A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Drama in the Drama Department"
You wake to a sound of thunder in your head, and a feeling like someone or something has twisted you into the shape of a coat hanger, then wrapped a straightjacket around you. You grimace as you shift your limbs, trying to unbend yourself.
It's dim when you open your eyes, and you find yourself ... Where, exactly? You blink, and the pain and the grogginess burn off like fog as you move and stretch. Oh yeah, you think. I'm backstage in the theater. You went to look for Christian Padilla, but Chris Love was the only guy you found. You nodded at him and asked for Christian, and Chris said he was back in Mr. Wilkes's office. You were just turning to walk back there when you felt arms close around you. You thought, This is nice, but I wish Chris had asked permission first. Then you felt something close over your face.
You frown. No, that's not right. I came in with Leah, and I went back out front when we didn't find anyone, and then I heard someone call my name—
So how come I remember meeting up with Chris back here? And why do I remember ... myself ... loping along next to me as we came into the theater?
Maybe it will all get clearer when I find Will, you decide. Then you catch yourself short. No, when I find Leah.
You lever yourself to your feet, and you have to catch your pants as they slide off. Your feet are swimming inside your sneakers. What the hell? It's like your clothes have gotten a lot bigger.
"Hey!" you call out, and your voice sounds strange. "Hey! Anyone? Chris? W—?" You catch yourself again. Why the compulsion to call out to yourself like you might come running? "Leah?"
There's a dull thump from off somewhere, followed by the rumble of something heavy slipping to the ground. You slip off your clown-size shoes and, holding up your pants with one hand, jog back toward the stage.
You meet yourself coming back. You and the other you freeze and stare at each other.
His name, you know, is "Will Prescott." Typically he would also answer to "me", "myself" and "I." But when he yelps, it is not your throat or mouth that ripple.
He's a lanky kid with straw-colored hair sticking out all over. He stares at you from out of narrow-set eyes, and his mouth spreads into a terrified rictus grin that is full of yellow teeth.
He is barefoot, and his very short shorts show a lot of fuzzy, skinny leg. His shirt—his blouse, which you recognize from your own closet—
—is unbuttoned and flopping open. A brassiere shows beneath it.
He's wearing my clothes! you gasp to yourself.
You glance down at yourself: And I'm also wearing my clothes!
But the real problem, it seems to you with a shock, is that you shouldn't have a pair of small boobs distending the front of your shirt.
* * * * *
"Oh, Jesus, Will!" he gasps as he slaps himself into a better-fitting set of clothes. "If this turns out to be your fault—!"
"My fault? How the hell could it be my fault?" you retort as you fumble the bra straps together around your chest.
"I'm not saying it is! I'm just saying that if it's your fault—"
You're huddling behind some storage crates in a back corner of the theater, with another storage crate between you. It's not a changing room, but it's the best that you and ... he ... could find on short notice. There was no way you were leaving the theater inside the clothes you were each wearing.
As for who "he" is, well, he looks and sounds like a high school boy named Will Prescott, but he says he's Leah Simmons—same as you look like a high school girl named Leah Simmons, though you very much want to answer to the name "Will Prescott."
"So what happened to you when you came back here?" the boy asks as he hops in place, trying to tie a shoe with his knee hiked up to his chest.
"Someone grabbed me."
"I don't know," you confess. "Though I want to say it was—" You make a face. "Chris Love."
That's another thing you discovered while you and he were frantically trying to sort each other's shit out without freaking out completely. He insisted that he was Leah, but you were a little more ambivalent about which of the two identities jogging around in your head to claim. That pissed him off, especially when you backed yourself with a recital of facts that only Leah Simmons would know about herself. Being grabbed by Chris Love after sending ... Will ... back out front is one of those things that only Leah should remember, but which you do too.
"Fuck," he gasps after getting himself sorted out. His face is very red. "How do I look?"
