A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "A Mix-Up at the McDonalds"
Swap places with Joey? Even for one day? That could be really dangerous. She could really fuck things up for you.
You're about to say "No" when you catch the eager look on her face, and flinch.
And because you've got her brain wedged inside yours, you can guess how crushed she'd be if you refused.
"Yeah, okay," you say. "But—"
"Awesome!" she exclaims, and tugs at her t-shirt. "Think I can go like this? Oh, but you'd have to put on my clothes anyway," she prattles, "so you'd have to take off yours, so I might as well—"
She isn't just dressed like you, she's wearing a copy of your face, so you flinch again under her exuberance. Jesus, is that what I look and sound like when I get excited? Do I squeal?
You follow Joey back over to her minivan, and climb into the back seat. "Shouldn't we drive someplace else?" you ask as she prods you into clambering into the storage space in the very back of the minivan.
"Why?" She looks around. "No one's going to notice if we do it here. Come on, get moving!"
She's quick to pull off her things as she crouches in the back seat. You undress much more slowly, and you dodge looking her in the face (your face) as she grins at you. "Here," she says as she rummages around. "You better put this on before you try putting on any my things." She titters as she hands you a mask.
"You really were prepared for this morning," you mutter.
You look up when you're answered by silence, to see Joey giving you a hurt look. "Are you not okay with this, Will?" she asks in a small voice.
"No, I'm fine," you tell her. You force a smile. "You're just going so fast!"
She smiles and says, "It'll be fun. You'll see!"
"Do you have fun being homeschooled?"
"No, you're right. It'll be fun," yo mumble. You see the day spreading out before you—the same school day that Joey suffers five times a week. No wonder she wants to try something new. "And you'll have fun," you tell her. "I hope you'll have fun."
Her smile widens, and her eyes glint. Probably it's the first time that someone with your face has looked so happy at going in to Westside High on a school day.
After your clothes are all off, you lay down on the scratchy carpet, and hold Joey's mask over your face. Slowly you lower it. Here comes the rest of me, a Joey-like voice says in the privacy of your skull as the mask settles over your features.
* * * * *
You're woken by a hard poke in the shoulder. "Hey, Joey," a voice says. "Joey! Wakey-uppy!"
You frown and force your eyes open. A boy is peering down at you. He has crinkly eyes and a crooked smile, and his straw-like hair sticks out from under a shapeless white ball cap.
His name is Will Prescott, and when you woke up this morning, you were him.
"Ugh," you groan as you start to sit up. Then you remember where you are—the back of a minivan, parked in a McDonalds parking lot—and that you're naked. You gasp and curl up into a small ball.
"Yeah, here's your things," Will says. He drops a bundle of clothes at you.
"And you're already ready," you grumble as you disentangle them.
"Yeah, well, I was already ready to go," he replies. "Just had to put my things on." He plucks the green t-shirt you were wearing just a few minutes ago.
"My things," you correct him.
"Not today they're not," he retorts. "But I gotta get going. I can't wait on your slow-poke ass."
You give him a look as you snap the tiny bra around your chest. He's not talking like Joey anymore. It sounds like he's trying to talk like you.
"You think you can pull this off?" you ask him.
"I told you I can. I know your schedule. Sociology, Film, Career Planning." He rolls his eyes. "Maybe I'll skip that one. You don't like it anyway. English. Oh, hey!" His eyes light up. "I think I'll try having lunch with Jenny and them today. That'll be fun!" His laugh is like a hiss.
"Well, watch out for the Molester," you warn her as you slide on some jeans. "And the rest of them."
"Oh God." His face falls hard. "Shit!" He feels for something at his knees, and comes up with your phone in his hands. "And Jenny was telling me to watch out for Seth!"
Jenny was telling me to watch out for Seth, you silently correct her. "Yeah. And if you see Jenny, what'll you tell her about what you did to Cindy."
"What you did to Cindy," she retorts.
"What I did? Like those are my clothes? If you're me today, then it was you who—"
"Shit." He looks like he's going to throw up.
