She got the idea from binge-watching “The Office” two nights in a row.
Handing him a small, white candy-coated pill, she told him, “This is not going to make you feel better.”
He took it, popped it into his mouth, and swallowed it in all about three seconds. He cringed and made a face where his tongue pocked out of his mouth and his eyes crossed. She handed him a glass of lukewarm water that he gratefully took.
“Then how’s it supposed to make me feel?” he asked after gulping down half the glass. He always had really bad migraines and nothing ever worked, so she decided to at least try and make him feel better with a joke.
She shrugged. “I don’t know.” Taking out the packet she’d made for Mr. Fabuloso’s Magical Candy Pills, she shook it in front of his face for a moment before turning it over and pretending to read the content information. “This isn’t real. I got it off this weird-looking hippy dude downtown. He looked like Dumbledore. Said they were magical pills. So obviously, they’re probably drugs.” She glanced at him and smirked.
He rolled his eyes. “At least tell me it’s candy.”
“No can’t do. They’re magical pills by the infamous Mr. Fabuloso.”
“Were you watching your mom clean with Fabuloso?” His eyes darted down to stare pointedly at the cabinet they both knew contained her mother’s special cleaning supplies, all purchased from the local Supermarket down the street that catered especially to the neighborhood’s demographic of middle-aged Dominican mothers.
She looked away and pursed her lips at being discovered. “No.”
He sighed dramatically, lifted a hand in a half-assed wave, and turned around. “See you tomorrow. I’ll let you know how the magical drug pills worked out.”
The next day, she found him waiting at the bus stop with a very serious look. His hands were forced deep into his pockets, shoulders hunched over as he concentrated on the concrete cracks.
“Kyle?” she asked tentatively as she neared him.
“Dude.” He shook his head. “Whatever you gave me, it’s fucked up.”
She laughed nervously. “They were tic-tacs, man. Stole them off my little sister.”
He shook his head more vigorously. “No. No. I cut my hand yesterday, with a knife.” Slowly, he removed his hands from his pockets, palms up. They looked just fine, no cut in sight. “This morning, it was gone.”
“Oh, shut up.” She laughed harder, trying to still the sudden hammering of her heart. “I literally took the idea from The Office, when Jim gives Dwight those ‘magical legumes.'”
Kyle stood and gripped her shoulders. “I’m not kidding.”
“Are you trying to get back at me for the tic-tacs?” She smiled brightly, trying to avoid looking into the dark pools of his eyes. “Because it’s kind of working.”
“I swear!” And then he shrugged off his book bag, taking out a small dagger from the smaller zipped pocket. “Look.” He brought the blade down across his hand and all she could see was bright red blood pouring down his caramel skin.
“What the hell, Kyle!” She backed away, bumping into the glass that encased the bus stop. “What the hell!”
He showed her the cut, deep and oozing. “Just watch, okay? It’ll be gone.”
She shook her head, inching along the wall until she was suddenly free. “No way, man.” And then she took off running, back the way she came, trying to get as far away from her friend.
It was around the time she’d be coming back from school when the doorbell rang. Her stomach sank all the way to her toes as she walked slowly to the door, dreading who would be waiting on the other side. It was no surprise to her to see Kyle’s face, magnified by the peephole, staring into her eyes.
“Listen, you gotta open this door.”
She did so reluctantly, dragging the chain down and turning the knob with a shaking hand. Kyle stood there waiting patiently, imploringly. She almost felt bad.
He offered her his hand. The one he’d cut that morning. The one that had seemingly healed in just a matter of eight hours.
There was no cut. The deep wound she’d seen him inflict on himself had mended and the skin looked just like new. He held the packet of magical pills in his other hand, which shook slightly as he moved it towards her.
“You did something to them.”
She shook her head. “I swear, Kyle. It was a joke. They’re tic-tacs.”
“I’m telling you. There’s something in them.”
She looked over her shoulder to the living room, where her younger sister was coloring and happily munching away on the rest of her tic-tacs, which she’d kept from her older, thieving sister. When she looked back at Kyle, he was still holding the packet, only this time his hand was shaking hard.
“Take one,” he insisted. “Take one and tonight, just cut yourself a little and let me know. ‘Cause something is happening. I know I’m not crazy.”
She nodded slowly, taking the packet and dispensing just one white-coated pill that was really just a flavored tic-tac. She popped it into her mouth, swallowed just like Kyle had the day before, and coughed.
“Okay. I’ll let you know tomorrow.”
He stared at her for a moment longer before turning on his heel and stalking away, not turning to look back at her once. She watched him wait at the elevator, watching him as he stepped onto it and the doors slid close. She watched the numbers count down until it reached 1. She watched until she felt her little sister pull on the hem of her sweater.
“Did he like the tic-tacs?” her little sister asked.
She nodded and closed the door.
The next morning, she found Kyle waiting at the bus stop, looking even more troubled than the day before.
She showed him her hand where she’d carefully cut herself with a small kitchen knife. She’d waited till way past midnight, when she was sure her family was asleep and wouldn’t be awoken by her yelp of pain as the knife sliced through her skin.
But what Kyle saw wasn’t a cut. It was her newly-healed hand, with nothing but the lines of her palm that told her about her future love and career choices. The cut that had throbbed painfully as she tried to sleep had disappeared by morning. She’s stared at it all throughout her morning routine, during breakfast, as she walked to the bus stop. She stared at it waiting for the cut to reappear and start bleeding again, like it was supposed to.
“You were right.”
“Holy shit.” Kyle stood up and started pacing, ignoring the disapproving look of the elderly woman sitting down on the bench. “Holy shit!”
She nodded, trying to keep herself from smiling when the elderly woman grunted in disgust. “What should we do?”
Kyle stared at her incredulously. “We? Not we. You. You’re gonna steal more of your sister’s tic-tacs, do whatever magical nonsense you did before, and stick em in this packet. Or I don’t know. I guess you can try magicking something else.”
She scoffed. “I don’t have magic.”
He looked affronted. “Uh, what the hell do you call this then?”
“A fluke.” She paused for a moment, thinking. “A placebo effect?”
“Whatever it is, we gotta figure it out.” He took her hand–the one she had cut the night before–with the hand he’d cut the morning before. “You ready?”