The Mandela Effect: Part 20
Aubrey Adkins | Will Grant
Two Days Before the Arlaaekan Invasion
A suburb of Columbus, OH
Will and I finally pulled up into the driveway of my parents’ house. After I turned off the ignition, both of us sat there for a few moments. I leaned my head back against my chair’s headrest and I started to rub my forehead with my hand.
“Are you feeling okay?” Will asked, as he could tell something was off. “Is it your power nullifier?” “Oh, I’ll be fine once we get inside. Considering the punishment I have received as a superhero, I think I can handle a little nausea.”
“You should have told me sooner. I would have drove instead,” Will told me. “Hey, we got here in one piece, didn’t we? Everything is fine.”
After this little exchange, we exited the rental car and pulled our luggage out from the trunk. We dragged our suitcases to the front door and I then rung the doorbell. For a few seconds, we stood there on my parent’s front porch. Since neither of my parents had answered the door by then, I started to dig through the black hole that was my purse as I searched for the spare key to the door. However, before I could find the key, we heard the door’s bolt click and the door swung open.
Standing in the doorway was my mother. For as far back as I could remember, people have always said that I looked like a younger, split image of hers. Well, this was at least the case until I had that run-in with that metahuman trafficker, who ‘blessed’ me with the physique of a comic book heroine. I guess we can still say that we resemble one another from the neck up.
“I’m so sorry it took me so long to get the door!” my mother apologized, “I was just starting dinner and your dad was out back doing some yard work. But please, come in!”
But before I could step foot inside, my mom noticed that something was wrong, just as any mom would when their kid was sick.
“Sweetie, are you feeling okay? You look a little green,” my mom asked as she pressed the back of her hand against my forehead. “I appreciate the concern, mom, but I’ll be fine. It has just been a long day.”
“Alright, but if you’re still feeling under the weather, we probably have some Advil or something that might help.”
After my mom had finished worrying about me, Will and I both then entered my parents’ home. Since the stairs heading upstairs were to the right, Will and I left our luggage next to the steps and then followed my mother down the hallway and towards the kitchen. My mother hurried to the sliding door to the backyard and hollered to my dad, letting him know that we had arrived. She then checked the oven before turning her attention back to us.
“Thank you for letting me stay over, Mrs. Adkins. I know my parents really appreciated it,” Will told my mom in an attempt to break the ice.
“Oh, we’re just so thankful that our Aubrey could come home, even if it is for only a few days.”
At that moment, my father finally made his appearance, as he slid open the backyard door and came inside. Since he had been working in the yard, dirt coated the casual pair of athletic shorts and gray t-shirt. I wasn’t surprised at all when I saw he was wearing one of the football t-shirts from the high school he coached at. Before coming in, he removed his shoes so he wouldn’t track soil through the house.
“How’s my little bee?” My dad said as he welcomed me home. However, as his pet nickname for me had slipped out of his lips, my dad paused for a moment. “Wait, can I still call you that since spiders aren’t bugs?”
“Brian!” My mom snapped as she heard my dad say the word ‘spider’. As I had just recently revealed my powers to my parents, they now also had to be careful about what they said about me.
“What?” My dad asked in response. You could tell from his expression that the cogs were turning in his head, trying to figure out what he had done wrong.
“We don’t know if her boyfriend knows about—” my mom paused as she thought about what she was about to say, especially since she just had criticized dad about potentially revealing my superpowers, “—what makes Aubrey so
special.” “Mom, he already knows.”
The tension in the room immediately melted away. My mom gave a sigh of relief when she heard me say that they didn’t just screw up. My dad’s reaction, on the other hand, was quite different, as he pumped his fist, as if he had not done anything wrong. I just rolled my eyes. “Since dinner isn’t ready yet, why don’t I show Will where he’ll be sleeping,”
I suggested as an excuse so I could turn off my power nullifier while not in front of my parents. Sure, they do know about my powers, but I kind of want to ease them into it.
“In the guest bedroom,” my dad sternly told me. “I’m not in high school any—”
“Don’t make me repeat myself, Aubrey Rose,” my dad replied, “Our rules under our roof.”
“And we already have made up the guest room just for Will,” my mom interjected to get a more calmer voice into the conversation. “Fine,”
I relented, not that I had much of a choice, “Let’s go see the guest room.”
“And there will be no crawling on the ceiling,” my dad called out to me as Will and I headed back towards the stairs where we had left our luggage when we had first entered my parents’ house. “Else, you’ll be using your spider powers to give the ceiling a new coat of paint to cover any footprints!”
