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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/992234-Excuse-My-French
by Seuzz
Rated: GC · Book · Occult · #2193834
A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
#992234 added September 3, 2020 at 11:21pm
Restrictions: None
Excuse My French
Previously: "Errands of an Errant Magician

by Masktrix

You're huddled in a back corner of the Art classroom, your heart beating hard, with an alert eye cocked at the other students. There's only a handful of them in this bullshit Saturday-morning elective with you, and they are all busy working with wet clay and water. You should be working too, at the half-finished pot on the worktable before you. But you have Mathilde Ambard to take care of. She is slouching against your shoulder, her head lolling against yours. It takes all your strength to keep her propped there.

Pottery class wasn't the best place to try the trick, even here in the very back of the room, and already you're regretting it. What if someone looks around and notices that Mathilde is passed out and leaning against you? Your underthings are drenched with a nervous sweat.

But this was the last, best chance you had to make a full-body Mathilde Ambard disguise.

At last you hear a quiet plop, and glance over to see the band has dropped onto Mathilde's bosom. You pluck it up and look around. Everyone is still absorbed in their own projects. Even Ms. Arroyo has her back to you as she bends to examine the jar that is emerging under Aiden Nichol's fingers.

You carefully push Mathilde over until her head is resting on the work table, then gather up your stuff. You tiptoe around the side of the classroom, and not until you're at the door do you raise your hand and call. "Uh, miss, can I be excused?"

Ms Arroyo, a Latina with short black hair and chipmunk cheeks, looks up. "And why is that, Miss Moss?" she asks.

"Photography project," you say. "Trying to capture life in Saratoga Falls. You can check with Mr Winn if you—"

"Go," she says, and turns back to Aiden. You scamper out.

That's the beauty of Saturday classes: Even the teachers know they're utter bullshit.


You've never felt so alive as you slip into your room. From your footlocker you gather the book and breathlessly flip to the next spell. There's no mention of fire with this 'ferrumen' you have to make, but you grind out the paste beside an open window anyway. You have no idea how long it takes you—the butterflies make it feel as if time is standing still—but at last, it's ready. You slather some into Mathilde's mask, then take the metal strip from your pocket. Only now do you look at it directly, and see her name floating above it: Mathilde Fabienne Hortense Ambard de Gavrillac.

The very name sounds like an incantation! Words that will transform you into a princess!

You press the band into the mask, and it instantly freezes there in place.

Dammit! You should have checked the spell first, to confirm this is what you're supposed to do with it. But there's no time now. Already there are voices and footsteps in the halls outside.

You scrawl a hasty note to Tammy-Lynn, telling her you'll be going away for the weekend, and shove the mask and book into your bag. Then you head back out to finish the rest of your Saturday classes. The hours pass with agonizingly slowness.


When the final bell rings, you park yourself in your last classroom and look down to watch the traffic circle. Twenty long minutes pass before Mathilde comes out of Founders Hall with a small rucksack and climbs into a waiting coupe with some of her friends. She will be gone all weekend, as she is gone every weekend, leaving you free to be her here at school for almost two solid days! As soon as they drive off, you dash back to Founders Hall. Your heart is in your throat and in your fingertips as you knock on Mathilde's door. There's no answer, but the latch slides back when you try the handle. The room is empty.

You've only minutes, maybe, to ransack the cupboard. And what an insane assortment there is to choose from! The navy-blue pantsuit? No. The white-and-black summer dress? No. Then you almost squeal: That retro 60-style miniskirt, woven of bright red and white plastic, and the blouse with the black fabric sleeves! You saw Mathilde wear it once last year, and it blew you away and made you sick with yearning for a body that could pull it off. You drag them out, stuff them into your bag, and hurry back out into the hall, pulling the door closed softly behind you. You can get the underthings later, when you are Mathilde Ambard and that is your room and your cupboard filled with your things!

Well, for the weekend they'll be yours.

Then it's back across to the academic building, which is open on weekends the same hours as on weekdays, but is always empty. There you'll be able to find a restroom with some privacy to complete your transformation from caterpillar to Monarch butterfly!


