A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Improperly Paranoid"
You hate the idea of giving up tens of thousands of dollars worth of weed and getting nothing in return. But you don't know how to move it yourself. Only one person in the school would know how to do that, and that's the person whose weed it is: Gary Chen.
Fuck it, you mutter to yourself. I'll just bring Steve up here at lunch, like I was planning to, and—
But when lunch comes, you find you've changed your mind. You take your meal at the central table of the cafeteria, prattling and giggling with Gordon (who, uncharacteristically for the lunkhead, giggles and prattles back). You only glance at Patterson once, to return his sour look with a scowl of your own.
* * * * *
It's Thursday, and the weekend is coming up fast, and weekend plans are the first order of business for discussion when you glide into the library last period for study hall with your two most loyal lieutenants.
That would be Kendra Saunders and Gloria Rea. Though calling them your "two most loyal lieutenants" is like claiming a pair of cobras as "pets."
Chelsea has known them since middle school. Kendra is a haughty black girl ("Kenyan-American," not "African-American," she snaps when the whole hyphenated thing comes up) whose slim physique would better suit the track-and-field team than the cheerleader squad, while Gloria is a buxom Hispanic girl with luscious tits and a butt like two small melons wrapped tightly in plastic. Chelsea was constantly crossways with each of them during late middle school and early high school, when all three were maneuvering to be the "alpha queen" of the class, but Chelsea not only beat them out, she cast them into the outer darkness by turning most of the other girls in their class against them. (It didn't hurt that Kendra is transparently insincere, a natural-born sneak, while Gloria veils her sense of inferiority and trailer-trash background with a snobbish disdain toward anyone and everyone else.) Both girls not only hated Chelsea for what she did to them, but hated each other, for it was a three-cornered fight between them.
But after winning the battle, Chelsea swooped in and made both of them her friends, and hauled them up to the pinnacle of the social hierarchy alongside her, so that they, along with her, are now two of the "popular" girls at Westside. There was a price to be paid, however, even though it was never spoken. Chelsea gives them orders ... and they carry those orders out, no matter how odious. For both of them know what would happen if either of them betrayed or disappointed Chelsea—she would cast the loser out, and sic the other on her fallen enemy.
So although Kendra and Gloria transparently hate and loathe Chelsea, they fear her more, and claw at each other to maintain their favor with the head cheerleader, and they pay her in the coin of gossip and intelligence: snooping for news, and spreading the kind of malicious gossip that raises or lowers the social standing of her competitors.
Prominent on today's agenda, for instance, is the matter of Meghan Farris and the party she is planning. Meghan is a desperate wannabe, a girl whose ambition to be a mover and shaker in the senior class is barely hobbled by her complete lack of charisma. Chelsea has been closely tracking the invites and RSVPs to Meghan's party, and to a competing party being planned by Maggie Crenshaw, the captain of the girls' softball team, and giving careful thought as to which way to throw her own considerable influence.
"Tch, you know, I think I'd rather cut out my own appendix than go to either of these parties," you groan as you slump at the table in the center of the library. You are studying the two lists of attendees, revised with the latest intelligence from your agents. There are plenty of names common to both, a sure sign that most of the school feels as indifferent between Maggie and Meghan as you. "You know, if there was something else going on that night—" You cut the thought off with a sigh.
You're answered by a careful silence from the other two girls. Then Gloria says, "There's always the Warehouse."
You make a face at her. "That's every weekend, Gloria. And, like, you're out there every weekend, aren't you?" you spitefully add. The Warehouse is the kind of place kids go to get passed-out drunk on whiskey and weed, and to have grotty sex upstairs on filthy mattresses rented by the hour from the underage criminal gang that runs the place. Perfect party spot for Gloria!
"Quick, think fast, Kendra," you say. "Which one do you want to go to? One two three go!"
Kendra starts. "Huh?"
"Huh"? you mimic her. "Gloria, what about you. Maggie or Meghan's? One two three go!"
"Uh— Maggie's!" Gloria pales a little, and pushes aside a lock of hair that has popped out of place.