At the top of the stairs, there were a set of doors that led into a “bonus” room that acted as an additional living room: the perfect place to watch sports or a movie. A hallway stretched out away from this bonus room, with my parent’s room sitting at the end. The guest room just happened to be the first door after the bonus room. The decor of this room was pretty beige and neutral: pretty much a hotel room. “You don’t mind me changing into something a bit more comfortable than this dress while you unpack?”
Will nodded. He was about ready to walk into the room, dragging his suitcase behind him, but I spoke up again. “Before I go, could you give a hand and unzip the back of this dress?”
As I left Will behind, I continued towards my bedroom. I passed the bathroom that I had to share with my brother up until I left for college. I love my brother, but thank God I don’t have to share one with him any more (although some of the girls I shared a dorm with my first two years weren’t any better).
Once I was in my old bedroom, I tossed my suitcase onto my bed and pulled out a pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt. After I had changed and threw my hair into a ponytail with a leftover hair tie I found on my nightstand, I began unloading the rest of my suitcase. When I was almost finished, I heard a knock at my door. “Yes?”
I had expected either of my parents to be at my door, but when I saw Will peak his head through the ajar door, I just rolled my eyes. “Will, you don’t need to knock,”
I told him with a chuckle.
“Hey, I didn’t know if you were done changing. I would rather not walk in on you while you’re in some degree of undress, especially with your parents being around.” “And that’s total BS,”
I half-jokingly, half-seriously told my boyfriend. Honestly, he was the type of person to be bashful about this sort of thing. Yet, considering my current profession and what had happened between us when my alt-world self was in the driver seat of my body, there was some evidence for me to call shenanigans. “So, how does my room live up to your expectations?”
I asked Will. My room, however, was a shell of what it had been back when I actually lived in it. Just like when you finally move out of your parents’ house, and not just going off to college, the room looked plundered of many of my personal items, as I had obviously taken them with me out west. Sure, my shelves still displayed some sports trophies I had earned all the way up to high school and there were some old photos from my teen years sitting on my dresser and desk. However, I couldn’t help feel like there was a kind of blandness with the room, as I had taken with me everything else that would have made it my own.
“Um—,” Will muttered as he considered his answer and looked around at my room, “I’ll be honest, I never really thought about it. But considering I’ve seen how your apartment looks, I’m kind of surprised this is so tidy.” “Hey!”
I retorted when I heard Will mention how much I keep my apartment decluttered (or lack thereof). But I’m not that
bad. Sure, I might leave some clothes lying around in my bedroom, but it’s not like I clutter the rest of my apartment with my laundry! I then picked up one of the pillows from my bed and hurled it at Will. As it was a fluffy, soft pillow, the impact wasn’t anything serious, although it was definitely worth it to see the shocked expression on Will’s face after he realized he was just beamed by a pillow.
After Will tossed the pillow back onto my bed, he noticed a large basket in the corner of my bedroom filled to the brim with stuffed animal plushies. While there was a good variety of animals in this herd of plushies, a good number of them were bunnies, including one especially worn and loved bunny sitting on top of the pile. Before he could make a remark about them or walk closer to the basket, I spoke up first. “I would have taken a few of them with me, but, considering I’m a superhero, something will eventually go boom and I don’t want them to be unfortunate casualties.”
“Then it’s probably safe to assume this one was your favorite when you were a kid?” Will guessed as he picked up the ‘well-loved’ black and white bunny from the top of the pile and tossed it over to me. “What gave you that idea?”
I replied with a smile on my face as I caught little Oreo in my hands.
“Oh, I have a turtle stuffed animal from my childhood who’s in a similar condition.” “I would bet they’re going to be best friends some time.”
“I’m sure they will.”
I then set Oreo down right in front of my pillow before I grabbed my empty suitcase and tossed it into my closet. Now that my luggage was fully unpacked, I turned around and leaned up against the frame of my closet’s door. “Anyways, wanna see a cool trick?”
“You’re not going to do anything to get me in trouble, are you?” “What? Don’t let my parents get into your head. This is something I think you’ll really dig.”
I then double tapped my power nullifier and deactivated it. Almost immediately my lower began to morph back into its drideresque state, However, unlike the many times I had done this before, instead of my clothes no longer fitting because my arachnid shape, my yoga pants expanded and took on a new form to accommodate my eight spider legs and the rest of my spider body. As this transformation happened, I watched as Will stood there, stunned. Yet the expression on his face showed a piqued curiosity rather than fear or concern. “So, what do you think?”
I struck a pose as I spoke those words.
