7

Alex rose from her bed unwillingly, groggy from a rough night's sleep. It was the night after her latest encounter with Harlem King and she'd kept awaking every few hours, frantically trying to remember details of her childhood that kept cropping up inside her head while she slept. It's amazing - or either, terrifying - how much she had forgotten already, or at least the amount she could remember she'd forgotten.

A new, foggy image echoed in her dreams like a nightmare. A haunting new memory that, for some reason, she felt a sharp pain in her heart everytime she thought of it, though she could not link it to herself in any way. The dream showed a tall, thin brunette woman in her early thirties, her face ashen with a fierce betrayal that stabbed Alex's heart, leaving it throbbing. This woman seemed familiar, though she'd never met her in her life, and Alex felt close to her somehow, like deja vu or something.

Alex shuddered and walked down the stairs and into the family room to see Justin watching television, alone.

"Hey," she said quietly, sitting next to him on her favourite spot. "Whatcha watching?" She gave him a small smile to let him know not to ask why she looked so... lonely?

"Oh," he started, turning to her and then looking back at the screen. "I dunno, I can't really concentrate." He looked over at her quickly again.

She blushed, realizing what he unintentionally implied.

"Mm," she assented, blinking at the screen. She looked over at him after a moment to see him staring at her, face flushed. He snapped out of his reverie and she cleared her throat, turning back to the screen. It seemed, after his comment, she could no longer concentrate on the screen either so she tucked her legs underneath her and twisted toward him.

"Justin?" she asked tentatively, her thick eyelashes cascading shadows down her round cheeks as she played with the loose string on her t-shirt nervously. She looked so beautiful in that moment that Justin couldn't help but be struck silent.

He tried to talk normally but his voice came out too high and odd. "Yea-" He coughed. "Yeah?"

Without looking up, she said, "Do you know a Harper Finkle?"

Harper, Harper Finkle, Harper... The name twisted around in his head, sounding familiar.

Then it clicked. "I think I do, yeah. Why, do you know her from somewhere?" He tilted his head to one side.

Alex looked up. "Yeah, er.. camp." she said, trying to sound believable.

"So you know her?" she asked him, her voice too eager.

"Oh, yeah." he said, wondering why she seemed so interested. "I could give you her number if you wanted? She's always leaving it places." He raised his eyebrows at this, looking elsewhere, and Alex almost laughed aloud because he obviously liked her dork of a bestfriend no better in this life than in the last.

"She's a bit odd, y'know. Are you sure you want it?" he said, cocking his head to the side, disbelieving.

"Yeah." Alex said with a grin. "We go way back."

And with that, she went back upstairs and got dressed, ready to put phase one into action.

The first step to her oh-so-brilliant plan was to get her life as close to "back to normal" as possible. She might be able to stop herself from forgetting her family but she could think of no way to remember her friendship with Harper without actually becoming her friend again. The natural way. It shouldn't be too hard, she reasoned, when they'd first met it had been Harper who was most enthusiastic about their friendship. Why should she turn Alex away now? According to Justin, she hadn't changed at all. A wide grin flashed across her face and she rushed back downstairs.

"Hey Justin, do you happen to know where Harper hangs out? I think I'd rather surprise her. In person, y'know?" she said with an easy grin.

"Oh," Justin said, once again stumped by her enthusiasm for the strange girl. "Well, it's about time for school, so she'll be there."

Oh, Alex realised suddenly. She'd almost forgotten school. Then she almost laughed, of course she'd forgotten school.

"You could come if you want? They're always letting kids from other towns come visit. All you have to do is get a pass from the office and your good for the day." Justin offered.

"Sure, sounds great." Alex grinned at him.

An hour later, 8 o'clock to be exact, they made their way through the school hallways and Alex departed from Justin to get a visiters pass. He'd offered to show her the way but she brushed him off, assuring him she would find her way. She opened the doors of the too-familiar office - she'd been here many times before in her previous life - and stepped up to the front desk confidently.

She cleared her throat and spoke. "Hello, I'd like to get a visiter's pass - er - please?" she said awkwardly, hating to be so formal.

