A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Meet the Locals"
There have been one-sided matches in history. Sporting contests so unbalanced you wish someone would just call it off. Your systematic demolition of the three boys foolish enough to challenge you might be the worst of the lot. The trio are 21 strokes behind before you even hit the first proper obstacle. By the time you stop counting (with seven holes still to go), the boys are 37 over par – and a full 42 strokes behind. Mary hoots with laughter at each of their shots. Corinne focuses even more on the game. And you just let your red hair tumble in front of your face and try to avoid meeting them in the eye.
They try to make up with it with chatter, and they’re funny and sweet. The guy in the plaid shirt, Will, is their leader. He asks you your school, where you’re from, what classes you’re taking. It’s adorable how much effort he throws in to impressing you, even getting excited about some goofy spot prize when Corinne hits a hole-in-one on some stupid windmill set-up. He’s pretty naïve though, and Mary teases him mercilessly about hitting on Roxanne, playing hard on the school rumor that Hurley is bisexual.
Next up, more vocal than Will but not quite as witty, is Keith. He’s got a dumb look about him, with dark hair shaved in a buzz cut and face covered in red splotches and random bursts of hair. He’s a goofball who throws himself into everything with energy, and occasionally blurts out something that makes Corinne crack up, if only because it’s so inane.
The last of the trio is Caleb. Hair clinging to his head in curls, long face with a sharp nose, he looks like central casting for a young nerd. He realizes – vocally – how futile the game is pretty much from the start. By the end, he’s ready to call it a night.
You wonder why you’ve taken such an interest in them. Then you realize: you’ve got a mask in your bag and you need a guinea pig.
"Girls," Mary declares after sinking her last putt on the eighteenth hole, "we have met the enemy and they are ours. What are we going to do with them?"
Corinne looks puzzled. She’s been so focused on winning – throwing herself into the game – she forgot Will offered to let you name your price if you won. You move toward Mary.
“Let’s just go,” you mutter into her ear. “You’ve had your fun.”
"No, a deal is a deal," she says. "We won fair and square. Tell you what," she says, addressing Will and his friends. "You guys have fake IDs, right?"
"Um ..." Will looks dumbfounded for a moment. With growing irritation, you realize where this is going.
"Oh, fuck me, don't tell me you don't." Mary lays on the disbelief thick. But just as Keith begins to stick up his hand, you decide to call it quits on her game – and find a whole new use for the trio.
“Your forfeit is you’re going to take us to a party tonight,” you interrupt. Mary’s head swivels, the glare in her eyes so hot you suspect it will leave scorchmarks.
“JM!” she snaps, clearly having something better in mind.
“I need photos, remember?” you say, calling Mary out on her bullshit excuse for dragging you here to begin with. “I want shots of high school life. You’ve got a car, right, Will?”
Mary leans into you and whispers. “The fuck, JM? These imbeciles were about to get us enough liquor for the rest of term. I lost half of my fucking stash in Abi’s dorm sweep last week, and you know Dalton’s going to spot-check anyone at the gate.”
“I’ll get you your booze,” you say defiantly, not entirely sure how. “But I want to see what counts as a party in this one-horse town.”
Mary looks disgusted. “Slumming it, much? Well, I for one am not riding in a truck. You are on your own.” She turns and smiles viciously at the boys. “Gentlemen, Corinne and I are going to leave you in the hands of JM. Remember, we had an arrangement. I expect you to treat her with the respect she deserves.”
“See you both back at school,” you say with a wave.
“Oh, you absolutely will,” Mary says, more of a threat than a promise. Corinne, for her part, gives you a friendly, if confused, smile. Later you’re going to have to find some way to cool Mary off, but a chance to get one of these boys alone – and see exactly what the mask does – is too good to pass up.
Will’s truck is an old, gas-guzzling model full of cheap lining that clanks and rattles. You half-expect its guts to be held together by string and rust. You sit in the cab, Keith and Caleb in the flatbed, while Will drives you around. He seems twitchy and nervous, and it briefly crosses your mind how stupid it was to climb into a murdermobile with three boys you don’t know. You’re beginning to grow nervous when, abruptly, he pulls into a parking lot.
