10

A certain New England writer was finally at peace with the world. After writing numerous short little subjects with the Jason and Ashley Russell characters, his creations were slowly becoming real through the creative talents at Orion Studios. He had been present when Mikayla was there to practice with the wirework. Using a counterbalance for her weight, the stunt men had her climbing up a wall for the highlights of what was going to be the movie's scariest and most intense scenes. They had her hanging and standing upside down from ceilings, doing mid-air cartwheels and extensive physical activities for the mystical fight scenes with Chad Dylan Cooper playing her brother Jason. She loved every moment of it, but when it came to her demonic transformation in the movie, she sided with William that she did not want prosthetic appliances to her face to make her look inhuman. The special effects team wanted her to look more and more demonic as her character degenerated into a demon, but William's original vision was that contact lenses, subtle make-up and lighting tricks with strange camera angles could be used to make her look sinister. Not only that, but the studio could save much more money without having to create and throw away numerous prosthetic appliances.

On his way home, he took a cab down to Battery Park where a helicopter would take him to his flight to Boston. Unfortunately, the way down Lexington was impeded by traffic and his cab ride was re-routed over to Waverly. Sitting in the backseat, he checked his messages on his cell phone and tried calling his mother, but she didn't seem available. In the front seat, Aswang Obadji tried paying attention to the traffic and the lights as he indulged in small talk with the screenwriter in his cab with his heavy Sudanese accent.

"So, Stephen King, do you know him?"

"I've met him, but we're not on a first name basis." William confessed.

"How about…" Aswang tried to think of another famous writer. "Oh, that, uh… what's her name? Oh, J.K. Rowling! I really love her stuff."

"No, I've never met her." William grinned from the attention. "But I do know William Collins, the horror writer. We talk a lot on Twitter."

"He's good, but I like his fantasy stuff a lot more." Aswang noticed the red light turn green and started driving forward. "So, do you ever wonder if all that magic stuff could be real?"

"I wonder about it all the time." William looked up toward the dark nighttime sky through the sunroof of the cab then casually looked to his left. The green and light tan sign for Waverly Place Sub Sandwich had caught his interest for some reason and sparked a reaction. He had never been to Lower Manhattan before and, yet, he felt he'd seen it before. The place was lit up with lights, customers sitting inside and coming in and out. The bright green neon lights read "Sandwiches, Salads and Snacks." How did he know this place, and why did he feel he had been here before?

"Driver, could you pull over?" He asked Obadji. Looking at the fare, he pulled on a twenty and a ten from his wallet and grabbed his knapsack at his feet.

"Want me to wait?" Aswang took the tip.

"No, I'm good…" Somehow, William Russo felt he'd been here before, but only in his dreams, and even then, he knew it as Mystical Burgers and Sodas. His pack tossed over his shoulder, he stepped from the cab into the cold night air and stood before the sandwich shop. It shouldn't exist, and yet, here it was.

"Oh my god…." William Russo came wandering into the sub shop. "This is so surreal." He came in through the doors and turned around admiring the sub shop. The blue green walls, the benches to the right of the entry, the raised platform in the corner to the second entrance… he'd seen in all before in his dreams. He'd been here in his dreams along with Ashley Russell. As a teenager himself, he and Jason Russell would race up and down the circular staircase to the apartment upstairs. Maxine would hide under the tables trying to scare him. He had been here before alright, but only in his dreams… To find this place existed in the real world was more than he could imagine. He wondered if he'd find Ashley waiting for him in a nice dress. Would Terri Russell invite him for dinner? Would Larry Russell indulge him with a few magic tricks? Looking up casually from cleaning a table, Justin looked up briefly then again, freezing in place upon seeing him. Turning around with a big grin, he and William locked eyes on each other.

"Justin?" William recalled him. "Oh my God… You're here? You live in Manhattan?"

"Uh…."

"Justin, I can't read your mother's…" In the window to the kitchen, Jerry tried reading another order by Theresa and locked eyes on William then ducked down to hide out of view.

"Mr. Smith?" William recognized Justin's father, scoffed out of disbelief and looked around the five customers in the shop. "What's going on here?"

"Heh, uh, wow…" To Justin, this was almost as bad as getting busted as a wizard. "Uh, Mr. Russo, there is a very logical reason for all of this." He made an awkward face. "I just need to figure out what it is…." He looked to his father for help.

"Forget it, Alex…" Theresa was coming down from the loft above the shop from the circular staircase with Alex and Harper behind her. Harper had dyed her hair dark like Alex's hair, but that was not what the argument was about. "You're not going back to the Dolphin to shave Mikayla's head." She didn't look ahead of her in the shop. "I don't care if she's playing you in a movie, you've just got to…" She finally looked up stunned and shocked to William Russo standing in the middle of the shop. Jerry and Justin started freaking out. She has just basically announced to William that Alex and Harper were the people in his dreams. Maybe, just maybe, he didn't hear that part….

