A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "The Fake Book"
This is too weird. You don't want anything to do with a creepy old book that asks to drink your blood. Carefully you close it up.
Then you carry it over to your desk, which is covered over with school texts, notebooks, bundles of paper, and dirty dishes. You lift one tottering stack by a bottom corner and slide your newest acquisition underneath. Then you straighten the stack to hide the cover and spine.
Out of sight, out of mind, you tell yourself.
Of course, just because you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there.
But by bedtime, as far as you're concerned, it's just become another layer sinking beneath the sediment of your desktop. And the next morning, as you're frantically shoving school books into your pack, you've completely forgotten about it.
* * * * *
The morning air is thick with the stink of asphalt and high school funk as you trudge across the student parking lot toward the campus of Westside High. At least a cold front came through during the night, breaking the recent heat wave, and as you sniff at the cool air you allow yourself to feel cautiously optimistic about the day ahead. It is after all a Friday.
You turn at the shout. Caleb Johansson, your best friend since the third grade, jogs up and pulls you from the path of an onrushing car. "Watch it, man," he says. "You're no good to me dead."
You glance at the driver as she passes. It's Chelsea Cooper, the school's psychotic head cheerleader. Though in this case, the near-miss was probably because she had her eyes locked onto her cell phone, not because she was trying to run you down. Still, you flip off her rear bumper as it passes. "You need me for something?" you ask Caleb.
He gives you a look. "Shoot me in the face if I ever do. Except, now that you mention it—" He grips your shoulder with a bony hand. "You talk to your dad yet? About that job at his company?"
"What job?" you blurt back. Then: "Oh, shit."
Caleb groans. "Jesus, Will! All you gotta do is talk to him! Is it that hard?"
"You try talking to him sometime," you grumble.
"I'd like to! At his work! Where I'd be working for him!"
You grunt. You've never paid much attention to your dad's company, which is some kind of aerospace contractor. But Caleb is deep into science and engineering; he's the kind of kid who had motorized Lego sets when he was only nine.
"I'll ask him this weekend," you say.
"You can't ask him tonight?"
"I'm hoping I forget about it again. I don't even get why you want the job so bad. It'll just be scut work."
"It's a foot in the door. A job at Salopek is, like, a major in."
He sounds so eager you can hardly stand it. What's worse, it's a job your dad has been pressuring you to take, and he'll probably blow his stack when you lobby him to give it to your math-and-shit-loving friend instead. That's the main reason you've been postponing (to the point of forgetting) to talk to him about it.
"So you'll do it?" Caleb says. "You'll talk to him tonight, call me up with the good word?"
"You really need my help for this?"
"Dude, I'm counting on you. This is, like, asking you to talk to a girl for me, that kind of serious."
You make a finger-gun and shoot him in the face.
* * * * *
You probably wouldn't have been so rude—and gotten your finger bent back so hard he nearly sprained it—if he hadn't compared the favor to "talking to a girl" for him.
Because if you've fallen down at talking to your dad for him, Caleb has fallen down at talking to Eva and Jessica Garner for you.
No, you're not looking to go out with one of them, let alone both of them. (Though they are twins, and dating twin blonde cheerleaders at the same time would be pretty sweet.) But if you rank so low on the school pyramid that the head cheerleader won't bother trying to run you over, you've no hope of scoring a date with any of her squad mates.
But Eva and Jessica are friends with Lisa Yarborough. And as her friends, they might be able to tell you something about why Lisa dumped your sorry ass at the start of the month. That's right: They won't help you find a girlfriend, but maybe they can explain how you lost one.
You brood as you trudge into your first-period class and slump into your desk. Caleb is late joining you, so there's nothing to stop you from staring across the room, out of the corner of your eye, at your ex-girlfriend.
Oh, but that was the worst part of it, wasn't it? She dumped you by telling you that she had never been your girlfriend in the first place.
