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The next day, I stayed home again. I decided I was going to milk it for the rest of the week. Going to school now would be way too much of a culture shock. I didn’t think I’d be able to handle it at all. However, this day, I would definitely stay at home. London made me promise over the phone that I absolutely would not leave the house. I swore that I wouldn’t, and I wasn’t lying either.

I had no reason to go out today, and I was pretty sure London was going to drive by and check on me even if she said she was busy. I definitely didn’t want to spend another day with Dan. Would Dan be cheating on London again today? Who knew how much of a man-whore he was. I actually was happier not knowing. I still hadn’t come up with a plan to get the two to break up. If it appeared like I was trying to do that, London would probably take Dan’s side immediately and claim I was just silly.

So, after Bethany’s bus left from the stop on the corner of our house, I set out on my next mission. Looking through the various drawers and counters of the kitchen, I finally found an old cooking book and brought it out. It had countless stains on it. I seemed to recall my family owning newer and cleaner versions of this book, but that seemed to disappear with the change.

After bringing out the book, I looked around the kitchen for food. No one had done any shopping recently, so I didn’t have a lot to chose from.

I had already promised myself once before that I would learn how to cook. Now that I had some time, I felt like I needed to take the opportunity to learn. After last night, and seeing the family together at the dinner table, I felt even more compelled. Therefore, I looked through the book, trying to find things that I had the ingredients to cook. That was easier said than done.

After I gathered up all the ingredients, I started to cook. I figured that if I got one meal together by the time dinner came around, then everything else would work itself out. Tomorrow, I could work on another meal. If all else failed, I could go out shopping and buy ready-made meals and slowly build up my ability to cook. As I turned on the oven, the reality of it started to catch up with me.

“What am I even doing?”

When did I suddenly care about cooking so much? Not just cooking, but cooking to make my family happy? A week ago, if that me saw the current me, he wouldn’t even recognize himself. I had been trying to get out of here as quickly as possible. Now, I wanted to cook dinner and see my sisters and mom enjoy it? I really was changing in ways I couldn’t understand. It left me feeling worried.

With nothing else to really do, I trudged forward with the cooking. Smoke ended uprising from the oven as a burnt smell filled the kitchen. I ended up destroying the first item, the cheese has bubbled to the top of the casserole and then fell down and burned on the oven bottom. I scrubbed out the oven and tried again. This time, I was successful, making a pot-roast. However, it tasted like jerky, and after trying to unsuccessfully eat it for fifteen minutes, I finally tossed it out with a sigh.

I made my fifth attempt at cooking. I hadn’t been paying attention, and I had the oven at full all day. It was really hot in the kitchen, and I was sweating, but I was determined to cook this one correctly. This was a much simpler meal. It was just a bowl of soup. I could handle soup, couldn’t I? I stared over the boiling liquid as hot steam sprayed over my face. I was feeling a little panicked since I had spent the morning and afternoon on failed attempt after failed attempt.

The girls would be getting home from school soon, and I had nothing to show for them to eat. Why was cooking so damn hard? The girls always made it look so easy! Just as I was about to start adding ingredients into the soup, I heard a knock on the door. Did one of my sisters forget to take a key?

The door most people used in our house was actually adjacent to the kitchen and living room. It was considerably easier to get to than our front door, and we basically used it as the door the majority of the time. We even went to the extent of putting a sign on the front door to redirect mailmen to the back. It was that door that I noticed someone standing at and knocking. I opened the door to reveal a young woman standing there.

There was a woosh of colder air from outside. Somehow, the way it hit me mixed with the relentless heat from cooking in the kitchen all day.

“Noah?” The person said, but their features were strangely blurred.

I started feeling sick and then dizzy. The world suddenly tipped, and I fell forward. The last thing I remembered was my face falling into something soft.

“Ah!’ I woke up with a start, looking around in a panic.

I was lying on my couch, and there was a jacket on me. It was a lettermen jacket for our school, but I didn’t recognize it. The only person who owned one in our family was Kelsey, but hers didn’t have anything on it, while this one had numerous badges ironed on.

It was at that point that I heard a noise coming from the kitchen. I slowly got up, still feeling somewhat dizzy. I had fainted, right? I had been in the kitchen most of the day, and I hadn’t opened any windows. The air conditioning was also off because mom insisted on saving money.  It was probably up to a hundred in there, but I hadn’t noticed because the temperature had risen slowly.

A noise of a cabinet closing instantly brought me to my feet. I walked to the kitchen, which now had all the windows open and a fan blowing out one of them, bringing the temperature down to a much more comfortable level. Standing in front of the oven was a beautiful girl in a pink apron. Instantly, my eyes locked onto the extremely normal sight of a pretty woman cooking. No! This was the other world! There was no way that this was normal. Unless…

Did everything return back to normal? The last time I passed out, I had woken up in a world where women acted like men. Now, I had passed out again. It wasn’t from being hit on the head, but from heat exhaustion, but maybe that didn’t matter. It wasn’t exactly like there was a standard for waking up in wonky worlds. I decided to do the ultimate test. It was the only way to be certain.