“Uh, the parties, uhm, start later,” he says. “So we can, ah, kill some time here.”
You shrug, and climb out with the trio, walking into – you can’t believe this – a fucking Dairy Queen. You find a booth that isn’t covered in sticky goop and check your phone, the boys heading up to the counter. Except Will… who’s not making an order at all. Instead, he’s talking to a group sat near the window, where he looks like he’s begging for help from a pretty Asian girl in a cheerleader uniform. Jesus, you laugh as you realize what’s going on. He’s asking her if there are any places to go because he doesn’t actually know! You hold up your phone again, pretending not to notice. But, gradually, you pick up that the group of girls Will’s speaking to are all staring at you. The feeling of being watched a little too intense, you get up and head to the bathroom for some privacy.
At the far end of the stalls you set your bag on the counter, opening it up and looking at the mask. So far there’s been no chance to get one of the boys alone, but you have your target – Will. Sure, he’s kind of rabbit, but you can’t imagine Caleb’s going to last much longer tonight, and there’s no way you’d want the blotchy mass of Keith’s face anyway. You’re holding the mask, taking a breath as you try to work out what you’re going to do, when…
You look up. One of the girls has followed you inside – probably making a lame excuse to break away from the others. You give a weak smile and pretend you’re looking in the mirror. She keeps walking over to you. Where you’re pale, with freckles splashed across your nose and stupid carrot hair hanging down, she’s toned, her skin almost bronze, with short blonde hair cut around her shoulders.
“I saw you came in with Will Prescott.”
You stare at her, intimidated for a moment. You have no idea why; if she lays a finger on you, your parents will sue her family into the stone age. Then it hits you – her piercing green eyes. It’s almost the opposite of Abi Steiner’s infamous ‘hypno eyes’; while Abi’s eyes are soft and inviting, Stephanie’s are hard emeralds.
“Yeah, that’s right. Just hanging out ‘n’ stuff.”
“Uh huh,” the blonde says, curt and bossy. “You dating?”
“Why’s that any of your business?”
“I’m just trying to work out your angle,” she says directly. You narrow your eyes. You’ve dealt with bitches like this in the past; girls who just think they have a right to know what’s going on, even to people they barely care about. Will’s probably not even good friends with her. You steel your jaw.
“He’s just going to help me with a project,” you reply. “But like I said: it’s none of your business.”
The girl makes another step forward, but never gets her next sentence out. In an instant, you scoop up the mask and shove it on her face. You’re not really sure what you’re expecting, but what does happen scares the crap out of you: the girl collapses to the floor unconscious, eyes rolled back and legs giving way. And the mask vanishes.
You stare for a moment in blind panic, shocked, then drop to your knees. The girl’s still breathing, but there’s no sign of the mask – it hasn’t skidded off under one of the stalls.
You gulp and wonder what the hell you’re going to do. Another girl could walk in here at any moment – and you’ve no idea whether something magical is happening, or you’ve just sent whoever this is into a permanent coma. Breathing hard, you grab her arms and drag her, slumped, onto the seat of a nearby stall. She weighs a ton – there’s barely an ounce of fat on her and plenty of muscle – but you manage to squeeze her into the cubicle and shut the door. Then, nervously, you wait.
It’s a terrifying experience. Every slight noise makes you glance toward the door. After a few minutes you at least have the presence of mind to fish into her pockets and pull out a wallet with a driving licence. Stephanie Wyatt. Well, now you know who you’ve zapped unconscious. Two minutes later you hear someone come in, but they don’t seem to be looking for anyone, and, after what feels like the longest bathroom break in history, finally leave (without washing their hands – fucking yokels). A few minutes later, your heart racing only faster, you glance down and notice the mask has magically reappeared. Without a word, you grab it, filled with excitement at the magic you’ve just witnessed. Stephanie, whoever she is, is already murmuring awake, and so you do the only sensible thing – leave.
You shove the mask in your bag, take a breath to compose yourself, then stride into the Dairy Queen as if nothing happened. Indeed, as far as everyone’s reactions would suggest, nothing has happened. You walk over to Will – Keith and Caleb seem to have vanished – and give him a smile. You want to get out of here before Stephanie wakes fully: the only question is where to go.
Next: "A Whole New Girl"