It's with a confident stride that you sweep down the stairs of Founders Hall again, fresh from your room where you added hoop earrings and some light makeup to your ensemble after returning there in Mathilde's—your—body. From the entryway you study the dining room layout. Where to sit? Not with Mary, of course, you sniff to yourself. Ah, really there can be only one choice: The "top" table, with Marius, and Rolf Draxler, and Andrew Addison. Of course, none of them own a castle!

And yet the confidence you feel is mostly feigned. That metal band you made doesn't seem to be working. Wrack your brain though you will, you can’t think of anything Mathilde would know!

It's not like it was with Mary's band, where you woke instantly to an almost perfect grasp of her memories. And it's not because you did the wrong thing with the band. It showed Mathilde's name, and when you checked the book just a minute ago, out of fear that you'd glued it in wrong, you confirmed that you'd followed the instructions correctly. And yet nothing that Mathilde knows will come to you!

So you eat your lunch with polite but amiable silence, trying to act as Mathilde would, holding the cutlery as if you were a surgeon dissecting the Beef Wellington, eating small bites and ignoring the concept of dessert entirely. Maybe you just have to convince the mask you're her, and so you try to think like you think Mathilde would think. Oh, but how are you to know how Mathilde thinks if the band doesn't work? And though it's natural for you to fantasize about her chateau, would it be natural for Mathilde to? Would it be natural for her to visualize every nook and hiding place, and to replay in her memory how to get to the little bretèche above the gatehouse by squeezing along a narrow passage—?

Your eyes widen! That's something Mathilde would know! If it's a fact! Is it? Or is it just your imagination running away with you?

Fortunately, your preoccupation seems to put up some kind of forcefield between you and the other students, and it's not until you're on your way back to her—your—room that you hear her—your name called.

Something that nobody would ever do to Mathilde Ambard.

It's Aiden Nichols. "Hey, Mathilde," he says as he hurries up to join you. "Are you doing better?"

"At what?" you ask.

"Well, from Pottery class."

You cover your panic—Someone must have noticed Mathilde passed out!—with a slow blink. "I'm fine."

"Well, good. Look, I wanted to ask you again about that book they confiscated off Joss-Moss. I checked with Ryan again. He says that Marius definitely asked you to look at it, and you said it was all nonsense."

You suppress a swallow. Why is this little geek checking up on that thing? It wasn't any of his business to begin with. "It wuz nonzenze," you tell him.

He gives you a look. "Oh, come on," he exclaims. "You and I both know it wasn't. It was a spell book, Mathilde. So why'd you tell Marius otherwise?"

"Zbell books are nonzense, aren't zey?" you reply. "Bezides, why zhould I twy to get her in twouble? Do you want to get her in twouble?" You give him your haughtiest look.

But he just looks amused and returns your stare with a bold one of his own.

"Okay," he says, "I've got another question for you. Why'd you come back to school?"

"Gum back?"

"Yeah. I saw you leaving with your friends. I shouted to you, but you were off and running before I could catch up. Now here you are again."

Shit! "I janged my mind and had dem dwop me off again."

"When I texted you five minutes ago, you said you were halfway to McGuffey City."

Your reply catches in your throat. "I'm getting bored viz zis, Aiden," you stammer, "zo if you'll eggscooz me—"

"And what's happened to your accent? You sound like a cartoon character!"

Okay, that pisses you off, even as it terrifies you. "I don't have to ztand here and be inzulted!"

"Oh, come off it, Mathilde! Everyone knows you start talking like a comedy cliche when you get upset. So what's going on? That book is something special, isn't it?" He grabs you by the elbow—How dare he!—and drags you to the side.

"You're covering for JM, aren't you?" he says in a low voice. "There's something special about that book. Niamh and me got a close enough look at it to know it's not a prank prop like you told Marius. At least, it's not mostly a prank prop. And Tammy-Lynn says that JM has gotten obsessed with it. Obsessed! JM showed it to you, didn't she?" A gleeful grin spreads across his face. "She showed it to you and you're covering for her because there's something about it that you two don't want anyone else to know."

He squeezes your elbow so hard that it hurts. "So what is it, Mathilde?"

Next: "Claiming your Prize

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