PART 7: GROUP CHEMISTRY
(Carrie Time Tracker: Links that will allow reading the story linearly from her perspective. We start here with Carrie-Event-“Zero”)
“Frank Dijora was looking at you again during class today,” Julie LaMille remarked to Carrie as the blonde sat down next to her on the cafeteria bench.
“Of all the nerve!” Carrie huffed in reply. “That geek is really starting to unnerve me, Julie. I mean, he’s never struck me as normal, but spying on my house from the ravine three times in the last week? Now this staring while he thinks I’m not paying attention? It’s almost like I’m being stalked!”
Julie brushed some of her long, naturally curly brown hair back off her shoulder as she leaned an elbow on the table. While her hair was not as long as Carrie’s, it still stretched partway down her back. “And you can’t figure out why he’s doing it? No one putting him up to it, and you’ve never led him on or anything?”
“Ha! He wishes!” Carrie snorted, absently stirring the cafeteria food around on her plate. “Trust me, I have no use for the biggest mental weirdo in school. He’s so straight I bet he wouldn’t even use last year’s evaluations to study for our math test tomorrow.”
“Indeed.” Julie tapped her chin. “And if you saw him in the ravine last night, he obviously didn’t heed your warning for him to mind his own business.” The corners of her mouth turned up. “I’d say he’s crossed the line. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Carrie blinked curiously for a moment until she realized where Julie was going with that. “Oh! Definitely. First time anyone’s done that this term, isn’t it,” she said, smiling. “Have anything in mind? Booby trap his locker? Hold his notes hostage? Public humiliation?”
Julie reached into her sweater vest and pulled her little black book out of a concealed pocket in her blouse. “We’re in grade 11 now. We should think bigger,” she mused, quickly scanning through it. “Looks like Frank Dijora’s in charge of the chemicals in the lab this week. We can make a strike against him there.”
“In charge of the chemicals? Wait, how do you know that?” Carrie asked. “You’re not part of any chemistry club. Uh, are you?”
“No, but Sue is,” Julie stated offhandedly, tucking her book away again and pressing the tips of her fingers together. “She still reports to me, you know.”
Carrie nodded. “Of course. What’s the plan then?”
“Leave it to me,” the brunette said airily. “I’ll work out the rest of the details tonight. Tomorrow, Frank will end up in a bit of trouble with his teachers and classmates, and we’ll have sent a stronger hint that he should back off. Before the weekend, I’m sure he’ll have seen reason.”
Carrie began to absently twirl some hair around her finger. “Right. But, chemicals? This sounds like it could be a tad more dangerous than what we’ve done in the past,” she pointed out to her friend.
“Oh, don’t worry, no one will get hurt,” Julie assured. “I’ll see to that. It’s about time we made a stronger example of someone is all. By the way, Kevin should be coming to the party tonight.”
“Really? Great!” Carrie declared, pushing her concerns back out of her mind. “You think if I flash him a little leg and a smile, I can con a free dinner out of him after the football game tomorrow?”
Julie smiled as she sipped at her milk. “I thought that a likely possibility. You know me, always looking out for my friends.”
“At least he’s known to have decent taste in food. That wrestler a few months ago had about as much culinary taste as our school cafeteria,” Carrie said, looking down at the soupy mixture on her plate once more. She finally grabbed her apple instead. “I think my new head cheerleader status will net me a higher class of dates this term too,” she added, taking a bite.
“Perhaps. After all, recognition and status do a lot for a person.”
“MmmHmm,” Carrie agreed. She swallowed. “Though it’s almost a shame, once you hit the top of the status ladder there’s nowhere left to go.”
Julie lifted up her glass by the rim, swirling the milk around slightly. “I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” she murmured.
“Never mind. Nothing you need to worry about,” Julie finished, smiling amiably before downing the remainder of her drink.
(Carrie Time Tracker option: Back to Part 1 … use that if you ended up here by following Young Carrie?)
“Is it Friday morning?”
Carrie peered out from under her blankets. “Oh boy,” she mumbled in reply to her own comment. Of course, she wasn’t exactly talking to herself… she was talking to some future version of herself. A future version who had just crawled in through her bedroom window.