"Excuse me?" William stood there grinning. Behind him, Justin started having a panic attack and stopped to check his pulse and heartbeat. Jerry felt as if he was having a stroke on top of a heart attack.

"I-I-I…." Theresa stood before the writer. "I've… You… You're William Russo! I'd know you anywhere!" She saw Alex's face in him and a bit of Jerry and her brother Ernesto. Although Alex had forgotten everything about the future and her connection to William, Justin had told the truth to her and Jerry. Before Theresa, she recognized her grown grandson.

"Yes, I am…" William felt a strange bond to these people. "Do we know each other?"

"Yes…yes, we do…" Jerry calmed and got over his shock as Justin hyperventilated into a paper bag. "William, I'm going to tell you the truth!"

"Dad!" Alex freaked.

"Alex, catch me…" Harper started swooning about to faint, but instead, it was Justin who hit the floor. Everyone looked to him on the floor as two customers ignored the drama and ate their sandwiches.

"No, I'm telling him the truth." Jerry walked out and faced down his twenty-two year old grandson. "William, we didn't visit you because of your success as a writer." He looked to Theresa cringing, and Alex and Harper covering up their faces in terror. "We did it because…" He paused. William looked at him.

"I'm your Uncle Jerry Russo!" Jerry finally forced the lie. "Your father was my brother, Thomas Russo!"

"That's it!" Justin hopped up off the floor. "That's it! I just had to meet you, Uncle William!" Justin faked some sincerity. "Welcome to Waverly Place!" He turned overly dramatic.

"William!" Theresa caught her breath and hugged the writer. "Welcome home, son!"

"But my mother said my father's name was Justin…." William commented.

"Justin Thomas Russo…" Jerry lied again. "Or Thomas Justin Russo… he never liked his first name. He went by the name Justin his whole life before… we lost him." Jerry and the family paused for a fake moment of respect. "Did your mother ever tell you how he died?"

"Yeah, " William looked to his new relatives. "With the 11th Marine Infantry in the Gulf War…" He told the story his mother had told him and everyone pretended to recall the solemn incident with another moment of peace. "But why didn't just tell me…."

"Well, would have believed us?" Justin took up the rest of the lie. "I mean…" He was rationalizing like crazy. "You had just become famous… we didn't want you think all we wanted was your money."

"That's it!" Alex confirmed it as Max came out of the lair behind the shop kitchen. Harper was quickly explaining the lie to Max. The young wizard scowled a bit and tried to understand it.

"But there's isn't a Thomas…" Max cried out and Alex and Harper suddenly tackled him and dragged him into the kitchen again.

"What'd he say?" William asked.

"Oh, uh, Max is too young to have known your dad!" Theresa added a bit more to their cover story then looked back to William. "William, it is so great to finally meet you!" She hugged him again.

"You sure are a very hugging family."

"Uncle William!" Max now got it and came to meet the new screenwriter in the family. Alex stood behind her brother and placed her hand to her head in embarrassment. If there was a way to overdo anything, Max was going to find it. "Can I ask you a question? If you was on a train heading to Hollywood at forty miles an hour from Nashville, and Alex was traveling to Hollywood on a train fifty miles an hour from…."

"Go! Go!" Theresa pulled Max back and shooed him away from William. The family had just perpetuated the biggest lie to cover up their wizard heritage, and yet, no one felt bad about it. They all felt warm and fuzzy about it. It was a really odd feeling for them. They really weren't that loving of a family; they looked after each other and covered up their feelings, but no one ever really shared their emotions. When Alex forced herself to give her older relative a hug, she felt a twinge of memories trying to come back to her. She felt something stronger as her heart started pounded a bit more. It wasn't like she was attracted to him; it was as if there was a bond there that she should have remembered. Why couldn't she remember it? She hugged him platonically and then started briefly pulling away before doing it right a second time. A strange tear dropped down her face. Why was she feeling this way?

"Justin…" Jerry had an inkling of what was happening and turned to his son. "Are you sure Miranda removed all those memories of the future from Alex?" Jerry whispered to his son.

"Positive." Justin guessed. "Maybe it's just a residual feeling…" He theorized. "Maybe the emotions to them stayed behind but not the memories…" They looked back as Alex pushed herself away from her new relation.

"Wow…" William grinned to his new cousin. "Usually only my mom hugs me like that."

"I'm sorry…" Alex's pulled her hair back demurely and disconcerted. "I don't know why I did that." She drifted backward confused and befuddled. What was wrong with her?

"William, honey…" Theresa broke the awkward moment. "If you're not in a hurry, I'd love to have you stay and tell me about yourself."

"I'd like that." The writer grinned again and checked his watch. "I'm supposed to catch a fight to Boston, but I can take a later flight. So…" He paused as Theresa guided him to a booth. "Do you have any photos of my father? You know, my mother lost all of hers…"

"Yeah, sure…. Somewhere…." Theresa shot a look to Jerry who looked to Justin. Max meanwhile was heading to talk to his new relative.

