Make sure you've read all the chapters before this so you know what happens! Start with Tesseract, then Neverwas, then Bailiwick, then Portmanteau, then Demesne.
Scent Notes: Tart black cherries, expensive vanilla, Egyptian musk.
Mandy sighed. For one infinitesimal second, everything was right in the world. She smiled, her heart full to bursting. Her whole family was together, in the correct universe. The tears fell from her eyes without her even knowing they had started, but before she could even wipe her face, the doorbell rang. “No. No more people. I don’t want any other people in our house right now,” Mandy said, charging to the front door. “Why are you acting so strangely?” her mom called out behind her. Mandy ignored her and peered out the peephole. Nobody was there. She let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding, and turned to walk back to her family. “It’s okay, nothing to worry about,” she called out to her parents and sisters, who were staring at her. “I just didn’t want anything to interrupt our family time! We hardly….” Before she could finish her thought, the doorbell rang again. “NO!” Mandy cried out, not bothering to look out the peephole this time. She wrenched the door open, started yelling at whoever could possibly be standing there, interrupting this extremely important moment in her life. She’d literally just finished traveling through different universes trying to put her family back together, and she’d succeeded. She discovered she was part-goddess, that she could travel through time and space, that her sisters had psychic powers, that her own rage was a gift of sorts. But right now, that rage was burning hot. All she wanted was time with her family, whatever version of this family was in her house with her at this moment in time. She was going to let loose on whoever was daring to interrupt this. The door flung open and she cried out: “WHAT IN THE HELL COULD YOU….” And then her anger abruptly flooded out of her body, replaced by shock. It was Jackson. Jackson was here. In this … whatever. This home. He was standing in front of her, looking as shocked as she felt. Though this Jackson appeared to maybe be her age this time, not a few years older. But it was definitely him. “Language, Mandy!” she heard her mom yell from the kitchen. Mandy and Jackson just stared at each other for a few seconds before Jackson apparently found his voice.
“Uh, hi, is it Mandy?” he asked. She nodded, wondering how he could have possibly forgotten her name. She’d just seen him! “Hey, uh, my name is Jack. My family just moved in a couple houses down from you, and my mom asked me to drop off some cookies to all the neighbors, so….” His voice trailed off as he stared at her gorgeous curls. “Wow, you have amazing hair.” Mandy felt her face flush immediately, so she looked down and saw that he was holding a big plate of what looked to be homemade chocolate chip cookies. “Oh, those look amazing,” she said as the twins ran up and pushed her aside. “We heard there are cookies,” Amy said, as Allie snagged the plate out of Jack’s hands. “Thank you!” they yelled as they took off back to the kitchen to show off the tasty treats. “Ooooh, cookies!” she heard her dad cry out. Then he started to sing a song about cookies, so Mandy closed the door and stood on the porch with Jack. She leaned against the door, trying to look aloof and effortless. He smiled at her; she smiled back, awkwardly, still feeling the heat in her face. “Thanks for the cookies,” she mumbled. “That was really nice of you and your mom.” “Yeah, well, it was all her. I’m just the delivery guy.” Inside, one of her sisters screamed with laughter, and her footsteps echoed as she ran around the living room. “Your sisters seem cute,” he said. “And like they really love cookies.” “Oh, they do. They love sweets of any kind, so you're probably their new favorite person.” “I’m honored,” he said, and she recognized that as honest. Her heart fluttered. “Hey, so, uh, I know you’re new in town. Would you maybe want to go to a coffee shop or something?” Jack smiled. “Yeah, I’d love that,” he said. “Are you free tomorrow?” “Yes, I am!” she replied a little too quickly. “I mean, I’m pretty sure I am, yeah. There’s a cafe a couple of blocks away from here, near the college, that I like to go to. Cafe Amelie. They make these awesome cherry vanilla smoothies. Wanna meet there at noon?” She smiled at him, trying to maintain some semblance of cool, when the door opened back up and she nearly fell backwards into her mom.
Mandy straightened up and turned to face her mom, giving her a look that hopefully said, “Oh my god it’s Jackson can you please be cool and let us talk and GO AWAY RIGHT NOW?” Instead, however, her mom reached out to shake his hand and introduce herself like they’d never met before. Her mom thanked him for the cookies and started making neighborly small talk while Mandy stood with her mouth wide open. How did nobody recognize him? Why was he just Jack here? Her brain was scrambling when she realized her mom had asked her a question and was staring at her for a response. “What, mom? Sorry, I didn’t hear you.” Her mom made wide eyes at her, trying to make something clear to Mandy that she’d clearly missed by zoning out into her own head. “I SAID, it’s wonderful that you and Jack are getting together tomorrow. I’m always happy to get you out of the house and to make new friends! Sometimes it feels like you’d have to explore the universe to find a new one,” her mom repeated, laughing. Jack laughed too, probably just out of politeness. Mandy looked at her mom like she had two heads. So … she knew? Or was she just trying to crack a joke? Mandy made a mental note to ask her later on, but for now, she pouted and rolled her eyes. “Ha, you are absolutely hilarious, mom. Thanks for that. Can you please go away so I can finish talking to Jack?” Her mom grinned and patted Mandy on the shoulder and gave her a quick wink. “Of course, dear. Jack, it was great to meet you, and I hope we see you here again soon. Don’t be too long, Mandy, or you won’t get to have any cookies. I’m fairly certain your sisters have already eaten almost all of them.” She went back into the house and left them alone again.