Carrie really didn’t feel like dealing with this right now. Honestly, after all the time travel she’d been subjected to, culminating in being lost somewhere in the woods to catch the flu – why had this version come back to NOW?
For her part, the newly arrived Carrie simply dropped her time machine on the ground and pursed her lips. “Yes, of course it is, this is how things are supposed to go. And you don’t feel like dealing with this, I know,” she continued. “But we’ve got to prove a point to Frank.”
Carrie rubbed her eyes and tried to refocus on her counterpart. “Frank? Why? When?” she croaked out, discovering that her throat hurt.
“Nothing you need to worry about yet,” the time shifting Carrie replied, along with a cough of her own. “Suffice to say I’m taking your place at school today. You stay here and be sick and don’t let dad know.”
“Hnuh. You don’t sound completely healthy yet yourself,” the Carrie in her proper time fired back.
“Well, it’s only Sunday morning for me,” Carrie admitted.
“So why come back now then?” Carrie rasped in surprise, wincing slightly as she hauled herself upright and out of bed. “What’s wrong?”
Carrie paused, a mildly irritated look flickering across her face. “Was I really this inquisitive? I hope not. Would be more proof against Frank’s claims.”
Carrie leaned against her desk for support, wondering how to even address a future version of herself. “What are you talking about? WHAT is he claiming??”
“I think I was,” Carrie grumbled, brushing an errant strand of hair back off her ear. Her flu-ridden double opened her mouth to say something else, but Carrie quickly cut herself off. “Frank has these notions about time travel, and in particular about the possibility of changing the past,” she elaborated. “He’ll be able to explain better and in more detail I’m sure. Suffice to say, I’m here to change the past to show that it can be done.”
“Huh?” Carrie’s head was starting to throb again. “What part of the past? Why now?”
“Think, prior me! This is the most convenient time and place for a demonstration!” Carrie stated brusquely.
“But WHY–” She stopped. As the two Carries linked eyes, the present Carrie incarnation saw the pain in the eyes of her future counterpart. And she immediately knew what was at the heart of this discussion. “Mama…?”
The time traveling Carrie bit her lip and turned away. “She’s… she’s still gone. Our trip to the airport changed nothing.” Carrie clenched her fists. “So we’re going to show Frank that regardless of his theories, we CAN rewrite parts of history!”
One of the main problems with time travel, future Carrie reasoned as she biked to school, will be the way I keep bumping into myself. That had been awkward. Worse, the conversation with the prior version of herself had felt too familiar, lending more credence to Frank’s theory. After all, if everything was proceeding as Carrie remembered it happening, this must be the way things had happened two days ago. So could she conceivably change the way things had been if they were already unfolding as they had the first time?
‘I’m not going to let this drive me crazy,’ Carrie decided as she brought her bike to a stop outside the school. After all, there was probably some truth to Frank’s theories – or why else would he be thinking them – but surely things weren’t as quite as fixed as he thought. That was what she was here to prove. Dismounting, Carrie locked her bike up to the rack.
“Carrie! Where were you last night??” came a mildly irate voice. She turned to see Julie striding towards her.
Julie stared. “The party? My place? Kevin? Any of this sinking in? You were expected to make an appearance!”
“The party! My God, I completely–” Carrie cut off the rest of that phrase. Forget about Julie’s party? She’d be declared insane. “–wasn’t… feeling well,” she amended, coughing to illustrate. The coughing still came far too easily.
“Oh. You are looking a bit under the weather,” Julie admitted, looking at her a bit more closely. “You seemed fine yesterday though, what happened?”
“Oh, probably some 24 hour flu, it won’t last,” Carrie replied noncommittally. Except, she knew she would spend most of Friday and Saturday in bed. “…any longer than a couple days,” she hastily added. Should she consider travelling back a day to go to Julie’s party, to negate this conversation? No, things were already complicated enough.
Julie frowned. “You sure you’re all right?”
“Oh, yes, certainly.” Actually, now was the perfect time to make her little change to the past. “In fact, I was thinking about something we were saying last Thur– euh, yesterday.” Damn it. Restart. “Julie, remember talking about Frank yesterday, and how we should do something about him crossing the line?”
