Free of love and all its pointless misery forever!" Anti-Cupid exclaimed dramatically before turning to the array of newly prepared arsenal.
Picking up his bow he examined the bundle of arrows for a minute before selecting one and threading it through the bow. With one eye squinted he took aim and prepared to fire. "Now just hold still girly, no need to get your heart broken twice."
I began to tremble in place and was seriously considering calling the whole thing off. That's when it happened, a piercing pain in my chest, just below my left shoulder that seemed to burn its way through my flesh and spread to every cell of my body. I'd been hit, dead on, straight through the heart.
I stood there in shock for a moment before my powers drained and I collapsed, falling backward onto the cracked concrete floor. I laid there for a moment, trying to register what had just happened, what was happening now, when the pain would end and grant me the sweet relief I'd been promised.
A blackness, I suppose that's the best way to describe it, came over me then. That slightly more dominant evil within me grew to consume my entire being. Killing the good, blinding my conscience, feeding my greed, and flaming my hatred for any and everything--especially love.
Seconds later I was able to levitate and resume my hovering. My powers were back, but drastically changed, possibly even enhanced. I was different, never had I felt so in control of my black magic. Woe be the fool who crosses my path! Especially that no account, lying, pitiful excuse for an anti-genie, the sniveling cad Anti-Thomas!
My eyes widened, never--even after how much he'd hurt me--had I dared to think of him in such a hateful manner. And the urge to bite back bitter tears had at long last dissipated. "I'm...free?"
"You said it lady." Anti-Twitter smirked, "free of him, free of heartache, and free of love!"
"But," Anti-Cupid took great care to caution me, "I should warn ya that love, true love, is a pesky force to beat. In fact, I've yet to find a hate strong enough to bring it down for good. So if your counterpart finds herself goin' gah-gah over some guy you're gonna be back in the same boat again babe."
"Wh-What do you mean!" the prospect of going through all that heartache again was just...unbearable!
"I mean that magical creatures and their anti-selves tend to pair up with other counterparts no matter how different they may be. Take this future couple for example," he snapped his fingers and Anti-Twitter switched on a large broken heart monitor I'd failed to notice hanging in the back of the room. "The fairies Cosmo and Wanda. They don't know it yet but they're destined to be completely smitten with each other. Trust me, I've seen the 'love notes' my sappy double keeps on those two. Then there's Anti-Cosmo and Anti-Wanda, same scenario. Idiots and the poor slobs who'll fall for 'em. Cupid likes to keep things balanced out like that. So watch your back--or more importantly--watch Di's. And hey, let's not forget, there's still a genie version of Anti-Thomas out there somewhere."
"This is absolutely unfair!" I declared passionately, "Why should I be made to suffer for her naivety!"
"Them's the breaks doll face." Anti-Cupid replied without an ounce of remorse for my situation.
In exasperation I folded my arms and glared at chemical stained floor, "Love stinks!"
"Tell me about it." his smirk said it all, I was doomed, it was only a matter of time. Unless...
"Ya want my advice kitten?" I hardly expected him to offer so I merely nodded dumbly. "If it's a life of contented solitude you're after...stick it to that carefree double of yours."
"Are you saying I should eliminate my own counterpart?" I questioned more out of curiosity than repulsion.
"I'm just sayin' that what's good for you is bad for her, and vice versa." he replied mischievously wiggling his eyebrows. "That hate potion isn't just for anti-genies ya know?"
"Yes well, I'll have to take that under consideration then won't I?" I muttered thoughtfully.
"Great, now," he clasped his hands together signaling that our time was through, "session's over toots so don't let the painted-on door hit your rump on the way out!"
I considered slapping the ill-mannered brute but thought better of it. While I was easily twice his size he was still a god-class anti-cherub and I didn't fancy I'd be able to hold my own too well against him if I got him angered. So with an indignant "Hmph!" I left in a puff of green smoke.
The changes that took place following my dark enchantment were only to be expected. As one who has become consumed by hatred I find myself friendless and alone. Anti-Des now lives with Anti-Norm in his tackily decaled lamp, in my new frame of mind all I can think to add is that the poor wretches deserve each other. My once best friend Anti-Meg continues to masquerade in the traditional anti-genie role. She assumes she's saving Earth (the world her counterpart is confined to) from Meg's ever creative wish interpretations. I myself find that the carefree lifestyle of my peers is far too unruly, too undisciplined for my taste. The only joy I find now comes from the misery of others. Torment is my hobby, anguish my new best friend. Thus I've disguised myself as an anti-fairy and hidden all traces of my lamp so that none may ever command me again. I'm in charge now, my rouse will continue for as long as I desire. I first started my reign of terror as the strict vice principle of Anti-Carl Poofy Pants Anti-Fairy High. Now I reign supreme over the pathetic fools of the Anti-Fairy Academy. That's right, I'm the dean and there isn't a nerve I can't rattle, a fear I can't exploit, a punishment I won't dish out, or a ruthless scheme I won't concoct. Eventually all of Earth and Fairy World will be within my firm, authoritative grasp. And until then, Da Anti-Rules will be obeyed...or else.
So here I am, alone and standing at a crossroads just as before. Down one path lies a future of uncertainty. A future where I may again find myself walking over a bottomless pit where one wrong move, a careless glance, could spell disaster for me. And another path clearly marked safe...yet abandoned. A lonely trek through a selfish existence where neither chance nor heartache can find me. The toll? My cheerful, jovial lighter half, the genie Di. I've been standing here for quite some time now. Mulling my options over in my head. Weighing the pros and cons of each outcome. And yet I know that my time to decide is growing short, if I wait too long my laughing counterpart will choose for me, and the crucial matter will be entirely out of my hands. Is that what I want? Perhaps that's the point of all this deliberation? I'm merely stalling, hoping that eventually Di will make the choice I seem so ill suited to decide upon. But no, I cannot, will not trust my future to such an irresponsible child. Naive of the ways of the world, hiding behind a comedic mask and shrugging away from flirtatious advances. I'll do this myself and with utter disregard of what havoc it may wreak upon her life. Yes, I shall be the one who decides for us both. Love or hate? Companionship or solitude? Chance or safety? Someday...I'll decide. When I can make up my mind, and have my heart agree.