16

The confrontation on Saturday had been a disaster. Not only had they failed to take her by surprise, but Monica was trying to tempt them with gifts to sway their attention from her. It was basically Melissa Winters all over again. They did not have the heart to force Monica back to the spirit world, and yet, Jerry and Theresa wanted their daughter back. Harper wanted her best friend back, and back at school, Mr. Laritate wanted to know when Alex was returning to school. With Melissa, all they had to do was send her away, and when Alex was overcome by her past life as Demetria, her own demi-goddess ancestor, Zeus had mystically split her apart with his own immortal power to be fair. Now, their only hope was that Monica offered to be the philanthropist she seemed to be. That Sunday, Jerry ran the subway shop business as usual and Theresa hoped for the best, looking out several times expecting to see her daughter coming home. Harper helped for a while in the shop then returned to adjusting Alex's room for herself to stay in it and that meant making room for her stuff. Hearing the scuffling sounds from the third floor, Justin looked up to see Harper struggling to carry a large floor length mirror down from the top floor by way of the spiral staircase in the loft.

"This is the last of Alex's mirrors." Harper sighed after reaching the bottom landing. "Why does one person need so many mirrors?"

"Harper…" Jerry came up and confronted her. "I don't know why still you're taking stuff out of Alex's room when we're so close to her coming home." He paused. "You're just going to have to take it back up."

Harper looked at him as if he was nuts, glanced back to the spiral staircase she'd been fighting with and looked back to Jerry again.

"Justin…" She turned to Justin at the kitchen table. "Is there a spell to get this mirror back upstairs?"

"Dozens…"

Harper looked back to the Russo family patriarch.

"I'll cross that bridge when we get to it." She responded.

"Jerry…" Theresa's heart had been aflutter since hearing her daughter was alive and living in luxury in Boston. "Is she really coming home? Do you really mean it?"

"I gave her till Monday morning…" Jerry told her again. "If Alex isn't home before then, Justin and I are going to call on the Wizard's Council, and quite frankly… I'm scared to death on how they might rule. There's never been a case of wizard body-stealing before." He moved to the kitchen. "I mean, a charitable person like Monica versus a problem child like Alex… we could still lose her. Our only hope is that Monica does the right thing…"

"Justin…" Theresa turned to her son. "Take me to her. Let me talk to her. I'll appeal to her as a mother…"

"Let me go too." Harper spoke up. "All I need is me and my five friends…" She held up her hand with her five fingers extended then curled them back into a fist. "Wham!" She punched the air. "She would never know what hit her!"

"Harper…" Justin turned to her. "She'd turn you into a mouse."

"Why are you guys always getting me into trouble?" She asked her fist to be funny then rethought the problem. She pushed the mirror toward the side near the bookcase as Max came up from the shop.

"Hey, guys…" He came up with a sandwich of his creation. "Did you know there's a white limousine parked downstairs right now?"

Jerry and Theresa looked at each other and reacted excitedly with hopeful anticipation. There was a knock at the door to the loft. Trying to deal with her nervous energy, Theresa paced once then turned to answer it. Turning the doorknob, she pulled the door open and looked up to see Alex standing there. She was dressed in a high-collared dark violet sweater and a dark blue jacket and skirt. Their eyes met each other instantly.

"Alex!" Theresa reacted as a mother and hugged her. Everyone looked up at once, but it was quickly obvious this was not going to be good news because of instead of hugging her mother, Alex just awkwardly squeezed Theresa back and stroked her back. Theresa felt it too. It was like hugging a stranger. As she pulled herself back, she looked into her daughter's eyes. There was no emotion between them. There was no connection. It was not Alex looking back.

"No…" Theresa's heart was breaking. "No… Alex, please tell me you're in there…" She started crying.

"Hello, Mrs. Russo…" Alex walked forward as Monica Frost in her expensive Dioguardi outfit. "You know, you remind me a lot of my stepmother; she was also a homemaker, but she wasn't quite so obsessed with her age." She looked around. Justin and Harper were standing by the sofa with Jerry at the other side of the room. Max was over by the refrigerator behind the kitchen counter. "I can't stay very long; I'm expected at a dinner by the Manhattan Chamber Of Commerce, but I have here a check for $25,000." She removed it from her purse.

