It was just past 4pm on a Friday and Rhonda had followed me home from school to stay the weekend. We're both students at the only public school in the county, and with my house just a block away and hers outside of the town's borders we often spent our free time at my place. She spends more time in my room than I do myself, really. My mom sometimes jokes that Rhonda should just bunk up with me since she's practically living with us anyway.
The sun's light was shining into the room from the rectangular window in the West wall, reflecting off of the mirror over the dresser, and illuminated Rhonda's face in a way that made her curious statement and worried look all the more daunting. There was a light in her eyes that wasn't supposed to be there and I wasn't sure if the sunlight was the only reason for it.
"What are you talking about, Rho-Rho?", I wondered, lifting my left hand up to shield my eyes from the sunlight trying to blind me. "I thought we were doing calculus?"
Rhonda looked down in sudden embarrassment and her hands dropped to her lap to fidget. "I... I dunno? I guess I just need to talk about it to someone? And you, er... You're my best friend, Jo. You know that, right?" She looked up with a hopeful expression at that and I dropped my pencil on the table and reached out to hold her hands in mine.
"You know I am. Rho and Jo forever. We made that promise when we were like ten." I smiled, and saw her lips move into a thankful smile as well before her face darkened again.
"You can't tell anyone, ok?", she asked with a light tone of fear to her voice, and I nodded.
"You know I keep your secrets safe, hun. Now will you spill it already so we can finish our homework assignments before dinner?", I joked, nudging her side with a wink, but Rhonda looked down at our hands in her lap and seemed to need a moment to steel herself. "Rho? It's ok. Whatever it is, it's ok. You know that. You can tell me anything," I tried, moving my right hand up to lift her chin a bit and make her see my smile, hoping to help her relax.
Rhonda tried to look away as I did, but then her eyes locked with mine and her shoulders dropped in defeat. "I'm growing a tail."
I blinked as my thoughts ground to a halt. "A... tail?"
"I'm growing a tail, Jo. I don't know why or how... I just... it's," Rhonda continued, breaking away from me and standing up. "Don't laugh, ok? Don't. Just... Look at it!", she exclaimed, pulling her long brown sweater up to reveal a bundled up collection of purple hairs just above her hip-hugging jeans. Where her tail bone would be.
I stared at it for a moment, then blinked and stared at it again. I don't think I moved in the time it took for my mind to come to the realization that something - a tail or a ball of hairs of some sort of twine or whatever it was - was stuck to my dearest friend's back.
I found myself reaching out with my left hand to touch it, and it moved when I did! I could see the muscles underneath Rhonda's skin contract as it did as well! I backed away immediately as it did, putting my hands to my mouth and trying to come to terms with the impossibility of it: Humans didn't grow tails! It was evolutionary impossible! Or so our biology teachers had told us, right?
"Jo?", Rhonda wondered, looking back at me and quickly hiding her tail from sight again as she saw my shocked expression. "I... I'm sorry, I shouldn't have bothered you with this. I just... I don't know what to do with this," she muttered, falling down on her knees beside me and looking up in great worry.
I brought my hands up from my mouth to rub heavily at my temples, trying to get my thoughts organized. I was trying to figure out how that tail could have come into existence. Evolution? Magic? Religious retribution for the pranks we played in the past? Even if I was more of the instigator in those and Rhonda just followed along?
"Jo? Are you mad at me?"
I quickly snapped out of it at that question and reached down to grab Rhonda's head with both hands, leaning in to press a kiss on top of her head. "Never. I'll never be mad at you. When have I ever been mad at you, Rho-Rho? I just... how... er... I don't..." I pulled back again and my confusion must have been clear enough to be felt from miles away.
"I don't know how! It just started as some small pains and then the hairs started growing. And they kept growing! Every day they just got longer and longer... I don't know what to do about them! And I feel it... I felt you touching it. I felt it twitch... I don't know what it means," Rhonda whimpered, tears forming in her eyes.
I slipped off of my chair and wrapped my dear friend in a tight embrace, feeling her shudder against me as she started to cry, gently rubbing her upper back while we sat like that. "It's ok, you're still you. Nothing changed. Let's find out together, ok? We can go to the library and look up what could have been the cause? Or just look it up online if dad ever stops playing his silly games."
