A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Dane's Doom"
You are so wound up that when at last Chen's Jeep comes rocketing toward the school, you throw the briefcase into the backseat of your car and hightail it into the school. Gotta hide, gotta hide, gotta hide. That's the only thing running through your head. Gotta hide, gotta hide!
You make a wide circuit of the school, scuttling from hiding spot to hiding spot, until you've circled back around to the parking lot. Once back at your car, you race back to the old elementary school, where you hide the briefcase with its bags and bags of weed behind a cluster of bookshelves. You curl up with your face to your knees, and try to stifle Dane's whimpers of despair.
When you lift your eyes again, you see the pile of metal bands that Caleb made.
That is how you change your mind again, and decide to find yourself a new hiding place.
* * * * *
You run through the possibilities as you carve runes into the last two metal strips, and settle on Chelsea as your target. She's the one who started everything by sending her psycho boyfriend after you. Besides, any of the others you were thinking of—Kirkham, the Molester, one of the football players—would probably come at you after you made the switch with them. But Chelsea, ho is nothing more than a cheerleader after all, would probably be too freaked out to try anything with you.
And being Chelsea Cooper, head cheerleader, would be a pretty big promotion! You'd get a lot more from that than whatever Caleb thinks he's going to get by copying Anthony Kirk's brain!
The only trouble—and it's a goddamned large obstacle—is getting close to Chelsea. She would have nothing to do with Will Prescott, but she would have even less to do with a stoner like Dane Matthias. Never mind her giving you the cold shoulder, she might be so offended by your approach that she sends her hulking boyfriend after you, like she did before!
And that's when you see a way of maybe getting to her.
* * * * *
You return to the school a little before the final bell, and lurk at the corner of the theater wing, watching from afar the breezeway that runs in connects the school to the student parking lot. You're watching for three people.
Will Prescott is the first, and when he appears he blows out of the double doors like he's running from a fire. You wonder how Gordon is holding up in your old life and old body, but you let him go. You're not interested in him. You just wanted him out of the way.
Same for Gary, who comes storming out of the same doors a few minutes later. You jump back out of view, and after a count of ten, you peek back out, just in time to see him disappear toward the parking lot. So that means you can safely approach Chelsea without being intercepted.
It's another five minutes, though, before she comes out, with her friends Kendra and Gloria. You scamper to intercept them, calling Chelsea's name. All three girls turn, and their eyes freeze when they see you.
You can't help giggling fearfully at them—talking to Chelsea isn't as bad as talking to Chen, but it's damn similar in its own way. "Oh, wow, hey," you gasp at them. "Like—" You lock eyes onto Chelsea. "You, uh, gotta minute to chat"—you swallow, hard—"Chelsea?"
She snorts softly at you, and turns while Kendra and Gloria shoot you dirty looks. "It's about Gordon!" you call out.
Chelsea swings around again at the name, her eyes blazing. "You stay away from him, you freaking loser!" she hisses at you. "Or I'll talk to the administration and have you busted so hard and fast—!"
You raise your hands. "Hey, I don't ever talk to the dude! Scout's honor!" You try to cross your heart, but only succeed in slashing an X over your belly and crotch. "But that's what I wanted to talk to you about! I know where he's gettin' his shit!"
If anything, Chelsea's eyes blaze hotter.
"I don't give a fuck!" she spits at you. "And why the fuck do you think I care where—?"
"He's gettin' it from some Eastman cocksuckers! Yeah! They're all, like— It's a basketball thing! You know? Our rivals? It's, uh—"
"Go tell it to Coach Brooks," Gloria sneers.
"No! No, I wanna tell it to—" You point to Chelsea. "I mean, who's gonna believe me? But you come with me, we talk to the Eastman guys, you see it and then you tell, uh, Coach Whoever—"
"What are you talking about?" a voice sounds behind you. You wheel to find Lin Pol, another cheerleader, frowning at you.
"This doesn't concern you, Lin," Gloria says.
Kendra jumps in. "Dane says some of your Eastman fuck-buddies are getting Gordon high to fuck with our squad!" she says. Her lip curls disdainfully.
Lin's face curves into a hard scowl. "The fuck?" she growls at you.