The old, decaying woman squinted up at her, obviously in a foul mood. "Guidance office." she said shortly, pointing to her left.

Disgruntled, Alex walked off. She knocked tentatively.

"Come in," a voice called.

Alex entered the room slowly, peering around at the familiar walls and biting her lip. Looking at the kind young woman behind the desk, she felt strange. For some abnormal reason, she couldn't place her name - to think of the millions of times she'd been in this very room to discuss her behaviour, and she couldn't even remember the woman's name. She refused to look at her name tag to help herself remember...

A memory - or memories - pretty much jumbled into one in her head, even in her past life - called to her. It showed the same woman, her pretty features curved in as she let out her dissapointment on the careless teen sitting opposite her. It was one of the many times she'd been called down here to discuss "her future". But still, she couldn't place a name... and she felt angry at herself.

"Hello," the woman said brightly. "How may I help you?"

Alex merely looked at the woman for a stretched out moment and then spoke, breaking out of her stupor. "I - need a visiter's pass." she said awkwardly, looking down at her hands.

"Alright. And what is your name?" the woman continued, pulling open a drawer. The contents created a racket and Alex sat down in the room's only other chair.

"Alex.. Gomez." she replied after a moment's hesitation. "I'm staying with the Russo family. You may know him, Justin Russo?"

The woman looked up, looking ecstatic. "Oh, why yes I do know Justin. He's one of my favourite students. He sometimes helps out with the drama program, where I volunteer a few times a week. Such a sweet kid." she said, almost admirably.

"Yeah, yeah, he's great.." Alex muttered, smiling down. It was funny, no matter what sort of life she had.. she would always be compared to Justin - related or not, he would always be the better person...

"So, I'm going to ask you a few questions and then I'll give you one of these -" She held up a sticker with the word 'visiter' typed in bold. "- with your name on it, and you'll wear this for today. Will you be transferring here as well, Miss Gomez?" she inquired, studying Alex.

For a moment, Alex's mind looked further into the future then she'd ever looked - because she'd always lived for today - and she thought that eventually the Russo's would expect this of her. She wouldn't be able to live with them forever without doing something with her life. "Well, er, yes. Soon, I expect." she replied, turning away.

"Great." The woman smiled brightly like she would like nothing better than for Alex to be here, at her school, even though she had not given the best first impression and Alex was reminded painfully of Harper. "Alright," she started, clicking her pen and reading from the form in her hands. "First name? Alex. Surname? Gomez... Reason for visit?" She looked up at Alex, waiting.

"Oh, um, just.. checking out the school, you know." she lied evasively.

The counsellour scribbled on the paper and a few minutes later Alex was cleared to go with her name tag stuck on her t-shirt visibly. She wandered down the familiar halls until she ended up outside, wandering the playground she'd pretty much deserted since fifth grade. A small figure was sitting on a step in the distance, and Alex followed the silhouette, curious.

Once she got close enough, a familiar tuft of red locks came into view underneath a dull, mismatched baseball cap. A moment's hesitation made her see why the sight seemed so odd... And she stepped back, examining her used-to-be best friend from a distance again. She was not donning any of her usual odd hairdoes, or her normal for her but abnormal outifts. She looked... completely normal? A shudder of unease passed through Alex and she moved no closer.

Looking closely, Alex could see her hair tied back messily into a ponytail that was almost invisible behind the uncharacter-like hat. This was insanity; this was Harper Finkle for God's sake! What was going on with the world!

This may have seemed like an exaggerated reaction but it wasn't just Harper's appearance that stumped her - she understood Harper better than anyone, and something just wasn't right...

Finally able to move, Alex strode forward, pretending to be casual, and stepped in front of her.

Harper hadn't noticed.

"Hi," Alex said quietly, brightly.

Harper started. First she lost her balance slightly and almost fell on her backside, then she sat up straight in order to see her more clearly. She was looking at her strangely, like she was uncertain still that she was actually speaking to her, although there was very clearly no one around and Alex was standing right in front of her.

"Hello," she spoke, as if it were a question.

Alex smiled greatfully. "I'm Alex."

Checking behind her, she responded timidly, still sounding confused, "Harper."

