Chapter 1: Bountiful Youth

What would you do if you suddenly realized you had the mind of your 25 year old self in the body of your 14 year old self? That’s just a simple question people use to break the ice at parties. Some people would date the one that got away longer. Some would study harder to get into a better college. Some may just try and enjoy the freedom of summer one more time around.

Well, I found myself in that exact situation after I woke up one morning.

At first, I thought maybe I had gone home to stay with my parents. That is, until I realized the sheets I had around me were reminiscent of my childhood bedroom. I had gotten rid of them the summer before college in a rummage sale before I moved out of state. Yet here I was wrapped up in them as if I was still in high school for the first time.

“Wake up Erich, the bus is going to be here in 30 minutes!”

That voice bounced around in my room like an echo chamber. My father was on his way our the door before I could get a good look at him. I saw him leaving the driveway through my window. Sure enough, he was still driving his 1994 Toyota Camry. Which can only mean I have somehow ended up in the past.

The only issue is that I still have the mind of my 25 year old post-graduate self. The same one who just got hired to a nice software company.

Panic spread around me as I began to worry I wouldn’t get to work on time. Since this was a long and arduous job hunt, I was not keen on going back into the market so quickly. At some point, though, I realized that despite my attempts to go back to sleep and wake up in my normal body, I was really stuck here.

One of the first things I did was grab my phone. It was the first one I ever got and was clunky. Lord knows how I used to text with this brick. As I flipped it open, it confirmed that it was early September of my freshman year of high school. I was 14.

At first, I was a bit afraid of having to go through the tough times in high school. There were a few times I would rather forget and was close to doing so. Yet I figured if this was some sort of mental thing, I figured I would snap out of it eventually. I suppose I’ll make the best of it.

I hop on the bus – something I haven’t done in years – and sit right in the front. Strange to think I legally can’t even drive yet. If this charade goes long enough, maybe I can impress some people by absolutely rocking my driver’s ed test on the first pass. Then again, they make you do all kinds of weird stuff like parallel parking.

As I am drifting off into space, I hear a familiar voice.

“Hey man, everything cool?”

It’s my old best friend, John. He’s still young and unbelievably energetic considering the time. I always hoped he would pull his life together, but where I’m from he’s a deadbeat with no job and no future. I don’t know where things went wrong since I left to go to college and he stayed here. Maybe I can help him this time around.

“Yeah, why what’s up?” I said, trying to figure out the social error I made.

“Well,” He quipped, motioning towards the middle of the bus, “You totally sat up here in the zone of nerds.” A few nearby kids made faces at that comment, but continued to silently eavesdrop while the bus lurched forward.

“I… listen it’s been a weird morning. I don’t even know what classes I have, to be honest.”

“Whoa. Erich. You’ve been droning on about your classes all summer. Sounds like you hit your head or something. Concussion, maybe? You should check it out.”

Open arriving, I realize how lost I am. There’s a vague memory of the layout of my high school but I don’t remember much. As we walk in, I feel like I don’t belong anymore. The kids are all so young, but I suppose my eyes don’t see them as kids since they’re all people I know. Suddenly, as if a memory was rapidly restored, I saw her. The girl I had a crush on the entirety of my senior year.

Lisa Monroe.

She was not too far out of league and enjoyed the things I did. Unfortunately for me, the first time around she ended up settling for another guy. To be fair, I hadn’t really noticed her in that way until it was far too late. Lisa claimed she would have loved to date me, but since college was right around the corner for both of us there was really no hope for starting anything new. I always wondered what things could have been like.

Well, I will wonder no more. Forget the fact I’m 25 for a second and realize I am much more open to starting new social interactions. I feel like the less I care, the more smooth I am. I tell John to go ahead as I approach her locker.

“Hey, Lisa.”

“Oh, hey Erich.”

“Just noticed that you have a sticker for dungeons and dragons in your locker. I didn’t know you played.”

“O-oh. I just started looking into it. I’m pretty new but I would love to learn more.”

Wow, I really missed the signs back in the day. I’m sure I talked to her in this way in the past and just completely let chance slip by. Not today.