“Yes. What about it?” Julie inquired, giving her another funny look.
“Well,” Carrie said slowly, testing the situation, “Have you done much with that yet? I mean, could we maybe hold off on things until Monday?” Julie raised her eyebrows in reply. “I don’t know that I’m well enough to enjoy whatever it is today, you see,” Carrie continued, letting out another cough for explanation. Only belatedly remembering she’d just said she was all right.
Julie took Carrie’s arm and quickly led her away from the bike stand as another person rode up. “I’m questioning how well you feel myself,” she remarked, lowering her voice. “Regardless, no, we can’t postpone this. Frank is only in charge of the chemical cupboard this week. Plus I already called in a favour from Joe. Why, do you really want Frank to continue stalking you all through the weekend?”
“Oh! Well, no. But… okay, about the chemicals, what exactly do you have planned?” Carrie said. She now wondered if she maybe shouldn’t have been in such a rush to execute her plan. Retrieving more details from Frank before departing would have been helpful.
“Carrie, I assured you no one would get hurt,” Julie reminded, tossing some hair back over her shoulder. “There’s nothing to worry about, it’s just a slightly more elaborate prank than usual.”
“But… I’m curious. You know me,” Carrie pressed, trying to keep her tone nonchalant.
Julie narrowed her eyes slightly, peering back at Carrie for another couple of moments. Finally she shrugged, then glanced left and right. “Oh, very well, it does concern you after all.”
She smiled proudly. “See, Joe Drew’s also in Frank’s chem class and he happens to know which chemicals they’re going to need for an experiment today. I gave him a key to the lab’s storage cupboard and told him to mix the labels around a little bit – nothing dangerous obviously, they never let students handle dangerous stuff. But enough to make Frank look stupid, or at least careless. We then drop a hint Frank’s way as to the reason behind the mixup, and if he’s as smart as he seems I don’t think he’ll push the point with you any more.”
Carrie processed that. “So… you have a key to the chemical storage cupboard? When did you get that?” she asked in confusion.
“Sue was in charge of it last week. I got a copy from her,” Julie stated with a shrug. Carrie stared back at her friend. “Oh, come on Carrie, don’t look so surprised!” Julie chided. “Haven’t I always told you good things will come our way?
“Now, when we were mere Grade 9 students, all we could do was make ourselves known and gain respect from our elders. It wasn’t until last year that we started to ascend the status ladder, picking up the bright followers who could sense which way the tide was turning. It’s THIS year that we’ll really start getting into the good stuff! At last we’re in a position to take much firmer control of what’s going on in school,” Julie concluded, punctuating her final remark by clenching her fist and pulling it down dramatically.
“But… Julie, you’re part of the richest family in the area,” Carrie reminded. “If you want more control over what goes on in school, you can have your parents put a word in.”
Julie frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. “Not as satisfying.”
Carrie blinked. “It’s more satisfying to forge keys?”
“I didn’t forge keys!” Julie said haughtily. “As a member of the student council executive, I merely suggested to Sue that it might be a good idea to have an additional set of keys made for times of emergency. Moreover, that I should keep track of them so that they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Sue agreed. I may even get around to telling the rest of council about it eventually.”
Carrie felt her head starting to spin. Had Julie’s schemes always had such a complex basis? “And what’s the deal with Joe?”
“Joe wanted to be the captain of the chess club. And oddballs like Frank notwithstanding, I do have certain connections within the geek faction and can pull some strings… but why are you suddenly so concerned about this anyway??” Julie demanded, starting to tap her foot. “After all, we’re in the clear and everyone gets what’s coming to them, same as always. That’s what you care about, right?”
“Oh, well, sure,” Carrie asserted. She supposed that she hadn’t ever bothered paying close attention to Julie’s methods, so there was no way of knowing if this was a recent Grade 11 thing or not.
Come to think, why wasn’t she simply explaining to Julie about the time machine? Well… that could involve mentioning more about her mother than she’d care to – even Julie didn’t know about the Bermuda Triangle – plus something about Julie having knowledge of the machine bothered Carrie on a subconscious level.