Then a little smile twitches at his lips. "Whoa. It's fun saying those things. Shit. Fuck. Piss. Cunt!"
Before you can make a waspish reply, he drums his hands on the back of the seat.
"Okay, I'll take care of it," he says. "I'll just, you know, do whatever you would do, follow your instincts." Oh God, please, don't, you think. "But I gotta go. Oh," he adds, turning to snap his fingers at you. "I'll text you after last period, see what we're doing then. My mom lets me turn the internet back on after three."
"I know," you tell her. "I'll be waiting." You have a sinking feeling of dread as you say it.
Will snaps off a little salute, then hops out, slams the car door, and sprints back over to your truck. You watch him as you button up the blouse and slide delicate white feet into canvas sneakers. You hold your breath as the truck brake lights come on, and Will backs out of the space. He gives you another salute before driving off.
Only after he's gone do you realize you were holding your breath.
You clamber into the back seat and crawl out of the minivan. Joey's phone is in the front seat, and you check the time once you're behind the wheel. Will can make it to the school in plenty of time, you notice. Joey just wanted to get to Westside early.
You're pulling out of the parking lot when you remember the excuse Joey gave her parents for running into town early—to get coffee and breakfast for herself and for them—and you turn around to pull into the drive-thru. Not until you are handing over the money does it strike you how normal it felt to finger through her billfold for the money. And then it doesn't feel like it was normal. It feels like it was very strange.
* * * * *
"I'm back!" you call out as you come into the kitchen. With a scrambling of nails on tiles, Monday runs in, panting, to greet you. "Mom? Dad?" you call as you rub the dog.
"Just set it all on the island!" your mom calls back from upstairs. You unpack the bag, then take your coffee and sausage-and-biscuit into the classroom. It's an asymmetrical hexagon at front of the house with tall windows looking onto the street, tastefully decorated with blonde bookcases and a large desk where your mom does her work. Your desk is a complicated thing of chrome struts and fake-wood surfaces, with a built-in bookcase and sliding drawer to hold the computer keyboard. A small monitor sits in one corner, leaving plenty of room for books and papers to be spread out in front of you.
"You were gone awhile," your mom says as she comes waddling in a little later with her coffee. "Longer than I expected." The hackles on the back of your neck rise. She never says anything directly when she's unhappy. She just gets very passive-aggressive.
"I felt like driving around," you reply. You hate the defensive note that has crept into your voice. "Sometimes I get tired of this neighborhood."
Mrs. Tartaglione settles behind her desk with a sigh. "Maybe we could take a field trip," she says. "We haven't been out to the Suffolk Wilderness in awhile."
That's not what I meant, you think. But you bite your tongue and lower your head and take out the calculus book.
* * * * *
As you got started, you were anticipating the day with dread. But as you get into the work, you find that it's not so bad. By lunchtime, you find yourself half-wishing that your own parents had decided to homeschool you.
For a start, there are no distractions—no other students, no noises from outside, no thinking about what's going to happen next period. There's just the work to occupy you, and it all goes pretty quickly. By lunchtime you have finished all your math for the day, along with the Latin and French and social studies. After lunch—which you prepare under your mother's supervision, using recipes that she sets out—comes the day's reading in English and history. Joey's parents give her a lot of latitude there, approving or disapproving of her own choices, so you settle in for ninety pleasant minutes with Anthony Trollope, followed by another ninety with a history of Venice. (Joey has already mastered the outlines of world and European/American history; now she just reads history for the details.) When your phone dings with an incoming text, it actually startles to see that it's three o'clock already.
There's two texts, both sent a little over half an hour ago. Jenny Ashton's text is blunt, asking if you're up for hanging out this afternoon. Will Prescott's text is more devious: Talked Jenny into asking u to meet her but ditch her n come meet me instead.
Joey's is the better plan, probably. You could switch back with her before going home. But she got to have fun pretending to be you with Jenny. You could have fun being Joey with Jenny.
Next: "The Sudden Crush of Events"