“Utterly speechless. Athena’s work, I presume?” “What makes you think that? The fact these yoga pants fit my spider half like a glove? As much as she can really drive me crazy, she did do a grand job,”
Obviously Athena didn’t do this unprompted, though. After I complained enough that switching between my human and drider forms while wearing my normal clothes, especially when I needed to change unexpectedly, was quite a hassle, Athena finally caved to my complaints and worked her magic on some of my clothes as a test. Some turned out better than expected, such as these yoga pants, as they’re form-fitting. Others weren’t as successful. The pair of jeans we tested on were just too stiff and restrictive for my arachnid physique. I would have mentioned this to Will sooner, but all the parallel universe craziness had distracted me.
“Sounds like you’re feeling better already,” Will suggested. My healing factor sure is nice sometimes. Often I just have to turn off my power nullifier for a few minutes to dispel the nausea. “I’d feel even better if you would come over here and give my shoulders a massage. It feels like someone tangled up a bunch of cords into an impossible knot and shoved them into my shoulders,”
I told my boyfriend. I patted the top of my spider thorax, to indicate to him to hop on to give him better access to my back.
Will paused after he heard my suggestion. He glanced back at the door to my bedroom and took care to shut it without it making any noise. I could understand his hesitation: it would be a bit awkward for my parents to walk in on us while he was sitting on the back of my spider half. Nonetheless, after he had shut the door, he followed through with my request. I crawled onto my bed and rested my spider half on the mattress. Once I had taken a spot on my bed, Will then climbed up on my spider thorax.
“Wow, you really weren’t kidding about these knots,” Will said as he began to rub my shoulders. “Considering the day I had, it’s a miracle there aren’t more.”
“I thought meeting your parents went pretty well,” Will suggested, “although I don’t know whether I should be relieved or offended that your parents are more worried about you
getting handsy with me and not the other way around.” “Oh, it started way before that.” “First, it was the flight here. Although my power nullifier hasn’t failed me yet, the crammed rows of an airplane would be the worst place for a failure to happen. Even if we were to ignore the part where I would be essentially outed, I don’t even want to image what would have happened if all of this would have spontaneously appeared.”
As I spoke, I gestured to the entirety of my spider half.
“I actually hadn’t considered that possibility,” Will admitted, still rubbing my shoulders. “Maybe on the way home we should give you the aisle seat.” “Yes, that would help so much to fix the situation,”
I sarcastically retorted.
“Hey, it was just a thought!” “Next, we had to meet your folks first. Will, I mean this in the most loving way possible, but I am never driving with your mom again.”
“Hey, I did try to warn you that she’s the queen of backseat drivers, but no, you wanted to show off.” “I was trying to give off a good impression. But dear God, I would rather face some wacky supervillains than her.”
“Well, if it’s any consolation to you, it will be a couple decades before we have to take her driver’s license away. Plus, I think she likes you, especially since, and I’m quoting her here, I’m dating a ‘good Catholic girl.’” “Really?”
I said as I cranked my head around to look back at Will. “More like a ‘good Catholic girl,’ whose head is stuck to a porn star’s body, who’s still trying to dress like a ‘good Catholic girl.’ And she doesn’t know about the whole spider thing. So there's that.”
“Hey, give yourself a little more credit! You’re beautiful just the way you are, eight legs and all,” Will snapped back. He then reached over my shoulder and planted a kiss on my cheek.
“Anything else besides introducing me to your parents?” Will then asked. “Well—”
I said with a smirk on my face, which was still turned towards Will. “I have been heaving these humongous girls around all day. They sure haven’t been helping out my back.”
“Oh, what a terrible curse you have, having a cup size big enough to wear as a hat, yet still being able to fit into a size zero dress,” Will teased while still focusing on my shoulders. “I know, right?”
I said half-jokingly. “You saw the bullshit I have to put up with when we went to find me some new clothes.”
“I’ll admit, even I started to feel the pain. Felt like you went through hundreds of outfits before you actually found something that fit well.”
Will then continued to massage my shoulders. We just needed a little ‘us’ time, you know. After being crammed into that plane with a bunch of strangers, then thrown to the wolves with Will’s folks, and then finally seeing my parents, there’s just only so much more you can take. And a little shoulder massage was just what the doctor ordered.
“Aubrey, Will, dinner is ready,” we suddenly heard my mother say from the other side of my bedroom door after she had lightly knocked on the door. “We’ll be right down,”
I hollered. At that very moment, Will had, probably by accident, found a sweet spot on the back of my shoulders. “Oh, that’s the perfect spot. Keep rubbing it right there.”