Dissuading or even stalling her friend was turning out to be harder than Carrie had anticipated though. “But… you’re sure Frank can’t point the finger back at us when he learns who engineered it? This seems risky,” Carrie ventured.
Julie sniffed. “Hardly. Really Carrie, I thought you had more faith. In over two years at school here, have we ever been fingered for anything disreputable? There’s never concrete proof of our involvement. Even if Frank tries, I dare say the teachers wouldn’t be any more inclined to believe him over me. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Eruh…” Carrie floundered. Julie had thought everything out remarkably well! But… wait, Carrie didn’t have to delay things to prove her point about time travel. She could get away with changing the circumstances. “In that case, here’s another idea! How about instead of switching chemical jars, we actually remove one or two of them!” Carrie proposed.
One of Julie’s eyebrows shot up high onto her forehead. “What, THEFT?”
“Well…” Carrie paused, trying to think of exactly how to incorporate this. There had to be a way.
Julie cut into her thoughts. “I admire the audacity,” the brunette acknowledged. “But no good. Switching, while irresponsible, is subtle and explainable as Frank being distracted. Theft would take a bit more doing… and is a rather drastic first step, even given the geek’s attitude towards you.”
The first bell rang signifying five minutes until the start of classes. “Okay, wait, I… I don’t necessarily mean theft outright,” Carrie attempted to explain, the plan coming together in her mind.
“Tell me at lunch then,” Julie stated. “Chemistry isn’t until fourth period and we shouldn’t be late for our homeroom math test.”
“But…” Carrie froze. “Math test?”
Julie frowned again. “Carrie, maybe you should think about seeing a doctor. Seriously. You’re acting awful weird today.”
‘I certainly wouldn’t mind getting out of here – AND out of the math test,’ Carrie sighed to herself. ‘But now I have to make sure I’m around to talk to Julie at lunch. Agh!’ “I… I’ll be fine. Let’s go,” Carrie stated rubbing her forehead.
It was worse than she’d imagined. These upper level math tests were hard enough when you actually spent time going over your notes. By Carrie’s perspective, she hadn’t looked at function notation for several days. This did not bode well: her B- average could well slip into the C range. All because she’d come here to change time as an example for Frank.
Carrie glanced over at his seat to see him writing. She wondered if he had any clue as to what was in store for him that afternoon. Probably not, if he was anything like the boy she’d spent time with two years ago.
Looking back at her test paper in annoyance, Carrie scribbled a couple of figures onto her page. The way things were going, Frank might still get in trouble for something today too. Honestly, that alone was starting to bother her, which in turn annoyed her even more. After all, back in the woods, she had resolved to pay more attention to the things she did, right? And it wasn’t Frank’s fault that she’d interfered in his past, indirectly making him more interested in her at this point in time.
Carrie stopped, gripping her pencil harder. Wait a minute. At this point in time, Frank had NO IDEA what was going to happen to him today… so would he realize when she changed things? All she’d confirmed in the future (that was, her present) was that something weird had happened during chemistry class. And now she was no longer postponing it.
So would Frank remember what had originally happened in Julie’s plan as well as Carrie’s change? Or was there a chance he’d only remember Carrie’s change and think she was lying about Julie’s original plan?
Carrie’s mouth went dry. Damn, this time travelling was still a lot more complicated than it had any right to be. She looked back over at Frank’s desk again. He was looking back at her. She froze up again, and for the first time that year at school, their gazes locked together for several seconds. He seemed uncertain.
Ultimately, Carrie pulled her head back down to her test paper, feeling embarrassed over having been caught. She’d better concentrate on the test now, and figure out the time stuff next period. There had to be a way to ensure that she had proof for him!
At the back of the class, the only observer of the brief interchange between Frank and Carrie was a young asian girl. She had relatively short hair, though it was long enough to be pulled back into two small ponytails. Their classmate blinked a couple of times in surprise, looking from Frank to Carrie and back. She then shook her head slightly, and returned attention to her own test paper. Less than thirty seconds later, three more of her math problems had been solved without so much as a glance at her calculator.
(Carrie Time Tracker: To Carrie-5)