"Hey, Uncle William…" Max headed over. "Do you like gladiator movies?"

"Photos?" Justin freaked again in secret. "Photos?"

"There's a spell to fake photos." Jerry whispered back as another customer entered the shop. "I'll teach it to you later."

"What's Miranda going to do when she learns what we did?"

"I'll cross that bridge when I get to it!" Jerry looked back as Theresa told William about her family and she had met him. Alex as still feeling awkward and retreated to the kitchen in the sandwich shop to try and figure out what was wrong with her. She stood by the sink area trying to understand why she wasn't distressed? What happened yesterday when she and Justin confronted her? If William was Justin's son, then why did she have deeper feelings for him? What happened to her yesterday?

"Alex…" The novelty of meeting a screenwriter had worn off, and Harper now felt concerned over her best friend. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, why wouldn't I?" Alex tried to be hard and difficult again. "I mean… so my new cousin is really my nephew from the future…" She looked out to him. "It's not like I care, it's just…" She paused. "Harper, why do I care about him?"

"Well…" Harper nervously risked telling her the truth again. "I don't know… I mean, it's not like I was there when Miranda told you and Justin the truth about him."

"Yeah…" Alex stole a fresh mushroom from the sandwich making area as her father came in to make a sandwich for the new customer. "I mean… you'd always tell me the truth, right?"

"Right." Harper shared a nervous glance with Alex's father. "Speaking of the truth, uh, you wouldn't mind if I didn't go to Disneyland with you and your family?"

Alex stood waiting for the reason behind the change of plans.

"Well," Harper hemmed and hedged a bit as Jerry finished the sandwich, wrapped it and scooped mashed potatoes and Cole slaw for the waiting customer. "You know the other day when you were hiding in the lair during the photo shoot from Mikayla?" She continued. "Well, Mikayla and I started talking, and as it turns out, we both seem to have a lot in common as friends."

"As friends?" Alex couldn't accept it. "You're friends with Mikayla now?"

"Yeah…" Harper confessed. "She even offered me the role of Maxine in "Witchcraft." She revealed a bit excited and played with her new long and straightened dark locks. "I'm going to be playing Max as a girl!"

"I don't see it…" Max had entered the kitchen on his way to the lair, but instead, he walked around Harper checking her out in her new dark hair and looking her over as the female version of him. He stopped and looked her in the eyes. "How far can you spit off a bridge?"

"I can hold my own."

"How much more bizarre can this get?" Alex asked herself. Out in the shop, William Russo was describing his youth to Theresa, and Jerry was taking another order for another customer. Justin started cleaning tables and putting up chairs to get ready for closing. It was Max's turn to mop the floor tonight. As Justin came out of the subway car extension in the front of the building, he heard the doors of the shop. They seemed to get a lot of customers toward this time, but this person he knew. He recognized the figure, the long dark hair and boots.

"Hey, Justin…"

"Miranda!" Justin recognized her. She was young and eighteen again, dressed in a white blouse with a leather jacket and blue jeans, her long dark hair cascading down over her shoulders, but was it really her or was she just young again? She reached and hugged him with a kiss to the cheek.

"I'm in town visiting my grandmother and thought I come see what you were up." She told him. "So, I hear you're dating someone named Juliet."

"Yeah…." Justin looked back to his parents. "But we're sort of… separated now." He put a twist on the truth.

"So, you want to do something?" Miranda asked.

Justin looked back to his dad.

"Sure…" He got a silent gesture of permission from his father. "Dad, I'll be back later." He gestured behind him as he went out the door. Jerry waved at him knowing he was going to behave himself. Coming out of the kitchen, Alex just brooded at the counter looked to her fake cousin trying to get away and then back to her brother and that girl through the side windows heading left past the door toward the square. The ingredients of the future were briefly united if but still separated by circumstance.

"Justin, I love my new school!" Miranda pulled Justin close as they passed the hardware store. "It's so much nicer than Tribeca Prep. There's this girl there named Sabrina Borden who claims to be a witch. She says she can teach me a few spells."

"A few spells?" Justin realized that's how it must have started with her. "Are you sure you want to get into something like that?"

"Justin, it's not like it's…." She stopped and looked over to Waverly Presbyterian Church then paused a bit distracted. "That's weird, I thought I just saw someone who looked like my Aunt Connie." They stopped and looked over to the church. The gated enclosure was empty, the lights within the chapel illuminating the grounds, a secondary light lighting up the bulletin board out front. As the two teens continued onward to the arcade, a shadow moved and fifty-three year old Miranda Russo stepped out adorned in a long black dress. She looked to her younger counterpart heading off with Justin.

"That's it, girl…" She mumbled under breath. "Just like it happened the first time…. Only this time do it right…"

END