“Sweetie, is everything alright in there?” My mom asked from the other side of the door. There was a momentary pause before she uttered those words. The tone of her voice made me think she was suspicious of us doing exactly what they told us not
to do. Well, technically they didn’t say anything about not having sex. They just said we were going to be sleeping in separate bedrooms and I shouldn’t be crawling into Will bedroom during the middle of the night. So they just insinuated it.
And I'm not sure why I did what I was about to do here. Maybe it was the bitterness I had from my parents treating me like I was still a teenager. Or I might have wanted to see if my mom really thought Will and I were 'getting busy' right under my parents nose at the first opportunity we had. No matter the reason, what happened is what happened. “Mom, I won’t come in if I were you,”
I called out, “Will is caressing my boobs so gently and sensually.”
“What are you doing?” Will hissed in a whisper into my ear. He began to slow down how fast and how much pressure he was rubbing my shoulders. “Hush! I got this under control,”
I whispered back. Now was the time for my best attempt at an acting performance. “I think...he’s going...to make...me...oh God—”
I gasped as those last words escaped my lips. At that same moment, I no longer felt Will’s hands massaging my shoulders, although they were still planted square on my shoulders. For a second, he shifted his position on the back of my spider half, as if he were planning on diving off my back whenever my bedroom door would undoubtedly be swung open. Yet, he seemed frozen in place out of embarrassment and fear.
If my dad had been on the other side of that door, he probably would have crashed through the door and rushed in. Luckily, it was my mom. Instead, she creaked open the door, almost as if she were afraid of what she would see on the other side of the door. Once the door had been cracked open enough for her to stick her head through the opening, she finally discovered that I was pulling her leg. Her face gave off an expression of relief, although I could still detect a little bit of discomfort from my uncanny arachnid appearance. Even though I had told my parents about my secret identity, this was the first time she had seen me without my power nullifier activated. Although she clearly was trying, I knew it was going to take time for her to get used to the idea of a good portion of her little girl was now basically a giant spider. “Wow, I can’t believe you actually thought we were doing that. Have a little faith in us, mom!”
I said with a coil smile on my face.
“I want the record to clearly show that my hands are definitely on her shoulders
,” Will interjected with a sheepish voice to highlight his innocence. I could feel his hands ever so slightly shake as they still grasped at my shoulders.
“What? I wasn’t insinuating you were doing anything like that,” my mom tried to defend herself, but the tone of her voice betrayed her, indicating quite the opposite. “Really, mom? Really?”
“Anyways,” my mom tried to change the subject, “dinner is ready.” “We heard the first time, mom. We’ll be done in a second.”
“I had not thought about it until now, but do we need to find something for you to sit on at the table?” my mom asked, obviously referring to my drider half. “Oh, this band I have allows me to look normal whenever I want. So I don’t need any special accommodations.”
“It wouldn’t be any trouble for you dad to carry over a bench or stool over to the table. You don’t have to hide yourself in front of us,” my mom said, although I could see in her eyes a discomfort at the giant spider body attached to my waist. “No, no, it will be simpler this way.”
“Alright,” my mom finally relented, “but don’t take too long, else your dinner will get cold.”
With that said, my mother exited my room and, presumably, went back to the dining room. Once she was gone, Will and I began to laugh a little at what had just transpired, although his was more of a nervous laugh. “I won’t lie, but that expression on my mom’s face was priceless.”
“I can’t believe she fell for that,” Will replied as he hopped off the back of my spider half and sat next to me on my bed, “What you were saying was so ridiculous that I don’t know how anyone could believe that could ever happen.” “Oh, you little spring chicken,”
I said before planting a quick kiss on his check.
“Wait, what?” Will asked when he heard my reply. He wore a confused expression on his face as he tried to figure out what I meant. “Well, I’m going to need a couple more minutes so I don’t see my dinner a second time tonight, but why don’t you head down now?”
I purposefully ignored answering Will’s question as he started to push him off of my bed and towards the door.
“Wait, Aubrey. You can’t leave me without an explanation,” Will protested and in vain resisted my attempts to push him out of the room. “I’ll explain it the next time we want to go to the beach,”
I whispered into his ear as I finally managed to force Will outside of my bedroom door.
“But, Aubrey, you still haven’t cleared anything up,” he said as I closed the bedroom door on him. “Aubrey? Aubrey?!?”
I just ignored his pleas and instead tossed myself back onto my bed and sprawled out on it. I reached out and grabbed Oreo, who had been lying on my bed and pulled it into my arms. For a few more minutes, I just rested there on my bed, staring at the ceiling. No supervillains to worry about, not world ending cataclysms. Just a little break from all the superheroic craziness that had become my life, if one would call seeing one’s own parents and your boyfriend’s folk a vacation.
It was definitely good to be home.