Even though Eve had been aware of what Charlotte and I were trying to accomplish for William, I found myself completely unable to tell her what had actually happened with our experiment.
Eve was pregnant again. Peter was upstairs in his crib babbling away—I could hear him on the baby monitor. He was supposed to be napping, the little scamp, but he rarely napped like a normal toddler should. How was I going to break it to Eve that my brother was going to come live with us and that he was actually not a grown man but a 11 year old boy?
Like pulling off a Band-aid, I just blurted out what happened in Charlotte’s house. I explained about William and his age reversal.
“I swear, honey, we thought he would be Charlotte’s age. His ghost had been a man! We didn’t know this was going to happen!”
Eve sat there stunned. Then she got up.
“Where is he now?” she asked.
“He’s with Charlotte. She and Tiffany are working on getting him proper documentation. We only have papers for a man. This really has thrown us for a loop.”
“Is he going to stay with Charlotte?”
I shrugged. “We hadn’t thought of it. We just assumed…”
“Well, you assumed wrong, didn’t you? You shouldn’t have been meddling with this type of thing. It’s wrong! I told you it was wrong.”
“I know, I know,” Eve sighed. “You wanted your brother to have a life. I get it. But something was bound to happen and this is it.”
“How could we have known this was going to happen?!”
“You couldn’t.” Eve sighed again. “I suppose he will have to live with us. Charlotte’s house isn’t suitable for kids. At least here he will have other children to play with.”
So William ended up living with us. Unfortunately, I could tell that William wasn’t comfortable with the situation. He retained all his memories of being a man. He’d gone to college with Charlotte. He’d had a job with me. Now he felt trapped in the skin of a pre-teen boy.
Eve and I both tried to help William adjust. We encouraged him to play with his new niece and his nephew.
“Peter knows who you are,” I whispered since we were in Mary’s room. “You should play with him. He doesn’t realize anything has changed with you Will. You’re still his ‘Unca’.”
“It’s not the same, Homer. I used to be able to pick him up and throw him over my head. He loved playing that game with me. Now I can’t even lift him over my head for long!”
“I know, but you can still play with him. Read to him. Talk to him. Tickle him. He loves being around you.”
“It’s not the same,” Will sighed.
Eve tried a different tactic to comfort William. “You should take this opportunity to go back to school,” Eve, ever the teacher, advised him.
“What would I do there?” William asked. “I went to college! I could have had a diploma if I wanted! You really expect me to go to elementary school and start over?”
“Yes. You don’t have to worry about the schooling,” Eve explained, “all you have to do is socialize. Imagine it! You can do all the things you wanted to do but were too afraid to do the first time you went to school. You have the unique perspective of hindsight to avoid all of the mistakes you might have made.”
“Great,” William grumbled, “I can go back and experience all of the awkwardness of adolescence but this time I can do things differently. That sounds like a crazy movie plot, but I think reality might not pan out like the movies always do.”
Eve and I really tried to make life good for William, but we couldn’t dispel his discontent. Tossing the football with my brother reminded me of when we were younger playing together. William seemed to feel the same way. But I knew things were different.
When he was younger, back before the boating accident, William had a wobbly toss. His throws used to veer off course and I would have to lurch to even catch them. Now, he throw the the precision of multiple practice sessions. When he was a ghost, he had gained a lot of athleticism that he had lacked as a child the first time. That grace and athleticism was still with him in this second incarnation.
“I can’t stand it anymore,” William said as he tossed me the ball as hard as his young arms could throw it. It sailed perfectly spiraling through the air and stung my fingers as I caught it.
“Is school really that bad?” I asked.
“Worse,” he grunted, catching the ball I tossed back. Despite the fact that he was a good athlete now, he was in a much younger body and he was still getting used to its limitations.
“Well, the fact that I seem to know everything gets on all the kids’ nerves. And the teachers all suspect me of cheating. I have no friends and no adult allies. It’s nerve-wracking!”
“Did you want friends?”
“I don’t know. What would I do with little kid friends? I don’t even know how to relate to them. I’m not a kid, Homer, and you know it. I might be in this body, but my mind is that of a man in his prime!”
I caught another angrily thrown ball. “What do you want me to do, Will?” I tossed it back.
“Fuck if I know!” William spiked the ball on the ground and it bounced away from us.