“Uh… hey…” I said, causing the girl to look back to me.

“Ah, I brought you in when you fell unconscious. It was seriously hot in here. Plus, you had something on, and I didn’t want it to burn. You’ve only been out for like ten minutes.”

“G-good…” I said, and then took a breath and added. “Can I touch your chest?”

Her eyes widened as she shot me a look and covered her chest with her hands. “No! You weirdo!”

“I see… sorry…” I lowered my head, realizing that strange world I had found myself in had truly come to an end so abruptly. “Um, why are you here?”

She blushed cutely. “Ah… That… I was asked to, you understand?”

Of course… this was my original world, right? What girl would come to my house unless she was forced to?

“Yes… I get it.”

She looked around awkwardly. “Uh… since you’ve been missing school, and I live nearby, I was asked to bring you a folder. I’ve been told you were called off the whole week, so the teachers compiled assignments for the whole week for you.”

I looked up at her and really checked out her face. She had very dark, black hair the seemed to shine. Her eyes were dark, and she had a pretty face. Her chest was a decent size, although not particularly large, and she had a pretty nice butt. Although, that was all I could make out through the apron, which I wasn’t even sure why we had in the kitchen in the first place.

As I stared at her, I realized that I really did know her. “Oh, you’re the student class president, right?”

She nodded. “You can call me Abby. We have a few classes together, but we haven’t talked much. When the teacher revealed you lived only a block from me, I was really surprised.”

“Ah, I see…”

She noticed me watching her as she stirred and then blushed again. “Ah! Sorry, did you want to take over? Based on the ingredients you had out, I think you were going for a type of minestrone. So, I just went ahead and added the missing ingredients. Ah… sorry if I ruined it!”

“Do you know how to cook?” I asked, joining her next to the oven and looking into the soup bowl, which looked a lot more like soup now.

“Of course…” She rolled her eyes as if this was obvious.

I really had returned to the normal world. It was strange. Everything prior to this had been like one, really long, really weird dream. The weirdest part was that time hadn’t changed. I still had off for the week from my head injury, despite the fact that in this world, I was just trash again. Did that mean Sam would still remember I slept with her? What about her mom? That had to be awkward. London would probably be so disgusted with me she wouldn’t talk to me. Then there was Anna.

I could only let out a sigh. “Would you… show me how?”

I didn’t know why I wanted to learn now that the world was back to the old one, but a piece of me felt a strange sadness that last night would never happen again. I found myself having a longing I never realized I had to connect with my family. I supposed I still could do it now, but when I considered it, it really did seem impossible.

“You don’t know how?” She asked.

“My first attempt caused me to pass out. It seems,” I explained.

She giggled. “Ah… sorry… well, it’s not like I can’t help, but I can’t.”

I smiled sadly. “That’s fine.”

I was used to rejection. The last week was stranger when I seemed to be accepted by everyone.

“Sorry, I really just came to drop off the papers.” She pulled off the apron and tossed it aside, suddenly looking like she was in a rush to leave.

I creeped her out. I could see that. It really was tough going back to the way things were. Even just asking a girl for help ended up like this.

“Um, the foods done, so, just serve it warm or cold. Your papers are right here, sorry, I have to go. Bye!” She didn’t even wait for me to say goodbye back as she almost fled the house.

 As she did so, she bumped into Mackenzie who was on her way in.

“Ah?”

“S-sorry… Bye!” She ran before even Mackenzie could say anything.

Mackenzie immediately turned a glare to me. “You had a girl over.”

“It doesn’t matter!” I said, not able to stop my eyes from welling with tears. “I made soup if you want it.”

I turned and fled the room, leaving Mackenzie standing there with a shocked expression on her face. Everything was back to the way it was. I didn’t even notice how clean my room was when I threw myself under my sheets.

Kelsey pushed back the startled Mackenzie so that she could enter the kitchen. Without hesitation, she went straight to the soup and scooped up a spoonful and sipped, her eyes widening, “Mm!”

“Don’t get your spit in the food, stupid!” Mackenzie snapped.

“Was that a girl over with brother?” She asked, changing the conversation.

“I think that was Abigail? She’s one of the class reps.”

“I’m surprised you’re not worried about our sweet little Noah’s chastity.”

Mackenzie frowned. “Abigail’s always been kind of fruity like a man. The rumor is that she’s gay. Noah’s probably safer with her than he with you!”

“Yeah, whatever… I’m going to schlick one off in my room. Tell Twinsy not to just barge in this time. Up to five feet in front of the door is a splash zone!”

“You’re a pig, Kelsey!”

Unfortunately, I didn’t hear any of this conversation.

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