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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/991874-How-Do-You-Solve-a-Problem-Like-Marius
by Seuzz
Rated: GC · Book · Occult · #2193834
A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
#991874 added August 31, 2020 at 9:19am
Restrictions: None
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Marius?
Previously: "The JM Witch Trial

by Masktrix

After dinner you get a chocolate bar from the vending machine. You shouldn't, but you need something to physically chew on as you chew over other matters.

Marius is going to give the book to Mathilde. But does it have to be the real Mathilde he gives it to? You're almost done with the second mask, and if you can get to Mathilde before she sees Marius ...

You're working out the final details of a plan as enter your room. But you stop short when you see Tammy-Lynn sitting on her bed, looking like she's been waiting for you.

So you oblige her. "Fuck you," you say.

"What happened?" You can see she's already itching for the gossip.

"Why, so you can tell the whole year about it?" You cross over to crouch beside your locker.

"I didn't mean to get you into trouble!" she protests. "I was just talking!"

"You're always 'just talking'," you hiss as you examine the shattered lock. "It's why nobody likes you, Tammy. Nobody likes a snitch."

You're glaring at the lock, reflecting on how you're going to have to get a new one, when you're startled by the slam of the door. You look up to find Tammy — her eyes puffy with suppressed tears — looming over you.

"Yeah, well, the reason you don't have any friends, Jocelyn Moss, is because you're so self-absorbed!" she shouts. "It's always 'poor me, Mark won't notice me', or 'I wish I was in California' or just 'Eff my life.' You just follow Mary around when you're not moping," she continues as your jaw falls open, "and you never say anything nice to me, and you could just ask me if I've been through your stuff instead of—" She runs out of breath.

Something rises inside you, like a piston, and the words burst out as you stand up.

"Why would I even need to ask?" you shout. "You're always going through my stuff! Through everyone's stuff. You're not just a snitch, you're a snoop! And why shouldn't I be miserable? Look'it where I'm stuck! Look'it where we're both stuck! All of us! This shitty little town, a thousand miles from my friends, stuck here with you, and my parents never Skyping— How about that," you explode, "haven't you noticed that, you little snoop? Talk about 'self-absorbed!' How about you think about what it all means, what you see when you spy and snoop and snitch!"

You touch your nose, which is starting to stream. "And when I finally find something that's actually fun, a little art project to take my mind off of this shithole, you manage to fix it so the prefects take it away from me!"

Tammy hangs her head, but her expression is still black. "I never saw you doing any art."

You fling open your locker and pull out a mask. It's mostly blue now, but with streaks of grey on its face. You hurl it onto Tammy's bed, then cross over to where your jacket is hanging, and pull out the design you copied from the book.

"Wow, I guess you're so right, Tammy," you snort as you thrust it at her. "No signs of artistic activity here. But I guess it's my own fault for not keeping you informed of everything I do."

Tammy winces, then turns on her heels and leaves. You pick up the mask and plop onto your bed. For the rest of the evening you lay there, polishing it with a furious energy.

***


Sunday drags. Mary – still moody because you spoiled her Friday night fun – announces that she and Corinne are heading into town with Vicky Benjamin to see a movie, and "we would invite you, but I guess you can't go". You shrug it off for the petty sniping it is, and walk down to the river bank. You're done with the mask, and with nothing else to occupy your time, you pull out your phone. There's another text from Mark there: I'd luv to c u play soccer some time. Luv to play against u.

As you read it, your heart beats harder even as it sinks.

Because it's not addressed to you. He sent it to "StephWyatt," a fake account you created and contacted him from. You've been sending flirty little messages back and forth since that day at the lake: Luvd meeting u, talking to u. When u be in town again? I play soccer, almost any sports. Luv getting physical, makes me feel good. Send me a selfie?

That selfie. Mark did send you one. Him in his room and uniform, smiling with an open mouth, and his eyes crinkled up and glinting. You touch the photo now, imagining that you're touching him, pulling his tie loose and parting his collar, to rub his Adam's apple and put your nose and forehead to his throat. To kiss him again, like you did at the lake.