A pause in conversation left Alex feeling uncertain about things - she was never one for making friends easily...

"Why are you talking to me?" Harper blurted out suddenly, higher than what Alex had grown used to in the last minute. "Did you and Gigi cook this up, is that what this is? Because I know what she's been doing, sending those notes to Justin Russo and pretending their from me!" she finished indignantly, but after a moment her voice faltered.

Alex had stepped back, in a state of shock, and confusion too. "What? I -" she started.

But Harper was almost close to tears now and Alex could do nothing but stand and watch her try to swipe them away with no such luck.

"Just leave me alone." Harper mumbled around her hands that were gripping the edges of her hat so that it concealed her face.

And suddenly, Alex came to a realization. This morning, when Justin mentioned Harper's odd quirks, she saw it as a sign that her best friend was the same as always.. But she'd been wrong. So wrong. Harper had always been eccentric to an extreme but she'd never been too good at standing up for herself. Could it be that, without the influence of Alex's assured confidence and originality, Harper had become like this? So fragile, lonely, and so afraid to be herself?

Alex drew a shaky breath, wondering to herself why everything had to turn so serious whenever she got anywhere close to happy. "I don't know a Gigi, sorry, I only just got into town. I do know a Justin though. Do you know him?" Alex said, with just the right amount of concern.

Harper looked up, her hurt eyes widening. She looked down at her herself, her face burning, and she seemed too aware of the tears that had stained her cheeks.

"His last name is Russo?" Alex prompted.

Slowly, Harper nodded.

"Oh." Alex tried on a smile. "Well, I live with them now, you see. I'll be going here soon."

Even more slowly, Harper came out of her embarassment and spoke. "Oh.." was all she said.

"So, I don't know many people - any, actually - and your the only one I've met that I seem to have anything in common with, so..." Alex's voice trailed off when Harper looked her up and down, from her trendy skinny jeans to her voluptuous curls, and she looked doubtful.

"So, maybe we could hang out?" Alex asked, nervous for the first time speaking to Harper.

Harper still look doubtful, and she considered the offer for a moment. A few minutes passed and suddenly Harper`s face went red. She got up at once, mumbling a quick, "Sorry, but no thanks," and brushed past Alex.

Alex watched her go, sitting in the spot Harper had just vacated, feeling lost even in such a familiar place. The entire world was starting to feel so like a stranger as she discovered one more person she`d lost to the Time-Turning spell...

Alex didn`t know how long she sat there, mourning the loss of her bestfriend, but eventually she went back inside to find Justin. The bell was ringing and she was glad she wouldn`t have to spend much more time here in this place.

...

Step two.

Alex rushed to her "borrowed" room and grabbed a spare notebook from the near-empty drawers. If she forgot this then all hope of ever remembering would be lost. Hastily, she scribbled down the spell she'd used only twice before, Please please, tell me now; Is there something I should know? Deranium Derani.

She placed the notebook and framed picture back inside the drawer.

She could feel her memories dripping away, leaking until they were gone for good and she was eager to wallow in them as long as they lasted.

Alex stared at the page for hours, willing it to be permenantly lodged into her memory. For she was scared in the morning, she would not remember this moment as it was. It would just be a confusing reminder that she had forgotten something important, she would never remember what...

She walked slowly to her bed, feeling drained, and lay down facing the desk. Perhaps if she woke up this way then she would be drawn to the spot where her note and photograph lay hidden. She would remember it eventually, she reasoned.

Alex just kept her eyes open and staring, almost afraid to close them in case she drifted off. There was a numb feeling in her gut because the next few days would bring only confusion and loss. She could feel the worry and down right fear creeping closer to her heart. She eventually let the pain take her and finally, after days of holding it in, lay there and cry. Crying for Justin who was no longer her brother, crying for her family that was no longer her family, crying for Harper who she, it seemed, would never know, and crying for life in general because it just plain sucked.

...

Long time no chapter, huh? I kind of gave up on this story, just because these last few chapters have been difficult to finish but I might pick it up again. Possibly..
Anyway, the spell she uses if you can remember is from the episode "Night of the Lazerama" - i think you can figure out what it will be used for.
xxo, Please review :)