"Yes!" Max cheered and started dancing around. "We're rich! We're rich! I'm buying my own island!" He stopped dancing and rushed up to Justin. "Justin, do you know if the Gilligan Islands are for sale?"

Justin swatted him upside the head.

"No…" Jerry strolled up disapprovingly and stood his ground with his arms folded before his chest. "I want my daughter back."

"I am your daughter!" Alex tried to get them to accept it. "My mind and spirit may be different, but I'm still here! Look, you can come to visit me when you want. You can stay in the hotel, takes trips to Italy, finance a string of subway sandwich shops…"

"I want a dinosaur!" Max blurted out. "Not a big one, just one of those little ones to ride to school! I'll feed it every day!"

"Okay, I got to ask…" Alex gestured to Max. "How many swats to the head does he get a day? This isn't normal!"

"You know what we want…" Jerry stepped forward to console Theresa. "We want our daughter back. No money, no trips, no nothing… Just give us our daughter back."

"Justin…" Alex confronted her brother. "Look, when I was in you, all you kept thinking was how much you wanted your own lab and a bio-dome. I couldn't get you to stop thinking about it. Help me here, and I'll build you one."

Justin looked at her.

"Dad," He looked to his father. "This Alex has money, and she lives so far away! She's an upgrade from the other Alex!" He compelled his father to reconsider. "Come on, don't we deserve better!"

"Justin, forget it!" Jerry struck down that dream. "Monica, either you depart our daughter's body, or we take this to the wizard's council." He paused as he looked to his wife. "We want Alex back."

Alex turned to slowly noticing Harper standing by the tall floor mirror out of Alex's room. Harper looked to Alex, to the Russos then back to Alex.

"No… no, no, no, no, no, no, no….." She was ready to go down fighting. "As much as I might like being wizard, I'm not going there."

"Harper…" Alex broke a small smile as she reached out and stroked Harper's face out of the brief bond they once had. "I had a lot of fun being you."

"What? Uh, thank you…." Harper liked that sentiment then thought again. "I think…"

"But your limited potential for magic would prohibit me greatly, plus everyone already knows me like this…" Alex noticed her reflection in the big mirror, stopped a moment then looked back and fixed her hair. Sighing a bit, she pulled her eyeglasses out of her purse, tapped the mirror three times with her finger and stepped back from the mirror, leaving her reflection behind frozen in its glass.

"I'm out of time." She announced, refolding her check into her chest pocket. "My limo is waiting. Do what you will to me." She turned on her heel and kicked the back of the mirror as her reflection in it spilled out into the real world. Stepping over that mirror reflection given life, she headed out of the loft through the door to the upstairs corridor as the clone on the floor gasped and shivered. It looked around dreamily and bewildered.

"Where am I?" It spoke. "How'd I get back here?"

"Alex?" Theresa looked again and moved forward confusingly. "Is that you?"

"Mom…" The last thing Alex remembered was pounding at the door of an old classroom in the basement of the school. She was frozen to the touch and trembling uncontrollably. What was she doing wearing these fancy clothes? Did she just see herself leaving the loft? After looking at each other, Jerry and Theresa rushed to her and started hugging and squeezing her. Scowling a bit, Alex wondered why they were both crying. She looked to Harper for answers, but even she was hurriedly rushing to hug her again.

"No…" Max was crying for another reason. "No… bring the money back." He missed Other-Alex already. "Bring back Max's Island."

"Say, goodbye to the dinosaur, dude." Justin was the only one to console him.

"Harper…" Alex looked up after being helped to her feet. "Why did you lock me in the basement of the school?"

"Honey…" Theresa couldn't stop smiling. "That wasn't Harper. That was a someone else."

"What?"

"Yes, honey…" Jerry continued. "Harper was possessed by the same female wizard that had possessed you. She used Harper to get to you then moved to a Boston hotel and inherited a lot of money."

"Yeah," Harper spoke up. "You've been gone for over a month and a half!"

"Wait a second…" Alex stumbled around. She had been possessed? Again? How long had she been out this time? A few days? A week? A month? "You mean to tell me that I was possessed by a some witch who had a lot of money and lived in a big hotel?"

"Yeah…"

"And you couldn't have just left me there!"

END