A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Homework for a Body Swap"
It's dark on the old school playground, but not so dark you can't make out the figure rocking lightly in the swing next to you. It's Kelsey Blankenship, though she has the body of Will Prescott. She is shuddering slightly as she weeps into her hands.
Kelsey snuffles some more, then pats her eyes with the back of her hand.
"No," she says with a gulp. "I should go— go back to your place. Face things. It's the waiting that's freaking me out."
"That'a girl," you tell her, and stroke her upper arm. "But Jesus, Kelsey, you're such a ... a strong person. If anyone could ... could knock this thing down and kick its guts out, you can!"
Kelsey turns in the swing to look at you. Her face—your old face—looks less rabbity and more fox-like in the quarter-light from a distant street lamp.
"And between the two of us," you tell her with a lot more certainty that you know is warranted, "we'll figure out what's going on, and we'll fix it! You know? We'll get ourselves back the way we were!"
Kelsey stares at you with an expression you can't read clearly in the dark, then looks away. She makes a strange, whimpering noise that disconcerts you until you realize it's suppressed laughter.
"I'm sorry," she says, and there's a hysterical edge to her voice. "It's just that that's the weirdest pep talk I think I've ever had!"
"Yeah, well, if it was funny for you to listen to, how funny do you think it was for me to say?"
You squeeze her arm, and you both get out of your swings at the same time, to turn to face each other.
And you both freeze. The moment hangs for a moment.
You're not sure who made the first move, and who followed it. It's almost like you both moved at the same time.
But suddenly you are embracing, and squeezing each other so hard it is as if you are trying push your way back into your original bodies.
* * * * *
"I'm back!" you call into the living room from the arched doorway. The room is cavernous, and could probably swallow more than half of your own house, and it contains not only the long, semi-circular sectional couch that Kelsey's parents are sitting on, but another sofa, two love seats, and a divan besides, along with three easy chairs and assorted coffee tables and side tables, lamps and cabinets. If the decor wasn't all matched and complementary, it would look more like a furniture show room than a living room.
Kelsey's dad—the owner of the city's largest car dealership—is watching the giant-screen TV with the headphones on, and he only glances over to nod vaguely at you. Mrs. Blankenship looks up from her iPad and smiles. "There's leftovers in the fridge if you haven't eaten yet," she says.
"I ate. I did my homework. I'm thinking of getting in the Jacuzzi." As Mrs. Blankenship returns to her iPad, you cross the foyer to mount the stairs. At the top of these, you zigzag through the second-floor hallway until you reach the double-doors that open into your "wing" of the house.
Because the house is so big that Kelsey more or less gets a whole wing to herself.
It's instantly familiar to you, but you can't resist taking a short tour of it anyway. The cozy sitting room/study that looks onto the back yard. The large game room with the open floor and the futons and bean bag chairs and low-slung sofas. And, on the other side of the hallway, the airy bedroom that is as big as yours, your brother's, and your parents', all put together. I wonder how cramped and cooped up Kelsey is feeling right about now? you wonder as you drop your bag—Kelsey's bag—onto the king-size bed. It, the work desk, the armoire and the cabinets and the dressers, only take up a fraction of the space, leaving a floor big enough to practice dance routines in.
Which Kelsey has done. She was on the cheerleading squad until this semester, when she quit it in a huff after Chelsea Cooper outmaneuvered her and packed it with her own friends and supporters.
You unpack Kelsey's bag, which is crammed not only with school books but with the athletic bag into which she stuffed her school clothes after changing into her tennis outfit for after-school practice. After getting the books repacked and the clothes in the hamper, you peel off the clothes you're wearing and change into a thick cotton robe.
What you don't do is take that bath like you hinted to Kelsey's mom, or a shower, even though you still feel the dried-on sweat from tennis practice on you. Though it would feel good, after you evening with Kelsey—and particularly after that pep talk at the old school—you are too shy to do anything really private and invasive with Kelsey's body.
I wonder what Kelsey is doing now, you wonder as you curl up on the bed, hugging your knees to your breast. She's got to be freaked out. You shiver in sympathy. How ghastly is going to be for her when she has to take a piss and handle your junk?
And yet you can't stop thinking about her, and your body, and her inside your body, as you huddle on the bed. There was something ... thrilling ... about that embrace you shared on the darkened playground. And in the tight hug she gave you back, you think you detected a similar thrill in her.
Or maybe she was just trying remind herself of what her body felt like, before parting with it, perhaps forever.
Seth Javits, Darren Green, and Jeremiah Jameson. Those guys have to be in back of what happened. They are the last people that you and Kelsey saw before this ... switch ... happened. None of them were very friendly, though Jeremiah did smile at Kelsey as he approached her. Yes, it has to be them.
And yet the enormity of what has happened is so great that you shy away from thinking about it. What are Kelsey and I supposed to do? you wonder. Are we supposed to just barge up to those guys and accuse them of ... of doing a body swap on us? That would be crazy! They'd never confess to it!
And what would be worse, you realize with a shudder, is what would happen if they went around telling people what you'd accused them of. It would ruin me! Ruin my whole year! a voice wails inside your head.
It's Kelsey's voice. You stifle it, but you don't dismiss it. Whatever you are going to do about this, it has to be done carefully. No waves, no hints to anyone that anything weird is going on with you and Kelsey.
With you and "Will." It's a good thing, you reflect, that I'm such a nobody that nobody pays attention to me. That'll make it easier for Kelsey while I'm able to handle her life.
And that's about all that you're able to decide on—to play things by ear, and to see what, if anything, turns up tomorrow—before your concentration starts to wobble. It's been a hard day, a disastrous day, and when you lift your head to shake your head free of it, you are hammered by a sudden sense of exhaustion. Oh, please God, you groan to yourself as you drag yourself into the bathroom to brush your teeth, let me wake up tomorrow in my own house, in my own bed, in my own body! Let this all just be some weird, one-off freakery-deakery!
Then, in the bathroom: Did I just use the phrase "freakery-deakery" in my internal monologue?
* * * * *
You're woken the next morning by an insistent chime from beneath your pillow, and you frown fiercely at the screen when you've dragged your phone out from beneath it. It's 6:10—five minutes before the alarm should go off—and Will Prescott is calling you.
What the fuck does that scrawny—?
The memory of who you are, and what happened to you yesterday, hits you like a hammer blow. "Yes?" you answer. You can't keep the growl from your voice, though it is fear, not irritation, that you feel.
"It was your friend Keith who did it to us," Will says without preamble.
"What are you talking about?" you demand.
"It was Keith. He set it up. It had to have been him." Will's voice is feverish with anger. "I'm gonna drag him out back and kick him in the ball sack until he tells me what he did and how he did it!"
Next: "The First Day of the Rest of Her Life?"