Mandy did another eyeroll. “Sorry about that. My mom is … she’s great, but, you know how moms are.” She flicked her hair, cleared her throat, and tried to appear nonchalant again. “But, tomorrow? Noon? Cafe Amelie?” Jack smiled. “She seems nice, and your sisters are cute, if sugar-crazed.” Mandy laughed and held in a snort that nearly slipped out. If she had snorted while laughing she’d have to move to a new galaxy again purely out of embarrassment. “I should get home, but yeah, tomorrow, Cafe Amelie at noon. See you then,” he said with a wave as he walked off the porch. Mandy waved and went inside, then snuck her head around the curtain to peek out the window and see what house he went into. But before she could see, Amy and Allie were running up to her and pulling on her legs. “Come play with us!” Amy said. “Yeah, we’ve had a lot of cookies and now we need to run around!” Allie added. Mandy tried to shake them off. “I’m trying to see where Jack lives!” she yelled down at them. They sat on her feet, wrapped their arms and legs around her legs like they used to do when they were little and Mandy would walk around with them wrapped around her legs, pretending she didn’t know where the twins could possibly be as they giggled and squirmed, until she’d finally reach down and attack them with tickles. Mandy looked out the window again, but he was gone, so she just bent down and started tickling the twins instead.
The rest of the day passed in a blissful blur. Mandy was still a bit confused but something in her mind told her not to question things as they were now. If there were infinite universes with infinite possibilities, couldn’t she just live in this one, where her parents were together, her sisters were sweet and hopefully no longer telepathic, and Jack was her neighbor and closer to her age? It was bliss. She just needed to see what was happening, what this world was, this version that was so close to what she had left but also so, so much better. So she turned off her brain and spent the rest of the day playing with her sisters, hugging both of her parents so many times that they both began to question if she was feeling alright, and enjoying this time with her family. She did manage to eat one of the cookies from Jackson’s mom and it was absolutely delicious. Her mom made sure to put the rest away before the twins actually did eat them all, thankfully, and the two of them spent most of the day running wild before eventually crashing in the early evening and going to bed much earlier than usual. Mandy stayed up, enjoying her dad’s cooking, sitting on the couch with her parents to watch a TV show she normally would have avoided like the plague, just so she could eat a bowl of cherries and watch her parents cuddle on the couch, whispering to each other and sneaking little kisses when they thought Mandy wasn’t looking. (Of course, she was looking, stealthily.) After the show was over, they admonished her to go to bed. “After all, you have a date tomorrow,” her mom said, wiggling her eyebrows while her dad made wooing noises and fist pumped aggressively. “Oh my god, you two are the worst, I’m leaving forever,” Mandy said, blowing a kiss to her parents and going upstairs as they continued to make embarrassing noises. Parents are the worst, she thought, grinning to herself.
Once she was safely ensconced back in her bedroom, Mandy picked up her diary and examined it from the beginning. To the best of her recollection, everything lined up with her memories. But she was already getting tired, so she flipped to the very front and started writing down everything that had happened to her over the last few … days? Weeks? She wasn’t sure exactly how long she’d been traveling around, but she was sure that she needed to write things down before she forgot what happened. So she wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and marveled at the things she’d experienced, and suddenly realized it was nearly three o’clock in the morning and if she wanted to look at all cute when she saw Jack in just a few hours, she needed to go to sleep immediately. Thankfully, it wasn’t hard, and she fell asleep almost instantly.
Mandy awoke with a start: She’d forgotten to set an alarm, and it was nearly 11 AM. “Oh SHIT!” she yelled, throwing herself out of bed, tripping on the blanket that her foot was still wrapped in, and falling hard on her butt. It was quite the commotion, and she expected to at least hear her mom yell at her about her language. Mandy really didn’t swear unless there was a good reason to do so, and this certainly qualified in her book. She didn’t wait to hear an answer; she untangled herself and ran into the bathroom to take the quickest shower ever. She was scrambling. No time to wash her hair, she realized, covering it as best as she could with a shower cap after a liberal application of dry shampoo. She scrubbed herself with her favorite vanilla-scented body scrub, doing an extra scrub on her armpits because she could feel her nerves kicking in already. No flop sweat today, thank you very much! A few minutes later she hopped out of the shower and stole a couple steps of her mom’s skincare routine. Would it do anything, really? Probably not, but it felt like she was making an effort, and that was important. Skincare complete, she brushed up her eyebrows, put on some mascara and a little bit of highlighter and blush, swiped on some lip gloss, and ran back to her room to pull together an outfit as quickly as possible. After holding up about fifteen different combinations, bemoaning how much her wardrobe sucked, multiple stomping fits, and very nearly deciding not to go, she finally pulled out a dress she hadn’t worn in a while, paired it with a little (faux) leather jacket and her favorite sneakers and called it a day. She grabbed her bag and nearly walked out of her room before she remembered to take off the shower cap. It was just after 11:30 and she had a good 20 minute walk to the cafe, and she knew she couldn’t ask her mom for a ride since she had been the one to stay up and then sleep in so late. She took off the shower cap, flipped her hair upside down, and worked the dry shampoo in as much as she could. Thankfully, her curls had managed to stay intact and didn’t look as crazy as she’d feared. Plus, they’d calm down a little bit on the walk to the cafe. She looked herself over in the mirror over her dresser, and as much as she wished that she could look different, older, more sophisticated, she thought she looked pretty cute. “It’ll be just fine,” she said to her reflection, then headed out her door and down the stairs as fast as she could. “ByeI’mmeetingJackI’llbebacklater,” she yelled as one long word as she ran out the front door, down the porch, and down the sidewalk.
In all her frenzy to get ready, Mandy hadn’t realized that her diary was gone. She also hadn’t realized that nobody else was home; they’d been gone for hours, right out from under her nose. Her entire family had up and vanished without so much as a note. She didn’t know they were in danger, nor that this meeting was not what she thought it was going to be. But for now, she was enjoying the walk, the sunshine, and every single infinitesimal, fleeting moment of joy.
Scent Notes: Tart black cherries, expensive vanilla, Egyptian musk.