Hey there, wizarding people! Did you get anything cool for Christmas? A new wand? A fancy hi-tech broom? Well, whatever you got, it’s probably not as good as what you received in Choose Your Own Adventure. And by that I mean, after you totally went and died, we gave you the chance to go back in time and try again! In other words, WE GAVE YOU A NEW LIFE. Try topping THAT, Santa Claus.

So now you’re back here, with Dace about to launch a killing curse at your dad… or Eli. Y’all chose to Wait just one second to see which direction Dace’s curse is headed, and fling yourself in its path. Maybe since you’re already dead you can stop a killing curse.

Let’s get this new life on the road! And don’t eff it up this time, ok?!

Chapter 16: Just Like George Bailey, You’ve Got A Second Chance

For the last few years, you’ve obsessed over controlling every tiny facet of your life. From perfectly applying mascara to each lash (only slobs use make-up spells) to finding the perfect charms to keep your clique in line, you’ve always understood that the devil lies in the details. But you’re still unprepared for how this one second– not even a blink of an eye, really– could totally and completely change everything.

As you see Dace’s curse explode out of his wand and towards Eli, you don’t hesitate to throw yourself in front of him. Which is sort of a surprise, actually. You’d planned on doing it for your father, of course, but for Eli? This boy you’ve only known a few days. This boy who has awakened your mind and your, well, lady parts more than anyone that you can remember. This boy who risked his life to find you and tell you the truth. This boy that you think you might love.

All of these thoughts speed through your head as the curse slams against your chest, and then everything stops. The force of Dace’s spell has flung you to the floor, and you lay there for a second, certain you’re dead. This is dying. This is death. You died young, but at least you died for someone you loved. And… huh. Nothing actually feels different. You’re not even in any real pain, except for the part of your ass that collided with the ground. Wow, this whole death thing is pretty underrated.

You open your eyes carefully, not sure what you’ll see. After all, church was never your thing, and you’re pretty sure that God isn’t too happy about that time sophomore year when you cast a spell on Cassandra Cale to make her gain 10 pounds overnight so she couldn’t fit in her homecoming dress that just happened to be the same one you were planning to wear. But as your eyes focus, you realize that everything really did stop. Dace is frozen, his face twisted in hatred, his wand still outstretched towards Eli. Your father, also frozen, looks on with a dazed expression that gives you a pang– why didn’t you notice sooner that he wasn’t being himself? And Eli, beautiful Eli, is staring at where you were standing, his features paralyzed with horror.

Ok, so is Freeze Tag part of the dying process or what? You slowly stand up, careful to make sure that you are in fact still in your body, and a bright ball of light suddenly appears next to where your dad stands, mid-stride through the door. Breath catching in your throat, you shield your eyes until the light dissipates and you see your mother. Your real mother. Charlotte Denueve.

Her beautiful faces breaks into a radiant smile as you run towards her. Even though you grew up without her, and hell, didn’t even really know about her existence until a few moments ago, falling into her arms feels like the most natural thing in the world.

“Oh my darling girl,” she sighs, stroking your hair. You cling to her, inhaling the smell of her ginger perfume. That explains your ungodly love of ginger ale.

She pulls back and holds your face in both hands. “I always feared this day would come, and yet, I’ve always secretly hoped it would, just so I could see you again.”

“Am I… dead, mother? Are you here to take me away?” You’re simultaneously afraid of her response and relieved by her presence.

“Oh no, Tabitha. Quite the opposite, really. Although I am here to take you somewhere.” She gazes into your eyes and smiles sadly. “You see, when I raised you from the dead, when you were a child, I put a special protection spell into your blood. It’s old magic… very old, dark magic, passed down from your Necromancer ancestors. And to be honest, I wasn’t sure it would work. But now we both know that it did! It worked perfectly!” She laughs and throws her arms around you.

You hug her back tightly, but you’re more confused than ever. “So, it protected me from being killed? Is it just a one time thing? And why… I mean, where did you come from? Where have you been?”

Your mother sighs softly and steps back to look you in the eye. “I wish we had more time– oh, Tabitha, I wish we had years, centuries to be together. And maybe we will, down the road. But for now, I must be brief. This protection spell only works once, and when it activated, it opened up a portal between your realm and mine.”

“You live in a different realm? What kind? How is that possible?” Your mind explodes with questions as you tighten your grip on your mother’s arm.

“Sweetheart, when magic is concerned, anything is possible. I pulled from the deepest depths of my ability to raise you and infuse you with this protection, and I traveled too far to the edge of dark magic. I couldn’t return.”

“But… you’re here now!” Your eyes fill with tears at the thought of your mother plunged into darkness for saving you. “You can stay with me!”

Her face softens as she grasps your shoulders. “No, Tabitha, I can’t. The spell brought me here not so that I could stay, but so that I could help you.”

You wipe your eyes, your mind reeling. “What do you mean, help me? What can you possibly do?”

She smiles, a quiet strength lining her features. “Oh honey, I can do many things.”

An idea flashes through your brain, startling in its intensity. “Can you…” You’re ashamed to form the words, because they’ll sound so ridiculous out loud. “Can you send me back in time? So I can fix things? So I can help Dad?”

Her grin widens, although her eyes have grown stormy. “Yes, Tabitha, I can. Time travel is tricky business, though. Your actions might not have the desired consequences.”

You nod. “I know, but I have to try. I have to save Dad… and Eli.” You didn’t realize you were going to say his name, but now that it’s out there, your whole body feels the truth of it. You have to help Eli.

You gaze at your mother’s face, soaking in every detail. You don’t want her to become a hazy memory again. “And after you send me, you have to leave, don’t you?”

“Yes, darling, I do.” Her eyes glisten as she hugs you and softly kisses you on the cheek. “But you don’t need me, Tabitha. You’re so strong– you don’t even realize how strong you are. And I’m so proud of you, my beautiful, beautiful daughter.”

You hold back the tears, trying to show her just how strong you can be. “How will I know how to fix it? What if I can’t?”

Your mother stares into your eyes, her face radiating with love. “You have such great depths of power, Tabitha. You must believe that you can find it. Find it and harness it and become the incredible wizard I know you are.”

You shake your head as she steps back, the light beginning to glow around her form.

“Now, Tabitha, where shall I send you?”

A. “Send me back to two weeks ago.”

B. “Send me back to three months ago.”

C. “Send me back to a year ago.”

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.