"Hey! It's just what I heard! I—! I'm just telling Chelsea, so she can, you know, maybe do something about it!"
"You're high, Dane!" Chelsea declares, and wheels to march back into the parking lot, leaving you with Lin. You gulp.
"Explain it all to Lin, Dane," Kendra jeers at you.
"Explain what?" Lin demands.
"He wants to go meet them," Gloria answers. She turns and hurries off after Chelsea, with Kendra chasing behind.
"Uh—!" you stammer when Lin turns a hot glare on you.
"Where and when?" she asks you.
"Where and when do we meet them?"
"I— Tonight?" you squeak. You're too panicked to turn your own mouth off. "Over at, um, Hochstetter Park? At eight? That's where they, uh—"
Lin opens her mouth to reply, but is forestalled by a blaring voice. "Jeez, way to block the way out, guys!" Stephanie Wyatt, a hard-faced member of the girls' basketball team, comes bearing down on you. She does a slight double take at Lin. "Oh hey, Lin," she says in a softer voice, then brushes past you. Another girl, with long auburn hair, grins at you as she follows in Stephanie's wake.
Lin grabs you by the ear and twists your face to hers. "Hochstetter Park? Eight o'clock?" she says. "I'll be there." She shows you her teeth, then marches off.
You're in a daze as she goes, so you don't notice right away that the auburn-haired girl has stopped to grin widely at you. You stare at her. Her name is on the tip of your tongue ...
Before you can place her, she puts her fingers to her lips in the universal smoking-a-toke gesture and asks, "You got any extra, Dane?" Her eyes twinkle.
"Huh? Oh! Uh—" Instinctively you dip a hand into the pocket of your dirty sports coat, and your fingertips touch a couple of joints. Before you can take them out, though, Stephanie stops to glare at her friend. She sees, and backs away from you. But as she follows Stephanie she mouths at you over her shoulder: I'll text you later!
After they're gone, you run for your car.
* * * * *
Well, that was a clusterfuck, is your dismal reflection after getting back to the elementary school. Not only did you fail to arrange a meeting with Chelsea, you managed to drop a couple of bombs in front of a couple of other people. Now Dane, when he gets his old life back, is going to have Chelsea, her friends, and Lin all mad at him for spreading rumors about Eastman students trying to sabotage Gordon.
You're still moping about it when your phone—Dane's phone—dings from a text. It's from someone named Julia Paez. Right! That was the girl who was leaving with Stephanie! She's another basketball player. Dane has sometimes run into her at parties, and have the impression from Dane's haze-choked memories that she is very easygoing—even that she might have been flirting with him.
Anyway, she wants to know what's up, and follows by asking if she can meet up with you someplace to buy a little "band candy" off you. You're not really concentrating, so you put her off by telling her to drop by your house any time after nine. You busy now? she asks.
That's when you realize, with a shock, the opportunity that is being handed to you: If you can't get together with Chelsea to make a switch, you could make one with Julia.
Like, any port in a storm, right?
But for now you only reply with an ambiguous text—Lol knida busy—that you hope will keep that door open even as you open your mind to other possibilities.
Because if you can't get Chelsea, there are other acquaintances of Dane's that you might make a lunge at. (By this point you're not thinking in terms of who might "deserve" to get stuck as Dane.) So Lin becomes a live possibility when she texts you to confirm you'll meet her at Hochstetter , and Brianna Gould (a party girl that Dane hangs out with) trails herself across your sights when she texts to see if you want to hang out with her and some other guys.
But is it's as you're hesitating over these choices—Lin, Brianna, Julia—that the brass ring swings back into reach.Where r u meeting these Eastman guys abt Gordon? Chelsea texts you to ask. Hochstetter?
So she did take the bait! You dance around the school basement, whooping and punching the air.
No its potsdam park, you type in with shaking fingers. (No reason to send her where you told Lin this "meeting" was going to be.) Nine.
But after you hit "send" you glance over her text again. That's when you notice that she didn't actually say she was going to meet you. She just asked where the meeting was.
A dreadful thought occurs. Maybe she's not planning to come. Maybe she's planning to send some of Gordon's goon friends instead.
* To meet Chelsea: "A Royal Coup"
* To meet Julia: "The Port in the Storm"