Rhonda sniffled and poked my side. "Your dad."
I snickered at my own mistake. "Right, MY dad. Sorry. You're just the closest thing I have to a sister, Rho-Rho. And we'll deal with it as sisters if you want. We got all weekend, right?"
I felt her head bob up and down as she tried to compose herself again, her hand moving up behind my back to rub at her face. "You're still the same girl I played hopscotch with back in elementary. I'm never going to abandon you. And I won't tell anyone about it. Cross my heart and hope to die," I moved back a little and crossed a finger over my heart with Rhonda smiling up weakly and mouthing the second part of the sentence with me, "stick a cupcake in my eye!" and we both covered an eye with an open hand while laughing at the craziness of it all.
It was a silly little thing we picked up from a show we watch every Saturday; My Little Pony. I never really got into the old series since they were far too childish for my tastes. But the new series that started back in 2010? Friendship is Magic? Rhonda and me watched that so often that we memorized almost every episode of it.
The mane six - Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy - were kicking ass while looking cute and had decent stories written around them to boot!
"You know, come to think of it," I started, motioning for Rhonda to turn around and watching her faithfully follow my suggestions. She really was too much of a follower. "Lift your sweater again?" She did, and I stared at the way she'd used several hair bands to make a bundle of hair. "Would you mind if I untangle this, Rho?"
She looked back with a painful expression. "Please be careful if you do? I keep pulling the hairs out whenever I try to."
"That's because you're working behind your back, silly. I can actually see what I'm doing," I chuckled, and she relaxed a little more. "Ok, let me find a comb first."
I gently slapped the back of Rhonda's head at that. "Why do you know my room so much better than I do?" I got up and picked the comb and a hairbrush from the top drawer of the dresser, then moved back to where Rhonda was still sitting on the floor and looked down at her.
"You know, this may work better if you lay down on the bed," I realized, and helped her off of the ground. "Higher work area and all that. And you can just let me do my thing while you watch ponies or something."
"Didn't we see that yesterday?", I asked, but Rhonda immediately put up her puppy eyes at me. "You know that doesn't work on me, but sure," I sighed, dropping the comb and brush on the bed and walking over to the television to put the right disc in.
"You just lay down while, er, it's not still in the tray is it? Oh, yes it is," I sighed and went through the menus to find the right episode, pressed play, and walked back with the remote still in my hands to drop down on the bed beside Rhonda. "You ok, Rho-Rho?", I asked, and she nodded slowly while focusing on the television more than on me.
I smirked and turned to face the bundle of knotted-up hairs and carefully started to undo them while the title song to the series played in the background. "They're not exactly purple, though," I mumbled, trying to find the right word for the color of the hairs as they got untangled from the multicolored hair bands.
It didn't look like there was much hair to begin with, but as the knot started to get unraveled the hairs got longer and longer. When I finally got the last hairs freed up I had a bundle of hair in my hands that I could wrap both my hands around and still have it stick out. The hairs stuck to the hair bands were of similar length and were straightening themselves out on the bed beside Rhonda.
"It's more of a fuchsia?", I commented, looking at the strands as I grabbed the brush and gently combed through them.
"Isn't that purple?", Rhonda wondered, looking up from the end credits and blushing lightly. "That feels nice, Josey."
"It's pink, actually. How does it feel exactly? A bit like when I brush your hair?", I asked, taking my time with her tail.
"I think they're technically my hairs as well, Jo," Rhonda remarked, and I smirked.
"We could just start referring to your hair as your mane. This looks like a pony's tail," I rebutted, and Rhonda went pale. "Just relax, Rho-Rho. There's a lot of knots in this. How long have you had them bundled up like that?"
"It started last week after I came home from watching the rerun of 'It's About Time'."
"So six days ago. But they couldn't have been this long back then?", I reasoned, putting the brush aside and taking the comb to a particularly nasty patch of hair that just wouldn't come loose with the brush.
Rhonda sighed and buried her face in the pillow she was lying on. I could barely make out her mumbling into the fabric. "Tuesday."
