I am excited to welcome author Carol Riggs, who is celebrating the release of her debut novel, The Body Institute. Just as exciting, she’s tackling one of the new features here at LE, Tiny Tales, where she’s giving us a bonus scene related to The Body Institute.
Meet Morgan Dey, one of the top teen Reducers at The Body Institute.
Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Morgan can temporarily take over another girl’s body, get her in shape, and then return to her own body—leaving her client slimmer, more toned, and feeling great. Only there are a few catches…
For one, Morgan won’t remember what happens in her “Loaner” body. Once she’s done, she won’t recall walks with her new friend Matt, conversations with the super-cute Reducer she’s been text-flirting with, or the uneasy feeling she has that the director of The Body Institute is hiding something. Still, it’s all worth it in the name of science. Until the glitches start…
Suddenly, residual memories from her Loaner are cropping up in Morgan’s mind. She’s feeling less like herself and more like someone else. And when protests from an anti–Body Institute organization threaten her safety, she’ll have to decide if being a Reducer is worth the cost of her body and soul…
Are we our minds…or our bodies?
At 1315 hours, I duck through the February rain and into the Danger District lobby. Sure enough, Blair and Krista are already there, seated at a café table and sipping electrolyte drinks.
“Sorry I’m late,” I say. “I came straight here, didn’t even unpack.”
Krista slurps her drink. “Sure, sure. We know how absorbing those science fairs can be.”
“Are you ready for some serious paintball, Morgan?” Blair asks.
“Absolutely,” I say.
As Blair stands to throw her cup into a nearby incinerator, my phone rings. Aaron’s ringtone. Finally! I haven’t heard from him all week. His face materializes on my screen. I grin at his wide mouth and adorable blue eyes.
“Hey, babe,” Aaron says. “You back from your science thing?”
“Yep. And I’d love to see you. Blair and Krista and I are about to play some night-vision paintball at the Danger District. Come join us, if you can.” I frown as Blair and Krista make slashing motions across their necks. What’s their problem?
“I’m with a couple of friends, too,” Aaron says. “We can be there in ten or fifteen.”
“Perfect.” I sign off and stare at Blair and Krista. “What, you’re not up to doing a game with Aaron and his friends?”
Krista sighs and drums orange fingernails on the table. “Sit down. We have something to tell you. We didn’t want to say it in a text while you were gone.”
That sounds ominous. I sink into a chair. “Spit it out. I assume it’s about Aaron.”
Blair throws a hedgy glance at Krista. “We saw your boyfriend at the Flash Point while you were gone.”
“It was disgusting!” Krista says. “This whole week he’s been hanging with some girl with blue hair and uber-short skirts. Dancing very friendly-like. They always leave together.”
The room reels while my lungs quit working. That can’t be right. “I—I thought he didn’t write or call because he was busy,” I manage to say.
“He was definitely busy,” Blair mutters. She holds out her phone to show me a brief but gut-wrenching vid of Aaron dancing slow and limb-locked with a curvy girl. “I’m sorry, Morg. We hoped he’d have the spine to break it off with you. Doesn’t sound like he did.”
“No.” I turn from the screen and squeeze my eyes closed.
It can’t be true. I thought we had a special connection. He can’t be dancing with someone else. Surely he hasn’t forgotten about our epic kisses after we left the club and waited at “our” Metro-Transit shelter. His heart hammered alongside mine.
Has he been kissing this blue-haired girl the same way?
A sob gurgles up from my chest. Chair legs scrape against the floor, and two pairs of arms wrap around my shoulders. I loathe crying in public, but my eyes aren’t listening to my brain right now. How could Aaron do this to me?
Blair and Krista huddle around me, until I realize many minutes have passed.
“Thanks,” I murmur, shifting. Blair and Krista loosen their arms, and I blot my face dry with a napkin. I’m not sure why Aaron’s coming to see me, after being with this other girl. Who does he think he is, calling me like nothing’s happened, acting like he’s all stoked to hang out with me?
The ache inside me hardens into something small and tight. I spot him breezing into the café area, spiky-haired and flanked by his two swaggering guy friends.
“Let’s pulverize them,” I say, low. “Dibs on Aaron.”
“He’s all yours, girlfriend.” Krista’s expression morphs into something more pleasant as the guys approach.
“Hi, beautiful,” Aaron says, and sweeps me into a dramatic kiss before I can protest, one of his tanned arms slipping around my waist. His friends hoot. When he releases me I give him a plastic smile, my mouth feeling contaminated. How long has it been since he kissed the blue-haired girl—two days? Yesterday? With a stiff arm, I motion everyone to the gaming counter.
Ten minutes later, geared with masks, marker guns, and team jerseys, we stand outside the Nightglow Field 3 entrance. I slip my night-vision mask over my head and give the group a thumbs-up.
Ready for combat.
We enter and scatter. My mask shows a bumpy terrain, tinged with the eerie violet of infrared night vision. Small hills, low fences, and fake shrubbery. I sprint and dive behind a fence, rolling for a second before freezing. Footsteps thud off to my right. Someone shrieks, Blair or Krista. It must be a wound and not a kill, or else the status streamer in my mask would’ve informed me. I spot Aaron’s shadowy form lurking to my left, and shoot.
I hear a yell of response and smile. These markers use compressed air ammo-pods, and they hit hard. I dash for a line of trees. A blow strikes my lower leg, and I stumble. I inhale sharply, reaching cover and aiming my marker through the foliage. No traitorous boyfriend in sight.
Through my mask, I see a dark stain of virtual “blood” on my jeans. I need to be more careful.
I zigzag from cover to cover. Behind a bunker, I pause to load ammo pods into my marker, and spy Aaron’s muscular shoulder and arm by a nearby tree. I finish loading, my breathing going shallow. Here’s my chance.
Whipping from my hiding place, I aim and shoot. Thwack! I hit him on the shoulder blade. He spins toward me, lifting his marker to fire, but I shoot him again first. The air-pod slams into his chest. He staggers and bellows. In my ear, my status streamer informs me of his elimination in a matter-of-fact voice. Victory is mine.
I shoot him in the leg, too, for good measure. He falls against the base of the fake tree and shoves his mask from his face.
“What the haze are you doing, Morgan? I’m already eliminated!” he cries.
I give him a tight-lipped smile and throw down my marker.
“I know about the blue-haired chick,” I say, struggling to keep my words steady. “You and I are through, Aaron.”
Stunned guilt floods his eyes. I stalk away into the nightglow darkness, a sour knot churning in my gut. I hope the shot to his chest stung him something wicked. I hope he regrets he ever laid eyes and hands on that girl.
I don’t regret walloping him, not one bit.
So why does it feel like it’s the spot over my heart that’s been slammed?
Meet Carol Riggs!
Carol Riggs lives in the beautiful green state of Oregon, USA. She enjoys reading, drawing and painting, writing conferences, walking with her husband, and enjoying music and dance of all kinds. You will usually find her in her writing cave, surrounded by her dragon collection and the characters in her head.
Contact Info: Website | Artzicarol Ramblings | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads | Amazon
Want to purchase Carol’s novels?
The Body Institute