~ ~ ~
Maybe the wonder of it was that she even gave you a girlfriend-like attention to begin with. Because even if Lisa Yarborough isn't a cheerleader, you couldn't help being a little in awe of the fact that she would go around with you.
Oh, you're not that funny looking, you think. Sure, maybe you're a little too gangly for your height, and maybe your nose is a little too big and prone to zits, and maybe your stiff, corn-yellow hair looks a little too much like hay sticking out from under your sloppy ball cap. But you must have something going for you. Because even though Lisa spent her whole junior year turning down dates with guys on the football and basketball teams, she started hanging out with you at the start of the summer.
And boy, was that fun, even if you didn't do much except sit close to each other and talk. Lisa has violet eyes and thick, shoulder-length, raven-colored hair; bosoms that are large without flopping all over the place; and rocking hips that can turn your guts upside down better than any rollercoaster could.
You saw a lot of her over the summer, at the park or just hanging around someplace with her friends. She'd put her arm around your waist or her head against your shoulder, and you'd do the same. And if she never got a bright, shiny stare when she looked at you, her eyes still danced with pleasure.
So what the hell was her deal that Monday, two weeks ago, when—
You were just coming out English when you saw Lisa standing a little ways off, talking to Kelsey Blankenship. Kelsey is one of your least favorite people—she's a stuck-up, country club snot, on her way to the Ivy League, and fuck if she doesn't love to tell people all about it—but you hopped over to talk to Lisa anyway. Maybe today, you were thinking, I can talk her into skipping lunch in the cafeteria, and hang out with Caleb and Keith and me behind the school instead.
She didn't see you coming, but Kelsey did, and you tried to ignore the way her lip curled when she looked at you. You put your arm around Lisa's shoulder, and grinned as she jumped a little and swung around in surprise.
"Will, please," she said as she wriggled out from inside your loose embrace. "It's not like we're going out or anything."
Okay, actually it wasn't that abrupt. There was some small talk first, as you tried talking her into ditching Kelsey and the cafeteria, and she squirmed and tried to put you off with the same excuses she'd used since school started—like how she really wanted to eat in the cafeteria, not outside in the dirt and grass, and if you wanted to join her at her table that would be okay, though you'd have to sit across from her because Eva and Jessica ... well, there was something or other that always explained why them or Kelsey or someone else would have to sit at her left or at her right, never you ...
Anyhow, it was all going the way it usually did, but then on this particular Monday (it had to be a Monday, so you'd have the rest of the week to suffer by seeing her in the classes you shared) she ended with a snippy sigh, slid out from under your arm, and announced that the two of you had never actually been dating so could you please maintain a distance?
So what the hell did you do wrong?
Now, it wasn't like you could ask her yourself. And no way were you going to ask Kelsey or Amanda Ferguson what they thought was going on with Lisa. (Kelsey's the type who'd tell you that your great mistake was in being born.) And that left Eva and Jessica, who though they were cheerleaders were at least nice to you when you were hanging out with them and Lisa.
And when they proved evasive, you put Caleb onto the job of talking to them for you. They'll tell you all the shit they won't say to my face, you explained. He had grimaced, but agreed.
But he still hasn't talked to them.
* * * * *
Lunchtime comes, and you and Caleb are sitting out front on the grass with Carson Ioeger and James Lamont. But they're too distracted to talk to you or Caleb though, being immersed in planning an epic prank against the basketball squad. You can't resist jeering at their chances of success.
"I wouldn't piss us off if I was you, Prescott," Carson snaps.
"Why? Would you try pranking me?" You jut your chin out at him.
"Do worse than that. We won't help you prank Mansfield."
Geoff Mansfield? Another one of Kelsey's snotty country club friends? Not that the asshat doesn't deserve a sweet pranking, but why would you want to?
"Because I saw him hanging out with Lisa after school yesterday," Carson says when you ask. "It looked pretty hot between them. Like they needed a bucket of ice water poured over them."
Next: "Things That Frighten You"