You roll your eyes. "Of course you would. Another bull dyke. But that's okay. Kendra, you'd look better out at Meghan's anyway. Okay, that's where each of you going next Friday," you declare, and lean over your notebook to add their names to the respective lists in Chelsea's loopy script. "Be sure to tell everyone which one you're going to be at. Make 'em think your party's the only place to be." That'll fuck both girls up, you think.
"What about you?" Kendra asks. "Which—?"
"I dunno. Probably neither. Me and Gordon, you know, we need some quality time together."
Neither one says anything. Both, you have noticed over the last few days, have been very careful not to say anything about Gordon and the change in his personality. "Okay, as for tomorrow night," you muse as you turn the page in your notebook, "there's a new movie opening. If we went around tomorrow and talked about how all we were thinking of going slumming to see it with our boyfriends—" You cast a sidelong glance at the other two girls. "Do you think you two'd be able to scare up a couple of dates at short notice?"
* * * * *
Steve is coming out of the changing room with the rest of the squad as you walk into the gym after school. He gives you a hard look and lifts an eyebrow, but you ignore him and head for the loft. You're fitting the key into the lock when you hear footsteps running up the stairs behind. You steel yourself for another confrontation with Patterson, but it's Jason Lynch who dashes up to join you.
Which is almost as bad.
Lynch is a sniggering little psychopath, the captain of the baseball team, and a suck-up to Gordon. Seriously, there are times when you—well, when Chelsea—has half expected him to offer to carry Gordon's books home for him. He's a little fireplug of a guy, shorter even than some of the girls at the school, but bulging all over with well-toned muscles. His blue eyes flash beneath a neat pile of sandy hair, and his musk—a mix of body wash and sweat—engulfs you as he joins you on the landing. "Hey Chels," he says with a grin.
"Hi," you snap back, and fold your arms over your bosom.
"Ain'tcha goin' in?" He jerks his chin at the door.
"Are you going to wait out here for me?"
"Well ... no." His smile cracks a little. "I was gonna follow you in an'—"
"Do you have a key?" you demand. It's a sore spot with you—well, with Chelsea—that Gordon lets Jason hang out in the loft even though Jason wasn't given a key to the place.
"Oh, come off it, Chels," Jason whines. "I was gonna hang out, talk with you—"
"I'm just stopping here for a minute to pick something up." You turn back to the door and twist the key in the lock. "Then I'm going down to watch practice."
"Is Gordon gonna be practicing th'saf'rnoon?"
You can't keep from flinching at the question. You cover it by trying to dart into the loft, but Jason jams himself into the doorway before you can fling the door shut on him.
"Come on, Chels," he says. "I know you and me don't got a lot to say to each other—"
He's got that right. He and Chelsea hate each other.
"—but we both got— You know, we both care about Gordon. What's goin' on with him?"
You grind the door against his shoulder. "Talk to Steve about it."
"Me and that beanpole see eye to eye even less'n you an' me do. Just tell me what you know's goin' on with Gordon."
You relent and let the door fall open. "You got me," you sigh. "He's just being a big dope."
"You mean doin' a lot of dope."
You shoot him a spiteful glance. "That's not my fault!"
"Well, I heard that you and him—"
"And you and him and Steve kill dozens of six packs between you! And even if he and I did, you know, it was just the one time!" You glare at him. "Do you know where he's been getting the stuff?"
"From some of the guys. You know." Jason shrugs.
"Yeah. Because you hang out with him even when he's— Jesus, Jason!" You aim a vicious kick at his shin, but he jumps aside. "Why do you let him, if you're there when he's—"
"No one can't tell Gordon what to do. You know that. Lord knows how you try, though."
"Get out!" you snarl. "You wanted to talk and now we've talked and look how much fucking good it did!"
Jason makes a dirty face at you, but slinks out, muttering curses. You slam the door behind and lock it.
But he's given you pause for thought, and you do a lot of thinking as you dump the books and papers from your backpack and shove the briefcase into it. (No way you want Chen spotting it as you carry it to your car.) Gordon's changed personality is attracting too much comment. Maybe you should switch his mask onto another person—one of his teammates, perhaps, so that "Gordon" can return to practice.
That's all for now.