You glance around. After he sent you his selfie he asked for one back of you. You need to do that, and you've got your Stephanie disguise in your bag with you. (You've always got it with you, for you don't dare leave it for Tammy to find.) The woods aren't far, you could hide there and put the mask on, take the selfie, maybe have a long text talk with Mark while wearing it. You being "Steph Wyatt" in the flesh and not just the ether as you text.

But you don't yield. You're not just killing time, you're waiting for Mathilde to return, and you need to catch her as soon as she does.

It's going to be a tricky thing to pull off. The school hierarchy is nowhere written down, but everyone knows it. At the bottom are the poor kids, here on a church sponsorship, their only hope of distinction coming from carving themselves out a niche. Same with the rich kids who want to distinguish themselves from each other. But then at the top are kids like Mathilde Ambard, a fucking French aristocrat. She's not just at the top of Mount Olympus, she hovers above it. Even the prefects take their cues from her.

So what could Jocelyn Margaret Moss, a mediocre student who's never had style or beauty, have to do with someone who lives in a chateau? Nothing! In six years, you've hardly so much as spoken to her.

Which is why, when 5:00 PM comes, and you finally spot her arriving back, you feel pants-soiling terror as you follow her into Founder's Hall.

The door to her room is just slightly open when you reach it. You take a quick look down the corridor to make sure no one's watching, then knock lightly and slip inside without waiting for a summons. Mathilde turns with a look of surprise on her face. She's wearing a jacket over her shoulders as if it were a cape, a wool hat that looks cheap but probably had a three-figure price tag, and a light beige jumpsuit. She looks at you expectantly.

"Ah, I was just hoping Vicky was in," you stammer, and gesture at the empty bed. Mathilde gives you a slow, deliberate blink, but says nothing. "It's about this," you add as you fumble the mask from your bag. Still Mathilde says nothing, and only watches with her hands on her hips. Somehow, her silence is even worse than if she told you to get out.

You kick the door closed with your heel and lunge straight at her, pushing the mask to her face and catching her as she slumps.

Okay, you're going to need about half an hour if you're going to pull this off. The good news is that Vicky's gone, and your careful inquiries have told you she's not going to be back until 7:00 at the earliest. Carefully, you lay Mathilde out on her bed, set out your other supplies beside her, then start tugging off your own clothes even as you open up Mathilde's wardrobe. Holy shit. It's like an Aladdin's cave of couture, stuffed with dresses, trousers, even what looks like a fur hat and glove combo for winter. You rummage for something that won't be missed, and settle on a muted olive green summer dress. It's a tight squeeze and you have to suck in your stomach as it cuts you under the rib cage.

When the mask reappears on Mathilde's face, you grab it up and apply the sealant. But you've not yet put it on—you're just getting into a pair of brown sandals—when Mathilde begins to stir. You'd anticipated that, though, and drop Stephanie Wyatt's mask onto her. Mathilde's form wavers, like a reflection in a disturbed pond, and then it's the sporty blonde lying there instead of the petite French girl.

No time to marvel over the transformation, though. You drop to the floor and put Mathilde's mask to your face.

***


The clock shows that only seven minutes or so have passed when you sit up with a gasp. As you stand up, the dress that had been such a tight fit drapes loosely about your frame. Perfect, you think, but you hop over to the wardrobe mirror to confirm. You can't help but smile at the reflection there. Your short, silky brown hair flicks over your borrowed forehead, and your new cheekbones lead into neat chin and her oval lips with perfect cupid's bow.

You'd love to preen, but you can't spare the time. "Stephanie" is still passed out on the bed, but she must be near consciousness, for her eyes flutter as you lay your hand across her brow. You mutter the incantation and pull, and the mask comes away in your hand; Mathilde plunges back into a deep sleep. You shove the mask, the sealant, and Mathilde's cell phone into your bag. You're about to rush out when you realize the real Mathilde wouldn't be seen dead without at least some makeup, and you hastily grab the lipstick from the dresser to add a touch of pink.

That's all you have time for, though. You've got about 10 minutes to find Marius and get the book back before Mathilde wakes up. After that, you'll be running the risk of having two Mathilde Ambards walking around the school!

Next: "French for Beginners

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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/991874-How-Do-You-Solve-a-Problem-Like-Marius