“Why don’t we make a 1 on 1 session? I can DM for you and you can trip through the rules before we get a bigger group.”

I must have been successful because she seems really excited in a cute way. She is brushing her hair with her hand and nervously shifting her weight. God, I am really excited to actually be able to hang out with her.

“I’d love to. I’m free after school on Mondays and Fridays.”

“Great, you’ll make the slowest day better and give me something to look forward to during the week!”

She is really getting taken off guard here. I suppose in high school, any kind of attention really hits a soft spot. I dismiss the fact that I feel really creepy since I’m mentally 11 years older than this girl, but whatever.

As soon as she walks away, I head to my locker only to remember something I had long since forgotten. My current girlfriend during the beginning of my freshman year was waiting for me. Ariel Winters. Her silky brown hair was shoulder length which perfectly complimented her milk chocolate eyes. The moment I saw her, I knew why I never noticed Lisa. I was smitten with Ariel.

Yet I can’t remember why we split. It was junior year and I remember feeling incredibly guilty about it. Then I remembered as John turned the corner and headed right for her.

He tricked me.

John told me that he saw Ariel making out with a football player during a game. She was a cheerleader, but only because her sister was able to get her a spot on the team. I was always sort of proud of the fact that someone as good looking as her was interested in me. Anyways, I took John at his word and confronted her. Of course, being a young, insecure fool, I broke up with her and she was crestfallen. We never spoke to each other again.

It was only years later when I was back in town to celebrate Christmas that John confessed to me that he broke us up to give himself a chance. He was so overrun by guilt, though, that he never could really make his move. I still don’t know what became of Ariel.

Remembering the story made me a bit more careful of my interactions with John. He clearly was not as forthcoming as he claimed to be, and I knew he’d regret it. If I found him in the right lie, I’ll call him on it. It will do him more good than he knows.

Great. Not even fully into a day back at 14 years old and I’m having girl issues. I am unsure if I should try to repair my chances with Ariel or go after the girl I fell for after in Lisa. As if I needed more stress today.

I approach my locker and Ariel gleefully smiles.

“I thought you’d never get here. John mentioned you hit your head, are you alright, hun?”

“Yeah. Just a bit absent minded, really.”

“Well don’t worry. I’ll make sure that things go smoothly until you start feeling better.”

I felt so happy that someone had my back. She really was going to make sure that I remembered the details of my school life until I was able to “remember” them all on my own. I guess this is going to be a bit of a ride.

The one part that didn’t worry me was the classes. After going through with my computer engineering degree, this stuff was easier than all hell. I decided to see just how far I could get with my bachelor’s degree in a high school environment. I mean, if I’m stuck here I mine as well try learning something new that could help me land an even better job after college. You know, 8 years down the road.

Over the next month I spent time on Monday and Friday with Lisa and went on dating Ariel. The guilt is mounting as I feel I’m leading on Lisa, but it’s just so natural that I feel closer to her than anyone I’ve known when I was older. I mean, our characters were in love, but that’s not cheating. Right?

Of course, Ariel was so kind to me during our time together. We’d go out for picnics, hang out at the local mall, and ride our bikes around the neighborhood. I really got a foothold of my high school self again thanks to her.

John and I spent time together. He was surely jealous of the fact that Ariel was being so close with me. I may have gotten overly affectionate around John as a pseudo payback for what he did back in my time. I’m sort of a jerk, but it feels like justice to me.

School was going very well. I was speeding through my classes faster than I thought was possible. I didn’t want to go so fast that I left behind my friends. Lisa and Ariel would likely not enjoy it either.

Yet things for me started to unravel when the first dance came upon us. I had to make a very definitive decision which would effect the rest of my high school life. On one hand, Lisa shared my passion for gaming and role play. She was funny, smart, and I could really talk about things I had a passion about. Yet Ariel forced me out of my comfort zone and let me experience the outdoors. I felt like she would make sure I didn’t become a couch potato and would honestly make me into a more well rounded person.

I knew if I kept up this facade any longer, one of them would confront me and things would get messy. This was the moment I would have to choose…

Chapter 2: Careful Consideration

 

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