In the end, we decided to send William to Smugglesworth Prep school, the school that Charlotte had gone to as a child and teen.
Charlotte had been the one to suggest it. William called her and had a very similar conversation with her as he had with me. She reminded him how discontented she had been in regular schools. “I was always the smartest,” she reminded him.
“But just because I’m smart doesn’t mean I will fit in any better at a prep school,” William said. “I’ll still be a man in a kid’s body.”
“I know William, but at least at the prep school you’ll be around other kids who don’t fit in…who have minds more like adults than children. That’s what I loved about it when I went there,” she said. “Everyone was like me.”
After talking with his twin, William finally agreed to give Smugglesworth a try. “It’s not like I can change the fact that I’m not biologically 11,” he said as we waited for the limo the school provides as transportation to arrive. “I guess a new environment will help me adjust.”
“Use the time to figure out what you want to do,” Eve said. “Maybe you can find a new purpose. A focus that will help you anchor yourself in your physical body. You were formless for so long. Now you get to truly live.”
I went to Smugglesworth because I had no other choice. In all honesty, it wasn’t so bad. Charlotte was right that most of the kids there also thought like adults. The problem there was that while I was plenty intelligent, I just didn’t give a shit about science and academics. I liked sports. I’d always liked sports. No one at the stupid prep school could even throw a decent curve ball let alone run down the field and score a touch down.
To be honest, I just wasted my time there. I did the stupid homework since it was pretty easy. I socialized some, but not a lot. Mostly I just tossed a ball around or kicked my hacky sack out on the lawn.
Then one winter day I was out by the groundskeepers making a snow fort or something. None of the little nerds at my school even wanted to do something as lame as make a snow angel, so I was out there by myself. It was getting kinda dark, so I figured someone would be out to tell me it was time to go in. That’s when a this dark limo pulled up and a guy got out.
“Hello William,” the guy said. He looked at me from his shining eyes and I knew immediately what he was. Vampire. I started to back toward the school.
“How do you know my name?” I asked as I inched away. I hoped talking to him would allow me to get closer to the building in case he tried to feed from me or something.
The guy laughed. He threw his head back in a way that reminded me a bit of my dad or my brother Homer.
“My name is Malcolm,” he said. “Malcolm Fields.”
Oh shit. I knew that name. I hadn’t had much to do as a ghost, so I’d studied up on my family. Malcolm Fields had disappeared according to family lore. Some said he was running the entire city of Bridgeport. Others said he’d gone crazy after his brother died. Still others said he offed himself because of his own crazy mother, another one of my ancestors.
“What do you want?” I demanded, getting another foot or so closer to my goal.
“Why, you of course. I sent the books. I’m glad to see they worked, though not quite what was expected, eh?” He raised an eyebrow and I was again reminded of my dad or Homer.
“What do you want with me?”
“What else would I want with you?” he asked. “I want your blood. You have ambrosia in your blood. We believe that your blood will release the curse of being a vampire.”
“You can’t be serious!”
“I’m always serious.” Just then Malcolm pounced. I thought I would be fast enough to make it back to the school.
I was wrong.
I was working on researching a new project when my email box pinged. Since I rarely got any emails on my work account during the day and next to none at night, I decided to check it. This is what it said,
I decided I wanted to leave Smugglesworth. It’s just not for me. I’m smart, but I’m not a science nerd or some sort of computer whiz. I know I’m still in the body of a kid, but I want to remind you that I’m the same age as you are…in fact, I’m older by a whole minute. You are not the boss of me, and neither is Homer, no matter what he thinks!
I am not going to come back to Twinbrook. I met our long-time great uncle, Malcolm Fields while at school. I know you know who he is. I’ve decided to go back to Bridgeport with him.
No, I haven’t become a vampire! I know that’s what you are thinking. I’ve already lived a long time past my mortal life. I am going to live even longer thanks to the ambrosia you fed me. (And no, I’m not blaming you!) Trust me when I tell you that I have no desire to live forever.
Please don’t try to find me in Bridgeport. You and Homer both need to live your own lives. You’ve been consumed by my life for way too long. Go and adopt a child with Tiffany or just spoil the crap out of Homer’s kids. I don’t know what you want to do, but figure it out and go do it, ok?
I love you. You’re the best sister, even if you did bug the shit out of me all the time!