"Hat," you remind him, and he ducks to retrieve the shapeless white cap that you're never without. "What about me?" You shake yourself free inside the blouse and shorts, and splay out your arms and legs.
His eyes widen with horror. "Oh, God," he groans. "Why did I have to come to school dressed like that today?"
"Because all your other clothes were in the hamper, and—"
"Shut up! Jesus!" He looks around. "Maybe we could hide out here?" he whimpers. "This has gotta be a dream, right? Fuck!" He whirls on you with eyes the size of dinner plates. "What if we're out there, in class, and boom—! We suddenly switch back?"
"Get a grip, man!"
"We could hide out here, couldn't we? Skip the rest of the day—"
"We'll have to go home sooner or later."
He groans. "What if we switch back there?"
"We can't hide out here forever!" You reach across he crate, then catch yourself. The gesture feels both alien and very natural. You give in to it, though, and give him a reassuring grip on the arm. "You'll do fine. And we'll get out of here and—"
"Let's take off now!" he says. "While it's lunch! We'll go— I dunno. Out to the wilderness. And we'll—"
You make a face. "I've got blowoff classes, but you've got an AP Stat class, right? And, you know, if I'm looking this, maybe I should—"
He looks ill, then bolts.
"I'm taking off!" he calls back as he runs. "I'll text you later, set up a place to meet!"
"Will!" you yell after him. "Leah!"
Then you whirl and listen. You can't be sure, but you think you heard a stifled laugh from somewhere nearby.
* * * * *
I'm Leah Simmons, I'm Leah Simmons, you chatter to yourself as you hurry through the mostly empty halls toward Mr. Muniz's classroom. The bell rang just a few seconds ago, but you can still beat the tardy bell. I'm Leah Simmons, you remind yourself as you break into a gallop as your math teacher steps out to pull his door closed. "Just made it, Ms. Simmons," he says as the bell rings just as you cross the threshold. You pant and nod. That's right, I'm Leah Simmons.
It's not hard to keep hold of that fact. It's just that you caught your feet twisting a couple of times to take you toward Will Prescott's classes.
You fall into your assigned seat with a hard gasp and plop your backpack onto the desk. You feel the eyes of the class upon you, and glance down to reassure yourself that you've got a pair of boobs wrapped inside the blouse. For a moment, you are rattled hard by the fear that prediction—What if we switch back suddenly?—might come true.
Out of the corner of your eye you catch Kayla Shea giving you a quizzical smile. You nod at her as you unpack your bag. There aren't a lot of girls in this class. Yumi Saito is one, but she's frosty toward you ... Leah ... for reasons you don't understand. That leaves the feathery airhead Mia DeWitt and the volleyball-playing Kayla as classroom buddies.
So it's no surprise when Kayla times her exit at the end of class so that she can bump into you in the doorway. "So what were you late for?"
"I wasn't late," you retort. "I skated in just in time."
"You know what I mean." She grins. "Usually you're here plenty early so you can get lots of stare time with Austin."
You blush and shoot her a dirty look. Austin Dougherty is a rugged soccer player, and by "stare time" Kayla means that you—Leah—likes to stare at Austin's meaty thighs.
"Anyway," Kayla continues, "where are you meeting up with Parker and them?"
"Probably at— No, wait, I'm not." Flustered memory finally catches up to instinct: you have to meet with Will. "Something came up. I'll see you later." You squeeze your way through the crowds, feeling relief as you lose her.
But Kristina Townes is waiting at your—Leah's—locker. "Hey, can I get a ride with you out to the park?" she asks.
Shit. "Sorry, something came up, I gotta meet someone else," you stammer as you spin the combination on the locker. You jump a little when it actually pops open.
Kristina makes a face. "I was hoping we could talk."
That catches your attention, and your heart sinks.
Kristina and Parker Stott are two of Leah's best friends, and they have just started going out. If Kristina wants to have a serious talk, it's probably about that, and Leah would want to give her the chance.
Next: "The Girl Who Is You"