I looked at the hairs and tried to judge their growing speed. Six days. Two hands and a bit. About nine or ten inches, or around 25 centimeters to keep my math teacher happy, so a growth rate of about one-and-a-half inch per day. And my math teacher can do the metric conversion on that if he so badly wants it. "So you've just been adding hair band after hair band whenever it got too long to keep in place otherwise?"
Rhonda nodded and looked back at me with a painful expression. "I couldn't let anyone see it! You know why."
"Rho-Rho, those movies aren't real. They're not going to lock you up and experiment on you," I sighed, finally freeing up the hairs I was working on and combing through the entire length of her tail without encountering more issues. "That's about it then. Shall we put a little bow around it?" I winked and Rhonda's face turned beet-red.
"Don't you dare, Jo! Don't joke about it!", she exclaimed, turning her body to move her tail away from me and flicking it in the process. I raised an eyebrow at that, then poked Rho's side.
"I'm not judging you, silly. But I'm still getting to terms with this as well, ok? You're the one with the tail, but I vowed to protect you back when David and his "gang" tried to make you into their designated victim. Remember? I'm wondering how we can keep you from feeling uncomfortable while also hiding your tail. Or at least making it seem like a fashion accessory. Maybe I could start wearing a belt with a fake tail attached to it and we could act as if we're just starting a new trend?"
Rhonda bit her lower lip at that while she pulled herself into a little ball on the bed. "I never asked for this."
I reached out and gently stroked a hand through her hair. The ones on her head, that is. "I know. But we're in this together. I'll always be there for you." I smiled down at her and she gave a weak smile back, reaching up to grab my hand in hers.
"Kids! Dinner!", my mom called from downstairs, and we both looked up at the door before looking at each other again.
"Ok, so, let's get you one of my baggy pants and we'll tuck the hairs in there for now?", I offered, and got up to get them when Rhonda's hand stopped me.
"Let me?" she asked, moving to get off of the bed herself.
I blinked back at her but dropped back to sit on the edge of the bed at her insisting gaze. "Er, sure?"
"You wouldn't know where to find them anyway," Rhonda joked, flicking her tail at me as she walked away. I'm not sure if she did so consciously or unconsciously, but it was too cute a move for me to be able to come up with a reply.
She walked over to my "walk-in closet", which was basically just a door with a foot of shelf space behind it, the shelves removed to allow me to hang up my jackets and dresses on one side and stack up boxes with shoes and out-of-season clothing on the other side.
As she rummaged through the boxes, half bent over, her tail was flicking idly this way or that, happily using its newfound freedom to show itself off like a diva on stage. It was almost hypnotic to look at.
Rhonda finally found the right box and pulled some baggy slacks from it before turning to return to the bed. Seeing me stare at her with a blush on my cheeks sent her own cheeks ablaze and she quickly raised the pants up to hide her face with. "What?"
I grinned and pointed behind her at her tail flicking restlessly. "That tail makes you look so incredibly cute, Rho," I couldn't help saying to tease her, "you have no idea."
Rhonda threw the pants at me with a frown. "No fair joking around it. You have no idea what it feels like. It just keeps twitching," she muttered, taking off her jeans and throwing them my way for good measure as well. I held out the baggy pants she threw at me and got up from the bed, moving behind her to help her tuck the hairs down in them so they would stay out of sight from my parents, then gave her a soft hug.
"I'm actually kind of jealous of you, Rho-Rho. That tail just looks like the ultimate fashion accessory. If we ever find out how this happened to you, I may need to get myself one as well." I winked at her and turned for the door. "Want to go ahead so I can watch your rear?"
Rhonda winced at that. "If you keep saying stuff like that your mom is going to think we're lesbians, you know?"
I shrugged at that and looked away at a random corner of my room. "Better that than having her try to marry me to yet another dumb jock who happens to be her colleague's son. Erf. Frederick was so..."
"So not you?" Rhonda giggled softly, passing by me onto the landing.
"Exactly!", I exclaimed, throwing my hands up in the air before following behind and closing the door behind us.
I didn't notice it back then.
I attributed the shimmer in the center of my room to the sun's rays as it dropped down after another successful day of warming up the region.
It looked similar to the shimmer you see over the streets on a warm day; The distortion shown over any hot surface.
The strangest thing about it, the thing my brain immediately threw out as being just my imagination, was that it was shaped like a pony.