Title: Change Places With Me
Author: Lois Metzger
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-fi, Suspence, [Young-Adult]
Blurb (from Goodreads):
Rose has changed. She still lives in the same neighborhood with her stepmother and goes to the same high school with the same group of kids, but when she woke up today, something was just a little different than it was before. The dogs who live upstairs are no longer a terror. Her hair and her clothes all feel brand-new. She wants to throw a party—this from a girl who hardly ever spoke to her classmates before. There is no more sadness in her life; she is bursting with happiness.
But something still feels wrong to Rose. Because, until very recently, Rose was an entirely different person—a person who is still there inside her, just beneath the thinnest layer of skin.
And for a split second saw nothing but a cloud of red light.
Where am I? She could use one of those maps with an X, like at the zoo, that clearly say YOU ARE HERE.
So—this is weird.
She blinked a few times, the red light dissolved, and, like a stalled hydro-bus that finally hummed to life, she caught up to herself. I’m Rose, in my own bed—and in a granny nightgown, ugh. Gotta get rid of this thing.
She’d slept so deeply; she took a big, slow, luxurious stretch, her long arms and legs spreading out over the bed, and brushed her pale-brown bangs away from her eyes. Yellow light poured in through the window and dust in the air sparkled—so beautiful. It’s Saturday—no, Sunday, school tomorrow. Did I finish that thing for Mr. Slocum? He’ll mark me down an entire grade if something’s late . . . he has it in for me, anyway; he thinks I’m not listening in class, but I am!
Rose glanced up and saw her stepmother, Evelyn, arms crossed, leaning against the doorway in a black-and-white kimono tied tightly at her waist.
“Good morning,” Rose said.
Evelyn stared as if Rose had said something shocking.
“Why are you looking at me that way?” Rose said. “You’re making me feel like something we might dissect in bio.”
“Well, it’s just—you slept so long. It’s almost two.”
“You’re kidding! I never do that!”
“I just wanted to be sure you’re not, you know—coming down with something, or anything like that. I mean, there’s always something going around. . . .”
Evelyn didn’t ramble like this; she chose her words carefully and precisely. Her expression was even more serious and cautious than usual, always such a contrast to her lush auburn hair, and those blue eyes, the blue of a darkening sky. Rose had blue eyes too, but lighter.
“I’m absolutely fine, couldn’t be better,” Rose said. “I’m happy, really happy, practically bursting with it.” She almost added, This day feels like a gift you don’t need to unwrap, because these words had sprung into her head, but maybe that would sound too corny. Anyway, she heard something right outside, like someone saying hoo, hoo.
“What’s that sound?”
“The birds? There’s a pair of mourning doves on Mrs. Moore’s windowsill.”
“Have they been there long?”
“Well . . . I’m pretty sure they come back every year to nest.”
Rose wondered why, if that was the case, she was just noticing them now. “Morning, like the beginning of the day, or mourning as in sad?”
“Imagine, a whole species of birds always in mourning, never getting over it. You don’t see me boo-hooing over anything, do you? Or hoo-hoo-ing, like the birds?” Rose smiled at her own joke, but Evelyn didn’t, which almost made Rose skip a beat. “Hey, you don’t have to just to stand there, you know. Don’t be such a stranger, as Dad used to say.” She patted her bed.
Evelyn entered slowly, hesitating, as if there was a force field in the doorway. She sat so lightly on the edge of the bed that Rose could’ve pushed her off with a gentle nudge.
“You smell nice,” Rose said.
“Lavender. It’s the soap.”
“I guess I forgot.” Forgot? Was that the right word? Her stomach let out a long growl. “Wow, I’m starving.”
“I’m not surprised. You didn’t eat much yesterday.”
“Right. I was at the zoo.” Rose couldn’t forget that—what kid in high school went to the zoo anymore? But she had loved it. She’d seen a gorilla with a baby clinging to her neck. The baby had soft, shiny eyes, and the mother’s expression said, I will keep you safe and sound. Rose had felt so close to the gorillas; it was like she could’ve taken a step and joined them. Only there must’ve been a glass wall or something separating them. “But you weren’t with me. So how’d you know I didn’t eat?”
Evelyn touched her long, slender throat; she had on a gold necklace with a heart-shaped pendant that caught the light. “You came home so tired. You went straight to bed, no dinner.”
Of course. She’d been so tired. “You don’t like zoos, do you?”
“The animals might look like they’re free, but they’re not. That bothers me after a while.”
“It might be the safest place for them.”
“Yes. It’s a complicated issue.”
What a nice, grown-up conversation. Rose could show that she could respect another person’s opinions even if she didn’t agree with them. “They don’t call it a zoo,” she said. “They keep telling you that when you’re there. It’s the Bronx Global Conservation Center.”
“A rose by any other name.”
“What? A rose—?”
“It’s an expression. It means you can change the name of something but it doesn’t change what it is.”
Rose shook her head. “Why should you be stuck with something that no longer fits? I wasn’t born with the name Rose—but it’s perfect for me.”
“I’m glad,” Evelyn said, but didn’t sound either glad or sad.
“You get up on the wrong side of the bed or something?” Rose asked. “Dad used to say that, too. I never understood it, because I sleep next to a wall. What could I do, fall into the wall? He had some really corny expressions, like, I’ll be ready in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Why would he say that? He didn’t grow up on a farm—and I know I never visited one with him—we hardly ever left Belle Heights.”
“He . . .” Evelyn blinked a few times. “He had a grandmother who said it.”
“Mm-hmm. She actually did grow up on a farm. Your father adored her.”
“What was her name?”
Rose laughed—a laugh that just burst out of her. It felt a little strange, as if someone else was laughing and she happened to be close by. But who else would it be?
Evelyn blinked again, then got up. “Would you like some eggs, Rose?”
“That would hit the spot! Something else Dad would say.”
Evelyn left. Rose looked out her window at Belle Heights Tower, the building across the way that used to be five stories and then, seemingly overnight, got ten more stories added to it, and now it loomed over all the others. She’d always hated the extra floors, having grown up with the older view. An old friend of hers had moved in there and she’d never even visited her. Now Rose glanced up and noticed, for the first time, a rooftop garden bursting with leafy trees against a white sky. What a great place to be a plant, she thought. If I were a plant, I’d want to live there.
Rose got up and took a shower. In the soap dish, Evelyn’s oval, lavender-scented soap always battled for space with her own undyed, fragrance-free soap, which sat there like a block of wax. That had been her dad’s kind of unscented soap, too. Now she found herself reaching for Evelyn’s. This is what you should do, she told herself. Grab things, exist at the center of your life, not the edge.
But it felt, oddly, as if someone else had told her this and she was only repeating it.
Lois Metzger was born in Queens and has always written for young adults. She is the author of five novels and two nonfiction books about the Holocaust, and she has edited five anthologies. Her short stories have appeared in collections all over the world. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, and The Huffington Post. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.
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